Stereogum's Top 20 Albums Of 2011 So Far

We still have plenty of time and music left in 2011, but since we’re at the halfway (or so) mark, we thought it made sense to pause and take stock of the best albums of the year so far. There was some science behind the final tally: Each one of us made a list and assigned points to the records on it; Scott handled the complex mathematics and figured out the exact rankings based on those results. (Not all the bands each one of us voted for made it onto the Top 20, so we’ve also included smaller lists of personal, excluded favorites.)

Things to consider: We didn’t include any albums that haven’t surfaced (aka “leaked”) on any larger scale as of yet (see: Beirut). We also didn’t include deeply underground metal or noise: You’ll notice a couple of metal bands on the Top 20 (and one noise project) — all are groups we believe have crossed over enough into the non-metal/noise dialogue/iPod and make sense for inclusion. (For a more extensive metal-specific list, you’ll have to wait for Haunting The Chapel to get its act together.)

Take a look, and let us know what we missed.

Puro Instinct - Headbangers In Ecstasy20 Puro InstinctHeadbangers In Ecstasy (Mexican Summer)

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues19 Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues (Sub Pop)

Liturgy - Aesthetica18 LiturgyAesthetica (Thrill Jockey)

Toro Y Moi - Underneath The Pine17 Toro Y MoiUnderneath The Pine (Carpark)

Krallice - Diotima16 KralliceDiotima (Profound Lore)

Yuck- Yuck15 YuckYuck (Fat Possum)

Destroyer - Kaputt14 DestroyerKaputt (Merge)

Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde13 Smith WesternsDye It Blonde (Fat Possum)

Prurient - Bermuda Drain12 PrurientBermuda Drain (HydraHead)

Pure X - Pleasure11 Pure XPleasure (Acephale)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Unknown Mortal Orchestra10 Unknown Mortal OrchestraUnknown Mortal Orchestra (Fat Possum)

The Weeknd - House Of Balloons09 The WeekndHouse Of Balloons (self-released)

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake08 PJ HarveyLet England Shake (Island)

Adele - 2107 Adele21 (XL)

Pictureplane - Thee Physical06 PictureplaneThee Physical (Lovepump United)

Fucked Up - David Comes To Life05 Fucked UpDavid Comes To Life (Matador)

Iceage - New Brigade04 IceageNew Brigade (Dais)

Austra - Feel It Break03 AustraFeel It Break (Domino/Paper Bag)

Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact02 Gang Gang DanceEye Contact (4AD)

Bon Iver - Bon Iver Bon Iver01 Bon IverBon Iver, Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)

You can read our original review of Bon Iver, Bon Iver here.

And our favorite EPs of the year so far…

03 Laurel HaloHour Logic (Hippos In Tanks)

02 Holy OtherWITH U (Tri Angle)

01 Clams CasinoRainforest (Tri-Angle)


Finally, six albums from each of us that didn’t make the final album list. Unranked…

Tom VekLeisure Seizure (Island)
Ford & LopatinChannel Pressure (Software)
Bill CallahanApocolypse (Drag City)
tUnE-yArDsw h o k i l l (4AD)
Beyoncé4 (Columbia)
Washed OutWithin And Without (4AD)

Beyoncé4 (Columbia)
Julianna BarwickThe Magic Place (Asthmatic Kitty)
Cold CaveCherish The Light Years (Matador)
The Pains Of Being Pure At HeartBelong (Slumberland)
Dirty BeachesBadlands (Zoo)

Julianna BarwickThe Magic Place (Asthmatic Kitty)
Tim HeckerRavedeath, 1972 (Kranky)
GrouperA I A (Self-Released)
The CaretakerAn Empty Bliss Beyond This World (History Always Favours The Winners)
Cold CaveCherish The Light Years (Matador)
ZombyDedication (4AD)


Who’s on your list?

Comments (276)
  1. Toro Y Moi.

  2. The King of Limbs is nowhere to be found! Thank God…

  3. As far as non-metal, I also give my regards to Colin Stetson’s ‘New History Warfare…’, The Men’s ‘Leave Home’, and Chelsea Wolfe’s ‘Ἀποκάλυψις.’

