Best Albums of 2011 Albums
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Best Albums of 2011

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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  1. 1

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

  2. 2

    #1 on the original list
    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.

  3. 3

    #109 on the original list
    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

  4. 4

    #12 on the original list
    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

  5. 5

    #18 on the original list
    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

  6. 6

    #87 on the original list
    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

  7. 7

    #71 on the original list
    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.

  8. 8

    #32 on the original list
    My Morning Jacket Another strong MMJ record.

  9. 9

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

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

  12. 12

    #127 on the original list
    Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit Blows away the Drive-By Truckers 2011 album, which was one of their weakest efforts.

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    #48 on the original list
    Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds More consistent than any Oasis record since Morning Glory

  14. 14

    #15 on the original list
    Fleet Foxes Sounded even better live.

  15. 15

    #78 on the original list
    Ben Harper I kinda forgot about this record, but it's up there with Ben's better work - first two songs are especially excellent

  16. 16

    #115 on the original list
    The Twilight Singers Not their best work, but almost everything Dulli does is at such a high level of quality . . .

  17. 17

    #80 on the original list
    Renée Fleming Opera singer doing rock songs - and mostly non-obvious ones. Quite cool and unique - seek this out.

  18. 18

    #133 on the original list
    Low Year after year, Low's songwriting skills slowly creep upward.

  19. 19

    #39 on the original list
    Danger Mouse, Daniele Luppi

  20. 20

    #55 on the original list
    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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    #132 on the original list
    Jonathan Wilson Added late as I didn't hear this until 2012 . . . might climb even higher on the list

  23. 23

    #93 on the original list
    Jayhawks Best thing they've done since . . . well since Olson left the band in '97 or so.

  24. 24

    #11 on the original list
    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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    #41 on the original list
    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

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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

  30. 30

    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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    #7 on the original list
    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.

  33. 33

    #37 on the original list
    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.

  34. 34

    #35 on the original list
    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.

  35. 35

    The Secret Vieux Farka Toure

  36. 36

    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

  37. 37

    #23 on the original list
    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,

  38. 38

    #94 on the original list
    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.

  39. 39

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

  40. 40

    #27 on the original list
    Paul Simon Some of it blows, but there are about 5 surprisingly great songs (#s 1, 2, 3, 6, 10)

  41. 41

    #69 on the original list
    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

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