Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Alaina's Top 10 of 2011

When I was invited to be a part of the "Best Albums of 2011," I was excited. And honored. And immediately aware of how little I'd ventured out musically this year.

In early 2011, I was introduced to something Joel Goodman has classified for me as "beard folk." I spent the year immersed in the Avett Brothers, the Civil Wars, Mumford and Sons, the Decemberistsalmost none of which offered albums in 2011. Initially I thought compiling a "best of" list for the year would be nearly impossible. Instead, the challenge led me to listen to new music and find some new favorites.

My personal list of Top 10 Albums took some soul searching to finalize. If left to my own devices I'd likely reorder and edit it a few more times before 2012.

10. "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn" - Various Artists

I am prepared for the inevitable flack for this choice, but let me say this: Love or hate the "Twilight Saga," you can always count on the movies' soundtracks to expose little-known artists to the world of mainstream music. Some of my favorite artists of the moment were introduced to me on previous Twilight soundtracks (Mutemath included). This album is a little more heavy on the popular artists and a little lighter on indie/moody/melancholic tracks that I've come to expect from the franchise, but I'm still going to endorse it.

9. "The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective" - Ben Folds

I'm not sure how to describe the experience you get at a Ben Folds live show. He has an energy and a joy that's contagious, and a way of improvising composition that's nothing short of magical. This retrospective offers a glimpse into the fun and the storytelling, and gives longtime fans a few new Ben Folds Five recordings.

8. "21" - Adele

What a voice. On "21," it's a heartbroken, soulful, and haunting voice. I do wish there was a little more variety in the mood and story, but I have to respect that she had a very clear message here.

7. "Mylo Xyloto" - Coldplay

I'm always skeptical of a new Coldplay album. The singles are often overplayed and then the world becomes collectively sick of Coldplay all over again. But, with each new album, I remember that at the root of it all, Coldplay is good. At least I think so. And say what you will, but I've yet to own a Coldplay album that doesn't make me feel good to listen to.

6. "Codes and Keys" - Deathcab for Cutie

Deathcab is one of those bands whose albums always grow on me. "Codes and Keys" is no exception. Alsoand I feel it's okay to share this considering the audience hereI love the cover. What Twitter nerd doesn't get excited about a giant hash mark?

5. "Ceremonials" - Florence + The Machine

Florence means business. Always. "Ceremonials" followed "Lungs," which is a hard act to follow. It didn't disappoint. The music of Florence + The Machine just feels epic. Big. Amazing vocals with background choirs and symphonies (or at least what feels like it to me).

4. "Odd Soul" - Mutemath

When music is described as "synth-dance," I don't expect to like it immediately. "Odd Soul" is more diverse than what I expected, and I absolutely did like it immediately.

3. "Torches" - Foster the People

I'm not even sure why I first listened to "Torches." The single "Pumped Up Kicks" has been everywhere this year and, to be honest, I got pretty sick of it. I'm glad I gave this album a chance, though. While the single is good, the rest of the album is better. It's fun, it's energetic, and it's interesting.

2. "The King is Dead" - The Decemberists

Oh, how I fought listening to this album. And then I fought liking this album. Something about your husband listening to it over and over makes it feel annoying. He was right to push it on me, though. I've heard some say (Tim Nekritz) that the album is overrated and others say that it's amazing. For me, it's got just enough of a folky feel for the musical mood I've been in this year. It just feels good.

1. "Barton Hollow" - The Civil Wars

Beautiful, powerful, and absorbing. This album is great from start to finish. No matter how much time has passed since I listened to it last, "Barton Hollow" draws me in every time. Each song can stand on its own, but as a whole this album is amazing.


  1. Some good picks here, Alaina, although I would rogue with the order. I didn't listen to the new Mute Math, "Barton Hollow" was decent (made my top 50, barely) and as for the Twilight soundtrack, well, I haven't hd much to do with anything related to vampires since they took "Dark Shadows" off the air. :)

    But Foster the People and the Decemberists are in their rightful place.

    Thanks for joining us!

  2. I will not force you to listen to a Twilight soundtrack. In fact, if you're going to start, please don't start with this one! It's mostly on my list because I have an emotional attachment to the musical collection as a whole (not the movies so much).

    And "Dark Shadows" is vaguely familiar. I'm off to Google...

  3. You totally called me out in your countdown. It's a good thing I like you or something. But hooray for beard folk!

  4. I did, Tim. And I'm almost sorry. I was actually in your camp on the Decemberists' album until I was inundated with the thing. I will, though, always thank your for The Avett Brothers. Maybe they'll put out a great album in 2012 and I can say nice things about you next year.

  5. Glad you're aboard, Alaina. Even if you recommend Twilight. ;) I don't understand why sparkly vampires need such a good soundtrack but the last one was good too.