2011′s Best Albums: Idolator’s Favorite 10 Out Of ’11

Since January, our ears have reveled in hearing new LPs from several bona fide superstars and promising debuts from up-and-coming artists. Of course, there was also one juggernaut from a power-house Brit vocalist that shattered all expectations. Naturally, a few of our discoveries rose above the usual din, and it’s about time we shared the music that truly sound-tracked our 2011.

And so, like at the end of 2010, each of the site’s three editors recently took it upon themselves to strap on their pumped up kicks and sift through the records that ran the world, rolled in the deep and took them to their own personal edge of glory in 2011. Head below to catch the roundup of Idolator’s 10 Favorite Albums Of The Year (which, we’ll point out, are in no particular order).

Foster The People TorchesFoster The People, Torches

ROBBIE DAW: It’s interesting to dig around online and read all of the lore that’s out there about this band — particularly the bit that notes Mark Foster was at one time apparently being courted by Death Row Records in the hopes of shaping him into a blue-eyed soul solo act, a la Robin Thicke — because I just can’t picture it. Genre-wise, Torches is all over the place, but it works thanks to the solid songwriting and impeccable melodies that run throughout.  Seeing FTP’s energetic live show helps seal the deal.
Key Track: “Don’t Stop (Color On The Walls)” is the LP’s brash and bratty rock jam.

Lady Gaga Born This WayLady Gaga, Born This Way

BECKY BAIN: When I first listened to Gaga’s latest opus (a week early — sorry, Gaga!), I couldn’t pin it down — what was this musical monster? Lyrically, sonically and thematically, the album is all over the place. It’s overwhelmed with religious imagery that’s mashed up with dive bar adoration, political statements, self-empowerment anthems, ’80s synths, country power ballads, mariachi bands, not to mention several different languages. But I love that Gaga didn’t even attempt to restrain herself in any way. Pulling back a little would have perhaps made a more cohesive album, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as exciting.
Key Track: “Heavy Metal Lover”, which isn’t one bit heavy metal, captures Gaga’s inner nightclub maven.

Beyonce 4Beyonce, 4

ERIKA BROOKS ADICKMAN: Like our pals on the The Skorpion Show, my first listen of “Run The World (Girls)” left me with the taste of “meh”. It wasn’t until I watched Beyonce’s jaw-dropping performance of the girl-power track on Le Grand Journal that something clicked. I’m not sure whether the mother-to-be and I had a real moment or what, but from then on I was all for 4. The album starts off with a slow burn with love ballads like “1 + 1″ and mellow jams “Party” and “Love On Top” before igniting into four-alarm-fire dance tracks (“Countdown”). The 30-year-old may be happily married, but, man, does she make “Best Thing I Never Had” believable.
Key Track: “End Of Time” is fun and dancy, and evokes the drumline excitement of Destiny’s Child’s “Lose My Breath”.

Will Young EchoesWill Young, Echoes

RD: Smooth-voiced Will is having a major comeback in his home country of the UK thanks to this album, which is flawlessly produced by Richard X. (Unfortunately, Echoes is currently only available in the States on import.) The music included takes you on a journey through dance, retro-sounding jams and ballads awash with synths and somber piano chords. Lyrically, Young, now 10 years on from becoming the world’s first Idol winner in the franchise, digs deep into his own experiences with heartache and the darker side of relationships. If tasked with only choosing one album from 2011 that really knocked me for a loop, this could well be it.
Key Track: Electro-pop perfection is achieved on “Losing Myself”.

Oh LandOh Land, Oh Land

BB: Oh Land,  whose real name is Nanna Øland Fabricius, was first brought to my attention when I wrote a Popping Up feature on her. A year later, I’m still fawning over her self-titled US debut. Jumping from heartbreaking to jovial (sometimes within the same track) this Danish artist has created a beautiful, haunting and unforgettable album. The woman had originally trained to be a ballet dancer. Lucky for us, she blossomed into a risk-taking musician — one who thrilled both us and all in attendance at our South By Southwest Pray For Pop party earlier this year!
Key Track: “Wolf And I”, an unforgettable melodic fable about star-crossed love.

