Another year in the books, another year of incredible music releases. So many, in fact, that I had trouble cutting it down to just 10. That being said, I decided I would go with a top 11 albums for the year 2011, including 4 honorable mentions.
Honorable Mentions (In Alphabetical Order)
Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto
Favorite Tracks – Hurts Like Heaven and Charlie Brown
Feist – Metals
Favorite Tracks: A Commotion and The Circle Married The Line
Run Kid Run – Patterns
Tooth & Nail Records
Favorite Tracks: Daylight and My King
William Fitzsimmons – Gold In The Shadow
Favorite Tracks – The Tide Pulls From The Moon and Fade and Then Return
The Dangerous Summer – War Paint
It was my Freshman year of college when I first heard about The Dangerous Summer. I fell in love with their debut LP Reach For The Sun and their song The Permanent Rain became one of my favorite songs of all time. When I heard that they were coming out with a new album, I was a little afraid that it would not meet the high expectations I had for a follow up album. After giving the new album a few listens, it occurred to me that you could not legitimately compare the two albums. War Paint is a much more mature album, both lyrically and musically. One of my favorite lines comes from the song Siren:
Are you lying on your back?
Are you lying?
Why are you settling again?
Cause I’m not silenced
MUTEMATH – Odd Soul
Warner Bros. Records
On my first listen to this whole album, I knew something was different. I wasn’t a huge fan the first time, but I knew that if I gave it a few more listens, it would really grow on me. And that assumption was correct. This album is one that I quickly grew to love. With songs like Prytania and Blood Pressure, this album had some great and easy to catch on songs. But my personal favorite on the album is In No Time, especially after seeing the Relevant Magazine Live Version of it. Be sure to go watch that.
Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
I’ve said it before, but the Foo Fighters are seriously one of the best rock bands of all time. Songs like Everlong, The Pretender, Monkey Wrench, Big Me, Best Of You, Learn To Fly, Hero, and countless other amazing hits are scattered among their discography. And Wasting Light will gladly add to the collection. Minus White Limo, which I’m not a huge fan of, every single song on this album is baller. In very Foo Fighter fashion. Seriously. Go listen to this album now.
Needtobreathe – The Reckoning
I remember when Needtobreathe’s first album came out. I was still in high school and it had a very cool U2ish kind of sound to it. I really liked that album, but didn’t really keep up with their music. Fast forward to 2010/2011. I found out that A)they are still a band and B)they no longer sound anything like U2. They’re actually kind of country. At first, I didn’t really care for it. I was used to songs like Haley and You Are Here from their first album, and not songs like The Outsiders or Lay ‘Em Down. I didn’t truly become a fan again until I heard them live at AgapeFest. I was blown away by their great crew, their great personalities, and their absolutely killer live show. When this album came out, it really sealed the deal for me. I fell in love with songs like Slumber and Drive All Night and grew to love the whole album.
Parachute – The Way It Was
My first introduction to Parachute was my freshman year of college when I heard the two songs She Is Love and Under Control. I really liked those songs, but the album as a whole didn’t really appeal to me all that much. I had honestly forgotten about them for the most part until one night when a group of friends and I decided to go pull an all-nighter at Coffee Cartel and a girl from the back seat said “Have you heard Parachute’s new album?” We put it in the CD player and I instantly fell in love. Every song, from White Dress all the way through Philadelphia just had this really solid pop rock feel to it that made me tap my foot. Whether you’re looking for some sweet baritone sax like in Something To Believe In, a radio friendly hit like Kiss Me Slowly, or a great album closer like Philadelphia, odds are this album has a song (or nine) for you to fall in love with.
The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow
This album is what makes the music industry something to pursue a career in. The duo met during a songwriting session in Nashville, was recorded by Charlie Peacock, and the rest is history. This incredible duo is not signed to a major record label, does their distribution through TuneCore, and is selling out concerts all over the US and Europe. And it helps that their record is amazing, too. The songwriting is incredible and the harmonies are to die for. My personal favorites include 20 Years, I’ve Got This Friend, and Poison and Wine.
Mat Kearney – Young Love
Universal Republic Records
Mat Kearney has always been one of my favorite artists. In fact, his last album, City of Black and White, made my Top 10 Albums of 2009. If you are a Mat Kearney fan at all, you’ll know that his LP Nothing Left To Lose was very pseudo-rap heavy. His next one, City of Black and White, was absent of all of that. In my opinion, Young Love was a perfect mix of both. A great example of this is Ships In The Night. This is definitely the fan favorite song with its great mix of singing and rapping. While this album is much more upbeat than his last two, Young Love ends on a wonderful ballad about his father called Rochester. This album doesn’t miss a beat.
