2011 was an awesome year for music. There were a ton of great releases, including a few reunion albums. The year also brought a large amount of disappointing albums for me, personally. And to cap it off it will also see the end of two of my favorite bands, Thursday and Thrice. Anyways, here are my favorites, let me know what I missed (and don’t say Black Keys, Foster the People, or Florence and the Machine, I will internet punch you for suggesting any of those).
- Foo Fighters, Wasting Light - I know it’s been said way too much, but it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s true; Foo Fighters have not sounded this good since The Colour and the Shape. In the past, their albums have been plagued with “filler” tracks, but this one can be played from start to finish, on repeat, forever. And while it still may not be as good as Colour, it’s by far the best album of the year, and probably the best straight up Rock album in recent memory.
- Thursday, No Devolucion - It looks like they will end with their best album. They managed to fuse the usual heavy stuff with their softer, more melodic, tendencies perfectly. I haven’t really liked much of their output since War All the Time, but this release delivers. The songs are all epic sounding while keeping an almost poppy vibe during a lot of it. Geoff channels his inner Thom Yorke on the vocals. On other albums, his voice is almost jarring a lot of times, which has always been part of their thing, but he changed it up and it blends in beautifully with the rest of the music on this set of songs.
- Dance Gavin Dance, Downtown Battle Mountain II - Yes, Jonny Craig is a shitty person, and yes, they probably have some of the worst lyrics ever written by a band, but everything else is awesome. Their music is completely unpredictable, from hip hop grooves and jazzy bridges, to thrash beats and sweeping guitar solos. Jonny has one of the best voices in the scene and manages to be coherent enough, in between drug induced highs, to write some amazing vocal melodies. As many faults as this album has, I found myself listening to it very often.
- Taking Back Sunday, Self Titled - The return of the original lineup didn’t quite live up to expectations, but I don’t think anything they could have put out would have. The album is still great though and contains my favorite song of the year, “This Is All Now”. The emotion and energy that has been absent from the last couple releases is definitely back. My hope is that this was a warming up; their The Bends, and their next release will be an OK Computer.
- blink-182, Neighborhoods - Another album that had huge expectations, and it almost delivered. It’s a solid set of songs, but nothing epic, and definitely not close to what these guys are actually capable of. Also, for the first time I think I like Tom’s songs better than Mark’s, specifically “Wishing Well” and “Even If She Falls”. Here’s hoping to a better follow up.
- Polar Bear Club, Clash Battle Guilt Pride - Riley Breckinridge (Thrice) has been talking about these guys for years. On this release I finally listened, and I’m glad I did. The album is a solid, straight up, distorted guitar driven rock album. Nothing fancy but they do it well.
- Childish Gambino, Camp - I wasn’t even aware Donald Glover had a hip hop alter ego until about a month or so ago when he performed on Conan. His style is kind of all over the place; sometimes a little Kanye, sometimes a little Lil Wayne. His non-typical lyrics are where he shines though, complete with Invader Zim and Mumford and Sons references. The songs are catchy and the production might be my favorite on any hip hop album that I’ve heard this year.
- Jay-Z & Kanye West, Watch the Throne - Enough has been said about this one. It’s good, and “N***** in Paris” is amazing, I had it on repeat as soon as I heard it.
- Fucked Up, David Comes to Life - I’ve always been a fan of these guys but haven’t always had their albums in heavy rotation until this one. They switched up the music to a more pop rock sound and it works well with Damian’s screaming vocals.
- Glassjaw, Our Color Green and Coloring Book EP’s - Glassjaw recorded more music! And this time it did live up to expectations. The songs are extremely technical but still groove. Hundreds of vocalists try and emulate Daryl but there is only one and he definitely keeps proving it on these two releases. I hope this isn’t it for them and they keep pumping out more new music, I think everyone is over Head Automatica.
Thrice’s release, Major/Minor, was good not great. I like it but after putting out an album like Beggars it just didn’t resonate with me at all. Angels and Airwaves almost made my top 10 with Love Part 2. Tom toned down the space battle soundtrack feeling of previous albums and really focused the songs to make an actual good album, a first in my opinion. D.R.U.G.S.’s debut album was solid and I definitely listened to it a lot, but for some reason I didn’t feel it was up there with the rest. I would still recommend it though. I didn’t get Lupe Fiasco’s new album until two weeks ago so I haven’t had enough time to really listen to it yet. From what I heard though, it probably would have had a good chance at being somewhere on here. Mayer Hawthorne’s album How Do You Do isn’t anything special, but the Motown sounding songs are nice to listen to whenever.
Also, there are two albums I wish I had discovered last year when they were released, Mumford & Sons and Death in the Park. Everyone knows who Mumford is, but Death in the Park is Hot Rod Circuit vocalist Andy’s side project. It gas less country tinge to it than Hot Rod, but still signature Andy songwriting and one of my favorite albums that I discovered this year.
- Patrick Stump, Soul Punk and Truant Wave EP - I think I’ve said enough about him here. I do actually like the song “Spotlight” though.
