I do not think I bought as many albums from them other than the ones I truly wanted and had to invest in this year but looking at my Amazon Cloud may disprove my terrible memory.
As in previous years, here is the usual disclaimer - I listened to albums past and those will be included on this list mixed in with 2011 efforts.
I also will not be including video game soundtracks on the list this year because a) I will be writing well into next year and b) I will give them their own props when I do the end of year review.
That said, here we go!!!!
Adventure Time's Soundtrack makes number one. It seriously would if it had a proper soundtrack release! Casey James Basichis is brilliant and Pendleton Ward is a geinus. Since there has been no official release, I will "begrudgingly" go with these instead.
This is the second album after the 180 degrees of craziness The Horros pulled after their awesomely cliched goth, garage punk album Strange House. I think I have to just accept that this is the sound they're going with. It's not a bad sound as I noted last album but it certainly makes my head all woozy. They were probably on some serious drugs making this one.
I do not find it as engaging as some of the tracks on Primary Colours. Some of the tracks on Primary Colours are just immediately rotation heavy worthy. Skying feels and plays a lot safer sounding (perhaps it was the mellowing types of drugs that fueled this album) and I would go as far as saying it's a tad dull.
Songs Worth Listening to: "I Can See Through You" and "Still Life"
H1 vs Or 2: 5 < 6. A winner is me with "Still Life" over "Dive In"
Album Cover Review: That's not so bad and I kinda like it. B
On TD5's recommendation, this album was bought. TD5, why? why? Dramatics aside, thank you. As we know with each other, sometimes we're hit and miss in our recommendations. I am going to file this one under a "miss". No worries though because I will never know until I try.
This album could have been fun. It is fun to some degree via a couple of tracks and I mean that. But then very early on into listening to it, I realized that all the songs began sounding too much alike. And a bit like Franz Ferdinand and some Phoenix mixed with a touch of Vampire Weekend, now that I am listening fresh. That's not necessarily a bad thing (sans the vile Vampire Weekend) at all as I generally love FF and will painfully admit that Phoenix's last album was half full of gems. I am finding though, that as the chorus starts up, the hipster of Two Door Cinema Club really just starts to come alarmingly through.
Before anyone is all "but Or 2, you listen to a lot of Hipster music! You...may be a hipster," let me just say that Hipsters are funny little things. They like to claim perfectly good music as their own then quickly drop them as uncool before the rest of us get to them. So you see, it's not that I listen to necessarily Hipster music but rather it's that you are confused. Hipsters "claimed" it their own but I can claim this land in the name of Spain but that does not make it so.
And just so we are clear, pox on those who think I am a hipster.
Songs worth listening to: "Something Good Can Work" and "What You Know"
H1 vs. Or 2: 5 < 6. A winner is me with "Something Good Can Work" over "This is the Life"
Album Cover Review: I had an obsession with LOL cats this year as H1 will tell you. While I think there is something strange going on with the top of this cat's head, until I know the truth because I just can't figure it out, I find this album cover oddly amusing. B+
It's time for a little bit of self-loathing. A little bit of a nasty confession, if you will.
Sometimes all you need is one cheesy love of a Brit in a show in which he plays a teenage vampire and an infectious soundtrack and before you realize it, you're that person. The one your friends disown.
Oh, wait...you thought I was talking about Twilight? Ha ha! Oh no, I will never be that awful a human being.
But I am talking about the original UK series Being Human (ooo, what I did there, did you see it?) or rather its spin-off, Becoming Human.
A few web episodes of this awesome little spin-off about a vampire, a ghost and a werewolf was a must watch for me after the stellar season of Being Human. Loving Craig Roberts had everything to do with my watching this and as I did, earworms of Miike Snow songs were effectively sprinkled throughout the series.
Ukkers are good at lots of things and one those things I have realized over the years, is picking the worst, catchy, trashy songs to soundtrack their shows. The songs are guilty pleasures and such is what happened to me. I had to have the album! And here I am now, writing an end of year review about how this never should have happened but feel little shame in liking it even though I know I should.
