The Top 50 Albums of 2011 – 30-21

30. The Lonely Island – Turtleneck and Chain

I would like to say it was a long process determining whether or not this was one of my favorite albums of the year, but its placement pretty much nulls that. Cred be damned, this was a no-brainer for me. It’s smart, it’s funny, the production is pristine, and the comedic, cameo-filled results reveal these guys worked a lot harder on this sophomore release than we would guess.

29. The Black Keys – El Camino

I was admittedly worried our favorite Akron duo was releasing a follow-up to the huge hit Brothers too soon after their inevitable breakthrough. Would they pull a Kings of Leon and give us limelight-influenced, second-rate dreck? In hindsight, I feel stupid for thinking such a thing. The Black Keys have their shtick down, and they’re able to tweak it ever so slightly for an interesting effect, but never a disappointing experience.

28. Big Black Delta – LP1

Jonathan Bates has been the leader of Mellowdrone for years, but in 2010 he took some time off to experiment with an electronic-based project. He collaborated with M83, released some singles, and garnered enough hype for a full-length. The result is a spell-binding, futuristic take on the subdued, reticent sounds of his primary project.

27. Middle Brother – S/T

This Partisan Records supergroup turned heads at SXSW this year, and the group’s debut gives each each songwriter their fair share of time to shine. Deer Tick’s John McCauley, Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, and Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez deliver a promising debut of collaborative songs and infectious melodies.

26. Gross Magic – Teen Jamz EP

The cover may give one an urge to watch Saved By the Bell reruns, but the EP itself is more of a distorted, lo-fi take on the dirtier works of bands like L7 and other early 90’s greats. Whooshing sounds, piano clinks, and loud-ass guitars envelop the listener on this introduction to a band to watch in 2012.

25. Ringo Deathstarr – Colour Trip

Austin’s very own delivered a more approachable take on the deafening sounds of My Bloody Valentine and other formidable shoegazers. The sound is here, but the mood is all too different; cacophonies of sound give way to catchy melodies and casual lyrics. Those wishing to mope might want to look elsewhere, because you might be more inclined to dance.

24. Sebastian – Total

Some would say Total is derivative of superior work, and it’s too little too late for a producer who had been hyped since 2007, when this sound was in full swing, but has just now released his first full-length. And I wouldn’t argue with any of that. But while Daft Punk scores Disney movies and Justice errs in creating prog rock, Sebastian gave me my French house fix I so desperately needed.

23. Jeff the Brotherhood – We Are the Champions

After a well-deserved amount of praise for Heavy Days, the Nashville guitar-and-drum duo churned out a victory lap. That’s not to suggest We Are the Champions is exactly the same album, though the raucous vibe we’ve come to adore is present. There are new ventures here, including a dynamite foray into new wave mixed in with good old fashioned garage punk.

22. Cold Cave – Cherish the Light Years

If you were looking for Love Comes Close Part 2, you were likely disappointed in this challenging follow up. More Bauhaus than “Bizarre Love Triangle,” Cold Cave have reinvented themselves by channeling their dark side to another great era of 80’s rock, and the results grow on you track by track.

21. Ford & Lopatin – Channel Pressure

One look at that awesome album cover should give you a sense of what you’re walking into – Channel Pressure is probably the strongest homage to the sounds of the 80’s in recent memory. But this isn’t merely a replication of the Miami Vice – subtle structure and hidden surprises lie within repeated listens. Dark instrumentals, upbeat synth pop, and total freak-outs galore, there’s never a dull moment here.

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