The Top 100 Albums Of 2011
I can’t do this anymore. I can’t give you descriptions of all 100 albums and post 30 or 40 MP3s along the way. It just takes too much time and effort. Because I know how many of you look forward to this I’ll try to make this more than just a numbered list. It’d be nice to have it look a tiny bit respectable…but I’m too fucking busy to pour my heart into it and formulate a write-up for each album. Okay? Good. Hey, maybe I’ll just steal my descriptions from Aquarius and Boomkat and Forced Exposure…
Alright kids, look at this as if it’s a naked chick with her legs spread out before you. Everything is yours for the taking. You can seek these records out and buy them, you can download them from iTunes or Amazon, you can do whatever the fuck you do to consume music. Just make sure you respect the artists enough to pay for their work. Hell, I feel weird just posting single MP3s from these albums, but if I didn’t do that you’d have no idea how awesome these records are. And they are all awesome.
The Top 100 Albums Of 2011
100. Cass McCombs – Wit’s End
99. Weedeater – Jason…the Dragon
98. Sunn O))) Meets Nurse With Wound (Ideologic Organ, November 2011) – The Iron Soul Of Nothing (Ideologic Organ, November 2011) – “In 2007 we commissioned Nurse With Wound to re-work the masters of SUNN O)))’s second album “ØØVOID” to be included as a bonus CD on the Japanese reissue of said album released a year later on Daymare Recordings. We dug up the original 2″ reels from the 2000 session, had Mell Dettmer bake the tapes, made the multitrack transfers and send the drive over to IC studios. The initial brief was to hopefully come up with to come up with something in the vein of Nurse’s legendary Soliloquoy for Lilith set (my favorite release of the collective). What was returned was way beyond our expectations, completely transformed and rediscovered material, including highlighting formerly obscured vocals of the legendary Pete Stahl (Scream, Wool, Goatsnake). A vast creepy sonic journey some part drone/depth of SUNN O))), other part concrete weirdness of Nurse, third part just downright out there in surreality and obscure referencing.” – Stephen O’Malley
97. Bill Callahan – Apocalypse
96. Graveyard – Hinsingen Blues
95. Fennesz – Seven Stars
94. Loscil – Coast/Range/Arc
93. Deerhoof – Deerhoof vs. Evil
92. Explosions In The Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
91. Feelies – Here Before
90. Tim Hecker – Dropped Pianos [Listen to “Sketch 9“]
89. James Blackshaw – Holly [Listen to “Boo, Forever“]
88. Quiet Evenings – Intrepid Trips (Hooker Vision, June 2011) – Georgia’s answer to Emeralds? That’s probably not too far off the mark. Quiet Evenings are the psychedelically laced ambient duo of Rachel and Grant Evans; the former is known for her beloved Motion Sickness In Time Travel project which recently unleashed several epic albums for Digitalis that match monochromatic electronica to the humid surroundings of rural Georgia and plenty of stoned gazes up at the satellites orbiting the earth. Grant has his own moniker, Nova Scotia Arms, which up until now has released a bunch of cassettes of impressively washed-out psychedelic drone-song. Their Quiet Evenings project is suitably blissed-out in their slow-moving ambient constructs…This beautifully trance-enducing album is pretty damn limited, just a little over 300 copies were made. All on purple vinyl and certainly not long for this world.” – Aquarius Records
87. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (Sub Pop, February 2011) – They lost me with Mr. Beast and The Hawk Is Howling, but I’m back on board the Mogwai bandwagon (is it really a bandwagon when they’ve been putting out records for almost 15 years?) with this record. The hooks are as good as anything since Happy Songs For Happy People. The guitars are crunchy. There’s a song that sounds like Neu! (and not in a shitty, Wilco-ish way). There’s even a song that slowly builds to a huge climax, shades of Come On Die Young or Rock Action. It’s still not the same as it once was, but it’s a great effort by one of my favorite bands. Ugh…I can’t believe I’m throwing my support behind an album put out by Sub Pop.