In its defense, the songs I heard from Becoming Human still stand as earworms I feel compelled to listen to once in a while (and enjoy immensely) but this album is what it is - full of Euro beats and synthesizers and um, bad lyrics sometimes sung questionably odd in their arrangement.
Songs Worth Listening to: "Animal", "Songs for No One", "Black and Blue", "Sans Soleil" and "Plastic Jungle"
H1 vs. Or 2: 5 > 6. A winner is H1 with "Black and Blue" over "Sans Soleil".
Album Cover Review: A Jackelope, aye? No. C
I had no intention of getting this album but since Arctic Monkeys will be on tour with them next year, I felt it necessary to listen to a couple of their albums before their headlining show which TD5, H1 and I intend to attend.
The opening track and current single, "Lonely Boy" is best described as bad-assed. I don't know much about The Black Keys other than they're two guys from OH who are the new hot. They're alternative with a country blues rock overtone. The first track aside, here's another album that implements similarly sung and musical arrangements that is present in a lot of the tracks. It gets tedious fast. Then you have thoughtful tracks like "Little Black Submarines" which are welcome, mellow and build up to greatness. (Incidentally, has anyone else noticed that if you stick the word "submarine" into your song, it's probably a good one? see R.E.M. and the Beatles.)
All in all, this is a mostly decent album that is held back by a little bit of repetitiveness that probably will sound really good at MSG in March because it sounds pretty good with a good pair of headphones (but in spurts) - catchy rock riffs with guitars that sometimes talk, strong vocals and strangely dance worthy at times. It's the country rock album you never knew you wanted. MC, get on it.
Songs Worth Listening to: "Lonely Boy", "Hell of a Season", "Mind Eraser" and "Little Black Submarines".
H1 vs. Or 2: 5 = I can't decide H1. "Money Maker" and "Run Right Back" may be in a tie. They're both good songs.
Album Cover Review: Uh, also no. I'm not digging into history of why this was chosen but purely based on my personal opinion and aesthetics. C
I won't be completely prepared for the concert in March as I refused to buy all 7 albums by the Black Keys but I thought that I should at least buy last year's album as it got stellar reviews. It's mostly heavier than El Camino and bit better. The songs are tighter, edgier, bluesy, brooding and darker. The album does suffer once again from being a bit too boring on a straight listen through because it's almost too mellow by the end of the album whereas the first half oozes some charm. There's an experimental sound here and there that deviates from their style on one of the tracks and it's welcome.
This is a review by Or 2 of The HOchieS and this is a solid album.
Songs worth listening to: "Ten Cent Pistol", "The Go Getter", "Sinister Kid" and "Tighten Up".
H1 vs Or 2: 5 > 6. A winner is H1 with "She's Long Gone" over "Black Mud".
Album Cover Review: Kind of smug? Kind of to the point. Meh. C
This album is not the crap everyone makes it out to be but given the high standard of previous Radiohead albums ever since the amazing OK Computer, I can understand the disappointment in The King of Limbs. Radiohead can frankly do whatever the eff they want because as far as I see it, they're making music for themselves with whatever musical experiment in sound that they want to try.
Always intriguing if not completely easy on the ears or very accesible, TKOL is a cacophonous bit of sewn together threads of bass and electronics. It's a bit of a template open to be interpreted and played with by other artists hence the subsequent remix album, I feel.
There's no stand out single other than "Lotus Flower" that one could easily sing along with. That's not what the album is about and that's okay. I appreciate it all the same with it being as fresh and different from most things out there, as all Radiohead albums have been and will continue to be.
Song Worth Listening to: "Lotus Flower", "Separator", "Little by Little" and "Feral"
H1 vs Or 2: 5 > 6. A winner is H1 with "Lotus Flower" over "Codex"
Album Cover Review: Well that's creepy. Maybe too creepy. What the hell is it? B+
Let's just get this out of the way one time - U2's Achtung Baby is one of the greatest albums of all time, and certainly one of my favourite U2 albums if not my favourite top 3 (with "Pop" and "Zooropa" being the other two, in case you wanted to know - crazy talk? Psh, I beg to differ).
So covering a magnificent album that re-invented U2 - and as I saw someone's comment on this album on a forum one day and I'm paraphrasing, it's an album that was influential on how alternative music is currently made or came after - is a madman's task.
In that vein, Q Magazine decided to gather some of the best of the best to do joint efforts of Madman handiwork in covering this album.
The line up is mostly stellar and so impressive on paper that I am sure everyone who did not know about this album before will probably want a copy.
Unfortunately, I feel mostly disappointed by what happened. There are some amazing covers to be sure, but for the 5 star artists collected on some of these maybe I was just expecting too much.
And maybe it's just that Achtung Baby just cannot be covered. It's a near perfect album and perfect cannot be expected to come from anyone else than the original band.
Maybe 20 years of listening to this one has sealed off my ability to be open-minded.
Or maybe I'm so disgruntled that Nine Inch Nails made such a blah cover of ZOO Station by doing absolutely nothing to it that I am angry. The same NIN who used to mix and remix the death out of a song and make it a whole new thing to behold, took the lazy route and did nothing.
Not to mention, they gave that awful The Fray the job of covering my 2nd favourite song, "Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around the World". Really?! Why would you think it's a good idea to put The Fray and Snow Patrol up with the likes of Patti Smith and Depeche Mode?!
But here's my other complaint against Depeche Mode - your cover was bad! And that hurts me, personally much like NIN's.
Then there are the tracks by Garbage, Patti Smith, The Killers, Damien Rice and Jack White that are what I expected. I've never been one to hail Jack White as the Rock God people make him out to be but I'll be damned if I couldn't give him serious applause after his cover of "Love is Blindness". It's perhaps one of the best and unexpected covers I've heard. That song is beautifully haunting and somehow, Jack White gave it a new coat (in the angry colour), made a new song and made it great.
It's worth a spin because it's not the worst cover collection of an album out there but just lower your expectations some.
Songs Worth Listening to: "One" by Damien Rice (he should cover it from now on and tell Mary J. Blige to stop her rendition. I can't stand that she does and I don't care if U2 gave their approval), "Until the End of the World" by Patti Smith, "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" by Garbage, "Love is Blindness" by Jack White (definitely this one).
H1 vs Or 2: 5 > 6. A Winner is H1 with "Until The End..." by Garbage over "So Cruel" by Depeche Mode
Album Cover Review: A tribute cover that's absolutely beautiful and well-representative of the spirit of Achtung Baby, I can give this a big A+.
I never fully appreciated the greatness of The Strokes' first album until this year. That's not entirely true as it made one of my best for the decade during that review, but it was listening to that horrible covers album that Stereogum put out of Is This It that truly made want to revisit that album in all its glory. It's truly an amazing and frankly, brilliant album which I found myself listening to for the majority of the end of this year and it piqued my interest to own Angles.
I listened to Angles upon release via the free streaming made available that day. It's no Is This It and that's unfair because nothing can be. But as much as I wanted to really dislike the songs and yes, they are not by any means great songs, I could not. In fact, the more it sits and simmers, the more you find yourself wanting to hear them over and over again.
TD5 and I came to that conclusion just a day after the album was released.
That was months ago and I only now own it to see if that remains true and it has. They're a mostly catchy collection of songs and I'm stuck in that The Strokes charm of yesteryear while listening to new, fun bits of arrangement with a dash of an 80s electronica dance party. And show tunes vibe. And uh, Talking Heads?
Overtime I think I may come to appreciate this one a bit more - maybe I'll find more things to love about it but for now, I'm having quite a bit of fun with it as is.
