I’m still an avid music buyer. Whether it’s in my preferred format of CD, my emerging choice of vinyl when available or the last resort of digital, I’ve come across a lot of albums in 2011. This particular list is always the most challenging to compile at the end of the year because it usually involves me having had listened to a lot of music. Not even just listen to it but get to know the songs that make up these collections. The end result is a top 30 based on the records that I’ve heard, first of all. But those that I’ve listened to the most, enjoyed the most and most anticipate enjoying again into the future.
Unlike previous year’s lists (which you can find here), this year’s final 30 consist only of albums that I got in 2011. Some were released in 2010 but were otherwise new to me this year so there are no holdovers from last year. Had there been, I would have included Robyn, Ray LaMontagne and Nicki Minaj, among others on this list.
These are the 30 albums added to my collection this year that make up my favourite music of 2011.
Serena Ryder – Live
Serena Ryder releases a lot of energy with the strength of her voice that a studio recording is unable to fully capture. Her Live EP contains a few key performances that shows her incredible vocals including All For Love and Little Bit Of Red. There’s also a new studio recording with fellow vocal powerhouse Melissa Etheridge to top it off.
Bad Meets Evil – Hell: The Sequel
Blazing out more rhymes and verses with Eminem but this time he’s not alone. Royce da 5’9″ holds his own on this record and a lot of the time actually steals the spotlight from Eminem.
Jenn Grant – Honeymoon Punch
Jenn’s newest record takes the higher ground as she shows a happier side, complete with additional electro undertones on many of the album’s more upbeat tracks.
KT Tunstall – Live At The Wiltern
An awesome setlist makes up this live recording made exclusive to iTunes. The better halves from KT’s first two records are present here for a great mix of fun live music. Read my review here.
Lucinda Williams – Blessed
The Godmother of the broken heart can finally mend hers on her newest record. Lucinda is feeling Blessed with this collection of songs that hold her signature sound but show that she’s as pleased as we are.
Serena Ryder & The Beauties – EP
Just four songs, all covers, from this collaborative record between Serena Ryder and Toronto band The Beauties. They take a chance at doing Kylie Minogue‘s Slow, Jordin Sparks‘ No Air, Hank Williams‘ Ramblin’ Man and a particularly wonderful cover of the Band of Horses‘ The Funeral.
Gavin DeGraw – Sweeter
Providing much of what made his first album sweet with a dash of the second record’s slightly rockier sound results in this pop/rock record from Gavin DeGraw that everyone can relate to in some way. Read my review here.
Kelly Clarkson – Stronger
Stronger builds on Kelly‘s last album with more power pop anthems and signature ballads. A few key tracks on this record may stand the test of time where most of the record likely won’t but Stronger is a good pop album. Read my review here.
Jack’s Mannequin – People And Things
Delivering the same style of lighter rock in the vain of the lack two albums, Jack’s Mannequin is dependable for filling that niche between the need for something lighter that still counts as rock but that doesn’t quite qualify as pop.
Blue October – Any Man In America
Providing accounts of real life from the last couple of years, Any Man In America is a sort-of concept album representing fathers who’s children have been taken from them. The songs represent different scenarios along the timeline from custody battles to promising to always be there. Read my review here.
Chemical Brothers – Soundtrack: Hanna
One of the strongest aspects of Hanna was in the backdrop with the score. The music, provided by the Chemical Brothers, helped to emphasize the scenes perfectly and build the anticipation and intensity with ease.
Avril Lavigne – Goodbye Lullaby
Departing the saucy bratty persona of her last album for the most part, Avril Lavigne combines the sounds of her first two records for Goodbye Lullaby, resulting in a nice mixture of the catchy melodies from Let Go with the themes like those from Under My Skin. Read my review here.
Hey Rosetta! – Seeds
Further developing their own place on Canada’s music scene, Seeds presents the sound of Hey Rosetta as being unmistakably their own. They move beyond the standard east-coast sound by implementing instruments that aren’t traditionally associated with rock including their use of strings with very pleasant results.
Kate Maki – Moonshine
Kate Maki once again proves you don’t need high-tech equipment and computer software to capture musical magic. Kate and her band record live off the floor in the house with the result being great country ballads and jamming tunes. Read my review here.
Nicole Atkins – Mondo Amore
Imagery supported by dark layers of music and Nicole’s haunting voice reverberate through the headphones while this record plays. Mondo Amore is chilling, sometimes intense, sometimes sad but there’s never a dull moment with Nicole Atkins. Read my review here.