86. Thai Elephant Orchestra – Water Music
85. Low – C’mon
84. Golden Retriever – Light Cones
83. Psychic Ills – Hazed Dream [Listen to “Ring Finger“]
82. Sun Araw – Ancient Romans
81. Pete Swanson – I Don’t Rock At All
80. True Widow – I.N.O.
79. Stag Hare – Spirit Canoes
78. Vozrozhdeniya – Atmosphere [Listen to “Thanatos“]
77. Tomutonttu – Elavana Planeetalla
76. Pulse Emitter – Spiritual Vistas
75. Ponytail – Do Whatever You Want All The Time
74. James Ferraro – Far Side Virtual
73. Mick Harvey – Sketches From The Book of The Dead
72. Rene Hell – The Terminal Symphony (Type, March 2011) – “‘The Terminal Symphony’ is Jeff’s attempt to write tighter, more composed pieces of music – something of a reaction against the glut of long, often-flabby drone compositions that have become a mainstay in the scene. The pieces here are short, concise, and packed full of ideas that can take multiple listens to unravel, and the album, as a whole is almost obsessively structured and complex. Each side of the record is composed very specifically with a beginning, middle and an end (as opposed to the almost expected prolonged noodling jam) and when we begin with the familiar grunt and grind of ‘Chamber Forte’ it is only mere minutes before the track dissolves into the main theme of the album. The sounds we became familiar with on ‘Porcelain Opera’ are pushed slowly into the background to allow these new symphonic passages to shine through. An appropriate enough comparison might be arch-recluse Aphex Twin, but there is no pandering to dance music culture here. Rather Jeff has used his enviable background in noise, punk and synthesizer music to come up with something totally removed from the current scene, and absolutely singular.” – Type Records
71. Tom Waits – Bad As Me
70. Mugstar / Oneida – Collisions 02
69. Evan Caminiti – When California Falls Into The Sea
68. Wooden Shjips – West
67. Nate Young – Stay Asleep
66. Danielson – Best Of Gloucester County (Sounds Familyre, February 2011) – I will never understand why people think I’m being ironic when I talk about how much I adore Daniel Smith. You cannot deny the man’s songwriting talent. Even if you think his voice is quirky or silly or shrill or annoying (and it is none of those) it’s just another instrument which fits perfectly in his style of music; noisy, silly, and sometimes quirky sure, but also heartfelt and wild and rocking and GOOD. Gloucester County might even be better than Ships, which many felt was the zenith of Smith’s recording career when it was released a few years ago. Then again, I’ve always been a Fetch The Compass Kids kind of guy, so until he strips away all the fuller arrangements and re-embraces the restrained charm of his first couple albums I can’t see him recording anything better than those records — but even when he’s not at his best he’s better than so many other songwriters.
65. Russian Circles – Empros [Listen to “Schiphol“]
64. Danny Paul Grody – In Search Of Light
63. Vladislav Delay – Vantaa
62. Reigns – The Widow Blades
61. Golden Retriever – Light Cones
60. Prurient – Bermuda Drain
59. Six Organs Of Admittance – Asleep On The Floodplain
58. Alexander Turnquist – Hallway Of Mirrors
57. Aluk Todolo – Ordre
56. Peaking Lights – 936 (Not Not Fun, February 2011) – Properly immersive album of lambent kraut-dub groovers and fuggy psyche from the Madison, WI duo of Peaking Lights – sounding something like the bastard child of Forest Swords, Zola Jesus, Tom Tom Club and Nite Jewel. Their hauntingly melodic ‘936’ is made of the stuff we could happily hear on loop all day. Like Pocahaunted or Sun Araw minus the noisiest elements, their trance mantras lasso the flightiest psyche essence and lets it guide them through ethereal other-zones, Indra Dunis’ vox streaming echoic comtrails across dusted desert dub landscapes on ‘Amazing And Wonderful’ or like a distant cousin to Dadawah on the twinkly telepathic skank of ‘Birds of Paradise Dub version’. ‘Hey Sparrow’ is more pastoral, with an effusive melodic nature warranting comparisons with Harmonia, while ‘Tiger Eyes’ bridges the gap between Forest Swords’ loping dub repetitions and hand-built synth-pop. However, highlights have to be ‘Marshmellow Yellow’ and ‘All The Sun That Shines’, both using slinky House and minimalist disco rhythms to utterly sublime effect, kinda-like more dosed-up post-dancefloor versions of the 100% Silk releases. Very highly recommended – one of the albums of the year fo’ sure. – Boomkat
55. Andrew Chalk – Violin By Night
54. Burzum – Fallen
53. Je Suis Petit Chevalier – L’Enfant Sauvage
52. Maria Minerva – Maria Minerva’s Cabaret Cixous
51. Andy Stott- We Stay Together / Passed Me By [Listen to “Intermittent“]
50. Stephan Mathieu – A Static Place
49. Grouper – A I A Dream Loss / Alien Observer
48. Motion Sickness Of Time Travel – Luminaries & Synastry
47. Richard Youngs – Amplifying Host
46. Simon Scott – Bunny (Miasmah, October 2011) – “Simon Scott produced one of the best records of 2009 with Navigare, an album whose shoegaze dronemusic was dotted with radioluminescent dream-pop numbers. It was hardly a surprise to us when we learned that he was the drummer of Slowdive way back when. Since then, Scott has produced a single for Immune and a collaboration with Jasper TX, both equally fantastic. For his second proper record, Scott makes a slight detour; but one that is well suited to everything else that’s been released by the hauntologically leaning Miasmah records.” – Aquarius Records
45. Jon Porras – Undercurrent [Listen to “For ARH“]
44. Blue Angels – Isidora
43. Shingles – White Out
42. Voder – Motes
41. Amen Dunes – Through Donkey Jaw
40. Grails – Deep Politics (Temporary Residence, February 2011) – My favorite record yet from these guys. Music composed by Tim Harris (Master Musicians of Bukkake!), drawing inspiration from Italian film soundtracks, library records, Krautrock…they do a fantastic job of displaying their influences without simply mimicking what has already been done before. In my original review I wrote, “This is head music. I want to take a lot of drugs and lay down and listen to this on repeat for hours.” And I’m not going to lie, when I was in the midst of my liquid Vicodin binge last month I did just that on several occasions. And it was as good as I’d hoped it would be.
39. Aidan Baker – Lost In A Rat Maze
38. P.D. Wilder – When You Force Me Against The Breaking Earth [Listen To “Orange“]
37. Marissa Nadler – Marissa Nadler (Box Of Cedar Records, May 2011) – I love Marissa. I’ve got a major boner for her. I’m sure that’s the last thing this little folky girl wants to hear, but it’s true. Although maybe she’s not totally turned off by that type of comment — I mean, she contributes to Xasthur, doesn’t she? She’s gotta be somewhat a freak! Sorry. Weird tangent. Even though I used to make fun of Marissa because I saw her live a few times in 2005 and 2006 and she’d always complain about the sound guy, there was no denying her talent. I think her new one is right up there with Songs III as my favorite release of hers.
36. Implodes – Black Earth [Listen to “Oxblood“]
35. Tyler, The Creator – Goblin (XL, May 2011) – If I have one complaint about this album it’s that Tyler didn’t do a great job of editing himself down. Just because a CD can hold 74 minutes of music doesn’t mean you need to fill 73:49. That’s almost twenty minutes longer than Bastard was. After the amazing “Yonkers,” that track “Radicals” goes on for over seven minutes. And the album version of “Sandwitches” does little to capture the energy of the now legendary Jimmy Fallon performance. Still, “Tron Cat” and “She” are standouts. I think I’ve only listened to it all the way through two or three times. I generally just skip ahead to the cuts I like, and those ones are fantastic.
