BY BILL WALKER
Just thought I'd share my list of favorite/top albums and songs of 2011. I'm constantly amazed at the garbage getting played on mainstream radio while all the great music is consistently hidden from the public. I'd love to hear your comments and criticisms. I've included some words about my favorite albums and songs and listed some other must-hears from 2011. P.S. My top four albums could be interchanged at any other position. The standings are as of right now.
8) W H O K I L L -- TuneYards
Undoubtedly the most experimentally rewarding album of the year. Think Tracy Chapman experimenting with Paul Simon and adding energy. Merrill Garbus fills every moment with sounds and silences that tap your feet and open your eyes to a different world. Key tracks: You Yes You, My Country, Gangsta.
7) Jay-Z and Kanye West -- Watch the Throne
The super duo puts out the hip-hop album of the year, turning everything from a sample of Otis Redding to a line from Blades of Glory, the much-awaited album balances the obscenities of wealth associated with today's hip hop and the class of a music historian. Key tracks: Otis, Niggas in Paris, That's My Bitch, No Church in the Wild.
6) Ryan Adams -- Ashes and Fire
After getting married and sober, Adams put out a solid set of songs concluding with two of my favorites from the year. It's melancholy, joyful and unexperimental. Adams at sentimental best. Key tracks: Ashes and Fire, Lucky Now, Kindness, I Love You But I Don't Know What to Say.
5) Adele -- 21
There's not much more I can add about this album that hasn't already been said. It's as good a pop album produced in a decade. The songwriting fits Adele's style to a T and leaves you dancing with a broken heart. Key tracks: Rumour Has It, Someone Like You, Rolling in the Deep.
4) Wilco -- The Whole Love
From a band which has grown into perhaps the greatest, most talented and most proficient from America, this album touches all bases. Opening with a blazing experimental rock track and ending with a beautiful sentimental ballad, The Whole Love leaves an imprint in your heart. Key tracks: Art of Almost, I Might, The Whole Love, Born Alone, Dawned on Me, One Sunday Morning.
3) Bon Iver -- Bon Iver
Bon Iver's first release is probably my favorite album in the past 10 years. It strolls through the melancholy and heartbreak with minimalist beauty. The second full length album from Justin Vernon is hardly minimalist. It evokes the sounds of Vernon's heart, but mixes the anthemic sound of a band like Coldplay and doesn't lose the heartfelt meaning. An unforgettable record. Key tracks: Perth, Holocene, Calgary, Towers, Michicant.
2) Fleet Foxes -- Helplessness Blues
When the Fleet Foxes floated onto the scene in 2008, their debut album was lauded as a vocally symphonic beauty. Robin Pecknold's sole was bore in the album and made him an indie star. Helplessness Blues recalls every bit of that musical perfection (in the shadows of Simon and Garfunkel) and teaches us that stardom may not be what it's cracked up to be. Key tracks: Montezuma, Helplessness Blues, Grown Ocean, Sim Sala Bim, The Plains/Bitter Dancer.
1) The Black Keys -- El Camino
The past seven albums would have made 2011 a fantastic year for music. Then came December and the Black Keys. Oh my. Has there been a single like Lonely Boy that has grabbed you that strongly? Has an album shaken you to dance with every single note and found so many ways to make you say "Damn!"? Hands down the rock album of the year. Key tracks: The Lonely Boy, Gold on the Ceiling, Dead and Gone, Little Black Submarines, Run Right Back, Hell of a Season.
Must-Listen Albums (Favorite tracks)
-Foo Fighters -- Wasting Light (Rosemary, Bridge Burning)
-Girls -- Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Honey Bunny, Vomit)
-The Strokes -- Angles (Taken for a Fool)
-Tom Waits -- Bad As Me (Chicago, Bad as Me)
-The Decemberists -- The King is Dead (Calamity Song, January Hymn, Don't Carry it All)
-Anthony David -- As Above, So Below
-Coldplay -- Mylo Xyloto (Paradise, Princess of China)
-Ha Ha Tonka -- Death of a Decade (Usual Suspects)
-Wanda Jackson -- The Party Ain't Over
-Blitzen Trapper -- American Goldwing
-Hotels & Highways -- Lost River (Train Whistle)
-Paul Simon -- So Beautiful or So What
-Cults -- Cults (Abducted, Go Outside)
-Wye Oak -- Civilian
-Alabama Shakes -- Alabama Shakes EP (Look for this group to hit it BIG) (Hold On)
-Raphael Saadiq -- Stone Rollin (Stone Rollin, Good Man)
-Gary Clark, Jr. -- Bright Lights EP (Bright Lights)
-Drake -- Take Care (Take Care)
-M83 -- Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (Midnight City, Splendor)
-The Roots -- Undun (The Other Side)