So Christmas is just around the corner and you’ve left all of your shopping until the last minute, right?
Here is a list of the top 10 albums to be released this year, what could make a better stocking filler than one of these magnificent releases?
10 III.5 – Alter Bridge
Making it into the countdown on a technicality, 2011 saw the release of III.5, what was basically a deluxe version of 2010’s III including three new tracks. That said, the tracks still manage to sound fresh over a year after the original release, and latest tracks Home, Zero and Never Born To Follow sit alongside fan favourites Wonderful Life and Ghosts of Days Gone By perfectly. There is not a moment of weakness on this album, which I would go so far as to say is Alter Bridge’s greatest album to date and these tracks stand out as live highlights as well, which can only be a sign of how strong the tracks found on the album actually are. Having announced they will be taking a year out to work on other projects, Myles Kennedy being the lead singer of Slash’s latest project and the rest of the band once again joining forces with Scott Stapp for a new Creed album, Alter Bridge fans will have a fair wait for a follow up. Luckily, the album never seems to get stale, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
9. Sinners Never Sleep – You Me At Six
After bursting on the scene with brilliant debut album Take Off Your Colours in 2008, You Me At Six have grown in both stature and confidence. Third album Sinners Never Sleep is the culmination of endless touring and is shows a maturity which sets them apart from their peers. Speaking to Rock Sound magazine earlier this year, lead singer Josh Franceschi described the album as, “our Only Revolutions“. Although it is not as technically dense as Biffy Clyro’s fifth studio album, he was not wrong, with Sinners Never Sleep affording You Me At Six the mainstream success they have always been destined for. From the first moment of Loverboy, right through to the closing ballad of When We Were Younger, there is not a filler track in sight. Guest vocals from the likes of Oli Sykes and Winston McCall add to the album of course, but this is definitely You Me At Six at their best. If they can improve on this album, You Me At Six have got quite a career ahead of them.
8. Good For Me – The Swellers
2011 has been quite a year for Michigan four-piece The Swellers. Endless touring and the release of one of the standout albums of the year has seen them skyrocket in popularity, and with feel good tracks like Best I Ever Had and Runaway it is not difficult to see why. That they are able to stand out in an overpopulated genre (Sum 41 and New Found Glory to name but a few) is a commendable achievement, but to produce a collection of songs which connect to so many people is astounding. To listen to the album just the once, without at least one of the tracks becoming lodged into your head for hours is impossible. With catchy choruses and an unparalleled work-ethic, The Swellers seem to be looking to fill the large hole left by the disappearance of Hundred Reasons and are doing so with great success. With a spot on the 2012 Hit The Deck Festival confirmed yesterday, make sure you catch The Swellers sooner rather than later!
7. Ugly Animals – Retox
By far the heaviest album Live and Loud Rock heard all year, Ugly Animals is the sound of a band who are pissed off at society, themselves and everything which is going on around them. Weighing in at 11 tracks in just shy of 13 minutes, this is hardcore at its visceral best. Having described themselves as the “response to stagnant and boring cultures, as well as the countercultures that have slipped into a sea of pointlessness” they are carrying quite a burden on their shoulders. With tracks like The World is Ending and Its About Time and Ten Pounds of Shit in a Five Pound Bag, it is clear to see Retox aim to create some of the heaviest music you will hear, and they have succeeded. After the 13 minutes have passed you will feel like your senses have been abused, but so is the quality of Ugly Animals, you will come crawling back for more.
6. Punk and Poetry – The King Blues
Punk and Poetry is exactly what you would expect from political rockers The King Blues; a strongly written call to arms in the form of a 30 minute punk album. Topics to feel the full force of frontman Itch’s ire include the government (We Are Fucking Angry, The Future’s Not What It Used To Be), the porn industry (Sex Education) and female discrimination (5 Bottles of Shampoo). The songs all float seamlessly into one another with the help of short tracks which act as interludes, such as Shooting Fascists, helping the step from one genre to another. Punk, reggae, ska and pop all find their way into this collection of songs, and it is a commendable approach to take in an industry where the listeners attention span wanes quicker than ever before. If you give this album your full attention, and I strongly suggest you do, you will be rewarded with one of the best albums released over the past 12 months. Just don’t expect David Cameron to appreciate this in his Christmas stocking.
5. Neibourhoods – Blink-182
2011 saw the release that every pop-punk fan had been waiting for, Blink-182’s first album since they reformed back in 2009. The good news for those who waited patiently for its release is, Neighbourhoods is one of the best albums they have released, moving on from the immaturity which ran throughout their previous albums to a much darker feel. That said, this is still very obviously a Blink record, balancing the influence of Angels and Airwaves and +44 perfectly to create an album that will be held close to many a fan’s heart for years to come. Album opener Up All Night is Blink-182 at their best; Travis Barker’s drumming holding together the track while a huge riff acts as a counterweight between the vocals of Hoppus and Delonge perfectly. Although lyrically dark, the upbeat style which fans have been accustomed to is still intact, maintaining the feel good factor that made Blink-182 the kings of pop-punk, and long may that continue.
4. Unto The Locust – Machine Head
It is hard to imagine a best of countdown without the kings of heavy metal present, and this year is no different, with Unto The Locust being the perfect follow-up to 2007’s critically acclaimed The Blackening. This is not a carbon copy of the aforementioned album though. Unlike its predecessor, it is not all balls-out breakneck speed thrash metal. At times, Machine Head bravely veer off course, with Darkness Within being an exquisite acoustic number until the metal aspects kick in around the two minute mark. The huge riffs are still present though and Robb Flynn’s vocals sound stronger than ever. All in all, this is not only the best metal album of the year, but arguably Machine Head’s greatest work to date.
3. England Keeps My Bones – Frank Turner
Frank Turner has been plugging away, gaining more and more plaudits every year he has been touring since the demise of Million Dead back in 2005. This year saw him gain the critical acclaim and mainstream success that he has long deserved. With England Keep My Bones, he has penned a feel good folk-rock album, which continues in the same style as his last solo release Poetry of the Deed. The positive aspect of the album is that running throughout it is an obvious pride in his English heritage which, in an industry where so many of his counterparts seem to want to be American, is heartwarming. No matter how pessimistic you may be about the state of the nation, this album will remind you what being English actually means, and very few albums can claim to achieve that.
2. Free – Twin Atlantic
In any other year, Free by Twin Atlantic would have been the album of the year by a mile, it is that good. The band have made so much progress since their debut full length Vivarium, lyrically the tracks are stronger and the riffs which run throughout the album are huge, carrying catchy choruses which are guaranteed to bounce around your head for days. The growth is shown in album highlight Crash Land, a hugely emotive acoustic track revolving around being stuck on a desert island. Do not worry though, this is not some huge concept album, each track stands and shines alone. Very few bands could write 13 tracks of this quality on one album, and very few will do so next year. In The Ghost of Eddie, frontman Sam McTrusty claims: “You won’t get better than me.” On the strength of this release, I would have to argue that he has a point.
1. Wasting Light – Foo Fighters
In a year where Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters returned to their true form, what else could be named album of 2011? Wasting Light is, from start to finish, the epitome of a rock album. Produced by Butch Vig, the mastermind behind Nirvana’s Nevermind, Wasting Light shows how great a songwriter Grohl truly is. Bridge Burning is a raucous, metal-infused bolt out of the blue, starting the album exactly as he intended it to go on. Guest vocals from rock legend Bob Mould adds to the melancholy of Dear Rosemary, and the addition of Krist Novoselic on bass for I Should Have Known just adds to an already brilliant track. The highlight of the album is saved for last though, as Walk is a rock epic, made to be unleashed on arena crowds. The slow build up, firstly guitar and Grohl’s vocals, soon joined by Taylor Hawkins drums, climaxes into a huge crescendo, causing quite the mosh pit during their headline spot at Milton Keynes Bowl earlier this summer. That Foo Fighters classics like Everlong or Best of You could slide into this album without seeming out of place is a comment on just how strong Wasting Light is. The Foo Fighters have firmly cemeted their place atop the rock world, and it will take some effort to remove them.