2010 set the bar extremely high for tunes in this decade, and I daresay 2011 has surpassed it, barely. Known, perhaps just by me, as the year of the self-titled (seriously, think about it), 2011 might also become to be known as a marker where the line between indie and mainstream started to blur, in retrospect. Take, for example, The Black Keys whose 2010 release Brothers catapulted them into fame and fortune, thus allowing them to book a headlining tour of major arenas (NOT theaters!) across the country alongside their recent release El Camino. Let us not also forget indie rock gods, Arcade Fire, who in February took home, among others, the most coveted Grammy of all, Album of the Year. It’s an exciting time for music. But most importantly, it’s an exciting time for us, the fans.
I tried keeping the same thought in mind while compiling this list – “How psyched were you on the first listen, and is that same psyche still present?”
10. Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
#10 was an interesting spot as I was debating giving it to two different bands from Chicago, one up & coming and one old favorite. Both are fantastic albums, but in this case I decided to err with the young guns. Sorry, Tweedy.
9. The Coasts – The Coasts
8. Gramatik – Beatz & Pieces vol. 1
Fresh off the Pretty Lights Music label, Beatz & Pieces vol. 1 is a cornucopia of sampled noises, boisterous bass and fun. This album actually made me want to write rap verses, which in any other context would be hysterical.
7. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
After the first listen, I brushed Helplessness aside. I was a huge fan of their first record and at the time, that was enough for me. Then P4k came along and changed everything. Seeing Fleet Foxes perform these tracks live gave them entirely new life and depth; I was almost brought to tears standing 200 yards from the stage.
6. James Blake – James Blake
I’m breaking my rule with this entry. While my feelings for this album have definitely fizzled since its release, it’s still a gorgeous record. Gorgeous, and incredibly original.
5. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
I can directly attribute my love for this album to Turntable.fm. After giving it a few listens, I was definitely excited about it, but had my reservations. I quickly discovered I was hung-up on the wrong tracks. Thank you, Turntable, and thank you, friends, I owe you one.
4. Cults – Cults
If you haven’t heard the song “Go Outside” yet this year, you probably don’t go outside, ever. I’m worried about their follow-up potential, but who cares? “You Know What I Mean” and “Bumper” still sound as good as ever.
3. The Kills – Blood Pressures
This is another record that didn’t fully come to life until I witnessed it live. “DNA,” “Future Starts Slow,” and “You Don’t Own the Road” will get anyone’s blood flowing, while “The Last Goodbye” will reduce you to tears.
2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Timeless. Stunning. Extraordinary. But someone had to be number two.
1. Yuck – Yuck
It takes a special record to yank me from bed at 9am with a killer hangover to plug into my stereo so I can hear it LOUDER. This album takes me back. We should all start tying flannels around our waists and ripping holes in our jeans now. Again.