Stereogum's Top 50 Albums Of 2011

2011 was the year music learned to float. Actually, that’s not true at all; music has been reaching for feelings of tidal drift since the first Gregorian monks figured out how to chant, or maybe since the first caveman licked a frog and figured out that his grunts got extra-spacey. But surveying our 2011 top 50, ethereal haze is something that’s reached across genre lines to touch all corners of the musical globe.

In indie rock, Bon Iver’s slippery blend of smooth-rock sounds and abstract-jazz ideas shared a certain starry-eyed afghan-rug appeal with Gang Gang Dance’s worldly stoner pulses, Kate Bush’s daffy piano odysseys, M83′s synth fantasias, and Oneohtrix Point Never’s Casio-addled nostalgia-play. In rap, the so-called “cloud rap” aesthetic wafted through Clams Casino’s astral instrumental thump, ASAP Rocky’s stylized Southern-rap love letters, and Kendrick Lamar’s wordy self-examinations, even manifesting in big blockbuster opuses like Drake’s emo masterstroke and Kanye West and Jay-Z’s superstar summit. In electronic music, Pictureplane, Nicolas Jaar, and James Blake zoned the fuck out in some extremely different ways. Even R&B saw the rise of pill-popping auteurs like the Weeknd and Frank Ocean.

Elsewhere in the top 50, there’s a certain blood-and-fire darkness that encompasses Fucked Up’s roaring punk opera, EMA’s feral intensity, PJ Harvey’s battlefield expressionism, Iceage’s elusive jittercore, and Cold Cave’s wounded-animal dance parties. And we didn’t plan things out this way, but Austra and Zola Jesus ended up back-to-back at #14 and #15, presumably the most howlingly goth one-two punch in top-50 history.

But our #1 album of the year, though it has moments of both drift and wail, exists outside those trends. It’s a thing entirely unto itself: A great work of classical po songwriting, of perfectly calibrated recording, and of transcendent lyrical neediness. And it could’ve just as easily dropped in 1981, 1991, or 2001.

Here is the Stereogum editorial staff’s favorite LPs and EPs of 2011:

STEREOGUM’S TOP 50 ALBUMS OF 2011

Youth Lagoon - The Year Of Hibernation50 Youth LagoonThe Year Of Hibernation (Fat Possum)

Toro Y Moi - Underneath The Pine49 Toro Y MoiUnderneath The Pine (Carpark)

Oddisee - Rock Creek Park48 OddiseeRock Creek Park (Mello Music Group)

Wilco - The Whole Love47 WilcoThe Whole Love (dBpm)

tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l46 tUnE-yArDsw h o k i l l (4AD)

Adele - 2145 Adele21 (XL)

James Blake - James Blake44 James BlakeJames Blake (A&M/ATLAS)

Twin Sister - In Heaven43 Twin SisterIn Heaven (Domino)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Unknown Mortal Orchestra42 Unknown Mortal OrchestraUnknown Mortal Orchestra (Fat Possum)

Das Racist - Relax41 Das RacistRelax (Greedhead)

Kendrick Lamar - Section.8040 Kendrick LamarSection.80 (Top Dawg)

Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise39 Nicolas JaarSpace Is Only Noise (Circus Company)

The Antlers - Burst Apart38 The AntlersBurst Apart (Frenchkiss)

Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde37 Smith WesternsDye It Blonde (Fat Possum)

Cut Copy - Zonoscope36 Cut CopyZonoscope (Modular)

Atlas Sound - Parallax35 Atlas SoundParallax (4AD)

Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo34 Kurt VileSmoke Ring For My Halo (Matador)

SBTRKT - SBTRKT33 SBTRKTSBTRKT (Young Turks)

St. Vincent - Strange Mercy32 St. VincentStrange Mercy (4AD)

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues31 Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues (Sub Pop)

Radiohead - The King Of Limbs30 RadioheadThe King Of Limbs (XL/TBD)

Washed Out - Within And Without29 Washed OutWithin And Without (Sub Pop)

Pictureplane - Thee Physical28 PictureplaneThee Physical (Lovepump United)

Destroyer - Kaputt27 DestroyerKaputt (Merge)

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Belong26 The Pains Of Being Pure At HeartBelong (Slumberland)

25 Cold CaveCherish The Light Years (Matador)

Frank Ocean - Nostalgia, Ultra24 Frank OceanNostalgia, Ultra (self-released)

Wild Flag - Wild Flag23 Wild FlagWild Flag (Merge)

Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire22 Ryan AdamsAshes & Fire (Capitol / Pax-Am)

Clams Casino - Instrumentals21 Clams CasinoInstrumental Mixtape (self-released)

Real Estate - Days20 Real EstateDays (Domino)

Iceage - New Brigade19 IceageNew Brigade (Dais)

18 Beyoncé4 (Columbia)

Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica17 Oneohtrix Point NeverReplica (Mexican Summer/Software)

Neon Indian - Era Extraña16 Neon IndianEra Extraña (Mom & Pop/Static Tongues)

Zola Jesus - Conatus15 Zola JesusConatus (Sacred Bones)

Austra - Feel It Break14 AustraFeel It Break (Domino/Paper Bag)

Yuck- Yuck13 YuckYuck (Fat Possum)

M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming12 M83Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (Mute)

Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow11 Kate Bush50 Words For Snow (Anti-/Fish People)

Jay-Z And Kanye West - Watch The Throne10 Jay-Z And Kanye WestWatch The Throne (Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella/Roc Nation)

ASAP Rocky - LIVELOVEASAP09 ASAP RockyLIVELOVEA$AP (self-released)

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

EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints07 EMAPast Life Martyred Saints (Souterrain Transmissions)

Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact06 Gang Gang DanceEye Contact (4AD)