Songs Worth Listening to: "Metabolism", "Under Cover of Darkness", "You're So Right" (which I should probably REALLY hate, but it's so bad, it's good?), "Taken for a Fool", "Games", "Call Me Back"
H1 vs Or 2: 5 > 6. A Winner is H1 with "Taken For A Fool" over "Games". It was a close one though.
Album Cover Review: A hideous mess. C
6. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
Here's the thing about Foo Fighters and me. I love them. There's nothing not to love about Dave Grohl & Co. especially on this album where everyone comes back and joins for a good time. However, like all well-established bands, you hear them and their sound is just so their own that you start thinking to yourself that maybe it's time to pack it up because everything might just be beginning to sound alike. Track after track. Album after Album. Year after Year.
That's what I hear when I hear the Foos these days. I hear nostalgia and I remember the absolute fantastic time The HOchieS & Co. had at their concert with Weezer and Hot Hot Heat in 2005 but a part of me feels a little bit, dare I say bored? It's true of everyone and this is not just a statement for Foo Fighters alone.
In listening to Wasting Light for this review, and having not given it the proper listen when I acquired the album back upon release, I still stand by the familiarity comment.
But I'm also hearing something pretty inspired here with this album. Before nostalgia kicks in on a lot of the choruses, I'm hearing opening riffs of a different caliber full on depth, and thoughtful lyrics charged full of chance. The songs are sounding fresh at start and a welcome change before falling into trademark Foo Fighters sound.
It's not a very fair complaint because I'm certain had they done something completely out of character, I could very well be cursing.
Hearing this little bit of freshness though, makes me know that they can do this next time and do it well.
In the meanwhile, this album is pretty damned good and my expectations are running a tad high for the next outing.
Songs worth listening to: "Bridge Burning", "I Should Have Known", "Rope" and "Arlandria" (minus the cheesey rhyme in the first two verses).
H1 vs. Or 2: 5 > 6. A Winner is H1 with "Arlandria" over "These Days"
Album Cover Review: Uninspired, I guess. C
One of the greatest albums I own is A Grand Don't Come For Free with a close second in Original Pirate Material. Disappointment soon followed in subsequent albums but Mike Skinner's The Street always maintained a little blip on my radar and I listened to new albums in the hopes that I'd hear something great again. I was a bit sad knowing that the 5th album was going to be his last but I listened with reservation.
It is with great sadness that I am bidding farewell to The Streets. There's a sense of finality on the last album with a memory lane trip for me as a fan and Mike Skinner as an artist on the final track "Lock the Locks". Why the sadness? Because while it may not have the new, unexpected charm of Original Pirate Material or the genius of A Grand, this album is different, familiar and yet not at all that. It's not as masterful, clever, biting or funny as the first two but I feel like I'm truly saying goodbye to the friend I always loved, fought with and re-found. Lyrically and how presented, there's growth here - literally as though Mike has grown up and in that, it's a fantastic album and end to his era. There's more sampling, more mellow beats, more observations of human nature - sometimes happy and sometimes accepting, cleaner and more coherent musically, and more thoughtful lyrics than ever before. The album leaves me with a sad sort of warmth - comforting yet devastating.
Those late night club adventures with Mike Skinner are done - we're heading into morning and I know I won't see him again.
"I'm packing up my desk, put it into boxes, knock out the lights, lock the locks and leave..."
Indeed. and Goodbye, Friend.
Songs Worth Listening to: "Lock the Locks", "Without Thinking", "Trust Me", "ABC", "Outside Inside", "Roof of Your Car", and "OMG".
H1 vs. Or 2: 5 > 6. A Winner is H1 with "Without Thinking" over "Blip on a Screen".
Album Cover Review:
....Uh, wait what? Hello..Friend? So soon?!
