My favourite albums of 2011

Another year draws to a close; another (digital) stack of albums to review.

Without further ado, may I humbly present my picks for 2011…

The Rip Tide
Beirut

Indie Pop. Balkan Folk. Whatever. I’ll leave it to the tireless, selfless editors of Wikipedia to accurately label the musical genre into which Beirut falls.

I’ll simply say this: I really enjoyed this, their third album. Like Sufjan Stevens, these guys manage to accomplish the seemingly impossible musical feat of sounding at once melancholy and cheerful. Which may explain why I like this album so much: it’s the musical equivalent of my state of mind.

El Camino
The Black Keys 

Hell yeah!

Forget what you know about El Caminos, or the fact the cover of this album doesn’t actually depict one, but a vintage Chrysler mini-van with faux wood panelling.

Do you even care? If you were listening to this album right now, you sure as shit wouldn’t. Seriously.

Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Bon Iver 

Give me a moment.

Honestly, this is a tough one.

It’s hard to say exactly what it is about this album I find so… enchanting. Haunting vocals? Sombre music? Nevertheless, no list of my favourite albums for this past year would be complete without the inclusion of Bon Iver’s eponymous (squared) effort.

Mylo Xyloto
Coldplay 

I realize the inclusion of Coldplay’s latest offering, “Mylo Xyloto,” puts in jeopardy my standing as a bad-ass hipster. Honestly, though, if I were worried about what people thought of me, there’s a long list of things about which I would be sorry before I fretted about what people thought of my musical tastes.

Thankfully, I don’t really give a damn. Nor do I care this album, produced by committee, must’ve been focus-tested for ages before finally being released, since it’s hard to find anything not to like about it. It’s good, and very much in the same vein as what so many have come to expect from Chris Martin and his crew.

So yeah, Coldplay’s on my list. Deal with it.

Cults
Cults

Boy-girl Indie-pop duos are nothing new; in fact, they’re a dime a dozen nowadays. It just so happens I like ’em — especially when they’re actually good. And New York duo, Cults, are just that: good. So good I’ve included their debut album on this here list.

Might not be your cup of tea, but it sure is mine. Especially when I’m wearing skinny jeans, a plaid shirt, wayfarers, and a pair of Chuck Taylors… without socks!

Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes

Ah yes, Fleet Foxes. Instantly a hit with me and just about everybody else after the release of their self-titled debut album; their second, “Helplessness Blues,” does nothing to dissuade me, or everybody else I suspect, from continuing to like them very much.

Sure, it’s more of the same, and in another context that might be considered a criticism; with this baroque pop troupe, it’s a compliment. If, after all, you’ve hit upon a particularly lovely note (pun intended), why not play it again?

Ritual Union
Little Dragon 

What is it with Scandinavians and synth pop?

I’ll tell you what: they go together like gravlax and cream cheese… or a progressive taxation system and well-funded health and social programs.

Seriously, this album is awesome.

Lifeboats and Follies
Tommy Guerrero 

Is it apt the final album on my list is full of tunes perfect for chill-axing? Hard to say, since I’d intentionally alphabetized the thing. Regardless, this album is just that: ideal for those times when you want nothing more than to chill out and relax.

No, it won’t put you to sleep, or even make you lethargic; Guerrero’s stuff is much too cool for that. But it’ll definitely help you unwind after a miserable day, especially when paired with a cocktail made from top-shelf spirits.

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