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Best Of 2011 The Best Albums of 2011  

Clark Benson
5.4k views 41 items

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"

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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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).

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

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

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.

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.

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 ...

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.

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.