Sunday, January 1, 2012
Top of 2011
One of my absolute favorite things about music is the subjectivity of it. So many hours of my life have been spent in conversations about which album is strong which album is weak. These conversations move my soul, because music is just one of those passions of mine that move me. I can not always explain why the combination of a light hi hat tap, bass kick, ambient guitar tones, bass, and a beautiful melody move me. The reason I can not is because music is subjective, not objective.
I wish I could say that music is objective and that Eddie Vetter and Thom Yorke is the biggest joke, but that isn’t the truth. They just don’t move ME, but I know there are thousands in the world who are moved by their performances and lyrics. Where the grit and passion of La Dispute resonate in me, I know that it doesn’t in others. The real battle with music people is keeping that balance of love of the craft and respect of others opinion in tact.
As some of you have seen here on my blog before and even in the first paragraph of this post, music is a huge part of my life. It moves me, it inspires me, it accompanies me everywhere that I go. There have been times that I’ve looked around and felt that I was closer with this musical beings that I’ve never met than the friends I hold in my life (don’t worry this isn’t the case, but some of you understand what I mean by this). So this list that I have prepared for you down below, it is a list of the musicians who have stood above the others in my life and moved me. Some of these artists have driven me into a huge variety of emotions. There are lines in The Story So Far’s debut full length that make me smile every time, and there are lines in La Dispute and The Wonder Year’s 2011 releases that have driven me to tears. Wether I was driving punching my steering wheel and screaming (out of key) along with every syllable, or sitting in my room taking in every word with the liner notes, these are the tunes that accompanied me through out this year.
I am so grateful that I live in a time where I can be moved, inspired, and accompanied by music every day. One of the biggest opportunities I had this year was that I actually started writing album reviews for a local magazine. So with my list of favorite albums, I am going to post the reviews that I wrote for them as well. So without further adieu, here is the list of jams that did just that for me in 2011.
Top Albums of 2011
1. La Dispute - Wildlife
Label: No Sleep Records
On October 4th, 2011, La Dispute released unto the world their apex, their masterpiece appropriately titled: Wildlife. Three years have passed since the release of their underground sensation, Somewhere at the Bottom of the River... The band’s third full length uniquely encapsulates the rawest emotion and passion that can possibly be captured in the marriage of music and lyricism. Wildlife is a tear-filled narrative that leads us through the human experience and expounds upon what the human race can withstand. Through songs shaped like short stories, La Dispute brings you to tears, and leaves you completely satisfied. As Jordan Dreyer warns the at the opening of the album,“It’s all there in the pages ahead of here/It’s there waiting for you.” So don’t leave it waiting, pick up your copy of this years strongest record.
*Actually deciding on a number 1 position was maybe the hardest it has ever been this year. It actually came down to a 4 way tie for me this year for the number 1 position, but I had to split it up and decide numerical positions. Without a doubt, I feel this album is number 1 for me because it took a whole new approach to the craft. As stated earlier, the songs are shaped like short stories and you can’t help but just fall deep into each one and feel each persons emotion through the music. So because of the strength and innovation behind the record, I gladly give it number 1.
2. The Wonder Years - Suburbia, I’ve Given You Everything and Now I’m Nothing
Label: No Sleep Records
Since their formation in ’05, Lansdale, Pennsylvanian’s The Wonder Years, have been attacking the scene and bringing a fresh new taste to the table. With 3 LP’s and a handful of splits in their arsenal and constant touring, The Wonder Years are finally starting to receive some of their hard earned attention. Alternative Press proclaimed their new album, “Suburbia: I’ve Given You My All and Now I’m Nothing” the most anticipated album of the year.
Coming off of the underground success of the sophomore release, The Upsides, TWY’s return with this years strongest release. As expected the guys return with a bag full of songs that are perfectly constructed musically and complimented perfectly with the insanely personal lyrics of Soupy Campbell, which has become somewhat of a burden on his soul (Local Man Ruins Everything). From the first track, Came Out Swinging till And Now I’m Nothing, the album is a flawless piece of art, and has only reinstated TWY’s into their ranking of Pop/Punk gods.*
*That is the very impersonal review that I posted because I did not want to come off masturbatory because of the love and passion I truly have for this album. This album has been with me every step of the way with all of my changes that I have been through over the pass 8 months. I think every young adult who moves out is constantly in search of “home,” The opening track to “Come Out Swinging” is our anthem. I’ve cried with Soupy’s lyrics and I have laughed with them as well. I love when music takes a role bigger than just sound to fill a moment, it becomes the moment. I am so thankful for this disc.
