It’s that time of year again, where music fans around the world compete to look hipper than others in list form. Taking a second look at my favourite albums of 2011, I appear to have grown much tamer since last year. Regardless, this is what I was listening to the most in the calendar year:
Feist – Metals
It’s dark, emotional, and catchy. Feist’s latest album has a massive, mostly orchestral sound that sucks you into an aural whirpool and throws you around from start to finish. I usually reserve my top spot for something heavier, but music doesn’t need down-tuned power chords and double-kick drums to be heavy.
KEN Mode – Venerable
On the other hand, a stripped-down three-piece from Winnipeg can make some of the loudest and most intense metal out there. I’m always blown away by just how powerful their songs are, and then I remember they’re only drums, a guitar, a bass, and vocals, and I’m even more flabbergasted. Flabbergasted!
Puscifer – Conditions of My Parole
With their last album entitled V is for Vagina, a lot of people had a hard time taking this band seriously. Others may have had higher or more serious expectations from Maynard James Keenan, whose other band is the “highbrow” metal outfit Tool. While musically, this album isn’t too much of a departure from the last one, it’s still solemn and groovy and thus very enjoyable.
Mastodon – The Hunter
Fanboys around the world cried when they heard more actual singing and catchier guitar hooks on this album. At the core it’s still the most intricate and sophisticated popular heavy music out there, and Mastodon still deserves a lot of credit for playing by their own rules all these years. They’ve done something different on every album, and I already can’t wait to hear what they’ll try next.
Saul Williams – Volcanic Sunlight
Like most fans, I fell in love with Saul’s spoken word, which eventually evolved into rap music, which has now evolved into an almost pop/R&B sound. Needless to say that kinda weirded me out at first, but in its essence this is a fun album held together by his always strong trademark lyrics.
Thrice – Major/Minor
This was my favourite rock album of the year. Over the years, the dudes in Thrice have carved out a very unique and heavy pop-rock sound that’s light years beyond that dreadful “emo” category they were pigeonholed as a decade ago. Why popular rock radio largely ignores them is beyond me, but their longevity speaks to their true talent.
I drank the Kool-aid.
Wilco – The Whole Love
Honestly, whenever Wilco puts out a new album, I could either take it or leave it. Some of it I dig, some of it I don’t. I definitely dug this one so I took it. It’s louder and more aggressive (for a band like Wilco) than past outputs I’ve heard. Rock on Wilco!
Tom Waits – Bad as Me
Another confession: I’m not really that familiar with Tom Waits’ music. I know his hit songs, and someone left his Real Gone CD at my apartment in Toronto many years ago (if it’s yours, sorry, I think I traded it for a Billy Talent CD), but other than that I’m pretty green. My good friend Chunk sent me this one out of the blue as a gift and it’s been the nicest musical surprise of 2011 for me.
My Morning Jacket – Circuital
I first listened to this album on a sunny spring afternoon drive through Algonquin Park. I fell in love with it right away. But then I listened to it again after a shitty Tuesday at work and didn’t really like it. Now I like it again.
Rock on in 2012!