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
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
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
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”
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”
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
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”
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