Best Albums of the Year (No Order)
The Wonder Years - The Upsides: I know I said that this list is in no order, but this is the first album listed for a reason. There hasn't been an album that I've listened to so far (in my lifetime) that has helped/affected me as much as this album has. Whether it was serious obstacles such as my parents' divorce or my mother's breast cancer, or even minor obstacles like some last minute homework or just having a shitty day; this album has gotten me through it all. I feel like I can relate to each song, even if it's on a minor level. It's hard to describe this album in words, it might be easier to describe in feelings. Whether, it's happiness, sadness, anger, or love, this album covers it all in only 53 minutes (including the B-side and the deluxe tracks). Key Tracks: "Leavenhouse. 11:30," "I Was Scared & I'm Sorry," "Hostels & Brothels," "Washington Square Park," and "It's Never Sunny in South Philadelphia."
Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: Kanye West disgusts a lot of people: George Bush supporters, Taylor Swift supporters, hell, even Barack Obama called him a jackass, but West knows this: "Lost in translation with a whole fucking nation, they say I was the abomination of Obama's nation, well that's a pretty bad way to start a conversation." And while West is certainly good at being an asshole, he's also pretty good at making music. Using everybody from Nicki Minaj to Bon Iver to RZA, West has put out 13 songs, topping out just over an hour. The beats are fresh, the guests are fantastic (see Minaj's verse on "Monster"), and West's lyrics are as cocky as always: "My presence is a present, kiss my ass." West has released one of the better albums, when all hope was lost on him. Key Tracks: "Power," "Lost in the World (ft. Bon Iver)," and "Monster (ft. Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, and Bon Iver)"
Sleigh Bells - Treats: This music is fun, and dance-y, and just an all around good time. It's catchy as fuck, and I don't even know what the girl is saying half the time. I enjoy immensely, and I still don't even know what it is. Major thanks to Nick Luce and Pat Monahan for telling me to get into it. Key Tracks: "Kids," "Crown on the Ground," and "A/B Machines."
Hellogoodbye - Would It Kill You?: When you originally start with this album and "Finding Something to Do" starts, you probably immediately think that someone has kidnapped the Hellogoodbye of older years and replaced them with a band that is actually talented. Well, you're wrong, it's the same band. The irritating synth and autotuned vocals have been replaced by catchy hand claps and Forrest Kline's soothing voice. Hellogoodbye is still pop, but it's good pop, as they have definitely released the best pop album of 2010 with their sophomore effort. Key Tracks: "Finding Something to Do," "Coppertone," and "The Thoughts that Give Me the Creeps."
Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz: This album came out of nowhere. With almost no anticipation, publicity, or hype, Sufjan Stevens released the All Delighted People EP and the Age of Adz within two months of each other. The latter being the weirdest album Stevens has ever released (yes, this includes Enjoy Your Rabbit), with Stevens trading his fantastic voice and Bible-influenced lyrics for autotuned vocals (see the majority of "Impossible Soul) and some odd lyrics (see "I Want to Be Well"). Stevens is no longer folk's golden child, but is instead proving that he isn't "fucking around" and wants to make a name for himself in music, not a name for himself in his genre. Key Tracks: "Impossible Soul," "Too Much," and "Get Real Get Right."
Motion City Soundtrack - My Dinosaur Life: When Even If It Kills Me came out in 2007, I seriously believed that Motion City Soundtrack had peaked at Commit This to Memory. Thankfully, when My Dinosaur Life came out in January, Justin Pierre and company proved me wrong with bringing me back to the CTTM and I am the Movie days. From a song about past relationships ("Her Words Destroyed My Planet") to a song about drugs ("Delirium"), Pierre's lyrics are still as personal as always: "I sent you a postcard but the post office sent it back, they said the building's been torn down, I just miss what I thought we both had." And, of course, Motion City Soundtrack know how to end an album (if "A-OK' and "Hold Me Down" are any indication) and they certainly don't disappoint with "The Weakends," finishing their fourth album on an extremely high note. Key Tracks: "Her Words Destroyed My Planet," "Hysteria," and "The Weakends."
