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Stephen Thompson's 10 Favorite Albums Of 2011

Wye Oak's <em>Civilian</em>, known now and forever as Stephen Thompson's third favorite record of 2011.
Merge Records
Wye Oak's Civilian, known now and forever as Stephen Thompson's third favorite record of 2011.

It's easy for reviewers to view year-end Top 10 lists as a no-win proposition: You have to leave off stuff you cherished for months. You inevitably wind up cramming for the test, listening to lots of neglected music while operating under the worst possible mindset. ("Do I like this better than I like my 10th-favorite album of the year? No? NEXT.") And, of course, you're guaranteed to get flayed alive in the comments section, given that there's no one on earth whose opinions align evenly with your own.

But you know what? That's just a bunch of glass-half-empty bellyaching. Getting to discover music for a living is a gift, and filing an article at the end of the year about the stuff you loved isn't exactly stirring a vat of boiling tar, as unpleasant tasks go. As for these picks for 2011's 10 best albums — bearing in mind that "best albums" is, as in past years, code for "favorite albums, if you're this one guy" — feel free to have at it in the comments. In the meantime, here's to this year.

You've seen our picks; now tell us yours. Vote for your favorite albums of the year here.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
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