December 19, 2011

Top Albums of 2011 - QuickCrit Music Survey Results

Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey, especially those who took the time to comment.  Here are our top albums, or at least the 43 that we could agree upon. There are many more great albums, singles, and comments on our individual lists.
  1. U.S. Royalty – Mirrors
    Although the gorgeous harmonies caught my attention, their live show made me love their heavy rockers. -Awmercy

  2. My Morning Jacket – Circuital
    Solid album. -NightraiN

  3. Givers – In Light
    Many Saturday morning dance parties have gone down when throwing this album on. A couple of late night ones too. -Ancient Indian Wizard
    It's hard to resist the compelling beats and rolling ten-track fun that this album represents. -Jeremiah

  4. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
    I love when she gets back to the dark and dirty places in her mind and churns out music that's all kinds of raw and moody. Plain and simple, the woman can do no wrong. -Mona
    Great modern anti-war album. -Tex

  5. The Strokes – Angles
    The fact is that this band writes damn good songs and they're tight as hell. Does anything else really matter? -Lucas

  6. Yuck – Yuck
    Yuck harkens back to the good old days when Superchunk and Sonic Youth reigned supreme. -Mona
    Totally reminds me of all my favorite high school years bands creating one super group. -Ancient Indian Wizard

  7. Zola Jesus – Conatus
    Opera Babe. -Justin Slaughter
    Hey, you know what? Sometimes shit's rough. Have some Zola Jesus. -Tex

  8. Blind Pilot - We Are the Light
    Glad they got off their bikes and back into the studio. I know it's only been a few months, but can't wait for the next album. -Brasilliant
    An anticipated album and a feel-good one at that, it can be forgiven its saccharine nature by its sheer infectiousness. It gets ya out of bed in the morning! -Jeremiah

  9. Generationals – Actor-Caster
    An excellent, hand-clap-y album to listen and dance around to. -TheCraneWife
    Generationals put out a steadily rocking true-blue pop album with modern sensibilities. -Tex

  10. William Elliott Whitmore – Field Songs
    Connected with this album more than any other this year. Great, emotional song writing and vocals. -NightraiN

  11. The Streets – Computers And Blues
    He wraps up his career as being The Streets with a song about it being his last day of work! It works on multiple levels!! Well played Mike Skinner. -Ancient Indian Wizard

  12. The Cave Singers – No Witch
    Great live show. Great album. -NightraiN
    Like Fleet Foxes, Cave Singers are to be applauded more for what they do in the middle of songs than for the entirety of their songs themselves. -Jeremiah

  13. Wilco – The Whole Love
    Not since Being There has the band offered up such a variety of songs on one album. Experimental, beautiful, fun, and moving. -Max
    If you hang around long enough you'll hear a few Wilco albums you fall in love with and couple you can't wrap your ears or brain around. This is the band's strongest lineup to date, giving adventurous strength to a quality set of Jeff Tweedy songs. -Lucas

  14. Waters - Out In The Light
    So packed with fantastic emotionally raw and exuberant songs, I turn up one jam, only turn up the next even louder. -Awmercy
    Nothing like some unleaded rock fuel to fill up your spiritual tank. -Nesto

  15. Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
    It's hard not to love a band who so clearly loves its T. Rex and Bowie as much as I do. -Mona
    Some of the catchier melodies I've heard all year. -Max

  16. The Drums – Portamento
    Darker offering from these sugar coated popsters. The fantastic vintage synth tones, unmatched tightness, and unforgettable melodies kept this album on repeat in my house for weeks on end. -Max
    For anyone who doesn't like the production on this record, wait til you hear these tracks live. They're stripped down and sound great, much like their Visiomento sessions. Yeah, there's a reason why I saw them three times on this tour. -Mona

  17. The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
    Young and fun soundtrack for summer. Fulfilled my lust for Surfer Blood. -Awmercy
    Some of my favorite songs this year are off this album, and it remains in heavy rotation. -NightraiN

