This is more a quick list of albums I’ve enjoyed over this last year than some kind of definitive I-went-through-my-entire-iTunes-library-and-ranked-everything-in-order list. I might have missed a couple of releases – all I know is I really liked all these ones. You might too.

So without further ado, Album of the Year goes to…

Los Campesinos - Hello Sadness

Los Campesinos!Hello Sadness

Hello Sadness sees Los Campesinos! trying to refine their output into a concise body of work. A structured and focused album. Gareth’s imagery is darker than ever, and hidden within the album are melodic hooks and intricacies that take a while to become apparent (the vocal crescendo in “To Tundra” is nothing short of beautiful). Brilliant, and another great release to add to their discography.

Other albums I enjoyed, in rough order of how much I enjoyed them, kind of. Just look.

Johnny Foreigner - Vs Everything

Johnny ForeignerJohnny Foreigner Vs Everything

A very close runner-up for AotY. Messy on the first few listens, it truly opens itself up after a few sit-throughs, and it gets better and better. Loud, fast, interesting, moving. Time will determine its longevity and significance in their discography, but it’s definitely a huge step in the band’s journey – hopefully one of many more to come.

Thrice - Major/Minor


Consistent and strong. Not one song feels under-baked. There are a lot of huge cathartic sing-a-long moments, and I don’t care whether or not you associate that as being a good thing or not with Thrice, but I think lyrically and musically this is an incredibly good album. Stunning. If you only listen to one song from Major/Minor, check out “Words in the Water”.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Bon IverBon Iver, Bon Iver

Intricate. Delicate. Evocative. This is a great album full of great songs, and they paint a picture unlike many musicians ever could. It’s easy to understand why it got Pitchfork’s Album of the Year.

Radiohead - The King of Limbs

RadioheadThe King of Limbs

Arguably a step back towards their more experimental work, this was a tough album to digest. It’s entirely possible that this album takes even longer to appreciate and understand than a year, and maybe with more time I’ll enjoy it even more. It definitely has its high points, and it’s full of interesting textures – but I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it. It still gets a place here though, ’cause it’s quite good.

Grieves - Together/Apart


With the help of producer, multi-instrumentalist, and beat-maker – Budo – Grieves has released a great album here. Criticised by many (unfairly so, I believe) for his consistently emotive lyrics, Grieves tells stories of girls, drinking, anxiety, and those monsters under your bed, amongst everything else, and while it can feel like a long haul at times, there are a pile of gems on this album. If you needed any more proof that the Rhymesayers crew were some of the best out there, this shouldn’t take long to convince you.

The Weeknd - House of Balloons

The WeekndHouse of Balloons

This particular instalment of The Weeknd’s trilogy of 2011 releases is making my list not because I believe it’s the best of the three, but simply because I haven’t been able to give Thursday or Echoes Of Silence a fair go yet.
That aside, this release is really interesting. I’ve never really been into R&B in a huge way, yet The Weeknd drew me in. And it’s interesting because it paints a picture of a world so foreign that I struggle to find any personal connections. It almost feels voyeuristic to listen to. It’s intriguing at any rate, and was well worth my time. It’s free too.

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

Foo FightersWasting Light

A great album from a rock band still going strong, after all these years. Consistent, full of energy, and another strong release from a band that really are going to stand the test of time.

These last few albums haven’t had as many listens as those above, but from the amount of time I’ve given them, I like them a lot. Very much worth mentioning here.

Example - Playing in the Shadows

ExamplePlaying in the Shadows

Slow ClubParadise

Phantogram - Nightlife EP

PhantogramNightlife EP

79 thoughts on “FEATURE: Albums Of The Year – 2011

  1. Hey, Great list. I felt the same way about that Radiohead album. I guess i didn’t get it. (plus, when someone gives you the ole’ YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO THIS, it’s always hard to really take it in.)
    You seem to have a good eye for music, and it’s similar to mine. I missed out on the Foo, gotta get that now, and your top 2 AotY’s i’ve never even heard of.
    For shame… I know.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing your genuine passions. If i remember, i’ll come back and let you know what i thought!

