As 2011 comes to a close, we thought we would share our thoughts on the best albums of the year. Last year’s top albums list included just ten picks, but with the many genres we cover, we found it far too difficult to narrow the list down to only ten. This year’s list includes our favorite twenty-five albums, composited from a combination of each of our contributor’s own lists. Of course, ranking these albums was anything but straightforward, but after much deliberation, here is what we came up with:
25. Little Dragon – Ritual Union
The Swedish electronic band known as Little Dragon released their third studio album back in July, two years after the release of their sophomore album, Machine Dreams. Little Dragon consists of Swedish-Japanese singer Yukimi Nagano, along with three of her close childhood friends. Check out the original post here.
Little Dragon – Ritual Union (Stream)
24. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Three years after releasing their critically acclaimed debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, Wisconsin’s Bon Iver returned with their self-titled sophomore full-length album. Despite the group taking a new musical direction, the latest album has again received nearly universal acclaim from critics. Singer/songwriter Justin Vernon explains the change best when he says, “I brought in a lot of people to change my voice — not my singing voice, but my role as the author of this band, this project.” Check out the original post here.
Bon Iver – Calgary (Stream)
23. The Holdup – Still Gold
Drummer Danny Flores, lead vocalist Mike Garmany, bassist Kyle Christensen, and DJ/Band Manager Clev Stiles make up this hardworking group that defines a new unique style of music. The Holdup creates their own style by blending multi genre influenced production into each song. Still Gold is the group’s latest work, which is an incredible follow up to their last two albums, most recently Confidence, as well as their 2009 debut release, Stay Gold. Check out the original post here.
The Holdup – Glad To Be Home (Stream)
22. Atmosphere – The Family Sign
Three years had gone by since their last full-length album, but the indie hip hop stalwarts Slug and Ant of Atmosphere returned this year with The Family Sign. Slug has solidified himself as one of the best storytellers in hip hop. Nate Collins’s guitar playing is exceptional throughout the production and adds another level of richness to each song. When listening to this album, it is evident that the group members have transitioned into the next stage of their lives: raising a family. Check out the original post here.
Atmosphere – She’s Enough (Stream)
21. The Knux – Eraser
Eraser is the sophomore LP from brothers Brothers Joey & Krispy. The Knux have been putting out some great music over the past four years, merging hip hop and rock into a unique blend. The duo even teamed up with Mr. Rager on the second single from the album, “Run.” Check out the original post here.
The Knux – Run (Feat. Kid Cudi) [Stream]
20. Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You
Nearly 5 years had gone by since the release of Red Hot Chili Peppers last album, Stadium Arcadium, making it their longest gap between studio albums. The group formed in the early 1980′s, and has been cranking out superb music ever sense. Over the last two decades, the group has sold nearly 65 million albums, centering around their trademark funk rock sound. I’m With You seems to have slightly departed from their signature style, but I certainly welcome the group’s exploration of a slightly milder sound. Check out the original post here.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Police Station (Stream)
19. Wale – Ambition
Born Olubowale Victor Akintimehin, D.C.’s Wale began his musical career in 2005, releasing several mixtapes under the guidance of producer Mark Ronson. A year after signing to Interscope Records in 2008, Wale released his debut album, Attention: Deficit, to critical acclaim. Wale’s latest release, Ambition, debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 164,000 copies in its first week. Check out the original post here.
Wale – Focused (Feat. Kid Cudi) [Stream]
18. Eligh & Amp Live – Therapy At 3
“Beautiful Addiction” is one of several outstanding tracks on Therapy At 3, the latest project from Eligh and Amp Live. Therapy At 3 follows Eligh’s 2010 album, Grey Crow, which is his best selling album to date as an independent artist. Amp Live is probably best known from his work as one half of the duo Zion I, and his unique production is certainly showcased on this latest release. Check out the original post here.
Eligh & Amp Live – Beautiful Addiction (Feat. Grieves & Blake Hazard) [Stream]
17. CunninLynguists – Oneirology
Hip hop trio CunninLynguists released their fifth studio album this year, one week ahead of the scheduled March 22 release date, due in part to various album leaks. If you have been a fan of CunninLynguists in the past, you are sure to enjoy this impressive album, produced entirely by Kno. Each track seems be carefully and skillfully assembled by Kno, who released his own album, Death Is Silent, in October of last year. Check out the original post here.
CunninLynguists – Enemies With Benefits (Feat. Tonedeff) [Stream]
16. Gotye – Making Mirrors
Multi-instrumental musician and singer-songwriter Wouter “Wally” De Backer, or Gotye as he is professionally known, released his third studio album earlier this year to largely favorable reviews. The Belgian-born Australian musician has released all three of his albums independently and has still enjoyed great success, especially in his home country where Making Mirrors reached number one on the Australian charts. Check out the original post here.
Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know (Stream)
15. Oh Land – Oh Land
Earlier this year, we featured Oh Land’s breakout hit single “Son Of A Gun,” from her debut self-titled EP. Over the course of the year, the Danish pop sensation gained a lot of attention in Europe and the U.S. alike, eventually leading to the March 15 release of her debut full-length album. Oh Land herself describes her new album as, “All of my secrets, wishes, dreams, and fears.” Check out the original post here.
Oh Land – Perfection (Stream)
14. James Blake – James Blake
British electronic pop artist James Blake released his self-titled debut album back in February of this year. The album has since received critical acclaim from the U.S. and UK alike, including a nomination for the 2011 Mercury Music Prize, which is awarded to the best album from the UK and Ireland. The twenty-two year-old musician spent much of his final years in college writing and recording music before spending the entire 2010 year recording his latest project. Check out the original post here.
James Blake – The Wilhelm Scream (Stream)
13. Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne
Nearly a year after announcing they would be collaborating on their first album together, hip hop megastars Jay-Z and Kanye West finally released their debut project this year, Watch The Throne. After a few listens through, it appeared to me that the duo successfully lived up to the hype that generated when two of the most notable musicians in the world joined forces. Watch The Throne is filled with the iconic flow of both rappers, and it’s easy to recognize that the duo gained strength from each other throughout the process. The album features a long list of accomplished producers, as well as guest appearances from Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, and Mr Hudson. Check out the original post here.
Jay-Z & Kanye West – Ni**as In Paris (Stream)
12. The Roots – undun
The legendary alternative hip hop group known as The Roots released their tenth studio album earlier this December, one year after the release of the Grammy-nominated album How I Got Over. According to the band’s website, “undun is an existential re-telling of the short life of one Redford Stephens.” Stephens is a semi-fictional character struggling with survival and making something out of nothing. The group’s own Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson explains, “At this point in our career we’d like for our work to have a unifying theme, and an experiential quality.” Originally known as The Square Roots, the group began in the late 80′s and have consistently released quality albums each year since. Check out the original post here.
The Roots – The Otherside (Feat. Bilal & P.O.R.N) [Stream]
11. The Black Keys – El Camino
A month after releasing the debut single “Lonely Boy,” The Black Keys released their seventh studio album, titled El Camino. The eleven-track album showcases the duo’s signature blues-rock style as drummer/producer Patrick Carney and vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach team up with the multi-talented producer Brian Joseph Burton, or Danger Mouse as he is professionally known. El Camino follows 2010′s Grammy award-winning album Brothers, which took home the award for Best Alternative Music Album, topping other notable acts including Arcade Fire and Broken Bells among others. Check out the original post here.
The Black Keys – Lonely Boy (Stream)
10. Grieves – Together/Apart
Seattle-based MC Grieves (Benjamin Laub) released his highly-anticipated debut Rhymesayers release back in June, and with the help of long-time producer Budo, Together/Apart may be his best work to date. The album was recorded over the last three years in studios across the U.S., as the duo attempted to duplicate the success that came from their 2008 release 88 Keys & Counting. Check out the original post here.
Grieves – Sunny Side Of Hell (Stream)
9. Adele – 21
British singer/songwriter Adele released her highly-anticipated sophomore album back in February, titled 21. Her first single from the album, “Rolling In The Deep,” saw immediate success in Europe and the U.S. alike. Other great songs on her new album include, “Set Fire To The Rain,” as well as a bold, but excellent, cover of The Cure’s 1989 song, “Lovesong.” Check out the original post here.
Adele – Set Fire To The Rain (Stream)
8. Theophilus London – Timez Are Weird These Days
Up-and-coming Brooklyn rapper Theophilus London dropped his major label debut LP on July 19th. Theophilus has been putting out some great genre-crossing music for a few years, and his latest release is no different. It is apparent after listening to the album, Timez Are Weird These Days (and any of his previous work for that matter), that Mr. London produces his best work when stepping out of the confinements of traditional hip hop. Blending genres is his strong suit, and as with his past recordings, the most compelling tracks on this album are the ones in which he merges his influences into a sound that is uniquely his. Check out the original post here.
