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Top 11 Albums of 2011

With 2011 behind us, it’s time to reflect on the year in music. Personally, I think it was one of the strongest years in music in quite a while. There were some fantastic debuts, incredible sophomore albums, and artists who completely changed their sound for the better. Also, there was the element of nostalgia this past year with the returns of Blink-182 and the Beastie Boys. After deliberating with my Dreamland colleagues Jon Godfrey and Chris Elliott, as well as talking with Dreamland readers, we have constructed a list of the best albums of 2011 in all different genres. These are in no particular order, as I don’t think it’s right to rank an album from one genre higher or lower than another genre. Feel free to give us your input pertaining to any albums you think we may have missed.

Adele – “21″

It’s hard not to include this album on our list, as it’s the best-selling album in 7 years. Everything about Adele is just classic. Her soulful voice is one of the best the industry has seen since its glory days, and she is a perfect role model for young girls. With hit after hit coming out of this album, it seems inevitable that Adele is going to be raking in the Grammy’s in February. Her lyrics speak of loss and heartbreak, and her voice simply sends chills down your spine. We have not seen someone like this in music for quite a while, and it’s refreshing to say the least. Also, if you’re going through a breakup, there is no album better than this one.

Drake – “Take Care”

Not only is it Toronto’s official soundtrack, it is also one the world’s top grossing albums of the year. The reasoning behind such success? Location, location, location! I kid, despite the fact that the album was recorded in the YYZ its true brilliance is found within its honesty. On Take Care Drake revealed a softer side and peppered it with vulgarity.  Chaos with a dash of crooning that reminded us all of the strength within weakness. “We live in a generation of, not being in love, and not being together… but we sure make it feel like we’re together. Because we’re scared to see each other with somebody else.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Bon Iver – “Bon Iver”

Mark me down as one of the people who thought it would be impossible for Bon Iver to even come close to matching his debut record “For Emma, Forever Ago.” It’s one of  my favourite records in the past few years, but this sophomore effort was phenomenal as well. Bon Iver uses a more complete sound, as this one wasn’t recorded in a secluded cabin in the woods. The vocals are the strongest aspect of the album,  especially when his magnificent falsetto is featured. The only flaw on this album is the closing track ‘Beth/Rest’ which I found incredibly weak, and feel the record would be better off if it was eliminated.

The Lonely Island – “Turtleneck and Chain”

The dudes came back for the 2nd time, and more outlandish than ever. Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer and a handful of famous friends  successfully put together another classic “Joke-Rap” album with their release of Turtleneck and Chain. The music video to the disc’s most popular single “Jack Sparrow” (featuring Michael Bolton), garnered a tremendous amount of attention on youtube with views exceeding a whopping 60,000,000. With no radio play or major marketing the album astonishingly entered the US hot 200 at #3 and the US Rap charts at #1. With the quality of writing, solid production and undeniably incoherent-coherency throughout the boys managed to remain innovative while delivering fans exactly what they were hoping for.

Jay-Z and Kanye West – “Watch The Throne”

When 1 genius crafts his best work, people pay attention. When 2 geniuses collaborate, the world stops. This was certainly the case when it came to Jay-Z and Kanye West’s powerful release “Watch The Throne”. This album provided fans a 50/50 mixture of their individual styles and influences while remaining completely enjoyable to listen to. The smash success of both official singles “Otis” and “Niggas In Paris” earned the two hip-hop heavyweights even more records and credentials with the US Billboard than before. Patience, perfection and penmanship made this album the masterpiece that it will always remain.

Common – “The Dreamer, The Believer”

Skill, charisma, consistency. Embodying the said qualities Common is hip-hop’s triple threat. On his 9th studio album (The Dreamer, The Believer), Com steps out of his comfort zone and element for quite arguably the best 12 songs of his illustreous career. Backed by long-time friend and producer No I.D, his vision and message remain clear as ever. Though the album’s first week sales of only 69,000 copies didn’t shake up the music industry financially, certain songs on the LP (namely the Drake directed “Sweat”) definitely made it impossible for his presence to go unnoticed. Congratulations, Com!

