Johnny’s favorite albums of 2011

Although this was an incredible year for music, it was sorely lacking a clear ‘album of the year’.  Last year, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs was the clear victor; the year before that was Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest; and 2008 had Fleet Foxes (even though I didn’t fully appreciate it until the following year).  This year, I agonized over my album of the year.  If I went with the album that most consistently blows my mind, then Smile would certainly win.  Woods and Real Estate both graduated from their lo-fi roots by putting out albums with lush instrumentation and mature song-writing.  Megafaun includes perhaps the most exciting variety of tracks, as well as my favorite closing track of the year (“Everything.”)  Even Tom Waits’ Bad as Me was a contender for album of the year due to his return to form (and piano!) after the discordant, overly experimental Real Gone.  

At the end of the year, though, Parallax won for a variety of reasons– most certainly the songs.  There isn’t a dud on the album.  Across 48 minutes, the album shifts and soars–starting out with a fragile, melancholic opener (“The Shakes”)… moving to a straight-forward, yet vulnerable, pop gem in the middle (“Mona Lisa”)… coming down a bit with a brooding ambient soundscape (“Doldrums”)… and ending with a beautful anthem that will leave you feeling uplifted and purified (“Lightworks”).  Everything that Bradford Cox touches turns to gold.  Don’t be surprised if an album by his band Deerhunter tops the charts next year.

1) Atlas Sound- Parallax








2) Beach Boys- Smile








3) Woods- Sun & Shade








4) Real Estate- Days








5) Megafaun- Megafaun








6) Tom Waits- Bad as Me








7) The Antlers- Burst Apart








8 ) Papercuts- Fading Parade








9) The Rosebuds- Loud Planes Fly Low








10) Kurt Vile- Smoke Ring for my Halo








11) Rural Alberta Advantage- Departing








12) Future Islands- On the Water








13) Girls- Father, Son, Holy Ghost








14) Cass McCombs- Wit’s End/ Humor Risk














15) Radiohead- The King of Limbs








16) Wilco- The Whole Love








17) Ganglians- Still Living








18) Panda Bear- Tomboy








19) Iron and Wine- Kiss Each Other Clean








20) The Decemberists- The King is Dead








21) Okkervil River- I Am Very Far








22) The Low Anthem- Smart Flesh








23) Doug Paisley- Constant Companion








24) Beirut- The Riptide








25) Washed Out- Within and Without

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