Spinning Platters Presents The Official List of the Top 10 Albums of 2011

by Gordon Elgart on December 30, 2011

Finished 11th, but I really like it.

 While other magazines, blogs and newspapers release their Best Albums of the Year super early, obviously before they’ve even heard some of the albums on their list, we wait until the last possible minute, sharing dozens of nominations with each other while participating in an overly complicated voting process that leads to a Top 10 that looks completely different from anyone else’s. It’s rewarding and fun, and we always find room for small albums that usually get ignored. One person’s favorite gets a real chance to get heard in our system as it becomes the favorite of many. So know, dear reader, that the albums you’re about to see listed have passed a multi-level test of quality. And now, I end my introduction by asking you to click the more tag and see our Official List of the Top 10 Albums of 2011.

10. Austra – Feel It Break

Simply synth-illating, Austra rides the gold bug wave and shows there’s no “i” in both “team” as well as their name. Musically, this act is very similar to Depeche Mode, but the lead singer is female. Not delicate like Stereolab or lacking definition like Book of Love, Katie Stelmanis separates Austra from the rest of the pack with powerful vocals. Get the double album of the same name, or listen to it on Spotify if that’s what you crazy kids are up to these days. (Joel Edelman)

9. The Black Keys – El Camino

I’m going to preface my thoughts on the album by first mentioning that, yes, I did do a write up on the black keys Brothers last year. While my devotion runs deep, I do have varying musical tastes. However, it was decided by my peers that I was best suited to talk about our number 9 choice.

I was the one, after all, who put them on our preliminary list before hearing the full album. But after being completely enamored with “Lonely Boy” to the point of “mic” in hand, there was no way that the rest of the album wouldn’t live up (at least in my mind ).  Our editor, Gordon, summed it up the best way; it’s the Black Keys party album. It comes roaring in at just under 38 minutes,  like tidal wave of 3-minute songs set to crash and wash over you. but it is quite a significant endeavor in that the black keys have shared writing credits with, long time producer, Danger Mouse. A first for them.

The album itself conjures up images of thick mustaches and brand new mini vans driving off the lot.  Sleazy rock. This duo have little reason to sing the blues these days as they have been the darlings of crossover mainstream while still maintaining all the integrity of their indie past. (Caroline Hernandez)

8. Sister Crayon – Bellow

The funny thing about bands from Sacramento, CA is that it’s the one city in America where bands actually know how to fuse hip-hop elements into their music. Much like how The Deftones managed to wed hip hop with sludge rock and Cake managed to fuse it with indie rock, Sister Crayon have managed to create a stunning piece of ethereal rock music, but balance it out with a tight hip-hop beat, so you can’t help but find yourself nodding your head. It’s a beautifully crafted record by one of Northern California’s best kept secrets, and I would have a hard time believing that we will be keeping them to ourselves for long. (Dakin Hardwick)

7. Givers – In Light

Givers debut album In Light is a force of energy and passion soaked in pure joy.  This band has the strongest live show I’ve seen all year and, although it isn’t fully captured on this record, the 2/3’s of that show still makes for a better record than most other acts.  In Light certainly isn’t a traditional or simple record, it is “indie” for sure, but also pop and afrobeat and jazz.  The genres, instrumentation and time signatures may jump all over the place but it is exactly these crazed changes that give the album its biggest strength:  energy.  You may not know for sure where it’s going to go next, but you can rest assured it’s going to be somewhere fun and interesting. (Marie Carney)

6. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

M83’s sixth studio album is “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”. This synth heavy dreamy pop record has its ups and downs. The ups are tracks like “Midnight City” and “New Map”, as these songs continue on the course set on previous M83 records by upping the size and ambition of the catalog with arena sized 80’s nostalgia poppy drum beats with exploding choruses, with both songs ending in epic sax solos. The downs are the interludes and the slower vocal-reliant tracks like “Tell me a Story”. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is a double album that does seem to match up really well, like a brother sister relationship they feel to mirror one another in terms of track flow. Overall, it’s a nice mix of tender and delicate and heavy and epic.  This is a record that can  sometimes blur the line between indie pop and just plain old highly glossed pop. (David Price)

5. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

The Joy Formidable came into my world based on simultaneous recommendations from Maura Johnston and Jack Rabid. Music writer nerds like me would obviously get excited at the prospect. So for the last couple of years I’ve  been obsessed with this band based on an EP and various singles, and finally this year saw the release of their first official album. And while it has a dearth of new material for the hardcore fan, it’s a glorious statement of purpose to anyone new to the group. It’s heavy and poppy at the same time. It’s thick with guitar, driven by bass, and powered by drums. It’s perfect for blasting out of your car on a summer’s day, and it’s perfect for sitting at home nursing sadness. Why it’s the best new band of this decade, and you should start paying attention now. (Gordon Elgart)

3. (tie) Wild Flag – Wild Flag

The band Wild Flag play melodic elongate-able American power-pop rock and roll with the utmost confidence and precision of a big unblinking cat walking atop the backing of a couch.

Guitar chords march, dance, and strut. Words are stretched and pushed into places they don’t/didn’t necessarily fit, traipsing through questions of intent and belonging, making them all the more appreciable for their service. And it’ll make you shake them hips.

“Something Came Over Me” is 2011’s best love(?) song.

In a time when so many are looking backward, it’s bracing to hear these four women forging forward and cutting new territory. Wild Flag crafts delicious muscular rock music for now. Here. Now. Here. Now. Here. Now. Here. Right now. Yeah. (Christopher Rogers)

3. (tie) tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l 

Merrill Garbus, the Oakland native who is responsible for the musical onslaught known as tUnE-yArDs, wants her listeners to be sure that they have no idea where they are headed with each new track on their sophomore release W H O K I L L, and it is that constant devotion to the unexpected that makes the record such a brilliant piece of work. The instrumentation, while sparse, and production quality, while ever-shifting and never reaching a point of gleaming radio polish, fuse together into a many-colored animal that seems insistent on showing every one of its faces by the time its 42 minutes are up. Garbus’ powerful voice drives each of the album’s 10 pieces, occasionally dropping into a gentle, soothing hum, or raising its hackles into a full-blown siren bellow, and she sounds like no one else — especially no one playing looped drums and distorted electric ukulele, with an impressive set of backing low end from bassist Nate Brenner. Danceable tunes like “My Country” and the smash hit “Bizness” are poured into the same melting pot as the stomping crooner “Powa” and the crunchy blasts of “Gangsta”. Songs like “You Yes You” and “Doorstep”, however, are still around to remind the listeners that it’s not all chaos and disorder in here — an intelligent pop sensibility is present, catchy enough to get you moving along, but never too focused to make you bored. This is a record for people who want something that they had no idea they were ready for. (Jonathan Pirro)

2. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

We all knew that we loved St. Vincent’s Annie Clark from the first time we heard that her debut album, “Marry Me,” was named after Maeby’s favorite deflector on “Arrested Development.” This year she released her third and, in some ways, best album, and our love for her shows no sign of abating. Clark remains a singularly compelling artist with a unique, vital sound entirely her own. The experience of listening to this album, with the dissonant elements of her sweetly airy yet commanding vocals and disarming flashes of melody set against churning and sometimes violent post-industrial arrangements, still bears the giddy excitement of hearing something new — and very, very good. (Jason LeRoy)

1. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

Unlike the instant intrigue of her first album, the soulful, electronic, poppy, and extremely eclectic Youth Novels; Lykke Li’s Wounded Rhymes almost sounds like it was produced by a completely different artist.  A few years to reflect, and a relationship which probably had something to do the “wounded” part of the album’s namesake, grew up Sweden’s most recent captivating import in a hurry.  Stronger, gloomier, much more focused, and all delivered with a huskier voice, the songs take you on a meaningful organic journey of pain and heartbreak, that makes you stand up and take notice more so than it gets you down in the dumps.  This complete change of pace, and only has us more interested in her third effort to come. (Raffi Yousouffian)

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Come back soon to see our some of our individual writers’ lists.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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