Saturday, December 24, 2011

Another Look at 2011

As we posted our Top 10 list earlier this month, in keeping with tradition, we asked our magnificent correspondents their opinions on their favorite albums of the year. Take a look at the different flavors of 2011.

Correspondent Leah Marchesano aka Leah Lovecat's Top Albums of the Year:

Grouplove - Never Trust A Happy Song
The Horrors - Skying
Miles Kane
The Vaccines- What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
The Strokes- Angles
White Lies- Ritual
Foster The People-Torches
The Joy Formidable- The Big Roar
Cat's Eyes

Thank You's:
As always, Sal Bono, who continues to be a beacon of light to music lovers, Mike Hindert, Ann Marie Weis, Kimmy Grace Santos & The Sour Mash Blog, Wyldlife, SHAPES, Maverick Inman, The Twees, everyone at Merrifield Records, The Van Doo's, The Narrows, Stateside Menace, Gem and the Deadheads, Julian Harding, Dave Cromwell, new friends and old...lets have a great 2012! Love-Leah Lovecat

Our special UK correspondent and New Addition to the team, Linn Branson's Picks:

Wild Beasts - Smother
Chapel Club - Palace
Other Lives - Tamer Animals
The Horrors - Skying
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
The Antlers - Burst Apart
Washed Out - Within and Without
Elbow - Build A Rocket, Boys!
I Break Horses - Hearts
Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

Our British Muse and Close Friend, Simon Mason's Top 10:

Ghostpoet - Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam
White Hills - HP-1
Radiohead - The King of Limbs
Parking Lights - 939
John Maus - We Shall Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
Balam Acab - Wander / Wonder
Delta Swamp Rock - Sounds From The South: At The Crossroads Of Rock, Country And Soul
Burial - Street Halo EP

Our Photo Correspondent, Videographer and Primer NYC DJ RICH D SMOOV's List (Broken Down by Genre):

Indie Album: Radiohead - The King of Limbs
Commercial Hip-Hop: Raekwon The Chef - Shaolin vs Wu-Tang
Latin/International: Davilla 666 - Tan Bajo
Hardcore: Atari Teenage Riot - Is this Hyperreal?
Indie Hip-Hop: Apathy - Honkey Kong
Black Metal: Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial Lineage
Turntablism: J-Roc- Some Cold Rock Stuff
Instrumental: Clams Casino - Rainforest EP
Prog: Opeth: Heritage
Experimental: Wagonchrist- Tomorrow

Honorable Mentions:
Retro/psych Rock: The Black Lips - Arabia Mountain
DJ Album: DJ Shadow - The Less You Know, The Better
Mix Tape Of The Year: Danny Brown - XXX
Electronica: Mr Oizo - Stade 2
Dubstep: Bassnectar - Divergent Spectrum
Metal: Krallice - Diotima
Commercial Metal: Mastodon - The Hunter
Best Brooklyn Black Metal Band: Liturgy - Aesthethica
Alternative: The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar

Now, Our Loud Rock Correspondent, The ROCK(jock)'s list:

You Yuppies ready to make your ears bleed?! Here are the ten best albums from the past year to help you get your headbang on.

10. The Human Abstract- Digital Veil – Despite being a band close to the ROCK(jock)’s heart, there’s no bias here. The band experimented a little too much on their sophomore effort, Midheaven, but took the lessons learned there, applied it to the sound from their stellar debut, Nocturne, and returned to form in 2011 with their best album yet. Fans of Between the Buried and Me, take notice—Digital Veil may have been the best full-length progressive album of the year.

9. Fallujah - The Harvest Wombs – This might win the award for the most overlooked record of the year. Right out of the gate on their debut LP, Fallujah sets the standard for what death metal can achieve through smart songwriting--something a number of their contemporaries seemed to realize in 2011. Instead of blasting us to death with repetitive chugs like every other uninspired death act, The Harvest Wombs couples intricate rhythms with melancholic and apocalyptic melodies (that’s right, MELODIES) to keep things heavy yet diverse and interesting.

8. Volbeat - Beyond Hell/Above Heaven – Thank you Officially a Yuppie for introducing me to this band. If only all radio rock could be this sophisticated and fun.

7. Kvelertak - Kvelertak, The End – I named this the Best Debut record on Episode #9 of The SIDESHOW Podcast despite the fact it was released internationally last year and there’s actually a full-length debut ranked higher on this list. But as The SIDESHOW’s listeners have come to realize, the ROCK(jock) is not a man of logic. Besides, Kvelertak deserves to be singled out. Just like iwrestledabearonce two years ago, this record is an extremely promising, totally fun, and completely different offering that metal and music in general needs to keep moving forward.

6. Between the Buried and Me- Hypersleep Dialogues– I referred to The Human Abstract’s Digital Veil as the best FULL-LENGTH progressive album in 2011. That was an important distinction because BTBAM is still the torch-bearer and part one of their two-part concept album shows why. Honing the heavier sound they returned to on The Great Divide following the brilliant departure into the unclassifiable Colors, this year’s EP features everything that makes Between the Buried and Me the best at what they do. Over the course of just three tracks, which still clock in at a whopping 31 minutes, BTBAM ties together disparate musical elements with a story about “two human characters who live in different planes of existence, separated by millions of light years.” (Courtesy: Gun Shy Assassin). Besides being a sucker for concept albums, BTBAM took a chance experimenting with the EP format that could soon become the future of the record industry and for that, they should be commended.

