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. Yuck is very Goo Goo Dolls reminiscent. Why does everybody dig them? Pretty boring to me. Just saw them open for Tame Impala, and they are equally boring live.

  2. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up (later this month)

  3. Dude, how limited are your musical reference points? Yuck sounds like a mix of Teenage Fanclub and Pavement, with dashes of Dinosaur Jr. I mean, anyone who can’t spot those influences has no business criticizing Yuck, who by the way are anything but boring live. Feel free to retake the Indie Rock 101 class…

  4. No love for Panda Bear? That is a damn shame- here is my recent best of 2011 list:

    1. Panda Bear – Tomboy 9.1
    2. Teeel – Amulet 9.0
    3. James Blake – James Blake 8.8
    4. White Denim – D 8.8
    5. Destroyer – Kaputt 8.8
    6. Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde 8.7
    7. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues 8.7
    8. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo 8.7
    9. Peaking Lights – 936 8.6
    10. Com Truise – Galactic Melt 8.6
    11. Cut Copy – Zonoscope 8.6
    12. Holy Other – With U (EP) 8.6
    13. TOKiMONSTA – Creature Dreams (EP) 8.5

    Artists that would have been on my list if I would have taken more time to listen to them:
    The Antlers
    Gang Gang Dance
    Puro Instict
    Bon Iver

    Honorable mentions:
    Cold Cave
    Teams vs. Starslinger
    Pains of Being Pure At Heart
    The Weeknd

  5. ‘Leg England Shake’?

    It’s a sad commentary on music that an album that technically came out today is the best of the whole year to this point.

  6. Helplessness Blues is way better than #19. House of Balloons is top 5 for me…and to not even include Panda Bear and Radiohead…what a shame

  7. There’s no excuse for excluding ‘Zonoscope’ and I feel that Cults should have been included as well. Fleet Foxes should have been higher as well, in the Top 5 for sure. Otherwise, it’s a decent list.

  8. The only glaring omission that I can think of is The Antlers. Interesting to list, though.

  9. Also, I love seeing Unknown Mortal Orchestra getting so much love. Great album, really nice guys.

  10. A few points:

    1. Pictureplane and Washed Out aren’t out yet, they shouldn’t be listed. Love both bands but I don’t even think they’ve leaked.

    2. This list is PRETTY GOOD. Fair and balanced and not fawning over p4k favs. All these bands that people are whining about being excluded– if they were all on here, wouldn’t that be boring?? I’m sure you can find a list with James Blake, Panda Bear, Cults, Cut Copy, etc, on a million and one other internet sites.

    3. I can’t believe that not one commenter has complained about Tyler the Creator missing from the list! Has the hype wave turned? Just wondering why the header pic is a mock-Goblin cover and it’s not present.

    • Yeah i was wondering the same thing about tyler missing. I’m guessing it’s because they ate up that stupid little rant that tegan and sara had against tyler the creator –

      They probably think it’s funny to mock the leader of an extremely talented group of young kids who are making stuff that’s way more interesting than the boring bullshit that tegan and sara churn out. So they replaced tyler’s face with some idiot’s face! How hilarious! The idiot probably also excluded Tomboy and Circuital from his list and put Bon Iver – who SUCKS – as his #1.

  11. very good:
    cut copy
    times new viking
    bill callahan
    gang gang dance

    also good:
    tv on the radio
    pains of being pure at heart
    gil scott-heron & jamie xx
    thao & mirah
    lia ices
    dale earnhardt jr. jr.
    tyler, the creator

  12. missing:
    James Blake
    Panda Bear
    Shabazz Palaces
    Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx

  13. Uh, where’s Times New Viking and Battles? Also, Bon Iver at #1? I mean, it’s good and all, but when can we get off of folk music’s dick?

    • If stereogum was, as you so elegantly put it, on folk music’s proverbial dick, they would have had Fleet Foxes, not Bon Iver, as #1. The new Bon Iver album is by no means a folk album, but more of an updated Bruce Hornsby sound. You should probably give it a listen before you make misinformed comments about it.

  14. Gang Gang Dance, Austra…good choices! They’re at the top of my personal list, along with Is Tropical’s Native To. tUnE-yArDs should have been here as well!

  15. EMA — Past Life Martyred Saints
    Bill Callahan — Apocalypse
    Destroyer — Kaputt
    Cass McCombs — Wit’s End
    Tune-Yards — whokill
    Woods — Sun and Shade
    Paul Simon — So Beautiful or So What
    Callers — Life of Love
    Anna Calvi — Anna Calvi
    Ty Segall — Ty Segall

  16. Really? No tune-yards or Destroyer?

  17. Puro Instinct? Adele? Yuck? Smith Westerns? These are all really problematic albums to me. Even the Gang Gang Dance album, while good, doesn’t strike me as album of the year material. Best to see them live, anyway.

    I’d petition for:

    Wild Beasts’ Smother
    Cass McCombs’s Wit’s End
    James Blake’s S/T
    Battles’ Gloss Drop (I was against this at first, but it steadily won me over)
    Metronomy’s The English Riviera
    Action Bronson’s Dr. Lecter
    John Maus’s We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves

    • Seconding your Gang Gang Dance observation. Anyone familiar with Saint Dymphna knows that Eye Contact isn’t even their best album. It’s really good! But better than Kaputt? Nope.

      And again: Smother, Smother, Smother. Everyone just wait til Winter rolls around and you’ll be playing Smother on your mp3 player under the sheets at night. The End Comes Too Soon.

  18. Appreciate the unranked inclusion of Bill Callahan’s “Apocalypse,” that’s my favorite of the year so far. Wye Oak’s “Civiian” is also up there.

  19. Panda Bear, Wye Oak, and KURT VIIIIIILLLLLEEEEE!!!!!

  20. Yeah, I agree with those wondering where w h o k i l l is. That album was fire. Also, I know this is more of an indie blog, but for an album that would have, if not for years of label issues, called forth a new generation of lyrically dexterous NY rappers, Saigon’s The Greatest Story Never Told has been criminally overlooked this year (I was surprised that P4K didn’t even review it). People should really give that one a chance.

  21. Guess I’m the only Bibio supporter

    • haha, i had bibio on my above list of unmentioned favorites, but pulled him (and a few others) after looking at what i wrote because i didn’t want to be that guy who just lists, like, 20 bands. love that new bibio album, though – kinda feel like pitchfork screwed his hype wave a bit.

    • great great album, maybe just lacking in crossover appeal?

    • “Excuses” is one of the dopest tracks to be released this year for sure. It’s going to be tough to remember Mind Bokeh even came out this year though.

      It’s tragically being overlooked.

  22. Glad to see GGD so high, eye contact is fantastic. Shabazz Palaces is my favorite by far of this year (not out yet, but it’s incredible)

    Other favorites:
    Grouper – A I A
    Destroyer – Kaputt
    Timber Timbre – Creep on Creepin On (not as good as medicinals or cedar shakes, but still solid)
    Dirty Beaches – Badlands
    Big K.r.i.t. – return of 4eva
    Sven Kacirek – The kenya sessions
    Gil Scott-heron/ jamie xx – We’re new here

  23. Katy B’s “On a Mission” is on non-stop replay for me. Totally my #1 so far.

  24. panda bear, tune-yards, dale earnhardt jr jr, teams vs starslinger, TV on the radio. There has been a lot of good music…promising to say the least. There were definitely some great albums left out of this list, but it looks like everyone is commenting on the same 10-15 additions/ and questioning the same few on the list. We’re all on the same page here.

  25. I stand by my original assessment of Iceage. If someone tells you to listen to them, just punch them in the face.

    Seriously, though, I don’t get it. Tune-Yards gets left off the list completely, and Iceage is number 3? Oh, Stereogum.

  26. god damn it! David Bazan!

    i get the feeling the year end/best of lists for 2011 will over-look the amazing albums by Bazan and J Mascis.
    Lykke Li should be on here. Royal Bangs deserve a mention. TV On The Radio, for sure!

  27. The EMA & Dirty Beaches LPs are running away with this year thus far for me.

  28. can’t wait to see bjork, st.vincent, washed out and fiona on here ;o

  29. Low – C’mon
    The Raveonettes – Raven In The Grave
    Peter Murphy – Ninth
    TV On The Radio – Nine Types Of Light
    Steve Earle – I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive
    Tim Booth – Love Life

  30. Don’t see a lot of love in here for PJ Harvey who imo deserves a spot on the top 3.

  31. #1 : Metronomy, and by far, with The English Riviera

    Also: GusGus, Junior Boys, Cut Copy, PJ Harvey

  32. Good list. My list is very similar buy I would like to give mention to the following:
    Cut Copy
    Love Inks
    Acid House Kings
    The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

  33. frontin on james blake AND frank ocean?
    No one cares about kravilliane come on brobro.

  34. I’m sorry, but how the hell is Panda Bear not on this list?

  35. glad to see gang gang dance so high, but this is a strange list. top 10 has mostly smaller acts, and adele? also the antlers, wild beasts, fleet foxes @ 19th, panda bear…

    also i’m not obsessed with james blake, but his was a pretty big record and it’s not even on here.

  36. 1 Bon Iver
    2 Gang Gang Dance
    3 Fleet Foxes
    4 Destroyer
    5 Yuck
    6 Wild Beasts
    7 The Antlers
    8 Panda Bear
    9 Explosions In The Sky
    10 My Morning Jacket
    11 PJ Harvey
    12 Arctic Monkeys
    13 Radiohead
    14 The Beastie Boys
    15 The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
    16 Grouper
    17 Tune-Yards
    18 TV On The Radio
    19 The Strokes
    20 The Weeknd
    21 Smith Westerns
    22 James Blake
    23 Tim Hecker
    24 Bright Eyes
    25 Mogwai
    26 Cut Copy
    27 Alex Turner
    28 Iron & Wine
    29 The Low Anthem
    30 Kurt Vile

  37. Let lack of Raphael Saadiq on all of these lists is appalling.

  38. Echoing Wild Beasts sentiment.

  39. what the hell is this?
    No Radiohead?
    No TV On The Radio?
    No James Blake?
    No Explosions in the Sky?
    No Frank Ocean?

    The Bon Iver album is good… but It’s repetitious… every song sounds exactly the same on the album. Oh Stereogum… disappointed

  40. I love you stereogum, but our tastes are not in alignment this year. Yuck, The Weeknd, and Fucked Up instead 3 of my favorite albums, Panda Bear, Tune-Yards, and James Blake? And Fleet Foxes only at #19? Personal taste, I guess. But still, no Panda Bear/Tune-Yards/James Blake?!?

  41. More like Top 20 Albums I’ve Never Heard.

  42. umm did no one like Cut Copy’s Zonoscope? It deserves at least an honorable mention.

  43. I would have loved to see some love for Heidecker & Wood.

  44. where is cults? and Foster the People?

  45. I haven’t heard a lot of this but from what I have, Fleet Foxes, I’d say it’s pretty good. And no Tyler the Creator?! I’m surprised.

  46. 10. Goblin – Tyler
    9. TKOL – Radiohead
    8. I am very far – Okkervil River
    7. Burst Apart – Antlers
    6. Smother – Wild Beasts
    5. Wounded Rhymes
    4. Yuck
    3. Kaputt – Destroyer
    2. Bon Iver
    1.Gang Gang

    I don’t get the whole Weeknd load-blowing I mean there are some good tracks on there but at least 1/4 of it is just silliness. The same applies to James Blake, that album has 2 great songs a couple good ones and the rest is forgettable… but I suppose I could see how people would say that about Bon Iver.

  47. I’d say that the new Kurt Vile record is one of the best of the year for sure. Sad that not many people thought so….

  48. Rolling in the deep is an excellent song but the album is boring. If it weren’t for adele’s amazing vocals, it is probably worse. Just very boring songwriting. The weeknd has really cool sounds but the lyrics kinda kill it for me.

    • i second the weeknd thing – the very first thing i thought when i played the first track was that it was a smooth sound but the lyrics were just juvenile

  49. Is it me or is everyone jumping on the Bon Iver bandwagon all of the sudden? Come on! give it some time, let the album sink in!! It was just released today!

    It all reminds me of last december when everyone named Kanye West’s MBDTF the best album of the year only weeks after it’s release. SHEEESH! !!

  50. Blah on that new Bon Iver album.

    My Top 5:

    1. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints
    2. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
    3. Chris Thile and Michael Dawes – Sleep With One Eye Open
    4. Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong
    5. James Blake – s/t

    Surprised Cut Copy, Kurt Vile, Panda Bear, and TVOTR didn’t make Stereogum’s list.

    Good job not jumping on the Tyler the Creator hype wagon. Unbelievably awful crap.

    I may get some disagreement, but this has felt like a really weak year in music, or maybe it’s just because so many excellent albums came out in 2010 that it feels weak in comparison.

    • I’ve got to agree that compared to last year 2011 has been a bit weak. I still think it’s been a good year in music. There’s always more that I like than I get time to listen to. And nice putting EMA at #1. That’s definitely been under appreciated.

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