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albums The Best Albums of 2011

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2011's releases easily topped the Best Albums of 2010, but that is faint praise indeed. 2011 was a slightly sub-par year by recent (the last 5 years) standards, but IMHO new rock (and related) music has been ebbing for quite some time (see the best albums of the '00s). Not to be a total downer though - everything in my Top 10 is top-notch, even compared to the respective artists' previous work. Nos 11-20 are also quite solid, though the quality drops for the rest of the list.

Updated in 2012: moved the order around of the Top 5 now that I have some perspective. Giving the nod to The Black Keys - a band that I've been a fan of since their first indie release, but who have really grown and expanded their songwriting depth.

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El Camino The Black Keys - Their best - even better than the excellent "Brothers"

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21 is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Albums of 2011
21 Adele - Honestly, at different times any of these top 5 records could be my #1 - and it was nice to see the year's bestselling record actually be one of A+ quality.

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Mine Is Yours Cold War Kids - My go-to 2011 record when I just need an energy boost (sadly, there don't seem to be as many of those records these days although there were more this year than the last few) - the first 2 songs are amazing. This record is a hybrid of ...

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Let England Shake PJ Harvey - PJ Harvey's albums tend to each have a unique feel, and while I've always liked her work, the only other album that I have really loved was Stories By The Ocean, Stories From The Sea - until this record. Which is very different from ...

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The Whole Love Wilco - A fine return to "Ghost Is Born" form. I can't say I've yet listened to this enough to have a final opinion - I'm nervous about listening to it too much because my wife likes Wilco a lot so I know i'll be hearing a lot of it ...

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Kiss Each Other Clean Iron & Wine - A bit of a departure from the previous Iron and Wine releases, it took me a few listens to really get into this one. Once I did, I was well-rewarded - Sam Beam has taken this group to the next level and they are now a more ...

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Bad as Me is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Albums of 2011
Bad As Me Tom Waits - Like his 1999 Mule Variations (and unlike everything else he has released since then) Bad As Me does not to my ears appear to have even a single mediocre track.

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Circuital My Morning Jacket - Another strong MMJ record.

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Wild Flag Wild Flag - Sounded a bit wishy-washy on the first few listens, but has really grown on me since then.

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The King of Limbs is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Albums of 2011
The King of Limbs Radiohead

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Gloss Drop Battles - Each of their records is a "levelup" - easily the best experimental/(mostly) instrumental release of the decade so far.

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Here We Rest Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - Blows away the Drive-By Truckers 2011 album, which was one of their weakest efforts.

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Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - More consistent than any Oasis record since Morning Glory

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Helplessness Blues is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Albums of 2011
Helplessness Blues Fleet Foxes - Sounded even better live.

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Give Till It's Gone Ben Harper - I kinda forgot about this record, but it's up there with Ben's better work - first two songs are especially excellent

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Dynamite Steps The Twilight Singers - Not their best work, but almost everything Dulli does is at such a high level of quality . . .

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Dark Hope Renée Fleming - Opera singer doing rock songs - and mostly non-obvious ones. Quite cool and unique - seek this out.

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C'mon Low - Year after year, Low's songwriting skills slowly creep upward.

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Rome is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Albums of 2011
Rome Danger Mouse, Daniele Luppi

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David Comes to Life is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Albums of 2011
David Comes to Life Fucked Up - Need to listen to this more (just don't find myself in the mood for 70 minutes of loud neo-hardcore as often these days as I used to) but damn it's ambitious, and full of strong songs.

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Diotima Krallice

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Gentle Spirit Jonathan Wilson - Added late as I didn't hear this until 2012 . . . might climb even higher on the list

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Mockingbird Time Jayhawks - Best thing they've done since . . . well since Olson left the band in '97 or so.

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I’m With You Red Hot Chili Peppers - John Frusciante is definitely missed, and I don't hear any outright classics on this, but neither is it filled with clunkers. I'd rate it somewhere between Stadium Arcadium and By The Way.

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The Apostasy is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Albums of 2011
The Apostasy Behemoth

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Tomboy Panda Bear - It grew on me (and as an aside, I actually preferred the solo Panda Bear set I saw at the Hollywood Bowl to the big-stage AC set at Coachella this year, though I'm eagerly awaiting any sign of new Animal Collective).

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Hardcore Will Never Die, but Y... is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Albums of 2011

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Wasting Light is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Albums of 2011
Wasting Light Foo Fighters

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TKOL RMX Radiohead - 2CDs of "Limbs" remixes by many electronica-folk, about half of which I hadn't even heard of. VERY strong for a remix album, D1 is right up there with "Limbs" itself quality-wise

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Elsie The Horrible Crowes - A side project by the Gaslight Anthem guy. If you haven't heard Gaslight Anthem yet, you are missing one of the best American rock bands of our era.

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Constant Future Parts & Labor

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Bon Iver, Bon Iver is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Albums of 2011
Bon Iver, Bon Iver Bon Iver - Definitely overrated - the amount of attention lavished on Bon Iver this year is yet another indicator of the current dearth of real new rock stars. Still, a decent record.

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Yuck is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Albums of 2011
Yuck Yuck - I'm not quite as into this as others seem to be (wish the songs were more consistent), but it's great to be hearing fresh stuff in the alterna90s vein.

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Collapse Into Now is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Albums of 2011
Collapse Into Now R.E.M. - This, their swan song, is maddeningly inconsistent and not quite as good as their previous release, but far superior to their records of the early '00s.

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The Secret Vieux Farka Toure

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Marble Son Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter - I know almost nothing about this woman, and she appears to have put out a bunch of earlier releases that I will have to check out. I heard "Come To Mary" (see video) and was pretty blown away; the whole record is quite ...

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Hot Sauce Committee Part Two Beastie Boys - Far superior to their last album (that rancid turd "For the 5 Boroughs" they put out about 8,000 years ago).If you've never seen the Fight For Your Right Revisited video here, take the time, you will not regret it (yes it ...

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Nine Types of Light is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Albums of 2011
Nine Types of Light TV on the Radio - Unquestionably their weakest work, and lacking in standout tracks. But in a relatively mediocre year these guys are still one of the more interesting bands around.

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Blessed Lucinda Williams - More consistent than some of her post-Car Wheels output, though never great.

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So Beautiful or So What is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Albums of 2011
So Beautiful or So What Paul Simon - Some of it blows, but there are about 5 surprisingly great songs (#s 1, 2, 3, 6, 10)

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The Great Escape Artist Jane's Addiction - Much of this record is mediocre (Navarro truly shot his riff-wad by '90 or so), but Perry sounds good and in addition to the excellent single "Irresistable Force" there are a handful of other memorable tracks.