News & Affairs w/ Matt Grasso
Song - Artist -
16th hour - Deadmau5 -
2011 was a really good year for music. I think this was the first year that I actually had a lot of trouble narrowing my favorite albums list down to 10. Here are the ones that made the cut. 2012 is already shaping up to be another good music year even though it just started - At the Drive-In, Refused, and The Promise Ring are reuniting, John K. Samson has a solo album coming out later this month, and there will be a new Cursive record in February. I'm not really sure what could top that. A new Descendents record maybe??? I guess we'll just have to see.
Before I begin with my favorite albums, I want to share with you my favorite song of the year, since the album itself did not make the cut: M83 - "Midnight City."
#10: William Elliott Whitmore – Field Songs (ANTI-)
Field Songsis a delightful collection of eight new folk songs from Iowan farmer William Elliott Whitmore that are all about…well…working in the fields. It’s a simple album, with each song featuring only Whitmore’s deep vocals, a guitar or banjo, and occasionally a kick drum, but it never feels as though anything is lacking throughout the record. Combine that with honest lyrics about life in the country, and you’ve got one of my most-played albums of the year.
#9: Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math (Favorite Gentleman)
Manchester Orchestra is one of those bands that gets better and better with every album, and Simple Math is definitely their best effort yet. This band gets a lot of comparisons to Brand New, but with their latest album, Manchester Orchestra seems to be refining their Southern indie-rock sound more. Andy Hull’s distinctive voice and tracks like “April Fool” and “Virgin” definitely make this album stand out and warrant a second listen. This is a band that is going to continue getting better and bigger with every album they put out.
#8: Polar Bear Club – Clash Battle Guilt Pride (Bridge Nine)
Polar Bear Club is hands-down one of the best bands in punk rock right now, and probably the most consistently good band that I can think of in general. Clash Battle Guilt Pride is their third full-length and second for Bridge Nine Records, and I love it just as much as their previous two records. “Screams in Caves” and “My Best Days” are arguably two of their best songs thus far, and since the release of Clash Battle Guilt Pride, the band has done a European tour with Rise Against and are already signed on to play the Vans Warped Tour in 2012 (and will likely be one of the few bands on that tour worth your money). Polar Bear Club is still a very young band, having formed in 2005 with members not much older than I am, and like Manchester Orchestra, they’re only going to keep getting bigger.
#7: YACHT – Shangri-La (DFA)
Shangri-Laprobably looks extremely out of place on my list, being the only electronic album in my Top 10, but it is one of the most infectious records I have heard all year. Catchy songs such as title-track “Shangri-La” and “Dystopia” will get stuck in your head easily, and were obvious choices for songs to play on my radio show often. Others are growers, such as the seven-and-a-half minute “Tripped & Fell in Love,” but the entire album is incredibly dancey and amazing. Shangri-La is a huge step up from 2009’s See Mystery Lights, and if they continue to keep getting better, maybe I’ll be a little less sad about LCD Soundsystem breaking up.
#6: Moving Mountains – Waves (Triple Crown)
Waveswas one of my most anticipated albums of 2011, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. Moving Mountains’ unique blend of post-rock and emo make for a memorable ten tracks that you will want to play over and over again. With this release of this album, Moving Mountains has been getting a lot of comparisons to Thrice, and while I see where those people are coming from, I think MovMou’s music sounds much more sophisticated than Thrice’s. I do agree that upon first listen, Waves is much different than MovMou’s debut album Pneuma, but their sound is just maturing and they are growing up as musicians. “The Cascade” is one of the most beautiful songs I have heard all year. This is another young band, and I’m excited to see what these boys do next.
#5: Algernon Cadwallader – Parrot Flies(Be Happy!)
