As there isn't a whole lot of new music due out the remainder of the year, I thought I'd go ahead and post my "Best Albums of 2011" list.
Having a very wide range of musical taste, I thought I'd post by genre. While there could be much debate as to whether or not each of these albums has been placed into the appropriate genre, I've placed them here per my own personal preference. Anyway, without any further ado...
Best "Worship" Albums of the Year:
I loathe CCM. I really do. Fortunately, however, good worship music (both congregational friendly and non-congregational friendly) continues to thrive, and 2011 was no exception to this.
10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman: There probably isn't a better congregational friendly worship album released this year. Most solid album by Redman since Facedown. Definitely worth owning.
Economy by John Mark McMillan: Many folks don't know John Mark McMillan, but if I told you he wrote "How He Loves", you'd say, "Oh, I love that song!" Well, Economy is everything but "How He Loves", however, the album is a great Rock-worship album. Not congregationally friendly perhaps, but a fantastic listen!
Brokenness Aside by All Sons and Daughters: When I first heard this 7-track EP I was floored. Tracks such as "All the Poor and Powerless" are as good (if not better) than Gungor's "This is not the End". Seriously, it's that good. I cannot wait to hear what they come out with next.
Worship Album of the Year! - Ghosts Upon the Earth by Gungor: RELEVANT Magazine said Gungor's album was an early pick for album of the year. They were right. Ghosts Upon the Earth is 12 tracks of pure amazing songwriting and musicianship. And unlike many other albums released these days, Ghosts requires you to sit and capture the entire project in one sitting. A true masterpiece.
Best Singer/Songwriter Albums of the Year:
Love & War and The Sea In Between by Josh Garrels: This album is amazing, and Josh decided to give it away free for one year. If you haven't downloaded it yet, do it. Seriously.
Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars: The Civil Wars took years to be noticed, but they kept plugging along. Now they're nominated for a Grammy and rightfully so. Fantastic songwriting. Fantastic vocals. Fantastic album.
Invisible Empires by Sara Groves: If you've never heard Sara Groves before, she's got a huge heart for social justice. This is well seen on her former albums (in fact, she once recorded a live Christmas concert from within a women's prison and released it for free.) While Invisible Empires may not be her best work, it's still one of the best albums I've heard this year.
Deeper by JJ Heller: JJ's former album was awful, just awful. Fortunatly, she's gone back to her stripped down acoustic roots. And there was much rejoicing.
Mission Bell by Amos Lee: A friend of mine turned me on to this album, and I'm really glad he did. It's one of the finest pieces in my singer/songwriter collection that I'll be going back to for years to come.
Yearbook Collection by Sleeping at Last:I haven't heard a set of EP's this good since Jon Foreman's 4 Seasons EP's released a few years back. To be honest, this SaL collection may be one I turn to more often in years to come than Foreman's. Yes, it's that good. Definitely worth purchasing the entire collection.
Singer/Songwriter Album of the Year! - Bon Iver by Bon Iver. This album probably won't be your cup of tea. Justin Vernon sings in a constant falsetto (as he also did on For Emma, Forever Ago) and the music is far from most radio-friendly music heard today. Nevertheless, this self-titled effort is so musically creative and well layered that it is probably my most listened to album of the year.
Best Rock Albums of the Year:
Codes and Keys by Death Cab for Cutie: It's really a shame that Death Cab's non-belief in God is so blatantly apparent throughout this album. Its' a pretty good project for Death Cab, but not one I'll put in regularly.
Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes: Perhaps this album belongs in a "Folk" section, I'm not really sure. While Fleet Foxes have been compared to a lot of bands of years past, I liken them most to a cross between the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas. This album has superb songwriting and musicianship
The King is Dead by The Decembersists: Another "folk" album maybe, but The King is Dead is a great project by the Decemberists. While it's not the quality of Helplessness Blues, it's still worth a good listen.
Nothing is Wrong by Dawes: One of the great mellow southern rock albums of the year. Dawes may not be your style, but I found this album worth listening to a number of times, and I'm certain I'll hear it a lot more in the months ahead.
The Whole Love by Wilco: Wilco is a very interesting band, but they've been around for years. And The Whole Love is probably one of the best albums in their career. If the mood is right, you won't find a better record to listen to than this one.
Vice Verses by Switchfoot: Jon Foreman and Switchfoot do it again! Vice Verses is a great alternative/pop/rock album. You feel kind of torn as to what genre to place it in (depending on what track you're listening to), but they're able to make it work very well. If you haven't picked this up, you probably should.
Rock Album of the Year! - The Story of Our Lives by The Violet Burning: It's true. I could not in good conscious put forth a different "Rock album of the year" than this one. Michael Pritzl's 34 track - 3 cd - box set compilation is as good as it gets.
Let me know what I missed in the comments below!