1. Tenement - Napalm Dream (Mandible)
2. Samiam - Trips (Hopeless)
3. Banner Pilot - Heart Beats Pacific (Fat Wreck)
6. Night Birds - The Other Side of Darkness (Grave Mistake)
"What the fuck, another east coast band on your top whatever list," you say? "Yes." Night Birds is awesome - no one can argue with that (they can try). After releasing a bunch of 7''s and EPs and shit over the last few years, they finally released a much-anticipated full-length. Before this, we had to hold ourselves over two or four songs at a time. The band re-recorded two songs from their demo CD-R, "I Can't Get Clean" and "Paranoid Times." There's also a song about the movie They Live called "Hofmann Lens." It rules and so does all 22 minutes of this record. Check out our full review of The Other Side of Darkness here, and other reviews of their stuffhere.
TOP TRACKS: "Born of Man and Woman," "Demon Haunted World" and "Hofmann Lens."
7. Sundials - Never Settle (Toxic Pop)
Sundials was another new band to my ears this year. A great indie/punk band from Richmond, Virginia, Sundials sings from the heart and captivates its listeners. Much recommended. Check out our review of Never Settle here, and our interview with the band from earlier this yearhere.
TOP TRACKS: "Take You In My Coffee," "Either Way" and "Probably Not."
The Copyrights are one of my favorite bands, and it used to be they'd release a full-length every year. But it's been three years since Learn the Hard Way's release. The band took its time on this one, and recorded it at Atlas Studios in Chicago with Matt Allison. They went all out and added keyboards and a couple other things they haven't introduced to us yet. I love this album, and the band's Crutches 7'' is a great accompanying release. Check out our interview with Luke McNeill (drums) from earlier this year here.
TOP TRACKS: "Bow Down," "20 Feet Tall" and "Never Move Your Back Row."
9. Deep Sleep - Turn Me Off (Grave Mistake)
Deep Sleep is one of the only current hardcore bands I listen to, as I'm not much a fan of modern hardcore, but this band gets it. It's not just screaming and yelling and blind agression; there's a point to the songs, and that's key. Like Night Birds, Deep Sleep has released a handful of 7''s and a collection album before releasing a proper full-length. All 13 minutes of this album is filled with intense, urgent and great hardcore. Check out our review of Three Things At Once here.
TOP TRACKS: "Slow Down," "Be With You" and "Head Spins."
10. Noise By Numbers - Over Leavitt (Jump Start)
Noise By Numbers released one of my favorite albums a couple years ago and now they've released another one, along the same vein of heartfelt, geocentric songs by beloved Chicago punk musicians. I am a huge fan of this album, though I'm not sure it tops Yeah...Whatever. Check out our review of Over Leavitt here, and one I did for Jaded In Chicago here.
TOP TRACKS: "Lost My Way," "I Don't Think So" and "Over Leavitt."
11. Lemuria - Pebble (Bridge 9)
Lemuria is an awesome indie/pop/punk band from Buffalo, NY. Sheena Ozzella (guitar) has a higher, vulnerable voice and she switches lead vocals with Alex Kerns (drums), who has a lower, more monotoned voice. They compliment each other wonderfully and the catchy tunes on this album will resonate with you for a long time. I've been playing this with the band's entire back catalog for weeks. Their most recent DIY space show in Chicago was incredible and I can't wait to see them again.
TOP TRACKS: "Chautauqua County," "Pleaser" and "The One."
12. Underground Railroad To Candyland - Knows Your Sins (Recess)
Underground Railroad To Candyland is one of the most fun bands to see live. I was lucky to catch them at Schuba's this year with Screaming Females and Treasure Fleet (though it took me three hours to get there). I can't say enough good things about URTC. Check out our review of Knows Your Sins here, and at the Elgin Courier-News here.
TOP TRACKS: "We Aren't the World," "And You Think You Can Tame Me" and "Stop Cryin' Kid."
Stream Knows Your Sins here.
13. Spraynard - Funtitled (Asian Man)
Spraynard is a great young band from Pennsylvania. Its posi-punk, anthemic songs are nicely-layered, especially for a three-piece. I was fortunate enough to catch them twice in San Francisco this year as part of the AMR 15-year anniversary festival, and see their raw talent and emotion come through with the songs. Spraynard is a great contrast to a lot of the more negative or otherwise nihilistic punk rock songs out there. Check out our review of this year's Broadways reunion show featuring Spraynard here.
