My most-played albums of 2011

I have two modes of listening to music: whole-album, and best-of. Sometimes I like to listen to a whole album, all the way through, again and again. And sometimes I like to listen to a random selection of my favourite tunes on shuffle.

My iTunes library is organized accordingly. When I download a new album, I create a new playlist for it, using the year in which I bought it, the band name, and album title (e.g. “2011 Aberfeldy Somewhere To Jump From”). I add metadata to the comments to keep track of where I got it from, and the exact date on which I added it (e.g. “sunpig:acquired=20110206;”). Finally, I use iTunes’ star ratings to rate individual tracks. Slightly obsessive, but I like the way it gives me a view of what I was listening to in a given year. (iTunes doesn’t track listens by date–I wish it did–but I’m guessing that at least 80% of my listens happen in a 6-month period after initial acquisition.)

According to my library, I bought 76 albums in 2011. (For comparison: 2005 = 87, 2006 = 71, 2007 = 81, 2008 = 73, 2009 = 59, 2010 = 57.) Of those 76, there were 20 that I had played all the way through at last 10 times at the end of the year. (Technically: I have listened to each individual track on the album at least 10 times, but that’s a good enough metric for me.) Here’s the list, sorted alphabetically by artist.

  • Aberfeldy – Somewhere To Jump From

    Another delightful album from Aberfeldy. Light melodic pop drifting from humorous to melancholy with practiced ease. I’ve never come across an album with closing credits before. They’re quirky and uniquely fitting. Don’t you go changing.

  • BattlesGloss Drop

    More accessible, and more consistent than their first album Mirrored. A fantastic mix of experimental rhythms and furious driving beats. Video: “My Machines” feat. Gary Numan.

  • Beastie BoysHot Sauce Committee Part Two

    I was disappointed at first that there wasn’t anything on the album quite as catchy as the lead single “Make Some Noise,” but it definitely grew on me. Fun and funky.

  • Bibio – Mind Bokeh

    One of my favourite tracks of the whole year is “Anything New”, which is distilled summer in a crystal goblet. A couple of other up-tempo moments punctuate a chilled-out ambient soundscape.

  • Big MovesIn the Beginning

    My favourite band discovery of the year. Big Moves are an indie band from Los Angeles. This album has a playful yet very precise sound that reminds me a lot of the Long Blondes – especially singer Jess Imme’s vocals on “Brontosaurus” – but with a generous helping of jazzy meanderings (“Blue Rose”). Video: “Stegosaurus”.

  • Big Moves – Lanterns EP

    One bored afternoon in October I was browsing for some new music recommendations. Big Moves came up, I followed the link to Youtube, and watched the video for “Groundbreaking Studies“. Then I watched it again. And again. And again. How can a song this good still only have less than 2000 views on it? The song is lush, energetic, and exuberant. The band takes the jazzy indie rock style they displayed on In The Beginning and turns it up to 11. It’s awesome. The rest of the EP is fantastic as well.

  • Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer

    Of all the albums in this list, this is the only one I don’t listen to any more. I loved it at the start of the year, but now it bores me.

  • Dananananaykroyd – There Is A Way

    Just amazing, as I have mentioned before. Video: “Muscle Memory”

  • Foo FightersWasting Light

    Great solid rock. The Foo Fighters on top form. The video for “Walk” is a neat spoof of Falling Down.

  • Friendly Fires – Pala

    I loved Friendly Fires’ first album, and Pala is a great follow-up. Steamy and smooth tropical dance sounds. After seeing their performance at T In The Park on the BBC, I was really looking forward to catching them live at Melkweg in December, but they had to cancel. Sad Panda. Weird video: “Hurting”

  • Frightened RabbitThe Winter Of Mixed Drinks

    I somehow missed out on Frightened Rabbit’s second album The Midnight Organ Fight, so my baseline was their debut, Sings The Greys, which is a fairly subdued, moody affair. They have taken that moody, slightly folky feel, and turned up the power. This album is exultantly alive with anthems like “The Loneliness And The Scream” and “Living In Colour“. These guys are now on my “must-see-live” list.

  • Grand State Valley University New Music EnsembleSteve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians

    I went through a bit of a Steve Reich phase in the spring, after noticing the World Minimal Music Festival just after it was over. Must not make that mistake again next year. The GSVU version of Music for 18 Musicians is crisp and clear and glorious. Trailer video.

  • MogwaiHardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

    Vast, sprawling, lush. Classic Mogwai.

  • Sky LarkinKaleide recommended Sky Larkin to me based on similarity to Dananananaykroyd. I didn’t see at at first, because their vocal styles are so radically different, but the rest of their music shares a lot of common themes: heavy rock-infused pop, with unorthodox song structures. Kaleide is a rich and complex album, and my favourite tracks have shifted around a lot since I started listening to it. For now, I’ve settled on liking “ATM” most of all.

  • The DecemberistsThe King Is Dead

    Unlike the myth-tinged unity of their previous album The Hazards of Love, The King is Dead is “just” a collection of songs. A great collection of beautiful songs, from the peppy REM-ish “Calamity Song” to the sparse, haunting simplicity of “June Hymn.” I caught them live in Paradiso in March, and they were fantastic. Take any opportunity you get to see them.

  • The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

    I wasn’t sure if this album should count for 2011, because it includes most of the same songs as their EP A Balloon Called Moaning, which I listened to a lot in 2010. But it’s too good to leave out. Muscular yet dreamy rock, somewhat reminiscent of Ladytron, but all guitars and no synths. Surprise moment: when I came across their anthem “Cradle” backing a trailer for the new Ratchet & Clank game.

  • Tom Waits – Bad As Me

    Brilliant, as always. Video: “Satisfied”.

  • UnderworldBarking

    Attaching the word “mature” to techno feels wrong, but that’s what Barking is: practiced, polished, and highly accomplished. Underworld are mainstream now. I still love the album, but it occasionally makes me feel old. Video: “Bird 1”.

  • United Fruit – Fault Lines

    I grabbed this because United Fruit were playing support for Dananananaykroyd on their Glasgow gig in October, and it turns out to be an effective hard rock album. They’re good live, too.

  • Zoey van GoeyThe Cage Was Unlocked All Along

    Interesting that this list starts with Aberfeldy, and ends with Zoey van Goey, because their musical styles are quite similar. Sweet, airy, and melodic pop with excursions into the hauntingly melancholic. Video: “We Don’t Have That Kind Of Bread”.

Notable omission: Aidan Moffat + The Best Ofs – How To Get To Heaven From Scotland. I love this album, and it would have had a higher play count if I’d bought it earlier in the year.


3 Replies to “My most-played albums of 2011”

  1. Great list! Just bought the Battles album because of this post and will definitely check out some others.

    Beastie Boys, The Decemberists and Foo Fighters all put out great albums last year for sure.

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