And damn if I can easily think of one. Now, part of that is down to the micro-fragmentation of listener patterns and the overall ongoing decline of the music industry--perhaps no rock band is going to have the kind (and size) of break-out in 2011 that Nirvana did in 1991 or even that the Strokes did in 2001. Part of it is perhaps perspective--it'll probably be easier to tell what act(s) encapsulated 2011 when we're looking at it from 10 or 20 years down the line. But now, running through all those "best of the year so far" lists posted in June (including mine here), nothing really jumps out. Fleet Foxes? (Or Bon Iver, or one of their many lesser folk followers?) Fucked Up? Odd Future? Oh, wait, I've got it: LCD Soundsystem. Hear me out . . .
Even though 2011 wasn't the year of LCD Soundsystem's break-out but of their swan song, I would argue that they're still the most zeitgeist-capturing band of their time--ironic, achingly sincere, and deeply referential (and reverential) of past musics (Retromania, anyone?), all mixed up--and that in fact their final Madison Square Garden show was, in a weird way, their big break-out event. In an age where individual albums don't make the impact they used to, maybe it takes years of a career, touring, and one last really big show to make a similar mark. More specifically, I can easily imagine bands lining up around the block to cover their songs 10 or 20 years from now, even if I'm not sure I'd want to hear the results (cough, Baths, cough).
But that's just me--what's your Nirvana/Strokes analogue for 2011?