30. 4- Beyonce
29. The Dreamer, The Believer- Common
28. Just Once EP- How to Dress Well
27. Alien Observer- Grouper
26. Step Brothers- Don Trip & Starlito
25. Cole World: Sideline Story- J. Cole
24. Weekend at Burnies- Curren$y
23. Suck It and See- Arctic Monkeys
22. Celestial Lineage- Wolves in the Throne Room
21. The Whole Love- Wilco
20. Bad As Me- Tom Waits
19. Live, Love, A$AP- A$AP Rocky
18. Helplessness Blues- Fleet Foxes
17. 21- Adele
16. Wounded Rhymes- Lykke Li
15. Hilarious- Louis C.K.
14. Cults- Cults
13. Goblin- Tyler, the Creator
12. Tomboy- Panda Bear
11. Strange Mercy- St. Vincent
10. Parallax- Atlas Sound
9. Nostalgia, Ultra- Frank Ocean
8. House of Balloons- The Weeknd
7. Take Care- Drake
6. undun-The Roots
5. Father, Son, Holy Ghost- Girls
4. Dedication- Zomby
3. James Blake- James Blake
2. Watch the Throne- The Throne
#1 Bon Iver- Bon Iver
I’ll admit right now, I’m scared to write this review, terrified really. The reason for my fear is quite simple; no album was a bigger part of my life in 2011 than this one. From the moment I picked it up in the store, to the split-second I finished and pressed repeat, I was captivated. I connected with this album in a way I couldn’t with any other record this year. To me, writing this review marks the end of a year, and the album will never quite have the same importance again.
Bon Iver’s importance will only marginally diminish, given that it reads as the textbook example of a “perfect album.” The rippling waves of guitar on opener “Perth,” inform us this is a wholly new Bon Iver. Still subtle, but stronger. An echoing chorus soon escorts the line; a smooth snare drum beats in, paving the way for that voice. Even four years after his first album, I’m still mesmerized by that voice. It’s frail, yet sure of itself. “This is not a place,” he angelically sings. The puzzling line (one of many on the album) is endemic of the cover: familiar and foreign all the same.
The epic sweep is diminished by the slow crawl of “Minnesota, WI,” sporting well-timed horns and guitar lines. The third track “Holocene,” is one of the most beautiful tracks Bon Iver has crafted yet and warrants its Grammy nod. “Some way baby, its part of me, apart from me,” the song opens with. The line is so skillfully generalized that its empowerment or discouragement is entirely in the eye of the beholder. All of that is erased in the second verse where “3rd and Lake,” is recalled. “And at once I knew I was not magnificent,” the chorus goes, clinging to that place of pain for eternity.
Bon Iver has always been effective at detailing a relatable sense of yearning; it’s a cold wind blowing through the lonely log cabin he builds for himself. The lush orchestration drives that point home, where Bon Iver’s loneliness was once conveyed by a single voice and guitar; it is now amplified by massive choruses and slow-motion synthesizers. “I was unafraid, I was a boy, I was a tender age,” is the greeting we get on “Michicant.” This is an album so consumed with the past; the present is of little concern. The first thaw Bon Iver is waiting for on standout “Wash.” encapsulates everything this album is about. So many of us spend our time frozen in a moment, waiting for a day that may never come. “All been living alone,” is how “Wash.” ends, and its true. When we spend all our time waiting, nothing will ever come. Bon Iver knows that pain of waiting all too well. It’s an album that transcends time, but is at ease with moving right alongside it. It will always represent 2011 for me, even if it no longer sounds the same.
I hope you all enjoyed the list, 2011 was phenomenal year for music and I enjoyed every second of it. Look forward to more coverage and reviews from me throughout 2012, stay safe, and enjoy the musical ride wherever it may take you.