For music nerds, there aren’t many things more fun than making lists. It could be songs starting with the letter K, or AC/DC’s best albums post Back In Black, it doesn’t matter. The annual “best albums of the year” lists that pop up all over the place might be the most enjoyable to make, read, and argue about.
For me, listing 25 (much less a top 50) is unrealistic because the best music takes time to sink in and I’d never be able to get into much more than 10 -15 albums released in one year. Full disclosure: I don’t like Bon Iver, could only get into a few of Adele’s songs, and was clinically depressed because of my disappointment in Watch The Throne.
Honorable Mention: Dawes – Nothing is Wrong
I really have been into “Nothing is Wrong” lately but I just downloaded it recently so it’s impossible to look at from down the line like the other albums on this list. Even though all the songs sound same-y, Dawes would definitely have a lock on the last spot if this was a top 11 of the year, even if only for the lyric “If I wanted someone to spend my money I wouldn’t get paid.”
10. Those Darlins – Screws Get Loose
Screws Get Loose is an easy going summer album that’s easy to singalong to. Like Dawes’ record, the songs don’t deviate from each other much but they’re a lot more fun. Those Darlins packed a lot of attitude into this album, which is short and sweet.
9. Fucked Up – David Comes To Life
You can probably guess by the name, but this music is intense. David Comes To Life is a concept album about a factory worker who murders the woman he loves (or some other insane shit like that), but it takes multiple listens to even figure out what the singer (nicknamed “Pink Eyes,” by the way) is talking about. It’s impossible to listen to from start to finish and will probably cause some serious road rage, but makes for great workout music. No matter how raw it is, David Comes To Life gets better every time I revisit it.
8. Me First & The Gimme Gimmes – Go Down Under EP
Only at number 8, but this list order is already tough to decide. This punk rock cover band only gets better as they get older. I put Go Down Under at #8 because it only has 5 songs, although I probably lost more hearing to those 5 cover songs to any other album on this list.
7. The Cute Lepers – Adventure Time
It was a good year for punk, so good I wish I could transport an iTunes playlist called “Up The 2011 PUNX” through time to my 7th grade-Joe Strummer worshipping-self. The Cute Lepers have somehow done just that from 1981. Adventure Time won’t be on many best of lists, but is the musical equivalent of eating Poprocks and Coke.
6. Wilco – The Whole Love
Wilco tends to be one of the most overrated bands out there now, but that doesn’t mean their not good in the first place. The Whole Love is detailed, intricate music (coming from someone who knows nothing about how to make music) and still manages to be quite catchy. It’s a mostly mellow, laid back LP that’d slip easily onto ’70s radio.
5. Dum Dum Girls – Only In Dreams
The music on Only In Dreams sounds fuzzy and HUGE at the same time. It’s better than the Dum Dum Girls’ first album and has a cool retro feel to it. Every song is fun to sing in the shower and if you only watch one video on this blog post let it be this one. They’re mesmerizing.
4. Deer Tick – Divine Providence
Deer Tick specializes in rowdy, drunken bar rock. There are a few snoozers on this album, but the best songs are so good they more than make up for the duds. If my 7th grade self wasn’t a nice catholic school boy, this would’ve been my anthem:
3. My Morning Jacket – Circuital
I was surprised at how low Circuital was ranked on a lot of year end lists. My Morning Jacket is probably my favorite band (depending on the week) but these 10 songs are so good because of all their layers. It’s the definition of a “headphones record,” the music is rich and detailed. “Holdin’ Onto Black Metal” was the track most sites talked about most, but more than half of the songs are already live staples.
2. Hayes Carll – KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories)
Straight up, no frills country. Hayes Carll won’t be on CMT, but he’s in the mold of outlaws Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. I first heard of him through Spin magazine and after I bought (yeah really, I bought) the album, I couldn’t stop playing it. Every song fits in the order it’s sequenced in and is easy to memorize for maximum sing along potential.
1. The Black Keys – El Camino
No question about it. Five stars, Ten out of ten, whatever. This album is aces. This music is fast, tough, and sounds like t should be on the soundtrack for Dazed and Confused. It’s also a perfect companion to last year’s Brothers, which was big and shiny too but also much slower. I’ve listened to El Camino everyday since it came out and haven’t gotten sick of it yet. I understand that’s a bit much for some people but The Black Keys have released some seriously balls out rock and roll. I don’t want anyone in my life that can’t get into this somehow.