Everyone's got an opnion when it comes to music. I am no expert, but I listen to a wide variety of stuff. I'll tell you what: this was an awesome year for music. If you've tracked my social world, you probably think I'm a "metalhead" or a "rocker" or one of those heavy labels. Truly, my tastes ebb and flow based on the product and the production. The Twin Cities' Hip-Hoppers Doomtree and Dessa are again prominent in my list, representing a bit of a departure for me. But, their work is undeniably rich, layered and real. I gravitate towards those kinds of acts. Real, raw, rugged. The soundtrack to edge of darkness and failure and collapse, with whispers of hope. Or not.
I don't listen to the radio. I stopped listening to any kind of radio years ago. I research my musical interests on the internet through articles, blogs, recommendations and social connections with people that have great taste, or are slaves to the industry. You won't find much on this list that exists on radio; you probably won't find much that is represented on VH1 or MTV or any format that you have access to. I'm not saying that from the perspective of an elitist, as if my music is better than yours--quite the contrary; I'm just offering you guidance on where to find this music. You probably won't be able to run to Target or Wal-Mart for most of these.
But I implore you to check them out. This is a global collection of artists that I am deeply proud of. My list last year was clear-cut and easy to determine: Cyanotic's "Medication Generation" was the shit, with Dessa, Pendulum, and Morcheeba in the mix. This year seemed far more difficult for me to determine my favorites, not due to LACK of favorites, but because so many of these albums on the list empowered me, mystified me, captured me, and helped me escape at many points throughout 2011. I feel like I will slight some artists by arranging the list the way I have, and tagging the number one for 2011 that I have. Part of me wants to be political and give points to some of the most popular players in the scene, to show you how participatory I am.
How agreeable I am. How like you, I am.
But I'm not like you, and this list reflects that. My primary genres are rock, metal, industrial, electronic, hip/hop or rap; I don't listen to country, and I try to keep up with the genres that I love. This is my list, filled with oddities and heartstrings and personal favorites, spanning a variety of styles. I enjoy learning about the world of music from my friends and family. It seems that I discover a new band every day, and value the exposure to music that I get from my Facebook connections and other social avenues around the globe.
So, without futher ado, here's my top 20 favorite albums for 2011, ranked last to first. Enjoy! I hope you give some of these a listen; if not, recommended some music my way by posting a video on my wall and exposing me to what you're listening to these days.
Cheers! May 2012 be our best year yet! 8)
New World March
It's dark and inventive and it creeps me out a bit. Atmospheric and fun. Favorite Songs: "Dead Market", "Lost", "New World March"
ATARI TEENAGE RIOT
Is This Hyperreal?
Their kinetic, crazy, psychopolitical powerpunk was sorely missed, even if their accents and sometimes-obscure lyrics can get a little grating. Favorite Songs: "Is This Hyperreal?", "Black Flags", "The Only Slight Glimmer of Hope"
The Invisible Plan
Grandfathered onto the list because they're Opeth, I was frankly disappointed by the new album. It is an adventurous folkmetal experience, but far from the glory of their previous work. Favorite Songs: "The Devil's Orchard"
They're back and betterthan ever. If this was an LP, and not an EP, it would be ranked higher. Favorite Songs: "Underneath", "The Invisible Plan"
Conditions of My Parole
It's a good album, but not one of Maynard's best products. Underwhelmed would be my feelings about it. Favorite Songs: "Telling Ghosts", "Man Overboard", "Conditions of My Parole"
The album does remind me of old-school Megadeth, around "Rust in Peace", but the songs aren't as powerful. Not a bad addition to the Megadeth collection, but not a startling rebirth of the metal juggernaut. Props to Dave Mustaine for keeping with the plan, afterall these years. Will see them on "Gigantour" in a few months. Favorite Songs: "Thirteen", "Sudden Death", "Deadly Nightshade"
LEFT SPINE DOWN
An interesting, intriguing hyperpop/industrial/punk mix, featuring Jeremy Inkel from Front Line Assembly and Noise Unit. Their last album "Fighting for Voltage" was brutal and aggressive; "Caution" is explorative and creative. Favorite Songs: "The Truth Is A Lie", "From Thirty to Zero", "Caution"
Until We Have Faces
Despite their evangelical ways, I still appreciate their musicianship. Unfortunately, every time I've seen them live, they've totally sucked, and the crowd was as exciting as Sunday School. My criticisms aside, they make great music and are polished artists.
