New Music Roundup: The Top 10 Albums of ’11 So Far
10. Arctic Monkeys – Suck it and See
Suck It and See the cheekily titled fourth record from the Arctic Monkeys may seem dirty to those on our shores but the title is actually a phrase meaning “give it a try.” Ditching the heavy chugging Josh Homme added to the band last time around and going back to Simian Mobile Disco dude James Ford, the band took the sound of one of their best songs “Cornerstone” and rolled with it. Matt Helders still holds down the kit unlike any drummer in indie rock and Alex Turner’s croon has gotten even sweeter. So why not give this record a try?
9. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
What is the point to add more digital ink about how great this record is. No longer writing from a cabin, Justin Vernon has moved on to smoking pot with Kanye and getting love from everyone. This record even reached number two on the Billboard charts. Bon Iver is a gorgeous exclamation mark on a discography already full of hits. Bon Iver will be around for a long time. Mark my words.
8. Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Make A Scene
Sophie Ellis-Bextor took so long to release this record that by the time it was released in Russia (WTF?) this April it already had five singles three of which were released on other people’s records. What was originally a “greatest hits” album, Make a Scene morphed into her fourth full-length. The record is not only her best work but the best pop album released this year.
7. Fucked Up - David Comes to Life
Fucked Up have been writing songs about David for a while but this time they have created an almost 80 minute epic about David. Not only did they make the record but also a LP of other songs by made up bands that work as a companion piece for the record. The Toronto hardcore band have come a long way from their beginnings, as the epic pinning of the Polaris Music Prize winning The Chemistry of Common Life was just the beginning. David Comes To Life is surely not to be matched in it’s scope. Broken up into four acts, David sees the band move away from just pit shakers to orchestral pieces with sweet female vocals (some from Madeline Follin of Cults). Like Titus Andronicus did lat year, Fucked Up have made a successful concept record- something that is very hard to achieve.
6. tUnE-yArDs- w h o k i l l
Merril Garbus, or tUnE-yArDs if you’re nasty, makes music like no other artist this side of the Dirty Projectors. Hooking up with bassist Nate Brenner, Garbus perfected her sound and delivered a knockout of a record. The early highlight “Gangsta” is a great introduction to how the tUnE-yArDs can switch their sound to be so many different styles but still sound focused. You will be sure to see w h o k i l l on many top lists at the end of the year.
5. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
Former Digible Planets member Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler self-released two EPs in 2009 before being picked up by his local label Sub Pop. The label reissued those two brilliant EPs and the rest is history. His first full-length and probably the first rap record Sub Pop has ever released, Black Up is full of twists and turns that seem pretentious as fuck (I mean look at this sample song title “Swerve… The reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)”), but it all makes sense. Just let this record ride and you’ll get the full value of it.
4. Cults - Cults
Cults, the male female duo, made a splash with their three song EP last year. Like other blog hyped bands they ended up signing to a major label to release their debut album Cults and the backlash began. Would they clean up their homespun sound? Would they turn their back on their audience? The answers are thankfully no. Bringing back two of their three tracks and their Adult Swim single,Cults is a record by a band that despite the major label money stuck to what they know. Sure the fidelity is higher, but the songs don’t suffer. “You Know What I Mean” is a perfect girl-group stomper that sounds like it was written years ago. The record is joyous, infectious, and instantly repeatable.
3. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
This free mixtape came out of nowhere. At first The Weeknd were big-upped by Drake and only released Youtube videos of their shit. Then they dropped a free record of all of their songs, and yet still no one could get a good idea of who was involved in the project. We now know that the band is fronted by Abel Tesfaye and he’s got even more new music cooking for this year. House of Balloons follows in Drake’s Thank Me Later approach to R&B. Focusing on tracks about partying, girls, drugs and a heavy dose of self-loathing the mix has it all. If that doesn’t make it cool enough, there is not only a Siouxsie and the Banshees sample but two Beach House samples.
2. Tennis – Cape Dory
Tennis’s back story is one for blog fodder, but if you haven’t been paying attention to the many posts about them on the site or how I’ve already lost my load on this record, Tennis are a husband and wife duo who went sailing and made a record about it. Ten simple love songs in less than thirty minutes, Cape Dory is streamlined, catchy, and perfect.
1. Destroyer – Kaputt
Very few artists pull switcharoos like Dan Bejar. For his ninth record Bejar added female vocals and went all yacht rock on our ass. Employing flutes, trumpets and sax, Kaputt is a masterpiece. Kaputt tops my list right now and I’m sure it won’t budge by the end of the year, because I just keep coming back.
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