A No-Longer-Premature Look at 2011’s Music

So the back half of my original entry from November 11 was originally going to run before the end of the year, but then travel and holidays and other miscellaneous busy-ness happened and here we are two weeks into the new year. 2011 was a great year for music and over the past two months, I picked up several late-in-the-year releases and re-listened to quite a few earlier ones, causing a bit of a shift in my top 10. Namely, 2 of my top 10 in November fell a bit, so now the cumulative list will be the top 12.

12. Wilco – The Whole Love – see November’s entry

11. Glasvegas – Euphoric Heartbreak – see November’s entry

10. Ok Go – “Muppet Show Theme Song” from The Green Album
Like many of my generation, I’ve got a fair amount of nostalgia for the Muppets. Elise & I saw the new movie over the holidays and loved it. I knew I’d be picking up The Green Album, but I wasn’t prepared for just how good it is. For those who haven’t heard of it, it includes a variety of highly talented artists doing new takes of their favorite old Muppet songs. I’m including the video from Ok Go, because Ok Go makes the best videos of any band today, but really, every song on the album shines and you can tell the musicians have a lot of love for what Jim Henson created.

9. Mates of State – “Palomino” from Mountaintops
A husband-wife team, Mates of State tends to make music that lifts your spirits, even when the lyrics aren’t always the cheeriest. Mountaintops is my favorite work they’ve done and was the soundtrack to getting our house ready to sell, making all the cleaning and minor repair projects a bit more bearable.

8. The Vaccines – What did you expect from The Vaccines? – see November’s entry

7. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light – see November’s entry

6. Elbow – “Open Arms” from Build a Rocket Boys!
If you like Coldplay or Snow Patrol, you’d probably love Elbow, a fantastic UK band that hasn’t become as known in the US as they should be. Quite a few of their songs have popped up in movies and television shows, but they rarely get radio play. The latest album didn’t get quite the accolades they usually receive, but it was among my favorites of the year.

5. The Dodos – No Color – see November’s entry

4. TV on the Radio – “Will Do” from Nine Types of Light
Usually, saying a band’s music is instantly recognizable is a bit of a backhanded compliment, insinuating all their songs sound the same. Not so in the case of TV on the Radio. They’re another band that hasn’t had a huge amount of popular success, but have songs frequently pop up in movies or tv shows. I’d be remiss to not point out that the use of their song “DLZ” in the episode “Over” in Breaking Bad‘s second season may be my all-time favorite use of a song in a television show.

3. The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy” from El Camino
I love that The Black Keys seem to finally be getting the attention they deserve. If you listen to popular radio, you’ve probably already heard this song. Get the album and then just start working your way backwards through their catalog. It’s all great stuff.

2. The Antlers – “No Widows” from Burst Apart
My introduction to The Antlers came with Hospice, a concept album about someone caring for a terminally ill loved one. While the lead singer has declined to say how much the music was based on life experience, it was a beautiful and sad masterpiece of an album and one of my favorites of the 2000’s. Burst Apart isn’t nearly as good, but that’s not to say it isn’t great. If you like music that could be described as haunting, you should check out The Antlers.

1. The Naked and Famous – “Frayed” from Passive Me Agressive You
This is kind of cheating, as this New Zealand band released their album in 2010, but it didn’t make its way to the US until 2011. It’s a driving, catchy, awesome album and may be the best debut since Arcade Fire’s Funeral.

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