2011 was a busy year full of changes and sounds for both new music collectively, and on a quite micro level the author of this fine interwebz publication. So very many good and interesting noises! So very many big moves both temporally and psychically! It was quite difficult to pick my top 20 of 2011. A top 50 album list might do the talent and breadth of new music more justice, and I'm afraid I haven't so diligently attended and curated this year's releases as in previous years. Travels, moves to Los Angles, and grad school have kept me distracted from true passions. However, there's much to be aurally cherished in 2011, and 2012 is shaping up to take my musical ardor to new heights with my own radio show, MAKE MORE NOISE, on KXSC, the student run radio station of USC. Listen up! Stay tuned!
1. 6/21/2011 - Bon Iver - "Towers" - Bon Iver
Where Bon Iver's first album, For Emma, Forever Ago, was inspired by a heartbreak and showcased an inchoate solo talent, the second album is the work of skilled musicians diligently exploring new musical directions. While maintaining Vernon's ethereal vocals and intimate stylings, Bon Iver ventures into happier moods and explores new textures with songs like "Towers". It's a wonderful album, and promises even greater things from Bon Iver in the future.
2. 9/27/2011 - Youth Lagoon - "Montana" - The Year Of Hibernation
Perhaps the best new artist of 2011, Youth Lagoon debuted to great acclaim this year with The Year Of Hibernation. The bedroom project of Trevor Powers, this album's distorted vocals reverberate in small, heartfelt spaces buzzing with cozy nostalgia. Driving beats keep the pace up, and sweet elements like whistling and piano in "Montana" will hook your ears in the best possible way.
3. 11/11/2011 - Oneohtrix Point Never - "Sleep Dealer" - Replica
Seasoned experimental musician, Daniel Lopatin makes revolutionary sounds as Oneohtrix Point Never. Replica continues Lopatin's bold exploration of uncharted aural realms. All noises have the potential to become musical elements as they are reflected and compared in songs like "Sleep Dealer". Additionally, a preference for analog synths keeps Oneohtrix Point Never from being just another electro project in a prolific digital age.
4. 3/15/2011 - The Dodos - "Sleep" - No Color
Drawing from the captivating blend of rhythm and harmony from their first album, and the adventurous spirit of their second album, The Dodos presented their third effort this year. No Color is a finely solid work that is clearly the sincere effort of a band more secure in their signature striped down sound, while still striving for something more technical in their craft. Give "Sleep" a listen to hear the development showcased in one song.
5. 10/18/2011 - M83 - "Reunion" - Hurry Up We're Dreaming
The sixth studio album from M83 was the ambitiously lengthy Hurry Up We're Dreaming. The double-disk album is an absorbing listen that does not disappoint. Shifting from 80s-inspired pop gems to shoegaze songs with whispered narrative, songs like "Reunion" command attention throughout the compelling trajectory of all 22 tracks, intro to outro.
6. 9/27/2011 - Apparat - "Black Water" - Black Water
Continuing the departure of his solo work from the electronica of Berlin's discotheques, Apparat's Sascha Ring released Black Water, a pensively emotive album filled with strange sounds. The title track, "Black Water", distills this essence as it unfolds and echos.
7. 8/26/2011 - Bombay Bicycle Club - "Shuffle" - A Different Kind Of Fix
The third studio album from Brits Bombay Bicycle Club, finally garnered them some attention this side of the pond. Producer Ben Allen polished up the best aspects of their talent, and together they released A Different Kind Of Fix. Sure it's filled with saccharine hooks like "Shuffle", but it's smartly done and holds up to repeated plays.
8. 8/30/2011 - Cymbals Eat Guitars - "Definite Darkness" - Lenses Alien
The highly anticipate sophomore album from Cymbals Eat Guitars, Lenses Alien, retained the 90s, Jersey, lo-fi influences that garnered their 2009 debut high praises, while presenting challenging new song structures. Songs like "Definite Darkness" sound restless and disjointed at first, but further listens illuminate much to appreciate.
9. 5/3/2011 - Fleet Foxes - "Helplessness Blues" - Helplessness Blues
Emerging from what was reportedly a particularly arduous writing processes, Fleet Foxes presented their second album, Helplessness Blues, revealing a more mature style that delved into far deeper themes. Title track "Helplessness Blues" retains all their signature folk charms while simultaneously evoking heartrending wistfulness.
10. 9/27/2011 - Wilco - "Black Moon" - The Whole Love
The eight studio album from venerable, veteran rockers Wilco predictably does not disappoint, and that's just fine. The band continues to evolve with The Whole Love, refreshingly incorporating some disparate elements they hadn't explored in awhile. The slide guitar in "Black Moon" is especially savory.
11. 2/8/2011 - Cut Copy - "Take Me Over" - Zonoscope
12. 6/22/2011 - Unknown Mortal Orchestra - "Ffunny Ffriends" - Unknown Mortal Orchestra
13. 7/12/2011 - Washed Out - "Soft" - Within and Without
14. 4/5/2011 - Bill Callahan - "Baby's Breath" - Apocalypse
15. 4/13/2011 - And So I Watch You From Afar - "Beautiful Universe Master Champion" - Gangs
16. 2/4/2011 - James Blake - "Wilhelms Scream" - James Blake
17. 3/1/2011 - The Rural Alberta Advantage - "Stamp" - Departing
18. 3/29/2011 - Bibio - "Saint Christopher" - Mind Bokeh
19. 2/18/2011 - Radiohead - "Separator" - King Of Limbs
20. 1/25/2011 - Cloud Nothings - "Understand At All" - Cloud Nothings