    • Co-sign all of those.

      Also I liked Antlers, Wild Beasts, Hooray For Earth, Zomby.

      Wonder where we’ll stand in December!

      • Cass McCombs, Chelsea Wolfe, the Antlers, Man Man, The Men, Frank Ocean, tUnE-yArDs, John Maus, Tom Vek, Grouper, and Kurt Vile are among those that shifted in and out of position for me. These lists are snapshots in time, snapshots take time to develop. We’ll see what more exposure brings come winter time.

      • And Low is on my long list too.

        Biggest disappointment goes to Robbie Robertson.

      • Hooray for Earth is about two stellar jams short of greatness, but really quite sexcellent (in my ever humble estimation).

  4. Kinda feel like Okkervil River’s ‘I Am Very Far’ deserves a mention in there. and by ‘kinda’, i mean, really.
    Also, where’s Lykke Li? Timber Timbre’s album is fantastic. to name a few.

  5. An good list till it got to #1 *Whomp whomp whomp*

  6. at least there are quite a few bands on here i’m not familiar with, will give me something to look into.

  7. I know Sound Kapital by Handsome Furs isn’t technically released yet, but there are a bunch of streams and leaks and Sub Pop gives you 320 mp3′s with preorder. So I think that awesome awesome album should be somewhere in here.

  8. uh, james blake.

    • oversight or trying to be anti-pitchfork?

      • Neither, I’m guessing. The album was far from universally appreciated. A lot of people have expressed their distaste for it (even those who enjoyed his earlier output and were anticipating a great album). Moreover, it’s pretty hard to claim its non-inclusion is a result of ‘anti-Pitchfork’ sentiment, when the top 20 includes about 10 albums (by my count) that have been similarly championed by Pitchfork.

        • I guess stereogum is aloud to leave it off their list just b/c they didn’t think it was that great and not b/c they are trying to be anti-pitchfork, but it seems crazy that they would not only have it outside their top 20 but all three people left if off their best of the rest list. Would love to hear the reasoning for omitting it.

          Also, no Panda Bear. Another Pitchfork fav, just saying…

          • Your reasoning is contradictory. You know why all three people left it off their ‘best of the rest’ list’? Because, as you said yourself, “they didn’t think it was that great”. I sincerely doubt that the omission is borne out of editorial politics. What would they have to lose by including it, or gain by leaving it out? The vast majority of Pitchfork’s demographic will also read Stereogum, because the larger part of their editorial output covers the same genre(s) and artists, so from an ‘audiencing’ perspective it would make good business sense to include James Blake/Panda Bear in their top 20. You can bet that the ONLY reason they weren’t included was because the Stereogum staff liked it less than the albums represented above.

            And in response to your final point: you know another website that counts Panda Bear/Animal Collective among its perenially covered artists? Stereogum. Type ‘Panda Bear’ into the search bar and see how many posts have made mention of his name. Would it make sense, after following Panda Bear for years and documenting details of the album release extensively prior to its release, for Stereogum to suddenly neglect him due to an anti-Pitchfork agenda? No, it wouldn’t. They simply weren’t enamoured with the album itself.

          • Dude they left James Blake off the list because the album well……..SUCKS! Aurthur Russell did this 25 years ago (but much more brilliantly) trust me you will forget all about james Blake by next week.

      • complete oversight.

        • Coj- I understand that saying that James Blake was left off this list just to stick it to Pitchfork is a bit of a reach, but Stereogum and Pitchfork ARE rival sites and I do think stereogum wants to establish it’s own identity. I think Stereogum is an anti-Pitchfork in some ways. Mainly because they are actually interested in their readers opinions. Can’t be that crazy that they would want to conciously or unconciously separate themselves through some of the artists they get behind. I know they have other albums that Pitchfork liked on here, but James Blake is Pitchfork’s guy. I don’t know if it is fair to say that they discovered him, but they were partly responsible for his meteoric rise. Also, I understand that just because I loved the James Blake album doesn’t mean everyone else has to and everyone is entitled to their opinion, but look at all the comments wondering where it is. I feel like leaving it off a top 20 list(really top 25 or 30 included the best of the rest notes) is almost as big of a reach as my little conspriracy theory.