The Weeknd - House Of Balloons05 The WeekndHouse Of Balloons (self-released)

Fucked Up - David Comes To Life04 Fucked UpDavid Comes To Life (Matador)

Bon Iver - Bon Iver Bon Iver03 Bon IverBon Iver, Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)

Drake - Take Care02 DrakeTake Care (Young Money)

Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost01 GirlsFather, Son, Holy Ghost (Matador/True Panther Sounds)

//

Here’s that list in more copy/paste friendly format so you can post on your LiveJournal:

50 Youth LagoonThe Year Of Hibernation
49 Toro Y MoiUnderneath The Pine
48 OddiseeRock Creek Park
47 WilcoThe Whole Love
46 tUnE-yArDsw h o k i l l
45 Adele21
44 James BlakeJames Blake
43 Twin SisterIn Heaven
42 Unknown Mortal OrchestraUnknown Mortal Orchestra
41 Das RacistRelax
40 Kendrick LamarSection.80
39 Nicolas JaarSpace Is Only Noise
38 Burst ApartBurst Apart
37 Smith WesternsDye It Blonde
36 Cut CopyZonoscope
35 Atlas SoundParallax
34 Kurt VileSmoke Ring For My Halo
33 SBTRKTSBTRKT
32 St. VincentStrange Mercy
31 Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues
30 RadioheadThe King Of Limbs
29 Washed OutWithin And Without
28 PictureplaneThee Physical
27 DestroyerKaputt
26 The Pains Of Being Pure At HeartBelong
25 Cold CaveCherish The Light Years
24 Frank OceanNostalgia, Ultra
23 Wild FlagWild Flag
22 Ryan AdamsAshes & Fire
21 Clams CasinoInstrumental Mixtape
20 Real EstateDays
19 IceageNew Brigade
18 Beyoncé4
17 Oneohtrix Point NeverReplica
16 Neon IndianEra Extraña
15 Zola JesusConatus
14 AustraFeel It Break
13 YuckYuck
12 M83Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
11 Kate Bush50 Words For Snow
10 Kanye West & Jay-ZWatch The Throne
09 ASAP RockyLIVELOVEA$AP
08 PJ HarveyLet England Shake
07 EMAPast Life Martyred Saints
06 Gang Gang DanceEye Contact
05 The WeekndHouse Of Balloons
04 Fucked UpDavid Comes To Life
03 Bon IverBon Iver
02 DrakeTake Care
01 GirlsFather, Son, Holy Ghost

//

Coming up with the Stereogum list meant leaving out some personal favorites of our four staff members:

HONORABLE MENTIONS
SCOTT
01 Jonathan WilsonGentle Spirit
02 OpethHeritage
03 LowC’mon
04 King Creosote & Jon HopkinsDiamond Mine
05 QuiltQuilt

AMRIT
01 Future IslandsOn The Water
02 araabmuzikElectronic Dream
03 The MenLeave Home
04 Julianna BarwickThe Magic Place
05 Pure XPleasure

TOM
01 Don Trip & StarlitoStep Brothers
02 FiendTennis Shoes And Tuxedos
03 TKO CaponeTropical Swaggin Duh
04 G-SideIsland
05 Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquireLost In Translation

CORBAN
01 Lil BI’m Gay (I’m Happy)
02 Katy BOn A Mission
03 Vivian GirlsShare The Joy
04 R. KellyLove Letter
05 Sleep ∞ OverForever

//

And below, our favorite EPs:

STEREOGUM’S TOP 5 EPS OF 2011
01 The Soft Moon – Total Decay
02 Clams Casino – Rainforest
03 Elite Gymnastics – Ruin
04 Light Asylum – In Tension
05 Holy Other – With U

//

Feel free to express your (dis)pleasure with the results on this post, or by voting in The Gummys, which you have one more day to enter! Here are some other publications’ lists we’ve been highlighting:

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Comments (415)
  1. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa — I don’t have much to say about your Best Albums list, but you forgot Trash Talk’s Awake on the Top 5 EPs list!

    Again, Ceremony coverage in 2012 is the only Christmas gift an annoying commenter could ask for. Thanks for the great year, none the less!

    • If I shall say something about the album list in particular, however, it’s that I would expected some Mr. Dream and Cloud Nothings on it.

      • DAMMIT, THESE LISTS COME OUT TOO EARLY. THE BLACK KEYS ‘EL CAMINO’ DESERVES TO MENTIONED AT LEAST IN THE 30′S.

        *random rage*

        Anyways, nice to see New Brigade in the top twenties but strange to see Take Care at 2. Overall, I’d give this list an 8/10. A lot of diversity and isn’t biased at all.

  2. Shabazz Palaces?

  3. While I might disagree with a few of your choices, I think this is a relatively solid list. Also, I should express my gratitude for introducing me to Oddisee. Thank you.

  4. What about Pocket Vinyl’s “Monsters Talking” album?

  5. Obligatory –

    Godsdog:
    Some things I like are not present on this list.
    Some things I like are not as high as I would have placed them.
    Some things I do not like are present on this list.
    Some things are placed higher than I would have placed them.

  6. It broke my heart not to see Smother in the list…This LP is dynamite!!!

  7. not a lot of surprises, but at least this list doesn’t make me wanna kill myself

    and before anyone complains about beyoncé on this, that album is so good after multiple listens. 1 + 1, and obviously COUNTDOWN!

    • This was a very predictable top 50 for anyone that reads Stereogum, however I was still quite pleased with it. I am really happy that Yuck and Smith Westerns made it to the list given how much press they both got when they came out, however it appears that every other top 50 list forgot the first 3 – 4 months of the year.

