Best Albums of 2011
Cheveu – 1000 – (Kill Shamen)
Technically this was released in 2010, but it was late late December 2010 at least and I don’t even recall seeing it until a few months into 2011, so fuggit we’re gonna call this a 2011 release. In any case, it would have secured a place on the 2010 list because it’s as brilliant as their previous LPs and twice as catchy. Many reviews of this brain melter claim that it’s their most accessible and conventional release yet, but I don’t hear that. There’s less cut-up lo-fi audio scrap, sure, yet it’s anything but conventional. It’s got enough crackling energy and unexpected turns along inserted into some killer riffs and Cheveu’s unique brand of garage punk hijinx. There’s even a Vanilla Ice cover that’s gotta be heard to be believed. I usually can’t bring myself to rank top 10 lists, but for 2011 this was definitely album #1.
The Chewers – Every Drop Disorganized – (self-released)
It took almost a year to determine whether or not this album was weirdly brilliant or just plain weird. Beginning with the odd name and goofy cover art, this band’s deliberately off-kilter fuzzy bluespunk goes from weird to weirdly brilliant, somehow existing within a universe where TFUL 282 covers Killdozer‘s most lumbering numbers while floating in a Xanax haze. An acapella ode to pancakes? Two-minutes of primitive grunting? If that doesn’t make sense to you, than The Chewers probably won’t either. But if you seek a 42-minute diversion from normalcy, chew on this for a while.
Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivian – (Slumberland)
Although it hasn’t been as hyped quite as much as their early EPs and debut album, the Stilts’ sophomore effort pushes their alluring sound into even more interesting territory. Adding some echoes of classic psych (“Sycamore Tree” rings like a lost Silver Apples track) and the detached cool of The Velvet Underground, In Love With Oblivian cements Crystal Stilts status as mandatory listening.
The Get Up Kids - There Are Rules (Quality Hill)
For the longest time I’ve wanted to like this band. They’re local heros and many trusted tastemakers insisted that they were worth my time, but ugh, I just couldn’t get past their formulaic and predictable mix of nauseating, saccharine-sweet pop-punk. With this record I’m finally on board. The songwriting maturity and aged grit on There Are Rules is all aces, with layers of artfully textured sound and unexpected turns that never gets dull or predictable. If your eyes roll at the mention of this band, you owe it to yourself to give the Kids one more chance.
GG King - Esoteric Lore – (Rob’s House)
While GG King’s singles took this ex-Carbonas rocker’s sound into slightly gnarlier territory, Esoteric Lore turns the gnarly knob (please note: there needs to be a band called the Gnarly Knobs) up even further with 17 tracks of raging punk. Like hearing How Could Hell Be Any Worse-era Bad Religion, The Germs, and the Circle Jerks for the first time, Esoteric Lore instantly feels like a classic. It sounds kickass right from the start and continues to deliver after many spins.
Iceage – New Brigade – (What’s Your Rupture)
If you took the punchiness and catchiness of The Futureheads with sped-up Gang of Four angularity and injected some hardcore intensity, you’d have something close to what this Danish quartet has created with their debut record. Unlike anything else within the genres it straddles — punk, hardcore, post-punk, indie rock, alternative what have you — Iceage takes the best qualities of all of them and pushes them together in ways that demonstrate some masterful songwriting skills. New Brigade delivers a fresh sound well deserving of the hype.
The Pheromoans – It Still Rankles – (Convulsive)
After a handful of promising singles, this UK band serves up a proper album of rambling, baffling, so clever it’s stupid scrap punk that aligns with the trajectory of The Fall to The Country Teasers to The Guinea Worms. Initial spins seem clumsy and inept, but their spontaneous and witty methods soon reveal themselves as an entertaining if ramshackle listen that becomes more fun with each listen.
Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler / The Dream - (In The Red)
I’m guilty of being wowed by the ‘new’ and will sometimes lose interest in a band I love just being distracted by whatever’s got my attention at the time. Many times I’ve found myself at the record store with a new, unknown band’s record in one hand and a longtime favorite band’s newest release in the other, struggling to decide which to go with. Take a chance with a new band, or go with the known? It’s hard to go with Thee Oh Sees since they’ve had a staggering amount of output, but holy shit they continue to rule and this LP sits right up there along with The Master’s Bedroom is Worth Spending the Night In, Help, and Warm Slime.
Total Control – Henge Beat – (Iron Lung)
Sharing members with Aussie garage punk heros U.V. Race and Eddy Current Suppression Ring, this side project has gelled into something on par or greater than the sum of its parts. Cool and detached with heavy electronics and a plenty of perfectly refined guitarwork, Henge Beat has roots in ’80s synthpunk greats in the vein of Gary Numan, Killing Joke, and Joy Division but stretches that sound into a contemporary space. Like the GG King album mentioned above, this record has a timeless quality that promises to make Henge Beat a new classic.
Watch It Sparkle - Rocket Surgery – (Like A Shooting Star Records)
After seeing this Seattle band’s killer set at the Replay last spring I found a new favorite band. Luckily they were touring to support their newly released album, which promptly made its way to my turntable and heart with a savvy mix of guitar-driven mod punk and nervy vocals. Read more gushing here.
LISTEN TO TRACKS FROM THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2011: