gorilla vs. bear’s albums of 2011
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...
30 NICOLAS JAAR | Space Is Only Noise
Nicolas Jaar :: Colomb
NICOLAS JAAR's pick:
JULIA HOLTER - Tragedy
29 ANDY STOTT | Passed Me By
Andy Stott :: North to South
28 THE WEEKND | House of Balloons
27 CLAMS CASINO | Instrumentals
Clams' best two beats so far -- neither of which even appear on this staggering collection of instrumentals made for the likes of Lil' B, Soulja Boy, Main Attrakionz, etc., but both of which happen to be among the most epic, evocative compositions of 2011 -- apparently utilize the same Imogen Heap vocal sample. Dude is just scratching the surface. Uh, look out for his Lana Del Rey remix in 2012.
Clams Casino :: Numb
26 SCHOOLBOY Q | Setbacks
Schoolboy Q :: Figg Get Da Money
25 ELITE GYMNASTICS | Ruin 1 + 2
In preparing this list, I asked Marcus Joons of Korallreven to name his favorite record of 2011, and he chose Elite Gymnastics' blissful Ruin EP. He had some really thoughtful/accurate things to say about it as well, so I'll defer to his words:
“Melancholic rave and lyrics worth to publish as short stories.
Maybe the most sensible dance record ever and all the references to
death reminds of how much I love life.”
ELITE GYMNASTICS' pick:
CUT HANDS - Afro Noise I
24 RUN DMT | Dreaming
RUN DMT's pick:
WHITE FENCE - Is Growing Faith
23 BURIAL | Street Halo
Burial :: Stolen Dog
22 MINA TINDLE | Mina Tindle
Elegant French chanteuse Mina Tindle managed to strike a perfect pop balance on her endlessly charming self-titled EP. One of the most exquisite, promising, and generally unheard debuts of the year.
Mina Tindle :: Bells
MINA TINDLE's pick:
BILL CALLAHAN - Apocalypse + UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA - Unknown Mortal Orchestra
21 YOUNG GALAXY | Shapeshifting
20 TORO y MOI | Freaking Out
TORO y MOI's pick:
TORO y MOI - Underneath the Pine
19 PURE X | Pleasure
NATE GRACE's pick:
FORMA - Forma
18 FORD & LOPATIN | Channel Pressure
THUNDERCAT - The Golden Age of Apocalypse
17 WASHED OUT | Within and Without
ERNEST GREENE's pick:
FLEET FOXES - Helplessness Blues
16 DARKSIDE | Darkside
Nico Jaar's second stellar release of 2k11, this EP is a flawless intro to his new Darkside project. Only 3 tracks, and this thing sort of just came out, but we've had it on repeat ever since. From our original post:
"Jaar calls the record “the closest thing to rock & roll I’ve ever done,” but these cosmic jams sort of recall a more minimalist take on the slower-burning, hypnotic, almost Balearic-tinged ’70s grooves of dudes like Studio and A Mountain of One.
Darkside :: A1
NICOLAS JAAR (DARKSIDE)'s pick:
JULIA HOLTER - Tragedy
15 HOLY OTHER | With U
HOLY OTHER's pick:
ANDY STOTT - Passed Me By
14 THE CARETAKER | An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
Like a fleeting, time-traveling, occasionally disorienting cinematic dream sequence. On An Empty Bliss..., The Caretaker uses loops of slightly altered archival recordings to create some of the loveliest, most heartbreaking anonymous music we never knew we needed.
The Caretaker :: Camaraderie at Arms Length
13 GROUPER | A I A
Grouper :: Alien Observer
12 SLEEP ∞ OVER | Forever
STEFANIE FRANCIOTTI's pick:
JULIA HOLTER - Tragedy
11 THE SANDWITCHES | Mrs. Jones' Cookies
The San Francisco group gets darker, spookier, and heavier than ever on this timeless collection of lovesick jams, which the girls rightly refer to as "self senterd sad pop."
HEIDI + GRACE's pick:
[both declined to name a favorite]
10 PURO INSTINCT | Headbangers in Ecstasy
Headbangers is at a slight disadvantage having dropped so early in the year, but the Kaplan sisters endured. We stand by what we said back in February when we hailed Puro's uncanny knack for "crafting songs with deceptively complex structures, in which ethereal, in-the-clouds dream-pop seamlessly morphs into shimmering, soft focus disco-lite and jangly post-punk in just over 3 minutes."
PIPER KAPLAN's pick:
JOHN MAUS - We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves + SFV ACID - New West Coast
09 JULIANNA BARWICK | The Magic Place
Inspired by the "a capella church hymns she grew up singing," The Magic Place is soaring, otherworldly, transportive, impossibly beautiful; all ways of saying this sounds like carebears making love. My 4-month-old's album of the year.
JULIANNA BARWICK's pick:
KURT VILE - Smoke Ring for my Halo
08 REAL ESTATE | Days
Never has an ode to the suburbs been so natural, earnest, and unpretentious. The breezy, autumnal Days soundtracked just about any drive anywhere, resonating as one of the most thoroughly listenable, effortlessly meaningful releases we heard in 2011.