Adele 21Adele, 21

EBA: I first fell for 21 back in the fall of 2010. Adele dropped by the Idolator office and let us sample tracks from the LP, and I found myself fighting back tears. “Rolling In The Deep” was like a gateway drug into the album, and I couldn’t get enough. There is something in the British songbird’s sound that exhibits beautiful melancholy and heartbreak that reminds me of the late Laura Nyro (see: “Gonna Take A Miracle” and “Wedding Bell Blues”). The rich soul in the 23-year-old’s voice brings me back to Bonnie Raitt’s “Been Too Long At The Fair” and “Love Has No Pride”. One doesn’t need to have gone through a break up to find solace in 21, but, hey, it doesn’t hurt.
Key Track: Gospel-inspired tune “Take It All” will never get the non-stop airplay of “Rolling In The Deep” or “Someone Like You”, and that’s a shame.

The Sound Of Arrows VoyageThe Sound Of Arrows, Voyage

RD: I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for this Swedish duo’s shimmery debut album to come out. (Actually, it’s only been since 2009, when the cinematic and strange video for “Into The Clouds” drifted online.) This pristine dream pop LP is brimming with synths and is best listened to while laying in a field of blue and yellow flowers, closing your eyes and teleporting yourself onto the clouds a mile above. But I feel I should warn you: the aptly-titled Voyage is a highly addictive experience that refuses to be played just once in a sitting.
Key Track: There really isn’t a song to be skipped here, but one particular highlight is the forlorn “Wonders”.

Patrick Stump Soul PunkPatrick Stump, Soul Punk

BB: As a huge Fall Out Boy fan, I had been awaiting a solo album from Mr. Stump for a long time. That solo album I had been imagining — a continuation of FOB’s sound, basically —  wasn’t what he ended up delivering. It’s better. Patrick went glam, revved up the synths and showed us what happens when he’s not restricted to the pop-punk genre. After years of letting Pete Wentz’s lyrics flow out of his mouth, it’s wonderful to finally hear what Patrick has to say. (Did I mention he wrote every song, played every single instrument and produced the entire album himself? Truly the most “solo” solo album of the year.)
Key Track: “Run Dry (x heart x fingers)”, an ode to imbibing and letting yourself make mistakes.

Ben Folds RetrospectiveBen Folds, The Best Imitation Of Myself: A Retrospective

EBA: Ben Folds Five broke up before I got to see them live. So, while this compilation contains some of Ben’s more commonly known tracks, having the chance to hear previously-unreleased live songs like “Narcolepsy” (from a 1999 Stockholm performance) gave me the concert experience I was never able to have. Rare first cuts like “Julianne”, off a never-released 1994 album, and shelved demos like “Unrelated” makes this three-disc compilation worth every penny. Perfect for the lifetime Ben Folds fan and a great introduction for the person who just thinks of the North Carolinian as merely That Judge From The Sing-Off.
Key Track: “Smoke” (performed live with the Western Australian Symphony) in a word: unreal.

Britney Spears Femme FataleBritney Spears, Femme Fatale

RD: I’ll just come out and say it, and the Britney fans can hate or debate all they want: I think Femme Fatale beats Blackout as far as Spears’ best album is concerned. For me, they’re the only two albums she’s released that I find myself going back to and giving repeat listens in their entirety, and FF just sounds more like a consistent and focused effort, thanks to exec producers Max Martin and Dr. Luke. Sure, Brit’s voice has never sounded less like a human than it does here. But this era of the singer’s career gave her three Top 10 singles off an album for the first time and gave me a disc of tunes that hasn’t left my car since March.
Key Track: Dubstep-riddled lead single “Hold It Against Me”.

Have thoughts on our picks? Want to let us know what your own fave albums of 2011 are? Let us know in the comments below, or by hitting us up on Facebook and Twitter!

  • RYK101

    where’s rihanna’s “talk that talk” i know we are all entitled to our opinions but TTT was critically more acclaimed than some of these albums, hence it was the pop album of the year anyway not like this list the only albums i heard entirely were 21 and Femme Fatale and only 21 survived in my ipod

  • tammy

    I AGree with you!!!

