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The Best Albums Of 2011 You May Have Missed So Far

The Huffington Post     First Posted: 07/12/11 10:29 AM ET   Updated: 09/11/11 06:12 AM ET

2011 has seen no shortage of worthwhile music in its first six months. Many artists have pleasantly surprised on their second and third records, avoiding the sophomore slump and holding our attention with more sophisticated, focused work. Others have forced a double take with unexpectedly good first albums, taking the kind of risks that shake up the music scene. To deal with this happy dilemma, we've tried to offer a manageable list with both quality and variety here, from Cut Copy's dance rock to Raphael Saadiq's ever-cool Motown. It also doesn't hurt your cause if your band has an awesome name (ahem, Shabazz Palaces).

That being said, we can't resist throwing out some honorable mentions:

Panda Bear, Tomboy
Radiohead, King of Limbs
Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues
Destroyer, Kaputt
Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes
Toro y Moi, Underneath the Pine
Cults, Cults

And for good measure, Paul McCartney's first solo album, McCartney was re-released in all its remastered glory, and is worth a revisit.

We hope you find some new favorites, and please give us your recommendations in the comments.

PJ Harvey, Let England Shake
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Is there a better album this year than Let England Shake? It's debatable for sure, but it's also not a crazy question. PJ Harvey's dark ode to England is at once lyrically thrilling and sonically gorgeous -- a rare combination, but hardly an uncommon one for Harvey. A loose sample of "Istanbul, Not Constantinople" opens the title track and sets the album off on a deeply disturbing path of death and violence in England's political history. While Harvey recounts soldiers falling "like lumps of meat" with startling bluntness, you're left behind in the dust to grapple with her words as she soldiers onward at a hauntingly shrill, sing-songy pace. This, combined with the vulnerability displayed on "England," is where the album finds its strength. As Harvey hoarsely laments her country, it's clear that love has been lost, but like an old lover, its memory still won't fade.
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