Top 25 of 2011
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25. Anchors - Bad Juju
Anchors originally released Bad Juju in November of 2010. It was later re-released this year on vinyl format and with new artwork, through Poison City and Creator-Destructor Records, so I consider this version of Bad Juju to be a new release (and why it's at the top of the list). But I also just love this album to death. It's a very fast-paced album from start to finish, complete with technical guitar work, intense drumming, and a gritty vocalist full of wonderful melodies. And even after a year later, the album is still very much enjoyable.
24. Billy Raygun / Lipstick Homicide Split
This is an album split between Billy Raygun and Lipstick Homicide released through John Wilkes Booth Records. Both bands produce some awesome material, very reminiscent of early 90's indie rock. Hailing from New Hampshire, Billy Raygun play with an early punk-pop sound in modern day tint. The lyrics are simple and straight forward, but it works really well in line with their catchy choruses. And the same can be said about Iowa based, Lipstick Homicide. Their side of the record has some pretty infectious punk tunes fit with some brassy vocals and an alternative quality that belongs on a soundtrack from a comedy in the mid 90's. But unlike Billy Raygun, Lipstick Homicide has more bubble-gum in their pop. Not much of a difference in sound from the fourteen songs that grace this record, but it does make for an excellent split with the potential of some fine debuts from both bands.
23. Eskera - Ruido Debajo Del Puente
Eskera is as aggressive as a punk-ska band can get (on this list anyway). Their album, Ruido Debajo Del Puente, is fifteen songs of pure crust-influenced punk and hardcore, with a bit of some reggae grooves to help balance things out. The music on this album is so raw and in-your-face, it's a perfect match to the intensity that's heard from their words and voices. They do speak freely on a handful of topics (a lot of it political), and do so in Spanish and in English. And although they sing in two different languages, one thing is for sure: they may sound pissed off, but they just want what other bands want - to be heard.
22. Dirty Filthy Mugs - Up in the Downs
Based in Los Angeles, California, Dirty Filthy Mugs play punk-rock in a somewhat east-coast style. Their music mostly brings to mind early Drop Kick Murphys. But these guys certainly offer a fresh new take on a sound that's rather difficult to replicate. From the celtic rhythms of Bodkin Downs and folk-rock ballad of In Walked the Devil, to the punk and rockabilly styles of She's a Riot and What You Get, Dirty Filthy Mugs' do have a nice original sound going for them. This quintet has a nice varied group of songs ready to share with an audience, both for old and new fans of the genre.
21. Ridgemont - Colder Days
Ridgemont are a four-piece punk band from Allston, Massachusetts. They released their debut full-length, Colder Days, in August through Kiss of Death Records. Colder Days is fourteen tracks of some fast, catchy punk rock (and my favorite album cover on this list). A majority of the songs are kept short and to the point, although it's consistently melodic. A few cool guitar leads (Jack Haley, Max Ono) appear on several songs, some interesting bass chords (Mambo) and very tight, often really fast-paced, drumming (Mark Useless). The vocals are my favorite part of this album. They're gruff and full of energy, especially during parts of the songs with gang-vocals. The album's first track, No Cream, No Sugar, has a gritty, sort of slushy, vocal-guitar introduction. I can't tell which one of the members sings that part, but it makes for an awesome opener. It's a very fine debut from these Allston locals.
20. Fixit Kid - Three
Fixit Kid's album, Three, is pretty much their final release as they just recently played their last show on December 8, 2011 in their hometown of Derby. The album is ten songs of original hardcore and punk layered on some rather dark and chilling themes. Songs like, The Ballad of George A. Romero and A Vast Collection of Teeth propose some horror thematics, although to make it clear, the latter is a about a tooth collecting stalker. A majority of the songs hold a rock n' roll punk stance with a lot of boom and swagger to boot. Not a bad way to end their 10 year run - cold, thrilling and almost demonic sounding. But that's what makes Three so fun to listen to.
