Not gonna lie. I am not a fan of doing these lists. It feels forced and obligatory for anyone who writes for a music site and blog. My cynicism is so out of control that I feel silly listing out what records and music I thought were awesome in 2011…or any given year…because, really, who the hell am I to preach and boast? All it really does is make me come across as an even bigger music snob than I already am. At least that’s what my friends will tell me.
But I guess I have to, don’t I?
2011 was an intense year for music and records. A lot of great releases from plenty of bands and labels. A few hot reissues. A great deal of new bands I got hooked into. A few others that surprised me at how good they are although going contrary to the usual hardcore and metal and punk I listen to. As usual, this list is in no particular order. Just because a record is #1 or at the bottom of the list, doesn’t mean anything. They’re all equally great in my jaded opinion and their “ranking” is meaningless. These are the records that caught my attention, blew me away, and I thoroughly enjoyed so much that I am now putting down on internet ink as must-hear and also an effort to waste your time reading my ramblings. Ha!
Top LP & 12” Releases of 2011
Deafheaven – Roads to Judah (Deathwish Inc.) – This one piece of Black Metal / Shoegaze / Post-Metal awesomeness made every damn top list out there. A few to probably suck at the band’s teat. I refuse to kiss their ass. Yeah, they’re at the top of my list but solely because it’s a great record. DFHVN have crafted an unexpected sound and combined genres that initially were thought to be dissimilar. What more can be said? Everyone liked it. It’s pretty great.
Wolves In The Throne Room – Celestial Lineage (Southern Lord) – Typically, Black Metal is not an easy genre to get into. It can be downright a bit jarring and cacophony. Even for someone like myself who is into some aggressive metal bands, I never got into BM. Maybe it was because what little I know of it, I thought it was silly. I found that some BM bands took themselves way too seriously with their image and message. Not to that it isn’t. Whatever makes those guys happy. Wolves In The Throne Room were different though. They take Black Metal and push it forward on their own terms and refuse to follow any of the “rules” of the genre. Their sound is punishing and layered over a terrifying sense of melody and atmosphere. And Aaron Turner collaborated with them on Celestial Lineage! How awesome is that?!?!
Touché Amoré – Parting The Sea Between Brightness and Me (Deathwish Inc.) – I heard plenty of this band but didn’t really check them out until they landed on Deathwish’s doorstep. Since I tend to be a sucker for and check all things DW, I gave TA a shot. Boy, was I glad I did. Their sound and music and lyrics struck me as teen angst for the 30something in me. Urgent and desperate. Emotionally-charged. All things that make music great. Regardless of what genre it is. Even more so when it’s a post-hardcore band like Touché Amoré.
Helms Alee – Weatherhead (Hydra Head) – This is a rollercoast of a record. Back and forth between styles and genres and just loud. Listening to the record is one thing…but Helms Alee is one of those bands that have to be experienced live. The music is as precise and intense as on record…but louder! I think they follow the “these go to 11” rule. Weatherhead has it all for anyone into aggressive and heavy music. With added creepy cats all over.
Meg & Dia – Cocoon (Self-Released) – Last year I had Taylor Swift‘s Speak Now on my list. So why would this year be any different and not have a non-hardcore/metal/punk record? Meg & Dia are Indie Pop at its finest. Sugary melodies so sweet it makes your teeth ache. But they still retain an indie sensibility that grounds them and makes them relatable. With Cocoon they stripped their sound down and there’s a sense of melancholy that meanders through the music.
(The) Melvins – The Bride Screamed Murder (Amphetamine Reptile) – I said once and I will say it again: being a Melvins fan is a pain in the ass. Or is the band the pain in the ass? Either way, they don’t make it easy being a completist collector asshole. A gazillion variants and über-limited versions. This was no different. The music itself is a throwback to Houdini and (A) Senile Animal…but the record itself was a pain to get. Especially given the limited fashion of it (1,000 total pressed but 100 different covers by 10 different artists) and its individual cost ($50 a pop), made it tough for some fans. Not to mention the randomness of sale drops and how quickly it sold out. Time and time again.
