Feast your ears on the year's five best CDs
This year is coming to a close, and while we say goodbye to 2011, we should do so by listening to the five best albums of the year.
5. "Mylo Xyloto," Coldplay
Coldplay went with an electronic feel for its latest album, and the result is a decent success. A step down from its previous "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends" and not as good as 2005's "X&Y," the band's fifth album results in what can only be described as an acid trip for the ears.
Many of the songs, including "Paradise" (the disc's second single), deal with escapism and following your dreams, which is extremely fitting as that's what "Mylo Xyloto" manages to produce feelings of in the listener.
Standout tracks are "Hurts Like Heaven," "Paradise" and "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall."
4. "I'm With You," Red Hot Chili Peppers
It's been five years since the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Stadium Arcadium," and in the those years, they gained a new guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer. Singer Anthony Kiedis stated that with this new guitarist and album, the band began anew. It's a good start as the Red Hot Chili Peppers have released their best album since 1999's "Californication."
A mix of experimental and their usual alternative rock, "I'm With You" highlights each of the four band member's talents with each song. Bassist Flea said the main theme of the album is life and death, and this is apparent from the opening song, "Monarchy of Roses." Throughout the album, the Chili Peppers invite listeners on a psychedelic journey of life, love, birth and death.
Album standouts are "Monarchy of Roses," "Factory of Faith," "Brendon's Death Song," "Annie Wants a Baby" and "Look Around."
3. "Duets II," Tony Bennett
Featuring covers of classic songs and a plethora of today's hottest artists as duet partners, Tony Bennett's "Duets II" is not only one of the best albums of the year, but of all time. As stated in my review in the November issue of FlipSide, "The wide variety of songs covered is practically a musical history lesson, showing how much the industry has changed. Doing covers of classic hits with today's most talented artists proves that those tunes stand the test of time -- and so does Tony."
Album standouts are "The Lady Is a Tramp" with Lady Gaga, "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)" with John Mayer, "Body and Soul" with Amy Winehouse and "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)" with Queen Latifah.
2. "Born This Way," Lady Gaga
This is technically only Lady Gaga's second album, after "The Fame." (The EP "The Fame Monster" was released to bridge the gap between the albums.) On it, Gaga decided to tackle issues of self-acceptance, immigration, teenage rebellion, women's rights and death.
The lead single "Born This Way" is an empowerment song to the LGBT community, minorities and anyone who has ever hated him- or herself. It became the fastest selling single in the history of iTunes and is exemplary of why many of her fans love her.
"Born This Way" is more pop and less electronic than her previous album, but it still manages to produce booty-shaking beats while getting across meaningful messages.
Album standouts are "Born This Way," "Judas," "ScheiBe," "Bloody Mary," "You and I" and "The Edge of Glory."
1. "21," Adele
In 2008, the world was introduced to the promising up-and-coming young singer/songwriter Adele Adkins with her album "19." However, it wasn't until "21," released in January, that Adele was catapulted to the top of the music industry.
With more than 10 million albums sold, "21" has been a success both commercially and critically. Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-, saying, "At times, Adele's precocious talent feels prematurely aged by her material and moments of levity are hard to find. But at its best, '21' is that rarest pop commodity: timeless."
Timeless indeed, as "21" can strike a chord with listeners of any generation. Adele's raspy vocals are highlighted by a fantastic track list, including "Someone Like You," a powerhouse piano ballad that captures the feeling of true unconditional love. Other album standouts are "Rolling in the Deep," "Rumour Has It" and "Set Fire to Rain."