PopMatters' 75 Best Albums of 2011
This is a dynamic record that improves on the band’s already impressive accomplishments in every way.
Despite its hype, its expectations, its blown up sound, and its many production flourishes, Bon Iver is nothing more than a solid placeholder album.
The greatest testament to David Comes to Life is how it feels like there’s more and more to it, even when you’re already on sensory overload as it is.
With a crisper, clearer production that helps it to stand out, w h o k i l l is, almost literally speaking, tUnE-yArDs’ breakthrough.
House of Balloons is a record comprised of slow-burning bangers, expertly crafted and dripping with a refreshingly ugly prettiness.
On Strange Mercy, Clark continues to sharpen and finetune her act, coming off bolder in her aesthetic, yet more immediate and intimate as a performer.
High lonesome harmonies, beautifully judged musicianship, exquisite songcraft, and a relationship with tradition that is both serious and playful.
It’s clear that The King of Limbs requires more patience and concentration than listeners who’ve been eagerly waiting more than three years for new Radiohead material can likely muster in the here and now.
On a whole, Smoke Ring for My Halo works because it has both lilting atmosphere and a rumbling, if trudging, pulse.
21 instead feels simultaneously overcooked and nervously unsure of itself.
It’s good to have Meloy and his band settling back to Earth and writing songs for the sake of the songs themselves.
It’s every bit as challenging, forward-thinking, and interesting as those previous EPs.
The album is really something that’s greater than the sum of its parts, thanks to the band’s instincts and intuition.
Father, Son, Holy Ghost is bracingly immediate, a collection of songs that don’t have to grow on you—songs that are fully realized and lovable at first blush.
Stone Rollin’ shows off Saadiq’s genius as a singer, writer, instrumentalist, and producer of modern rhythm and blues that pays homage to its traditions.
Not only does Burst Apart rise to the occasion of following up an instant classic, it might even best Hospice in more ways than one.
This is a seriously heavy and seriously excellent album.
Elevating their idiosyncratic style to an even grander scale, Ceremonials makes Florence and the Machine’s captivating debut Lungs seem quaint and charming in comparison.
Gimme Some reveals a band that is reinvigorated, one that has remembered what it was like to make music without forcing the issue.
The Whole Love proves the band is still moving forward, still changing, even if it’s not in the lofty ways we expect it to.
Even with these toe-dips in fuzzier, darker grooves, there’s still a sanguine blanket that covers Nine Types of Light.
A near perfect album by a performer who seems, at least for the time being, to have learned to focus his wide-open talents on one narrow vein of material, and in the process has struck pure gold.
This is an album with a brilliant sound, one that is as arresting to listen to as it is to puzzle over.
Darnielle seems to be pushing himself here more so than any album since The Sunset Tree.
It may be less exuberant and therefore harder to love at first, but it delivers the goods just as surely.
He’s a rapper who makes himself feel more essential than his raps, which you can ask anyone in the business is one of the hardest coups to pull.
EMA’s work is simultaneously some of the most interesting I’ve heard in years, and jaggedly alive, the furthest thing from any sort of academic exercise.
He seems about half-awake, caught between the haziness of sleep and the defensiveness of waking life.
This initial effort is one that shows off strong enough pop chops to win them their fair share of true believers, now and hereafter.
If I Am Very Far frustrates with its lack of clear intentions, it also fascinates for the same reason.
Slave Ambient is a well-crafted and euphoric album, but somehow it doesn’t have much that sticks out.
Wasting Light is so consistently good that its minor flaws are subsumed by the sense of goodwill and energy it generates.
... provides this summer with one of its most satisfying releases.
With Hood’s songwriting remaining this solid and the band comfortably settling into a great groove, Go-Go Boots could have been four years in the waiting and still would not have disappointed.
Ravedeath, 1972 is so amorphous and ungraspable this way that it ranks as Hecker’s most disorienting record, and therefore, perhaps, his scariest.
Civilian packs a more immediate punch, and hits you with southpaw jabs in the middle of songs, shifting once you’ve bedded down.
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MORE YEAR END LISTS FROM POPMATTERS:
BEST ALBUMS OF 2011 BY GENRE