BEST OF 2011 LIST
[Check out three other lists by our writers for BEST OF 2011 here --->http://lmpmagazine.com/2011/12/21/music-best-of-2011-list-time/]
Making these lists can be pretty fun. Going back through all our reviews and reminding ourselves of the year’s best releases is like an adventure. Frequently, thoughts like “oh, I forgot about this one!” come. 2011 was a pretty good year for releases. There were a lot of awesome albums, some of which were from unknown and new bands. My list is not arranged numerically (such #1, #2…), so instead I just alphabetized this list by band name. Anything here was well worth my time this year. Oh, and of course I realize that I didn’t narrow this down as much as the other writers did. This is a long list…
ACE AUGUSTINE – The Absolute
When this album was sent over, I did not expect much. Generally, bands from Strike First feel lacking in power for me, but that was not the case with The Absolute. Ace Augustine had great energy, frantic vocals, and surprisingly diverse instrumental work. In a year full of so many releases to be tended to, this was one of albums I actually stuck with for some time before writing anything up.
AGAINST ME! – Total Clarity
Sure, it was just a collection of b-sides mostly, but Total Clarity offered up some great tracks any long time fan of AM would enjoy. Right from the kick off with “Miami”, this fifteen track album reminded us why this band keeps such a strong fan base at all times.
AIDEN – Disguises / Some Kind of Hate
Aiden has come a long way over the years. Their last few releases have developed a darker blend of metal and rock that is hard to deny. While their transformation has been impressive, what was best was that the band put out two records in 2011! Not only that, both Disguises and Some Kind of Hate were composed of some awesome tracks. Now that’s work ethic!
ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD – Knife Man
Knife Man was the first AJJ album I had heard, and it surprised the hell out of me. This band has such a quirky sound that is catchy and often ridiculous. Of course, it’s the lyrics that are most humorous and entertaining, but the band’s blend of folk and punk is great as well.
THE ATARIS – 7”
Who cares that it was only two tracks? The Ataris returned this year with this 7”, and it was brilliant. Both “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” and “All Souls Day” were worth keeping on replay throughout the day. I spun this 7” probably more than any other this year. Now if we could just get the full length album released already…it’s been completed for like a year.
AUTOMATIC STATIC – Friends & Lovers
I remember when this album was sent over, I thought Automatic Static was some cute, pop group judging by the album artwork. Hell, I was wrong. Instead, the band play a great rock sound akin to the older days of Fuel. Friends & Lovers was both a great EP and an excellent surprise. It was like rewinding time to the days of 90′s rock. Fuck yeah.
BANQUETS – Top Button, Bottom Shelf
This year had a lot of great punk releases, and of course Banquets had to make an appearance. Their new LP, Top Button, Bottom Shelf, was not a surprise since I already knew they would not disappoint. These guys are up there with Junior Battles for me. They just have this sound that flows with ease, and keeps you thoroughly interested and entertained.
BAYSIDE – Killing Time
For me, Bayside was at its best during their self titled record years ago. However, Killing Time brought them back into the style of that album, making this one an excellent addition to their impressive discography. While it wasn’t as instrumentally diverse as The Walking Wounded, it had a more adult sensibility to it. It was as if Bayside woke up and said “this is the sound we work best with” and went ahead with it. Killing Time is awesome.
THE BLED – Heat Fetish
For their final record, The Bled signed onto Rise Records for the release of Heat Fetish. Part of what made this so special for fans was that the band returned to the more raw sound of Pass the Flask. This album is gritty, crazed, and angry. Any fan of The Bled probably fell in love with this one, no matter which record of their discography was their favorite. Though, Pass the Flask enthusiasts still probably creamed the most to this final Bled release.
BLINK-182 – Neighborhoods
Yes, Blink-182 sounded heavily of Angels & Airwaves influences on this record. However, there was still a decent blend of classic Blink in the mix to even out things. It most certainly is not on par with the old school records from this band that made them famous, but given the chance, Neighborhoods impresses and reels you in eventually. It is definitely the “mature” Blink-182 we never expected to hear, but stranger things have happened.
BOYS NO GOOD – Never Felt Better
This year, Indianola Records returned to force and with several artist signings we did not expect. Boys No Good is by no means a screamo act like those that launched this label back in the day. Instead, these guys play a catchy pop punk/hardcore blend that is very memorable and easy to love. [I may do publicity for Indianola Records, but that is not why this release was picked for my list. I genuinely loved this album and wasn't working for the label at the time of its release.]