    • Could it be because Jessica isn’t here? You boys are slipping up!!

  9. Julian Lynch’s “Terra” is one of the tops so far this year.

    Overall, underwhelming year imo.

  10. I loved Man Man – Life Fantastic

  11. James Blake is no. 1

  12. Glad to see Toro y Moi, Destroyer and Puro Instinct on there but they should be higher.

    What about all of these?
    Thee Oh Sees – “Castlevania”
    Tennis – “Cape Dory”
    Papercuts – “Fading Parade”
    Metronomy – “The English Riviera”
    The Babies
    Holy Ghost!

    The new Beirut album is going to destroy Bon Iver. Heard the new songs live last weekend and they’re some of the best yet. Also looking forward to the new albums from YACHT and CSS!

  13. Cults, James Blake, Panda Bear

  14. The Honorable Worm – “Consider the bees.”

  15. Wow I gotta say I laughed when I saw this list. James Blake’s album should be #1, or on the list at the very least (it is a 2011 release if I remember correctly). Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues barely makes the list? That’s a top 3 album imo. I can support Bon Iver at number 1, but no Radiohead? I know TKOL isn’t a typical Radiohead masterpiece, but it is certainly strong enough to make the top 20. Some other bands/artists that should have easily made the list: Ducktails, Wild Beasts, Timbre Timbre, Tuneyards, Kurt Vile, Washed Out. Step up your game Stereogum.

    • Glad you’re adding your two cents here. Stereogum doesn’t agree, darn. Neither do I. You can keep your James Blake in your personal top 20 list, but I can’t ignore that the hype completely overshadows its delivery.

      • I may have come off sounding a bit pretentious with the “I laughed when I saw this list” comment. The good folks at Stereogum are “professionals” (however you wish to interpret that) and these types of lists are totally subjective. However, the comment sections are obviously here for us to voice our opinions (I applaud stereogum for having them) and I truly feel leaving James Blake’s album off the list is a inexpiable omission from any “indie” websites best of 2011 list. I will admit that when the album first came out I was somewhat indifferent to it, but that all changed when I saw his awe-inspiring performance at SXSW. Maybe more people just need to see him in a live setting to appreciate what he is doing in the studio (by himself).

      • See him live before further commenting on its delivery. Jus sayin’

  16. Absolutely dumbfounded that Tune-Yards is not anywhere in the top 20.

    Also….Cults? Lykke Li?

    And I can see how they make not make a list, but I’ve enjoyed Tennis, the Raveonettes, Joy Formidable, and Nicole Atkins. The new Viva Voce album came out today and is very, very good.

    I’ve also been a bit disappointed by Art Brut.

    • Agreed about Tune-Yards. I’ve really enjoyed that album.

      • I’ve only listened to Bizness and couldn’t get past her voice. The music is really cool, but I got too annoying to listen further. Does it get better or is it all pretty similar?

        • Well, after getting down-voted like a motherfucker, I gave tUnE-yArDs another shot and listened to the full album. I guess there’s just something I don’t get – I still think it’s super annoying. Also, I realize I sounded like an idiot in my last post. I should have said “it got too annoying”, it meaning her voice, rather than “I got too annoying”. Finally, I wish she didn’t spell tUnE-yArDs like a middle school girl.

          • respectable. tough for me to understand, though, how someone couldn’t enjoy songs like es-so, bizness and gangsta. but i understand how someone’s voice could be a make-or-break. your tune-yards is my clap your hands say yeah.

    • yeah, i’d put tune-yards in my top 5, for sure. other absent favorites would be the tennis album, white denim’s new one, starfucker’s “reptilians,” the king of limbs, the my morning jacket album, cults, panda bear, junior boys, battles, foster the people, cut copy. not a whole lot i concur with here, really, although the list gives me a lot of new stuff to check out, which i appreciate. bon iver at #1 is fair. i can get behind that.

