It’s that time of year when all you get on TV, radio, magazines and the Internet are reviews of the last twelve months. So with that in mind, here’s my top ten of twenty eleven 🙂
Gareth’s already posted his and surprisingly there’s little symmetry between our choices with only one album sharing a spot in both charts. Assured though there were a lot of great released in 2011 and this was a difficult list for me to compile. But I was forced to listen to them all again as a ‘precaution’, so it wasn’t exactly a hardship.
10 Funeral For A Friend – Welcome Home Armageddon
In at ten was a triumphant return from Funeral for a Friend. Welcome Home Armageddon is fast and furious and one of my favourites from earlier in the year. I liked its mix of traditional FFAF sound with a more metal tone. It was also matched with a great live tour including a night in the excellent tiny venue King Tut’s, the memory of which just cemented its place in the top ten.
I picked this up late after its release and so I never reviewed it, but I’d have given it a great write up. A slight change in sound saw this album being a slightly more subdued and easier to listen to affair than the band’s first album, resulting in some great catchy pop-rock hits. A great dual vocal combo with both gruff and soft voices make up for some great songs. The first half dozen tracks are great and infinitely listenable.
I think Trivium got a bit of stick for their last album Shogun, and perhaps as a result In Waves has more similarity in sound to breakthrough album Ascendancy. It’s fast and furious. It’s a bit lacking in the lyrical complexity department, but sometimes that really doesn’t matter as it’s the energy of the music that gets you going. I absolutely love the title track ‘In Waves’ and have been using it as a ringtone for a while now. It’s difficult to answer the phone when all you wanna do is mosh instead.
I didn’t review this around its release and I’m really glad I didn’t. If you’re not familiar with City and Colour, I suggest you do so. Dallas Green has one of the most hauntingly beautiful voices you’ll ever hear. The first two albums are mostly very stripped down to just him on acoustic guitar with a little accompaniment here and there, but Little Hell introduces more of a band sound for the most part. At first, I didn’t enjoy it too much, but it’s definitely been a grower and has become one of my favourites from the year for sure. If I’d reviewed it back then it would likely have had some negative overtones that would’ve proven completely wrong. Never been so happy to be a lazy oik.
6 Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
The only album to make both charts, I guess that means it must be a goodun. Truthfully, I don’t enjoy it as much as I did Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, but it certainly doesn’t mean it’s of lesser quality. It’s fairly straight forward catchy pop rock and basically what Foo Fighters do best. Dave Ghrol’s voice is as distinctively great as ever ranging from the soft ballad tones to the screamin’ and shoutin’ on one of my favourite tracks ‘White Limo’. Incidentally, Gareth hated that track, so I guess the album made both charts for slightly different reasons.
When Charlie Simpson announced an intention to do a solo album I despaired for the fate of Fightstar, who seem to have gone completely silent. Thankfully though, Young Pilgrim is an album of a quality rivalling that of the band if not superior in some ways. There are elements that sound like the quieter moments of Fightstar, but it’s mostly a different track altogether being more of a Beach Boys vibe with some borderline country overtones. It proves that Charlie Simpson is a superb songwriter regardless of the musical style. Be sure to check out album opener ‘Down, Down, Down’ as clear evidence of his talent for creating beautiful songs that surprise and delight.
After a few calmer albums, it’s back to the metal. I said in my review that Machine Head were probably annoyed that they’d done The Blackening before this as it’s the only thing that stops this from being their best album to date. I still believe that to be true having listened to it many more times since I reviewed it. ‘Locust’ is an absolutely superb song that’s been flying around (pardon the pun) in my head since the album’s release. Like FFAF, this album was also toured this year with a cracking night at the SECC which you can read all about in the full review.
The Hunter is a bit of a curiosity. It’s distinctively a Mastodon record, but it’s actually listenable without repeated spins. Most of their albums have a wow factor that you get on the first listen but it’s not until later on you can appreciate the full scope of the music. The Hunter is the first Mastodon album you can play on random and happily hear any track without needing to hear the full album to get the whole picture. Yeah, there are a few standalones in previous albums, but not many. Crack The Skye is a masterpiece in my view and The Hunter truthfully isn’t like it at all. It’s strange to have such a change in direction without sounding any different. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but neither do Mastodon and that’s exactly why you should listen to this album.
If you’re a regular reader of Musicscramble you won’t be at all surprised that Exit Ten have made it into my top ten. You’ll probably be more surprised that Give Me Infinity isn’t in at number one. I love this record. Its opening track is one of their best ever written, and although the rest of the album doesn’t follow its pace, all of its songs are beautifully crafted and masterfully executed. There are some lovely strings on a few tracks, but it’s still Ryan Redman’s lead vocal that’s the greatest instrument the band has imbuing each song with a believable heartfelt passion.
And taking the coveted top spot are Twin Atlantic, with one of my favourite albums of an age never mind just last year. Free is filled from start to finish with catchy pop hooks, rocking guitar, great music and great lyrics, all topped off with one of the most distinctive voices you’ll ever hear. Sam McTrusty’s distinctly Scottish vocal is the icing on an already delicious cake. The songs on the album are all brilliant and range from some fast paced rock to delightful slower numbers. In particular ‘Crash Land’ which I assure you will stick with you forever as it’s such a beautiful track. I was fairly little late to the party as Twin Atlantic have had a passionate underground following for a number of years now and I’ve only really heard them in the last year or so. I’m really glad that their first album is such a great record and I cannot wait to see what the next few years will bring.
It’s difficult to cut a list of great music down to only ten, so I feel it worth mentioning the bands that didn’t quite make it into the top ten. Anthrax, Black Devil Yard Boss, Boy Hits Car, Cavalera Conspiracy, Dave McPherson, Duff McKagan, and Terrorvision all had great records that I really enjoyed in 2011, though didn’t quite make the grade for one reason or another.
Thanks to all of them for putting out great music and giving my ears delights as I sat bored in the office. You can listen to all of these albums via a Spotify playlist I’ve created if you’re so inclined. Enjoy!