My fairest guess is that if you see these pages frequently enough, you probably already know about those Archers of Loaf reunion shows. Maybe you’ve bought some of the Superchunk reissues, too, and you might’ve even rolled VIP at Hopscotch (while, of course, wondering if the Independent Weekly really did kill Troika, after all). Megafaun, Kooley High and Whatever Brains are likely proper nouns you understand, and by now, you probably know that Cat’s Cradle sure ain’t what it used to be.

But in any region, there’s bound to be something else, something that slips out of the general discourse. Musically, in the Triangle, there’s an awful lot that we don’t get to every week, from university jazz programs to appearing-disappearing-reappearing house show circuits that generally would rather not be publicized.

At the close of this year, we check a few of those pockets. First, Bryan Reed explores Alesana, a Raleigh band that’s taken its literary, melodramatic mix of hardcore and prog rock to fairly massive stages in the past few years. I ponder why American Idol resonates so strongly in North Carolina, home to a relatively high number of Idol celebrities. And lastly, Sylvia Pfeiffenberger explores the area’s thriving Middle Eastern and upstart jazz communities and offers a guide on how to get involved.

If you’re worried that this edition ignores that necessary vanguard of indie rock, please skip to the Independent Weekly‘s selections for the 10 best area albums of 2011. And more stories are coming soon: reflections on the year in music from several area musicians and predictions about 2012.