So, about a month ago I presented my list of the Top 10 Songs of 2011, with the caveat that I wasn't sure if even five albums warranted a 'best of' label for the same year. Well, I can positively say that, yes, there were five albums from 2011 that were quite good and, without further adieu, here they are.
5. "Crazy Clown Time" / David Lynch -- Probably the most quirky release of 2011, but what else would one expect from the likes of Mr. Lynch? David's vocals feature on a majority of the songs, but his voice is often so manipulated that you'd have to be a Lynchophile to discern that it is him. While the album is composed of a variety of different sounds, from rock to ambient to electronic, it is firmly entrenched in Lynch Land, which means those of you familiar with the Badalamenti-styled music of his films and TV show will be in for a familiar treat. Pinky's Dream and Good Day Today are fine examples of what I'm referring to.
4. "Arabian Horse" / Gus Gus -- Long a favorite group of mine, Gus Gus's output can be a tad.... uneven. Some albums are spot on, others are rather 'meh.' This may have something to do with their ever-changing line-up. Regardless, their 2011 album was a creative success. Arabian Horse feels strong, confident and, most importantly, it sounds great. Whether it's a sad electro-ballad such as Over, or the misty, driving sex music tune of Deep Inside, Gus Gus show they still know to deliver the goods.
3. "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming" / M83 -- I will admit to having rolled my eyes a bit when this album was released. Folks -- from average joe listeners to dedicated music critics -- were falling over themselves with praise for what M83 had pulled-off: a double disc concept album that worked. Perhaps it's the contrarian in me, but I felt an immediate resistance to liking it (although I rushed out to the local record store to purchase it). True to the near-universal acclaim, I fell for the album after about a week. At first it seemed inaccessible, but then, one day after a few listens, everything just clicked. The only thing that the contrarian in me doesn't care for is how the track Midnight City ended up being used in a commercial.
2. Born This Way / Lady Gaga -- Wow, what an album! Admittedly, I don't much care for Lady Gaga's schtick. In fact, it grates on me. But the woman can sing, and she knows how to make some awesome music. Her 2011 studio release is no exception. Born This Way is a truly epic album, that never puts a foot wrong. Powerful, fun songs roll from one to the next, and the themes of religion, sexuality and love blend seamlessly together. Think of her what you will, but her latest offering is one of the best in recent years.
1. "Napoleon" / Napoleon -- We've saved the best for last. Seriously. You've likely not heard of this little gem. I admit, neither had I. A friend who dabbles in obscure electronic artists lent me a copy of this group's eponymous 2011 release, and from the very first listen, I was enraptured. Heavy on samples, the Napoleon album deftly blends borrowed material with fresh sounds and melodies to make a sublime listening experience. The music moves you: at times you are bopping your head to the beat, and then you may find yourself feeling wistful. It's not easy to find, but you should definitely seek out this album. It's worth it.
And, there you have it. My Top 5 Albums of 2011. If you're not familiar with any of them, I hope you seek them out and give 'em a listen. And, if you do so, I hope you enjoy them.