As a positive follow-up to my scathing Worst Songs of 2011 list, I’ve taken a step towards the light and decided on The Prophet Blog’s 20 Best Albums of 2011.
Views are my own, not yours, so no complaining about Lady GaGa being outrageously omitted.
I hope you enjoy this list, as I spent several excruciating minutes agonizing over whether or not to include EPs in it (decided not to).
Let me know what your personal fave albums this year are in the comments.
20. Rave On Buddy Holly – Various Artists
It’s pretty hard to go wrong with this one. An all-star lineup spanning the likes of Fiona Apple. She & Him, Patti Smith, and The Black Keys covering the late Buddy Holly. Some stick closely to the original script, others forge their own path with total reworkings of the rock legend’s many classics.
19. Simon D – SNL League Begins
Pint-sized Korean rapper Simon D has a rapid-fire flow that that could end the career of many popular American Hip-Hoppers and the kind of sexy voice that makes me go weak at the knees. The emcee makes good use of his skills on his solo debut, which is steeped primarily in old-school urban music, primarily focusing on 90′s R&B throwbacks and aggressively hard Hip-Hop. It’s not all traditional urban, though — Simon throws a few curveballs into the mix like the accordion-driven “Cheerz” or the spicy “Gettin’ Better” to create a record that both pays homage to the past and also looks toward the future.
18. The Weeknd – Thursday
Abel Tesfaye’s follow-up to the icy House of Balloons is more abstract and elongated than its predecessor, weaving through a hazy maze of arty R&B, indie, and trip-hop. Whoever thought that House of Balloons was a fluke was clearly wrong.
17. James Blake – Self Titled
London’s James Blake chops & screws his soulful vocals amongst a sea of eerie minimalist beats. An atmospheric record that plays more like an experience than a typical album.
16. Florence + the Machine – Ceremonials
I still haven’t taken to this one as much as Lungs, but the undeniably brilliant “What The Water Gave Me” is worth the price of admission alone. Ceremonials is a nice mix of the Florence that we loved from Lungs, with a few tightly-constructed mainstream cuts to reflect her new status as the world’s favorite indie-pop diva. However, the album loses a few points for delegating the defining “Remain Nameless” and “Strangeness & Charm” to bonus disc status, preventing Ceremonials from a much higher placement on this list.
15. TVXQ – Keep Your Head Down/Before U Go (Repackage)
The undisputed kings of K-Pop return from an almost career-ending group implosion to deliver one of the tightest K-Pop albums of the year. A slickly-produced set of R&B, soul, urban-rock, and K-balladry that spawned the almighty “Keep Your Head Down”, which still stands as one of the most powerful and original pop singles of the past few years.
14. Bon Iver – Self-Titled
Justin Vernon is back with another lush collection of gorgeous alt-folk tunes. More optimistic than his haunting debut, Bon Iver is perfect for late night listening and Sunday afternoon relaxing. You don’t even need to understand a word that he’s singing to appreciate the beauty of this record.
13. Perfume – JPN
A glittery explosion of frantic Tokyo techno-pop from the coolest girlband in Japan. Retro, futuristic, cutting-edge and commercial all at the same time, it’s a crime that Perfume’s sound isn’t popular outside of Japan.
12. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
A modern, psychedelic rock album that borrows from 70′s greats like Deep Purple, Kansas, and Led Zeppelin, but still has fresh-appeal of MGMT. An epic road trip record if I ever did hear one.
11. Kelly Clarkson – Stronger
I’m not going to call Stronger the best album of Kelly Clarkson’s career, because that discredits the amazing Breakaway, My December, and All I Ever Wanted. Instead, I’ll say that Stronger continues Kelly’s tradition of churning out near-perfect commercial pop-rock masterpieces and further solidifies the Idol winner as the most consistent female artist on the mainstream pop scene today.
