Incredible, record shattering, inspiring, contagious, controversial, emotional, political.
2011 brought an abundance of greatness to our ears. The tracks stuck on repeat, the concept albums in your CD changer since release day, the pivotal party beat in your playlist you wait for like Christmas morning.
Thinking back, every genre set off a lightbulb to in my mind. Hip Hop seems to be the reining champ for play counts in the library of 2011. For Canada, Drake delivered his sophomore LP and we were introduced to The Weeknd with a trilogy of brave mixtapes. Adele broke world records with 21, while Coldplay’s still going strong with their 5th full-length. In with the Indie was a dominant theme this year. Memorable TV scenes, Sportsnet highlight packages, Aritzia, you name it.
Twenty-eleven was a fantastic year in music, whether you’re an artist or listener.
25. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter IV
Barely making it on to the list was a slightly disappointing release from the Young Money leader. C3 was impressive, IV on the other hand, lacked depth and originality. Due to a few bangers and catchy hooks, it slid into last place.
24. Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!
This is the UK indie rock band’s 5th studio album. Following the success of their last record The Seldom Seen Kid (Mercury Music Prize Winner), they kept the creative pot stirring. Similar sound, more emotional.
23. Big Scary – Vacation
After five years of singles and EP’s, the Melbourne duo release their debut album; and it does not disappoint. An array of instruments, eclectic lyricism, and every area of the emotion spectrum was touched.
22. Common – The Dreamer, The Believer
Slightly disappointing. The Chi-Town emcee usually delivers with authority, I felt more dreaming and less believing was done in the studio. I hold him in high standards, for Hip Hop, 8.5/10, for Common 6/10.
21. A$AP Rocky – Long Live A$AP
The Harlem rapper drops one official mixtape, and with his talents, it appears that’s all he needs. Smooth flow about rolling doobies and aggressive jabs directed at haters over some unique, original beats. Initiation complete.
20. Little Dragon – Ritual Union
The Swedish electronic band delivers their third LP, and my personal favourite. The previous two records had noticeable tracks, Ritual Union has a great overall feel to it. Fun, quirky, and cool all at the same time.
19. Childish Gambino – Camp
The bloggers, Community watchers, Derrick Comedy fans have long awaited this record. Donald Glover’s rapping skills were noticed and glorified after multiple mixtapes releases, and it caught on. Dropping 50k copies first week is a tough accomplishment for most rookies. Not his best work, but I know there’s so much more to come.
18. Explosions In The Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
The instrumental band from Texas does it again. For over 10 years, they’ve managed to evoke emotions beyond belief and get your heart racing without using words. Whether you’re studying, night-driving, or laying in bed, it’s a must listen.
17. Wiz Khalifa – Rolling Papers
The Pittsburgh native, responsible for the team colour anthem movement, makes his debut into the majors. The record goes deeper than Black & Yellow, and I found myself impressed. Diverse beats, basic concepts, and a Biggie/Diddy shout-out.
16. Foster The People – Torches
The LA indie pop band became a phenomenon overnight. They had us all singing about pumped up kicks and something about disappearing. Catchy tunes with subtle messages.
15. Wale – Ambition
The MMG recruit showed us there’s more to him with his second full-length album. With an assortment of producers and featured guests, Wale delivers a well crafted Hip Hop record.
14. Beyoncé – 4
The gorgeous Mrs. Carter delivered a fresh sound with her fourth LP. With a more laid-back feeling, Beyoncé is still kicking scrubs to the curb and serenading the gentlemen.
13. The Roots – Undun
The Philadelphia Hip Hop group is back at it with #10. One of their better records. A concept album about a fictional character facing urban poverty. Despite the cracks about being a house-band on Jimmy Fallon, the critics loved and praised Undun.
12. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
The 7th studio album from the Glasgow experimental rock band is their best work yet. Explosions In The Sky meets Animals As Leaders with a touch of Stars. Instrumentation is at their all-time high with this record.
11. Lupe Fiasco – Lasers
After intense disputes with the record company and a fan base without quit, the Chicago emcee released his third LP. A strong opener, perfect single choices, political opinions, spot-on production and yet a few lacklustre tracks.
10. Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto
Halfway to platinum after just one week, the ageless UK band delivers a love story in the form of Mylo Xyloto. A title with no definitive meaning, yet an album with immense amounts of thought and emotions embedded in it.
9. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
It’s been a long time coming for the European electronic indie band. I remember seeing them almost 6 years ago, and thinking, one day I won’t have blank faces when I mention M83. “Midnight City” has reared it’s beautiful head everywhere it seems. 22 tracks long, and you’ll still be asking to hear more.
8. Florence + The Machine – Ceremonials
Following up the success of Lungs was an daunting task that was accomplished with flying colours. Florence Welch delivers anthems, heartbreak, and folklore you want to scream along to.
7. Big Sean – Finally Famous
Signing with Kanye’s G.O.O.D. label in 2007, the Detroit rapper delivers a phenomenal debut album with a title to match the waiting time. Chicago producer No I.D. jumped all over this record along with CB, Legend, Ross, West, Wiz, Pharrell and Dream because it’s everything they expected, bitch.
6. The Weeknd – House Of Balloons
The Toronto visionary gave us a trilogy of free mixtapes this year, all of which deserve positive reception. House of Balloons was the first and best in my opinion. With the help from the likes of Frank Ocean and A$AP Rocky, the Hip Hop/R&B genre is developing into something fresh and unique.
5. Adele – 21
The 23 year old because a world phenomenon with the release of her second album. The emotion, the voice, and the stories she tells that resonate with everyone in some way. The record has been nominated for 6 Grammy Awards and shattered records with over 16 million copies sold worldwide.
4. J. Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story
Hailing from the small town of Fayetteville, NC, Jermaine Cole signed with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label in 2009. Two years later, his first record debuts at #1 on the US Billboard 2o0 chart with over 200k copies moved. The self-produced, anti-sideline album features Jay, Drake, Trey and Missy E.
3. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Bon Hiver, French for good winter. Frontman Justin Vernon had a huge 2010, featured on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, songs on almost every drama-based show on TV and the recording of the self-titled record. With maturity gained post For Emma, Forever Ago, and new sounds, influences and people involved for the second album, it came together perfectly. Raw emotion, sympathetic, and insightful were the main themes here.
2. Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne
Perhaps one of the most epic collaborations of all time. The two Hip Hop moguls shared a common interest of defining what good music is. With the usage of some fantastic samples, Frank Ocean on two tracks and Mrs. Carter giving track 2 a lift off, the puzzle pieces fell into place naturally.
1. Drake – Take Care
The Toronto native takes the #1 spot for many reasons. Thank Me Later is amazing, Take Care was just as sensational if not better. Improvements can always be made, and often are, maturity on the other hand, isn’t as easily attained. A good follow up album uses the same creative sense and plays safe, a great follow up album takes that creative sense, then expands and develops it.
2011 was one of the greatest years of music that I can recall, I eagerly look forward to what 2012 has to offer