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MIKE MADDEN’S TOP ALBUMS OF 2011

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1. Nicole AtkinsMondo Amore (Razor & Tie).
Atkins and her backing band, The Black Sea, turn in an album that has a little bit of everything. Strong songwriting, tight rhythm section and catchy choruses make this her most complete effort to date.

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2. Deer Tick Divine Providence (Partisan Records).
Loose like The Replacements in their heyday, Deer Tick is an ever-evolving act that has put forth its most accessible album without crossing too far into the mainstream.
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3. DawesNothing Is Wrong (ATO Records).
An easygoing effort that truly highlights the California band’s introspective, self-aware folk rock.
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4. My Morning JacketCircutial (ATO Records).
The band’s sixth studio effort features less trickier arrangements and more straightforward roots rock.
Foo Fighters_Wasting Light.jpg 5. Foo FightersWasting Light (RCA Records). Easily their best album since 1999’s There Is Nothing Left to Lose. It’s a full effort that hopefully is a sign of things to come for one of rock’s most revered acts.
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6. Black Joe Lewis and the HoneybearsScandalous (Lost Highway).
A dizzying barrage of rock and soul, all served up with punchy horns and fast-paced sweaty grooves.
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7. The Baseball ProjectVolume 2: High and Inside (Yep Roc Records).
The semi-supergroup featuring Scott McCaughey, Steve Wynn, Peter Buck and Linda Pittmon proves that it’s not a novelty anymore. The band’s songs about the colorful figures and fandom of baseball are fun for fans and nonfans alike.
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8. Those DarlinsScrews Get Loose (Oh Wow Dang Records).
This four-piece from Tennessee use this album to change its sound to more garage rock. This approach toughens the sound up while proving that the girls are not cutesy anymore.
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9. Outside the BoxBridge (Schaeffer Records).
A promising first album from what may be the next breakout band from the Jersey Shore. Passionate power-pop with a wink toward Elvis Costello‘s sly wit.
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10. The Civil WarsBarton Hollow (Sensibility Music).
A haunting folk album that can be sparse at times, but it only serves to highlight lyrics that sound like an intimate conversation at times.