I make absolutely no claims to this list being anything other than what caught my attention in a good way in 2011. I wouldn't know if it's the best, and I'm not even sure I care about the concept "best" anymore. Some of the music mentioned didn't even get released in 2011, it's just what I'm listening to. In no particular order:
Tyler the Creator: Goblin Enough ink has been spilled on this already, but I stand by this as one of the most interesting records of the year. And yes, I know you don't agree. So far I like most of what I've heard from OWFGKTA.
Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972 This would be the year that I really started listening to ambient music. 2012 will probably be the year I stop. This, however, is a record I am sure I will return to quite often, along with a few other pieces of Hecker's discography. Other ambiance that caught my attention this year (and is likely to stay in rotation for me): Black to Comm, God Destroyer, Biosphere, Johnny Raper. Listened to a whole lot more ambient music, discovered I really didn't like most of it.
Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring for My Halo A bit underwhelmed by the E.P. that came out later in the year, but Smoke Ring really delivered. I am continually surprised by how much I like Kurt Vile's stuff; it's nothing like anything I would normally gravitate toward.
Death Grips: Ex-military If pressed to pick a favorite record of this year, this would be it . . . I mean, they sample Link Wray, for the love of god. HARD.
Shabazz Palaces: Black Up Smoky, smart, dark, politcal, and funky. Another really nice hip hop number.
Akira Sakata & Chikamorachi: Live at the Hungry Brain
Akira Sakata & Jim O'Rourke with Chikamorachi: And That's the Story of Jazz . . . Free jazz is becoming the new punk rock in the sense that it's getting harder every day to stand out from the masses of improvisers. Sakata's spare, biting alto brings some distinction to the proceedings, and Chikamorchi (Darin Gray, bass, and Chris Corsano, drums) has to be among the best (if not the best) rhythm section currently working. When O'Rourke gets his turn, he doesn't eff things up.
Loren Connors: Red Mars I've listened to Loren Conners for a while now, but this year I really started to listen to him. Red Mars is the kind of music that seeps into your consciousness so subtly that you often don't even notice until its gone.
Boris: Attention Please
Boris: Heavy Rocks 2011 I guess I didn't expect to Boris to become one of the foremost purveyors of disposable pop music, but there it is. The breadth that the band demonstrates is sometimes at the cost of good taste, but I can live with that, overall. Haven't even had a chance to really listen to New Album, their third release of 2011 . . . what I've heard sounds like cheesy theme songs to Japanimation dramas they show late at night on [adult swim], which isn't a good thing. While I like these two albums quite a bit, I really miss the days when they did whacked-out feedback fests and hung out with people like Merzbow and Sunn O))).
Bill Orcutt: How the Thing Sings As a fan and practitioner of all sorts of guitar fuckery, Bill Orcutt is one of my current favorite guitarists. It is tempting to see him as a Derek Bailey-esque one trick pony; but, like Bailey, sometimes when your style is so far outside the norm, it's hard to see where the subtleties are. I'll be curious if I'm still as fascinated several albums down the line, but for now, everything he does is pretty OK by me.
I was going to finish up this post with a few of the things that got on my nerves this year, but I guess I'll not bait all the Das Racist/Sun Arraw/Bon Iver fans this post. Love to you all, and happy Hanukkah/Christmas/Solstice/Kwanzaa/New Year/and any other holiday I may have forgotten to you all.