10. Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi – Rome: What happens when you combine an American music producer, an Italian composer and a spaghetti western? A brilliant record! Recorded entirely using vintage equipment and with a little help from famous friends Jack White (The White Stripes) and Norah Jones, is an immersive auditory adventure that accentuates the romanticism of gunslinger cult film style.
9. Beirut – The Rip Tide: The Rip Tide is a revival of Beirut’s signature trinity of sound (piano, horns and strings), after a brief departure to more electronic territory. It’s a softer, slightly more melancholic album, but the arrangements are beautiful and singer-songwriter Zach Condon is more than able to seduce with his Balkan folk sensibility.
8. Feist – Metals: The long awaited third studio album from indie sweetheart Leslie Feist is a departure from her toe-tapping “1234” style into a darker more introspective elegance. Metals doesn’t have the pop hooks of its predecessors, but it definitely has soul and showcases a real artistic development and maturity.
7. BjÃ¶rk – Biophilia: More of a musical project than an album, Biophilia was released as a series of iPhone applications and is designed to be viewed as a multimedia piece. In eccentric BjÃ¶rk style, the album revolves around the theme of humanity’s relationship with biology and science, each track focusing on a specific set of non-traditional instruments, one of which she describes as a “gravity harp.” ‘Nuff said!
6. The Field – Looping State Of Mind: A minimalist masterpiece, this album shines with subtle brilliance. Producer Axel Willner focuses on the loop as its form of expression. Each track slowly expands and evolves, with a repetitive layering of ambient and electronic sounds, creating a lavish soundscape with such natural simplicity that you might hardly notice that you’ve been transported.
5. Armistice – Armistice: This definitely steals my Best EP of 2011 spot! Armistice is a collaboration between Bedouin Soundclash’s Jay Malinowski and Montreal-native BÃ©atrice Martin, better known as Coeur de Pirate, with a little help from hardcore punk band The Bronx, under the guise of “Mariachi El Bronx,” playing – you guessed it – the lush sounds of the mariachi style. It’s an indie fusion of reggae, flamenco and mariachi that will take you on a short tropical journey with these two young lovers.
4. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes: An album of contrasts: fantasy vs. reality, strength vs. vulnerability, Wounded Rhymes shines past its contradictions, instead using them as assets. Propelled from Swedish obscurity, Lykke Li first appeared on the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack, though little good can be said about the franchise, this is one blessing. Filled with equal parts mournful sensuality and melodrama, this electro-pop gem should not be missed.
3. Sondre Lerche – Sondre Lerche: You’re probably scratching your head wondering who the hell this is (and how do you even pronounce that!?). Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche (pronounced Son-dreh Lur-keh) has had a surprisingly fruitful career, with seven albums under his belt by the ripe age of 29. With this self-titled release, his years of experience have definitely come to fruition. A solid mix of eclectic musical styles comes to play, creating a raw, candid and heartfelt album.
2. Tom Waits – Bad As Me: Step right up! Not quite number one, but pretty damn close. Bad As Me is vaudeville jazzman, Tom Waits’ first proper studio album in the past seven years. With his signature whisky-soaked growls in full form, Waits is as bad ass as ever, blazing through the 13 tracks with such passion that you’ll commend his recent enshrinement into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
1. Adele – 21: Admit it, you love her! Statistics time: 21 has reached the No. 1 position on the Billboard charts in over 19 countries, it’s the best-selling digital album of all time, and it’s the first album to spend 39 weeks in the top five. If that doesn’t convince you, consider this: has BeyoncÃ© ever told you that your voice is like “listening to God?” I didn’t think so.