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Behold! The records that got us through the year

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10. J. Mascis: Several Shades of Why
9. The Raveonettes: Raven in the Grave
8. Olde Growth: Olde Growth
7. Red Fang: Murder the Mountains
6. YOB: Atma
5. Earth: Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light, Part I
4. True Widow: As High as the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth
3. Bruxa: Eye on Everybody
2. US Christmas: The Valley Path

1. Helms Alee: Weatherhead

Weatherhead proves that a band from dumpy-ass Tacoma, Wash. can make music unlike anyone else you’ve ever heard. The trio transcends genre on Weatherhead as they tap everything from shoegaze to Spaghetti Western guitarplay. From any other band, that might seem scattered, but when you play with as much heart as these three, it works. Listen to the way the third track, “8/16,” tromps in sludge, throws itself off a cliff, marches toward death and raises every hair on your goddamn neck at 4:21. It’s baffling and complex, but it’s music that will restore your faith. Helms Alee is a band you can believe in.


10. Tancred: Capes
9. David Bazan: Strange Negotiations
8. The Joy Formidable: The Big Roar
7. Wugazi: 13 Chambers
6. The Heavenly States: Oui Camera Oui
5. An Horse: Walls
4. St. Vincent: Strange Mercy
3. Foo Fighters: Wasting Light
2. Manchester Orchestra: Simple Math

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1. The Antlers: Burst Apart

It was going to be nearly impossible for the Antlers to properly follow up Hospice, the band’s debut LP and 2009’s best album. So instead of trying to recreate it, they made Burst Apart, an album that is its inverse. And here we are again. The Brooklyn indie outfit shifted the focus away from brutally poignant and cutting words laid over minimal arrangements. Here, they’re less interested in lyrics, but they still have a massive, lush backdrop and synthetic walls of bliss. Peter Sliberman’s lyrics are still woebegone, but while Hospice was music to uncontrollably bawl to, Burst Apart is music to cry-dance to.


10. The Field: Looping State of Mind
9. Panda Bear: Tomboy
8. Wild Beasts: Smother
7. St. Vincent: Strange Mercy
6. James Blake: James Blake
5. Destroyer: Kaputt
4. PJ Harvey: Let England Shake
3. Gang Gang Dance: Eye Contact
2. Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost

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1. F---ed Up: David Comes to Life

David Comes to Life isn’t just the best album of the year — it’s the album of the year. As in, no other record says 2011 quite like David. Think of the most distinct signifiers: deep, cacophonous and loud. It’s a messy punk record from a band with a little too much ambition but a clear vision of what they want to say and how. It may be a concept record, but it’s a concept we can all relate to. And it comes off less like exposition and more like an album of bleeding-heart pop-punk anthems for anyone who has ever felt anything. Sounds like 2011 to me.


10. Wye Oak: Civilian
9. Cymbals Eat Guitars: Lenses Alien
8. Shabazz Places: Black Up
7. Okkervil River: I Am Very Far
6. Real Estate: Days
5. White Denim: Drug
4. PJ Harvey: Let England Shake
3. Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring for My Halo
2. Bon Iver: Bon Iver

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1. Black Lips: Arabia Mountain

Arabia Mountain doesn’t succeed because of artistry or refinement. Hey, it’s garage rock. It wins because of its staggering amount of astonishingly good, pop-centered songcraft. From the opening chords of “Family Tree,” the record sends 16 straight infectious, charming, and raucous tracks at you, never quite letting you catch your breath. It’s one fuzzed-up, carefully crafted garage-punk gem after another. After 12 years and five studio albums, the Lips have boiled down everything they do best and left us with a masterpiece of the genre.


10. The Black Keys: El Camino
9. Aaron Gillespie: Anthem Song
8. The Dangerous Summer: War Paint
7. Coldplay: Mylo Xyloto
6. Bon Iver: Bon Iver
5. Four Year Strong: In Some Way, Shape or Form
4. Adele: 21
3. Iron & Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean
2. Blindside: With Shivering Hearts We Wait

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1. Childish Gambino: Camp

It’s a rare treat to find an album that doesn’t take multiple listens to fully enjoy. Camp, Childish Gambino’s first studio release, is one of those albums. Rather than spend the entirety of Camp rapping about how he’s not just an actor, Gambino shares the emotional and, at times, hard-to-hear story of how he went from being a bullied child in Stone Mountain, Georgia — taking a Tommy Hilfiger jacket from the lost-and-found to fit in — to a comedic actor and writer in California. Now he’s got gold plaques hanging in his house. With a surprisingly smooth voice, Gambino presents the most refreshing album of the year.
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