Best Of 2011: Honourable Mentions

January 14, 2012 at 12:02 am | Posted in ~Special | Leave a comment
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Last year there were so many amazing releases and it doesn’t feel right to ignore them. This post is for all the top releases of 2011 that could have claimed the title “Album Of The Year.” Not only are they the top of 2011 but some of them are the best records I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. I love these albums so much and I just had to make a post to honour them all. The amount of talent, new and old, last year was unbelievable.  It’s safe to say that last year destroyed the music releases of 2010. The variety, originality and beauty of 2011’s music are nothing short of amazing. These are not arranged in any specific order.

Nicola Roberts – Cinderella’s Eyes

Nicola had me hooked the minute she released the bratty Beat Of My Drum, displaying a fresh new sound for 2011. She demonstrated to the world that she wasn’t just the quiet ginger that Girls Aloud pushed to the background. Cinderella’s Eyes allowed her to be herself and showcase how amazing she could be if given the chance. Her voice is one of a kind and it may take a while to get used to but once you do, you’ll never be able to stop loving it. Her falsetto is incredible and hearing it is one of the highlights of the album. She released the most original album of the year. Songs like Gladiator and Take A Bite throw you into a world hardly explored by pop artists while the personal and tragic sticks + stones is the icing that tops it off. Try listening to it and not get teary-eyed. There is no other album that comes close to how experimental this album is. She didn’t release for the fame because if she did she would have played it safe. She clearly set out to offer something new and the risks she took are commendable. If you haven’t already had the chance to listen to it, I urge you to do yourself a favour and experience this amazing work.

Katy B – On A Mission

British female singers dominated 2011 and Katy B’s On A Mission boasts some of the best dance music to come out in years. This BRIT school graduate dabs into some exciting genres ranging from dubstep, R&B, house and garage. Her album sounds like it was created in the depths of the underground in England. She’s unlike other pop artists for the simple fact that she makes real, relatable club music. This isn’t your typical electropop dance music. Her music is centered on what it actually feels like to be in the midst of a crowd, dancing and feeling the music with every single one of your senses. Katy On A Mission, Easy Please Me and Broken Record are examples of that while Witches’ Brew attracts attention with it’s American appealing production. Not only does she have some of the hottest productions ever, she’s also an excellent singer and Go Away shows just how amazing she is. The album is a non-stop party and even the slower tunes have rocking beats. It’s not everyday an electropop artist has a voice like hers and she proves you don’t have to use auto-tune/vocoder to make good music. On A Mission is a throw back to when music had integrity and didn’t rely on cheap tactics to sell.

Adele – 21

What would a “Best Of 2011” list be without Adele? She single-handedly slayed every chart in 2011 and was the most talked about artist. Rolling In The Deep and Someone Like You were some of the most successful songs of the year and they’re definitely up there as the best. This wasn’t a case of a singer being overhyped because she had the album to back up the success. Without a doubt, she is the best vocalist to come out in years. While electropop was dominating, she came out of nowhere and released a soulful album that captured the hearts of millions. 21 is filled with music that everyone can relate to, my favourite song being Set Fire To The Rain. Her appeal transcends demographics and this is the reason for her massive success. She doesn’t use gimmicks or crazy fashion to get attention. She keeps it simple, something that many artists these days aren’t able to do. Adele is a talented artist who deserves all the success she has received and will continue to receive. No one has made heartbreak sound this good.

Kelly Clarkson – Stronger

Stronger may have not been a change from her usual material but it was definitely much more mature than her past releases. It’s not overly pop or dark. It’s a balanced record that contains great songs. Kelly, once again, does a little bit of everything and succeeds in all the genres that she touches. Mr. Know It All was such a different sound for her to return with but it was good. This isn’t the most creative release of the year but she sticks to what she’s comfortable with and that’s what I’ve always loved about her. Her music never lacks heart and Stronger continues that trend. Unlike her past releases, this album sticks to a single theme and each song revolves around it. There’s still fun songs like You Can’t Win and Don’t Be A Girl About It as well as ballads fans have come to love from her, Honestly and The War Is Over. All the songs share a similar sound which isn’t a bad thing because there isn’t any token rock or dance song. It’s all very cohesive and every song brings something new to the album.

LIGHTS – Siberia

LIGHTS ventured into a grittier and dubstep influenced sound with her sophomore release, Siberia. As a result, her music received a polish that it didn’t have before and the production was so much edgier. It’s quite a dark album but there are still some light moments that are reminiscent of her past release but they received a massive surge of vibrancy. The lighter songs, Banner and Peace Sign, are enthusiastic power anthems of hope and love. Flux and Flow and Suspension are the best songs she’s ever done and I still love them to death. I was happy to see her include more ballads as well. And Counting… is so stunning and its romantic air is simply adorable. Her little voice grew during her break and she reached new heights with it, hitting notes I never thought she would sing. It’s an understatement to say that this is a good pop record because it’s more than that. She fought with her American label that wanted to mold her into a clone and released an album that she could be proud of. As a fan, that’s all I can ask for in an artist.

