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The Magazine

December 26, 2011

iSPY’s Top 30 Albums of 2011

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Written by: Tim Adkins
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(in no particular order)

To listen to all of these great albums (most of them anyways) check out our Top 30 Albums of 2011 playlist on Spotify.

  • “Bon Iver” – Bon Iver

I’ve listened to a lot of really, really good music this year. The self titled Bon Iver album is hands down the best of all of it. I’ve been a fan of Justin Vernon’s melodic and mind-easing voice since, “For Emma, Forever Ago” was released in 2008, but, from start to finish, this is his best and most fulfilling work. – Tim Adkins

  • “King of Limbs” – Radiohead

While the apparent lack of structure and the sparse, difficult-to-interpret lyrics can initially be frustrating, “King of Limbs” rewards those who just keep listening without questioning. This is the kind of music your mind can dance to—especially if you prefer not to have auto-tune, excessive noise or typical lyrics about night clubs and belligerent behavior interfere with your rhythm. – Paul Kitti


  • “Take Care” – Drake

“Drake’s solid sophomore album shows that he intends to be a permanent fixture. Each track laces together the bigger picture of Drake’s struggle with success and women, but still revels in the fact that he has a set of skills that could outrival most. As much as he can spit out verses, his ability to croon out even the most vulnerable line is a cut above the heavyweights utilizing Autotune.” – Aimee Mandle


  • “The Whole Love” – Wilco

“The Whole Love” finds the Chicago-based outfit stringing together genres on an alternative rock thread, delivering unshakeable pop melodies in between creative bursts of organ, crunchy guitar and twangy strings. – Paul Kitti



  • “Helplessness Blues” – Fleet Foxes

Neither a repeat of nor a departure from their debut, “Helplessness Blues” is a glorious extension that finds the band embracing their talents while exploring the depth of their craft. This is a haunting and strangely uplifting work – one that will establish Fleet Foxes as the standard of modern folk music only two albums into their journey. – Paul Kitti



  • “Burst Apart” – The Antlers

“Burst Apart” is a forty-minute statement consisting of ten cohesive tracks that present a vibrant and confident sound. While “Hospice” drew its power from the narrative it was bound to, “Burst Apart” allows The Antlers to exercise more freedom lyrically and musically, resulting in an album that is less emotionally affecting than “Hospice” but more accessible and demonstrative of what the band is capable of. – Paul Kitti


  • “Cults” – Cults

Rumor has it that the single “Go Outside” was the little wild-fire internet tune that attracted the ears of Columbia Records. And, while it was a single that could easily have acted as the sling to shoot the entire album into the spotlight, Cults opted not to build the album around one song. Instead, they’ve created something extremely tight and consistent, a summer soundtrack that sways back and forth between the sunny and deeply shaded sides of the porch. – Paul Kitti


  • “Watch the Throne” – Jay Z & Kanye West

The iTunes bonus tracks that didn’t make the final cut for this album are excellent, but Jay and West have done excellent before. This project is something a little different – like the shadowy corner-field of the excellence arena, where only the most daring hitters choose to point their bats before pulling their swing. – Paul Kitti



  • “Mylo Xyloto” – Coldplay

Coldplay has arguably been the biggest band in the world over the past few years, but despite that accomplishment, they still push themselves to become the best band in the world. And while that goal may be near impossible at this point, it sure is fun listening to them try. – Paul Kitti



  • “How Do You Do” – Mayer Hawthorne

Hawthorne’s second major studio release is consistently strong, beginning with some romantic R&B and moving to upbeat 60’s-inspired, danceable soul. This album provides much to be impressed by, including Mayer Hawthorne’s vocal range, his grasp on his subject matter and what an important role is still played by the legacy of Motown. – Mary Simkins



  • “Torches” – Foster The People

From the very beginning, “Torches” sucks listeners in with the irresistibly catchy “Helena Beat” and doesn’t let up until the very end—without any “filler” songs. From “Call It What You Want” to tracks like “Houdini,” “Torches” is upbeat, with sincere and meaningful lyrics. It’s an album that doesn’t miss a beat and will be hard to top when the group begins to work on their sophomore release. – Amanda Slater


  • “Ceremonials” – Florence and the Machiene

“Florence + the Machine’s latest album “Ceremonials” will drown you in epic-ness if you’re not careful. I made the mistake of trying to listen to it while working, and the other-worldliness of it all kept giving me visions of dancing around a fire in the woods (not a productive urge in the middle of a workday).” – Mary Simkins



  • “Metals” – Feist

In ‘Metals,’ the maracas and percussions of her previous project, ‘Reminder,’ are gone without a trace, leaving behind a soulful album with intense instrumentals for a somewhat darker Feist than we’ve grown to know. – Mary Simkins



  • “Ashes & Fire” – Ryan Adams

“Ashes & Fire” features a strong case that Adams can put out an album that is more than the sum of its parts – something that is uncommon in even the most gifted musician. – Aimee Mandle




  • “Strange Mercy” – St. Vincent
  • “21” – Adele
  • “Within and Without” – Washed Out
  • “XXX” – Danny Brown
  • “Fire and Ice” – Kaskade
  • “EP2” – Christopher Norman
  • “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” – M83
  • “Bad As Me” – Tom Waits
  • “Undun” – The Roots
  • “Slave Ambient” – The War on Drugs
  • “House of Balloons” – The Weeknd
  • “It’s a Corporate World” – Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
  • “Underneath the Pine” – Toro y Moi
  • “Salt Year” – Chris Bathgate
  • “El Camino” – The Black Keys
  • “The Head and the Heart” – The Head and the Heart





About the Author

Tim Adkins
Tim Adkins
Tim is the publisher of iSPY and co-founder of Pakmode Media + Marketing. He's a social, vegetarian geek who recently welcomed a beautiful baby girl into his family. For any questions or suggestions in regards to design, ad sales, web, content or anything at all related to iSPY, Tim's your guy.

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