Prefix’s Top 50 Albums Of 2011: 40-31

    40. Wild Flag: Wild Flag

    Interviews have revealed that it didn’t really go down like this, but when listening to Wild Flag’s debut album, it seems like when indie veterans Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss, Mary Timony, and Rebecca Cole got together for their first band meeting, they all contributed a list of the music that affected them throughout their lives and just decided to combine them all into one band and see if it worked. Well, the engrossing and enthusiasm soaked mix of punk, psych, garage and straight-up classic rock that followed shows that it definitely did, setting the bar extremely high for any new act hoping to make any sort of statement.–Erik Ziedses des Plantes

    39. Washed Out: Within And Without

    Washed Out’s Within and Without has a couple boning on its cover. After listening to the record a few times, this will seem less like rock and roll shock tactics than a suggested listening activity. Within and Without— with its nine tracks of perfectly-produced cascading, echoing sounds and vocals, and beats both insistent and faraway, like a dance party recorded from down the block–isn’t a record that’s going to put you in the mood. But it is the absolutely ideal thing to have on while you’re actually doing the deed: it’s uptempo enough to keep you going, but passive enough that no one’s going to be distracted by it and break the mood.Chris Chafin

    38. Cloud Nothings: Cloud Nothings

    If the grungy, angst-packed first looks at Cloud Nothings’ upcoming Attack on Memory are any indication of what the entire album sounds like, then this year’s self-titled offering may very well be the one shining moment where Dylan Baldi was a pop-punk genius. Baldi came on like a less tragic, more sensitive Jay Reatard, marrying his nasal whine to 11 surprisingly technical, highly caffeinated jams, which were brought to a polish in a studio that was a definite upgrade over his parents’ basement (where he recorded his debut, Turning On). While simple in its sentiments, it frequently surprised in its execution.–Erik Ziedses des Plantes

    37. Dirty Beaches: Badlands

    Signifiers from the 1950s were common across multiple genres in 2011, but few acts embraced them with the relish of Alex Zhang Hungtai from Dirty Beaches. His music is a whirl of grease and reverberation, topped with a snarled anger reminiscent of Birthday Party-era Nick Cave and Alan Vega from Suicide. It’s cinematic, too—Hungtai named this record after one of Terrence Malick’s best films and cited Wong Kar-wai’s neon-dazed aesthetic as an inspiration. There’s a crudeness to the recording, like driving over gravel in a clapped-out car with a flat tire, that fits perfectly with Badlands’ melodramatic qualities.—Nick Neyland

    36. Youth Lagoon: The Year of Hibernation

    The Year of Hibernation is yet another entry into the much-too-long catalog of lo-fi bedroom pop whose DIY production makes each plucky synthesizer sound like a PlaySkool xylophone. But in this case, Youth Lagoon’s Trevor Powers is able to co-opt his eight delicate, powerfully engaging melodies by pitting such youthful nostalgia against a matured and hardened perspective. He instills childhood memories with insightful revelations without sacrificing their otherworldly ambition. The Year of Hibernation is humble, charming, and does a remarkable job recapturing what is perhaps the greatest casualty of modern technology—untamed imagination.Kyle Sparks

    35. Atlas Sound: Parallax

    There’s no one playing with idea pasta like Bradford Cox right now. Between Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, he’s filled headphones and tape recorders with artful abstraction, pushing concepts bizarre and beautiful through his tender-yet-forceful aesthetic sensibilities. Parallax is like a mental mixtape, Cox’s diary torn apart and reconstructed on the pages of the great American songbook. Songs like “Lightworks” and “Te Amo” sound familiar but distinct, calling out from some faraway place. To put it simply, he’s one of the singularly ambitious songwriters working in modern rock.Jeremy Gordon

    34. Gang Gang Dance: Eye Contact

    The hackneyed tag “world music” simply isn’t big enough to span all of Gang Gang Dance’s frenetic, space-age experimentations, at their tightest and most fully-realized here. Eye Contact, undoubtedly the band’s breakthrough success, may be less spontaneous and all-out freaky than its predecessor Saint Dymphna, but no one could deny the kaleidoscopic, motorik rhythms of 11-minute mini-opus “Glass Jar.” It’s a multi-culti marriage of avant garde and pop that still manages to sound like nothing else before or since. Hilary Beck

    33. Cass McCombs: WIT’S END

    WIT’S END is Cass McCombs’ most withdrawn statement to date, spun over eight tales of sorrow and regret. It’s an album as heavy as its all-caps title, brought to life via threadbare instrumentation with an uncommon weight. In the middle of it all is McCombs’ peculiarly introspective anguish and humor, which feels like the sound of someone rapidly retreating into themselves. Even the twinkling vibraphone of “The Lonely Doll” can’t mask his desire to wallow, but he executes it with a grace and artistry rarely heard outside the work of his obvious influences (Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt, Tindersticks).–Nick Neyland

    32. Austra: Feel It Break

    She may sit comfortably alongside Zola Jesus and Fever Ray in the goth-opera-pop canon, but Katie Stelmanis and her band stepped out from the pack with Austra’s hypnotic, witchy debut. From the Soft Cell sleazy stomp of single “Beat and the Pulse” to the glimmering synths of “Spellwork” and “The Future,” Stelmanis enchanted with haunting, dancefloor-ready tales of sex, loss, blood, and alchemy. Her sounds may have emerged from the belly of the beast, but Austra is made for the stars.-Hilary Beck

    31. Ghostpoet: Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam

    The U.K. hip-hop scene might not get the respect it deserves here in the States, but every so often we take notice of some of its most compelling work. The latest came this past January via gifted relative newcomer Ghostpoet’s full-length debut, Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam. The uber-languid Brit paved his own new lane through his organic, downtempo production and free-flowing, sing-song bars filled with ruminations on drunken nights, romance and more.—Andrew Martin

    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: