Its the beginning of June, which means we are about halfway through another year of music. That means its time for the Top Albums of 2011 (so far) on MEB!
Drew’s Pick: Protest The Hero – Scurrilous
2008’s Fortress is one of, if not the best metal album over the last 10 years. Scurrilous, while not exceeding, lives up to the bar that Fortress set. Lyrically there is a shift from epic stories to more personal songs. We get our first look at the band, not as storytellers, but as people. Musically the band is as tight as ever. Scurrilous is filled with all the techy goodness one wants of out a PTH album. Luke and Tim continue to shine as some of the best metal guitarists out there. It seems like everything Protest The Hero puts out, as infrequent as it may be, turns to gold. Scurrilous is no exception.
Runner-ups: The Human Abstract – Digital Veil and Septicflesh – The Great Mass
Few bands can foreshadow their own greatness the way Foo Fighters can. Check their discography; every time the band releases a softer record, something heavy will emerge next time around. Though 2007’s Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace wasn’t my cup of tea, I knew the next album would be brilliant. Sure enough, Wasting Light is the hardest album in their catalog. Blame Butch Vig manning the boards, recording analogue in Dave Grohl’s garage, and the return of Pat Smear to make a new, three-guitar Foo Fighters. Every track aims to rip your head off at the seams, whether through the opening riff of “Burning Bridges” or lead single “Rope,” the screamed verses of “White Limo,” or the choruses of “Dear Rosemary” or “Arlandria.” With not one filler song, anything else coming out in 2011 will have immense competition for album of the year thanks to Wasting Light.
Runner-ups: I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business – Gold Rush and Panic! At The Disco – Vices & Virtues
Most Anticipated: Thrice, Taking Back Sunday, The Horrible Crowes, City & Colour
I’ve been on a constant debate with myself over whether The King of Limbs or Take Care, Take Care, Take Care was my actual favorite of record of 2011 (so far). It was a lot of inner debating, but I came to a conclusion: Explosions in the Sky’s new record is something that I have to be in the right mindset to listen to, while The King of Limbs will get me in the mood to listen to it as soon as I begin playing it. Most people seem to have disregarded this album simply due to the fact that it doesn’t exactly stick on its first listen, but let’s be serious here, when was the last time a Radiohead record became a favorite after one listen? It’s their loss really. Making full use of the band’s talents, The King of Limbs is an eclectic mix of Radiohead’s songwriting, with guitar-driven songs such as “Good Morning Mr. Magpie” and “Little By Little,” which are accompanied by more electronic songs like “The Lotus Flower” and “Feral,” which somehow manage to coexist with the more organic sounds of “Codex” and “Give Up the Ghost.” This album might be short, but it’s somehow fulfilling, with every song being great in its own regard. Sure, the rumors of a second part to the album may have been shot down by the band, but it’s still reassuring knowing we received The King of Limbs from them.
I have chosen Thursday’s No Devolucion as my first half Album Of The Year for many reasons. First off, it takes a heavy amount of guts to go from post-hardcore/screamo kids to masters of beautiful art. The risk factor in trying to achieve what Thursday did is immense, and they just might have released their best record to date. The guitars soar higher, the drums shine brighter, the bass is more prominent and Geoff Rickly’s vocals are much more ominous and soul-touching than they have ever been. This will likely not be my album of the year (dedicated and admitted The Wonder Years fan boy right here) but it is guaranteed to blow its way through the other contenders and into my top 5.
Runner-ups: Fireworks – Gospel and Yellowcard – When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes
I think I’ve listened to the song “Master of Art” more than any other so far this year. I think it still would be my favourite even if the song was sang A capella, as Laura has one of the most beautiful, delicate voices I’ve ever heard. Backed with a capable band who seem to have borrowed their instruments exclusively from The Decemberists, this is a sweet, well-written album with a lot of depth to explore. The band seem to have found a whole range of volumes between the harsh quiet and loud dichotomy on show in modern music, and they use them fully to their advantage. This is my recommended listen.
Runner-ups: Memory Map – Holiday Band and Disasterpeace – Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar
Most anticipated: House Boat – Album Title TBA
At this point in the year, there is one album that stands clear above the rest as my favorite of the bunch. That album is the recently released Waves by Moving Mountains. Despite the band releasing three previous albums (one full length and two EPs), this functions in many ways as their debut, as it is the first written collaboratively and not solely by singer/guitarist Greg Dunn. The way they merge post-rock and post-hardcore is amazing and not patrolled by any other band. I wish I could say this and my two runner-ups would be locks for my EOTY list, but with releases from Taking Back Sunday, Thrice, The Horrible Crowes, Queens of the Stone Age, Transit, and Arctic Monkeys on the schedule for the rest of the year, it is nearly impossible to predict.