34. Earth – Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light
33. Sundrips – Just A Glimpse
32. John Chantler – The Luminous Ground
31. Call Back The Giants – The Rising – [Listen to “Passage Of Arms“]
30. Lil B – The Silent President
29. Sugarm – Songs About Guns
28. Radio People – Hazel
27. Imaginary Softwoods – The Path Of Spectrolite
26. Run DMT – Dreams
25. Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica
24. Pete Swanson – Man With Potential (Type, November 2011) – Where Yellow Swans used pulses to underpin their cascading white noise, Swanson here puts the chattering 140bpm percussion at center stage, not least on the album’s opening track, charmingly titled ‘Misery Beat’. Setting the stage for the music to follow, we are thrown headfirst into chattering synthesized squeals and dense kick drums before being smacked around the head with the kind of slippery noise lead we’ve not heard since ‘Going Places’. This is Birmingham techno filtered through the mists of the Pacific Northwest, and is all the better for it. Elsewhere ‘Remote View’ explores a more downtempo sound; coming across like post apocalyptic house music as heard from a club bathroom. With ‘Man With Potential’ Pete Swanson has crafted his most defining statement to date; a blistering collection of contemporary club music with a deafening noise twist. It might not be easy listening, but who said life had to be easy?
23. Mellowhype – Blackendwhite [Listen to “64“]
22. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
21. A Winged Victory For The Sullen – A Winged Victory For The Sullen
20. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo (Matador, March 2011) – Totally thought this album was going to suck, but then someone played it for me and I was shocked at how good it is. Another friend told me that when he saw Kurt live, he kept asking if anyone had any Adderall because life on the road was draining him. ROCK ‘N’ ROLL!!!!
19. Tape – Revelationes (Immune, March 2011) – I think I first heard about Tape on the Electrical Audio forum eight or nine years ago. From there I latched onto the fantastic Hapna label (see: Toshiya Tsunoda, Sheriff, Stephan Mathieu, Pita, A Taste Of Ra, 3/4HadBeenEliminated, etc.). I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a band creating more beautiful experimental/ambient music in the last decade than Tape. And somehow it feels like with each successive album they are only putting forth better albums. This is not only perfect 4am coming down music, but it’s great driving up the coast highway or sitting in the art park reading music. Truly a masterful instrumental album.
18. Maholy Nagy – Like Mirage
17. Von Himmel – Space Communion
16. Wolves In The Throne Room – Celestial Lineage
15. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
14. Deaf Center – Owl Splinters
13. Mist – House
12. Eternal Tapestry – Beyond The 4th Door
11. Mark McGuire – Get Lost [Listen to “Alma (Reprise) / Chances Are“]
10. Mikal Cronin – Mikal Cronin (Trouble In Mind, September 2011) – Up until now, SF garage popper Mikal Cronin seemed to exist mostly as sideman, his name usually following an ampersand, which in turn seemed to typically be preceded by the name Ty Segall. Thus most of our experiences with Cronin had been the duo of Segall & Cronin, and everything we had heard we dug, a LOT, but it was hard to tell what exactly Cronin was bringing to the table, versus Segall, but listening to this now, seems the answer is EVERYTHING! And as much as we love Ty Segall, we’re thinking that maybe much of that garage pop magic was coming from the other side of the ampersand, cuz WOW is this record totally great. Anyone at all into the SF garage pop scene, Thee Oh Sees, the Fresh & Onlys, Ty Segall, Bare Wires, etc., will go absolutely nuts for this. And if this record doesn’t immediately catapult Cronin into the spotlight, then there’s something very very wrong with the world.” – Aquarius Records
09. Leyland Kirby – Eager To Tear Apart The Stars [Listen to “The Arrow Of Time“]
08. Bong – Beyond Ancient Space (Ritual Productions, May 2011) – It seems like it’s been years since BONG has been featured on this website. In fact, I think the last BONG reference was in September or October of 2009 when my father was in the hospital and I was freaking out because my support system had disappeared. Drummer Mike Smith used the comment section to send some positive vibes my way. What a nice guy. And the band’s second full length (the first one was self-titled and fucking mind-blowing) is phenomenal. The Roadburn website (by the way, look for BONG’s Live At Roadburn release while you’re at it) describes the new one perfectly: “Slower than an opium snail making its way to get some green.” I love it.
