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Top 50 Albums of 2011

No words, this time. If you want words, there are plenty elsewhere.

Music speaks for itself.

Pharoahe Monch - WAR

50. Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)
[Preview] [Preview]

Ufesas - Ufesas

49. Ufesas – Ufesas
[Preview] [Preview]

Red Nightfall - Red Nightfall

48. Red Nightfall – Red Nightfall
[Preview] [Preview]

Caretaker, The - An Empty Bliss Beyond This World

47. The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond this World

Battle of Britain Memorial - The Aftermath of Your Bright Beings

46. Battle of Britain Memorial – The Aftermath of Your Bright Beings
[Preview] [Preview]

By Surprise - Mountain Smashers

45. By Surprise – Mountain Smashers
[Preview] [Preview]

Radiohead - The King of Limbs

44. Radiohead – The King of Limbs
[Preview] [Preview]

Chelsea Wolfe - Ἀποκάλυψις

43. Chelsea Wolfe – Ἀποκάλυψις
[Preview] [Preview]

Cyne - Wasteland Vol 1

42. Cyne – Wasteland Volume One
[Preview] [Preview]

Psychic Paramount, The - II

41. The Psychic Paramount – II
[Preview] [Preview]

Lupe Fiasco - Lasers

40. Lupe Fiasco – Lasers
[Preview] [Preview]

Other Lives - Tamer Animals

39. Other Lives – Tamer Animals
[Preview] [Preview]

Ringo Deathstarr - Colour Trip

38. Ringo Deathstarr – Colour Trip
[Preview] [Preview]

K-Def - Night Shift

37. K-Def – Night Shift
[Preview] [Preview]

Rustie - Glass Swords

36. Rustie – Glass Swords
[Preview] [Preview]

People Under the Stairs - Highlighter

35. People Under the Stairs – Highlighter
[Preview] [Preview]

Algernon Cadwallader - Parrot Flies

34. Algernon Cadwallader – Parrot Flies
[Preview] [Preview]

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

33. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
[Preview] [Preview]

DJ Cosm - Time and Space

32. DJ Cosm – Time and Space
[Preview] [Preview]

Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math

31. Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math
[Preview] [Preview]

Defeater - Empty Days and Sleepless Nights

30. Defeater – Empty Days & Sleepless Nights
[Preview] [Preview]

Joy Formidable, The - The Big Roar

29. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar
[Preview] [Preview]

Midnight Eez, The - The Midnight Eez

28. The Midnight Eez – The Midnight Eez
[Preview] [Preview]

Swarms - Old Raves End

27. Swarms – Old Raves End
[Preview] [Preview]

Frank Turner - England Keep My Bones

26. Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones
[Preview] [Preview]

Saul Williams - Volcanic Sunlight

25. Saul Williams – Volcanic Sunlight
[Preview] [Preview]

Yakuza Heart Attack - Yakuza Heart Attack II

24. Yakuza Heart Attack – Yakuza Heart Attack II
[Preview] [Preview]

Sims - Bad Time Zoo

23. Sims – Bad Time Zoo
[Preview] [Preview]

Pollyn - Living in Patterns

22. Pollyn – Living in Patterns
[Preview] [Preview]

Shoppers - Silver Year

21. Shoppers – Silver Year
[Preview] [Preview]

Touche Amore - Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me

20. Touché Amoré – Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me
[Preview] [Preview]

Cut Off Your Hands - Hollow

19. Cut Off Your Hands – Hollow
[Preview] [Preview]

Qwazaar & Batsauce - Bat Meets Blaine

18. Qwazaar & Batsauce – Bat Meets Blaine
[Preview] [Preview]

Rural Alberta Advantage, The - Departing

17. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing
[Preview] [Preview]

Giles Corey - Giles Corey

16. Giles Corey – Giles Corey
[Preview] [Preview]

Weeknd, The - House of Balloons

15. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
[Preview] [Preview]

Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972

14. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972
[Preview] [Preview]

Awol One & Factor - The Landmark

13. Awol One & Factor – The Landmark
[Preview] [Preview]

World Inferno Friendship Society, The - The Anarchy and the Ecstasy

12. The World/Inferno Friendship Society – The Anarchy and the Ecstasy
[Preview] [Preview]

Ampere - Like Shadows

11. Ampere – Like Shadows
[Preview] [Preview]

CunninLynguists - Oneirology

10. CunninLynguists – Oneirology
[Preview] [Preview]

No UFO's - Soft Coast

9. No UFO’s – Soft Coast
[Preview] [Preview]

Phoebe Killdeer & the Short Straws - Innerquake

8. Phoebe Killdeer & the Short Straws – Innerquake
[Preview] [Preview]

Roots, The - Undun

7. The Roots – Undun
[Preview] [Preview]

KWJAZ - Kwjaz

[Preview] [Preview]

