Wednesday, 28 December 2011

2011 in Review: Favorite Albums

The Finalists

My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys



I'll admit, this album shouldn't (technically) be on this list, since it came out all the way back in November last year. But in a month filled with big name releases from the likes of Rihanna and Kanye West, this release was all but eclipsed. So it wasn't until early this year, after all the dust had settled, did I finally discover this record. And I've been smiling ever since. If you're a fan of the band, or a headbanger looking to add new music to your collection, then look no further. Highlights include Sing, Bulletproof Heart and Party Poison.

Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch The Throne


Easily one of the most anticipated albums of the year. And boy did it deliver. The fact that the first single, H.A.M., was relegated to a bonus track on the Deluxe Edition should tell you something about the caliber of sounds on this album. Put simply: there isn't a single track here that you wouldn't immediately love. Feeling more like an extension of Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy than anything else, this album is my favorite collaborative album since Jay-Z & Linkin Park's Collision Course. Highlights include No Church in the Wild, That's My Bitch and Made in America.

Various Artists - The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1


The one thing I've always loved about the Twilight movies is the associated music. Some of my favorite songs in the past three years have been spawned by these movies. Songs like Decode by Paramore, I Belong to You by Muse, and Ours by The Bravery. This most recent addition to the franchise is no different. And while I am still yet to see the movie (been avoiding it like the plague you see), I can honestly say that the soundtrack is every bit as solid as anything else out there. Highlights include Turning Page by Sleeping At Last, It Will Rain by Bruno Mars, and A Thousand Years by Christina Perri.

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light


Ever since the song The Pretender became one of my all-time favorites, I'd been sold on getting the next Foo Fighters record, even if they had recorded it inside a well, in the middle of a snowstorm. Thankfully they hadn't. Still had to wait four years though. But it was well worth the wait (no pun intended). And from the very first listen, I could already tell this was a major contender at next year's Grammy Awards. Highlights include Rope, White Limo and Walk.

LMFAO - Sorry for Party Rocking


While it can be argued that this album was nowhere near as praise-worthy as their Grammy-nominated debut, I still feel it was a step in the right direction. If you can look beyond the borderline ridiculous lyrics and subject matter, what you'll find here is an overall well-made collection of club bangers. And I think the success of Party Rock Anthem more than proves my point. Highlights include Sexy and I know It, Champagne Showers and With You.

Foster the People - Torches


This is one album I can never get tired of listening to. After the breakaway success of Pumped Up Kicks and their self-titled EP, many wondered if this band could deliver the goods when it came to a full-length album. Quite possibly the most impressive debut I've heard in years, Torches is an album that begs to be kept on constant repeat. What first struck me was the fact that every single song was instantly catchy, a slight departure from the norm when compared to offerings from other indie rock bands. In retrospect, it is clear that this is due to lead singer Mark Foster's songwriting (he used to write jingles) and an impressive lineup of big name producers (Paul Epworth anyone?). Highlights include Helena Beat, Pumped Up Kicks, Call It What You Want, Waste and Miss You.

Adele - 21


Relationships gone bad: that's one of the most heartfelt subject matters in popular music. Because let's face it, we've all had our hearts broken by a special someone at some point in time. And I believe that no other album this year captured that sense of heartbreak as sincerely as Adele's 21. It immediately became apparent that every single song on this record is a retelling of her experiences with love, heartbreak and everything in between. I mean, why else would it resonant with so many people, translating into one of the most successful albums in recent history. Highlights include Set Fire to the Rain, Someone Like You and I'll Be Waiting.

Lady Gaga - Born This Way


If ever considered overrated or under-talented, then I think this was the record where Lady Gaga proved to the world her success was no fluke. After all, three consecutive Album of the Year Grammy nominations have to count for something, right? And by the way, Grammy board members, if she fails to take home the big one this time around, then you'd be directly held responsible for starting World War III. I am not a Little Monster myself, but I've been a fan from the moment I watched her ascend from the swimming pool at the beginning of the Poker Face video. This album is filled with such epic moments, so much so that I can't even list any in particular without risking leaving out another.

Example - Playing in the Shadows


Every once in a while, a record drops and you find yourself up at two in the morning, singing along at the top of your lungs. And then you wake up in the afternoon, only to resume where you left off (subjecting your next door neighbors to more torment). For me, Example's Playing in the Shadows was that record. The British rapper's third album is much darker than the light-hearted Won't Go Quietly, but still manages to be every bit as infectious, perhaps more so. Highlights include Stay Awake, Changed The Way You Kiss Me, Natural Disaster and Midnight Run.

Florence + The  Machine - Ceremonials


This was the record that cemented Paul Epworth's position as one of my favorite producers. He produced every single track, resulting in an album that sounds miles ahead of its peers. Add to this Florence Welsh's pitch-perfect, arena-filling vocals and you get something close to sonic perfection. This is how you make a follow up record; bigger, bolder and every bit as ground-breaking as the critically-acclaimed Lungs. Highlights include Breaking Down, Heartlines and Spectrum.


And the winner is...

Lady Gaga - Born This Way


What? Don't tell me you didn't see this coming? Well, what can I say? No other album delivered on all fronts like this one. First off, there's Miss Germinata's songwriting, which has never been as strong and as heartfelt. Then there's the production, spearheaded by none other than Gaga herself, with the likes of Red One and Fernando Garibay helping define the 80s-themed instrumentals. And finally, her vocal prowess, which is on full display and always on point. All these things come together beautifully to create the definitive Gaga record. Don't believe me? Then I suggest you give a listen to the opening instrumentals on Black Jesus † Amen Fashion, then tell me if you still feel otherwise.

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