Foster The People – Torches
The first time I heard about Foster The People was via Andy Barron over the summer. The first song I listened to was Pumped Up Kicks and I knew I was really going to like these guys. It felt like every song was just as catchy, if not catchier, than the song prior. The more I listened to it, the more I fell in love. Songs like Call It What You Want, Houdini, and Warrant top my list of favorites on the album, but one of my underdog favorites is I Would Do Anything For You. Some might say “Matthew, you’re such a poser for liking this album. Everyone likes this album!” But you know what? I don’t care. It’s a hella good album. I’m glad everyone likes it, it deserves to be liked.
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
The first time I listened to this album, I hated it. I got For Emma, Forever Ago on vinyl for Christmas and have since been in love with the story behind the album and the simplicity of its musicality and its poignant lyrics. When I first heard Perth and heard that electric guitar intro, I was pissed. “Bon Iver doesn’t use electric guitars! He plays on ratty acoustic guitars and plays them in a cabin in the woods.” But at some point this summer, I decided to give the whole album a listen. I immediately took back the means things I said about his electric guitars. Bon Iver took that ethereal foundation he laid with For Emma, Forever Ago and continued it with his self-titled album so beautifully. With wonderful songs like Holocone, Wash., and Beth/Rest, this album was chocked full of melodies that are ingrained in your memory for days on end.
Switchfoot – Vice Verses
lowercase people Records
If you know anything about me, you know that I’m a big Switchfoot fan. I first discovered them in junior high when I saw their music video Meant To Live on Fuse one night. I was nearly asleep, but upon hearing that song I immediately grabbed my notebook that was laying nearby and wrote down “Meant To Live. Switchfoot. Look them up on Myspace.” And, well, the rest is history. Every album Switchfoot has put out since then has exceeded my expectations significantly, including Jon’s solo EPs. And Vice Verses was certainly no exception. With Hello Hurricane I made a point to try and listen to every leak of every song released, but with this one I wanted to try and wait to hear the album in its entirety. I’m pretty glad I did, too. It was very refreshing to sit back and hear each song fresh and with so much anticipation. Switchfoot has been known to bring in a new sound with the release of every new album, and Vice Verses provided several examples of that. My favorite description of a new Switchfoot song is Nicole describing The War Inside as “a swagger rock song.” With Selling The News, Switchfoot throws out some rap verses, and with The Original, they mash surf rock guitar riffs, dirty bass tones, and a little punk rock. To bring the album to a perfect completion, Where I Belong clocks in at 6:52 (their longest [and most epic] song on any release) and brings Vice Verses to complete closure. A pattern they started with their last album, they included lyrics from the first song on the album into the last song of the album; Jon sings out:
I still believe we can live forever
You and I, we begin forever now
I still believe in us together
You and I, we’re here together now
Andy Zipf – Jealous Hands
I first heard about Andy Zipf when I found out about P Is For Panda. I found some of his tunes on NoiseTrade, and I had heard a lot about a new album that would be coming out called Jealous Hands and how excited they were about it. But then in January, P Is For Panda called it quits. Obviously this raised concern as to whether or not Jealous Hands would be released. I didn’t hear much word about it until all of a sudden I saw a tweet that said “Jealous Hands is streaming on Paste Magazine, and available for next week!” From the very first song, I was blown away. It was incredibly produced, beautifully written, and lyrics were straight from the heart. I anxiously waited next week to find it available for download when I saw on his website that he was offering it for free. The link only offered a few words: “Whether you are a new pfriend, or old – I don’t want you to pass this one by. Download, listen and share. Thank you.” Once I downloaded it, I was instantly on board to help share the word about #JealousHands. With an album so beautifully written and the fact that it was free, why not help other people hear it? I think in the end, I convinced around 15-20 people to go download the album, and everybody who I suggested it to has made a point to let me know how much they really loved the album. And how could they not? Zipf’s incredible voice, his catchy melodies, his simple but effective guitar playing, and the overall arrangements of each tune offer some of the best songs I’ve heard in the last 5 years. The songs Promise & Purpose and Run Away, Little Sister are both inspired by the nonprofit organization To Write Love On Her Arms with whom he toured with in 2010. Other favorites of mine include Reach Is Wide, Find You, What More Can I Say, and the closer Taking Risk. I could honestly spend about 6 paragraphs writing about how great Andy Zipf’s record is, but I really think the only way is to find out for yourself. If you haven’t done so yet, do yourself a favor and download his album here.
Thank you all for going through this post, I hope you discovered some music you hadn’t tried out yet, gave some old tunes another spin, and maybe even got pissed at my list. Whatever the case, share your thoughts!