IGIF Presents: The Best Albums of 2011

Once again we’re at that time, faced with the onslaught of the inevitable Year End List, when everyone offers their opinion on what was the Best album, or Best song, or Best video, or Best concert of the year. Everyone jumps at the opportunity to canonize, to rank and file, to highlight what we’ll come to remember and leave behind what we’ll come to forget. Some of these lists try to say “Here are the Best, period. These speak to the soul of the average, normal, objective person. They delight the most ears. They’re scientifically superior, we’ve done the tests!” … Well, we’re not that kind of website and this isn’t that kind of list. The following albums happen to be the thirty of the hundreds we heard this year that meant the most to the two of us. If something isn’t on the list it either means we didn’t like it enough or didn’t listen to it. You’ll find some “honorable mentions” at the end of the list, but without further blabbering… IGIF’s Albums of 2011:


Kurt VileSmoke Ring For My Halo


There is something rustic about Kurt Vile’s craftsmanship as a songwriter and his fourth release, Smoke Ring for My Halo, made his music more accessible than ever. The way he tells a story and melodically picks at his guitar almost has a Bob Seger or Tom Petty vibe, but Vile tends to provide more intimacy in his songs. The production on Smoke Ring is stunning, tracks like “Runner’s Up” and “On Tour” are phenomenal examples. – Nathaniel

[MP3] Kurt VileThe Creature

Official Site | More MP3s | Buy @ Insound


Air DropsEP


This Lancaster-born beatmaker turned heads earlier in the year when he released his debut self-titled EP on the “Kanye To The” forums to massive fanfare. Picking up stylistic cues from everything from Brian Eno to Golden Age film scores to chillwave, Air Drops mixes and mashes brilliantly, giving each of the seven tracks a unique pacing, style and sound. It’s more akin to an opera than an EP, larger than life and exploding at the seams. I can’t wait to see what 2012 holds. – Connor

[MP3] Air DropsGiants of Canaan

Bandcamp | More MP3s


Toro Y MoiUnderneath The Pine


Chillwave could only last so long before everyone jumped ship (well, everyone except for Washed Out who apparently didn’t get the memo). While I was a fan of Chaz Bundick for songs like “Blessa” and for seeming like a guy who was doing his own thing, I turned into a superfan over Underneath The Pine. Songs like “Before I’m Done” and “How I Know” rip at my penchant for French pop, and Bundick’s arrangements are some of the most lush of the year. There’s also a more funky element, evident in singles “New Beat” and “Still Sound”, but I prefer the subtle and nuanced compositions at the album’s center (literally tracks 4-8), songs that’s I’m still exploring after countless listens. – Connor

[MP3] Toro Y MoiNew Beat

Chaz’s Blog | More MP3s | Buy @ Insound


Unknown Mortal OrchestraS/T


It seems like forever ago when I first stumbled upon Unknown Mortal Orchestra, who have adopted the acronym UMO (thank goodness). They have a penchant for creating great, lo-fi tracks backed by simple beats that combine a really weird mixture of garage rock and basement R&B. Little did I know, a handful of tracks lead to one of my favorite albums of 2011. Their self-titled debut is a mixture of energy and angst with tons of potential, can’t wait to see what they do next. – Nathaniel

[MP3] Unknown Mortal OrchestraFfunny Ffriends

Official Site | More MP3s | Buy @ Insound


Pepper RabbitRed Velvet Snowball


Why is it that Indie-Pop as a genre doesn’t get the same critical cred as more “serious” genres of music? It’s as if genuine happiness or the sound of a damn xylophone will never trump something with which listeners can’t so readily identify. Either way, Pepper Rabbit have, for the second year in a row, put out an immensely earnest, heartfelt album brimming with the moments of brilliance—and hooks, let’s not ignore the hooks—that make albums great. – Connor

[MP3] Pepper RabbitRose Mary Stretch

Facebook | More MP3s | Buy @ Insound


StarfuckerReptilians


Although it didn’t get the best reviews this year, there’s something unshakable about Starfucker’s Reptilians. Songs like “Julius” and “Death As A Fetish” gave 2011 some of its most memorable anthems, ferociously addictive, forward thrusting and almost unmatched on the year in how damn fun and exciting they are to experience. Each song is exhaustively positive and full of life to the point where everything else can seem bland by comparison. Of course there are different genres for different times and moods and moments, but Reptilians simply nails the fun-as-fuck electro pop spectrum, and that’s not something you should ignore. – Connor

