Its that time of year where I attempt to compile a list of the best albums of the year. It is always hard for me to rank albums, since I normally don't even get around to listening to them until a couple of months after they are released. So with that said I'll probably order them alphabetically. I'll include the number of plays courtesy of Last FM, as I'm more likely to have formed a definite opinion on something I've listened to a lot. I've tagged my friends that are most likely to be interested in good music.
Amorphis - The Beginning of Times - 8 plays
I'm still not sure what to think of this one. On first listen I really liked it, but now I'm not so sure. Maybe its because I'm distracted every time I listen to it, but none of the songs seem particularly memorable. Everyone is saying it is a step up from Skyforger, but I really liked that album, and it definitely doesn't compare to Silent Waters. I'll updte this if it grows on me - I have only heard it 8 times so far.
Amplifier - The Octopus - 17 plays
Album of the year? Maybe. Amplifier have always been a band I like, but not love. I always thought of them as somewhat of a conservative cross between Porcupine Tree and Soundgarden. Good band, but ot great.
They spent a few years working on this album, and the result was a 16 track, 2 hour piece of awesomeness. Each song has room to breathe, and has been allowed to evolve where necessary. In my book they have moved from decent band to near the top of the modern prog rock ranks. Sometimes my favourite albums are the ones where a band I didn't expect much from blows me away.
Anathema - Falling Deeper - 1 play
I've only heard this once so far, but its very nice. Basically they created melodic orchestral versions of selected songs from their Death Metal days of their first few cds. Its old Anathema meets new. Each song is a fraction of the length of the original, but they've managed to capture the beauty of the originals, though presented quite differently. Its tough for me to say how different the songs are from the originals, I know anyone who has trouble listening to death metal would not see any relation to the originals here, but for someone like myself who listens to aq lot of heavy and melodic music, every song is true to the original - they always were full of melodic beauty (just with growls over the top) and this has been retained on this release.
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - Tao of the Dead - 48 Plays
Hmmm... Noisy Post-Hardcore band gather cult following, sign to a major label, release a hugely sucessful (but more commercial) album.... its only supposed tio go downhill from here isn't it? In this case the answer is no - after getting dropped from the major label, this band started digging into their prog influences over their last few albums, which has brought us to this years Tao Of The Dead. This is still very much Trail of Dead, but its essentially a two track album. The first 11 tracks seemlessly flow into one another, and track 12 is 17 minutes. This is a band that could have been sucked into the big label mentality 10ish years ago, but have instead focused on making awesome, creative music.If you are a Source Tags And Codes fan and didn't like their last couple of albums, this probably isn't for you. If you are like me and think their previous 2 albums were by far their best, you'll enjoy this. And if you dismissed this band because you heard them in the Source Tags and Codes days - give this a go - it may not be what you expect. Definitely one of my favourites this year.
Blackfield - Welcome to My DNA- 25 plays
Stev Wilson's 'pop' band return with possibly their most enjoyable album yet. Not much to say here really - this is the sort of stuff where it should only take one listen to decide if you like it or not.
Blackwaves - 0140 - 15 plays
One of the many bands i discovered through LastFM podcasts. Not quite post rock, not quite tech metal, heavy instrumental band from Germany that now has 4 very solid releases. I loved the previous album 0130, and this one may not be quite as good, but is still very enjoyable.
Cave In - White Silence - 33 plays
Cave in started of as a post-hardcore/tech metal outfit, turned spacey melodic rock, signed with a major label and went almost pop, and on their last 3 releases transitioned back to their post-harcore sound. This album has got rave reviews, its apparently a return to form. Honestly I prefer the previous album Perfect Pitch Black - but if anything I'd ratherthe band toy around with the spacey sound Jupiter. This is a solid album - at 35 miutes its over a little too soon, and at times the band are going in so many directions it lacks cohesion. But its nice for them to finally release an album after such a long break
Double Handsome Dragons - Double Handsome Dragons - 14 plays
Another LastFM podcast discovery, this band has a little bit of the 65dayasofstatic electronic/post rock crossover sound. I really like the direction they are going in on their last 2 cds - and I think they are on the verge of something really special.
Explosions in the Sky- Take Care, Take Care, Take Care - 54 plays
This band just can't do anything wrong in my book. This may not be in the same league as Those Who Teel The Truth...., and The Earth.... but I still love it.
Karma to Burn - V - 30 plays
Honestly, I'm pretty disappointed with this release. It has its moments, but 3 tracks with vocals arent welcome when the vocals take away from the tracks rather than add something to it.
