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Old 12-19-2011, 01:50 PM  
Reaper16 Reaper16 is offline
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Reaper's Favorite Albums of 2011

Here it is, y'all. The highly-anticipated annual list of my favorite albums of the year. 2011 was an interesting year in music. There wasn't a single album that I personally rated 9/10. No great albums. But there were a ton of albums that I rated 8.5/10 to 7.5/10. Lots and lots and lots of really good albums. I struggled with the ordering of these albums; it seemed arbitrary at times. So that's why in lieu of doing honorable mentions this year I'm just going to do an ordered top 50. That's right, these are my favorite 50 albums of the year.

As always, this isn't meaning to be an objective list of best albums of the year. While I listen to over 300 new albums each year, I still don't listen to enough to feel comfortable making objective claims about quality. Do you think I snubbed some really great dubstep album? Did I miss out on a perfect bluegrass album? It's very likely that I did, but this is a list of my personal favorites. That's why you're going to see lots of metal albums on the list. It's also why you're going to see as many, if not more, hip-hop albums on this list. 2011 was a stupendous year for rap music.

Anyway, I'm going to be rolling these out over the next couple of days or so as I write up little paragraphs for each album in-between working on other stuff.

50.) Tune-Yards - w h o k i l l
49.) White Willow - Terminal Twilight
48.) Blut Aus Nord - 777 Sects
47.) Blut Aus Nord - 777 The Desanctification
46.) La Dispute - Wildlife
45.) Childish Gambino - Camp
44.) Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial Lineage
43.) Boris - New Album
42.) Antediluvian - Through the Cervix of Hawaah
41.) Fen - Epoch
40.) Kendrick Lamar - Section.80
39.) M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
38.) Florence + the Machine - Ceremonials
37.) Wild Flag - Wild Flag
36.) Opeth - Heritage
35.) The Roots - Undun
34.) Vektor - Outer Isolation
33.) Rudra - Brahmavidya: Immortal I
32.) Tech N9ne - All 6s & 7s
31.) Lady GaGa - Born This Way
30.) Death Grips - ExMilitary
29.) Leprous - Bilateral
28.) Mr. Mother****in eXquire - Lost in Translation
27.) ASAP Rocky - LiveLoveA$ap
26.) Hades Archer - For the Diabolical Ages
25.) Cities Aviv - Digital Lows
24.) Big KRIT - Return of 4Eva
23.) Absu - Abzu
22.) Disma - Towards the Megalith
21.) Cunninglynguists - Oneirology
20.) Bon Iver - Bon Iver
19.) Trap Them - Darker Handcraft
18.) Das Racist - Relax
17.) Steven Wilson - Grace for Drowning
16.) Necros Christos - Doom of the Occult
15.) Ulcerate - The Destroyers of All
14.) Cormorant - Dwellings
13.) Symphony X - Iconoclast
12.) Danny Brown - XXX
11.) St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
10.) Hell - Human Remains
09.) Wolverine - Communication Lost
08.) G-Side - Island
07.) Dessa - Castor, the Twin
06.) TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light
05.) Unexpect - Fables of the Sleepless Empire
04.) Sims - Bad Time Zoo
03.) Doomtree - No Kings
02.) G-Side - The One... Cohesive
01.) Astronautalis - This Is Our Science

Thanks for reading and listening. Please put up your own lists in this thread if you'd like, or talk about other year-end lists, etc. Just like you guys have done for the past few years that I've done this.

Per QuikSsurfer's request, here are links to previous year's list threads: http://www.chiefsplanet.com/BB/showthread.php?t=238651 (2010); http://www.chiefsplanet.com/BB/showthread.php?t=219784 (2009) (I would change the order of the top 15 around if I were to re-do this one); http://www.chiefsplanet.com/BB/showthread.php?t=202037 (2008).

