Monday, December 12, 2011

Top 20 Albums of 2011

2011 was the first year in a long, long time that I really tried to keep up with new releases.  Because of that, I got to hear a lot of great new music and thus have a fairly lengthy end-of-year list.  My tastes in music this year seemed to coalesce around the styles of pop punk, alt country, indie rock, and melodic post hardcore (in fact, I suspect that this is a very orgcore friendly list).

What’s been interesting about the best of 2011 lists that I’ve seen so far is how wildly different they are.  Most have included Adele’s 21 (she made # 1 on Rolling Stones’ list) somewhere and a few have put PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake at the top spot, but beyond that there is no pattern or consensus.  My list is probably going to add to that lack of consensus (not that anyone really cares what I think).

So without any further ado, here are my 20 favorite albums of 2011.   

20.  Guts n' Teeth by Old Man Markley
Old Man Markley's Guts n' Teeth is an extremely fun bluegrass record.  Who knew punk rockers could play bluegrass so well.  Read my review here.  Check out "For Better, For Worse" and “Guts n’ Teeth.”

19.  Perfect's Gonna Fail by The Gateway District
 The Gateway District’s Perfect’s Gonna Fail is great female-fronted Midwestern punk record.  My only complaint is that I just discovered this band.  Read my review here.  Check out “Run Away.”  

18.  North Sentinel Island by The Copyrights
The Copyrights latest is another blast of pop punk perfection.  Read my review here.  Check out “Scars,” “Trustees of Modern Chemistry,” and “Bow Down.”

17.  Don't Need Much by Great Cynics
Great Cynics' Don't Need Much is an excellent indie rock/power pop record that really reminds me of Sugar.  Read my review here.  Check out “Dave & Angela,” “Twenty Five,” and “Cider for Breakfast.” 

16.  Here, Under Protest by Swingin' Utters
Of all the records that I was looking forward to this year, the Utters' was on the top of my list.  I was anticipating this record for a couple of reasons: 1) it's the first Swingin' Utters record in eight years and 2) it's their first record with Jack Dalrymple on guitar and vocals.  While Here, Under Protest isn't the best album in the Utters' catalogue, it's still a great listen that shows how this band has evolved over the years.  Read my review here.  Check out “Effortless Amnesiac,” “Good Things,” and “Taking the Long Way.”

15.  Resolutions by Dave Hause
I'm new to Dave Hause's work but was extremely impressed with his solo full-length debut record Resolutions.  Imagine and American Frank Turner.  Read my review here.  Check out “C'mon Kid,” “Years from Now,” and “Time Will Tell.”

14.  Wasting Light by Foo Fighters
The Foo Fighters latest is quite possibly their best album to date.  The record is filled with melodic post hardcore-y rock 'n' roll anthems that have some of the biggest hooks that I've ever heard.  Read my original review here.  Check out "Walk," "Back & Forth," and "These Days."

13.  Everything's Amazing & Nobody's Happy by Candy Hearts
One of my favorite records that I heard this year that wasn't released in 2011 was Candy Hearts' fantastic Ripped Up Jeans & Silly Dreams.  The record dripped with '90s nostalgia and included quite a few power pop gems.  The band's follow up, Everything's Amazing & Nobody's Happy, is just as good.  Read my review here.  

12.  Heart Beats Pacific by Banner Pilot
This album gets better each and every time I listen to it.  Simply put, it’s really fantastic Midwestern punk.  Read my review here.  Check out "Alchemy,” “Division Street,” and “Spanish Reds.”

11.  Moscow Penny Ante by Dead To Me
Dead To Me's third full-length album includes yet another lineup change but in clear DTM fashion, the band produced a kick bippy melodic punk rock record.  Read my review here.  Check out “Monarch Hotel,” “The Trials of Oscar Wilde,” and “The Hand with Inherited Rings.”

10.  New Guilt by Wagers
This album has spent a lot of time on my MP3 player this year and nearly every time I heard a song that I didn't immediately recognize and thought to myself "who is this, this is great" it was Wagers.  This band is just a crazy good indie rock/power pop/pop punk band.  Read my review here.  

