2011 Albums Of The Year (25-1)

25. The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient

The War On Drugs second full length album is a marked improvement over an already good debut album. Through two albums and two outstanding EPs, The War On Drugs are starting to creep their way into the bands I've listened to most in the past year or two.

The War On Drugs - 'Baby Missles'

24. Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch The Throne

This album is pretty much what everyone expected it would be, but isn't nearly as good as either artists solo albums. There are a handful of really great tracks here but also a few complete duds. Still one of the best hip-hop albums of the year.

Jay-Z & Kanye West - 'Murder To Excellence'

23. Other Lives - Tamer Animals

Other Lives debut album got some comparisons to the orchestral side of Radiohead. Coincidentally, they'll be opening up for Radiohead in Kansas City this March. This album can be a bit top heavy loaded with the better tracks but the first half is so strong it makes up for the second half.

Other Lives - 'Tamer Animals'

22. Fool's Gold - Leave No Trace

The best way to describe Fool's Gold would be a mix of Vampire Weekends and DeVotchka. This is one of my favorite band discoveries of 2011 and I still need to get a copy of their debut album. Leave No Trace has such a polished and well produced sound it's hard to believe it's only the band's second album. This one is definitely worth checking out.

Fool's Gold - 'Balmy'

21. My Morning Jacket - Circuital

Even though My Morning Jacket's six album Circuital is only their 5th best album, I love this band so much that their slightly average stuff is still better than many bands best stuff. A big improvement over the lackluster Evil Urges, it's nice to hear a bit of a return to form for MMJ.

My Morning Jacket - 'The Day Is Coming'

20. A.A. Bondy - Believers

I didn't love the new A.A. Bondy album on first or second listen, but after giving it some time to grow on me it's one of my top 20 of the year. There is much more depth than his previous two albums, even if the songs aren't quite as immediate.

A.A. Bondy - 'Surfer King'

19. Beirut - The Rip Tide

Better than the last Beirut album, but still not their best. This band is near the top of my list of bands I want to see live, but as far as I remember they haven't been through Kansas City ever. Hopefully that changes soon.

Beirut - 'Port Of Call'

18. Washed Out - With And Without

After the initial swell of the "Chillwave" genre bands subsided, a few bands that had actual talent seemed to keep going while the other ones faded away. Washed out is one of those bands. I loved their debut, but the songs and production are just so much better on With And Without it's not even close.

Washed Out - 'Before'

17. The Black Keys - El Camino

I agree with the sentiment that anyone that criticizes The Black Keys for selling out recently doesn't know what the hell they're talking about. The Black Keys haven't really changed their sound much from day one, withe exception of adding a couple of addition members on instruments. For better or worse, they play the same blues-rock hybrid they always have, and they do it really fucking well. El Camino is another in a line of brilliant albums from the Akron (former) duo.

The Black Keys - 'Nova Baby'

16. Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

I'll never understand why some of the watered down pop stars all over radio are so popular but artists like Lykke Li aren't. She does some of the same things that ladies like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga do, but she does it far better in my opinion. Plus neither of those previous ladies have released and album as great all the way through as Lykke Li did with Wounded Rhymes.

Lykke Li - 'Get Some'

15. Mastodon - The Hunter

Although they're slowly morphing from a metal band into a hard rock band, Mastodon are he best hard rock band around. There even sounds like a song or two from The Hunter that could be played on mainstream rock radio. For a hardworking band like Mastodon you hope it happens as well...even if it means their killer shows are a little more crowded.

Mastodon - 'All The Heavy Lifting'

14. Future Islands - On The Water

The last Future Islands album made my top 5 albums of the year in 2010, so I had high hopes for their follow-up On The Water. This album might not be as catchy or as instantly loveable, but it's definitely a grower that rewards repeat listens. It's a crime too that I still haven't caught them the couple of times they've came through town.

Future Islands - 'Before The Bridge'

13. Wilco - The Whole Love

I'm really running out of things to say about Wilco because I feel like I'm always writing a few words about why their album made my top albums of the year list for that particular year. The new one, The Whole Love, is a return to form over a somewhat disappointing Wilco, The Album.

Wilco - 'I Might'

12. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - Here We Rest

It's official that Jason Isbell's solo output since leaving the Drive-By Truckers is far greater than the output of DBT in the post Isbell era. His newest album, Here We Rest, is probably Isbell's strongest album to date. Songs like 'Alabama Pines', 'Codeine' and 'Daisy Mae' just prove that Jason is still a top notch songwriter of the highest caliber.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - 'Alabama Pines'

11. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

M83's newest double album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming falls into the trap of most double albums and that's just a record that tends to run on too long. Trim these down to one record full of songs and it might be the best M83 album ever. Still, however, it includes one of the best tracks of the year in 'Midnight City'. I look forward to catching them at the Granada next May 5th at the Granada in Lawrence.

M83 - 'Midnight City'

10. Cut Copy - Zonoscope

So, Cut Copy have pretty much taken over for New Order these days. No one has been able to do New Order dancey-synth hooks quite as well until Cut Copy came along with their third brilliant album in a row. I got to see them play an amazing show at the Record Bar in KC few years back and have been itching for them to come back through town again.

