My “Top Music of 2011” List

Here you are: my list of the Top Music of 2011…and in no particular order, save for one.  You’ll know it when you get there.

The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow
This album came completely out of left field for me.  Someone (somewhere) mentioned it — probably on Facebook — and the “duet” factor sounded interesting.  I listened to an early release of the title track, Barton Hollow, and it sounded great to me, so I waited patiently for the full release.  Strangely enough, the title track (and first single) is not necessarily representative of the rest of the album, which may put some folks off.  In fact, the remainder of the album is considerably more mellow.  That said, this is a great album if you’ll give it some time.  Would I like to hear more of their upbeat stuff?  Sure.  Maybe next time.  But this is definitely one of the best albums to have been released this year.

Death Cab For Cutie, Codes & Keys
Let me be clear on this point: I’m not really a fan of Death Cab For Cutie.  I have nothing against them, of course, I’m just not part of their fan base.  Still, I heard the first single from this album, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I decided that the rest of the album needed a good listen-thru, and I’m glad I did.  It just sounds like typical “Death Cab” stuff, if you ask me, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.  Is it ground-breaking?  Not really.  But it is very good.  Funny thing is… I don’t feel like Death Cab ever really writes any choruses into their songs – it’s just one verse after another.  Good stuff, though, and very enjoyable to listen to.

The Decemberists, The King Is Dead
This album was released very early in 2011, so it’s likely to be overlooked by some.  That said, it was also the first album of the year to truly capture my attention – and I’m not necessarily a long-time listener of The Decemberists.  What can I really say about this album, though?  It’s just a strong release thru and thru.  Some favorites include: “Dear Avery” and “This Is Why We Fight”.


Jane’s Addiction
, The Great Escape Artist

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be including a Jane’s Addiction album on my Top Music of 2011 list.  It seemed impossible, but here it is.  For some background, I’ve been a long-time Jane’s Addiction fan – dating back to their “Nothing’s Shocking” release – but their most recent releases have not necessarily captivated me.  Good?  Yes.  Great?  Not necessarily.  So, it was with some skepticism that I grabbed The Great Escape Artist and gave it a listen.  (I’m so happy for subscription music services!)  Quite simply, I was blown away.  Perry Farrell sounds great, the songwriting is top-notch, and (surprisingly) the album is very clean.  On the downside?  It’s probably one of the worst album covers I’ve seen in a long, long time…

Manchester Orchestra, Simple Math
Having arrived late-to-the-game with Manchester Orchestra, I was very much looking forward to their latest release, Simple Math, and it didn’t disappoint.  In fact, I easily consider this to be their strongest album yet.  It seems that Manchester Orchestra is growing up in many ways: lyrically, most of all, but also musically.  There is still an experimental/indie vibe to their songwriting, but it totally works.  Some personal favorite tracks include: “Simple Math”, “Apprehension” and “April Fool”.  Just a solid album.

Josh Garrels, Love & War & The Sea In Between
I wouldn’t normally choose a “best album of the year”, but in this case I feel absolutely compelled to name one: Josh Garrels’ “Love & War & The Sea In Between”.  There is no doubt in my mind.  What started as a mere suggestion from a friend of mine (thanks, Tim!) was followed up by an email from NoiseTrade.com with a link to this album.  I figured that I might as well.  The first song caught me off-guard.  It was more haunting and mellow that I figured it would be.  It also sounded a lot like Damien Jurado, which wasn’t a bad thing in my book – but could certainly be polarizing to some.  By the end of the third song, I was absolutely sold…and hooked.  This is not only the most solid album I’ve heard all year, it’s probably one of the best I’ve ever heard.  Seriously.  Even better?  You fall in love with the first half of the album, and then quickly realize you’ve only partially tapped the beauty of this release.  Your favorite tracks shift on a daily or weekly basis.  But nothing has struck me more about this album than the lyrics have.  Beautiful.  Challenging.  Heart-wrenching.  Encouraging.  And everything in-between.  If you’re still reading this paragraph and have not yet downloaded this album, then do yourself a favor: head over to NoiseTrade.com and download it for free.  You can thank me later.  And thank you, Josh Garrels, for what is easily the best album I’ve heard in years…

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Mutemath, Odd Soul
A very solid release from Mutemath, and I definitely prefer this to their last one.  Still, not as strong as their self-titled album.  I’d like to see the old spark rekindled with these guys.