  8. Swap James Blake and with Watch the Throne and I’ve got almost nothing to complain about.

  9. ht tom for the mr muhfucking eXquire nod, but three things: no trash talk? i hate hardcore and that rules. Ryan adams at 23? i’m glad someone loves him, really. finally: tune yards at 46? 46?! respect as a mag–> wayy gone. you’re telling us with a straight face that relax and 45 other albums are better than that fucking masterpiece? there is a beauty in violence that i don’t understandd

  10. It’s a list, among any, so what is there to say? I loved a lot of the albums you listed, disliked a few, and haven’t had the time to give many a listen at all. Again, Battles and Moonface are the major omissions I would have liked to see, but I understand many thought the former lost some of their punch without Tyondai, and that the latter was a bit self-indulgent. Oh well, I am a sucker for both–Spencer Krug especially–and would have liked to see them included. Thankz for tha memoriez u guyz c u next year good bye.

  11. Drake is 30 spots higher than St. Vincent and 38 spots higher than Kendrick Lamar. I don’t even.

    • Although I am not a fan of the album, and prefer St. Vincent, I am not surprised at all given the fact that Stereogum loves this album (along with many other sources). Although I do not agree with the order, and found the list predictable, it is one of the better top 50s so far.

    • Drake is #2… I think I get the joke. If it’s not that, I quit.

  12. Hooray for Girls at #1! You could’ve pulled a P4k and gone with Bon Iver but you held your ground and stuck to your guns.

  13. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • “it all just passes along with nothing sticking”

      Counterpoint: Gold Cobra.

      Anyways, another year of music worth exploring draws to a close. Memories and stuff. Let’s dance.

    • “Music is dead” – Nietzsche

    • Listen to “Vomit” again and get back to me.

    • The Girls album is special; it just shouldn’t have been #1. This was actually a pretty good year for music, and even though I don’t think this list is bad, it does make it look like it was kind of a boring year. It seems like over the last decade I have stuck to listening to a 70/30 balance of heavy or harsh/quiet things, and the music publications I read seem to be favoring slower things or things that for one reason or another cannot be classified as rock. It’s like they’ve mellowed and gotten complacent. It used to be that if I disagreed with a list, it would at least have a bunch of bands on it that I didn’t know, which meant that the person had a passion for music; they went digging for something and chose it for no other reason than that they liked it.

      • I’m feeling the same way as I’m looking around at all these lists. Over the past year, I’ve been happy that music had gotten “edgy” again, but I look around and no one is paying attention to these bands just as I had been it seems. Maybe my taste in music is bad, maybe I have degenerated… I don’t know. Granted my year-end list shared some ground with a few of the names above, it’s so far looking like I’m the only one giving Touche Amore, Trash Talk, Title Fight, Liturgy, Thursday, Cloud Nothings, Mr. Dream, …Trail of the Dead, The Men, Disappears and Mr. Dream any attention. This blog looks like it’s aggregating all year-end lists onto one site and shows you that: http://yearendlists.com/category/2011-albums/

        • Comparing Vomit to Dark Side era Pink Floyd just doesn’t work.

          Now, if you compared Vomit to Blue Cheer (who released Outsideinside and Vincebus Eruptum in 1968, before Dark Side of the Moon), you’d be making a good case (and I’m 27 without kids, so I’m not a “dad”).

          Girls are a distillation of so many influenes from the 60s-70s (Rolling Stones, Blue Cheer, Deep Purple (on Die), Elvis Costello, you name it) that you can’t really just peg the band as ripping off one single band. Girls simply own their sound at this point and it keeps getting better.

        • Michael_,

          You’re not the only one who’s happy that music has gotten more “edgy” this year, and Liturgy, The Men, Trash Talk, and Trap Them (I added that to make things even more “edgy”) are among my favorites of the year.

          Especially The Men, that album is front to back perfect in my humble opinion.

          • Djfreshie,

            Do you have any tennis balls I can put on my walker? Or can you spot me some Maxi-pads to double line my Depends? I can’t get around and keep shitting my pants and just don’t know what to do.

          • I can loan you maybe a couple Tennis balls but I’ll need them back since I’m older than you (103) and while I don’t use a walker, I do need them to throw at neighbourhood kids who keep getting their dang tennis balls over my fence and into my yard.

        • Just wanted to say thanks for the mention of title fight… band’s awesome! I’ve felt like 2011 has been a pretty shit year musically, but that’s probably because the blogs and sites I read have spent the year praisin shit like girls and (lol) drake

    • oh…so insightful. so wise. it’s like your words came straight out of every youtube comment ever, and those ellipses make you look s00 profound. i can almost hear your whiny voice trail off in the back of your mom’s minivan.

  14. no Laura Marling? :(

  15. Not a single mention of Hello Sadness? Come on, Stereogum.

  16. Drake??? with St. Vincent at 32 and Tune-yards are 46? What kind of music blog do I think I’ve been reading?

    • There’s never much logic to the rankings on these lists. This is the second list where I’ve seen Yuck (who are fun and talented and very promising, okay) ranked ahead of Wild Flag (who are a force of nature).

    • there’s not a lot of logic to it, kinda like the whole, “women and children first”…

  17. Destroyer should definitely be higher!! One of the best album this year

    • Its interesting how every list seems to ignore Destroyer, yet every comment section cries out for the lack of Destroyer. a Music blog reader / writer disconnect it seems. I agree that it was one of the best albums of the year, in my top 3 for sure.

    • Almost every year the great albums released between January-February are completely ignored (it’s when the decade lists come rolling out that people remember how good the early-year releases are).

      Case in point: James Blake at 44, Underneath the Pine at 49 (which blows Washed Out out of the water), Nicolas Jaar at 39, Cut Copy at 36, Kurt Vile at 34, TKOL at 30, and Destroyer at 27.

      Counterpoint: PJ Harvey at number 8 (wholeheartedly agree with that choice).