3. Taking Back Sunday - Taking Back Sunday
Label: Warner Brother Records
For one to truly describe this album, we need to incorporate new words. Amazing, strong, untouchable, phenomenal, I believe don’t even start to describe Taking Back Sunday’s self titled release. With the original line up all back together, the boys are back and stronger than they have ever been. To actually declare a TBS album better than the others is blaspheme with the true fans of the band, so don’t worry I won’t go out and say its their best, but know I was thinking it. Every song is a perfect canvas with a value of ... priceless. Every melody, guitar line, and harmony is flawless. The emotion of Lazarra is never sparse, goosebumps will be felt of at least half of the songs, but especially at the end of “Since You Are Gone.” Do yourself a favor and stop trying to find your indie hit this week and pick up TBS’s self titled disc, its worth every second.
*It took me this year to realize how big Taking Back Sunday really is in my life. With the release of the new album I realized Adam’s voice and lyrics have been a part of my life for at least 7 years now. I remember first being taking away by their track, “This Photograph is Proof” when it was featured on the Spiderman 2 soundtrack, and then the love affair began. The sound and movement of TBS is comforting, and healing. I love that they put in a place of comfort and safety every time I put them on.
4. Balance and Composure - Separation
Label: No Sleep Records
Since their formation in 2007, Balance and Composure has pushed out a couple smaller releases (2 small EP’s and a split with fellow Pennsylvanian’s Tigers Jaw) but no full length has surfaced until Separation. To say that Separation is one of the strongest freshman releases of this year is a complete understatement. In the same vein as Jimmy Eat World’s Futures, from the second the first chord strikes in Void, until Defeat the Low’‘s last note rings out, the listener stays transfixed and does not want to leave the realm and mood which the artist has created. In a time where lyrical content tends to take a back seat, lead singer Jon Simmon’s lyrics hijack the vehicle and drive us full speed into a wall of personal vulnerability and raw emotion. Balance and Composure’s debut album is not only a success but also an invitation to join them on their journey, and this writer urges you to join us too.
*Now I’m going to take this moment to say this: Even though they are numbered at this moment, I had a 5 way tie for number one when first creating this list. That list was the four listed above. Each album is special and amazing in its own way and should not be looked at as a lesser of the other.
5. Transit - Listen and Forgive
Label: Rise Records
Leaving behind their original pop/punk formula, Transit returns to the scene dawning a new mature sound, a new label, and a great deal of hope. Following the progression of Brand New, Transit has made their mark with their first couple of pop/punk releases, but now they are back with a slower tempo, and a huge heart.. Listen & Forgive is a prime example of songwriting at its best: with the band’s drive setting the perfect mood for Joe Boynton’s poetic and heartfelt lyrics. Dozens of amazing musical releases came out over this past month making it so easy for you to overlook this one, but this writer begs you, please don’t miss out on this phenomenal record.
*Though it sits at number 5, this may be my most listened to record of 2011. It never gets old, I’ll probably go listen to it again... Right now.
6. The Story So Far - Under Soil and Dirt
Label: Pure Noise
California natives, The Story So Far, have been out playing together and paying their dues locally since 2007; 4 years of hard work has finally paid off. After a couple of small EP releases, TSSF with the help of label, Pure Noise, have finally released their first full length, Under Soil and Dirt. So I let the ink tell you how/I come to grips with all of this lead singer, Parker Cannon laments on Swords and Pens, and he fully delivers on that promise. Under Soil and Dirt, is one of the most raw and honest records, lyrically, that I have ever heard. Track after track, the band delivers one of the strongest records of the year, detailing all the strifes and struggles of graduating, leaving friends, and moving on with life. TSSF first release, is a successful addition to the wonderful anthology of Pop/Punk and will not soon be forgotten.
7. Polar Bear Club - Clash Battle Guilt Pride
Label: Bridge Nine Records
“I’ve got to take my grab at something great” vocalist Jimmy Stadt passionately exclaims on the opening track Pawner; which is exactly what Polar Bear Club has done. PBC returns to the scene with their strongest release to date, Clash Battle Guilt Pride. An anthemic alternative-punk masterpiece that fights to the bloody bone for the title belt of album of the year. Albums like this solidify 2011, which has already been a year chalked full of powerful releases, as the absolute strongest musical year of the new century. With Jimmy Stadt’s heartfelt lyrics effortlessly soaring over the unique and powerful music, the message and heart of the album can not be missed by any listener. So follow the words of Stadt, “take a grab at something great,” and pick up Polar Bear Club’s newest album.