The Dear Hunter, The Color Spectrum
Having first heard them when I saw them open for mewithoutYou, I was very impressed.  Their last album, Act III, is one of my recent favorites.  Still, this latest release is actually a combination of nine EPs that they released in 2011.  It may be a great album, but I just can’t make it thru it the entire way…

Switchfoot, Vice Verses
Just a great album all-around.  Not mind-blowing, necessarily, but very good.

DISHONORABLE MENTIONS

Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto
I’m actually a bit of a Coldplay fan, so I was very much looking forward to their latest release, Mylo Xyloto.  I heard a few early tracks and I began to get concerned.  Then I heard the full-release, and…well…I basically had no desire to listen through it again.  That’s a bad sign.  Perhaps in a few months it’ll “click” with me, but I doubt it.  I don’t know what happened here…

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5 Responses to “My “Top Music of 2011” List”


  1. 1 Alan December 23, 2011 at 5:41 am

    Scott- Enjoy your lists as always. My top 20 is coming soon, been working on it all week. My thoughts on yours:
    Civil Wars- Boring 🙂 They record fun covers though (Disarm, Billie Jean)
    DCFC- I am actually a big Death Cab fan, and this is the first album I have truly liked by them in 8 years. Have you compared the lyrics of “You Are a Tourist” to “In Exile” by Thrice? Pretty fascinating.
    Decemberists- I think I need to get this album. Been reading reviews of it constantly on year-end lists, and while I have never liked them that much, I think they finally recorded an album that would suit my tastes.
    Jane’s Addiction- no interest
    Manchester Orchestra- agree completely!
    Josh Garrels- Also agree, this guy is insanely talented. I need to check out his back catalog.
    Coldplay- I hear where you are coming from, but I actually like the pop/R&B twist on the album. Clearly as good as Viva La Vida, but I think they had to go in a different direction.

  2. 2 Marcus Taylor May 21, 2012 at 1:42 am

    I don’t know if you’re gonna see this or not, but I’m listening to the new mewithoutYou album “Ten Stories” and since I know you’re a fan, I’m kinda curious as to whether you’ve heard it and what you think.

    • 3 yipcanjo May 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      Hey, Marcus!

      Actually, yeah….I do see this…and yeah…I’ve already grabbed the newest mewithoutYou album 🙂 I really like the album quite a bit — and more so than their last release. It’s not quite “Catch For Us The Foxes” good, but there are some awesome songs on there.

      As always, mewithoutYou is an acquired taste. You either dig ’em or you don’t 😉

      • 4 Marcus Taylor May 22, 2012 at 12:50 am

        Aye, seems that way. I know precious few fellow fans of mwY, though I’m reminding one friend who hasn’t listened since “Catch For Us the Foxes” that he likes them too 😀

        I thought the It’s All Crazy! album was fairly decent, it was definitely a departure from their established style but I thought there was at least a few very solid tunes on there. “King Beetle On the Coconut Estate” was probably my favorite from that one, if not just for the accompaniment.

        Side note: pretty much all of the songs from the It’s All Crazy album are really easy to pick up on guitar. You pretty much just need to know the G, D and C7 if you want to play Allah Allah Allah 😀

        As for Ten Stories, I think it’s shaping up for me to be probably… their second best album, I think I still like “Brother, Sister” better in some ways, but Ten Stories did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the theme throughout the entirety of the album. So far, my favorite tracks are February 1878, Fox’s Dream On A Log Flume, and Nine Stories.

  3. 5 yipcanjo May 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    “It’s All Crazy!” definitely had a number of great tunes — it just didn’t feel as “incredible” or cohesive as their previous efforts — especially after “Brother, Sister” and “Catch For Us The Foxes” — both amazing albums. “Ten Stories” is really, really good, though.

    My wife had a funny comment: she was hoping that they were going to ditch the “food” and “animal” themes for this record, and they really didn’t. I guess every lyricist has their own well to draw from, but they’ve definitely leaned toward those themes on their past couple of releases. To each his own….

    Thanks for the insight on the chords! 🙂


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