Top 15 albums of 2011

It’s been a year that has contained a lot hype and build up, but ultimately the hot gas has been the foundation of a number of lead balloons. Whilst the year had to deal with Rebecca Black and The Carter IV, 2011 also brought light to a number of new artists and music which makes for a pleasant year of music n general.

No. 15: Drake – Take Care

One of the most anticipated records of the year, following the success of Thank Me Later, made for a record in which Drake became slightly complacent and partially ‘direction-less’. Take Care, which boasts around 18 tracks, ultimately set up fans to be let down from an album which did not showcase Drake’s natural ability to combine melodic songwriting with quotable verses. A flaccid attempt, but has to be included due to highlights such as the title track, Lord Knows & Underground Kings.

No. 14: J Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story

Cole World. 2011 was the year for Young Simba to shine. Critics were split after singles such as ‘Work Out’ were released, showcasing Cole in a more commercial light than usual. However, J Cole did a decent enough job (which was proved as the album hit number 1), but Warm Up /Come Up fans were left a little unsatisfied. A solid album nonetheless, with highlights such as Nobody’s Perfect, God’s Gift and Rise & Shine

No. 13: The Strokes – Angles

Their first album for 5 years, The Strokes did very well in avoiding the typical disappointment that we see so often with so called ‘comeback albums’. Staying true to their sound, with Julian Casablancas’ unique vocals forming a crucial part, Angles is a definite album of the year with strong singles such as Macchu Picchu, Taken for a Fool and Undercover of Darkness.

No. 12 – Common – The Dreamer, The Believer

Back to basics for Common, seeing him reunite with No I.D. on the production and co-writing credits for the entire album. After the confusing attempt of Universal Mind Control, it was refreshing to see Common back to that raw, boom bap hip hop that we all know and love. Highlights include Ghetto Dreams, Blue Sky and Sweet.

No. 11 – Danny Brown – XXX

2011 restored faith in the younger generation of hip hop (and the new artist category in general) by introducing oddball Danny Brown. XXX, which featured a strange eclectic mix of hip hop audibles, mostly channeling the spirit of the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the genre of ‘Hip Hop’ in 2012, but for now, XXX is a definite in our list. Highlights include Monopoly, XXX and Blunt After Blunt

No. 10 – Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See

The Arctic Monkeys were back in 2011 to bring water to the UK Indie drought, which has been parched for a number of years now. Suck It and See did not disappoint, showcasing the Monkeys’ growth in the evolution of their sound. Channeling the Shakin’ 60s in the song Brick By Brick, Alex Turner did more than convince us that he still has ‘it’ when it comes to songwriting. Highlights include ‘Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair‘, ‘The HellCat Spangled Shalala‘ and ‘Library Pictures‘.

No. 9 – Danny Swain – Where is Danny

Every list has to have their ‘wildcard’ entry, and ours is Danny Swain. Active since 2004, forgotten since 2007, Danny! came to our attention (again) when his 5th LP was re-released by his new record label, Interscope Records. Where is Danny?, which is around 24 tracks long, smashes down the boundaries and expectations of what a typical album should be, with some haywire, yet beautiful productions. Highlights include ‘Hoedown Showdown‘, ‘Theme Music to a Killing Spree‘ and ‘Mama I Want to Fucking Sing‘. A truly, brilliant effort.

No. 8 – 9th Wonder – The Wonder Years

An album has to be something special if a stand alone producer has made this list. 9th Wonder, the legendary beatsmith, organised together your favourite artists’ artists and stitched an album with terrific beats and killer rhymes. Highlights include That’s Love, One Night and No Pretending.

No. 7 – Kendrick Lamar – Section 80

Hitting us with his debut album in 2011, Kendrick Lamar did more than introduce himself to the ‘overground’ hip hop scene. Receieving co signs from everyone from Dr Dre to Snoop Dogg, it’s pretty much guaranteed that the future of hip hop include the words ‘Kendrick Lamar’. ‘The Spiteful Chant‘, ‘Rigamortus‘ and ‘Fuck Your Ethnicity‘ are just a few examples of this man’s genius. A definite in our list of album of the year.

No. 6 – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

It’s difficult to be upset every time Oasis split up (is this the 7th time now?), but Liam Gallagher’s laughable effort earlier this year with Beady Eye really did have us hoping he would try and make amends with Noel (at least for his own career). However, this will be the last thing on Noel’s mind, especially after his debut solo effort going straight to UK number one. Noel and his High Flying Birds is pretty much what the next Oasis album would have sounded like, but without the fading Liam Gallagher vocals. Highlights include AKA What A Life, If I Had A Gun and The Death of You and Me.

No. 5 – Pusha T – Fear of God II

Since Malice found religion, it seemed that would spell the (temporary?) end of hip hop legends, ‘The Clipse’. However, the best thing to happen in 2010/2011 was Pusha T joining Kanye’s G.O.O.D Music. After featuring on Kanye’s hit single ‘Runaway’, Pusha T went hard in 2011 releasing Fear of God (and the LP version Fear of God II), as well as a number of music videos to go with. Channelling the spirit of Ric Flair in his raps, Pusha T killed a number of G.O.O.D Friday tracks in 2010, and has done enough to have us hyped for the inevitable debut album on the G.O.O.D label in 2012. Highlights include; Fear of God (produced by Hit Boy), Feelin’ Myself (feat Kevin Cossom) and Trouble on my Mind (Feat. Tyler the Creator).

No. 4 – The Roots – Undun

The Roots pretty much nailed it with Undun, their first concept album ever (surprisingly). Detailing the life of Redford Stephens, features from Dice Raw and Phonte only strengthen an already solid album, putting it up with one of the best concept albums since 88-Keys’ The Death of Adam. No doubt there will be a few Grammys waiting for The Roots. Highlights include the entire album.

No. 3 – Frank Ocean – Nostalgia, Ultra

The wonders of tumblr unveiled (or at least, rejuvenated) the one known as Frank Ocean. ‘Nostlagia, Ultra’, released via his tumblr around March ’11 slowly gained a mass following and positive critics, which led to Def Jam sending out scouts to find out who Frank Ocean was. Turns out, he was already signed to Def Jam, and had been for a number of years. The Odd Future affiliation throws off any scent of what his music is really like and his reputation has only been strengthened with his features on Watch The Throne. Highlights include ‘Swim Good‘, ‘American Wedding‘ and ‘LoveCrimes‘.

No. 2 – The Weekend – House of Balloons

With classic R&B pretty much dead (or asleep, we can’t tell), it was inevitable that an artist who can actually sing would grab a hold of an autotuner and make a classic out of it. The Weeknd, introduced in early 2011, is just one guy (contrary to popular misconception) with a heavy heart. House of Balloons (the first of The Trilogy) is shrouded in darkness, muddled in mystery and the perfect theme tune to driving off a bridge. Highlights include ‘High For This‘, ‘Loft Music‘ and ‘Glass Table Girls‘.

No. 1 – The Throne – Watch The Throne

The hype and buzz created for this album alone pretty much makes this the album of the year. Having the whole world in a frenzy at midnight on August 8th is quite an achievement, and the album didn’t disappoint. Combining a mix of influences including Otis Redding, Flux Pavillion, Cassius, Nina Simone and Apache, The Throne’s attempt to send Hip Hop back to the future was successful, resulting in one of singles of the year N****s In Paris firmly embedded into modern culture.

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