Favorite Songs: "Faceless", "The Outside", "Feed The Machine"
Castor, the Twin
She's a powerful poet, an admirable songwriter and a brilliant artist. She has the talent and creativity to strike gold with almost anything she touches. Dessa will set her own limit in the industry; she has enough talent to be sickeningly dominant if she chose to be. Favorite Songs: "The Chaconne", "Mineshaft II", "Alibi","The Beekeeper"
Emily Browning's serenade, Skunk Anansie's power and Bjork's wail. And sexpot Carla Gugino. Absolutely loved the movie and the role the music played in its' story. Favorite Songs: "Sweet Dreams", "Army of Me", "White Rabbit", "Search and Destroy"
We All Bleed
I would bet that most fans of rock music remember Crossfade's anthem "So Cold", and perhaps some of their other early works. As with most bands that don't achieve multi-million dollar success, they faded into relative obscurity. They've screamed back with "We All Bleed", which is far and away the most interesting, powerful and complete Crossfade album to date. If there wasn't so much great competition this year, "We All Bleed" would be higher on the list.
Favorite Songs: "We All Bleed", "I Thought You Should Know", "Suffocate", "Dead Memories", "Prove You Wrong"
You've probably never heard of Blue Stahli, but heard his music in movie trailers and tv commercials. His first full-length album is filled with hits and slick tracks. Stahli is a highly-talented artist that should be tracked, as his music is common in the background static of our world. Favorite Songs: "UltraNUMB", "Kill Me Every Time", "Scrape", "Give Me Everything You've Got", "Metamorphosis"
The Path of Totality
Count me as a fan of the metal/dubstep crossover. I am also a big fan of remixes. Korn partnered with many alt-genred artists for "Path", and the result is a fresh scoop of Korn. Favorite Songs: "Narcissistic Cannibal", "Get Up!", "Bleeding Out", "Way Too Far", "Chaos Lives In Everything"
Sounds of a Playground Fading
In Flames is smartly evolving their music to become less obscure death metal and more accessible to greater audiences. Their songwriting is crisp; their lyrics are tight; and their music now has strong electronic influences. They are still metal, but as demonstrated with their mix with Pendulum last year, they have the ability to be more than just a Cookie Monster metal band. Favorite Songs: "Where The Dead Ships Dwell","Jester's Door","Deliver Us", "Liberation"
They are a supergroup, a troupe of accomplished musicians with different roots and styles, complimentary and trendcool. I honestly don't spend much time in this genre,so I don't make a great Hip/hop critic. I just know they spins some sweet rhymes and can f'in BOUNCE. Favorite Songs: "No Way", "Own Yours", "Team the Best Team","String Theory"
Otep is an artistic idol of mine. "Atavist" is the continuation in a long line of culture-challenging and redefining pieces of art developed by Otep Shamaya. It is powerful. It is loud. It is bitterly gorgeous, much like the lady herself. Favorite Songs: "Remember to Forget", "We Dream Like Lions", "Not to Touch the Earth","Fists Fall", "Baby's Breath"
Chris Corner is a creative genius. He continues to pump out awesome, beautiful and unique music with every release as IAMX. Formerly the frontman for Sneaker Pimps, Chris is a rare artist that can push the envelope and still retain a modicum of darkness and raw truth. The range of his talent seems endless. Favorite Songs: "Volatile Times", "I Salute You Christopher", "Fire and Whispers", "Ghosts of Utopia"
"The Unforgiving" is a concept album that involves murder, revenge, death... all of the important stuff. It is based on a comic book series, and while I don't fully understand what the concept is, I can tell you with great certainty that the album rocks. Yes, I like just about every song on the album. Sharon Den Adel is a divine vocalist, and is showcased brilliantly throughout. Favorite Songs: All
Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
Consider this the previous number one on my list; I went with "Unseen" because I really wanted to give "The Haunted" props for their continued great work. But that's no slight to the new Beastie Boys record, which blew me away, and still does to this day. In a case where someone has to be number one, I went with the ugly stepsister, instead of the neon-pop, clubthump and bop of the Beasties. I compare this album to Beck's "Guero", where every song seemed to explode with vibrant character and color with repeat listens. I've always been a Beastie Boys fan, but "Hot Sauce 2" validates why we've been on their side since they lost their "License to Ill". Favorite Songs: "Too Many Rappers", "Say It", "Crazy Ass Shit", "Here's A Little Something For Ya", "Ok"
Why number one? The song "Done", plain and simple. My favorite song of the year, my anthem, my mantra, my past, present, future. A perfect song during a wildly imperfect year. "We're born free from the first breath to the last, and you should carry your head high..." The Haunted continues to be a top-level favorite of mine, and "Unseen" did nothing to change that. I haven't tagged a metal album as my number one in some time, and am proud to call this my favorite album of 2011. Favorite Songs: All.