TOP TRACKS: "The Denver Broncos vs. The Denver Broncos," "Homies Where the Heart Is" and "Quite Exciting, This Computer Magic."
Download and donate here.
14. Kepi Ghoulie - I Bleed Rock 'N' Roll (Asian Man)
KEPI!! What a pleasant surprise this album was. Kepi keeps it Kepi-esque while switching it up a little bit, introducing more rock 'n' roll riffage and energy. The dude is a machine. I love this album, and wrote some reviews for it. Check it out, and give this one a listen - one of Asian Man's best releases this year!
Check out our review of I Bleed Rock 'N' Roll here, and over at Jaded In Chicago.
TOP TRACKS: "The Fever," "Nikki Lee" and "I Bleed Rock 'N' Roll."
Stream I Bleed Rock 'N' Roll here.
15. The Dead Milkmen - The King In Yellow (Self-released)
It's been too long since the Dead Milkmen released a proper full-length, and holy crap! We have a new one! The band put it out themselves, and are selling CDs and digital versions of the songs on its website. The songs are funny, satirical, serious and cynical. They don't skimp out either with 17 new songs on this one.
TOP TRACKS: "Meaningless Upbeat Happy Song," "Passport To Depravity" and "Or Maybe It Is."
Preview the album here.
16. Brick Mower - Under the Sink (Viking On Campus/Stumparumper)
Brick Mower is a three-piece from NJ, heavily influenced by grunge and punk. I was lucky enough to meet these guys (and girl) this summer while they were on tour with Black Wine (NJ). The bands stayed at my house in Elgin and played the Gasthaus, and then Chicago the next day. Those two days were absolutely packed with fun, and I'm happy to have been introduced to these guys. Their music is straightforward and raw. This album gets better the more you listen to it.
TOP TRACKS: "Tuxedo Bitch," "Slow Too Fast" and "Weaving."
17. The Gateway District - Perfect's Gonna Fail (It's Alive)
Minnepolis's Gateway District is a fun band. Their first album, Some Days You Get the Thunder was amazing, and this follow-up album carries the rock. This album is upbeat and fun and one of my favorite It's Alive releases of the year.
TOP TRACKS: "Leaving Me Behind," "Waiting For the Sirens" and "I'll Take the River."
18. Dan Andriano In the Emergency Room - Hurricane Season (Asian Man)
One of my all-time favorite songwriters. Dan Andriano gushes with honesty and raw emotion. This record starts off pretty melancholy but by the end, the sun's out. Check out our blurb about Dan here.
TOP TRACKS: "Let Me In," "It's Gonna Rain All Day" and "Me and Denver."
Check out a track-by-track article on the album here.
19. Face To Face - Laugh Now, Laugh Later (Antagonist)
Face To Face was one of my first favorite punk bands in high school, and this is their first new album since 2002's How To Ruin Everything. Seeing them with Strung Out this year was amazing, as it was my first time. This album is upbeat, and just as awesome as anything else they've done (OK, not anything, but still...for 9 years of breakage, this album rules). The bass line on "What You Came For" is the best part of the entire album. Check out our blurb aboutLaugh Now, Laugh Later here.
TOP TRACKS: "What You Came For," "It's Not All About You" and "Should Anything Go Wrong."
20. Smoking Popes - This Is Only a Test (Asian Man)
One of my all-time favorite bands are The Popes. This Is Only a Test is the band's first new album since Stay Down was released in 2008. This album is great - as it is a concept album told from the perspective from a high school-aged male. Interesting and intriguing, but I felt it pigeonholed itself (just a little bit). This is a great record, and I look forward to the next Popes album.
TOP TRACKS: "Wish We Were," "Freakin' Out" and "Letter To Emily."
Stream the album here.
Top 7''s/Collections/EPs/Demos of 2011
Formerly released exclusively to cassette, I was happy this gem found a proper vinyl release. I know it's heavily Tenement, but they've been the band of the year over here. This collection of demos and other tracks is a great deviation from Napalm Dream. So much so that it quickly climbed to the top of my list.
