Best Albums of 2011 [HearYa’s Top 50]

by oz on December 13, 2011

Here are the best albums of 2011 as chosen by our panel of “experts” (Woody, Shirk and I). I’m not a huge fan of ranking albums because my personal rankings are fluid and change depending on the time of year, my mood of the moment, and the album’s propensity to get played again and again over time.

Because we collaborated on the list, we each had to leave off some of our personal top 50’s. In the end, man-to-man mud wrestling prevailed and we compromised. The unanimous top album among all of us was Tamer Animals by Other Lives and our second choice was the most snubbed band on best of lists in 2011, The Deep Dark Woods. Get in there and let us know what we missed. You can also hit play on the mp3’s and they’ll play as a playlist. Sit back and enjoy!

If some of the comments don’t make sense, it’s because we’ve used posted our favorite albums to this list throughout the year so they could be outdated.

1. Other Lives – Tamer Animals

Other Lives – For 12

Other Lives – Tamer Animals (from the HearYa Live Session)

Other Lives – Dust Bowl III (from the HearYa Live Session)

2. The Deep Dark Woods – The Place I Left Behind

The Deep Dark Woods – West Side Street

The Deep Dark Woods – Ballad of Frank Dupree (from the HearYa Live Session)

The Deep Dark Woods – The Banks of The Leopold Canal (from the HearYa Live Session)

3. Centro-Matic – Candidate Waltz

4. Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit – Here We Rest

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit – Codeine

5. Elliott BROOD – Days Into Years

Elliott BROOD – Northern Air

6. Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest

7. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh

The Low Anthem – Boeing 737 (from our live session with The Low Anthem)

The Low Anthem – Love and Altar (from our live session with The Low Anthem)

8. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

9. Wilco – The Whole Love

10. Bon Iver – S/T

Bon Iver – Holocene

Bon Iver – Calgary

11. My Morning Jacket – Circuital

My Morning Jacket – Circuital

12. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes – Grown Ocean

13. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

Okkervil River – Wake and Be Fine

14. Wye Oak – Civilian

Wye Oak – Civilian

15. Ryan Adams – Ashes and Fire

16. White Denim – D

White Denim – Anvil Everything

White Denim – Street Joy (from the HearYa Live Session)

White Denim – Keys (from the HearYa Live Session)

17. Charles Bradley – No Time For Dreaming

Charles Bradley – The World (Is Going Up In Flames)

18. WATERS – Out In The Light

WATERS – For The One

WATERS – O Holy Break Of Day

19. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Girls – Vomit

20. The David Wax Museum – Everything Is Saved

The David Wax Museum – Born With A Broken Heart

21. Mount Moriah – S/T

Mount Moriah – Only Way Out

Mount Moriah – Lament

Mount Moriah – Reckoning (from the HearYa Live Session)

22. Megafaun – S/T

Megafaun – Get Right

Megafaun – State/Meant

23. AA Bondy – Believers

AA Bondy – The Heart Is Willing

24. The Black Keys – El Camino

25. Drive-By Truckers – Go-Go Boots

Drive-By Truckers – Everybody Needs Love

26. Southeast Engine – Canary

Southeast Engine – New Growth

27. Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing

Blitzen Trapper – Love The Way You Walk Away

28. Middle Brother – S/T

Middle Brother – Me, Me, Me

29. Roadside Graves – We Can Take Care Of Ourselves

Roadside Graves – Double Feature

Roadside Graves – Love Me More

30. Ha Ha Tonka – Death of a Decade

Ha Ha Tonka – Usual Suspects

31. Deer Tick – Divine Providence

Deer Tick “Main Street” by Partisan Records

32. The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient

The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient

33. Caveman – CoCo Beware

34. The Middle East – I Want That You Are Always Happy

The Middle East – Jesus Came To My Birthday Party

35. Dead Man Winter – Bright Lights

Dead Man Winter – Nicotine

36. Caitlin Rose – Own Side Now

37. Brown Bird – Salt For Salt

38. Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears – Scandalous

39. Vetiver – The Errant Charm

Vetiver – Can’t You Tell

40. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo

Kurt Vile – Jesus Fever

41. Fruit Bats – Tripper

Fruit Bats – Tangie and Ray

42. Little Hurricane – Homewrecker

Little Hurricane – Crocodile Tears

43. Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside – Dirty Radio

Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside – I Swear

44. The Milk Carton Kids – Prologue

The Milk Carton Kids – Michigan

The Milk Carton Kids – Milk Carton Kid

45. Alela Diane and Wild Divine

46. The Devil Whale – Teeth

47. Ponderosa – Moonlight Revival

48. She Keeps Bees – Dig On

2. She Keeps Bees – Saturn Return by wepromised

49. Country Mice – Twister

Country Mice – Festival

Country Mice – Morning Son

50. Seryn – This Is Where We Are

Seryn – We Will All Be Changed

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Billy Shaw July 11, 2011 at 10:18 pm

hard to argue w/ this list though I would probably add the Cave Singer’s “No Witch” and Centro-Matic’s “Candidate Waltz”
Would certainly include the Iron & Wine album that came out in January

Woody July 12, 2011 at 8:20 am

@Billy Shaw. I like Cave Singers just fine but I agree with you that Centro-Matic is a grievous oversight. Candidate Waltz is one of my favorites of the year. Thanks for pointing it out.

Eugenia July 12, 2011 at 8:01 pm

My top-10 so far. I’m a bit more “hipster” in my music likes, I guess because I’m not American, so I don’t understand much the Dylan-style guitar “rural American” music.

1. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
2. Austra – Feel It Break
3. Cults – Cults
4. Washed Out – Within and Without
5. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
6. Smith Westerns – Dye it Blonde
7. Wye Oak – Civilian
8. Chad VanGaalen – Diaper Island
9. John Maus: We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
10. Craft Spells – Idle Labor

I can’t wait for M83’s new album arrival in the Fall.

J July 12, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Great list. I’d also like to add Dawes’ latest album “Nothing is Wrong” and Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi’s “Rome.”

Dale Hosack July 15, 2011 at 10:43 pm

My top 5 from my blog:
The Decemberists The King is Dead
The Head and the Heart – self titled
The Apache Relay – American Nomad
Dawes – Nothing is Wrong
Lucinda Williams – Blessed

More details at:

John Hamby July 17, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Dale, The Head and the Heart’s album released in 2009.

Marie July 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm

My favorite unknown album of this year is A Lost Circus from Wolf Kroeger. I read it’s his first album and he did it all on himself. Talk about independent!!! I hope he’ll get to be known one day…

Bobby G. July 23, 2011 at 7:40 am

Good list – but I agree with J that “Rome” deserves to be in the top 20. Other albums I’d add include:
– Brandi Carlile – Live at Benaroya Hall in Seattle
– Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
– Moon Duo – Mazes
– Peter Murphy – Ninth

katy July 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm

still really surprised The people’s key- bright eyes wasnt mentioned..

mark July 26, 2011 at 11:59 am

01. Peter Bruntnell – Black Mountain UFO
02. Daniel Romano – Sleep Beneath The Willow
03. Richmond Fontaine – The High Country
04. Hayes Carll – Kmag YoYo
05. Robert Pollard – Space City Kicks
06. Gillian Welch – The Harrow and The Harvest
07. Centromatic – Candidate Waltz
08. The Phoenix Foundation – Buffalo
09. The Booze – At Maximum Volume
10. Boston Spaceships – Let It Beard
11. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
12. Rafael Saadiq – Steam Rollin’
13. Woods – In Sun & Shade

Lu July 27, 2011 at 8:24 pm

The Twilight Singers, “Dynamite Steps”

Paul August 8, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit and Drive-By Truckers the BEST.

Geoff August 9, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Very good list. I can think of two you missed.

1. Wilderness of Manitoba – When you left the fire.
2. James Vincent McMorrow – Early in the Morning.

And someone else mention Cave Singers – No Witch. Agree, another album that stands out this year.

Geoff August 10, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Nice list. A few you may have missed…

1. Wilderness of Manitoba – When you left the Fire.
2. James Vincent McMorrow- Early in the Morning.
3. Cave Singers – No Witch (someone mentioned).
4. Vandaveer – Dig down deep.

maxk August 12, 2011 at 12:52 am

This is a pretty good list. A new EP that I am pretty excited about is Far From Things That We Know from Madi Diaz. If you haven’t heard of her yet you should check her out.