10. Death Cab for Cutie – Codes & Keys
Codes & Keys was met with some criticism from fans for frontman Ben Gibbard’s more positive approach on the album, which saw him trading in some of the dark despair from 2008′s Narrow Stairs for a more optimistic style that reflected his now-defunct marriage to actress Zooey Deschanel. Frankly, I don’t know how people could complain when the results were as beautiful as “Stay Young, Go Dancing” and “Underneath The Sycamore”. You can’t go wrong with the rest of the record, which is typical Death Cab with its woozy, lush instrumentals and spacy vocals dripping in melancholy.
9. Metronomy – The English Riviera
This is the first Metronomy album I’ve listened to, and I was initially a little skeptical after being disappointed by Nicola Roberts’ Cinderella’s Eyes (although, my dislike of that album doesn’t stem from the production). Just as slick as it is subtle, The English Riviera is a deceptively smooth set of dreamy Electro-pop and New Wave that reels you in without even barely seeming to try.
8. Drake – Take Care
Drizzy seriously stepped up his game for his sophomore effort, tightening up his lyrical skills and striking the perfect balance between car-ready Hip-Hop and spooky Weeknd-esque R&B.
7. Wonder Girls – Wonder World
The Wonder Girls reclaimed their K-Pop crown with this collection of shiny power-pop that echoes the slickly-produced sounds of Girls Aloud with the urban edge of old-school Sugababes.
Why can’t Girls’ Generation make an album this good?
6. Vanessa Carlton – Rabbits on the Run
Vanessa’s most stunning and criminally-underrated album to date, Rabbits on the Run sees the songstress mixing up her trademark piano pop with a more eerie, alternative sound. Beautifully written & produced, Rabbits is the closest that Vanessa’s ever gotten to following in the footsteps of her idol, Stevie Nicks.
5. Miranda Lambert – Four The Record
Other than the hideous cover art, Four The Record is another sterling effort from future country music legend, Miranda Lambert. The now happily married singer retains her trademark fire on “Fastest Girl In Town”, serves up sweet balladry with “Dear Diamond”, delivers one of the catchiest tunes of her career with “Mama’s Broken Heart”, and even goes completely alternative on the fuzzy “Fine Tune”, which just has to be one of the best songs of 2011. This woman can really do it all, and at this point, her competition may as well just give up — Miranda’s already won the race.
4. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
If Lana Del Rey is 2011′s Queen of the Blogosphere, then The Weeknd is King. His debut House of Balloons is a chilly haze of electronic R&B and melancholy come downs, sampling everything from the sensual sounds of Aaliyah to the strung-out Punk-Rock of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Tesfaye walks a thin line between pain and pleasure on House of Balloons — one listen to this and you’ll be wondering whether you should be fucking somebody or curled up on your bed in a ball crying.
3. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
After a stellar debut with 2008′s Youth Novels, Swedish indie songstress Lykke Li soared to new heights with this smart, sad, and at times, oddly sexual collection of frosty art-pop. If “I Know Places” isn’t the most beautiful song of 2011, then I don’t know what is.
2. Brown Eyed Girls – Sixth Sense/Cleansing Cream (Repackage)
Brown Eyed Girls once again proved that they’re the best thing to ever happen to K-Pop with the release of their fourth studio album this year. Sexy, dangerous, daring, and innovative, Sixth Sense ticks all the boxes in an incredibly short amount of time, effortlessly flitting between militaristic disco, sultry Cuban salsa, jazzy big band, and heartbreaking balladry with perfect precision. Think All Saints by the way of En Vogue, and you’d be close.
1. Pistol Annies – Hell On Hells
Think of Pistol Annies as Miranda Lambert — just tripled! The group’s critically-lauded debut is a ballsy concept record written from the perspective of a bunch of pissed off housewives traversing their way through that difficult thing called life. Cleverly written and fully-realized, Hell on Heels is a timeless slice of traditional country that’s bound to go down as an underrated classic within the genre. If it had been released by the Dixie Cbicks, it’d probably be one of the biggest country albums of 2911.