8. Stray From The Path - Rising Sun
Label: Sumerian Records
“We are the light that guides you home” Stray From The Path declares on the title track; marking the beginning of the rage filled sermon. Coming off the heels of their maniacal masterpiece, Make Your Own History, Long Island’s Stray From The Path returns with a vengeance not soon to be forgotten with Rising Sun. SFTP has never been shy about calling out anything and everything they see wrong with the world and this release only continues the out lash. Everything from Corporate America (Death Beds), to file sharing(Bring it Back To The Streets), to the sheep-like mentality of believers (Prey) is addressed on this record. While listening to Rising Sun it is hard not to feel the heartbeat of genre gods, Refused, resonating through the veins of every track. With the same heart and desire for change that Refused shared, Stray From The Path carries their torch high and with conviction, lighting the way for us.
*As you see even with this end of the year list, I really have somewhat stepped away from this genre slightly. The thing about Stray From The Path though is they are so unique and have an aggression that is hard to match. If you are looking for passion... yeah check these dudes out.
*The rest of the albums on this list do not have published reviews for them, so I will just write a note about them.
9. Childish Gambino - Camp
Label: Glassnote Records
Growing up I hated rap. Partly because my father hated it with all of his being. But then when nu-metal hit in the late 90’s, we found a liking for rap when mixed with the heavy guitars. So there begins my genesis for liking rap music, dad... not so much, but we still love P.O.D and Linkin Park. One of the things I found in my later days is my love for rap that takes on stories and not just monotonous rhyming, sorry Kanye Fans I can’t stand that dudes lyrics but love his production. But with all that being said, this year Childish Gambino entered my life. Being a huge fan of Community, when my friends told me he was a rapper I couldn’t wait to hear it. I was first introduced with “EP” also known as the “Freaks and Geeks EP.” I fell in love with that EP and listened to it over and over again until Camp was released. Camp is easily my favorite rap release of this year. Lyrically the man is witty, funny, vulnerable and full of heart. Easily makes this list for the 30+ listening sessions I’ve spent with it since it released in November. Check it out.
10. Saves The Day - Daybreak
Label: Razor & Tie
Being a fan of Pop/Punk I am VERY tardy when it comes to Saves The Day. Somehow I have always passed them up and not listened to them. Well one day back in October my brother emailed me this album and told me I had to listen to it, especially the first song. Cooper was right. Daybreak is such a phenomenal disc, every freaking song on this album is solid. It wasn’t until this week that I realize how amazing the closing song, Undress Me is, as my brother from another mother (Josh) put it, the song is just “healing.”
11. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
Label: Roswell Records
Now I don’t know where in time it started to become to “cool” to hate on the Foo, but really I couldn’t give less of a crap. Dave Grohl and Company are a huge part of why I ever picked up a guitar. It was sitting at my best friend Nathan Cox’s house watching My Chemical Romance and Foo Fighter videos that made me want to just play like my heroes. As I stated earlier with Taking Back Sunday, Foo Fighters are just comfort music for me. Hearing Grohl’s voice always feel like a comforting hug from a friend. Wasting Light is nothing short of that. For innovation purposes alone, I love that the boys went and recorded this album in their garage, completely analog with one of my production heroes, Butch Vig. If you haven’t seen the documentary, Back and Forth, go see it NOW. The documentary follows the story and journey of Foo, also detailing the recording process of this album. I don’t care if I’m uncool in saying this: This album is phenomenal and I’ve listened to it over a dozen times and will keep rocking out to Father Grohl. Screw off cool kids.
12. Death Cab For Cutie - Codes and Keys
Label: Atlantic Records
So I guess I have to start this off with an .... apology. I may have been somewhat of an outspoken opinion against Death Cab for years now, and I’m sorry, I get it now. Growing up I wanted music I could feel, like hardcore. I loved feeling the aggression and intensity of the music, but when kids came up to me and started talking about this “Death Cab for Cutie” I just blew them off and stuck with my double kicks. Well, after a couple of years, I’ve converted. I love this album. Every song is a masterpiece. Ben Gibbard is a very gifted lyricist and completely deserves all the recognition he has gotten and more. I was actually very blessed to see this tour come through this year and was blown away by them. So yeah, I apologize peoples...
1. EP (Freaks and Geeks) - Childish Gambino
Childish Gambino also known as Donald Glover is a face you may recognize. With a Comedy Central stand up special and a role on one of network televisions more popular sitcoms, Donald Glover has made a name for himself in the comedy world, but when it comes to music, the two worlds do not collide. He purposely has refrained from using his growing fame to push his music, he wants the music to speak for itself.
Which anyone can see for themselves, Gambino made sure that all of his releases were free releases to the public online (Check out: http://culdesac-album.com and http://iamdonald.com).
Back in March of this year, Childish Gambino released EP. This 5 track EP is one of the most diverse and unique Rap releases streamed this year. With bigger names like Jay-Z, Kanye, and Lil Wayne all releasing new projects and albums this year, its easy to take your focus off the up and coming artists, this EP demands that you take your focus off the giants and remember the little guy.
