Civilian, known now and forever as Stephen Thompson's third favorite record of 2011.
Wye Oak's Civilian, known now and forever as Stephen Thompson's third favorite record of 2011. Merge Records
It's easy for reviewers to view year-end Top 10 lists as a no-win proposition: You have to leave off stuff you cherished for months. You inevitably wind up cramming for the test, listening to lots of neglected music while operating under the worst possible mindset. ("Do I like this better than I like my 10th-favorite album of the year? No? NEXT.") And, of course, you're guaranteed to get flayed alive in the comments section, given that there's no one on earth whose opinions align evenly with your own.
But you know what? That's just a bunch of glass-half-empty bellyaching. Getting to discover music for a living is a gift, and filing an article at the end of the year about the stuff you loved isn't exactly stirring a vat of boiling tar, as unpleasant tasks go. As for these picks for 2011's 10 best albums — bearing in mind that "best albums" is, as in past years, code for "favorite albums, if you're this one guy" — feel free to have at it in the comments. In the meantime, here's to this year.
You've seen our picks; now tell us yours. Vote for your favorite albums of the year here.