This was a little tougher than usual this year, but after much deliberation and some unpleasant culling, here are our favorite releases — full-lengths, mixtapes, EPs, and one cassette — of 2011. To accompany our choices, we asked all of the amazing artists on our list to tell us their own personal favorite albums from the past year, and a lot of them were nice enough to answer, so their picks are here too. Check it all, and leave your own lists, after the jump…


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30 NICOLAS JAAR | Space Is Only Noise

Nicolas Jaar :: Colomb

NICOLAS JAAR‘s pick:
JULIA HOLTERTragedy
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29 ANDY STOTT | Passed Me By

Andy Stott :: North to South

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28 THE WEEKND | House of Balloons

mp3:
The Weeknd :: House Of Balloons / Glass Table Girls
The Weeknd :: Wicked Games
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27 CLAMS CASINO | Instrumentals

Clams’ best two beats so far — neither of which even appear on this staggering collection of instrumentals made for the likes of Lil’ B, Soulja Boy, Main Attrakionz, etc., but both of which happen to be among the most epic, evocative compositions of 2011 — apparently utilize the same Imogen Heap vocal sample. Dude is just scratching the surface. Uh, look out for his Lana Del Rey remix in 2012.

mp3:
Clams Casino :: Numb
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26 SCHOOLBOY Q | Setbacks

mp3:
Schoolboy Q :: Figg Get Da Money
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25 ELITE GYMNASTICS | Ruin 1 + 2

In preparing this list, I asked Marcus Joons of Korallreven to name his favorite record of 2011, and he chose Elite Gymnastics‘ blissful Ruin EP. He had some really thoughtful/accurate things to say about it as well, so I’ll defer to his words:

“Melancholic rave and lyrics worth to publish as short stories.
Maybe the most sensible dance record ever and all the references to
death reminds of how much I love life.”

mp3:
Elite Gymnastics :: o m a m o r i
Elite Gymnastics :: h e r e , i n h e a v e n 2

ELITE GYMNASTICS‘ pick:
CUT HANDSAfro Noise I
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24 RUN DMT | Dreaming

mp3:
RUN DMT :: Dreaming

RUN DMT‘s pick:
WHITE FENCEIs Growing Faith
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23 BURIAL | Street Halo

Burial :: Stolen Dog

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22 MINA TINDLE | Mina Tindle

Elegant French chanteuse Mina Tindle managed to strike a perfect pop balance on her endlessly charming self-titled EP. One of the most exquisite, promising, and generally unheard debuts of the year.

Mina Tindle :: Bells

MINA TINDLE‘s pick:
BILL CALLAHANApocalypse + UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRAUnknown Mortal Orchestra
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21 YOUNG GALAXY | Shapeshifting

mp3:
Young Galaxy :: Peripheral Visionaries
Young Galaxy :: Cover Your Tracks

YOUNG GALAXY‘s pick:
FACTORY FLOORReal Love/Two Different Ways (singles) + WAR ON DRUGSSlave Ambient
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20 TORO y MOI | Freaking Out

mp3:
Toro y Moi :: All Alone
Toro y Moi :: Saturday Love

TORO y MOI‘s pick:
TORO y MOIUnderneath the Pine
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19 PURE X | Pleasure

mp3:
Pure X :: Dry Ice

NATE GRACE‘s pick:
FORMAForma
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18 FORD & LOPATIN | Channel Pressure

mp3:
Ford & Lopatin :: Too Much MIDI (Please Forgive Me)
Ford & Lopatin :: Emergency Room

FORD‘s pick:
THUNDERCATThe Golden Age of Apocalypse

LOPATIN‘s pick:
pass
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17 WASHED OUT | Within and Without

mp3:
Washed Out :: Eyes Be Closed
Washed Out :: Amor Fati

ERNEST GREENE‘s pick:
FLEET FOXESHelplessness Blues
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16 DARKSIDE | Darkside

Nico Jaar‘s second stellar release of 2k11, this EP is a flawless intro to his new Darkside project. Only 3 tracks, and this thing sort of just came out, but we’ve had it on repeat ever since. From our original post:

“Jaar calls the record “the closest thing to rock & roll I’ve ever done,” but these cosmic jams sort of recall a more minimalist take on the slower-burning, hypnotic, almost Balearic-tinged ’70s grooves of dudes like Studio and A Mountain of One.