  17. No James Blake, thank god.

  18. omnashime  |   Posted on Jun 21st, 2011 +1

    Where is Dawes?

  19. My top albums so far –

    1. Blue Scholars – Cinemetropolis
    2. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
    3. R.E.M. – Collapse into Now
    4. Radiohead – The King of Limbs
    5. Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys
    6. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck
    7. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
    8. Noah and the Whale – Last Night on Earth
    9. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
    10. The Get Up Kids – There Are Rules
    11. Battles – Gloss Drop
    12. Bright Eyes – The People’s Key
    13. Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
    14. Cold War Kids – Mine is Yours
    15. The Wooden Birds – Two Matchsticks
    16. Okkervil River – I am Very Far
    17. The Decemberists – The King is Dead
    18. Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
    19. Maritime – Human Hearts
    20. Damien Jurado – Live at Landlocked

  20. Wild Beasts??????????????

  21. Nice list. These are fun too:
    The Go! Team – Rolling Blackouts
    Total Warr – Please Never Come Back Again
    We All Have Hooks for Hands – Girls

  22. I think some of the more popular music deserves mention, too, like James Blake and possibly Panda Bear. Also, I don’t quite agree with the number one.

  23. Vetiver album is great

  24. If you’re going to include The Weeknd, then how about Frank Ocean?

    I’ll also echo votes for James Blake, Mountain Goats, and Antlers.

    • Frank Ocean will definitely be the best Odd Future release this year. Interested to see the official release since Frank himself doubts they’ll get the “Hotel California” sample cleared.

  25. wye oak – civilian should be up in there.

    agree with the antlers,tune-yards, lykkie li and cults suggestions as well

    • Yeah, how did Wye Oak not make the list? The Crystal Stilts and Snowman also released noteworthy albums. I’m not sure if Surf City counts since their album only came out in 2011 in the US, but someone needs to start giving that album some recognition. As for Tune-Yards, I really want to love whokill because I loved Bird-Brains so much, but so far I mostly just miss the personal feel of the debut.

    • agree with all of the above, especially wye oak. come on people…

  26. 1. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
    2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver
    3. My Morning Jacket – Circuital
    4. The Antlers – Burst Apart
    5. Wye Oak – Civilian
    6. Austra – Feel It Break
    7. Other Lives – Tamer Animals
    8. Chad VanGaalen – Diaper Island
    9. The Dodos – No Color
    10. Bodies of Water – Twist Again
    11. Tennis – Cape Dory
    12. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
    13. Cults – Cults

  27. panda bear?

    • Maybe I’m just a helpless fanboy (of Tomboy), but I honestly think it’s the album of the year so far.

      • Agreed. I’m shocked how quickly talk of Tomboy came and went. It’s actually kind of upsetting because this album means so much to me. “Benfica” is seriously the greatest song I’ve heard in a long time, like I straight up almost cried after listening to it. I feel that this album will gain more momentum as time goes on. Instrumentally, it’s basically the first hip hop/rock album to actually not sound disgusting (ie Limp Bizkit sounding) and in the next couple of years that’s going to be a huge trend in indie rock. Right now I guess people have their heads so far up James Blake’s ass (and every other dubstep/hip hop production artist–srsly pitchfork/gvb can you guys stop pawning this shit on us?) to realize how great of an album this is.

  28. “White Silence” by Cave In is my #1 album so far.

    From a tracklist with brutal hardcore metal to metalcore to post-metal with a pop flair to a couple of Beatle-esque tunes that all seamlessly works together?……… SOLID. For a band that’s been in the game since the mid-90′s and tasted mainstream success for a minute, and to release a mindfuck like this unlike anything they have ever done and is unlike anything out there is ballsy, unheard of, inspiring as a musician myself, and just cool.

    And I don’t normally listen to metal but this band has changed that.

  29. Friendly Fires-Pala
    Battles-Gloss Drop
    Arctic Monkeys-Suck It and See
    Metronomy-The English Riviera
    The Strokes-Angles

  30. so, horrible year in music so far, then, right?

