The Best Fit Fifty: Albums of 2011

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20. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

Mining heartbreak and consequent loss of self-composure is a well worn path, but Lykke Liapproached it by putting herself at the heart of darkness, both defiant and broken. Whether bleakly broken or coming on like a laptop Wall Of Sound it retains a distinctive sound even among the packed field of yearning female singers, building on the pathos of unrequited love to craft believable, effective youthful laments.
-Simon Tyers

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19. Pure X – Pleasure

Pure X’s debut channels the stoned spirit of psychedelia through the prism of shoegaze, a hazy journey accompanied by meandering guitar lines and echoing bass. If you’ve got a totem animal, better call him now. It’s a heavy trip.
-Chris Lo

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18. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

While Bon Iver’s debut record was firmly rooted in the romanticized Wisconsin cabin it was created in, his gorgeous follow-up is comprised of inspiration found both everywhere and nowhere all at once. It encapsulates the private thoughts that keep us up at night which we won’t tell anyone, as well as the familiar shared experiences amongst friends that grow more mythical each time the stories are repeated. The deeply moving songs are intensely personal as well as communal, with names that reflect places both real and imagined. And that uneasy dichotomy pulses at the heart of these riveting numbers, where you feel you know exactly what Justin Vernon is singing about but yet you suspect you truly have no clue. Instead of looking for answers within these delicately enchanting tracks, it’s best to just let them carry you away to somewhere you’ll either recognize immediately or will delight in discovering anew.
-Erik Thompson

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17. Metronomy – The English Riviera

The English Riviera gives the inclination of a frontman who is on an unprecedented level of ease from a writing perspective, and this contagious aptitude has mutated handsomely to craft a refreshingly mature album that exceeds expectation. Take a bow Metronomy.
-Christian Adofo

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16. Woods – Sun & Shade

An album seeped in the past and filled with rustic charm, beneath its twelve songs lies a band with a severe sense of split personality. On one hand, Woods are a straight-ahead (albeit lo-fi) pop group that craft sweet-as-candy tunes that could melt even the hardest of hearts, yet, underneath the hood there’s an experimental element at play throughout Sun & Shade. After all, how many albums have you heard this year that can conjur up both the spirit of Can and The Band in one fell swoop?
-Richard Thane

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15. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact

Ultra-upbeat, startlingly sensual and madly progressive, Eye Contact represents the Florence & The Machine inspiring Manhattanites’ most consistent stab yet at the (relatively speaking) mainstream while losing none of their earlier full-pelt experimental charm. Gems like ‘Mindkilla’ feel simultaneously glass fragile and stunningly potent.
-Michael James Hall

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14. WALLS – Coracle

Coracle is the second record from London based music makers WALLS and quickly proved itself to be a more dance orientated proposition than anything we’d heard from the duo before. Electronic twitches, seeping layers and solid sequences invite us to voyage deeper into the record, while seriously synthesised live instruments tucked beneath imaginative electronic engineering entice us towards the dance floor. Gloriously therapeutic and effortlessly cool, this is an absolute gem of a British electronic record.
-Francine Gorman

iTunes

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13. Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire

Ryan Adams sure does clean up well. He left behind the Cardinals (and his notoriously uneven recent output) in favor of a more tranquil, acoustic-based album, which brought a renewed sense of focus and freedom to the venerable songwriter. While his personal and emotional life seems to be sorted and blissful, his songs are still heartbreakingly vulnerable, holding as much tender charm as his best loved material. The tracks do away with the self-indulgent meandering of much of Adams’ latest work, in favor of a concise subtlety that imbues the numbers with a poignant elegance and allure that lingers long after the music stops.
-Erik Thompson

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12. Austra – Feel It Break

Goth, electro-dance, pop – Austra reigned them all this year on their debut album, Feel it Break. Everything comes together for Katie Stelmanis and co. on this record, from the shimmering arrangements to the centerpiece that is Stelmanis’ soaring, operatic voice. An exciting introduction that leaves us wanting more.
-Melody Lamb

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11. Katy B – On A Mission

On A Mission manages to fall, perfectly equidistant, between the two stools of Rinse-endorsed new-London magic and Magnetic Man pop-step fuckery. It’s unashamedly commercial (much to the distaste, one imagines, of many late-night Rinse listeners) but, thankfully, tends to remain several leagues ahead of Katy B’s peers’ most recent offerings. A flawed record, but a very, very enjoyable one.
-Josh Hall

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