      I’m not going to argue with a list, but it’s just the way things work. Look at Built to Spill in the late 90s: both Perfect From Now On and Keep It Like a Secret were released in that January-February period and didn’t receive a ton of acclaim for their respective years of release (’97 and ’99), but hot damn did those albums get the red carpet treatment with Best of the 90s Lists (I can’t speak to There’s Nothing Wrong With Love because I was like 10 when it came out and was too busy listening to Nirvana: cool older brother syndrom).

  18. started with Youth Lagoon and ended with Girls. great list.

  19. Wait, the Decemberists don’t even make the list?!

    • I think people are finally getting tired of their British Neutral Milk Hotel impression.

      • I’m getting tired of their Decemberists impression

      • British? …Pretty sure Portland, Oregon is in ummm Oregon….

      • Oh no, looks like the Decemberists fans are out to get me! Whatever will I do? Now I’ll have to change my identity. Maybe I’ll crudely appropriate someone else’s and hope that no one notices for over a decade.

        • Mr. Hanna,

          This comment should be getting upvoted a hell of a lot more.The Decemberists are one of the worst offenders in the “fake-british-accent” category, behind maybe Jay Reatard (R.I.P.), who gets a pass because he wrote hundreds of great songs (solo and otherwise) in the period it takes the Decemberists to come up with what “concept” they’re going to explore next.

          Sea-shanties aren’t okay unless you’re the Pogues in the 1980s.

          The Decemberists have become the audio-equivalent of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Decent at first (admit it, the first Pirates wasn’t entirely awful), then self-indulgence that would make Freddie Mercury’s corpse blush.

          • I’ll admit, I’m not very familiar with the Decemberists (they just weren’t my thing), but I can’t think of a single one of their songs in which Meloy sings in a fake British accent. Perhaps it’s so fake you can’t even tell it’s British?

          • Just google “colin meloy fake british accent” and you’ll get all the answers you need.

  20. Nice to see Gang Gang in the top 10, but St. Vincent should be way higher, and I don’t get the lack of love for Panda Bear’s Tomboy.

  21. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • in critical acclaim or backlash?
      hint: only one of those answers is correct

    • except for the fact that MBDTF was actually really good and Take Care is quite mediocre in comparison.

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • You misspelt Shabazz Palaces

      • You misspelled misspelt, or maybe you misspelt misspelled, I’m not really sure these days. Last I checked “misspelt” isn’t a word, but who knows with these kids.

        Anyway, It’s been more than a year since MBDTF and that album is still the best album to come out this decade. YES, Shabazz Palaces, BunVer, Ariel Pink, Big Boi, Caribou, Deerhunter, FlyLo, Girls, The National, Oneohtrix Point Never, Titus Andronicus, The Weeknd, tUne-yarDs, St. Vincent, Panda Bear, and all the bands/artists that critics will claim released the best album of this young decade have more musical talent, but MBDTF is sequenced perfectly and doesn’t house one dud on a 78-minute album.

        As for Drake’s Take Care, I’m still digesting it and it’s slowly making it’s way through my bowels, but it’s clearly a grab at the proverbial “Throne” of MBDTF (GSH sample, similar guest stars, similar length and with a concept), but I’m thinking it’s not quite at that level.

        • So wait a sec, “misspelt” is a word, though most commonly used in the UK (so apologies memoryboy) and contained in the Oxford English Dictionary. I guess you learn something new every day.

          Here in ‘merica “misspelled” is the proper spelling. Interesting.

          • Sorry. Americans always know more about English than English people.

          • We sure do.

            That’s why we butchered the hell out of the language and now “tweet” is in our dictionary, “bromance” is apparently a word now, and so are “helicopter parent,” “fist bump,” and “crowdsourcing.” Because we Americans are the most eloquent bunch out there.

            We’ve got Sarah Palin, Dubya, AND Rick Perry, so don’t misunderestimate (which was added to our ridiculous dictionary also) the American intellect.

            Again, since we’re living in “serious town,” my comment was intended as a joke.

        • I stopped reading what you had to say when you said “but who knows with theses kids.”

  22. It’s an alright list. I find at the end of the year that there’s just so much stuff I haven’t had the time to dig through that if I find a handful of my favorite albums on a list like this, I’m cool with it. Though going through the ones posted so far, I think Gruff Rhys and Eleanor Friedberger have really been overlooked. I apparently also really dug Lykke Li more than most people.

    And again, this was a really great year for women. I think seven or eight of my favorite albums were female artists, girl groups, or female fronted groups.

  23. ok im gonna be with another 100 people and ask where’s shabazz palaces? easily my favorite.
    My top 5 goes:

    Shabazz Palaces
    Thee Oh Sees – carrion crawler / the dream
    John Maus
    SBTRKT
    White Denim

    • John Maus was excellent. Cop Killer!

    • John Maus is also easily the worst live act of 2011, FYI.

      • who cares? it doesnt take away from how awesome that album is.

        • Whoa, I didn’t say anything about the album. I think it’s fair to say an album can be good and the corresponding live act (ahem…Peter Bjorn and John) can be garbage.

          Definitely it does speak to the artist if they can’t replicate their sound on stage though. I’m not saying it has to for everyone, but for me, if you can’t do the thing you made, you made a fake thing. I can still listen to it and enjoy it, but deep down I’ll still just think the performer is a hack.

          Recorded music is great, and has become an art form unto itself, but lest we forget the invention of recorded music serves multiple functions, one of which (the one that gets me most excited BONER alert) is as an advertisement for a band. As in, you listen to the album, then you go see the band.

          These days, I recognize people like to just listen to records while they work and then talk about their days to their friends at concerts as loud as they can, and tell other people lately how great the show they spent the whole time talking was, much to my chagrin, but still…live music is where it’s at.

