From electro-pop to acoustic ballads, our list of best albums from the first half of 2011 covers the musical spectrum.


Matt Crawford

J Mascis – Several Shades of Why

The resurgence of American roots and folk music in the mainstream, with bands like Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers, is not limited to the pop charts. After years of offering only glimpses of his acoustic work with Dinosaur Jr. and other projects,  J Mascis finally released his first solo acoustic album — 10 melancholic and delicate tracks. Solo acoustic releases this year from Thurston Moore and Kurt Vile offer solid support.

TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light

Despite a temporary relocating to Hollywood to record Nine Types of Light, the album feels like an extension to 2008’s critically acclaimed release Dear Science. With a mix out expansive soundscapes and uptempo glitches, TVOTR can do no wrong at this point.

Lynne Angel

Austra – Feel It Break

The darkness is contagious in this opera-singer turned mega-crooner ‘s debut album. I would be remiss if I attempted to label this a dance album. That label does not give it justice nor does it even touch upon the depth of character contained within. Katie Stelmanis has produced a hypnotic and emotive chrysalis into which we have been given entrance, and it is an experience we are likely to be forever changed by.

Des Ark – Don’t Rock the Boat, Sink the Fucker

Aimée Argote is the musician that we should be introducing to each and every adolescent that we have contact with. Her message is aggressive, positive and free. She teaches love, hate and everything in between with compassion and honesty. Classes should be taught on this woman and her musicianship.

Christina Li

James Blake – James Blake

An album depressing enough to make just about anyone long for a better future. Side effects may include nostalgia and standing in the rain.

House of Balloons – The Weeknd

An album sexy enough to make just about anyone want to remove various articles of clothing. Side effects may include listening to Aaliyah, calling an ex, and the obvious.

Ellen Lovelidge

Big K.R.I.T. – Returnof4eva

Aiming to put Mississippi hip hop on the map, Big K.R.I.T. is a standout new artist who lays down a thick, smooth flow on top of self-produced bass heavy beats.

Metronomy – The English Riviera

Indie Brit pop love songs with both female and male vocalists make this uplifting electronically infused third album from Metronomy perfect for SF summer weather.

Paloma Ortiz

Nicolas Jaar – Space is Only Noise

I’ve been playing Space is Only Noise on repeat since it was released. Jaar’s incorporation of jazz samples and melodies layered over slow-motion hip hop beats gives him an unmistakeably unique sound. This is electronic music with soul and spirit, and I’m impatiently waiting for the next productions Jaar breathes life into.

FaltyDL – You Stand Uncertain

Picking up the tempo, Drew Lustman, aka FaltyDL, caught my attention with the UK style jungle/garage beats that dominate You Stand Uncertain. Although he keeps it funky and fresh with jazz and house-inspired melodies, this album is definitely moody one. Full of personality, this LP is a wonderfully cohesive reflection of Lustman as an artist.

Sara Drazba

Panda Bear – Tomboy

Remember how good it felt being 16 and blasting “Saves The Day” and “Something Corporate” out the window of your parent’s hand-me-down Volvo? Well, there’s a new kind of music for us emo kids: the celestial (and almost creepy) sounds of Noah Benjamin Lennox, frontman from Animal Collective.

tUnE yArDs – W h o k i l l

The powerful voice and syncopated rhythm of the Oakland originated musician, Merrill Garbus, will satisfy your soul. Support local artists and get aquainted with a band on the rise that will also perform at Outside Lands!

Ashley Smith

The Strokes – Angles

In the band’s first album since 2006, The Strokes return with a janglin, breezy album filled with big sound and catchy melodies.

Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’

Although he sticks to his 50s and 60s throwback style, Saadiq surprises us with a variation of tempos, making for an album you can listen to from track 1 to 10 and never wonder, “Didn’t I just hear this song?”

What are your favorite albums of 2011?