My favorite albums of 2011 so far: Adele, Foo Fighters and a few surprises

With the first half of 2011 officially in our rear view mirror as of yesterday, here”s a look at the albums released in the previous six months that were my favorites. Are they the “best?” Who”s to say. All I’ll say is they”re the ones I”ve found myself repeatedly drawn to this year.

Adele, “21”:  Really, what more is there to be said. Just give her the Grammy for album of the year already. Soaring vocals and searing lyrics even if the whole album was just “Rolling in the Deep” over and over again it would get our vote.

The Decemberists, “The King is Dead.” 
After laying it on thick with the excellent “Hazards of Love,” Colin Meloy and friends dialed it back. Less ambition is not always a bad thing, especially when it results in something so catchy as “Down by the Water.”

Foo Fighters, “Wasting Light”:
Fifteen years in, the Foos score their first No. 1 album and they”re just as fierce, focused and passionate as the day they began. Rock with heart and soul and just the right amount of thrashy abandon.

The Head and The Heart, “The Head and the Heart”:
Originally self-released, this Seattle band’s debut was  picked up for wider distribution this April by Sub Pop. It”s lovely, lilting pop that just skirts preciousness. “You”re already home once you feel love.”

The Low Anthem, “Smart Flesh”: Atmospheric folk rock that haunts and hypnotizes through the quartet”s fearless use of whatever instrument is nearby. There are at least two dozen played on this set, including some you”re never heard of.

Pitbull, “Planet Pit”:
The party album of the year for the song “Pause” alone. Don”t bring your head,  just your feet. If you don”t want to dance to it, it”s the workout album of the year too.

Paul Simon, “So Beautiful or So What”:
One of America”s greatest songwriters roars back with his best album in ages. Who else (except perhaps Randy Newman) could go from the biting commentary of “The Afterlife” to the sheer vulnerability of “Love and Hard Times.”

Eddie Vedder, “Ukulele Songs”: Sometimes albums are meant to whisper, not scream and yet they have just as much impact. Vedder”s gruff voice nestled against the inherently sweet ukulele is all you need to bring down your blood pressure and breathe.

What are your favorites so far?