Harmony – Harmony (Self-released) – The U.S. has Americana and Folk as music styles. If Australia has those styles also, then Harmony are the epitome and flag-bearers for them. Complete surprise of a record. My good friend Craigos recommended them and I was hooked. This record is great…albeit a bit pricey since it came from Australia…but still a fantastic experience.
Mamiffer – Hirror Enniffer Tour Edition (Sige) – This is one of those records that is not only a treat to listen given its ambience and style, but it’s great when a band does something different and special after its already been released. Mamiffer went on tour. They had leftover copies without jackets. So they made something special for people who attended the shows to pick up. Unfortunately, the band did not have any dates close to where I live. Luckily though, I have a such good relationship with the band as Fanboy Numero Uno, that I was saved a copy. Thanks Mamiffer!
Whirl – Distressor (Sweet Sounds of Nothing) – 2011 was the year of Neo-Shoegaze. The genre that was a big deal, to those into Brit-pop and Alternative music (back when it was REALLY alternative) in the 90’s, 2011 felt like a resurgence in a big way. Whirl joined bands like Asobi Seksu and Silversun Pickups in pushing the Shoegaze style forward and adding their own touches. What made Whirl, and Distressor, stand out, was that it was deeply-rooted in the genre and sounded genuine.
Cave In – White Silence (Hydra Head) – They’re baaaaaaaack!!! Whoever said Cave In were done for was so wrong. Cave In returned in a big way with White Silence: a combination of all things that make this band so great. Take the heaviness, combine it with the spacey melodies, and add some quirky and unexpected songs and you get White Silence. Great record showing a band that still has the chops to prove they’re still kings.
Mamiffer – Mare Decendrii (Conspiracy) – Another great outing from Mamiffer. It’s no secret that this has become one of my favorite bands. And every release they put out is a surprise. Very much like that proverbial Forrest Gump box of chocolates, you never know what you’re getting with each Mamiffer record. But one thing is for certain, it’s always a great experience in music and ambience and sounds unlike any other.
Lotus Eaters – Wurmwulv 2xLP (Taiga) – Aaron Turner + Stephen O’Malley + James Plotkin = an experiment in electroacoustic noise. Not much can really be said about this record that hasn’t already been said. It’s great. Taiga Records always outdo themselves with every release.
Most Precious Blood – Do Not Resuscitate (Morse Recordings) – The undisputed kings of NYHC returned with their heaviest and most experimental record. This thing had it all: aggressive hardcore, electronic sampling, orchestrated sounds, and even an acoustic song! All in all it is a great record and further proof that MPB can’t be messed with.
Kayo Dot – Stained Glass (Antithetic) – More experimental sounds from Toby Driver. How awesome is that? It took me a while to get into Kayo Dot, but when it finally clicked and made sense, it is a great experience. Stained Glass is an experiment in creating a darkness with the ambience and within the environment. Each and every Kayo Dot record is an experiment in what can be done musically.
WIFE – Pipe Candy (Dios Mio Music) – Instrumental Shoegaze and Ambient music. Can’t get any better than that. This record and music is all about creating a mood. The music creates more of a mood and feel to just let yourself go in. You can either let it play in the background or listen intently and pay close attention. The packaging and presentation…not to mention the music itself…are all well worth the price tag.
Best 7” Releases of 2011
Whirr – June 7” EP (TeePee) – So Whirl goes and changes their name due to legal tangling. They sign to TeePee and release this new slab of wax to tease us on what’s to come. More Shoegaze wonderfulness. This time the songs are a bit slicker and more polished. May be due to the production but in the end they’re great. The only drawback is that it ends too quickly.
Converge / Dropdead 7” (Deathwish Inc.) – Two bands celebrating a 20-year career of aggressive music. They go on tour together and what better way to celebrate than put out a split 7″ of new music. Both songs are punishing and heavy. Converge does what they do best and do does Dropdead. As expected, this release had fanboy collectors scrambling as there were multiple variants. So many pretty pretty colors.
By The Grace Of God – Three Steps To A Better Democracy 7” (Cobra) – This is not new music per se. This was originally released back in 1998 on CD only. Being that the band reunited for a string of European shows and Krazy Fest, a vinyl version was finally done for these recordings. The songs still sound as urgent as ever. It feels as though BTGOG never broke up.
