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FILTER’s Best-Reviewed Records and Reissues of 2011

By Staff on December 2, 2011

 

FILTER’s Best-Reviewed Records and Reissues of 2011

2011 is over. Finished. Done with. Kaputt. There's no going back, only going forwards, and we're thrilled to take along a few of the benchmark albums that moved us—spiritually, mentally...physically—this year. While we are unfortunately unable to review everything that comes across our desks, the below reflects the very best in our opinions and reviews in 2011. (Pitiless censors of ourselves, and all that.) If you don't see your favorite record of 2011 on this list, it's likely we featured it in one of our issues this year. To check those out, head to: The Magazine or Good Music Guide section of our site. Behold: The few, the proud—FILTER's best-reviewed records and reissues of 2011. 

FILTER's Best-Reviewed Records of 2011

93%
Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues
SUB POP

"Despite the abundance of gorgeous music, each repeated listen is often like a first. The melodies become familiar, but without sing-along choruses or lines easily recalled in specifics, they are closer to landscapes rather than portraits, forests rather than trees, where one can wander amongst this mossy wood of music."—KEVIN FRIEDMAN

92%
Paul Simon
So Beautiful Or So What
CONCORD

"Decades beyond the point at which most of his peers peaked, Paul Simon is still discovering new ways of writing and conveying amazing work and discovering beautifully unexpected and often spiritual language, as well as new rhythms, melodies and instrumental textures."—PAUL ZOLLO

92%
M83
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
MUTE

"For such a long release, the pacing is almost perfect[…] Gonzalez has crafted an admirable paean to fuzzy memories, nostalgia, melancholic rumination and pop experimentation, imploring the listener to become the stories and places that populate dreams."—KYLE LEMMON

90%
Battles
Gloss Drop
WARP

"The result is the brilliantly organized chaos that Battles do so well, but the album is filled to the brim with such pleasant surprises it takes at least five listens through to begin hearing the smaller moments of joy (and calm) folded into the layers of cacophony."—KENDAH EL-ALI

90%
Explosions in the Sky
Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
TEMPORARY RESIDENCE

"Explosions in the Sky’s sixth full-length wastes no time in covering well-worn methods[…] It’s familiar but refreshing, evidence that a dinosaur genre like “post-rock” can still sound vital."—DOM SINACOLA

90%
James Blake
James Blake
UNIVERSAL REPUBLIC

"At the impressionable age of 21, electronic pop’s popular neophyte has already laid out a lifetime of sonic tangents[…] No surprise Blake is cribbing liberally from both his dubstep roots and a host of contemporary trends: Auto-Tune, IDM, minimal techno—even chillwave. But these he synthesizes to their most empirical bits, revealing the building blocks of those styles to elegantly assemble his own building blocks of a personal, distinct production style."—DOM SINACOLA

89%
Other Lives
Tamer Animals
TBD

"Tamer Animals contains an embarrassment of riches. It would be easy to simply line up the adjectives and let them roll in. Lush. Ambitious. Moody. But the truth is, Other Lives have managed to pull off a feat more remarkable than releasing a few engaging tunes—they’ve created an album."—LAURA STUDARUS

89%
Panda Bear
Tomboy
PAW TRACKS

"Exploring the immediacy of death and the strength of familial bond, [Young Prayer] was full of big questions and bigger wishes; the birth of a key transition that continued with Panda Bear’s breakthrough, Person Pitch. Tomboy is the vivid sound of Lennox reemerging at the other end of this journey[…] The record’s astral heights just might represent the zenith of reverb."—KYLE MACKINNEL

88%
Beastie Boys
Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
CAPITOL

"Hot Sauce Committee not only confirms the Beasties to be as essential now as they were in their 20s, but it suggests that hip-hop—that young man’s swagger—can be made just as vital in middle-age as it is in youth."—MARTY SARTINI GARNER

