The Top 25 Albums of 2011

12/21/2011 4:01 AM |

J. Cole
Cole World: The Sideline Story
Key Track: “Rise and Shine”

Ever since we heard him upstage his mentor on Jay-Z’s “A Star Is Born” we knew this North Carolina native would fulfill that song’s promise. And sure, his major label debut—following several album-caliber mixtapes—makes some crossover concessions, but even those (like drippy serenade “Work Out” and Mariachi-sampling “Can’t Get Enough”) are strong, and burners like “Lost Ones” and “God’s Gift” confirm that a star is indeed born.

Atlas Sound
Key Track: “Mona Lisa”

Bradford Cox isn’t sheepish about flatly calling Deerhunter, “one of the greatest American rock groups of our time,” a boast that’s tough to dispute, actually. But his songwriting output always races past even their ability to cope. So it’s a great pleasure to hear how warm and assured his solo work—perpetual expressions of cold, anxious lonelines—have finally become. Why, what an inviting pain cave you’ve
got here!

Key Track: “Get Away”

Listening to Yuck is like hearing My Bloody Valentine’s shoegaze mixed with the Smashing Pumpkins woozy vibrations, with a dash of Dinosaur Jr.’s sprawling feedback. (There’s some Pavement’s “Father of a Sister of a Thought” in there, as well.) In other words, Yuck—both the band and the eponymous album—takes the best aspects of 90s indie rock to create something not quite groundbreaking, but youthful and affecting, with warm vocals buried under a fuzz of distortion. It’s an album-long homage to the music they love, without ever sounding like a tribute record.

Ty Segall
Goodbye Bread
Key track: “You Make The Sun Fry”

“It feels cool to be like, ‘Yeah, let’s turn the vocals up,’ because I actually like what I’m saying,” Segall quipped to Interview magazine, downplaying his former approach: “Oh, it’s a party song, it doesn’t matter.” Goodbye Bread references all sorts of Americana during its 30-some minutes, and this time you can actually hear it. Coup de Villes, California, getting married —they all get inverted through the guitar bashing, psych reeling, furious jubilance of the second-wave San Franciscan garage rocker, aka the party boy with the heart of gold.

Youth Lagoon
The Year of Hibernation
Key track: “July”

In January, no one knew who Trevor Powers was. By May, he had a song up on Bandcamp under the name Youth Lagoon; by July, he’d inked a record deal with Fat Possum; by September, found himself wrung through the gears of the ever merciless hype machine. And by December, the album in question,The Year of Hibernation, still sticks to the guts, its torched synth-pop contracting and expanding, a soundtrack for being small in a big world, a Bright Eyes album for today’s freshmen.

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