A few years ago, a 90s Midwestern emo revival began to rise out of the punk scenes of the North East, and Philadelphia’s Algernon Cadwallader was one of the first such bands that I listened to. By 2011, I have begun to care less about this scene, with many of its bands sounding the same. However, Algernon’s sophomore album Parrot Flies proves that they are still the best in the ever-growing population of emo revival bands. Clocking in at only thirty-three minutes, Parrot Flies delivers fast-paced, twinkly guitar riffs, unique rhythms, and sing-a-long worthy vocals that are only half-intelligible. I’m not sure yet how this album compares to 2008’s Some Kind of Cadwallader, but both albums have just as much replay value, and Parrot Flies’ “Preservatives” and “Uniform” are two of my favorite songs by the band. This is the perfect music to listen to in the summertime.
#4: Battles – Gloss Drop (Warp)
Gloss Drop is pretty much perfect in every way possible. When Battles released Mirrored in 2007, my friends and I would listen to “Atlas” like it was our job. But all that really proved was that this band was capable of writing one really memorable and amazing song. Gloss Drop on the other hand works more as a cohesive album, one that I can’t choose just one favorite song from. This predominately instrumental post-rock album has an exotic vibe to it; some have told me they think this album sounds like videogame music, but whenever I listen to Gloss Drop I picture a dance party happening on some faraway island.
#3: We Were Promised Jetpacks – In the Pit of the Stomach (Fat Cat)
We Were Promised Jetpacks is indie rock’s best-kept secret. The Scottish quartet turned heads in 2009 with their single “Quiet Little Voices” from debut album These Four Walls, but didn’t blow up to the extent that I had expected them to. In the Pit of the Stomach takes a little longer to grow on you than These Four Walls, but it is worth the many listens. The new record is darker, heavier at times, with a few shoegaze-infused tracks and others that are just straight-up rock anthems like the single “Human Error.” Being more a fan of their heavier stuff, my favorite tracks from the album would have to be “Hard to Remember” and “Boy in the Backseat.” I honestly don’t know why this band isn’t huge, but I’m glad I’ve known about them right from the beginning.
#2: Maritime – Human Hearts (Dangerbird)
Maritime encompasses everything I love about music: former members of one of the best emo bands of the 90s, lots of chorus on the guitars, and songs that are both catchy and dancey as hell while still falling under the “indie rock” umbrella. This is a band full of musicians who have been active for a long time, but Davey von Bohlen and company really nailed it with this record. It would be a difficult task to try to write another hit like “Parade of Punk Rock T-Shirts” off 2006’s We, the Vehicles, but “Paraphernalia” comes pretty damn close. (AND they shot the music video in the middle of a blizzard, which gives them a lot of badass points.) “Air Arizona” is another instant favorite, as well. I spent a good portion of my time in 2011 listening to this record, and chances are I will still be playing it a lot in 2012.
#1: Fucked Up – David Comes to Life (Matador)
My #1 album of the year is a record that pretty much speaks for itself. I don’t think anything I could write about it will do it proper justice, but I’ll try. David Comes to Life is the third full-length from Toronto’s Fucked Up, a band that constantly pushes themselves and matures and evolves their sound with every release. Their 2008 album The Chemistry of Common Life was described by some as the perfect mix of hardcore and shoegaze, and as much as I loved that record, I wasn’t completely satisfied. I knew this band was capable of something bigger. David Comes to Life is a concept album/rock opera about a guy who loses the love of his life and spends about an hour’s worth of music pondering the ideas of life and love. I’m a sucker for a good hardcore album, intelligent lyrics, and albums that are built around some kind of concept, and David Comes to Life is all three of these. I suppose it is only fitting that five months after releasing the best album of their career, Fucked Up announced they were going on an indefinite hiatus so vocalist Damian Abraham can focus on his family. If they never put out another record, I will be okay with that because David Comes to Life exists, and although it is really too early to call something like this, it will probably end up being one of my favorite albums of the whole decade. As far as I’m concerned, Fucked Up is the best band in punk rock, and after this album it is going to be a long time before I pass that title off to someone else.