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ROSS’ TOP 40 ALBUMS OF 2011

#1
TUNE-YARDS w h o k i l l
Track-by-Track Rating: 7.68 (1st)
Last.fm Plays: 248 (2nd)
Featured Song: “You Yes You”

Armed with only looping pedals, a ukelele, a bass player and two saxophones, Tune-Yards’ Merril Garbus really ups the Degree of Difficulty for herself. Still, those few elements are more than enough when combined with her incredibly expressive voice and unbridled creativity.

Even with the glut of music being released these days, there’s nothing else that sounds like Tune-Yards out there.

Combining the sounds of rock, punk, hip hop, doo-wop and African folk music, w h o k i l l is one of the most unique-sounding albums of 2011…and my favorite of the year.

Standout Tracks: “My Country” “Gangsta” “Bizness” “You Yes You” and “Killa”


ROSS’ TOP 40 ALBUMS OF 2011

#2
CHARLES BRADLEY No Time for Dreaming
Song-by-Song Rating: 7.66 (2nd)
Last.fm Plays: 305 (1st)
Featured Song: “Lovin’ You, Baby”

Charles Bradley is the most inspiring musical story of 2011: a long-struggling soul singer releasing his debut album in his early 60s, discovered while performing as a James Brown impersonator.

Charles claims that James Brown is his greatest inspiration, but you can also hear traces of other soul greats like Otis Redding and Al Green in Bradley’s sound.

Bradley’s stellar debut No Time for Dreaming is the grittiest and best release ever to come from the soul revival masterminds at Daptone Records. A throwback in terms of songwriting and tone, the album perfectly captures Bradley’s stirring voice and unusual back story.

Standout Tracks: “The World (Is Going Up in Flames)”, “Lovin’ You, Baby”, “No Time for Dreaming”, “Why Is It So Hard” and “Heartaches and Pain”

Source : SoundCloud / tracks_arte

ROSS’ TOP 40 ALBUMS OF 2011

#3
RADIOHEAD The King of Limbs
Song-by-Song Rating: 7.47 (6th)
Last.fm Plays: 228 (5th)
Featured Song: “Codex”

There was a lot of talk about Radiohead releasing an album sometime this year. Fans clung to random internet quotes from Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood about a new album being finished or mixed.

And even with all of that anticipation, Radiohead still managed to surprise everyone: announcing in February that their new album was ready…and going to be released in 5 days.

Getting past the massive hype surrounding the way it was released, The King of Limbs is yet another great Radiohead album, even though it may be a bit of a grower. The back half of the album is particularly strong, featuring a stretch of songs that just as strong as anything you’ll find on the band’s “classic” albums.

Standout Tracks: “Morning Mr. Magpie”, “Lotus Flower”, “Codex”, “Give Up the Ghost” and “Separator”

ROSS’ TOP 40 ALBUMS OF 2011

#4
GIRLS Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Song-by-Song Rating: 7.48 (3rd)
Last.fm Plays: 179 (16th)
Featured Song: “My Ma”

Girls has this strange ability to sound both retro and fresh at the same time. Their melodies sound like things you’ve heard for decades, but the band has a unique and defined sound. The lead guitar lines kill me every time, rocketing each song to a much higher level.

I’m a bit of a late arrival on the bandwagon (I came around after last year’s Broken Dreams Club EP), but I’m now a complete devotee to the band.

Standout Tracks: “Alex”, “My Ma”, “Vomit”, “Love Life” and “Jamie Marie”

ROSS’ TOP 40 ALBUMS OF 2011

#5
YELLOWBIRDS The Color
Song-by-Song Rating: 7.47 (4th)
Last.fm Plays: 232 (4th)
Featured Song: “Beneath the Reach of Light”

Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if Roy Orbison recorded a psychedelic pop album? Wonder no more!

Yellowbirds is the side project of Apollo Sunshine frontman Sam Cohen. This debut release features gorgeous melodies, swirling guitars, retro keyboards and even a little bit of theremin.

