Top 10 CDs of 2011 | Mike Koehler

cd frank-turner2011 was a pretty good year for music. I really could have made this a top 20 or 30 list, but here I’ve kept it to 10.

1. Frank Turner | England Keep My Bones (Epitaph)

Not much more I can say that I didn’t say in my review. My album of the year.

2. Yuck | Yuck (Fat Possum)

I describe Yuck’s sound as if shoegaze,, grunge and Britpop met up at a rave, did a little too much E, and had a skanky, nasty three-way from which a baby was produced. That baby would be Yuck. This has been in a constant rotation for most of the year. The songs are catchy as hell, with a heavy, fuzzed-out guitar sound of the early- to mid-’90s alternative scene.

3. Frankie & the Heartstrings | Hunger (Columbia)

I’ve tried writing a full review up for this several times and could never complete it. I found out about this through NME and I’m glad I did. It’s retro to early-to-mid ’80s British indie but doesn’t sound like a cheap imitation. They sound like they really were transported from about 1984. Think Dexy’s Midnight Runners crossed with The Smiths without Morrissey being such a twat. (No offense intended; I do love Morrissey, however.)

4. Anna Calvi | Anna Calvi (Domino)

Anna Calvi has set the bar high for the rest of her career with her debut. From her haunting voice to her exceptional guitar work, this is an album that has stuck with me since it hit in January. It’s sultry, exciting, thrilling, gothic, and passionate.

5. The Vaccines | What Did You Expect from the Vaccines (Columbia)

As a friend of mine said after listening for a day: “This certainly reaches an itch I couldn’t scratch”. Such a fantastic album. There is no new ground broken here, just simple guitar songs, and simple guitar songs done right. It makes you feel as if you are young and can do anything.

6. The War on Drugs | Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)

There are so many wonderful layers of sound and texture to this album. You get a sense of restlessness and longing listening to them, but that is a very good thing. I do love that every so often I hear Vangelis via Blade Runner in this. This is an album for which I either turn the stereo up very loud or put on the headphones and drown the world away.

7. PJ Harvey | Let England Shake (Island) 

This is an album about war and failed colonialism (we’re talking WWI here, folks) and how England is forever changed from both. Throughout the songs, most of which are steeped with death and destruction from war, there is a current of national pride in England. It all makes for a mesmerizing listen.

8. White Denim | D (Downtown)

A wonderful country-tinged, psychedelic, progressive, classic rock, blues rocker of an album. If it seems I crammed a lot of genres into that one sentence, it’s because White Denim crammed that all into their sound. An excellent blend of all of those styles that sounds like a great shout out to ’70s rock while still coming off fresh and not forced. Meant to be played really loud.

9. The Joy Formidable | The Big Roar (Atlantic/Canvasback)

This album does indeed roar. It’s swirling, monumental, and somewhat jaded. That’s a -winning formula in my mind. This is a confident album that certainly worth of the buzz it received in the U.K. music press.

10. Dawes | Nothing Is Wrong (ATO)

When I first listened to this, I was texting back and forth with fellow PLAYBACK:stl writer Mike Rengel, and he described this one as Jackson Browne-esque. That is the perfect way to describe it; I cannot improve on that.


Honorable mentions:

Bill Callahan | Apocalypse (Drag City)

Fucked Up | David Comes to Life (Matador)

Twilight Singers | Dynamite Steps (Sub Pop)

Mogwai | Hardcore Will Never Die but You Will (Sub Pop)

Explosions in the Sky | Take Care, Take Care, Take Care (Temporary Residence)

Kurt Vile | Smoke Ring for My Halo (Matador)



Bon Iver | Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)

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