19. Silver Snakes - Pictures of a Floating World
I had planned on attending the show Silver Snakes were supposed to play in during their tour in October. Instead of Las Vegas, they ended up playing in Sacramento, but I'm not sure if the show itself was canceled. Silver Snakes' new album, Pictures of a Floating World, is one part rock and one part hardcore. It's a heavy sounding album that's consistently melodic and very rock-driven. Not a lot of bands can pull this off, but Silver Snakes does so with ease. The ten songs on the album are a nice batch of original rock tunes that take on the sounds of hard-rock and the aggressiveness of alternative music and sort of mesh them up together. This album rocks that much. They better pass through here on their next tour.
18. Booze Cruise - Moose Stuff
The new album, Moose Stuff (my third favorite album cover on this list), by these Yellow Knife locals is saturated with fast skate-punk and thrash. And Booze Cruise are still a fairly new band, having only formed in May of 2010 (Moose Stuff was released in July of 2011). The musicianship of this four-piece is very sharp and on edge with its technical approach and speedy deliveries. The bass and drum work are clean and intense, and the abundance of guitar solos is almost overwhelming, even for a punk band. They do go a little overboard on the track, Steve Steve Steve - the guitar and bass clash a bit on the bridge, but with a couple of listens, your ears become desensitize to the off-key dissonance. But other than that, it's still a fine song. The album closes on a high note with the title track. The song is a four minute summary of the entire album – it's melodic and full of awe-inspiring guitar and bass leads. Bonus: the song's outro is a pretty slow-dance type of interlude. An interesting way to close an album with a much faster introduction. Moose Stuff is a solid debut for these four lads from Canada.
17. Survival Guide - Hot Lather Machine
Survival Guide are a two-piece from San Francisco, California. The duo consists of Jaycen McKissick and Emily Whitehurst, formerly of The Action Design. They announced their formation sometime in April and soon afterward released their debut 7”, Hot Lather Machine, through Side With Us Records (they also at the moment have a new single, One to One, and another 7” record, Wildcat, on the way). The record has two songs on it (The Walls and Symptoms) and a third as a digital download (Escape Velocity). The result of this collaborative effort is a record of some fine pop gems. The guitar and keyboard combo (and some drum loops) produces some really chill pop-rock melodies, very neatly composed and sweet sounding. Their sound also crosses into the line of electronica with its low synthesized bass ends and ambient backdrop. And as always, the record features some pristine vocal work by Whitehurst. Great start for a new project.
16. Saturday's Kids - Saturday's Kids
Saturday's Kids' self-titled EP takes a familiarized structure of indie-rock and combines it with some punk and thrash. It weaves an interesting pattern of punk and noise-rock, somewhat of a chaotic arrangement, although very cool to listen to. The songs mix some really pretty guitar parts, with soft slow tempos that will unexpectedly break into a mesh of distorted sounds. And their use of effects makes all the difference in their compositions. It often blends tension with the calm, but always resolves into something better. It's a common formula among bands these days, but Saturday's Kids just know how to write some awesome songs.
15. Last Stand For Lucy - Dysthymia Part I
Last Stand For Lucy will be releasing two separate EP's in place of a full-length record. This should give the members some time to fine-tune their new songs. The first of the two-part concept, Dysthymia Part I, features five songs of passionate hard-rock. The new EP features some new upbeat melodies that sustain the same aggressiveness of the band's previous work. This is best heard on the track, Heartless Son of a Bitch (a music video was also produced for this song), complete with a drum introduction and some new-wave guitar sounds. On tracks Seven and On Your Advice, these songs carry more of the heavier elements of Last Stand For Lucy's signature sound. If the same formula here is applied to Part II of this series, it should make for an excellent follow-up. But for now, it's nice to hear the direction they're heading into.
14. Brick Mower - Under the Sink
Brick Mower are a punk band from New Brunswick, New Jersey. This three-piece regularly tours throughout the year and always keeps busy with writing and recording new tunes. Their album, Under the Sink (my second favorite album cover on this list), released through Viking on Campus and Stumparumper Records, is a raw, really enjoyable mix of fuzzy guitars and thick bass-lines, but it's the drums on this album that holds everything together rhythmically. The guitar and bass sometimes clash with one another and you can hear this on songs like the opener, Tuxedo Bitch, and the intro of, Looks Like What Gives, but they do make it work on the album. But it is Brick Mower's lo-fi sound quality that helps give the record, and their own sense of musical style, a rather distinct and characterized sound.
