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
Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes
Toro y Moi, Underneath the Pine
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.