There’s one word to describe my 2011: WEIRD. I didn’t really have a home; I spent more nights in hotels rooms and on planes than I can count. 2 months outside the country, 5 in LA, not to mention a lot of domestic travel for music; all of this means that my eyes weren’t on the press releases that are sent to me like they used to be. So my list is comprised of albums that truly broke through the clutter. These are the ones people around me couldn’t shut up about until I gave them a listen and agreed (or not…those aren’t on here). These are the ones that slipped into my consciousness in an opening slot at a show, and never left. These are the ones that had the best PR people that annoyed me until I finally listened and realized that they were annoying me for a reason.
I hate record reviews…but these are ten (well…thirteen) albums near and dear to my heart this year.
Kvelertak / Kvelertak (NORWAY)
Death punk sung in Norwegian, this Turbonegro-esque album paired with their crazy live shows made them one of my new obsessions. I have no idea what they are saying but I’m pretty sure it’s awesomely demented.
Ghost / Opus Eponymous (SWEDEN)
OMG, people would not shut up about this band! I thought the whole schtick sounded so gimmicky, especially with the new chic level black metal has been given….when I finally gave it a listen, I didn’t realize it was a satanic classic rock album! So many bands forget how to write good, catchy SONGS because they want to sound complex or fast or whatever; say what you will about Ghost, these songs possess your brain.
Evile / Five Serpent’s Teeth (ENGLAND)
My favorite place to listen to music is in the car…and this quickly became my favorite album to listen to while driving. I like that this album covers a lot of emotions; I always listen to the whole thing.
The Horrors / Skying (ENGLAND)
On first listen I did not like this album. On second listen I did not like this album. It wasn’t until I heard it live that I really took to it. The Horrors have taught us over their three albums that you never know what to expect from them. I still think Primary Colours is a better album- there are some songs on Skying that I skip – but it has been a go to when I want something mellow.
Amon Amarth / Surtur Rising (SWEDEN)
You know a band feels strongly about their album when they perform it in it’s entirety. You know I feel strongly about an album when I go see it being performed in it’s entirety more than once.
Rival Sons / Pressure & Time (LA)
There are certain bands that come along and everyone that hears them says, “you will LOVE this”. Rival Sons is one of those bands. They are one of my favorite discoveries of the year.
The Soft Moon / The Soft Moon (2010) and Total Decay (2011) (SF)
This is a strange one for me. I feel like The Soft Moon has nailed a mood and tone perfectly…but there are pieces of almost all of their songs that I find overly repetitive and simplistic. I realize that is probably what they are going for; and in line with that I keep turning it on when I want something numbingly hypnotic (which turned out to be more often than expected). But there is always a part of me that wants to remix their songs and take them to the next level.
Kyng / Trampled Sun (LA)
Kyng’s bluesy rock/metal hybrid feels fresh to me, and was an album that caught me by surprise this year. The tracks will start taking you one place and then unexpectedly escort you to another. Me likey.
Mastodon / The Hunter (ATL)
Yeah, yeah…everybody knows that I’m crazy about Mastodon and everybody put this album on their list. Truth be told, it ranks at the bottom of their albums for me. BUT- a mediocre Mastodon album to me is better than most of the stuff out there. Of course, the musicianship is phenomenal- every member excels at his task, and reinforces that fact that Mastodon are the only band that I’ve had nightmares about breaking up. Anyway, I find The Hunter to be very hit or miss; I like some songs a lot but I skip quite a few.
The Stepkids / The Stepkids (CT)
OK, totally out of left field, but give me a chance here. I saw these guys opening for The Horrors, and they are definitely a love/hate kind of band. I often throw people off when I confess my love for things like The Beach Boys and the Bee Gees, but there are psychedelic sounds within that music that inform the psych rock that is very much a part of my programming today. The Stepkids just sound really different from anything else I’ve heard new in a while. I guess the sexy version of this blurb could be: ‘would make great porn music’.
These albums came out last last year and didn’t get to me until this one…so technically they don’t fit, but I listened to them so much they have to be on here.
Enslaved / Axioma Ethica Odini (NORWAY)
Progressive black metal from the masters; Enslaved managed to test the limits of the genre without turning their back on it.
Kylesa / Spiral Shadow (GA)
I find the melancholy and muted anger of this album oddly calming.
Pete International Airport / Pete International Airport (OR)
I’m addicted to Pete Hölmstrom of The Dandy Warhols guitar skills….and this is his side project.
Now, take a listen to a playlist of my favorites on Spotify.