5. The Horrible Crowes – Elsie
Elsie was one of the most anticipated albums of 2011 and it seems as if it fizzled for many reviewers. It shouldn’t. The Horrible Crowes’ soul and folk songs about nostalgia and ex-lovers is barely this raw and meaningful. Just don’t try to pretend that you don’t want to sing these lyrics to your ex- because then you’re both crazy. Elsie is a cathartic experience because even if you want to close the door on the past, it doesn’t mean the door is locked.
4. Frank Turner – England, Keep My Bones
“I still believe in the sound that has a power to raise a temple and tear it down.” These are sample lyrics about music in a rock n’ roll anthem, “Still Believe.” England, Keep My Bones is easily the folkmaster Turner’s finest as even the b-sides are great. It’s a record about asking life’s biggest questions, needing your friends, and hopefully after admitting faults you can be forgiven. So head down to the bar and sing your heart out.
For Thursday, this is where the turnpike literally divides. The fear of loss of identity as past lyrical themes were etched and underlined in our heads, as words so full of passion it changed the post-hardcore scene permanently. With No Devolución, all the roads may point home but the sense of insistence lets listeners know it’s still Thursday- it’s time to move on (what a foreshadow) and it feels right. The epilogue is instead of fading out and breaking up; they gave us the best record of their career.
2. This is Hell – Black Mass
There is no sense of entitlement with This is Hell. They were a hardcore band from Long Island, NY with a mission to cross over and think like Metallica circa ‘83. Black Mass is legitimate classic thrash, just sample “Salt the Earth” if you need to be reassured. We needed a record about reality and look no further than the cover of the album with the Statue of Liberty covered in snakes, blood and crosses. This is Hell is bringing headbanging back to real politics- not zombies.
1. Touché Amoré – Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me
It’s all a matter of perspective. Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me was recorded in five days and clocks in just three minutes longer than the last album. Touché Amoré made you wonder how the hell that could happen in 18 minutes. Many attributed it to their simplicity- there’s no studio effects with them. It’s better anyway to have honest men than half-truth tellers. In “Amends” vocalist Jeremy Bolm screams, “I have no excuses that I can offer/ I just the hope your forgiveness will hold back the water.”
Biggest Surprise : Mastodon – The Hunter
Have I lost my mind? I was kind of beginning to think so after realizing The Hunter is not nearly as bad as anticipated by those, like me, who actually like real metal. For some ’90s sludge metal (or stoner “metal” I prefer) band from Atlanta, Georgia, to get five records in before I care is quite a task. Mastodon’s never been my idols, but I recognize a good record when I hear one.
Biggest Disappointment : Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys
Hopefully Ben Gibbard can go back and watch 500 Days of Summer to go write a real Death Cab for Cutie record. Codes and Keys is beyond bland with perhaps two likable songs. Sorry but for this kind of depressing indie, a lack of alcohol and being in love is a formula for disaster. They build it; their fault. Maybe a divorce with that movie and “music” star Zooey Deschanel will help next time.
Best Live Show : Frank Turner
By this point we know the road is Turner’s home. He returned to the United States again (and several times this year) for solo shows in support of England, Keep My Bones in the spring. At the Brooklyn show he may have lost his harmonica and still told protest stories from ye old days, but if you don’t see his cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” live, you haven’t lived.
Most Anticipated 2012 : Converge
For metalheads, some Converge is not enough Converge. There is never enough Converge. Even if the 7” with Dropdead came out- it’s just one song. “Runaway” is two minutes that hypes you up enough to thrash through a wall (so I suggest open space to protect structures). Hints here and there on drummer Ben Koller’s Facebook page and the band’s Twitter suggest we’ll have another record fairly soon next year. Bring it on. Thrash, thrash, thrash.