Mastodon - The Hunter - 5 plays
Did not like this on first listen, but I'm starting to. The band went in a prog direction on the last album which I appreciated, so this seemed to simple at first. But after a few listens it seems solid, but I'll have to update this when I've heard it a bit more
Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will- 24 plays Earth Division - 4 plays
Mogwai are awesome, but this album has its challenging moments. After the last album being super awesome and purely instrumental, the return of a couple of tracks with cheesy synth vocals is not welcome by me. But in the days of ipods, I've replaced these two tracks with super awesome songs they inexplicably left off the album... and now they've released the earth division EP with more tracks they left off the album. Each better than the 2 tracks I cut. So I don't know what they were thinking, but in the end I've got an awesome album and EP to listen to so I can't complain.
Opeth - Heritage - 4 plays
This album seems to have been the recipient of a lot of criticism. I've only heard it a few times, so I am yet to form opinions on any individual tracks - but the album sounds good to me. As always the death metal pussies cry when Opeth release somehting without growls, whereas I really don't give a crap. This time around, there is no death metal - just a lot of influence from 70s prog rock. and since I listen to so much 70s prog rock this is right up my street. So time will tell where this ranks in Opeth's awesome discography, but first impressions are positive for me.
Primus - Green Naugahyde - 4 plays
I've only heard this a few times so far, but I'm but sure what to think. After a long hiatus and countless average Les Claypool solo efforts, I'm still trying to determine if this sounds like Primus or just another solo album. I think its actually somewhere in between.
Pure Reason Revolution - Hammer And Anvil- 25 plays
I'm sure this album will divide fans. Their first album was spacey prog and was awesome. The second album was electronic and though I still grew to like it, it seemed everyone else absolutely hated it. This one is somewhere in between - and its definitely going to deter pople early since the first song blows. But it definitely has some great moments and is a step up from the second album, but I'm not sure if they'll ever make another album in the same league as their first effort.
Riverside - Memories In My Head - 15 plays
It only feels like the last album just came out, but Riverside still managed to release a 3 track EP this year, despite there being 2 new Lunatic Soul albums within the last 12 or so months too. I guess Mariusz Duda is a busy man. Asking my opinion on any Riverside release is always going to give you a biased answer - they can't do anything wrong in my opinion. They could release a album of Nickelback covers and they could still make it sound good - which would be an amazing achievement since eating my own shit would be more appealing than listening to Nickelback. So - this EP probably won't blow you away - its not like its going to beat out Second Life Syndrome, but I still think its awesome.
Steve Hackett - Beyond the Shrouded Horizon - 3 plays
I only just started listening to this one, but I'm already a fan. I think it is safe to say that Steve has had the best solo career out of anyone from Genesis (Anothny Phiilips come in at second - could be first but has a few unlisteneable releases, Peter Gabriel comes in third). Age doesn't seem to deter Steve - he seems to become a more competent vocalist with each album he releases, and he's still one of my favourite guitarists - this is the guy who essentially introduced the finger tapping technique into progressive music which has influenced essentially every prog metal band around today - and the next guy on this list.
Steven Wilson - Grace for Drowning - 3 plays
Again, only just got this, but its already got a lot of album iof the year potential. Honestly, his solo albums aren't much different to Porcupine Tree - but I actually feel he's saving some of his best material for his solo releases. I already like this more than The Incident. Its strange - as much as I like Porcupine Tree, every single album has a couple of tracks that I seem to heavily criticize, and because of that I've never established a definitive favourite album (maybe Lightbulb Sun, but I'm really not sure) - whereas both his solo albums I really like every minute of. Another nice bonus here is Steve Hackett featuring on Remainder The Black Dog - though you may not have noticed if I didn't tell you since Wilson plays a lot like Hackett anyways.
Albums I haven't yet checked out that will be on this list if I ever update it:
65daysofstatic - Silent Running
Between the Buried and Me - Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues
East Of The Wall - Apologist
Lunatic Soul - Impressions
Van Der Graaf Generator - whatever their album was called
Bands I still plan on checking out that released material:
Animals as Leaders
And now for the most imporant list.......
Albums I listened to the most in 2011 - no matter what year they came out:
10. Explosions in the Sky- Take Care, Take Care, Take Care - 54 plays
9. 65daysofstatic - Heavy Sky- 56 plays
8. East Of The Wall - Ressentiment - 57 plays
7. Blackwaves - 0130 - 60 plays
6. 65daysofstatic - We Were Exploding Anyway- 60 plays
5. Don Caballero - For Respect- 61 plays
4. Jethro Tull - A Passion Play - 61 plays
3. The Evpatoria Report - The Evpatoria Report - 62 plays
2. Jakob - Subset of Sets - 64 plays
1. The Evpatoria Report - Golevka - 66 plays