Standout Tracks: “The Rest of My Life”, “Rings in the Trees”, “Beneath the Reach of Light”, “The Honest Ocean” and “Our Good Days Are Gone”

ROSS’ TOP 40 ALBUMS OF 2011

#6
BEIRUT The Rip Tide
Song-by-Song Rating: 7.42 (5th)
Last.fm Plays: 193 (12th)
Featured Song: “Vagabond”

Beirut’s Zach Condon got a little adventurous on 2009’s March of the Zapotec, adding electronic elements to his Old World sound.

The Rip Tide is sort of a back-to-basics album, serving as Beirut’s simplest and most straightforward record to date. The trumpet lines are more glorious than ever, often serving as the song-raising punch on top of Beirut’s beautiful, plodding rhythms.

Standout Tracks: “Santa Fe”, “East Harlem”, “The Rip Tide”, “Vagabond” and “Port of Call”

ROSS’ TOP 40 ALBUMS OF 2011

#7
THE ANTLERS Burst Apart
Song-by-Song Rating: 7.44 (7th)
Last.fm Plays: 236 (3rd)
Featured Song: “I Don’t Want Love”

I loved this album before it even came out. The Antlers played Burst Apart in full for NPR’s daytime showcase at South by Southwest, almost two full months before it would be released.

I didn’t catch that show, but I did finish my SXSW with them elsewhere and was blown away by their massive and majestic sound.

Burst Apart has pop hooks, atmospheric flourishes and even a few tastes of alt-rock thrown in. It’s one of the best start-to-finish albums of the year.

Standout Tracks: “I Don’t Want Love”, “French Exit”, “Rolled Together” and “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out”

ROSS’ TOP 40 ALBUMS OF 2011

#8
FUTURE ISLANDS On the Water
Song-by-Song Rating: 7.47 (5th)
Last.fm Plays: 165 (20th)
Featured Song: “The Great Fire (ft. Jenn Wasner)”

If someone just described Future Islands to me, I’d probably think “bleh!” and decide never to listen to them. Thankfully, I heard them before I heard about them.

Centering around the melodramatic, classic acTOR-sounding vocals of frontman Sam Herring and churning 80s synths, this band is very captivating.

The songs on On the Water are undeniably beautiful and romantic. Herring’s duet with Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner on “The Great Fire” is simply gorgeous. This album would’ve been an incredible soundtrack to one of those classic 80s teen movies…and that’s a good thing.

Standout Tracks: “Before the Bridge”, “The Great Fire”, “Give Us the Wind”, “Close to None” and “Balance”

ROSS’ TOP 40 ALBUMS OF 2011

#9
THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART Belong
Song-by-Song Rating: 7.39 (9th)
Last.fm Plays: 224 (6th)
Featured Song: “Heart in Your Heartbreak”

If you’re going to rip off other bands, you might as well make them good ones. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (worst band name) have combined the sounds of The Cure, The Smashing Pumpkins and Belle and Sebastian to create their own little swirl of sweet awesomeness.

Belong is overflowing with hooks and layered little pieces of ear candy…from the big rock sound of the title track to the sweet synthi-ness of “Too Tough”.

Standout Tracks: “Belong”, “Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now”, “Heart in Your Heartbreak”, “Even in Dreams” and “Too Tough”

ROSS’ TOP 40 ALBUMS OF 2011

#10
ST. VINCENT Strange Mercy
Song-by-Song Rating: 7.34 (11th)
Last.fm Plays: 204 (9th)
Featured Song: “Cheerleader”

Delicacy vs. Abrasiveness. That’s been the underlying theme to St. Vincent’s (a.k.a. Annie Clark) music since her 2007 debut Marry Me, pitting her beautiful voice and sweeping strings against gritty guitars and spurts of noise.

She takes that winning formula to new heights on Strange Mercy, which may be her best album to date. The guitars are crunchier than ever, the noise is noisier and Clark’s vocals soar like never before.

Standout Tracks: “Cruel”, “Cheerleader”, “Surgeon” and “Neutered Fruit”