Per Wikipedia, this "mixtape" album put out by The Streets is not canon in official album releases. Computers and Blues is the final album and while this one came out before C&B, the various recordings pieced together for C&R seems have been done after C&B was made. After my tearful farewell to The Streets and Mike's finality, this feels like the last big hurrah we may have shared before truly riding off into the sunset. It's mostly comprised of a bunch of U.K. rap artists and a whole slew of beats and forceful energy. Mike raps on the tracks but I feel bows out to the other talents collaborating.
The contrast is amazing - Mike was always one to be fairly even-paced but that's not quite right in this assessment on this. He sounds as though it's over even though the music and the guests are pushing faster beats. His vocals drag and it's actually quite an interesting bit of media, this album.
I love it.
It's chopped up, unrestrained, a mess of music that's fascinating. Mike even says he's no longer relevant as an artist who peaked in 2002 (as per the lyrics on one of the tracks), hence the need to hang it up (until the inevitable re-surfacing like everyone seems to be doing, I guess - time will tell).. As all over the place this is and disjointed as the tracks are with their very abrupt endings cutting off perfectly awesome songs that you'd like to hear how it ends but never will because they're nixed before their grand finale, it's not at all cacophonous.
It's on drugs, for sure.
But it's catchy.
And poses no threat on the settee.
All those garage beats and more are present and they all get thrown in here mixed with alternative, electronica and hip hop. It makes this stop in this ending journey just that much more bittersweet.
Songs Worth Listening to: "Robots are Taking Over" featuring Envy, Elroy and Frisco, "Don't Hide Away" featuring Wiley, Rinse and Ice Kid, "Tidy Nice and Neat" featuring Ghost Poet, "4 o' clock", "Breakbat Barz" featuring Scru Fizzer
H1 vs. Or 2: 5 < 6. A Winner is me with "Tidy Nice and Neat" over "Backseat Barz" featuring Loudmouth - fixed
Album Cover Review: I don't know what the hell is going on here but I love it. A
Coming off my fairly new found love of TV on the Radio from 2008's Dear Science, I eagerly anticipated what sort of crazy alternative, funk rock I could expect to find on 2011's Nine Types of Light. What I found was a collection of love songs.
Slower, still funky and much more full of soul but not much on the dancey fancy.
While it's not all perfect with my biggest complaint being too many "oooos" on various tracks that were just way overused, for the most part I was not disappointed by the offerings.
The bass was prominent and TV on the Radio's funk is good for the soul. As noted before, their songs always sound pretty multi-layered - always an interesting blend of electronic, alternative, drum beats and never dull. The influences borrow from different genres including dancehall, reggae, rock and others. Eclectic and a master use of various styles, instruments and arrangements including beautifully sung vocals, TV on the Radio's album asked for your ears to indulge in exploration that bombarded the senses.
R.I.P. to Gerard Smith who tragically passed away this year. Gerard Smith who was so young, and so talented... Your bass lines were so prominent on this album and helped carry the band and contributed to the fantastic experimental sounds that TV in the Radio produces. Thank you for the gifts by sharing your musical genius and making my life that much richer.
Songs Worth Listening to: "Repetition", "Forgotten", "Will Do" and "Caffeinated Consciousness"
H1 vs Or 2: 5 < 6. A Winner is Me with "Will Do" over "Killer Crane"
Album Cover Review: Maybe this should have been the cover for Angles. I like this one, it is nice. B+
Everything just fits on this album. Even the horrid, nonsense single "Brick by Brick" works when this album is listened to in its entirety.
I honestly did not foresee Suck it and See as being so high up on the end of year review. It's no secret that I am a huge Arctic Monkeys fan - they're one of my favourite bands but due to that I hold them in the highest regard and I expect a lot from them.
The sad truth is that after the disappointment of Humbug, I shuddered a little to think what sort of shitty hell I could expect to hear from this their fourth album.
I needed to grow up with Arctic Monkeys and accept that they're never going to make an album as amazing or rather, the same type of album as their first two outfits.
Suddenly things were much easier to swallow as I was no longer seeing dark shades of red. Even Humbug is now sounding a much better album now than it did in 2009.
