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Mike Allen
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 Lists
12.20.12 Mallen 201203.11.12 Sputnik Bball March Madness Year 3
12.14.11 Mallen 2011: Albums Of The Year 12.04.11 Mallen 2011: Honorable Mentions
11.28.11 Mallen 2011: Eps, Live Albums, Other Mi11.15.11 The Last 3 Years
11.08.11 The Time Has Come11.01.11 Mallen's Recent
09.08.11 Spooning09.04.11 Vinyl Acquisitions + Digs
08.16.11 And There's Nothing We Can Do 08.09.11 Orgcore Orgcore Orgcore
07.28.11 A Sexual Healing07.19.11 Listening Of The Recent Variety
07.06.11 Mallen's Regions Of Music Pt 1: Nys 06.11.11 Mallen's 1st Half 2011
06.05.11 Veeedallen Sputversary 05.31.11 And Come Morning, I Am Disappeared
More »

Mallen 2011: Albums Of The Year

Another fantastic year, probably deeper than last year. But I'd argue that the best albums last year are better than the best this year.
25Dropkick Murphys
Going Out in Style


Going Out in Style was the essential breath of fresh air after the sound, but predictable The Meanest of Times. When all is said and done for the Dropkick Murphys, their 2011 release will at least be in the conversation as a highlight of the band?s career, whether this is provoked by the fact that ?Hang ?Em High? is their greatest opener to date, that the record is elevated by appearances of Bruce Springsteen and Fat Mike (NOFX), or that the concept has established a newfound ambition in the Bostonians. Don?t let the title fool you; the Dropkick Murphys are not hanging it up just yet, even if they are unable to live up to the astronomical expectations they have set.
24Spokes
Everyone I Ever Met


Spokes just get it. Rather than contributing to the ?let?s see who can be the biggest douche? contest within the genre, Spokes deliver their passionate post-rock without the excess fat, ultimately coming away with a powerful, but focused and moving, but not over-the-top record in Everyone I Ever Met.
23Banner Pilot
Heart Beats Pacific


While Dead to Me is rediscovering itself, The Holy Mess coming into the radar, and Blink-182 realizes it was better left extinct, Banner Pilot is beating them all at their own game.
22Foo Fighters
Wasting Light


Just as my favorite mainstream bands are biting the dust, the Foo Fighters rise from the mediocre mid-tempo ballad syndrome that was affecting them throughout the 2000s and have delivered a rollicking return to form with Wasting Light.
21Bomb the Music Industry!
Vacation


For the longest time this year, Vacation was the most frustrating release in some time. No ska, clean vocals, and almost devoid of that vintage Bomb the Music Industry! chaos, Vacation was ticketed for a one-way trip to the honorable mentions list in July; an unsettling position for a BTMI! record. Yet, after finally accepting Vacation for an uplifting pop-record as it is, BTMI?s 2011 installment serves the spirit of orgcore punk with a sheer enjoy-ability factor: whether this is conveyed through the ever infectious ?Vocal Coach,? ?Why, Oh Why, Oh Why,? and ?Hurricane Waves? or the fact that ?Can?t Complain? and ?Campaign for a Better Weekend? are some of the best lower-key tracks in Rosenstock and crew?s arsenal. Vacation is far from BTMI?s best record and that?s just fine, because it stands on its own enough to be celebrated as one of the better releases of 2011.
20Elway
Delusions


So good, John Elway had to sue.
19Maybeshewill
I Was Here for a Moment, Then I Was Gone


I Was Here For a Moment, Then I Was Gone is not exactly a complete shift in direction for Maybeshewill, but is evidence that the post-rockers are evolving in terms of musicianship and diversity. The haziness of the message is what prevents the record from reaching an astronomical level however, as I Was Here For a Moment, Then I Was Gone does not pack the same poignant punch as Sing the Word Hope In Four-Part Harmony or even Not For Want of Trying. Maybeshewill?s preceding releases were successful in the fact that the inspiration and sincerity was apparent, but with I Was Here For a Moment, Then I Was Gone, this is left open to debate. Regardless, Maybeshewill has made an elaborate statement with their third record, even if one thing remains true: Maybeshewill is post-rock without the bullshit.
18Frank Turner
England Keep My Bones


