This was a little tougher than usual this year, but after much deliberation and some unpleasant culling, here are our favorite releases -- full-lengths, mixtapes, EPs, and one cassette -- of 2011. To accompany our choices, we asked all of the amazing artists on our list to tell us their own personal favorite albums from the past year, and a lot of them were nice enough to answer, so their picks are here too. Check it all, and leave your own lists, after the jump...
best of - Page 3
04 James Blake -
05 Girls - Carolina
06 Twin Sister -
07 Panda Bear - Alsatian Darn
08 James Blake - I Only Know (What I Know Now)
09 Big K.R.I.T. -
10 Big Boi - Shutterbug
11 Deerhunter - He Would Have Laughed
12 Morning Benders - Excuses (Yours Truly version)
13 Arcade Fire - We Used to Wait
14 Tennis -
15 Joanna Newsom - Baby Birch
16 Shabazz Palaces - Blastit
17 earlwolf - / Gucci Mane - Lemonade
18 Waka Flocka Flame - Hard In Da Paint
19 Twin Shadow - Castles in the Snow
20 Das Racist -
21 Korallreven -
22 Holy Other -
23 White Denim -
24 Crystal Castles -
25 Kanye West - Blame Game (edit)
26 White Hinterland -
27 Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Fright Night (Nevermore)
28 Air Waves -
29 Puro Instinct -
30 Freddie Gibbs - National Anthem (Fuck the World)
31 Grouper - Vessel
32 Teen Inc. -
33 Harlem -
34 Ghostface Killah - Together Baby
35 Games - Strawberry Skies
36 The Bitters -
37 Lower Dens -
38 jj -
39 Kanye West - Runaway (feat. Pusha T)
40 Les Sins -
41 Sunset -
42 Warpaint -
43 Tyler, the Creator -
44 Gil Scott-Heron - Me and the Devil
45 Washed Out -
46 Erykah Badu - Window Seat
47 Toro y Moi - Low Shoulder
48 Miracles Club -
49 Eternal Summers -
50 Games - Planet Party
51 Panda Bear -
52 Reading Rainbow -
53 Happy Birthday -
54 Sufjan Stevens - Age of Adz
55 Young Galaxy -
56 Grimes -
57 Coyote Clean Up -
58 Candy Claws -
59 Rangers - Deerfield Village
60 Wavves - King of the Beach
61 How To Dress Well -
62 Four Tet - Angel Echoes
63 Caribou - Odessa
64 Ciara - Ride (CFCF night bus refix)
65 Appaloosa -
66 Beautiful Swimmers -
67 Bodies of Water -
68 Pantha du Prince - Stick to my Side (feat. Panda Bear)
69 Robyn - Dancing On My Own
70 Hard Mix -
71 Animal Collective - Screens
72 Nite Jewel - We Want Our Things
73 Tame Impala - It Is Not Meant to Be
74 Soft Healer -
75 Fabulous Diamonds -
76 The Knife - The Height of Summer
77 The Sandwitches -
78 Jamie Woon - Night Air (Ramadanman refix)
79 Wet Wings -
80 Bullion - Say Goodbye to What
...and here are 5 from our 2010 Forest Family releases that I didn't feel comfortable ranking, but all are certainly among our favorite jams of the past year, which is why we started a label to put them out:
30 Ty Segall - Melted
29 Shackleton - Fabric 55
28 Caribou - Swim
27 Mount Kimbie - Crooks & Lovers
26 Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
25 Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part II: Return of the Ankh
24 The Walkmen - Lisbon
23 Tennis - Tennis (cassette)
22 Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
21 Frankie Rose & the Outs - Frankie Rose & the Outs
20 Twin Shadow - Forget
19 Forest Swords - Dagger Paths
18 Harlem - Hippies
17 The Samps - The Samps
16 Grimes - Geidi Primes
15 Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be
14 Big K.R.I.T. - wuz here
13 Twin Sister - Color Your Life / Alternates
12 Earl Sweatshirt - EARL
11 Toro y Moi - Causers of This
10 Girls - Broken Dreams Club
More earnest pop gems from Girls: Broken Dreams Club is honest and heart-wrenching and revelatory in a way that you could only expect from these two. A very natural extension of Album, but also a tremendous step up, punctuated by tighter production and sonic explorations that exude a well-earned confidence. "Substance" charms with help from Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls, and "Carolina" -- a jam we've had in our head for roughly two years -- rounds things out in epic fashion.
09 White Denim - Last Day of Summer
With the the looser, "fresh and casual" approach (their words) that White Denim takes on Last Day of Summer, the band comes closer than ever to capturing the preternatural chemistry and seemingly effortless shapeshifting flow they consistently display in their live shows. Not bad for what essentially amounts to a stopgap / "little summer retreat" while we wait for the band's proper third full-length. Download it for whatever you'd like to pay here.
