32 Albums You Need To Hear So Far In 2011

‘Halfway’ album lists are probably about as pointless and irrelevant as year-end lists but, for whatever reason, music bloggers (like myself) can’t let go of the notion and burning desire to thrust our ‘well-informed’ opinions upon the ‘uninformed’ masses. So without further ado here are thirty 4-star albums that I consider to be essential listening so far this year. A sample mp3 is included for those who of y’all who need some additional coaxing as well as a link to buy vinyl (if applicable).

TennisCape Dory (South Carolina)
:I was hoping this didn’t stray from the alarmingly endearing Specter-pop they presented on all the ’10 singles; it’s a harmless, worry-free listening experience that also lacks the pretension of others currently mining this territory:
DeVotchKa100 Lovers (All The Sand In All The Sea)
:I find I’m always holding everything new up to everything old in the DeVotchKa catalog and that’s a mistake….even a mediocre LP from this camp is better than 95% of whatever else you’ve been listening to; 100 Lovers sees Nick’s vocals more being up front and ubiquitous than ever and there’s even a folk-mariachi offering for those yearning for the diversity found on How It Ends:
Asobi SeksuFluorescence (Trance Out)
:each new release finds the production getting crisper and Yuki’s signature vocals slightly more discernible but the trademark swirling synth/dream-pop sound is prevalent and beautiful; a few more spins and this might top 2006′s Citrus:
The Binary Marketing ShowBecause Of This, This And This (Blue Glass)
:collage-pop from this Brooklyn duo that follows in the footsteps of their impressive catalog; this is a variation of folk-tronica with tribal, wind-swept melodies and organic instrumentation; RIYL The Books, The Microphones:
Lia IcesGrown Unknown (Daphne)
:minimal, almost naked, goth-pop centered around Lia’s dynamic/expressive vocals and various string accompaniments; includes a duet with Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) on ‘Daphne’, one of my favorite tracks of the year thus far; RIYL St. Vincent, Glasser:
Scattered TreesSympathy (Four Days Straight)
:promising indie-pop that seems like an oddity coming out of Chicago these days; equal parts mellow and boisterous but wholly therapeutic; almost every song is ready for immediate mixtape placement:
The DøBoth Ways Open Jaws (Bohemian Dances)
:quite eccentric, groove-based neo-dance-pop that even borders on the vaudevillian at times; the attentive listener will find a smorgasbord of sounds being deployed in the background of almost all of these tracks, couple that with creative percussion/beats and it makes for one of the most dynamic releases I’ve heard in recent memory; RIYL Björk, Feist, Lykki Li:
Natural Snow BuildingsWaves Of The Random Sea (This Ice Fortress)
:devastatingly beautiful ambient folk that should find itself on every self-respecting music lover’s year-end list:
PJ HarveyLet England Shake (On Battleship Hill)
:I’ve never before listened to a complete PJ album though I’ve been more than impressed with singles I’ve heard over the years but I think I have to work backwards after this LP; Let is bursting with personality and diversity and although I can’t directly relate to the Anglophilic politics they don’t hinder the album at all; easily one of my favorite releases so far this year:
Lykke LiWounded Rhymes (Love Out Of Lust)
:you might not find the dynamic range in voice (assertive-to-twee/timid) and left-of-center percussion as you did on the debut but you can’t ignore the fact that Lykke has returned with a solid collection of organic, progressive-minded, dance-pop and as far as I’m concerned this is a noted improvement upon Youth Novels:
WoodsmanRare Forms (Beat The Heat)
:this album definitely has an omnipresent heartbeat which is what separates it from the now over-saturated field of 2nd wave Animal Collective worshippers; the ambient, percussive pieces reminded me a little of Mt. Eerie/The Microphones a bit as well; regardless of the influences, Rare helped me mentally wander through a few traffic-jammed rides home from work and for that I endorse it:
Peter Bjorn and JohnGimme Some (Eyes)
:forgive PB&J for lacking what some writers are calling ‘depth’ and instead scaling back to the basics centered around penning ultra-catchy, finger-snappin’ pop anthems for a stiff indie scene that could definitely stand to lighten the hell up already….; RIYL Say Hi To Your Mom, Vampire Weekend, Supergrass:
Computer MagicSpectronic EP (Grand Junction)
:one-woman, synth-pop project from Brooklyn (who the hell isn’t from BK these days…) with emphasis on precious melodies and songcraft…odd I haven’t seen Danz remixing others’ work…; get this and a few other of her EP’s gratis here:
Acid House KingsMusic Sounds Better With You (Would You Say Stop?)
:Swedish twee pop royalty who can basically do no wrong return after 6 years to deliver another super-fun LP of feel-good, castanet-chattering, summertime hits; RIYL Belle and Sebastian, Hidden Cameras, Acid House Kings:
Code PieLove Meets Rage (Muddy Shoes)
:one can get the impression that Montreal is the Canadian equivalent of Brooklyn in that every time I check to see where a solid but unrecognized artist hails from…it’s Montreal; the band’s 3rd LP sees them combining elements from the first two albums like well-placed horns and muted ambience and adding even more depth (see the dirty blues homage on ‘Tunnel’ or the Afropop-influenced guitar on ‘Heart Spit’); RIYL Broken Social Scene, Anathallo:
RestorationsRestorations (Nonlocality)
:front page review:
The Joy FormidableThe Big Roar (Cradle)
