People, it's time to update your music collection. So why not start with our Best Albums of 2011... So Far? We've gone through thousands of new releases to bring you the absolute best. See our picks, and find out why we like them. Easy, right?

1. Discover New Music


People, it's time to update your music collection. So why not start with our Best Albums of 2011... So Far? We've gone through thousands of new releases to bring you the absolute best. See our picks, and find out why we like them. Easy, right?


2. Discover New Music


People, it's time to update your music collection. So why not start with our Best Albums of 2011... So Far? We've gone through thousands of new releases to bring you the absolute best. See our picks, and find out why we like them. Easy, right?


3. Foo Fighters


Wasting Light (Roswell)

On their seventh album, Dave Grohl and Co. offer their most memorable set of songs since 1997's The Colour and the Shape by adapting a back-to-basics vibe. Recorded in a garage with Nevermind producer Butch Vig, the Foos crank out three-guitar riff bombs ("Bridge Is Burning"), bluesy power ballads ("I Should Have Known," featuring Krist Novoselic on bass), heavy-metal muscle ("White Limo"), and snatches of Kurt Cobain's poisoned-pop frenzy ("Back and Forth").

Read SPIN's review here.

LISTEN: Foo Fighters, "Rope"

4. PJ Harvey


Let England Shake (Vagrant)
Over nine albums, the British songwriter has never been an easy one to pin down, whether she's celebrating the joys of love (2000's classic Stories From the City, Stories from the Sea) or revisiting modern-ancient balladry (the quietly mysterious White Chalk). The artist's shape shifting continues with Let England Shake, one of her most political records yet. Backed by longtime collaborators John Parish, Mick Harvey, and producer Flood, Harvey weaves woozy ballads ("Written on the Forehead") and arch tunes powered by autoharp ("Let England Shake") into a sharp declaration about the terrors of war.

Read SPIN's review here.

5. Fleet Foxes


Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop)
In an era of incessant social broadcasting, the bearded Washington folkies offer a much-needed escape from all the digital clutter — the band's second album is pure indie-folk Nirvana. Frontman Robin Pecknold's voice has never sounded sweeter or brighter, and his band's hooks and arrangements are by turns soft and ambitious. Psych-folk pioneers like Pentangle and Fairport Convention are obvious touchstones, but on cuts like "Helplessness Blues," Fleet Foxes deliver the sort impeccable vocal harmonies worthy of Simon & Garfunkel.

Read SPIN's review here.

LISTEN: Fleet Foxes, "Grown Ocean"

6. Bon Iver


Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)
On his 2008 debut For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon delivered spare, emotionally-charged folk tunes that chronicled a messy break-up. The album earned him no shortage of fans — most notably, Kanye West, who featured the elusive Wisconsin-based singer on last year's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. On his second set, Vernon has upped the ante and expanded his circle to include ace session whizzes like pedal-steel player Greg Leisz. Once again, Vernon scores big by cultivating enchanted atmosphere, gorgeous melodies, unique textures, and beautiful singing. And his idiosyncratic gift for lyric-writing only adds to the album's sonic mysteries. "Armour let it through/Borne the arboretic truth you kept posing"? It's the kind of couplet that would trip up even the most accomplished of Joyce scholars.

Read SPIN's review here.

LISTEN: Bon Iver, "Calgary"

7. Big K.R.I.T.


Return Of 4eva, (Cinematic Music Group)
On his second near-classic full-length in less than a year, the Mississippi rapper ropes in a variety of top guests (Ludacris, David Banner, Raheem DeVaughn) for his boldest set yet. Despite his bigger ambitions, K.R.I.T. keeps his focus while delivering socially aware confessionals ("Another Naive Individual Glorifying Greed and Encouraging Racism") that deliver visceral intensity without seeming preachy.

Read SPIN's review here.

