Below you can see my top 20 for the year (so far) along with my top 5 EPs released so far. I included a list of honorable mentions because there are many that I either just got or haven't listened to enough yet to consider them.
As a warm-up, here are my top 5 EPs of the 1st half of 2011:
5) Year of the Tiger: Good Day for A Tiger - If you like Sleigh Bells check out Year of the Tiger. You can listen to and download Good Day for A Tiger for free HERE
4) Ocean Carolina: Leave On - Ocean Carolina have a pop country vibe to them with some solid chill tunes. Check out "Blue" below
3) Childish Gambino: EP - Also know as Donald Glover who plays Troy on NBC sitcom Community. His alternate hip hop ego delivers with fun lyrics that go well with his name. You can download the EP free from his website www.iamdonald.com and check out "Freaks And Geeks" below.
2) Heavenly States: Oui Camera Oui - This album was brought to my attention by "Berlin Wall" featuring Britt Daniel of Spoon but the rest of it is pretty solid as well. Brings to mind early 90's pop/rock. On "Monster" you almost feel like you're listening to a new song from The New Radicals. Check out "Berlin Wall" below
1) The Black Books: An Introduction To... - Big surprise here since I did a review gushing over this local Austin band's debut EP. Lo fi rock that brings to mind the days of My Morning Jacket around At Dawn and It Still Moves. Check them out on their site HERE and feast your auditory taste buds on "The Big Idea" below
My Top 20:
20) Toro Y Moi: Underneath the Pine
19) James Blake: James Blake
18) Handsome Furs: Sound Kapital
17) Holy Ghost: Holy Ghost!
16) The Antlers: Burst Apart
15) Radiohead: King of Limbs
14) Cut Copy: Zonoscope
13) Foster the People: Torches
12) The Strokes: Angles
11) Smith Westerns: Dye it Blonde
Now keep in mind, this isn't a list of what albums I think are the best but more of my favorites. Those I can listen to over and over and want to listen to.
10) Middle Brother: Middle Brother - "Supergroup" featuring the singers from Dawes (Taylor Goldsmith), Delta Spirit (Matthew Vasquez), and Deer Tick (John McCauley) brings country/rock/folk bar music to 2011 with guns alblazin. Very solid effort and a couple of the songs even made it to the new Dawes album but aren't the same missing a grittiness that Goldsmitth can't deliver on his own.
9) Death Cab for Cutie: Codes and Keys - Here is one of those I haven't been able to listen to as much as I would like yet but I already know it will end up as one of my favorites as it continues to grow on me. At 1st the happier vibe of the music and Ben Gibbard's lyrics were a deterrent. This isn't Death Cab! After a couple of listens, though, it's still them and I'm getting over it slowly.
8) Iron & Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean - This easily wins best album title of the year for me. Fantastic effort by Sam Beam and company with their new album. They decided to pick things up a little bit on this album and breathe a little more energy into their beautiful music.
7) The Head & the Heart: The Head & the Heart - Great debut album from these Seattle indie pop folksters. Great chemistry, harmonies, lyrics, music, and stage presence. What else do you need? Was self-released in 2010 but Sub Pop re-released it in April of this year so it still counts.
6)The Decemberists: The King Is Dead - A different kind of album for The Decemberists Missing are the epic story lines of times past or 10+ minute collages from the mind of Colin Meloy. The King Is Dead is the most mainstream album we have seen yet from The Decemberists. Where else can you go after Hazards of Love and what better timing than when you plan to take at least a 3-4 year hiatus?
5)Yuck: Yuck - Debut album from London rockers sparks a fine cord with me and should with anyone else born in the 80's or that still has a soft spot for 90's rock. I put off listening to this because all I read about was how good it is and the 90's rock comparison (see songs "Holing Out" and "Operation"). That was a dumb move on my part because that was spot on and it really is an awesome album. I chose to take it down a notch with my choice below.
4) My Morning Jacket: Circuital - My favorite band's followup to 2008's Evil Urges that saw the band dabble in R&B and funk. They come back to their roots on Circuital but manage to include some other things they've learned along the way with their sound experimentation. Great album that will continue to grow as the year goes on and I can't wait to see these new songs translated live!
3) Destroyer: Kaputt - This album seems to be kind of polarizing in that I haven't talked to many people that say it's ok or not bad. It seems like you either absolutely love it or don't really care for it at all. Personally, I love it and it has been heavily in my rotation since it came out back in January. 80's synth-influences and Dan Behar's unique style and lyrics have made this a classic.
2) TV On the Radio: Nine Types of Light - Nine Types of Light was released shortly before the passing of bassist Gerard Smith due to lung cancer. It is different but arguably their best effort to date. Has a softer focus than previous albums but the sound and reasons that TV On the Radio are staples at the top of year end album lists still remain.
1) Bon Iver: Bon Iver - Bon Iver comes back with his sophomore effort with a little less of that "if I ever were to write a suicide note I would want this playing the background" feel. Slight exaggeration and For Emma, Forever Ago was a gorgeous album but Justin Vernon breathes some auto-tuned life into this follow up. I can't get enough of it and right now it is the hands down clear cut winner.
It will be interesting to see how this list shapes up as the year goes on and which albums have staying power and which push their way up.
Top 20 Honorable Mention Bands: Dawes, Panda Bear, Givers, Metronomy, Okkervil RIver, Banjor or Freakout, Puro Instinct, Tinie Tempah, The Weekend, Young Galaxy, Young the Giant, Gardens & Villa
UPDATE: So I just realized I mistakenly left Helplessness Blues, the sophomore effort by Fleet Foxes, from my list. I am not going to redo this so I will just include it in my year-end list. Something to look forward to!