20 Favorite Albums of 2011
by, 12-29-11 at 11:49 AM (2004 Views)
All year long I was thinking that I wasnít in touch with newer music as I used to be and was originally going to skip doing a list like this. However, that isnít true at all because while Iím not as into music as I was in high school or when I was a staff writer for Scene Point Blank, there were a ton of great records I got to listen to this year so Iím going to make a list anyway. One thing I am not doing this time is ranking albums because every time I decided on one, I changed my mind seconds later. Ranking music just seems kind of fruitless to me now aside from naming a #1 (which I do have), so Iím just going to rattle off my 20 favorite albums of the year and explain why I liked them.
Not trying to sound like a critic here, just doing some personal reflecting.
Scar Symmetry - The Unseen Empire
Melodic death metal is something that I never grow tired of and Scar Symmetry are one of my favorite bands of this style. It took me awhile go get used to the new singers but they really make it work on this album. Theyíre everything I love about melo-death: Great riffs, harsh growls contrasted with beautifully sung choruses and some shredding thrown in every now and then. The one problem I have with this album is that they jumped on the ďletís make our albums shorterĒ bandwagon. Only nine songs, guys?
Funeral for a Friend - Welcome Home Armageddon
This is what I hoped their last two albums would sound like. Iím all for bands trying new things but neither Tales Donít Tell Themselves nor Memory & Humanity had much staying power for me. The best thing FFAF could do was go back to their sound on Hours and build on that, which is basically what this album is. Itís got a lot of sentimental value with me because it sounds similar to Hours but I think thatís why I like it so much.
Red Fang - Murder in the Mountains
Listened to them because I thought their name sounded cool and they were on RelapseÖI think Iíve done that with a lot of bands. Anyway, I think Red Fang are what Kyuss, Mastodon and Clutch would sound like if they got together and made a band. What could be better than that?
Social Distortion - Hard Time & Nursery Rhymes
I am a huge Social D fan, so it was a given that this would make it on my list. That and the album is really damn good. I would say that Social D is one of the most consistent bands if it didnít take seven years for this to come out but it was well worth the wait. Itís pretty much them doing what they do best and thatís perfectly fine with me.
Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire
Most of Ryanís recent stuff is hit-or-miss with me but I think this is his best solo effort in awhile. Really like how he went back to the softer singing style, too because Iíve always liked that more. Itís also nice that he put out another record thatís toned-down all the way through.
Wild Flag - self/titled
Oddly enough, I did not start listening to Sleater-Kinney until this year (and they are quickly becoming one of my favorite bands) and it was around the same time that Wild Flag put out their debut album. Itís a great record, though. Not much to dislike about it unless you hate fun.
Bayside - Killing Time
Iím pretty sure that Bayside has yet to release an album that I havenít liked. It might be their debut on a major label but Bayside donít show any signs of losing their fire here at all. I actually think that this is their best since the self/titled album even though thatís probably not something most would agree with.
Basement - I Wish I Could Stay Here
Basement are exactly what I want to hear from this new wave of ďpost-hardcoreĒ thatís been popular lately. They are fast, aggressive and somewhat catchy but also includes some melodic passages that fit perfectly. Canít wait to hear more from them.
Iced Earth - Dystopia
I was very hesitant to check this out because I didnít like either of their last two albums and I heard they got yet another new singer. Much to my surprise, Dystopia is a terrific album. I think the best thing about it is that they tried to make something that was different from their other material instead of trying to re-create one of their older albums. Plus, Stu Brockís got an awesome range and he manages to work well with the bandís sound. So great to say that Iced Earth still have something left in the tank after all these years.
Fen - Epoch
Another band found thanks to last.fm. They play black metal with a lot of folk and post-rock influences thrown in and it is so, so good. Black metal has gone in such an interesting direction the past decade or so and Iím glad there are bands like Fen and Agalloch who are expanding on it.
Rwake - Rest
Rwake have fit in well with my mood over the last few months while at school. Desperate, hopeless, bitter and somewhat hateful. They remind me a lot of Eyehategod only with a lot more doom-influence and less focus on riffs. That and you can actually understand the vocals.
Cave In - White Silence
This album takes just about everything that makes Cave Inís other records great and puts it into one. It sounds like a mess on paper but it really blends in well on the White Silence. Another record that came with a long wait that was well worth it.
Primordial - Redemption at the Puritanís Hand
This came out of nowhere for me because I never thought much of Primordial until I checked this out. I was missing out on a lot because they play one of the more unique styles of metal that Iíve heard recently. Itís tough to describe but this album is what I would call the right mix of doom and black metal with a lot of dramatics added in for good measure.
Nothington - Borrowed Time
Nothington write some of my favorite lyrics because they describe how I feel on most days and itís easy to connect with a band like that. It also helps that their music is extremely catchy. Thatís how it was with Roads, Bridges & Ruins and that claim reigns true on Borrowed Time.
40 Watt Sun - The Inside Room
Doom metal at its finest. The Inside Room is so good that if someone clueless to metal were to ask me what doom metal would sound like, I would recommend this album. Itís got all the basics; crushing riffs, droning vocals and an overall feeling of solemness that you expect to get out of this kind of record. I know that Pat Walker was working under the Warning title for years, but 40 Watt Sun are technically a new band from this year, so Iím considering them one of the best newer metal bands Iíve heard in awhile. They just do everything about the genre the right way.
William Elliott Whitmore - Field Songs
How did I go so many years not listening to an album from this man? He is a fantastic song-writer and has a great voice for folk music. I should know to trust Murder By Deathís word about an artist from now on.
Thursday - No Devolucion
I thought people were crazy for calling this Thursdayís best record at first but after a few more close listens, Iím starting to have that mindset. Thursday really pulled out all the stops on here to make something thatís unique. You can tell that itís still them but itís still nothing like the band has done before and itís fantastic. I could see this becoming my favorite album from them in due time. Shame they had to call it quits but at least they ended things on a high note.
Thrice - Major/Minor
Who really didnít see this coming? Unfortunately, they decided to go on hiatus this year too but, like Thursday, they ended things on a very high note with Major/Minor. This actually reminds me a lot of the first two volumes of The Alchemy Index and I was so glad to hear them re-visit that sound without getting too experimental. You really donít know what youíll get with a Thrice record aside from it being something great. That statement reigns true with Major/Minor.
Dave Hause - Resolutions
While I wouldnít consider it the best album of the year, it might be my favorite. The songs on Resolutions pretty much hit home with me and the semester I just went through. Dave Hause can sing anything and itís bound to be good.
Album of the year:
Boris - Heavy Rocks
I hate to make statements like this but I think Boris are one of the best bands making music right now and the three albums they released this year prove that. Boris is the definition of a band that does whatever the hell they want and thatís made for some pretty dull albums in the past, that isnít the case with any of the three records they released this year, especially Heavy Rocks. This one sounds the closest to the rest of their discography but it is still very different from anything theyíve done. The band said they wanted to ďre-define heavy musicĒ with this album and while I donít think itís that good, it is fantastic and definitely takes metal into some uncharted territory. I know that Iíve listened to ďMissing PiecesĒ more than any other song this year and with good reason, itís one of the most beautiful, doom metal tracks ever created. I know there arenít that many of those out there so I feel comfortable in saying that. Boris just know how to do almost everything right when it comes to making quality music no matter what it is. Iím excited to hear what they cook up next.