PopMatters' 75 Best Albums of 2011



LIST SUMMARY
VIEW ORIGINAL LIST
List Rating
80
766 ratings
Genre Breakdown
Indie Rock (12), Indie Pop (10), Alternative Rock (6), Experimental (5), Soul (4), Experimental Rock (4), Hip Hop (4), Alt-Country (3), Electronic (3), Folk (3), Art Pop (2), Indie Folk (2), Singer-Songwriter (2), Progressive Metal (2), Blues (1), Hardcore Punk (1), Post-Punk (1), Doom Metal (1), Dubstep (1), R&B (1), Psychedelic (1), Jazz (1), Southern Rock (1), Rock (1), Dream Pop (1), Folk Rock (1), Post-Rock (1), Chillwave (1), Synthpop (1), Drone (1), Garage Rock (1), Neo-Psychedelia (1)

1. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
May 3, 2011
Indie Folk
Critic Score
86
21 reviews
User Score
87
146 reviews

This is a dynamic record that improves on the band’s already impressive accomplishments in every way.

2. Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver
June 21, 2011
Indie Folk
Critic Score
84
21 reviews
User Score
88
215 reviews

Despite its hype, its expectations, its blown up sound, and its many production flourishes, Bon Iver is nothing more than a solid placeholder album.

3. Fucked Up - David Comes to Life

Fucked Up - David Comes to Life
June 7, 2011
Hardcore Punk
Critic Score
83
18 reviews
User Score
80
27 reviews

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.

4. tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l

tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l
April 19, 2011
Experimental
Critic Score
85
21 reviews
User Score
83
95 reviews

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.

5. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
October 18, 2011
Dream Pop
Critic Score
77
16 reviews
User Score
83
114 reviews

6. The Weeknd - House of Balloons

The Weeknd - House of Balloons
March 21, 2011
R&B
Critic Score
83
14 reviews
User Score
86
81 reviews

House of Balloons is a record comprised of slow-burning bangers, expertly crafted and dripping with a refreshingly ugly prettiness.

7. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
September 13, 2011
Indie Pop
Critic Score
88
22 reviews
User Score
86
143 reviews

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.

8. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
February 15, 2011
Alternative Rock
Critic Score
87
22 reviews
User Score
86
132 reviews

9. Gillian Welch - The Harrow & The Harvest

Gillian Welch - The Harrow & The Harvest
June 28, 2011
Alt-Country
Critic Score
81
10 reviews
User Score
78
8 reviews

High lonesome harmonies, beautifully judged musicianship, exquisite songcraft, and a relationship with tradition that is both serious and playful.

10. Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Radiohead - The King of Limbs
February 19, 2011
Experimental Rock
Critic Score
79
23 reviews
User Score
79
138 reviews

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.

11. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo

Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo
March 8, 2011
Rock
Critic Score
79
17 reviews
User Score
83
55 reviews

On a whole, Smoke Ring for My Halo works because it has both lilting atmosphere and a rumbling, if trudging, pulse.

12. Adele - 21

Adele - 21
February 22, 2011
Soul
Critic Score
77
12 reviews
User Score
74
53 reviews

21 instead feels simultaneously overcooked and nervously unsure of itself.

13. The Decemberists - The King is Dead

The Decemberists - The King is Dead
January 18, 2011
Folk Rock
Critic Score
75
16 reviews
User Score
75
21 reviews

It’s good to have Meloy and his band settling back to Earth and writing songs for the sake of the songs themselves.

14. James Blake - James Blake

James Blake - James Blake
February 8, 2011
Dubstep
Critic Score
84
20 reviews
User Score
86
176 reviews

It’s every bit as challenging, forward-thinking, and interesting as those previous EPs.

15. Yuck - Yuck

Yuck - Yuck
February 15, 2011
Alternative Rock
Critic Score
76
17 reviews
User Score
80
40 reviews

The album is really something that’s greater than the sum of its parts, thanks to the band’s instincts and intuition.

16. Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
September 13, 2011
Indie Pop
Critic Score
83
19 reviews
User Score
83
86 reviews

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.

17. Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin

Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin
May 10, 2011
Soul
Critic Score
81
8 reviews
User Score
78
5 reviews

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.