WATCH: Big K.R.I.T., Ludacris, Bun B, "Country Sh*t (Remix)" (Behind The Scenes Footage)

8. Arctic Monkeys


Suck It and See (Domino)
Five years since taking the U.K. by storm, the Monkeys have now hit a remarkable mid-career groove that most bands their age will never see. Which isn't to say they're coasting: Suck It and See mixes the sludgy Josh Homme-aided production of 2009's Humbug with the fleet-footededness of their 2006 debut, and the title track may live up to be the loveliest song they've ever recorded.

Read SPIN's review here.

WATCH: Arctic Monkeys, "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair"

9. Beastie Boys


Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (Capitol)
Starting with 1992's Check Your Head, the New York rappers have juxtaposed the aggro of their hardcore roots with their increasingly metaphysical lyrics. Their long-in-the-works follow-up to 2007's The Mix-Up packs the attitude of their punky beginnings — although on tracks like the funked-up opener "Make Some Noise" and "Long Burn the Fire," MCA, Ad-Rock, and Mike D. prove they can still slay sucker MCs in their sleep.

Read SPIN's review here.

10. James Blake


James Blake, (Atlas/A&M)

The British singer-songwriter broke out with his viral cover of Feist's "Limit to Your Love," but on his hyped debut, the 22-year-old explores far darker terrain, offering haunting, impressionistic takes on dubstep and reverse-engineered R&B. At moments, Blake indulges in an emo boy's tendency to overshare, but his harmonies are to die for — gospel by way of D'Angelo and Jamie Lidell, with a twinge of acid house's alien overtones.

Read SPIN's review here.

WATCH: James Blake, "Lindisfarne"

11. Adele


21 (XL/Columbia)
There's a reason it's one of the biggest-selling records of 2011: Adele's follow-up to Grammy-winning 19 finds the British soul bird wailing harder and writing bolder on carefully crafted tunes helmed by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, Rick Rubin, and other studio pros. Throughout, Adele picks up the pieces of a devastating heartbreak, vows revenge, and wonders if she'll ever fall in love again. If you're looking for a record that'll make you wanna trash your beloved's belongings and have make-up sex amid the ruins, 21's your jam.

Read SPIN's review here.

WATCH: Adele, "Rolling in the Deep"

12. Fucked Up


David Comes to Life, (Matador)
The Canadian hardcore group have always been challenging, from their unfit-for-print name to their raucous live shows, where gargantuan frontman Damian Abraham can often be found, shirtless, bonking his head until it bleeds. They continue their maximalist approach on their third album, a quasi-rock opera whose insanely complex plot even confuses the band at points. But it's the music that rings loud and clear. Loaded with crystalline guitar wails, balls-to-the-wall rockers, and all manner of lyrical twists and fake-outs, David Comes to Life is one of the most overly complicated hard-rock records of the last ten years — and also one of the best.

Read SPIN's review here.

LISTEN: Fucked Up, "Queen of Hearts"

13. Elbow


Build a Rocket Boys! (Fiction)
On the British group's fifth record, singer Guy Garvey brings plenty of his pashmina-smooth vocals to tracks that land somewhere between So-era Peter Gabriel and Radiohead's OK Computer. But where Elbow's past albums reveled in dour tales that mirrored their gloomy Manchester hometown, here they deliver their most uplifting album yet, particularly on the glorious "With Love" and the spiritual hymnal "The River." Expansive yet intimate, ornate yet seductive, this is capital-A Art rock without pretense, and with tremendous heart.

Read SPIN's review here.

WATCH: Elbow, "Open Arms"

14. TV on the Radio


Nine Types Of Light, (Interscope)
Over the last decade, Brooklyn's finest art-rockers have been many things, including arty a cappella reductionists (2003's Young Liars EP) and politically ravaged anthemists (2006's Return to Cookie Mountain). On Nine Types of Light, the boys have settled into pre-middle-age satisfaction and delivered a stunning collection of lover's rock, from the torchy, plainspoken "Will Do" and the dazzling jam "Second Song," to the laid-back electro-ballad "You," where singer Tunde Adebimpe confesses, "You're the only one I've ever loved." It's the type of album they couldn't have pulled off five years ago.

