Friday, December 23, 2011

My Favorite Records of the Year That Were Not Released in 2011

2011 was another year of great musical discovery for me.  In some cases it was discovering new (to me at least) artists and in some cases it was discovering the depths of certain artists catalogs.  Either way it was a year filled with lots of amazing music and here are my favorites that I discovered this year that weren’t released this year.   

Title:  Life's a Riot with Spy vs. Spy (Amazon, iTunes, AllMusic, Wikipedia)
Artist:  Billy Bragg (Official, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, iLike,, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

I first heard Billy Bragg in 1991 when his song “Sexuality” got regular airplay in 120 Minutes.  I really liked the song but for whatever reason never got the record.  Fast-forward to 2001.  Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen released the first album for his side-project the Bastards.  The record included an excellent cover of Bragg’s “To Have and to Have Not.”  Again I loved the song but never got around to checking out the original.  Then earlier this year I found a video of YouTube of Frank Turner and Brian Fallon covering Bragg’s “A New England.”  This time I decided I really needed to check out this Billy Bragg chap so I downloaded Life’s a Riot with Spy vs. Spy and fell in love.  I will spend a lot of time in 2012 getting to know Mr. Bragg and his work much more closely.  Check out “A New England” and “To Have and to Have Not.”

Title:  Gold Country (AmazonAllMusicWikipedia)
Artist:  Chuck Ragan (OfficialFacebookTwitterMySpace, Last.fmAllMusicWikipedia)

Chuck Ragan’s Gold Country is nothing short of brilliant.  Like I said in my CD Spotlight: Gold Country post, “This CD has had more of an affect on me than any other I’ve heard in 2011.”  Gold Country has made such an impact on me that it has become one of my 10 favorite records of all-time.  Check out “Ole Diesel,” “10 West,” “Done and Done,” and “For Goodness Sake.”

Title:  Hobo's Demo's (Suburban Home Records, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, AllMusic)

I spent a lot of 2011 trying to track down as many of Drag the River’s releases as possible.  This was actually not an easy feat and I still have a few to procure but each one that I’ve gotten is precious.  The fact that Drag the River isn’t huge is a crying shame.  Not only are they one of the best bands in the world, they are super nice and humble guys.  Hobo’s Demo’s was the band’s debut album and one of the first that I was able to get my hands on.  Check out “Disbelieve” and “Back to God.”

Title:  Strong Reaction (Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, Touch and Go Records, AllMusic)

I remember seeing at least one video from this record when it was released in 1991 on 120 Minutes.  Kind of like with Bill Bragg, I really liked the song but never got around to really checking out the band.  Well I finally got around to doing just that this year and boy am I glad that I did.  Pegboy mix post hardcore with power pop sensibilities (imagine Naked Raygun and Cheap Trick having a kid) with powerful results.  Check out “Strong Reaction,” “Through My Fingers,” and “Superstar.”

Title:  Laurel Street Demo 2005 (Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

Like Chuck Ragan and Frank Turner, Tim Barry is an artist that went from playing in a hardcore/post hardcore/melodic hardcore band to slinging an acoustic guitar.  Laurel Street Demo 2005 is Barry’s solo debut and is brilliant.  Barry has always had a way with words, penning poignant lyrics while in Avail, but there is something about the simplicity of this music that makes his talent standout even more.  Check out “Idle Idylist” (which has become one of my favorite songs of all-time), “Sorrow Floats,” and “No News from North” (live).

Title:  Ripped Up Jeans and Silly Dreams (BandCampIf You Make It)
Artist:  Candy Hearts (OfficialFacebookTwitterMySpace, Tumblr, Last.fmBandCamp)

Candy Hearts’ debut album is an exceptionally fun romp through ‘90s nostalgia indie rock and pop punk.  I think I put it best in my post New to Me: Ripped Up Jeans and Silly Dreams post when I said –
Ripped Up Jeans and Silly Dreams truly sounds like something that could have come out in the glory days of the ‘90s indie scene along side the likes of The Blake Babies, The Lemonheads, and The Muffs.  In fact it is The Muffs that Candy Hearts really remind me of, which could be do to the vocal similarities but I think it has more to do with the fact that these are bands that know how to write great pop songs.  I think that is also why I keep thinking of The Thermals as well.  In fact if The Muffs and The Thermals had a kid, it would probably be the Candy Hearts.
Check out “You and Me,” “Punk Songs” (acoustic), and “Blocking the Sunshine.”

Title:  Smile Sweet Face (Suburban Home Records, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk)

Chad Price has one of the most amazing voices in all of rock ‘n’ roll (in fact his is my all-time favorite) and it is that voice that drives the haunting and majestic record.  Smile Sweet Face is simply a beautiful record.  The songs are passionate and simple and enough to make you want to cry.  Check out “This Cross” (live), “With Broken Hearts” (live), and “Cursed” (live).

Title:  The Outlets (Amazon, AllMusic,
Artist:  The Outlets (Official,, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

I first heard of The Outlets when the Dropkick Murphys covered their classic “Knock Me Down” for the Mob Mentality split with The Business.  Then I heard Down By Law’s cover of “Best Friends” but tracking down anything by The Outlets themselves seemed to be a daunting task.  Earlier this year I stumbled on a download of the band’s self-titled record and boy-o-boy what a record it is!  This is great, stripped down power popping rock ‘n’ roll music.  Check out “Best Friends,” “Someday,” and “Knock Me Down.”

Title:  Love Ire & Song (Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

Frank Turner, along with Drag the River, Tim Barry, and Chuck Ragan, was one of my musical obsessions of 2011.  His latest album is my favorite of the year but it just scratches the surface of the musical genius of this man’s catalog.  2008’s Love Ire & Song is a record chuck full of songs that are as uplifting and powerful as they are catchy and fun.  Seriously, go and check this out.  And on a somewhat related note, I found this live concert on NPR while gathering the links above.  The show is just Mr. Turner and his guitar and is fantastic.  Back to Love Ire & Song, check out “Photosynthesis,” “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous,” “Try This at Home,” and “Long Live the Queen.”  

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