Chris Maddin (Blowing Trees) phoning in his selection of the best albums of 2011
Chris Maddin (Blowing Trees)
1. Radiohead, The King Of Limbs
2. Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues
3. M83, Hurry up, We're Dreaming
4. Okkervil River, I Am Very Far
5. Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto
6. Drive, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
7. The Antlers, Burst Apart
8. Destroyer, Kaputt
9. Neon Indian, Era Extraña
10. Girls, Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Wes Dunn (former bassist of Sohns)
1. Capsule (from Miami, not the Japanese pop band), No Ghost
Heavy, HEAVY, mathy goodness. On their third LP, Capsule pulls together all of the best elements of their chaotic version of post-hardcore to produce a punishing, yet melodically rewarding album. Highlight track: “Isn’t Us.”
2. Maritime, Human Hearts
Maritime’s (featuring members of The Promise Ring) fourth LP showcases absurdly well thought-out and well constructed pop tunes. I’m fairly certain I listened to the album’s first track over 100 times; it’s tough to get this stuff out of your head. Highlight track: “It’s Casual.”
3. Alpinist, Lichtlaerm & Minus.Mensch
(German crust band, Southern Lord Records compiled and re-released two of their records)
Having only toured the US once, I have not had the pleasure of seeing this band live. But if their recordings tell me anything of what they might be like live, they tell me these shows are violent
. These records are the aural equivalent of pissing razorblades. Highlight track: “2TE Klasse Bahnabteil.”
4. Braid, Closer To Closed
Chicago’s emo darlings reunited this year to write one hell of an EP. The four short tracks included on the EP are just as sharp as the band’s back catalog and is a strong reminder of why said back catalog is still revered. Highlight track: “Universe Or Worse.”
5. The Get Up Kids, There Are Rules
Yet another reunion record that made it on my list! This is the first TGUK release that really shakes up the sound for which they have become known. From dark, pulsating interludes and verses to almost Strokes-like rock 'n’ roll, this record makes exactly the progression that a band of this age and stature should make. I bet a lot of TGUK fans will disagree with me, but I actually think is one of their best. Highlight track: “Rememorable.”
6. Snowing, I Could Do Whatever I Wanted If I Wanted
If this list doesn’t make it evident enough, I think 2011 was an awesome
year for emo. And let me be clear: I am not referring to the faux-goth glam whining for which emo has become known. 2011 saw a reunions from some of emo’s best known stalwarts (Small Brown Bike, The Get Up Kids, Braid) and saw a resurgence of the sound that was made so memorable by likes of the aforementioned bands. Snowing’s 2011 release showcases exactly why this sound is great and why is deserves the comeback it’s getting. This record is angsty, catchy, whiny, loud, sloppy, self-aware, and self-deprecating, the best parts of the genre.
Just think of a less spastic Cap’n Jazz. Highlight track: “It’s Just A Party.”
7. Joyce Manor, Joyce Manor
Certainly a part of the same crowd as the aforementioned Snowing, Joyce Manor takes a more punk approach to the newly revived emo aesthetic with short, energetic bursts of anthems from the perspective a naïve, maligned early twenty-something. Oh yeah, it’s catchy as hell. Highlight Track: “Call Out.”
8. Pianos Become The Teeth, The Lack Long After
Singer Kyle Durfey has been through more than his fair share of familial tragedy. Durfey’s father recently passed away from Chronic Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, after having battled it for several years. Durfey uses this record as both catharsis and memoir of years of tumult and pain stemming from watching his father deteriorate. The story in the lyrics is revealing, heartbreaking, and very uncomfortable at times. In the end, the record stands as a fierce, painful, and beautiful work of art centered around the idea of modern mortality. Highlight Track: “I’ll Get By.”
9. Boyfrndz, Boyfrndz
This is the only really somewhat “local” release on my list for this year, and it deserves to stand amongst these national releases.
Boyfrndz, while hailing from Austin, still has deep roots in SA (the band touts members of now defunct SA band We The Granada). In their first release, Boyfrndz does a whole lot of rhythmic exploring and is more than successful. The EP is riddled with complex rhythms and time signatures, but is balanced out with dreamy vocals and soothing melodies. I cannot wait to see what this band does from here: this release is nothing if not insanely promising. Highlight track: “Ghost Hits.”
