Music And The Big Idea: The Top 5 Concept Albums Of 2011

PJ Harvey's Let England Shake tops John Schaefer's list of the year's best albums. (Courtesy of the artist)
PJ Harvey's Let England Shake tops John Schaefer's list of the year's best albums. (Courtesy of the artist)

I don't believe that art has to be "about something" to be great art. That said, I happen to believe that all art is about something — whether the artist intends it to be or not. Even a dopey song about going dancing on a Friday night has a subtext: "My culture prizes recreation, but compartmentalizes most of said recreation to certain times of the week, and rewards the resultant delay in gratification by giving me the chance to view young women shaking their moneymakers."

Some of the most memorable recordings of 2011 were not just collections of great songs — although they were that, too. They were also about something. Go ahead, use the term "concept album" if you must, but I'm not sure that applies to all of these.

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