Thursday, July 7, 2011

Top 10 Albums of 2011 (So Far)

Full disclosure: I started this post on June 20, but became distracted by a number of things (finally slaying my EHG story and celebrating my birthday, plus other necessary deterrents) before focusing on finishing my half-year list of favorite releases.

The list doesn't pertain to any one genre and like my Kurt Vonnegut asshole, it's uniquely my own. With that, enjoy...

1. The Kills - Blood Pressures (Domino)
Though I was lucky enough to preview "Heart is a Beating Drum" during The Kills' set at Spin's SxSW '11 party, it wasn't until I heard the song tracked along with the rest of Blood Pressures that its soulful rhapsodic vibe completely crept over me. Alison Mosshart is a consummate rock goddess.

2. Pentagram - Last Rites (Metal Blade)
With its unrelenting doomy riffs and Bobby Leibling's haunting vocals, Last Rites is the kind of album that reminds me of why I fell in love with heavy metal in the first place. The crisp production on "8," "Into the Ground" and "Treat Me Right" adds a dimension to the already molasses-thick grooves, while a handful of vintage tunes (written in the '70s) contextualize Pentagram's 40-year history.

3. Cave In -White Silence (Hydra Head)
Not only did Cave In return after a six-year album hiatus, but they returned even heavier—almost as if they've been listening to a steady diet of vintage Converge. Everything about White Silence is simple, brutish and glorious. In fact, my chief complaint about the record is that's it's too damn short. I'll take four more songs in the vein of "Sing My Loves," please.

4. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light (Columbia)
No one is more shocked than I to be WAY into this album. Frankly, I've never thought of Foo Fighters as being heavy enough. But Wasting Light came out of nowhere and beat me into submission with its ridiculously catchy melodies from start to finish. Welcome to my iPod, boys.

5. Black Dahlia Murder - Ritual (Metal Blade)
I don't really care for death metal, but I love the shit out of Black Dahlia Murder. And why would I look any further for a dose of brutality when Ritual delivers so much? Alternating screeches and growls from Trevor Strnad, cheeky lyrics and stark, driving blast beats work together to create a perfectly balanced metal meal.

6. Red Fang - Murder the Mountains (Relapse)
With their previous effort, Red Fang proved they were much more than a slacker metal band with a cool viral video. But on Murder the Mountains, their Relapse debut, they impress with their knack for writing hooky compositions that are further enhanced by flawless production. Want proof? Listen to "Wires."

7. Beth Ditto - EP (Sony)
In only four songs, the Gossip vocalist breaks out as dance diva that straddles a happy place between Robyn and La Roux. The real hit here is "Open Heart Surgery," a mid-tempo toe-tapping tale of love gone wrong, but the remaining tracks swaddle it with plenty of disco beats and glittery attitude.

8. Kvelertak -s/t (The End)
Well worth the hype, these Norwegian newbies combine everything you love from death n' roll-era Entombed with Turbonegro's tongue in cheek sensibilities and put their own new-school spin on it. The result is a volatile combination of balls and feedback, which can pose a physical threat in a live setting.

9. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake (Vagrant)
Honestly, I partly ranked this eighth solo album from the English alt-siren so highly for the simple relief that it didn't suck. Thankfully far from PJ's muted disaster, White Chalk, this new record is filled with whimsy, introspection and classicism all at once. My girl's still got it... even if she does wear a dead bird atop her head nowadays.

10. YOB - Atma (Profound Lore)
There is so much delicious low-end rumbling in store on this stoner/doom power trio's latest release, I almost can't stand it. Though I haven't taken in Atma properly just yet, it's shaping up to be a bona fide thriller that's both savage and enthralling.

And the rest...

Guilty Pleasures
Britney Spears - Femme Fatale 
Vampires Everywhere! - Kiss the Sun Goodbye 

Still Ruminating On...
Young Widows - In and Out of Youth and Lightness
Twilight Singers -Dynamite Steps

Just Now Getting Into...
Fucked Up - David Comes to Life

Can't Wait To Hear...
Revocation - Chaos of Forms
Taking Back Sunday - s/t  (Haters gonna hate...)

Haven't Listened to Yet...
TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light
Okkervil River -Your Past Life as a Blast

Still Don't Care About...
Bon Iver - s/t 
Adele - 21

And can I possibly get a hip-hop record I can vibe with?

Best Shows So Far: 
Prince @ Madison Square Garden (Feb 7) - Prince saved the best for last when he took the stage for his fourth and final show on this last MSG run. Playing for almost three hours and ending with a snippet each of "When Doves Cry" and "Little Red Corvette" among dozens of classics, the legend still left us wanting more.

Pentagram @ Scoot Inn, SxSW - Kind of amazing the difference good acoustics make when amplifying the gloriously guitar sounds of Victor Griffin in a wide outdoor space—as opposed to hearing them compressed in a Polish nightclub.

Foreigner @ P.C. Richard & Son Theater - One of my most enjoyable shows of the year, if only for the commentary and good company. But then you add in free booze and some of the greatest rock jams ever—I'm looking at you "Double Vision," "Urgent" and "Hot Blooded"—and the night became pure enchantment.

Deftones @ Best Buy Theater - A greatest hits set, last-minute upgrade for a bird's eye view and great interplay with Dillinger Escape Plan's Greg Puciato on "Passenger" ranked this as another stellar Deftones memory.