Rankstravaganza: My 15 favorite albums of 2011

The Decemberists
What, these guys again?

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

Still processing: David Comes to Life, Fucked Up; Skying, The Horrors; Abdication… For Your Love, Reigning Sound; Bad as Me, Tom Waits.

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2 Replies to “Rankstravaganza: My 15 favorite albums of 2011”

  1. Since you inspired me to start keeping track … here are my 5 albums from 2011 that I am still listening to in 2012 (in no particular order).

    Blood Pressures by The Kills
    The Wretch by The Gates of Slumber
    Portamento by The Drums
    I Am Very Far by Okkervil River (also in your top 15 I note)
    Ukon Wacka by Korpiklanni

    And four albums that I might keep listening to …
    Green Naugahyde by Primus (way way better than it I expected from a band who hasn’t released an album for a decade, and whose last album left me a little cold)
    All At Once by The Airborne Toxic Event (really loved this album at first, but it hasn’t stood up well to repeat listening)
    Wounded Rhymes by Lykke Li (this woman’s voice is amazing, album is uneven)
    Devil’s Music by Teddybears (not as good as their first album, but several highlights)

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