This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. 2011 was a great year for music; we saw Arcade Fire win a Grammy, met The Weeknd, and starting saying goodbye to Fucked Up. It seemed like independent music took the forefront this year and managed to push aside industry staples, giving the world some much need substance. It was hard to make a list of only 5 albums, but its even harder to actually showcase just how truly outstanding these albums are. So without further to do:
- Frank Ocean– Nostalgia, Ultra
- The Weeknd– Thursday
- Girls- Father, Son, Holy Ghost
- tUnE-YaRdS– w h o k i l l
- Jay-z/Kanye West– Watch The Throne
5: Tyler, The Creator– Goblin
Juvenile, rude, homophobic, controversial and banging. Tyler, The Creators sophomore album is both a polarizing affair dealing with one mans own insecurities, and a marvel of an album that stands out after repeated listens. At first glance, you may think you have it figured it, but by the third month, each track will stand out as your new favourite. “I’m not a fuckin’ role model, I’m a 19-year-old emotional coaster with pipe dreams” true enough, and because of this 19-year-old, 2011 belonged to Odd Future.
4: M83– Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
So often a double LP collapses under the weight of its own ambitions. Filler becomes mistaken for tracks, and we end up with Stadium Arcadium when all we needed was One Hot Minute. Yet, despite all odds, M83’s sprawling and epic double LP shatters all preconceived negativity associated with the double LP. The ‘soundtrack to your life’ element is what makes this album a must. Pressing play turns your day from an average schlep to an epic adventure on par with any Fellowship.
3: Drake– Take Care
Last year, when Kanye released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he single handily took hip-hop into a new direction. The image of the baller with rims spinning became irrelevant; because behind every legend, is the truth. This year, Toronto’s Drake gave us a glimpse into the mind of a young upstart, consumed by dreams of fame and haunted by the loves he’s lost along the way. Confident and insecure, Don Jaun and Rob Gordon, Yin and Yang. The album takes the listener into the contradictory nature that plagues most young-adults. That desire to be great by any means necessary, and the realization that you lost what made you great along the way.
2: Fucked Up– David Comes to Life
This is a Rock-Opera. This is the Story: David meets Veronica. David and Veronica make a bomb. Veronica dies when the bomb goes off. David feels he wasted his time with Veronica. David then realizes his whole life is being manipulated by the narrator of the opera. David fights the narrator and loses. David is visited by Veronica’s ghost. David realizes that despite the pain and heartache, it truly is better to have loved and lost. David returns to the beginning to start his relationship over again. The End. Listen to this album often and loud. “All we need is for something to give, the dam bursts open, we suddenly live…”
1: The Decemberists– The King is Dead
It’s almost fitting that the #2 band on this list, responded to criticism that their music couldn’t be sprawling or epic by releasing an album that was just that. Now we have number one. The Decemberists, a band who is known for albums with complex narratives and really, really big words. So after the Hazards of Love, an album which became bogged down by its own ambitions, the band went back. Way back. On January 14th 2011, The Decemberists released The King is Dead, a collection of original, traditional Americana folk and bluegrass songs. Gone was the narrative, and in was music in its purest form.
When I started to narrow down my ‘best of’ list back in September, I failed to notice that all year, since the day I got my hands on it, The King is Dead had been a staple of my Ipod. from long walks down Banff Ave with January Hymn leaving me melancholy, to driving down the Highway One, belting out calamity Song; whenever I needed something to listen to, it was there. Deceptively simple and easy to overlook, the songs manage to stay with you in a way that no other album did this year. Every track shined, and people noticed. Now a band, 11 albums in, received their first number one album, and a new lease on a terrific career.