Jacob August 24, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Fruit Bats, “Tripper” definitely deserves a listen or two – or ten.

cosmicoldcrowe September 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm

You might wanna take a listen and/or a second listen to Dawes’ 2011 release, “Nothing Is Wrong” and consider it for your “Best Albums of 2011.” If not it should at the very least, be deserving of some kind of a Honorable Mention of sorts. I honestly do not buy a lot of newly released albums, but “Nothing Is Wrong” is worth buyin’! Lucinda Williams’ 2011 album, “Blessed” is also worth a listen too.

jacklayton September 9, 2011 at 11:57 am

Real solid list! I would also add little hurricane’s debut album ‘homewrecker’ to the list. That album will melt your face off!

Trisha September 11, 2011 at 3:32 am

Thank you for pointing out Southeast Engine’s Canary. What gorgeous music.

Mari October 21, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Love your list! Just missing The Wild Beasts beautiful album Smother.

MyMusic October 24, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Now that the year is 3/4 of the way through and so many more great albums have been released, hope to see some of the below make it onto ‘The Best Albums of 2011’ list:

Wilco – The Whole Love
Tedeschi Trucks Band – Revelator
Sam Roberts Band – Collider
The Rosebuds – Loud Planes Fly Low
Rival Sons – Pressure & Time
Richard Buckner – Our Blood
Quiet Life – Big Green
My Pet Dragon – Mountains and Cities
MuteMath – Odd Soul
Matt Pond PA – Spring Fools (EP)
M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
The London Souls – Self Titled
Hot Bodies in Motion – Old Habits
Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Foster the People – Pumped Up Kicks
Feist – Metals
Eef Barzelay – Black Tin Rocket (Songs of the Transmissionary Six)
Deep Dark Robot – 8 Songs About a Girl
Cavemen – CoCo Beware
Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing
Arctic Monkeys – Suck It and See
Absofacto – Sinking Islands

cosmicoldcrowe November 2, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Since I last visited, I see a few more albums have made the “Best Albums of 2011” list. I too also love Ryan Adams’ “Ashes & Fire,” The DDW’s “The Place I Left Behind,” and Deer Tick’s “Divine Providence.” Great additions to your list!!! I tip my hat to you! The new Deer Tick album is a diverse album with a lot of different musical genres shakin’ and mashed together. I had the pleasure of watchin’ Deer Tick perform last weekend and what a show!!! They are waaaaaaaaaay better live, a very unique group of musicians.

Check out Honeyhoney’s new album, “Billy Jack,” it’s a good one too!

Woody November 3, 2011 at 11:02 am


I listened and I like it. Thanks for the recommendation.

Woody November 3, 2011 at 11:08 am

also somebody on this list mentioned Caveman’s Coco Beware. I’m enjoying that as well. Thanks.

jackjamesmonroe November 3, 2011 at 1:08 pm

This is a superb list, and it has gotten even better with the new additions! There is still one glaring oversight, in my humble opinion. Dawes- Nothing is Wrong is one of the best albums not only of this year but of the last few years at least! As a lyricist, Taylor Goldsmith is emerging as one of the best songwriters of this generation. Add that to a talented line-up of musicians and you have something pretty damn spectacular!

Edict Flush November 3, 2011 at 8:59 pm

I would add ———— St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

Eric November 12, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Great list and great site! I would highly recommend Sean Rowe’s Magic for the list. He has a powerful, unique voice and his songwriting is deep and strong. Few albums have moved me so much in recent years. Thanks.

MyMusic November 23, 2011 at 1:24 am

A.A. Bondy’s ‘Believers’ is already on this list but hot damn, after hearing it performed live, it may deserve to wear the ‘Best Album of 2011’ crown. It’s saturated with heartache, despair, and solitude, yet leaves the soul feeling elated simply by the sheer beauty of each note, each lyric…

craig November 25, 2011 at 6:06 pm

I don’t think this list could be complete without the Rural Alberta Advantage’s ‘Departing’. Easily the best album of the year!!!

tincanman2010 December 5, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I’m going to include the link for this because no one will believe me otherwise. CBC Radio is asking its listeners to vote on the best Canadian artist of the year. There’s a list of 50 possible candidates. Deep Dark Woods is not one of them.

Brian Lambert December 5, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Loving the Wilco album, their most accessible for years. They have always seemed like a pop band to me. Great album good inclusion.

