Top 11 of 2011


6 jan 2012, 05:21

Top 10 (or so) Albums for the Year 2011

With another year coming to a close, it is time to sit back and refelct on what has happened. We saw "occupy" take on a new meaning as the proletariat class attempted to right the wrongs committed by an unregulated financial monster. We witnessed Google strive to become the next behemoth of social media, aspiring to do to Facebook what it had done to Myspace and Friendster. We marked the death of a visionary, only to see his legend live on with the unveiling of a disappointment to most, the iPhone 4S, not 5. And in music, you watched the rise of both talented (Adele) and talentless (Rebecca Black) singers, to successes no longer thought possible in the music industry, thanks to both viral videos and an ever more discerning ear from the public. Again it is time for me to attempt to sift through the masses of shit, and deliver the golden kernels of joy that I thought delivered something unique in a year laden with letdowns. So here they are, my favorite albums of , in no particular order:

Fucked Up - "David Comes To Life"

For their third album, Canadian band, Fucked Up, released what they call a , "David Comes To Life", on matador records. Far exceding anything Green Day tried to do with their punk rock opera, the album is a conceptual story about the title character, David, falling in love and trying to determine if it was worth it. Split into four acts, you can get the just of the story from their respective titles; Act One: Love, then tragedy strikes the town, Act Two: David loses Veronica, and then himself, as he succumbs to guilt and despair, Act Three: Another character is revealed, putting the responsibility for Veronica's death into question, and Act Four: A revelation from Vivian sheds more light on Veronica's death, Octavio and Vivian explain their motives, and David is reborn. On a personal level, this record speaks volumes; falling in love, questioning yourself and the motives of those involved, and finally realizing that it is just another chance for rebirth. On a musical level, "David Comes To Life" perfectly contrasts the complexities and indulgences of a rock opera with Fucked Up's genre bending style.

Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi - "Rome"

Capitol Records' "Rome" is an epic collaboration between producer Danger Mouse and the Italian composer Daniele Luppi; it took nearly five years to make, and was inspired by the music of s and composing legend, Ennio Morricone. Although primarily instrumental, singing from both Jack White and Norah Jones is featured on three songs, respectively, adding to the haunting nature of the record. Daniele Luppi brings his composing knowledge to the table, allowing for romantic flourishes and delicate interludes. While Danger Mouse brings his music clout, adding a groove previously heard on albums produced for The Black Keys and Beck, and the ability to bring in star talent for vocals. I'm glad they took so much time to craft this; nothing about the album seems rushed or fake, allowing you to step into another world for the duration. My only regret comes in that I will never be able to see the movie for which this "" was made.

Wugazi - "13 Chambers"

Independently released and available for free online, "13 Chambers" is labor of love from Midwestern emcee, musician, producers Cecil Otter and Swiss Andy; the name of the group perfectly describes what it entails, a mix of legends Wu-Tang Clan and gods Fugazi. Although technically there is no new music, this album brings together two of my all time favorites in an awesome way; admittedly, if you are not a fan of one these, you may not be a fan of this record. Although not all the tracks are winners, standout tracks include "Sleep Rules Everything Around Me", "Nowhere To Wait", and "Sweet Release". The amount of time and care taken to produce this record comes out in the mixes of these tracks, and if you are a fan of either I suggest you look into it. "13 Chambers" is on track to replace "The Grey Album" as one of the best rock/rap mashup , especially if you were alive and skateboarding during the .

Battles - "Gloss Drop"

Although this is Battles' sophomore release, "Gloss Drop", on Warp Records, can hardly be compared to their previous full length, "Mirrored". With the departure of guitarist and vocalist Tyondai Braxton, the band is left as a three piece, and thus this second LP no longer features the cartoonish vocoder that was the trademark of their previous release. The insanely s do, however, saturate the sound of "Gloss Drop", only with a slightly different feel than its predecessor. More groove and less pretension seem to be where the three remaining members went with their sound on this album. But don't be scared, there are still a few tracks with the weird singing that takes their sound to another level, featuring the likes of Gary Numan, Matias Aguayo, Kazu Makino, and Yamantaka Eye. If you even remotely consider yourself a fan of or based rock, you need to give this album a listen.

Seraphim - "The Light in the Distance"

With "The Light In The Distance", Tupelo, Mississippi's Seraphim bring music to places I have never heard before. A mixture of , , and , Seraphim are a band I hope to be hearing a lot more about in the coming future; their releases, available on D.I.Y. label A389 Records, are hard to come by to say the least. In fact, the only way I even heard of this band was having the pleasure of working one of their shows - a tour with Xibalba, a show that the in actually thought it necessary to bring me in for additional security. For the most part, this three piece is , and the songs have such a dynamic range that you tend to get lost in a wall of sound you wouldn't expect. The vocals heard on the tracks are sparse and poignant, but the peaks and valleys of the musicianship is where their true talents lie. And talented musicians these guys are; its the first record I have heard that had banjo, and it actually works very well with the sound.

Retox - "Ugly Animals"

Ever since I saw The Locust open for Dillinger Escape Plan in 2003, I have been a fan of just about everything that record label 31G puts their mark on. Even more eciting about Retox's debut LP, "Ugly Animals", is that it is a brainchild of two of the premier members of The Locust, Justin Pearson and Gabe Serbian. The violence sound that the former is most known for returns after his jaunt to the of All Leather and stints with DJs The Bloody Beatroots and Designer Drugs. With "Ugly Animals", the sound is more straightforward and stripped down than Holy Molar or The Locust, more along the lines of Head Wound City. But the lyrics are incredibly relevant to a society that is retoxifying itself amidst corporate avirce and political stagnancy. I'm especially lucky to have seen them live this year, on tour with OFF!, Keith Morris' newest project, and even more appreciative to have met Justin Pearson. After almost ten years of enjoying his music, Retox is one of the best new bands I have heard in a long time.

