ARTISTdirect.com Names Top Albums of 2011 Including Korn, Five Finger Death Punch, Staind, Lil Wayne, Puscifer, Data Romance, Jane's Addiction, Hyro Da Hero, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Adele, Metallica, and More
Wed, 14 Dec 2011 13:44:02
2011 was quite the year.
It seems like everybody and their mother released a killer record, and ARTISTdirect.com has covered all of them in depth.
Looking back at the past year, our staff—Editor-in-Chief Rick Florino, News Editor Amy Sciarretto, Staff Writer Mark Phillips, Editorial Coordinator Elena Castro—all chose their favorite picks of 2011. So lo and behold check out our roundup of the best of the best for this year. These make the perfect gifts for Christmas too...
Rick Florino, ARTISTdirect.com Editor-in-Chief, Dolor Author
21 for 2011
Five Finger Death Punch — American Capitalist
Five Finger Death Punch rightfully claim their spot as the kings of modern hard rock with album number three, American Capitalist. It's got Iron Maiden-size solos and riffs from 21st century guitar gods Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook along, a double bass stomp from drummer Jeremy Spencer, and volatile bruising bass, carried live by artfully by Chris Kael. At the center of Five Finger Death Punch stands Ivan Moody who rightfully deserves a spot in the pantheon of legendary vocalists like Philip Anselmo and Layne Staley. His work is a beautiful and brilliant bloodletting everywhere from the ethereal "Coming Down" to the thrash chaos of "If I Fall". Meet the new gods of rock...
Korn — The Path of Totality
Korn take rock music to a realm it's never been on their tenth masterpiece, The Path of Totality. The group seamlessly integrates dubstep darkness into their patented pummeling. The results are a landmark album for the band and music as a whole. At the heart of the record, Jonathan Davis tells some elegantly chilling stories. His lyrics "Bleeding Out" and "Way Too Far" are emblematic of an evolved catharsis, while James "Munky" Shaffer riffs like his life depends on it taking the guitar to new places that'd raise the eyebrows of David Gilmour and Jimmy Page alike. Electronic music and metal have both reached The Path of Totality, and they'll never be the same.
Metallica — Beyond Magnetic
Metallica gave us another landmark for heavy music with the four-song EP, Beyond Magnetic. Recorded during the Death Magnetic sessions, these tracks bristle with deadly charisma characteristic of the band's most intense and infectious fare. "Hate Train" rides along on a stampede of bludgeoning riffs, beats, and grooves. James Hetfield fires off one of his best hooks ever on "Just a Bullet Away", and "Hell and Back" remains another thrash roller coaster. "Rebel of Babylon" is a mournful and meaningful eight-minute masterpiece. This kicks ass and changes the game again—just like Metallica always does.
Staind — Staind
Staind didn't fuck around with their self-titled seventh album. The band taps into an infectious intensity that's both unnerving and unapologetic. Mike Mushok's guitar playing hits transcendent heights of metallic mastery, while Aaron Lewis manages to be both haunting on "Failing" and "Something to Remind You" and relentlessly bludgeoning on "Eyes Wide Open" and "Paper Wings".Dysfunction has never been so catchy, and Staind are at their best here.
Puscifer — Conditions of My Parole
Maynard James Keenan weaves together an intricate and irresistible pastiche of electronic music, alternative rock, trip hop, and even country on Puscifer's second outing Conditions of My Parole. He's the sheriff of this gorgeous ethereal dreamscape, and it's an utterly wonderful place to reside under his gun.Conditions of My Parole can serve as the soundtrack for almost any emotion, and that's why it's so damn revolutionary.
Hyro Da Hero — Birth, School, Work, Death
The best debut of 2011, and it will be remembered as one of the best records of the decade. Hyro Da Hero gives rock 'n' roll the swift kick in the ass that Rage Against the Machine gave it, but he can flow as tight as Kanye West. It's the birth of an icon, the school for band's to come, work for music's future, and the death of all posers.
Lil Wayne — Tha Carter IV
There's a reason that Lil Wayne still runs hip hop—he's the greatest living MC. For proof just bump "Blunt Blowin" and "It's Good". He's unstoppable and he's only getting better every time he picks up the mic.
Slipknot – Iowa: 10th Anniversary Edition
The album may have been originally released in 2001, but it's as relevant now as it was then. A dark, deadly, and depraved trip to the heart of the band's home state, there is no metal record this raw. It's on par with Slayer's Reign In Blood and Metallica's Master of Puppets as a definitive release from a legendary band. With the inclusion of Goat a full-length documentary by M. Shawn "Clown" Crahan, the experience becomes even more evil and immersive. This album will still change you.
Jane's Addiction — The Great Escape Artist
Swirling psychedelic soundscapes, Dave Navarro's monolithic six-string sorcery, Stephen Perkins's percussive wallop, and Perry Farrell's charismatic unmistakable pipes...this is a 21st century epic from Los Angeles's best musical myth makers. You'll fall in love with it, but that's not Shocking.