13. Pimpbot - Pimpbot
Pimpbot are a five-piece rock and ska band from Honolulu, Hawaii with a really distinct musical style and a sound unlike most traditional third-wave ska bands. The humor is plentiful and the bass-lines are really groovin', but what I like a lot about this band is their wacky, sometimes odd-sounding brand of ska. On their new self-titled album they showcase some really high energy tunes (Tiger, Day Into Night, Please Be a Ninja) with some dirty reggae vibes (Hobo Chili and Used to Have Fun). The six minute jam of Zombie Fasi is creepy sounding as it is creative. I love the delay effect on the trombone mid-way through the song and their ability to do so much with what just sounds like two chords (I think they also accomplish this on the album opener, Meet You at the Bar). The last track, Beer and Homies, is an acoustic sing-a-long featuring a gang of friends recalling the events of the night during last call. Nice closer for a party album.
12. Brief Candles - Fractured Days
Brief Candles are a four-piece shoegaze rock band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The new album, Fractured Days, is their third release and first for Minnesota based label, Guilt Ridden Pop. The twelve songs on this album are rich with ambiance and border along the lines of impressionistic sounds. The vocals are very atmospheric and as smooth as can be. The two-part harmonies of Jenifer Boniger (guitar, vocals)and Kevin Dixon (guitar, vocals, keyboards) sound excellent too. I also like it when they trade off on the mic in-between verses. The bass parts by Drew Calvetti are really warm and slick (best heard on Small Streets) and Jack Bohannan is solid on drums and always on beat, especially when some thrashy guitars kick into gear. The layers of reverb are a really nice touch as well. Even the little chimes of vibraphones and bells (courtesy of Corey Dixon) make a huge difference in these songs. But the best part of Fractured Days is the large amount of dreamy effects that linger in the background, and the long drawn out chords that stretch out to the outer limits of space and time.
11. Big D and the Kids Table - For the Damned, the Dumb and the Delirious
Big D and the Kids Table touch base on some early styles of punk and ska on their new album, For the Damned, the Dumb and the Delirious (my fifth favorite album cover on this list). Tracks like the opener, Walls, and the two-minute quickie of Set Me Straight and Not Our Fault act as reminders of their skunk roots while the rude soundings of Roxbury (Roots N' Shoots) and the up tempo, Destination Gone Astray, compliment Big D's dancehall side. It's an upbeat album, very charged and tour-friendly. Basically, it accomplishes what their intentions were when it came to writing this record. Personally though, I love their slower jams. My all time favorite song from Big D is, Once Again, off of the Rocky Horror Punk Show. Although not an original, it's still a killer track. But as a whole, the new album does capture Big D's ever evolving sound of ska, punk and reggae. And if it weren't for the good people of Boston, this record would have never come into existence. With no recording budget, it was because of the hard work and help of friends that this record was made. Thank you, Boston, I'm yours.
10. Ninjas with Syringes - Oceanographer
On Oceanographer, the lyrics come off as angry, if not a frustrated read, but it doesn't sound as such over its sugar-coated hooks and punk-pop melodies. Chief songwriter for Ninjas With Syringes, Mr. Matt Danger, has a lot to say on this album, and does so with some lively guitar work and layer after layer of big choruses and non-stop jams. The vocal work is as animated as it is colorful, so it's a bit tricky when it comes to separating the serious from the satirical in the tone of his voice. And his whimsy, yet lighthearted use of keys in some of the songs show a more peaceful side to his all ready aggressive instrumentation. The keys are a nice blend of Ben Folds meets The Get Up Kids kind of mix. The songs that make up Oceanographer should satisfy your punk-pop cravings, but if not, Ninjas has all ready released six new songs. Their new EP, Railroader, should do the trick.
