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50 Best Albums of 2011

The best albums of the year included Adele turning personal turmoil into a blockbuster for the ages on 21, Jay-Z and Kanye reveling in luxury rap on Watch the Throne and Lady Gaga channeling Springsteen on Born This Way.

Contributors: Stacey Anderson, Jon Dolan, David Fricke, Will Hermes, Monica Herrera, Jody Rosen, Rob Sheffield, Simon Vozick-Levinson

31

Miranda Lambert, ‘Four the Record’

"It takes all kinds of kinds," Lambert sings – and proves it. Four gives us all kinds of Mirandas: from honky-tonk traditionalist ("Same Old You") to sonic experimenter (the hazy, half-drunk daydream "Fine Tune") to loving wife ("Better in the Long Run," with Blake Shelton). Even so, it's her most easeful and assured effort yet.

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30

Tom Morello, The Nightwatchman: ‘World Wide Rebel Songs’

Morello balances Woody Guthrie folk-warrior screeds with Rage Against the Machine guitar heroics – praising unions, firing off face-melting solos and duetting soulfully with Ben Harper. It's working-class storytelling and roots-minded songcraft hot-wired by a master mechanic.

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Jon Dolan's Original Review: Tom Morello, The Night Watchman's,'World Wide Rebel Songs'
Video Playlist: Tom Morello Rocks Out as The Nightwatchman