          That’s who cares.

          • nah production is where it’s at. im sure going to a dylan,beatles,stones, show was great and all but with all the rock mythology you rarely hear how you couldnt hear anything cause of all the girls screaming,the crappy primtive PA or that they only played for 25 minutes. Ultimately in 50 years people are going to love the beatles because of thier studio recordings. It should be noted that while alot of groups are great live they never capture that in the studio(MC5,kiss,fred neil),. in a studio recording all the tiny flaws in ones playing become apparent which otherwise would be ignored due to the visceral nature of live performance. there will allways be luddites like the folkies who bashed dylan for playing his OWN material on (gasp!) phony electric instruments. To quote duke ellington ” if it sounds good it is good”and to create a heirarchy which devalues such based on arbitrary judgments of authenticity seems a self serving endorsement of mediocrity.

          • James, screaming fans at a Dylan show?

            If your going to make blanket statements about the pratfalls of rock mythology you shot maybe put a bit more thought into it. Obviously you have never heard Get Yer Ya-Yas Out. Sure that was recorded as late as 1969, but check out this footage from 1964: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWRrWpmMU6A&list=FLJbTCeec2OjORXdh54xUl2A&index=1&feature=plpp_video
            The girls are going nuts, but still, seems like a pretty kick ass live band.

            Dylan has released live shows from as early as 1962, all of them sound pretty great and last longer than 25 minutes. I mean, check out the “Royal Albert Hall” bootleg series release. Plus, you’re correct that some folk fans were unhappy about Dylan going electric, but Dylan was hardly the first folk artist to write his own songs. Do you really think a fan base that idolized Woody Guthrie would have a problem with a guy writing his own songs twenty years later?

            Yes, the Beatles shows from ’64-66 weren’t great because it was treated as an opportunity to scream, but they learned the trade playing marathon shows at seedy dive bars in Hamburg. Before Beatlemania, they had a reputation for being an unbelievable live band.

            If you want to hear other examples of unbelievable live playing from that period check out Live at Leeds, Live at the Apollo, Five Live Yardbirds, the second half of Wheels of Fire, Live/Dead, Neil Young or the Allman Brothers At the Fillmore East… I could go on and on and on.

            I won’t get into whether an artists inability to reproduce studio recordings on the stage should detract from the merit of the studio recordings. (Mainly, because I don’t think anybody has made that argument which you appear to be responding to). But maybe you should put the Kiss records back in the garage and get some knowledge before you call besmirch some of the greatest live acts in history.

  24. I was surprised to see St. Vincent so far down too. I agree though – good album, not great. Overall an excellent list (even if I still don’t quite understand the Drake hype).

    Is it too soon to assume Best Album of 2012 lists will be a Lana Del Rey sweep?

  25. NO CHRIS GAINES FUCK THAT SHIT

  26. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  27. Doubt most people bitching about Drake even listened to his album.

  28. I really liked Strange Mercy but it’s kind of tainted because SV’s show at the Metro in October was really lackluster. Sound was bad, Annie didn’t really ever let loose, I was almost bored.

    On the other hand, whokill is a good album but the tune-yards live show was nearly life-changing, therefore the album is made even better in my mind. Same thing with Battles.

    Oh, and I’m just gonna say it again: Deerhoof is one of the best bands in the world right now, and nobody’s talking about Deerhoof Vs. Evil, like, at all. It was good, wasn’t it? I thought so.

    • uhm wow if you thought Annie’s last tour was lackluster I don’t know what to say to you. I saw her in October too and it was absolutely mindblowing. And Annie was like, literally in the audience, so I’d call that letting loose. Everyone else I know who saw her at other venues loved her too.

      Strange Mercy should be way lower

      • I think there were just sound issues at the particular show I was at. She seemed really annoyed at the whole situation. I’m a huge SV fan and have just as much of a crush on her as every other dweebie indie dude, so I was going in to it with expectations of greatness. I just think it was an off night. Glad to know your show was mindblowing.

  29. Ganglians and Pterodactyl, slighted ye are.

  30. Man, Exquire and his manager told me i should have been aborted for saying i hoped that they didn’t get in the top 50 on twitter. WHO’S LAUGHING NOW EXQUIRE

  31. I guess Stereogum doesn’t cover too much punk (or what can loosely be called punk, anyway), but new albums by Joyce Manor, Bomb the Music Industry!, Andrew Jackson Jihad,and Lemuria would probably be on my list. Aside from the Joyce Manor record, those bands released really good music that wouldn’t be too out of place on an indie rock-skewing list like this.

    Also surprised at the lack of Wye Oak – Civilian, but there’s a lot of things I haven’t heard on the list yet so maybe there’s a reason for that.

    • I really didn’t sink my teeth into Joyce Manor until later on, but I would definitely give it an honorable mention to it alongside the others you listed. I’m looking forward to their Asian Man debut in 2012, and hopefully we’ll be hearing more about them. There’s a lot of parallels between the current “loosely-based punk” and indie-emo scene from 10 – 15 years ago I think, and I’m enjoying it.

  32. Good job guys. Nearly everything that I would put in my top 20 was represented in some way.

  33. No Shabazz Palaces and Danny Brown?

    Replace Take Care with Danny’s XXX and Bon Iver with Black Up and we almost have the same top 10.

  34. Arctic Monkeys.

  35. So Das Racist’s “Relax” was better than “Black Up” (which should be in the top 5)? This hurts my feelings ‘gum, especially since I find “Relax” simply unlistenable. I know I’m going to get downvoted for that, but Relax is Major Lazer part deux, another unlistenable turd.

