2011 has been quite a year. We've seen some newer faces from the past couple of years set a new bar for a new decade to come. Some of our heroes from the last decade have decided to take a current hiatus at the present time, but luckily left us with their best work to date before they left. More so than who has come up and who has fallen, a lot more was stirring up in music worth mentioning. Here are five of my favorite things that were great about 2011's contribution to music as a whole, and how I hope that spirit continues into 2012.
1) Wall of Sound --- 2011 was a loud year. If you were into rock and roll or metal or sludge or punk or hardcore or this "dub" music kids are enjoying these days, your ears were probably tingling the next morning. Whether it was the fury of O'Brother's Garden Window, the landscape of Russian Circles' Empros or the way Cave In proved their naysayers wrong (again) - 2011 showed that rock's stagnant state of lackluster radio hits and underground drop-A festivals could be drowned out by the intricacies, beauty and ferocious behavior of so many instruments delicately layered one on top of each other. I know of a few bands hoping to achieve that again this year. If you want to rock in 2012, the bar has been set to get beautifully loud or get the fuck out!
2) Alternative Throwback --- For a minute there you were, either a pop-punk band or a metalcore band. There wasn't much in between for some of us to sift through. Thanks to bands like Sainthood Reps, Balance and Composure and Seahaven, bands are harboring their love of the alternative grunge many of us grew up on before we even knew what punk or a Ramone was for that matter. It's a direction only a few have taken within our particular music scene at the moment, but I think we could see a lot of bands delving back into a landscape of music some of us became a little too cool for when we began to say we were always "punk" since buying that Sex Pistols shirt at Target.
3) Community --- This is huge. After SXSW, I knew something this big was happening again. The punk and hardcore scene is brewing itself into a well fashioned small town of local business that continue to support each other. To me, there isn't "just one" label doing better than all the others. There are a quite a few labels working to build their own business of well rounded musical output. It's a beautiful thing I haven't seen in some years, but has been building up to this moment. Even if you don't trust publications to tell you who the next big thing will be (I mean, I wouldn't trust me), there is always the direct support of a band you like, or skimming other artists from their respective labels as well. This makes me feel like I'm 16 again. Let's just hope we don't have another Drive-Thru on our hands…or a Victory to come.
4) Splits --- Remember these? They came back bigger than ever in 2011, and even 2012 for that matter. I guess with the resurgence of vinyl the past couple of years, it only helped to get a couple of records with either two of your favorite bands, or a favorite and a new one to discover. This kind of harbors back onto the "community" point I just made, but I hope 2012 turns out a lot more splits between some up-and-coming bands. Honestly, I love finding good splits in the vinyl section rather than an old record with a few good songs and filler.
5) Solid Tours --- This is the biggest one I've been dwelling on. Young Widows and My Disco, Touche Amore and Pianos Become the Teeth, the Thrice fall tour and even being able to see Boris, Deafheaven, Tera Melos, Russian Circles in one night - these are the kind of bills that make me excited to go to a show and not have to "sit through" a bunch of bands I could do without. I know bands sometimes don't get a "bid" for certain tours, but I hope booking agencies are looking to put together the best packages to showcase real talent and forward-thinking, instead of making an extra buck here and there. Good music will thrive, people will always go to shows and its some of the best concerts I've seen stacked this year that makes me think there are a few booking agents out there with the best intentions for music. Then again, music is subjective, and maybe that Of Mice and Men headline tour was a good idea to someone.