  18. Devotchka - 100 Lovers
    A melting pot like DevotchKa could only happen in America. From mariachi to gypsy, Parisian folk to chamber pop there's nothing they won't add to the mix. It's refreshing to hear a band that is so unconcerned (or unaware) with the leanings of popular indie music yet land smack in the middle of it. -Lucas
    Gypsy fun times. -ve1cro

  19. Real Estate – Days
    I love these guys. Call it wake and bake, call it lo-fi, call it hazy surfadelic. Whatever you call it, it's fucking awesome and a superb follow-up to their previous debut. -Mona
    Such an effortless laidback-ness to this album. I was put completely at ease the very first time I heard it. Fans of early Stone Roses might enjoy the hints of Ian Brown in Martin Courtney's voice. -Max

  20. Wu Lyf – Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
    WU-LYF sounds like The Murder City Devils and Mogwai had a little English baby. They rock hard and also mellow, and you can make up your own lyrics, because they're pretty unintelligible. -TheCraneWife
    I like a song called "We Bros"??!! Fuck yea. And I like it a lot. These guys shred. I don't really recommend following them on Facebook as they kind of come across as idiots but I don't even care cause these guys write tunes man! -Ancient Indian Wizard

  21. Adele – 21
    She has an amazing voice. -Katie
    Sad but empowering. -Julia

  22. Priory – Priory
    “Lady of Late” made me give the album a second listen and it turned out to be great. -Brasilliant
    Damn catchy indie pop. Great live show too. -Awmercy

  23. Washed Out – Within & With Out
    Within & Without is atmosphere music, it ebbs and flows with layer upon layer of textured synth and Greene's hypnotic vocals. -Lucas
    Atmospherically grandiose yet incredibly intimate. -Max
    A successful major sophomore effort if sometimes a bit innocuous. -Tex

  24. Dolorean - The Unfazed
    “Unfazed by pain, unfazed by love, unfazed by rain that won’t let up.” I wish. -Awmercy
    I really need to ditch the kid and go see these guys live. -Brasilliant
    An intensely thoughtful album. This album anchored my bar prep. -NightraiN

  25. Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire
    My man-crush for Ryan is still undying! -Ancient Indian Wizard

  26. Portugal, The Man - In the Mountain, In the Cloud
    Another great album, all the way through. -Nesto
    Not as solid as American Ghetto, but still super fun. -NightraiN
    3rd year in row on my list. Can’t fight it. I love this band and how each album adds a new twist. -Awmercy

  27. James Blake - James Blake
    If this list were based on potential talent alone James Blake would surely sit near the top. Soulful and sparse, Blake crafts his ballads with alien rhythms, processed vocals and soulful pianos. Bon Iver fans take notice - James Blake is a kindred spirit and a great playlist companion. -Lucas
    A pleasant surprise overall, especially since I don't typically like this kinda music. -Mona
    Stunning... I expect great things from him as an artist and producer. -Tex

  28. The Black Keys - El Camino
    When it comes to "rocking out" this duo does not disappoint. -Julia
    Ever wonder what a $30 Sears guitar would sound like run through $100,000 worth of equipment? Here's your chance. El Camino’s insanely glossy production seemingly veers away from every obvious strength of the musicians involved. The results are... another excellent Black Keys record. -Lucas
    I have no interest in attending stadium tours, so I’ll probably never see them live again, but I still love their pounding grooves and huge bad-ass riffs. -Awmercy

  29. M83 - Hurry Up We'r Dreaming
    Anthony Gonzalez's songs mix the optimism, immediacy and heartbreak of teenage romance with sonic imagery that Jim Henson and Frank Oz would be proud of. Hurry Up is a grand achievement. -Lucas
    More poppy than my usual M83, but I'm into it. -Justin Slaughter
    Apart from stand-out track "Midnight City," I wasn't nearly as excited about this album. -Mona

