My Top 11 Albums of 2011

Ryan’s Top 11 of ’11

2012 has just begun and I think it’s time I announce my top 11 albums of 2011. It was a great year for music and I was stoked to see a lot of my favorite artists release new music along with a few newcomers who really surprised me. So without further ado, here are my top 11 of ’11:

11. The Hope In Forgiving & Giving Up Hope

by CityCop.

CityCop. are a screamo band who decide not to utilize the distortion-heavy guitars and amplifiers of their contemporaries but instead resort to basic acoustic instruments. It is a surprise to see the punch these guys can pack with such light utilities but they sure know how to make songs intense. The clean vocals remind me of Jordan Dreyer from La Dispute with some screams reminiscent of Will Swan on Dance Gavin Dance‘s Happiness LP. I really dig these guys sound and I can tell they have a bountiful future ahead of them.

Sample — “Hink Hall”

10. Like Shadows

by Ampere

Ampere are known for being chaotic and incoherent. On Like Shadows, they are just as chaotic and incoherent as ever but this time around, they’ve learned to keep their songs sounding more tight and more fluid. This album is thirteen minutes of pure, apocalyptic destruction with song lengths ranging from a little over ten seconds to about two minutes. Fans of bands like Orchid who haven’t already listened to Ampere should grab a copy of Like Shadows immediately.

Sample — “Tiny Victories”

9. The Great Debater

by Skyzoo

I consider myself a fan of Kanye West…’s production. His samples and beats are prolific but I always want to hear a less egotistic emcee behind the mic. Along comes Skyzoo: a rapper with some serious flows and a humble attitude. The beats on his latest release The Great Debater are almost–almost–as stylish as Yeezy’s Twisted Fantasy and Skyzoo’s raps are unstoppable. I wonder if this guy knows what breathing is? Anyway, I found this hip-hop LP pretty dazzling and I think more people should appreciate what the Zoo of the Sky has to offer.

Sample — “We Here”

8. The Lack Long After

by Pianos Become The Teeth

I must admit, I was not very impressed with this LP as everyone else was when it was first released. I enjoyed it but something felt missing. Then I caught Pianos on tour with Touche Amore at a show in Los Angeles and I was floored. These guys’ live performance belittles everything they’ve ever put out on record, seriously. The vocals were desperate and intense, the guitars were loud, I could feel the snare punching at my chest with the boom of the bass drum pushing my stomach in with every hit. I could feel their music and I wanted to tear my hair out or something to fulfill the experience but I couldn’t; there were too many people in the crowd and I was crammed. Listening back on this, I have garnered more respect for the music showcased here. Enough respect to place it at number eight in my top eleven.

Sample — “I’ll Be Damned”

7. Joyce Manor

by Joyce Manor

Joyce Manor was expected. I expected to love these guys. I was told, “Hey man, if you want some catchy pop punk, check out the new LP from Joyce Manor.” So I got the album and was expecting some catchy pop punk and that’s exactly what I got. What I didn’t expect were the vocals. There seems to be a common theme of love-it-or-hate-it in regards to them, but I find them fresh in the realm of pop punk and sort of reminiscent to Ian Curtis from Joy Division. So basically, I got what I wanted and listened to all eighteen minutes of this album several times (about twenty or thirty times as of now and still lovin’ it). I kind of wish these guys made music a while back so I would have more stuff to listen to but the ten (great) tracks on this self-titled LP will suffice for now.

Sample — “Beach Community”

6. House Of Balloons

by The Weeknd

As I pointed out in my New Year’s resolutions post, I wish I could’ve checked out The Weeknd sooner. I was so curious as to what I would hear from all the reviews I read. I heard the dude cusses like every other word but I really didn’t care. When it actually came to listening to it, I never felt any of the explicit language to be too overbearing (“…and that’s my mo’f*ckin’ word too“). I never found the R&B genre to be anything that great but upon listening to this, I’m having some second opinions. I want to start delving into the world of (great) R&B music, but I’ll save that for another blog post. But all in all, this guy makes some chilled-out, fresh-as-frick pop music. Also, he has a great falsetto voice. The Weeknd released three mixtapes this year, all superb stuff, but I find his debut the one I come back to the most.

Sample — “House Of Balloons / Glass Table Girls”

5. Worthless

by Weekend Nachos

Weekend Nachos, man, what else can I say? A power-violent hardcore band from Chicago who love to smash the faces of elitist punks and watch the world burn. I just love these guys so I can’t help but place them high on my top albums of the year. I’m just gonna copy-paste the lyrics of their song “Jock Powerviolence” so you can get an idea of what the band might have to offer (also, Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy is featured on this track and he goes hard!): “I stopped trying to be cool a long time ago! I laugh to myself as I see you come and go! Make up rules for your friends to live by! I’ll keep doing things my way while you f*cking cry! Prove nothing to elitist children! I’ll let you talk because I owe you nothing!”