    I’m actually thinking P4K’s list will be pretty much the same. My guess is that the top 20 will look extremely similar, though 1 and 3 will be swapped, James Blake will probably end up at number 2, no Beyonce, Austra, Neon Indian, or Zola Jesus in the top 20, they’ll be replaced with Kurt Vile, tuNe-yaRd, St. Vincent, and Fleet Foxes, and all in a different order.

    • i too thought relax was a piece of shit. wasn’t too big on bon iver or james blake, either. also, watch the throne sucked, and i can’t stand drake. whew! that felt good. well, see you in the running for worst comment of the week!

      • Yep, hatin’ on Das Racist is probably the #1 way to end up in the worst comments runnings. The mixtapes were just 10 times better and somehow more cohesive than their debut album.

  36. Am I the only one who didn’t ”get” PJ Harveys album ?
    Although I thought she was good at Roskilde Festival this summer…

  37. I think ‘Electronic Dream’ should have made the list…but hey my boy CLAMS CASINO did so I’m happy. “Motivation” and “Take 1″ are imo two of the best beats this year.

    • Srsly. Anna Calvi should not be ignored. Nor should DeLeon for that matter. Take another listen to their album Casata from this year and get back to me.

  38. Well I disagree with nearly everything on this list. But it makes me happy that you didn’t have like Panda Bear at #4 and then Girls and Bon Iver at the top. Because then I would have been confused, because Tomboy is my favorite of the year by a long shot and I thought the Girls and Bon Iver albums were absolutely awful. at least this way I know that we clearly hear two very different things in music. It seems like you guys aren’t very big on melody. Anyways here is my list.

    1) Panda Bear- Tomboy
    2) Juliana Barwick- The Magic Place
    3) Destroyer- Kaputt
    4) Yuck-
    5) Fucked Up- David Comes To Life
    6) Grouper-
    7) Gang Gang Dance-
    8) Ducktails- Arcade Dynamics III
    9) Kurt Vile- Smoke Ring For My Halo
    10) Elanor Friedberger- Last Summer
    11) Woods- Sun And Shade
    12) Braids- Native Speaker
    13) The Field- Looping State Of Mind
    14) Bill Callahan- Apocalypse
    15) Cass Mccombs- Humor Risk
    16) John Maus- We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves
    17) M83- Hurry Up, Were Dreaming
    18) J Mascis- Several Shades Of Why
    19) G-Side- The One…Cohesive
    20) Hammers Of Misfortune- 17th st.
    21) Shabazz Palaces- Black Up
    22) Stephen Malkmus- Mirror Traffic
    23) Cass Mccombs- Wits End
    24) Wolves In The Throne Room- Celestial Lineage
    25) Toro Y Moi- Freaking Out

    • I think you’re absolutely wrong about the Girls album, and I like Bon Iver too, but overall your list puts Stereogum’s to shame, and it certainly doesn’t deserve all these downvotes.

      • You know. i liked Album quite a bit. And i love that new song they have Lawrence. But i honestly could not find anything I liked about any of the songs on that album. I mean Honey Bunny was the best one i thought and even that one wasn’t anywhere near one of my favorite tracks of the year. As well as Bon Iver goes. I didn’t really care for the first one all that much. Some of the songs reminded me of Everlast. But this one was 10X worse. the only song i liked was Beth/Rest. Which some people seemed to hate. I thought it was a motherfucking Jam! One of my favs of the year. And yeah Stereogums list was out there this year. First time since I’ve been reading it that I disagreed with almost everything on the list….

        And on a side note….The Drake record is really really good. Just not Top 5 good. Top 30 maybe.

    • Love this. I really don’t understand the Tomboy hate. It’s just odd to see a band like Cold Cave (which were..not..good…live?) totally outrank an album with Scheherezade and Last Night at the Jetty.

      also <3 John Maus, Braids and that Toro EP

      • Im with you. Tomboy is the shit. but I will say that I actually find it very amusing when the other Cold Cave dude dances around and pumps his fist.

  39. I’m sorry but Atlas Sound album was weak man. 3 solid tracks in an album of weak songs. Swap in Shabazz Palaces plzzzz

    • “Te Amo” is awesome enough to land the album a spot on this list. The rest of the tracks could be Cox making fart noises with his armpit.

  40. I’m not mad it’s at 31, this isn’t a complaint. But I feel like Helplessness Blues is kind of getting lost in the shuffle this year. It is way way better than their debut. And I don’t see much clamor for it to be higher in comments or anything.

  41. drake… eww

  42. Why does no one love Handsome Furs? :’(

  43. Okay I only have a few gripes…
    1. James Blake’s album was soulful and was one of my favorites of the year and here it is being rated lower than joke-rap (I’m not even hating on DR).
    2. Then there is the absence of Shabazz Palaces. I think people didn’t listen to that album enough, it was the most prominent example of a “grower” I heard all year, and it is very rewarding.
    3. Drake is number two (lol, he’s number two). But for real… He’s here and Shabazz isn’t. Drake can’t even rap without drinking Sprite anyways. Proof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh6vHoyBs58

  44. This is a pretty solid list compromised of various genres and I don’t know enough about some of the genres to disagree, however I do follow hip-hop and r&b very closely. I enjoy Drake’s music, however I feel there is some pull within the industry to really push Take Care to the forefront more so than any other hip-hop release. I have enjoyed Take Care so far, however I don’t see it as the #2 album on this list when you have solid efforts from Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Jay/Ye, ASAP Rocky, The Weeknd, especially Section.80 at 40?? Anyone else feeling this unusual push for Drake?

    • Kendrick Lamar’s album is definitely my favourite hip-hop album of this year. Shabazz’s is also good. I will admit to not having heard all of Drake’s album.

    • Yep, I’m going to unleash my first ever rant about a disagreement over an artist spot on a list (the reason being because I know that Drake will appear at the top of many lists before december is over).

