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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

27

Florence and the Machine, ‘Ceremonials’

Flo's second LP rivals Adele's 21 for British white girl soulmama massiveness. From "Shake It Out" to the arena-scale Motown of "Lover to Lover," Big Red brings it again and again, choirs and string players backing a voice that soars so high, it makes them seem like ants on the ground below.

Related
Jody Rosen's Original Review: Florence and the Machine's 'Ceremonials'
Video: Florence Welch on Getting Sweaty and Forgetting Her Lyrics

26

St. Vincent, ‘Strange Mercy’

On her third disc as St. Vincent, singer-guitarist Annie Clark keeps the thrilling art punk flowing. Whether she's telling some lucky guy to "come cut me open" over analog-synth seizures or singing a guitar-grinding single mom's lullaby, she turns sexy unburdening and weird-science sonics into something irresistible.

Related
Will Hermes' Original Reviews: St. Vincent's 'Strange Mercy'
St. Vincent Cuts Loose in New York