88%
Bonnie "Prince" BIlly
Wolfroy Goes to Town
DRAG CITY

"The solemn beauty of Will Oldham’s songwriting continues in full effect on the marvelously titled Wolfroy Goes to Town, his ninth studio release under the Bonnie “Prince” Billy moniker. Sunup to sundown, Wolfroy is a record powerful and reverent enough to leave you in the good favor of the lord."—KYLE MACKINNEL

88%
Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi 
Rome
CAPITOL

"Luppi carries the talent to become this generation’s Morricone and with composer D-Mouse, a holy alliance was born to worship at the altar of spaghetti Western–inspired grandeur."—A.D. AMOROSI

88%
Floating Action 
Desert Etiquette
PARK THE VAN

 "Desert Etiquette feels timeless; songs you feel you already know, written by old favorites and performed with a kind of intimacy that can’t help but be remembered."—JEFFREY BROWN

88%
Gang Gang Dance
Eye Contact
4AD

"Gang Gang’s fifth full-length merges everything from Animals-era Pink Floyd atmospherics, Yoko Ono’s avant-dance signatures and 21st-century synthetic beats on its epic 12-minute opener “Glass Jar” alone."—SCOTT THILL

88%
R.E.M.
Collapse Into Now
WARNER

"These songs are worthy of attention, praise and a place in your music library—and they definitely deserve better than a soundtrack to your morning latte."—NEVIL MARTELL
 

88%
Shabazz Palaces
Black Up
SUB POP

"The lyrics are just as obtuse and serpentine as the clanking, cacophonous beats.These muscular lab dudes are true experimenters that don’t quite sell an anthem such as “A treatease dedicated to The Avian Airess from North East Nubis (1000 questions, 1 answer)"—better than that, they blaze it."—BROOKE OSBORNE

88%
Sigur Rós
Inni
XL

"Vincent Morisset directs Inni in a minimalist, enigmatic black and white that captures all of the elegance, somberness and chilling majesty of what might be the most singular and unparalleled band of their generation."—KEN SCRUDATO

88%
WU LYF
Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
LYF

"The stark contrast between frontman Ellery Robert’s guttural, yell-sing vocals and the squeaky-clean instrumentation not only works harmoniously, but also creates a distinct and commanding sound."—CLARE R. LOPEZ

87%
Björk
Biophilia
ONE LITTLE INDIAN/NONESUCH

"...The challenging but exceedingly rewarding Biophilia is at its heart a deeply moving, mind-expanding tribute to how that most ineffable of human achievements—the assembling of words and sounds and ideas into music—can intensify our understanding of the very knowable, but often perplexing and terrifying natural world which supports our existence."—KEN SCRUDATO

87%
Black Lips
Arabia Mountain
VICE

"The songs are no less fun than the slapdash punk gems they cranked out early in their career, but the lyrics find themselves digging a bit deeper into the nature of the human condition, while the instrumentation becomes more complex and varied."—ERIN HALL

87%
Bill Callahan
Apocalypse
DRAG CITY

"Apocalypse is Bill Callahan’s newest cryptic journey into the heart and art of this American life[...] The narratives are far from clear—but his timing and evocative phrasing carve away at some greater story."—JON PRUETT

87%
DJ Shadow
The Less You Know the Better
VERVE

"(The Less You Know the Better) transcends sonic genres with a mature exploration of a global village too distracted to notice it’s shorting itself...Shadow’s musical embrace is warm and wide. Return it."—SCOTT THILL

87%
Eulogies
Tear the Fence Down
DANGERBIRD

"It is often said that tragedies help put us in touch with our creative side...This album requires less listening and more feeling for one to get the message, something that most of us could all use a little more of."—NALA SART

87%
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
It's a Corporate World
QUITE SCIENTIFIC

"Delivering a disarmingly beautiful mix of vocal harmony pop alongside blippy electronic beats, Epstein and Zott honor the melodic tradition of The Beach Boys to create one of the best debuts of the year."—MIKE HILLEARY

87%
J Mascis
Several Shades of Why
SUB POP

"Several Shades of Why is almost entirely acoustic, prominently featuring Mascis’ cask-aged holler and stellar songcraft...It’s the perfect record to listen to while you sit and wait for the next comet to pass, as Mascis sounds long shy of extinction."—KYLE MACKINNEL

