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Kingblind Top 15 Albums of 2011 (15-11) (Part 1 of 3)

Here is what you have all been waiting for. The top 15 albums of 2011. Broken down into 3 parts. (15 thru 11) – (10 thru 6) -(5 to 1)

Today we will start our first batch.. So enjoy numbers 15 through 11..

#15) Adele- 21

Throughout 21, the sequel to her smash debut 19, Adele Adkins comes armed with a who’s who of producers and songwriting collaborators, spending much of an undoubtedly extensive recording budget on carefully crafting songs that lash out at a former lover with righteous fury. “You’re gonna wish you never had met me,” a chorus of overdubbed Adeles warn on the gospel hoedown “Rolling in the Deep.” Yet on the piano-led finale, she vows, “I’ll find someone like you,” as if that’s progress. It’s a statement that’s utterly WTF and yet true to the cyclical nature of psychological damage.

As her album titles announce, Adkins is barely an adult. And just as an appetite for self-destruction became a selling point for the Seattle grunge sound, the romantic volatility of youthful femininity colors Britain’s retro soul birds. Even while working with quintessential American mainstreamer Rick Rubin, Adkins sounds on the verge of tabloid implosion.

Though the undeniable lament “Chasing Pavements” earned a 2009 Grammy, 19 was bogged down by too many folky guitar ballads. Those have vanished; ditto Adkins’ Tottenham accent. Instead, she wails harder and writes bolder, piling on the dramatic production flourishes to suggest a lover’s apocalypse. If you’re looking for a record that’ll make you wanna trash your beloved’s belongings and have make-up sex amid the ruins, 21’s your jam.

#14) White Denim- D

Don’t laugh, but there was a time when people thought of White Denim as just more gob-flecked borstal-punks. This was a misconception arrived at by two roads: that liquid-snot of a name, a pairing of words that signals bad taste even in Belarus, and the Hives-y caveman thump of first single ‘Let’s Talk About It’.

Then we heard their synapse-frying albums, saw them exceed the most towering expectations live and had our minds befuddled by a band as lairy and noisy as they are precise and methodical. A group as vintage rock as they are Year Zero, and who are experts at their chosen tools. As this fourth album arrives with all the driving force of an articulated lorry, fans can hail their patience as wisdom.

White Denim (now a four-piece) have never been less than terrific, but as they move further from the garage and embrace their real love – early ’70s Americana – they defy all probability. This time it’s a fondness for the wiggy jam-band sound of Lowell George’s Little Feat that’s channelled through wiry post-hardcore and the triumphant yet finickity bits of post-rock. It’s a breathless fusion played at dumbfounding speed and gives rise to a sound we’ll call math-boogie.

They’re slippery buggers, though. Even their technical chops can’t disguise a sunny disposition that brings flute-wreathed acid Latin to ‘River To Consider’. The whirling prog of ‘Anvil Everything’ ushers in the same wry, psychedelic haze that saw the band pay tribute to Chile’s nut-job director Alejandro Jodorowsky in their 2009 video for ‘I Start To Run’. And nestled between hectic pin-sharp jams they toss off country-soul songs as pretty as ‘Street Joy’ and ‘Keys’ – James Petralli’s voice now dreamier than My Morning Jacket’s Jim James.

But it’s the southern riot of ‘Bess St’ and the brilliant intensity of ‘Burnished’, burrowing into its accompanying speed-jam ‘Back At The Farm’, that’ll knock you on your arse – an amphetamine-laced gumbo of Allman Brothers riffs fired off around a pile-driving rhythm Neu! would be proud of. Did someone really just mention The Hives?

#13- Unknown Mortal Orchestra- S/T

Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson is the latest in a long line of musical scavengers, racing to translate the sounds in his head by pulling from what’s already there. On the debut by Nielson’s erstwhile one-man band, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, that process involves building something new from reenacted hip-hop drum breaks, some doses of bad-trip psychedelia, and heavily processed slashes of garage-rock guitar. The project has since morphed into a Portland-based power trio, but on record, Nielson’s creation is by turns a crate-digging Voltron and a circuit-bent automaton. When all the pieces are working together—propelling through the lo-fi haze of “Ffunny Ffriends” or projecting the CB-radio soul of “How Can U Love Me”—it’s a quirky vision of a pop canon that never was; when the songs confuse a rut for a groove, their hypnotic qualities lapse into repetition. Nielson’s upper-register rasp occasionally recalls that of Paul McCartney, which seems appropriate—as a mercurial experiment in home recording, Unknown Mortal Orchestra lines up nicely with the ex-Beatle’s McCartney and McCartney II LPs. And like those two releases, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s idiosyncrasies and straightforward melodies portend greater, untapped potential.

#12- Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues

Hello harmonies, our old friend. Hello, finger-picked guitar, we’ve come for you again. On its second album of dew-dappled cabin folk, Seattle’s Fleet Foxes tips its wool cap to Simon & Garfunkel, CSNY and other progenitors of the soaring intertwined vocals, but it knows enough to leave its heroes behind.

On “Bedouin Dress,” the second track on “Helplessness Blues,” frontman Robin Pecknold sings: “If to borrow is to take and not return, I have borrowed all my lonesome life … the borrower’s debt is the only regret of my youth.” On Fleet Foxes’ 2008 debut, naysayers wondered if the band wasn’t so indebted to ‘60s folk that Pecknold would end up in some sort of debtors’ prison, albeit one with Navajo blankets and Yerba Mate tea.

But alas, “Bedouin Dress” shows that the band has such a hunger for nuanced song construction, with each moment interlocking with the next in an inspired fretwork, that it transcends its influences. “The Shrine/Argument” starts predictably enough but it climbs through a few phases: forceful, cymbal crashes; hallucinatory near-a cappella, and a skronk blowout that would make John Zorn proud.

With more emphasis on groove and bass weight, the songs don’t seem as fragile as before but rather like they can weather some storms. The echoey waltz rhythm of “Lorelai” provides the backbone for an expansive memory of lost love, one that swings less with regret and more with gratitude.

In its best moments, “Helplessness Blues” sparkles like some sort of divine plan, but a plan that knows the value of mistakes, surprises and even regret. Stolen, lost or repaid, all of Fleet Foxes’ debts are forgiven.

#11 Charles Bradley- No time for dreaming

Charles Bradley’s voice has evolved from a lifetime of paying dues, having nomadically labored for decades at various day jobs from Maine to Alaska singing and performing in his spare time before re-settling in his hometown Brooklyn and eventually finding a musical home at Dunham/Daptone. In his distinctively rough-hewn timbre one hears the unmistakable voice of experience each note and gruff infection a reflection of his extended, sometimes rocky, personal path. It s only fitting that No Time For Dreaming s producer Thomas ”Tommy TNT” Brenneck (also a member of The Dap-Kings and The Budos Band) would recognize in Bradley a kindred musical spirit a singer whose performances exude both raw power and poignant beauty. Recorded at Dunham Studios, and mixed at Daptone Records internationally revered ”House of Soul” Studios, No Time For Dreaming is the inspired sound of an awakening.