Cut Copy - 'Blink And You'll Miss A Revolution'

9. Wye Oak - Civilian

One of the highlights of my concert season was the Explosions In The Sky show at the Uptown. Not only because they're one of the best live bands around but also because the fantastic Wye Oak opened the show. I've been a fan of Wye Oak since their first album, but didn't completely fall in love until Civilian came out. I could go on and on about how great the songs are or how solid the music is or how perfect her voices is but you should just check it out for yourself.

Wye Oak - 'Civilian'

8. Explosions In The Sky - Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

Speaking of Explosions In The Sky...another band that really does no wrong in my eyes. This is the first album from the band that sounds like they made an effort to expand and switch up their sound just a bit. Yet it still sounds completely like only Explosions In The Sky can. Like I said before they are also responsible for one of the top five concerts I saw in 2011 as well.

Explosions In The Sky - 'Postcard From 1952'

7. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

There were a lot of high hopes and expectations from Fleet Foxes and their sophomore album after the indie success of their debut. The band came through with an album that not only grew their sound from the debut album but also improved on it at times. The title track from Helplessness Blues also gets an easy spot in the top five songs of the year without a doubt.

Fleet Foxes - 'Helplessness Blues'

6. Real Estate - Days

Real Estate's debut album hinted at a band that could do great things but I never expected an album I love so much. Days is the perfect summer album, so it's a shame it didn't come out till the fall, but this is an album that will get continuous plays into the next few years. I got to catch them in Chicago in 2010 open up for Deerhunter and they're an excellent live band as well. If they keep putting out albums of this level of quality expect them to get big quick.

Real Estate - 'Green Aisles'

5. Bon Iver - Bon Iver

Bon Iver's debut album was number two on my favorite albums of the 2008 list behind the debut Fleet Foxes album, but in the years since then I definitely think For Emma, Forever Ago is the far superior album. Regardless, no one really knew what to expect with Justin's follow-up and most people weren't expecting this. The sound is a complete sonic left turn from the acoustic debut with even a smooth rock jam thrown in for good measure. Bon Iver also would make my list of top five shows of 2011 with his performance at the Uptown.

Bon Iver - 'Beth/Rest'

4. Toro Y Moi - Underneath The Pine

The best of the Chillwave bands in my opinion is Toro Y Moi. Not only do they have one of the best Chillwave albums with their debut Causers of This, they've abandoned the genre almost completely with the follow-up Underneath The Pine. Their disco-esque jams blew the doors off the Riot Room when they played there earlier this year.

Toro Y Moi - 'New Beat'

3. Tom Waits - Bad As Me

Waits is pretty much a God and the man can do no wrong in my eyes. His albums are always a messy carnival of characters and adventure in themselves and Bad As Me is no different. Waits took his wife's advice to keep the songs and the album at a short clip and it pays off with an album that never gets stale.

Tom Waits - 'Hell Broke Luce'

2. Atlas Sound - Paralax

I had a text message conversation recently with a friend where we both came to the agreement that Bradford Cox is one of the few musical genius in rock music today. He's certainly without a doubt one of the most prolific as well, and almost everything he makes is utterly amazing. His albums under the Atlas Sound moniker tend to be a bit more pretty and mellow, but they're also more lush and sweet. There are very few people around today that I would say can write a truely great pop song as well as Bradford Cox.

Atlas Sound - 'Te Amo'

1. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo

I had to search back through my blog archives to realize that I have written very little about Kurt Vile. Really though, I'd recommend him highly enough to just say that you should pick up this year's Smoke Ring For My Halo and 2009's Childish Prodigy immediately. It's hard to describe but Kurt Vile's music has an unexplainable vibe about it that I absolutely love. I really can't say enough about this album, it's one I'll sometimes play three or four times in a row because I don't want to listen to anything else...just check it out.

Kurt Vile - 'Babys Arms'



2011 Albums Of The Year (50-26)

I apologize for not putting as much time and effort into my albums of the year post this year. I'm only actually writing a bit on the top 25, but still want to include 50-26 because these are all really, really good albums. It was a fairly good year for music when there are albums not even in my top 50 that I genuinely enjoyed as well in 2011.

Here are my 50-26 favorite albums of 2011:

50. William Elliott Whitmore - Field Songs
49. The Dodos - No Color
48. Cass McCombs - Wit's End
47. Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
46. Roadside Graves - We Can Take Care Of Ourselves
45. The Weeknd - House Of Balloons
44. Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital
43. The Low Anthem - Smart Flesh
42. Cults - Cults
41. Battles - Glass Drop
39. DeVotchka - 100 Lovers
38. Radiohead - The King Of Limbs
37. Sole and the Skyrider Band - Hello Cruel World
36. Neon Indian - Era Extranifa
35. Junior Boys - It's All True
34. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
33. Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire
32. Childish Gambino - Camp
31. The Antlers - Burst Apart
30. Wild Beasts - Smother
29. TV on the Radio - Nine Types Of Light
28. The Roots - UNDUN
27. Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
26. Russian Circles - Empros

Stay tuned for 25-1 in the next few days.