This album as a whole is pretty even-tempered. They're mostly love songs which will integrate nicely into their portfolio of AM songs.
When Alex is at his best in his song writing on this album, he can write extraordinarily biting sharp witty things that can be deceptively melodic - stitching together words seamlessly that flow magnificently creating amazing story telling.
For those songs that are the more upbeat ballads, they're incredibly charming in execution.
And yes, you read right: Alex's more melodic in his singing more than ever before even on some of those songs that are heavy on bass, drumming and stinging guitar riffs.
Let us not delude ourselves though. I still see red when I hear the occasional absolute laziness in Alex's lyrics because for such a clever boy, he's not being so clever all the time and it's annoying because I know he can do better. They're allowed to have fun, sure, but sometimes I just have to WTF them.
I also see red when I do not hear Matt's drumming being utilized to its full potential. But there of course is the dilemma because they're not making fast paced songs anymore (for the most part) and therefore Matt's drumming does not need to be super fierce and everyone else just keeps up.
It's hard to let go of my boys but as I said, I'm just going to have to move with them. Past the red, I still hear brilliance and this album proves it.
Even if it's not the speed I'm used to. See? Hard to let go...but trying.
Songs Worth Listening to: "Piledriver Waltz" (though I prefer the Submarine version), "Reckless Serenade", "Love is a Laserquest", "All My Own Stunts" and "Library Pictures".
H1 vs Or 2: 5 < 6. A Winner is Me with "Library Pictures" over "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair"
Album Cover Review: Well that was well simple, wasn't it? A-
The moment I heard some of the smartest and surprising opening lyrics of "Monday Morning", I knew this album was going to be a fantastic one. After tearing myself away from that one song, I discovered the rest of the album was pretty great too. Mixed with soothing piano keys and pulsing with beats and bit of code giving way to the often calm, and emotional vocals, Codes and Keys was solid from start to finish. The range was vast from the up tempo songs to the quieter more focused ones, and it's for all these reasons it makes number one this year.
Songs Worth Listening to: "Monday Morning", "Some Boys", "Stay Young, Go Dancing", "Codes and Keys" and "Doors Unlock and Open"
H1 vs Or 2: 5 > 6. A Winner is H1 with "You are a Tourist" over "Unobstructed Views"
Album Cover Review: I think it's awesome. A+
Albums not numbered but that we did listen to:
The Decemberists - The King is Dead
American Indie Folk Rock, let me count the ways I do not love you. There's just one actually: hippies. This is another album that got stellar reviews and I'm not loving it but I can't get behind hippies, which is why this is happening now. Bought on a whim because it was $4 on Amazon (again, grrr) and well-reviewed this year, I am finding that maybe I should read up about new bands before jumping in blind. This is just not my style and it would be unfair to place it on an end of year review of mine. I think I may have confused them for another band. How the heck did that happen?
That said, they have a few songs that are pretty good for my little ears: "Rox in the Box", "This is Why We Fight" and "June Hymn".
Pomplamoose - Pomplamoose Video Songs
How cute they are. I bought this little album after being completely annoyed by the Hyundai adverts that featured this band in 2010 for Christmas. I said I was annoyed but I figured that the stupid little cover of "Up on the House Top" had to be performed by a real band. So I investigated and discovered that these little hipsters had a cute and frankly great song with "Expiration Date". They were interesting with all the music and sounds heard within any given song performed by the musical male counterpart master of sounds in the band, while the bass and singing parts by the cute female counterpart.
They're fun and I'll look out for their works in the future and buy those I have not got around to buying yet.
Song worth listening to: "Expiration Date" and "Hail Mary".
Alex Turner - Submarine Original Soundtrack
Our favourite Alex Turner contributed to the soundtrack to this movie. He proves to still be the best little lyricist with his clever words for sappy love songs. It's a bit of a beautiful thing with two of the greatest songs I've heard this year in "Piledriver Waltz" and "Stuck on a Puzzle".