The 15 Albums That Blew Us Away In 2011

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Sure, people tend to consume their music by the song these days, but we still have a soft spot in our hearts for the meticulously sequenced, long-play album. And this year offered so much musical genius to inspire one very indulgent (and lengthy!) listen. In 2011, great albums came from all over, and seemed to span every musical genre: We have suburban Jersey indie rockers, Canadian singing rappers, and two (two!) groups from Wisconsin. So, without further ado, click through to sample and savor the 15 albums that kept our fingers off the shuffle button all year long.

To download tracks, right-click on the link and save the file.

14-Pharaohs-SBTRKT#15 — SBTRKT — SBTRKT

Song Selection: "Pharaohs"[MP3]
SBTRKT has a strong following in the UK but has yet to really make noise stateside. We'd like to remedy that situation by pointing out that his album combines dubstep with soul and house music to create great dance music that has no boundaries. Buy this album







13-Peso-A$AP Rocky#14 — A$AP Rocky — LiveLoveA$AP

Song Selection: "Peso"[MP3]
Finally a new rapper from New York we we can be excited about. Even if he borrows more from Atlanta and Houston styles than classic boom bap, his confidence and taste (Rick Owens references anyone?) are pure Money-Makin' Manhattan. Download this album





12-The-Glorious-Land-PJ-Harvey#13 — PJ Harvey — Let England Shake

Song Selection: "The Glorious Land"[MP3]
PJ Harvey sings songs about England. We agree it's a wonderful place when it can produce singers this gifted. Buy this album







11-1+1-Beyonce# 12 — Beyonce — 4

Song Selection: "1+1"[MP3]
Beyonce will never make a quiet introspective album. She has a big voice and a big persona and each of her albums is a major statement that bangs you over the head and dares you not to like it. Well we do like it, Beyonce. Thanks for all the new jams and especially for the "Countdown" video. Buy this album





10-Avalanche-Zola-Jesus#11 — Zola Jesus — Conatus

Song Selection: "Avalanche"[MP3]
This album hasn't really received enough praise. We're not sure there was a more emotionally gripping album released this year. Buy this album



09-Colomb-Nicolas-Jaar#10 — Nicolas Jaar — Space Is Only Noise

Song Selection: "Colomb"[MP3]
While there have been many electronic tracks we've enjoyed this year, not many albums have been satisfying from beginning to end. The notable exceptions are the Oneohtrix Point Never album and this record, a collection of moody soundscapes that we keep coming back to. Buy this album

08-Niggas-In-Paris-Jay-Z-&-Kanye-West#9 — Jay-Z & Kanye West — Watch the Throne

Song Selection: "Niggas in Paris"[MP3]
While his public persona has gotten a little old, Kanye has yet to run out of ideas musically. His creative vision dominates the record, though we do enjoy hearing him gleefully trading bars with Jay-Z. Buy this album


07-Chinese-High-Gang-Gang-Dance#8 — Gang Gang Dance — Eye Contact

Song Selection: "Chinese High"[MP3]
For years we have been praising Gang Gang's live show but we never really thought they captured the magic in one of their studio recordings. Well, finally we got what we wanted. Their latest evokes the improvisatory and dynamic nature of their shows while adding shimmering studio touches that enhance already great songs. Buy this album





06-Novacane-Frank-Ocean#7 — Frank Ocean — nostalgia, ULTRA

Song Selection: "Novacane"[MP3]
There was so much talk about Odd Future this year, and though we were intrigued with some of their albums on first listen, ultimately they have failed to stick with us. The one exception is the sole R&B release to come out of that camp. Frank Ocean's songs are subtle, revelatory, and some of our favorite R&B jams we've heard all year. And this is just a mixtape. Buy this album





15-The-Bad-In-Each-Other-Feist#6 — Feist — Metals

Song Selection: "The Bad in Each Other"[MP3]
We appreciate the care that Feist puts into the writing and recording of her music. It pays off. Metals is a beautifully crafted album from start to finish. Buy this album
05-Hey-Sparrow-Peaking-Lights#5 — Peaking Lights — 936

Song Selection: "Key Sparrow"[MP3]
It's been one of the most welcome changes in music of the past five years that avant weirdos have finally figured out how to borrow from pop music styles to make music that is both challenging and compelling. Peaking Lights combines the straight-to-cassette aesthetic with a heavy dose of reggae and some psychedelic guitar to create genuine outer space jams for the art crowd. Buy this album





04-The-Morning-The-Weeknd#4 — The Weeknd — House of Balloons

Song Selection: "The Morning"[MP3]
Sex and drugs. That's pretty much the topic of each song on this album. Yet we wouldn't be as obsessed with this song if it weren't for Abel Tesfaye's sweet voice and melodies and the ingenious combination of R&B and indie rock. Download this album





03-Take-Care-Drake#3 — Drake — Take Care

Song Selection: "Take Care"[MP3]
In terms of pure impact, we'll probably look back at 2011 as the Drake year. His sound dominates radio right now, like it or not. We've given in to the pleasures of Drake, the singing rapper. His record may be an abnormally melancholy and confessional hip hop album but it's also something even more rare — a consistently great 70 minute rap album. Buy this album

02-It's-Real-Real-Estate#2 — Real Estate — Days

Song Selection: "It's Real"[MP3]
Somehow, the best indie rock album this year came, unassumingly, out of a suburban New Jersey basement. We knew that Real Estate was heading for bigger things after their debut, but we are positively addicted to the laid back '90s sound of this album.  Buy this album





01-Battery-Kinzie-Fleet-Foxes#1 — Fleet Foxes — Helplessness Blues

Song Selection: "Battery Kinzie" [MP3]
We just smile ear to ear every time we listen to this record. Is there anything better you can say about an album? Buy this album