Read SPIN's review here.

WATCH: TV on the Radio, "Will Do"

15. DJ Quik


The Book of David (Mad Science/Fontana)
Iconoclastic rapper-producer DJ Quik wanted his eighth record to sound like missing tapes from funk-soaked 1991. Instead, it's from an incredible year that never existed, blending baroque '80s roller jams, velvety '90s slow-rides, contemporary Dam-Funk swooshwave, and a breakdown with the late P-Funk guitarist Garry Shider.

Read SPIN's review here.

WATCH: DJ Quik feat. Gift, "Luv of My Life"

16. Kurt Vile


Smoke Ring for My Halo (Matador)
The Philly singer-songwriter's fourth record is his best yet — an 11-track blur of acoustic psych-folk and plugged-in drones that split the difference between Stooges' shambolic punk, gorgeous Harvest-era Neil Young balladry, and J. Mascis' zonked-out slacker rock. Sonic Youth producer John Agnello's ace production adds a warm, enveloping vibe; it's like getting sucked into a 48-hour bong-smoking marathon in your college dealer's dorm.

Read SPIN's review here.

LISTEN: Kurt Vile, "Jesus Fever 192"

17. tUnE-yArDs


w h o k i l l (4AD)
Merrill Garbus brought plenty of no-fi pop-folk weirdness to her 2008 debut album BiRd-BrAiNs. On her second disc under her tUnE-yArDs alias, however, she cleans up her wild art-rock collage yet doesn't skimp on the quirk. Backed by bassist Nate Brenner, w h o k i l l is one of the year's wildest LPs — and also long on ear-wormy melodies you should end up humming.

Read SPIN's review here.

LISTEN: tUnE-yArDs, "Bizness"

18. The Strokes


Angles (RCA)
After tackling the perils of celebrity on 2006's First Impressions of Earth, the Strokes' Angles reminds you why they were so irresistible in the first place. There's echoing electro-pop ("Games"), bright new wave (the Cars-y "Two Kinds of Happiness"), and insouciant rockers that rank up there with classic songs like "Last Night" and "New York City Cops." But perhaps the biggest surprise is that, despite the inter-band conflicts that reportedly plagued these recording sessions, the Strokes still somehow come on like wide-eyed kids.

Read SPIN's review here.

WATCH: The Stroke, "Under Cover of Darkness"

19. Lykke Li


Wounded Rhymes (LL/Atlantic)
When she arrived with her 2008 debut Youth Novels, Lykke Li seemed to be an adorable little thing, singing and shimmying with gumption on icy tracks produced by Peter Bjorn and John's Björn Yttling. Her second record is far chillier — the singer's chronicle of despondence and fury over a scotched relationship. It's not all weepy confessionals — on "Get Some," Li conflates herself with a prostitute over heaving tribal drums — but the Phil Spector-ish "Unrequited Love" may be saddest, prettiest song of the year.

Read SPIN's review here.

WATCH: Lykke Li, "Sadness is a Blessing"

20. Smith Westerns


Dye It Blonde, (Fat Possum)
On their second CD, the Chicago teenagers teamed with producer Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beach House), who adds glossy production to the group's fuzzed-out garage-rock sound. The Smith Westerns haven't shied away from their love of Bowie and T. Rex; on Dye It Blonde, the boys end up worshipping their heroes in the most devout way possible — by trying to top them.

Read SPIN's review here.

WATCH: Smith Westerns, "Weekend"

21. Panda Bear


Tomboy (Paw Tracks)
When Animal Collective's Noah "Panda Bear" Lennox released his sublime, bedroom-crafted 2007 album Person Pitch, he presaged his group's breakout success with Merriweather Post Pavilion and inspired a host of up-and-coming electronic indie musicians. On his fourth solo outing, Lennox scales back, proffering succinctness rather than sprawl, exchanging samplers for sequencers, achieving added warmth and intimacy.