Frank Turner has, once again, crafted a folk-punk opus that is equal parts a raucous sing-along summer album and Turner himself baring his soul as a self-aware storytelling troubadour. Turner never strays too far from his English roots, both in the traditional instrumentation and the lyrical focus of the album, and once again boasts his witty lyrical prowess. With a perfectly proportioned concoction of slow, heartstring-tugging ballads and fast toe-tappers that Turner has made into his wheelhouse, England Keep My Bones is one of those albums that can be pumped from the stereo on a drive down to the beach or played softly through speakers on a dreary, rainy evening. Either way, it’s hands down my favorite album of 2011 so far.
Runner-up: Fireworks – Gospel
Most Anticipated: The Horrible Crowes – Elsie
Joey’s Pick: The Go! Team – Rolling Blackouts
One isn’t likely to find The Go! Team’s Rolling Blackouts on any “Most Anticipated of 2011” lists, but that’s part of the charm. Rolling Blackouts is the astonishingly successful marriage of dreamy indie pop and feisty, double-dutch inspired hip-hop. If any album ever managed to capture the vigor of youth and compress it into 12 songs, it is this one. The instrumentals on Rolling Blackouts are intricate and dynamic. They have a purposefulness about them that somehow doesn’t diminish the raucous, garage rock spirit they embody, promoting Ian Parton from songwriter to composer. No other album I’ve heard this year has thrilled me this much (hell, I’m still excited about it), and so I bestow my pick for “Top Album So Far” upon The Go! Team.
Runner-ups: Thursday – No Devolución, The Strokes – Angles
Their counterparts in hardcore may also have a style of rage and melody to song structure, but Touché Amoré on the other hand is just too aggressive to keep quiet. It’s almost as if they can’t. As their follow-up to …To the Beat of a Dead Horse, Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me is an incredibly honest, powerful, and beautiful album, something music has been missing for a long time. As vocalist Jeremy Bolm screams in the opener, “Tilde,” “If actions speak louder than words/ I’m the most deafening noise you’ve heard.” That’s undistorted, so turn it up to 11.
Runner-ups: Thursday – No Devolución and Glassjaw– Coloring Book EP
At first, I wasn’t overwhelmingly pleased with this album. It didn’t seem to be quite as good as either of the band’s EPs or live up to the extreme anticipation that I had leading up to its release. Almost three months later, I’ve fallen in love with nearly every song, just as I had with all of their previous work. Jason Lancaster’s voice carries emotion better than almost any other singer out there, and the songwriting is very strong throughout. The studio version of “Why I’m Home” is a definite highlight, as are single “Any Other Heart” and closer “The Truth Is,” which bears some resemblance to “Goodnight Moon.” It was difficult narrowing down which album to choose for my top spot now, but this album will definitely find a spot high up on my year-end list.
With members from distinguished post-hardcore backgrounds- Jack Burns and Keith Jones (ex-Oceana), Brent Guistwite (ex-Of Machines), and Spencer Pearson (ex-VersaEmerge), Decoder’s self-titled debut was, to say the least, keenly anticipated. Boy, did they deliver. The band released one of the more atmospheric post-hardcore albums of the year. Pearson’s silky, serene voice brought listeners along on a glorious, absorbing traipse through the dense yet somehow distinguishable fog created by the tastefully crafted melodies. Jones, too, displayed the improvements made to his once-maddening screeches. On the album he managed to express an entire amalgamation of emotion, yet his screams were intriguing; the coarse sand to the running river that is Decoder’s ambient post-hardcore.
Ridge’s Pick: We Are The Ocean – Go Now And Live
We Are The Ocean really matured between their excellent album Cutting Our Teeth and Go Now And Live. They are more like a lovechild of Soundgarden and Rise Against musically, with a stronger emphasis on the melodic side and a tinge of hardcore. Even though there are other really good artists coming out with albums (the most notable being Suicide Silence and Sublime), it will be very hard to knock this album off. The lyrics really reach out to people from all angles, such as surviving through the work day, feeling alone with no one by your side, and regret. Another really good quality is that these lyrics can be open to interpretation to just about anyone and whatever life experiences they may be going through. If you’ve never heard of We Are The Ocean, then you are missing out and should consider buying this album for your collection.
Runner-ups: Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions and Black Stone Cherry – Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea.
Since City and Colour‘s new album does not officially drop until the 7th of June I feel I have to choose appropriately. William Fitzsimmons’ record was one that has not escaped my ears while out on a walk, or on a long drive. Gold in the Shadow is a solid folk experience, and is the perfect gateway record for anyone who wants to break into the genre (which I know can be hard when you have already found your niche). The arrangement of instruments covers folk’s bread and butter, and his vocal dynamic paired against a female counterpart is a combination that works very well. His music is easily comparable to classic folk greats, but he takes chances with some computerized elements. For a modern folk record, this one will not leave you wanting.
Most Anticipated: Bon Iver– Bon Iver and City and Colour– Little Hell