Tigers Jaw - Two Worlds: When your debut album is as good as Tigers Jaw's self-titled, it's kind of hard to not have a sophomore slump. Fortunately, Tigers Jaw is still making good music, it just takes FOREVER to get into. Really though, it took more than ten listens of this album to get into it. While the lyrics are still fantastic, and the musicianship is as interesting as their past releases, the album really is way too short. Clocking in 11 songs at 27 minutes, with every song (except two) being 2:35 or less, the length of this album is really the only problem. Key Tracks: "Smile," "Static," and "I Saw the Wolf."
Titus Andronicus - The Monitor: A civil war concept album is kind of ridiculous. Yet, Titus Andronicus makes it work and does a great job with it. Sounding like Conor Oberst fronting a punk band (yes, I know about Desaparecidos), Titus Andronicus puts out ten songs rounding out an hour of just great rock 'n' roll. Problem with this album is that it also took multiple listens to get into, but it is worth the multiple listens. Key Tracks: "A More Perfect Union," "Richard II," and "The Battle of Hampton Roads."
Everyone Everywhere - S/T: There's not much to say about this album, it's just good. It's extremely accessible, the instrumentals are great, and it's awesome to listen to late at night. The lyrics read like they're out of a five year old's journal at times, but the musicianship makes up for it. Key Tracks: "Raw Bar OBX 2002," "Music Work Paper Work," and all of the "Tiny _____" songs.
I don't know how to round this list out. It could be We Are the Union's Great Leaps Forward, Girl Talk's All Day, Koji's Spring Songs Vol. 1, or Transit's Keep This to Yourself. They're all great albums (as are the rest of the albums on this list) and I highly recommend checking them all out. OH. Also, Gold Motel's Summer House.
The Best Album Nobody Praised: This is Me Smiling's Only Uphill. This album is fun, it's catchy, it's great piano pop and they don't get any credit for it. Everybody forgot about them since it's been almost five years since their debut. RIYL: the hush sound, gold motel, just fun catchy music. JUST GET IT. Really. It's free here: http://www.smilingmusic.com/
Best EPs of the Year (No Order):
Stay Ahead of the Weather - We Better Get Goin' If We're Gonna: Stay Ahead of the Weather is part Into It. Over It, part CSTVT, and two parts of people I don't know. And, together, they put out a fantastic five song EP/7". With witty lyrics: "What makes girls your age skip the interesting stage of carrying a common conversation." ("Sorority Social Suicide") and catchy instrumentals. I've been told that they sound like a little faster/heavier Into It. Over It full band songs. Key Tracks: "Get Old or Die Tryin'," "Impressions & Impressing People," and "Butchering a Back Catalog."
Merchant Ships - For Cameron EP: I've never been into Skramz ("real screamo"), but after having this band shoved down my throat by a friend of mine (hey kbarr) I decided to check them out. And, I'm thankful I did, this band bleeds emotion. Just some kids from Indiana, maybe a year or two older than me, that wrote six songs about family, girls, friends, and touring: "This song's for you, this song's for moving on. This song's for all our friends, who've been there all along." Key Tracks: "Dying," "Sleep Patterns," and "Something That Matters." DOWNLOAD FOR FREE HERE: http://www.myspace.com/merchantships
The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Formlessness: You know how sometimes bands come up with really long names and they're really cool names but the band has nothing else going for them? Yeah, The World is Beautiful Place (to abbreviate) are not one of those bands. Making really spacey post-rock/whatever genre, the music is powerful, and they manage to throw some screams and group vocals in their songs without ruining the songs. In fact, these screams make the songs ever better. Key Tracks: "Victim Kin Seek Suit," "Walnut Street is Dead (Long Live Walnut Street)," and "Eyjafjallajokull Dance."
The Best EP that Nobody Praised: Run For It's We've Got the High Ground. Harleysville pop-punk. Yeah, I said Harleysville, so what? Haha. Alright, Run For It is Tony Connor's (of now defunct Bangarang!) new project. And, to be honest, it's like a not-as-good version of Bangarang! Obviously, Bangarang! is fantastic, but Run For It isn't bad by any means. Just check it out. RIYL: bangarang!, heavy pop-punk. Get it here: http://stereokiller.com/bands/bands.cfm?id=55214
The Best Albums I Got Into this Year that didn't Come Out This Year:
1. The Get Up Kids - Something to Write Home About
2. Bangarang! - Frozen Over, First in Line
3. The Wonder Years - Won't Be Pathetic Forever
4. Title Fight - The Last Thing You Forget
5. Nujabes - Metaphorical Music
Top Artists in 2010 (according to Last.fm):
