January 11, 2012

Sound In The Signals - Best Albums, EP's, and Mixtapes Of 2011

Here is the official list. You can also check out my best country album's list over at Moon Runners. To read my list including my favorite Rock, Hip-Hop, Country, Electronic, etc... albums, EP's, and mixtapes click READ MORE! I have also included my two most disappointing albums as well as three albums that surprised me this year.



I'm sure I forgot something. With that being said here it is:

Country
Rachel Brooke – Down In The Barnyard
This album may quite possibly the best country album of the year. In fact I would say it is the best. From the package presentation, song writing, and content Rachel delivered with this album in a big way. The album is really great release and really stands out in more ways than one.
Hellbound Glory – Damaged Goods
This is a great album. The songwriting and lyrical content are really good. This is the kind of album I listen to time and time again and just continue to find a new favorite song.
Bob Wayne – Outlaw Carnie
This is Bob Wayne’s big statement and his best sounding album. Not everything is new on it but the production helps it feel fresh and I think it’s a really standout album for country this year.
Shooter Jennings – Outlaw You
I had to include Shooter’s single in the discussion because for a guy who didn’t release an album in 2011 he might have been one of the most talked about and influential country artist of the year. From the work he has put into XXX and the XXX compilation albums he has been talked about constantly this year. “Outlaw You” is a big statement song and a really important single for this year in terms of country music.
Last False Hope - The Shape Of Bluegrass To Come
Armed with album art in the vein of Refused The Shape Of Punk To Come Last False Hope made a big statement that they backed up. The songs are blistering bluegrass/hardcore and they only make you wonder how great their full length album out in 2012 will be.
Willy Tea Taylor - 4 Strings
This album really has great songwriting and lyrics. I like the mood of this album a lot. This album has a lot of heart and I really like that.
Jackson Taylor and the Sinners - Let the Bad Times Roll
This is a fun album to listen to. Sometimes that's all it really takes to make a descent album. It doesn't break a lot of new ground, but it does what it's supposed to.
Hank III - Ghost To A Ghost
Hank III released four albums this year. I like this album of the four the best. Yeah it's not breaking any new ground for Hank III and his other albums are all slightly more experimental two of the albums being a lot different type projects than we have heard from Hank III, but I still just want to hear Hank III's more country tinged sound. I'm not confident III will ever make a better album than Straight To Hell but Ghost To A Ghost is another effort that finds you scratching your head wondering why he hasn't made a better album with his potential while enjoying the more than competent songwriting found on the album and the off color lyrics you always get from a Hank III release.
Austin Lucas - New Home In The Old World
Great songwriting and Austin's vocals really make the album. "Thunder Rail" was my favorite song of the album and that song in particular got a lot of listens this year.
Lonesome Wyatt - Heartsick
This is a mood album and kind of off putting at first listen. Kind of grimacing album it is probably the most different album on this list. I don’t think this album is for everyone, but if given a chance it turns into an interesting listen. This album could easily be the soundtrack to Nightmare Before Christmas or Sleepy Hollow. I think this might be the best Lonesome Wyatt album (or project) so far.
Eric Church - Springsteen (Just the song not the whole album)
I’m not a huge Eric Church fan and I'm not even sure I would consider this country it's more southern pop released under the country label. The album as a whole is about what you would expect from a country/pop artist with a rock tinged sound. That being said I like this song and found it a redeemable moment on the album.
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - Codeine (Just the song not the whole album)
The album was okay, but I rarely listened to the whole project and just wanted to skip around. Codeine on the other hand I played a lot and it was a super impressive song.

