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PopMatters' 75 Best Albums of 2011

Original Source

75. My Brightest Diamond - All Things Will Unwind

My Brightest Diamond - All Things Will Unwind
October 18, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
75
9 reviews
User Score
74
6 reviews

It’s a deeply layered record with lots to listen to and appreciate in every sense.

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74. Amon Tobin - ISAM

Amon Tobin - ISAM
May 24, 2011
Electronic
Critic Score
68
7 reviews
User Score
68
9 reviews

73. Zola Jesus - Conatus

Zola Jesus - Conatus
October 4, 2011
Psychedelic
Critic Score
75
23 reviews
User Score
73
28 reviews

If you had high hopes for Conatus, sing hallelujah as it not only meets expectations, it confidently shrugs and keeps on flying ‘til it’s way outta sight.

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72. The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?

The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
May 31, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
67
18 reviews
User Score
73
63 reviews

71. Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact

Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact
May 10, 2011
Experimental Rock
Critic Score
82
23 reviews
User Score
80
52 reviews

Here they weave together sounds into a seamless patchwork, rich in layers and excitement.

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70. The Field - Looping State of Mind

The Field - Looping State of Mind
October 11, 2011
Electronic
Critic Score
80
20 reviews
User Score
81
35 reviews

69. Lucinda Williams - Blessed

Lucinda Williams - Blessed
March 1, 2011
Alt-Country
Critic Score
71
10 reviews
User Score
80
3 reviews

Blessed, like Williams’ best efforts, finds the blessings within the blues.

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68. Slow Club - Paradise

Slow Club - Paradise
September 13, 2011
Indie Pop
Critic Score
78
13 reviews
User Score
76
10 reviews

It’s a smart heart record that will bring you sunshine and inexplicably make you feel better about yourself.

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67. The Airborne Toxic Event - All At Once

The Airborne Toxic Event - All At Once
April 26, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
66
6 reviews
User Score
77
3 reviews

66. Atlas Sound - Parallax

Atlas Sound - Parallax
November 8, 2011
Experimental
Critic Score
82
23 reviews
User Score
81
84 reviews

Cox has composed his most accessible set of songs to date and offered further proof as to why he’s one of the most important songwriters working today.

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65. Mayer Hawthorne - How Do You Do

Mayer Hawthorne - How Do You Do
October 11, 2011
Soul
Critic Score
72
9 reviews
User Score
75
8 reviews

How Do You Do is Mayer Hawthorne’s masterpiece to date.

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64. Dawes - Nothing Is Wrong

Dawes - Nothing Is Wrong
June 7, 2011
Folk
Critic Score
73
10 reviews
User Score
80
6 reviews

63. The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar

The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
March 15, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
76
15 reviews
User Score
72
15 reviews

62. Austra - Feel It Break

Austra - Feel It Break
May 17, 2011
Electropop
Critic Score
73
15 reviews
User Score
80
34 reviews

61. Mastodon - The Hunter

Mastodon - The Hunter
September 27, 2011
Progressive Metal
Critic Score
80
20 reviews
User Score
76
47 reviews

60. Feist - Metals

Feist - Metals
October 4, 2011
Indie Pop
Critic Score
79
21 reviews
User Score
79
70 reviews

The stylistic explorations on Metals prove that she’s not running out of any ideas, but the moments on the album that most clearly parallel her prior outings aren’t as strong as their predecessors.

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59. Bright Eyes - The People's Key

Bright Eyes - The People's Key
February 15, 2011
Folk
Critic Score
67
24 reviews
User Score
68
28 reviews

The end result is a collection of songs that feel solid if nondescript, that drift into the inoffensive dad-rock palette favored by the likes of late-period Wilco.

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58. Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
February 15, 2011
Post-Rock
Critic Score
74
19 reviews
User Score
80
39 reviews

They’re not workman-like here, but there is something professional, maybe refined, about their sound now.

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57. Battles - Gloss Drop

Battles - Gloss Drop
June 7, 2011
Experimental Rock
Critic Score
77
27 reviews
User Score
80
68 reviews

Gloss Drop is the sound of a band forging its own identity and delivering on the promise initially unveiled on their previous album.

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56. Kanye West & Jay-Z - Watch the Throne

Kanye West & Jay-Z - Watch the Throne
August 8, 2011
Hip Hop
Critic Score
76
23 reviews
User Score
79
187 reviews

Watch the Throne succeeds in both and in giving us both sides of both artists—the braggadocio and the social consciousness—in nearly equal measure.

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55. They Might Be Giants - Join Us

They Might Be Giants - Join Us
July 19, 2011
Alternative Rock
Critic Score
72
10 reviews
User Score
71
3 reviews

Join Us is just a fun record with no further aspiration than to be party music for geeks.

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54. My Morning Jacket - Circuital

My Morning Jacket - Circuital
May 31, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
72
27 reviews
User Score
76
30 reviews

53. Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges

Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
February 22, 2011
Experimental
Critic Score
81
5 reviews
User Score
81
33 reviews

52. Black Lips - Arabia Mountain

Black Lips - Arabia Mountain
June 7, 2011
Garage Rock
Critic Score
77
14 reviews
User Score
79
26 reviews

If you share their general outlook, this album will be one of the best medicines leisure can buy for temporary relief from contemporary life.

