Jeremy Larson's third full length is a stunning achievement. A song cycle through life, love and loss that Larson wrote, produced and played most everything on, including those strings that sound like a full orchestra backing him. Nope, that is Larson meticulously recording every string part himself and building an orchestra of one. A simply beautiful album and his best. My full review is here.
Mark Ronson helped Duran Duran sound like Duran Duran again with the comeback album of the year.This is what the follow-up to "Rio" should have sounded like and to get that album in 2011 was a thrill. The classic Duran Duran sound, yet sounding fresh and current at the same time. How wonderful to have these pop music legends back and relevant again. My full review is here.
The biggest band in Ireland not named U2 came through with their best album yet with "Bloodless Coup". Filled with swooning ballads, electronic influenced pop and rock and Paul Noonan's continued lyrical mastery, Bell X1 expanded their sound and delivered the goods yet again. My full review is here.
Let me play music snob for a minute. I reviewed this album about a month before it was released and turned Adele into the biggest music star of the year. I knew this album was going to be big, but even I didn't expect Adele to become such a star I'd actually start to get sick of hearing some of these songs. But it is nice to see a true talent selling millions of records and dominating radio for once, and long after the hype has died down this will still be a great album. And I'll still never forget seeing her live this year in a small theater because it'll probably be the only time she plays somewhere like that locally again. My full review is here.
This one came out later in the year, but I knew from the first listen this was bound to be one of my favorite albums of the year. Ben Cooper returned under his Radical Face pseudonym with another folk/pop masterpiece. Chock full of melodic acoustic and piano based music, this is a compelling listen from start to finish.
More great music coming out of Ireland, this time of the folk/pop variety. With his mesmerizing voice, James Vincent McMorrow is in complete command of his craft on his debut album. Spectacular all the way through and one to watch for years to come. My full review is here.
New Jersey's Pat Grossi created an album that haunted me upon first listen. His angelic falsetto soars over a mix of 80's synth pop, his ethereal harp lines, various current day electronic genres and classical and ambient touches. The heartbreaking "Hanging On" is what led me to check this album out and I was floored all the way to the end with the knockout punch coming in the form of the icy cool gorgeousness of "Johnny Belinda". Stunning. My full review is here.
Justin Vernon avoided the sophomore slump with a better album than his debut, opening up Bon Iver to a more collaborative effort in the studio. A warm, masterful work and I've yet to find a more gorgeous song released in 2011 than "Holocene". My full review is here.
One of the first 2011 releases I checked out back in January and it never let go of its hold on me. The Portland, Oregon band led by Al James draws from folk, country and rock influences and "The Unfazed" is their masterpiece. An exploration of the end of a relationship that is both deeply personal and highly relatable, by the end of the album hope is restored by the wonderment of falling in love again on "How Is It". My full review is here.
The Envy Corps have started selling a tongue in cheek t-shirt declaring themselves 'Radiohead for Coldplay fans'. Yes it's funny, and somewhat true, but "It Culls You" is also better than the 2011 releases from either of those bands. Luke Pettipoole leads the way with crunching bass work on this scintillating album that delves into funky grooves while still firmly entrenched in the melodic indie pop/rock world the band excels in. "Give It (All) Up" and "In The Summer" lead a fine group of ballads contained here as well. "It Culls You" staggered me on first listen and continues to with its brilliance. My full review is here.