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2011 Music Review

2011 Music Review

Every year, I run through the list of the best music I’ve heard during the year. Thanks to things like Spotify and BandCamp, it’s increasingly easier to find great music. This year, there has been no shortage. Here are the list of my favorites, in no particular order.

Top Records:

Cloudkicker – Let Yourself Be Huge
Cloudkicker’s latest effort proves that a good songwriter is a good songwriter, regardless of genre. the songs are stripped down, and are mostly acoustic. The final track has his first exploration into vocals, and it’s one of my favorite tracks of the year.

Into It Over It – Proper
Into It Over It is really firing on all cylinders for me right now. Evan Weiss’ crew has picked up where Mock Orange’s The Record Play left off. Mathy pop rock with great hooks. Love the production on this too.

Owen – Ghost Town
Mike Kinsella’s latest may be his best yet. Clever, witty, smart songs, with beautiful guitar work, and terrific arrangements. that guy does no wrong in my book. he really sets the standard out of what i’ve come to ask for in an acoustic singer/songwriter.

Thrice – Major/Minor
i love thrice. they are one of the few bands i feel like i have moved in parallel with over the last decade. every record they release has a stylistic change, and it always seems to be EXACTLY what i’m in the mood for at that moment. This is no different. This is just a solid (alt)rock record. Great songwriting, clean production, and execution of the songs.

Town Portal – Vacuum Horror
AWESOME. very much like 09’s top 10 band Shelflife, but darker, heavier, and possibly baritone guitar users. Progressive indie instrumental music, but with their own midwest rock vibe. More arpeggiated than chuggy, more melodic than riffy. Great stuff.

Electric Hawk – S/T
These guys….i had written something about how awesome their american horse meat ep was, and how it was near the top of the list. They managed to release their full length just in time, which now replaces the ep on the list. Great production, great musicianship, great songs. Following the path of Russian Circles, and Pelican before them, it won’t be long before Electric Hawk are the new instru-metal darlings of chicago.

Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
I couldn’t tell you the last time i cared that foo fighters put out music. The hype about the process of how The Foo’s recorded the lp (in grohl’s garage, no computers) had piqued my interest. I picked up the vinyl version on record store day, and was blown away by this record. It’s just a kickass rock record. front to back. highly recommended. throw out any preconceived notions you may have. awesome lp.

City and Colour – Little Hell
If this list was in order of favorites, this may be in the top 3. A very simple, yet beautiful indie folk rock record. The songs are so great, you can look past that they are all the same chord progression (in different keys). Dallas Green’s unique voice is truly made for this style of music (compared to his old heavy band, alexisonfire)

The Dear Hunter – The Color Spectrum
I thought writing a 6 album concept was a hefty task. But Casey Crescenzo (the man behind TDH) wanted to take a break from his decade long concept, in hopes to do a one time, 36 song concept. One 4 song ep for each of the 9 colors in the color spectrum. Each of the songs on that album trying to capture the mood and feel of that color. Black is a heavier record with a darker mood. White is packed with tons of instrumentation, reminiscent of the Beatles. While i do think that his normal 10ish track count records are more consistent front to back, there are some great songs in this collection. But ultimately, i’m as fond of the concept as i am the songs. well done.

Hidden Hospitals – EP001
An absolutely WONDERFUL mathy, technical and progressive alternative band that couldn’t have a better debut. Sad it’s only 5 songs. I’ve likely worn out those sectors on my hard drive from repeated listens.

Runners up:

Bon Iver – S/T
Just a great indie, folksy record. Dense instrumentation, great arrangements, great melodies, and well crafted songs. Awesome.

Opeth – Heritage
Opeth is one of the few metal bands that i can rely on to stay fresh and have their own fingerprint. This is a little more laid back, progressive, and layered. Very cool record.

