2011 was a year of many events and changes. What better to get through these changes than a soundtrack made up of some fantastic new albums released this past year?
The first album I’d like to praise is Cage the Elephant’s Thank You, Happy Birthday which was released on January 11. I’d never really listened to Cage the Elephant before but decided to check this new album out because of a friend’s recommendations. The song that really caught my attention was Shake Me Down. This song struck me as powerful and determined with it’s straight forward and to the point lyrics. “I’ll keep my eyes fixed on the sun.” Take that and pair it up with an extremely catchy beat and original voice and you’ve got yourself a hit that a girl moving away and leaving everything she knows behind can really relate to. The rest of the album follows this same tune of raw and pure, original power.
Tracks I Recommend: Shake Me Down, Around My Head
The next album is Codes and Keys by Death Cab for Cutie, released on May 31. I’m just going to be blunt here and say that the moment I heard this album, I fell in love with it. Although that happens with most Death Cab albums. Codes and Keys maintains the original Death Cab sound but there’s something more that you can’t quite figure out. It’s as if the band took their earlier albums and said “Okay let’s keep the main tone and atmosphere but tune it up a bit” and ended up with a more mature, even catchier masterpiece somehow with the same amount of emotion they are famous for. My personal favourite track is You Are a Tourist. It has the usual clever lyrics paired with an insanely mellow, slightly melancholy beat. Then the voice of Ben Gibbard- angelic, smooth and melancholy perfectly matching the beat. Another track perfectly depicting the feelings of someone leaving their hometown for something bigger. “If you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born it’s time to go and define your destination, there’s so many different places to call home.”
Tracks I Recommend: You Are a Tourist, Stay Young Go Dancing
Bon Iver, Bon Iver by Bon Iver was another amazing album released on June 21. I’ve got to be honest- At first I much preferred For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver’s first album. But after giving it more of a chance, I ended up falling in love with Bon Iver, Bon Iver. I feel like Justin Vernon grew so much as an artist with this album. It takes on a much different sound than For Emma which maintains the pleasant strumming of an acoustic guitar all throughout. The sound of Bon Iver, Bon Iver is more drawn out and smooth. It keeps the mellow, melancholy tone of For Emma. The lyrics seem to flow together even more so than Vernon’s first album. He did an excellent job of not changing the way he writes but letting it grow. “Hip, under nothing, propped up by your other one, face ‘way from the sun. Just have to keep a dialogue, teach our bodies: haunt the cause, I was only trying to spell the loss.” From Calgary, the lines in this song all link together flawlessly while painting a picture of the scene in the listener’s mind and giving a sense of deep sadness and loss. One thing I found very interesting about this album was how Vernon titled his tracks, such as one simply named Calgary. Another named Holocene which is a geological epoch.
Tracks I Recommend: Calgary, Holocene
I basically ran to HMV on my birthday, September 27 to buy Neighborhoods by Blink 182. I was immediately drawn into this album because of it’s single, Up All Night. The same old moody Blink sound but with more of an edge to it. One of the characteristics I like most about Blink 182 is that they’re one of those bands that maintain a distinct sound without all their songs sounding the exact same. I can always tell apart Blink 182 song the moment it begins. The lyrics are always simple and straight forward. “All these demons, they keep me up all night.” (Up All Night) What stood out to me about this album is how the band added in a more edgy, hard tone. It’s different than more upbeat, punk-y sounding tracks such as First Date and slow, emotional tracks like I’m Lost Without You. No, Neighborhoods is more raw. It has more of a harsh edge. It’s more full of angst than anything by them I’ve listened to.
Tracks I Recommend: Up All Night, After Midnight
Before anything I just have to state how insanely catchy Michigan Left by Arkells is. It was released on October 18 and since I heard it, I’ve become obsessed. Their upbeat tune is one of those “instantly catchy, I need to start dancing right now” kind of tunes. Their lyrics are light and easy to sing along with. They always seem to be narrating a scene from a story. “Then we hum along to some familiar tune, ‘I like women and songs’, you said ‘It’s from volume two.” (Book Club).
Tracks I Recommend: Book Club, Where U Goin
To end 2011 off, the Black Keys brought us El Camino on December 6. This band is just so original and I have yet to hear a song by them I don’t find extremely catchy. When the single Lonely Boy was released, I knew this was going to be an excellent album. Their overall sound is unique and interesting. Their tone is upbeat and hard not to start dancing to (I almost dance like this guy every time I listen to them http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_426RiwST8). Their lyrics are catchy and original; they always seem upbeat even if they’re actually sad. “Oh-oh-oh I got a love that keeps me waiting.” (Lonely Boy) Overall, a great album and perfect way to end the year.
Tracks I Recommend: Lonely Boy, Sister