My Favorite Albums of 2011

Last year I started rating all of my music in iTunes and I’ve found that is a useful way to find out which were my favorite albums of the year. Sometimes the results surprise me because I guess one star and two star songs really drag an album down. I don’t know if this is actually how I would rank the albums in order but the Top 5 and Top 10 are probably close to what I would pick.

One glaring omission from the list Adele’s 21 which is probably on everyone’s list. I do like what I’ve heard from the album. Adriene has it but I keep forgetting to borrow it from her. With that said, on to my picks with the average stages included:

The Top 5
The Violet Burning – The Story Of Our Lives (Avg Rating 3.74)
This collection is massive, stunning, raw, and powerful. Sometimes the songs blend together and it really requires a lot of attention span to make it through all three albums but there really are very few weak links and that’s something to be said about a collection of 34 songs. Michael Pritzl teased us with saying there would “not be one more Violet Burning album” when in reality there were three, telling a complete story arc. Favorite tracks: “Imminent Collapse”, “Breakdown”, “Finest Hour”

Quiet Science – Dark Words on Dark Wings – (Avg rating 3.7)
This one was a surprise but it’s well deserved. I didn’t have big expectations for this sophomore effort from the space rock group from central Florida, their first album was good but I felt they still were untapped potential. Potential tapped. Nice hooks and insightful lyrics. Favorite tracks: “The Dust Storm”, “Speak To The Dark”

Over the Rhine – The Long Surrender – (Avg rating 3.53)
I got the pre-release in 2010 and said I’d save this for the 2011 list, so here it is. This is a smoldering slow burn of an album pondering deep topics like aging, marital fidelity, and learning to let go. Joe Henry’s production really adds to the songs. Many of the songs didn’t impress me when I heard them as demos, but the finished products sound great. Favorite tracks: “Rave On”, “The King Knows How”, “Days Like This”, “All My Favorite People”

Gungor – Beautiful Things – (Avg Rating: 3.46)
I’ve almost given up on “Christian music” as a genre, but artists like Michael and Lisa Gungor give me hope that there is still creative talent writing corporate worship music. Alternatively calming and stirring, their show at Cornerstone Festival this year was one of my favorites. Favorite Tracks: “Beautiful Things”, “The Earth Is Yours”

Deas Vail – self-titled – (Avg rating: 3.416)
A slight downturn from their previous album, but only a slight one. That’s more a testament of just how good Birds and Cages was, not neccessarilly an indictment on this album. It doesn’t deviate too much from their previous album so there’s not much new ground broken here, but there’s nothing wrong with continuing a good sound. There’s good stuff here and I suspect the more I listen to it the more I will like it. Favorite Tracks: “Pulling Down the Sun” “Bad Dreams”, “Meeting In Doorways”

The Next 5
Josh Garrels – Love and War and The Sea In Between – (Avg rating: 3.4)
Best effort yet by this young unconventional artist. Meandering and ponderous and intelligent. It’s a little long with some tracks that don’t hook me, but when it’s good it’s really good. Favorite tracks: “Ulysses”, “A Far Off Hope”, “Bread & Wine”

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs – (Avg rating: 3.375)
I’m late to the Arcade Fire bandwagon, but here I am. Adriene and I listened to Suburbs a couple times during her business trip to St Simon’s earlier this year, so I’ll always think about that when listening to the album. I’m glad I borrowed the CD from her. Favorite tracks: “Ready To Start”, “Modern Man”, “City With No Children”, “Sprawl II”

Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto – (Avg rating: 3.28)
I love how everyone has such strong feelings about this album and band…except for me apparently. I … like it? I don’t hate it? I don’t love it? I’m kinda ashamed that I love the Rihanna collaboration? Favorite tracks: “Paradise”, “Major Minus”, “Princess of China”

Eisley – The Valley – (Avg rating: 3.25)
I didn’t love this album as much as their first two releases, but it’s still pretty good. It’s not quite as creepy and gothic as their previous stuff and a little less precocious, but that happens with growing up I guess. Favorite tracks: “Smarter”, “Please”,”Ambulance”

The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow – (Avg rating: 3.07)
I wanted to love this album, really I did. It had all the hype and everyone gushed over it when it came out and it’s just ok for me. It feels a little too forced, a little too overdramatic, like they are trying too hard. Favorite tracks: “20 Years”, “I’ve Got This Friend”, “Poison and Wine”

Just missed the cut:
Andrew Peterson – Counting Stars, The Choir – deplumed, House of Heroes – Suburba, Wilco – The Whole Love