Real Estate :: Green Aisles
MATT MONDANILE's pick:
BIG TROUBLES - Romantic Comedy
07 ARAABMUZIK | Electronic Dream
Didn't expect a dizzying, anxiety-inducing trance beat tape to be one of the more beautiful and viscerally affecting releases of the year, but here we go.
araabMUZIK :: Streetz Tonight
06 KORALLREVEN | An Album By Korallreven
We've been enamored with Swedish duo Korallreven's Balearic dream-pop since they dropped "Loved Up" back in 2009, and still, the sheer beauty and emotional scope of this record managed to floor us more than we anticipated. Sublime, moving guest vocal turns from Victoria Bergsman and Julianna Barwick (making her second appearance on our list) didn’t hurt either.
ELITE GYMNASTICS - Ruin 1 / 2
05 A$AP ROCKY | LIVELOVEA$AP
In his recent spot-on review of LIVELOVEA$AP, our dude Weiss nailed what is so great about the 3-million-dollar kid's self-assured debut tape, calling it "a triumph of immaculate taste." Everyone loves the production on this thing obviously, but I really don't get the knock on Rocky as a rapper. Sometimes good instincts, an effortless flow, off-the-charts charisma, and just sounding a lot cooler than everyone else goes a long way.
04 WHITE DENIM | D
With D, our favorite band continued to shift shapes -- see "Street Joy" and "Keys" -- and redefine their ridiculously enduring modern / classic rock sensibilities. Taut as ever, polished, often tender, always seamless, and now Jack White-approved.
JAMES PETRALLI's pick:
UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA - Unknown Mortal Orchestra
STEVE TEREBECKI's pick:
CASS MCCOMBS - Wit's End
03 PANDA BEAR | Tomboy
After generating the kind of pre-release hype that only Animal Collective-related releases can, Noah Lennox somehow managed to release the most underrated album of 2011. And, after feeling how massive and moving this record could be when experienced in its entirety, in sequence, in a live setting (shout to Sonic Boom), and subsequently immersing ourselves in the alternate versions from the beautiful expanded version of Tomboy, we gained a new level of appreciation for the simple, understated brilliance of these hypnotic and deceptively heavy hymn-like jams.
PANDA BEAR's pick:
araabMUZIK - Electronic Dream
02 PEAKING LIGHTS | 936
We said this about 936 back in March for the late Altered Zones:
Achingly beautiful melodies float over immersive and occasionally seedy dubbed-out grooves; beats rise out of a hazed jungle underworld, at times sounding like primitive machines. And the effect is nothing short of transcendent. 936 is a refreshingly original and somewhat unexpected blend of classic dub and acid-soaked, female-fronted psychedelia that emerged seemingly out of nowhere to become one of the year's most compelling and replayable jams.
Still the truth. This blissed-out collection of pop songs disguised as a dub-psych masterpiece was probably our most listened to album of 2011. Endless feel good vibes.
PEAKING LIGHTS' pick:
LEN BOATMAN - The Land of Milk and Honey / The Lighthouse 45 (Deep Sea Records, 1971) + anything on DIGIKILLER ("digikiller pulled a lot of super deep stuff!")
01 SHABAZZ PALACES | Black Up
Shabazz Palaces sparkled up somewhat unexpectedly in late 2009 from the deep mind of our favorite rapper of all-time as a fully-formed, undeniably futuristic vision/uncharted approach to hip-hop. This often mind-blowing debut full-length is the culmination, and the beginning. An instant classic and our unequivocal favorite record of 2011, Black Up hit us harder than anything since Person Pitch dropped back in '07.
GORILLA VS. BEAR | Albums of 2011
30 Nicolas Jaar | Space Is Only Noise
29 Andy Stott | Passed Me By
28 The Weeknd | House of Balloons
27 Clams Casino | Instrumentals
26 Schoolboy Q | Setbacks
25 Elite Gymnastics | Ruin 1 + 2
24 Run DMT | Dreaming
23 Burial | Street Halo
22 Mina Tindle | Mina Tindle
21 Young Galaxy | Shapeshifting
20 Toro y Moi | Freaking Out
19 Pure X | Pleasure
18 Ford & Lopatin | Channel Pressure
17 Washed Out | Within and Without
16 Darkside | Darkside
15 Holy Other | With U
14 The Caretaker | An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
13 Grouper | A I A
12 Sleep ∞ Over | Forever
11 The Sandwitches | Mrs. Jones' Cookies
10 Puro Instinct | Headbangers in Ecstasy
09 Julianna Barwick | The Magic Place
08 Real Estate | Days
07 araabMUZIK | Electronic Dream
06 Korallreven | An Album By Korallreven
05 A$AP Rocky | LIVELOVEA$AP
04 White Denim | D
03 Panda Bear | Tomboy
02 Peaking Lights | 936
01 Shabazz Palaces | Black Up