MyMusic December 10, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Check out ‘The Jezabels’ album – Prisoners. Just came out in November and it’s pretty sweet!

Jesse M December 13, 2011 at 1:42 pm

A DEFINITE nominee is
The Black Lips – Arabia Mountain

WOW…. this album keeps a theme but literally dances circles around it, bursting at the seams

Brian Lambert December 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Way to go Denton, two bands Centro-matic and Seryn in the top 50. I’m telling everybody Denton TX has crazy mad talent and some of the best music out there. I lived in Austin for 15 years and no disrespect because there are some wonderfully talented artist there, but Denton has more talent musically per capita than any place in Texas perhaps the whole of the US of A.

Nathan December 13, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Great list – share’s a lot with my own best of the year list :
I definitely need to check out the Deep Dark Woods

annie December 13, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Have y’all heard Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three?

This is a great list. I’m enjoying many of them — I really like David Wax Museum and A.A. Bondy (love him!). Thanks so much for introducing me to the Alabama Shakes! I love their sound .

Quintilian B. Nasty December 15, 2011 at 7:16 pm

What a plethora of picks — and good ones. Impressive.

I only picked twenty albums, but we have some comparable selections:

james December 18, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Great list and yes The Deep Dark Woods are amazing indeed !!
Pretty surprised that Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers – ‘Starlight Hotel’ is not on here — a truly GREAT album !!

Derek December 19, 2011 at 12:18 am

You guys have great taste! Love the Seryn and War on Drugs plugs. I put together 15 if anyone wants to take a peak.

SafariMan December 19, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Love the list– a few notable additions that I think would fall into this list [i.e. M83 excluded]:

Real Estate
The Drums
Youth Lagoon
Bombay Bicycle Club
Gary Clark Jr.

SHIRK December 19, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Safari Man – Gary Clark Jr. is badass. Totally forgot about that.

oz December 19, 2011 at 3:55 pm

It was an EP right?

Scott December 20, 2011 at 12:25 am

Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math, Is one of my favorites of the year, but rarely on a “list”, which is a shame..

Scott December 20, 2011 at 12:33 am

Jessica Lea Mayfield – Tell Me, Is the Best!! but not on a “list”, great great album, check it out! should be on the list..

Scott December 22, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Starfucker–Reptilians = Fantastic, easily top 50… Has anyone heard these albums besides me? don’t get me wrong, there are some great albums on the list, but these three could easily knock any of those out..

Scott December 22, 2011 at 11:38 pm

STARFUCKER– Jessica Lea Mayfield– Manchester Orchestra–

Scott December 23, 2011 at 1:29 am

My Top Twenty Albums of 2011

20. Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind Of Fix

19. Feist – Metals

18. Deerhoof – Deerhoof vs. Evil

17. Eddie Vedder – Ukulele Songs

16. The Kills – Blood Pressures

15. Cut Copy-Zonoscope

14. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

13. Explosions In The Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

12. Wilco – The Whole Love

11. Washout – Within and Without

10. The Black Keys – El Camino

9. Death Cab For Cutie – Key and Codes

8. Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire

7. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

6. Jill Andrews – The Mirror

5. Radiohead – The King Of Limbs

4. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

3. Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math

2. STRFKR – Reptilians

1. Jessica Lea Mayfield – Tell Me

Honorable Mention (just outside the top twenty) :, , tUnE-yArDs – W h o K i l l, Liam Finn – Fomo, The Antlers – Burst Apart, Maria Taylor- Overlook
Dawes – Nothing is Wrong, , White Denim – D, Mute Math – Odd Soul, Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit – Here We Rest, M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Angus And Julia Stone – Memories Of An Old Friend

Eric December 24, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Damn Scott. You got enough entries there? I don’t think the Barr Brothers should have been left off. It was on your earlier list and it’s a damn good album. Also, no one picked up on Sean Rowe-Magic suggestion earlier. It might not fit the tidy, rootsy, americana band thing but it’s a hell of an album. For whatever it’s worth.

Woody December 26, 2011 at 7:28 am

@Eric – The Barr Bros was a mistake. We had that in the late 20s or 30s and simply missed it. I also realized that we left off O’Death which is one of my favorites of the year as well.

jazzy mae January 6, 2012 at 11:57 pm

The Black Keys at #24!!! what?! how can that be with tracks like this!!!

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