1. The Wonder Years (2,555 plays) Just for shits and giggles, that's an average of 7 plays a day.
2. Bangarang! (1,050 plays)
3. Four Year Strong (627 plays)
4. Man Overboard (595 plays)
5. Set Your Goals (551 plays)
6. Tigers Jaw (366 plays)
7. Streetlight Manifesto (364 plays)
8. Motion City Soundtrack (353 plays)
9. Title Fight (304 plays)
10. Nujabes (264 plays)
The Best Shows I Went To This Year (In Order):
The Wonder Years/Bangarang!/Leavenworth/Ancestor/Rough Justice (Mike Pelone Memorial Show) @ Lansdale VFW: The most emotional show I have ever been to. I actually cried during the Wonder Years set. For a full review, click the link: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=464791531881
Snowing/CSTVT/Stay Ahead of the Weather/The World is a Beautiful Place.../Everyone Everywhere @ The Fire: So many good bands on this show. Everybody sounded "so tight," and the bands were all great guys. Soupy (of the Wonder Years) sang a verse off of SAOTW's "Sorority Social Suicide" and was up front for their whole set which was really cool to see. The World is a Beautiful Place put on a great great set, really great live, as did Everyone Everywhere. I don't know any CSTVT songs, and people went buckwild for Snowing.
Streetlight Manifesto/The Supervillains/The Wonder Years/Dan Potthast @ The TLA: This was an all around great line-up. Dan Potthast is fucking hilarious, keeping the crowd involved and laughing despite most of us (including me) not knowing any of the words to his songs. The Wonder Years put on a great set, as always, and it was pretty cool to get the mic in my face during "When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong." The Supervillains were pretty funny, and put on a great show, including a huge skanking pit. Seeing Streetlight Manifesto live should be on your bucket list, they're better (in my opinion) than they are in the studio. Everything is spot on, and their encore was the best I've ever seen: "Linoleum (Acoustic NOFX Cover)," "Sick and Sad (Acoustic)," "1234 1234," and "the Big Sleep." The show in Lancaster was great as well. If you missed this tour, you missed out.
Motion City Soundtrack/Say Anything/Saves the Day/A Great Big Pile of Leaves @ the Electric Factory: A Great Big Pile of Leaves honestly put on a better show than Saves the Day. Saves the Day I found a little boring, but then again that could be because I know only two of their songs. Say Anything was great, but it seemed like everything was kind of choreographed, and the fact that they didn't play "Plea" despite having Kenny Vasoli as the bassist while playing in Philadelphia was kind of ridiculous. Hearing "Crawl" live was pretty cool, but they played some songs that should never be in their live set. And, I saw some kids two-stepping during "She Won't Follow You" so that was lame. Motion City Soundtrack put on a great show, as always. Justin Pierre is one of the strangest/most fun people to see live. And, the pit was seriously so fun, everybody's just screwing around having a good time. It was just awesome. Seeing Motion City Soundtrack live should also be on your bucket list.
The Wonder Years/Man Overboard/Balance and Composure/I Call Fives/Bright and Early/Lions Lions @ the Starlight Ballroom: Every band put on a great show, and this was the first time I ever saw the Wonder Years. It was truly awesome.
HONORABLE MENTION: Lost Tape Collective Holiday Show (Fireworks, The Sad Boys, Man Overboard, Vinnie Caruana, Balance and Composure, Transit, Hostage Calm): Really, even though I sound like a bitch, if there weren't so many HXC tough dudes in the pit, and people stage diving with their legs flailing all over and kicking people. This would be way way way higher.
Best TV Shows of the year:
1. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
2. Law and Order: SVU
The Only Good TV Show on the E! Network This Year: The Soup
Best Movies of the Year:
2. The Fighter
3. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
4. Toy Story 3
5. It's Kind of a Funny Story/Date Night
NOTICE: I didn't see every film that came out this year. So please don't castrate me because I don't have Black Swan or True Grit or some other great film.
Most Anticipated Albums of 2011:
1. The Wonder Years
2. Title Fight
3. Small Leaks Sink Ships
4. Death Cab for Cutie
5. Lupe Fiasco
as well as many many more.