TOP TRACKS: "Lost Love Star Lust," "Hey Soozie" and "(Messy Endings) In Middle America."
Not Like This was my favorite album last year. The split they did with Pacer, plus the Bikini Kill cover and European tour song are all packaged into one on this digital EP, which is nothing short of amazing. I can't wait till the second full-length release this year.
TOP TRACK: "Climate Is What We Expect, Weather Is What We Get."Toxic Pop)
The Taking Everything 7'' is an amazing follow-up to Napalm Dream. One catchy, hook-laded electric song, a slow one and another catchy slower one are on here with a bonus track called "Jesse's Poem." Check out our review of the Taking Everything 7'' here.
TOP TRACK: "Taking Everything."
4. Chixdiggit! - Safeways Here We Come LP (Fat Wreck)
Chixdiggit! is back with its first release since 2005's Pink Razors. This 12'' EP is seven songs long and just as tight and funny and amazing as their past stuff. The first song's about Miso Ramen (or is it?), and then KJ Jansen wrote some songs about hating on his friend's dog, stupid hairstyles, his disgust for basketball and so on. This release is awesome.
TOP TRACKS: "I Hate Basketball," "Swedish Rat" and "I Hope Things Will Turn Around."
Stream the EP here.
5. The Steinways - Promise It'll Never Happen Again LP (It's Alive)
This is one of the best pop punk bands ever. This LP is a collection of various 7''s the band released over the years (Rocket Surgery, the It's Alive Wedding split, the Peabodys split and more). There's a lot of great pop punk on this album. Makes me wish The Steinways were still a band. Check out our review of Gorilla Marketing here.
TOP TRACKS: "Always? Never!," "Headache-Girlfriend=Zero" and "I Shit (You Not)."
6. The Measure [sa] - My Heart and the Real World: Another Collection of Standard Waits and Measurements (No Idea)
The Measure [sa] broke up this year, playing its last show at Fest 10 in Gainesville, FL. The last few shows they've played, they were giving away a 7'' called Jersey's Best, and I was kind of disappointed those songs didn't make it on this collection LP. BUT, a whole bunch of the band's 7''s made it on here including its splits with The Ergs!, the Art of the Underground 7'' and many others. For someone like myself who hasn't tracked down and rounded out his Measure [sa] collection, this is perfect. Pre-orders from No Idea also came with a bonus 7'' with a song that also isn't on the collection (argh!) and some live songs from Fest 9. Awesome! I wish I had them digitized!
TOP TRACKS: "We've Upped Our Standards, Now Up Yours," "Remember the Devillock" and "Workage."
7. Night Birds - Fresh Kills, Vol. 1 (Grave Mistake)
Pre-dating The Other Side of Darkness came this release, a collection of the band's 7''s and EPs. It has everything TOSOD doesn't, and it's amazing. If you don't have all the other releases, I'd recommend picking this up.
8. Night Birds - Midnight Movies 7'' (No Way)
Night Birds released a collection CD this year, titled Fresh Kills, Vol. 1, which features theMidnight Movies songs, but before that came this 7''. Four fast, sick songs in 6 minutes. The artwork, by Mike Diana, is arguably the best part of this release. Research him if you're not familiar. Check out our review of the 7'' here.
TOP TRACK: "Midnight Movies."
9. Mikey Erg! - Heart-Shaped 12'' (Paper + Plastick)
Mikey Erg! is arguably the coolest dude ever. We got to hang a bunch in San Francisco this summer and around the country in some other parts this past year (NJ, Chicago, etc.). He's one of my favorite songwriters and can do no wrong by me. On Valentine's Day this year, Paper + Plastick released three colors (I have all of them!) of a two-song heart-shaped 12''. Both are catchy as fuck, and will resonate in your head for months (at least). Read some Mikey Erg!blurbage!
TOP TRACK: "Little Hands of Concrete."
Teenage Bottlerocket made my number 1 album of 2009 list, and now they've followed up with this 7'' titled, Mutilate Me. It's just enough to hold me over until new TBR songs come out. Word is, they're writing/recording for a new full-length. The two originals on this 7'' are amazing and they do a great cover of Bad Religion's "Henchmen" at the end. Check out our review of Mutilate Me here.