87%
Tyler Ramsey
The Valley Wind
FAT POSSUM

"Tyler Ramsey, who, when not a driving force within Band of Horses, releases albums of sparse folk-rock...Ramsey doesn’t need suspense to conjure beauty; just riff like The Byrds and sink serenely into the grass."—JONATHAN FALCONE

87%
The Sea and Cake
The Moonlight Butterfly
THRILL JOCKEY

"The tracks are constructed with extended instrumentals and a noticeable shift in focus from vocals to synthesizers. Good music transcends throughout time, and The Sea and Cake is one of few that do it right."—MARY KOSEARAS

87%
Wilco
The Whole Love
DBPM

"The collected texture of The Whole Love—the cooing backup vocals of “Dawned on Me,” Iggy Pop’s sampled shout on “I Might,” Tweedy’s under-the-covers singing on “Rising Red Lung”—is the groaning sound of dissonances converging, like the almost-touch of fingers nearly lacing. On this side of heaven, both good and bad exist."—MARTI SARTINI GARNER

 

FILTER's Best-Reviewed Reissues of 2011

96%
The Smiths
Complete [compilation]
RHINO

"Complete. It’s a masterstroke because it collects only the Smiths material that you need to own…which is everything, of course...It is, in effect, the only acceptable historical document of the nearly incomprehensible phenomenon that was The Smiths."—KEN SCRUDATO

95%
Can
Tago Mago [reissue]
MUTE/SPOON

"Tago Mago was (and is) a double-length album like no other. Four decades on, and there has yet to be anything that hits on this kind of organic, brain-melting, structured psychosis."—JON PRUETT

94%
U2
Achtung Baby [20th anniversary edition]
ISLAND

"Achtung Baby is the last great U2 album and one of the best records ever made, but is this $150 six-CD, four-DVD 20th anniversary edition worth your time and money? Short answer: Fuck yeah."—NEVIN MARTELL

93%/91%
Peter Tosh
Equal Rights [reissue]/Legalize It [reissue]
LEGACY

"To hear the [Legalize It] as Tosh originally intended it is eye-opening, as the final mix seems more echoey and less straightforward, featuring less prominent vocals and more funky effects, for better or for worse."—LOREN POIN

93%/91%
Smashing Pumpkins
Siamese Dream [deluxe edition]/Gish [deluxe edition]
EMI

"These lovingly remastered and richly expanded editions of the Smashing Pumpkins 1991 debut Gish and 1993’s mainstream breakthrough Siamese Dream soundly prove that the band’s place in rock history is firmly cemented. These are two of the best records made since 1990—bar none, hands down, no argument."—NEVIN MARTELL

90%
Mercury Rev
Deserter’s Songs [reissue]
CO-OP

"By gently swirling together a pinch of Pink Floyd, hints of prescription-strength gospel, far-out folk, svelte psychedelia and the sound of dreams half-remembered, the band created one of the great pre-millennium albums, which has now been reissued with 13 additional demos, remixes and alternate versions. The LP’s songs are built around epic, drawn-out melodies that become irresistible tractor beams, pulling you into the group’s alternate reality."—NEVIN MARTELL

89%
The Flying Burrito Brothers
Authorized Bootleg: Fillmore East, N.Y. N.Y. Late Show, Nov. 7 1970
HIP-O SELECT

"As they would for much of their early career, The Flying Burrito Brothers spend most of this 45-minute set mining the tense, fertile valleys between trail-worn peaks. At the tail end of a culture war, they stood firmly between country and rock, bucking guitar licks from Bakersfield and vocal harmonies from Laurel Canyon."—MARTY SARTINI GARNER

87%
The Books
Thought for Food [reissue]
TEMPORARY RESIDENCE






 

87%
R.E.M.
Lifes Rich Pageant [reissue]
CAPITOL/I.R.S.

"The whole package is a head-snapping reminder that when R.E.M. was on fire, you couldn’t put them out with all the water in the world."—NEVIN MARTELL

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