Hey there. I'm Matt Baldwin, better known as "the other guy" or "not Mondo" from Matt and Mondo's Punk Rock Power Hour. Anyways, 2011 was a great year. I really have a lot of you guys to thank for it. I want to thank anybody and everybody checked out my podcast or came to a show I put on this year. I'm really looking forward to 2012. Albert Pujols in an Angels jersey! Chris Paul in a Clippers jersey! Playoff games for the 49ers! If only the Anaheim Ducks could get their act together. Oh well. Anyways, Here are my Top 20 albums of 2011. Hit me up on twitter @mattycantfail to talk about my list, or sports, or whatever. Hopefully it's to talk about sports...I sure do enjoy talking about sports!
To be honest, after hearing the first single, "Up All Night," I thought I was going to pass on the album altogether. However, I gave Neighborhoods a chance and songs like "Hearts All Gone," "Wishing Well" and "Kaleidoscope" really grew on me. If you can get passed Tom Delonge bringing his Angels and Airwaves-esque vocals to a Blink-182 album, Neighborhoods will indeed grow on you too.
I was completely unaware of Laura Stevenson & the Cans until I saw them open for Fake Problems in April. They blew me away. To be honest, I'm a sucker for a pretty voice and dreamy music. Why it took me so long to discover LS&TC is beyond me. I'm glad I did, though.
I was fortunate enough to see Joyce Manor several times this year. They actually played quite a few of the shows that Mondo and I put on this year. When I first got the album I liked it, but it kind of was overshadowed by a few of the other releases that came out around the same time. But the more and more I saw them, the more and more I'd come back to the album. Joyce Manor is great on record, but they're pretty amazing live. If they come through your town, do not miss out on seeing them.
To me, Polar Bear Club has always been a frustrating band. While I've enjoyed them, every album has always left me wanting more...as if they were holding back or leaving something on the cutting room floor. Not with Clash Battle Guilt Pride. It's full of emotion. It's a perfect balance of "heavy" and "catchy." Vocalist Jimmy Stadt is on point. This was the album that Polar Bear Club needed to make...and I couldn't be happier.
Sometimes the album just speaks for itself. Pick up I Wish I Could Stay Here and you'll understand why it's on my Top 20 list. (Yes, this is my way of saying "I have no idea what to say about the album. I just liked it." Sometimes those are the best kinds of albums).
I remember being at the Holiday Inn on Saturday night during Fest 9, and asking everybody I was with "Who the hell is this dude playing Hot Water Music and Alkaline Trio covers?" Nobody knew. After a few weeks I finally discovered that his name was Tim and he was in a band named 10-4 Eleanor...who basically morphed into Elway! Delusions was one of the best pop-punk albums I heard this year and withstood the self-created hype machine. Also, there was that whole John Elway thing, which made me love them even more. There's something about Denver Broncos quarterbacks that rub me the wrong way. Moral of the story...John Elway bad, punk band Elway good!
I could tell you about about how Top Button, Bottom Shelf is incredible or how if you've slept on Banquets so far, this is your wake up call. But instead I will just say that these dudes are some of the nicest and funniest people I've ever met. Isn't is awesome when great people are in great bands?
Two albums in one. The former, "Empty Days," is a solid (if not great) melodic hardcore album that never strays into "tough guy" territory. The latter, "Sleepless Nights," is a beautiful folksy quartet of tracks that runs the gamut of emotions. At times it can be so heartwarming, yet can turn to heart-wrenching on a dime. Very few bands could pull off such a transition, but Defeater's vocalist Derek Archambault is perfectly suited to do just that.
While I've always enjoyed Matt Skiba's work with Alkaline Trio, Dan's songs were the ones that always stuck with me. Dan has an incredible knack for writing these great "cheesy but cute enough to ignore and love" pop songs. It's nice to see him put out a solo album and showcase his talent.
I grew up on bands like Bad Religion, Circle Jerks and Descendents, so it's awesome to hear a band like Deep Sleep come along and make an album that takes me back to my roots. It's even more awesome when they do a great job, as Deep Sleep did.
Who would have thought that members of Anti-Flag could make an album like Happeners? I remember talking to Chris #2 outside of the Key Club last December when he first told me about about White Wives. He told me to expect No Division-era Hot Water Music meets the Arcade Fire. I thought he was full of shit. Then I heard the album and it made sense.
At this point, I think Chuck Ragan could record himself shaving his beard and it would be a fantastic album. He just seems to get better and better with each album. As much as I love Hot Water Music, I'm starting to find myself listening to Chuck's solo albums more. Never did I think that would happen.
I had never really been a huge fan of Samiam. I always liked what I heard when a friend would put it on in the car or at a party, but I never really listened to them on my own. So when I sat down to listen to Trips I wasn't expecting to love it. Like it, I suppose. But not love it. But every song made me want to listen to the next. Then I came across "El Dorado," and my heart melted. Hands down my favorite song of the year. I went back and got every previous Samiam album. Getting surprised is awesome.
I actually forgot that Resolutions came out in 2011. Silly me. Like most everyone else who reads Punknews, I was/am a huge fan of the Loved Ones. So when I read that Dave Hause was putting out a solo album I was jazzed. I actually had the pleasure of seeing Dave multiple times this year. He's even better live. As much as I love the Loved Ones, I kind of want to see Dave stick with his solo career. I wouldn't turn down a new Loved Ones album, though.
Every couple years a band comes out of nowhere and blows me away. A few years ago it was the Gaslight Anthem. Then it was Banner Pilot. Now, it is Red City Radio's turn. The Dangers of Standing Still is as good of a debut album as I've ever heard. Catchy, but with a sense of urgency; that's how I like my pop punk! It's going to be fun to see where this band goes in the future.
Probably my most surprising Top 10 selection...at least from my own perspective. Shed caught me off guard. Reminiscent of early Hot Water Music, the Get Up Kids and Lifetime, it's hard to believe that this was Title Fight's full-length debut. Still a young band, Title Fight will continue to mold their sound and evolve. It's going to be really exciting to see how it does.
Pretty good for a band that I wasn't that high on a year ago. Seeing Dead To Me several times this year made me a believer. I love both African Elephants and Cuban Ballerina but I have a feeling that Moscow Penne Ante will end up being my favorite Dead To Me album.
The album I was looking forward to the most this year. Yeah, the vocals might be a bit too polished. That won't stop me for calling Heart Beats Pacific the best punk rock album of 2011. Also, for good measure, their set at Fest 10 was one of my favorites, eclipsed only by Against Me!, Hot Water Music and Mixtapes.
Side projects are tricky, plain and simple. Most of the time they fall flat on their face. It gets even trickier when someone from one of your favorite bands is the one branching out. So I definitely had my worries about the Horrible Crowes. Luckily, Brian Fallon (along with Ian Perkins) killed it! Elise was flat out amazing. Everything Fallon did on Elsie worked. It definitely was both my favorite and most listened to album of 2011.