Best of 2011 - Scott Heisel's picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2011

Scott Heisel's picks (2011)

staff picks

Scott Heisel is a former news and reviews editor for and is the current Music Editor for Alternative Press. - ed.

To me, 2011 was the year of "stop talking, start doing." I got much more involved at my day job, writing three cover stories, traveling all over the country and doing my damnedest to help steer the company I work for in a better direction artistically. Even though I had started my record label in 2010, 2011 was the year I really started taking things like distribution and promotion seriously, and it's started to pay off with a completely slammed release schedule for the first half of 2012, including records from Person L, Weatherbox, Sainthood Reps, Farewell Continental and more. I even found the courage to get down on one knee in front of my girlfriend of four years; we'll be getting married in October 2012 (and with any luck, Andrew W.K. will be officiating the ceremony).

Sometimes I feel like the people who frequent spend too much time talking, and not enough time doing--and that goes for both users and staffers alike. It's exciting to see passion projects actually attempt to get off the ground via Kickstarter or other, similarly crowd-funded websites; people who shit all over the idea of finding your fanbase and then doing everything in your power to appeal to them are sad, bitter individuals, to say the least. It's even more thrilling to participate in festivals, whether they're brand new, long-running or back from the dead. The people involved in putting on these events give weeks, months and even years trying to put together something they can be proud of, only to find some semi-anonymous commenter tell them it sucks. But that's just how it goes. Some people are talkers; others are doers. I was once in the former category, but I'm doing everything in my power to make sure I spend 2012 in the latter.

Below are my 20 favorite albums of 2011. If you're unfamiliar with any of them, all I ask is you fire up Spotify or something and give the title in question a spin--I firmly believe each one of them could affect your outlook on life if you just let it.


Sainthood Reps: Monoculture

Tooth & Nail

It's been thrilling to watch this Long Island band come into their own throughout the past year or two. They've discovered their inner Jesus Lizard (thanks in part to guitarist Derrick Sherman, who moonlights as a touring guitarist in Brand New), and their live show is nothing less than pummeling. In fact, their Fest 10 set at the Atlantic was probably the best 30 minutes of live music I've witnessed in 2011. And the record's good, too! (Honestly, I would've ranked this album higher on my list had the band not recently approached me and asked me to release this album on vinyl. I don't want to appear too biased.)


Balance and Composure: Separation

No Sleep

How is this band only on their first full-length? So much lyrical and musical maturity for such young kids. I think just about everyone sees big things in the future for these guys, but they're forgetting the present: This album rules.


Bayside: Killing Time


Well, the Great Label Experiment Of 2011 didn't pan out all that well for Bayside; this album sold just about as many copies as their last one on Victory did, and the one thing Wind-Up Records actually does well--get their bands played on the radio--didn't happen. But hey, at least Anthony Raneri & Co. got to record with a bonafide legend in Gil Norton, and they also wrote the best guitar solo of the year in "It's Not A Bad Little War."


Touché Amoré: Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me


Considering how popular the screamo revival has gotten, is it safe to assume Saetia will do a reunion show sometime next year? If that happens and this band isn't the opening act, the world has failed.


Frank Turner: England Keep My Bones


Can we just elect this guy Prime Minister of punk already? Amazing songs, honest lyrics, wonderful showmanship--the total package. (I guess that would make him the Lex Luger of punk, too, no?)


Maniac: Mania


One of the most infectious dance-pop albums of the year, and one that most people probably overlooked due to its self-released nature and the fact that the band (led by former Matches frontman Shawn Harris) have played, like, four shows in the U.S. due to co-frontman Jake Grigg living in Australia. Still, despite the thousands of miles between the two, they created one hell of a debut that sounds straight out of 1987 in the best possible way.


Office of Future Plans: Office of Future Plans

Dischord Records

Old post-punks don't get old, they just get awesome. Kudos to J. Robbins for never losing the plot and delivering an impassioned debut with his new band. It's better than Channels, better than Burning Airlines and on par with Jawbox's best material.


Cloud Nothings: Cloud Nothings


Cloud Nothings' spiky, quick-paced indie pop-punk makes Wavves' spiky, quick-paced indie pop-punk feel like prog-rock. These songs--written by one-man band Dylan Baldi--are as infectious and repetitive as they come, digging into your head and camping out longer than your average Occupy Wall Street protestor.


Aficionado: Aficionado

No Sleep

First off: How on earth has this album not been reviewed on Punknews yet?!? Y'all are blowing it something fierce. Aficionado's self-titled debut takes all the best parts of Tim Kasher's recorded works (melodramatic vocals, aggressive guitar lines, unusual instrumentation, biting lyrics) and throws in a healthy chunk of Piebald's wit and candor to wind up with a powerhouse full-length that's as enthusiastic as it is memorable.


Childish Gambino: Camp


I don't claim to be anything but a novice when it comes to the world of hip-hop, but I love the ever-loving shit out of this record. Highly recommended.


The Get Up Kids: There Are Rules

Quality Hill

Progression will always trump regression. Always.


Title Fight: Shed


I'm still awestruck at how this band not only beat the odds and actually released a good full- length after the endless hyping of their early material, but they really beat the odds and made a phenomenal punk record. The 15 or so seconds of the title track's chorus are probably the best 15 or so seconds of punk rock in 2011.


Farewell Continental: ¡Hey, Hey Pioneers!

Paper + Plastick

Motion City Soundtrack frontman Justin Pierre's other band is more than just a self-indulgent side project; they're a full-fledged unit with a number of songwriters reliving some of the best musical parts of the '90s. This record is a nonstop freight train of catchy guitar-pop with slight shoegaze overtones that deserves permanent placement on your turntable.


La Dispute: Wildlife

No Sleep Records

"Can I still get into heaven if I kill myself? / Can I still get into heaven if I kill myself? / Can I ever be forgiven 'cause I killed that kid? / It was an accident I swear it wasn't meant for him! / And if I turn it on me, if I even it out, can I still get in or will they send me to hell? / Can I still get into heaven if I kill myself?"


Manchester Orchestra: Simple Math

Favorite Gentlemen

Dear Columbia Records: Way to fuck up the best thing you had. Love, the rest of the music-loving world


Foo Fighters: Wasting Light


Ever wanna get drunk reallllly fast? Put on a Foo Fighters live DVD and take a shot every time Dave Grohl says "C'MON!" or "HERE WE GO!" or "YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!" instead of finishing any given line of any given song. You'll be comatose well before the encore.


The Wonder Years: Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing


It's so good to see pop-punk do well with young kids and not have to resort to neon bullshit to do it. I love this band, but moreover, I love what this band stands for: real music, played loud, sloppily and with boundless energy.


The Horrible Crowes: Elsie


If I ever won the lottery, I would pay Brian Fallon and Ian Perkins to sit in the backseat of my car and play these songs on repeat everywhere I go for the rest of my life. This record is that brilliant.


Thrice: Major/Minor


The epitome of class is going out on top. Thank you, Thrice. Thank you for everything, but especially this album.


Bomb the Music Industry!: Vacation

Ernest Jenning / Really

The shit that you hate don't make you special. The shit that you hate don't make you special. The shit that you hate don't make you special. The shit that you hate don't make you special. The shit that you hate don't make you special. The shit that you hate don't make you special. The shit that you hate don't make you special. The shit that you hate don't make you special. The shit that you hate don't make you special. The shit that you hate don't make you special.