Hip-Hop/Rap/R&B
Odd Future (Specifically Tyler, The Creator!, Mellowhype, Frank Ocean, & Mike G)
The lyrical content is super rough (on some of these releases) and it definitely warrants the parental advisory sticker. However, no one can argue that Tyler, The Creator and his collective Odd Future didn’t have a high flying year. They rolled through the year releasing multiple albums, EP’s, and mixtapes from their various artists and they lived up to the hype. They were the most important set of artists making hip hop all year long (IMO). Goblin is also probably one of the most important rap albums of the year. To me that album helped set the tone of the underground hip hop scene this year.
Snub Nose Frankenstein. – Rappin A** N*****
Really neat mixtape. Cool concept and vibe wise it flows really well. I like the rapping style on this a lot.
A$AP ROCKY – Live Love ASAP
Really interesting style. I like the way A$AP blends styles and brings a lot of different aspects of hip-hop into his music.
Spaceghostpurrp – blvcklvnd rvdix 66.6(1991)
This has been dubbed lo-fi rap by many. It does have a lot of that aesthetic. This release blends a lot of styles like the A$AP release and is similar in more than a few ways. I think vibe does a lot for a release like this and it definitely sets the right vibe from the start and flows well throughout the entire release.
Childish Gambino – Camp
This is easily in my top five favorite hip-hop albums this year. “Bonfire” is one of my favorite hip hop songs as well this year. Check this one out solid all the way through.
Vince Staples - Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1
This mixtape just came out and it lives up to the hype. The Odd Future affiliate most known for his verse found on the Earl Sweatshirt album track "Epar" has had the masses waiting for a proper project for a while and when it finally arrived December 30 it was well worth the wait and a really interesting listen from one of the more interesting new rap artist. My only complain is after a long wait the vast majority of the tracks are under two minutes long. Still it is a must have.
Danny Brown - XXX
This is one of those albums that really stick out with repeated listens. It is different and original and really seems like a one of a kind.
The Cool Kids - When Fish Ride Bicycles
I've had this album listed as my most anticipated for three or four years and this year it finally came out. It doesn't quite live up to the hype, but it's a really good release and well worth repeated listens. "Gas Station" was a big standout track on this album for me. Here's to hoping I don't have to wait that many years again for the next album.
Asher Roth - Pabst And Jazz
At this point people are going to have to start respecting Asher as an MC and not just the maker of a fad summer single ("I Love College"). The project backed by mostly Blended Babies production proves Asher is more than that single. Standout production and rhyming on this one.
The Weeknd - House Of Balloons/Thursday/Echoes Of Silence
The Weeknd like Frank Ocean are more R&B guys. Three mixtape/albums in one year and all were equally as good. In fact I really can't decide which of the three I like more. The work ethic and quality alone make it a good year for The Weeknd.
Action Bronson - Dr. Lecter/Well Done
Action Bronson released two projects this year and they were both noteworthy. His style is similar to Ghostface and he has some great rhymes. I'm predicting 2012 could be a big year for Action Bronson.
Wes Blak - Stolen Crowns And False Idols
Wes Blak burst onto the scene with a song called "Yuckmouth" which got a lot of hype negative and positive. The cries of Odd Future rip-off, the praise, etc... were everywhere. Wes vanished and reappeared re-titled his album and switched the release date numerous times and by the time you read this we're a mere day away from another Wes project. One on which he is no longer Wes Blak but has changed his name to AES. Despite all the changes he's made and interesting choices the album lived up to the hype and had numerous standout songs. If he works at it and finds his footing AES (formerly Wes Blak) could become a really big artist.
The 87 Stick Up Kids - Car Keys And Rabbits Feet
Cool album. The lyrics are on point and the rhyming is great. I really like the title track to this album. This album is a really great riding around album.
Yelawolf - Radioactive
All signs pointed to Yelawolf being a cheesy flash in the pan artist. Maybe they still do. I've seen other southern white rappers make splashes only to fall victim to their limitations after a while. Maybe that will be the case with Yelawolf, but this album packed enough punches and had more than capable rhyming.
The Knux - Eraser
I didn't like this album quite as much as Remind Me In 3 Days, but it was still a standout hip hop album this year and really well put together. The duo took some chances and made a really well thought out sophomore album avoiding the sophomore slump.
PacDiv - The Div
PacDiv like The Cool Kids had been waiting to put out an official debut album for years. They also finally got their debut out this year The Div was quality continuing the trend with PacDiv as they have not released a project thus far that falls flat.
Chip Tha Ripper - Gift Raps
Chip over Chuck Inglish beats equals a win.
Game - Red Album
Game delivers his best album since his debut in my opinion
Drake - Take Care
Take Care is a more cohesive album than Drake's first album and this one flows nicely.
Lupe Fiasco - Lasers
Not Lupe's best album The Cool holds that spot in my opinion, but Lasers was a triumphant return for the MC and it has a bunch of great songs on it.
Boldy James - Trappers Alley Pros & Cons
It seemed like this was slept on by a lot of people but Boldy proved he was definitely up and coming with this one.
Kanye West & Jay Z - Watch The Throne
Kanye seems like he can really do no wrong and this album continues that trend. I really feel like this a Kanye album featuring Jay Z on every track. Great album with tons of good songs.
J. Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story
One of the better no gimmick rap albums of the year. In a way it kind of reminds me of the debut album from Kanye West.