Lil Wayne – “Tha Carter IV”

As an artist ages and their collection grows they’re forced to explore; deeper, farther, or closer to the core. Weezy travelled that trifecta and then went off to Mars. With the Carter IV he made an anthology out of the sounds and styles he’d learned in his lengthy recording life. An insane ride and a smooth one, the fourth installment in his crack factory series is certainly a testament to polish. He’s made gangsta rap radio friendly. He’s snuck a million metaphors under the floors of censorship, and for that we celebrate his accomplishments.

Bjork – “Biophilia”

When it comes to creativity there is no artist more so than Bjork. She embodies music in its essence and Biophilia is a perfect example of this fact. Four years since her last venture, Biophilia is a return to roots, (those of the world that is). For this effort Bjork uses crystal and other organic audio to construct her soundtrack. Her powerful voice flutters from beginning to end to spell the soul of the earth. It’s an incredible undertaking, and one only she could perform properly. God bless her, and may her music live on forever.

Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues”

‘I was raised up believing I was somehow unique, like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes unique in each way you can see.’ It’s lyrics like this that set the Fleet Foxes apart from the rest of the folk genre. Aside from the lyrics, the vocals and harmonies are intricate and finely-tuned, while the instrumentation is nearly perfect. In comparison to their debut album, where many of the songs sounded similar, each song on this record is different, and better produced than the first album. If you’re a fan of folk music, this is one of the albums you need to have in your library.

Reader’s Choice

City and Colour – “Little Hell”

Dallas Green took a big step with his third solo album away from Alexisonfire. On his first two efforts, he stuck to mostly just his magical voice and an acoustic guitar. However, on ‘Little Hell’ Dallas adopts the full band mentality and this change was met with mixed reviews. Some despised it, while others (like myself) welcomed this change and respected the change in direction. This was always what City and Colour was supposed to become, and I can’t help but wonder where this project will go next. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, whether or not you’re a fan of the man, there’s no doubting that Dallas Green has one of the best male voices of our generation.

Blink-182 – “Neighborhoods”

I’m glad the readers wanted this album to be featured, because I love writing about it. After an eight year hiatus, Blink-182 returned with their comeback record ‘Neighborhoods.’ It took a lot of flack for being “too depressing”, but if you listened to their self-titled record, this album is a clear progression from there. The lyrics come from a very dark place as all three members have overcome major obstacles and suffering in the past few years. Hearing Mark and Tom together again on the same record was amazing to say the least, and this album features Travis Barker’s drumming at its very best. ‘Neighborhoods’ is a combination of everything Mark, Tom and Travis have done over the years wrapped into one unusually mature, dark and melodic package.

Honourable Mentions: Foster the People ‘Torches,’ The Black Keys ‘El Camino,’ Arkells ‘Michigan Left,’ The Civil Wars ‘Barton Hollow,’ Wale ‘Ambition.’ The Weeknd, ‘House of Balloons,’ Mac Miller, ‘Blue Slide Park,’ Game, ‘The R.E.D. Album,’ Action Bronson, ‘Well Done,’ Eminem & Royce Da 5’9 ‘Bad Meets Evil,’ Stevie Crooks ‘VLNS NVR DIE,’


  • Anonymous

    Ryan you did an amazing job putting this together. From creating the idea to pushing to get it done you proved to me that you are serious about your ideas. I’m always here to help and was more than happy to this round. Keep it up!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ryan-Hancock/510667721 Ryan Hancock

      Thanks brotha! Thanks for all the help putting this together, I definitely needed it.

  • Chris Elliott

    I know I’m late but, I just have to say this piece came together wonderfully. So happy to be a part of it and I’m glad it stirred up a bunch of controversy. Let’s do it again next year!

    • http://twitter.com/ryanhancock9 Ryan Hancock

      Yes! I love that people are disagreeing with a ton of our picks, make for conversation and good arguments. We’re definitely doing this again next year.

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