Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BTL Top 5 Albums of 2011

I love music, and this was a great year for music.

There is something about the second year of a decade that brings out the best in artists.

Going back to 1991 which was simply a turning point for music in a generation.
Nirvana's Nevermind, Pearl Jam's Ten, and even U2's Achtung Baby set the standard for music for years to come.

Even at turn of the new millennium music hit another benchmark.
The Strokes' This is It, The White Strips' White Blood Cells, and Ryan Adam's Gold influenced artists for the next ten years.

The music produced in 2011 found proven artists creating some of the best work of their career.  There were also some new artists making a splash like FosterThePeople and Washed Out that rounded out a special year for music.

5.  Mat Kearney - Young Love
A transplant artist from Nashville that uniquely blends spoken word and soaring choruses into a fresh and catchy sound.  The album is a brief 40 minutes but with each listen you find this beat-driven effort to be surprisingly deep and layered. Hey Mama and Count on Me may be the stand out summer tracks but it is the storytelling in Down and Ships in the Night that finds Mat Kearney being the Bruce Springsteen of this generation with a touch of style from Elvis Costello.

4.  The Civil Wars - Barton Hallow
As the name suggests this is an odd couple that seems to work that contradiction to perfection.  Joy Williams, an established CCM artist came together with the talented but obscure folk singer John Paul White in 2009 Eddie's Attic but it wasn't until four years later that this non-couple found success.  The harmonies are tender and well crafted.  The lyrics are far from cliche and sometimes can be downright heartbreaking in Falling and Poison and Wine, but their is subtle thread of hope throughout the album that comes thru Barton Hallow and especially in I've Got This Friend.

3. Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
This is the album that everyone wanted Coldplay to make, which also is its greatest critique but also its greatest compliment. Mylo is full of energy and enthusiasm which makes it tasty ear candy, and Coldplay is hoping you have a sweet tooth especially on tracks like Hurts like Heaven, Charlie Brown, and Every Teardrop.  There are some tracks that bring the right amount of balance to cut the sweet especially on Paradise and Us Against the World.  The album is great, but you expect it to be, it's Coldplay.

2. Adele - 21
You had a glimpse of Adele's brilliance on 19 with Chasing Pavements and on 21 this British songbird really finds her voice.  The album opens with it's strongest track Rolling in the Deep with its driving beat and gospel influence.  However, the rest of the album takes a melancholy turn as the theme of heartbreak and loss is found throughout.  Despite its somber message Adele's angelic voice eclipses the album with passion and soul especially on Rumor Has It and Someone Like You.  In today's Pop music culture of body conscious females and superfluous music Adele redefines the industry with beauty and grace.

1. Gungor - Ghost Upon the Earth
Ghosts Upon the Earth transcends the worship genre into creating something that is truly magically that can be best described as an art-rock-opera.  A concept album that ebbs and flows with themes of creation, loss, and redemption inspired by C.S. Lewis' Great Divorce.  Ghosts is an album that is to be listened to in full which is rare, with a CCM trend to manufacture predicable singable songs for Sunday morning.  Much like The Beatles who found a new sound in Revolver and perfected it with Sgt. Pepper, that is what Gungor has accomplished starting with Beautiful Things last year and building brilliantly to Ghosts Upon the Earth.

What are your favorite albums of 2011?

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