  • http://www.vertigoshtick.com vertigoshtick

    You forgot Selena Gomez and the Scene’s surprisingly excellent “When the Sun Goes Down”

    • Becky Bain

      It was a surprisingly solid album… it just didn’t wow us enough to be one of our faves of the year. Personally, though, “Love You Like A Love Song” just might be in my Top 10 pop singles of 2011. So there’s that!

      • http://www.vertigoshtick.com vertigoshtick

        Ditto on LYLALS, no doubt about it. I’m not even sure how I’d explain it…there just is something in that water!

        And I keep hittin’ re-pe-pe-pe-pe-pe-peat (literally).

  • FovealSpot

    Three cheers for The Sound of Arrows! Voyage is The Pop Album of the Year, in my humble opinion.

  • wrs

    god why there isnt any florence in this??

  • Fan4me

    Albums that should be on this list too:
    “Goodbye Lullaby” by Avril Lavigne
    “When The Sun Goes Down” by Selena Gomez & The Scene
    “Unbroken” by Demi Lovato
    “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson
    “Talk That Talk” by Rihanna

    But I agree with “4″, “Femme Fatale”, “Born This Way”, and “21″

  • Sarah

    I only agree with a few of the albums on this list, but I’m very happy for the recognition Oh Land is starting to get for her work. I’m wondering though, what are your thoughts on Lykke Li’s 2011 album Wounded Rhymes?

  • Sarah


  • FovealSpot

    Where is Pnau’s stupendous Soft Universe??

  • E

    What about Nicola Roberts’s album or Ceremonials?
    And well, i kind of loved TTT but well….
    Anyway, i agree w Born This Way, Femme Fatale, and Oh Land. They are solid, and the songs deal w many things.
    I loved 21, but idk if i can add it as a top record because it’s only made of love songs…

  • Z

    There’s no way Femme Fatale is better than Blackout. But it is her second best album :)

  • FovealSpot

    And what about Le Kid’s almighty debut Oh, Alright?

    Certainly one of the year’s best, too.

  • Irving

    i love lykke li & oh land!!!! it´s best!!!!!!

  • SantosInDecember

    I can’t get over how horrible “Born This Way” is. Gaga peddled a boundary pushing, ground breaking album and all that she delivered was regurgitated sounds and songs from predecessors of before.

    BTW’s inclusion on this list is even more frustrating considering how much greater and unique “Bionic” is. THAT album was one of the best of 2010 and was more diverse and satisfying than anything any Monster has put out.

    Anyways, thanks for clueing me in on some fresh artists that I haven’t heard yet.

  • kelsey

    Definitely Born This Way (a given). Such an upgrade from her last album
    and LOVE Oh Land! so glad for her success

  • RYK101

    yes!! though there are some missing like MTV, VH1 and one UK review i don’t remember lol though i was referring compared to another albums in this list TTT was a little more acclaimed but i gotta admit (being a rihanna stan) that Raed R is her best! And I don’t think TTT is better than Loud, which is weird cause TTT is solid and great and cohesive but it’s the album that shows the least of her versatility

  • jhon

    femme fatale is just the best album
    so epic!

  • pond

    would add mads langer behold . . .

  • hoipolloi

    Sound of Arrows Voyage is basically genius – The bonus instrumental disc is bliss. I cannot believe this has so far been overlooked by so many.

    Femme Fatale ia also brilliant as was Ke$ha’s Cannibal but I guess for you guys that was 2010.

  • Adriana

    I’m a HUGE RIhanna fan and consider myself a true stan, but to say Talk That Talk was the best album of 2011 is just rediculous. Talk That Talk should have just stayed LOUD-ER because TALK THAT TALK doest really offer anything new or groundbreaking or exciting. “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been” are great dance tracks but sort of have that “Johnny come lately” vibe to me…LMFAO already did the big house track thing earlier this year and Britney already took a stab at making dubstep pop with Femme Fatale. TTT is basically a hybrid of Rated R, Loud and GGGB and not as good an any of them as a stand alone album (Rated R is still her ultimate best IMO).

  • http://www.radiocremebrulee.com Pranav

    “Echoes” by Will Young is absolutely brilliant. The US is really losing out by not having any exposure to Will Young.

