10 Underrated 2011 Albums You Need to Hear

Nature abhors a vacuum, and the music industry abhors a lack of lists. These days, it isn’t enough to just sit down in December and choose your favorite albums of the year — and so, with July 1 about to roll around, music writers everywhere have been amusing themselves making lists of the best albums of 2011 so far. The same names seem to be cropping up everywhere — James Blake, PJ Harvey, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, etc. — and while they’re all worthy choices, they also amount to a fairly homogenized consensus view that’s already starting to exclude a bunch of other fantastic albums that have been released over the last six months. As such, we thought we’d pull together a selection of albums that have been largely or completely ignored in the recent frenzy of listomania.

Julianna Barwick — The Magic Place

Perhaps the most overlooked album of 2011 to date, The Magic Place has been almost entirely absent from any of the lists we’ve seen — the redoubtable Anthony Carew of about.com has nominated this as his best album of the year thus far, but pretty much everyone else seems to have completely spaced on it. We’re not sure why, because The Magic Place is one of the most beautiful things we’ve heard this year. It’s almost entirely vocal-based, layering wave after wave of vocal tracks that create grand washes of sound, unlike just about anything else anyone is making at the moment and yet never remote or forbidding. It’s ambient music that commands listening, abstract sound that’s warm and welcoming. If you’ve not heard it yet, you owe it to yourself to get hold of a copy.