The roller coaster ride that has been Frank Turner?s solo career has reached another pinnacle with England Keep My Bones, which brings up a serious consideration for being his second best album (I mean, are you kidding me with best?). What is especially significant however, is that Turner has finally climbed out of the daunting shadow that Love, Ire and Song had cast over the rest of his work, and makes it apparent that the inconsistencies and generic nature of Poetry of the Deed are a thing of the past. Now with twelve new tracks that are ripe for live performance, Frank Turner will continue to enthrall on the stage; solidifying his place as one of the most endearing figures in modern music.
17Owen
Ghost Town


Owen: you may know him as Mike Kinsella and you may know him to write great, great music. Well, Owen (Kinsella?s solo project) is no different. You?d be hard-pressed to find anything as poignant and stripped-down in 2011 or in general as Ghost Town, furthering the inference that Kinsella can do no wrong.
16Tom Waits
Bad As Me


With Bad As Me, Tom Waits proves that he is still capable of crafting incredible music in 2011, furthering the inference that longevity speaking, Waits is one of the greatest artists of all time. Quirky, creative, and unbelievably bad-ass, Bad As Me has solidified itself as one of the year?s best.
15Spraynard
Funtitled


Clocking in at just over 25 minutes, Spraynard?s sophomore effort, Funtitled is a spastic and exuberant punk record that cuts the bullshit and emphasizes fun over all dispositions. Riding momentous bass-lines and memorable pop-hooks, Spraynard?s music draws countless comparisons to their org-core counterparts, as well as departed Long-Islanders Latterman. Never ceasing to be buoyant or even finding a reason to turn the metronome down, Funtitled contains that anthemic element that is so touted among its peers, which is illustrated through occasional gang vocals and infectious choruses. The instrumentation, while not mind-blowing, accentuates the shouted vocals suitably with melodic leads and power chords. As typical as Funtitled may seem within the genre, Spraynard takes the opportunity to reveal their inspiration of growing pains, fading memories, and fallen comrades. With all this said however, Spraynard does not stray from the overall theme of Funtitled, as the record is home to pop-culture references from South Park to It?s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. When it comes down to it, Spraynard do not exist to break sonic boundaries or demonstrate anything profound, but rather to carry on the unifying, energetic, and enjoyable spirit of org-core. And Funtitled does just that.
14Red City Radio
The Dangers of Standing Still


Red City Radio rocks harder than you do and can sure write a better punk record than you can. So crack open those pbrs and shout along ?TOGETHER WE CAN BURN THIS FUCKING CITY TO THE GROUND!?
13Yuck
Yuck


As derivative as Yuck?s self-titled debut appears, the quartet has crafted a resonance that stands as a separate entity from its influences. Uplifting, rollicking, and indisputably infectious, Yuck illustrates exactly what is sought after in a garage-rock record and then some. Many argue that first impressions mean everything, and Yuck has certainly made a statement in this regard. Ironically enough, Yuck is absolutely delicious.
12Dan Mangan
Oh Fortune


Predominantly a folk artist on Postcards and Dreaming and Nice, Nice, Very Nice, Mangan is maturing as a musician with Oh Fortune, bringing an entirely refreshing perspective to his already illustrious career. Incorporating his powerful lyricism and tranquil vocals into an orchestrated and ?full? sound, Oh Fortune is Mangan?s most intriguing record to date. At this point, it isn?t clear that Mangan will be able to come into the focus of a larger audience, but those who haven?t paid attention to Mangan at least to some degree, are the one?s trailing.
11Fucked Up
David Comes to Life


