This is it. The 2011 post. We have been preparing this post for quite some time now, because you guys are worth it. What we wanted to do was take all of our favorite things of 2011 and make it into one great long post. And this is it. We will trade off talking about our favorite albums, songs, movies, and whatever else that just might have happened. So, sit back and enjoy 2011 with us. We will be starting it now, and adding to it as the month moves along. Also, please tell us what we missed in the comments section!
Best Albums of 2011 – Cal
You are first going to notice that I have a much different music style choice than my co-writers. I’m a huge metal fan, but I also dabble in pretty much everything. So let’s get after it!
10. House of Balloons – The Weeknd
This album does not disappoint. Abel Tesfaye’s voice ascends through the clouds, with some of the fattest snare sounds in the history of music. His voice surrounds the area like a poisonous gas. Songs like “What You Need” start out with some of the most sexy grooves that bring an immediate smile to your face. Easily, the most straight up sexy album I have ever heard. You know how everybody says that James Brown is “baby makin’ music”? Listening to The Weeknd makes me realize exactly what that term means. House of Balloons is the sexiest and most pure hip hop albums I have heard in a long time.
Recommended Songs: What You Need, Wicked Games.
9. Dead Throne – The Devil Wears Prada
Here we go, straight into the metal. True metal heads would never acknowledge the existence of TDWP, but I am not really a true metal head. TDWP is generally the best produced metal band out there. And Dead Throne kept up with its predecessors. Everything just sounds so pure and crisp. Devil is taking the forefront of the hardcore/metalcore scene, and this album shows why. They have been abandoning their emocore sound, and embracing metalcore at its finest combing a fury of breakdowns, chugging, blast beats, synth, chorus chants, and they even left behind their auto-tune. This album has some of their best guitar work yet. “Constance” has a riff in the middle that both bounces and chugs better than anything I have heard them release to date. Having thought out rhythms and riffs that stack perfectly on top of each other that creates song flow that they have always been phenomenal at. Songs like “Born to Lose” and “Mammoth” really exemplifies Chris Rubey’s maturing as a lead guitarist, and Jeremy DePoyster’s settling into his role as not only the clean vocalist, but as a strong rhythm guitar player as well. “We’ve put the world up onto a dead throne.”
Recommended Songs: Born to Lose, Constance
8. Goblin – Tyler the Creator
The only other hip hop album to crack my top ten, Goblin is a barrage of hate strewn together and thrown right into your face. I am not sure I have ever heard anything filled with so much hate. Which, personally, I do not mind. Tyler the Creator is a twenty year old rapper who has been making quite a storm in the hip hop scene. Not taking crap from anybody, he writes and raps about what he feels. Which is an incredible amount of hate, sex, and just general lack of morals really. With that said, I enjoy a good album to put on and escape from the world. And that’s exactly what Goblin does. Talking about how much he hates having to be anything other than yourself, Goblin is a strewn baggage of lyrics that exclaim that I am what I am, and nobody can tell me otherwise. Tyler’s lyrics are honest, and that is missed by a lot of rap artists nowadays. I am sick of the rap artists that rap about how great they are over and over again, and how rich they are ….ahem, Drake, Kanye, Jay-Z, and Eminem, how many more albums are you going to tell me how great you are? Tyler does not do that. He honestly tells you that he is a normal guy just writing lyrics about dealing with people that irritate him, and just anything that irritates him (“I’ll stab Bruno Mars right in his —- esophagus, and won’t stop until the cops come in” – Yonkers). His voice is hurtful and harsh, and it can shoot through the listener’s ears straight to their inner emotions. I recommend this album to the people who are strong enough to deal with it. Warning, this album is hard. Really hard. The hardest album I have ever listened to. After all, Tyler the Creator says himself in the opening track, “The devil doesn’t wear Prada; I’m clearly in a f–king white tee.”