      Let me first start off by saying that I don’t hate Drake. He is very smart and obviously knows how to play the hip-hop game. Take Care is a decent album (and yes it will probably be the 2011 album that most people have sex to in 2012 (even though Lulu might have a head start)) but I also don’t believe that it deserves the highest praises that people have showered upon it.

      I think that the production work on this CD is stellar. It is a very cohesive album from a production standpoint. Also, I would say that most of, if not all of the guest spots (I love Stevie Wonder but you seriously only got him to play harmonica for what? bragging rights), are good…maybe too good. Once you start putting Drake next to his featured peers you start (or at least I start) to hear his shortcomings as an artist. He just doesn’t seem to have the experience or personality that everyone else has. Kendrick Lamar arguably has the best rap section on the whole CD. Rick Ross drops a shorter yet more thrilling verse than Drake in his feature (some of you will dismiss me after saying that, whatever). I could maybe stand behind this album more if it was called Drake and Friends and didn’t feature Drake singing so much. I don’t even need to mention how much better the Weekend’s voice sounds throughout the record because you already know. No, I am not a troll. Just from a critical point of view, Drake is kind of boring. I saw that someone above wrote most people who hate Drake haven’t even listened to his album. Well I would like to challenge people who love Drake to listen a little bit harder to his lyrics.

      From a hip-hop standpoint, I thought that the Roots, Shabazz Palaces, Kendrick Lamar, Big Krit, and Danny Brown were stronger. From and r & b standpoint, I thought that Frank Ocean had a better record than Drake but Drake was better than the Weekend on album this year. I guess Drake’s CD has the best of both worlds (hermaphrodites are lame). The artists I listed don’t really need the push, though.

      Tom it is badass that you included only hip-hop artists in your honorable mentions section, and Corban keep up the awesome work. Your feature on Drake (among other things) was great even though I am not a big fan of his. It would be cool if you guys separated hip-hop into a separate list like what you guys do for metal even if hip-hop was included on the big list and a smaller top 25 list (so there is no segregation/as much gray area).

      P.S. Ritual Unions Smother a Tomboy Bad as Me but Skying a Two Way Mirror = Life Fantastic

      • this is a great write-up of what Take Care feels like to most hip-hop enthusiasts. In summary, Drake knows what sells especially to the teenybopper hip-hop listeners (or as BigGhostFase calls them, the Estrogeneration, ha!). Amazing beats, super catchy hooks, and mediocre emotional lyrics that pull at teenage girls heart strings. Congrats to him on the success, but sorry you’re not a boss or a rap legend, not yet at least.

  45. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • By your logic the best album of 2011 should be the new Pink Floyd greatest hits release?

    • I haven’t really listened to any Strokes LP since Room on Fire, so I can’t speak to your claims that it deserves a spot on any year-end list. I also question your logic that a band’s previous influence should play a part in the evaluation of its current work.( If so, The Fall should be listed ahead of the Strokes.) But I also question your premises.

      Don’t get me wrong, Is This It is one of my favorite records ever, but aren’t you overestimating the historic importance of the Strokes? The guitar-based rock scene definitely was due for a kick in the pants around 2001, but the return of poppy garage rock sounds would have happened anyways, even without the Strokes. Don’t forget White Blood Cells came out a few months before This Is It. That’s not to take away anything from how remarkably fresh it was to hear “Last Night” way back when, but do you seriously think Justin Veronon or Bradley Cox would be lawyers if This Is It had never come out?

      • “I haven’t really listened to any Strokes LP since Room on Fire” *with fucking italics*

        bro you are so real.

        • Don’t knock italics

          • big man hiding behind that bold/italics. you think you’re better than me?

          • donnytilla you know I don’t think I’m better than you.

          • always there for me

          • Girlyouknowitstrue

          • you’re so talented in the internet. makes me jealous! maybe we’ll have to cut me off these strings so you can show me a thing or two ;) ;) ;) ;)

          • I can finally check “propositioned by a Ventriloquist dummy” off my bucket list.

            BUUUUCKET LIIIIIIIIIST

          • As long as you don’t check me off your “to do” list
            if, you know, what I’m saying

          • Bam, nailed it up a notch.

          • “He got punched in the mouth for sticking his nose in other peoples business.” Julian Casablancas sneers halfway through Gratification, the 8th cut off of ANGLES. A line delivered with such a cool confidence that, at first, you can’t even believe he sang it. A verse or two later, Casabancas warns his girl for the night, that she will never “get this love…” That, “we can roll around in the dark, that’s about as far as we go… get up in the morning and RUN!” It is a role reversal not often heard in popular music… and, if so, certainly not delivered with such romantic poise… a direct “don’t kid yourself, darling”, Big Daddy Julian knows he has the upper hand. This attitude, which for the most case, has always been The Strokes (not so) secret ingredient, and what sets them apart from all the rest of the bands striving pull off what The Strokes have always done so, seemingly, without effort. And also what sets ANGLES apart from the rest of the musical offerings of 2011. We are better than you, Period.

            ANGLES is the first blatant announcement that the The Strokes are changing gears, and perhaps, maybe even getting off at the next exit. Once again Casablancas announces his disdain for the laziness of his peers by fearlessly belting out that he’s been “all around this town… Everybody’s singing the same song for TEN YEARS!” (Under Cover of Darkness) Like it, or not, it’s time for something different. There has never been any hidden agenda with Julian Casablancas, pushing the envelope has always been his style. Why. it was just a few short years ago that he could be heard chastising his band mates: “Yeah, the night’s not over. You’re not trying hard enough. Our lives are changing lanes. You ran me off the road. The wait is over. I’m now taking over.” (Reptilia)
            Keep Up! was the message.

