By Zachary Swickey
It’s hard to believe that we are already about to wave goodbye to 2011. It’s been quite a kickass year for music too with new albums from all sorts of big-names artist. However, considering the wealth of bands out there these days – thanks to modern technology making it an easier process than ever before – it can be tricky to even get the attention of one’s own fans.
So while everyone is freaking out about the new Lady Gaga or Bon Iver record, I find myself listening to plenty of other albums much more – like my personal album of the year (to which New York magazine agrees), Canadian act Austra’s debut, Feel It Break. We felt it was our duty (and privilege) to introduce you to some of the best albums in 2011 that didn’t get the full-blown attention they deserved.
Read on to see which albums made the cut!
Austra – Feel It Break
By a long-shot, I’ve listened to Austra’s debut more than any other album this year – and we’re all unabashed fans of the group in the MTV Newsroom. The synth, opera-pop stylings of frontwoman Katie Stelmanis fit like a glove in today’s music scene. Most bands dream for a debut album as realized as Austra’s – the group truly found their own sound the first time out. With the retirement of Bjork likely on the horizon – she’s 46 and has begun taking years off between albums – we gladly nominate Austra to fill the void she’ll eventually leave. If you aren’t moved by Stelmanis’s vocals on the album’s final and most somber moment, “The Beast,” then I’m not sure if you can be.
Cold War Kids – Mine is Yours
Unless its January release date is to blame, we are rather clueless as to why Cold War Kids third effort hasn’t garnered more attention. Without a doubt, it’s the band’s strongest set to date with memorable tracks from start to finish. Mine is Yours opens the album wonderfully with its thundering drums (kudos to whoever is responsible for the pristine snare sound) as frontman Nathan Willett slowly croons, “What is mine is yours,” We wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this becomes the go-to song for grooms to cover for their fiancées on their wedding day. This album is searing with passion that demands repeat listens.
Tech N9ne – All 6’s and 7’s
Inarguably the hardest working rapper in the game, Tech N9ne has been bringing the do-it-yourself punk rock ethos to the rap world for over a decade now – notably receiving the Left Field Woodie award at mtvU’s ’09 ceremony. From the get-go, N9ne has been on the label he started back in ’99, Strange Music, and released albums on an almost yearly basis while maintaining a relentless touring schedule. His ’11 effort is some of the rapper’s best work yet and he clearly has the respect of his fellow rappers; his record boasts guest appearances from Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg and even Deftones’ frontman Chino Moreno.
Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
I finally got to check something off my bucket list this year when I saw Scottish instrumental (most of the time) act Mogwai live for the first time and it was at the perfect time because their latest effort is so damn awesome! The curiously-titled disc has several tracks that induce heavy head-rockin’. “San Pedro” is an audio smorgasbord as every band member annihilates their instrument simultaneously. The inspiration behind the album’s closing track title “You’re Lionel Richie” appropriately comes from something inebriated band member Stuart Braithwaite said to the singer when running into him at the airport. How could you not listen to it now?
Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Pretty much the most wildly acclaimed instrumental band in today’s music scene, Explosions in the Sky released their sixth studio album in April of this year; however, we aren’t hearing about it as much as we’d expect from the first new EITS disc in four years. While the album is no radical departure for the group, it’s still them doing what they do best – making amazing instrumental music. “Trembling Hands” stands out as the album highlight as the members seemingly assault each other with their respective instruments. We have no complaints as Explosions continue to make soaring, epic music that could be the soundtrack to life itself.