Prefix’s Top 50 Albums Of 2011: 30-21

    30. Beirut: The Rip Tide

    After indulging in some bombast on his sophomore effort The Flying Club Cup, Zach Condon’s third album as Beirut is a triumph of simple songcraft and intimate atmosphere. The nine songs of The Rip Tide feel well worn and eternal, like folk songs passed down through generations. Its reliance on basic templates of guitar, piano, horns and shambling percussion does not stop Condon from plumbing new depths of heartbreak on “Goshen,” or generating pure pop pleasure with “Santa Fe.” In The Rip Tide, we’re treated to a record that manages the seamless meshing of widespread appeal and close personal connection. —Jamieson Cox

    29. Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost

    Girls have gotten a lot of hate for being smarmy, self-obsessed boomer-rock revivalists with an upturned nose at modern convention. These things are true, and that’s what makes it so easy to fall in love. Mining a classic sense of rock-composition for a generation that can’t relate to Orbison, and letting the sex and substance abuse trickle in just enough to strike a discomforting, but incredibly effective balance – Father, Son, Holy Ghost is a dreamy album for a dreamy people. Their ability to make the classics sound like classics again cannot be overstated.—Luke Winkie

    28. Josh T. Pearson: Last Of The Country Gentlemen

    Pearson’s hour-long, eight-song achingly intimate breakup record, consisting almost exclusively of voice and guitar, flies in the face of much that we’ve been told 2011 in music is about: hip-hop’s return to relevancy and edginess, ‘90s revivalism, and newfound critical reverence for manufactured pop. In contrast, Country Gentlemen is the weary sound of Pearson returning from a wilderness of drink, heartbreak and artistic disappointment. Located at the crossroads of Leonard Cohen’s lyric-poetry, the hypnotic guitar figures of Tim Buckley and steeped in Pearson’s outlaw country Texas roots, Last of the Country Gentlemen is an accomplishment deserving of a much wider audience.-Max Burke


    The knock on dubstep has always been that for a genre sprung from dance music, it doesn’t exactly make you want to dance. With London’s-own SBTRKT’s debut self-titled, that changed. Nurtured off the spacious, bass-heavy beats of dubstep, SBTRKT’s debut reaches out across the proverbial dance floor and introduces the moody genre to house music. The result is a record that maintains dubstep’s cold, eerie beauty while expertly incorporating enough bounce and stirring vocal contributions to create something accessible and of its own. SBTRKT proved that dubstep can still succeed without having to take itself so goddamn serious all the time. —Saxon Baird

    26. Bill Callahan: Apocalypse

    Birds, horses, violence: Bill Callahan’s favorite motifs are no secret by now. While Apocalypse doesn’t break new ground thematically, the album excels at providing new perspectives. Callahan’s pent-up characters search for meaning while roaming across wild American landscapes of brushed-snare percussion, jazzily plucked acoustic guitar, rattling distortion, and flute solos. The apocalypse of the title presents not an ending but a new, revelatory beginning, perhaps summed up best by this line from one of the album’s most majestic tracks: “Riding for the feeling is the fastest way to reach the shore.”—Wilson McBee

    25. Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Unknown Mortal Orchestra

    Breakbeat-worthy and sample-ready, the drums are the first detail you notice on Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s self-titled debut. But what follows is a head scratcher: sun-damaged psych-rock tumbling over wooly beats, demanding trance-like head-nodding and repeated spins. It’s the product of Ruban Nielson’s imagination, Portland-by-way-of-New-Zealand-by-way-of-Neptune. Those details—the crackling rhythms, the shiny chords, the foggy production—work in concert with glammed-up touches of soul and hip-hop. The feverish humidity of the record only serves to bolster the mysteriousness of the band, but when the half-hour is up, the only pertinent, half-joking question is, “Who the hell do these guys think they are?”—Art Levy

    24. Big K.R.I.T.: Return of 4eva

    Big K.R.I.T.’s candy-painted Southern maximalism continued to evolve on Return of 4eva, shifting from the trunk-rap revival of earlier mixtapes to a broader palette that included buoyant soul melodies and shimmering live instrumentation. K.R.I.T. also updated his lyrical concerns, adding raps about racism and the pitfalls of the music industry to his usual street tales. As an artist with a vision that is both eclectic and coherent, K.R.I.T. has few peers in hip-hop today, which must make one worry about what will happen when Def Jam releases his major label debut next year.—Wilson McBee

    23. Radiohead: King of Limbs

    Any Radiohead release is an event. There are few rock bands who, before note one is heard by anyone outside of their privileged circle, can almost guarantee both critical acclaim and commercial success. So, when the Oxford quintet announced a new record a mere five days before its release date (and still released it a day early), the Internet press was understandably excited. And the product lives up to that expectation: this concise set of songs arguably showcases Radiohead at their best in years.–Matthew Blackwell

    22. Yuck: Yuck

    The Great Recession has turned us into addicts of all things retro. From Mad Men to Pee Wee on Broadway to black tights under flowered dresses, making your art obviously from another time was the quickest way to our hearts this year. So it is with London quintet Yuck, whose self-titled debut was one of this year’s most enjoyable rock and roll rides, precisely because it hits all the notes of early-to-mid ’90s college rock: the fuzzy guitars, the aggressive guitar melodies, even a vaguely menacing drug-addled doodle for an album cover, courtesy of the band themselves. It’s every bit as exciting now as it was then, especially if you’re too young to have Rocketship CDs in the back of your closet.—Chris Chafin

    21. Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972

    Tim Hecker’s last two albums (2006’s Harmony In Ultraviolet and 2009’s An Imaginary Country) can be considered masterpieces of ambient, drone, and noise music in which they take part, and Ravedeath, 1972 is the third piece in the triumvirate that defines Hecker as the foremost artist dealing in the confluence of these genres. The sketchbook companion to this album, Dropped Pianos, is breathtaking in its own right, and the blown-out, distorted glory of the final product ensures its status as a future classic.—Matthew Blackwell

    Prefix’s Best Albums Of 2011: 50-41 / 40-31 / 30-21 / 20-11 / 10-1

    Prefix’s Top 50 Albums Of 2011 PlaylistsRdio / Spotify

    Prefix’s Top 10 Mixtapes Of 2011: