BEST OF 2011

Hello good folk of the internet. This is the homepage for the 2011 countdown of Just Played’s Albums of the Year.

The complete list of thirty has now been revealed and you can read each write up by clicking on the album titles below. Once you’re there, a click on the album’s artwork should have it playing in Spotify within a matter of moments. Please, feel free to take issue with anything I’ve said or to simply put a nice polite “I agree” at the bottom of any or all of those pieces.

It’s now time to find out what you, the splendid readers, think are the albums of 2011. To entice you, one lucky person who replies with their list will be plucked out at random to receive a rare Low Anthem ‘Smart Flesh Extras’ 10″, a copy of the Just Played single of the year from The National on very limited edition 7″ and various other promo gubbins along with a copy of my 2011 compilation. All you need to do is reply on this page with your albums of the year list (minimum of three, please.) You can explain why they’re your favourites if you wish – which would be nice – but do not feel obliged. Please spread the word as it would be great to see as many lists as possible on here. You have until the end of 2011 to post your list if you wish to be considered for the prize draw. Fire away!

Just Played’s Albums of 2011

Click on the artwork in each post to hear the album or click this delightful visual montage of the albums to hear the Just Played Best of 2011 Playlist, with a track from each album. Enjoy!

Best of 2011

Ok. Here they are…

30. Summer Camp – Welcome To Condale

29. Metronomy – The English Riviera

28. Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

27. Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – Smoking In Heaven

26. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

25. Frankie & The Heartstrings – Hunger

24. Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – Everything’s Getting Older

23. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

22. Sarabeth Tucek – Get Well Soon

21. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

20. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

19. The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient

18. The Antlers – Burst Apart

17. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

16. Josh T. Pearson – Last Of The Country Gentlemen

15. Björk – Biophilia

14. The Middle East – I Want That You Are Always Happy

13. Tom Waits – Bad As Me

12. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh

11. Other Lives – Tamer Animals

10. Tom Williams & The Boat – Too Slow

9. Wilco – The Whole Love

8. Jonathan Wilson – Gentle Spirit

7. The Leisure Society – Into The Murky Water

6. Eleanor Friedberger – Last Summer

5. Memory Tapes – Player Piano

4. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

3. Gruff Rhys – Hotel Shampoo

2. Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

1. Low – C’mon

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13 thoughts on “BEST OF 2011

  1. Excellent blog, great quality reviews and looking forward to the remaining 8. Here’s my top 10 although with the exception of number 1 the sequence could change quite a bit if I had to post on another day.

    1. Jeffrey Lewis – A Turn in the Dream-Songs
    2. The Urban Voodoo Machine – In Black ‘n’ Red
    3. The King Blues – Punk And Poetry
    4. Low – C’Mon
    5. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know
    6. Other Lives – Tame Animals
    7. The Middle East – I Want That You Are Always Happy
    8. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
    9. Tim Booth – Love Life
    10. Kitty Daisy And Lewis – Smoking In Heaven

  2. Good list and some good recommendations on what to catch up on. Here’s mine from what I’ve heard:

    1. Gruff Rhys – Hotel Shampoo
    2. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
    3. The Antlers – Burst Apart
    4. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
    5. Eleanor Friedberger – Last Summer
    6. Wilco – The Whole Love

    Sure I’ve forgotten something I lover earlier in the year though.

  3. Great list.

    I get stuck at this time of year; I don’t feel that I’ve listened to a comprehensive-enough list of albums to definitively say what the nominative ‘best’ albums might be. Of the new releases that I’ve listened to this year, here’s the three I’ve enjoyed the most:

    3. Real Estate – Days
    Coming at the tail end of the year, it shouldn’t have worked. Massively hyped, massively summery, and massively appealing to the ‘affected American scenester’ market, it seems like the antithesis of the sort of music I’d like. But forget about the chatter and it’s apparent that it’s a brilliant album, at turns beguilingly charismatic and hazily blissful. Were the melodies not quite so catchy, the guitar lines not quite so simple, and the production not quite so laid back, I’d have never given it a second listen. It’s such a charming album that it demands repeated listens.

    2. Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat – Everything’s Getting Older
    The number of press releases and news stories proclaiming such-and-such a twerpy little guitar band to be ‘a breath of fresh air in a stale industry’ is overwhelming, especially when truly different and welcome albums like this are shoved in the ‘also out this week’ reviews. I love everything about it: the theme of death as something to be discussed rather than hidden away, the vulgarity of accepted Saturday night etiquette, the happiness in life but also in death, but most of all the sense that this is an album with a sense of purpose. It hasn’t been bashed out to appeal to a certain demographic or to mark the start of an artist’s electronic phase or similar. It’s been pondered on, discussed at length, revised and revisited over and over until the content is as sharp as it can be. The briefest and most rewarding thirty-nine minutes of music that have been released all year.