Junius – Reports from the Threshold of Death
I hate using sub genres, but when I do, it’s usually to say that i love me some space rock. junius’ latest record is a solid space rock outing that’ll fit nice in a playlist with the most recent constants. It almost has a lighter deftones feel to it.

Songs of Farewell and Departure: A Tribute to Hum
I think this is the first compilation i’ve ever had on any list. The bearfort ms. lazurus is terrific. If you like Hum, the record is worth a spin.

Braid – Closer to Closed
braid’s comeback ep was a contender to be on the best-of list early on, sadly, there was just a lot of music released this year. just a great midwest indie / emo sound, recorded by j robbins from jawbox. the last song was one of my favorite tracks of the year.

Connectedness Locus – Terraforms
Local experimental electronic musician. Not normally my cup of tea, but the record is produced really well, and the arrangements are great.

Moving Mountains – Waves
A killer modern alt / space rock record. Big sounds, good progressive tunes.

Mastodon – The Hunter
This is not their best work, but it is their best production. the sonic fingerprint of this record is awesome. The songs (for the most part), are not. There are some cool parts, and a couple decent tunes, but i can’t give them a free pass because they wrote ‘hearts alive’.

The Appleseed Cast – Middle States
Progressive indie spacerock? Sure. This record has a very dark diy feel to it. There are some killer improv jams-turned epic tunes. if it was a full length, it would probably make the top 10.

Puscifer – Conditions of My Parole
Maynard’s latest release. This record is VASTLY superior to the previous effort. The album has some great tunes, and it’s far more serious than the almost comedic debut. A few tunes have instrumentation similar to A Perfect Circle.

Russian Circles – Empros
I wanted to love it. I didn’t. It’s not a bad record, but it just didn’t grab me. The math rock post rock trio wrote some big dynamic tunes for this record, but they just don’t do it for me these days, the way they did in 04. I don’t know if the genre is getting saturated, or their songs just aren’t as riveting.

Office of Future of Plans – S/T
Falls somewhere between channels and jaw box, with cello. J Robbins, you’ve done it again.

Honorable Mention:

Cloudkicker – Loop: Album of DL4 loops. Worth a listen.
Bleaklow – big post rock record for fans of pelican and russian circles
Polygraph – Ends of the Earth – sweet instrumental progressive indie rock band.
Apparat – the devils work – somewhere near radiohead and electronica.
National Skyline – Primitive Parade – these days, a more rocked out coldplay
Generations of Vipers – huge riffy doom rock record
Sequoia – Couple Two Tree – good rock with great pop hooks
True Widow – doom gaze with female box?
Thursday – thursday’s final record. mighty synthy.
Radiohead – sounds like they are learning ableton.
Mogwai – Hardcore will never die. Not their best work, but worth a listen on Spotifiy.
Glassjaw – not bad music, but not really a follow up to a desert island ‘ worship and tribute’.

Records I Feel Bad Not Listing Above:

Wilco – The Whole Love
Zombi – Escape Velocity
Mock Orange – Disguised as Ghosts
Battles – Gloss Drop
O’Brother – Garden Window


August Burns Red – Leveler
i don’t get it. everyone tells me to listen to this band. i do. it’s just not good (metal) music.

Death Cab For Cutie – Codes and Keys
i love death cab, but they don’t get a free pass. this feels like it was phoned in.

Cave In – White Silence
this band has two records in my top 20……which makes this record an even bigger disappointment. Just a bunch of disjointed tunes that don’t belong on the same album. ‘Sing my Loves’ is a cool tune, which pisses me off even more, as i know they have the potential to write awesome music, they just choose not to.

The Lonely iIsland.
another record i don’t get. i tried, but it’s not good music, and it’s not funny. not for me i suppose.

Dredg – Chuckles and Mr Squeezy.
good effort guys, just not your best work. nNt a bad album as much as it was a disappointing one (for me).

Metallica (and Lou Reed) – lulu
jesus christ. this is the worst thing to happen to music.


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