Darkside :: A1

NICOLAS JAAR (DARKSIDE)‘s pick:
JULIA HOLTERTragedy
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15 HOLY OTHER | With U

mp3:
Holy Other :: YR LOVE
Holy Other :: Touch

HOLY OTHER‘s pick:
ANDY STOTTPassed Me By
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14 THE CARETAKER | An Empty Bliss Beyond This World

Like a fleeting, time-traveling, occasionally disorienting cinematic dream sequence. On An Empty Bliss…, The Caretaker uses loops of slightly altered archival recordings to create some of the loveliest, most heartbreaking anonymous music we never knew we needed.

The Caretaker :: Camaraderie at Arms Length

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13 GROUPER | A I A

Grouper :: Alien Observer

LIZ HARRIS‘s pick:
CARLOS PAREDESGuitarra Portuguesa (reissue) + SLOWDIVEHide Yer Eyes (vinyl bootleg)
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12 SLEEP ∞ OVER | Forever

mp3:
Sleep ∞ Over :: Romantic Streams
Sleep ∞ Over :: Casual Diamond

STEFANIE FRANCIOTTI‘s pick:
JULIA HOLTERTragedy
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11 THE SANDWITCHES | Mrs. Jones’ Cookies

The San Francisco group gets darker, spookier, and heavier than ever on this timeless collection of lovesick jams, which the girls rightly refer to as “self senterd sad pop.”

mp3:
The Sandwitches :: Joe Says
The Sandwitches :: Lightfoot

HEIDI + GRACE‘s pick:
[both declined to name a favorite]
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10 PURO INSTINCT | Headbangers in Ecstasy

Headbangers is at a slight disadvantage having dropped so early in the year, but the Kaplan sisters endured. We stand by what we said back in February when we hailed Puro’s uncanny knack for “crafting songs with deceptively complex structures, in which ethereal, in-the-clouds dream-pop seamlessly morphs into shimmering, soft focus disco-lite and jangly post-punk in just over 3 minutes.

mp3:
Puro Instinct :: Stilyagi (feat. Ariel Pink)
Puro Instinct :: Silky Eyes

PIPER KAPLAN‘s pick:
JOHN MAUSWe Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves + SFV ACIDNew West Coast
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09 JULIANNA BARWICK | The Magic Place

Inspired by the “a capella church hymns she grew up singing,” The Magic Place is soaring, otherworldly, transportive, impossibly beautiful; all ways of saying this sounds like carebears making love. My 4-month-old’s album of the year.

mp3:
Julianna Barwick :: The Magic Place

JULIANNA BARWICK‘s pick:
KURT VILESmoke Ring for my Halo
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08 REAL ESTATE | Days

Never has an ode to the suburbs been so natural, earnest, and unpretentious. The breezy, autumnal Days soundtracked just about any drive anywhere, resonating as one of the most thoroughly listenable, effortlessly meaningful releases we heard in 2011.

Real Estate :: Green Aisles

MATT MONDANILE‘s pick:
BIG TROUBLESRomantic Comedy
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07 ARAABMUZIK | Electronic Dream

Didn’t expect a dizzying, anxiety-inducing trance beat tape to be one of the more beautiful and viscerally affecting releases of the year, but here we go.

araabMUZIK :: Streetz Tonight

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06 KORALLREVEN | An Album By Korallreven

We’ve been enamored with Swedish duo Korallreven‘s Balearic dream-pop since they dropped “Loved Up” back in 2009, and still, the sheer beauty and emotional scope of this record managed to floor us more than we anticipated. Sublime, moving guest vocal turns from Victoria Bergsman and Julianna Barwick (making her second appearance on our list) didn’t hurt either.

mp3:
Korallreven :: As Young As Yesterday (feat. Victoria Bergsman)
Korallreven :: Sa Sa Samoa (feat. Julianna Barwick)

KORALLREVEN‘s pick:
ELITE GYMNASTICSRuin 1 / 2
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05 A$AP ROCKY | LIVELOVEA$AP

In his recent spot-on review of LIVELOVEA$AP, our dude Weiss nailed what is so great about the 3-million-dollar kid’s self-assured debut tape, calling it “a triumph of immaculate taste.” Everyone loves the production on this thing obviously, but I really don’t get the knock on Rocky as a rapper. Sometimes good instincts, an effortless flow, off-the-charts charisma, and just sounding a lot cooler than everyone else goes a long way.