    1. Clem Snide – Clem Snide’s Journey
    This is, I readily admit, a cheat. It’s a six song EP rather than a full album, and an EP of covers at that. It could so easily be dismissed as a cynical attempt to jump on the Glee-inspired Journey bandwagon – and indeed, it could’ve easily been a cheesy twenty minute singalong of tired Eighties power ballads. Instead, it’s an album of juxtaposition: an artist renowned for their literal and narrative lyrics, covering a bombastic and often obtuse rock band, with just vocals and ukulele. And, my word, it is astonishing. What you get is six songs in which the singer sounds like their heart will burst, where everyone listening will stop what they’re doing and focus solely on the stereo, where you have to start it back at the beginning as soon as it finishes. That the album was released through a Kickstarter program makes the album feel intimate: the singer is singing because his fans love him enough to pay for it in advance, and he’s gently whispering that love back. If 2011 marks nothing else, it marks the start of a new, rewarding reciprocal relationship between artist and audience. If this is the result, I am firmly for it.

    I’ll throw in a single of the year, too. It’d be close, but I’ve found myself listening to Black Milk’s ‘Brain’ an awful lot. It’s very reminiscent of the Gorillaz/Mos Def/Hypnotic Brass Ensemble collaborations which, in my book, is no bad thing.

  4. A good list as per usual – I’ve started filling in some gaps. Really enjoying Eleanor Friedberger.

    My top 3 are:

    1. King Creosote & John Hopkins – Diamond Mine

    I never thought I’d like it as much after the first couple of listens but there is something about KC’s voice that makes me come back to it.

    2. Low Anthem – Smart Flesh

    I already loved the album but their set at Green Man blew me away.

    3.Gruff Rhys – Hotel Shampoo

    Perfectly formed songs that you can’t help but loving.

    Others I’ve really enjoyed include Summercamp, Laura M, Admiral Fallow and BP Billy.

  5. 5. Jonny – ‘Jonny’
    Two indie legends still going strong and although there’s nothing new, the enjoyment of their partnership is reflected in the playfulness of the songs. In a year of some very depressing news day after day, economic meltdown, catastrophic natural disasters, a Tory government etc, the joy of this album was the soundtrack to my summer. And the kids loved it too.

    4. Gruff Rhys – ‘Hotel Shampoo’
    This man is a genius.

    3. Low – ‘C’mon’
    The opening track is a thing of beauty. The soaring majesty made me repeat it a number of times before getting on to the rest of the album. Which, remarkably, didn’t disappoint after such a strong start. Seeing them at Bristol was also memorable and the only time I’ve seen a band where the audience has gone “SHHHHHH!” as they came on stage.

    2. Bon Iver – ‘Bon Iver’
    Not as great as the debut but still a wonderful album. Would probably have been top of the list if it wasn’t for…

    1. Fleet Foxes – ‘Helplessness Blues’
    I know, the top two are predictable but so much beauty is hard to argue with. A hard act to live up to after their first album but it managed it. And that’s testament enough to how beautiful it is.

    On another day, Herman Dune would have made it into the top 5, as would The Low Anthem.

  6. My top three are all about steps forward in 2011. Not Steps, obviously, though I would give a mention to Nicola Roberts’ quite unexpectedly marvellous “Cinderella Eyes” – she’d be number four.

    3. Metronomy – The English Riviera
    …in which Joseph Mount moved his band on into a wonderful new concept album. “She Wants” is my highlight.

    2. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know
    …in which, as observed in Just Played’s excellent write-up, Laura Marling goes in the direction she wants and needs to, producing a record that sounds both fulfilled and fulfilling. I keep coming back to “The Muse”.

    1. Slow Club – Paradise
    …in which the Sheffield duo shed their twee tag and find a new grammar of sound and songwriting. “Beginners” sounded like a classic song I’d always known on first listen, and “You, Earth or Ash” is exquisitely emotive. I haven’t seen this in any 2011 lists so far – a crying shame!

  7. This is very difficult, particularly because (as a girl) list making is not part of my psyche. Also, I am unhelpfully indecisive. Anyway, here goes …

    3. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow
    Haunting and lovely

    2. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh
    Never thought I would like it as much as OMGCD but I think I do, and I come back to it whenever I need to feel ‘at home’

    1. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know
    A beautiful record and even more so when heard either in a field or a cathedral. Favourite tracks are ‘Salinas’ and ‘All My Rage’.

  8. I don’t really have a top 3 albums of 2011 as it was difficult enough narrowing it down to 10. And while I could sing the praises of Gruff Rhys, The Leisure Society and Low, it’d be repeating what Gareth has already said. So I’m going to pick 3 that haven’t been mentioned that deserve more attention.

    Cashier No 9 – To The Death Of Fun

    I saw them perform live shortly after the album was released and was pleased to see a new band putting their all into what was essentially a very small gig. They were spellbinding, just as they are throughout their entire debut album. I keep returning to The Lighthouse Will Lead You Out as a standout track.