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51. Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde

Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
January 18, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
82
21 reviews
User Score
80
54 reviews

50. Wye Oak - Civilian

Wye Oak - Civilian
March 8, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
78
17 reviews
User Score
80
38 reviews

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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49. 40 Watt Sun - Inside Room

40 Watt Sun - Inside Room
July 19, 2011
Doom Metal
Critic Score
80
1 review
User Score
81
1 review

48. Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972

Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972
February 15, 2011
Drone
Critic Score
85
14 reviews
User Score
85
91 reviews

Ravedeath, 1972 is so amorphous and ungraspable this way that it ranks as Hecker’s most disorienting record, and therefore, perhaps, his scariest.

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47. Drive-By Truckers - Go-Go Boots

Drive-By Truckers - Go-Go Boots
February 15, 2011
Southern Rock
Critic Score
71
14 reviews
User Score
76
7 reviews

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.

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46. Hammers of Misfortune - 17th Street

Hammers of Misfortune - 17th Street
October 24, 2011
Progressive Metal
Critic Score
82
3 reviews
User Score
82
1 review

45. Charles Bradley - No Time for Dreaming

Charles Bradley - No Time for Dreaming
January 25, 2011
Soul
Critic Score
74
6 reviews
User Score
75
8 reviews

44. Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer

Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer
July 12, 2011
Indie Pop
Critic Score
79
21 reviews
User Score
74
12 reviews

... provides this summer with one of its most satisfying releases.

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43. Ambrose Akinmusire - When the Heart Emerges Glistening

Ambrose Akinmusire - When the Heart Emerges Glistening
April 5, 2011
Critic Score
85
2 reviews
User Score
81
2 reviews

42. The Horrors - Skying

The Horrors - Skying
July 26, 2011
Neo-Psychedelia
Critic Score
81
25 reviews
User Score
82
89 reviews

Skying is the work of a band that's living up to the hype, just after the fact. And considering the trajectory that Skying shows they're on, maybe the Horrors won't just ultimately match the expectations of them, but maybe top them.

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41. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
April 12, 2011
Alternative Rock
Critic Score
75
21 reviews
User Score
75
81 reviews

Wasting Light is so consistently good that its minor flaws are subsumed by the sense of goodwill and energy it generates.

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40. The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient

The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient
August 16, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
79
21 reviews
User Score
79
76 reviews

Slave Ambient is a well-crafted and euphoric album, but somehow it doesn’t have much that sticks out.

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39. Okkervil River - I Am Very Far

Okkervil River - I Am Very Far
May 10, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
77
21 reviews
User Score
77
13 reviews

If I Am Very Far frustrates with its lack of clear intentions, it also fascinates for the same reason.

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38. DJ Quik - Book of David

DJ Quik - Book of David
April 19, 2011
Hip Hop
Critic Score
77
5 reviews
User Score
80
9 reviews

37. Cults - Cults

Cults - Cults
June 7, 2011
Indie Pop
Critic Score
76
19 reviews
User Score
76
73 reviews

This initial effort is one that shows off strong enough pop chops to win them their fair share of true believers, now and hereafter.

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36. Panda Bear - Tomboy

Panda Bear - Tomboy
April 12, 2011
Psychedelic Pop
Critic Score
80
23 reviews
User Score
80
120 reviews

He seems about half-awake, caught between the haziness of sleep and the defensiveness of waking life.

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35. EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints

EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints
May 10, 2011
Experimental
Critic Score
82
21 reviews
User Score
78
73 reviews

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.

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34. Big K.R.I.T. - Return Of 4eva

Big K.R.I.T. - Return Of 4eva
March 22, 2011
Hip Hop
Critic Score
83
7 reviews
User Score
82
38 reviews

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.

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33. Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What

Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What
April 12, 2011
Folk
Critic Score
79
11 reviews
User Score
75
11 reviews

It may be less exuberant and therefore harder to love at first, but it delivers the goods just as surely.

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32. Washed Out - Within and Without

Washed Out - Within and Without
July 12, 2011
Chillwave
Critic Score
72
26 reviews
User Score
79
107 reviews

31. The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck

The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck
March 29, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
79
21 reviews
User Score
77
20 reviews

Darnielle seems to be pushing himself here more so than any album since The Sunset Tree.

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30. Shabazz Palaces - Black Up

Shabazz Palaces - Black Up
June 28, 2011
Hip Hop
Critic Score
85
20 reviews
User Score
85
148 reviews

This is an album with a brilliant sound, one that is as arresting to listen to as it is to puzzle over.

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29. Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire

Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire
October 11, 2011
Singer-Songwriter
Critic Score
72
23 reviews
User Score
74
15 reviews

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.

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28. TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light

TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light
April 12, 2011
Experimental Rock
Critic Score
81
22 reviews
User Score
79
90 reviews

Even with these toe-dips in fuzzier, darker grooves, there’s still a sanguine blanket that covers Nine Types of Light.

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27. Wilco - The Whole Love

Wilco - The Whole Love
September 27, 2011
Alternative Rock
Critic Score
80
26 reviews
User Score
77
63 reviews

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.

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26. Peter Bjorn and John - Gimme Some

Peter Bjorn and John - Gimme Some
March 29, 2011
Indie Pop
Critic Score
69
17 reviews
User Score
71
13 reviews

Gimme Some reveals a band that is reinvigorated, one that has remembered what it was like to make music without forcing the issue.

Full Review →
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Original Source: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/tools/full/152303

MORE 2011 YEAR END LISTS:


MORE YEAR END LISTS FROM POPMATTERS:


Check out our 2011 Year End Summary.