Calculating Quality: The Best Albums of 2011


Note: This is a master list, NOT P&P’s list of best albums. That’s coming soon.

This is a thinking man’s piece. If you dislike Excel spreadsheets, calculated averages or goats, then this video of Justin Bieber botching a recitement of the continents is probably more your speed. For the 32% or so that are still with me, your patience and appreciation for brainwave activity is about payoff in spades.

The Purpose

“Best of” lists are great. They’re a chance to catch yourself up any under-the-radar gems you may have missed throughout the year. We turn to these to make sure we’re in the know, and to discover artists or albums we might not have otherwise been introduced to. But honestly, who has enough free time to chew through all of those lists? It’s time consuming and there are often times one-off random albums that get lumped in towards the end and don’t truly deserve to be labeled a “best of”. Our objective was to simplify your review process and let the numbers do the work. This ultimately eliminated the outliers and whittled down ten Top 25 industry lists, into one.

The Process

Our approach was fairly simple. Select a wide sample base, plug the information into a spreadsheet, total how many times each album appeared on a list and then calculate the average rank of each. The order in which the albums appear on this list were determined based on frequency first, average rank second. If multiple albums had an equal number of appearances, then their ordering was determined by average rank. There are some even-ties on here and this is the only time our preference played a factor in order (see example of The Weeknd and Drake at seven and eight, respectively). Otherwise it’s a much less subjective, and far more accurate representation of which albums this year deserved top nod.

The Results

So there you have it. Motive and execution. This shit is like the Voltron of lists, so time to let our findings speak for themselves. Have a look below…

Lists considered: Paste, Mojo, Uncut, Rolling Stone, Q, Amazon, Stereogum, MTV, Fact and NME.

25. Tom Waits – Bad As Me
(Frequency – 3, Average Rank – 15.0)

24. The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient
(Frequency – 3, Average Rank – 14.0)

23. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
(Frequency – 3, Average Rank – 12.3)

22. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead
(Frequency – 3, Average Rank – 11.7)

21. Paul Simon – So Beautiful Or So What
(Frequency – 3, Average Rank – 10.0)

20. Wilco – The Whole Love
(Frequency – 3, Average Rank – 10.0)

19. St . Vincent – Strange Mercy
(Frequency – 3, Average Rank – 8.7)

18. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
(Frequency – 3, Average Rank – 8.7)

17. Metronomy – The English Riviera
(Frequency – 3, Average Rank – 7.3)

16. Fucked Up – David Comes To Life
(Frequency – 3, Average Rank – 3.7)

15. Frank Ocean – Nostalgia, Ultra
(Frequency – 4, Average Rank – 17.5)

14. Beyoncé – 4
(Frequency – 4, Average Rank – 17.5)

13. James Blake – James Blake
(Frequency – 4, Average Rank – 14.3)

12. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
(Frequency – 4, Average Rank – 11.8)

11. Wild Beasts – Smother
(Frequency – 4, Average Rank – 11.8)

10. Radiohead – The King of Limbs
(Frequency – 4, Average Rank – 11.3)

9. My Morning Jacket – Circuital
(Frequency – 4, Average Rank – 9.5)

8. Drake – Take Care
(Frequency – 4, Average Rank – 8.5)

7. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
(Frequency – 4, Average Rank – 8.5)

6. Jay – Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne
(Frequency – 4, Average Rank – 6.5)

5. The Horrors – Skying
(Frequency – 5, Average Rank – 5.4)

4. Adele – 21
(Frequency – 5, Average Rank – 4.0)

3. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
(Frequency – 6, Average Rank – 6.0)

2. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
(Frequency – 7, Average Rank – 4.3)

1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
(Frequency – 8, Average Rank – 7.8)

Related: The Best Songs of 2014 (So Far)
Related: The Best Albums of 2014 (So Far)

  • Badgerboy

    I truly love the things you all write on this blog, but if you don’t stop using default crappy typefaces for your feature promo pictures I might just murder a family of bunnies. Before that stuff was acceptable, fit with the unpolished feel of the original layout and design. But now you have nice looking design everywhere with a lot of thought put into it and when you slap some crap like arial onto a photo illustration like that its just plain laughable. You’re better than that.

  • Confusion

    Haha you’re right. It’s my very limited Paint skills. We’re going to start getting official artwork done soon, don’t worry.

    Also, it’s Franklin Gothic.

  • baltazar

    I am begging you lot include “Camp” and “Undun” if possible also “The Dreamer” I mean from the leaks its bound to be amazing:D also not bad list

  • Felipe

    Section .80?!

    You’re stupid

  • Joyce

    Kids, simmer. The post begins with this disclaimer – “Note: This is a master list, NOT P&P’s list of best albums. That’s coming soon.”

  • Monster

    Guys, this isn’t our P&P list. That’s coming later. This was just a fun exercise to show a comprehensive snapshot of other selections from the industry. Feel free to at least read the first sentence of the post before commenting on how stupid it is.

  • baltazar

    I did, I knew hence I said I hope you do in yours, thats what I implied anyway:D

  • jamarcus garvey

    props to monster

    i hate math

  • Confusion

    I still don’t understand what Monster did. I chalk it up to magic or lies.

  • Liz

    Interesting to see House of Balloons so high (haha) on the list but Thursday not at all..

  • Justin

    Getting high as shit and working on spreadsheets is pretty awesome actually.

  • snma

    I’m surprised J. Cole’s album or Section.80 didn’t make any of their lists (in the top 25 at least)

  • Craig

    wait, so you did a top 25 list based on how other sites voted and this is like an average?

    I’m confused

  • Confusion

    Yeah, we took 10 other lists, weighted their picks based on how many times the song appeared and at what number it appeared, and made a master list.

  • CK

    IMO you should’ve included even more lists, but this is very cool nonetheless. Too many hipster bands that nobody listens to, but I fully recognize this is the people who made the lists’ fault, not P&P as P&P was just aggregating other lists (which I consider to be very useful and interesting). Love seeing Fleet Foxes at #3, WTT at 6, The Weeknd at 7, and Frank Ocean at 15. But Adele is overplayed and Drake at 8? barf. Same with James Blake at 13 and Tom Waits somehow sneaking in at 25 with a turrible album. But, again, I blame the original listmakers, not P&P. Great piece.

  • Andre (PayUp)

    Yeah, this is a pretty interesting approach. Weird that some albums didn’t make it enough on any of those 10 lists though.

  • Huzefa

    Quality idea! mad props for compiling this list and going to the effort of doing this. Looking forward to the P&P list

  • jam

    “XXX” by danny brown needs to be in the top ten somewhere. Also ASAPRocky’s debut.

  • Joey

    Monster, great concept and excellent execution.

  • Monster

    Thanks for the kind comments everybody, glad you enjoyed this odd little experiment we ran.

  • Mike Wyatt | @entelleckt

    Monster, you wouldn’t by chance have a copy of that Excel online so we could add in a few lists and do an extended version of your experiment?

  • Monster

    Mike – I don’t have anything online, but still have the file saved. Email me – – and let me know what you have in mind.

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