Category Archives: Best of 2011

#10: James Blake – James Blake

James Blake turned 22 this year. It’s hard to believe that when you hear his debut self-titled album. One of the first few words that would come to mind are mature, experienced, and professional.

James marched on to the scene this year after creating buzz as the runner-up in the BBC ‘Sound of 2011′ poll in the UK. Although he is classified as a “dub-step” artist, I’d like to think that he is a whole lot more. He’s eclectic and versatile to say the least.

I expect to see a lot more from Mr. Blake in the coming years. I think we have a breakout International star in the making here.

Here is a video of one of the best songs of 2011, which happens to be a cover of a Feist song – “Limit To Your Love,” embedded below.

To find out more about this album, check it out on Amazon.

#11: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes seemed to have come onto the indie circuit from out of nowhere. I remember hearing the buzz about them a few years back. A few weeks following, they appeared on Saturday Night Live. I was amazed. They have experienced such quick growth – and rightfully so. I have fallen in love with everything the Foxes does.

Helplessness Blues is a wonderful follow-up to their self-titled release in mid-2008 when they were featured on this countdown for that year. It’s more of the unique folky indie sound with amazing harmonies and advanced, yet simplistic instrumentation.

So that you get a large amount of what the Fleet Foxes has to offer, I have embedded an audio clip (in video form) of their 8-minute opus titled “The Shrine / An Argument.” Enjoy!

If you’d like more information on this album, check it out at Amazon.

#12: Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

Let’s just get it out in the open. I have a huge man crush on Dave Grohl. As a drummer and overall musician, I have such an immense admiration and love for what he has done throughout his career. To me, he’s one of the most incredible musicians to ever live. He plays every instrument masterfully, he sings, and most importantly, he writes amazing songs.

The Foo Fighters have single-handedly saved alternative rock music. How many other bands are there today that have been around as long as Foo Fighters have in the alternative radio rock space? Not too many.

Even more impressive is how consistent FF has been over the years. I can honestly say that each album has been a delight and all represent the FF sound as it very well should.

Wasting Light is more of the same. Catchy rock songs that are tastefully doused with the signature FF sound that everybody can enjoy.

If you get a chance to check out FF live, take advantage of it. Getting to see Dave and the boys perform is quite a delight.

Foo Fighters have always been known for their clever and usually funny music videos. Here is a recent one for the song “Walk.”

If you’re interested in learning more about this album, check it out on Amazon.

#13: A Skylit Drive – Identity On Fire

A Skylit Drive is another one of those returning artists that was able to make this countdown with two consecutive albums. Although they came in at the very top of the 2009 countdown with their debut album, their progress and evolution is prominent as they land in the coveted #13 spot this year with their sophomore effort, Identity On Fire.

It’s more of the same heavy and catchy “Warped Tour” esque music. I don’t recall what type of reference I used for them two years ago, but this band really is a heavier Coheed and Cambria without the elaborate science fiction story going on in the background. And for those that follow this blog and/or know me personally, Coheed and Cambria is one of my favorite bands in history.

Obviously, this scores ASD some extra brownie points from me. Keep it up, guys!

Here’s a music video for the song “Too Little Too Late” from the album.

If you’d like to purchase this album, check it out on Amazon.

#14: City and Colour – Little Hell

City and Colour could be one of my favorite singer/songwriter projects ever. Dallas Green, also known for his guitar skills for the band, Alexisonfire, branched out into his own acoustic side project several years ago. He’s wowed me with his emotional songs two times already. His third attempt, Little Hell, has done just the same.

Talk about consistency.

There’s not much to ramble on about when it comes to City and Colour. You either love this type of thing or you don’t get it. Sadly, C&C has not garnered any critical acclaim, but to me, that’s what makes loving his music that much better. Outside of a few national television appearances, he is still relatively unknown, and makes for the perfect recommendation when a friend asks “Are you listening to any good music you can suggest to me?”

Below is the audio (in video format) for one of my favorite songs on the album, the titled track, “Little Hell.” Enjoy it!

If you want to find out more about this album, check it out on Amazon.

#15: Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Bon Iver is another act that is no stranger to this countdown and definitely not a stranger to critical acclaim of late. If you have not been exposed to Bon Iver’s emotional acoustic soundings, you haven’t been tuned into the indie music scene the last few years. With Grammy nominations under his belt this year, he is paving the way for a great deal of abstract indie singer/songwriters that write songs with meanings – and a great melody.

This, his self-titled, release isn’t as impactful as his prior collection (in my opinion), but as you can see, it is still earning a very nice #15 spot on a countdown filled with incredible releases this year.

He has nothing to be ashamed of. For what he does, this is quite an impressive showing.

Here is the music video for the song “Calgary.”

If you’d like to find out more about this album, please check it out on Amazon.

#16: Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

Iron & Wine is no stranger to this countdown. Anytime the amazing singer/songwriter writes new songs, he ends up at the top of any list I create. He is a musical magician and quite simply, one of the best artists around today.

While “Kiss Each Other Clean” might not be his best effort, it’s simplicity and elegance filled the I&W void needed and serves its purpose. This album is all about melodies, even if, at times, they get a little redundant. All the while, they’re good… so it really doesn’t matter much.

Here is a video of a live performance of the song “Me and Lazarus.”

You can find out more about this album at Amazon.com.

#17: The Bell Brigade – The Bell Brigade

The Bell Brigade prides itself on being the modern duet. While I might argue that Civil Wars is the best duo in indie pop today, there is a reason the Bell Brigade has made this list. They are very good.

Although they don’t have a name that suggests that they are a duo such as Hall and Oates, Simon and Garfunkel, etc., the notion reigns true throughout this beautiful sounding pop album.

Check out the music video for “Losers” embedded below.

To purchase this album, check it out on Amazon.

#18: Ximena Sarinana – Ximena Sarinana

You may have never heard of Ximena Sarinana yet. That’s fine. There is no reason you should have yet. She has slowly been moving into the U.S. market from Mexico. There, she is not only a popular musician but also an actress. It’s obvious that young Ximena has quite a future ahead of her.

This self-titled effort is actually her second U.S. release. However, because it was only released a few months ago in August, it hasn’t yet taken off here in the States. However, hopefully my acknowledgment of her poppy and fun talents will help her musical ambitions come true.

You can view the official music video for the opening track on the album, “Different” below.

If you’re interested in purchasing this album, check it out on Amazon.

#19: Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde

The new Smith Westerns album might seem old to some of you music buffs out there by now, but please remember that we take into account any albums that were released between December 1st of the previous year and the last of November of the current year. This particular #19 album was released in January. So while it is already almost one year old, it still qualifies as a candidate in this countdown.

“Dye It Blonde” has been a critically acclaimed record on most of the year-end countdowns I have read out there. The truth is – it’s as close to a masterpiece as you can get. They might just be the most underrated act in all of music. Hopefully all of these recent positive reviews will change that for them.

Here is the video for the song “Weekend.” I hope you enjoy it!

To find out more about this album and to purchase it, visit Amazon.