Cymbals Eat Guitars - "Lenses Alien"

Their first album on Barsuk Records, "Lenses Alien" is the second album from the band Cymbals Eat Guitars. Bringing to mind the likes of Superchunk and Built to Spill, but going to greater lengths than any of those predecessors, this album is still relatively new in my rotation. Yet, every time I hear it I like it more and more, an ear worm to the highest degree. The band continually grows on me as well; at first they remind me of Modest Mouse and Pavement, but then their , , and elements all start to come out with consecutive listens. Right out of the gate on "Lenses Alien", you are bombarded with an eight minute track that brings in more influences their previous album, "Why There are Mountains", even considered, and it only gets better from there. Well worth the listen for anyone who is a fan of the aforementioned bands, or good music in general.

Active Child - "You Are All I See"

For his first LP "You Are All I See", Pat Grossi, also known as Active Child, refined the elements of his previous "Curtis Lane" EP and uses his harp to summon angelic sounds. drums, mixed with R&B style vocal melodies, and beautifully played make this a diversely popular sound for all audiences. Although not exactly in the same vein as anything that Vagrant Records normally puts out, it is a refreshing album to hear from that label. Grossi, a classically trained vocalist, and self-trained harpist, summons his days of youth choir to give the vocals an almost female sound, adding to the angelic qualities of the album. And if you ever get the chance to see them live, do it immediately; I was lucky enough to see them open for M83, and it was honestly one of the best shows of the year. Active Child will be what all the kids are listening to when the drugs finally wear off and they realize that is not the best kind of electronic music out there.

Com Truise - "Galactic Melt"

Com Truise is one of the stage names for producer and designer Seth Haley, and his debut Ghostly International LP, "Galactic Melt", perfectly fits what he describes as , . Let's break that down for just a second: , not low or high fidelity, somewhere in between; , invoking the heavy synth sounds he uses; , speaking mostly to the speed at which his beats are dropping; and , because the final product is just so damn funky. The end result is a groove that is somewhere between Boards of Canada and Air making an electronic baby sometime deep in the middle of ' excess. Standout tracks are "VHS Sex" and "Cathode Girls", but the whole album flows well, and before you know it you're listening to it on repeat. This album may the what dubstep aficionados will be grooving on as they come down from the drugs, before they chill out with Active Child.

tUnE-yArDs - "w h o k i l l"

Merrill Garbus' second album as the tUnE-yArDs, "w h o k i l l", is still very , mostly due to her looped drum beats and tenor ukulele, but adds more sensibilities than her previous effort. For tUnE-yArDs' sophomore full length with 4AD Records, a saxophone section was added to fill out the sound and add to the hooks, and bass player Nate Brenner was allowed creative input. The result is a much more cohesive effort, filled with enough lure to keep you intrigued through the genre swaps, from to to to and everywhere in between. The intrigue not only lies in the music, but in the way Garbus' vocals address issues of race, gender, greed, and commercialization of a specific body image, things that she obviously encounters on a daily basis, and most of the less privileged society definitely can relate to. What really hooked me on this band though, is the live performance videos on YouTube; take the time to watch some of the radio performances, especially the song "Bizness". The creativity of Marriell Garbus astounds me, and even if you may not like the genre for various reasons, there is enough musicality going on in "w h o k i l l" for any listener to be entertained.

Low - "C'mon"

Although I hadn't heard of this band going into this year, Low quickly became a big part of what I listen to; the haunting melodies and introspective lyrics seemed to suit my mood for most of the year. With "C'Mon", Low's ninth studio album and third for Seattle imprint Sub-Pop records, they continued to do what I have come to love about this band. They maybe even reverted to to what made them famous to begin with, perhaps due to the fact they went back to the same church they recorded 2002's "Trust". The wordplay between Alan Sparhawk and his wife Mimi Parker allows you to feel the emotions expressed better than any band I can think of in the scene right now, and the minimal instrumentation brings those feelings to the forefront. Although this album doesn't really bring the band in a new direction, I am perfectly content listening to what Low has to offer on their newest effort; besides, that's why Sparhawk has his side projects like Retribution Gospel Choir.

Honorable Mentions

Mogwai - "Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will"
Fleet Foxes - "Helplessness Blues"
My Morning Jacket - "Circuital"
Tom Waits - "Bad as Me"
M83 - "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming"
Explosions in the Sky - "Take Care,Take Care, Take Care"
smyth - "senescence"
The Black Keys - "El Camino"
Man Man - "Life Fantastic"
Deer Tick - "Divine Providence"
Braveyoung - "We Are Lonely Animals"
Thrice - "Major/Minor"
Black Cobra - "Invernal"
Toro y Moi - "Underneath the Pine"
Radiohead - "The King of Limbs"
Beirut - "The Rip Tide"
David Bazan - "Strange Negotiations"
blink-182 - "Neighborhoods"
The Roots - "Undun"
Tyler, the Creator - "Goblin"
Bon Iver - "Bon Iver"


  • Nix42

    I saw the Locust open for DEP in 2003 as well, a free show to boot...One of the first tours with then new singer Greg Puciato if I remember correctly

    13 jan 2012, 19:22
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