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Overlooked Albums of 2011

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'Tis the season for year-end lists. It's that time when we watch all of our favorite music blogs, magazines and podcasters count down their favorite everything from the last 365 days. On most years, you can identify a narrative or consensus on which albums ranks highly. The flipside of this is that some albums get universally overlooked. Sometimes they don't have the same marketing hype, or they don't impress the right gatekeepers, or they get lost in the shuffle among higher profile releases. Year-end lists also tend to coincide with a bump in music consumption; people use them to look back on what they missed. With that in mind, I'd like to propose just a small handful of albums that were either left off of most lists altogether, or weren't ranked high enough to get noticed. They're out of the spotlight for whatever reason, but deserve to be on your year-end backlog. Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest It was 8 years since we last heard from Gillian Welch, and her most recent offering is another triumph in her brand of dark, beautiful folk and bluegrass. Her songwriting is sharp and deeply affecting and when coupled with David Rawlings' impressive guitar work (you should see him live), they seem unbeatable at this game. Son Lux – We Are Rising Ryan Lott, aka Son Lux, specializes in innovative, cinematic trip hop/electronic music. He was working on a follow-up to his 2008 debut when NPR approached him with a challenge: Make an album from scratch in one month. For some reason, he took them up on the challenge, and the result is We Are Rising. That time-based challenge could work as a disclaimer too, where if you aren't impressed by the album he could simply chalk it up to time constraints, but I'm not sure if that's necessary. The finished product is a unique, sometimes epic, but always interesting blend of orchestral riffs, dramatic beat drops, and beautiful choir & opera samples. ARMS – Summer Skills ARMS at their best sounds like pure indie rock. They exude youth and creativity that's important to the genre, and wrap it up in catchy melodies and infectious bass grooves. Maybe it's not the most innovative or revolutionary, but the music is so easy to get lost in. Summer Skills is definitely their most stirring work.

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