Thursday, January 12, 2012

Two Thousand And Eleven in Two Thousand Twelve

I failed last year.

Regardless of whether I did or not: In 2011, I feel my listening habits were too conservative. A quick scroll of my inbox shows, in stark relief, as to the PR people doing their due diligence to drum up blog chatter for their clients, and the ones I bit on were ones I already knew about. More than that, though: Even if I didn’t have PR comped YouSendIt links or official downloads, I could still have used, let’s say, unauthorized sources and listened to the music. I didn’t. Hell, I downloaded some records and never fucking right clicked and scrolled down to Open With Spotify, because I shielded myself in what I already knew.

Yes, I was in Rome. Yes, I was in London. This year, the routine bit down hard. I lost and I think it shows here.

Run For Cover blew up this year based on great records by YOUNG STATUSES, SEAHAVEN and DAYTRADER. Or, so I hear anyway. I didn’t listen to any of them. Shit! DEAD TO ME released their followup to African Elephants in Moscow Penny Ante. Nope. Didn’t hear it. POS’s crew, DOOMTREE, put out a crew record, hotly anticipated by humans, I guess and I didn’t listen to it. No Kings? No idea.

It isn’t a matter of “not getting to a record,” it’s a matter of having the record in my hands and not playing it. Where it matters to you, reader, is that this list well, it is going to be mostly made up of bands you expect to appear, with their newest entries.

What almost made the list was Do Not Resuscitate by Most Precious Blood (see previous blog post) and Polar Bear Club's Clash Battle Guilt Pride. I found Do Not Resuscitate too late for it to be eligible in my head. (I hadn't really lived with it for a couple weeks to put it on here.) Like almost every other Polar Bear Club record, tracks 6-8 drag and the closer "3-4 Tango" does not overwhelm me like "Chasing Hamburg," "Convinced I'm Wrong" or "Most Miserable Life." So. Close but no cigar.

Non-2011 CDs that deserve their own mentions are Attica! Attica!'s Napalm and Nitrogen, which finds Marathon frontman Aaron Scott slowing down and playing piano more and more often and the Steal's Bright Grey. Bright Grey is a clamarous, jubilant flare loosed into the permanent dusk of hardcore punk. Saying it's for fans of 7 Seconds and Minor Threat sounds too good to be true, but listen to the 40 second opening track "The Possibilities Are Endless," know that the rest of the record is that good and in that same vein and then tell me I'm wrong.

Plus, it's only/sadly 17 minutes long. It'll be over before you know who got voted off Project Runway or Top Chef.

Of the CDs that came out in 2011, my favorites are:

Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me by TOUCHE AMORE. Speaking of being dead wrong…I’M PARTING! THE SEA! BETWEEN BRIGHTNESS! AND ME! Now that that’s out of the way, like RUINER’s Prepare To Be Let Down, it’s a so called full length of fast little monsters with sharp sharp teeth that need a hastily composed piano song to qualify as an LP, but there’s thirteen tracks here that are unafraid to wield the butterfly knife to rend the fat from the meat of the song.

13 Chambers by WUGAZI. If you’re trying to keep score of who wins on this mashup, you’ve missed the point. That the alchemy works at all is the real success. Marvel at the time it took to put this thing together, sure. But listen to it like a real record and it rewards you like one.

Darker Handcraft by TRAP THEM. I don’t think I can say it clearer than Darker Handcraft is like a IED, a visible, but unseen killing device whose purpose is not awe or spectacle but nauseating, unforeseeable murder.

Gospel by FIREWORKS. The fast songs are NEW FOUND GLORY by way of BAD RELIGION. The slow songs are pretty, anchored by the nonchalance of vocalist Dave Mackinder. This record is divisive, I guess, but I’m staunchly pro.

Suburbia I’ve Given You All But Now I’m Nothing by THE WONDER YEARS. The singles on this thing are blindingly good. So good, in fact, they make up for the dragging acoustic songs that flesh out Suburbia, but do so blandly.

England Keep My Bones by FRANK TURNER. There is nuance, there is delicacy, there is sentiment, but what holds all these things together is that the songs are inspiring. I want to live up to these songs. These songs make me want, deep down, to reach beyond whatever I think my grasp is…

Roads to Judah by DEAFHEAVEN. Is this black metal? I don’t listen to black metal. But I listen to DEAFHEAVEN. So help me out here: Do I listen to black metal?

Empty Days and Sleepless Nights by DEFEATER. Like WUGAZI, that the proof of concept works is the success. It leans on the clutches of the noir genre a little too heavily, but okay. This is hardcore punk. We’ve always been okay with a little overkill, so long as it’s shot through with emotion.

The Anarchy And The Ecstasy by THE WORLD/INFERNO FRIENDSHIP SOCIETY. Deemphasizing the electric guitar worked wonders, even if they got a little overly melodramatic. Wait. That last record was about Peter Lorre running from Nazis, wasn’t it? Well, drama is what they do.

Year One by HAWKS AND DOVES. “Maybe I’m the only one, Sartaj thought, with stories about silent sex, far sex, aching sex…painful gloom-ridden bitter lonely sex.” Sacred Games, by Vikram Chandra, p. 215.

(Originally written for and cleaned up for here. Obviously.)

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