Electronic/Ambient/Instrumental/etc…
SBTRKT – SBTRKT
Definitely has a ton of dub influence. Really interesting production and the guest vocals chosen for the album are really spot on and fit the tracks well. “Wildfire” is one of my favorite electronic songs of the year. The beat is great and the vocals perfectly match the song.
Arrange - Plantation
This is such a good album. The mood is fantastic, the production is cool, and the lyrics and vocals are great. This album is one that just sticks out to me every time I listen to it. It is no doubt it high on my end of the year list. Plantation is an “album” it is one of those releases that work better to listen to it as a whole.
Skrillex - Bangarang
Love it or hate it dubstep was everywhere this year and one of the main reasons was the popularity of Skrillex. Bagarang finds Sonny Moore venturing into some new territory while maintaining the trademark sounds that make Skrillex such a formidable piece of the new electronic movement.
James Blake - James Blake
The vibe, lyrics, and overall song writing make this album standout. It is very much a well thought out project. This is a big vibe album and I often found myself listening to it late at night just chilling out.
Justice - Audio, Video, Disco
I'll describe this project as ambitious and interesting. So many electronic albums can be hit or miss but this album fires on all the right cylinders and it is a cohesive project that works really well as a whole album and not just a collection of electronic songs.
Blended Babies – Shooter McGavin
Blended Babies debut album showcases their beat making ability and also showcases why so many artists are worked with them in 2011.

Metal/Hardcore/Etc...
Gallows – Death Is Birth
I’ve been a fan of the Gallows for a while and although I’m not a super fan by any means I’ve always enjoyed their albums. When their lead singer left I was kind of curious where they would go. When Alexisonfire on fire’s Wade McNeil stepped in I wanted to believe they could still deliver something worthwhile. At less than ten minutes the EP is short and delivers just what should be delivered. The message this band can keep it going through the adversity.
The Devil Wears Prada – Dead Throne
Some bands surpass what people initially thought they were and become a force to be reckoned with. I think this band is kind of like. At first they appeared to be another scene band that kind of stood out from the pack. With their last couple of releases they have been building up to more and showing some of their potential. With this release you can see the potential of the group and that they have really pulled ahead of a lot of their peers.
Trivium – In Waves
I remember when Ascendancy was released everyone wanted to peg this band this generations Metallica. Skip forward to now after a couple of weird albums which included the Metallica-esque The Crusade and the uneven Shogun this band has released their best album since Ascendancy. Still nowhere near as fun to listen to as that album In Waves is a good step in the right direction.
---I have to preface my last three picks by saying any other year I probably wouldn’t have them in the discussion but I really haven’t listened to many hardcore, metal, etc… albums this year I was that impressed with. So here are a three I found interesting or thought stood out in some way---
Rise To Remain - City Of Vultures
Bruce Dickinson's son Austin fronts this band and that's why I initially checked them out. To be honest I didn't expect much. I was pleasantly surprised. This album brings nothing new to the "metalcore" genre and is a little paint by numbers. Many bands in this genre fall to the paint by numbers and it becomes who can outperform the others. I think Austin's vocal performance helps push the band a little ahead of the pack. The guitar work on the album is also a nice plus.
A Plea For Purging – The Life And Death Of A Plea For Purging
I always check out these guys albums because I always want to see what they are made of. I’ve seen them countless times and I’m not sure I was that impressed. I think they carry the torch for people who really enjoyed early releases from bands like Zao, Underoath, Norma Jean, etc… and I like that. I also think they do a good enough job at it. This album continues their progression as a band in a positive direction.
Maylene & The Sons Of Disaster – IV
I really thought twice about putting this in here. Maylene’s brand of southern metal is really exhausted at this point. Dallas Taylor at this point is like a great athlete traded to a mediocre team that can come up big at times but you still miss him on his original team. That being said this is still a catchy album and I listened to it more than some metal releases this year. Also in my opinion this is a lot better than their last album, which I did not enjoy and barely listened to. So the improvement from III makes IV noteworthy, but it still isn’t better than I or II. Is that confusing enough for you haha.

