808s / Best of 2011

Best of 2011: Best Album 10-1

10) Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Kicking off the top 10 is a truly expansive album. I hadn’t heard of Bon Iver until he appeared on Kanye’s record last November. Then came the cover of Skinny Love by Birdy that made it’s way onto the charts, and Justin Vernon was a bonafide Blogger’s darling. The album itself sounds like a trip through the wilderness, places in the world untouched by man. wind instruments echo across some tracks, 80s sounds coming through at key moments. The sound of Bon Iver really is beautiful.

9) Katy B – On A Mission

Katy B was on a mission in 2011, and if that mission was to create one of the few club records that accurately replicates what it feels like to go to a club she completed it extremely well. It’s the polar opposite of the ‘Party Rock’ of an artist like LMFAO or JLS’s Club being alive. Katy talks about strange guys using bad lines on her, the bass making her lose herself, and that feeling of disappointment when the lights come on. Very nearly a concept album, its an album about the club, made for the people who go there.

8) Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto

With two songs in my top 20 singles list, it’s not a surprise Coldplay make an appearance here. I didn’t expect to love Mylo Xyloto as much as I do though, the striking use of electronic sounds and jarring vocal production makes it my favourite album from the group. It’s a stadium filling album, with each and every track taking the group through genre after genre.

7) Drake – Take Care

Aside from the incredible title track, Drake really pushes himself on his sophomore record. The cover shows Drake living in luxury but still not happy, a theme he hones effortlessly here. This is a 70 minute experience of an album, with near enough 20 songs that keep on producing amazing moments. The production is perfection at times, Practice is my new favourite slow jam for instance, whereas the restrained Marvin’s Room has Drake acting like never before. An incredible second album.

6) Nicola Roberts – Cinderella’s Eyes

The best UK Pop album of the year came from a member of Girls Aloud? It can’t be true, but it is. Cinderella’s eyes is like the blueprint for pop band members going solo. Take everything that made the original group so good, sing songs that shed light on personal anguishes and work with unexpected writers and producers to make an album worth leaving the band for. Cinderella’s Eyes is so good that I kind of wish Nicola would make another album without her band mates.

5) Britney Spears – Femme Fatale

For most of 2011, Femme Fatale was number 1 on my list. It deserved to be up there too, with Britney delivering some of her most ferocious and catchy tunes ever. As an album, it’s the closest she has come to Blackout, which as you know is as high as praise can be from me. Seal It With A Kiss and Inside Out perfect the Dub-Pop style so prevalent this past year, while Till The World Ends is Britney as she should be. As a Britney fan, Femme Fatale was exactly what I wanted.

4) James Blake – James Blake

Described as a dubstep album incorrectly too many times, the eponymous debut LP from James Blake may contain elements of his usual genre, but this is singer songwriter at it’s most wonky. Melodies and lyrics are here, even if it’s difficult to hear them as they are torn to pieces in the production room and altered to become the music itself. The best moments of James Blake are the endless bars of silence that follow some of the strangest moments, his voice echoing across the emptiness is just marvellous to hear.

3) Bjork – Biophilia

2011 was the year of Bjork for me. I actually listened to her for the first time, and if we are counting the album I heard for the first time in 2011, her 1997 album Homogenic would take the top spot. As for Biophilla goes, the innovations in using apps to release music and the iTunes integration would mean nothing if the music wasn’t brilliant. Luckily Bjork lived up to expectations and provided 10 insane but brilliant songs. It’s full of brilliant moments, the second ‘chorus’ of Mutual Core being an explosion following 8 songs that build up to it. As beautifully detailed as the album cover, Biophilia is eclectic, electronic and explosive in equal amounts.

2) Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch The Throne

Jay-Z and Kanye West are making an album together, the pressure on the pair after saying they would would be enough to crush any other artist, but Ye and and Jay made it out the other side, clutching an diamond encrusted record. Though Jay-Z delivers some of his most emotional verses ever, this album belongs to Kanye who delivers smashes left right and centre, with enough wow moments to span any other artist’s career. The final section of N**gas in Paris, the dubstep sample on Who Gon Stop Me and the sheer joy the pair share on Otis are just 3 reasons why Watch The Throne is a phenomenal record, but it isn’t quite my number 1.

1) Lady GaGa – Born This Way

I knew that GaGa had it in her to top this list when she announced Born This Way a year and a half ago at the VMAs, but this isn’t the album I would have expected her to do it with. As eccentric as the Lady herself, Born This Way is the accumulation of about 4 different GaGa albums squeezed into one complete package. She sticks to tried and tested formula on Judas, uses her piano performance skills on You and I and delivers Stadium filling tunes on Edge of Glory and Highway Unicorn. No other album in 2011 has made me delve so deep into each of its songs, and enjoy so much of what I find. With no fewer than 5 songs in my top 40 singles of the year, this album has both the substance and the hits to make it the only choice for my favourite album of 2011.

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