Sample — “Black Earth”

4. Departing

by The Rural Alberta Advantage

I checked out The Rural Alberta Advantage last year with their debut LP Hometowns. I fell in love with them instantly, mostly due to the fact that vocalist Nils Edenloff reminded me of Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel with his high-pitched croon. On their second LP, the Canadian trio turn down the tempo a bit all the while retaining the charm that was ever so present on their debut, still crackling as bright as ever. I was a bit disappointed with the lack of technical drumming that was found on their first LP (i.e. “Don’t Haunt This Place“) but the percussions on Departing keep things going smoothly with some simple beats and a little experimentation to be found here and there. I really can’t picture these fellows doing anything remotely unsatisfactory so I can’t wait to see what they have to offer in the future.

Sample — “Tornado ’87” 

3. Sit Resist

by Laura Stevenson And The Cans

Laura Stevenson and her recyclable friends make another adorable record with some dark undertones. I have always admired the range of Mrs. Stevenson’s voice, how flexible it is, how she can hold a note for what seems to be forever, how she can make the music sound so innocent… I just adore this record. I want to take it and pinch its cheeks and make annoying, high-pitched noises. Sit Resist is practically flawless as far as I can tell. That’s all I have to back this up.

Sample — “The Healthy One”

2. Useless Eaters

by GDP

Politics aren’t really my thing. I would love (and I mean love) the punk group Propagandhi but the way the vocalist tries to enforce his ideals upon the listener is kind of a turn-off. But with Jersey rapper GDP, I don’t mind it much. Nothing feels absurd. Every line is a punchline and I don’t mean comically but as in each line literally packs a punch. This guy really knows how to keep things interesting. The beats are massive. The rap flows are engaging. Topics range from drug abuse, world pollution, and suicide (“Here is something that you can’t understand… how I can just kill myself.“) I feel like I stumbled upon something really special here with GDP’s Useless Eaters and I think more people should discover it for themselves. You just might thank me.

Sample — “Little Boxes”

1. Vacation

by Bomb The Music Industry!

When I heard Jeff Rosenstock & Co. were going to release a new album in the summer of ’11, I was excited to say the least, f*cking ecstatic to exaggerate a bit. I love Bomb The Music Industry! with a strong, strong passion. There is a big style change present on this LP: an almost controversial change from ska to… well, I can’t really categorize it under something specific, but I think of it as a beachy, punky, fun rock record with Jeff Rosenstock. That’s what really makes every BTMI! record a great record: Jeff Rosenstock. The dude knows how to make everything he writes just plain awesome. Read any lyric Jeff has written and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The track I think surprised me the most was definitely “The Sh*t That You Hate.” It starts off at an almost inaudible volume, just Jeff and an acoustic guitar. Then the other instruments start building on top of each other, one after the other (pianos, harmonicas, a fuzzy buzzy, and even some violins are thrown into this expansive epic). The track just builds and builds for a good three minutes until everything comes together in a loud, brilliant symphony and I just… ah, I can’t even begin to explain it. I just ooze happiness, that’s pretty much it. I ooze. I love everything about this record, even the forgivable repetition of “Savers.” This album pretty much defined my summer this year and I thank it immensely.

Sample — “Hurricane Waves”

Top EP’s of 2011:
1. Apparitions by Manners
2. Coloring Book by Glassjaw
3. Seasons by CityCop.
4. MMXI by The Kingsford Run
5. Our Color Green (The Singles) by Glassjaw
6. Coup De Grace by Children Of God
7.  Never Born, Never Dead by Trophy Scars
8. Black Earth by Weekend Nachos
9. Ascent by Maths
10. The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues by Between The Buried And Me

Ryan’s New Years Resolution(s)

Twenty-twelve is here which means another year spent loathing the classroom and bathing in the freedom light. It means another step closer to officially graduating high school (terrifying!) and another step closer to adulthood. I usually don’t make New Year’s resolutions and when I do I always forget what they are. They’re probably things like keeping up my grades and making my parents proud. This year, I made it my duty to think for once and come up with a few resolutions. Here are the five things I came up with . . .

1. Stay positive.
I’m tired of getting into these moods where I don’t wanna feel happy; I just remain stubborn and stupid. It bothers me because I feel myself getting into these dark moods and I can’t escape them. That is why I want to stay positive, or at least as positive as I possibly can under all circumstances. Life is too short to get moody about the small things. I need to suck it up, live it up, and stop actin’ like a fool!

