5 Blood Pressures – The Kills
Let’s not forget our female power punk favorite Alison Mosshart, the vocalist to our heartthrob rock guitarist Jamie Hince. Together, the duo form the half American half British band The Kills, Blood Pressures, while not a musical deviation from their previous records, is definitely a blood-pressure-rising rock album. Opening track “Future Starts so Slow” is the best track on the album, rivaled by final track “Pots and Pans.” It sets the bar high, but Blood Pressures never fails, and the album follows suit. With their unique vocal combination (harmonizing brilliantly between Mosshart’s distinct female voice, and Hince’s apathetic masculine one), Blood Pressures stands out amongst other similar “rock music” releases. The slow, steady rhythm of “Satellite” leaves you begging for more, which The Kills deliver. “Wild Charms” is an interesting change up from the typical Kills sound of hard and heavy, to a more airy song. But don’t be fooled – the next track “DNA” is a quick return to that heavy sound we love so much. The esoteric lyrics of “Baby Says”, followed by hard-hitting “You Don’t Own The Road” show the range of The Kills’ lyrical abilities. And finally, Pots and Pans like the last chapter of a book you just don’t want to stop reading. The Kills unique sound is louder than ever on Blood Pressures. Listening is believing, and once you’ve heard Blood Pressures, you’ll be a devout fan – I guarantee it.
4 Suck it and See – Arctic Monkeys
If only for the fact that the album cover was censored in some American stores, Suck it and See rightfully earns a place on the top five albums of 2011. British indie rock group Arctic Monkeys soared to fame via the internet (how 2011 of them), but also represented a well needed return to the post-punk rock scene of the UK (how… un-2011 of them…) making them a strange musical beast. The Arcitc Monkey’s fourth album, Suck it and See, has a Smiths-esque melancholy, with the upbeat punk-ish guitars of their English predecessors. “She’s Thunderstorms” is the perfect song for that rainy afternoon, relaxing in bed and drinking tea (oh you indie girl, you). As such, upbeat opening licks of “Black Treacle” are a great delight to hear. The album continues in this vein (climaxing at the awe-inspiring 5th track “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair), upbeat yet melancholy – a unique balance that’s hard to strike, yet done brilliantly by the Arctic Monkeys.
3 Angles – The Strokes
Yes, The Strokes are still around. After their explosive success in the earlier part of the decade, The Strokes came back to release an album that seemed completely innovative. Julian Casablancas’ distinct vocal style, with The Strokes’ uniquely sharp guitar, makes Angles somehow completely new, while being completely obviously The Strokes. From “Machu Pichu” to “Life is Simple in the Moonlight,” Angles is a refreshing break from the electronic-drowned music market that existed in 2011, while still having relevance to the decade. Hopefully all the internal Strokes’ drama will subside, and more albums will follow. 2012 could definitely use an injection of something like Angles; pure, well-crafted, frantic musical energy.
2 Wasting Light – Foo Fighters
Apparently, 2011 didn’t quite forget how to rock – and that’s all thanks to Grohl & Co.’s, seventh studio success, Wasting Light. Hey, it won a Grammy for a reason, right? Technically, the album is a return to basics – crafted in Grohl’s garage, supervised by producer Butch Vig (of Nevermind’s success), Wasting Light was created in direct opposition to everything 2011 had become. The opening track, “Bridge Burning,” is enough to make you jump out of your seat and throw your body around. Grammy winning “Rope” is another solid rock song, followed by exceptionally deep “Dear Rosemary,” with hauntingly deep backing vocals provided by Husker Du’s Bob Mould. The album flows heavily and aggressively through to next mile marker “Arlandria,” which combines a bittersweet sadness with that classic grunge theme of leaving behind the generation of one’s parents. Heart wrenching penultimate track “I Should Have Known” is about all the people loved and lost, a song anyone can take to heart. And, of course, there’s the comical “Walk,” whose video is four-plus minutes of hilarity, but whose message is exactly what Grohl & co.’s mantra seems to be – always learning to walk, never stopping. And hopefully they continue to provide us with hardcore rocking material that will always be meaningful and, well, damn good.
1 The King of Limbs – Radiohead
Proving time and time again that their music is king, Radiohead’s The King of Limbs is the best album to come out of the past year. Their 8th studio album, The King of Limbs is a deviation from the typical rock guitar of their previous record, In Rainbows (also an amazing musical feat). Opening track “Bloom” sounds just like that – a spontaneous bloom of electropsychedelic music accompanied by Yorke’s eerie voice, winding its way around the words. And let us not forget the video for “Lotus Flower,” with Yorke’s loose-limbed-robot like dancing that you couldn’t help but fall in love with (and relate to, on some weird level, even if you don’t know what you’re relating to). It represented the feel of the album to a T – an ease, a flow, while still feeling spontaneous and full of energy (a hard balance to strike). The soft acoustic tone of “Give Up The Ghost” shows Radiohead hasn’t lost their knack for beautiful guitar music. Overall, The King of Limbs sounds fresh and new with each listen, and the band’s innovation does not cease to amaze.
There are three things this list proves – one: truly solid bands will have longevity and relevance throughout time; two: don’t count out the underdog; and three: just because a band is the new kid on the block, don’t underestimate their power. But moreover, the list shows that solid music will always triumph (even in a world filled with YouTube videos about cats).