Instead of a traditional "Best of" list, I wanted to acknowledge some of the great albums of 2011 that I haven't seen mentioned by many critics as we get closer to the end of the year.
The Bon Ivers and Drakes and M83s deserve their accolades and will get them from more prominent writers than myself. Here is some of the great off-the-beaten-path music 2011 had to offer:
The Psychic Paramount - II
Not the heaviest rock of the year -- a few of those later in the list -- but The Psychic Paramount give the heaviest art-rock statement of 2011 with their relentless second album. The first track doesn't even really begin; you're thrust into an intense, guitar-laden fray mid-note.
Fell Voices - Untitled
Dark and forboding, Fell Voices' Untitled LP stands as one of the most haunting and confounding records of 2011. It's the doom metal equivalent of one of the better M. Night Shyamalan movies. The build-ups and riffs never quite go where you think they will and it rewards multiple listens.
Deerhoof - Deerhoof vs. Evil
A few indie hits later, Deerhoof is still churning out great art pop songs. They throw everything in the bag so as not to duplicate themselves, but Deerhoof vs. Evil is closest in nature to 2008's masterful Friend Opportunity. There are songs on here that I swear would be huge if they made it on the radio. Like every Deerhoof record though, you realize that a solo-room dance is as close is it will come to mass appeal.
Akron/Family - S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT
I really don't know how this album got so overlooked. To me, it's Akron/Family's White Album (hyperbole noted). It could easily have been a double album had they squeezed a few more tracks in there, but as it is, you've got an hour of frenetic freak-folk balanced with some of the most beautiful melodies outside of the 60s. Fortunately, one of its best tracks, "Island," as a nice accompanying music video for some visual stimulation.
Boris - Heavy Rocks/Attention Please/New Album
Boris is like that movie that has so many great performances that it splits the Oscar votes. These guys just put out so much material, it's almost hard to keep up.
Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts
Beck has a good habit these days of producing other artists' albums and make them sound like a split LP. Last year, Beck produced a Charlotte Gainsbourg album that sound liked a set of Beck songs produced by Charlotte Gainsbourg. This year, he gives a similar treatment to Thurston Moore's latest, nine acoustic songs with that rambling outcast vibe. A solo effort on par with Psychic Hearts.
Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital
Sound Kapital is the dancepartiest of all Handsome Furs albums thus far. I saw them at the Echoplex a few months ago and it was one of the best shows I've ever seen where the performers didn't have much more than a guitar and some variety of noise-bloop machine. Crazy Dance Party. I approve. (Album cover below is NSFW)
Grouper - A I A:Dream Loss/Alien Observer
Liz Harris's latest is a collection of two 12" records, but their combination works well as a double LP. Like the greatest of Brian Eno's ambient recordings, Grouper's music could be background music if it wasn't so damned gripping. Despite the droning aspects, most sounds are created through Harris's vocals and guitar plucking. Worth a deep, focused listen.
(This post can also be found on my co-music blog, Teenage Quiet.)