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Old 12-19-2011, 02:58 PM   #16
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Hey Reaper,
Props for posting OTBT music. I'm curious: where do you discover these groups in your list?
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Old 12-19-2011, 03:35 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by vailpass View Post
Hey Reaper,
Props for posting OTBT music. I'm curious: where do you discover these groups in your list?
OTBT = off the beaten trail? Well, being on music message boards helps an awful lot. I actually hear about a ton of stuff from the music message boards at gamefaqs.com, actually. Reading all the major music sites like pitchfork.com (even when they are infuriating, which is always) helps too. Lots and lots and lots of musical recommendations from friends. Social media. Etc.

I go see a lot of concerts. I'll ask the bands who they're listening to. Etc. Just keeping my ears open all the time. But message boards are the biggest thing, I think.
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Old 12-19-2011, 03:37 PM   #18
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39.) M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming


It took me a few weeks to listen to this album. It was the album of the moment in a lot of hipster circles; circles which tend to laud albums that bore the shit out of me (Fleet Foxes, anyone?). But I gave it a try – not knowing a damn thing about M83 or their/his past releases – and found an awful lot to enjoy. This is an absolutely HUGE pop record. Like, take no prisoners and spare no sound HUGE. Throw in all sorts of electronic synth lines and samples and try to make the most anthemic electronic pop album of all time HUGE. It’s a Goddamned double-album, the classic sign of musical hubris/testicular fortitude. Take for instance “Midnight City,” linked below: it sounds like someone strapped Gary Newman and Hall & Oates with dynamite and placed them in a Honda Fit and then set off the dynamite when the car drove into Kenny G’s house. It’s ****ing awesome. Even better is “Steve McQueen,” which doesn’t have a YouTube link available for it: it sounds like an old Bowie record mixed with modern indie-pop melodies mixed with a Sufjan Stevens-like songwriting scope mixed with punishing drums mixed with Kraftwerk if Kraftwerk played xylophones. Just about every song here is huge, even the under-two-minute instrumentals. It’s actually too over-the-top for me to truly get behind. The strain of trying to be as anthemic as possible shows across the double-album length. It’s in need of a trim, but even in excess this is an incredibly fun pop album.



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Old 12-19-2011, 03:38 PM   #19
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38.) Florence & the Machine - Ceremonials


The new album from Florence + the Machine actually suffers from a similar problem as the M83 album – it is trying very hard to be the biggest-sounding pop album on the planet. The songwriting approach on Ceremonials seems to be “Hey, ‘Drumming Song’ off the last album was ****ing epic. Let’s make 12 ‘Drumming Songs’ this time.” This album lacks the variance and eclectic touches that made Florence’s debut album so great to me. What’s here is plenty good: it has all of the choirs and orchestral arrangements and emotional drive and soaring vocals that made me a fan of Florence from the first song I heard of hers. The first three tracks are are good a sequence as Florence has ever put out. “What the Water Gave Me,” linked below, features basically everything that is good about Florence’s sound. Album opener “Only If For A Night” is the album’s highlight for me; it makes me feel as good as just about any song released this year. But I can’t help but feel that this album is like a Dragonforce album – it has lots of sounds that I love, but they are in so large a number that you become desensitized to it. Still, if you enjoyed Florence’s first album then you’re going to dig the Hell out of this one too.



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Old 12-19-2011, 03:40 PM   #20
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37.) Wild Flag – Wild Flag


Wild Flag, as many of you probably know, is fronted by Carrie Brownstien of Sleater-Kinney. That’s enough to warrant a listen for most people. And indeed, these four mid-30’s girls have put out a super-fun pure rock album with this self-titled debut. This is no-frills rock and roll, people. Pop-rock chord progressions meets a syrupy guitar tone meets classic punk drums. The vocals are wise but winking. If there was any single album this year that I’d want to play Rock Band/Guitar Hero to it’d be this one. The whole album sounds like the band is just having a lot of fun playing music, and that is an infectious feeling that carries over to the listening experience. Listen to album opener, “Romance.” I dare you to find a more fun rock song from this year. I dare you to not sing along to its chorus.