Tony Bennett – Duets II
If there’s one thing Tony Bennett is capable of on Duets II is his ability to bring out the best in all of the vocalists he duets with on this record. Singers one might not expect to be able to deliver alongside this legendary crooner surprise even the biggest doubter. Read my review here.
Whitehorse – Whitehorse
Husband and wife collaborate musically by contributing songs, singing and playing together on this roots/rock album. Both bring out the best in each other as they emphasize their best qualities on these recordings. Read my review here.
Brandi Carlile – Live At Benaroya Hall
It’s amazing how fresh and interesting a symphony can make familiar songs sound. Brandi Carlile with the Seattle Symphony are together doing songs from her last two albums and a few covers including an awesome one of Sixty Years On (Elton John). It’s the recreations of her own songs that sound so natural though like Pride And Joy and Before It Breaks. Read my review here.
Amy Winehouse – Lioness: Hidden Treasures
If there’s one thing this collection of songs by Amy Winehouse showcases is that she was authentically talented throughout her entire short recording career. From the recordings that preceded her first record to the most recent ones, her vocals were spot on and eased the soul and life that she lived. Read my review here.
Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
Never having been ones to give up the sound that made them one of rock’s more reliable bands, the Foo Fighters further emphasized their recording process with Wasting Light. Despite the waning of rock music in recent years, they continue to rock on with one of the year’s best albums. Rock lives! Read my review here.
Lissie – Catching A Tiger
Lissie blends a lot of the sounds that make up many other great singers and bands into this one album. There are hints of folk, pop, country and rock on Catching A Tiger. Read my review here.
Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne
Without saying that everything Kanye touches is gold, Watch The Throne is gold. Right from the album cover down to the music that emits from the speakers. Haunting classic rhythm & blues samples, middle eastern influences and sharing the spotlight with Jay-Z all make for a strong rap record. Read my review here.
Lindi Ortega – Little Red Boots
Flying under the radar with a great country record reminiscent of greats like Dolly and Emmylou. Little Red Boots is hopefully just the beginning for Lindi Ortega, who sounds like she lives and breathes country music judging by the album’s versatile tracks. Read my review here.
Decemberists – The King Is Dead
Adopting more of a traditional folk rock sound on The King Is Dead, featuring backing vocals by Gillian Welsh on many of the tracks, the Decemberists come out with a much more easy-to-digest album that might be their best one yet. Read my review here.
Sarah Slean – Land & Sea
Two discs, one consisting of Sarah‘s signature piano pop with production by Joel Plaskett, and one placing her intricate songwriting over a classical backing. Each disc accentuates two of Sarah’s strong points, the imagery in her writing and catchy melodies, and they meet with her vocals. Read my review here.
Lori McKenna – Lorraine
I lied about having no carryovers from last year’s list. Lori McKenna did have a placement in last year’s Top 30 but Lorraine was officially released in January 2011. The album contains striking lyrics that offer perspective during specific periods of life, death and family. Read my review here.
Catherine MacLellan – Silhouette
Catherine MacLellan expanded on her folk sound from her previous record by building on her ability to create memorable melodies and mixing them with more developed and detailed recordings. She does this without sacrificing those aspects that made her previous recordings so wonderful. Read my review here.
Lady GaGa – Born This Way
No matter how polarizing Lady GaGa is, Born This Way will become a standard of music marketing for years to come, both with what can be done during promotion and perhaps what not to do. Even if the record failed to live up to its nearly impossible expectations, the message and delivery is still impossible to ignore. Lyrically simplistic but musically fascinating, Born This Way has many qualities that make it a fantastic record. It and some of its songs will eventually be placed within the contexts of pop culture and music history. Read my review here.
Adele – 21
The year’s biggest success story comes in the form of one first name: Adele. 21 is an album of heartbreak that has broken records and received monumental amounts of attention since its release in early 2011. Her strongest point is with her vocals that can show off what she needs to fully reveal the meaning behind the lyrics. Each song on the record has the potential to become its own individual classic not unlike albums like Tapestry and Rumours. Read my review here.
Florence & The Machine – Ceremonials
Trying to find anything against Ceremonials is a difficult task. Detailed production, flawless vocals, songs that work together as a cohesive record yet can also stand alone as distinct individual tracks. In a year where the best record was tough to choose, the final choice goes to the one that has the most consistency and fewest flaws. Ceremonials is an instant classic and may provide the basis for the next era of mainstream pop music. Read my review here.