Look. We have better taste than those other music sites, and your friends are either still trying to find their way into fucking Lulu or convince you that Korn really were dubstep before dubstep was dubstep. It’s a dismal scene.
2011 was a badass year for music, however, and we’re here to help get you to the light. Here are the best albums of the year according to Antiquiet. Click each thumbnail for our full album review.
And if you don’t like it, then hey, fuck you.
1. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
A fantastically searing accomplishment birthed in full analog from Dave Grohl’s home garage, Wasting Light finally sees the Foo Fighters reaching a balance between the raw power of their first two albums with the consistently evolving songwriting of their latter releases. A riff-rich tapestry of snarling guitars and punch-rock drums accentuates a songwriting maturity and fluency that stands on two decades’ worth of trial by fire in an ever-shifting and treacherous industry.
Grohl & company, no strangers to the mega-hit Rock anthems, have doubled down on the fire that made Monkeywrench such a buoyant thrill, with a concentrated emphasis on songwriting that constantly strives to go bigger, hit harder and add more color. They succeed, and it’s unquestionably Grohl’s finest work as a songwriter, a relentless pursuit of peak potential that’s yielded the best Foo Fighters album since 1997’s The Colour And The Shape.
2. The Kills – Blood Pressures
Blood Pressures might not be as commercially attractive as The Kills’ previous work, or rock quite as hard as the ones that came before that, but it contains their most carefully, tightly constructed and balanced songwriting thus far. Each of the eleven songs cuts a new level of complexity, and is every bit as satisfying as the more immediately accessible material produced in the past – if not moreso. The duo take their sweet time to settle into each melody, never hurrying their way out of a song, showing not only a knack for breaking the formula, but how much they’ve grown as songwriters as well.
3. The Black Keys – El Camino
The Black Keys‘ seventh LP sounds nothing like its predecessor Brothers, the album that took them from secret gems to superstars. Tighten Up producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton returns for the entire ride this time, and the living blues legends from Akron have risen to meet the Gnarls knob turner with an album that hip-checks the sensational hit factory of Brothers for boundless pockets of catchiness and full-throttle gut-rock.
The core of El Camino’s magic is the visceral connection rather than the cerebral eclecticism that drove much of the previous record. It’s a record to bridge genres and generations, with enough rockabilly stomp-funk goodness to be precisely the right album after midnight with a few rolled, a few tipped and some good friends. Sounds like a modern classic to us.
4. Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne
As everyone with eardrums expected, Watch The Throne possesses all the glory and gaudy gluttony of the two most iconic Hip-Hop figures of the me-me-me generation, who no longer have a need for dreams as commoners experience them. With melodrama on high and an appetite for spirited lyrical one-uppery, Hova and Yeezy swing for the fences while backed by a tapestry of production contributors. It’s a bacchanal of depth, decadence and vanity, an album that 2011 will be remembered for. Two rap kingpins have managed to both throttle and rein their gargantuan egos and supreme grandiosity, resulting in a largely fantastic body of work over a fittingly decadent sonic mural shaped by far-reaching contributors. Is that a sequel we smell?
5. Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You
There was plenty riding on Chili Peppers’ 10th album and first to feature new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who replaces the departed savant-like six-string wizardry of John Frusciante. To offset the void, a newly intensified focus turned to the bass and rhythm, shifting from the flamboyance of Frusciante’s guitar work to more groove-oriented designs (with Rick Rubin’s steadfast help). Klinghoffer holds his own, and I’m With You strikes the listener on first impact as a double down of effort and focus in the vein of By The Way, far more than the overload of safe style adherence and mass quantity that was Stadium Arcadium. It’s a keeper.
6. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
We’re relieved to report that at least one member of Oasis, one of the greatest bands of the 90s, is still capable of impressing us. Co-produced by Dave Sardy, High Flying Birds is everything we wished in vain that each of the last four Oasis albums might be, and even the outtakes are better than anything on the Beady Eye album. You could slip Wonderwall in anywhere on this album without disrupting the flow, but Noel Gallagher always had the unique ability within the band to write a song that hadn’t already been written. High Flying Birds is a damn fine album, which re-establishes Noel Gallagher as a force to be reckoned with and helps us to bid farewell to the Oasis that was.
7. Radiohead – The King of Limbs
Call it a post-dubstep ambient soul-trance handclap revolution, call it a forced hand of evolutionary musical pretense, but Radiohead returns in 2011 with an abstract vulnerability that doesn’t warn of imminent doom in a wave of techno-paranoia like their turn of the century work, or dig into the heart like a beautiful alien tick as their last album did. Instead, it conveys a postmodern sobriety and allows the band a way to begin anew without forcing new frontiers. “If you think this is over, then you’re wrong,” Yorke taunts as the album concludes, a proud keeper of secrets dancing in the sunshine. Whatever he means, whatever the indication, there always seems to be more to the picture just outside our grasp. If nothing else, Radiohead have become masters of nuance, and we can’t help but remain fascinated.
8. Portugal. The Man – In The Mountain, In The Cloud
The Portland via Wasilla quintet known as Portugal. The Man have released a full length album each and every year since 2006, and the last four have all been among their years’ best. In The Mountain, In The Cloud is an unbroken 44 minute stream of near-flawless pop/folk/rock fusion, that’s at times anthemic, creepy, tearjerking and, perhaps above all, nostalgic. How this band is able to produce timeless records with such frequency and apparent ease is a mystery to us.
9. TV On The Radio – Nine Types of Light
It has become almost a convention for critics to hail every new TV On The Radio record as “the band’s best work yet,” but that custom persists for a reason; this is a band that continues to reinvent itself even when it doesn’t need to. By fully employing the much-forgotten concept of “the album,” the band rematerializes with a novel sound and takes on a whole new temperament with each release. This is precisely what establishes TV On The Radio as the noteworthy pioneers that they are: their repetition is not this. Nine Types Of Light is indeed the band’s best work to date, exploring a wholly new theme in their world: love songs.
10. Jane’s Addiction – The Great Escape Artist
Jane’s Addiction’s fourth proper studio album and first in eight years is as intoxicating, daring and seductive as one would hope from a band whose legacy and impact have remained constant through two decades of domination, destruction, breakups, reunions, relapses and a revolving door of bassists that have both buoyed and anchored the band’s longevity at varying times. Perkins is all over the kit, a polyrhythmic powerhouse beneath a truly revitalized Navarro, who seems determined to prove a new potency – and succeeds righteously. And Perry, well. The ringleading firestarter soul megaphone of greatness’ throat has yet to falter, his spirit yet to break, his hedonistic bag of tricks and treats still in tune with just the right frequency to pull this entire thing together. Few men earn words such as “sage” or “visionary,” let alone both simultaneously. But Farrell’s vampirically youthful spirit and consistency of quality is what keeps us locked in the habit after all these years.
Albums #11-20 on Page 2…