Laura Shine’s Top Ten Album picks of 2011

Oy! this was a tough year to make such decisions as to the ten best albums of the year! About drove me crazy. A lot of my choices were quite frankly made because of time spent with the music. It’s likely Ryan Adams and The Black Keys would have made the list if they had come out earlier in the year and I’d had time to get to know the music better. Same for Feist and several others. But in the end, as fate would have it, the ten I chose were the ones who got my attention the most and often returned to for many listens. So here they are:

10.  Adele – 21 – The British songstress made an album this year that may be the best of her career not only from the past but into the future. Undeniable great singing and songwriting with the number one hit of the year “Rolling In The Deep”.

9.  The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow – John Paul White & Joy Williams are both established songwriters and solo artists. After meeting at a songwriters workshop and playing together they soon realized they had amazing chemistry. They joined forces and voices and Barton Hollow is the beautiful result. Check out “Poison & Wine”.

8.  Paul Simon – So Beautiful or So What – Never a one trick pony Paul Simon keeps on keeping on and produced one of his most gorgeous records yet. Check out “Getting Ready for Christmas Day”, “The Afterlife” and “Rewrite”. Excellent!

7.  Silver Tongues – Black Kite – Louisville rockers Silver Tongues stole the show for me this year after sifting through hundreds of local releases and some other great contenders for this spot on the list. They have the edge I wish Coldplay had and surpass many great bands who’ve been at this game for years with just their debut. Tracks recommended are “Warsaw”, “Broken Strings” & “Wet Dog”.

6.  The Head & The Heart – Self-titled - The Northwest is brimming once again with some stellar bands emerging from its decidious forests. Oh, and from Seattle too. There’s not one bad song from The Head and The Heart but these tracks really stand out “Lost In My Mind” and “Down In The Valley”.

5.  Motopony – Self-titled – Read number six. Only difference is different songs. Suggested are “King of Diamonds” and “Seer”.

4.  Burlap to Cashmere – Self-titled - One of those bands that had success in the ’90s then disappeared only to reform, rejuvenate, recover and reemerge with an excellent album this year. Check out “Don’t Forget to Write” and “Build A Wall”.

3.  Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Here We Rest – One of my favorite songwriters ever, guitarist and Southern rocker Jason Isbell put out a relatively light hearted record with some really fun songs. As always don’t let the light-heartedness fool you. Depth and remarkable songwriting are all over this album too. Favorite tracks are “Alabama Pines” and “Codeine”.

2.  The Decemberists – The King Is Dead – Colin Meloy and his Portland, Ore. bandmates put together an album of brilliance this time around. Some would argue they always do but this one caught me by surprise and I fell madly in love with the whole album. Having Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings guest on the record didn’t hurt. “June Hymn” is some of the best poetry put to song I’ve ever heard. “Down By The Water” is good Americana fun too.

1.  Vandaveer – Dig Down Deep – This band is made of two: Mark Charles Heidinger & Rose Guerin who were obviously made for each other – musically that is. Gorgeous harmonies, fantastic songwriting, mezmerizing melodies swept me off my feet this year and landed this record as my number one pick of 2011. “Concerning Our Past and Future Conquests” and “The Nature of Our Kind” are just two of the 10 amazing tracks on this record.

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