While most of the wild west Napster/Kazaa/Limewire days of piratey downloading passed me by, I have tried out my share of different online music streaming services. Blip.fm, Grooveshark, and Last.fm each have unique benefits but, for me, 2011 was the year of the Spotify machine.

Spotify may not have everything, but their library runs deep. Seriously, albums from The Crownhate Ruin and Car vs. Driver? I feel like someone put me in a post-punk time warp and I landed in a creaky second floor warehouse in Philly just in time for a Food Not Bombs benefit show. I also love being able to listen to songs that I normally wouldn’t seek out (that’s you, Drake) on my own.

Maybe it’s a function of getting older (or the aforementioned vast catalogue available on Spotify for me to re-live all my past favorites), but I don’t have the will to check out as many new bands as I have before.

All that being said, here are some of the albums I enjoyed this year. Some of them have been around for much of the year, and some I’ve only begun listening to as the year-end music lists come out, but let’s do this thing:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – It’s a Corporate World

I have a soft spot for bands from the Mitten. Nevermind the corporate sellout/NASCAR imagery: DEJJ’s dreamy melodic meanderings soothe.


John Mark McMillan – Economy 

Gritty, determined Americana, heartbreak, open roads, worship. “Like diamonds we shine up against the jet black sheet of night.”


Seryn – This Is Where We Are

Seriously, I am such a sucker for the banjo. Seryn’s jangly, hills-chamber harmonies make me wish I could grow a beard.


M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming 

I’m also a complete sucker for new wavey, synthy rock. M83’s epic synth riffs and fake bass slapping could fill a 101 sized arena.


Future Islands – On The Water

The vocals are a bit of that overwrought but, hey, new wave. Started listening late in the year, let’s see if this one stays with me.


Lecrae – Rehab: The Overdose 

“Christian hip-hop” rightly makes many of us cringe (oh, DC Talk), but I’ve really been enjoying Lecrae. “I was tailored to snatch the mic swiftly like ‘Ye did.”


This year, I’ve also enjoyed:

  • Watch the Throne, the luxury rap collaboration from Kanye West and Jay-Z. Stranger and stranger.
  • Mount Wittenberg Orca, the odd wailing collaboration from Dirty Projectors and Bjork. See above.
  • Ghosts Upon the Earth, by Gungor. Loved how their live three-person acoustic set felt like a full ensemble.
  • King of Limbs, by Radiohead
  • Tomboy, by Panda Bear