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The 25 Best Albums of 2011

The ladies truly dominate the upper reaches of our 2011 albums list in a way they haven’t ever before.

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The 25 Best Albums of 2011
Photo: Atlantic

The 25 Best Albums of 2011

15. Patrick Wolf, Lupercalia

Lupercalia is the fourth consecutive Patrick Wolf album to score a near-perfect rating from Slant—by three different writers, no less. Following the dark, prickly narratives of The Bachelor, Lupercalia—named after an ancient fertility and love festival—finds the British singer-songwriter reprising the more lovelorn themes he addressed flawlessly on 2007’s The Magic Position. Lest we think Wolf is already running out of ideas at the tender age of 28, the synth-pop cut “Together” hints at his possible next incarnation. And even if repetition becomes his m.o., he sounds more confident than ever on album highlights like “The Days” and “Slow Motion.” We’re eagerly awaiting his inevitably near-perfect fifth album. Cinquemani


The 25 Best Albums of 2011

14. Drake, Take Care

Drake finally grows up with Take Care, shedding most of the crippling doubt that made him such a fascinating but inconsequential figure in the past. The album strikes a perfect mix of confidence and sensitivity, tempering its big, arrogant tracks with equally unsure expressions of neurotic anxiety. He still doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with his newfound fame, but on this immaculately produced effort, surrounded by top-tier guests, he at times sounds almost pleased with himself, even as he continues to struggle with lingering specters and insecurity and guilt. If he can sustain this balance, he could find himself perched at the top of the rap game. Cataldo


The 25 Best Albums of 2011

13. Meshell Ndegeocello, Weather

Combining Sade levels of sensuality with the intuitive, observational bent of a songwriter like Leonard Cohen, Meshell Ndegeocello is one of the most gifted and under-recognized musicians working today. Weather is her ninth album overall, and the third in a row that could plausibly be claimed as her best. Ndegeocello gives herself more fully than ever to her songwriter’s instincts, mixing folk, prog, and chamber-pop into a rich musical tapestry—one subtle enough to seem dull on a casual listen, but make no mistake, every song here has the power to enchant and beguile. Cole


The 25 Best Albums of 2011

12. TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light

“Ah, the bastards broke the world this time,” Kyp Malone intones over the disjointed, warbling opening of “No Future Shock.” TV on the Radio has always trended toward the apocalyptic, but Nine Types of Light takes that prophetic fear to a more immediate level. Here, the nervous, just-below-the-surface phobias of 2008’s Dear Science come bubbling up with some of the bluesiest, grittiest, and all-round rhythmical music TVOTR has ever produced. “No Future Shock” takes its time descending into a beating, brass-fueled hell until Malone finally demands: “Shake it, shake it like it is the end of time.” The group follows suit, delivering some of their best work to date. Liedel


The 25 Best Albums of 2011

11. Das Racist, Relax

Sure, the punchlines may not hit as hard as before, but it’s reductive to expect Das Racist, who’ve proven they’re on to something bigger than just being the indie version of the Lonely Island, to focus just on humor. And it’s not like the sarcastic “Man, I’m fucking great at rapping!” exclamations that punctuate standout single “Michael Jackson” leave any doubt that Das Racist knows exactly what their strengths really are. Relax lays those selling points plain. The album plays as audio tour through a museum of junk-culture detritus, and few acts are as consistently witty or inventive as Das Racist when it comes to sifting through a lifetime’s worth of pop-culture refuse and then reassembling it into something of real value. Keefe

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