We've had a busy year in 2011, with a lot of things happening in the world of music.
Amy Winehouse passed away on 07/23/2011 with a posthumous release following close behind titled Lioness: Hidden Treasures'. Adele became a household name with her song Rolling In The Deep' playing nonstop on the radio. Zakk Wyle proved there is life after Ozzy by releasing The Song Remains Not The Same' and appearing on American Idol, which put him in the national spotlight. We've seen a few regulars that somehow manage to stay in the headlines for good or ill namely Courtney Love, Lady Gaga and Axl Rose.
We also learned in 2011 that throwing two successful artists/bands together cross genre for collaboration doesn't always work. You can take a listen to Lulu for your proof. And finally we did see an apology from Metallica in the release of the EP Beyond Magnetic' with just four tracks, but many feeling that this is the best release they've seen from Metallica in years.
We've really seen a big year in album releases with some really amazing things being released that have to make you realize that good music is not dead, it is still thriving. With the absence of Slayer (release coming in 2012, date TBD), the other three of the Big 4 have all released new music in 2011. Megadeth released Th1rt3en', Anthrax released Worship Music', and we'll pretend that Metallica only released Beyond Magnetic'. Below I will list some of the best releases of 2011 (at least in my opinion), and please feel free to add to the list in the comments. I'm not trying to accomplish a top ten type of list, but just spreading the word on some album releases that are worth checking out from 2011.
Wasting Light' was the seventh studio album from Foo Fighters, and also their first album with 3 guitarists with the return of Pat Smear. Dave Grohl was trying to recapture a certain type of energy with this album and recorded mostly out of his garage using analog equipment. The end result is a fairly diverse sounding album that is absolutely worth having a listen. Please check out the music video for their song White Limo' below, with a guest appearance by Lemmy Kilmister.
Jane's Addiction's 4th studio album and the first release in 8 years, you couldn't really expect The Great Escape Artist' to live up to the classics on Ritual de lo Habitual', and this is where you will be pleasantly surprised. A very energetic album with lots of great tunes, The Great Escape Artist' gave me my faith in Jane's Addiction back. Duff McKagan joined the band as the bass player for part of the creative writing process, but left before the album release. His contributions to the album still come across as being substantial, with an album release that in time may even make Ritual de lo Habitual' pale in comparison. Below is the video for Irresistible Force' as a taste of what to expect.
The Hunter' is the natural evolution of Mastodon as what a modern heavy metal band should be. This is the 5th studio album by Mastodon, and possibly one of the most impressive releases of 2011. This is the first album with drummer, Brann Dailor, taking such a large part in vocal duties and songwriting and it seems like a really good call. Metal bands always seem to have a hard time becoming successful without becoming more commercial or selling out, but that is exactly what Mastodon seems to have accomplished their popularity has increased steadily and yet their music is uncompromising. Below is the video for Curl of the Burl' from the album.
Th1rt3en' is the 13th studio release from Megadeth, and according to interviews with Dave Mustaine this is possibly their last release. It isn't a weak album to end your career on, though I personally hope there is more new music from Megadeth in the future. With the recent reconciliation between the Big 4, it has really got my blood pumping for some new metal from these innovators of metal. While Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax all have a place on my mp3 player, it is Megadeth that has really been my favorite metal band from as early as I can remember. Check out a selection from Th1rt3en' below with the video for Public Enemy No. 1'.
Not everyone loves Primus you have to have a deep love for the weird and fascination with the concept of a bass guitar fronted rock band. This is the seventh studio release from Primus, and marks a return of the original guitarist Ler who helped make Primus great. It isn't just anywhere that you can be thoroughly impressed by a band's musicianship as you listen to them singing about being watched by a squirrel. Primus still has it, and they proved with Green Naugahyde'. Check out the below track from Green Naugahyde' titled Hoinfodaman'.
Worship Music' is the tenth studio release by Anthrax and marks the return of Joey Belladonna. Their first album in 8 years, they come back strong showing that they deserve their place as a member of the Big 4. With vocals initially recorded with Dan Nelson, a roadblock occurred when Dan left the band. In the end, Joey Belladonna brought back some unidentifiable quality I've missed from Anthrax for quite some time. Below is a sample from the album, the track titled The Devil You Know'.
Metallica got some bad press in 2011 with the release of Lulu', their collaboration with Lou Reed. I personally don't think that bad press was undeserved, though at some times it was pretty brutal. That collaboration was a bad idea and seemed to really leave a bad taste in the mouth of both Metallica and Lou Reed fans. They were working off the insane premise of basing an album off of a group of plays about a German prostitute from her point of view. The end result was not good. I'm glad Metallica released the Beyond Magnetic' EP to remind their fans what they're about and look forward to the full length album they are supposedly working on now. Check out the song Rebel of Babylon' below from their Beyond Magnetic' EP.
You may not agree that Ukulele Songs' deserves a mention on my list of albums worth listening to from 2011, as there isn't really any guitar and it is mostly just Eddie Vedder strumming and singing along to a ukulele. Well, from a songwriting standpoint I was very impressed with this album. Also, listening actually made me want to buy and learn to play a ukulele and that is the definition of a great album for me. Check out the track Can't Keep' below and decide for yourself.
Black Tide is really a new discovery in 2011 for me, and the album Post Mortem' was really exciting for me. This is a band of some very young guys making some great music, and for their sophomoric release you couldn't ask for much more. I have added Black Tide to the list because on top of their music being really solid heavy metal, it is very likely this band will continue making music for another 20 or 30 years if they can put up with each other for that long. Below is Walking Dead Man' from Post Mortem'.
Joe Bonamassa is someone that seems to often be overlooked amongst guitarists and blues enthusiasts and I can't quite wrap my head around it. From the time I discovered Joe Bonamassa everything he has done is like gold. Counting live albums, Joe Bonamassa has released 17 albums in the past 11 years. Joe Bonamassa is also a member of Black Country Communion' which some people may be more familiar with. Check out the track Slow Train' below from the album Dust Bowl'
I know there are a lot of other great albums out there, but these are the ones that stood out for me in 2011. Please fill in the blanks I left in the comments with your personal favorites! Happy Holidays and New Year, everyone!
By Brandon East