GDP - Useless Eaters

5. GDP – Useless Eaters
[Preview] [Preview]

La Dispute - Wildlife

4. La Dispute – Wildlife
[Preview] [Preview]

Doomtree - No Kings

3. Doomtree – No Kings
[Preview] [Preview]

Kendrick Lamar - Section 80

2. Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
[Preview] [Preview]

Kay the Aquanaut - Waterloo

1. Kay the Aquanaut – Waterloo
[Preview] [Preview]

2012 came early for watch the tapes


Well, if you’re browsing the blog you probably realize that 90% the download links throughout are now dead. Obviously the old Megaupload ones are gone, and now Mediafire has deleted all the files in my account. I’m in the middle of compiling a list for 2011 full-lengths, which should be posted soon; time will tell if I’m able to continue the blog in the fashion you’re used to, though. If someone knows of a viable alternative to mediafire, that would be awesome, though I’m not sure any site is safe anymore. I plan to continue, but I don’t know if downloads will still be posted. Regardless, you can easily find most of the music featured on the blog through Google or torrent sites, and I encourage you to do so if you’re interested.

By the way, vote Ron Paul.

Top 20 EPs/Demos/Splits/Singles of 2011

Free the Robots - The Mind's Eye

20. Free the Robots – The Mind’s Eye
[Try It] [Preview]

Following a debut album that played by at least some of the rules of dance music that exist today, I thought perhaps Los Angeles’ Free the Robots was heading down a less weird path than his early work may have suggested. But most recent EP The Mind’s Eye definitely proved that idea wrong because instead of turning into a brostep clone like many of his peers, this man is going in the opposite direction entirely. The Mind’s Eye sounds like an electronic circus with jazz instruments, dancing, and perhaps mind control. Chris Alfaro wants to lead you down the rabbit hole.

Ryan Hemsworth - A Way
19. Ryan Hemsworth – A Way
[Try It] [Preview]

A curious exploration into the sonic potential in Top 40 hip-hop, A Way almost reminds me of an exercise in ‘found-art’. Ryan Hemsworth seems to be playing a similar game to jj’s “Ecstasy” (remember them?), putting infectious club beats behind airy synths, and featuring samples that you might scoff at – before you heard the song, that is. But he does it with class, and with a clear appreciation of the source material he’s created an upbeat celebration of all the music that inspires him.

Punch - Nothing Lasts EP

18. Punch – Nothing Lasts
[Try It] [Preview]

San Francisco hardcore group Punch have been surging in popularity throughout the past few years; it’s nice to see a pissed off, self-described ‘fastcore’ band not break up after one album! They’re still blowing listeners away away with deceptively intricate musicianship and lyricism, with vocalist Meghan’s incessant howls rallying together angry men with beards and burgeoning beer bellies the-world-over. Hold onto your hats, because Punch means business, and you’re not going to hear anything else til they’re done (or for a while after).

Wharf Rats - Wharf Rats

17. Wharf Rats – Wharf Rats
[Try It] [Preview]

Featuring an eclectic cast, new band Wharf Rats has members of Alexisonfire, The A.K.A’s and Anti-Flag, but also is another project of Doomtree frontman and rapper P.O.S. Playing a noisy punk rock that leans towards post-hardcore with a clear political bent, they so far have offered up only these two short tracks, but they’ve made me very interested to hear more.

La Dispute and Koji - Never Come Undone

16. La Dispute / Koji – Never Come Undone
[Try It] [Preview]

A split release put out before La Dispute’s 2011 full-length, Never Come Undone has one new track by each featured artist, followed by a stripped-down acoustic version of Somewhere at the Bottom of the River‘s “Last Blues for Bloody Knuckles” and Koji’s interpretation of Ted Leo’s “Biomusicology” (a song that I am very fond of, and which Koji does justice).

Dekoder - Dekoder

15. Dekoder – Dekoder Demo
[Try It] [Preview]

Hauntingly rhythmic, Montreal band Dekoder should make quite a name for themselves with this demo. I love the gothic atmosphere created on this tape, with the jangly, post-punk guitars and pained female vocals. Calling back to the best parts of dark ’80s music, Dekoder sounds to me like it’s been meticulously crafted, so even if we wait a while for a full-length it should be worth it.