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Old 12-19-2011, 03:43 PM   #21
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36.) Opeth - Heritage


This album is actually also one of the most disappointing albums of the year. The premise is awesome: Opeth taking all of the metal and all of the harsh vocals out of their sound in order to make a pure progressive rock album. They already did this concept of sorts; 2005’s Damnation is a beautiful collection of stripped-down rock songs. Heritage by comparison is not stripped down at all. It embraces lots of classic prog music flourishes. It’s very often beautiful and it’s both challenging and something that you can study to or do work to. I guess I’m disappointed in it for a couple of reasons: the songs structures are very uneven. Passages just stop and start for no real reason. Opeth are masters of blending heavy passages in with light passages, but without the heavy passages on their palette this time around the structures get clunky. Additionally, this is an album that doesn’t progress anything. Nothing is new here. Either Opeth sounds like themselves as of late, or they sound like a 60s/70s prog band. Either way, this album feels very old. I want development, not looking back at the past just for the sake of doing it. But don’t let me dissuade you from listening to the album. It’s still really enjoyable to listen to this band weave interesting and intricate melodies together.



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Old 12-19-2011, 03:44 PM   #22
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35.) The Roots - Undun


The Roots are so consistent. Each year it seems like they make a solid, enjoyable 7/10 album like its nothing at all. This year, just a couple of weeks ago in fact, they dropped something a bit more ambitious than their usual work. Undun is a concept album through and through, telling the story of a fictional urban everyman named Redford Stephens. I’m told that there is an iPad app that provides accompanying visuals, but the album is certainly good enough and the lyrics impactful enough that you don’t need visual help to understand these songs about Redford’s trials and struggles with an inner-city life that leads him to make a series of wrong decisions in his life. This is a familiar story, but one important enough to keep telling in new and different ways. You probably won’t realize it on first listen, at least not for a while into it, but this concept album is actually told in reverse. The album begins with the sound of a flatline and we come to learn that the album tells Redford’s story from death and then backwards to the beginning. The Roots found time between being Jimmy Fallon’s house band on Late Nite to put out their most ambitious and cohesive artistic statement yet and we’re all the better for it.


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Old 12-19-2011, 03:45 PM   #23
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34.) Vektor – Outer Isolation


Arizona’s Vektor play a sort of hyper-musical progressive thrash metal. It has all the speed and aggression of thrash, and their vocalist has a high-pitched shriek that would make Tom Arraya of Slayer jealous. What sets them apart is their brazen, off-the-wall musical talent. I had a guitarist friend of mine, no slouch when it comes to shredding, kind of stare dumbfounded and ask “What time signature is that?” a couple of times while listening to this album. Vektor writes riffs that are just stupid complex. Listen to the track “Tetrastructural Minds,” linked below: the complexity is evident but it never gets in the way of the songwriting. That song – constantly surprising and in every way a completely classic, bad-ass thrash song – might be my favorite metal song of the entire year. The rest of the album, each track a bit overlong, doesn’t quite reach that track’s standard, but it is all a blistering, stupefying listen.


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Old 12-19-2011, 03:46 PM   #24
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33.) Rudra – Brahmavidya: Immortal I


Rudra are an Indonesian metal band who write concept albums based on the Hindu faith. This is a follow-up to an album that placed in the top 15 of my 2009 albums list, and it completes a concept trilogy. It takes a few listens to understand the subtle dynamics present in this band. They play technical death metal, but there’s just enough sitar and Indian melodies to liven things up. This album sees a new lead guitarist for the band, and the overall sound has shifted from technical riffing more towards something like old Opeth, which is pretty interesting. Underneath Rudra’s unique qualities, this is a pretty straightforward metal release in some ways. But it just excels at every step.



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Old 12-19-2011, 03:47 PM   #25
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32.) Tech N9ne – All 6s & 7s


Tech has always said that he’ll never go mainstream but he’d make the mainstream go Tech. That happened in 2011. Tech appeared on Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV and Renegade’d the whole album. He’s had coverage in mainstream hip-hop mags and was on a BET Awards cipher with Big KRIT and Kendrick Lamar. It’s about time; the man just turned 40 years old. This new album is damn solid all the way through. He’s an old man in a young man’s game, but Tech is still the best technical rapper on Earth. Tracks like “He’s A Mental Giant” showcase his astounding musical ability with beats that are more mainstream friendly than anything he’s released since the beginning of his career. “Worldwide Choppers” is an absolute highlight of the year; that track’s speed verses (especially Busta Rhymes’ verse) need to be heard to be believed. I’d have to think that Tech is going to settle down at some point and stop releasing so much music, but as long as he keeps putting out 8/10 albums he can go as long as he wants.



