Top 10 albums of 2011: Jenny Charlesworth

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      If this were about top songs, I’d be the laughingstock of the Straight’s music department. Not only would Britney Spears be getting a shout-out, so would Rihanna and Drake. For the sake of my street cred, thank Christ almighty we’re looking at long-players.

      Dum Dum Girls
      Only in Dreams
      A 20-something girl singing about her dead mother doesn’t exactly scream “record of the year”. But nothing tops Only in Dreams. Pack leader Kristin “Dee Dee” Gundred pushes through the pain with earworming hooks and fierce vocals. There’s no wallowing here, just a badass babe who’s hell-bent on showing off her garage-rock diploma.

      The Black Keys
      El Camino
      There’s a chance this record sucks. Most of us are so doped up on the duo’s down ’n’ dirty blues-rock that it would take a guest turn by J.D. Fortune to make us cry foul. But I’m hoping it’s more than El Camino euphoria that’s making booty-shakers like “Run Right Back” and “Lonely Boy” sound so good.

      Atlas Sound
      It’s no wonder Bradford Cox recently suffered a nervous breakdown. Between his Deerhunter gig and Atlas Sound solo project, there’s hardly time to kick back in the La-Z-Boy. He might have dodged the meltdown had he half-assed Parallax, so let’s applaud Cox for sacrificing his sanity in the name of whipping up more cockeyed pop.

      The Whole Love
      Jeff Tweedy and I haven’t always seen eye to eye but he certainly got my attention with the manic album opener “Art of Almost”. How can you write off a record when it starts so full-throttle? Somehow, even the outrageously over-the-top “Capitol City”—a heavy-handed ode to the Beatles—will worm its way onto your playlist.

      Wooden Shjips
      The next time you get into an argument about whose turn it is to take out the trash, turn this on, real loud—do it mid-spat if you have to. There’s no greater “fuck you” than the drugged-out drone rock this San Fran quartet churned out for West.

      The Weeknd
      House of Balloons
      I swore I’d never warm up to the Weeknd. And I made it a habit to sneer at those losing their shit over the “mysterious” mix tape Drake was suddenly pimping harder than Sprite. But… I was wrong. Truce, Drizzy?

      Tinar-who? The African collective may not be a household name, but that’s no reason to tune it out. Upon hearing this album, NPR Music crowned the group the “best guitar-based rock band of the 21st century”. It’s an unfathomably bold statement—until you hear the traditional Tuareg melodies.

      Feel It Break
      The album rides on the coattails of its sensational lead single, “Beat and the Pulse”, but it’s still deserving of its Top 10 standing. Listen to any track, and when the moody electro meets powerhouse Katie Stelmanis’s operatic voice, you’ll see what all the fuss is about.

      A$AP Rocky
      Before this mix tape ever went viral, 24-year-old A$AP Rocky already had a $3-million record deal. The Harlem MC is cruising for Tyler, the Creator’s crown, and he makes a pretty compelling case here.

      Rock Creek Park
      Another MC-producer who came out of left field—well, left-field Maryland, that is. Oddisee cooked up this largely instrumental hip-hop project in a mere two weeks, a dizzying pace for creating the soundtrack to a sprawling city park. Thanks to his innovative and thoughtful sampling, Rock Creek Park is a rare treat.