I’ll be honest: I didn’t do a very good job of staying in touch with the wider world of music last year. I paid attention to the best in local music here in Toronto, and there were a couple of 2011 releases that I really liked — most notably from Dum Dum Girls and Wild Flags, both of whom I saw play live. But as this month’s onslaught of best-of lists makes clear, I missed the boat on a lot of other stuff. Here a list of 10 albums from this year that I haven’t yet heard — mistakes I’ll be correcting in the new year.
(Side note: If you’re curious how my list compares to top-20 lists overall, these infographics from Information is Beautiful are great.)
1. PJ Harvey — Let England Shake
PJ Harvey is such a powerful female performer; I’m sad that I haven’t kept up with her output in recent years. This one won the Mercury Prize, however, and that alone is reason enough to give it a spin.
2. tUnE-yArDs — whokill
I loved the tracks I heard off tUnE-yArDs’ debut album, and she got accolades from friends who attended her live shows in Toronto this year. This is one of those albums that I meant to pick up, over and over, and just did not get to. I haven’t forgotten about it, though.
3. Real Estate — Days
We saw Real Estate open for Girls at The Bowery Ballroom in 2009 — and that might make me sound cool, but please know that I missed out on a lot of their set because I was busy gawking at the hipster riche style in the room. Who can afford a giant leather Kate Spade tote?! Over the following months I kept hearing about Real Estate from various friends and started to suspect I may have missed out. Sitting down with Days would be a good way to rectify that.
4. Bon Iver — Bon Iver
I would like to give Justin Vernon a hug, all alone in his cabin in Wisconsin. (Well, maybe Kathleen Edwards is keeping him company now, I don’t know.) I could listen to “Blood Bank” over and over and over, and I loved his debut album; I’m a sucker for a sad boy with a guitar and some reverb. I’m just going to assume that this album is a perfect one for the upcoming winter chill.
5. Fucked Up — David Comes to Life
I saw Fucked Up live once. They are very, very loud. Bring earplugs. (I didn’t.) But for a band that loud and occasionally shouty, I enjoyed their set a lot more than I expected to. There was some serious melody hidden in there. I think some people might write off Fucked Up too quickly — they’re loud, their lead singer looks mean, etc. But Damien isn’t mean at all, and knows his stuff musically; the rest of the band has chops too. They’ve gotten some legit attention this year, including the cover of Spin, and it’s time I gave these local heroes their proper due myself.
6. Beyonce — 4
Yeah, that’s right. She’s fierce; how sexy is that album cover? Have that baby already, Bey!
7. Drake — Take Care
I’m a fan of Aubrey Graham and have been for a while. He seems like a nice young man. His owl logo — perhaps cribbed from the City of Toronto, fine — is adorable. Speaking of Toronto, he reps our fine city often and gives back to the community from whence he came. And his lyrics aren’t full of misogynistic, violent, faux-gangster bullshit. But even considering all that about Aubrey, I’ve been kind of meh about Drake for a while now. Now I can’t get the title track of this album out of my head, though, so I may have to give him another chance.
8. The Weeknd — House of Balloons
I can’t remember the last time I heard so much about a Canadian artist without having listened to his or her music. The Weeknd emerged as a surprise Polaris contender earlier this year, and seems to have taken the world by storm since, with props from the aforementioned Drake and love from Pitchfork — yes, Pitchfork still matters. I’m not as convinced as The Guardian that he’ll be able to transfer his online success and hype into cash dollars, but I’m excited to see him try.
9. Feist — Metals
Ultimately, I can never resist Feist. “Mushaboom” was everywhere and that could have gotten annoying, but Let It Die was such a fantastic album that it never did. Then “1 2 3 4” went crazy and Apple got on bored; loved that album too, though. I haven’t yet heard Metals, which is crazy, because I’m sure there’ll be a space in my heart for this one too.
10. Destroyer — Kaputt
I have to admit something: I have never been able to get into Destroyer. I love Dan Bejar’s work with New Pornographers, but his solo output has always left me feeling noncommittal. The praise for Kaputt was off the charts, though, so I’ll have to give im one more chance.
Photo by D. B. Gaston, via Creative Commons