CAMISADO – Pulse
Camisado were one of the unsigned bands that took me by surprise this year. After watching them play a set during Fans4Bands Community Collisions Fest, I immediately bought both their EP releases. The most recent was Pulse, and it was five tracks of great energy, fury, and even melody. It shouldn’t be long before you see these guys’ name in lights.
CAR PARTY – High & Low Places
Once again, this is not a bias choice because of my history with the band. Car Party write genius music, and their latest EP was no exception. High & Low Places was practically perfection. The band worked with Ace Enders on this one, so we’re all hoping they tour with The Early November in 2012. Maybe the two bands will do a split vinyl release at some point? Fans of alternative rock need to look these guys up asap.
THE CHARIOT – Long Live
The Chariot really blew me away with Long Live. This release was damn chaotic and noisy as hell, but I loved it. Composed of many breakdowns, distortions, vocal spazz outs, and more, The Chariot really brought the heat with this record.
CROWN THE EMPIRE – Limitless
There’s a lot of buzz around this unsigned group, and for good reason. Their new album, Limitless, is highly impressive and expansive. With a diverse style in every department basically, Crown the Empire are not just another screamo/metalcore act. Instrumentally, they constantly keep things fresh, energy, and somehow both melodic and heavy. Vocally, the singing is smooth and non-girly, while the screaming is often deep and determined.
DANCE GAVIN DANCE – Downtown Battle Mountain II
Anyone who knows me well is aware of my love for DGD. Even though my favorite album of their discography always surprises people (it’s the self titled record that does not feature Jonny Craig), I’m a fan of every member that has come and go with this band. The only time the vocals were not doing it for me was when Swan was doing deep screams on Happiness. Anyway, Downtown Battle Mountain II brings back the awesome duo of Jonny Craig and Jon Mess at vocals. The record is both melodic and crazed, impressive and expansive, odd and sensible. Well done, DGD.
A DAY TO REMEMBER – What Separates Me From You
ADTR have always been a good band, but this is the first time they absolutely got me hooked. What Separates Me From You was on replay for weeks with me. I was probably listening to it three times every day. I recently started blasting it again and it still gets me super pumped. This record has some awesome heavy parts and very melodic anthems. Basically, it’s well rounded and can get you hyped easily.
DEFEATER – Empty Days & Sleepless Nights
When it comes to progressive hardcore, it’s hard to find anything better than Defeater. Continuing their pattern of 1-upping themselves with every passing release, Empty Days & Sleepless Nights came out as a great record with plenty of well written lyrics and chaotic abuses of the voice. Even better was the vinyl version of this record. The band and label went all out on this release, and it shows.
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA – Dead Throne
The last TDWP record was the first to really catch my interest. It’s not that I didn’t know of this band for years, but I just never cared for their sound. However, With Roots managed to get my attention enough that I looked forward to the release of Dead Throne. It turns out it was for good reason. This album was diverse, energetic, and fairly large in sound. Any time things began to grow slightly stale, TDWP changed it up. Dead Throne was a winner from nearly all angles.
ELEVATE: I AM – The Ghost Eclipse Sessions
Being a fan of A Static Lullaby, I jumped at the chance to hear this album prior to its release. Not too surprisingly, Elevate: I Am do sound quite similar to ASL, but that’s fine by me (the release of Rattlesnake seems like forever ago). The Ghost Eclipse Sessions is actually better than any ASL release, which is hard to say because I love several of their releases. What this record really did right was blend the crazy nature of Rattlesnake with some surprising melody, instrumental exploration, and duel vocalists. Hopefully, this isn’t the only E:IA record to come.
ENDWELL – Punishment
Previously, I did not care for this band. But the recent Emmure release got me into this style more. As a result, Punishment appealed to me with its furious energy and pissed off formula. Granted, this album is pretty similar throughout, but if you’re in the mood for something crazy and angry, Punishment is a great fix.
EVANS BLUE – Evans/Blue
The latest EB record was the debut for the band’s new vocalist. While he is not nearly as good as the original, he still does have a good voice for this music. This album may not have hit as hard as the band’s previous records, especially their first, but after a few spins it really did start to stick in my memory. At first, I thought it was only decent, but then I found myself wanting to play it again and again until I learned the songs. Fans of hard rock and older Evans Blue should definitely look this one up and give it a chance.
