2011 came and went and didn’t really leave much of a mark on the music industry. Sure, there were great singles, but that’s about it. And that’s the problem. The music business has turned into a single-oriented society. No one buys whole albums anymore. Physical CDs? What’s the point? We’re an entitled society who downloads tunes for free at the bands’ expense. (If you’re going to download illegally, at least have some intention of buying the album at some point in the future.) I advocate freedom on the internet to have that material there, but I also support the bands. If I download something and like it, I’ll go out and buy it…
Sorry to say, there’s not much of that this year. Hell, Seether’s latest release had to compete with Kidz Bop and Lady Gaga. No contest, one would think. But it’s not so. However, this year hasn’t been a complete waste. Here are the albums that I think were outstanding this year listed in no specific order:
Seether – Holding Onto Strings Better Left To Fray
Seether’s album names just keep getting longer! And their records keep getting… better? No, that’s not the word I’m looking for. Every one of their albums is great in their own respect. It’s different. It’s the next chapter in the Seether saga. Guitarist Troy McLawhorn brought something to the table that changed the way the songs sounded. Producer Brendan O’Brien helped buffer the band and their label to create the best album possible with the writing process that took over a year. Starting out with the heavy-hitting ‘Fur Cue,’ the album progresses through the process of trying to let go of things in life that seek to pull you under. My personal favorites were the almost-happy ‘Tonight’ and the mourning ‘Forsaken.’ If you purchased the deluxe edition, you were privileged to four B-sides that didn’t make the album, the best of which being a song called ‘Yeah,’ inspired by a Dylan Thomas poem. Holding Onto Strings Better Left To Fray is a definite must-have for fans of rock music. Those who said, “Seether lost it” with Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces should be able to find their way back to the fold if they happened to stray.
Cold – Superfiction
For all the Cold fans who cried when they heard that the band had broken up in 2006 (myself included), Cold is back and stronger than ever. Their latest album brings back a certain vibe that their 1998 self-titled release had. Scooter began writing “epic” tales through music, everything from kings and witches to Spiderman. The album starts out strong with ‘Wicked World,’ which I personally believe is the best-mixed song this year. There is so much going on in that one song, you have to keep listening to it to discover the depth to it. The song ‘Crossroads’ talks about a musician selling his soul to the devil, but the devil takes pity on the man and releases him from his contract. ‘Flight Of The Superstar’ recreates a little bit of The Killer And The Star with a light, atmospheric flow. Sam McCandless’s drumming on Superfiction is phenomenal. Now it’s just up to fans to get the music to radio stations contented with playing mainstream hits.
Staind – Staind
The pressure of writing their latest release was enough to cause drummer Jon Wysocki to leave the band. Everyone in the studio was pissed-off; deadlines were crunched; the album threatened the very existence of Staind. And it shows on the record. While Staind doesn’t completely bring back the rawness that existed on Tormented or Dysfunction, there’s a certain heaviness that makes one wonder what the band had to go through during the writing process to bring out that much anger. Squealing guitars, pounding basslines, and vocals that transform from a whisper to a full-on roar, that’s what you can expect. The album has already spawned several chart-topping singles, managed a song on the Transformer’s soundtrack, and no doubt caused several apartment residents to get evicted for blaring the album at full blast.
Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
I’m not going to lie; I’ve never been able to get completely through a Foo Fighters album. They’re an amazing band, but usually not with albums that captivate me all the way. Wasting Light was a stellar album that made me find new appreciation for their older releases. I had to go back and listen to hear if I had missed something. And I made it all the way through Wasting Light on the first listen. The album starts strong and ends strong. Rope’s off-tempo guitar intro intrigued me. The haunting ‘I Should Have Known’ laments about Dave Grohl’s previous relationships, touching on the tragic death of Kurt Cobain. It also featured original Nirvana bassist, Krist Novoselic. ‘Walk’ and its buildup complimented the preceding songs, and was an excellent way to end Wasting Light.
Chevelle – Hats Off To The Bull
A little bit Vena Sera, a little bit Sci-fi Crimes, and a little bit Point #1, Chevelle managed to meld their sound into something interesting and new. The guitar groove on ‘Same Old Trip’ has this energetic buildup. The repetitive ‘Face To The Floor’ screams volumes about corporate executive on Wall Street screwing people. ‘Pinata’ shows a different side of the hard-rocking band we’ve always known; the tempo changes evoke a sense of madness spiraling downward. Chevelle has done it again with yet another successful release. It’s the same Chevelle I grew up loving, just a different flavor.
Crossfade – We All Bleed
After being out of the scene for several years and leaving their label, Crossfade came back with an album completely different from anything they’ve done before. Some songs hint at styles from earlier CDs, but it’s completely new and refreshing. ‘Killing Me Inside’ and ‘Dead Memories’ show their heavier approach. ‘Prove You Wrong’ is arguably their most original song on We All Bleed, verses propelled by electronic samples and reverb. Ed Sloan slows things down with ‘Dear Cocaine,’ written for friends he’d seen lose control in their life because of substance abuse. A ballad of sadness, Sloan emotes the experience of a cocaine high through music, abruptly going into minor key changes and absences of instrumentation. Listeners won’t know what to expect, since Crossfade doesn’t follow the verse-chorus-verse format for every song. With several change-ups, expect to feel the emotions the band intended listeners to experience.
Egypt Central – White Rabbit
A little-known band where I live since they don’t get any airplay, Egypt Central is a worthy contender for radio stations. I was driving to my Uncle’s house in Wisconsin when ‘White Rabbit’ came on Madison’s rock station. I was pleasantly surprised to hear a song that didn’t reinvent the wheel, but brought a dimension back to straight-forward rock. They’re like a heavier version of The Exies. They know when to go balls-to-the-walls with a song, and when to hold off depending on what the song needs. ‘Ghost Town’ has gets quiet with a piano verse and builds up to the slow-burn chorus. Check them out… like now!
Then there were bands with albums I’ve only heard parts of. But judging by the little I’ve heard, they’re sure to be just as successful. For your listening pleasure…
Bush – Sea Of Memories
Nickelback – Here And Now
Blue October – Any Man In America