:the JF’s quick jump to a major and more polished versions of my faves from last year’s ‘EP’ did little to dissuade me from loving every second of this intense, alt-rock powerhouse of a record; go see these songs live…they’ll hit even harder:
Josh T. PearsonThe Last Of The Country Gentleman (Sorry With A Song)
:former frontman for the short-lived but iconic Lift To Experience; whereas that project was dense and angelic this solo effort is a bare-bones approach to intimate folk touching on some pretty ignomious topics with sparse guitar and string accompaniment; I shouldn’t have listened to this while driving as I kept getting locked on Josh’s every word and next move; RIYL Bill Callahan, Jeff Buckley, Lift to Experience:
DodosNo Color (Black Night)
:this is as close to the flagship Beware or Visitor albums as these fellas are gonna get; No Color is opened with and anchored by two of this year’s most unfuckwithable songs:
tUnE-yArDsw h o k i l l (Gangsta)
:whine, complain, spell this however the hell you want – it’s miles better than her debut, easily one of my favorite albums of the year and I am stoked to see her in a few weeks!:
Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues (Helplessness Blues)
:contrary to some critiques I’ve read, Robin’s arrangements here are just as interesting and stimulating as the debut; this hasn’t quite grown on me like Fleet Foxes yet but I suspect it will after time; one of this year’s best, for sure:
Craft SpellsIdle Labor (You Should Close The Door)
:get this if you love the Drums or any number of the New Order inspired bands of recent memory; there’s also a sprinkle or two of tropicalia and a few older tracks have been cleaned up (arguably for the worse) like the uninhibited joy that is You Should Close The Door, my ringtone for the past year and a half; RIYL Drums, Kisses, chill broments:
FishboyClassic Creeps (Adrian Simmons)
:my only prior experience with Denton’s Fishboy was ’07′s Albatross which featured several infectious/manic indie-pop odes of joy(?); this is no different except it was accompanied by a read-along comic and all the characters involved have their destines entwine before the end (the Magnolia of the music world?); see Mark’s front-page review; RIYL Heligoats/Troubled Hubble, Tullycraft:
MonogoldThe Softest Glow (Spirit Or Something)
:a surprise treat from this Brooklyn (no surprise) collective that features a less-serious take on AC’s good vibes and warm, inviting arrangements; quite possibly the best opening 1-2 punch I’ve heard this year and rad artwork too…someone press it to vinyl! RIYL Sun Airway, Magic Man:
Akron/FamilyS/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT (Silly Bears)
:these guys have taken a bit of slack lately from the hipster and indie-type crowds because of their unabashed hippiness but based on videos, their live shows are intense and their catalog is slowly filling up with near-classics like S/T II: (buy vinyl)
LowC’mon (Especially Me)
:considering I’ve been a huge supporter of Alan, Mimi and Zak’s evolution since the early 90′s it means a lot to declare this their most powerful and endearing release since ’01′s Things We Lost In The Fire; Low consistently find ways to keep minimalism interesting while maintaining their integrity: (buy vinyl)
High Tension WiresWelcome New Machine (Backbone)
:with Dirtnap it’s already been pre-determined that infectious, high-energy garage-pop is in order here; I’d have to say this is probably one of the signature albums from the genre’s recent history as it sinks its claws into your head and never really lets up; RIYL Marked Men, Jay Reatard, Mind Spiders: (buy vinyl)
JEFF The BrotherhoodWe Are The Champions (Bummer)
:I knew I was going to love this immediately after hearing the opening 30 seconds of swirling 90′s indie guitar jamminess; it’s sweet and hooky when it needs to be and scuzzy/grungy when it loosens up…kudos!: (buy vinyl)
CreepoidHorse Heaven (Enabler)
Dreamers Of The GhettoDreamers Of The Ghetto (Tether)
:a unique Bloomington collective of (mostly) family members with deeply affecting vocals and a rather proletarian feel and approach to their music; we should expect big things from these guys…hopefully a vinyl release of this album…:
The DeloreansAmerican Craze (Buffalo)
:self-described eccentric power-pop from Louisville filtered through show-tunes, modern psychedelia and vaudevillian/baroque pop; a most pleasing experience that very few critics will be able to pinpoint or set to words very easily; couple of these tracks (like the opener and ‘Non’) actually reminded me of Devotchka: (buy vinyl)
Hunx and His PunxToo Young To Be In Love (Lovers Lane)
:a throwback variety of queer-core that champions all that is good with the sub-genre of Spector-influenced garage…handclaps, oohs/aahs, Grease/Rocky Horror flashbacks, his/her call-and-response; if you’re looking for infectious smiles and fun in 2011 consider this your gold standard; next up – ’09′s Gay Singles: (buy vinyl)

A few late bloomers from 2010 that missed the list:

Blue Water White DeathBlue Water White Death (The End Of Sex)
GenerationalsTrust EP (Say For Certain)
The HummsLemonland (Jesus Lied)
Shugo TokumaruPort Entropy (Lahaha)
TalonsHollow Realm (Peter Pan)
The End Of AmericaSteep Bay (Fiona Grace)
PS I Love YouMeet Me At Muster Station (Butterflies and Boners)
French FilmsGolden Sea EP (Take You With Me)
Four TetThere Is Love In You (Love Cry)
Antony & The JohnsonsSwanlights (Ghost)
Wolf PeopleSteeple (Silbury Sands)
TelekinesisParallel Seismic Conspiracies EP (Calling All Doctors)
Beat RadioGolden Age (Golden Age)

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One Response to 32 Albums You Need To Hear So Far In 2011

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