Machine Head — Unto the Locust
Machine Head can do no wrong.Unto the Locust finds a middle ground between The Blackening's progressive scope and the emotional rollercoaster at the heart of Through the Ashes of Empires. Nearing nine minutes, the three-part "I Am Hell (Sonata C#) I: Sangre Sani (Blood Saint) II: I Am Hell III: Ashes to the Sky" rises from a choral refrain of the damned into some impressive, intricate fret fireworks. "Darkness Within" stands out as the album's best track, seeing Robb Flynn at his most open, honest, and visceral. With Old Testament angst and new school storytelling, Unto the Locust needs its own chapter in metal's Bible...
Hollywood Undead — American Tragedy
Hollywood Undead upped the ante incredibly for their sophomore album.American Tragedy sees them flex their metallic hip hop industrial muscle like no other outfit in the game. A true triumph from the young outfit, there's nothing tragic about it.
Lou Reed & Metallica — Lulu
Metallica and Lou Reed burned the rule book for rock operas and everything else in the process with Lulu. The result is a sonic drama that echoes Black Swan and Suspiria as much as it does Black Sabbath and King Diamond. Metallica sound delightfully unfettered and unrestrained jamming along with some of the most sinister Lou Reed musings ever. It doesn't matter what anyone thinks because both of these visionaries collectively went against the grain once more, and the results stick with listeners.
Red Hot Chili Peppers — I'm with You
It's a beautiful collection of California rock 'n' roll like only Red Hot Chili Peppers could make. "Monarchy of Roses" teeters on a metallic breakdown before devolving into the most danceable hook of the band's career, while "Brendan's Death Song" is utterly uplifting. Red Hot Chili Peppers are still with us, and they're thankfully not going anywhere.
Chickenfoot — Chickenfoot III
A rip-roaring riff fest from Joe Satriani, funk-infused metal drumming from Chad Smith, propulsive power bass from Michael Anthony, and some of Sammy Hagar's most inspiring and infectious vocals make Chickenfoot III one of the year's loudest and best rock records. These four titans never clash, instead they conquer.
DevilDriver — Beast
DevilDriver take off the gloves and rip metal apart with Beast. The grooves never stop and neither does the instrumental prowess. It's DevilDriver's masterwork.
Sid Wilson — Sid
Slipknot turntable maestro gives us an alchemic wonder that mixes trip hop, hip hop, and electronica. At the center, his evocative vocals and lyrics prove both alarming and soothing simultaneously. This is a trip worth taking, especially on headphones. It shows just how versatile and vibrant of an artist Wilson is.
Seether — Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray
Frontman Shaun Morgan dove deep for Seether's latest offering and he emerged with some of the most poignant, poetic, and powerful music of his career. It's also some of the catchiest with "Country Song" becoming a bona fide smash. That's just how diverse this trio is though.
Aaron Lewis — Town Line EP
On his debut solo EP, Town Line, Staind mainman Aaron Lewis brings his knack for a timeless tune to the country realm and succeeds tenfold. Lewis is such a versatile and vibrant songwriter that his old school country sound bears the same grit as your favorite Hank Williams, Jr. tune. However, there's a personal panache. The singer and songwriter is pristine on the anthemic "Country Boy" and poetically searing on "Vicious Circles", while "Massachusetts" is a vivid letter to his home state and "The Story Never Ends" rocks a fiery twang. Listeners get closer to Lewis here and realize just how much of a genius he truly is.
Gary Clark, Jr. — The Bright Lights EP
Not since Stevie Ray Vaughan has a modern bluesman emanated this much spirit. Gary Clark Jr. is bound to usher in an influx of new guitar heroes, but he'll be remembered as the man who started the 21st century age of the axe. He's got a psychedelic flare al a Jimi Hendrix and the smooth, soulful phrasing of Buddy Guy. After just one listen to his debut EP, it's clear that there's no one quite like him from back then or now. Clark flies off to guitar divinity on the transcendent "Things Are Changin'", and there's nothing like floating away with him. He'll be synonymous with the guitar in the 21st century soon.
Data Romance — Data Romance EP
This duo dwells in a curious space between Florence and the Machine baroque pop elegance and invasive industrial bliss a la Nine Inch Nails. This EP is tight, transfixing, and transcendent from start to finish. In a world over populated by new electronic acts, they deserve to emerge as Trent Reznor and Beth Gibbons's torch bearers. They're unique enough to do so, and you'll agree the second you hear this incredible four-song salvo.
Jessie and the Toy Boys – Show Me Your Tan Lines EP
Jessie and the Toy Boys bitch-slap pop music in the best way possible on the debut EP, Show Me Your Tan Lines. She's not afraid to get a little grimy or sarcastic and that's why she's going to take the diva throne very soon. "Push It" featuring Yelawolf sees her take on the role of 21st century sonic seductress touting an undeniable refrain, while "We Own The Night" was made for arenas, dance floors, and just about everywhere else you can think of. Pop is now Jessie's bitch. You've been warned.
