Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best of 2011

Any regular readers of the Switchboard Sessions know that, even though I keep myself out of the features I write, they aren't objective, nor are they attempting to be. Inherent in each post is a sense that I adore these musicians and their music. Sure, I try to write features that are journalistic in tone and style, but I am also trying to promote these artists because I feel they deserve it; otherwise, I wouldn't have asked them to participate.

I suppose it's that realization, along with the acceptance that this whole website is self-indulgent, that allows me to post a "Best of 2011" list here. I've never done this before (though posted my "Best of 2010" list last year, which was pretty cool), based on the generally assumption that no one cares about my music taste and, if they did, they could sense it based on which musicians I feature here and what I write about them. This year, though--in true blogger fashion--I thought I'd post mine. Hopefully, you discover someone new from it; 2011 was a particularly awesome year for music, at least for me.

-Dane Erbach

Long Ones...

10. Bomb the Music Industry!
Quote Unquote Records and Really Records
What's remarkable about Vacation is how well Jeff Rosenstock and his collective of multi-instrumentalists capture the raw, restless humanity of their previous punk-ska exploits in something more fundamentally accessible and straightforward, despite the fuzz, endless layers, and occasional recklessnes.

9. Great Cynics
Don't Need Much

Kind of Like Records
The breezy, bright demeanor of Don't Need Much, its singalong choruses and heavy strumming, seems to express the exuberance of being a twenty-something; a careful listen, though, reveals that Giles Bidder's lyrics are about boredom, bumming around, biding time, friendships lost, and found love—the realities of young adulthood.
Click here to check out the Switchboard Session with Great Cynics
Press play below to hear "Cider for Breakfast" from Don't Need Much

8. Spraynard
Asian Man Records

Pat Graham's guitar seems to scuttle (and, sometimes, recline uncomfortably) across Pat Ware's already antsy bass lines on Funtitled, and their voices seem to shove each other back and forth throughout the record. Somehow, though, the end result is collaborative, constructive, positive, and, above all, playful.

7. Joyce Manor
Joyce Manor

6131 Records
There are times on Joyce Manor's first full-length where the song seems stressed enough to splinter into pieces; the guitars squeal wildly over seemingly stumbling drums, and Barry Johnson's peaking vocals rise from it like smoke signaling its imminent collapse. It stays together, though, carries with it the catchiest melodies, and leaves the listener breathless.
Press play below to hear "Leather Jacket" from Joyce Manor

6. Direct Hit!
Kind of Like Records

Direct Hit!'s Domesplitter accurately captures the disorderly camaraderie of a punk house party. Most of Nick Wood's words, pie-eyed and occasionally apocalyptic, are screamed—by him, by his bandmates, by a literal gang of partygoers—against a gale of distorted guitars and machine gun drumming, creating reckless abandon at its most melodic.
Press play below to hear "They Came For Me" from Domesplitter

5. Mansions
Dig Up the Dead

Burning House Records
The word “haunted” perhaps describes Dig Up the Dead too well. Indeed, Christopher Brower's voice, which feels both frail and forceful, exists in a soundscape alive with buzzing bass lines, spectral strokes of acoustic guitar, the ghostlike wail of feedback, and drumbeats like footsteps in empty rooms. More so, these melodies stalk their listeners.
Press play below to hear "Close That Door" from Dig Up the Dead

4. Fucked Up
David Comes to Life

Matador Records
Rarely does something so abrasive, so needlessly noisy, seem so catchy, let alone so profound. David Comes to Life contains some semblance of a storyline, as barked by Damien Abraham, encased in a swirl of jangly guitars and hard hit drums, and these layers of melodies, ideas, ambiance make this record memorable and thought-provoking, if not epic.

3. The Copyrights
North Sentinel Island

Red Scare Industries
The four-chord pop-punk found on North Sentinel Island seems so simple on the surface—some songs have only four lines of lyrics; others only ten words' worth—but it's the powerful way those four chords are ordered; the quick, sporadic detours from this order; and a theme that ties so many of the songs together that creates sophistication within simplicity.
Click here to check out the Switchboard Session with the Copyrights
Press play below to hear "Trustees of Modern Chemistry" from North Sentinel Island

2. Restorations

Tiny Engines
Restorations is an anomaly in a scene so desperate to organize. It's what happens when twangy guitars glint against a groaning organ, though; when a bass guitar decides to burst from the behind dense drums; and when a singer like Jon Loudon's husky howl storms in the forefront. Put simply, though, it's rock 'n' roll, it's cavernous and dusty, and it's loud.
Click here to check out the Switchboard Session with Restorations
Press play below to hear "Val d' Or" from Self-Titled

1. Polar Bear Club
Clash Battle Guilt Pride

Bridge Nine Records
What Polar Bear Club seems to do so expertly on Clash Battle Guilt Pride is cram emotion into each crispy riff, each rich chord, each crack of snare and bristled bass line; when these instruments, each struck with sincere intensity, are matched to Jimmy Stadt's agile growl, the songs ascend past mere music; it becomes an expressive experience for both artist and audience.
Click here to check out the Switchboard Session with Polar Bear Club
Press play below to hear "Killin' It" from Clash Battle Guilt Pride

Short Ones...

5. forgetters
Too Small To Fail

Comprised of four strident, frizzy songs, forgetter's first release doesn't feel punk-rock; it feels familiar (maybe due to Blake Schwarzenbach's bluesy croon) and dark, comprised of complex chords and startling dynamics, despite the straight-forward drumbeats. It's for the better that this is a ferocious rock record, since these weathered musicians get to explore new territory. (Note: Though these four songs were released late last year, they were new to me in 2011).

4. Broadcaster
Occasionally, catchy music loses something—its bounce or brilliance—when it's presented through a raw, unpolished recording, but Joyride doesn't seem to suffer from this problem. The drum cracks and pops compliment the grubby, but rich guitars, and Jesse Litwa's modest melodies, which linger long after this ten minute record ends.
Press play below to hear "All Your Friends" from Joyride

3. Daytrader
Last Days of Rome

Run For Cover Records
The songs on Last Days of Rome stop at every point in between stirring, heavy-stepping ballads to blistering fireballs, and Daytrader achieves with sincere musicianship: drums that jump back and forth between double-time; dark, distorted guitars that know when to rise and recede; and singer Tym B's dynamic vocals, which climb from subdued to vicious in a single verse.
Press play below to hear "Kill My Compass" from Last Days of Rome

2. Devon Kay and the Solutions
Never Punt
Johann's Face Records
It's difficult to describe Devon Kay's voice. It's wild, veers from word to word, and sometimes stumbles into an angry rant, but he always hits his notes, and his melodies emerge as coherent and catchy. The punk-rock he plays on Never Punt is a perfect frame for this recklessness, creating something simultaneously untamed—not sloppy—and perfectly pop.
Click here to check out the Switchboard Session with Devon Kay and the Solutions
Press play below to hear "W.W.B.C.D" from Never Punt

1. Diamond
Don't Lose Your Cool

An EP as polished and impeccably recorded as Don't Lose Your Cool can seem suspicious, but its growling guitars, simple-but-dramatic drumming, and tireless tambourine provide power and substance; Justin Gilman's voice is soulful without the melodrama, melodic without the whine, absolutely memorable, and makes Diamond's power pop rival-less.
Press play below to hear "The Feeling" from Don't Lose Your Cool

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