The album is dead. Long live the album.
Increasingly, my listening habits tend to revolve around individual tracks, so I tried to adjust my year-end list-making accordingly by making My 30 Favorite Tracks of 2011 the primary entry in this year’s Rankstravaganza. But I just can’t quite give up on the album as a format. Neither can musicians, who still insist on packaging 12 (give or take) related, stylistically similar songs together.
So I am still doing an album ranking for 2011, in case there’s anybody else out there who still likes to listen to more than one track by an artist at a time. The result isn’t all that different from my top tracks—the bands are the same, the order is slightly different—but I can vouch that these collections are all good listens from start to finish.
I posted my list in the comments section on a certain website I frequent, and a fellow commenter called it the “soundtrack of Boulder, Colorado.” I’m pretty sure it was meant as an insult, but, hey, sometimes bros need some chill folk-rock to listen to while kicking back in the hot tub and ironically enjoying a few cheep beers, amirite?
The No. 1 album will surprise absolutely no one who’s been paying any attention to this blog.
15. 21, Adele
For fans of … strong female vocalists, classic soul, Amy Winehouse, ubiquitous pop hits
14. Mirror Traffic, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
For fans of … Pavement (obviously), guitars, irreverence
13. Demolished Thoughts, Thurston Moore
For fans of … Sonic Youth (obviously), Sea Change, spacey acoustic ballads
12. Collapse Into Now, R.E.M.
For fans of … going out on a high note
11. Middle Brother, Middle Brother
For fans of … Dawes, Deer Tick, Delta Spirit, songwriter collaborations, Americana
10. Join Us, They Might Be Giants
For fans of … John Henry, nerd-rock, humor, pop melodies, eclectic instrumentation
9. Civilian, Wye Oak
For fans of … brooding indie rock, male-female duos, St. Vincent
8. Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes
For fans of … harmonies, introspection, Bon Iver before he got all famous and ambitious
7. The New Britton Sound, Timothy Monger
For fans of … Great Lakes Myth Society, banjo, Michigan, Michael Penn
6. I Am Very Far, Okkervil River
For fans of … The Mountain Goats, intensity, big arrangements, folk-rock
5. Stone Rollin’, Raphael Saadiq
For fans of … soul when it involved guitars, Otis, Moog solos
4. All Eternals Deck, The Mountain Goats
For fans of … Okkervil River, mystery, lyrics, Morbid Angel (even though it isn’t the least bit metal, but Erik Rutan produced some tracks, so, you know … for completists)
3. The Whole Love, Wilco
For fans of … seven-minute krautrock freakouts, Jeff Tweedy’s old adventurous self, Nels Cline’s beautiful blazing fingers
2. It’s a Corporate World, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
For fans of … bedroom-pop that sounds like some effort went into it, The Flaming Lips, psychedelia, Gil Scott-Heron covers
1. The King is Dead, The Decemberists
For fans of … dictionaries, R.E.M., Gillian Welch, reveling in the beauty of nature