  2. Wha? A 2011 album retrospective…that doesn’t mention Adele????

    I actually have a bit of disdain for her (I recognize the talent, though have a few bones to pick with her lyrics…), so I’m grateful for the omission.

    Great list. Glad to see the Foo Fighters made the cut!

  3. Is this where we all write our lists of albums we’re most excited for in 2012?
    Mimicking Birds (most overlooked band of last 2 years) is releasing something else in March. I’m also curious about the new Cranberries.

  4. Thank you for being the only person to include Thrice among these other great musicians. I feel like they get relegated to nowhere because a) they used to play more heavy/metal music and b) because Dustin’s lyrics are so overtly religious/spiritual. I don’t share his beliefs but that hasn’t stopped Thrice from being one of my five favorite bands. Really great album and a great place to stop their career (currently). Also, ‘Word In The Water’ is my favorite song from that album too. Great list.

  5. I was just thinking about looking for something/somebody new to listen to and your list popped up. A few things there that I definitely want to try for some fresh (to me) sounds.
    I agree with your take on King of Limbs. Every time I listen to it I hear more that I really like – all the tunes aren’t as accessible at first like Lotus Flower. In my opinion, Codex is one of the most beautiful pieces of music they’ve ever written.
    Thanks for the list
    Guila Greer

  6. Very good albums here. Haven’t heard of thrice before but will deffo give this a listen! thanks for this review i now have an album to listen to! :) GIAAM

  7. love this list! primarily because I’m only familiar with one of the albums. i plan to head home and sample the other asap. love new musical suggestions. thanks for sharing!

  8. I didn’t know Los Campesinos!, Phantogram and Thrice had released new materials last year. I missed them. From your list, I’ve only heard of Bon Iver, Foo Fighters and Radiohead.

  9. Hey thanks for the post! I’ll have to check some of these out, I see many familiar names and enough unfamiliar names to intrigue me. I’ve always been impressed by music bloodhounds, people how have the knack and patience to find the good new music.

  10. Nice post, some really great pics. On the heavier side I might add Mastodon’s The Hunter. If you can see yourself getting into heavier music I would check it out. The song titles are misleading as to the quality of the album itself.

  11. Great picks. Lots of them are on my favorite, most-listened-to list also. Stand outs for me in 2011 were Bon Iver, Foo Fighters, and the Black Keys (which you didn’t have).

    I am thrilled that you recognized Example too. I have an irrational love for his music.

    Nice post!

  12. I agree with Radiohead – I bought it with quite high expectations after really falling in love with “In Rainbows”, but KoL just hasn’t lived up to it yet. Some tracks I adore, “Lotus Blossom” is a firm favourite, but it’s the more monotonous tracks that let the overall feeling and verve of this album down. I love it, but not nearly as much as I should.

    Also, congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!


  13. Great list. I feel old when I say I have only heard of a few of the bands. I only heard of Example after the singer appeared on Nevermind the Buzzcocks. At some stage I stopped being cool and started being out of touch LOL

  14. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage? My blog site is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my visitors would definitely benefit from some of the information you present here. Please let me know if this okay with you. Thanks a lot!

  15. good list. lots of new ones fro me. 2011 was a ‘festival scene’ for me and I picked up an entirely different list of favorites… Hooray for Spotify, I’m going through these now. nice post

  16. Definitely with you on the Radiohead front. if I’m feeling a little dark or low, Radiohead are most likely my music of choice – wow I sound like a total depressed weirdo! But quality music there anyway. In terms of Bon Iver, I absolutely loved their first album. But this one seems a little jumbled to me – Calgary is a great track, but I feel a little confused with this one, like how you say you feel about Radiohead’s The King Of Limbs.
    Thank you for the post and happy 2012!

  17. Great taste in music! I Love the one’s I’ve heard but you list a few I have not. I know what I’ll be doing today…

    A few you might appreciate;
    Mumford & Sons “Sigh no more”

    The Avett Brothers “I and Love and you”

  18. Major/Minor is truly awesome! So glad you included them. Blinded is an awesome song too…Foo has a great documentary I watched on Paladia explaining how they wrote their new album, definitely worth checking out. I liked it even more after watching it. Great list.

