#1. The Weeknd, House of Balloons
Released: March 21
Back in late June, when we counted down our 25 Best Albums of 2011 (So Far), The Weeknd's House of Balloons topped the list. That's an accomplishment to be sure, but we all know how the strongest releases are usually slated for later in the year. And let's be honest, by the time December rolls around it can be easy to forget how good something sounded eight months ago. Take both of those facts into consideration as you try to grasp just how good HOB must be to top our year-end list.
Much as Frank Ocean did with nostalgia/ULTRA, The Weeknd came out of nowhere with a free mixtape that changed the face of R&B. A good portion The Weeknd's success is due to Doc McKinney and Illangelo's gritty production (the guidance of Noah "40" Shebib and Drake likely played a part too). But the lion's share of credit belongs to 21-year-old Abel Tesfaye himself, who sings so hauntingly about sex and lust and the "Wicked Games" that boys and girls play that we can't get over the feeling. Play this during your next coke binge, play it for your girl, but whatever you do, just make sure to play this at night.