Recommended Songs: Yonkers, Sandwitches
7. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – M83
When Adam first heard this album, he texted me to tell me to give it a listen. His initial thoughts were that it was the “Passion Pit album of 2011.” Meaning that it was an electronically lead album. This is high praise from Adam, who loves Passion Pit’s Manners quite a lot. I did give it a listen. Casually listening to it with my housemate while we played MW3. At first, I wanted to compare it to M83’s album from 2006, Before the Dawn Heals Us. However, they are significantly different and yet keeps the M83 flair. Keeping with their electronic sound, but I found this album to be a perfect blend of rock, ambiance, Halloween music, dance, and a strong 80’s pop resemblance; quite the eccentric blend. When I think of M83, I think of their encompassing electronic sound with limited lyrics. They even released an instrumental album in 2007. But this album was not that. They still created a wall of noise with the compassing synth noises and drums, but this time Gonzalez’s beautiful rhythmic and French voice soars through most of the album. Zola Jones sings beautifully on the Intro track, conveniently titled “Intro.” Honestly, as soon as I heard “Intro” I was hooked, and Gonzalez and M83 did not let me go through the entire dual albums. That’s right, this album is two CDs of over 70 minutes of music. Usually, I am put off by dual albums. I’ve been let down by them before (Say Anything, Showbread), but M83 did it correctly. A beautiful wall of noises that titillates all emotions of your body. They will make you want to party, and then take you somewhere else where you want to cry and be alone. That’s why music is so fantastic, and M83’s understanding of music is timed perfectly in this fantastic album.
Recommended Songs: Intro, New Map
6. Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes’ sophomore album was ultimately a struggle for me. Fleet Foxes had to live up to, in my opinion, the best folk album of all time: their own. Although this album was not as great as their first self-titled album, this album was great. It is hard for a band to come back from an album that defined themselves, especially when it was their first album (Say Anything, Fall Out Boy), but Helplessness Blues is still a fantastic album that does not disappoint the listener. This is a beautiful album. That’s basically it. It’s beautiful. The harmonies, and singing, and guitar parts, and the small army of instruments makes everything fit perfectly to create a perfect composite of beautiful music. This album makes you want to walk among roses with a pretty girl, and never look back. It makes you want to quit your daily grime and move out west and start a farm. Literally, this album is so ‘homey’ that I feel like I am in the 1930’s listening to music on the old radio. But without the cheesy lyrics and add even better melody lines. Fleet Foxes harmonies as a band are the only harmonies that could come close to Bon Iver’s. They are beautiful, that blends perfectly to create a loud and focused sound that resonates and is still catchy. A fun blend of folk instruments make you realize that you are listening to a fantastic folk album, but at times you forget and it blends perfectly into the background music of your daily life. However, this album is a quiet and subdued album that is a perfect way to end your day and rest up from your daily life. Lyrically, this album is much stronger than the first. Taking stances on real issues, and calling out capitalism and economic growth. Another reoccurring theme is the need to leave behind all your cares for wealth and riches that pressure you all the time. “Helplessness Blues” offers some of the best lyrics of 2011. Fleet Foxes are an amazing band, and this album proves that their first album, Fleet Foxes, was not luck. Fleet Foxes are a real band to be remembered and “reckoned” with.
Recommended Songs: Helplessness Blues, Montezuma
5. Celestial Completion – Becoming the Archetype
Becoming the Archetype is my favorite metalcore band ever. And I do not think I have looked forward to an album quite like I looked forward to Celestial Completion in a long time. The thing about metalcore music is, Christian metal artists are taking the forefront of it. With big name acts like For Today and Impending Doom dropping albums last year there was some metalcore albums to look forward to again this year: August Burns Red, Plea for Purging, In the Midst of Lions, and Becoming the Archetype. Of those, Becoming the Archetype’s album was the clear forerunner for the 2011 albums. Their new guitarist, Daniel Gailey, gave them a new edge that has not been seen in BTA’s arsenal yet. BTA has gone through a lot of line up changes throughout the year (including this year; a couple months after this album released their lead singer and bassist Jason Wisdom and drummer “Duck” left the band), but Daniel gave them something that they have really lacked in the past: a strong writer and solo guitarist. Celestial Completion offers a lot of varying styles in one album. It’s almost a prog-metal album when you sit back and look at its full spectrum. With a ska section led by Five Iron Frenzy’s Dennis Culp on the track “Cardiac Rebellion.” However what should most be remembered from this album is the three part song “Requiem Aeternam.” Starting off with a simple but lovely piano melody the song transforms into a full blooded metal song, and just when you think it’s done it come right back into the midst of the song with operatic vocals over blast beats and guitar sweeps. I apologize for my drooling, but just think about that. This album offers so much other than a simple metal album that it really should be honored for its impeccable ability to travel from sitars to opera to ska to metal and back again. I strongly recommend this album to any metalcore fans that seem to get bored of the constant chug that is taking over the metal scene nowadays.