Read SPIN's review here.

WATCH: Panda Bear, "Alsatian Darn"

22. Lady Gaga


Born This Way (Streamline/KonLive/Interscope)
One of the year's most anticipated pop events, Gaga delivers a gloriously weird album, applying her '80s pastiche to throbby grooves and sentimental tunes that'll pierce the hearts of both Little Monsters and heartland moms. The 25-year-old proves she's also evolving into our most surreally brilliant star. The proof? Closing track "The Edge of Glory," which sounds exactly like its title, uniting all of Gaga's contradictory impulses in an ecstatic, anthemic, five-minute lunge to the finish line.

Read SPIN's review here.

23. The Weeknd


House of Balloons, (The-Weeknd.Com)
Canadian singer Abel Tesfaye, a Drake-approved newcomer, works plenty of changes on classic R&B, adding spaced-out atmosphere, dubstep, and minimal keyboards to slo-mo ballads that sound like the score to a post-rave comedown. Tesfaye samples contemporary acts like Beach House as easily as old-school Siouxsie. But it's his high, keening croon that's the most compelling. When he sings, "I'm the drug in your veins" on standout "What You Need," it's hard to tell if it's intended as a threat or a comfort — but it's memorable either way.

WATCH: The Weeknd, "What You Need"

24. EMA


Past Life Martyred Saints (Souterrain Transmissions)
On her debut, Erika M. Anderson (abbreviated to EMA), a former member of noise-folk group Gowns, delivers a collection as intensely accomplished as PJ Harvey's Let England Shake — and Anderson is only 28-years-old. She unleashes everything from tinnitus-inducing, reverb-soaked guitar drones to light-as-air acoustic ditties and pseudo-industrial bangers. But it's her emotionally raw confessionals that bind these nine tracks. When she croons "I bled all my blood out," on the static-drenched kiss-off "California," girl means it.

WATCH: EMA, "Milkman"

25. Yuck


Yuck (Fat Possum)
These five twentysomething Londoners, featuring members of short-lived act Cajun Dance Party, have unleashed one of the year's most refreshing forces of melodic riffage by looking into the past. Their self-titled debut is a killer collection that bites from the '90s alt-rock playbook, mixing heavy Dinosaur Jr. guitars with blissed-out shoegaze textures worthy of Jesus and Mary Chain.

WATCH: Yuck, "Holing Out"

26. Alela Diane


Alela Diane & Wild Divine, (Rough Trade)
Following up the mesmerizing, occasionally grave psych-folk of 2009's To Be Still, the California songwriter brings brighter, sunnier textures to Alela Diane & Wild Divine. It's not pop, but it's getting closer, and if Diane's songs are more accessible this time around, they're still not easy, creating the Inception-like sensation of wandering around in someone's overheated brain, where urgency and a lack of clarity intertwine to disorienting effect. Fearful listeners need not apply.

Read SPIN's review here.

LISTEN: Alela Diane, "To Begin"

27. G-Side


This Huntsville, AL, rap duo are like OutKast's plain-spoken cousins, yet Yung Clova and ST 2 Lettaz' no-bullshit, no-excuses preaching is bolstered with songs that are so breathtakingly symphonic, it's like the sleekest R&B without the corny pandering.

WATCH: G-Side, "Inner Circle"

28. Iceage


New Brigade (What's Your Rupture?)
On their U.S. debut, these Danish youngsters deliver a 12-song, 24-minute call to arms — and one of the loudest, most thoroughly engaging noise-punk albums you'll hear this year. There are snatches of Wire's efficient, skeletal pop; Joy Division's dour brooding, and the Liars' ethereal art-scrawl. Sure, they can barely keep their focus going for longer than two minutes — the thrillingly jagged "Never Return" is the one track to crack the three-minute mark — but New Brigade is one of those rare records that catches both the admiration of gallery-going, MFA-toting art snobs and fiercely DIY-minded high-school dropouts.