            Next came the right hook in the form of a knock-out solo album, that contained another message: I can (and will) do it without you. Suddenly, panic ensued. And a feeling of urgency filled the air…

            That want ANGLES is. It’s an urgent album from a band that is hesitant to change direction, with a front man who knows they must. Still, the beauty in this sometimes flawed effort is Casablancas’ conviction… the magic in it, is that it is contagious. And that is why ANGLES is vital – it is an open diary of one of America’s true Rock n’ Roll treasures – we should all feel fortunate that we are allowed to peek. That is why it should be amongst SG’s top 50. That, and the fact that this one very talented group of seasoned rockers… and they ARE better than you!

            I hope this proves to be a good enough reason for me to appreciate this album, mr, freshie, and be disappointed that it did not receive any recognition on the above mentioned list.

            goodnight

      • No, I think Justin & Bradley (Bradford?) would be a short-order cook and a dishwasher, respectively.

        My premises? Well, to start, I’ve listened to both ANGLES (The Strokes > release March 2011) & HERE BEFORE (The Feelies > April 2011), repetitively. I think that listening to the album(s) that you are commenting on is an important part of the critiquing process. Nevertheless, my point was that neither of these albums, which are both superb, were mentioned in SG’s top 50. Which I regard as a tremendous over-sight. But let’s move on.

        Again, no, I don’t think that I am overestimating the historic importance of The Strokes. Particularly since IS THIS IT was named Album of the Decade in 2010, and STEREOGUM themselves found the album worthy of tribute earlier this year – also a release (for lack of a better word) that I would have easily place in this year’s top 50. That’s being said, I think comparing IS THIS IT to ANGLES is along the same lines as trying to compare LONDON CALLING to COMBAT ROCK. Where LONDON CALLING & IS THIS IT are, in my opinion, both ground-breaking, COMBAT ROCK & ANGLES are both just great rock n’ roll albums, and thus, deserving of recognition on their own. It’s apples to oranges.

        Do I believe that The Strokes were influential? Absolutely. Do I believe that they were far more influential than the now defunct White Stripes? Without question. I also believe that ANGLES is a stronger effort than, say, KING OF LIMBS > of which I thought the REMIX of which was a sublimely entertaining release, but yet again, no mention. For sure, Mr Howard, you can’t argue Radiohead’s influence on current bands/musicians, can you? KING OF LIMBS is no OK COMPUTER, but it still managed to land at #30. If a band that influenced them, reformed after 20 years (The Feelies – of all its original members, mind you; and a band that has been sighted as a major influence on the now defunct REM) and put out a killer album… actually, I might even go as far as calling it a pop masterpiece… would you simply dismiss it as an old band regurgitating the past? Why would it not qualify as current, worthy & important(?), which is exactly what it is.

        As for The Strokes… maybe they are just too smart. And talented. Folks hate that shit.

        • King of Limbs was a genuinely good and interesting album.

          Influence has absolutely zero to do with it the importance and quality of a record. If you want to make a point about why Angles is any good, talk about the record, because the point you want to make, I think, is that Angles is a good album.

          Why is Angles a good album? Start there.

        • Fair enough…

          I was reacting to your obviously hyperbolic (I hope) statement that over half of the artists on the list wouldn’t exist without the Strokes, since that was the only justification for your complaint in the original message. I don’t think I ever questioned the quality of the record, in fact I explicitly said I hadn’t heard it. Your analysis and Combat Rock analogy is actually has me a little intrigued. I didn’t catch your Feelies reference the first time. I love Crazy Rhythm so I might have to check that out as well.

          My issue is that I don’t believe a band’s previous discography should be a detriment or a boon to evaluation of their current album. You obviously enjoy the records on their own merits, which is great, I just don’t think the x is better than y because the band that made x had a great influence on the band that made y ten years ago has a ton of merit.

          • Of course it was hyperbole… it didn’t occur to me that sarcasm or exaggeration by be lost on these threads… nonetheless, i appreciate your comment & i understand how my meaning may have been misconstrued. Not that I ever imagined that a 2 sentence comment would conjure up this much controversy… But perhaps I should have worded it a little differently. Such as:

            Half these bands would not even exist if not for the influence of The Strokes, and yet, their BRILLIANT 2011 release goes unnoticed… as does the MAJESTIC POP MASTERPIECE of one of their greatest influences: The Feelies. Like I said before, I thought Pitchfork was incompetent.

            But as Royal Tenenbaum once said, “Well, Sweetie… don’t get mad at me. That’s ONLY one man’s opinion.”

            Anyway, check out HERE BEFORE & ANGLES. I think you’ll enjoy them.

          • it’s not controversy, its the internet and it doesn’t matter to anything, but the reason you were downvoted is because you’re wrong about the Strokes influencing half the bands on this list, and you’re not incorrect, but you haven’t made any valid point about why Angles is good record, especially when the majority of people heard it for what it was: a lazily put together sloshing of mediocre compositions with recordings cut and pasted together from sessions done in different locations.

            Even Casablancas admits it wasn’t their best. Man…if the frontman of a band doesn’t think the record is great, what are you hearing that he isn’t? I’m not being condescending though I know that’s what I sound like when I talk serious on the internet…really, what is good about it? I’m genuinely curious. The information I’m presented with and the music I’m presented with implies otherwise.

        • jesus, someones got a LOT to say.

    • And The Strokes wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for The Velvet Underground, that’s why Lulu is definitely the best album of the year

    • Know what I don’t like about Angles? No free digital download with vinyl purchase. What’s up with that?

  46. ASAP – pretty good, but definitely shouldn’t be in the top 10.

  47. Mirror Traffic

  48. No John Maus, Wye Oak, Shabazz Palaces or Balam Acab?

  49. Again, another list with some of my favourites of the year and lots omitted, how do all these lists keep getting it wrong…. FOR GOD’S SAKE – that’s the 4th list on the trot!!

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