From Adele to Tom Waits: Rolling in the 10 Best Albums of 2011
In 2011, it was Adele's world and we were just sobbing in it. At least according to that Saturday Night Live sketch in which "Someone Like You" reduces an entire office to tears, which captured just how much the British soul singer has become a part of America's musical and emotional zeitgeist.
Adele's sales so far outstripped any other artist's that you could be forgiven—almost—for assuming that hers was the only album that mattered this year. But there was plenty of terrific stuff bubbling up in her shadow. So let's go rolling in the deep greatness of what 2011 had to offer with this list of the year's 10 most impressive albums:
PISTOL ANNIES: Hell on Heels
There was no twang-talking, hard-drinking, pill-popping, gold-digging, trailer-rocking album this year quite like the Pistol Annies' debut. Miranda Lambert had a great solo record in 2011, but even that effort wasn't as heavenly as Hell on Hells, her collaborative side project with pals Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley. These firecrackers came bearing a triple load of country attitude, but they weren't too sassy to show their softer side in tender songs about pregnant brides, housewife ennui, and sweet Southern boys.
TOM WAITS: Bad as Me
Waits' most accessible album in 25 years mixed comedy with tragedy… weird neo-rockabilly with Tin Pan Alley traditionalism… and Howlin' Wolf's blues with Screamin' Jay Hawkin's howling. Keith Richards showed up to play guitar on several songs and sing a harmony vocal on "Satisfied," a funny, mortality-themed sequel to the Stones' "Satisfaction." Some of his more winsome and haunting ballads, meanwhile, are begging to be covered by gentler-voiced crooners. An album as good as Bad as Me proves Waits is every bit as much a grizzled national treasure as Dylan.