10 Best Albums Of 2011 - Arctic Monkeys, Florence and the Machine & More

Whilst 2011 was a killer 12 months for games fans, cinema was crazily mediocre, but the music world was blessed with another good year and offered some impressively talented LPs...

Christmas greetings to all; had enough of your Mum blasting out some Bruno Mars and your Nan playing Buble on repeat, well here's my top 10 best albums of 2011 just in time, ready for some light hearted discussion on this year's music. Whilst 2011 was a killer 12 months for games fans, cinema was crazily mediocre, but the music world was blessed with another good year. I was lucky enough to attend the Leeds Festival, one as usual set amongst a hectic summer schedule of mud, sweat and tears. I also found myself buying more albums as the year offered some impressively talented LPs. Below is a list of my top ten favourite albums of 2011. As I have quite a mainstream taste for music, I'd love some further suggestions on what you think are the best albums of 2011, enjoy.

10. Radiohead - The King Of Limbs

Sneaking onto the scene in early February, Radiohead's hotly anticipated follow up to the beautifully perfect and perfectly priced In Rainbows, was always going to be met with high expectations. The King Of Limbs has been hailed overrated and yet in the same breath misunderstood, it's a great 8 songs by a band enjoying creative freedom in an industry ruled by the big bosses, not perfect but still putting most guitar driven bands to shame. Their eighth studio album is another subtle but soulful record, Thom Yorke warbles over industrial, operatic instrumentals as we delve into their otherworldly mindset once more. This may not be a trend setter, no iconic LP (OK Computer) for the famous five Brits, it's more of a continued experiment, a band working hard at their craft back with another solid effort, if maybe a little complacent. Highlights: Bloom, Lotus Flower, Separator http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR1yc-2-_ek

9. Yuck - Yuck

Channelling the shoegazer sounds epitomised by the likes of My Bloody Valentine returns Daniel Blumberg (of Cajun Dance Party) with a youthful slice of indie rock. This self titled debut manages to feel both adolescent and mature at the same time, a beautifully simplistic bite of catchy lyrics and rock and roll instrumentals all tied together with a scruffy bow. Yuck plays out like a two headed beast, one half sweet and romantic the other rocking distorted ego, elegantly reflecting teen life and establishing a unique sound for this British outfit. Yuck may be just starting out but they've created a delicious sound here and I have high hopes they will go on to bigger things. Highlights: Get Away, Shook Down, Stutter, Rose Gives A Lilly http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qabk8xWiPHw

8. The Weeknd - House Of Balloons

Another hit from out of the blue, solo artist Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, was a breath of fresh air in late March, the boy genius now a mere 21 year old, just makes you feel lazy; maybe not lazy, but chilled, definitely chilled. Easily his best effort of 2011, House Of Balloons is liberating but equally relaxing. Opener High for This sets the mood instilling a certain bravado, whilst What You Need confirms the talent, this is no one hit wonder, each song is catchy, uplifting chunks of R&B. The complex, zeitgeist lyrics may be immature in parts, as similar themes repeat throughout the record, but let's not forget the man's age, this is a competent album that will have you nodding your head, yearning to dive head first into this world of late nights, night clubs and models, oh and drugs, lots of drugs. Highlights: High For This, What You Need, House Of Balloons/Glass Table Girls, The Morning http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sX9DgavXiN4

7. Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi - Rome

All hail Danger Mouse, producer supreme, innovator of our time, one half of Gnarls Barkley and the man behind such classics as the Gorillaz's Demon Days, The Black Keys latest efforts and side project Broken Bells. He returns here with the help of cinematic composer Daniele Luppi and the angelic voices of Jack White and Norah Jones for Rome, an album channelling spaghetti westerns of old with a contemporary feel. Rome is an extravagant feast for the ears, where shimmering pianos and Morricone-esque beats work subtly alongside the enthralling sounds of a choir and our two top-notch featured artists. The songs with Jack White shine brightest and Rome can be indulgent at times, but this is a calming, catchy record, with a thematic core; an album which encapsulates cinema, a genre, an era whilst perfectly keeping with 21st century sensibilities, a truly postmodern effort from the new kings of music. Highlights: Two Against One, The Rose With A Broken Neck, Black http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UibsjY5K-c

6. Noah & The Whale - Last Night On Earth

This indie folk band may have burst onto the scene with the contagious Five Years Time in 2007, arguably a one hit wonder in the making, but it took a mere four years before I heard of them again. Their third outing came out of nowhere, a pop heavy; exhilarating piece of music, it's a pure delight. Singles; Tonight's The Kind Of Night, Life is a Lie and L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. hit the charts like bottled lightning, instant pop classics that drilled a hole into your brain and festered there for weeks to come, catchy is an understatement. The album on the whole is more a collection of hits than a thorough concept though; other songs like Wild Thing and Waiting For My Chance To Come are equally as astute, seamlessly one tune leads on into the next. Last Night On Earth simply put; is a joy, a light hearted record on the surface, yet one with real heart as Charlie Fink's lyrics hit home. Noah & The Whale weave rich tales of love and lust around radio friendly singles to create a real niche in a saturated market. Highlights: L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. Life Is Life, Tonight€™s The King Of Night, Wild Thing, Waiting For My Chance To Come http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8XuMDi-wIk

