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Favorite albums of 2011

post brought to you by: dyson

At this point you’ve probably read over dozens of year end lists. So I’m pretty sure you’re not going to see many shockers on here. 2011 was a great year for music but honestly, there are great things to come out every year. Here are my favorite records of 2011. They’ve probably gotten the most spins or just warmed some special part of my heart. You may have heard many of these or maybe you’ll find something new. Read on and happy holidays to you all.

11. Woods – Sun and Shade

Woods are a group who crank out quite a fair bit of music. Their latest Sun and Shade might be easily called their most accomplished. Read into that however you’d like. But it’s one that I now always reach for when I want to put some Woods on the turntable. And side note, that’s another great thing I love about the group. It’s pretty much a given I can get every release on wax. Even if it does come with a single glued on white sheet of paper as the album cover.

10. Breakfast in Fur – Breakfast in Fur EP

I love everything that comes from Analog Edition. But this Breakfast in Fur EP is one that has gotten spun and spun in the dyson household. Quirky yet palatable songs fill this EP and the pressing is perfect. It’s by far my favorite 10″ and will be spun many more times as we head into 2012. I can guarantee that.

9. Vanaprasta – Healthy Geometry

If you’ve been following the site or my twitter this year, this one must come as no shocker. 9 may equal 9 to the Vanaprasta boys, but for me it equals my 9th favorite record of the year. This record was no easy task to make but the final product made it well worth it. From start to finish, nothing disappoints on here. Keep an eye out on these guys, I think 2012 will bring many great more things for this group of fantastic guys.

8. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

When I want to hear Fleet Foxes, I still lean towards the Sun Giant/Fleet Foxes combo vinyl. But Helplessness Blues  is nothing to shy away from. When I first listened to the record, I thought it sounded like Robin Pecknold wrote a bunch of songs and the band filled in parts around it. Nothing like their previous material which was incredibly well put together and polished. But after many many more listens, I stood corrected on this initial impression. There are some really deep songs on here and it has stood up over the test of time. I think the next album from this group is going to make or break their position in musical history.

7. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Again, if you follow the site and my twitter, this should be no shocker to you. Girls are one of my favorite groups and they’ve done little to disappoint over their years. They’ve clearly grown as musicians and it really shows on this record. But the one staple that really makes the group for me are the honest, heart wrenching lyrics written and sung by front man Christopher Owens. This record got some negative feedback for not pushing musical styles forward, but relying too much on old school styles. I had no issue with this and welcome the influences from the classics that have impacted so many musicians out there.

6. Middle Brother – Middle Brother

What can I even say about this record. You put 3 of some of the greatest artists and songwriters together and this is what you get. An amazing record from start to finish that keeps your ears listening with the wide but targeted range of songs you’ll find on here. I’m keeping my fingers crossed this trio will put out another but I’m not sure if that will happen. If this is all we get from this ‘supergroup’? Fine. But I’d greatly welcome another.

5. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for my Halo

Kurt Vile gets a lot of hype and has been described as our modern day (fill in the blank). But it’s well worth it. Nothing I’ve heard come from this man has been bad. I caught him at a small in store performance and he was captivating. Smoke Ring for my Halo is his most polished record and some may fault him for that (kind of Elliott Smith style) but they’re completely wrong. It’s polished but still has everything people have grown to love about Vile. He put out an EP later this year that was also fantastic. I can’t wait for more music from this gem of our time.

4. Beirut – The Riptide

I’ve listened to everything Beirut has done and even compared him to our modern day Brian Wilson. I’m a fan of it all and he didn’t let me down with The Riptide. This album has gotten some feedback as being ‘safe’ and ‘taking a step back’ but I’d disagree. It’s a great mixture of everything Zach Condon is capable of producing. It’s very palatable and if there are people who are just getting their taste of Beirut, I think this is a pretty good showing of what he’s all about. Years from now kids are going to pick up this record, love it, and go back to his previous work and be blown away. But that’s just my opinion.

3. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing

These Canadians know how to make some badass music. And also put on badass shows. Departing is a fantastic follow up to Hometowns and I highly recommend going in and making a playlist with both records in it. It’s pretty short in length but continues on with their distinctive sound first heard on Hometowns. As with most records, I highly recommend grabbing the vinyl. The kick drum on both of these will pack a punch in your chest if you have the right speakers. If the group creates LP3 as a continuation of both of these, I’ll be one happy man. It’s a group I want to grow but remain the same, if that makes any sense.

2. WU LYF – Go Tell Fire to the Mountain

If you had told me this would be my second favorite album of the year when I first heard it, I would have laughed in your face. And I love that. This group of Brits managed to create something incredibly unique and incredibly pleasing to my ears. I feel like the recording could have been better but that doesn’t bother me one bit. I love this record like you can’t imagine. I have NO clue what the lyrics are to pretty much all the songs but still that doesn’t get in the way. If you haven’t listened to this one, give it a shot, no matter what your taste in music is. You might be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

1. The Beach Boys (aka Brian Wilson) – The SMiLE Sessions

What is there to say about the album that almost never happened. People have waited their lives for this to be released and this year it finally came to life. The 2004 attempt was nice but this is as close to the real deal as we’ll ever get. The funny thing is that the thing I love most about this record is hearing the real recordings come to life in their proper album form. And the weird thing is that digital tools have made this possible. It has the uniquely distinct sound we heard on things like Smiley Smile but takes the shape of what Wilson and crew put out in 2004. And what can I say about the second disc and bonus features. Normally those are throw away additions to albums you could care less about but not on this release. Solo versions of arguably one of the greatest songs ever written (Surf’s Up), random studio takes of the boys working out the album opener (Our Prayer). The bonus disc is almost as interesting as hearing the album in it’s full glory. But with the news of a Beach Boys reunion and new album for next year, I’m glad this came first. And sadly, I’ll probably not attend a show or even listen to the record. Weird for a guy who put this Brian Wilson release as his #1 favorite record of the year, right?

4 Responses to “Favorite albums of 2011”

  1. Thanks for posting! I am working my way through your list, some are new to me via this post. I probably won’t make my own list, but I’d have to say that Fleet Foxes would be in my top 3 – thanks for introducing them to me this year. :) Happy Holidays. XO

  2. Tiana says:

    For some reason only read this now, but love your picks! RAA was also one of my top ones.. seriously love it so much I have the original vinyl as well as the limited orange one. I thought you’d appreciate that fact :)

  3. Sam says:

    Amazing video about Smile. I don’t give the Beach Boys enough headphone time. Hell, I don’t give them enough time, period. As much as I want to start branching out and looking around the current musical landscape, something like this comes along and makes me want to go back and listen to the musical geniuses from back then. :)

    Thanks for this list – I’ll definitely be checking the rest of the artists out.

  4. Sam says:

    Ok, so I picked the Vanaprasta song to listen to first because the cone shape of the Soundcloud soundwave intrigued me. Wow. That song is really good. It hit a nerve for me because I watched the Rush “2112/Moving Pictures” Classic Albums yesterday and I’ve been feeling a need to hear some big rock with soaring vocals.

    I really think the voice is poised to make a comeback.

    At least I hope so.

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