09. The Copyrights - North Sentinel Island
The Copyrights must love to tour and live life out on the road. As a couple of their songs do hint at that, as heard on, Worn Out Passport (I wanna die with a worn out passport/In the pocket of stolen jeans/On a beach somewhere I've never been before/Full of people I've never seen). They also suggest a sort of nomadic lifestyle like on, Expatriate Blues (I'm not home sick, I'm sick of home/Now I know when I'm back home I'll just be visiting/Now I know that my return won't be for long). And the Copyrights do have this ability to take one line and turn it into an entire song as heard throughout North Sentinel Island. From start to finish, their songs are simple, catchy, and honest. It's punk-pop done the right way.
08. Pour Habit - Got Your Back
The members of Pour Habit did a really good job with Got Your Back - it sounds like they took their time with writing and recording this record. As their follow-up to Suiticide, Pour Habit displays a more stable and polished style of their love for punk and metal. The album is heavy on the double-pedal (Matter of Opinion, Dead Soldier's Bay, Teens Turned to Fiends) and highlighted by some pretty tight guitar solos (Tomahawk and Greenery), courtesy of brothers Colin and Eric Walsh. They also mix it up again with a couple reggae tunes (Conscience Mind of Revelation and Party), this time with the use of acoustic guitars and some solid bass-lines by Steve Williams. Chuck Green's vocals still carry much of that range and energy that was so apparent on their previous album. Completing the five-piece is Matt Hawks (Hit the Switch) on second guitar. Now with a full lineup, and a niche for fusing a number of genres together (and really well at that), they've finally fine-tuned a more established sound for themselves.
07. Police Teeth - Awesomer than the Devil
Easily one of the coolest album titles on the list, Awesomer than the Devil, Seattle native's Police Teeth set the bar on what independent rock music should sound like. Their album opens with ten energetic rock songs laid against some rusty feedback and buttery noise with an eleventh track closing the album in the epic nine minute, Watching the Hydroplanes, originally by Tunnel Vision. One of the more offbeat songs on the record is Public Defender, a roller coaster track of colorful vocals and a lone bass and drum medley on loop. It's slow and steady and sounds as if it should build toward a loud and climactic ending after its almost seven minute timeline. But instead it ends like how it began, on a single strumming guitar note. The rest of the album plays the opposite role though. It's a record that's experimental on a lot of levels with its distorted bass-lines, thick guitar tones, and loud and wacky vocals. But I like to think that the members of Police Teeth just have a good ear for originality.
06. Jr. Worship - We Win!
I was stoked to hear about Jr. Worship after reading that Prize Country had become inactive. Jr. Worship formed sometime in late 2010 and released a few demo tracks which would later appear on their first release, We Win (Failed Scene Records). This new project plays with more of a post-rock punk style on top a single guitar and a thinner bass sound. It's not as muddy sounding as Prize Country, but Jr. Worship still play with a loud-gear-loud-sound kind of attitude. Their tunes are steadily aggressive and are kept in check with some lively drums. The song, Last Dream, has a lone drum introduction that plays like Helmet's, I Know. And songs like, 95 to 84 and Crank It, showcase Jr. Worship's heavier side on the record. I do hope these Portland, Oregon locals keep at it and continue to write music.
05. Vultures United - To Live and Die in Gainesville
The new record by Vultures United features four songs that were recorded and produced in 2009 during the Savages sessions. What I like a lot (and what I find most helpful) about a record is when bands include notes to their lyrics of the songs. I can't leave it up to my own interpretation of a song, knowing that I could be wrong. I'm just really glad that Vultures United have a good habit of doing this. The lyrical content on Savages covered a wide range of topics from political views and personal issues to the super natural and fictional. The title to this new record is of course in reference to Fest, which is held in Gainesville, Florida every year. The title track is about the first time the band played at Fest, which turned out to be an amazing experience for the members. The last line of Slam Dances With Wolves pretty much speaks for itself (Sarah Palin is an idiot). Side B of the record includes a cover of the Good Riddance's, Heresy, Hypocrisy & Revenge and the song, The Black Shirts II, a story about the infamous Italian Black Shirts. But whatever it may be, singing about ghosts or life on tour, Vultures United should be known for one thing: writing very intense-driven honest punk and hardcore. And they do it very well. This new record is really just a snapshot of what Vultures United are capable of producing. And if their rendition of the Good Riddance track is any indication of their ability to cover and interpret a song, then their upcoming Girls EP should be a pretty dope release.
