DS Staff Picks – Best Albums of 2011 (Ghost Country)

Well, another year has come and gone. Though this 2011 came around with a slew of awesome releases, I had a relatively easy time putting my list together (for the first time in years). I’m sure that it will be vastly different from many of the other staff but that’s okay, because diversity is what it’s all about, right? right?

In any case, As the Chief Review Editor for Dying Scene I particularly would like to thank all the Dying Scene readers for still visiting us and helping our once humble site grow into the conglomerate monster it now is. I would like to thank Johnny X for being awesome and for still not fixing his mic so that our Conference Calls are never devoid of strange, outer-space like noises. Also, thank you for not firing me yet even though I haven’t actually written a review in almost half a year. Oh, and the desk and ski trips were nice. I would like to thank all the reviewers who receive my e-mails and put up with all my bullshit comparisons to the Sainte Catherines. I would specially like to thank Connor for his handsomely deep voice which has encouraged an uncountable amount of intelligent discussions between myself and other staff members.

Now, this is some hipster shit.

Honorable Mentions:

Thursday – “No Devolucion”

Bomb The Music Industry! – “Vacation”

O’Death – “Outside”

I Am the Avalanche – “Avalanche United”

Lemuria – “Pebble”

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Best EPs of 2011:

5. Make Do And Mend – “Part And Parcel” EP

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This is an awesome acoustic EP. It’s not often that a band manages to reinvent their songs like Make Do And Mend have in this release with their beautiful, stripped down versions of already Make Do classics.

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4. No Trigger – “Be Honest” EP

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Who would have thought that only two songs would be enough to get me this pumped for No Trigger’s triumphant return? Easily one of the better bands to come out of punk rock in the past years.

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3. Cloud Mouth – “Keep Well” EP

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Cloud Mouth is a severely underrated band. Writing music completely ahead of their time and spectrum, I almost fear not enough people will get into their music before it’s too late. If their upcoming work is anything like “Keep Well” I know they’ll be making a name for themselves in 2012.

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2. Code Orange Kids – “Cycles” EP

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Feedback. Vicious screaming. Crunchy bass. Pounding drums. Boundless energy. What else would you want from hardcore music?

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1. Trash Talk – “Awake” EP

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I was never a big Trash Talk fan. Their weird blend of hardcore punk and grindcore just wasn’t doing it for me, ya’know? Then all of a sudden they released “Awake”, 5 vicious punk rock numbers that will leave you wanting to kick some goddamn teeth in.

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BEST ALBUMS OF 2011:

10. Daniel Striped Tiger – “No Difference”

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I didn’t get to listen to this release up until the last week of December and I thought that I wouldn’t have enough time to really give it a listen before I had to give in my list. Well, even in its short notice Daniel Striped Tiger’s “No Difference” caught my attention so quickly it was enough for me to give them a slot in my top 10. I thought this band quit doing things years ago and instead I was pleasantly surprised to find that what I used to love them for then they now do even better. “No Difference” is a jagged, jazzy and chaotic bunch of songs that deserve a place at the helm among the recent “90’s emo” revival, except these guys have been doing it for a while now, and much better than some of the more current acts. I’m sure with even more time this release would be higher on my list.

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9. Joyce Manor – “Joyce Manor”

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Joyce Manor was one of those bands that I didn’t expect to like and yet I found myself listening to their full-length on repeat for a large part of my two-eleven, mostly while waiting for or riding transit vehicles. Self-loathing, losing friends and generally hating happiness fill this band’s jangly punk. Imagine if Weezer grew up listening to Andrew Jackson Jihad and you still wouldn’t have it quite right, but you’d be one step closer. Awesome release to stand in the cold weather to.

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8. Balance & Composure – “Separation”

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This is one of the most important releases this year. Combining the energy of the 90’s grunge era with the tact of 2000’s post-hardcore scene, Balance & Composure have written an album that is brimming with youthful anger and filled out with a maturity that one wouldn’t expect from a band their age, bringing a refreshing take to a tired genre.

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7. Andrew Jackson Jihad – “Knife Man”

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There was no way in hell that Andrew Jackson Jihad wouldn’t make it onto my list. Much like Joyce Manor, AJJ are my heart’s rhythm when I feel particularly hateful. Seriously, these guys are nothing if not the most pessimistic band I’ve ever heard and I love every single second of their heart wrenchingly honest folk punk.

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6. Pianos Become The Teeth – “The Lack Long After”

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Pianos Become The Teeth write beautifully abrasive music. Loud, melodic and emotionally cathartic, they have written a “screamo” masterpiece with “The Lack Long After”, and it should peg them down in history as one of the greats next to genre champions such as Envy and Pg.99.

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5. The Wonder Years – “Suburbia, I Have Given You All And Now I’m Nothing”

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Honestly, who knew that pop-punk could be this intelligent? Dan “Soupy” Campbell has a way with words that makes his lyrics accessible to the listener but also incredibly personal. From friends in bar bands to Blacklisted and Bukowski; These guys really put themselves in their music. If you grew up playing in bands, frequenting the town’s diner, going to university and reading Eisenberg, you’re going to get along real well with this release.

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4. Defeater – “Empty Days & Sleepless Nights”

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When I knew Defeater would be releasing these album I was beyond stoked. Not only are they phenomenal musicians, but I’ve also become a devout follower of the characters they yell about. Listening to Defeater’s releases is like reading different chapters of a desperate book that you’ll have a hard time putting down. This is what intelligent, melodic hardcore should sound like.

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3. Trophy Scars – “Never Born, Never Dead”

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Trophy Scars are possibly the most obscure band on my list, and that’s a shame because out of all them they’re probably the most appealing to anyone who likes music in general. Bluesy guitars, smokey vocals and hazy organs fill this beautiful release that sings of youth, love and despair. Sorry Brian Fallon, but this is the most perfect night music of 2012.

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2. Touche Amore – “Parting The Sea Between Brightness & Me”

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There’s not much to say except that I expected to love this album and guess what? I totally love this album. Touche Amore bring a modern take on early thrashy screamo that’s reminiscent of acts like Orchid and Jane Doe-era Converge. Rushing music and throat searing vocals cover this entire release from head to toe. It’s a soundtrack to running away and every time I hear it all I want to do is put on my shitty shoes, pack a bag full of clothes, and get the hell out of Dodge.

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1. La Dispute – “Wildlife”

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Post-hardcore has not had a release like this one in what seems like eons. “Wildlife” is an emotional whirlwind that tore through my heart like a Tornado through Kansas. From Dreyer’s poignant self-reflection to the way all the instruments seem to intertwine, scatter and carefully knit the sound scape, La Dispute have written an album that not only defines them as an important band in the alternative genres but have visibly pushed the bar up far beyond their genre-mates’ reach. When I finished this album for the first time, I couldn’t help but let out a tear from the corner of my eye. Call me what you will, but it is undeniable that La Dispute have written something uncompromisingly beautiful; music that can make you “feel” again. Much like Dreyer’s jar metaphor from “A Broken Jar”, “Wildlife” shattered me and then pieced me back together as best as it could, but I’m not exactly the same dude as I was before.


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