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top 5 albums of 2011, according to christine campbell

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

I love Fleet Foxes forever. I have a long history of being a huge fan girl for Fleet Foxes, but Helplessness Blues wins my number one spot because its mastery can stand completely alone from my bias. I simply can’t get enough of the harmonious, meticulously arranged, intelligent musicianship, rollercoaster tempo genius that is Fleet Foxes. There isn’t a group of more consistently amazing live performers that exists right now and to be honest, I wish Fleet Foxes would put out new material every single day. I’ve seen them live twice in 2011 and can safely say that what they’re doing touches only on religion. Favorite songs include: “The Shrine / An Argument”, “Grown Ocean” and the generation-defining “Helplessness Blues”.

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

It wasn’t until I saw Bon Iver perform almost this entire album live before I realized how amazingly intricate the added synthesizer arrangements and general large backing sound on this album were in comparison to the stark folk of the band’s 2007 breakthrough masterpiece For Emma, Forever Ago. What Bon Iver achieves in terms of blending electronic or even more standard pop styling with Justin Verson’s signature stunning falsetto and the rest of the band’s expert musicianship is something worth paying attention to. Really any of the songs on the album could serve as favorites, but the three I go back to most are “Perth”, “Holocene” and “Michiant” because each displays the perfect marriage of Bon Iver’s quiet, epic folk with added production technique that makes it arena ready as well. I must also include the stunning cover of “I Can’t Make You Love Me/Nick of Time” in my list of favorite tracks, although I’m not sure it’s on the album.

Adele – 21

Adele is the crème de la crème of music today. I actually had to check the release date of 21 (22 February 2011 in the US) to make sure it could fall under the 2011 category. No matter your musical preferences, gender, race or identity are, it’s safe to say that humanity can agree on one thing: 2011 would’ve been a totally different year without Adele’s masterpiece 21. Even Saturday Night Live made a skit about the power of her voice. I am sure you’ve heard most of the album already because her catapult into total and complete pop stardom hasn’t been seen since 2009 and Lady Gaga. However, if you need any reaffirmation of just how talented Adele is, please watch “Someone Like You” and “Turning Tables”.

The Black Keys – El Camino

Another band I’m a huge fangirl for unsurprisingly makes this list. The Black Keys blow my mind because the both quality and range of sounds they create being only a blues guitarist and a drummer is something that only The White Stripes (RIP) can rival. But their El Camino gets the #4 spot because I haven’t had enough time to properly listen to it (only about three weeks of 24 hours a day, 7 days a week rotation). I feel their American blues rock and roll genius shines through most on “Gold On The Ceiling”, “Little Black Submarines”, and “Stop Stop”. I am seeing them live again in March and will let you know if my pure joy subsides.

Florence + the Machine – Ceremonials

Florence + the Machine are some of the best musicians in pop music today, on the same level as only superstars like Adele and Beyoncé. While I totally understand what critics are saying when they make the claim that Ceremonials doesn’t pack the same attention-grabbing punch that Lungs did, I think we need to remember that there’s still a fair share of epic songs on this album. My favorites are a mix of her more typical power anthems like “Shake it Out”, “Heartlines” and “Leave My Body” and her newer, more heavily produced material like “What the Water Gave Me” and “Never Let Me Go”.

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