old waver's top 50 albums of 2011

 

As 2011 is the first full year of Old Waver’s existence, putting together a list of my favorite albums was a bit of a challenge. Quite simply, I heard more stuff I liked, so the list grew from 30 in 2010 to a nice, round 50 this year.

This is a solo endeavor, so personal bias was the number one criteria in selecting the list. There will no doubt be notable absences because I either didn’t care for them or they don’t fit the loosely defined scope of this blog. However, I hope you’ll be pleased to see some of your favorites and perhaps discover some new ones. That said, here we go…

50. Iceage – New Brigade
Danish kids with an affinity for Joy Division and playing 100 miles an hour:

49. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Adventurous yet tuneful psychedelia from Portland that’s either endearingly or annoyingly lo-fi:

48. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Tao Of The Dead
Austin’s Trail of Dead pulled the trick of producing a ‘concept album’ while getting back to raw basics:

47. Sloan – The Double Cross
A Canadian treasure, they’re still vital after 20 years:

46. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
Maybe the best title of the year, and definitely the best Mogwai album in a decade:

45. British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall
Released way back in January, this return to form deserves to be remembered:

44. Hooray for Earth – True Loves
Sweeping Brooklyn synthpop that rides waves of percussion to epic heights:

43. Cults – Cults
The buzz eventually subsided, but Cults still managed an impressive debut:

42. Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines
Seattle power pop genius Michael Lerner is right at home on the legendary indie label Merge:

41. Gruff Rhys – Hotel Shampoo
The Super Furry Animals frontman created an album of blissfully breezy baroque pop:

40. Sondre Lerche – Sondre Lerche
Lerche finally struck a perfect balance between his unplugged and plugged-in personas:

39. Violens – Nine Songs 2011
An unconventional release, parsed out over the course of the year, but completely engrossing 80’s influenced jangle pop:

38. Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
Suddenly grown up effort from 2009’s buzz band from Chicago:

37. Miles Kane – Colour Of The Trap
Alex Turner’s collaborator in The Last Shadow Puppets impresses with his solo debut:

36. Neon Indian – Era Extraña
Alan Palomo amped up his chillwave formula to excellent results:

35. Junior Boys – It’s All True
The album I’ve been waiting for from the Canadian synthpop duo:

34. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar
This Wales trio makes a way bigger racket than you’d ever expect, with massive hooks to match:

33. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
NYC electronic experimentalists are hypnotically odd:

32. Cold Cave – Cherish The Light Years
A fully realized marriage of synthpop and goth that hooked me immediately:

31. Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
The second album from Dan Boeckner and his wife almost made me forget about Wolf Parade:

30. Friendly Fires – Pala
Maybe a guilty pleasure, but absolutely pure, unabashed pop songs:

29. The Black Keys – El Camino
I’m obviously buying in too late, as these dudes are about to get huge:

28. Young Galaxy – Shapeshifting
This Canadian shoegaze outfit reinvented in the image of New Order, which is fine by me:

27. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Belong
The second album from the Brooklyn dream pop collective completely goes for it, and largely succeeds:

26. Wye Oak – Civilian
At times simple and other times electrifying, this Baltimore duo are always beautiful:

25. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
The Swedish songstress took a more electronic and ultimately effective turn for album number two:

24. Wild Beasts – Smother
Divisive but impeccably recorded britpop:

23. White Denim – D
These Austinites keep getting tighter and more prog with every release:

22. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
Another Texan, Annie Clark, is impossibly talented and pretty adorable:

21. The Antlers – Burst Apart
A bit more upbeat than its predecessor, Burst Apart is still very atmospheric and affecting:

20. Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!
While I prefer it when Guy Garvey and co. ‘rock,’ there’s no denying the epic beauty of this record:

19. Noel Gallagher – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
As if there was any doubt who the ‘talented’ one was:

18. Destroyer – Kaputt
A sort of Roxy Music concept album, Dan Bejar makes you wonder if he’s smiling:

17. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – It’s A Corporate World
Another electro duo, these Detroit guys keep their sound organic and vocals soulful:

16. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
Can’t really put my finger on why this grabs me, but boy it does:

15. The Raveonettes – Raven in the Grave
Sune and Sharin’s latest creative direction is squarely in my wheelhouse, and I love it:

14. Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!
They’re poised to take the DFA dance rock mantle from LCD Soundsystem:

13. The Rapture – In The Grace Of Your Love
…That is, unless The Rapture do it first:

12. Atlas Sound – Parallax
Seems Bradford Cox can do anything he sets his mind to:

11. Real Estate – Days
There’s some lovely, dare I say Marr-esque, guitar work here:

10. John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves
I think John Maus might be from the future:

9. Metronomy – The English Riviera
This is so English and so damn good:

8. Radiohead – The King Of Limbs
Took some getting used to, but it’s still Radiohead:

7. Yuck – Yuck
All the best of 90’s indie rock distilled through a 20-year-old kid from London:

6. Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See
With their fourth album, the Monkeys have cemented themselves as britpop icons:

5. Future Islands – On The Water
More restrained than In Evening Air, but somehow more intense:

4. Cut Copy – Zonoscope
A steady grower, great headphones album and most deserving of its Grammy nod:

3. Washed Out – Within and Without
Quite the debut for Ernest Greene, just two years removed from inadvertently sparking the ‘chillwave’ scene from his bedroom:

2. The Horrors – Skying
They just keep getting better, and are quickly becoming my favorite band:

1. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
I didn’t think Anthony Gonzalez could top Saturdays = Youth. I didn’t think he could pull off a double album. I was wrong:

Get all 50 tracks in a Spotify playlist if you’re so inclined. Here’s the full list for reference:

1. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
2. The Horrors – Skying
3. Washed Out – Within and Without
4. Cut Copy – Zonoscope
5. Future Islands – On The Water
6. Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See
7. Yuck – Yuck
8. Radiohead – The King Of Limbs
9. Metronomy – The English Riviera
10. John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves
11. Real Estate – Days
12. Atlas Sound – Parallax
13. The Rapture – In The Grace Of Your Love
14. Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!
15. The Raveonettes – Raven in the Grave
16. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
17. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – It’s A Corporate World
18. Destroyer – Kaputt
19. Noel Gallagher – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
20. Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!
21. The Antlers – Burst Apart
22. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
23. White Denim – D
24. Wild Beasts – Smother
25. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
26. Wye Oak – Civilian
27. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Belong
28. Young Galaxy – Shapeshifting
29. The Black Keys – El Camino
30. Friendly Fires – Pala
31. Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
32. Cold Cave – Cherish The Light Years
33. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
34. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar
35. Junior Boys – It’s All True
36. Neon Indian – Era Extraña
37. Miles Kane – Colour Of The Trap
38. Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
39. Violens – Nine Songs 2011
40. Sondre Lerche – Sondre Lerche
41. Gruff Rhys – Hotel Shampoo
42. Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines
43. Cults – Cults
44. Hooray for Earth – True Loves
45. British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall
46. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
47. Sloan – The Double Cross
48. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Tao Of The Dead
49. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
50. Iceage – New Brigade

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16 thoughts on “old waver's top 50 albums of 2011

  1. KT

    Very cool. Glad to see Telekinesis get some love. I’ve seen them left off quite a few year end lists.

  2. xx

    hey really dug this list. any chance you might make a spottily playlist for it?

  3. RTrombone

    I love the list. #1 is a great choice. I think the Cults are too low and Yuck too high. Zonoscope is my favorite album of the year so I was glad to see how high they were on your list.

    King of Limbs definitely grows on you. I wouldn’t have had it that high at first but after a few more listens I can’t argue. It’s good. Neon Indian and Handsome Furs getting some love is cool too.

    No Bon Iver? Why?

  4. Anonymous

    Thanks! Honestly, couldn’t get into Bon Iver. I lump that in with Wilco and Fleet Foxes… albums that I recognize as fine works, just not quite within the scope of the blog.

  5. RTrombone

    Good to know. I am new to the blog. I’m curious to know if each song on your list is is your favorite on each album?

  6. Anonymous

    Got into them late thanks to other year-end lists.. definitely good stuff

  7. Kenn Westman

    Great list.

    Like you I tend to dismiss anything radio picks up on, but Matt Foster’s album was as good as any IMHO. Glad to see you add UMO to your list. It’s been in my constant rotation. (Honorable mention??: Battles – Gloss Drop, Grouplove, Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi – Rome)

  8. admin Post author

    Considered Duran Duran and Peter Murphy — as far as old wavers go — but ultimately couldn’t squeeze them into the top 50. Both good, but not consistent front to back.

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