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Old 12-19-2011, 03:48 PM   #26
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31.) Lady GaGa – Born This Way


How does Lady GaGa follow up The Fame Monster, which was one of the most successful albums of modern times? On an artistic level, she chose to follow it up with the biggest, boldest, most personal album she could. And I don’t mean personal in terms of lyrics (though there’s that, too), but more like in terms of influences and sounds that GaGa loves. This album’s artistic project is to be a bold reappropriation of the late 80’s artists that most influence GaGa. When “Born This Way” totally rips off Madonna’s “Express Yourself” it is an intentional artistic nod. When Clarence Clemons (RIP) plays sax on “The Edge of Glory” it is because the specter of Bruce Springsteen appears throughout the entire album (but especially that track). New Wave influence? Check. Judas Priest influence? Check. Bon Jovi influence? Listen to album opener “Marry the Night.” This album is maligned in some circles, but those people are looking for different things in pop music than I am, I guess. The levels and mixes are ****ing perfect on this album. It’s dynamic and it sounds KILLER at a dance party. There are some clunker tracks here, which is a shame. Take out the horrendous “Government Hooker” and the album’s first 7 tracks are the best stretch in GaGa’s career. “Bloody Mary” is deliciously moody with techno-Gregorian chanting on the chorus, and she takes bold musical risks with the German electro track “Schibe” and the bizarre flamenco-influenced “Americano.” This album, most of it anyway, rules. **** you.



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Old 12-19-2011, 03:49 PM   #27
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30.) Death Grips - ExMilitary


In a year of all kinds of excellent rap albums, ExMilitary is the strangest and scariest of them all. Death Grips is a collaboration between Zach Hill, Sacramento math rock dummer; and MC Ride, an ultra-aggressive rapper who pretty much looks like a homeless man. MC Ride spits/barks/yells hard bars over glitch, scratchy electronic loops and noises. This shit is ****ing lo-fi and abrasive. In some ways it’s like a Black Metal approach to hip-hop, like if Ulver moved to Compton. This is the most challenging hip-hop album of the year, but you’re all the better for accepting the challenge. This is genre-defying, convention-destroying music.



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Old 12-19-2011, 04:04 PM   #28
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Old 12-19-2011, 04:24 PM   #29
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OTBT = off the beaten trail? Well, being on music message boards helps an awful lot. I actually hear about a ton of stuff from the music message boards at gamefaqs.com, actually. Reading all the major music sites like pitchfork.com (even when they are infuriating, which is always) helps too. Lots and lots and lots of musical recommendations from friends. Social media. Etc.

I go see a lot of concerts. I'll ask the bands who they're listening to. Etc. Just keeping my ears open all the time. But message boards are the biggest thing, I think.
Thanks for the reply; sounds like you are dialed in.
(yes otbt=off the beaten track)
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Old 12-19-2011, 06:47 PM   #30
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29.) Leprous – Bilateral


Leprous is a Norwegian band of very talented jazz and metal musicians. They’ve got all manner of synths, horns, saxophones, guitars, etc. They’re main gig over the last few years has been the live backing band to Ihsahn (see his excellent 2010 album, After, to hear Leprous’ work before 2011). But they also have a lead singer whose soaring, rich tenor is given room to shine without Ihsahn’s presence. These tracks are progressive metal, but not in the technical-power-metal way. They remind me of early Pain of Salvation in terms of the emotions created, only jazzier. Bilateral is a shifting, virtuosic album but also an emotional and accessible one. Any fan of progressive rock should check out this album. Even fans of Faith No More or Mr. Bungle will find plenty to like.



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