! = recommended
* = all-ages
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Through sheer quirk of fate and possibly my own fatally quirky tastes, the top spots for my four favorite records of the year were given to two separate EPs by two different bands. I'm going to start my Top 20 of 2011 list with a cheat; combining two albums for placement at #1 and #2. Just to obnoxiously make you utterly vigilant of it: the first two spots are taken up by two separate releases, but they're EPs that if combined with each other, tie with/become one release.
Oh, and I'm keeping all hype to 20 words to mirror the Top 20 list. And then I cheat again by having the first two releases described in 40 words, a combination of two 20 word reviews. (No, I haven't been studying Kabbalah with the Wu-Tang Clan.) Also: Mostly in order, but ask me again tomorrow. (The Damien Jurado could be anywhere on this list, for example.) And regional preference takes precedence (call that "fanzine love").
1. Shabazz Palaces, Shabazz Palaces & Of Light EPs
Cracked, uncanny hip-hop collages of unsettling mind-movies, Clockers meets Company Flow. "Juxtapositions of the digital and analog, hard drum-machine beats set against softer bongos or the resonant sweetness of an mbira." -- Jon Caramanica, The New York Times
Some comedians talk about taking mushrooms and having cosmic experiences (we miss you, Bill Hicks), and some artists make music that sounds great if you're either on psilocybin or simply amped on free flowing imagination. Comic and musician Reggie Watts is like a giant fungi who giggles in several dimensions as we chew on him, soaking in visions like Philip K. Dick making Houston Screw mix-tapes while playing chess with God.