  19. You wrote about The Weeknd in your best of review, what do you mean by “… it paints a picture of a world so foreign that I struggle to find any personal connections.” You don’t have a personal connection to the music? Are you human or a cyborg? Isn’t enough of a personal connection to actually, dare I say ‘like’, a song or body of music? Abel Tesfaye, bka The Weeknd, addresses a wide gamut of emotions, no different from any of other genre of music. Surely, if suburban kids can readily identify with Tupac, Wu-Tang, Wiz Khalifa, Tyler the Creator and a host of other “Urban” artist, then surely you need not have to justify getting your groove on to The Weeknd.

    P.S. If it’s any consolation The Weeknd uses samples from a myriad of musical sources, among them The Siouxise and the Banshees and the Cocteau Twins on his Thursday mixtape. Perhaps knowledge such as this will make you less conflicted. Peace.

    1. Thanks for the really thoughtful response!

      When I mentioned the lack of personal connections, I was talking primarily about The Weeknd’s lyrical content, as opposed to any visceral or basic enjoyment of the songs. The only justification involved was aiming to convince others to try his work – not to imply I felt some kind of guilt about liking it. In fact, I feel the point I was making was fairly complimentary. While I haven’t done any kind of in-depth lyrical analysis of House of Balloons, many of the broader and more dominant themes include drug abuse, spades of questionable sexual conduct, and what is arguably a thoughtless and extremely hedonistic lifestyle. In that sense, it’s a world very foreign to me – simply because I don’t relate to any of those things. Yet despite this, The Weeknd managed to draw me into these stories he tells. He managed to draw me into his world. I know it can be hard enough to get into a new genre when you can relate to the stories and music, so for him to introduce me to his R&B, and for me to grow to enjoy it, is quite a remarkable thing in my books.

      I’ve heard he uses a lot of cool samples too. I’m not really conflicted though – I simply chose House of Balloons because I’m certain that I enjoy it. As opposed to the other two, which I haven’t had enough time to absorb yet.

  20. On my blog I gave album of the year to the Foo Fighters – Wsted Light. I would include Ryan Adam’s Ashes and Fire. The White Buffalo EP and also Jay Z and K. West Watch the Throne. Your list is really well put together and I can apprecaite your taste in music. Thrice has been awesome for years and have never gitten the credit they deserve…I will def check back to your blog. Well Done!

  21. I can definitely see where you’re coming from with The King Of Limbs, it is difficult to get into. I think what drew me in was the feeling that there was an overall structure, like a musical plot of sorts. It starts off frentic and chaotic with polyrhythms and noise, and gradually mellows, finally reaching a conclusion that sums up both sides. But even if the album isn’t for everyone, or if someone thinks my story arc thing is a load of crap, I don’t think anyone can argue that Codex is one of the best songs they’ve done in years. So hauntingly beautiful, especially when the horn section comes in!

  22. REALLY???
    can i ask you this… do you generally get this amount of commenters??

    i urge everyone to check out my Year in Music 2011 blog post here… … i guarantee i put more time and effort into it.

    and congratulations on getting freshly pressed!

    1. Thank you for the congratulations, but no – clearly these comments and the spike in activity on my blog are a result of getting freshly pressed.

      I don’t mind people posting related links in the comments, even if they’re promoting their own blogs.
      But try not be so pretentious about it, yeah?

      P.S. Nice pick with James Blake though – and good effort to get into some smaller artists and more independent music outside of your comfort zone! Seriously. It’s always good to push your tastes like that.

  23. Some great stuff in your list. And some omissions, but isn’t that what it’s all about? Given some of your choices, I was wondering if you’ve come across Professor Penguin yet? Might be worth doing a google and having a listen.

  24. This Radiohead’s new album becomes more understandable after watching “Live from the Basement” version.
    However, a very good album.

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