2011 was a great year, musically for me. I got to find some incredible indie gamer musicians to feature in my weekly gaygamer.net feature, Audio File Friday, some of my favorite artists released stellar new albums, and I found a bunch of new artists to listen to. While listening to the the radio may have been more painful than ever, it was still a great year in music.
Here are my 11 favorite albums of 2011:
11. Hurry Up We’re Dreaming - M83
This group first showed up on my radar with ‘Midnight City’, and that particular song already hooked me before the epic saxophone comes into play. The rest of the two-part album is just the sort of thing a hipster-wannabe like me would enjoy, with an eclectic, just weird enough sound that carries throughout and transports you to another world.
10. Phoenix Down - Junk Science
Nerdcore hip-hop at its best, Junk Science and Scott Thorough have teamed up to produce a stellar full-length album, the music for which has been composed on an actual 8-bit synthesizer. Also, the award for most original album-delivery method goes to these guys, with Phoenix Down’s physical release being a custom made Phoenix-feather USB drive. ‘Dotted Line’ is by far my favorite track, and one of the most exciting uses of 8-bit I’ve ever heard.
9. This is Country Music - Brad Paisley
Despite being born and raised in San Francisco, deep down I’m just a country boy at heart. Brad Paisley, besides being a major hottie, is one of my favorite country artists and his newest effort is just plain beautiful to listen to. I makes me think about sitting on my hypothetical porch, drinking a beer and just relaxing as I watch the sunset. The album is aptly titled, giving listeners a crash course in what real good country music should sound like. From the heartfelt ballad with Carried Underwood ‘Remind Me’ to the EPIC instrumental piece ‘Eastwood’ there’s a little something here for everybody.
8. Voyage - Sound of Arrows
The debut album from ethereal eclectic electronic duo Sound of Arrows is a flat out eargasm. This is perfect getting
high lost in your thoughts music, and each songs flows from one to the next seamlessly. Pop this one in, enjoy…whatever kind of recreation you enjoy…and prepare for a journey…er, a voyage. ‘Wonders’ is my personal favorite.
7. Vices and Virtues - Panic! at the Disco
I’ve missed Panic! at the Disco, and despite a major membership shakeup they’ve managed to come back with a great album. I personally adored their second outing, Pretty. Odd., but this time around they’ve returned to the style that made them famous in the first place. ‘Memories’ stands out for me, and ‘Sarah Smiles’ is by far one of the single most dynamic and exciting songs I’ve heard all year.
6. Is the World Strange or am I Strange? - Cosmo Jarvis
Cosmo Jarvis is by far one of the most talented musicians working right now, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eyes, either. He first showed up on my radar with the song ‘Gay Pirates’ which appears on this newest release. Jarvis combines his incredible songwriting abilities with clever, hilarious, honest, and at times a bit disturbing lyrics. There isn’t a song on this album I don’t adore, even if each is 5-10 minutes in length; I’m there for the whole ride. ‘She Doesn’t Mind’ and ‘Sure as Hell Not Jesus’ do stand out a bit, though.
5. Camp - Childish Gambino
Gambino leads the life I want to lead. He’s writing for some of the biggest comedy shows on television, acting in the best comedy on tv Community, has a successful internet comedy troupe, and is an immensely popular indie rapper. I hate him…because I want to be him. His debut studio album, Camp, is exactly what you’d want from a Gambino record: some of the smartest lyrics in hip-hop today, incredible beats, smart sample choices, and a sick flow that I look like a fool trying to imitate. ‘Heartbeat’ is flawless.
4. Audio, Video, Disco - Justice
Justice shakes things up with album, taking their sound in a completely new direction while still providing some of the dirtiest beats this side of France. ‘Newlands’ is the stand out track for me, with it’s guitar strums and synthy bassline, followed closely by the titular 10-minute masterpiece ‘Audio, Video, Disco.’
3. The Night the Sun Came Up - Dev
Dev proved with her debut album that she’s more than just ‘that girl who sings Like a G6.’ And while this record has its fair share of club tracks like the saxy ‘In the Dark’ or ‘Bass Down Low’, it also has some shockingly mellow tracks like ‘Perfect Match’ and ‘Shadows’ that make it clear that Dev isn’t just a one trick pony.
2. 21 - Adele
What more can be said about Adele’s new album that hasn’t already been said? Every song on the record is as addictive as the last, and all she needs is her bangin’ voice. This production on this record is kept to a minimum, letting Adele’s vocals and incredible lyrics do all the heavy lifting. The only thing about this album that could possibly be seen as a negative is how overplayed ‘Rolling in the Deep’ has become.
1. Born This Way - Lady Gaga
A lot of people didn’t like this album as much as her previous efforts, but I’m going to go all hipster on you and say that I think it’s her best work to date. Or at least it’s my personal favorite. It feels like a real album and not just a random assortment of singles, a rare thing in mainstream pop music. This record feels like a 90s Euro-thump rave in a Church, with Clarence Clemons serving alter boy to Gaga’s preacher. Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band makes not one but two saxy appearances on this record, and those tracks, ‘The Edge of Glory’ and ‘Hair’, happen to be my faves. In fact, The Edge of Glory was by far my most favorite song of the year. Sax solos always get me going.
‘Heavy Metal Lover’, ‘Highway Unicorn’, and ‘Black Jesus † Amen Fashion’ round out my top five. The entire album is genre defying, with even individual songs switching genres (Hair goes from pop ballad to dance track mid-song) as you listen. But what I really love about Born This Way is how far Gaga has pushed herself with this record. It sounds nothing like what she’s done before, but is still undeniably her. No matter how you feel about Gaga or your music, it could never be said that she’s boring. This album reminds me of The Killers’ second outing, Sam’s Town, in that it’s excessive, over the top, and theatrical and that is exactly how I like my music.
And yes, I absolutely love the atrocious album cover, terrible font and all.