Recommended Songs: Path of the Beam, Requiem Aeternam (Parts I, II, III)
4. Agony – Fleshgod Apocalypse
Okay. Metal. Italian metal band Fleshgod Apocalypse. This is the best straight up metal album to have come out from 2011. Combining metal gods like Nile and Rhapsody. It is a blend of orchestra and metal. Fleshgod Apocalypse is a symphonic technical death metal band. Like… what? That’s a genre. And when I say metal, I mean metal. There is never a doubt at this band’s ability to shred faster than anybody else out there, as they do so song after song. To be honest, I think a lot of metal heads might get thrown off by this band by their inability to slow down. It is blast beat after blast beat creating a machine gun of noise that shoots right into your face and does not let up until the album ends. Loud enough to make your ears bleed, and musical enough to peak your interest. Fleshgod Apocalypse needs to be on every person’s iPod, because of their band name alone. I love having people go through my iPod and come to Fleshgod Apocalypse and just stop and think about it. There needed to be a metal band named Fleshgod Apocalypse. It’s the ultimate band name ever! You know exactly what you are going to get based off their band name only. The orchestra value really adds a level of musicality that has been used in meal music for a long time, but Agony finds a way to make it a forefront part of Fleshgod Apocalypse’s sound. It is not just a filler or a instrumental track thrown into the album. On tracks such as “The Deceit” and “The Violation” (“The Violation” is my favorite metal song of 2011) Fleshgod Apocalypse offers a tenor operatic vocal style that soars over the blinding metal base. Honestly, I am usually not a fan of clean vocals in my metal, but the notes he hits are both incredibly impressive and catchy. I strongly recommend Agony to anyone who is thinking about giving metal a chance. It combines near dizzying speed, the fastest blast beats, beautiful operatic clean vocals, and a brutal frontal voice attack. Agony is just a phenomenal metal album that really reignited my love for metal music.
Recommended Songs: The Violation, The Deceit
3. El Camino – The Black Keys
Coming out earlier this week (December 6) El Camino is the newest album on this list. Perhaps I am all about this album because it just came out, but I do not think so. I have listened to this album a good dozen times already. The Black Keys are fantastic. Offering some of the best rock n’ roll since Led Zeppelin. On tracks such as “Little Black Submarines” you might get confused and actually think you are listening to Led Zeppelin. That is an incredibly prestigious comment that I would never just throw out. The Black Keys are combining a blend of blues and rock and heaviness that has yet to be seen in modern rock. Maybe Wolfmother, but Wolfmother is annoying once you get past their singles. The Black Keys are getting back to the roots of music to create sounds that blend from the 60s, 70s, 90s, and modern rock. El Camino combines some of the greatest rock sounds from Led Zeppelin, The Zombies, Kansas, CCR, The White Stripes, and Black Sabbath. On every track of El Camino there is something to remember. They have not abandoned their sound of their previous album Brothers, but rather refined it. On the track “Gold on the Ceiling” I found myself head banging harder than I do to some metal songs. The song also offers guitar tones that was seen on Brothers, and the guitar riff is so catchy that the song will cloud your brain for the remainder of the day. On the track “Little Black Submarines” you start quietly with an acoustic jam, but then evolves into a full on blues-rock song that you can just jam and air-guitar to. This song change has become sort of a trademark for the Black Keys, and I absolutely love it. To be fair, it reminds me of “Hangar 18” and “Holy Wars” by Megadeth where the songs change halfway through itself. Their are many great guitar riffs on “Little Black Submarines,” and some of The Black Keys’ most catchy melodies to date. On the opening track “The Lonely Boy” the Black Keys combine a fun guitar riff with their traditional drum sound that really defines the sound of the remainder of the album. The drumming on this album is probably The Black Keys best they have ever done as well. A fun White Stripes sort of loud jam sound and Led Zeppelins fast tom driven drums. Honestly, El Camino is some of the best straight up indie rock music that will last forever. Years from now a lot of the pop music that dominates the radio now will be forgotten and thrown out, but The Black Keys have created an album that will stand the test of time. And I can honestly say less than one week from its release.