Future of the Left - Polymers are Forever

14. Future of the Left – Polymers are Forever
[Try It] [Preview] [Preview 2]

Never a band to do the same thing long enough for expectations to be created, Future of the Left continue to defy most conventions of rock music, instead opting to create something that, while always identifiable as their work, pushes the storytelling of music to some very unique places. Even calling this release ‘rock’ feels as if it doesn’t do it justice, but I’m not sure what category to put such music in. If you’ve heard Future of the Left (or past projects) you know what I mean.

Various Artists - Summer Singles

13. 1994! / Snowing / Boys & Sex / Algernon Cadwallader – Summer Singles
[Try It] [Preview]

One has to wonder why Snowing, the best band featured on this four-way split, is the one that broke up, but I guess the world is unfair like that. But at least this gives us one more great song from them, plus some awesome tunes by 1994!, Boys & Sex, and Algernon Cadwallader (who steal the show in my opinion). Snowing may be dead, but midwest emo isn’t!

Wild Child - Demo 2011

12. Wild Child – Wild Child Demo
[Try It] [Preview]

Gritty, honest, sarcastic and sardonic punk rock. Based in Minneapolis, but sounds like an artifact from the back-in-the-day Dischord roster – in a good way, not in a rip-off way. Psyched to hear some more from this one.

Fos - We Are

11. Fos – We Are
[Try It] [Preview]

Debut EP from Oklahoma City band Fos shows way more production value and studio professionalism than many of the entries on this list – not that that sets it ahead inherently, but it suits very well the no-nonsense approach of the group. They may not be pushing boundaries on this release, but they’ve got the passion to go far and the voice and talent to take them there. Solid rock songs with headstrong female vox and a brazen dynamic between her and the rhythm section. Maybe they’ll turn into some hometown heroes for us Okies.

Look Mexico - Real Americans Spear It

10. Look Mexico – Real Americans Spear It
[Try It] [Preview]

Forging bravely ahead, paying no worry to the possibility that they may one day run out of Vin Diesel quotes to name their songs after and have to break up, Look Mexico continue trying out a more pop-oriented approach on Real Americans Spear It. While some fans may lament their departure from their math rock roots (even though those roots are still represented here, they’re just not the focus anymore), I for one think these Tallahassee boys are rather suited to singing hooks and being a pop band. Here’s to a third album soon!

Sims - Wildlife

9. Sims – Wildlife
[Try It] [Preview]

Companion piece to his full-length Bad Time Zoo, Wildlife is the newest EP by Doomtree rapper Sims. One of the more oft-ignored members of the hip-hop collective, Sims nonetheless has brought some well-deserved attention to himself in the past year. No doubt helped tremendously by Lazerbeak’s expert production skills, Sims’ ultra-conscious style of writing does what it can to open minds and shine lights, like the rest of his Doomtree peers. Don’t sleep on this guy.

Siamese Twins - Demo 2011

8. Siamese Twins – Siamese Twins Demo
[Try It] [Preview]

Probably named after the Cure song, Siamese Twins are (I believe) from Chicago and show more than a little resemblance to their namesake, if everyone in the Cure was a girl (please, save the jokes here, it’s too easy anyway). More ’80s throwback to be sure, but while Dekoder channels “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, Siamese Twins channel “Friday, I’m in Love”. They also remind me of Velocity Girl, a band from a quite different spectrum but the dreamy harmonies cannot be ignored. Maybe they’ll turn into a twee band, or maybe they’re post-punk in a girly disguise. Time will tell.

Guilt, The - Worth Nothing

7. The Guilt – Worth Nothing Demo
[Try It]

Up-and-coming hardcore group from DC that has big things on the horizon if they keep doing what they’re doing. I can’t find any streams of these songs, but these guys are aggressive, intelligent, melodic and have an ear for songcraft. There’s lots of shouting and sneering, but they sound like a band on a mission. If punk rock is your thing you’ll like Worth Nothing.

Happiness Project, The - Tracked Love from the Electric

6. The Happiness Project – Tracked Love From the Electric
[Try It] [Preview]

It’s hard to categorize Tracked Love From the Electric cleanly. On the one hand, it’s a a triumphantly pounding hardcore album with awesome riffs and vocals I’d want to shout along with if I could understand them, and on the other, it’s a thudding, trudging, sludgy experimentation that you might be inclined to call post-metal. This group really knows how to create an atmosphere, and it envelops you as a listener and takes you to a very interesting place in fifteen short minutes. I’ve never heard something quite like this one.