2. EP† -†††Crosses
FREE DOWNLOAD: Crossesmusic.com
Label: N/A - Independent Release
From time to time, the musical superpowers will combine forces to bring something to soothe the mere mortals eardrums. This past month, Chino Moreno of the Deftones and Shaun Lopez of Far, released a collaboration entitled †††Crosses. With both artists bringing their talents to the very forefront of this project, it would be very hard for fans of either artists to be disappointed. Chino’s vocals soar into the galaxies while Shaun’s production keeps the album driving far beyond anyones expectations. This EP is a precursor to a full album scheduled for release later next year. With the price tag being at the perfect price of FREE, go download and support this up and coming project.
3. Promise Nothing - Transit
Label: Rise Records
When I first moved to Orlando back in August, my brothers and I went to my local record store, Park Ave Tapes and Cd’s. When we got there Cooper went to searching for some new EP from this band Transit. I had only heard in passing about this up and coming band from Coop. Well after some searching he found the EP and continued to freak out for the next couple days about how rare of a find it was, and how his color variant of the 7” was one of the prize finds amongst pop/punk collectors. He then played the 2nd track on the EP, “I Never Told That To Anyone,” and that pretty much is the end of the story. From the second I heard the harmonics at the beginning of the track I was hooked. Honestly, the EP is only two songs, but they are just flat out amazing.
4. Friends - Better Off Alone
Label: Blood and Ink
Free Download Available at: http://bloodandink.bandcamp.com/album/better-off-alone
Vocalist, Luke Granered, howls “You don’t want to hear the same song/But the subject keeps coming back up,” in the anthemic opener “Eats Me Alive,” but the irony lies in just how diverse the band really is. Local Nashville band Friends debut Ep Better Off Alone is a titan amongst mere mortals in the purest form of the original Emo scene. With influences from Brand New and even some Blink 182 flares coming out of the stereo with this release, fans of both bands can find appreciation in Friends first effort(Which is available for free download). “I get weak/Weak in the knees/when I think about all the choices/I still have to make” Granered confesses at the close of the EP, but one choice that will not be hard to make, is to go download Better Off Alone immediately.
5. Between The Buried and Me- The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues
Label: Metal Blade Records
It’s Between The Buried and Me... ‘Nuff said. The disc will make you drool, bob your head and realize you’ll never be as good of a musician as these guys. Ever. I could write for hours about this group, but I’m gonna chose to just leave it at that.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Atticus Ross, Trent Reznor
Sucker Punch - Various Artists
Most Disappointing Albums of the Year
1. Augustana - Self Titled
Being a huge fan of the first two albums, I was excited to pick this cd up when I saw it. As it played on my way home, I couldn’t help but feel I lost one of my favorite bands to some new feel and sound. It also lacked a lot of the vulnerability and passion lyrically that I had felt in the last two discs. It didn’t shock me when they decided to call it quits after this album.
2. The Devil Wears Prada - Dead Throne
Following the release of their most promising release, Zombie EP, I was really stoked for their next album. The album for me just fell flat as compared to what they were showcasing on their EP.
With 2011 being such an amazing year for music, clearly all couldn’t fit into a top 12, or didn’t get all of my attention at one time during the year. So to wrap up this list for 2011, here are my honorable mentions that are worth checking out.
Blink 182 - Neighborhoods
Blue October - Any Man In America
Chevelle - Hats Off To The Bull
Courtesy Drop - What Makes This Place Worth Calling Our Home
Defeater - Empty Days and Sleepless Nights
Drake - Take Care
Fireworks - Gospel
Four Year Strong - In Some Way Shape or Form
Jack’s Mannequin - People and Things
Kanye West and Jay-Z - Watch The Throne
Josiah Lemming - Another Life
Needtobreathe - The Reckoning
Oh, Sleeper - Children of Fire
A Plea for Purging - The Life and Death of A Plea for Purging
Pianos Become The Teeth - The Lack Long After
Relient K- Is For Karaoke
Set Your Goals - Burning At Both Ends
Thrice - Major/Minor
Touche Amore - Parting The Sea Between Brightness and Me
Travis Barker - Give The Drummer Some
Worker - Neurology
I can only pray that 2012 will house as much amazing music as 2011 did.
What a good year.
Thanks For Reading.
Media Associated With This Post:
Song: Faith (When I Let You Down)
Artist: Taking Back Sunday
Album: Taking Back Sunday
Song: St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church Blues
Artist: La Dispute
Song: Undress Me
Artist: Saves The Day
All Pictures Stolen from Google Images