5. Mayday Parade – Mayday Parade
Say what you want about Anywhere But Here, but this group of guys has the ability to write some phenomenal songs. With their self-titled, the quintet brought back more pronounced dual vocals, put a greater emphasis on great instrumental parts, and made a big stride in the lyrics department to create the comeback album of the year. The acoustic Valdosta EP indicated improved songwriting, and this album made good on that promise. Some might still focus on the loss of Jason Lancaster, but this album proves that they don’t need him to write great songs. I said it before, and I’ll say it again. This is Mayday Parade.
4. Patrick Stump – Soul Punk
In almost any other year in recent memory, this might’ve been my #1 choice. With a left turn from his work in Fall Out Boy, Patrick Stump released the best pop album of 2011. While other albums had their strengths in terms of melody, literally every line on this album comes with a great one. As I said in my review of the album, at least one of these songs gets stuck in my head at some point throughout the day, and it’s hardly ever the same song. Adding in some great musicianship (he played every part on the record) and compositional skills makes this a top choice for 2011.
3. Bayside – Killing Time
It was difficult for me to choose which of these top three albums would go in which spot. I’m a huge Bayside fan, and this album is easily at the same level of their self-titled and The Walking Wounded in terms of powerful lyrics, great guitar work, and overall cohesiveness. One of the biggest mistakes I made this year was passing on the opportunity of seeing them play some of these songs when they came to Pittsburgh this year. While the band has said that we won’t hear new music from them in 2012, I eagerly anticipate Anthony Raneri’s solo EP, which should be out in January, and their set on Warped Tour next summer. If this record is any indication, those should both easily be among my highlights for next year.
2. Jeremy Larson – They Reappear
This might not have been my absolute favorite album this year, but it was far and away the best record that I listened to, making it difficult to come up with a final version of this list. I honestly can’t think of a single thing to criticize about They Reappear. The compositional and instrumental work are top-notch, and the vocals have an intimate quality about them that just suits the music perfectly. The instrumental version of this album is great for studying or writing papers to, but a listen to the complete version with headphones is something everyone should do at least once. This album is less a collection of songs than a collective experience. Flawless.
I still stand by what I said about this album back in June. It was a phenomenal year for music, and this album managed to hit me just the right way. In a year where melody ruled, this record was full of some of the best. I’ve praised Jason Lancaster’s voice for a long time, but it’s more than that. The songwriting on Lucky Street (and their previous work) is incredible, with each word, riff, and beat drawing me back for more. I’d also recommend bonus track “Stay Gone” from the deluxe edition, but the original version of the album is great on its own.
11. The Cab – Symphony Soldier
12. Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto
13. Hyland – Weights & Measures
14. The Dangerous Summer – War Paint
15. Oh, Manhattan – Spiritual Warfare
16. Dia Frampton – Red
17. Fountains Of Wayne – Sky Full Of Holes
18. Panic! At The Disco – Vices & Virtues
19. We Are The In Crowd – Best Intentions
20. Blue October – Any Man In America
Top 5 EPs:
1. Farewell Fighter – The Way We Learn – My favorite release of the year, hands-down. I could say a lot, but just go listen.
2. Select Start – The New Atlantic – The addition of Daniel Lancaster and a change in sound made this the band’s best release yet.
3. Roy English – Fearlove – The end of Eye Alaska gives us a solid first solo release from Brandon Wronski.
4. Patrick Stump – Truant Wave – A preview for the glory of Soul Punk that’s great in its own right.
5. Sleeping At Last – Yearbook series – Twelve beautiful EPs in twelve months.
Top 10 Songs:
1. “Golden” – Farewell Fighter
2. “The Feel Again (Stay)” – Blue October
3. “Mannequin” – The Summer Set
4. “Best Places To Be A Mom” – Taking Back Sunday
5. “Why I’m Home” – Go Radio
6. “Motions” – This Love
7. “Coast (It’s Gonna Get Better)” – Patrick Stump
8. “Fire” – Sleeping With Sirens
9. “Living Louder” – The Cab
10. “Shell Games” – Bright Eyes
Childish Gambino – Immediately hooked me on a first listen after failing to do so with his EP.
Blue October – Despite releasing a solid album, my expectations were just too high.
Best Live Show:
Anberlin/Circa Survive/Foxy Shazam @ Mr. Small’s: 1/25
Most Anticipated For 2012:
Modest Mouse, The Spill Canvas, Saosin, Emarosa, Every Time I Die