Pop & Rock 2011: 30 Best Albums

Pop & Rock 2011: 30 Best Albums
Listen to our Best of 2011: Pop & Rock playlist on Rdio by clicking here.

1. Bon Iver
2. St. Vincent
3. Feist
4. M83
5. Destroyer
6. Braids
7. Austra
8. PJ Harvey
9. Timber Timbre
10. Sandro Perri
11. Wild Flag
12. Shotgun Jimmie
13. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
14. Beirut
15. Girls
16. Bill Callahan
17. Yuck
18. Rich Aucoin
19. Tom Waits
20. Battles
21. Ty Segall
22. Lykke Li
23. Adele
24. Handsome Furs
25. Cults
26. EMA
27. Dog Day
28. Kurt Vile
29. Wilco
30. The Rural Alberta Advantage

1. Bon Iver Bon Iver, Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)
Back in 2008, Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, won over hearts by taking the broken pieces of his and turning them into his bedroom-bruised debut For Emma, Forever Ago. His outstanding follow-up reveals that while time (and success) healed certain wounds ― note that his own moniker takes the title (twice!) this time 'round ― our folk-hero is still a fractured soul searching for his place in the world. But this time he's armed with fabulous '80s flourishes. The hopeful "Calgary" starts tranquil and cold, but warms as the layers of drums, guitar and synthesizers crescendo and retreat. "Holocene" aches with a similar winter-y feel, but the drum rolls and spare arrangement focus all the attention on Vernon's vocals and the lonely refrain "I can see for miles, miles, miles." For all this distress and earnestness though, Vernon's bolstered by some balls, as evidenced by "Beth/Rest," the album's last song. It works both as a brilliant summarizing of affairs ― electronic keyboards, vocal distortion, moody saxophone ― and a warning cry of what's to come. It forces the listener to fully consider the scope of Vernon's bizarre and brave artistry. Thankfully any egregious bravado is tempered by his grounded humbleness, which is a refreshing combination compared to other creative geniuses.
Andrea Warner