As the year of 2011 is winding down, the time comes to look back on all of the great music that was released this year. Whether it is slow Jazz or Metal, there were too many great albums to count this year. I’m sure that I’ve let a few slide under the radar that I should have heard, but between school and working, there is only so much music one man can listen to. Being an audio engineer, I look at music from both a technical and musical point of view, and I have considered both while compiling this list. Without further ado, I present my top 10 albums of 2011.
10. Foster The People – Torches
Foster people released Torches back in May, and the album was one I didn’t listen to until about a month ago. The single “Pumped Up Kicks” made quite a run on pop radio stations, and you could say that the band “broke” off of that song. The song “Don’t Stop (Color On The Walls)” appeared on a television commercial, and when I listened to the album I immediately realized that I had heard the song somewhere. The catchiness of the songs on Torches is what really sold me on the album. One downfall of this album is the fact that it only has 11 tracks. In a day where every artist is releasing a “Deluxe Edition” of their album that has bonus tracks, this album seemed to end a little too soon.
9. We The Kings – Sunshine State of Mind
I have always listened to We The Kings, and I was very satisfied with their new album, Sunshine State of Mind. From upbeat songs like “Every Single Dollar” to slower songs like “You and Only You” this album kept my ears happy from start to end. The Achilles heel of this album was also its track count; eleven songs (including one bonus track, “Summer”) just doesn’t cut it for me anymore. I would like to put Sunshine State of Mind higher on the list, but there were just too many great albums released later in the year that took my attention away from this one.
8. Theory of A Deadman – The Truth Is…
Finally, I found an album that kept me listening to it for longer than 45 minutes. Theory of A Deadman’s 19-track album The Truth Is… was released in early July, but the production value that went into this record was phenomenal. Big guitars, pounding drums, and catchy melodies had me stuck on this record for quite some time. Also, the two acoustic songs thrown in for the special edition CD were a great touch! The band’s witty lyrics have entertained me ever since I listened to Scars and Souvenirs a few years back. With songs like “Bitch Came Back” and “The Truth Is…” this album stepped up the game from previous works, and the acoustic versions of “Easy to Love You” and “Out of My Head” included on the special edition album were a great way to end.
7. Yelawolf – Radioactive
Yelawolf released his latest album, Radioactive, in mid-November and it was the first time I had heard his music. Leslie Brathwaite mixed the album, and that’s the main reason I bought it. He made a trip to Full Sail University while I was attending school there and showed some mixing techniques he uses for the song “Made In The USA” on this album. The vocal production of the album is outstanding, and the first thing I noticed about the songs. The instrumentals are unique and use a multitude of different sounds, the choruses are catchy, and verses are filled with clever metaphors and smooth rhymes. Other than “Made in The USA”, the song “Let’s Roll (ft. Kid Rock)” was my favorite on the album, but you can’t really go wrong with any of them.
6. Ratham Stone – Enough To Last
This rating may have a little bit of bias to it because I know the band and I’ve done a lot of photography and music videos for them. I met these guys when I recorded a song for them in my Session Recording class while I was at Full Sail University. With that said, Enough To Last is by far the band’s greatest album yet. I have listened to this album more than most CDs in my car and I have yet to have the album get old. From upbeat, fun songs like “You’re My Girl Tonight” and “Come Back Home” to slower acoustic songs like “She Said (ft. Mandy Sloan)” every song has a catchy chorus with a top 40-feel that won’t leave you disappointed.
5. Kanye West & JAY-Z – Watch The Throne
I think this was one of the most anticipated albums of the year overall. With two of today’s most well known hip-hop artists creating an album together, it looked as if it was going to be a huge album, and it proved to be nothing less than that. The record broke the iTunes opening week sales record, selling 290,000 copies in the first week. I listened to it a few times in a row on a road trip and I didn’t find myself wanting to skip a single on of the 16 songs. Some of this highlights of this album included the songs “Ni**as in Paris” and “Otis (feat. Otis Redding)”, both of which did well on the radio. Although it’s not what I would have expected out of a typical record from either artist, this album just has good music, and I like that.
4. Jack’s Mannequin – People and Things
The third studio album from the band Jack’s Mannequin was released in early October, with the deluxe edition being released in late September. The first time I heard the pieces off the album was when I went to do photography for the Jack’s Mannequin show at Orlando House of Blues. When I heard Andrew McMahon play some of the songs, I knew I had to buy it. Every song on this album is a very well written song, and I would expect nothing less from the band. People and Things seems to flow very well from song to song. Overall, this album is another album that is just put together really well and has great music all around.
3. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Bon Iver has been one of my favorite bands from the day I heard “Skinny Love”, a single that became popular from playing on the television show Chuck. When I heard the announcement of the release, Bon Iver became the first record I had ever preordered on itunes, and I didn’t regret it. Anytime I am editing photos, it’s almost guaranteed I will have this album playing in the background. Bon Iver always gives off that intimate feeling of being just an acoustic guitar and singer, but is really a lot more than that on this album. This album is filled with the synthesizers and keyboard sounds you would hear on an 80s album, twice the reverb of a Coldplay album, but yet the simplicity of a Bon Iver album. Throw this album on during a rainy day and just listen.
2. The Lonely Forest – Arrows
The Lonely Forest is a band that not many people have heard of, but (as one of my good friends pointed out) they sound a lot like a band from the late 80s called the Gin Blossoms. I discovered the band while listening to Alt Nation on XM Radio. Their song “Turn Off This Song and Go Outside” came on the radio and I immediately found the concept of that song to be really catchy. When I bought the album, it turned out to be a whole album of, quality, emotional, easy to relate to songs. My favorites on the album are “Turn Off This Song and Go Outside”, “(I am) The Love Addict”, “I Don’t Want To Live There”, and “We Sing In Time”. Be sure to look out for The Lonely Forest in the Alternative scene, as I’m sure we will hear more from them!
1. Adele – 21
Whether you like it or not, Adele had the best album of the year… hands down. There is no arguing that every song on this album is nothing short of absolute perfection. Every bend, breath, drum hit, harmony part, and lyric is so well thought out beautiful that I couldn’t help but putting her at the top. I don’t think the general public would disagree either considering the over 15 million album sales thus far. She has become the first artist to sell 5 million copies of an album in the first year since 2004 when Usher’s Confessions album debuted; and her highest sales week being the week of Christmas (40+ weeks after the debut). This is what happens when you have a real musician with incredible talent release an album. Adele’s 21 is her sophomore album and she has really outdone herself with it. The album is a series of songs about her break up with her boyfriend of a year and a half, as she pours he heart out on every track. I couldn’t think of how an album could be better than 21, and until I find one, this shall remain my number one.