    M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

    It’s had a lot of hype and a lot of criticism, but this is genuinely a stellar record. It bounds through styles and themes with unbridled enthusiasm. Rarely has an album matched its own grand aspirations so easily. It’s a huge album too, so there’s bound to be something you’ll enjoy here.

    The Phoenix Foundation – Buffalo

    The depth and variety of this record is matched only by its sense of joy. Buffalo isn’t a bold, happy album, but it is a wandering beast of a record that doesn’t disappoint remotely. It soars, swells and swoons with a desire for adventure; it’s what I’ve been enjoying most in albums this year – the joy of making music. There’s a lot of artists being heavy and serious at the moment and I prefer those that just flow. That relaxed demeanour that doesn’t care what you think, that just wants to do its own thing – the life behind and through the music.

  9. 1. Old Amica – For A Second EP
    This 7-track ep has been on the top of my list since March, and they are easily my favourite new band/discovery of the year. They’re a duo from Sweden, living hundreds of miles away from each other, but have somehow managed to make this ep and (more recently) a full length-album too. The album is beautiful too, but it’s the ep that has been the soundtrack for most of my year. Mellow electronicky acousticky loveliness. But a lot better than that awful description. It’s just so warm-sounding. & it probably won’t be on any other lists I come across, which is a bit sad.

    2. Dillon – This Silence Kills
    This album was only released late last month, and so logistically won’t be on many lists either. A Brazillian youth of a girl, now based in Germany, this album has been listened to constantly since I got it. As I’m lazy, I’ll just use some comparisons from the BBC review – Lykke Li/Fever Ray/Hanne Hukkelberg/Joanna Newsom – but even more better than any of them. She also reminds me of another young lady, Soap&Skin, with her general otherworldliness. Plus, out of the many perfect songs on the album, one song is based on / sung over the tune of Jens Lekman’s Pocketful Of Money. The icing on the cake.

    3. The Real Tuesday Weld – The Last Werewolf
    My favourite British band, who seem to unfairly be ignored a lot of the time. This is a soundtrack album to the Glen Duncan book of the same title. It’s just such a varied and consistently penned album, and exceeded even my high hopes for it. Plus I can’t ever seem to get bored of seeing them live.

    4. 13 & God – Own Your Ghost
    13 & God are a ‘side-project’ band consisting of the quite-contrasting Subtle/Doseone and The Notwist. This is their second album (the first self-titled one was released far back in 2005), and works even better than their debut. The subdued’ness of The Notwist singer’s voice and the machine-gun harshness of Doseone’s voice doesn’t seem like a match that should work, but it does. It definitely bumps the Bill/Aidan album down to my second favourite 2011 album about death position.

    Any of those above four albums could easily and happily have been the number one spot for me this year, and I wouldn’t have minded. But I think that’s how I’ll nominally place them at the moment.

    I also seem to have loved a lot more female-fronted bands/albums this year. As well as the above-mentioned Dillon, Oh Land, The Dø, tUnE-yArDs, Agnes Obel, Dear Reader and Braids have all released albums that I have been listening to a lot also. (all far better than the British ladies that get mentioned, ahem…)

  10. 1- Low ‘C’mon’
    2- Fleet Foxes ‘Helplessness Blues’
    3- Lanterns on the Lake ‘Gracious Tide, Take Me Home’
    4- King Creosote and Jon Hopkins ‘Diamond Mine’
    5- Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks ‘Mirror Traffic’
    6- Bill Callahan ‘Apocalypse’
    7- Josh T Pearson ‘The Last Country Gentleman’
    8- The Mountain Goats ‘All Eternals Deck’
    9- Sarabeth Tucek ‘Get Well Soon’
    10- Slow Club ‘ Paradise’

    best reissue – Mickey Newbury ‘Frisco Mabel Joy’

  11. Have kept the list short to stop me pontificating

    3. Radiohead – The king of limbs ; Because they don’t follow the rules

    2.Ryan Adams – Ashes and fire ; a return to form

    1. Low – C’mon ; showed my ignorance at never having listened to them before

  12. Really enjoying the playlist. Thank you.

    My top three suggestions are:

    1. Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones.

    He was the first artist for a while who a lot of people suddenly encouraged me to discover. Once I’d done so, I wanted to download all he’d ever produced. This doesn’t contain his greatest tracks but it came out this year and I am a Wessex Boy.

    2. King Blues – Punk and Poetry

    More for the experience of seeing them at the Roundhouse than the album itself (I don’t get out much!)

    3. Cashier No 9 – To The Death of Fun

    Surprised this didn’t make your list.

    After making a disparaging remark about fey, bearded folky stuff, I surprised myself by liking the Iron & Wine track you pulled out.

    Happy New Year!

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