American Legacies on Huffington Post's list of best albums of 2011

Huffington Post Grammy Preview: The Best Albums of 2011 From Top to Bottom
Michael Giltz

I’ve traveled to the future and can reassure you that Adele will have a fun night at the Grammys on Sunday. Her album is one of those inevitable triumphs at an awards show that feels right. Adele has dominated the charts and the radio and critics; if she’d been able to tour, we’d probably be saying how much better her songs sound in concert than they do on the album and realize she has room to grow. Her smash hit 21 is in every sense the album of the year.

So I was surprised in my recent trip down South to realize how few people actually own it. Five million copies is nothing to sneeze at in the North American market, but a lot more people should snap it up. If and when they do, here are some other albums you might want to consider purchasing as well. These days, you can check them out first on Spotify or MySpace so you won’t have to take my word for it before spending your precious entertainment dollars. I have an embarrassing lack of classical music this year (I just wasn’t exposed to much), but there’s something for almost everyone — pop, rock, country, jazz, gospel, world music, film scores, ambient, folk and more. If you’ve liked the artist before or enjoy the genre, I’ll bet it’s worth your time.
Now make sure you read the list and immediately chide me for not including so and so (Wilco! Jayhawks! Tuneyards!) or for foolishly including so and so (Panic! at the Disco? Really?) or for having one act too high (Glen Campbell in the Top 10?) or too low (Frank Ocean at the bottom?). Hey, it wouldn’t be fun if we didn’t argue. I’m especially looking forward to getting tips about any albums I haven’t heard yet. Chances are if an act is on a lot of year-end lists that I probably already gave it a listen. But little known favorites of yours are very welcome comments indeed. That’s certainly all I hope to achieve with my picks: point you in the direction of an album or two I think you’ll love. And now, the list! Come back over the weekend and I promise to add in some comments explaining my choices.

BEST ALBUMS OF 2011

1. FLEET FOXES Helplessness Blues (CSN rocks out)
2. TOM WAITS Bad As Me (bohemian troubadour in top form)
3. KING CREOSOTE & JON HOPKINS Diamond Mine (quirky concept album, gorgeously done)
4. GILLIAN WELCH The Harrow and the Harvest (simple, straightforward, striking folk)
5. TEDDY THOMPSON Bella / kd lang Sing It Loud /RON SEXSMITH — Long Player, Late Bloomer (pure pop by pure pros)
6. WYNTON MARSALIS AND ERIC CLAPTON Play the Blues / BRANFORD MARSALIS AND JOEY CALDARAZZO Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (trad jazz)
7. GLEN CAMPBELL Ghost on the Canvas (haunting country pop)
8. BOMBINO Agadez (Tuareg rocks!) / BOUBACAR TRAORE Mali Denhou (gentle African guitar) / LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO Songs From a Zulu Farm (ecstatic and playful children’s music)
9. VARIOUS ARTISTS This May Be My Last Time Singing: Raw African American Gospel on 45 RPM (1957-1982) (lo-fi, high flying gospel that’s so good you’ll convert)
10. ADELE 21 (unstoppable soul diva)
11. GROUPLOVE Never Trust a Happy Song (raucous LA pop-rock)
12. PANIC! AT THE DISCO Vices & Virtues (sterling but overlooked pop-rock)
13. NICK LOWE The Old Magic (vintage wine, vintage bottle)
14. WILD FLAG Wild Flag (giving super groups a good name)
15. BRAD MEHLDAU Modern Music (dependably adventurous jazz trio)/COLIN VALLON — Rruger (bold EU trio following in Mehldau’s wake)
16. JAY-Z AND KANYE WEST Watch the Throne (braggadocio taken to new heights)
17. BON IVER Bon Iver (stares down success with quiet confidence)
18. BALLAKE SISSOKO AND VINCENT SEGAL Chamber Music (delicate instrumentals)
19. PAUL SIMON So Beautiful or So What (mortality, musically)
20. BETH HART & JOE BONAMASSA Don’t Explain (the blues, thumpingly good)
***
21. PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND AND DEL MCCOURY BANDAmerican Legacies (an institution finds new life via collaboration)
22. AMBROSE AKINMUSIRE When the Heart Emerges Glistening (quietly probing jazz)
23. JAMES BLAKE James Blake (trippy pop)
24. VARIOUS ARTISTS Live From the Old Town School (folk’s beating heart)
25. GIRLS Father, Son, Holy Ghost (interesting identity crisis)
26. TINARIWEN Tassili (bluesy, distinctive, campfire sing-alongs)
27. JOY FORMIDABLE The Big Roar (noisy pop)
28. DARI0 MARINELLI WITH JACK LIEBECK Jane Eyre soundtrack (the year’s best traditional score)/ MATTHEW COOPER Some Days Are Better Than Others (the year’s best untraditional score)
29. THE CORAL Butterfly House/THE MAGIC NUMBERS Runaway (pop, unimported, unrecognized)
30. PISTOL ANNIES Pistol Annies / MIRANDA LAMBERT Four The Record (country’s top gal and friends)
***
31. THE LOW ANTHEM Smart Flesh (brainy Americana)
32. CHARLIE HADEN AND QUARTET WEST Sophisticated Ladies (female singers, jazz swingers)
33. THE BLACK KEYS El Camino (rock, no fuss)
34. M83 Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (ambient pop)
35. ALISON KRAUSS AND UNION STATION Paper Airplanes/ JOHN HIATTDirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns (old dogs, old tricks, happily so)
36. BEASTIE BOYS Hot Sauce Committee, Part Two (feisty hip-hop from the old-timers)
37. BEN HOWARD Every Kingdom (gentle pop)/MIKE BLOOM King Of Circles (WARM singer-songwriter vibe for this solo debut)
38. VINICIUS CANTUARIA AND BILL FRISELL Lagrimas Mexicanas (two great guitars, one great voice equal haunting Latin music)/
39. THE GOURDS Old Mad Joy (rootsy celebration) / MARC BROUSSARD Marc Broussard (bluesy rock)
40. SUZANNE VEGA Close-Up Volume 3: State Of Being (acoustic songs, electric songwriting) for fu

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