Top 5 Albums of 2011 (So Far)

As a musician and worship pastor I enjoy listening to music. Some of the best times of connection I’ve had with God are sitting at the computer with music on. The creativity needed in great music is inspirational, whether it be done by “secular” or “Christian” artists (as you can tell I don’t really think in those genres too much). In 2011 I made it a personal goal to spend more time listening to new music. I don’t have money to spend on music, so I use the various streaming (and legal) websites around the internet to explore new music.

As I consume music, I think about the musical composition before I think about lyrics. You can have phenomenal lyrics and a horrible sound and no one will care. In that case, the band should take up poetry. So I do give more weight to composition, while still considering what the artist is actually saying in their songs. Here’s my top 5 albums of the first half of 2011, starting from the bottom.

5. Death Cab for Cutie (Codes and Keys)- Starting with a bit of an obvious choice because everyone knows them by now. Back in college when they were much more unknown, all my friends thought we had found the next big thing. Turns out we weren’t wrong. I don’t think they reinvented the wheel with this album, and they didn’t need to. They have no way to surpass the greatness of Transatlanticism, but this is still a good effort. My favorite song was “You Are a Tourist.”

And if you feel just like a tourist
In the city you were born
Then it’s time to go
And define your destination
There’s so many different places to call home

4. Bon Iver (Bon Iver)- If this whole album was as good as the first 4 minutes, this would be #1. The album was recorded out in the sticks of Wisconsin which adds to the wilderness feel of the whole thing. I’m not sure it surpasses the greatness of the first album, but there’s just too many good songs not to call it a great album. My favorite song is “Perth.”

Iʼm tearing up, across your face
Move dust through the light
To find your name
It’s only faint
This is not a place
Not yet awake, I’m raised to make

3. King Creosote and Jon Hopkins (Diamond Mine)- This album didn’t make much headway in the states (they’re from the other side of the pond), but I couldn’t stop listening for a few weeks. I think what makes the album special is how it starts. The first song takes place within what is essentially a coffee shop, with a man who starts playing piano. There’s talking, clatter, people walking, and yet there is beauty. Listen to some of the album here.

2. Adele (21)- I don’t know that much needs to be said about the album. She’s been all over the radio and she placed herself at the top of the “best female vocals” list after this album. My favorite song is “Turning Tables.”

So I won’t let you close enough to hurt me
No, I won’t ask you, you to just desert me
I can’t give you, what you think you give me
It’s time to say goodbye to turning tables

1. Fleet Foxes (Helplessness Blues) – I love what Paste magazine said in their review of the album: “While some bands can’t keep an entire album within a similar tempo range without producing a muddled, bland collection of songs, Fleet Foxes excels in meaningful simplicity. The foundations of many tracks are similar — the band frequently returns to the strumming, “ohhs” and “ahhs” that define opener “Montezuma” — but Fleet Foxes know how to layer sounds to add depth and make each song distinctive.” My favorite song is “Helplessness Blues.” Take a listen:

What would you add or subtract from the list?