Rocks Off Lists Our Favorite Downloads of 2011

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It's getting to be that time of year, when the temperature drops and the lists start rolling in. Read any blog, magazine or newspaper and you're bound to run across at least a handfull of year-end lists, particularly when it comes to music. We all like to talk about the stuff we like. It's just what we do and Rocks Off is not very different.

This year, we added a slightly different twist to our list gathering efforts. We asked our writers to tell us what their favorite records were -- national and local combined as we'll have a local rundown next week -- but the stipulation was they had to be downloads and they had to be purchased. Not only are we geek friendly, we're pirate free! Oh, and the music didn't have to come from this year. If someone downloaded a great record from 10 years ago for the first time this year, so be it.

Our writers didn't disappoint running down a list filled with diversity. We're certain you had a lot of different choices as well. Leave them in the comments.

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Craig Hlavaty

I bought Guns N' Roses' Appetite For Destruction for the fourth time in 24 years in 2011, and it was well worth it. There was a point this summer when new release after new release, local and national, would come across my desk or in my email, and none of them could shake them Gunners boys off. This either means that I was in a critical butt-rock rut or shit really does suck in 2011, and an album that is older than most artists on the Billboard 200 slays everything else.

I am inclined to think that it is the modern music that indeed sucketh. This album finally blew out the speakers in my car about an hour after buying it, necessitating a trip to Best Buy for an expensive trip to the car stereo department. God bless you Axl, Duff, Slash, Izzy, and Steven. I ain't even mad.

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Jeff Balke

I often use my "purchased" folder in iTunes and my digital orders on Amazon as a marker for what I was into in a given year, so it was easy for me to glance through those lists and find my favorites. First up was Trouble in Mind from Hayes Carll. The 2007 release was my introduction to the Houston-born songwriter and I was sold at track one. "I Got a Gig" basically sums up the totality of my many gigs around Houston over the last 25 years.

After that, it has to be Wasting Light from the Foo Fighters. I'm a fan of the Foos and consider them the best straight up rock band out there. Wasting Light is everything you'd expect from them. Dave Grohl said in an interview that they wanted the songs on the record to have huge hooks, so much so that they would write one hook and then write another bigger one to follow it. Mission accomplished, Dave.

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Neph Basedow

While my top choices for favorite musical purchases of 2011 were decided with relative ease, it's necessary to note how many quality albums were released in 2011. Albums by Fucked Up, Generationals, Beirut, Those Darlins, Kurt Vile, St. Vincent, Real Estate, and the Decemberists all weighed in my decision. It was a good year for music, indeed.

PJ Harvey, Let England Shake: Though a lot of free music comes our way, I will always support and purchase my favorite artists' releases, and Miss Harvey is no exception. Let England Shake is a stark collection of heavy imagery of violent war as much as it is an homage to Harvey's English homeland. It is my favorite album of 2011, so I clearly consider it a purchase well made.

Yuck, Yuck: I was introduced to these shoegazing Brits when they opened for Smith Westerns in February, and thankfully so. Their self-titled debut is a modern take on that '90s guitar-driven grunge I love so dearly. The guitar tones on this record are flawless. With palpable influences like Pavement and Dinosaur Jr., it's no surprise I consider this a very wise purchase.

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Charne Graham

The best download purchase I made this year was Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne. It was also one of the most anticipated albums of the year for me as well. The download was available digitally at midnight on August 8, which was coincidently my 23rd birthday.

I previewed the album first while I pouring my birthday champagne and then purchased it to ring in another awesome year of life. Watch the Throne was every bit of greatness I'd expect from Jigga and Kanye West. I played the album back to back for a week straight and I heard it everywhere I went.

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