9.  They Stay Dead and Cursed by They Stay Dead
Rising out of the ashes of Euclid Crash, Edmond's They Stay Dead released two stellar EPs this year.  They Stay Dead mixes melodic hardcore, post hardcore, and pop punk elements with some tremendous musicianship by the entire band making them a band to be reckoned with.  Read my reviews here and here.  

8.  The Dangers of Standing Still by Red City Radio
OKC's Red City Radio blasted out a stellar full-length debut in The Dangers of Standing Still.  The band, equal parts Hot Water Music and The Bouncing Souls, plays high energy, Oklahoma loving, melodic hardcore/post hardcore/pop punk with gravelly dual vocals.  Read my review here.  Check out "50th & Western,” “Drinking Ourselves Into the Future,” “Spinning in Circles is a Gateway Drug.” 

7.  Dancing Underneath the Moonlight by Hudson Falcons
New Jersey's working class warriors returned this year with their fifth full-length album of pure rock 'n' roll excellence.  The Falcons have really grown into a truly great rock band, maturing out of their oi/street punk beginnings to carry Bruce Springsteen's torch.  If you're a fan of The Gaslight Anthem, then I highly suggest you check out Dancing Underneath the Moonlight.  Read my review here.  Check out "Don’t Let the Bastards Bring You Down” and “South Dakota Nights” (live).

6.  Covering Ground by Chuck Ragan
Chuck Ragan's third solo album is yet another batch of Americana brilliance.  While not quite as good as 2009's phenomenal Gold Country, Covering Ground is a starkly dark album that draws from life on the road and speaks to the constant moving of life.  Read my review here.  Check out "Nothing Left to Prove,” “Lost and Found,” “Nomad By Fate.”

5.  Over Leavitt by Noise By Numbers
Dan Schafer (aka Dan Vapid) is a freaking genius.  Everything this man touches is pop punk gold and Noise By Numbers is no exception to this rule.  Read my review here.  Check out "Lost My Way,” “Disappointed,” and “A Song for Emily.”

4.  Tri-State Record by Jon Snodgrass & Friends
So what happens when Drag the River's Jon Snodgrass gets together and records some songs with his friends who happen to be from the likes of ALL, Descendents, Teenage Bottlerocket, and Hot Water Music?  An outstanding EP that's what.  Tri-State Record showcases Snodgrass' excellent songwriting ability and versatility.  At times this EP sounds like Drag the River, at times it sounds like Armchair Martian, and at times like Snodgrass' solo material.  There was a full length version recently released called Five-State Record but I have as yet been able to procure a copy of it to review.  Read my review here.  Check out "Hey Dennis” (this is a live version and the only song from the EP that I could find on YouTube).

3.  Joyride by Broadcaster
Joyride is a release that I just happened upon after reading a glowing review; a review so glowing that I had to hear the EP for myself.  Broadcaster, like Great Cynics and Candy Hearts, is a band that is steeped in '90s nostalgia but beyond that, Joyride is a fantastic collection of power pop/indie rock/pop punk songs.  Read my review here

2.  Trips by Samiam
Samiam is an excellent melodic hardcore/post hardcore/pop punk band that had been very active during the 1990s.  Trips is their triumphant return and an absolutely brilliant record.  For those who missed this band the first time around but are fans of Dead To Me, Banner Pilot, The Copyrights, Noise By Numbers, Smoking Popes, Dillinger Four, and/or Jawbreaker, I highly, HIGHLY recommend checking out Samiam's Trips.  Read my review here.  Check out "80 West,” “Clean Up the Mess,” and “Free Time.”

1.  England Keep My Bones by Frank Turner
Frank Turner's fourth full length album is nothing short of absolute brilliance.  Turner's mix of folk, country, pop, and punk creates an atmosphere that is as familiar as it is unique.  And on top of that, the lyrics are uplifting and filled with earnestness and honesty.  Read my review here and my interview with Mr. Turner here.  Check out "Eulogy," "I Still Believe," "Glory Hallelujah," and "Peggy Sang the Blues." 

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