Ocelote Rojo - Pacarina

5. Ocelote Rojo – Pacarina
[Try It] [Preview]

Apparently recorded in the rainforests of Chile, Pacarina is a lo-fi, psychedelic folk exercise, mainly relying on a guitar but also featuring what I assume to be natural sounds of the forest scattered throughout, and ritualistic bangs of the drums in the closing track. Calling this chillwave is too easy, although people already are. To me, this sounds a lot more authentically ‘chill’ than some white kid with a computer, if you know what I mean.

Het Droste Effect - Het Droste Effect

4. Het Droste Effect – Het Droste Effect
[Try It] [Preview]

Blistering psychedelic space rock from the Netherlands? Sign me up! Balls out rock n’ roll with no shame and no earthly obligations, transforming into kraut-influenced experimentations and ambient passages, then blasting back with more face-melting guitars and topping it off with moaning saxophones. This is my kind of party.

Kay the Aquanaut - We Sold Our Clothes to the State

3. Kay the Aquanaut – We Sold Our Clothes to the State
[Try It] [Preview]

Canadian rapper Kay the Aquanaut has found a solid place in my heart over the past year, and this EP was my second step in his discography after Waterloo. We Sold Our Clothes to the State follows the same pattern of insightful, political, open-minded and honest rap topics that Kay’s been especially fond of lately, and he seems to be becoming more and more desperate for change (aren’t we all). Expert samples, passionate storytelling and logical thinking are what make this Aquanaut an important artist to me.

Psychic Blood - Strain

2. Psychic Blood – STRAIN
[Try It] [Preview]

The link includes Psychic Blood’s other two 2011 releases (LEAVES and their demo), but they’re placed on this list mainly for the two-song 7″ STRAIN. I fell in love with their shoegaze punk rock – something that has not been explored much and which Psychic Blood has a keen vision of. Loud, noisy, and chaotic – just they way it should be.

Kidcrash - Naps

1. Kidcrash – Naps
[Try It] [Preview]

There’s been a lot of subpar math rock getting hocked around the blogosphere for as long as I can remember, and it’s made me wary of the term anytime I see it, but I’m glad it didn’t keep me away from Kidcrash. I love the way that they marry intricate math rock to passionate post-hardcore, reminding me in the best way possible of where At the Drive-In may have ended up if they’d continued as a band (although hey, now we might get a better answer of that question!). I don’t drop that name lightly either! Naps may just be an EP but it’s a masterful release. A new full-length from these guys is highly anticipated.

Casual Ocean – Goodbye Money (2011)

Casual Ocean - Goodbye Money

Understated beats that sink under the skin, motown samples for flavor – thanks for the submission Lester Brown! Whole album can be streamed/downloaded/purchased at his Bandcamp!

  1. Common People
  2. Ever Clear
  3. Gold Pools
  4. Goodbye Money
  5. My First Love
  6. Sharpen Tooth Ache
  7. What Did I Do Wrong
  8. Under Pressure
  9. Hurt Me More
  10. Hoping for Sleep
  11. Coasting
  12. Thoughts of Your Death
  13. (H)art
  14. Don’t Be Shy



Qwazaar & Batsauce – Bat Meets Blaine (2011)

Qwazaar & Batsauce - Bat Meets Blaine

“Don’t they want somethin’ different? / Guess not, well I’m fickle / not a riddle, not fickle, not a damn thing funny / we dyin’ over nothin’ while they rhyme about money

Two astoundingly talented men make an album that is a beacon for the hip-hop world. Batsauce on the beats, Qwazaar on the mic – both experts at their craft whose obscurity I can’t begin to understand. Don’t miss this one!

  1. A Choice
  2. I Know
  3. What Love
  4. Chop Em Down
  5. Eye to the Sky
  6. Never Weaker
  7. Surrealism
  8. Power
  9. If It Seems Wrong
  10. I’m Gone
  11. A Feeling
  12. The Dream
  13. Til It’s Done
  14. Thanks

Try It


Red Nightfall – Red Nightfall (2011)

Red Nightfall - Red Nightfall

Oh mercy, now that she’s leaving, and he’s fading out / and it scares me that I feel nothing / nothing at all

Based in Toronto, this four-piece group recently released their debut album. Red Nightfall is predominately a collection of acoustic folk songs, but Red Nightfall play their hearts out like a gallant rock band; many of these tracks start out sparse, earthly, subdued, but develop intricacy and find the epic fire that they’re striving for. The most immediate comparison that springs to mind for these boys is Oklahoma group Other Lives, but this release also reminds me of Bon Iver’s now-classic For Emma, Forever Ago. Not getting carried away with namedropping, this album is a gem in the rough, and I really hope you find some time to listen to it. It’s a perfect soundtrack to a cold, windy, bitter winter.

