Despite the overwhelming amount of fantastic music released in 2011, for my definitive list this year I have chosen not only the albums which stayed on consistent rotation, but also those from artists who pushed the boundaries of sound, style and structure to not only reinvent and revitalise existing templates but also use genre confines to expand and create brand new sonic territory. To me, these artists and records have birthed something entirely new and (in some instances) relaunched my love for certain sounds.
2011 was the year that dubstep ceased to exist as an overarching term to define what was happening in bass music; alternative and popular music both flirted with a range of experimental and gutsy new directions; hip-hop got good (and interesting) again; and house music proved that it is, and will always be, the constant, ever-consistent heart-warming pulse to which our electronic world rotates.
If this were to be a, say, top 20 or 30, you’d also see the likes of Roly Porter, Oneohthrix Point Never, Shlohmo, Samiyam, Zomby, Sepalcure, James Blake, Danny Brown, Desolate, Sully, Africa Hitech, The Weeknd, Andy Stott, Panda Bear, Bnjmn, Robag Wruhme, Tim Hecker, Sandwell District and Lucy. So, being the huge music nerd I am, you can also check out my December column of Tha Realness for a huge list of ‘must hear’ music in 2011 across a range of sounds and styles, all nicely organised for you. Happy listening!
Anyway, here’re my Top 10 albums of 2011. I hope you find them as special and enjoyable as I have this year, and also well into the future.
(To read Roshambo AKA Ced Nada's Top Top Albums of 2010, click here)
10. Clams Casino – Instrumentals/Rainforest EP [Type/Tri Angle]
And then, from out of nowhere, New Jersey’s Clams Casino brought hip-hop back to life with his smudged, distortion heavy, psychedelic slo-mo. His two releases for the year (and productions for the likes of Asap Rocky, Main Attraktionz and Lil B) herald just the beginning for this reclusive genius. Special nod to the Tri Angle label for releasing nothing but amazing and inventive music all year long.
09. Rustie – Glass Swords [Warp]
And then, Glasgow wunderkind Rustie delivered on his early promise by chiselling rave music into a kaleidoscopic wall of hyperkinetic bass ‘n’ rhythm. Glass Swords is pure joyous excess and proved you can make ‘epic’ trance-laden music non-cheesy, and as tough as getting hit with a bagful of nails. Special nod to AraabMuzik for his similar exercise with the excellent Electronic Dream.
08. Kendrick Lamar – Section 80 [Topdawg]
And then, Compton’s Kendrick Lamar brought hard-hitting, intelligent, educated rap music back to the streets. Pure lyricism, rapid fire flows, oodles of personality and black humour, all over a classic collage of dusty breaks, loops and jazz from a team of new producer talent. Special nod also goes to his comrades Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and SchoolboyQ for their excellent full lengths records. Bring on the Black Hippy album in 2012.
07. Kuedo – Severant [Planet Mu]
And then, Jamie Vex’d, moved from out from under the smog, into the clouds and then off the planet entirely with his epic dystopian sci-fi vision Severant. This is cinema-music; equal parts Vangelis and Atlanta trunk-musik, Severant is full of ethereal dream-scapes, shotgun snares and double-time hats guaranteed to shatter the windows of jeeps and slingshot your brain into zero gravity. Special nod to Jamie’s former production partner Roly Porter, for his experimental opus Aftertime showing why he is the yang to Kuedo’s yin.
06. Drake – Take Care [Island/Young Money]
And then, Drake silenced the haters with a classic sophomore album. Chill and honest, Drake opens his brain, heart and mouth and unleashes torrents of blunt truth which will turn you off being famous once and for all. Sonically gorgeous, apathetic bragging has never sounded so jubilant. Special nod to T-Minus for producing some of the dopest hip-hop beats of 2011.
05. Bon Iver – Bon Iver [4AD]
And then, the masterful Mr Vernon expanded his palette with the most beautifully majestic and yet restrained music of 2011. This is intimate music to both lose (and find) yourself in, with new secrets that reveal themselves with each listen. Special nod to James Blake who also made some of the most spacious and beautiful music of the year.
04. LV w/ Josh Idehen – Routes [Keysound]
And then, the London underground came to life with the African riddims of LV and the poetry of Josh Idehen. Channelling funky, grime and house, Routes is sheer percussive bliss and giddy pitch-bent melody. Idehen’s iconic poetry is sliced and fashioned into its own instrument riding the rhythms like the trains that tunnel beneath the city in which this music was born. Special nod to the Keysound label for also dropping the excellent Sully and Damu records in 2011.
03. Instra:Mental – Resolution653 [Nonplus]
And then, Instra:Mental turned their back on the autonomic D&B that they helped create, became obsessed with old hardware, and created a punishing techno cum razor-sharp old school electro record. Sure this is very serious music, but when it’s full of as much tension, funk and cement-heavy drums, I’m sold. Special nod also to Instra:Mental’s Boddika for his exhilarating solo work in 2011 which blew both mind, and speakers, simultaneously.
02. Nicolas Jaar – Space Is Only Noise [Circus Company] PICTURED
And then, the young Chilean delivered one of the most inventive, accomplished, versatile and enjoyable debut records that I can ever remember hearing. This is ‘jaw-drop music’. Full of space and blunted trippy vocals, the album turns a new corner with every tune whilst consistently sounding like a complete musical statement. There’s not a wasted second on this record nor will you ever waste one listening to such brilliant music. Special nod also to Jaar’s remix work for indie artists in 2011, where he even made a Sneaky Sound System tune sound utterly amazing.
01. Machinedrum – Room(s) [Planet Mu]
And then, juke went global. The underground Chicago movement infiltrated bass music in a major way in 2011 and Travis Stewart embraced it head on with Room(s); one of the most incredible records of the last ten years. The drum programming is perfectly complex, the vocal manipulation and sampling gorgeous, and there’s atmosphere in spades. Like Rustie, Stewart happily tips his hat to ‘rave’, oldskool jungle and pop music, as well as melding his passion for classic dance music with the entirely new juke movement to create something fresh and new. An absolutely perfect, beautiful record that is geared towards moving your feet whilst pasting an ear-to-ear grin of pure bliss across your stunned visage. Special nod to Stewart’s self-titled Sepalcure record with Praveen on Hotflush. More essential music that you need in your life.