Amassing albums that rocked 2011
Published: Monday, November 28, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 11:11
Though the Grammys aren't until February, we decided to scour our playlists for this year's best musical releases. Ranging from the ultra-popular to the lovably obscure, The Oracle drops the beat on some of the best albums of 2011.
Bon Iver, "Bon Iver"
In between appearing on Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" and touring the U.S., Bon Iver managed to create one of the best albums of 2011.
A follow-up to 2008's "For Emma, Forever Ago," which was written and recorded in a secluded Wisconsin cabin, the album is a departure from the band's sparse, creaky, folky sound. "Bon Iver" features an eclectic mix of synthy guitars, thundering drums, bass saxophones and horns.
Most named after a different city, the 10 songs ultimately create a cohesive and expansive sound that is totally unlike any band in the industry. And there's certainly something to be said for a band that can manage to make auto-tune listenable — even likable.
— Melanie Wiesen
Jay-Z and Kanye West, "Watch the Throne"
The collaboration between hip-hop royalty Kanye West and Jay-Z resulted in the stellar album, "Watch the Throne."
Debuting at No. 1 on Billboard's Top 200 in its first week, "Watch the Throne" was well-received by critics and fans. The album samples sounds from other artists, such as Otis Redding, James Brown and Nina Simone.
It also includes the vocals of Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, Mr. Hudson and Kid Cudi. The dramatic sound of the album is characteristic of Kanye West and Jay-Z, and together they perfected their talents and produced 2011's best album.
— Cheyenne Prosper
Andrew Jackson Jihad, "Knife Man"
Phoenix duo Andrew Jackson Jihad has continually put out great records with dark humor and cathartic releases, and this year's "Knife Man" is both their best work yet and an album of the times.
The songs switch between rollicking electric tracks, such as "Hate, Rain on Me," and hushed, softer songs, including "If You Have Love in Your Heart" and "Back Pack." The latter is a haunting tale with the narrator discovering his murdered lover.
The album's heart arguably comes with "People II: Still Peoplin'," a song that sums up the country's current desperate times with stinging lyrics that include, "You can hope it gets better and you can follow your dreams, but hope is for presidents and dreams are for people who are sleeping."
By the end of closing track "Big Bird," the album has painted a poignant, powerful picture of America's current climate that is hard to stop thinking about and rewards repeated listens.
— Jimmy Geurts
Das Racist, "Relax"
It's a weird time for hip-hop. So much of what's popular is just hard to listen to with a straight face. Go ahead, rap about weed and sneakers, but don't try to convince me that it's actually important. That's where Das Racist comes in.
Is their mash-up of pop-culture non-sequiturs and racial paranoia ridiculous at times? Absolutely. But so is most of the hip-hop that's out there right now. The difference is that Das Racist knows it, admits it and even wallows in it.
"Relax" is just as musically catchy and skillfully rapped as, say, "Tha Carter IV," but by being self-aware, it's a million times more listenable.
— Christopher Spata
This year, Adele's "21" reigned supreme among other albums, finally granting her long-overdue mainstream popularity. In a musical world corrupted by remedial lyrics and auto-tune, "21" is a breath of fresh air.
Adele's sophomore album proved that her hair-raising voice could sing the alphabet and move one to tears. Much like her debut album, "19," non-singles from "21" hold the same amount of quality as the chart-toppers. The songs are melodic, a bit edgy and full of raw emotion.
— Sheilla Sanon
Lupe Fiasco, "L.A.S.E.R.S."
Fiasco's third studio album hit stores March 8, selling approximately 452,000 copies within five months — 204,000 copies in its first week — and debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
Despite controversy among Fiasco's fans as to whether he went too "mainstream" due to the influence of Atlantic Records, some of his tracks reflect his older albums. For example, "Out of My Head" featuring Trey Songz can be compared to "Paris Tokyo" from Fiasco's second album.