My Favorite Albums of 2011

So like most music bloggers/writers, I feel it’s my duty to list my favorite albums of the past calendar year. The only problem is, is that even though I feel I have a decent knowledge about music, I’m not hip to everything that is out there. That is why this list is called MY FAVORITE ALBUMS, and not THE BEST ALBUMS. I haven’t heard all of the music that was released this year, so I cannot properly comment on those that I have not given a good listen to. Therefore, this will be a list of my ten favorite albums of the past year, listed in alphabetical order. Feel free to comment below whether you agree or disagree.

The List
The Black Keys
El Camino
Read my review here.

Booker T. JonesThe Road from Memphis
Read my review here.

the Head and the Heart the Head and the Heart
Read my review here.

Medeski Martin & Wood20
MMW has been together for 20 years, and to mark this milestone the band decided to release a collection of 20 brand new songs through their website (though you can find all of the songs on iTunes). As usual, the trio managed to produce an excellent collection of tunes that combine jazz, funk, gospel, blues, hip-hop, rock, latin, reggae, and avant-garde, to create what the band self-describes as “homeless music.” While it is not a retrospective, it does feel like one, with each song sounding like they would come from a certain album in MMW’s catalog. I highly recommend the album for fans of the band and those willing to experience some sonically brilliant music. My personal faves are “Down on Me,” “Fuck You Guys (first take),” “Stubborn Comfort,” and “Floodwaters.”

Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood – MSMW Live: In Case the World Changes Its Mind
Read my review here.

My Morning JacketCircuital
Since I’ve become a fan of My Morning Jacket, I’ve come to expect them to put out a high level of music with consistency. Circuital meets these expectations, and even though the highs are not nearly as high compared to its predecessor, Evil Urges, it’s a much more coherent album, failing to produce an overtly weak songs. All in all it’s a very good album that shows the band is continuing to try new musical ideas and sounds without sacrificing quality. My favorite tracks are “Circuital,” “First Light,” and “You Wanna Freak Out.”

Raphael SaadiqStone Rollin’
Directly building upon his previous release, The Way I See It, Saadiq continues on his quest to bring back the Motown sound, and succeeds thoroughly. Stone Rollin’ brings to mind the sound of the late 1960s/early 1970s, infusing the classic soul sound with a heavy dose of rock n’ roll and blues, creating a truly vintage, yet unique, sound. The album not only sounds great, but is incredibly fun to listen to, and for fans of ’60s soul and rock, it is a must get. I suggest “Heart Attack,” “Go to Hell,” and “Stone Rollin’.”

Sharon Jones & the Dap-KingsSoul Time!
This album is actually a collection of singles and B-sides and not really an album of new music. However, for most fans who do not collect 45s, or do not see the band live on a regular basis, most of these songs are brand new. No matter the case, the songs are fantastic, soulful, and funky as hell. And even though this is a collection, rather than an album, the record stands up to anything else the band has put out and fans of SJDK, and funk/soul in general, should have it. My favorites are “Longer and Stronger,” “What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes,” “Ain’t No Chimneys In The Projects,” and “New Shoes.”

WilcoThe Whole Love
I’ve only started to listen to the music of Wilco over the past two years, something I’m very upset about. And due to this fact, I’ve started listening to their music in a very non-chronological order. However, I know what I like by them, and I like this album. It has the classic mix of rock and country, with a bit of avant-garde, that most Wilco albums have, and though only a few songs really stand out, the entire album is incredibly solid. Really, it’s what you’d expect from Wilco at that point, but in a good way, and just a very enjoyable record. My favorites are “Art of Almost,” “Dawned on Me,” and “Whole Love.”

The Wood BrothersSmoke Ring Halo
This is the third time music by Chris Wood appears on this list, but unlike the MMW and MSMW albums, this is not a jazz album, but a folk-rock album with his brother, Oliver. It’s the third full-length release by The Wood Brothers, and it’s their best yet. Where their first two albums were quite constricted to sound like acoustic folk-rock, Smoke Ring Halo blows open the doors, producing a much fuller sound (likely due to the fact they have a full-time drummer now). The song-writing has also improved, giving me the impression that the band is finally reaching their potential and clicking on all cylinders. It’s truly a fantastic album and unless you hate anything that sounds folky, you should get it. My favorites are “Mary Anna,” “Shoofly Pie,” “Made It Up the Mountain,” and “Blue and Green.”

Other Albums I Liked
Alexi MurdochTowards The Sun

Ben FoldsThe Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears Scandalous

BleuBesides

North Mississippi AllstarsKeys to the Kingdom

Rich RobinsonThrough A Crooked Sun

The RootsUndun (I’ve actually been asked to review this by a friend, and I will, I just haven’t listened to it enough to properly do it.)


I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season, and if I don’t get around to posting before the end of the year, a Happy New Year to everyone! – J.F.

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