Black God – s/t 7” (No Idea) – That Rob Pennington is a busy man. Not only did he reunite with By The Grace Of God, but he also kept going with the new band, Black God. BG essentially picks up where Black Cross left off. Still playing with Ryan Patterson, this is a smooth transition and continuation of that noisy and chaotic hardcore they both know how to make.
Incendiary / Unrestrained – split 7″ (Trip Machine Labs) – Hardcore from the opposing coasts. Incendiary hailing from Long Island, NY and Unrestrained from Portland, OR. Both bands doing hardcore by their own terms but still retaining a respect for the youth crew and scenes of the early 90’s.
Best Reissues/Represses of 2011
Botch – We Are The Romans (Hydra Head) – This reissue was a long time coming. Fans were tired of paying buku money for original pressings on eBay. Then Hydra Head one day stumbles upon leftover jackets in some warehouse and figures to repress the release. Why not? All was well until internet servers crashed, stores didn’t get any copies, and people were left empty-handed. But those who did get it, know that this repress of We Are The Romans was well-done and the colors are perfect for the artwork. A great reissue of a great release from a great band.
Old Man Gloom – Christmas Eve I + II + 6 + Live in NYC (Hydra Head) – Another great and interesting reissue. Originally available as a “test press” run of 50, it was hard to come by anywhere after it sold out back in 2003. Thankfully HH reissued in larger quantities. These songs need to be heard. Post-whatever doom sludge metal…if you want to call it that. The packaging is simple but well-done. In a post-ISIS world, we can all use more Aaron Turner.
Coheed and Cambria – Second Stage Turbine Blade Tour Edition (Equal Vision) – Yet another release that was a long time overdue for a reissue. When it was originally released by Defiance Records under license by Equal Vision, no one paid much attention. The band had not blown up yet. But when they did, OG copies were scarce and going for top dollars on eBay. To coincide with the album’s 10th anniversary, a repress was done on larger numbers in white, green and the tour-only black. The tour version was far more interesting as the cover was done in black and white and the label were changed. Something different that stands out.
Indecision – Unorthodox (Bitter Melody) – Remastered. Can’t get any better than that. The original version of the release is so sub par compared to this reissue, you may as well forget it exists. You can tell that Grant at Bitter Melody loves all things Indecision and Most Precious Blood. The amount of time, effort, and care put into this release shows throughout. From the overall remastered sound to the packaging and artwork, an even the screenprinted covers for the 180gram black, this is a top-notch reissue of a great record.
ISIS – Oceanic 2xLP (Robotic Empire) – Another ISIS repress?!?!…Aren’t there like a thousand of Oceanic already? That may and is very well the case. This time around for the this repress, the album has been remastered and re-cut. The jackets were also redone in a heavyweight “tip-on” style gatefold. As usual, different vinyl colors available, of which the “Brine” was the more suitable and conducive with the artwork. This is still my all-time favorite ISIS record and I will never get tired of seeing it reissued time and time again. Have I mentioned that I am still looking for the “Seaweed” variant of this reissue?
So that about does it.
I was going to get a bit more extensive with additional lists like “Best Box Set” (Melvins – Endless Residency; Deftones – The Vinyl Collection: 1995-2011; Type O Negative – None More Negative; Pearl Jam – PJ20 Soundtrack), “Best Scores of the Year” (27 – Tour 7″ test press; Shai Hulud – Hearts Once Nourished with Hope and Compassion LP test press; Ink & Dagger – Love Is Dead 7″ repress test press; Ink & Dagger – The Experimentation in Nocturnal Sound & Energy 7″ test press)…and who knows what else. But I passed on that idea. Too obnoxious.
Here’s to 2012 surely bringing more awesome music and records. At least there is a new Narrows release (Painted) out in February, so I’m looking forward to that. Maybe some new Converge also? Hopefully new Nine Inch Nails and we already know the How To Destroy Angels full-length should be out.
Bring it on!
“Making useless lists to annoy people since 1995”