07. The Body & Braveyoung – Nothing Passes
06. William Fowler Collins – The Resurrections Unseen (Type, October 2011) – “On The Resurrections Unseen, Collins further damages and buries his palette of sounds beyond all recognition. Howling field recordings are trapped between walls of tape hiss while white noise and twisted guitar suffers through overdub after overdub leaving only the picked carcass of what once a discernable sound. Much was made of its predecessor’s deconstruction of black metal, but ‘The Resurrections Unseen’ takes this to another level entirely.” – Type Records
05. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath 1972 (Kranky, February 2011) – I love everything Tim Hecker has released, and this is (to these ears) the best album he’s released yet. A brilliant slab of gorgeous electronic music that continues to find its way into my life no matter what kind of mood I’m in or what is going on around me. I don’t know how he consistently records such beautiful music, but he’s definitely topped himself with this album. When it first came out I was falling asleep to this almost every night, even with its sporadic harsher elements and buzzing powerful blasts of noise. There might not be a better ambient composer making music right now than Tim Hecker. Believe me.
04. White Hills – H-P1 (Thrill Jockey, June 2011) – Did you really expect me to talk about my ten favorite albums of the year and not include one from White Hills? They’ve made every musical Year-End list I’ve written since 2007, sometimes with multiple albums. The anti-government slant harkens back to Glitter Glamour Atrocity with the sampled George Bush speeches, but the music continues it’s gradual shift towards the more ethereal, more drone-y than straight-ahead psych-rock route. Every time I hear a new White Hills release I enjoy the ride. Doesn’t matter if it’s live or on my stereo, their music has the ability to transport my mind to some pretty far out places. And I can’t help but want to extend eternal thanks by championing everything the band releases. Another stellar effort in a career defined by consistently excellent music.
03. Master Musicians Of Bukkake – Totem Three (Important, May 2011) – Last year’s “Album Of The Year” (according to me) has been followed up with another amazing release along the same line as its two predecessors. I’m still hardpressed to think of anybody else doing what these guys are doing right now. It’s just so unique and captivating I have a hard time even describing it for people. It vacillates between Sunn O))), Monks Of the Dip Tse Chok Ling Monastery, Middle Eastern folk and RD Burman soundtracks. Totally unique, totally mind-blowing, totally one of the best albums of 2011.
02. Frank Ocean – Nostalgia, ULTRA. (self-released, March 2011) – This is probably the shock of the list for Swan Fungus readers but it’s not a joke. I’ve probably listened to this record more than any other album in 2011. It’s really, really brilliant. And I could not have completed my marathon training without it. Yeah, I know it’s contemporary R&B, but it’s almost nothing like the textbook definition of the genre. He covers MGMT and Coldplay, references Radiohead, singing about sex crimes and banging chicks and doing drugs…and then there’s two or three really great, well-written tunes (“We All Try”, “Swim Good” and “There Will Be Tears”). The lone weak spot on the album is the “Hotel California” cover. Plus, he gave the fucking thing away for free because his label sat on it for too long. Suckers. What a mistake.
01. Psychic Paramount – II (No Quarter, March 2011) – I’ll always be indebted to Ilya for introducing me to Laddio Bolocko oh so many years ago. Without having heard The Life And Times Of Laddio Bolocko I would have never been keyed into the first Psychic Paramount record (the mind-blowing Gamelan Into The Mink Supernatural), the live record and the double disc collection Origins And Primitives, and especially their newest album, II. This is blown-out all VU’s in-the-red insane shit. I think I once heard them described as post-This Heat-post-punk, if that makes sense. Maybe that’d be accurate if This Heat was the loudest fucking band to ever record an album — but while the intricacy of the compositions and experimental tendencies are there, I don’t know of another band right now (or maybe ever, or maybe since High Rise) that can out-blast these guys. Truly face-melting. How about post-Kraut? Is that a genre yet? It should be. Fuck me this album is amazing.
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