- Get Up Kids, There are Rules - I’m not sure if they were trying to distance themselves from the extremely poppy Guilt Show (which was awesome), but this album was a pile of crap. And the fuzz on every instrument didn’t help things.
- Radiohead, King of Limbs - I think a lot of people came to the same conclusion after the initial I-have-to-worship-this-album-since-everything-Radiohead-release-is-God feeling wore off. Although maybe it’s just because it can’t help but be compared to In Rainbows, their best since OK Computer.
- Unwritten Law, Lil Wayne, Death Cab For Cutie - Don’t feel like even writing words for these, they sucked.
Top 10 Listened to Albums in 2011 (According to Last.FM)
- Taking Back Sunday, Self Titled
- Dance Gavin Dance, Downtown Battle Mountain II
- Foo Fighters, Wasting Light
- blink-182, Neighborhoods
- Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows, D.R.U.G.S.
- Thrice, Major/Minor
- Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
- Thursday, No Devolucion
- Fucked Up, David Comes to Life
- Mayer Hawthorne, How Do You Do
- Taking Back Sunday - “This Is All Now”
- Dance Gavin Dance - “Elder Goose”
- Polar Bear Club - “Pawner”
- D.R.U.G.S. - “My Swagger Has a First Name”
- Childish Gambino - “Heartbeat”
- Jay-Z & Kanye West - “N***** In Paris”
- Foo Fighters - “Arlandria”
- Thrice - “Promises”
- blink-182 - “Wishing Well”
- Yellowcard - “For You, and Your Denial”
I failed hard when it comes to movies this year; I wasn’t able to see nearly enough of them. I’ll list my favorites, but there will definitely be more than a few that are missing from it.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 - Even without seeing everything I wanted to, I know for a fact that this would still be on top. It was the perfect ending to the biggest franchise in film. It more than delivered on the (predictable) incompleteness of part 1. I still can’t believe that this is it for the series though; I (and everyone else) want more!
- Hugo - I finally was able to see this last night and it was amazing, especially if you are familiar with film history at all. It’s kind of hard to describe what the film/story is about because there are so many things going on. It’s so much more than a kids adventure story while being a tribute to early film creators. The 3D was pretty great as well. Because of the setting (A train station in early 20th century France), there are no sprawling flying scenes like Avatar or How to Train Your Dragon, but Scorsese’s shot composition make the 3D elements really breathe and come to life. This would easily have topped my list if I wasn’t such a Harry Potter super-fan.
- Thor - This was just a great action movie. The plot was interesting enough to enhance all the action and explosions, while never seeming over the top (which is quite a feat with the subject matter). The casting, and in turn the acting, was perfect for the film.
- Drive - I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an actor exude such intensity as Ryan Gosling does in this film. It’s one of those movies where you’re on the edge of your seat the whole time but not quite sure why… until Gosling has to smash a guy’s head in.
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes - I have never empathized with a CG character as much as I did with Caesar. Most of that is probably due to the amazing motion capture acting that Andy Serkis (also Gollum in LOTR) does. I would say there should be an Academy Award for what he does, but he would just win it every year. It was also refreshing to have a good Planet of the Apes film since there hasn’t been one since the original.
Source Code, X-Men: First Class, Bridemaids, Moneyball, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
- Sucker Punch - I can’t write enough hate for this movie. It is probably on my list of worst movies of all time. At least some bad movies acknowledge what they are and embrace it. It’s just sad when one tries to be epic and fails miserably. The story tries to make the whole setting a metaphor and everything is a symbol for something else but doesn’t attempt to explain what or even provide a reason of why the audience should actually care. The fact that the main plot revolves around the girls trying to find a few, specific, arbitrary items (that could easily be substituted for literally hundreds of things) in order to escape their “prison” is a testament to how weak everything about this film is. Stick to making other people’s comics into movies Zack Snyder, please.
- Green Lantern - Thank you for shitting all over my favorite superhero. That’s all I have to say about that.
Still Need to See
The Lincoln Lawyer, Midnight In Paris, Super 8, Horrible Bosses, Friends With Benefits, Crazy Stupid Love, Fright Night, 50/50, The Ides of March, The Rum Diary, Tower Heist, The Muppets, The Descendants, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Best TV Shows
- Game of Thrones (HBO) - I’m not sure how I didn’t even know about George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series until this year (I’m losing nerd points), but I’m glad HBO decided to make it into a series. As soon as I heard about it, I blazed through all of the books and waited in anticipation for the shows. They were awesome. It managed to capture everything great about the book while trimming away things that were not that important. I can’t wait for season 2 next year.
- The League (FX) - If you like sitcoms (or funny things in general) and are not watching this show, you are failing. It is the funniest thing on TV right now. Don’t let the Fantasy Football theme drive you off, that’s just a jumping off point.
- How I Met Your Mother (CBS) - One of the few sitcoms that manages to be consistently funny, helped in no small part by the hilarious Neil Patrick Harris.
- Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO) -Everyone knows about this show. Larry David is amazing.
- Young Justice (Cartoon Network) -I miss the old DC animated series (Batman, Superman, Justice League), and while not quite the same, it’s pretty close.