As 2011 enters garbage time and sends in the scrubs, I think it's appropriate to think about the stuff I really liked this year. Please note that not everything on this list came out this year; it's just stuff I enjoyed during this year.
Sherlock: This modern-day reimagining of Sherlock Holmes is completely awesome. Great performances from both Holmes and Watson, great atmosphere, riveting storylines. I think the new season is underway or about to be underway in the UK. Hoping we get it soon.
Angles: It's not First Impressions of Earth, but it's close. Which means it's the second-best Strokes record.
MOG: I've liked this for a long time, but I finally tried the mobile app that allows unlimited downloads of music so you don't have to use your bandwidth with streaming. I don't really buy music anymore--I just listen to everything on MOG.
Attack the Block: Yes, you can make a completely kickass action movie with a brain in its head. And yes, you can make a movie about life in the city and poverty and inequality and class differences without making a mopey piece of crap that nobody wants to see. My favorite movie of the year.
Zombina and the Skeletones: Using the aformentioned MOG app, I downloaded their entire catalog. Great horror-themed power pop. So pretty much all of my favorite genres put together.
Harley Poe: Best thing to come out of Indiana since Larry Bird. Mutant offspring of the Violent Femmes and the Misfits, they make adrenalized americana/horror. A few weeks went by when this was the only thing I wanted to listen to.
The League: I resisted watching a comedy about guys with a fantasy football league because I don't care about fantasy football. But it turns out this isn't about fantasy football, but rather about a group of hilarious sociopaths in the It's Always Sunny and Seinfeld traditions. The actors are all really funny and the writing is fatnastic. The Thanksgiving episode this year was one of the best half-hour comedies I've ever seen. Watch for Jeff Goldblum's vinegar strokes.
St. Valentine's Day Massacre--Since I cancelled Sirius, I've fallen out of touch with Little Steven's rock and roll empire, but this record by the Cocktail Slippers is fantastic. Produced by Little Steven, it's a beautful slice of hard-rockin' girl group goodness.
Captain America--This one pleasantly surprised me. I've never been the hugest fan of ol' Cap. I always found him the least compelling of the Avengers. So I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this movie. It kept me on the edge of my seat, and Hugo Weaving is probably still burping after the really amazing amount of scenery he chewed as the Red Skull. (And if you're going to play a nazi mad scientist with a red skull for a head, you damn well better go big.) A really fun summer movie.
Netflix--It's been a tough year for Netflix, but it remains my entire family's go-to source for televised entertainment. We discovered Hard Times of R.J. Berger and Trailer Park Boys through it and were able to tear through all the episodes in no time. Sure, it doesn't have all the newest releases, but I'm usually interested in stuff a little weirder than the newest releases anyway. Like Theatre of Blood or Deep Red, both of which I caught on Netflix this year.
The Summer I Learned to Fly--I already wrote about Dana Reinhardt's excellent book at length. Have you read it yet? Why the hell not?
Anno Dracula--Kim Newman's vision of Victorian England in which Dracula is the Prince Consort was incredibly clever and compelling.
The New 52--Yes, DC comics did stumble on a few titles, but rebooting your entire line is a gutsy move and seemed designed to allow casual readers (like me) a way in to the DC universe even if we didn't know the last 20 years of continuity by heart.
Tabletop RPGs.--Thanks to my friend Kevin, I returned to tabletop RPG's this year. I played a lot of Mutants and Masterminds, a smattering of D&D, and a one-off (and ridiculously fun) game of Reform School Ninja Girls. I am not making that up. Tabletop RPGs aren't just games; they're also collaborative story creation, and I have found them to be incredibly energizing to my own creativity and storytelling. And tons of fun as well.
Bright Sided--Barbara Ehrenreich's jeremiad against our national cult of relentless, unrealistic positivity was funny, incisive, and ultimately reassuring. If you think The Secret is crap, you're not alone, and this book really explains in depth how pernicious always looking on the bright side can be.
Evernote--I keep everything from shopping lists to notes for my next novel on this. It fits very nicely with the way I think. I can put things down in a messy and chaotic way and still find them instantly wherever I am.
Reed Gunther--a comic book about a rootin' tootin' bear-riding, monster-fighting, somewhat cowardly cowboy. Great fun.
American Horror Story--yeah, the ending was a little bit tone-deaf as far as I was concerned--we went from a harrowing horror story to Beetlejuice in the space of one episode, but still, this show was great. Clues to the story were parceled out in appropriate dribs and drabs as the season progressed, and it was just generally much darker and weirder than anything you usually see on TV. All the performances were great, but Taissa Farmiga's performance as the sullen, suicidal teen completely held the show together. Really couldn't believe the creator of Glee brought us this. I'm looking forward to next season: new cast, new house, new stories.
Occupy--Yes, it was a somewhat goofy protest. But, for the first time in a long time, it put economic inequality and injustice back into our national conversation. It's pretty easy to make fun of the hippies camping out, but the super-rich have been sticking it to everybody for the better part of 30 years. What has anybody else done to try and stop it?