FALLING IN REVERSE – The Drug In Me Is You
Ronnie Radke is famous for his time in Escape the Fate, and the band has not been the same since his departure to jail. Now that he’s free, his new band, Falling In Reverse, made its debut this year. The Drug In Me completely took me by surprise. I was hoping to like it, but did not expect to love it. Despite some poor lyrics, the album turned out to be very addictive and memorable. Welcome back, Ronnie!
FIREWORKS – Gospel
I haven’t listened to this one nearly as much as I would have liked. Fireworks blew me away with their last album, and Gospel was just as much of a surprise. The main reason for this being that the band took their punk rock formula and expanded it into some more indie rock territory. Everything about this record was more mature and better written. These guys are great at what they do, so look them up.
GLASSJAW – Our Color Green / Coloring Book
Released in a series of 7 inches and digital collections, 2011 saw the return continuation of Glassjaw. If you somehow don’t already know these crazy bastards, then these new songs are just as good as any to start with. Glassjaw always produce fuckin’ gold with their music, and these tracks are no exception. On a side note, if you have any of these vinyls, you should definitely send me them.
THE GREENERY – Spit And Argue
I think it was during an interview with Vanna that I was told of The Greenery. So when I was approached with the band’s album for review, I grabbed it purely due to the recommendation. I’m glad I did, because Spit And Argue is a hardcore/punk wet dream of ferocity and energy.
GYM CLASS HEROES – The Papercut Chronicles II
To no surprise, Gym Class Heroes did it yet again. For me, this group has become more catchy with every release. The Quilt really won me over, and the second installment of The Papercut Chronicles is just as good (if not better). Travie McCoy is a lyrical genius, and the band is composed of great musicians. Fans of rap, hip hop, pop, and all that should definitely being playing this one loudly.
HANDS – Give Me Rest
This progressive hardcore act is known for its ability to easily blend heavy elements with the most tranquil and beautiful. Give Me Rest takes the band to a new level. The ability these guys have in writing and performance is extraordinary. Even if this isn’t the kind of album that calls you back for repeat listens immediately, you will still walk away from it thinking “Damn, that was good!”
I AM THE AVALANCHE – Avalanche United
Sadly, I have never fully listened to a IATA record before this one. That being said, I went into this one without a pretty open mind. I always enjoyed MovieLife, so I expected at least some good punk rock to hold me over a bit. I did not really anticipate that Avalanche United would become one of my favorite records of this year. These songs are damn memorable, and the lyrics are relateable. I think I Am the Avalanche are actually better than MovieLife.
JUNIOR BATTLES – Idle Ages
This band’s 7” in 2010 was one of my favorite records of that year. So, to no surprise, I was greatly anticipating Idle Ages prior to its release this year. Luckily, it lived up to my hype. This record is golden in so many ways. The tracks are well written, catchy, memorable, and hold their own. Junior Battles are one of those bands I’d call unique even if they aren’t necessarily doing a new sound. It’s just that they can stand above the rest of the genre with ease.
LIKE MOTHS TO FLAMES – When We Don’t Exist
While I definitely liked the Sweet Talker EP of last year, I did not expect the band’s debut LP to blow me away as much as it did. When We Don’t Exist is so addicting, brutal, energetic, and memorable. Not only did Like Moths To Flames make me a real fan, they definitely have become one of those bands I’m actually going to follow. I don’t do that for many groups, but these guys really did an excellent job on this full length.
A LOT LIKE BIRDS – Conversation Piece
This one actually got passed me at first. I kept hearing about it being an awesome album, but didn’t realize it was the new band from ex-DGD member, Kurt Travis. As soon as I realized this, I quickly picked up Conversation Piece and fell in love. This is another record from this year that I have not yet listened to very much due to all the music flooding my mail box, but I thoroughly enjoyed the few spins I’ve given it thus far. Any fan of Kurt’s work on DGD will fall for A Lot Like Birds easily, I’m sure.