  • ZMH

    echoes might be one of the most brilliant pop album this year. i never expected i would like a will young album but I do, very much.

  • Oliver Gibbon

    I know right! I was hoping lungs would be on here, even though it was made in ’08. . .

  • rylee

    Am I the only one that’s glad Ben Folds is on here?

  • Courtney

    Patrick Stump! Soul Punk is one of my favorite albums.

  • Scarlett

    LOVE Patrick Stump! So glad that I discovered him this year.

  • Charlie

    ‘Soul Punk’ definitely had to be on this list. It is incredible, I entirely agree with you!!

  • Ryan

    Am I the only one who was glad to see Ben Folds get the recognition he deserves? Best Immatation of Myself is easily one of the best albums that came out this year and it’s awesome to see it get recognized as such.

  • Dave Fugera

    I am also glad that Ben Folds is on the list! That rocks!

  • http://laurasoho.blogspot.com/ laurasoho

    Here’s my top 12… I didn’t include any of those you have chosen http://laurasoho.blogspot.com/2011/12/mis-12-de-2011.html

  • KTV

    Okay, no one laugh, but one of the most listenable and repeatable album of the year, the one to dance to, to sing to, to just enjoy is….LOVE? (deluxe edition) by Jennifer Lopez. Fantasic dance beats (Papi and On the Floor are fantastic), touching ballads, and unique surprises (just listen to Hypnotico and you will be blown away) I’m telling you the album is dynamite. (kudos too to Brit’s Femme Fatale, Adele’s 21…Rihanna just needs a break, she’s got Justin Timberlake syndrome from 2 years ago, guesting on EVERYONE’s singles, love her but too much product. Loud was amazing, though, now, just rest the pipes RiRi!

  • Michelle

    Wheres Florence and the Machine!!! But i agree Selena Gomez should be up there here album was really solid!! you should listen to her new single “Hit the Lights”, it has a really good beat to it.. Its addictive to my ears :)

  • Anton90

    Album of the year is either Adele or Lady Gaga, not Rihanna.

  • Anton90

    Ohh and My top 10 albums of this year are :
    1. Born this Way – Lady Gaga
    2. Red – Dia Frampton
    3. Evanescence – Evanescence
    4. Ceremonials – Florence + The Machine
    5. Body Talk – Robyn
    6. Endgame – Rise Against
    7. Encounter – Green Children
    8. Wasting Light – Foo Fighters
    9. Goodbye Lullaby – Avril Lavigne
    10. 21 – Adele

  • Mike Cloutier

    I vote for Jackie Evancho’s Christmas album as the one that gives that Christmas spirit to everyone who has the chance to listen to it.

  • rain009

    my 2011 fav….
    goodbye lullaby- avril
    21- adele
    hell: the sequel- bad meets evil
    stronger- kelly clarkson
    mylo xyloto- coldplay
    up all night- one direction

  • Michelle

    That album list sucks!! sorry

  • Ceci

    I’m in love with Femme Fatale! One of Britney’s best album. You never get bored of it, it’s just amazing, the sound, the lyrcis, everything!! I can’t decide which song is my favorite one, they are all amazing. I have to say, it’s a pity Up n’ Down was just a bonus track in the Deluxe Version, it’s such an incredible song!!

    I think Lady Gaga’s Born This Way isn’t a good album. She has a great voice, but the songs were really poor. The best song of the album is The Edge of Glory.

    I find Adele’s album quite boring. I know she has an AMAZING voice, but all the songs talk about heartbrakes and love, there’s no variation. Hope her next album speaks about different things. Her best songs: Rolling in the Deep and Someone like you (i’m completeley in love with it)

    I don’t like Beyonce’s album, in my opinion Love On Top is the best song of it. Her previous album: I am…Sasha Fierce was sooooo much better than this one. A pity, she has a great voice.

    I can’t talk about the others because i haven’t heard them.

  • Ab

    AMEN! F+TM should have been on this list. “Ceremonials” was brilliant.

  • Ab

    @Cecl, you sound like a narrow headed Britney fan. Adele & Gaga’s albums both outperformed Britney’s and are a lot better in everyones opinion.

  • PITy 2011

    I just wanna see the mom’s boobs some more. Is that too much to ask!?

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