My Favorite Albums of 2011

So here we are, day 2 of a brand new year.  A brand new year in which I have resolved to blog every day.  And I had no idea what to write about.  But then it hit me: there are ideas floating around in my head that I never got around to blogging last year, and those ideas still make lovely blog post topics.

It would surprise no one who knows me that the first of those topics that I chose to blog about is music.  Specifically, my favorite records of the year.  (In my world, “record” and “album” are synonyms and they mean “a collection of songs.”  Furthermore, they are format-independent, which is to say that “record” does not equal “vinyl.”)  I think some of the below albums were released before 2011, but I didn’t fall in love with any of them until 1/1/11 or later.  It just so happens that there are 10 albums on my list (not intentional), and they are listed in the order I thought of them.  (I’m pretty good at making lists, but terrible at ordering them.  Rob from High Fidelity I am not.)

Taking Back Sunday – Taking Back Sunday
I think I already went on about TBS and my love for them, especially the Tell All Your Friends line-up, back in July.  This album isn’t Tell All Your Friends Part 2, and I can’t imagine anyone really wanted or expected that.  I believe this stands on its own merits, but it is nice to hear TBS’s trademark dueling vocals again, and hearing Adam and John together still makes me ridiculously happy.
Standout Track: “You Got Me”

Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math
I think this was the very first album I pre-ordered on vinyl (not counting re-releases).  And I’m glad I did, even though I only have a crappy record player.  It sounds amazing, whether I’m listening to the vinyl or the digital download.  Andy Hull’s voice can be mesmerizing and his lyrics are phenomenal.
Standout Track: “Virgin”

Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys
Early this year I thought Death Cab had a shot at being my breakout band of the year.  The band that I became obsessed with.  It didn’t happen, but you can’t blame that on Codes and Keys.  This album got me through many long hours of looking for sources for grad school papers.
Standout Track: “Stay Young, Go Dancing”

Bayside – Killing Time
This was one of my bigger surprises of the year.  I was inspired to check this record out by a combination of hearing “Sick, Sick, Sick” on Music Choice and hearing Mike Shea interview Anthony Raneri (the singer) on the AP Podcast.  I immediately fell in love with it and spent the next month starting every day by listening to it on my iPad.
Standout Track: “It’s Not a Bad Little War”

Matt Nathanson – Modern Love
My first Spotify discovery (and I think I covered it a bit in my post on Spotify).  I don’t remember what inspired me to check this record out, but I’m glad I did.  Though my tastes have become indie and emo over the years, I still love me a good singer-songwriter.  This record inspired me to check out a lot of his back catalog too (thanks, Spotify), but this is the record I fell in love with.
Standout Track: “Modern Love”

Bruno Mars – Doo-Wops & Hooligans
I avoided Bruno Mars as well as I could in 2010, but after his performance on the Grammys I decided to buy this record (thanks, iTunes gift card).  And I was glad I did.  The man writes great pop songs, and I am no longer ashamed to admit that I love great pop songs.  Although I could do without the whistling in the radio/video edit of “The Lazy Song.”
Standout Track: “Runaway Baby”

The Black Keys – Brothers
I used to hate the Black Keys.  To the point where I would change the station if one of their songs came on the radio.  But then “Tighten Up” came out and it didn’t suck.  Then I heard “Next Girl” and “Howlin’ for You,” and they were awesome, so I decided to use another iTunes gift card, and it was another one well spent.  I don’t know why I changed my mind on the Black Keys, but I’m glad I did.
Standout Track: “Next Girl”

Young the Giant – Young the Giant
Another Spotify find.  I had loved “My Body” from almost the first time I heard it, but I kind of wrote them off until I heard “Strings” at Clair’s bridal shower, at which point I was inspired to check them out on Spotify.  This record was part of the soundtrack to nearly every paper I wrote last semester.
Standout Track: “Cough Syrup”

AWOLNATION – Megalithic Symphony
Fairly close to the story for Young the Giant (though they sound completely different), except I never wrote “Sail” off.  On the contrary, I was obsessed with it.  It’s just one of those songs that never gets old.  Luckily, the rest of the record is really great as well.
Standout Track: “Sail”

Sainthood Reps – Monoculture
Sainthood Reps is a band from Long Island that I probably wouldn’t have heard of if Derrick Sherman weren’t also a member of Brand New.  They’ve even opened for Brand New, but not at either of the shows I went to this year.  Thanks to Brand New, I was inspired to check them out on Spotify, and I really like this record, so much so that I actually bought it (without an iTunes gift card).
Standout Track: “Holiday Makers”

Wow, for someone who spent most of the day with no idea what to blog about, I sure as hell wrote a lot.  I’m pretty happy with this list, though I am bummed that a couple of my favorite bands (particularly Jack’s Mannequin and Thrice) didn’t make it.  I just haven’t been grabbed by their new records, but maybe that will change in 2012.

Until tomorrow.

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