Twenty Best Albums of 2011: #’s 1-3

3. Destroyer – Kaputt

Is this album transgressive? Does it “reclaim” “uncool” sounds? Wrong and wrong. My love for Johnny Hates Jazz has no archival interest; I listen to the Blow Monkeys for pleasure (I even wrote this Stylus essay arguing for sophistipop’s vibrancy). Dan Bejar’s project tickles memories without quite summoning them. For one, the average track length on Kaputt is longer than anything on a sophistipop record. Also more pinched, almost self-infatuated, and Bejar manages the uneasy triumph of singing and writing about and to no one; he’s not singing at the mirror, he’s singing in the dark.

2. DJ Quik – The Book of David

A lot of hip-hop fans dislike Quik’s flow. How an album this buoyant and filled to surfeit with scenarios, putdowns, celebrations, and hooks (most played or programmed by Quik himself) wasn’t discussed month after month as the classic it is supports the risible idea that rap is a young man’s game. And the beats! The keyboard parts! Robin Thicke or Anthony Hamilton could take “Real Women” to the bank. If you thought Tyler the Creator’s “Yonkers” is an impressive demonstration of grossness, check out what Quik does in “Ghetto Rendezvous” to a relative who’s exhausted his patience.

1. Pistol Annies – Hell on Heels

We like to claim this or that album addresses How Things Are Now. In ten songs and a running time five seconds over thirty minutes, Miranda Lambert and heretofore unfamous cohorts Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe takes us through trailers for rent, boys from the South, and family feuds in 2011. You know about wage stagnation — the women in these songs have stagnated all their lives. But they know to suck on the bitter to get to the sweet part, and, boy, do they keep smiling; they make themselves the butt of their own jokes because it helps them keep their self-respect while honoring the shallow conceptions of womankind held by their husbands and boyfriends (in the title track they slap their men as well as themselves). So wry and well-observed that it rendered Lambert’s own Four The Record almost irrelevant, Hell on Heels deserves the kind of love which once led me to put a song here or there on a mixtape for people — the kind of song that made the receiver go, “What is this?” Presley, who wrote the album’s best hook and concept by herself, needs her own record. The others need to record again together. Soon.

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