22

Dec

The best albums of 2011


When I was compiling this list of the 10 albums I most enjoyed in 2011, I found myself at complete odds with what the vast majority of critics and media types have been frothing over. Acclaimed releases by muso darlings PJ Harvey and Bon Iver did little for me, and even closer to home, I still struggle to see what all the fuss is about with Scottish bloggers’ favourite Everything’s Getting Older by Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat.

There was one album I continually revisited this year (actually, there were two but the Endor record came out in 2010) and given that it was released way back in January, it’s fair to say its songs have made my entire 2011 a total joy.

Cold War Kids’ third album deserves to be hailed as a work of indie-rock perfection. The Californian band have always been blessed with Nathan Willett’s soul-searing voice, but Mine Is Yours backs it up with a barrage of songs fit for stadiums. The album sounds absolutely colossal at times, so much so that I was grudgingly likening it to Kings of Leon before I realised they’d shared the same producer (Jacquire King).

It took a bit of transatlantic sweet-talking but, in keeping with Pop Cop tradition, I managed to get a member of Cold War Kids to accept the Best Album of the Year award in person and follow in the footsteps of previous recipients The National (2007), Sigur Rós (2008), The Sounds (2009) and Admiral Fallow (2010). As you can see from the photo above, he struggled to contain his delight.

Here’s the top 10, each described in Twitter-friendly 140 characters…

1. COLD WAR KIDSMINE IS YOURS
Melody dripping from every pore, insprired key changes in all the right places. Put simply, the best collection of songs to be found in 2011.
Royal Blue

2. BEN HOWARDEVERY KINGDOM
Memorable, crowd-pleasing acoustic anthems with real depth. Introspective but never inaccessible. Ben seems like a sound bloke too. Win-win.
The Fear

3. BEERJACKETTHE WHITE FEATHER TRAIL
Peter Kelly’s greatest work to date included a career high in the poignant Jack Chasing Jill. I didn’t hear a finer Scottish album all year.
Jack Chasing Jill

4. THE JEZABELSPRISONER
Epically intense and fragile. Think Muse meets The National made by an Aussie band who’ll be massive when this LP gets a UK release in 2012.
Endless Summer

5. JACK’S MANNEQUINPEOPLE AND THINGS
Makers of my favourite album of the last decade, my love affair with JM keeps going. Nobody can pull off piano-rock like these Californians.
My Racing Thoughts

6. WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKSIN THE PIT OF THE STOMACH
A relentless, ferocious album. The songs aren’t as strong as the ones on their debut but at least the recordings did them justice this time.
Human Error

7. LIGHTGUIDESSAMBA SAMBA SAMBA
A dazzling live trio make a dazzling rock record. An emphatically more adventurous proposition than Twin Atlantic, this band should be huge.
WarHorse

8. MANCHESTER ORCHESTRASIMPLE MATH
America’s most interesting rock band in ages – trumpets, trombones, a school choir and a string orchestra all turn up on this concept album.
Apprehension

9. EMMY THE GREATVIRTUE
I didn’t obsess over this record anywhere near as much as predecessor First Love but there’s no doubting this is songwriting par excellence.
Paper Forest (In The Afterglow Of Rapture)

10. MIKE NISBETVAGRANT
This man from Oban released his debut to little fanfare but word-of-mouth is bound to take him far. Quiet songs that’ll get under your skin.
Free Man

7 Responses to “The best albums of 2011”

  1. Fiona Says:

    December 22nd, 2011 at 12:07

    The photo of Matt Maust is hilarious. Also, you have very good taste :) (but Samba Samba Samba and Simple Math should be higher than People And Things…)


  2. The Pop Cop Says:

    December 22nd, 2011 at 12:12

    Thanks Fiona. It took me a while to get into People And Things as I kept comparing it to JM’s previous albums, but now that I know which songs to skip I really love it!


  3. Anonymous Says:

    December 22nd, 2011 at 12:15

    Ben Howard and LightGuides are my two most played albums this year. Great choices Pop Cop!


  4. Ill Will Says:

    December 22nd, 2011 at 12:22

    Great to see LightGuides in the list. It’s an excellent album. As is Simple Math.

    Can’t help but thinking WWPJ album is really overrated… maybe just need to listen again?


  5. Fiona Says:

    December 22nd, 2011 at 12:50

    Haha, it’s those ‘songs to skip’ that are the problem… There are too many. Also, I’ve just bought the Cold War Kids and Mike Nisbet albums on the back of reading this. Hooray for buying music and stuff. I want The Jezabels album too, but can’t see anywhere to buy it that isn’t stupidly expensive/shipping from across the world.


  6. The Pop Cop Says:

    December 22nd, 2011 at 12:58

    Ill Will: I think Jetpacks needs a few listens to fully appreciate. Seeing them play the songs live definitely enhanced my enjoyment of them.

    Fiona: That’s amazing! The Jezabels are doing a ticket + album deal for their Glasgow and Edinburgh gigs in February which might be worth investigating: http://www.crowdsurge.com/thejezabels/

    I reckon that Jezabels album is going to turn up on a lot of 2012 lists, but it was available on import this year so I’m counting it this year!


  7. Jo Bell Says:

    December 22nd, 2011 at 20:59

    Nice to see a top ten list which is a little different – some albums I haven’t heard yet and will be checking out pronto! Cheers pal – and Merry Christmas!


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