Features Music Scene Point Blank's Favorites: Year End (2011)

Music: Scene Point Blank's Favorites: Year End (2011)

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Congratulations! Not only do you have great taste, but you managed to survive into 2012, the year that both the ancient Mayans and fundamentalist Christian groups didn't believe you'd live to see. As a reward for all that hard work of surviving, Scene Point Blank offers you our top 25 records of 2011. Are you excited? We are. Read on for our roundup of the best records of the past twelve months. 

Spotify bonus! If you're a user of Spotify, you can click here to listen to many of the albums below on SPB's official playlist. Boom.

1

Sutekh Hexen - Luciform (WANDS)

While many bands talk about being trve or not Sutekh are just nastier than the rest. Creating layers of noise that support the overall intensity of the songs themselves. This allows the listener to almost feel pulled into the record that much more. While it can be an unpleasant listen for some it rewards those who take the time to fall within it’s grasp. The production is cold beyond words allowing little room for anything to breath. The drums are barely audible and most times aren’t even necessary as the propulsive element throughout the record remains the guitars. Everything in this record makes its presence known when it is necessary and only then the artwork feeds into the same mystique that the band members themselves carry making sure that the music speaks for itself. There is little else to say other than that if need a record that truly feels evil throughout and has no need for the usual “look at me aren’t i evil” black metal posturing this is the record you should be blasting throughout the winter. (Jon)

2

Bright Eyes - The People's Key (Saddle Creek)

There’s no telling for sure if this will be the last we hear of Bright Eyes, but The People’s Key would be a perfect way to go out. The songwriting takes from all eras of their career, while still playing on a new field. Oberst delivers some of his best and most meaningful lyrics and Mike Mogis’ production is exquisite. You couldn’t ask for anything else. (Aaron)

3

Rome - Die Æsthetik der Herrschaftsfreiheit (InfraRot)

Die Æsthetik der Herrschaftsfreiheit. A three disc journey into the hearts and minds of the oppressed. At its core, it’s a record of struggle and of overcoming the boundaries set by those in positions of power. Could this also be a deeply personal tome? The thoughts and feelings found within the three albums can be attributed to many an emotion. Die Æsthetik der Herrschaftsfreiheit is a piece of art, a provoking work on the state of the world today. It is a call to arms, to fight for your freedom, for your rights, for yourselves. (Cheryl)

4

Craft - Void (Carnal Records)

Craft's first full length in six years, Void, was completely worth the wait. Riffs aplenty, and the catchiest black metal song of the year in "I Want To Commit Murder" meant these Swedes stayed at the forefront of minds and nightmares. (Cheryl)

5

Street Eaters - Rusty Eyes and Hydrocarbons (Plan-It-X / Bakery Outlet)

Throughout all the noise, distortion, and shouting is a sense of hooky melody that ties it all together without grating or sounding experimental. They take a pop base, but they punk it up with considerable angst while layering experimental pieces somewhere in the middle. (Loren)

6

Tom Waits - Bad As Me (Anti)

The album just zings by moving from romper to ballad to crooner and back again almost as if Waits was leaving a little something for everyone on Bad As Me. I seriously love this record and hope to sweet jesus he decides to tour in the northeast because these songs would cook live with their hyper kinetic sounds and there are quite a few tracks here that are quickly rising in the pantheon of the Waits & Brennan songbook; someone recently said, “Bad As Me is as brilliant as an album composed by Brennan and him should be… I hope they live forever…” to which I can only second these sentiments. (Bob)

7

Random Axe - Self Titled (Duck Down)

Random Axe is a fiercely independent hip-hop record. Black Milk’s beats range from simple yet contagious boom-bap to electronica-infused chill-outs. “Jahphy Joe” is a percussion-heavy banger that recalls both late-’80s east coast and early-‘90s west coast jams, while “Everybody Nobody Somebody” has sci-fi B-movie eeriness lingering above a deepened dubstep-esque low-end. Here is to hoping Random Axe isn’t a one-time-only thing. (Nathan)

8

The Dwarves - Born Again (Greedy)

While the production is glossier than their early classics, the record proves that a step has not been lost. The Dwarves may not be experiencing a literal rebirth, but they are definitely proving that their irregular schedule over the past decade is not equal to their demise. Not only have they gotten stronger—they’ve gotten bigger: the cast on Born Again involves number of past contributors, with each playing to their strengths. This may not translate as well to touring, but it’s made for a very intriguing celebration of two and a half decades. (Loren)

9

Mournful Congregation - The Book Of Kings (Osmose)

