I rarely if ever listen to full albums so compiling this list is always quite hard for me. As you know I'm a fan of the single format and as a DJ I rarely play more than one or two tracks from a record. The experience of listening to a whole album from beginning to end is almost completely foreign to me, or it would be if it wasn't for the fact that I'm married and my wife still listens to CDs, at home and in the car, so she influenced this top-11 list a lot.
1.- DANAY SUAREZ-Polvo De La Humedad (independent): You probably won't see this album in too many other Best of 2011 lists and that's a pity, really. This is by far the album I listened to the most this year and that's because it's so fucking beautiful I can't get enough of it. Also because my wife fell under its spell too and plays it almost every day at home. If you follow me you know I have a thing for female rappers, but trust me, this goes beyond any fetish of mine, she's seriously that good.
2.- CRIOLO-Nó Na Orelha (Sterns Music): There's nothing that isn't perfect about this album. Absolute audible pleasure from beginning to end. I didn't know about Criolo until 2011 so it could also be listed as this year's greatest discovery. Criolo's debut album has everything I love, cool conscious hip-hop, afro-beat, samba, dub, jazz, classic arrangements, dope lyrics, great vocals, and it's even released on vinyl (only in Brazil though, but just knowing it's out there makes me happy). I could listen to this album on a constant loop without even being tempted to skip a track and I'd never get bored. If you still haven't checked this one out, go and download it from his own website, it's free!
5.- ERIC BOBO & LATIN BITMAN-Welcome To The Ritmo Machine (Nacional Records): A great idea. Of course, like in all albums conceived around collaborations, there are highs and lows, tracks that will please a crowd and disappoint others, simply because there's too much variety. But overall, it's some top notch production with some kick as percussion and if Nacional would dignify this release with a proper vinyl pressing, I'd be playing it a lot more, I'm sure about that.
6.- JOAQUIN CLAUSSELL-Hammock House Africa Caribe (Fania): Another great idea for a DJ album: give the entire catalog of golden age Fania records to a house DJ and make a conceptual mixtape but make sure that it avoids completely the cheesy salsa fusion clichés to focus on the shamanistic Afro-Caribbean atmospheres and hypnotic tribal rhythms. The CD box set is a collectible piece of art in itself, and somewhere out there vinyl discs of the individual remixed tracks is available too, but I didn't know that, I just found out when I googled it right now. Damn, I need to get that!
7.- CHANCHA VIA CIRCUITO-Río Arriba (ZZK Records): The digital album came out in 2010 and many blogs included it in their best of the year lists last year. I didn't. For two reasons: I didn't get to listen to this album until early 2011 and it wasn't until 2011 that the album was released on vinyl and that's the format that rules around here. Anyway, the album's dope but it's too laid back and down-tempo for the dancefloor so it never makes it into my dance sets, but a few weeks ago I DJ'd at an art gallery opening and it totally made sense to play this shit, finally.
8.- SERGENT GARCIA-Una y Otra Vez (Cumbancha): I honestly didn't pay much attention to this one when it came out beyond the Li Saumet guest appearance. But then I interviewed the guy and he was mad cool and saw him live and had a great time and then my wife started playing the CD a lot at home and it ended up winning me.
9.- DJ AFRO-Free (Nacional Records): Oops, I almost forgot this one came out! I love DJ Afro and I always play his previous solo album which was in fact a collection of housey remixes he did for other people. This one I got it, I listened to it, I liked it and then it somehow got lost amongst the infinite piles of digital rubbish of my hard-drive and I totally forgot to ever play it again. That wouldn't have happened if it was released on vinyl, you see Nacional?
10.- TOMMY GUERRERO-Lifeboats and Follies (Galaxia Records): Once again it's my wife's fault that this album made it into the top-11. I would've totally forgotten about it, if it wasn't for her who kept it in rotation in the living room's CD player, which she basically controls (I mostly just listen to music on vinyl and my Ipod, don't have much love for CDs). It's jazzy, cool, laid back music that sound's great when you're having brunch on the weekends with home-made bloody marys.
11.- ANA TIJOUX-La Bala (Oveja Negra/Nacional Records): OK, this one shouldn't be here. It should either be a lot closer to the top or in 2012's Best Album list. But as I mentioned on the review yesterday, I was having a really hard time trying to find 11 albums for this year's list and I needed to fill it in with something. So there it goes, as a sort of bonus at the end of the list and who knows, may be next year we'll have it listed again since it won't come out, officially in the US, until January 2012.