Top 10 Indie/Rock/Pop releases: 2011

by Nicole Villeneuve

December 20, 2011






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2011 was a year. And like years before it, people released albums. And like those other years, we ranked what we thought were the best of the respective genres we cover — Indie/Pop/Rock, Hip Hop, Pop, Metal, Punk, and Electronic.

We also reached out to as many of the artists featured here as we could to get lists of their own. Click on a name to check out our best-of the year’s best-of the year’s.

Top 10 Indie/Rock/Pop Releases: 2011


10. Army Girls – Close To the Bone EP

Army Girls singer/guitarist has put in her time fronting and supporting lots of projects in Toronto over the years, but Army Girls stood out for Elle’s voice first, but also its simplicity and its snarl. With drummer Andy Smith keeping the songs’ shuffle on lock, and the warm, simple sound, Close to the Bone was soul food, sticking to your ribs, and most certainly your head and heart. Sweet pop music that seethes. (Blocks Recording Club)

9. SloanThe Double Cross

Sloan’s legacy is already firmly in place. For their tenth album, though, and 20th year as a band, they resisted what was surely some easy temptation to do something overly expected or gimmicky and instead made one of their most straightforwardly Sloan—and best—albums of late. (Outside)

(Read Patrick Pentland’s own year end list)

8. Wilco – The Whole Love

Keeping safe watch over getting old. Thanks always, Tweedy. (dBpm)

7. Shotgun JimmieTransistor Sister

Shotgun Jimmie’s been making records for the better part of a decade (earlier as Shotgun and Jaybird) but he’s a still-somewhat hidden gem ’round these parts. Transistor Sister‘s jump in production quality (this was his first recorded in an actual studio) made a huge difference in the accessibility of his nostalgia-laced, effortlessly charming indie rock, though, so hopefully he won’t be for long. (You’ve Changed Records)

(Read Shotgun Jimmie’s own year end list)

6. BraidsNative Speaker

Sometimes the best ones are growers. The Montreal via Calgary weird-rockers released their Polaris-shortlisted debut to some buzz, but it wasn’t a dangerous thing. They stayed on the road and honed their dreamy, fiery show, their spiky atmospherics unfurling and growing around singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s otherwordly voice, and as more people started coming around instead of just looking on, they stood as one of the most promising acts in young Canadian music. (Flemish Eye)

(Read Braids’ own year end list)

5. Bon IverBon Iver, Bon Iver

Justin Vernon kept it sensitive while amping up the process for his second album, one that bolstered him from beloved beardy guy with a guitar to full-blown star with cross-generational appeal. Borrowing some 80s soft-rock aesthetic at times (though not enough of it to warrant all the Chris DeBurgh digs), Vernon’s familiar throaty falsetto finds itself among what are essentially modified folk songs that are once rich and sparse, haunting and, maybe most importantly, hurting. (Jagjaguwar)

(Read Justin Vernon’s own year end list)

4. Wild Flag

A lot of people might have saddled Wild Flag with their own expectations for what they’d do, but the quartet had a mission of their own, and in this guitar-stocked rock release it was clear: they just wanted to rock. Good thing they know what they’re doing. (Merge)

3. Rich AucoinWe’re All Dying To Live

Halifax’s Rich Aucoin’s debut full-length is one of the best of the year not for the monstrosity that was its making (though if there was a list for that, he’d top it), but for the equally as encompassing outpouring of emotion on the record. Positive emotion, mostly. Determined. Restless. Not unlike M83, Aucoin’s sound aptly represents the increasing dissolution of genre walls, and though it borrows heavily from a wide range of influences, the result never sounds disingenuous. Like we said in its original placement in our Top 5 for November: it might be one of the most genuine of the year. (Sonic Records)

(Read Rich Aucoin’s own year end list)

2. M83Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

When we heard that M83 figurehead Anthony Gonzalez was working on a double album that was inspired by the Smashing Pumpkis’ own double classic Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, we knew he wasn’t about to throw out the ambient electro gaze artistry he’d honed till now in the name of some nostalgia, and we were right. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming represents a large cross section of current music, glossing over genre lines and making it so that they don’t even matter anymore anyway, and that’s maybe what made it sound not only beautiful, but so important. (Mute)

(Read Anthony Gonzalez’s own year end list)

1. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

St. Vincent has been intriguing and worrying us for a few years, but on Strange Mercy she ravaged us. Rarely does such precise control and calculation mesh so honestly with deep intellect and artistic impulses. Not only have there been no misses along the way, but St. Vincent keeps restlessly growing, keeps getting better, and Strange Mercy, with its art-punk angles, dirty guitar dust-ups, and venom masked in syrupy sweetness, has cemented her place in music history. (4AD)

Tags: Music, Lists, News, Army Girls, bon iver, M83, Rich Aucoin, shotgun jimmie, Sloan, Wild Flag






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