Australian doom in the slowest of styles, The Book Of Kings is funereal in pace and glorious in nature. Oppressive in all the right places, these virtuosos of the genre produced a stunning record of gloom and foreboding. Astounding. (Cheryl)

10

Sims - Bad Time Zoo (Doomtree)

While Sims is unhappy with the state of the world, it doesn’t get him down and his music doesn’t seek to do that to his listeners either. Lazerbeak’s beats mix big, clashing beats with a catchy rhythm that feels both indie and accessible—delivering a heavy-hitting feel but with greater depth and perspective that pulls from sources as varied as tribal drumming (“Future Shock”) and screeching 80s guitars (“In My Sleep”). The production is fantastic and, as much credit as Sims deserves for the record, an equal share belongs to production ace Lazerbeak. It may have taken half a decade, but it’s a step up from his excellent debut, and should give more spotlight to the rest of the Doomtree crew. (Loren)

11

Circle Of Ouroborus - Eleven Fingers (Handmade Birds Records)

Massively prolific Finnish group Circle Of Ouroborus, once again took everything you may think you know about the avant-garde side of black metal, and made it completely their own. Experimental and at times terribly other-wordly, Eleven Fingers is a darn fine entry in this groups diverse history. Baffling. (Cheryl)

12

William Elliott Whitmore - Field Songs (Anti)

At only eight songs, the record feels a bit short, but it’s still satisfying as a full release, while the shorter playlist gives more traction to each individual song. With Field Songs, Whitmore indeed tells the story and feel of his Iowa homeland with honor and truth. But, the folksy, minimal guitar/banjo lines and his poignant voice also expresses a more universal tale about the hardships and celebrations of life. (Loren)

13

Altar Of Plagues - Mammal (Profound Lore)

Almost industrial in its style, lending itself to repetition and again quite mesmerising. The album closer, “All Life Converges To Some Center” is a thirteen minute, unrelenting assault on the ears. Absolutely pounding drums and that Altar of Plagues signature guitar tone combine with vocals torn from the very depths of the soul to bring this album to it’s ultimate end. The fading minutes are filled with feedback, white noise and a solitary drum. Beautiful. (Cheryl)

14

True Widow - As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth (Kemado)

Each song is pieced together with precision and care. No instrument in particular wins out within the context of the song as a whole. At any single point the guitar parts may come crashing covering the molasses slow distorted bass rumbling in the distance and still beyond that the drums building into a furious roll. All these things are available in their time and place but nothing is too heavy or too quiet. The songs feel as though they have been put together carefully and with precision rather than being pieced together strictly for maximum impact. All of these things allow True Widow to stick out amongst their peers. They inhabit their own space in a scene that pines for the past. (Jon)

15

High Tension Wires - Welcome New Machine (Dirtnap)

From the first few measures of “Get Weird,” I knew this was a record worth spinning. The guitars play precisely-timed rhythm as Mike Wiebe and Mark Ryan trade vocals in a style that’s, oh, let’s say 30% aggressive, 70% melodic. I left my pie chart in my other pants, but record’s energy is in the groovy hooks and not from strain. In other words, it’s pop-structured singalong stuff, but there’s a tension that bubbles beneath the surface throughout. This isn’t bubblegum garage, but punk-inspired, carefully tempered havoc coming from people who know how to use their instruments, both in the punk sense of reckless banging away as well as in a more traditional (i.e. skilled) sense. This is the kind of record that, not only will get played a few times each week, it will make me dig up the band’s past catalog. (Loren)

16

Fireworks - Gospel (Triple Crown)

The second full-length from Michigan pop-punk heroes Fireworks and it sees the band achieve a more polished, mature sound, without falling into the trap of becoming more mass-marketable. Guitars and lyrics are particularly improved from their previous outing and Gospel is loud, intense and even rock 'n roll. Don't be put off by the pop punk tag. (Matt)

 

17

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake (Vagrant/Island)

This album also marks the first time PJ has played saxophone on any of her releases, an instument she hadn’t played since childhood. That really says it all. Most “artists” are content to shit out an album a year learning nothing more than the handful of words they stole from a thesaurus (and forgetting them shortly after). If PJ Harvey wants to write an album of Balkan folk songs with the lyrical thread of the Adriatic Sea as a metaphor for vaginas, she can. And we’ll listen. And maybe praise the fact that learned how to play the bouzouki for it. PJ Harvey is in the unique position to do whatever the hell she wants. She’s a skilled songwriter, lyricist and multi-instrumentalist with nothing left to prove. It’s just up to us if that’s enough. (Kevin)