08 Games - That We Can Play
In which '80s homage/nostalgia is elevated to instant classic status by masterful pop deconstruction -- and subsequent magical reconstruction -- from Oneohtrix Point Never's Daniel Lopatin and Tigercity's Joel Ford. Granted, the run time here is slight, but the EP's brevity works in its favor, as there's not a wasted second on this thing. Also featuring one of the best songs of 2010, the unexpected "Cruel Summer"-recalling pop hit "Strawberry Skies," which features vocals from Laurel Halo.
07 Lower Dens - Twin-Hand Movement
Like most of the uniformly stellar (and underrated) output from Texan Jana Hunter, the self-titled debut from her new band Lower Dens is understated and unassuming, almost to a fault. But repeat listens reveal gorgeous waves of ringing, shimmering "post punk drone pop," bolstered by Hunter's emotive, vaguely androgynous vocals and a tangible, increasingly rare cohesiveness for such a young band. This one crept up on us, and cliched as it may sound, it's fair to say that the whole here far exceeds the sum of its parts.
06 Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
The highly anticipated, perpetually delayed solo joint from one of our favorite rappers is a triumphant return on all fronts. Despite a few still-kind-of-awesome missteps -- who invited Vonnegutt? -- Big Boi's classic, ridiculously dexterous flow and the record's always inspired, deliriously out-there production cement this as the most fun (and funkiest) thing released in 2010. Best driving music of the year, too.
05 Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me
There's no question we fell in love with the more immediate songs on Have One On Me upon first listen, although like most, we initially found the record as a whole kind of daunting and impenetrable. But as you witness Newsom bring these songs to life, you're forcefully reminded of her very literally prodigious and virtuosic ability as a musician, songwriter, and lyricist, which only reaffirms how graceful and delicate and achingly beautiful these subtly complex compositions are. Revisit this one, it wears in like an old friend.
04 James Blake - CMYK / Klavierwerke
Ghostly, living/breathing atmospherics from London's James Blake, who, in CMYK + Klavierwerke, has created two of the year's most groundbreaking releases. Blake's Burial-esque manipulation of vocals and unique and imaginative use of space is incredibly soul-stirring and affecting in ways that are unlike anything I've ever heard. Nowhere is this more evident than on the mournful, fairly mindblowing "I Only Know (What I Know Now)," which sounds like being born/dying, or as P4k's David Bevan put it, "like infinity trapped inside of five minutes."
James Blake :: I Only Know (What I Know Now)
03 Shabazz Palaces - Shabazz Palaces / Of Light
Originally self-released at the end of '09 and re-released by Sub Pop last month, Seattle's Shabazz Palaces thrillingly juxtapose the platinum voice and conscious/menacing lyrics of Palaceer Lazaro -- aka anti-Kanye Ishmael Butler of Digable Planets -- with bumping, futuristic Brainfeeder-level beats to create the most adventurous and inventive hip-hop release of the year. Look for a full-length in early 2011.
Shabazz Palaces :: Blastit...
02 Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
"Alas! The brilliant lofi texturewave artist Ariel Pink has finally done it, leaving many of us wondering: "What did music sound like Before Today?" which is coincidentally the title of his gamechanging 2010 release with his band of lofi talismans known simply as the Haunted Graffiti. Merging his ambient bedroom recording artist textures with the modern textures and professionalism of the modern recording vibes required for 'mainstream indie coverage', Ariel Pink has emerged from the shadowy textures of yesteryear and has evolved into a modern indie star. It seems as if perhaps the world has finally caught up with Ariel Rosenberg, and our ears are finally ready for his textures. "Before Today" is history, while the future is a mystery but today is a gift which belongs to Ariel Pink."
--Carles of Hipster Runoff
01 Beach House - Teen Dream
The most elegant, visceral, sensual release of the year comes from one of our favorite bands in the history of this blog. Teen Dream was born of a fully evolved vision and the indefatigable connection between Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand, whose voice is quickly becoming an iconic one. And, it has the best songs.
Spent part of the weekend finishing up some year-end list stuff for Altered Zones, including the shortlist of our favorite videos of the year. Here are our top 12:
12 Erykah Badu - "Window Seat"
(director: Coodie & Chike)
11 Twin Shadow - "Slow"
(director: Alex Markman)
10 Flying Lotus - "Kill Your Co-Workers"
09 HEALTH - "We Are Water"
(director: Eric Wareheim)
08 The Books - "A Cold Freezin Night"
(director: The Books)
07 Bruce Haack - "Party Machine"
06 Toro Y Moi - "Low Shoulder"
05 El Guincho - "Bombay"
(director: Nicolas Mendez)
04 Earl Sweatshirt - "EARL"
(director: AG Rojas)
03 Arcade Fire - "The Wilderness Downtown"
(director: Chris Milk)
02 Shabazz Palaces - "Belhaven Meridian"
(director: Kahlil Joseph)
01 Gil Scott-Heron - "Me & the Devil"