10. David Bazan, Strange Negotiations
I love David Bazan, plain and simple. From Pedro The Lion to Headphones
to his solo project, in my eyes (ears) this man can do no wrong. While I have enjoyed his two previous solo releases, I never really felt a strong connection to them like I had with Pedro The Lion releases. Strange Negotiations
is the record I’ve wanted Bazan to make since Pedro The Lion disbanded. The album features everything that I love about Bazan: his odd wisdom, cynicism, love for life, lack of faith in humanity, faith in humanity, and sense of humor. Highlight track: “Wolves At The Door.”
Jackson Floyd (Jasper's Cast, Ronald Ray Gun)
1. Fucked Up, David Comes to Life
It’s funny how predictive music can be, like how Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
captured post-9/11 American life though the album was completed in early 2001. David Comes to Life
seems full of the voices and sentiments of the Occupy movements around the world, even though the album predates those events. We needed a protest album this year. Plus, the music rules too.
2. Yuck, Yuck
3. JEFF the Brotherhood, We Are the Champions
4. EMA, Past Life Martyred Saints
5. Bon Iver, Bon Iver
6. Wilco, The Whole Love
7. Atlas Sound, Parallax
8. Kurt Vile, Smoke Ring for My Halo
9. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
10. St. Vincent, Strange Mercy
James Woodard (The Grasshopper Lies Heavy)
In no particular order:
Ulaan Khol, La Catacomb
Fourth release of guitarist / shut-in Steven R. Smith's "power trio" band. More abstract than the three previous albums (I
, and III
), this cassette-only release expands on Smith's modal folk-inspired approach to minimalistic drone-rock in beautiful, subtle new ways.
Sungod, Laurentide and Cordilleran + Others
Fantastic release by Austin drone/synth/folk anomaly Sungod that channels kraut and synth deities of decades past (especially the one that starts with a 7). Part Carpenter soundtrack, part Herzog soundtrack, part druid forest ritual, all gorgeous and narcotic lull. Highly recommended.
Haters gonna hate. Citing influences as far out as La Monte Young and Glenn Branca, Liturgy have released a masterfully crafted full-length, and as a result have become the manifestation of a new iconoclasm in black metal and heavy music in general. Metal fans, read a book.
Tim Hecker, Ravedeath, 1972
By concentrating mainly on three large compositions, this Hecker release really gives his works much more room to breathe. The effect is an illusion of formlessness rarely heard in such engrossing music. This album is Hecker through and through, though he does expand his palette quite a bit through duration and instrumentation.
Belong, Common Era
Keeping the aesthetic textures of their previous album, 2006's October Language
, but adding vocals and a drum machine has
transformed Belong into a distorted, reverb-drenched noise pop band that has just as much in common with My Bloody Valentine or The Jesus and Mary Chain as they do with the likes of Growing and Stars of the Lid.
Sunn O))) Meets Nurse With Wound, The Iron Soul Of Nothing
Sunn O))) handed over the 2" master tapes of their seminal album 00 Void
to legendary avant-noise/musique concrète
artists Nurse With Wound, and the result is a minimalistic masterpiece of timewarp music which is almost completely unrecognizable from its original form.
Part Chimp split
Hot Rock. Torche absolutely burn through three Guided By Voice covers on Side A, while Part Chimp drop two devastatingly heavy and poppy rock bombs on side B. This is what rock and roll splits are about.
The Flaming Lips and Neon Indian (12")
This collaboration showcases some of the darkest, most intuitive music from either of these artists. Physical copies are ridiculously expensive, so don't feel guilty stealing it from the collective ether.
To have a band release three absolutely diverse (and good
) albums such as these in one year is mind-boggling, But for Boris, this is just what they do best, having over 60 (!!!) releases since their debut in the mid 90s. These three albums not only dabble, but excel in shoegaze, electronic, doom, metal, stoner rock, J-Pop, and more.
Seven Sisters of Sleep, Seven Sisters of Sleep
This is exactly what I want from my heavy metal. Heavy, crushing riffs. Groin-tearing, almost completely unintelligible vocals.
Incredibly Satanic lyrics. Groove that will make you want to just start fucking hitting people. The debut SSS album got more listens from me than any other heavy metal record this year.