For someone who has never been into hardcore of any breed, Fucked Up?s 2011 installment David Comes to Life seems to push all the right buttons. Raw, passionate, and incredibly melodic, David Comes to Life solidifies itself as one of the more compelling releases of 2011. Not to mention, its centering trio ?Truth I Know,? ?Life in Paper,? and ?Ship of Fools? is one of the more dynamic trios in recent memory.
10Wilco
The Whole Love


Wilco are one of those bands that can attest to how frustrating the after effects are of releasing a superlative record. The all-American indie rockers have been scrutinized for every release since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, as each record has been littered with excessive experimentation. Nearly a decade removed from their defining release, Wilco have asserted their relevance once again with The Whole Love, as it pieces together the poignant lyricism, irresistible pop-appeal, and creativity that the band has utilized so well over the course of their career. Whether it is the dreamy-pop of ?Sunloathe,? the innovation of ?The Art of Almost? or the sheer brilliance of closer ?One Sunday Morning,? The Whole Love is the album that Wilco needed to craft to return to glory. Oh, and I would be crazy to not mention that ?One Sunday Morning? is better than any song the band has ever written.
9Real Estate
Days


Uplifting, catchy, and undeniably chill, Days is the type of feel-good record that puts you on a beach in the Caribbean. Where the hell was this when it was summer?!
8Chuck Ragan
Covering Ground


Whether Ragan?s solo work will supersede his efforts with Hot Water Music is too early to tell, but with Covering Ground the ex-Hot Water Music front man is making a serious case for his relatively new direction to continue. Bold, anthemic, and poignant, Covering Ground captures the folk-punk resonance that was so affecting on both Feast or Famine and Gold Country and enhances it. Furthermore, Ragan?s third release indicates just how intoxicating his material can be, even with nominal instrumentation.
7The Mountain Goats
All Eternals Deck


In a sense, All Eternals Deck isn?t showcasing anything new about John Darnielle. His lyricism still reeks of inspiration and desperate poetry, but while his nasally vocals are damning vampires and discussing young supernovas, the band and collaborative members are countering with some of the most intriguing music the outfit has shaped. The Mountain Goats continue to make a case as to being one of the more cohesive units in recent memory, putting forth their greatest accomplishment since We Shall All Be Healed. All Eternals Deck haunts, afflicts, and provokes a sentiment of unease within the listener, but ultimately concludes with a feeling of pure content.
6Laura Stevenson and the Cans
Sit Resist


Whether you want to portray Laura Stevenson and the Cans? debut as ?cute? or ?charming? is truly irrelevant, because neither of those terms even begin to describe what the record is about. Sit Resist is successful because it works on so many levels: the lyrics, music, and vocals contribute impeccably to the heartrending atmosphere that is created by tracks such as ?Master of Art? and ?Caretaker.? The latter demonstrates how flat-out devastating Sit Resist can be, while instances like ?The Healthy One? and ?Barnacles? convey how incredibly irresistible the record is. The upbeat ambience that much of the album is subjected to doesn?t tell the whole story either, as Sit Resist can be as stripped-down as it comes without sacrificing anything that make tracks like ?The Healthy One? so great. Sit Resist may be cute and charming to some and that?s great, but this music critic is indicating that the record is so much more than that.
5Manchester Orchestra
Simple Math


It all started with an absolutely mind-blowing single. Simple Math picks up just were Mean Everything to Nothing left off, transforming that raucous indie rock into the overarching ambition of Simple Math. Never devoid of a dull or potent moment, Manchester Orchestra?s third full-length record continues the band?s evolution into the grand alternative/indie group that it has been building to from the debut, putting together a collection of ambitious and emotionally-charged tracks centered around Andy Hull?s turbulent marriage. Heavily orchestrated and featuring the powerful lyricism that Hull has been celebrated for throughout his music career, Simple Math puts forward the band?s most elaborate record to date. Although arguably not the best, Simple Math is an indication of a band that is not content with making the same release over and over again, and is determined to bring something new to the table each time. Isn?t that what great bands do?
4The Horrible Crowes
Elsie


Like with American Slang, Brian Fallon?s debut with the Horrible Crowes is a vulnerable one, exposing his deepest personal tales. Yet, as American Slang indicated a trivial misstep in his career, Elsie takes these evocative stories and redirects them into a serene, more solemn sound than with the Gaslight Anthem. Elsie channels this with some of Fallon?s greatest accomplishments to date including ?Blood Loss? and ?Sugar? among others, all of which elevate the record to a powerful and captivating level. The music itself, while secondary to Fallon?s vocals and lyricism, does a tremendous job of complementing and ultimately emphasizing these outstanding aspects. Whether this is revealed through the charming ?Crush? or the organ-laden ?I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together,? Ian Perkins contributions on Elsie are nothing short of exceptional; fusing each individuals? efforts together to craft one of 2011?s greatest treasures.
3WU LYF
Go Tell Fire to the Mountain


When it comes down to it all, one does not need to even have a clue about what WU LYF?s message is about. Inevitably, the more we find out about WU LYF, the less significant they will become. Go Tell Fire to the Mountain isn?t just striking because of its uniqueness and oddly infectious hooks, or the fact that the record is ballsy, jubilant, or flat-out beautiful at any given time. The Manchester natives? debut brings about the remarkable sentiment of unity within its anthems, just as Titus Andronicus? The Monitor had done. And isn?t that the greatest message of all?
2Andrew Jackson Jihad
Knife Man


?I?m happy that you?re happier than me,? clamors Sean Bonnette at the end of ?Sad Songs (Intermission),? paralleling essentially everything that Andrew Jackson Jihad?s work has emphasized. It has been apparent throughout the band?s career that Bonnette and Ben Gallaty have no intention of living a conventional lifestyle; too rough around the edges for mainstream society and finding fault with the way world functions. Being content and customary is clearly something that Andrew Jackson Jihad doesn?t give a shit about, whether this is conveyed through their off-kilter vocals, hilariously over-the-top lyrics, or the sometimes ridiculous instrumentation. Fusing each of those materials into an Americana-tinged parody of the human experience, the Phoenix duo has solidified their place in the contemporary folk-punk scene, with no signs of slowing down. Although Knife Man is an indication of a band that is beginning to depart from its stripped-down roots, it doesn?t sacrifice much of the distinction that Andrew Jackson Jihad has been so effective with in the past. Hilarious, potent, and undoubtedly extravagant, the Phoenix natives have mastered their folk-punk and Americana sound. Delivering line after cunning line, Andrew Jackson Jihad have crafted a gem in Knife Man, one that will prove to be one of the outfits? most significant efforts.
1The War on Drugs
Slave Ambient


One of the most beautiful things about modern music is that the spirit of Americana has never come close to declining, as the likes of the Gaslight Anthem, the Hold Steady, and the State Lottery have carried on the legacy sparked by Bruce Springsteen and the Replacements. Although existing most commonly in punk rock, a few outliers have come into the mix of modern Americana; most recently the War on Drugs. There is something oh so familiar about the band?s second LP Slave Ambient, whether has to do with the fact that lead singer Adam Granduciel sounds like a Bob Dylan/Tom Petty hybrid, or that the music is perfectly on point in capturing the sentiment of Americana. And yet, it isn?t clear that something like this has been done before. Fusing together your typical rock music with shoegaze influences, Slave Ambient sits back and takes the scenic route to the promised land, eventually exploding into its stunning climax. Slowing down even more towards the middle of the record and reaching a point of immense tranquility with ?City Reprise #12,? Slave Ambient transitions into the ultimate underscore in ?Baby Missles;? a moment which cannot be rivaled by nearly any release over the past decade. Elevated by everything from the keyboards, driving rhythm section, smooth leads, and harmonica solos, ?Baby Missles? is the Springsteen-esque Americana classic that catapults Slave Ambient to the top of the 2011 list, essentially summing up everything that the record is about in three and a half compelling minutes. And god damn is it a resounding ride.
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