2. Make things less awkward with my sister.
For some strange reason, I have this awkward relationship with my younger sister where it’s hard to talk to each other. I mean, simple things like saying “hi” or asking for something are abound, but I haven’t had a casual conversation with her in the longest time. It may be the large age distance (10 years between us) and that we just have nothing relatable to discuss, but then again, that’s not an issue with most brother-sister relationships. I don’t know but sh*t needs to get done about that.

3. Stay with my girlfriend. 
I have a wonderful girlfriend Ana who I’ve been with for almost 8 months now, and I’d like to keep that going. Not that I feel like there’s a chance it’ll end but you know, it’s always good to wish for the best.

4. Keep up with new music.
I said I was going to do this last year and I did a pretty good job but after finally checking out The Weeknd in the last month of 2011 when I should’ve just checked him out in March like I said I would, I’ve realized that I need to stay (even more) updated with new releases.

5. Grow up.
I’m 18 so it’s time to get a car, get a job, and get ready for college. First, the car doesn’t feel as essential as I used to think it was. I have a bike and I enjoy the exercise I get from it. Second, I like the way it feels when I have money in my pocket but all of my friends who have jobs have no money in their pockets. Third, I’ve been preppin’ up for college since the first day of my senior year so I’m cool with the rate I’m going at. The moment I buy a car and get a job is the moment I throw my youth away, so I’ma keep the kid juices flowing as best as I can.

And that’s all! Here’s to hoping I stick with them as best as I can. Cheers folks.

– Ryan

My very own meme!

Made this today. Thought it was dandy. Get ready internet…

Ceremony’s “Ruined” . . . ruined.

Lines from Ceremony’s Ruined EP . . . adjusted . . . in various ways (all links open in new tabs/windows).

Pack your fists full of hate, take a swing at the world!
Pack your fists full of homework, take a walk to your school!
Pack your fists full of cake, take a bite at the swirl!
Pack your fists full of towels, take a swim in the pool!
Pack your fists full of laxatives, take a dump on the world!
Pack your fists full of beer, take a seat on the stool!
Make a list full of things, take a trip to the store!
Pack your fish full of bait…
Eats your grits full of corn…

This is my war!
This is my floor!
This is my store!
This is my score!
This is my oar!
This is my whore!
This is my roar!
This is my boar!
This is my snore!
This is my door!
This is my sore!

This hard luck life sucks so I use my fists!
This cheap lube sucks so I use my spit!
This game is rigged so I will not win!
This life is sad so I look at this!
There’s holes in my cheese so I guess it’s Swiss!
It’s cold outside so I use my mitts!

I’ll probably think of more…

Review?: “Crystal Ball” by Monster Rally

It’s like standing in an elevator. Stretching your neck, cracking it to the left, cracking it the right. Looking at your wrist watch, then up at the numbers. 3 . . . fade . . . 4 . . . fade . . . 5 . . . Tapping your foot and exhaling. It’s like pushing a shopping cart. Pacing the aisles. Where is the detergent section? Where are the bright, orange jugs of blue baby venom? You walk along the dotted white tile to the rhythm of the music played. Nodding your head as you scan row upon row upon row . . . It’s like sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s office. Kids are building Lego towers and knocking them down with big yellow trucks. They’re playing Sandlot on VHS. The audio is muted so only the sounds of the children and the bells of the intercom music echo among the otherwise silent patients. It’s like being put on hold. You patiently await a much needed answer to all your problems, but you are glad the music has a nice vibe to it. It’s so retro, it sounds like things haven’t changed for the last forty years. Samples looped and hooked together so smoothly, repeating themselves until you almost want to imitate the rhythm vocally. The operator interrupts . . . “Hello?” Your mouth is closed.

Sample –  “Garbage City”

Review: “Crimes In Blood” by Vaccine

Clocking in at only two-point-one minutes and five-point-three megabytes, Crimes In Blood is the shortest album in my iTunes library. I thought it fitting to review this right now as I wanted to review something in a very short amount of time. Vaccine is another one of them powerviolence bands who like to keep things fast and incoherent. The subpar sound quality and pure chaos are all intact and this album never lets go even for a second (which is 1/126th the length of this album). I have a feeling every member of this band has been abused in some way, whether it was their parents or a bully in elementary school or a restless chihuahua who kept them up at night or maybe one of them is diabetic and they order their fries with no salt at Wendy’s and they always get their order back with salt on their fries or perhaps they all have jobs as telemarketers who are constantly being ignored and are using their band as an outlet for their anger or maybe the vocalist of this band has never whispered a word in his life, maybe he was raised on a farm with a bunch of squealing pigs and he always had to scream and yell over the sound of the pigs squealing just so that he could ask a simple question, or there may be a chance that all of the band members got ripped off at a Denny’s and they made this album hoping one day the employees at that Denny’s would listen to it and discover that all the anger is directed to them and they will feel so guilty about their past actions that they’ll give all the members of Vaccine a free meal. Or maybe they’re angry because the world is angry. That’s basically what this album is. Pure rage. A thousand punches hitting you at a thousand miles per hour. I have played this album about fourteen times since I started typing this. If you like angry music that you can’t scrobble on, check out Vaccine’s Crimes In Blood and die.