5. August Burns Red - Leveler – For those who weren’t in love with ABR’s last offering, Constellations—you’re an idiot. Regardless, Leveler gave you exactly what you wanted as the band brought back the breakdowns and applied them to the experimentation that made Constellations so great. However, this album has slowly but continuously fallen farther and farther down my Top Ten since its release back in July. While no other metal album this year was as infectiously catchy as Leveler, the preachy lyrics get tiresome. Sadly, between songs like “Salt & Light” and tour partners like Silverstein, all the hallmarks of a band on the verge of selling out are there. Enjoy Leveler while you can—it’s likely August Burns Red’s last great album.

4. TesseracT - One – It took a while, but no album grew on me more this year than TesseracT’s debut LP. It’s beautiful and ethereal and shows why the rise of progressive djent as the next big scene in metal is the best possible thing. Not to mention, you know an album has some chops if the label decides to re-release it instrumentally. (Well, in most cases. I’m looking at you Darkest Hour.) By the way, notice how this marks the THIRD debut to make my Top Ten? Yeah, 2011 was pretty disappointing for the heavy hitters but that opened the door for a ton of new talent to step up, just like TesseracT did on One.

3. Glassjaw - Coloring Book – Considering the crowd reaction to the band’s new music, it seems odd Glassjaw only released this EP as free handout at their concerts. Well, it’s time you “real” Glassjaw fans faced facts and got over your teen angst. Darryl’s all grown up now and it shows on Coloring Book—hands down the best music the post-hardcore legends have ever crafted. Instead of another collection of spastic, disjointed mishmashes, Glassjaw coherently mixed its signature elements into tight and memorable performances which haunt you long after you’ve finished spinning the record, something their older material never quite achieved. Add to that the lyrical fodder Palumbo’s rejection of his former lifestyle makes for and Coloring Book finds Glassjaw boldly evolving with the times, regardless of fan outcry, and doing it in a way that lives up to the mythic status they’ve cultivated over the years.

2. Black Dahlia Murder - Ritual – Black Dahlia Murder has been at the top of the death metal subgenre for years now but had yet to make that career album—the kind so good it defies genre borders and earns universal acceptance and praise. Ritual is that album. Long among the most technically gifted musicians in all of heavy metal, their music was often too focused on ability, not to mention their sonic assault made it difficult to listen to one of their albums all the way through. Just like Fallujah though, Black Dahlia flexed its songwriting chops on Ritual to deliver not only the most memorable and diverse songs of their career, but maybe in the history of death metal. Virtually any other year, this would be a #1 album.

1. Machine Head - Unto the Locust – If you’ve listened to The SIDESHOW at all, this should come as no surprise. Hell, if you have ears then this should be a no-brainer. Four-and-a-half years after composing the greatest metal album of the new millennium and one of the all-time classics, Machine Head had no chance of living up to the anticipation surrounding Unto the Locust. But somehow, not only did they meet expectations, they vastly exceeded them with this instant classic to make one of the greatest back-to-back album tandems in metal history, rivaling Metallica’s Ride the Lightning/Master of Puppets. Every song is unforgettable and unique, each displaying one of the band’s innumerable strengths. “I Am Hell” may be the heaviest intro in the band’s already incomparably heavy repetoire, “Locust” is the perfect live song, and “Darkness Within” shows a range few of Machine Head’s contemporaries share. If you Yuppies are anything like Sal, then you recognize and appreciate good music regardless of genre. Do yourself a favor this holiday and gift yourself what is surely one of 2011’s best, no matter what you listen to.


..and Finally, Bill Reese, Managing Editor and Host of Our Podcast, OFFICIALLY A PODCAST. Here is his End of the Year List:

Honorable mentions:

Bon Iver
Bess Rogers
- Out of the Ocean
Candy Hearts - Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy
Death Cab for Cutie - Codes & Keys
The Jayhawks - Mockingbird Time
Radiohead - The King of Limbs
TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light

Top 10:

10. Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! - Hello
Their yet-unfinished sophomore effort would have placed much higher, but it won't see release until 2012.

9. Mastadon - The Hunter
A prog rock album that's not afraid to bear its teeth.

8. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Title track is one of the best pieces of songwriting put out this year. Flawless production.

7. Cults
Catchy as fuck, a fantastic record to put on at a PBR-drenched party.

6. Decemberists - The King Is Dead
Proof that a hyper-literate band can follow up a bona fide opera with a low-down Tom Petty-ish record of country/folk jams.

5. Arctic Monkeys - Suck it And See
Turner, The prodigal son is back, singing another fooking Sha-La-La-La

4. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong
Remember what I said about the Cults disc being catchy? This one puts it to shame, especially the first 2 tracks.

3. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
The most musically ambitious record of 2011. Chilling and mesmerizing.

2. Ringo Deathstarr - Colour Trip
Shoegaze and synth pop, two dynamic genres forged together by these surprising newcomers.

1. Fucked Up - David Comes to Life
4 acts. 76 minutes. 18 songs. It's brutal. It's poignant. It's got the sharpest hooks in punk or any rock and roll this year. An unequivocal masterpiece. Sure to be in the top 5 of the decade.