Recommended Songs: Little Black Submarine, Gold on the Ceiling
2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Bon Iver is just perfect all the way through. It’s a journey of music. It’s an adventure for your emotions. This album takes its hand and grabs your heart and does not let go for its entirety. Justin Vernon has encompassed some of the most heart warming sounds that have ever come through speakers in the history of speakers and music. Creating the chillest sounds and yet an enveloping sound of warmth that blankets you. Vernon redefined indie folk with his album For Emma, Forever Ago and again redefined it with his self-titled album. It is a phenomenal album by a phenomenal artist that truly jumped him to the forefront of the music industry. The harmonies are perfect, tasteful, and catchy. The guitar is beautiful. The vocals are angelic and charming. Vernon’s voice is an added instrument that meshes itself perfectly into the overall sound of the album. The songs are arranged perfectly to create an album that does not disappoint through its entirety. Ending with the 80s sounding song “Beth/Rest” you feel as though you understand everything and nothing all at once. Standing alone “Beth/Rest” makes for a rather unusual sound for Bon Iver, but once you travel there through the entirety of the album the song makes sense. On the opening track “Perth” you are filled with a reminder of war times, bringing in a drum beat that would have been used during Civil War marches and then a perfect and singable trumpet line that really punches you right in the face. Also, this song has a catchy drum part that listeners can drum along to. Moving through the album, Vernon’s vocals are amazing and nothing less than perfect. The album comes to a peaceful hiatus between tracks “Michicant” and “Calgary.” You are eventually reawakened by “Lisbon, OH” and reunited with the perfect ending to the album “Beth/Rest.” An incredible sounding album with a plethora of instruments that intertwine perfectly to create a wall of beautiful songs that creates a fantastic experience.
Recommended Songs: Perth, Holocene
1. Olives & Oil – Asunder Minstrel
For those that know me, this should not be a surprise. For those that don’t; Asunder Minstrel is the best band you have never heard of. The reason you have never heard of Asunder Minstrel is because it is my band. I wish I could say that this number one pick is a joke, but it is not. I absolutely love this album. I love what my friends and I have created. We combine rap, rock, shred, and indie into a dynamic album. Our songs are some of the best songs I have ever heard, and I say that with an honest opinion. You always say to not create an album that you would not want to listen to, and this was not the case at all. I listen to Asunder Minstrel almost everyday. If you want to read background information on every single one of our songs, then I recommend that you catch out our SoundCloud page. On the page you can click on the songs and read about what happened during the recording process and other information about Marshall that I picked up from working with him. You can also download the songs for free off of our SoundCloud or Facebook. Marshall is the singer and writer off AM’s songs. Seeing that Marshall has been in Alaska for awhile now, reading these information tidbits might give you a little bit of an edge to break up your grief for his absence. Marshall’s grimy voice mixed with my heavy electric guitar, and Dan’s technical and spot on drum techniques, and Wes Armbrust’s catchy bass lines make this album truly the best album of 2011, right? Right?! I just love this album. I am proud of what we have created, and I look forward to recording them again someday when we are signed by Ike and Joe Sullivan’s record company, Camaraderie Records. Listen to it, download it for FREE (great for Christmas!), like us on Facebook, and tell your friends. If you like music, then you will love Asunder Minstrel.
Recommended Songs: Temper, Gift of the Fairies …all of them… It’s my number one album!
Honorable Mentions AKA Albums that were close, but did not make the cut:
w h o k i l l – Tune-yards
Dye it Blonde – Smith Westerns
Weightless – Animals as Leaders
Ceremonials – Florence + The Machine
Atonement – Your Memorial
Most Disappointing Albums of 2011:
Scurrilous – Protest the Hero
Take Care -Drake
Watch the Throne – Jay-Z and Kanye West
Th1rt3en – Megadeth
Odd Soul – MUTEMATH
There you go. Albums of 2011.
Written by Cal Mader.