  1. Forever Leaving
  2. Coloured Dreams
  3. Forever Wanting
  4. Her Passing
  5. Wind Scene
  6. Windmills
  7. Bonfire
  8. 1812
  9. Forever Yours


Try It

KWJAZ – KWJAZ (2011)


This self-titled cassette is, as far as I can tell, the debut release of KWJAZ, as well as the first recording released by new label Brunch Group. I don’t know anything about this artist, and an internet search didn’t reveal much except for a scattering of people raving over this obscure little tape. KWJAZ evokes an impressive psychedelic atmosphere, a mood which is perhaps enhanced somewhat by the anonymity of its creator – extended, hazy dub beats as a backdrop to ‘outsider music’, jazz, and general psychedelia from all over the world, designed as far as one can tell for mind-melting introspection. What strikes me about this release is that contrary to a lot of music of its kind, it’s not “experimental” at the cost of lacking direction, but rather seems to be a guided journey through some legitimately focused, but rarely explored, ideas. This is some deeply groovy, trippy shit – roll something up for this one.

  1. Once in Babylon
  2. Righteous Wane

Try It

Giles Corey – Giles Corey (2011)

Giles Corey - Giles Corey

All around us, hangs an air of darkest doom / and it flows out my lungs, and slowly fills the room

A strange avant-garde effort from Dan Barrett of Have a Nice Life, Giles Corey is a dark, unhappy album. At times it’s unsettling, and at times the enveloping soundscapes are actually comforting in a, well, still vaguely unsettling way. Not quite a shoegaze album like it’s been labeled, but not far off – ambient passages with obscured, whispered vocals fade in and out of acoustic folk ballads, with the whole affair sounding like it’s covered in a thick fog. But it also contains brief, soaring moments of tangent humanity that drive home the very personal nature of this work.

An intriguing album that definitely harkens back to 2008’s cult classic Deathconsciousness, but at the same time forges new ground. If you’re looking for something that doesn’t follow any particular genre conventions, this might be the album for you.

  1. The Haunting Presence
  2. Blackest Bile
  3. Grave Filled With Books
  4. Empty Churches
  5. I’m Going to Do It
  6. Spectral Bride
  7. No One is Ever Going to Want Me
  8. A Sleeping Heart
  9. Buried Above Ground

Try It

Doomtree – No Kings (2011)

Doomtree - No Kings

In the land of milk and honey, too shy to say we’re thirsty / we just make a little money, and we buy a little mercy

Minneapolis rap collective Doomtree offer up their third full-length album this year, and they continue to impress. No Kings leads one to further head-scratching at the success of goons like Odd Future when there’s a decidedly more brilliant and thought-provoking hip-hop group who’s been toiling away for the better part of a decade without so much as a breakthrough hit, even among all its members varied and sturdy solo catalogs.

Refusing to stick to any specific formula, this album showcases the unique talents and visions of its members while tying them together quite neatly, despite the rapid and constant changing of instrumentation, percussion, vocal style and song structure. Every track leaps and bounds through a handful of different genres, often leading back to the beatnik ultra-literacy and metaphoric storytelling that inspires them and the punk-rock ethic (and sound!) that multiple members have past experience with. Ambitious and complex, this is the kind of project that most artists would butcher – but far from creating a scattered, inarticulate mess, these cats have been at this so long that they make it sound easy. No Kings is the best group effort that they’ve brought to listeners to-date, and their day in the light is surely within reach. Don’t sleep on this!

  1. No Way
  2. Bolt Cutter
  3. Bangarang
  4. Beacon
  5. Punch-Out
  6. Little Mercy
  7. The Grand Experiment
  8. String Theory
  9. Team the Best Team
  10. Gimme the Go
  11. Own Yours
  12. Fresh New Trash

Try It

Kay the Aquanaut – We Sold Our Clothes to the State (2011)

Kay the Aquanaut - We Sold Our Clothes to the State

Every penny I had was burnt for the words that I wrote / I burned the candle enough to flick a light on the world

A teaser EP released to increase anticipation for his full-length Waterloo, perhaps my favorite album of 2011, this is five exclusive tracks in the same vein of that album. Not leftovers though, this release is a great addition to his catalog.

[Sorry, can’t find any previews of these tracks!]

  1. The Big City
  2. I Don’t Know Why
  3. Miss Morrison
  4. The Challenger
  5. P.O.M.

Try It