  30. tUne-uArDs - W H O K I L L
    Perhaps the tightest album of the year, this album has a big, pounding sound minimally done. An album that knows what it is but an artist who has leveled out the consistency of her sound. -Jeremiah
    I had a dream that there was a muppet show for adults and that this was the soundtrack. It was perfect. -Rain
    My vote for this year's most unique album. -Max

  31. Tennis - Cape Dory
    Life can be complicated and scary. This album is simple and beautiful. Life can be too. -Ancient Indian Wizard
    Tennis is so good I thought that they were Swedish! -TheCraneWife
    Even though I'm writing this in my cold ass house in the middle of December, Tennis manages to always make it feel like summer. -Max

  32. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
    It is incredibly delightful to watch Annie Clark grow as a songstress; strange, beautiful, enticing. -Tex
    Like a really good Tori Amos, this album is laced with acerbic narrative that paints a picture of a cracked soul starving for connection. -Jeremiah
    At first glance Strange Mercy appears to be a set of shockingly confessional songs. Digging deeper you realize that she is 'the actor' and that these are in fact roles. The emotional potency of these performances make them all the more impressive. -Lucas

  33. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo
    At the end of the day, simple songs always win in my book. Kurt Vile's songs are short, sweet, and completely addictive. Mix that in with fully flushed out layers of acoustic brilliance and you have one exceptional album. -Max
    This album really hit me as I was toiling, with headphones in, under full rain gear at work, digging drainage trenches in the pouring rain. If you imagine that tableau while listening, I think you'll see where I was at. -Tex

  34. Destroyer – Kaputt
    I've always had a huge soft spot for Destroyer and when I saw the floating whales with backing saxaphone in the Kaputt video I knew Dan Bejar had done it again. It's so so good. Unless you hate saxophones. then you're bummed. -Ancient Indian Wizard
    Reliably bizarre, yet still totally ruling, album. Good use of saxophone (and I don't use that phrase lightly). -TheCraneWife
    Dan Bejar is about as eery and cryptic as fuck as his music. As it just so happens, I love every bit of it. -Mona

  35. The Antlers - Burst Apart
    Just an all around amazing album. Some of it sounds a little like Destroyer. Best song/extended metaphor about putting a dog to sleep I've heard all year (all my life, really). -TheCraneWife
    Great sleepy-time album. -ve1cro
    I sure do love their sad bastard way. "Putting The Dog To Sleep" though??!! Fuck... -Ancient Indian Wizard

  36. Tom Waits - Bad As Me
    Tom still makes the best soundtrack for anytime of the day/night whiskey drinking. I found myself looking in the mirror, across from me in the parlor, and thinking that this album playing made me, somehow, just a little bit more sexy, in a gritty way. -Rain
    Took a few listens for the whole album to really get under my skin, but “Chicago” hit me from the start. -Anon

  37. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
    Tough deciding who to put first, but if I just count the number of plays, they must be the winner. Best work yet. -Nesto
    This record is like non-stop multiple auralgasms perfect for a rainy day. -Mona
    While Peckhold's lyrics have become a little more concrete and he has taken a turn toward storytelling, the band it commended for making a richer musical landscape and for offering fascinating turns in their songs. -Jeremiah
    Really liked it when it first dropped; kinda forgot about it down the stretch. -NightraiN

  38. Youth Lagoon - The Year Of Hibernation
    A remarkable young talent who hopefully hasn't just produced a wonderful one-off, this album is low-fi goodness with music that cuts around and through lyrics that otherwise tend to be forgettable. -Jeremiah
    Relax. Listen to Youth Lagoon. -Ancient Indian Wizard

  39. Light For Fire - Light For Fire
    Romanticizing and ultimately celebrating heartbreak by diving into a whiskey bottle has never sounded so necessary. -Awmercy
    Liked this when I first heard it late last year, still love it today. -NightraiN
    I really enjoyed this album and can't wait to hear more from them. -Katie
    If this top ten list were for albums about drinking and self-loathing and regret, then this album would top it. The appeal of this album is a direct reflection of a man's draw toward his own miserable past. -Jeremiah

