Here is my list of the top 11 albums of 2011. It covers a wide range of genres, with a healthy amount of Canadian musicians (which is a rarity for me if only because of the sheer number of American and international musicians out there compared to the small contingent of Canadian crooners). At the bottom of the article, you can catch my favorite track from each album.
Lesser known rapper, Phonte, stepped up to the plate in 2011 and did he ever hit one hell of a home run! Charity Starts At Home is a great album that kept me going through
exams the entire semester. His being featured heavily on The Roots‘ Undun also supports his case for being one of my favorite artists of 2011. Incredible production and great flow mixed with conscious lyricism sheds light on his potential to be just like Common.
Canada’s wonder-kid! Drake (formerly known as Jimmy) has come a long way from his wheel chair days on Degrassi. But you all know that. Take Care is a sick record with incredible (often obscure) samples and some great guest appearances. I need not say more, as you can read my review of the album here.
Florence Welch, lead singer of Florence + The Machine, is a red-headed siren who followed up their debut record, Lungs, with a stellar performance on this year’s release, Ceremonials. It would be able to lure Ulysses to a rocky death as her siren-ancestors attempted to in James Joyce’s epic novel.
LiveLoveA$AP most definitely opened the world up to a preview of what is yet to come with hip-hop. A$AP Rocky left the door ajar, keeping us all intrigued by his rhyming, his flow and major hookups with one of the most talented and underrated producers of this era, Clams Casino. Keep an ear out in 2012 for a comprehensive A$AP Crew album and much more to come from Rocky, himself! But come on, there are very few albums out there that have a better song to start the record off! “Palace” features that brilliant Clams Casino production and “Ugh, God damn, how real is this?”
Justin Vernon has cemented his legacy as one of the most captivating and almost angelic folk singers of the past decade. Bon Iver‘s eponymous sophomoric album has shaken the music world, earning the band more than a few nods with Grammy nominations for this year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year and Best Alternative Album of the Year.
Undun is just awesome. Read my review of the album here.
Kendrick Lamar, straight out of Compton, put together one of the most captivating rap albums of the decade. Rapping about life in the hood didn’t dominate this album, where he shared stories of how he is one of the few guys out there who is, and always has been, clean-cut. This album is bumped up a rung or two on my list because of his unbelievable performance at the Sound Academy in Toronto back in June.
Frank Ocean has become one of the hottest topics in music over the past several years. From the moment I first heard Nostalgia/Ultra, I knew something was special with him. Being named GQ‘s “Rookie of the Year” in their annual “Men of the Year” issue, the R&B superstar from hip-hop’s head-banging, mosh-pit inciting, fan-slapping breakout crew, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, Frank Ocean has created this intriguing persona that is developing into a can’t miss state.
With what most of the music world considered to be the “can’t miss” album of the summer, two of the biggest rappers of all time came together to create a magnificent album of godly proportions. Watch the Throne features 16 songs, getting great appearances from Frank Ocean, Mr. Hudson and Beyoncé, samples from Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding, James Brown, Blades Of Glory and Flux Pavillion. The tour following the release of the album had 34 shows in Canada and the USA, with “Ni**as in Paris” being played an average of 4.9 times a night (maxing out at 11 times in Vancouver). All I can say about that stat is, “That shit cray.” Watch The Throne is a great album with many outstanding, memorable lines that are more than acceptable to be used in any conversation.
Canadian band, Hey Rosetta! released their album Seeds back in February of this year and it took almost 11 months for me to listen to it from cut to cut. My love for the song “Yer Spring,” featured on this album, was more than enough for me to be happy with the band. The song is a staple on many playlists of mine and only this past month did I think “If ‘Yer Spring’ is so good, maybe I should listen to more!” Well, lo and behold, Seeds has become one of my favorite Canadian albums ever, earning it the number 2 spot on my list for 2011. With 11 of the best indie-rock songs you will listen to this year, Seeds was a deserving album to be placed on the short list for the 2011 Polaris Prize.
#1 The Weeknd – House Of Balloons
The top spot for this year’s albums of the the year belongs to Abel Tesfaye. Abel, better known as The Weeknd, is one more musical mastermind to come from Toronto. Having been supported by Drake from the get go, the two musicians have created a sort of partnership, bringing Drake’s October’s Very Own (OVO) and The Weeknd’s XO crews together, creating a super gang of OVOXO. As one of my first “Artist of the Weeks,” I spoke about The Weeknd and his freshman mixtape, House Of Balloons. This “mixtape” that is more like an album, is 9 songs of just sexual, intense, hard-drug-fuelled music that is just entrancing. The Weeknd, himself, is one of the more mysterious men in music, taking a page from Prince’s “How to be Me” book, which adds to the greatness of HOB, as no one knew anything about this man upon its release. Having just wrapped up his trilogy of “Balloons” mixtapes with the release of Echoes of Silence this week, The Weeknd definitely owned 2011 having kicked the year off with my favorite album of the year.
Special Mentions (in no specific order):
The Antlers – Bust Apart, Adele – 21, Atmosphere – Family Sign, Beirut – The Rip Tide, Beyoncé – 4, Big K.R.I.T – Return of 4eva, Charles Bradley – No Time For Dreaming, Childish Gambino – Camp, The Cool Kids – When Fish Ride Bicycles, Das Racist – Relax, Destroyer – Kaputt, Exile – Intro To The Outro, Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues, Foster the People – Torches, J. Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story, Jamie XX & Gil Scott-Heron – We’re New Here, Little Dragon – Ritual Union, Logic - Young Sinatra, Logic – Young, Broke & Infamous, M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Other Lives – Tamer Animals, Pusha T – Fear Of God II: Let Us Pray, Real Estate – Days, Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin On, Toro Y Moi – Underneath The Pine, XV – Zero Heroes, 9th Wonder – The Wonder Years