MAN OVERBOARD – Man Overboard
For their Rise debut LP, Man Overboard came out with a self titled record composed of twelve great tracks. There were a few that took some time to grow on me, but the majority of these songs immediately became new favorites of mine for Man Overboard. This punk rock band has been climbing the ladder a lot these past two years, so if you don’t know them already, you should pick this one up quickly. Also, the band released a collection of their older material on vinyl, titled The Human Highlight Reel. This release is also extremely recommended.
OH, MANHATTAN – Spiritual Warfare
This is another release people may call me bias for including. Oh, Manhattan was my first publicity project for Indianola Records, and Spiritual Warfare was an awesome release to work on. I was pretty upset when the band lost Hance to Woe, Is Me, but I’m confident they’ll come back stronger than ever on their next record. As far as this one stands, Spiritual Warfare was a nice surprise because it took screamo to a new level more than once. The band frequently experiments with different sounds and styles, keeping this one fresh from start to finish.
OH, SLEEPER – Children of Fire
This was another one of those bands that I wasn’t very much into until this year. Children of Fire really caught me off guard. It has this really brutal nature to it, but also was able to mold melodic and soaring instrumental work into the mix with ease. It wasn’t terribly deep, but it was expansive and explosive enough to really get me interested.
SECRET BAND – Secret Band EP
Secret Band is basically DGD without Jonny Craig. This means no singing. Other than that, there’s not too much of a difference between the bands. These four tracks are all pretty crazed sounding and memorable, as to be expected by fans of DGD. It may have been a short little release, but I loved it. It definitely makes me want a full length in 2012.
SHINING THROUGH – White Flag
While other members were brought into the recording of this record, Shining Through is listed online as a solo project. White Flag is five tracks that immediately caught my attention and got me hooked. The soaring nature of the sound is instantly satisfying, and “San Diego Summer” easily become one of my most played tracks this year. I can’t wait to hear more from Shining Through.
SLEEPING WITH SIRENS – Let’s Cheer To This
While their debut LP felt too short to me (despite have around nine tracks), Lets Cheer To This had a much stronger length to it that worked beautifully. Coming out at forty minutes, the second album from Sleeping With Sirens felt more thought out and better written. Not only that, every member showed improvement at their craft. This album sounds great, and a good number of the tracks made my Most Played Songs list on iTunes throughout the year.
STRUCTURES – Divided By
This band came out of nowhere for me. I had never heard of them, and when Divided By was sent over for review, I almost just skipped it entirely. Luckily, I heard some of my friends talk well of the band, so I went ahead and checked it out. The introduction track didn’t do it for me, but then the band erupted in a crazy array of styles, catching my attention. From that point forth, Divided By kept me highly entertained. Structures have a great sound to them that is fairly unique for their genre, so I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.
TEN AFTER TWO – Truth Is…
This band’s EP in 2010 got me interested, but their LP blew me away. Truth Is… was even better than I was expecting. Ten After Two took all the best elements of the EP and made them ten times stronger and more prominent in the formula. This record is immediately entertaining, explosive, and energetic. The three E’s. This was definitely an awesome release.
TRANSIT – Listen & Forgive
Transit’s last few releases have just gotten better and better. For their Rise debut, the band brought us the golden Listen & Forgive. This release was one of those albums several of us called “damn near perfect”. Every track is excellent, so you can bet your ass this is one of the most recommended releases of 2011 by more than just me.
YOU, ME & EVERYONE WE KNOW – Things Are Really Weird Right Now
It’s sad to see these guys go, but at least they went out on an extraordinary 7”. Things Are Really Weird Right Now is made up of four tracks that fans will instantly fall in love with. They’re simple, yet intricate. Sad and beautiful. Honest and memorable. Excellence.
This may have been a long list, but I actually left off a lot of records I thoroughly enjoyed. Some other highly recommended 2011 albums include those released by Suicide Silence, Thomas Giles, Madina Lake, Polar Bear Club, Sparks the Rescue, New Found Glory, Staind, Vanna, Into It Over It, Jacks Mannequin, Ahimsa Sunrise, Protest the Hero, Middle Class Rut, Mureau, La Dispute, Alesana, Thrice, Julian & the Lopez Dispensers, A Skylit Drive, The Story So Far, That’s Outrageous, This Time Next Year, Touche Amore, and I’m sure I’m forgetting even more. Check out the above list for sure, but don’t forget to hear these out as well. I hope 2012 is just as good as 2011 was for releases!
– By Nathaniel Lay