The Best Albums of 2011: #61 through #70

These are selections #61 through #70 in our Best Albums of 2011 countdown series.

#61. All 6's and 7's

by Tech N9ne

Released: June 7, 2011
Label: Strange Music
Metacritic Score: 81
Charts: #1 R&B Albums, #4 The Billboard 200, #1 Top Independent Albums, #1 Top Rap Albums

Technicians will absolutely eat All 6's And 7's up, but what makes it one of 2011's best is its wide appeal. Military cadence, beats that reverberate for days, super fast raps, and highly creative breaks and changes keep the album driving forward like a Mack truck that's lost its brakes. You're not quite sure what's around the corner -- and just when you find a breather, boom, you're back to clutching the steering wheel as the rig careens further into the unknown.

#62. Underneath The Pine by Toro Y Moi

Released: February 22, 2011
Label: Carpark Records
Metacritic Score: 79
Album Charts: #186 The Billboard 200, #4 Top Heatseekers, #24 Top Independent Albums, #50 Top Rock Albums

Underneath The Pine is like a slowly spinning prism, sparkling and throwing colored light everywhere. It's wonderful to look at -- sometimes chaotic, sometimes barely discernible, and sometimes glimmering powerfully. What makes this album so much fun are the multitude of influences that can be heard throughout the record. Columbia, SC now has two things they can be proud of, the Gamecocks and Chaz Bundick.

#63. W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) by Pharoahe Monch

Released: March 22, 2011
Label: W.A.R. Media
Metacritic Score: 77
Album Charts: #55 The Billboard 200, #9 Top Independent Albums, #7 Top Rap Albums

W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) is the greatest sci-fi hip hop album ever created. The production is through the roof as is Pharoahe's rapid fire word flow. There are points on the record that require a rewind just because you can't believe the rapping you've just heard. W.A.R. is not lacking in chops. On top of the great production and top-flight flow the album is flush with memorable contributions from Idris Elba, Immortal Technique, Vernon Reid, Citizen Cope, Jill Scott and others.

#64. Hell: The Sequel by Bad Meets Evil

Released: June 14, 2011
Label: Shady
Metacritic Score: 72
Album Charts: #1 R&B Albums, #1 The Billboard 200, #1 Top Canadian Albums, #1 Top Digital Albums, #1 Top Rap Albums

Bad Meets Evil is a collaboration between Royce Da 5'9 and Eminem, and Hell: The Sequel is a stand out hip hop surprise for me. Maybe Eminem needed a shot of reality from the trenches that only a talent like Royce could bring. Admittedly, I was not expecting much after what I thought was a pathetic effort from Eminem on 2010's Recovery. You won't find any sensitive trip through self-help strategies here. Shady is back, and badder than ever, but Royce Da 5'9 doesn't just hang with Shady, he's an equal, and together they perform a duet that is indeed "evil". It's like a conversation between Screwtape and Wormwood.

#65. Path Of Totality by Tombs

Released: June 7, 2011
Label: Relapse Records
Metacritic Score: N/A
Album Charts: N/A

Mike Hill's newest project, Tombs, is a trio and they have recorded one of 2011's most powerful and eerie metal albums. Path Of Totality (please don't confuse it with the horrible new Korn album of the same name) is dark and plodding, but I can hear the ghosts of Joy Division, Bauhaus and even Black Flag on this record. It's dark metal, but other non-metal influences have helped to create something truly unique. Path Of Totality is my out-of-the-blue metal pick for 2011. Don't miss it!

#66. Smoke Ring For My Halo by Kurt Vile

Released: March 8, 2011
Label: Matador
Metacritic Score: 82
Album Charts: #154 The Billboard 200, #4 Top Heatseekers, #23 Top Independent Albums, #24 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #38 Top Rock Albums

Smoke Ring For My Halo is Kurt Vile's best album ever, and anyone who disagrees with me is simply wrong. The album has a definite 70s FM vibe, just as you would expect considering Vile's classic rock influences. But Kurt's DIY aesthetic is easy on the ears for those who appreciate the lack of pretension found in low-fi indie rock. Vile has obvious vocal limitation, but writing songs around them is what makes the music so special. Just ask Bob Dylan or Sonic Youth how limits can help forge uniqueness.

#67. Reverie by Joe Henry

Released: October 11, 2011
Label: Anti
Metacritic Score: 81
Album Charts: #13 Top Heatseekers

Joe Henry's career continues to take the same path though the jungle that Tom Waits forged with a dull machete. Reverie is more evidence that he's found a sound that is familiar, yet his own. While Joe can take on strange and sparse instrumentation and win, much like Waits, he has a vastly smoother and more palatable voice than Waits, which may be a negative for some, but will be a plus for the majority of human beings. Reverie has the minimum amount of sounds required to build a song, but they are the right sounds, in the right places, and each one is recorded perfectly. You may not have heard something so rich with so little going on.

#68. Ashes & Fire by Ryan Adams

Released: October 11, 2011
Label: Capitol
Metacritic Score: 77
Album Charts: #7 The Billboard 200, #4 Top Digital Albums, #3 Top Rock Albums

Ryan Adams has been through an extremely prolific phase with a dozen full-length solo studio albums under his belt over the past decade. And while many of these albums have been commercially and critically successful, I've been waiting to get something from him that I love as much as the year 2000's Heartbreaker. A few have come close, but none as close as his latest, Ashes & Fire. As long as Ryan Adams can continue to make records like this, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with.

#69. Weather by Meshell NdegeOcello

Released: November 15, 2011
Label: Naïve
Metacritic Score: 84
Album Charts: #37 R&B Albums

Meshell NdegeOcello is a singular talent. Her voice is both smooth and unique, and her songwriting talent is obvious, but it follows unorthodox structures that are her own. Her talent as a writer and performer make for a powerful combination, but on her new album Weather it reaches even further thanks to the production of someone else with an album on my Top 100 Albums of 2011 list, Joe Henry. Joe produced this record and shares a songwriting credit with Meshell on "Feeling for the Wall". Henry has an amazing sense of space and it works wonders for NdegeOcello's music. But it's just icing on the cake. Granted, it's a high quality, gold leaf fondant icing, but it's icing.

#70. A New Home, in the Old World by Austin Lucas

Released: April 1, 2011
Label: Last Chance Records
Metacritic Score: N/A
Album Charts: N/A

Austin Lucas is a man with a future in Americana music, and it has nothing to do with his looks, but has everything to do with his songwriting chops and the wonderful, unique twang in his voice. This chubby, heavily tattooed singer may not fit the image Nashville heavyweights look for, but his music is lightyears ahead of the vast majority of country music being recorded today. Austin fills a gap between classic traditional country and alt country, and he does it with superb quality songwriting.

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More Best Albums of 2011:

#1-#10, #11-#20, #21-#30, #31-#40, #41-#50, #51-#60, #61-#70, #71-#80, #81-#90, #90-#100