My tastes are among the most mainstream of NG users, so I expect most to disagree with me. Even then, I still have a lot on my to-listen list, so my overall view is a bit limited sadly. Oh well.
Adele's 21, mainstream and overplayed as it was, will no doubt be what people look back on and (hopefully) fondly remember about 2011's music. I really do think that this one will stand the test of time, a test not much nowadays can (including a majority of what I listen to). This is my favorite of the year, and dare I say that this may also be the best album front to back I've heard all year.
I did enjoy the Foo Fighters' Wasting Light. "Walk" is an easy highlight, but then if that's the perfect closer, then "Bridge Burning" is the perfect opener. There's usually one band who's said to have "brought rock back" every few years -- the Foos were the lucky ones this year.
Iron & Wine's release Kiss Each Other Clean was really good, though I dare say The Shepherd's Dog was better. Still, I can't get the opener "Walking Far From Home" out of my head -- there is something about that melody that gets in the head. And I love the colorful artwork.
Born This Way is incredible, I don't care what anyone of you think. Lady Gaga and Adele are what excellent pop music is made of nowadays, and while Lady Gaga doesn't have the soul that Adele does, you can't deny that she has the ambition, the creativity... the producers and management. I dare any other pop star to get Bruce Springsteen's sax-player (may he rest in peace) to play on not one, but two dance tracks. Whaaaat.
Lupe Fiasco's LASERS was something I was looking forward to for a good bit. While it didn't live up to all that I had hoped for, when it was good, it was great. Same with Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne. It didn't NEARLY live up to the hype, but when it was good, it was great. Lil Wayne? Loved Tha Carter III. But Tha Carter IV...? Hmm, at least it was better than Rebirth.
Speaking of, Wayne's protege Drake took his somber not-rap-rap and made another good CD, Take Care. Actually I prefer this to last year's Thank Me Later, though that may be because he got Stevie Wonder to do a brief bit for him on a song. I was on a Stevie kick for a short bit.
Honorary mentions (no order) for now, because my poptimism only takes my writing so far. Hopefully I'll be able to coherently gather my thoughts and make a proper list sometime, in the next few years.
TV on the Radio
The Black Keys
I'm sure I'll think of more later, when I care about being judged.