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The 1st half report

The 1st half report 2011

If you're in a band and you're wanting acclaim from reviewers, our survey of the most critically-acclaimed albums of the first half of 2011 would suggest that the fastest route to winning those plaudits would be to disband immediately and go it alone.

Only three of our top 10 top-rated albums came from those operating as conventional band formats: Wild Beasts, Earth and Fleet Foxes. (PS I Love You could just about be regarded as a band, but is a guitar/drums duo in any way conventional?)

Otherwise, solo artists rule the critical roost. Or nominally solo, at least. Gillian Welch is partnered by her partner, Dave Rawlings and Bon Iver now has a band with him. Shabazz Palaces is a moot case: this is a vehicle for Ishmael Butler but is also an anonymous collective.

This continues a trend established when Arcade Fire and The National were the sole out-and-out regular bands who featured in the highest-rated albums of 2010.

Why so? Possibly because critics are drawn to distinctive character and originality, traits which are more easily found in individual artists than joint enterprises. There's no question that Welch, PJ Harvey, Merrill Garbus (tUnE-YaRdS), Iver and Josh T Pearson are all singer-songwriters following singular musical paths.

Yet again, rock appears to be a minority interest for critics, with drone merchants Earth and noise popsters PS I Love You the only representatives from the guitar-toting classes.

It's a pattern discernible throughout the following 40 names in our ratings: groups - and particularly rock groups - are hugely under-represented. Is this a harbinger of the demise of the singer-guitar-bass-drums staple? We doubt it. There'll be a revival along any minute now. That's why we love modern music.

* Only albums attracting more than 10 reviews are included.

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8.76

Gillian Welch

The Harrow & The Harvest

This is one of the most defiantly traditional, non-radical and deceptively simple albums in recent memory.

music OMH

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8.73

PJ Harvey

Let England Shake

A richly inventive album that's unlike anything else in Harvey's back catalogue.

The Guardian

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8.47

Shabazz Palaces

Black Up

If there's been a better album, hip-hop or not, out this year, I haven't heard it.

Prefix

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8.26

tUnE-YaRdS

whokill

Call her Madame Beefheart if you want, because in this inspired and inspirational racket I detect the sound of a cult star being born.

Independent On Sunday

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8.24

Bon Iver

Bon Iver

After the closeness and austerity of For Emma, Vernon has given us a knotty record that resists easy interpretation but is no less warm or welcoming.

Pitchfork

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8.23

Wild Beasts

Smother

Tinkles and twinkles like the classiest adult-alternative pop of the 1980s.

Independent On Sunday

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8.21

Earth

Angels Of Darkness Demons Of Light 1

A beautiful, slow-burning jewel of an album, proof that Earth's continued march is unmissable.

AU Magazine

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8.14

PS I Love You

Meet Me At The Muster Station

This is a rare sort of album - a great rock record without gimmickry.

Consequence Of Sound

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8.10

Josh T Pearson

Last Of The Country Gentlemen

One of the greatest and most compelling albums to emerge from this decade so far.

The Line Of Best Fit

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8.08

Fleet Foxes

Helplessness Blues

Wide-eyed self-searching is this record's predominant mode, which Fleet Foxes do both lyrically and sonically, reveling in the process of discovery.

A.V. Club

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And the next 40

11. Gang Gang Dance Eye Contact
12. Destroyer Kaputt
13. The Weeknd House Of Balloons
14. James Blake James Blake
15. Tim Hecker Ravedeath 1972
16. Fucked Up David Comes To Life
17. Lykke Li Wounded Rhymes
18. The Antlers Burst Apart
19. King Creosote & John Hopkins Diamond Mine
20. Bill Callahan Apocalypse
21. Elbow Build A Rocket Boys!
22. Paul Simon So Beautiful So What
23. Nicolas Jaar Space Is Only Noise
24. Wire Red Barked Tree
25. Iron & Wine Kiss Each Other Clean
26. Julianna Barwick The Magic Place
27. Dels Gob
28. TV On The Radio Nine Types Of Light
29. Johann Johannsson The Miners' Hymns
30. Connan Mockasin Forever Dolphin Love
31. Low C'mon
32. White Denim D
33. Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat Everything's Getting Older
34. Metronomy The English Riviera
35. Wye Oak Civilian
36. Okkervil River I Am Very Far
37. Marissa Nadler Marissa Nadler
38. EMA Past Life Martyred Saints
39. Austra Feel It Break
40. The Unthanks Last
41. Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie XX We're New...
42. Black Lips Arabia Mountain
43. Akron/Family Akron/Family II: The Cosmic...
44. The Joy Formidable The Big Roar
45. Anna Calvi Anna Calvi
46. Cat's Eyes Cat's Eyes
47. Vessels Helioscope
48. Explosions In The Sky Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
49. Raphael Saadiq Stone Rollin'
50. Radiohead The King Of Limbs

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