Monday, January 2, 2012

Year-End Report: Top 50 Albums of 2011 50-41

Happy New Year! Stereo Typing is proud to ring in 2012 with a look back at the albums that made 2011 a memorable year for music. I'll be revealing my Top 50 Albums of 2011 by releasing ten each day this week. Along with a description as to why you need to hear each one, I will include the track that made the biggest impact on me. I am posting these tracks for sampling purposes so that listeners can understand why I am obsessed with these records. If there is something that should not be featured here, email me and I will take it down ASAP. As always, I encourage you to purchase anything you have discovered and liked. I have gone over this list an obsessive amount of times and it is truly a testament to how much I love music. Please take the time to look it over and enjoy discovering some great new tunes!

50. Craig WedrenWand

Having spent time again with Shudder to Think seems to have done wonders to Craig Wedren's songwriting. On Wand, he sounds invigorated and much more creatively adventurous than on 2005's Lapland. The album plays like a well thought-out mixtape with plenty of genre hopping and vocal acrobatics. "Crush You" and "Poolkiss" could easily be Shudder to Think leftovers whereas "I Know" and "Don't Tell" are electronic-tinged party rockers. "Make Me Hurt You" stands out as one of the best pop songs he has ever written.

Favorite Track: "Make Me Hurt You”

49. PrimusGreen Naugahyde

2011 saw many important alternative bands (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane's Addiction, Bush, Incubus) attempt a comeback after a long hiatus; but none succeeded as well as Primus. Where the aforementioned bands released albums that presented stale, watered-down versions of their former selves, Primus sounded revitalized and as innovative as ever. It is was a pleasant surprise to hear how well Les Claypool and original drummer Jay Lane could recapture that Frizzle Fry-era energy. Tim Alexander fans can rest easy. Guitarist Larry LaLonde compliments the booming rhythms with inspired riffs that blur the lines between alternative, stoner, and funk. "Tragedy's A-Comin'" and "Lee Van Cleef" are among the tightest and funkiest songs in their strong catalog. Of course, there are still those eerie tunes like "Jilly's on Smack" that are there to make you uncomfortable as you are grooving to the beat.

Favorite Track: "Tragedy’s A-Comin'"

48. The Decemberists - The King is Dead

There's no mistaking that The King is Dead is one of the strongest records that The Decemberists have released. It's hard not to refer to it as a return to form after the daunting rock opera that was The Hazards of Love. On this, their sixth full-length studio album, they have tightened their songwriting and fully embraced their folk and country influences. In an interview, Colin Meloy describes the influences on the album explaining, "I guess I've kind of come back to a lot of the more American music that got me going in the first place - R.E.M. and Camper Van Beethoven and all these bands that borrowed from more American traditions like Neil Young and The Byrds." Those influences can be heard loud and clear on the infectious "Don't Carry It All" and the gorgeous acoustic ballad "January Hymn".

Favorite Track: "Don’t Carry It All"

47. White DenimD

White Denim continues to expand and improve their craft with D, an album that brings together all the best elements of classic psychedelic rock. The jazzy guitar noodling found in "Anvil Everything" and "Drug" demonstrates the jaw-dropping talent that this band possesses. It's hard to deny the influence from the Grateful Dead (a band I notoriously dislike) on this record yet their approach is much more calculated than meandering. The real gem comes in the form of "Street Joy", a bluesy ballad with a melody that tugs right at your emotional core.

Favorite Track: "Street Joy"

46. Junius - Reports from the Threshold of Death

Junius accomplishes the impossible task of appealing to fans of metal, progressive rock, goth, and post-punk. They seamlessly unite the devastating riffs and atmospheric metal of Katatonia with the goth rock and pop sensibilities of The Cure. The result is an intoxicating melancholic journey that is every bit as beautiful as it is gloomy.

Favorite Track: "Transcend the Ghost"

45. Marissa Nadler - Marissa Nadler

I don't think there is another album on this list that is as emotionally wrenching as this one. Marissa Nadler vividly illustrates personal tales of disappointment, loneliness, and heartbreak with sparse acoustic arrangements and warm vocals. From the first notes of "In Your Lair, Bear" to the last notes of "Daisey, Where Did You Go?", you are going to not only hear but feel every element of the record. Highlights include "Wedding" which has an eerie and surreal atmosphere that would be fitting in a David Lynch film. The rich poetic narratives found within Marissa Nadler make it a folk masterpiece.

Favorite Track: "In Your Lair, Bear"

44. JEFF The Brotherhood - We Are the Champions

Last year, I saw JEFF The Brotherhood open for Fucked Up and I was instantly hooked. The duo of Jake and Jamin Orrall put on one hell of a live show with their dynamic fusion of stoner rock and punk. Their performance at Great Scott confirmed that they were one of the most exciting up-and-coming acts. We Are the Champions adequately captured the energy of those performances and proved to be 2011's most fun record. I mean, it starts with a droning guitar solo that leads into the line "I've been thinking about your mom." How can you not like that?

Favorite Track: "Hey Friend"

43. The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar

I found The Joy Formidable's debut EP, A Balloon Called Moaning, to be quite enjoyable but I wasn't expecting a mammoth followup like The Big Roar. Think of them as a heavier and more exhilarating version of Silversun Pickups if they spent all their time worshiping 90's shoegaze music instead of The Smashing Pumpkins. Opener "The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie" sets the stage for the album. It is essentially a sprawling pop song with it's roots in shoegaze and is laced with layer upon layer of distortion and feedback. The reworked version of "Whirring" ends in what is hands-down one of the most vibrant and powerful crescendos in all of 2011. The Big Roar indeed.

Favorite Track: "Whirring"

42. Battles - Glass Drop

Battles had an instant math rock classic with their debut, Mirrored. Fans were understandable concerned when multi-instrumentalist Tyondai Braxton left in 2010. However, Battles managed to bounce back and release a followup that is every bit as innovative as it's predecessor. "Ice Cream" (featuring Matias Aguayo) is the obvious favorite, containing the same quirky and complicated yet fully accessible sound as "Atlas" did on their debut. The album maintains a high level of captivating songwriting with ingenious collaborations including electronic musician Gary Numan and Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino. The album also resulted in two of the 2011's most unforgettable music videos. For a play-by-play on each song from guitarist/bassist Dave Konopka, check out the album's wikipedia entry.

Favorite Track: "Ice Cream" feat. Matias Aguayo

41. WU LYF - Go Tell Fire to the Mountain

WU LYF (World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation) seemingly came out of nowhere to create a significant amount of buzz. It was a classic case of mystery begets hype. This isn't to say that they didn't deserve the attention. Go Tell Fire to the Mountain is ten tracks of clever and stimulating indie rock. The group utilizes reverb-soaked guitars, somber organs, and abrasive vocals to create unique and enthralling arrangements.

Favorite Track: "Spitting Blood"

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