Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Chris's Top 15 Albums of 2011

If there's one thing I've learned from this year's tally, it's that I am SERIOUSLY the outlier in this apparently hippy-dippy bunch of mopey music lovers.  Where's the rock, people?  Where is it?  I'll tell you... it's right fricking here.

1. Butch Walker – The Spade
Full disclosure: I'm as big of a BW nutswinger as you'll find.  But you know what?  This is a great album.  Ten songs, tight as all get out, recorded live and raw in the studio, channeling everyone from Dexy's Midnight Runners to the Dixie Chicks to Bruce Springsteen.  Standouts are... well, pretty much everything.

2. Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn of Events
Long Island's homegrown prog-rockers went through a very public divorce with their drummer Mike Portnoy, replacing him with Mike Mangini -- and not only didn't miss a beat, they got tighter. Gone are Portnoy's Cookie Monster growls that became too prevalent over the last few records, and this is a gorgeous album, top to bottom.

3. Ginger – Potatoes & You
The Wildhearts are one of the Best Bands You've Never Heard Of. They've developed a pretty solid cult following as they've merged everything that's wonderful about hard rock with a deep melodic undertone. Ginger, the group's frontman, recorded this live acoustic record and slapped it up on his Web site for free; it includes tunes from across the Wildhearts spectrum and his solo career.

4. Ben Folds – Best Imitation of Myself (3 disc version)
Gotta buy the big version, because there's a TON of value here. Unreleased versions, extended versions, new tunes, B-sides, and all the "hits." Lovely.

5. Alice Cooper – Welcome 2 My Nightmare
Coop got the old band together from the 70s, sat down the studio, and ripped out an extension of his legendary "Nightmare" album.

6. Mike Doughty – Yes and Also Yes
I dare you to get "Na Na Nothing" out of your head. DARE YOU.

7. Meat Puppets – Lollipop
Kurt Cobain's favorite band, the Pups and I crossed paths when we had them open for Blind Melon on campus in 1994; they've been one of my favorite bands ever since, and although they don't have the prettiest sound, this record is chock-full of catchy tunes.

8. The Union – Siren’s Song
Built from the ashes of Thunder, guitarist Luke Morley handed the reins to young upstart Peter Shoulder; the result is a solid slab of rock that never seems to get old.

9. David Lowery – The Palace Guards
Remember Cracker? "What the world needs now/Is another folk singer/Like I need a hole in my head?" That guy. Sounds, well, Crackery.

10. Mr. Big – What If…
Back from the dead! You have no idea how huge these guys still are in Japan.

11. Jonathan Coulton – Artificial Heart
Stunned that this didn't make the master list. Where are you, Georgy? JoCo needed you!

12. Soundtrack – Book of Mormon
I firmly believe that Trey Parker and Matt Stone can do no wrong. Brilliant, although in retrospect, I probably put this too high.

13. Warrant – Rockaholic
In the news this year for the wrong reason -- the death of former frontman Jani Lane -- but Warrant soldiered on, and whereas this isn't the greatest record, there are enough really bright spots ("Home," "Life's A Song," the scathing "Last Straw") that keep this in heavy rotation.

14. Michael Monroe – Sensory Overdrive
Most of the tunes here were written by Ginger Wildheart; kinda sounds like a Wildhearts record, for all the right reasons.

15. Gotthard – Alive In Lugano
I didn't discover Gotthard until after the untimely death of lead singer Steve Lee last year, and it's too bad, because the dude had serious pipes. This is a live recording from their hometown in Switzerland, and includes Lee's last studio vocals on one new tune as well.


  1. Kudos, Chris. 2011 was the year you got me to listen to Butch Walker. I tuned in to the entire album on Spotify, after I'd already submitted my final list for the year. If I had it to do over again, it might make my top 50 or at least top 75. As for the rest: The Alice Cooper "Nightmare" retake was nostalgic, Ben Folds was nice, Meat Puppets was meh, and I didn't listen to any of the others.

    And if you want to know where the rock was in 2011, it was well represented on my top 10 list, specifically REM, John Hiatt and Wanda Jackson, alongside the requisite mopey/hippy-dippy entrees. :)

  2. I haven't listened to many of these. OK, none of these. Was a newsflash that Dream Theatre, Warrant and Michael Monroe are still at it. Will definitely check out David Lowery. Have loved his songs since pre-Cracker Camper Van Beethoven. Thanks for the tips.