A Guide to the Best Collaborations of 2011

By Lee Cahill

Stop. Collaborate. And listen.

Need I say it? The best collaboration of the year goes to…drumroll, please…Jay-Z and Beyoncé for collaborating on their soon-to-be, incredibly talented, beautiful baby. Kanye might disagree. Let’s be honest though – “Otis” was fun, but Watch The Throne was kind of a letdown. You went HAM? Who thought that was a good idea?

Aside from Jay and Ye, there were some other collabos this year that thankfully exceeded expectations. There were songs we hope will evolve into albums, side-projects we hope will become…um..not-side-projects, and flat-out indie-super-group formations. With all of the collaborations below, the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts. (Oh, and Rome by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi featuring Jack White and Norah Jones was also pretty great. How do I get invited to that party?)

Artist: Joe Goddard & Valentina

Sounds Like: Soulful, Electronic, British Dance
Project: Song, “Gabriel
Collaborators: Joe Goddard of Hot Chip and up-and-coming soulster Valentina
Label: DFA Records

Artist: James Blake & Bon Iver

Sounds Like: Minimal, shoegazy electronica with heavily synthesized vocals
Song, “Fall Creek Boys Choir
Collaborators: Dub-stepper James Blake and Kanye’s secret weapon, Bon Iver
Label: Polydor Records

Artist: Thao & Mirah

Sounds Like: Two female singer-songwriters making music that ranges from quiet folk tunes to rhythmic rockers to indie electro-pop.
Project: Album, Thao & Mirah
Collaborators: Thao Nguyen of Thao with The Get Down Stay Down and indie-vet Mirah (co-produced by Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs).
Label: Kill Rock Stars

Artist: Wild Flag

Sounds Like: Female Rock’n’Roll
Project: Album, Wild Flag
Collaborators: Carrie Brownstein (from the TV show Portlandia) and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, Rebecca Cole of The Minders, and Mary Timony of Helium.
Label: Merge Records

Artist: Mister Heavenly

Sounds Like: Indie rock that can be both lighthearted and anthematic
Project: Album, Out Of Love
Collaborators: Nick Thorburn (Islands/The Unicorns), Ryan Kattner (Man Man), and Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse)
Label: Sub Pop

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