mp3:
A$AP Rocky :: Peso
A$AP Rocky :: Bass
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04 WHITE DENIM | D

With D, our favorite band continued to shift shapes — see “Street Joy” and “Keys” — and redefine their ridiculously enduring modern / classic rock sensibilities. Taut as ever, polished, often tender, always seamless, and now Jack White-approved.

mp3:
White Denim :: Street Joy
White Denim :: Drug

JAMES PETRALLI‘s pick:
UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRAUnknown Mortal Orchestra

STEVE TEREBECKI‘s pick:
CASS MCCOMBSWit’s End
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03 PANDA BEAR | Tomboy

After generating the kind of pre-release hype that only Animal Collective-related releases can, Noah Lennox somehow managed to release the most underrated album of 2011. And, after feeling how massive and moving this record could be when experienced in its entirety, in sequence, in a live setting (shout to Sonic Boom), and subsequently immersing ourselves in the alternate versions from the beautiful expanded version of Tomboy, we gained a new level of appreciation for the simple, understated brilliance of these hypnotic and deceptively heavy hymn-like jams.

mp3:
Panda Bear :: Last Night at the Jetty
Panda Bear :: You Can Count on Me (a capella)

PANDA BEAR‘s pick:
araabMUZIKElectronic Dream
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02 PEAKING LIGHTS | 936

We said this about 936 back in March for the late Altered Zones:

Achingly beautiful melodies float over immersive and occasionally seedy dubbed-out grooves; beats rise out of a hazed jungle underworld, at times sounding like primitive machines. And the effect is nothing short of transcendent. 936 is a refreshingly original and somewhat unexpected blend of classic dub and acid-soaked, female-fronted psychedelia that emerged seemingly out of nowhere to become one of the year’s most compelling and replayable jams.

Still the truth. This blissed-out collection of pop songs disguised as a dub-psych masterpiece was probably our most listened to album of 2011. Endless feel good vibes.

mp3:
Peaking Lights :: Tiger Eyes (Laid Back)
Peaking Lights :: Hey Sparrow

PEAKING LIGHTS‘ pick:
LEN BOATMANThe Land of Milk and Honey / The Lighthouse 45 (Deep Sea Records, 1971) + anything on DIGIKILLER (“digikiller pulled a lot of super deep stuff!“)
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01 SHABAZZ PALACES | Black Up

Shabazz Palaces sparkled up somewhat unexpectedly in late 2009 from the deep mind of our favorite rapper of all-time as a fully-formed, undeniably futuristic vision/uncharted approach to hip-hop. This often mind-blowing debut full-length is the culmination, and the beginning. An instant classic and our unequivocal favorite record of 2011, Black Up hit us harder than anything since Person Pitch dropped back in ’07.

mp3:
Shabazz Palaces :: an echo from the hosts that profess infinitum
Shabazz Palaces :: swerve…the reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)

ISHMAEL BUTLER aka THE PALACEER‘s pick:
TROUBLEBussin (video) + JOHNNY NELSONPut Em In a Body Bag

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GORILLA VS. BEAR | Albums of 2011

30 Nicolas Jaar | Space Is Only Noise
29 Andy Stott | Passed Me By
28 The Weeknd | House of Balloons
27 Clams Casino | Instrumentals
26 Schoolboy Q | Setbacks
25 Elite Gymnastics | Ruin 1 + 2
24 Run DMT | Dreaming
23 Burial | Street Halo
22 Mina Tindle | Mina Tindle
21 Young Galaxy | Shapeshifting
20 Toro y Moi | Freaking Out
19 Pure X | Pleasure
18 Ford & Lopatin | Channel Pressure
17 Washed Out | Within and Without
16 Darkside | Darkside
15 Holy Other | With U
14 The Caretaker | An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
13 Grouper | A I A
12 Sleep ∞ Over | Forever
11 The Sandwitches | Mrs. Jones’ Cookies
10 Puro Instinct | Headbangers in Ecstasy
09 Julianna Barwick | The Magic Place
08 Real Estate | Days
07 araabMUZIK | Electronic Dream
06 Korallreven | An Album By Korallreven
05 A$AP Rocky | LIVELOVEA$AP
04 White Denim | D
03 Panda Bear | Tomboy
02 Peaking Lights | 936
01 Shabazz Palaces | Black Up

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