Sample – “Hidden History,” “No Chance,” “Hell On Earth,” “Patriot,” and “Drug War” (the whole EP)

– Ryan

Ryan’s First Music Review . . . and it’s chunky.

Death From Above 1979 – Heads Up
It’s always a surprising feat when you have only two members in a band who can make a substantial amount of noise. Most famously, the Whites of The White Stripes make do with heavy guitar and brazen cymbals, while Iron Lung use the same method but not to create rocking anthems but rather fast, unapologetic powerviolence. Despite a lack of instruments, two musicians can easily make enough noise to fill an entire stadium of screaming fans.

Death From Above 1979 consist of two gnarly dudes who make some gnarly punk music that just makes people want to dance. It’s so funky and fuzzy and fun! And can you believe it? . . . there’s one dude banging on the drums, shouting into a conveniently-placed mic, and another picking at a bass guitar through a heavily distorted amplifier, yet these guys make a tidal wave of intense, rocking punk music.

Heads Up is a little under 15 minutes long but it’s 15 minutes of pure fun. The music induces some serious foot-tapping and hair-shaking; I feel like I’m in a fight scene with Scott Pilgrim and we’re just battling it out with light sabers and rocket skates. Jesse Keeler creates some thick bass grooves, gorging the listener with an earful of fuzz. Singer/drummer Sebastian Grainger uses some lo-fi effects on his vocals to add to the destruction as he shouts “I’m so sick of it here!” in My Love is Shared, and you can tell he’s trying to smash a hole through his snare as he bangs on them drums. The duo also makes use of synthesizers and such to make things even more groovy.

So if you’re looking for some short, intense music to dance and thrash around to, look no further than Death From Above’s Heads Up EP and get your punk on.

Sample – “Dead Womb”

– Ryan

Review: Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball

Written as I watch the Monster Ball at Madison Square Garden on DVD; An opinion from an non-Gaga fanatic. 

Everyone’s so happy about it. I understand, I mean, it is Lady Gaga. And I can’t say I’m not enjoying it. To some extent. She has been talking more than she has been singing. And then they take you backstage as she strips off her over-the-top costumes(which, miraculously, don’t seem to be getting caught on anything. That was probably cut out). And all you get to see of that is her bare back. Not exciting, if you ask me.

The way my friend treats her, it seems like she’s got a bigger cult following than Twilight has. Gaga is God.

Well, in her own words, she’s Tinker Bell. You need to clap for her to live. So clap her little monsters shall. Clap as she strikes sexy poses whilst on her knees. Singing her speech instead of her songs. Randomly throwing in “Jesus” and saying it louder than every other word in the sentence.

Showing her teeth. She says she loves Michael because Michael loves everyone. But bisexuals don’t love everyone. Pansexuals do. So maybe people should be more like me(or thank God that they aren’t).

I won’t question the fantasized gaze my friend is giving my television. Even if it’s a little bit creepy, with his mouth hanging open and glassy eyes unrelenting. I know there are plenty of bands, people, and actors I admire.

I do wish I could have seen this live. It would have been exponentially more enjoyable and purposeful than seeing it on this DVD my friend bought. I’m just not into this women’s story or even music to fully appreciate watching the pre-recorded concert from behind a camera lens.


A Reptile Dysfunction

So, welcome to the MARKS literary journal where we begin every blog post with so. So, we consist of Melissa, Ana, Ryan, Kym, and Sam. We all have unique personalities so don’t expect everything to be as clean as cornbread on this here blog. Here you’ll find a multitude of knick-knacks, paddy-whacks, and dog-bones. You’ll find poetry, stories, sweaters, cannibals, Scottish fold cats, chicken noodle soup, tiger-skin rugs, essays, garlic bread (you need to have garlic bread), fond childhood memories, Clint Eastood’s frown, art, Five Guys’ fries, catacombs, combs, Honey Combs, Chocolate Lucky Charms (. . . sometimes), Frida Kahlo’s eyebrow, puke, reviews, powdery straws, old Christmas Lists, John Hughes, Wes Anderson, your mom’s high school picture, opinions, twirly moustaches (otherwise known as knobs), Spanish muffin-tops, problems, movies, thrift store shopping lists, rants, submissions, and possibly where the wild things are. So enjoy the view. – MARKS