TOP TRACK: "Mutilate Me."
11. RVIVR - The Joester Sessions LP (Rumbletowne)
RVIVR is a band I got into post-Latterman and post-Shorebirds. I like them a lot more. They're proactive, gritty, bold and aren't afraid to speak their minds and shatter the status quo. This collection LP features the songs off the Life Moves 7'', the Dirty Water 12'' and the Derailer 7'', with a bonus song titled, "Elizabethan Collar." This is one is a fun one.
TOP TRACKS: "Seethin'," "Life Moves" and "Tallest Tree."
12. The Old Wives - Backed In a Corner EP (When's Lunch)
TOP TRACKS: "Backed In a Corner," "Heroes" and "Dix 1N1."
Stream the EP here.
So The Measure [sa]'s last show was at Fest 10 in October, and from the ashes, Lauren Measure, MIke Hunchback and two other dudes formed this band. It sounds very Measure-esque. The intros to the songs are all pretty similar; individual notes being plucked from chords, but the songs are great. Being I'm such a huge fan of The Measure [sa], I'm happy to hear Lauren's still making music. Check out our blurb on Worriers here.
TOP TRACK: "Past Lives."
14. Chris Wollard and Addison Burns - Lil' Bitta 7'' (No Idea)
Chris Wollard is one of my favorite songwriters, and since Hot Water Music's hiatus, he's been dabbling in his own solo material. He released a split with Mike Hale, Drag the River and a couple other 7''s before this one, where he teamed up with Addison Burns. This 7'' features four original tracks and is great folky, mellow tunes in the vein of Rumbleseat and The Draft. Can't wait till his next release.
TOP TRACK: "Lil' Bitta."
Listen to/watch songs from Lil' Bitta here.
15. The Bomb - The Challenger 11'' (No Idea)
The Bomb features Jeff Pezzati of Naked Raygun on vocals, Pete and Mike S. from The Methadones on bass and drums and Jeff Dean on guitar. You might call The Bomb a Chicago punk supergroup, and really, that's what they are. This 11'' from No Idea features four new ones and four live ones from the first two albums. A real treat.
TOP TRACKS: "Man...Atlanta," "Hey World" and "A Song For the Helenas (Alternate Take)."
Check it out here.
16. The Measure [sa] - Jersey's Best 7'' (Don Giovanni)
I missed their last two shows in NY and the Fest 10 final show, so I wasn't able to pick this 7'' up in person, but lucky for me, No Idea had extra copies and I was able to snag one. This is The Measure [sa]'s final recordings (to date), and it's awesome. I feel like The Measure [sa] is a band that improved with time, so they definitely went out on a high note with this one. The song "Jersey's Best" is nothing short of amazing. I love this 7''.
Check out our review of Notes here.
TOP TRACK: "Jersey's Best."
17. Latterman - Our Better Halves 7'' (Self-released)
Latterman did a reunion show not too long ago in New York, and the band pressed up a bunch of these one-sided 7''s featuring a song they recorded in 2007 called "Our Better Halves." It was the last song the band recorded together and it was never released before the band called it quits. This year, it saw the light at the reunion show. It sounds more up Iron Chic's alley to me, or RVIVR, but it's an amazing song. A little pricey for one song, but it's not like new Latterman material is going to be recorded again.
TOP TRACK (heh): "Our Better Halves."
18. RVIVR - Belebend 7'' (Yo-Yo)
RVIVR released this European-label-only 7'', which I hadn't heard of till just a few weeks ago. The songs are on YouTube, and the 7'' is available in distros/labels overseas, and it's awesome. I especially love "Wrong Way One Way," which I believe they played the last time they came through Chicago at that basement show. It sounded great, and I'm glad there's a studio version now. If some domestic distros pick this up, I'm going to snatch it.
TOP TRACK: "Wrong Way One Way."
Listen to "Wrong Way One Way" here.
