Best of 2011 - Andrew Clark's picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2011

Andrew Clark's picks (2011)

staff picks

Andrew Clark is a staff interviewer. - ed.

This past year was filled with more ups and downs than I can remember in recent memory, with more of the former than the latter, which means I cannot complain. Although I had been living in the glorious metropolis of Washington, DC for over a year, this year I definitely felt like I began to let myself fall in love with the city and all it has to offer. A lot of this had to do with personal changes in life (dating; graduating from graduate school; getting a full-time job), but I credit the friends I have met since moving with this switch, too.

Over the course of 2011 I found myself desiring some new life experiences; being a fan of the Org, I wondered how could I contribute to the site I loved. Call it fate, divine intervention, or whatever else, but I was fortunate to meet Kira W., a fellow DC resident and Punknews aficionado, who then introduced me to the wider group. Thanks to her and the punk elder statesman, Rich Verducci, I got the opportunity to try my hand at interviewing bands, which has been a nice escape from the mundane working world.

As for the music of 2011, it was great all around, both in terms of recorded material and shows. My musical tastes shifted all over this year, often delving into the darker side of life, which seemed to reflect my feelings towards transitioning from being a kid to adulthood. For the first time in the 19 years of my existence, I was free from academics and with that I left behind some youthful idealism. This new perspective, however, did not entail always being pissed off or unhappy; hell, I discovered a lot of upbeat music this year, too. I'm looking at you, Mixtapes and Spraynard. Additionally, for the first time since attending Ozzfest back in 2004 (yes, I was a huge metalcore fan), I got the chance to attend two music festivals: C.L.I.T. Fest in DC and Best Friends' Day in Richmond, VA. Sadly, I was not able to join the Punknews staff reunion at the Fest this year - I fully plan on seeing everyone next year in Gainesville.

Lastly, I wanted to say the list that follows is by no means comprehensive and I've left out the majority of my top 20 LPs and 5 EPs. Stay punk and see you guys in 2012


Cold Cave: Cherish the Light Years


Initially when introduced to Cold Cave I was pretty skeptical considering Wes Eisold is best known for being the frontman of American Nightmare/Give Up the Ghost and shouting out passionate lyrics over fast guitars and drums. This band, however, has become a new favorite and mixes the best parts of the Smiths, the Cure and Joy Division into one package. Despite containing dark imagery and sometimes depressive atmospherics, Cold Cave still possess a pop sensibility that leaves songs stuck in your head for days.See the track "Underworld, U.S.A." for a good example of what I mean.


The Horrible Crowes: Elsie


While a fan of all of the songs on here, Brian Fallon and company do a great job of storytelling through songwriting. Songs like "Crush" and "Lady Killer" pack an emotional wallop that I felt like were missing from the Gaslight Anthem's last release. Also, I think it is pretty cool when records like this can attract fans across generations, such as my parents.


Des Ark: Don't Rock the Boat, Sink the Fucker


Aimée Argote has a knack for writing songs that both address weighty topics, such as sexual assault and partnerships, and are catchy as hell. I have been fortunate enough to see Aimée and her accompanying band twice this past year after this record was released and was blown away by how well they translated to a live setting. Many of the tracks here beginning slowly and build into almost fever pitch of emotional outpouring, all set to intricate guitar work and off-kilter time signatures. Additionally, the album incorporates some instruments not usually associated with the DIY scenes; a glockenspiel, anyone?


Pulling Teeth: Funerary

A389 Recordings/Firestarter Records

I have to admit I got into these guys just with this release, despite having worked alongside the band's members at a DIY space in Baltimore for two years. Much like their past releases, Pulling Teeth play a brand of hardcore heavily indebted to the darker varieties of hardcore, including Integrity and Dropdead, and several sub-genres of metal. What I liked most about this album was its dichotomous nature, with the first half being blistering fast and pissed off, while the second half explored slower, more doom metal-influenced song structures. Additionally, I felt like I could relate to many of the lyrics on this release, particularly on tracks like "Brain Drain" and "Plastic Tombs," which take shots at suburbanization in the Baltimore area and Americans living beyond their means thanks to credit cards.


Ampere: Like Shadows

No Idea

Since I was still listening to nu-metal back when many of the late ‘90s and early 2000s screamo bands broke up and too young to drive, I am fortunate to have many bands carrying the torch now. One such band, which features members of Orchid and other contemporaries, is Ampere from the Boston area, who produce music that rises above the ordinary tropes of the genre, i.e. love gone wrong. Instead, the band, as with its past releases, delivers socially-conscious lyrics through intricate, yet chaotic passages. Contrasting with previous releases, Like Shadows never lets up, albeit for the closing track, and shows that getting older does not mean one has to slow down or lose passion.


Deafheaven: Roads to Judah

Deathwish, Inc.

I know there has been a lot of hype around this band, especially considering they have only released a demo and a full length in just over a year. Well, the hype, in my opinion, is justified and is backed up by this record. Combining the atmospheric, emotional heaviness of shoegaze with the dark, yet cathartic power of black metal, this San Francisco band has helped restore my faith in metal. The stand-out track for me is the album's closer "Tunnel of Trees," which begins extremely fast, crescendos and then slowly trails off with sparse piano. Needless to say, this record saw me through an eventful year and many times provided an excellent soundtrack for its chaos.