Year in Review: The best albums of 2011

The InOut team presents our picks for the best international albums of the year

Matthew Grant Ansons’ Picks:

1. deafheaven, Roads to Judah
A black metal band on a hardcore label whose debut release has a grand total of four tracks sounds like a recipe for disaster, but itÂ’s actually the makings of the best extreme metal album of 2011. Despite seeming like diametric opposites, deafheavenÂ’s despair via black metal finds a perfect partner in the elongated soundscapes of shoegaze, Roads to Judah is deeply personal.

2. Anthrax, Worship Music
This album was not supposed to be good. The thrash metal titans have made an unexpected but triumphant return with their first album in eight years. As Joey BelladonnaÂ’s first record behind the mic since 1991, Worship Music is the thrash comeback that fans have been waiting for since their heroes reached legendary status.

3. Taake, Noregs Vaapen
Norway’s Taake are veterans of genre-bending black metal, and Noregs Vaapen is a solid addition to their canon of outside-the-box thinking. By fusing traditional black metal with rock ‘n’ roll, guitar solos, and even some flashy banjo, Taake keeps not only their sound relevant, but the genre as well.

4. Krallice, Diotima
On the back of their now three albums, Krallice stand as one of the leading members in the American black metal scene, and Diotima re-establishes this. Krallice pays homage to the black metal template of their Norwegian genre forefathers, but they add a technical approach to their bleak ten-minute songs that is overwhelming yet addictive.

5. Animals as Leaders, Weightless
Having taken the internet metal world by storm with the release of their self-titled first record, Animals as LeadersÂ’ sophomore LP was one of the most anticipated records of the year. By expanding upon the instrumental shredding of their first album, this trio of virtuosos did not disappoint.

Best of the rest:
6. Trap Them, Darker Handcraft
7. Ulcerate, The Destroyers of All
8. Fuck the Facts, Die Miserable
9. Boris, New Album
10. Panopticon, Social Disservices


Justin Cremer’s Picks:

1. Kurt Vile, Smoke Ring for My Halo
With Smoke Ring for My Halo, Kurt Vile shot into the mainstream with his laid-back blues-rock and catchy tunes. On an album that hardly has a bad track, the songs ‘Society is My Friend’, ‘In My Time’, and ‘Jesus Fever’ showcased the Philly native’s impressive songwriting and guitar-picking ability.

2. Portugal. The Man, In the Mountain in the Cloud
With ITMITC, Portugal. The Man nearly managed to one-up their 2009 masterpiece The Satanic Satanist. Full of pyschedelic beauty and poignant lyricism, ITMITC is an album that almost demands being played all the way through. While it may not be the bandÂ’s best album, it came awfully close. And that is saying a lot.

3. Russian Circles, Empros
Leading up to the release of Empros, the Chicago-based instrumental trioÂ’s fourth album, the band promised it would be their heaviest yet. And while they certainly turned up the rock, the album still features soft atmospheric moments that help to set off the harsher, hard-charging sound.

4. My Morning Jacket, Circuital
After the mixed bag that was 2008‘s Evil Urges, My Morning Jacket returned to its Southern jam-rock sound on Circuital. Though not a terrific album all the way through, the album’s two opening and two closing tracks are among the best the band have done.

5. The Black Keys, El Camino
This December release from the Ohio blues-rock duo snuck its way into the top five at the last minute, edging out other worthy contenders. Having hooked back up with super producer Danger Mouse, The Black KeysÂ’ newest release sounds significantly different from last yearÂ’s successful Brothers, but in a very good way.

Best of the rest:
6. Wilco, The Whole Love
7. Feist, Metals
8. Puscifer, Conditions of My Parole
9. Mogwai, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
10. Mastodon, The Hunter


Allan Mutuku-Kortbæk’s Picks:

1. Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Bon Iver’s follow-up to their gem For Emma, Forever Ago features new approaches on the part of the now well-known American indie band. Justin Vernon ventures into dreamy territory over the course of 10 tracks named after places that have been inspiring to the band – the end result being a beautifully crafted masterpiece.

2. Charles Bradley, No Time for Dreaming
The tale of Charles Bradley is a Cinderella story unlike any other, best told through the endearing, emotional No Time For Dreaming. This is an album that cements the 62-year-old ‘Screaming Eagle of SoulÂ’ into the hallmarks of soul folklore, alongside the likes of Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield and James Brown himself.  

3. Björk, Biophilia
Björk fan or not, one would be hard-pressed to contest the assertion that her eighth studio album may well be one of the most innovative musical creations of our time. With dimension, flair and surprise, this is an album that’ll be around for a long time to come.

4. Yann Tiersen, Skyline
Known mostly as the genius behind film scores such as ‘Amelie Poulin’ and ‘Goodbye Lenin’, Yann Tiersen’s latest album is yet another poetic, dimension-defying patchwork of varied musical arrangements and influences that showcase the musical arsenal of one of the most talented musicians for miles around.

5. Adele, 21
Adele stormed into 2011 with an album that has taken accolades far and wide. Something of a confessional, diary-like thematic rendition made in the aftermath of a split from an unnamed partner, 21 is truly an album that almost everyone can relate to on some level or other.

Best of the rest:
6. PJ Harvey, Let England Shake
7. Beirut, The Rip Tide
8. Ben Harper, Give Till ItÂ’s Gone
9. Radiohead, King of Limbs
10. Nicolas Jaar, Space is Only Noise


Peter Stanners’ Picks:

1. Antlers, Burst Apart
With a gentle falsetto set to their moving melodies, Antlers have produced one of the yearÂ’s best thought-through albums. Whimsical and melancholic, it beats both Beach House and Wild Beasts to the title of indie dream-pop band by a mile.

2. M83, Hurry Up, WeÂ’re Dreaming
Led by the anthemic ‘Midnight City’, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming pulses with a euphoria you thought you’d lost with your milk teeth, but is grown up enough to put on quietly in the background while you have a beer with a girl you like.

3. Hyetal, Broadcast
2011 was the year dubstep got boring. But Hyetal somehow managed to do something different. With an emphasis on treble and melody, instead of the standard wobbly bass, Hyetal produced a masterful work of electronica, best illustrated in the magnificent ‘Phoenix’.

4. Kate Bush, 50 Words for Snow
Kate Bush seems to exist in a world of her own. 50 Words For Snow was released this November and is solely about, you guessed it, snow. But this was no Christmas album. Instead, she created a magical and soul- warming investigation of winter in a way that only Bush could.

5. College, A Real Hero (EP)
‘Drive’ was this year’s hottest movie thanks in no small part to the soundtrack by College. Mimicking a simple, synthy, 80s style electro, it’s hopeful and sentimental and dreamy and druggy. Perfect.

Best of the rest:
7. Com Truise, Cyanide Sisters
8. PJ Harvey, Let England Shake
9. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Belong
10. Noel GallagherÂ’s High Flying Birds, Noel GallagherÂ’s High Flying Birds

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