19. Hot Water Music - The Fire, The Steel, The Tread 7'' (No Idea)
Hot Water Music hasn't released any new material since 2004's The New What Next (unless you count that Bouncing Souls cover), so this has been a long awaited and much anticipated release for me. They played Milwaukee, WI earlier this year and some friends and I drove up to catch them at this ballroom venue, and they were incredible. This 7'' is great, but not HWM's best stuff. Still, it's nice to hear new tunes, and I can't wait for the release of the 3xLP of the Live in Chicago stuff. I was at both those shows in Feb. 2008 and can't wait to hear how that came out. Hopefully they put out a full length soon.
TOP TRACK: "Up To Nothing."
The Copyrights released North Sentinel Island via It's Alive and Red Scare, and It's Alive pressed this 7'' to accompany it. It features "Crutches," from the record, a demo version of "Worn Out Passport," also from the record and two demos that didn't make the record. I'm glad The Copyrights went with the songs they did for the full length, but for any fan, this 7'' is an essential and fun release to have.
TOP TRACK: "Current Event (Demo)."
Top Splits of 2011
1. Cheap Girls/Lemuria 7'' (No Idea)
Cheap Girls and Lemuria are two bands I just got into this year, so this split has been getting a lot of play. Lemuria offers two songs to Cheap Girls' one, but all three are solid. The Cheap Girls song may be the best Cheap Girls song I've heard to date, and the Lemuria ones are among my favorites of theirs as well. This one's essential to your collection, and the best split 7'' of 2011.
TOP TRACK: "Lemons (Lemuria)."
2. Spraynard/Sundials 7'' (Evil Weevil)
These bands are friends and teamed up this year to release this split, which is awesome. Both bands were new to me this year, and all their songs have been ear-pleasers. This split is fun, and I've found myself flipping it over and over again.
TOP TRACK: "Snowballs At Cops (Sundials)."
3. Dear Landlord/The Dopamines 7'' (Paper + Plastick)
Finally, new Dear Landlord songs, and they're awesome! Especially "Neighbors." More mentions of trailer parks and shitty living conditions, but it's easy to relate to. Their other one, "A Little Left," is a slower song, which picks up after about 0:45 and rules. The Dopamines' side is great as well, though if it was Dear Landlord vs. Dopamines, Dear Landlord wins (sorry, Dopes, I still love you). The Dopamines' best song on here is "Heads Up Dusters," which is extremely anthemic and will stick to you. This split rules and was worth every penny (though it did take forever for the label to release it, to which they made it available for super cheap, which was awesome. I think they're still super affordable, so get one!)
TOP TRACK: "Neighbors (Dear Landlord)."
Sundials made a lot of appearances this year, but they're one of the best bands of the year, and this split with Caves is awesome. I'm not so much a fan of the Caves side, but the Sundials songs here are golden.
TOP TRACK: "Viking Funeral (Sundials)."
5. Tenement/Cülo 7'' (Cowabunga)
At the very end of the year, Tenement squeezed in one more awesome release; a split with Chicago hardcore band, Cülo. Tenement's songs are a little more upbeat and fast on this one - not necessarily to match the hardcore on the opposite side, but in general. The Cülo side features five fast songs.
TOP TRACK: "Your Life Or Mine (Tenement)."
6. Mean Jeans/Hollywood 7'' (Big Neck)
I'm a huge Mean Jeans fan, so when I saw there were a limited number of these being pressed, I had to grab one. The Hollywood side is pretty good, but the Mean Jeans song is awesome. I hope they release another full length this year.
TOP TRACK: "(Let's Go Before I Blow My) Brains Out (Mean Jeans)."
7. Marvin Berry & the New Sound/Nude Beach 7'' (Freedom School)
Dammit, I can't find art for this 7'' anywhere. Not even the label has a picture of it on its site. I wish I had a scanner. But I don't. Handy. Anyway, Marvin Berry covers a song and plays an original. The Nude Beach side is great too. Oh hey, stream the split here.
TOP TRACK: "Howlin' At the Highway (Marvin Berry & the New Sound)."
8. Rise Against/Face To Face 7'' (Folsom)
Two of my favorite bands, back when Rise Against was local and hardcore, and Face To Face was...well, active. This 7'' is just fun. Rise Against covers one of my favorite Face To Face songs and while I'm not all that fond of the song Face To Face chose to cover, I think their spin on it is cool.
TOP TRACK: "Blind (Rise Against)."
Preview the split here.