Read SPIN's review here.

29. Washed Out


Within and Without (Sub Pop)
After breaking out with homespun elecro-pop that pushed the "chillwave" thing forward, Washed Out's Ernest Greene tapped Animal Collective producer Ben Green for his first full-length album. And the results are downright stunning, from the Balearic bliss of "Eyes Be Closed" to the New Romantic flounce of "Amor Fati," while the more sedate B-side drifts into gorgeous '90s trip-hop. It's chillwave for people who can't stand chillwave.

Read SPIN's review here.

30. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks


Mirror Traffic (Matador)
After Pavement's globe-trotting reunion last year made the case for their status as Greatest Indie-Rock Band Ever, frontman Stephen Malkmus delivers what feels like a fresh start on Mirror Traffic. It's more varied — and more focused — than past albums with the Jicks, from the ELO-biting bounce ("Forever 28") to Wes Anderson-ready chamber pop, which is mostly due to production help from fellow alt-rock icon Beck. Malkmus' longtime drummer Janet Weiss has left the fold, but his backing band still sound in top form: they have the punchy, relaxed assurance of a group of pros who know how many beers they can drink and still hit their marks.

Read SPIN's review here.

31. Frank Turner


England Keep My Bones (Epitaph)
On an album where the British singer-songwriter examines his mortality as well as his subversive side, Turner manages to give sincerity a good name — and never falls into cliché. Whether championing self-help via barroom rock ("Peggy Sang the Blues") or spinning an a capella saga of royal treachery ("English Curse"), this spiritual offspring of Billy Bragg sounds like a man trying to unload his head before it explodes.

Read SPIN's review here.

32. Ty Segall


Goodbye Bread (Drag City)
After several albums of caustic, cryptic scuzz-punk, the San Francisco musician finally cleans up his act — or, at the very least, dustbusts it around the edges. His glassine vocals, once buried, now float high and ghostlike; and the quick shivs of guitar sound fat and happy. But even on an album pockmarked with hooks, Segall keeps it weird.

Read SPIN's review here.



SBTRKT (Young Turks/XL)
This U.K. producer has ticked all the right boxes in his bid to become dubstep's next crossover star, from his remixes of M.I.A. and Radiohead to teaming up with tastemaking avant-garde label Young Turks. But nothing on his debut feels calculated: it's effortlessly absorbing, with lithe rhythms, bubbling synthesizers and buoyant vocals conveying Magnetic Man-sized hook with the intimacy of James Blake.

Read SPIN's review here.

34. The Cool Kids


When Fish Ride Bicycles (Green Label Sound)
They live up to their name: rarely do this Chicago duo break a sweat when rhyming in dulcet tones about designer sneaks and tricked-out GMCs. While Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks build upon the bass minimalism of 2008's The Bake Sale — and even team up with Travis Barker on "Sour Apples" — an innate casualness is their defining characteristic.

Read SPIN's review here.

35. Ximena Sarinana


Ximena Sarinana (Warner Bros.)
She's a well-known actress at home, so it's no surprise that when she tries her hand at music, she easily slips between roles on her English-language debut. With session help from Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen, the Bird and the Bee) and TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek, Sariñana delivers everything from Cat Power-style sangfroid to bright dance-pop. Best moment: "Tu y Yo," which features real-life boyfriend Omar Rodriguez-López on bass. Just one more intriguing choice on an album full of them.

Read SPIN's review here.

36. The War on Drugs


Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)
These Philly rockers conjure an ambling drone that conceals real pop hooks and allows classic-rock colors to seep through. Main man Adam Granduciel gets plenty of Dylan comparisons, but Slave Ambient feels like a more back-alley Byrds filtered through a gauzier Spacemen 3 lens.

Read SPIN's review here.