Welcome to Hype Start Here's Second Annual Best 50 Albums of the year countdown, 2011 edition. On January 13th, 2011, I wrote my very first article here on Hype Starts Here, entitled The Top 50 Albums of 2010, 50-41. I've done a lot of writing since then, 167 articles to be exact, but there's a reason I started this whole thing off with a list, and it's a very simple reason: I love lists! And so, here we are, pretty-damn-close-to one year later, counting 'em down again, arriving at my Top 10 this Friday, January 13th. One last side note: If you're into particularly loud music (Metal, Hardcore, Real Punk, Bro-Style Dub-Step, etc.), there might not be a whole lot for you here. I'm kind of a wuss, and I deeply apologize. Now, onto my first 10 favorites:
As often as his wayward love of obnoxious hooks gets in the way (this is ranked 50th, after all), Lamar's flow is never less than stunning, at once laid back and urgent. Wether boasting to the haters (Rigamortis), tearing down societal prejudices (F*** Your Ethnicity), or deep in story-telling mode (A.D.H.D.), the voice of young Lamar is bright and strong, promising great work in the future.
49. Tamer Animals---Other Lives
Sweeping and orchestral, but featuring an unmissable underside of discontent, Tamer Animals is a disc filled with enough sweeping harmonies, varied instrumentation, and grandiose ambition to make Sufjan Stevens jealous. A rainy Fall day's answer to Beirut's sonically similar endless Summer sunset.
48. So Outta Reach EP---Kurt Vile
With Vile's 2011 Full-Length, Smoke Ring for My Halo, receiving so much praise, it's easy to see how many still haven't caught up to his stellar short-length sequel. While mostly in the style of the aforementioned LP, this Fall release shows the man slowly, smartly branching out, as with the electric-guitar-centered It's Alright, and straight-forward presentation of the rollicking Life's a Beach.
47. Thursday---The Weeknd
Another release that was almost ignored due to its preferred 2011 sibling (The Weeknd's House of Balloons), Thursday is the strangest, most drugged out of the three strange, drugged out mixtapes the band put out last year. For proof, just check out the slurred slow-motion of Life of the Party, or the echoing space-cadet Heaven or Las Vegas. R&B is almost never this out there, or this good.
46. Sound Kapital---Handsome Furs
Tailor-made to be bounced and partied along to, Sound Kapital is a Nine-track testament to just how catchy and fun Electro-Pop can be. Opener When I Get Back's central hook is just insane, matched by the mock fury of Damage, and expansive album highlight Serve the People. More guilty-pleasure dance-floor-ready than anything yet released by those ever-busy Wolf Parade boys.
Sepalcure isn't a disc that reinvents the wheel, and that's because it doesn't have to. Praveen Sharma and Travis Stewart know just how the best Dub-Step is created, and better yet, they know how to make it themselves. Built out of carefully-selected audio samples, and ever-propelling beats, songs like Pencil Pimp and The One show that you don't need to blow out eardrums in order to make this still-young, still-changing genre shine.
44. Underneath the Pine---Toro y Moi
Speaking of dance music, Chaz Bundick's funky, 70's-baiting chill-wave project used Underneath the Pine to unveil a few of their best songs yet, including How I Know, Elise, and groovy, silly, smile-inducing album highlight New Beat. Wearing its cheese like a badge of honor, UtP is an album that's easy to scoff at... until you find yourself listening to it on repeat.
43. Let England Shake---PJ Harvey
This is my 2011 version of Deerhunter's 2010 release, Halcyon Digest: An album receiving some of the year's very best reviews that I'm totally into, just maybe not as much as the next guy. Still, its a disc built out of a dark, sinister rumble, the tracks here are all full of dread and foreboding, communicated through lush instrumentation, and Harvey's fraught, damaged voice. It's big, heavy stuff.
42. The King of Limbs---Radiohead
No one is going to honestly argue that The King of Limbs isn't something of a letdown from greatest-band-alive candidates Radiohead, but how amazing is it that a disappointment could still be this good? Through a brief eight-track runtime, Limbs establishes a sound and context all its own, a trademark of every new Radiohead release, concocting a cold, dark sound world out of the schizo drum loop of Bloom, the hyper-urgency of Morning Mr. Magpie, and the blurry beauty of Giving up the Ghost.
41. The Rip Tide---Beirut
Like seeing a Romantic Comedy or an Action Movie, Beirut's The Rip Tide might adhere to a decent amount of the band's established formula, but when you've got the goods, you've got the goods. Try as they might, who could really deny the calming loveliness of East Harlem, the fun-in-the-sun sway of Santa Fe, or any of these impeccably crafted, perfectly predictable wonders? Playing it safe never sounded so rewarding.