I won’t bore you with any bs that doesn’t need to be here. If you want to read full thoughts on any of these albums, fee free to check out my reviews (by clicking on the album name). Let’s just get right into the good stuff.
10. Lupe Fiasco-Lasers: Maybe it’s because most people had already heard this record by the time it dropped back in March, but I feel like this album more than any other has been forgotten when it comes to year-end list making. I think the fact that a lot of the songs were written back in 2008 and 2009 just shows how smart a guy Lupe is, and how three years later his rhymes still seem fresh because America is still dealing with the same issues.
9. The Antlers-Burst Apart: How do you follow up an album like Hospice? What do you do when you’ve already put out a record some call the best of the last decade? If you’re The Antlers, you prove that it’s possible to do better. This album is a milestone for the band, because it shows that they can do anything.
8. Okkervil River-I Am Very Far: Initially I really wasn’t a fan of this record. I think I’ve listened to Stage Names too many times to accept anything else. After a while, though, I started to appreciate this album for what it is. Trippy, beautiful, and one of the best written records in a year filled with them. It doesn’t hurt that when they’re performed live, the songs on this record are epic.
7. Fort Frances-The Atlas: Yeah, you’ve maybe heard me mention this album here before. There is something to be said for a record that you can listen to a million times and never tire of. “White Roses” should have been near the top of my Top 30 Tracks this year, but this spot made it ineligible. Word is they’re trying to record the follow up sometime this year and I can’t wait.
6. The Decemberists-The King Is Dead: upon it’s release in January, I deemed this album the best of the year. It didn’t quite make it, but it is a helluva record. Not quite on par with The Hazards Of Love, but honestly what is?
5. Smith Westerns-Dye It Blonde: Chicago’s own kids who hate being referred to as kids. They certainly play like grown-ass men. This album also came out in January, and it was perfect to warm up some of those cold winter days. As it turns out, it’s also perfect for summer, spring, and fall.
4. Portugal. The Man-In The Mountain In The Cloud: I had never seriously listened to Portugal. The Man before this record, an I feel like an idiot. I don’t think I can name a song off it that isn’t great. “Sleep Forever” is my favorite, but they’re all gold.
3. The Poison Control Center-Stranger Ballet: Three albums in, and PCC has found the secret formula-write good songs and play them balls to the wall. “A Thousand Colors” and “Torpedoes On Tuesday” are both fantastic, but when they slow it down on the killer ballad “Terminal,” the whole thing comes together in a whole new way.
2. Girls-Father, Son, Holy Ghost: If you liked Girls first release, Album, you will love this. Everything here is kicked up a notch in quality. Chris Owens vocals are more beautiful and haunting, there are gospel elements, and amazing production.
1. Sons Of An Illustrious Father-One Body: I may be the only person who has this at number one, but that’s only because most of you haven’t heard it yet. Five band members. Four of whom can sing. They recorded this album in a freezing cold barn with producer Oliver Ignatius. It isn’t a Christian album, but there are definitely some spiritual overtones going on.
2011 was a much better year than most would say. While most magazines and big time online publications are bending to the corporations that fill their coffers, putting the likes of Adele and Lady Gaga on their best-of lists, crazy numbers of indie bands were putting out amazing, under heard records. Next time you’re looking for new music, don’t turn on your radio. Head over to your local record store and ask the clerks what they’re listening to.