Year-end album lists are kind of like going to a high school reunion: You feel obligated to do it, you way overthink things and nobody wants to show up with an unfashionable look that nobody else is rocking.
Some people reach for an obscurity to up their cred or go with the big, dumb, obvious choice to avoid making waves and be down with the cool kids. When asked to only pick one album from 2011, I just prefer to cheat.
That's why I'll mention that I was way into things like Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne for its brash, bombastic rap supremacy; Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto for its willingness to take chances; and the truly excellent old-school/new-school fire of reggae icon Jimmy Cliff's Tim-Armstrong-produced Sacred Fire EP. Lykke Li's subtly moving, deceptively funky Wounded Rhymes did it for me, as did My Morning Jacket's always brain-expanding sound on Circuital. EMA's brain-buzzing, reverb-flooded Past Life and Martyred Saints did the trick, along with tUnE-yArDs' kitchen-sink, jungle-funking Whokill.
Hell, I might even mention that I couldn't put down Girls' seductively simple Father, Son, Holy Ghost, James Blake's trancy self-titled debut or Wu Lyf's gruff, confounding Go Tell Fire to the Mountain.
But while all excellent, none of those are my top album of the year. That honor goes to London shoegazer revivalists Yuck, whose self-titled debut album was like a time machine back to my indie-rock musical youth. As much as I love listening to new artists make the most of modern technology and blaze trails, this year I was drawn to albums by bands like the Dum Dum Girls and Yuck, which pay homage to such college-rock forebearers as My Bloody Valentine, Pavement, Jesus and Mary Chain, Sparklehorse, Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth.
Songs like Yuck's, yes, soothing "Soothe Me" and the druggy ripsaw guitar boogie of "Holing Out," with its briefly spiraling solo and dreamy multi-tracked vocals, just speak to the club jockey in me. I haven't had a chance to see Yuck live yet, but listening to their music feels like beer-soaked floors, sweaty front-of-stage scrums, ringing ears and watery mixed drinks.
They're in no hurry on "Georgia," plugging along on tambourines and blown-out double guitar boogie, as vocalist Ilana Blumberg seductively sings beneath the bramble of noise about dreams and love confusion. Yeah, it's often a slapdash-seeming mess ("Rubber") or a bit too precious in its love of all things Smashing Pumpkins ("Milkshake"), but that was the noise-pop alley I felt like lurking in this year.
Share your favorite albums of 2011 in the comments below!
We'll be rolling out more MTV News writers' album of the year picks all week. In the meantime, check out MTV's Best of 2011 coverage!