Mark Phillips, ARTISTdirect.com Staff Writer, Visionary, All-Around Nice Guy
Five Finger Death Punch — American Capitalist
America's biggest hard rock/ metal band delivers a pulverizing modern classic; in a world where only the strong survive, 5FDP are living more than comfortably.
Korn — The Path of Totality
One of the most innovative rock bands of the last twenty years reinvented themselves by collaborating with dub step and electronic producers like Skrillex, 12th Planet, Flinch, Kill the Noise, Noisia and more. It's a seamless transition and a brilliant convergence of metal, dubstep, and the kitchen sink.
Lykke Li — Wounded Rhymes
Lykke Li has quickly become Sweden's most exciting import.Wounded Rhymes served as the young songstress' breakout album, with infectious tracks like "I Follow Rivers," "Get Some," and the mod- ballad "Sadness is a Blessing."
Rise Against — Endgame
This Chicago-based political punk band delivered yet another frenetic, growling and utterly magnificent collection of protest sings written with a distortion pedal.
Jane’s Addiction — The Great Escape Artist
TV On The Radio's Dave Sitek joined the LA Legends to make only their fourth studio album in over twenty years. The result? A fresh sound and an ethereal beauty that reinvigorated one of the first Alternative bands ever.
Portugal. The Man — In the Mountain in the Cloud
PTM sound like a blissful, eerie marriage of Ziggy Stardust and the Pixies. It's beautiful, hypnotic, and will get you and your Spiders from Mars really dancing.
Adele — 21
It's incredible to think Adele named her album after her precocious age when she recorded this masterpiece. Do you think she'll still do that when she's 43? This album defies all logic, and literally appeals to anyone with a pulse.
The Black Keys — El Camino
After years of toiling in the praise of the underground, The Black Keys exploded from garage band to arena band. Their new offering, El Camino, does not disappoint their newly found role- it's their most focused album yet.
Foo Fighters — Wasting Light
Before this album was released, the Foos (reunited with original guitarist and former Germ, Pat Smear) had already unveiled two daring tracks: the heavy metal distortion festival, "White Limo" and the pinball machine wizardry of their lead single, "Rope." Dave Grohl is never one to disappoint, and this album is no exception.
Beastie Boys — Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
The Beasties seemed to channel their early nineties classics, "Check Your Head" and "I'll Communication" into this year's highly regarded release. Really, that's all you need to know!
Amy Sciarretto, ARTISTdirect.com News Editor, Higgins's Caretaker, The Unspoken Fifth Member of Mindless Behavior
Lady Gaga — Born This Way
Beautiful pop music made by my favorite fellow Catholic Italian grrl. "Born This Way" makes me want to dance at a wedding (gay or straight) while "Yoü & I" is my fav pop song in eons.
Times of Grace — The Hymn of a Broken Man
My fav metal album of 2011. Dynamics, passionate, well-thought out lyrics, breakdowns, riffs, clean and screamed vocals. Done better by ToG than by most.
The Decemberists — The King Is Dead
"In love" is the only way I can describe my feelings about this record. "Don’t Carry It All," the album opener, is better than some band’s catalogs. It’s folky, it’s Americana, it’s rock, it’s roots, it’s real. The same can be said for the album. Colin Meloy is a modern day storyteller.
Devil's Blood — The Thousandfold Epicentre
Quality, solid hard rock. I love the androgynous vocals and the puts-hair-on-your-chest riffery. No joke hard rock with a distinctly '70s vibe. The whole thing sounds recorded on vintage equipment. It has a classic, scratchy feel, like vinyl. It’s pure.
Krallice — Diotima
Experimental black metal at its best and American-made. I listen to this when I want to purge myself of anger. It’s fast, vicious and almost unlistenable. And that’s what makes it fucking amazing.
Il Volo — Il Volo
Italian standards, sung by teens. So amazing. I listen when I want to feel classed up!
Mastodon — The Hunter
Good, solid, heavy rock, but definitely not as good as Remission or Leviathan, but still <3 it.
August Burns Red — Leveler
Gets the red out. I want to mosh hard when I listen to this. Loud, fast, moshable.
Florence + the Machine — Ceremonials
Flo Welch is one of a kind. Beautiful voice and even better lyrics.
Opeth — Heritage
Less metal, more prog, all Opeth.
Elena Castro, ARTISTdirect.com Editorial Staff, Drummer of The Orange Rev, Sketch Monster
Staind — Staind
Solos? Solos! Staind's solos are epic. Songs sound hard and catchy but not annoying-catchy like most pop rock. This album makes me want to egg ex-bf's cars.
Puscifer — Conditions of My Parole
I love how every song on this album is different. Makes me want to revisit playing my mother's banjo, write more music on keyboard and bass, and listen to more industrial and breakcore music.
Korn — The Path of Totality
Finally, musicians who can meld rave and rock music together correctly! Makes me want to join a punk band and have that band play in front of a bunch of upper, upper, upper class people on the west side of L.A. at very fancy high end bars and clubs.
Well, there you have our list of 2011's best. What's on your list? Tell us below!
—The ARTISTdirect Staff