18. The Del McCoury Band & Preservation Hall Jazz Band - American Legacies

The Del McCoury Band & Preservation Hall Jazz Band - American Legacies
April 12, 2011
Jazz
Critic Score
74
4 reviews
User Score
NR

19. Tom Waits - Bad as Me

Tom Waits - Bad as Me
October 25, 2011
Blues
Critic Score
85
20 reviews
User Score
83
21 reviews

20. Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys!

Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys!
April 12, 2011
Alternative Rock
Critic Score
79
13 reviews
User Score
80
16 reviews

21. The Antlers - Burst Apart

The Antlers - Burst Apart
May 10, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
83
20 reviews
User Score
82
85 reviews

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.

22. Wild Flag - Wild Flag

Wild Flag - Wild Flag
September 13, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
81
15 reviews
User Score
77
15 reviews

23. Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
March 1, 2011
Indie Pop
Critic Score
81
16 reviews
User Score
81
46 reviews

This is a seriously heavy and seriously excellent album.

24. Destroyer - Kaputt

Destroyer - Kaputt
January 25, 2011
Indie Pop
Critic Score
85
20 reviews
User Score
84
92 reviews

25. Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials

Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials
November 1, 2011
Indie Pop
Critic Score
73
15 reviews
User Score
80
63 reviews

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.

26. Peter Bjorn and John - Gimme Some

Peter Bjorn and John - Gimme Some
March 29, 2011
Indie Pop
Critic Score
70
12 reviews
User Score
74
8 reviews

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

27. Wilco - The Whole Love

Wilco - The Whole Love
September 27, 2011
Alternative Rock
Critic Score
78
16 reviews
User Score
76
24 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.

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
19 reviews
User Score
79
48 reviews

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

29. Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire

Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire
October 11, 2011
Alt-Country
Critic Score
70
15 reviews
User Score
77
8 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.

30. Shabazz Palaces - Black Up

Shabazz Palaces - Black Up
June 28, 2011
Hip Hop
Critic Score
87
14 reviews
User Score
86
66 reviews

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

31. The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck

The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck
March 29, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
79
18 reviews
User Score
82
11 reviews

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

32. Washed Out - Within and Without

Washed Out - Within and Without
July 12, 2011
Chillwave
Critic Score
70
16 reviews
User Score
80
56 reviews

33. Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What

Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What
April 12, 2011
Folk
Critic Score
79
7 reviews
User Score
77
4 reviews

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

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
6 reviews
User Score
86
17 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.

35. EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints

EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints
May 10, 2011
Experimental
Critic Score
83
18 reviews
User Score
80
47 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.

36. Panda Bear - Tomboy

Panda Bear - Tomboy
April 12, 2011
Experimental
Critic Score
81
18 reviews
User Score
82
65 reviews

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

37. Cults - Cults

Cults - Cults
June 7, 2011
Indie Pop
Critic Score
76
15 reviews
User Score
76
45 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.

38. DJ Quik - Book of David

DJ Quik - Book of David
April 19, 2011
Hip Hop
Critic Score
79
5 reviews
User Score
80
3 reviews

39. Okkervil River - I Am Very Far

Okkervil River - I Am Very Far
May 10, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
76
14 reviews
User Score
81
5 reviews

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

40. The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient

The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient
August 16, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
80
15 reviews
User Score
80
36 reviews

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

41. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
April 12, 2011
Alternative Rock
Critic Score
76
16 reviews
User Score
78
34 reviews

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

42. The Horrors - Skying

The Horrors - Skying
July 26, 2011
Neo-Psychedelia
Critic Score
83
20 reviews
User Score
83
49 reviews

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
82
1 review

44. Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer

Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer
July 12, 2011
Indie Pop
Critic Score
79
14 reviews
User Score
77
7 reviews

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

45. Charles Bradley - No Time for Dreaming

Charles Bradley - No Time for Dreaming
January 25, 2011
Soul
Critic Score
73
5 reviews
User Score
72
3 reviews

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

47. Drive-By Truckers - Go-Go Boots

Drive-By Truckers - Go-Go Boots
February 15, 2011
Southern Rock
Critic Score
76
10 reviews
User Score
78
5 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.

48. Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972

Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972
February 15, 2011
Drone
Critic Score
86
13 reviews
User Score
85
43 reviews

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

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

50. Wye Oak - Civilian

Wye Oak - Civilian
March 8, 2011
Indie Rock
Critic Score
78
13 reviews
User Score
80
24 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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Original Source: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/tools/full/152303

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