my favorite music of 2011, so far.

At the end of June, I wanted to do some lists of my favorite stuff from this year so far, but this is the first I’ve had time to get to it. First, music.

My favorite 2011 albums so far. Some I’ve mentioned before, some I haven’t. I’ve already loved so many albums this year.

I know that putting 15 albums on means very few people will actually check them all out… but you really should. Seriously.

On with the list! As always, no meaning to the order, just a list.


1. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light

As far as I’m concerned, TV on the Radio are gods of music. They’re the band I’m most excited to see at the Capitol Hill Block party later this month.

Nine Types of Light may be my favorite album they’ve done, but at the very least its as good as anything else they’ve released, which means its as good as anything just about anyone has released.

Like many on this list, it’s one of those albums where I go, “Ooh, this is my favorite track… no wait, this one is… no, actually, this one is.”


2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Bon Iver has balls, that’s for sure. It would have been possible for an artist of his talent to release a super radio friendly album to make money off of that Kanye momentum. It also would have been safe to just make an album that sounded exactly like what he did on his last full-length. Instead, as was evidenced with the EP Blood Bank, Justin Vernon is just going to keep pushing into new places, which includes taking terrible elements of pop music and making them beautiful. On Blood Bank, he did it with auto-tune, here on Bon Iver, he does it with 80’s synth, among other things.

There are plenty of songs on the album which would have worked well as a transition between his previous work, and this album, but instead of choosing one of those as track 1, he chose the song that was the farthest from his previous work. It sounds like he’s covering Peter Gabriel or something.

I guess with this album, you either love it or hate it. I love it.

Here’s him covering Bonnie Rait. This song isn’t actually on the album, it’s the B-Side for “Calgary”. In my opinion, his version is haltingly beautiful. I heart it.


3. Radiohead – The King of Limbs

As I’ve written before, this wasn’t mind-blowing for me the way that In Rainbows was. Still, pretty good Radiohead is better than the very best of 99.99999999999999999999999999999999% of everyone else. Everyone’s already seen the video, so I won’t bother linking to it.


4. The Raveonettes – Raven in the Grave

It didn’t take long for me to like this album enough to listen to it on repeat for entire afternoons. I’ve gotten into their work through this album in a way I wasn’t before.


5. Wye Oak – Civilian

I got this album because of Amazon’s mp3 store. It was one of their $5 albums, and every time I opened the mp3 store it was one of the top four albums they’d put up for my consideration. Really liking the album cover piqued my interest enough that eventually I decided to check the album out.




I don’t know where I’ve been in never listening to Wye Oak before, but this album is amazing. It’s the album this year where I think anew over and over, “Wow, I can’t believe how good this album is!”

Thanks Amazon, for an album I would have never heard of otherwise.

Here they are performing on a balcony in Amsterdam.


6. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up

I have a confession that needs to be made. Even though I’m a huge hip hop fan, I’ve been dragging my feet about getting into the Seattle scene. That’s just stupid. Seattle may just have the most exciting indie hip hop scene in existence, with acts like The Blue Scholars, Grayskul, Shabazz Palaces, Fresh Espresso, Champagne Champagne, Mackelmore, and others.

So far, Grayskul is the only group I’ve really spent enough time listening to, and they are good enough that it should have launched me into the rest of the Seattle scene instantly.

Checking out the new Shabazz Palaces album sight-unseen was another attempt to finally start pursuing the Seattle scene in earnest, and this album makes me really sad I have been waiting so long.

These guys are fantastic. The emcee work on this album is impeccable. A great emcee should be able to be playful, cutting, insightful, and poignant all in turn. Well, check, check, check, and check.

The music is original, inventive, and always engaging. The first time I was listening to this album I was reading at the same time. I had to put the book down and just listen because the music was too engaging and I wasn’t paying attention to the book anymore.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


7. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

It’s gotten to the point where there isn’t any band I love more than Okkervil River. In the past, I didn’t think they would ever release another album quite as good as Black Sheep Boy, but they just might have done it with I Am Very Far. By quite a large margin, this is the album I’ve listened to the most times so far this year.


8. The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart

My love for them is nothing new.

I get to see them live for the first time at the Capitol Hill Block Party! Yay!


9. Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys

I’d completely stopped listening to Death Cab. I’m not sure why, I didn’t stop liking them, I just never thought, ‘Hey, I’ll turn on a Death Cab album.’ Well, that’s all in the past now. Codes and Keys was a $5 album on Amazon mp3 last month, so I picked it up. Now, I think ‘Hey, I’ll turn on a Death Cab album.’ All the time.

I want to have this album’s babies.

/she may be young but she only likes old things/

Some of these songs are totally about Zooey Deschanel.


10. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

I shared my love for them the week I discovered them. More repetitions of the album have only made my heart grow fonder.


11. Talib Kweli – Gutter Rainbows

If anyone wants proof that talent and fame are woefully far apart in the world of hip hop, one need look no further than Kweli. This is another fantastic album in which he makes abundantly clear that he is as intelligent, literate, aware, and poetic as any other emcee in the game.

I also really love his album titles.


12. My Morning Jacket – Circuital

I was actually starting to forget how good My Morning Jacket is. Circuital was sure to remind me… and how! Jim James is a beautiful and wonderful man.


13. The Antlers – Burst Apart

I’ve mentioned my love for The Antlers in general, and Burst Apart in particular before. I still love this album.


14. The Decemberists – The King is Dead

Another album I’ve mentioned before. A brilliant album by one of my favorite bands.

Here’s the official video for “This is Why We Fight.” I frickin’ love this song!


15. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

I’m so impressed with the way a band with such a great debut was able to grow. I’m even more impressed that they were able to develop an even more accessible sound without losing their originality. This album is great.


Albums that might be on the list once I spend more time with them: Adele – 21; Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean; Peter Bjorn and John – Gimme Some; Smith-Westerns – Dye It Blonde; Tyler, The Creator – Goblin.

Potentially great albums I still need to hear for the first time: Dave Bazan – Strange Negotiations, still thinking… I’ll update this

    • RJ
    • July 18th, 2011

    good list.

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