Rock/Alternative/Pop-Punk/Etc…
Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You
RHCP returned in a big way. Slightly different minus their guitarist who provided the writing of their big hit albums. Still this album turned out really good and it is different in many ways, but ways stays the same is Anthony Keides and Flea and what they bring to this band. As long as those two are in this band I think it will always generate interesting albums.
Sublime With Rome – Yours Truly
I've been a huge Sublime fan for years and like Nirvana I didn't think I'd ever hear another album by the band. Well somehow the original rhythm section found a singer/guitarist who fit in and could pull off the original songs in a live setting almost flawlessly. The big question was could the trio record an album worthy of the Sublime name (albeit with Rome is now attached due to legal reasons) the short answer is yes. The album is a great addition to the catalog and proves that although Brad Nowell is irreplaceable the rhythm section found the right guy to keep going on with. This is easily one of my favorite albums of the year in a big way.
The Strokes - Angles
This is one of those interesting comeback albums of the year. The recording of the album was interesting with the singer not actually being presented or having much contact with the band and recording vocals separately. It turned out to work and Angles is a great rock record and a triumphant return for the band.
The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
There are a ton of British bands with a similar sound to The Vaccines. What made this album standout was the strength of the songwriting and how undeniably catchy this album is.
New Found Glory - Radiosurgery
Although not the most exciting NFG album. The return of the producer who worked on the giant NFG albums helped the band sound the best they have in a longtime and that combined with the solid songwriting the band always turn out makes this a must have for NFG fans.
Eisley - The Valley
I've never really been that big of an Eisley fan, but The Valley is a really good album. It just sounds like a different band and vocally and musically it sounds like the band is finally starting to find just the right place they need to be at to write a great complete album.
Bush – Sea Of Memories
This might be my favorite Bush album since Sixteen Stone. Proves Gavin Rosdale still has a little left in the tank.
All Time Low – Dirty Work
Definitely didn’t live up to the hype of Nothing Personal. I still liked quite a few songs and ended up listening to quite a few tracks a lot during the summer. Many considered it a dud. I don’t know if I’d go that far it is probably their worst album, but at the same time you can’t deny it has a few gems.
The Story So Far – Under Soil And Dirt
This is a beast of a pop/punk album. This is a great summer album. It is poppy and fun but at the same time is rough around the edges. “Quicksand” is one of my favorite pop/punk songs this year.
The Wonder Years – I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing
Not quite as good as The Upsides but close. This is the kind of band I wish more “pop-punk” bands could be like. I’m taking bets these guys albums will be remembered fondly as time goes on.
Toro Y Moi - Underneath The Pine
It's not easy to be dubbed a current trend, which is what chillwave was last year. Toro Y Moi doesn't buckle under the pressure and proved with this album the flavor of the month can sometimes overcome the tag. Slightly different direction but it didn't abandon the sound and it turned out really good.
Save Your Breath – Vices
This is another great pop-punk album. It got a lot of play during the summer and the songs just have a great sing-along quality. The new vocalist that joined the band for this album also added a lot to the band.
The Dangerous Summer - Warpaint
Although not quite as good as their debut it was almost as good. TDS continue to impress me lyrically and musically. They are easily one of the best pop/rock bands around these days.
Maniac - Mania
The front man of The Matches (Shawn Harris) returns with his new duo making the album you wanted him to make. It reminds me of when Nate (The Format) triumphantly returned with Fun. It's a cool album and a really good listen.
Cults - Cults
Not too much ground breaking material on the album. This seems to be a similar sound to a lot of the indie/lo-fi/rockers I've heard over the last couple of years. The songwriting makes this one a little better than some of the others in my opinion.
Yellowcard - When You're Through Thinking Say Yes
Yellowcard's return gave me exactly what I wanted to hear from them an album that sounds a lot like the classic Yellowcard I liked listening to. This would have been the perfect follow-up to Ocean's Avenue.
Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math
Quality songwriting and lyrics make this one a win.
Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
Foo Fighters continue to write great songs and this may be their most impressive effort when compared to their last couple of albums. Butch Vig did a great job and Krist Novoselic even turns up to guest on a song making it a neat reunion for Grohl, Vig, Novoselic, and Pat Smear.
David Bazan - Strange Negotiations
I can't say much more than David Bazan is an impressive singer and songwriter.
Bon Iver - Bon Iver
A lot of people proclaim this their album of the year. It was not AOTY material for me. I thought this was a neat album with a neat mood. I didn't listen to it as much as I should have this year, but the song writing is great and the overall album was well executed. I plan to spend more time with this album in 2012.
Frank Turner - England Keep My Bones
I liked the overall presentation of this album. I think this is my second favorite Frank Turner album.
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
This made the list simply because it is some of Noel's best songwriting since the mid-nineties.
Astronautalis – This Is Our Science
This album has a lot of different style elements. It has some hip-hop flavor, some alternative flavor, and a few other different things thrown in for good measure. I really enjoyed this album a lot.
Blink-182 – Neighborhoods
It’s a little hit or miss and you could argue it sounds a little too much like the members various side-projects through-out the years, but this is a nice album for a comeback album. I think this album may be better than the self-titled album before it.
The Living End - The End Is Only The Beginning Repeating
Proving once again with their new album they are one of the more underrated punk bands in America the Australian band continue to make great albums.
Wavves - Life Sux
Wavves continues the party and with a similar clean sound (but slightly fuzzier) than King Of The Beach on Life Sux. Opening track "Bug" was definitely one of my favorite songs this year and this is a great follow-up EP to King Of The Beach.
The Black Keys - El Camino
Black Keys have written so many catchy tunes on this release. I can't help but really enjoy this album.
Social Distortion - Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes
I've been a casual fan of Social Distortion for years but haven't really listened to them much since the early 2000's and they also really haven't released many albums in the 2000's. I decided to give this album a try and I'm really glad I did it has a great vibe and Mike Ness is in top form "Diamond In Te Rough" was my favorite song off the album and a song I played a lot this year.
The Horrible Crowes - Elsie
Brian Fallon is becoming a heavy hitter as he constantly delivers an outstanding performance on his releases first on The Gaslight Anthem albums and now with this album. The song “Ladykiller” off this album was one of my favorite songs this year.
Jack's Mannequin - People And Things

