Each week here on VH1 Tuner, our VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown host Jim Shearer (@jimshearer on Twitter) will be sharing his Shearer’s Spotlight with us. Your regularly scheduled Top 20 Video Countdown show is on a break until 2012, but be sure to tune into the Top 40 Videos of 2011 tomorrow evening when it airs on VH1 at 7 p.m. ET/PT. This week Jim gives us his top 10 albums of 2011.
10.) Love & Rockets, Vol. 1: The Transformation, Murs
Sometimes Murs’ albums have the propensity of being too laid back, but on Love & Rockets he strikes a nice balance, weaving between more chilled out tracks like “Remember 2 Forget” and heavier callouts like “Let’s Go.” The highlight of the album though is its closing track “Animal Style,” the boldest hip-hop song I’ve heard about homosexuality (which sadly, is traditionally never discussed in hip-hop).
9.) The Road From Memphis, Booker T. Jones
Indeed, this is the same Booker T. from Booker T. & the MG’s, an outfit responsible for making one of the greatest instrumentals in modern music: “Green Onions.” Jones’ trademark Hammond organ licks backed by The Roots’ rhythm section and legendary funk/soul guitarist, Dennis Coffey, play out splendidly on the all-too-fun covers of Lauryn Hill’s “Everything Is Everything,” Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” and Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend.” And not to diss, but Lou Reed’s collaboration with Jones on “The Bronx” sounds better than anything he did with Metallica this year.
8.) Watch The Throne, Kanye West & Jay Z
At the beginning of 2011 word on the street was that Kanye West & Jay Z were going to release an album together, while Dr. Dre was set to put out the final recording of his stellar career. I was skeptical of both, but at year’s end I’m happy to say we did get a solid debut from hip-hop’s premiere super-group, although I’m still waiting for Dre’s Detox, which is quickly, or slowly, becoming hip-hop’s version of Chinese Democracy.
7.) Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Coincidentally—or maybe it was no coincidence at all—both Gallagher brothers formed post-Oasis bands and released new albums in 2011. Both were very good, but I liked Noel’s better, who now gets to sing the songs that he writes without having to worry about a fistfight breaking out.
6.) The Rip Tide, Beirut
Zach Condon (the brainchild of Beirut) doesn’t re-invent the wheel on his latest LP, but his signature voice—complemented by piano, accordion, and a horn section—is an irresistible treat anytime he releases a batch of songs, which always make me feel good, even though some of them are really sad.
5.) The Less You Know The Better, DJ Shadow
Following his head-scratching, collaboration-heavy, jumble of an album, The Outsider, DJ Shadow returns to his roots—and his dusty, thrift store-vinyl junk heap—by creating my favorite album of his since the groundbreaking Endtroducing. Despite the warning in the album’s title, all of my expectations were exceeded.
4.) Don’t Be A Dick, Emily’s Army
I hold a special place in my heart for crappy garage punk bands, and this year I liked none better than Emily’s Army. After hearing their single “Broadcast This,” I investigated the rest of the songs on their debut album, and ended up falling in love with it, especially the track “Asslete,” which points a punk rock finger at all the huge egos in professional sports.
3.) Wasting Light, Foo Fighters
I’m not saying this because I received two pieces of analog tape in my hard copy of Wasting Light (instead of the promised, one), but this is the best album the Foo Fighters have ever made. Yes, Dave Grohl has written some of the catchiest rock singles of the last 15 years, but besides The Colour and The Shape, I’ve always felt their albums have come up short. In the age of shuffle buttons, I’ve had a hard time not listening to this album all the way through in chronological order.
2.) Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2, Beastie Boys
It’s as if the Beastie Boys’ latest album was culled from a lost collection of studio tracks harkening back to their early ‘90s masterpieces: Check Your Head and Ill Communication. That’s not to say the Beastie Boys don’t tread any new ground, as they do when they tag-team with Santigold on the reggae-tinged “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win.” Listen to “Here’s A Little Something For Ya,” “Say It,” and “Long Burn The Fire,” and tell me the Beastie Boys still don’t bring it.
1.) Thank You Happy Birthday, Cage The Elephant
The most fully realized sophomore album I’ve heard in a while. Cage The Elephant have found a way to sound like their 1990’s forefathers—Nirvana, Pixies, Violent Femmes—without ripping them off (like many bands of the last 20 years are guilty of doing). Thank You Happy Birthday is a near-perfect blend of punk, serenity, and buzz bin singles like “Shake Me Down,” “Around My Head,” and “Aberdeen.”