  40. Foster The People – Torches
    This album kicks ass. -Graham
    I saw them live for the first time this year. Absolutely stellar. -Julia
    Another song that was constantly played on the radio and I bought the album out of curiosity of what the rest sounded like. -Katie
    The EP songs were so solid that the rest of the album seemed a little meh. -NightraiN

  41. Beirut - The Rip Tide
    I love Zach Condon and his mix of Southwestern indie rock meets mariachi band whateverness. -Mona
    Everything Beirut is pretty amazing. Creative, unique and unbelievably skilled. -NightraiN
    I could be angry that Zach Condon is so young and talented but that would be akin to being angry at the sun for giving everything life. -Rain
    Bummer love letter music. Loved it. -Justin Slaughter
    I seriously have a hard time not liking anything this guy does. Nothing groundbreaking (for Beirut) here, but it's another solid group of melodic, horn filled, pop gems. -Max

  42. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
    Bon Iver's sophomore effort is one for the ages. These arrangements spring from Vernon's sublime falsetto and keyboards and branch out with strings, horns, pedal steel and chimes. They bleed wild originality and ambition while still having a feeling of strange familiarity. -Lucas
    Good for wistful times when you just wanna plop down on your bed, not talk to anyone, zone out, and kick back to something mellow. -Mona
    I knew it when I heard it. #1. Fantastic effort, Mr. Vernon and company. Keep it up. -Tex
    Beautifully mellow. No, Bon Iver's music has not gotten old. -NightraiN
    Pretty... very pretty. -Graham
    Killer. -Brian

  43. The Decemberists - The King Is Dead
    I've liked the Decemberists for a long time, but the direction they're moving in now makes me love them - just fantastic. -Anne
    Not only did they produce an album that didn't make me want to gouge my eyes out, they knocked it out of the park. Well done, Decemberists. I you rekindled my love. -Brasilliant
    This straight ahead approach (with some fairly obvious R.E.M. worship) suits them well. It hit the spot early in the year and is holding on strong into another winter. The King Is Dead has more heart, less brains and it's better for it. -Lucas
    A little more folk, a little less shanty, all around great. -TheCraneWife
    I instantly became enamored with this album. -ve1cro
    The standout tracks on this album are amazing. -Jeremiah
    It's a love-hate relationship. Today? Love. -Nesto
    Stripped of pretension, the band seems like it’s having fun. -Awmercy


ancientindianwizard said...

This is fascinating. It's rad to me that one of my favorite bands ever got the #1 spot and that record didn't even make my top 10. It's like I'm having an out of body experience!

I'll get the individual lists site up soon! Good work QC!

Mona said...

This has to be the most controversial QC list ever? I'm reeling. PS - Decemberists at #1!? I can't even fathom.

Mona said...

My vote for some of the best commentary ever this year. I've already read this list 3 times :)

awmercy said...

What can I say, the Decemberists are the band that we can all agree to love, hate, or love/hate (a couple mention in their comments).

Nesto said...

Controversial indeed! These surprises make for a very interesting list. The QC ouiji board has spoken, and it spells awesome. Thanks QC!

Rain Hiawatha Kernytsky said...

Yowies! This year was brutally tough! Cheers to everyone who pulled/put it together!

...and I'm "that guy" who love/hated the Decemberists this year. I just outed myself.

Rain Hiawatha Kernytsky said...

Dang it! I'm just now finding absolute GEMS that I failed to include... Alas. I take it as a good thing for the year in music that I had an overabundance to choose from.

Concert tickets said...

Thanks for the list. It's unfortunate that some of the people with really good voices never even make it to a level where lots of people can hear them. So much talent is unused. Yet, there are some good voices here.