The Y! Music Playlist Blog (NEW)

The Best Albums of 2011: #11 through #20

The Y! Music Playlist Blog

These are selections #11 through #20 in our Best Albums of 2011 countdown series.

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St. Vincent - "Strange Mercy"

#11. Strange Mercy by St. Vincent

Released: September 13, 2011
Label: 4AD
Metacritic Score: 85
Album Charts: #19 The Billboard 200, #8 Top Digital Albums, #6 Top Independent Albums, #6 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #9 Top Rock Albums

Strange Mercy is a great title for this third full-length release by St. Vincent. It's a balancing act between creative/challenging weirdness and
merciful song structures/melodies that are easier to grasp. While the songs themselves weave in and out of these very different approaches, Annie Clark's instantly appealing voice gives the record a cohesion that might be absent otherwise.

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Fleet Foxes - "Helplessness Blues"

#12. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes

Released: May 2, 2011
Label: Sub Pop
Metacritic Score: 85
Charts: #4 The Billboard 200, #8 Top Canadian Albums, #3 Top Digital Albums, #2 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #2 Top Rock Albums

Fleet Foxes continue to deliver on the unique and critically accepted sound they showed us on their 2008 self-titled debut. Their new album, Helplessness Blues, is an atmospheric, harmony-heavy, woodsy, Renaissance vibe of a record. The band is not cutting any new paths here, but there is no need to. The unique sound they've created is still fresh enough to keep it captivating, and if they created two, or three more albums in the same vein, you won't get any complaints from me.

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The Black Keys - "El Camino"

#13. El Camino by The Black Keys

Released: December 6, 2011
Label: Nonesuch
Metacritic Score: 84
Album Charts: #2 The Billboard 200, #3 Top Canadian Albums, #1 Top Digital Albums, #1 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #1 Top Rock Albums

The Black Keys made a horrible, Metallica-like decision in 2011 to make their new album unavailable on streaming music services like Rhapsody and Spotify. This was almost enough to make me write them off forever, as if their music is more important than every other album on this list that is available for streaming. Maybe they will make a bit more money short term, but at what long term cost? However,  this list is about music, not business. And though I despise their decision on streaming, El Camino continues the band's near perfect onslaught of amazing recordings.

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Beastie Boys - "Hot Sauce Committee Part Two"

#14. Hot Sauce Committee Pt. Two by Beastie Boys

Released: May 3, 2011
Label: Parlophone
Metacritic Score: 83
Album Charts: #1 R&B Albums, #2 The Billboard 200, #1 Top Digital Albums, #1 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #1 Top Rap Albums, #1 Top Rock Albums, #3 Top Canadian Albums

The Beastie Boys released Hot Sauce Committee Pt. Two this year, but what happened to Pt. One? The answer is that is was shelved due to Adam Yauch's (MCA) cancer diagnosis back in 2009. There was news that Yauch had beaten it and was 100% cancer free, but that story was quickly squashed by the band. Fortunately, the group was able to release this critically acclaimed album back in May, although they're not touring do to MCA's continuing treatment. It will have to be enough to hold Beastie Boys fans over until  Yauch's full recovery, and let's hope that's soon.

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TV On The Radio - "Nine Types Of Light"

#15. Nine Types Of Light by TV On The Radio

Released: April 12, 2011
Label: Interscope
Metacritic Score: 82
Album Charts: #12 The Billboard 200, #3 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #5

It took three long years after TV On The Radio's incredible album Dear Science was released before this new album would come into the world. This gap can be attributed to various creative projects by individual band members, but Nine Types Of Light sounds like every second of that time was spent crafting and fine tuning. The record is calm and steady, and features a perfect melding of acoustic and electronic instruments, something that TVOTR is known for. While they may not have cleared the high bar set by Dear Science, they've come awfully close.

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My Morning Jacket - "Circuital"

#16. Circuital by My Morning Jacket

Released: May 31, 2011
Label: V2 Records
Metacritic Score: 76
Album Charts: #5 The Billboard 200, #15 Top Canadian Albums, #5 Top Digital Albums, #1 Top Independent Albums, #3 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #3 Top Rock Albums

I had a serious love affair with My Morning Jacket's 2005 album Z, but their next proper full-length studio album, 2008's Evil Urges, just didn't do it for me. I felt the band was working too hard to be "different", which resulted in an album that wasn't very listenable. I was thrilled to hear them calm down a bit and get back to what they do best on Circuital. With this excellent record they're back on the radar screens of many fans, myself included.

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Wild Flag - "Wild Flag"

#17. Wild Flag by Wild Flag

Released: September 13, 2011
Label: Merge
Metacritic Score: 83
Album Charts: #53 The Billboard 200, #13 Top Independent Albums, #9 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #18 Top Rock Albums

Super girl group Wild Flag have crafted what I believe is the funnest record of 2011. It's hook-filled rock and roll that defies all the current standard treatments so many indie rock bands employ these days. You won't hear atmospheric swirls, or computer generated giltchiness. Instead you'll hear some girls pumping out great songs like they did in the good old days, with guitar, bass, drums, vocals and very little else. Sometimes the most refreshing sounds are not what's new, but what's been forgotten.

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Yuck - "Yuck"

#18. Yuck by Yuck

Released: February 15, 2011
Label: Fat Possum
Metacritic Score: 81
Album Charts: #5 Top Heatseekers

When I heard this self-titled debut album by Yuck I was hooked from the first few notes of the opening track "Get Away'. If I hadn't known what I was listening to I may have thought the Pixies had released a new song. You'll year lots of 80s and 90s alt rock influence here, Jesus and Mary Chain, Pixies, Yo La Tengo and Sonic Youth all come to mind. But Yuck is not a "knock off" of any one band in particular, instead, they pick and choose sounds that work and proceed to build hyper-catchy pop songs that you'll be humming for days after a single listen.

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The Decemberists - "The King Is Dead"

#19. The King Is Dead by The Decemberists

Released: January 17, 2011
Label: Rough Trade
Metacritic Score: 77
Album Charts: #1 The Billboard 200, #4 Top Canadian Albums, #1 Top Digital Albums, #1 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #1 Top Rock Albums

Colin Meloy & company keep their prog rock tendencies under control on their latest effort, The King Is Dead. I'm a fan of The Decemberists music in general, but I'm especially fond of those songs that rely more on acoustic instrumentation with an almost Americana leaning. On this record they get help from a favorite Americana artist who is in the top 5 of this list, Gillian Welch. She adds her voice here on "Down By The Water", which if I had to pick, is my favorite single of 2011. The Decemberists are a band that you know will consistently deliver, the string of quality work they've put out is almost silly at this point.

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Mastodon - "The Hunter"

#20. The Hunter by Mastodon

Released: September 27, 2011
Label: Reprise
Metacritic Score: 83
Album Charts: #10 The Billboard 200, #14 Top Canadian Albums, #9 Top Digital Albums, #3 Top Hard Rock Albums, #4 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #5 Top Rock Albums

Mastodon have put the string of concept albums to rest with 2011's The Hunter, an album of songs that are unconnected to a single theme. I was a bit disappointed when I heard this news before the album's release. After all, Mastodon are one of the few band's who can do a concept album justice, and I still hold 2004's Leviathan as my favorite metal concept album ever, but then again, I'm a Moby-Dick freak, so I'm biased on the subject. As soon as I heard The Hunter my disappointment was gone, melted by pure awesomeness.

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More Best Albums of 2011:

#1-#10, #11-#20, #21-#30, #31-#40, #41-#50, #51-#60, #61-#70, #71-#80, #81-#90, #90-#100

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