18

Condominium - Warm Home

This record is the perfect culmination of the band’s recorded output thus far—exemplifying their flexibility within the trad-core realm. I absolutely love the production (or perhaps lack of) on this record. It captures the essence of the Condominium live experience—dirt, distortion and jaw-grinding loudness. You’ll find little to complain about here other than the whole thing is over too quickly—seven songs in roughly twenty minutes. But on the upside, you can always play it again and finish up the second half of that third 40oz. (Or do more pushups, if that’s your thing.) (Nathan)

19

Mamiffer - Mare Descendrii (Conspiracy)

Mare Descendrii is a literal triumph in composition and arrangement that makes me half jealous and half overjoyed that such music exists, and this is not overwrought hyperbole because the music here truly touches my soul like so few records do (hopefully that statement is completely overdoing it). Listeners will be hard pressed to hear any music quite like what Mamiffer is laying out here on Mare Descendrii; in a world of often heards and near incessant variations of emulations and near tributes, Mamiffer stands above the herd with their tremendous compositions and forward sounding oeuvre. (Bob)

20

Vildhjarta - måsstaden (Century Media)

What a criminally ignored and underrated album. Vildhjarta's major label debut is a testament to what immense dedication and painstaking songwriting can accomplish. Impeccably composed from beginning to end and full of tasty djent-fueled polyrhythmic riffs, there is never a dull nor unsatisfying moment in måsstaden. It's difficult to listen to, and maybe even a bit hipster in how avant-garde the composition can be, but once you immerse yourself in it, it's the most satisfying album you'll hear this year. (Matthew Sarah)

21

Des Ark - Don't Rock The Boat, Sink The Fucker (Lovitt)

Des Ark’s Don’t Rock the Boat, Sink The Fucker is a very expressive and emotional album that contains some of the best songwriting I’ve heard all year. So much diversity and heart is offered from this record, and that only amplifies my appreciation for it. This album deserves to make top ten lists for the end of 2011. I know it’ll be on mine. (Aaron)

22

Night Birds - The Other Side Of Darkness (Grave Mistake)

There’s something of an ambiguity to the lyrics, reinventing the original themes of ‘80s songs for a modern environment. The refrain of “Paranoid Times” echoes ‘80s Cold War sentiment, but the target has shifted and the band cleverly plays on these mantras. Meanwhile, the music blazes past at breakneck speed, with only four of the thirteen songs topping two minutes. The influences and authenticity of the music are pretty straightforward, with a surf undercurrent, brought to the forefront for a moment in “Day after Trinity.” Overall, it’s a cathartic race that’s over seemingly too quickly. (Loren)

23

Battles - Gloss Drop (Warp)

They may have lost their frontman, but Battles aren't about to let something like that stop them. Though Gloss Drop pushes out into new territory almost entirely by necessity, Battles have managed to retain that kitschy math rock appeal that made them so popular in the first place. Featuring an incredible lineup of guest vocalists and squeaky, sugar-happy melodies, it's reassuring to hear that one of the most original bands today can still keep themselves fresh despite a loss that would've crippled any lesser act. (Matthew Sarah)

24

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Bella Union)

Three years in the making since their praised-to-the-heavens self-titled debut, Helplessness Blues is a masterpiece of a sophomore offering, consisting of everything that made Fleet Foxes a standout record for its generation - let alone year - and at the same time expanding upon the band’s signature sound. It’s easy to peg a band given this level of hype as overrated and undertalented, but in some cases this kind of praise is merited. Don’t write them off as a “genre band”, don’t drop them in the hipster bucket, but instead open your ears and listen to the sound of one of the most exciting, interesting, intelligent and beautiful records of the past few years. (Matt)

25

Iceage - New Brigade (Whats Your Rupture?)

Clocking in at about twenty-five minutes, this record feels both classic and fresh. I’ve mixed it in a playlist that included the Decedents’ Milo Goes To College and T.S.O.L.’s Dance With Me, and another that had No Age, Crocodiles, and Japandroids—a perfect fit in both cases. If you’re a fan of saying things like, “Yeah, I liked their first record better”; then you’ll want to pick this one up ASAP. Love them now; because there is a strong chance you’re going to hate them soon. All the things people are saying about this being a fantastic punk record are completely accurate. But I would also like to add that New Brigade is the perfect album for tanning on Saturday mornings at the beach. (Nathan)

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Words by the SPB team on Jan. 2, 2012, 9:18 a.m.

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Scene Point Blank's Favorites: Year End (2011)

Posted on Jan. 2, 2012, 9:18 a.m.

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