2011 was a dynamite year for music. We had some of the strongest efforts from a ton of big name artists, reaffirming their place at the top; and we also had a massive surge of breakthrough releases bringing us a whole new spectrum of talent to bask in. Every genre expanded and gained depth that didn’t clog it with the same sound. It was exciting as hell but there are some albums that we’re teething for – and who doesn’t want to have their cake and it eat too? Here are some albums that we’ve been jonesing for at My Entertainment World.
1. The xx
The self-titled debut from the now London trio – one member left after citing exhaustion cause that’s how phenomenal their force was on the scene – was released back in 2009. For a band that won the Mercury Prize with their first album, a lot of eyes are looking to see what they’d do. They toured, extensively and remixed a ton of albums. Then, as a Christmas present, we got a demo called “Open Eyes” and now we’re sweating for more.
2. Janelle Monae
This genre spanning, dance-pop princess hasn’t been around for too long but what she has done will stand the test of time. Her conceptual delivery of 2010’s The ArchAndroid was eclectic and brought you everything from serene ballads that Lauryn Hill would be jealous of to club throwdowns with a Santigold vibe. In an interview while in her hometown of Kansas, she said she’s in the works to release TWO albums in 2012. TWO! Just like the amount of Grammy nods she got for ArchAndroid. Expect a fun year with Janelle.
3. Black Star
In 1998, Brooklyn threw down and upended hip-hop. Mos Def & Talib Kweli postponed their solo debuts to collaborate on what may very well be considered one of the greatest, truest, hip-hop albums ever made. Featuring production from Hi-Tek and a guest verse by Common, the duo brought the ruckus and put their own unique stamp on the rap scene with this self-conscious style and layered production. Paving the way for so many artists after them, the two followed their solo careers until Mos Def’s The Ecstatic (2009) when they re-united on a song called “History.” They’re going to be making that again with this next release. No question about it.
4. La Roux
2009 also saw the release of La Roux’s La Roux. Elly Jackson & Ben Langmaid won Best Electronic/Dance Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards and they definitely earned. Each single that came off this album became a dance anthem, especially “In For The Kill” which has been given so many different treatments it’s hard to keep up with all the remixes. Their high level of energy coupled with the inherent 80’s core gets those toes tapping – fast and all night long.
Every five years or so, these guys come around and throw a wrench in the definition of rock & metal. It’s hard to really nail down their sound because over the 15+ years they’ve been producing music, their reach has expanded in all directions. Instrumentals, spoken word interludes, & brooding, booming soundscapes of music comprise their catalogue. 2006 was their last release and with the tour they’re on right now, writing is obviously going on since the band’s back together. They always deliver a refreshing album, usually when you’re just about to give up what’s on the local rock station.
The last time these two truly got together and released an album was, in my opinion, Stankonia way back in 2000. Yes, there was the double release of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below but that saw 3000 and Big Boi doing things separately together. I’m talking back and forth, being “So Fresh, So Clean” with it. Remember that? Yeah, that’s how long it’s been. However, with their recent move to Epic Records – which is headed by LA Reid who produced most of their work – it seems all the ducks are in a row for some new ATL music.
7. The Big Pink
Now, The Big Pink isn’t a huge, household name. They may have also already released their album of 2012 (Future This) earlier this month but I personally wasn’t writing for this site until about a week ago so don’t let it seem like we dropped the ball have this on an anticipated album list and it’s been released. I’m digressing. What I’m getting out is that these are guys are worth it. They’re MGMT with less clutter, focusing more on the synth-electro-new wave beats a la The Cure. They can dissolve into noise rock at times, which just adds a whole new dynamic to their style.
8. Michael Kiwanuka
In a span between April 24th and July 24th, Michael Kiwanuka released three EPs. By January 6th, he was named the “Sound of 2012” in BBC’s yearly poll. Overachiever much? His fluid blend of Otis Redding & Bob Dylan makes him accessible to so many generations. His debut is due out in March and after supporting Adele, don’t expect him to just fall into the charts and slowly rise – Michael is going to storm the gates with his soulful songwriting.
Even though they just released an album in August, it was only half an hour long and the Canadian couple – yes, couple not duo cause they’re married in real life – has already slated an album for the spring of this year. Their music is littered with an Americana feel during the Civil War era. You’ll heel stomp and don some bandanas as they take out West with their self-titled album. Indie scene beware, Whitehorse has a six shooter and all the awards the Canadians have been winning shows their aim is true.
10. Screaming Females
There’s a belief artists can be determined by their fifth album – if they make it that far. The New Jersey punk-rock trio has been under the radar though so does it count as their fifth album if it’s really going to be maybe their second that hits mainstream audiences? Screaming Females pulls in the best inspirations from the rockabilly/punk/hardcore genres and blends it into this easily digestible garage lo-fi sound that puts early Yeah Yeah Yeah’s to shame. Marissa Paternoster shreds the lead guitar all while delivering her vocals in this Nina Simone shaky-voice. Listen to this song, “Laura And Marty” to really grasp their abilities.
11. Big K.R.I.T.
K.R.I.T has been Big in 2011. He got signed, featured on some big name albums, and dropped a mix-tape – Return of 4Eva – that many regard one of the best rap albums of the year. The rappers featured on his mixtape alone(David Banner, Chamillionaire, Luda and Bun B) should get you chomping at the bit. He’s got a stronger delivery than Wiz Khalifa, a harder style than Meek Mill, and is so smooth that he’s already getting slated to take over the South. That Mississippi flow doesn’t just refer to its river anymore.
12. Bear In Heaven
I Love You, It’s Cool is just a great title for an album. I mean, that’s not the reason Bear In Heaven is on this list but it helps. Their 2009 album, Beast Rest Forth Mouth contains some of the most spacious yet most concise rock you’ll find. The Brooklyn based group found a tightrope act and walks it with such dexterity and grace you easily get lost in the way their sound embraces your body. It’s a wholeness that’s been attempted by so many bands however Bear In Heaven finds a way to make bliss tangible.
Honorable Mentions: The Men, First Aid Kit, Dead Man’s Bones, G.O.O.D. Music compilation album, & Nicki Minaj.