Rankers gotta rank
That being said, here are some dudes I think did amazing things with this year of music. I feel pretty good about a lot of the records that happened in 2011, and here are the ones, in no particular order, that give me the nicest feelings inside.
Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation: I don't think there's been an album as warm, humble, and sincere as this one in a very long time. There are a lot of bedroom pop artists who think they're pretty much the best ever. Trevor Powers is not one of them. His debut comes from a place of real, raw feeling, muted and delicate. And he turns the most subtle tricks with those synths of his. I'm still not over those whistle-chirps he makes.
Low Roar - Low Roar: This is more or less what I expected Thom Yorke's solo album to sound like. Woodsy, slow, and haunted with gorgeous melodies, this San Franciscan-turned-Icelandic fellow creates a dark and melancholy (yet ultimately uplifting) world on his first full-length.
St. Vincent - Strange Mercy: Not only does this record feature some of the catchiest tunes of the year, Annie's guitar tone can't be beat. She sounds like those bands that compose on Gameboys, except she's doing it all on the frets.
Balam Acab - Wander/Wonder: Dense and surreal, a collection of dreams, of fractured voices and ghostly landscapes.
Mastodon - The Hunter: Mastodon's growth as a band has been a pleasure to watch. They've lost some of their metal edge in exchange for their tightest songwriting yet. They even cut loose into some very strange places on certain tracks, like "Creature Lives".
Massive Attack and Burial - Four Walls/Paradise Circus: I said these were all in no particular order, but this limited edition 12" release definitely crowns this list. The two best songs of the year, hands-down. No one builds sonic microcosms like Burial and these are two of his best. Absolutely ethereal.