This year has been a phenomenal year in music so far. It’s pretty crazy to think that releases such as Okkervil River’s I Am Very Far , Smith Westerns' Dye It Blonde , and Cut Copy’s Zonoscope couldn’t sneak their way onto my list. I also haven’t given some key albums a listen yet, mainly the new Man Man…I know, shame on me. So as I catch up and the staying power of certain albums either grows or fades, this list will change, but as of now, here are my favorites from 2011:
Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong
Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
August Burns Red - Leveler
Curren$y - Covert Coup EP
William Fitzsimmons - Gold In The Shadow
Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean
10. Yuck - Yuck
Catchy and fun, this album is everything right about 90s “college rock”. Simple, straight forward, and easy to digest…exactly how Rock N’ Roll should be.
Choice Track: "Get Away"
9. Foster the People - Torches
What Heidegger would describe as dancy-electro-indie-piano-pop-rock, this debut from Foster the People is a classic summer release. With infectious hooks, it’s no shock that this album made some waves on the Billboard charts. Try to listen to this and not dance, I dare you!
Choice Track: "Houdini"
8. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes up the ante on their sophomore effort, blending indie folk with the psychedelic feel of the 60s/70s to craft a release that’s very easy on the ears.
Choice Track: "Grown Ocean"
7. Fucked Up - David Comes to Life
An incredibly ambitious release from these punk rock veterans, the disc is an 80-minute opus, that on the surface, is about a man that works in a light bulb factory. A bit exhausting to get through, but completely worth it.
Choice Track: "Queen of Hearts"
6. Middle Brother - Middle Brother
Everything you’d expect from this modern folk rock super group. The lead singers of Deer Tick, Dawes, and Delta Spirit mesh perfectly, each taking turns leading the other two, creating the best folk album so far this year.
Choice Track: "Blood and Guts"
5. Touche Amore - Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me
Tenacious, frenetic, hyper…all words that would be accurate in describing Touche Amore’s sophomore release. With thirteen emotionally-driven hardcore anthems clocking in at just under 21 minutes, this in-your-face, tour-de-force will have you finger pointing and singing along in no time. Also, the drumming on this record is absolutely unreal.
Choice Track: "Amends"
4. Explosions in the Sky - Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
The expectations I had for this album were truly massive, and for the most part, they were met. Though they never reach the heights of The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, EITS have crafted a sparkling album that proves this band is still the beacon of the post-rock genre.
Choice Track: "Let Me Back In"
3. The Antlers - Burst Apart
After the brilliance that is Hospice, I really thought The Antlers were going to go “one and done”…boy, was I horribly wrong. Incredibly emotional and always spacey, this sophomore effort is a truly beautiful, polished response to their debut.
Choice Track: "I Don’t Want Love"
2. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
As Justin Vernon’s star continued to rise after the heart-wrenching debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, the hype surrounding this release got larger and larger. Thankfully, Vernon and Co. delivered everything the public could want, and more. Just as goosebump-inducing and tear-jerking as its predecessor, this self-titled follow-up shows a growth that proves Bon Iver is still just getting started.
Choice Track: "Holocene"
1. Defeater – Empty Days & Sleepless Nights
There is so much sincerity and passion in this release that I’ll spare all the hyperbolic, cliché sayings that run through my head every time I think of this album. Carrying the lantern left by hardcore greats such as Have Heart and Verse, Defeater continues their intense, emotive legacy with Empty Days, their second full-length. Lyrically, lead singer Derek Archambault continues with the concept of their previous efforts, telling the story of a family in shambles, with themes of vengeance, addiction, and guilt being prominent. The narrative provides an engaging dimension, dragging the listener even deeper into the fury. If hardcore really isn’t your thing, the last four tracks of the album make up Sleepless Nights, a collection of Rocky Votolato-esque folk songs, showing a softer side of the band. All that said, Defeater is the clear leader of the new wave of melodic hardcore. Here’s to hoping they have a longer shelf life than most of the bands in their lineage.
Choice Track: "Empty Glass" (Empty Days), "I Don't Mind" (Sleepless Nights)
And there you have it. So far, the year is dominated by debuts and sophomore releases. This only bodes well for the future of music. Let me know what you think!