[MP3] StarfuckerJulius

Facebook | More MP3s | Buy @ Insound


Youth LagoonThe Year Of Hibernation


There were a handful of albums that took me by surprise this year and Youth Lagoon’s The Year Of Hibernation is definitely near the top of my list. At first I was mad that the vocals were so thin and altered, then I got used to it and realized Trevor Powers’ voice served as an additional instrument that blended into the music so well. “Cannons” is a true gem but almost the entire album puts out this vibe of “Hi, we’re the weird cousins of Beach House without the production value and a knack for the gaze over the glamour.” And I am certainly alright with them wearing that name-tag to my Albums of the Year party tonight. – Nathaniel

[MP3] Youth LagoonCannons

Facebook | More MP3s | Buy @ Insound


Warm WeatherDances


Dances was one of the biggest surprises for me this year particularly because Warm Weather came out of Left Field, Nowhere. In their debut EP Warm Weather created a handful of near perfect pop songs crashing through influences ranging from the ubiquitous Beach Boys to David Bowie to The Shins. “The Dance” contains some of the year’s best harmonies (yeah, even with Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver in the mix), while “I Only Know” showcases the band’s deft touch for production and composition (it also happens to be one of my favorite songs of the year by a long shot). I’m betting on big things for Warm Weather in 2012. – Connor

[MP3] Warm WeatherOnly I Know

Bandcamp | More MP3s | Free download @ Bandcamp


St. VincentStrange Mercy


It took me a while to get into Strange Mercy… Held up to her previous effort, the career-making Actor, this album seemed on the surface to be a misstep, or at least a backstep… perhaps a better-produced version of her debut album. But once I forced myself through it (made immensely easier by the promise of “Cruel”) and unfolded its layers the true spectacle of Strange Mercy came through. The bizzaro guitar noodling under the shoegazy “Surgeon” and the mind-numbing crescendo in the final third of “Neutered Fruit”, for just two examples, give a glimpse into what Annie Clark was after in Strange Mercy… and even if I’m still not quite sure what that is, it’s pretty awesome trying to figure it out. – Connor

[MP3] St. VincentCruel

Official Site | More MP3s | Buy @ Insound


Jay-Z & Kanye WestWatch The Throne


Perhaps the most anticipated album of the year, Jay-Z and Kanye West released a flashy collab album with the substance to stick. The protégé and patron collabing for tracks on tracks on tracks on tracks! Kanye and his production team knocked it out of the park with Watch The Throne and Jay sounds reinvigorated, laying nimble and intricate verses with a power only he can command. While the album was far from perfect, it’s as intensive and well-executed as any album hip-hop album released this year. And it’s so cohesive, WTT drives forward as a collective piece of work and not a handful of singles loosely packaged together. – Nathaniel

[WWW] Listen to Watch The Throne at ex.fm

Official Site | More MP3s | Buy @ Insound

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

kemal göztepe December 22, 2011 at 4:27 am

Fair list! It’s great to see Atlas Sound, Real Estate and Panda Bear in top 10. And Caveman sounds delicious, I didn’t pay attention before. Btw have you seen our choice of best albums?
Cya.
http://www.weartbeat.com/p/50.html

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Mark December 22, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Great pics, fellas.

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dwaltman December 22, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Just made a Spotify Playlist with all the Top 10. Haven’t heard most of this stuff minus Iver, Radiohead, Foxes, Caveman. Should be fun listening!

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FW December 22, 2011 at 5:59 pm

I agree–Coco Beware is the best album of the year. Ask people in five years for 2011′s best, and it will be close to unanimous. Can’t wait to see them at Bowery in NYC next month.

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Sid December 23, 2011 at 3:29 am

Fantastic list (as expected), my only quibble would be the exclusion of The Field’s new album.

Back in 2006, I reverse-enginereed what my favorite music blog would be. I came up with my own favorites of the year list, and your end-of-year list closely mirrored mine.

Every year since then, your blog/list has exposed me to new gems I wouldn’t have discovered on my own.

Thanks for running such a fantastic blog for so long. Here’s to many more years.

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jeffort23 December 26, 2011 at 8:30 pm
nigel peeps December 27, 2011 at 4:44 pm

The most pretentious, snobby list I have ever seen.

Music, like any art, is subjective. I get it. Don’t get me wrong, there is some good stuff here. But of all the music released in the past year, this was your best? oh boy.

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Connor December 29, 2011 at 1:05 pm

dude the first thing we said in the intro is that these are our favorites of the albums we listened to. i think its your comment that’s pretentious, not our list

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Dan Kantor December 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Great list! Feel like I’ve heard most of these :)

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Tom January 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm

The best part of this list, for me, was actually finding out about the new ARMS cd!!!

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