Freelance writer based in Sydney's heart, event enthusiast and founder/editor of growing sports syndicate 'Injury Time' www.injurytime.net.
Published November 29th 2011
So we're officially into the final month of 2011, so when better to have a look back over the best albums to hit the charts in the past year!
10. Making Mirrors, Gotye
Aussie-Belgian indie pop sensation Gotye, aka Wally De Backer, rocked the musical world with his new album Making Mirrors. Many will say the album is only popular because of the international hit Somebody I Used to Know, but if you listen to it in full you'll see it's more than a one track album. Tracks like Movin' on Up depict Gotye's old school soul sound and proves he has a lot more to offer in terms of range. In fact, that's what this album is about, not one distinctive sound, but many that really emphasize this lad's ability. Don't feel scarred to jump on the bandwagon, cause it's worth the ride.
Ah, Mr. Breezy. Up until April this year, the last big hit CB had was the one he put on Rihanna, I'm sorry couldn't resist. But credit where it's due, because this album is a response to all the haters out there. He took on a bit of an electric feel (pardon the pun) this time around (Beautiful People, Yeah 3X) and in my opinion there is a little bit too much autotune in this album. But remembering what has happened over the past few years, this is a very strong piece of work that many thought would have been impossible.
8. Lasers, Lupe Fiasco
An album that took its time but finally came, Lupe Fiasco returned this year with Lasers. This is a wonderful album that deals with a range of societal issues like racism (All Black Everything), war (Words I Never Said) and politics (State Run Radio). The lyrics are golden, if not a little bit clumsy here and there, but work well with the dark beats and melodies that accompany. But we also get some fun loving tracks in Out Of My Head and Coming Up, which feature hooks on top of hooks that will get you tapping your feet constantly.
7. Pala, Friendly Fires
Don't be surprised if you haven't quite heard much on British three-piece Friendly Fires, but consider yourself warned and go buy this album. Filled with pop-synths, electric riffs and magical vocals from Ed Macfarlane, this is THE summer soundtrack. It's quite a unique sound and on tracks like Blue Cassette and Hawaiian Air, you really get a feel of what these boys are about. Live Those Days Tonight, their first single, is the perfect summary of the album – melodic bass beats, a heavy piano hook and a chorus that is made of rainbows, you read that right.
6. Rolling Papers, Wiz Khalifa
On the back of the epic Black and Yellow which has over 100 million views on YouTube, Rolling Papers is the first studio album from Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa. The 14-track debut is actually a fun mix of drab, heavy hip hop beats and funky, subtle pop influence. No Sleep is a great example; Wiz is at his rapping best in the verses, whilst he turns to singing for the chorus which is surprisingly catchy and includes some tempting synth. This is mood music when your, let's say 'chilling' with mates and taking life in. Not your stereotyped hip hop album and that's what separates it from the rest.
5. Mylo Xlyoto, Coldplay
Before you hate, if you didn't already know, Mylo Xlyoto is very much a concept album with a storyline that is told throughout the music. Take that into consideration and then listen to it, preferably from start to finish. I must say when I heard first single Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall, I wasn't too impressed. But for me that track is actually one of the weaker on this album. This album is full of great songs and is no doubt the most intimate piece of work from Coldplay (Us Against The World, U.F.O.). Charlie Brown and Paradise are extremely catchy and feature that constant drum beat and acoustic melody. Don't judge a book on its cover.
What a comeback it has to be said. Sure, it may have seemed like the Foo never left, but there is no doubt that there was a different feel in the lead up with guys like former Nirvana guitarist, Pat Smear, rejoining the band. It's a heavy, heavy album and you're constantly on the end of killer riffs and punchy snares. Frontman Dave Grohl's vocals peak in tracks like These Days, whilst White Limo is an example of how full on some of the music is. Buy this album and play it LOUD, the only way it should be played.
3. Watch The Throne, Jay Z & Kanye West
When two hip hop legends collide what do you get? If this album is anything to go off, you get a masterpiece. I can't say I wasn't sceptical when I heard Jay Z and Kanye were doing a joint album, but they make a crazy good duo. And it's more than just the vocals, remember these two lads are amazing producers and you can tell in this work. Songs like Murder in Excellence and Lift Off (which features amazing work on Beyonce's part), emphasise that the duo know how to collaborate hard lyrics with infectious beats. Tracks like Otis add a bit of fun with pulsating piano, dark hooks and deep bass a highlight in Why I Love You and The Joy.
2. Torches, Foster The People
In my own opinion this is probably my favourite record of 2011 hands down. Foster The People burst onto the scene with their global phenomenon, Pumped Up Kicks. Masterminded by the genius that is Mark Foster, FTP has a new-edge feel of modern day pop. Call It What You Want is the standout for me – a sumptuous piano hook amid bopping snares makes for a perfect piece of music. Meanwhile, Waste and I Would Do Anything For You convey that Foster do have a soft spot. Houndini is a close second for best track and for all the upbeat, melodic, synth-driven thuds, the album itself is quite dark lyrically. But in saying that, there is a song for everyone and this album really is a must for musical-enthusiasts.
When you release an album that tops the charts around the world at the start and end of a year, you've clearly done something right. That is exactly what Adele has done with her second album, 21, which currently sits in the top ten iTunes Albums in over twenty countries worldwide – that's after releasing in January. The sheer raw talent and control Adele has with her voice is truly amazing (Rolling In The Deep); and if you listen to tracks from her first album 19 and then 21, you can hear how her vocals have improved. Whilst she's copped some criticism as being too mellow, songs like I'll Be Waiting depict her ability to take it up a level and embrace a more melodic, bubbly beat. There are also some freakish similarities between Adele and the late Amy Winehouse which is no small feat. At the young age of 23, Adele already has the world at her feet and can easily make an even bigger splash in years to come.
So there's my top ten albums of 2011, with Adele coming out on top. What do you think? Who did I miss? Which album I your number one? Let us know in the comments section!
Three of my favourite artists/bands released albums this year; Radiohead with King of Limbs, The Strokes with Angles and Tom Waits with Bad as Me; they are all brilliant albums - I also quite enjoyed the latest from the Arctic Monkeys - Suck It And See.