MoJo Readers’ Top Albums of 2011

Mike D, Adrock, MCA of the Beastie Boys in Barcelona 2007<a href="">Michael Morel</a>/Flickr

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Reader’s choice lists are so often middling disappointments, full of safe popular music that we’ve been tired of since July. But not this one. The diverse and thoughtful Facebook recommendations from Mother Jones readers have already provided hours of procrastination—ahem, research—on YouTube.  (If you don’t already follow us on FB, sign up here.) No Gaga, Kanye, or Beyoncé—not that we don’t love Beyoncé. So without further ado, here are your top albums picks for 2011. (And check out our top albums of 2011.)

Power Plant Beach, Nehedar (Nehedar): Social commentary washes down better with pop music. —Emilia Cataldo

Ceremonials, Florence + The Machine (Universal Republic): Holy hell, that record is awesome (res ipsa loquitor). —Doug Capehart

El Camino, The Black Keys (Nonesuch): The Black Keys [see below] have been on the rise for years. They teamed up with producer Danger Mouse for this album and it takes them to a whole other level. It’s the best 38 minutes of music in 2011. —Jason Cienkus

Ashes and Fire, Ryan Adams (PAX-AM/ Capitol Records): After a hiatus, Adams


is back with a beautiful new album that finds him in a much better, healthier place. —Marci Ankrom

Elsie, The Horrible Crowes (SideOneDummy): This side project of The Gaslight Anthem front man Brian Fallon shows the continued maturing of his songwriting as the melodies truly carry the album. —Robert Ruszczyk

Feel It Break, Austra (Domino): Icy beats, beautiful harmonies, killer hooks. [See below.] —James Brosius

Stone Rollin’, Raphael Saadiq: For pure entertainment, [the album] (and the soul review tour of the album) is a great dose of high octane, nonstop good music and arrangements. —Susan Mumpower-Spriggs

Bon Iver, Bon Iver (Jagjaguwa): I was late to the game in really getting into Bon Iver, but when I listened to the whole record through, it changed me a little. Each time I listen to it now, it speaks to me in a different way with its melancholy beauty. (Consequence of Sound listed Holocene as the best song of the year and I agree 100 percent.) —Alex Proaps

David Comes to Life, Fucked Up (Matador Records): It’s a Rock Opera about factory workers during the Reagan era. Sounds like it would be impossible to pull off something like this, but it is amazing. [See below.] —Nathan Bouchard


Queen Of The Minor Key, Eilen Jewell (Signature Sound Records): No questions about and her crack band ascending to musical royalty. —David Besonen Eilen

Biophilia, Bjork (Nonesuch): Celestial and powerful. Inspired! —Monica Falter Bryant

13 Chambers, Wugazi: Producers Cecil Otter and Swiss Andy mash up Wu Tang Clan with DC punk legends Fugazi. [See below.] —Nick Boushee

Augustana, Augustana (Epic): The fourth studio album by rock band Augustana gives us 10 solid songs that are sonically and aesthetically pleasing despite the messy break up that occurred this October after their summer tour. —Robert Ruszczyk

Widening Embrace, Carolyn McDade and Friends (Self-released): Gorgeous songs, meditation on embracing and caring for all Beings on the planet; and all profits go to support education, advocacy, or action consistent with the principles of The Earth Charter in creating a just, peaceful, and sustainable world. —Marian L Shatto

Revelator, Tedeschi Trucks: The recording of the year if you’re a blues fan. [See below.] —Thom Langley

21, Adele (Columbia): Wonderful voice! —Rena Marrs Parker

The Harrow and the Harvest, Gillian Welch (Acony Records): Gil and Dave’s voices and guitars blend seamlessly and beautifully. The album manages to be both sad and hopeful. —Marci Ankrom [Also check out MoJo‘s interviews with Welch and her musical soulmate Dave Rawlings.]

Tamer Animals, Other Lives (TBD Records): Other Lives [see below] practically upstaged Bon Iver this year on tour. Their music takes you places, both new and familiar. Just put these tunes on repeat until further notice. —Amelia Mooney

The Head and the Heart, The Head and the Heart (Sub Pop): Self-released in 2010; was remastered and released by sub pop in 2011. Divine. Reminiscent of Whiskeytown/early Ryan Adams, especially “Down in the Valley.” —Marci Ankrom

Hot Sauce Committee, Beastie Boys (Capitol Records): The old guys still got it! —Frank Plonka

The Martyr, Immortal Technique (Viper): Best political rap out there, and album of the year. —Patricia Ornelas-Moya

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