2011 was an awesome year for music. Artists from all genres released amazing works, and while we didn’t get around to listening to all of them, we like to think that these choices are the best of what the Library has to offer. In case you missed some, here are our favorite albums of 2011 (and if you loved something you got at the library this year and don’t see it on the list, tell us what in the comments!)
Florence + the Machine- Ceremonials This sophomore album from the ever magical Flo is chock full of romance, heartbreak and enough overwhelming vocals to please any fan. Try listening to ‘What The Water Gave Me,’ it and the rest of the album just prove, once again, that Florence IS a machine.
The Decemberists- The King is Dead Maybe its Colin Meloy’s exquisite vocabulary that speaks to the librarian in me, or maybe the roots-rock free for all sound, but this album stands apart from previous offerings as my favorite. And since that wasn’t sweet enough as it is, later in the year The Decemberists gave us Long Live the King; short and sweet, this mostly-acoustic love letter to Americana is a follow up to The King is Dead and the cherry on top of The Decemberists amazing year. Check out the awesome cover of Grateful Dead’s ‘Row Jimmy.’
The Civil Wars- Barton Hollow Say what you will about the growing popularity of duet acts, The Civil Wars’ inspired debut album crushes them all. With astounding, soulful harmonies and a folksy, southern blues sound, this (surprisingly unmarried) duo have taken the music world and my stereo by storm. For the full, goose-bump raising effect try the title track, ‘Barton Hollow.’
The Foo Fighters- Wasting Light Dave Grohl and the boys unleashed their rock might upon the world with Wasting Light, and the Rock Gods approved. No need to fast forward, just start at track one, ‘Bridge Burning,’ and listen until the end.
Adele- 21 With her retro-soulful style, astounding vocals and deeply moving lyrics Adele’s sophomore album is a heartbreaking testament to the creative power of love and loss. For a full shot of emotions and powerful sound try starting with ‘Rumour Has It.’
Rave on Buddy Holly A tribute CD of epic proportions, this homage to the Father of Rock released on what would have been his 75th birthday features offerings from a diverse and amazing range of talents. From Paul McCartney and Lou Reed to The Black Keys, She and Him, Cee Lo Green and Modest Mouse, the 19 tracks of this album prove that good music is timeless, and that rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay.
Ryan Adams- Ashes & Fire Adams makes his triumphant return to the land of new music with this personal, introspective album. Follow Mr. Adams into each song as he takes you on a ride through life as he sees it. Stay tuned till the final song, entitled ‘I Love You but I Don’t Know What to Say,’ a problem that everyone has run into in their life at some point.
Muppets: The Green Album Featuring artists from all parts of the music world this album proves what I’ve always known; The Muppets are the root of all good in the world. My Morning Jacket, Rachael Yamagata, Amy Lee, The Fray, Matt Nathanson and Weezer are just a few of those who take on the classic songs of our Muppet-fueled youth and breathe new life into them. For a taste try Ok Go’s strange and awesome rendition of ‘Muppet Show Theme Song,‘ or Andrew Bird’s touching version of ‘Bein’ Green.‘
Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues Fleet Foxes’ second album builds on the original sound they created for their debut. They continue to blend a harmony of voices while maintaining the beautiful rhythm that is their signature. They create an aura of sound that the ears really DO appreciate.
The Black Keys- El Camino A late comer to 2011’s best of list (I only managed to get an copy and listen to it last night), The Black Keys 7th album was well worth the wait. Running their own line somewhere between and beyond roots and glam rock, the guys cut loose with good, old fashion rock ’n’ roll that is reminiscent of the very best names in 60’s, 70’s and 80’s classic rock. If you’re a sucker for songs with hand-claps (and, oh, am I ever!) try listening to ‘Gold on the Ceiling.’
Gregg Allman- Low Country Blues Allman’s first record release since 2003 is a triumph of American blues sound. Built of heartfelt covers of vintage blues, the warm sound of Allman’s voice is full of down-home heartache just begging to be shared. Take a listen to the only new song on the album, ‘Just Another Rider,’ a clear sequel to the Allman Brothers’ ‘Midnight Rider’ for a try of this fantastic album.
Drive-by Truckers- Go-go Boots Drive-by Truckers continue to make great guitar driven, southern rock/country by combining great storytelling with a melody. All the tracks are great but start with ‘Used to be a Cop,’ and ‘Thanksgiving Filter,’ to gain a full appreciation.
Hugh Laurie- Let Them Talk Anyone who has watched House, M.D. over the years is aware that Hugh Laurie has a secret talent when it comes to music, but the BBC darling pulled out all the stops on his debut solo album. Being British hasn’t diminished his love of traditional blues and Let Them Talk is a homage to the music he loves. Listen to ‘Swanee River’ for a taste of Laurie’s piano driven flavor.
Mat Kearney-Young Love One of the rare albums this year which could easily play on repeat for the rest of my life, Young Love is the foot tapping 3rd CD from Kearney. Combining a mountain of singer/songwriter talent with a percussive, crowd pleasing pop sound this CD is the best of ALL worlds. I dare you not to sing and dance your way through ‘Hey Mama.
Laura is your friendly neighborhood Reference Guru and Eric works as a Super Library Assistant. You can visit Laura at the new Union Township Branch and Eric at the Amelia Branch.