5. The Strokes - Angles

Gods of the indie rock scene in the early 2000s, this New York outfit got critics and fans the world over hot under the collar in those early years, inspiring the likes of Arctic Monkeys and endless others, they could do no wrong. But after a sparse few years they return with the eagerly anticipated Angles, maybe not as iconic as Is This It? or as catchy as Room on Fire, but hell this is definitely a band going in the right direction, The Strokes, dare I say it, are back on form. Their fourth album acts as 35 minutes of bottled summer, pitch perfect guitars rattled over robotic drums and celestial synths; envision long, balmy road trips through California, rocking shades in the midday sun. Julian Casablancas and the boys haven€™t changed much in the last decade or so yet they€™ve matured their unique sound, making this rock and roll malarkey look easy. Angles may be subtle, it may be a universe away from Last Night or Reptilia but it's more rounded, and it's as competent and just maybe a move in the right direction. This is more like The Strokes we grew to love. Highlights: Machu Picchu, Under Cover Of Darkness, Games, Taken For A Fool http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwxcQvB_vcQ

4. The Naked & Famous - Passive Me, Aggressive You

Naughty I know, but how could I leave this album out. The Naked & Famous debut may be a little old by now, especially to their home land, New Zealand, but I and I'm assuming others didn't hear about Passive Me, Aggressive You until early in 2011. It's a powerful studio debut from the Kiwi's, each song delivering melodic, catchy crowd pleasers, poppy tunes you'll want to blast from your bedroom window and scream along to 24/7. Singles Young Blood and Punching in a Dream are anthemic, atmospheric classics that would have Andrew van Wyngarden and Ben Goldwasser green with envy, this is pure synth pop, guilt free radio friendly hits that deserve to be heard and taken seriously. Now and again the record delves into darker territory, as distorted guitars and rocky instrumentals descend into gig friendly solo's always brought back by Alisa Xayalitha's delicious vocals. It's a flawless effort, a band at the forefront of their genre; let's hope their difficult follow up is as original and punky as this great little find. Highlights: All Of This, Punching In A Dream, Young Blood, Girls Like You, Frayed http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJ9gFAKYRYE

3. Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials

The first thing that I noticed when listening to Ceremonials is how evolved the Florence + The Machine sound has become in a mere 2 years since their debut, Lungs. Her last album, don't get me wrong is an amazing album, but Ceremonials definitely comes across as a more developed and honed sound, Miss Welch has finally got it, she's captured her voice, her style and in rapid timing. Ceremonials isn't as 'poppy' or single ready as Lungs, it's much more of an album than a collection of songs, and what an album it is. The distinct vocals of Florence Welch with her fairy tale lyrics masking personal issues act as an instrument of their own (is 'The Machine' her voice box?), mixing empowering highs and the delicate lows, Welch sings over this refined sound to create something special. This is a much more personal record mixing her fantastical sensibilities with the usual themes of love and life, but the likes of Never Let Me Go and Shake It Out just resonate so specifically, it's a deep and dark LP which enlightens and exhilarates somehow. Recorded at the hallowed Abbey Road this is a highlight of 2011, beautiful. Highlights: Shake It Out, Never Let Me Go, What The Water Gave Me, Breaking Down http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCWnVznnWcs

2. The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?

What did you expect from The Vaccines? Until 2011 and their single Post Break-Up Sex, well I'd not even heard of them. But now The Vaccines are my favourite new band of 2011, the London foursome blend a rocking guitar driven sound over empathetic, inspiring vocals to create atmospheric gems. Singer Justin Young may sound like a million others, the Editors, Interpol and White Lies spring to mind, yet his vulnerable and aggressive lyrics are just awe inspiring, all of their songs result in goose bumps, its astounding stuff. This album pumps you up, it instils emotion as the rip roaring guitar, the pounding drum all concoct into adrenaline fuelled anarchy, and added with the echoing vocals of summer love and naive lovers, well it all adds up to something truly magnificent. This is a masterpiece of indie rock, an album for the muddy festival goer, the NME subscriber, the romantic in us all and the rebel too. I€™d recommend every song, but for something truly special, give Family Friendly a listen, it builds and builds to perfection. Highlights: All In White, Family Friend, Wetsuit, Post Break-Up Sex, If You Wanna http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eow989E9Q0

1. Arctic Monkeys - Suck It And See

I'll start by saying, yes; I am from Sheffield, the steel city that is also home to the Arctic Monkeys, but hey I can be a little bias once in a while, come on its Christmas. Their fourth album in six years is another masterpiece from the Northern band, and in my eyes its their best yet. Many hold their debut dearly in nostalgia but this is a group that grows and grows, maturing with each output. Suck It And See is a romantic, whirlwind of sound, an enigmatic piece of popular music with heartfelt poetic lyrics, delicious rocking riffs and best of all, a honed sound, they too have encapsulated a style. Channelling the rock€™n€™roll sound of their idols yet continuing their delicate, humorous and down to earth slant thanks to their genius front man Alex Turner, well Suck It And See is the best 2011 has to offer. A sign of how far they've come, the Arctic Monkeys have just released B-side and single Evil Twin to some success, when the B sides are as good as this (also check out: The Blond-O-Sonic Shimmer Trap) well the proof is in the pudding. But getting back to their album, with Alex Turner's lyrics rivalling any the music scene has to offer against these angst, classic rock beats, they've crafted themselves a winning formula. Suck It And See is a band at the top of their game, one having fun with it, if they continue to mature with each new record, well they'll be sure to go down in the history books. This is my favourite album of the year, and one I highly recommend to all. Highlights: Suck It And See, Black Treacle, The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala, Thats Where Your Wong, Reckless Serenade...I could go on. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAlRXC19hmE&ob=av3e

Worthy Mentions:

Bon Iver - Bon Iver City & Colour - Little Hell Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math Benjamin Francis Leftwich - Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm Jay-Z & Kanye West €“ Watch The Throne
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UK-based writer. Great lover of cinema; music, TV and literature.