  31. I forget just how much Stereogum sways into Metal/Hardcore etc. this list really reflects that.

  32. Junior Boys anyone?

  33. Fleet Foxes at 19? For shame. Also, No Color, I Am Very Far, and Cults should be in there somewhere. But whatever!

  34. Lykke Li’s album has actually been my personal favorite.

    Also, in no particular order:
    Tennis – “Cape Dory”
    Cloud Nothings – “Cloud Nothings”
    Foster the People – “Torches”
    Radiohead – “The King of Limbs”
    James Blake – “James Blake”

    I kind of have to agree with the sentiments that this year hasn’t had as many utterly amazing releases as last year.

  35. David Bazan’s new record didn’t make the list or anyones comments? I never loved Bazan until this one, and I actually would say his new one is the best album of the year so far.

  36. Here’s my top 10, for what it’s worth.

    1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
    2. Destroyer – Kaputt
    3. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
    4. Jame Blake – James Blake
    5. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
    6. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck
    7. Okkervil River – I am Very Far
    8. TuNe-YaRdS – w h o k i l l
    9. Yuck – Yuck
    10. Cults – Cults

  37. in no particular order: Other Lives – Tamer Animals, Liam Finn – FOMO, Antlers – Burst Apart, Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues, Givers – In Light, Arctic Monkeys – Suck it And See, Bon Iver – Bon Iver.

  38. Kind of forgot when things came out but Shannon & The Clams “Sleep Talk”, Ty Segall’s “Goodbye Bread” and The Babies S/T probably top mine. Not sure when “Sports” by Weekend came out but I fucking love that record. Oh I really liked Ducktail’s “Ducktails III: Arcade” or whatever it’s called and Kurt Vile’s new record. honorable mention goes to vivian girls, cosmonauts, ponytail and cloud nothings

  39. 1. Destroyer … Kaputt
    2. Wild Beasts … Smother
    3. The Sea and Cake … The Moonlight Butterfly
    4. TV on the Radio … Nine Types of Light
    5. Metronomy … The English Riviera
    6. Mogwai … Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will
    7. The Weeknd … House of Balloons
    8. Cut/Copy … Zonoscope
    9. The Antlers … Bust Apart
    10. Kurt Vile … Smoke Ring For My Halo

  40. Fleet Foxes needs to be at the top of that list. Kurt Vile and Bill Callahan belong in the top 10.

  41. I’m really surprised ‘Bon Iver’ is number one, and The Anlers aren’t anywhere…

  42. I’m not impressed with the year yet. But I’m hopeful for the summer releases- especially Washed Out, Little Dragon, and *hopefully* Rye Rye

  43. I can forgive the omission of Panda Bear and Radiohead but no Cass McCombs? For shame.

  44. “Arabian Horse” by GUS GUS = the album of the year so far! “See The Light” by Jessica 6 follows closely after… So disappointed none of them were mentioned…

  45. Thought the Rome project might have made your list, but I can’t complain generally. And even though Bon Iver’s been officially out less than 24 hours, I can’t argue with that as #1, either.

  46. “Zonoscope” and “Holy Ghost!” have both made my year happier and my LCD Soundsystem withdrawl less painful.

  47. 1. Panda Bear — Tomboy
    2. Mountain Goats — All Etenral
    3. tune-yards — Bird-Brains

  48. 1. Gang gang Dance
    2. Bon Iver
    3. Tune Yards
    4. Woods
    5. The Go! Team
    6. Is Tropical
    7. When Saints go Machine
    8. Explosions in the Sky
    9. Givers
    10. Panda Bear
    11. The Pains of being pure at heart
    12. The Antlers
    13. Peter Bjorn and John
    14. TV on the Radio
    15. Proviant Audio
    16. Cults
    17. Thurston Moore
    18. The Gin and Tonic Youth!
    19. Einar Stray
    20. Monteè

  49. I absolutely adore Adele, but half of the album is sadly forgettable. Also, James Blake.

  50. this list might have most of the correct albums, but the fact that fleet foxes isn’t in the top 3 is an astounding oversight.

    (or just a sad sign of the times).

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