Evanescence – Evanescence

Gothic rock made a return when Evanescence released their long-awaited album and it was so worth the wait. Sure, it may have been overly cohesive but it was filled with brilliant hard rock masterpieces. Lost In Paradise, Swimming Home, My Heart Is Broken and Secret Door are out of this world and Amy’s haunting voice is so special. She sounds like an angel and they’re the most melodic ballads I’ve heard all year. The whole band came through on each track and that was something new for them as the focus has always been on Amy. They were more intense and aggressive with their productions which led to more headbanging anthems from the band, Oceans and Never Go Back are the bands classic sound mixed with a new energy. Evanescence is truly a unique rock band as they push the envelope time and time again. They’re not afraid to experiment but they’re also not afraid to hold back and stick to their roots. The feeling of having a band I adored when I was younger make a successful comeback is indescribable. It’s such a great feeling and I’m so happy for them.

Lady Gaga – Born This Way

Born This Was may have been an overhyped mess for some but for me it secured my love for Lady Gaga. The songs were interesting, daring and so infectious. Heavy Metal Lover, Scheiße and Government Hooker are the album highlights and her best songs. The religious themes left a bad taste in some people’s mouths but she’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last artist to use religion in music so I don’t see what the big deal is. Moreover, only a few of the songs use these themes so it’s not really an issue and they’re some of the best songs on the album, Judas, Electric Chapel and Bloody Mary. Most of the songs deal with the album’s major concern which is about not being ashamed of who you are. The 80s and European pop influences are a breath of fresh air. Gaga is heavily inspired by the 80s and this album is full of throwbacks to the era. It’s a look into her past and her teenage life, making her more accessible on a personal level.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Make A Scene

I heard of Sophie a few years back but I never heard any of her music until last year when I found out Richard X, a producer who worked with Rachel Stevens, produced a song for her called Starlight and it was a synth masterpiece. Make A Scene turned out to be a deliciously crafted electropop album. Everything from the up-tempos to the symphonic ballads utilizes synths in magical ways. Her music is very European so except some fantastic slices of disco heaven. Bittersweet is a melodic song that touches the border between mid-tempo and up-tempo, Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer) is the type of song that doesn’t let you stop moving and Dial My Number, my favourite, is hardcore synthpop. These are massive songs designed to get you to dance but Sophie’s not afraid of slowing down and getting sensual, Synchronised being proof of that. The title track, Make A Scene, is a quirky concoction of beats, something that seems like it shouldn’t work but does. Make A Scene is her best album yet, providing the finest slice of European pop you can hear.

Simon Curtis – R∆

As I’m sure you’re all aware, I don’t praise male artists that often but Simon Curtis is an exception. He released R∆, his second album, and it was a blast of excellent electropop hits. His first album was amazing and it’s not everyday you hear a male vocalist singing this kind of pop music. He’s been regarded as a male alternative to Britney Spears so expect heavy dance tracks. Flesh is the hottest and dirtiest song released last year and it’s a must-hear. What makes him so remarkable is that he’s not signed to a label. The amount of work he puts in to his albums is incomparable to someone who has a huge label backing them up. Despite this, his music never sounds low budget and it’s one of the best releases of the year. Compared to his debut, the music is darker, better produced and there’s more variety. It’s not a departure from his previous sound but it’s an improvement and that’s all that matters.

Ro Danishei – End of the Rainbow

Ro is another unsigned artist and a friend of Simon’s. She also shares a love for electropop and she’s just as talented. End of the Rainbow was a fantastic surprise and boasted some of the catchiest songs of 2011. Later in the year, she released it on iTunes with brand new songs and remixes. The new songs were just as catchy and they made the album better. Even the remixes were well done and weren’t the type of lame remixes that most artists tack on to fill space. They brought a different feel to the song that was enjoyable and certainly very interesting. The album as a whole is strong and dominated by songs that long for the dance floor. Blackout and Baby Doll are club hits that force you to move to their delicious beats. Her collaborations, Michelle (feat. Simon Curtis) and Wicked Baby (feat. Simon Curtis), are the best pairing of artists I’ve ever witnessed. They’re a match made in heaven. She may not be the greatest vocalist but she knows how to use her voice and doesn’t try to be anything that she’s not. She makes feel-good dance music that’s meant to be fun and exhilarating which is exactly what this album is.

Genki Rockets – GENKI ROCKETS II -No border between us-

Genki Rockets blew their debut away with their second album, GENKI ROCKETS II -No border between us-. Dropping their virtual sound, they opted for a more realistic approach to their music and look which benefited them greatly. The heavy use of vocoder was dropped and Lumi’s natural voice was granted the freedom to breathe. Furthermore, there was also a focus on organic instruments that raised their melodies to unbelievable heights. There were still tons of synths but they worked with the organics to produce infectious songs. Curiosity, Touch Me and make.believe are excellent electropop songs, the best from Japan, and they show off their new style perfectly. Their first album was based on the concept that Lumi was born in outer space and wanted to come to earth. This one gives the impression that she, in some way, has made contact with earth which explains the emphasis on natural elements. I honestly thought that I wouldn’t hear from them again but I’m so glad I was wrong because this album is incredible.

Namie Amuro – Checkmate!

This is the only compilation on the list but there’s no denying how amazing Checkmate! is. Namie is always spot-on with her collaborations and to have an album of them is a fans dream come true. She didn’t just release an album of old material though. She packaged five brand new songs that were unique and unexpected collaborations. Finally having Luvotomy / m-flo loves Namie Amuro and BLACK DIAMOND / DOUBLE & Namie Amuro on a Namie album was a great treat. Despite having some old tracks included, I never heard many of them so most of the album felt new. There’s a lot of variety and it shows all the different musical trends she’s gone into. She’s extremely versatile and the album shows that in the best possible way. Her collaborations are amazing and they should not be missed.

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