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Sowing's 2011

I deleted all 125 of my lists and am now archiving my favorite albums from each year of the previous decade. Just my way of trimming my profile and making it a bit leaner/meaner. List is straightforward; these are my 20 favorite releases from 2011.
20Foo Fighters
Wasting Light

I was as surprised as anyone when these guys released such a solid album so late into their careers. Prior to this they had fallen into a trap of releasing great singles, but hit-or-miss albums. This is as consistent as rock albums come nowadays, and easily one of my favorite works by the Foo Fighters.

Want beach vibes? Doesn't get much better than this lovely 5-track EP, complete with duets, swelling strings, and a mariachi band. Romance is in the air, too - it's tough not to fall head over heels for this sweet little thing.
Let's Make Babies in the Woods

As the site's biggest Papercranes proponent, I can tell you this is the best album to check out. Abrasive tones and murky, dark atmospheres. If you're a fan of Hop Along style vocals, this is for you.

I'm not into this as much as some others in this community, but even I can't deny that it has a brilliant atmosphere and extremely unique vocals. The jazz influences are what makes this worth returning to years later.
16Hey Rosetta!

Very underrated indie/alt rock record. Outstanding lyrics and a warm atmosphere invite repeated listens as intricate rhythms and delicate strings whisk you away. Songs like 'Welcome' and 'Yer Fall' have ensured this album's staying power.
15The Decemberists
The King Is Dead

The first album in the Decemberists' folksy/Americana stage. Not everyone will remember this, but their departure from over-the-top concept albums came as quite a surprise and not everyone loved it at the time. This has aged remarkably well, and is arguably better than anything they've done save for The Crane Wife.
14The Roots

This came only a year after How I Got Over, which was a rare instance of me enjoying hip-hop, and this is even better. Moments such as "Stomp" and "Lighthouse" represent this band at its very pinnacle, but the entire album flows together perfectly.
Garden Window

All you new O'Brother fans need to go back and see where the magic began. This is far heavier than anything they've done recently, and it's also more progressive/complex. Tumble down the rabbit hole, because this album is pure magic.
12Fair to Midland
Arrows and Anchors

One of the best and most diverse rock albums of the decade. This experience rocks heavily, but also elegantly shimmers and sways. It's a shame these guys disbanded so quickly, because they would have been huge if they continued releasing albums well into the decade.
11The Weeknd
House of Balloons

Only discovered this album recently, and it blows away anything else this guy has ever done. Dreamy, druggy, fun, and sexy - this has it all. The album makes me want to go out and party like I'm 18-21 all over again. This is more than just a catchy R&B album - the production is leaps and bounds above similar contemporary artists and the arrangements will leave you dumbfounded.
No Devolucion

This was quite the evolution. You hear a lot about how Thrice matured on Vheissu and how Brand New matured on TDAG - well, this is Thursday's version of that. This thing is musically magnificent and epically depressing.
9The Antlers
Burst Apart

As with all Antlers releases, this tends to take a backseat to Hospice in the public eye. While this doesn't hit with the same emotional impact, it is far prettier. The atmosphere is dark and illustrious at the same time; it possesses sinister undertones but still sparkles like a starlit summer night. This is a mesmerizing little bubble to wander into, and I will never get enough of it.
When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes

Yellowcard's post-hiatus comeback record is everything a fan could hope for. It's warm and sentimental, yet way more mature and refined than their previous summery pop-punk records. This LP is sort of a resume of everything that Yellowcard does best, and that makes it worthy of a top 10 spot for 2011.
7The Republic of Wolves
The Cartographer

This EP is often overlooked compared to the band's LPs, but it is arguably the best thing they've ever released. It cleans up some of the production issues they experienced with their 2009 debut His Old Branches, while expanding thier sound with poppier hooks. All the while, it's still very mysterious, dark, and alluring. A masterpiece of an EP that you should definitely check out if you haven't yet.
6Florence and the Machine

This remains the best album that Florence and the Machine have ever released. The entire record is a series of beautiful, powerful,and oddly life-affirming incantations. From within the pop sphere, it does everything a great album should by leaving long-lasting impressions with its hooks and choruses. From an artistic perspective, there's still nothing that sounds quite like this even a decade later.
5Frank Turner
England Keep My Bones

I miss when Frank Turner sounded like he actually meant what he was singing. That's the main appeal of England Keep My Bones - by and large his best album. It draws us together and inspires us with its folksy charm, rock 'n roll, and optimism. The lyrics are excellent, but even if they weren't, I'd still soak up everything Turner sings about because he just has "it". Here, he could sing me off a bridge and I'd smile the whole time.
4Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues

This isn't even the best Fleet Foxes album (see: incoming 2017 list), yet it could still be argued as the best record of 2011. Honestly, the top 4 on this list are all a virtual tie. This is one of the greatest folk records of the decade for its brilliant songwriting, lush arrangements, intelligent lyrics, and woodsy charm. Imagine that Simon and Garfunkel got lost in a forest for several years, grew out massive beards, and learned only how to wield an acoustic guitar. That's Helplessness Blues.
3Bon Iver
Bon Iver, Bon Iver

I foolishly placed this below other Justin Vernon works in the past, but no longer! This is the ideal combination of both sides of Bon Iver: it possesses the folksy, nature-laden side of For Emma but shrouds it in a sleek, beautiful, 80s-influenced gaze, and also achieves even more stunning production but does so before Vernon got a little too ambitious with 22, A Million's glitchy, tripped-out stylings. I could retire to a remote cabin right now with nothing but this album and some survivalist essentials, and be a happy man.
2The Dear Hunter
The Color Spectrum (Complete Collection)

Somehow, this 9 EP, 36-song collection doesn't feel appreciated enough (even though it gets plenty of love). But considering how massive this thing is, how wide of a musical spectrum it covers, and how remarkably consistent the quality is, we really ought to be discussing this as one of the most impressive concept albums of all time. If you like theatrically-leaning indie-rock, and somehow still haven't heard this, you're about to be in for a treat.
1Manchester Orchestra
Simple Math

Here's a simple testament to how amazing Simple Math is: it has grown off me and is still the clear-cut best album of 2011. The reason I appreciate it slightly less doesn't even have anything to do with this LP, it's just that they - somehow - accomplished this level of sleek bombast even better on 2017's A Black Mile to the Surface. Regardless, this string-swept magnum opus is one of the most beautiful, raw, honest albums I've ever heard and it's catchy as hell to boot. The lyrics range from cheeky and humorous to the frontman confessing to his wife, through a song, that he no longer loves her. It even ventures into existentialism on the title track. There's precious few albums that can be this infectious and this poignant at the same time.
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