Beautiful Pain – My Favorite Albums of 2011 (So Far!)

| August 10, 2011

This year has already inspired a lot of great music.  I decided I would write about my five favorite albums of 2011 (so far).  Not that I am by any means an authority on what “great music” constitutes.  But if you have a weakness for beautiful lyrics or just simply songs that are so good they bring tears to your eyes, read on!

1) Adele 21

No great surprise here, I’m sure at this point most of us have heard Adele’s hit song “Rolling in the Deep” on the radio or on Glee, or any other number of places.  But the whole album really is beautiful, deeply painful and somehow empowering at the same time.  I find that Adele seems to have a way of expressing her pain, without asking us to cry for her.  Instead, we cry with her, all the while marveling at her strength.

My Favorite Song: Someone Like You

2) The Civil WarsBarton Hollow

Joy Williams and John Paul White make up this beautiful singing duo.  I’ve never heard anything quite like them before.  They sound like they are from another time completely, and their voices harmonize together beautifully.  At first, I assumed they were a romantic couple because of how connected and intimate their songs feel and I was pretty surprised when I learned they’re just friends.  But you almost get the sense you are listening in to a lover’s conversation sometimes in their songs, particularly in “Poison & Wine.”  If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing them before, I strongly recommend checking them out.  And you can download one of their older albums for free on their website:

My Favorite Song: Falling

3) RadioheadThe King of Limbs

Thom Yorke is probably one of my favorite singers of all time, so pretty much any album Radiohead creates will always make my “favorites” list.  The King of Limbs for me was not quite as brilliant as Ok Computer, and some of the songs on this album are a bit too abstract for my taste (as mentioned above, I am a huge lyrics fan so if the song doesn’t have lyrics that grab me, I stop paying attention).  However the beauty of “Codex” and “Give Up the Ghost” still made me fall in love with this album.  There is something so eerily beautiful about “Codex” that I can’t decide if it reminds me of living or of dying but either way, it’s worth checking out.  And “Give Up the Ghost” makes my heart bleed every time I listen to it.

My Favorite Song: Give Up the Ghost

4) Death Cab for CutieCodes and Keys

I’ve always been a Death Cab fan, not only do I love their sound, but they also have some of the most beautiful lyrics I’ve ever heard.  But this album surprised me; it’s noticeably more upbeat than their other albums.  And it’s a welcome change actually.  I don’t mean to give this album the wrong impression: it still grapples with questions about death and the struggle with trying to find a sense of belonging.  Death Cab’s darkness is still ever present in this album; you just get the sense that they’re also seeing some flickers of light now amidst the dark.  “Underneath the Sycamore” beautifully sums up the merger of light and dark present in this album.  And since I happen to be a Zooey Deschanel fan, I can’t help but wonder if her romance with lead Death Cab singer Ben Gibbard may have played a part in this more optimistic album.

My Favorite Song: Monday Morning

5) David J. RochSkin and Bones

So I confess, I heard this singer on “So You Think You Can Dance.”  But I’ve never been more thankful for that show than after hearing David J. Roch’s song “Skin and Bones.”  Beautiful, painful, and moving.  All my favorite criteria in a song.  And was I even more intrigued when I found out that this musician also happens to work as an undertaker?  Absolutely.  Even though I get the sense he may be over promoting his occupation to sell us on his pain and darkness, I’m still buying it!  Only problem is this album doesn’t seem possible to purchase yet in the US.  But while I impatiently wait for the full album to be available, I did settle for the EP released a couple months ago entitled This Is For You Whether I’ve Met You Or Not.

My Favorite Song: Skin & Bones

I hope you’ve enjoyed my list.  And hopefully 2011 continues to provide us with more beautiful music.