Entries are listed (more or less) alphabetically as that's how I felt most comfortable "ranking" them. All are worth your time.
The Top Ten(ish)
Bass Drum of Death GB City (Inflated/Fat Possum)
I was fairly appalled at the critical drubbing that greeted the debut album from this Oxford, MS duo. It's probably due to music critics declaring a referendum that "lo-fi" is over. An unknown band with a silly name on the same label as Wavves? Bass Drum of Death was the perfect target for the inevitable backlash. In any case, the reason certainly couldn't be the music, which is as mighty a blast of primal RnR as released by anyone this year.
Carolee EP1 (12XU)
The music of Carolee has been a secret among a few privileged New Jersey college and freeform radio DJs (and me) for a few years now. Thanks to the folks at 12XU, the public at large now has access to her ethereal noise pop. Don't be a fool and waste your opportunity to hear it.
High Tension Wires Welcome New Machine (Dirtnap)
Bad Sports Kings of the Weekend (Dirtnap)
I don't know if it's the influence of the defunct Marked Men or something else, but in 2011 Denton, Texas (population 113K) was the punk rock capital of the world. These two albums (the bands feature overlapping members) would be evidence enough but Denton brought us enough great punk in the past year to reach any town's quota for a decade. See also: OBN IIIs The One and Only (Tic Tac Totally), Video Leather Leather (Play Pinball!), Wiccans Skullduggery (Katorga Works), Mind Spiders Mind Spiders (Dirtnap)
Kitchen's Floor Look Forward to Nothing (Siltbreeze)
Yes, we're all thrilled that Siltbreeze is back but if you mourned Xpressway as well, the second album from Brisbane's Kitchen's Floor has a beauty/ugliness ratio that should fill that particular hole in your soul.
Mannequin Men Mannequin Men (Addenda)
Though they had some outstanding moments on their previous albums ("Pigpen" from 2007's Fresh Rot was among the best songs of the past decade), Chicago's Mannequin Men really bring it on their self-titled third album, easily their best and most consistent to date. One minor quibble: the version of "Hobby Girl" released on a HoZac Hookup Klub 7" earlier in the year is superior to the one here. However, buying HoZac's inevitable compilation of those singles is probably essential purchase regardless, so no foul.
Milk Music Beyond Living EP (Perennial)
Technically a late 2010 release, though it wasn't widely distributed until early 2011 when it was rereleased by Perennial, Milk Music's vinyl debut is a half dozen songs of extremely impressive melancholic pre-mersh grunge. These guys have little to no web presence, so I'm going to have to rely on the kindness of friends to alert me when their full length drops this year.
Rational Animals Bock Rock Parade (Katorga Works)
HC-derived sludge that's akin to post-Damaged Black Flag but much more consistent that any BF's albums from that period. Shades of Halo of Flies and Flipper in there as well. These are all good reference points, in case you were wondering. Like all Katorga Works releases, it's available as a free and legal download, so you've got no excuse.
Slug Guts Howlin' Gang (Sacred Bones)
Have you ever thought "I'd like to listen to some Goth but I hate makeup, fey poetry, contrived transgression, English people and the mall?" Fella, have I got a record for you.
Thee Oh Sees Carrion Crawler/The Dream (In The Red)
Originally intended as a pair of EPs (hence the bifurcated title), this is the second of two full-lengths released by Thee Oh Sees in 2011. With a band this prolific, new listeners may be a bit standoffish, not knowing where to begin in a vast discography that may have some quality control issues. Rest assured, Carrion Crawler/The Dream is as fine a record as Thee Oh Sees have made. Here is as good a place to start as any.
Wild Flag Wild Flag (Merge)
A nice bookend to the Bass Drum of Death entry that began this list, Wild Flag's debut is probably the only record in my top ten that was also a critical consensus pick for the best of the year. Many music critics are amateur sociologists and Wild Flag's mere existence gave them a lot of fodder. Feminist perspective or 90s indie rock nostalgia would each alone be enough for the basis of a feature. But even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then and Wild Flag more than earned the music press hosannahs showered upon them.
Barreracudas Nocturnal Missions (Douchemaster)
Causal Victim Pile II compilation (12XU)
Cruddy Negative World (12XU)
Fucked Up David Comes to Life (Matador)
Kim Phuc Copsucker (Iron Lung)
Kurt Vile Smoke Ring for My Halo (Matador)
Nothing People Smells Like Metal (Captcha)
Obits Moody, Standard and Poor (Sub Pop)
The People's Temple Sons of Stone (HoZac)
Psandwich Nothren Psych (Columbus Discount)
Reigning Sound Abdication... For Your Love (Scion A/V)
Royal Headache Royal Headache (R.I.P. Society)
Times New Viking Dancer Equired (Merge)
Ty Segall Goodbye Bread (Drag City)
Wax Idols No Future (HoZac)
Singles, EPs, etc.:
Apache Dropout "Shot Down" 7" (Trouble in Mind)
Beach Fossils What a Pleasure EP (Captured Tracks)
Boomgates "Laymen's Terms" 7" (Smart Guy)
Fresh and Onlys Secret Walls EP (Sacred Bones)
Gun Outfit High Places EP (Make a Mess)
Mantles "Raspberry Thighs" 7" (SDZ)
Ma'am songs streaming on maamtheband.com
Naked on the Vague "Abstract Figures" 7" (R.I.P. Society)
Purling Hiss Lounge Lizards EP (Mexican Summer)
Whines "Shootinhead" 7" (Mt St Mtn)