04. Black Square - Black Square
Black Square albums have always opened strong and stayed consistently so until the end of the last song. The new self-titled record is no different. Opening the album is the track, Long Time Coming, starting off with a big sound and a solo-ready horn section. The slow reggae vibes in Rise Up and Soundhouse lift your feet (to a skankin' beat) while upbeat jams like, Closing Windows and In the Day, will get you moving in a circle. In the past, Black Square has done some pretty cool Op. Ivy covers, but on this album they pay tribute to Toots and the Maytals with the song, 54 46 Was My Number. It's an extended version and everyone just shines on that track. But my favorite part of the album has to be the horn section. There's more movement, more harmonies, and an overall stronger presence than on the previous albums. And the solos are just wonderful. But as a whole, Black Square's sound has always grown with each passing record and their self-titled album is by far their best material yet.
03. Holding Onto Sound - The Sea
The new album by Holding Onto Sound opens on a five note pick-up into a jumpy syncopated punk jam. On The Sea (my fourth favorite album cover on this list), released by GC Records, they speak openly about their political views and ideas and with a voice like Bennett Mains, you can't help but listen to him. Backing Mains is Zabi Naqshband on bass with an equally gruff voice and Vanessa Tidwell on drum duties. Rounding out the line-up is newly added fourth member, Robert Gates on second guitar. This new addition provides a fuller sound for the band, both on record and in their live shows. It's a very energetic album with a good set of dynamics and a diverse sound. Their break downs are just lovely too, they really know how to bust out some really groovy reggae jams. So with that said, the end of the world had better not happen next year. I shall be seeking some new punk tunes from this Las Vegas quartet when the time comes.
02. Nothington - Borrowed Time
Nothington really know how to write punk rock tunes that boder on the anthemic. Their new album, Borrowed Time, and first for Red Scare, is eleven tracks of soulfoul play. The tunes carry loads of melodies with passionate hooks and a familiar sound reminiscent of some Social Distortion and Alkaline Trio. Their simple rock songs are mostly composed of long drawn out chords played over some coarse vocal work. Jay Nothington and Chris Matulich share leads on the microphone, but both sing with such a warmth in their voices, especially when it comes to their dual harmonies. Borrowed Time is easily one of the best punk albums to come out all year.
01. The Pettyfords - Domesticated
The last time the Pettyfords released an album was ten years ago. The album was called, Aloha Means Goodbye (Whoa-Oh Records). Their vocals were a bit high, they wrote infectious whoa-oh punk rock tunes and their songs were only really about three things – girls, video games, and combinations of the two. Fast forward to now, the band reforms after an extensive break and presents some long-awaited new music in, Domesticated. The new EP features an almost completely different band. An obvious change would be the vocals. It sounds like they've literally grown-up, but this minor altercation doesn't effect singers, Derek Watkins and Jeremy Rhodes, ability to provide some awesome dual-vocal harmonies. And although the their lyrics have taken on a more serious tone (these are the same guys who once wrote, I'd let her eat my power pellets/I wonder if she'd let me hold her hand/But we don't have any hands so I guess we should just start kissing right now), they still make for some catchy power pop. A more complex structure appears in the instrumentals of these new songs, there's more play between the two guitars and a lot more breakdowns occur too. Cavan Nohara's bass-lines are as dead-on as they were before and in Roy Toy's spot is Steve Bruno (Buckshot Shorty, Temporary Lovers), whose perfectly timed beats are a nice fit for the band's fresh new sound. And it really is a fantastic sound. These five new songs carry that same drive and energy that made the Pettyfords' other songs so wonderfully good. I just hope it won't be another ten years before the band puts out another batch of new songs.