Andrew McMahon has never released a bad album. He has a great knack for writing nice breezy So-Cal music.

Bright Eyes - The People's Keys

Great return for Bright Eyes one of Conor's best releases in a while. I can't deny this was definitley at the top of my favorite's list this year.

Most Disappointing (or Really Odd) Album(s)
Hank III - Cattle Callin'
Hank III released four albums this year and they all had various sounds. Three of those aren't too bad and Ghost To A Ghost is one of the better country albums of the year. However, Cattle Callin' is easily one of the worst. This is the kind of album that seems like a cool idea but the finished product is just no good.
Metallica & Lou Reed – LuLu
I’ve heard this album is more for Lou Reed fans than Metallica and that might be so. I enjoy both artists and really could not get into this. I expected I would like it more, but it just turned out to be a really confusing odd sounding album. I’m not super fond of the mixing. The mighty Metallica have been so on over the last few years it’s kind of a weird side-step.

Pleasantly Surprising Album(s)
Misfits – The Devil’s Rain
I had little expectations about this album. Let’s face it Misfits (to me and most people) begin and end with Danzig being in the band. The Michael Graves era was suspect, although some stuff is fun to listen to at times, so I really didn’t expect much at all. With Jerry Only being the only member left from the classic line-up and taking the lead vocal seat for the first time on an all original album I was interested to hear it and to be fair he turned out quite a few descent songs. I’d go as far to say it might be a better album than both Graves era albums.
Megadeth – Th1rt3en
I’m not the world’s biggest Megadeth fan. I’ve never been crazy about Mustaine’s vocals. I’ve always appreciated his guitar playing. This album sounds good and musically it’s got everything you want from this type of band. The riffage is really nice. The vocals are still suspect but better than the vast majority of Megadeth albums I’ve listened to. I really wanted to include this album to say if the war is still on between Metallic and Dave Mustaine he wins this year as his new album is better than LuLu by leaps and bounds.
Emily's Army - Don't Be A D***
I was interested to hear this because Billie Joe Armstrong's son Joey plays drums in this band, but I had little expectations for it. I don't like the title much and the cover art was not impressive. The band also without a doubt benefited from Joey being in the band as Billie Joe produced the album. So I went in wondering if this would be a case of lucky son makes an album. I was actually surprised at how nice it turned out. The songs definitely have an early Green Day vibe and show some promise from the band. I'm interested to hear their next album and see how they mature as artists. Not saying this is great…but definitely better than I thought it would be.

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