Every year, I do one of these top ten lists. Or a top fifteen. I try to play the critic and justify my choices with a range of reasons from erudite to ridiculous. This year, I think I’m suffering the same critical fatigue as the rest of the Internet-aware world — which I suppose is everybody. There are far too many lists and far too many experts.
And so, here’s my very own top ten, a list culled from a glance at my Last.fm charts from 2011, from the playlists I made on Spotify, from my MP3 purchases here and there, and from my own spotty memory.
- Mutemath – Odd Soul – This one caught me by surprise. I suppose I’d heard of Mutemath, but filed them away under “Yeah, I don’t think that’s my thing.” Turns out, it’s kind of my thing.
- Adele – 21 – Yes, I know. She’s on everybody’s list. And maybe it’s time to give 21 a rest, but when we all come back to this album in a year or so, it’ll still be really damn good.
- Phonte – Charity Starts At Home – One of these days, the stars will align and I’ll make it out to a Phonte show. I’ve an almost blind admiration for this profane and talented Renaissance man from North Carolina.
- Joan As Police Woman – The Deep Field – Not a week goes by without me listening to “Magic” at least once. It’s kind of like therapy.
- Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones – Thorin Hanson sent me a few tracks on Spotify and I was done and well. It’s punk, it’s acoustic, it’s folk, it’s something that Turner just owns and sells so well. Also, such a great concert.
- PJ Harvey – Let England Shake – Looking for the soundtrack for the story of 2011? This is it.
- St Vincent – Strange Mercy – Strange and good music from a strange girl. If you told me that St Vincent was an alien from some small planet orbiting Alpha Centauri, I’d just nod and say, “That makes sense.”
- James Blake – James Blake – A spare, lonely little album of electronic longing.
- The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar – Such a brash, noisy, wonderful thing. If you pick just one album from this list to pursue, let it be this one.
- The Roots – Undun – The best band working today. Still.
- Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 – I love this album like bacon loves eggs.
- Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest – If you need to take a little roadtrip along the two-lane highways of North Georgia, let this be your accompaniment.
- Lady Gaga – Born This Way – Shut up. You listened to it just as much.
- Idle Warship – Habits of the Heart – Ten years ago, Res released an album called How I Do. I adored it, every second of it, right down to the hidden jam at the end. I’ve been waiting on a follow-up since. This collaboration with Talib Kweli is the closest yet and while not perfect, it’ll do just fine.
Did I say top ten? I meant top fourteen. If you’d like to take a tour, fire up Spotify and steal this playlist.* (Note: The playlist is missing Adele’s 21, because Columbia is being a touch stingy.)
As usual, if I missed your favorite, let me know. That’s what comments are for.