12/14/2011 12:11 pm ET Updated Feb 13, 2012

The Best Albums of 2011: 40 Records That Made This Year Unforgettable

The end of 2011 is nigh, and we've listened to tons of great albums (also: 'Lulu'). Picking favorites is never easy, but this year seemed especially difficult.

We heard some amazing debuts, a sprawling punk masterpiece, a singer-songwriter hitting it big after some high-profile hip-hop dalliances, a long-lost album finally seeing the light of day, a growling old favorite making welcome return and a jilted singer dominating the charts, airwaves and hearts of millions while pouring her heart out. And that just represents our top 10 picks.

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