My Favorite Albums Of 2011

Happy List-Making Month everybody! It’s my favorite of the year. To celebrate, I present my list of albums that I love from 2011. There was a lot of good stuff, but these top few were the ones that kept me coming back.

The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker, Matt Stone & Bobby Lopez
Admittedly, I don’t listen to that many Broadway show soundtracks, so it’s tough to judge this one against others. But hot damn, this one’s brilliant. Not for the faint of heart, it’s extremely crude, searingly smart and funny, but ultimately a redemptive and joyful story about religion, God, friendship, and Star Wars. Listen to: “Two By Two”

American Goldwing by Blitzen Trapper
Like Broadway musical soundtracks, I don’t listen to very much Southern rock, but Blitzen Trapper may soon change that. This album, as with last year’s Destroyer of the Void, is rife with great summer car jams both upbeat and more plaintive. It’s part Lynyrd Skynyrd, part Dylan with a little John Prine thrown in. Listen to: “Might Find It Cheap”

Bon Iver by Bon Iver
Following his smash hit For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver could have doubled down on the haunting and minimalist style on his self-titled follow-up. Luckily he didn’t. Instead, he built upon the For Emma foundation with a “wall of sound” effect, complete with Kenny G-esque sax and 80s pop synthesizer on top of his multilayered falsetto. Can’t say I’m a fan of his collaboration with Kanye, but I am a fan of this. Listen to: “Beth / Rest”

Turtleneck & Chain by The Lonely Island
I don’t know how they do it. These songs… First of all, they’re just well-made songs. But they’re more than that because they’re hilarious. The production value coupled with this trio’s self-effacing and twisted sense of humor elevates this album from a mere collection of parody songs a la Weird Al to a new kind of Internet-age music comedy. I listened to this and the Book Of Mormon soundtrack this summer almost exclusively. Listen to: “Jack Sparrow”

undun by The Roots
When I read that Questlove said they based this concept album partially on Avon Barksdale from The Wire, I was sold. Good thing it lived up to that expectation because I thoroughly enjoyed undun‘s fresh musical style and lyrical flow. It’s more somber than I expected, but I fully expect it to be on repeat for awhile. Listen to: “Kool On”

A Treasury of Civil War Songs by Tom Glazer
Do me a kindness and forgive my nerdiness on this one. This collection of two dozen Civil War songs by Tom Glazer brings history alive by resurrecting songs famous and obscure from the era and setting them to a simple guitar/voice arrangement with the occasional banjo thrown in. Just imagine yourself strolling through Manassas or Gettysburg or Boston during the war and hearing these songs played. Listen to: “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”

Other albums I loved from this year:

Bright Morning Stars by The Wailin’ Jennys
My Head Is An Animal by Of Monster and Men
Middle Brother by Middle Brother
Smart Flesh by The Low Anthem
Locked by Land by Jinja Safari
The Head and the Heart by The Head and the Heart
The Great Book of John by The Great Book of John
The Harrow & The Harvest by Gillian Welch
Nothing is Wrong by Dawes