Welcome to another installment of Up on the Sun's 2011 Review. Over the next week, we'll be counting down our favorite songs, shows, national and local releases of 2011. This installment comes from Mike Escoto, who contributes to Up on the Sun and is one of the main perpetrators over at Electric Mustache, one of our favorite blogs. Enjoy!
If there are two things that I love it's music and lists, which is why I love this time of year. Sure, it's the holidays and that's great, but checking out all of the best of lists from other publications and music journalists is way more fun. It's a lot like fantasy football in a way, but for music nerds. (We should get our own The League-style show. Your move, FX.) You have your draft picks with your favorite albums and you check to see how many other best of lists they show up on. It's sort of a validation of your musical tastes.
This year it was a bit of a challenge coming up with my top ten favorite albums. While there was some really great music that was released this year it was tough to narrow it down to just ten albums. But, I made some tough decisions, and here we are. Game on.
10. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
I'm a huge fan of Annie Clark aka St. Vincent but to be honest her latest album Strange Mercy had to grow on me a little bit. While her two previous releases became instant favorites of mine it took a couple of listens for me to get into this one. I'm glad I stuck with it, though, the album has some really great tracks on it including my personal favorite "Cheerleader."
09. Real Estate - Days
The sophomore album from Real Estate is just simple, fun, enjoyable indie rock. Real Estate is the best thing to come out of New Jersey since The Jersey Shore.
08. Wilco - The Whole Love
Not my favorite Wilco album but still one of my favorite releases of the year.
07. DJ Shadow - The Less You Know The Better
I've been a long time fan of DJ Shadow starting way back in 1996 with his classic debut album Endtroducing. His latest, The Less You Know The Better, is by far his best album in a long time and features some really great guest vocals by Tom Vek and Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano.
06. Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch The Throne
According to Up on the Sun contributor Michael Lopez the number 6 spot of every critics top ten list is reserved for the token hip-hop album. So, I guess, this is mine. In all honesty, though, this is a pretty great record and I'll never be able to listen to Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness" again without thinking of this album.
05. Bill Callahan - Apocalypse
Up until a few months ago I wasn't familiar at all with Bill Callahan's solo material or his work with Smog. Luckily a e-mail from a publicist happened to pop into my inbox with a preview of Callahan's latest record Apocalypse. His deep, low voice quickly hooked me and this turned into one of my favorites of the year. I was pretty bummed when I missed him at Rhythm Room earlier this year.
04. Toro Y Moi - Underneath the Pine
While some of the other members of the "chill-wave" genre like Washed Out and Neon Indian put out some pretty forgettable records this year Toro Y Moi's second album was one of my favorites.
03. James Blake - James Blake
There's a really good reason why James Blake earned as much buzz for this record as he did: It's really good.
02. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Pretty much just an amazing record from top to bottom. It's difficult to find anything to dislike about the Fleet Foxes' second album.
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01. Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver
The year that Bon Iver released his debut album For Emma, Forever Ago I probably listened to that album more times than I had hot meals. So I was a little worried that his second album wouldn't live up to my high expectations. While there aren't a whole lot of similarities between the two albums I find myself liking Justin Vernon's latest record just as much as I did For Emma.