Theophilus London – I Stand Alone (Stream)
7. Sparkadia – The Great Impression
Even though the the group parted ways in 2009, the Australian-based musician Alex Burnett has not shown any signs of slowing down. His 2011 full-length album, The Great Impression, showcases his superb talent as a solo artist. Keeping the band name ‘Sparkadia’, which he and his former band-mates created back in 2006, Alex has been steadily providing quality tunes over the last year in preparation for The Great Impression’s release. Check out the original post here.
Sparkadia – Talking Like I’m Falling Down Stairs (Stream)
6. Florence & The Machine – Ceremonials
“Only If For A Night” is one of many outstanding tracks from Florence & The Machine’s sophomore album, Ceremonials. The English indie pop band is led by the vocals of Florence Welch. “The Machine” refers to the British producer and songwriter Isabella ‘Machine’ Summers. Together they have released two critically acclaimed albums, earning them a nomination for Best New Artist at the 2011 Grammy Awards. Check out the original post here.
Florence & The Machine – Only If For A Night (Stream)
5. AWOLNATION – Megalithic Symphony
Nearly a year after Aaron Bruno (aka AWOLNATION) graced his listeners with an impressive five-song debut EP, the California-based artist released his debut full-length album, Megalithic Symphony. The entire album is comprised of the tough, hard, and passionate music that AWOLNATION vows to provide. Aaron’s incorporation of an abundance of vocal variety adds flavor to each track. Utilizing vocal distortion, rapping, shouting, and singing constantly switches things up and ensures that the listener will not grow tired of the album anytime soon. Check out the original post here.
AWOLNATION – Sail (Stream)
4. J. Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story
Jermaine Lamarr Cole, or J. Cole as he is professionally known, released his much-anticipated debut album late September. Cole World: The Sideline Story comes after four years and three noteworthy mixtape releases. Cole’s name spread quickly after the release of his 2007 debut project, The Come Up, eventually landing him a record deal on Jay -Z’s Roc Nation. Just two years out of college, the North Carolina native was appearing on albums of some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Rihanna, B.o.B., and Drake. What may be most impressive about his debut release is the fact that 12 of the 16 songs on the album were produced by Cole himself, with the remainder of the production from Brian Kidd, No I.D. and L&X Music. Check out the original post here.
J. Cole – Can’t Get Enough (Feat. Trey Songz) [Stream]
3. Childish Gambino – Camp
Donald Glover is out to prove that he’s not only an actor, writer, and comedian, but a great musician as well. The twenty-eight year-old California native is probably best known for his acting role in the NBC series ‘Community,’ but on November 15 he celebrated the release of his debut commercial album, Camp. Glover, who is the son of actor and director Danny Glover, raps as Childish Gambino (thanks to a Wu-Tang Clan name generator), and has been recording and releasing music for free via his website since 2008. His clever lyrical composition is what sets him apart from most other rappers, and NPR‘s Kwasi Ansu sums it up best when she writes, “If you listen to Camp on a computer, do yourself a favor and open up Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary in separate tabs. Childish Gambino’s lyrics are so dense with analogies and comedic references that you’ll need those reference guides to decode some of his verses.” Check out the original post here.
Childish Gambino – Heartbeat (Stream)
2. Common – The Dreamer, The Believer
The Dreamer, The Believer is the ninth studio album from the multi-talented musician, actor, writer, and activist Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr., or ‘Common’ as he is professionally known. Longtime friend and collaborator No I.D. handled production on the album for the first time since 1997′s critically acclaimed record, One Day It’ll All Make Sense. Check out the original post here.
Common – Celebrate (Stream)
1. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
Back in April, the American indie rock band TV On The Radio released their fourth studio album via Interscope Records. “Will Do” was the first single released from the album in late February. The group began back in 2002 with their self-released debut album OK Calculator, which alludes to Radiohead’s 1997 album OK Computer. Their latest work, Nine Types Of Light, has received mostly positive reviews, peaking at #12 on the U.S. charts. Check out the original post here.
TV On The Radio – Will Do (Stream)
Check out our Top Mixtapes/EPs of 2011