The music to my ears


While February is already gone, I’m still letting all the music of 2011 sink in. While I’m on this trip, I thought I’d talk about my top 5 albums of 2011. My taste varies from hardcore to pop-punk to country, but my top albums mostly settled in the pop-punk range. This compilation is in no significant order.

Pioneer – The Maine

This album is the third full-length from The Maine. It was released on December 6 and debuted at No. 90 on the Billboard 200. I cannot describe the emotional roller coaster I was trapped in while listening to this installment.

The album starts off with “Identify” which initially begins slow, mellow and simple, however, at almost a minute into the track, the full band emerges and the sense of the entire work is unveiled. Pioneer shows the immense growth of The Maine since its first release in 2008, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop. The maturity in the lyrics and instrumentals is something to be expected, but also greatly appreciated.

I also have to appreciate that not every song in the track listing is a love song. I don’t mind a few, but when it’s a dominating factor (I’m looking at you T-Swift), it’s overbearing. “Some Days” is my instant pick-me-up. It’s not even that the song is the happiest song in the world, but it’s a real song. It helps me relate that much more to these five boys from Arizona. This song simply states that some days are going to be awesome and some days are going to suck, but that’s just how things are and you just have to wait for the days that “taste like lemonade”.

My favorite song off the album is “Thinking of You”. Maybe because it’s not completely “lovey-dovey” it’s acceptable in my book. It also could be that I relate to it on a certain level. Either way, this song really encompasses John O’Callaghan’s distinct and catchy voice.

I think my favorite part about this album is the lead-in tracks. For example, “Thinking of You” ends with a phone call to a girl named Jenny’s voicemail which leads to a beautiful ballad, “Jenny”. The band has also included a hidden track at the end of “Waiting for My Sun to Shine”.

Overall, this album has a piece of my cardiac real-estate and I can’t wait for even more magic from this band.

I’ll Always Be Around EP – Brighten

I love playlists. I enjoy making playlists for any mood which may present itself. Brighten dominates my “Lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling and think about life” list. Brighten has a unique sound in that it’s nothing like the rest of the bands or albums in this piece. I think that’s why I enjoy them so much.

I’ll Always Be Around was released on August 9 and the seven song EP has great elements for a long drive, or as I’m so commonly found doing, lying on the bed and staring at the ceiling.

“Home” is one of the more up-beat songs on the album. It has a slight country-pop feel to it. The first time I heard this song, I was swept off my feet and instantly taken to a new level. It’s one you just can’t not sing along to. The album also has some softer, more melodic pieces which are beautiful on their own accords. The title track, “I’ll Always Be Around”, is a smooth, comforting song which encompasses the entire theme and mood of the EP.

Frontman Justin Richards is also in the band A Rocket to the Moon and I really enjoy the distinction between the two bands. Both have a great sound, but Richards really does well at making this album a different sound.

Bad Habits – Every Avenue

On August 2, 2011, Every Avenue dropped their third full-length album, Bad Habits. The band started leaking songs off the album in July and also started playing “Whatever Happened to You” and “Fall Apart”, both songs off the new album, on this summer’s Vans Warped Tour where they were a full tour act.

I have listened Every Avenue for around four years. Every time they release new material, I am never less than floored. This album is no different. While the sound is very different from their 2008 Shh. Just Go With It, it’s nothing less than stellar.

The album starts with a powerhouse “Tie Me Down” that shows that these boys are serious. Much of this album talks about being on the road and how things are rarely the same when they get home. Relationships struggle, family time is lessened and life isn’t easy. However, after all of that emotion being poured out, the listener is led to “Watch The World” which will talk about the rewards and how much it all means to the boys.

The thing that stood out most to me about this album is the fact that it isn’t all fast-paced, crazy music at the start then slowing down at the end of the album. It’s a well-balanced, beautiful work. “Only Place I Call Home” brings in a great work on the piano and while it’s a slower piece, the emotion and intensity is never lost.

The Every Avenue boys have completely outdone themselves this time around, and I can definitely see a great future for them.

D.R.U.G.S. – Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows

Yes, their name spells out DRUGS. Don’t get all high and mighty and ignore this band for that fact. After being let go from popular band Chiodos in 2009, frontman Craig Owens embarked on a new venture. That new venture would form in 2010 and be known as Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows, or DRUGS. On Feb. 22, 2011, the band released its first self-titled album. The 11-track set contains the band’s two most well-known songs, “Mr. Owl Ate My Metal Worm” and “If You Think this Song is About You, it Probably Is”. This post-hardcore band really utilizes Owens’ distinct voice to create strong, identifiable sound. The band was on the Vans Warped Tour 2011 and played across the entire tour. I would classify the music as that which I can play at any time and it will match my mood. Though I don’t recommend it for playing around your grandmother… unless your grandmother is really awesome. My personal favorite song is “The Only Thing You Talk About” because I’m a huge fan of gang vocals and the intro is just so wonderful and then leads to an incredible breakdown. Owens’ voice is highlighted well and the instruments are great ships to carry this album into one of my top spots.

Symphony Soldier – The Cab

The Cab released its first album, Whisper War, in 2008. Many of its fan base started to get anxious and agitated at the incredibly long wait for Symphony Soldier. My words are few: It was worth it. This album was absolutely phenomenal. The change from Whisper War to Symphony Soldier is beyond comparison. Released on August 23, the band had released the first single, “Bad” in the middle of July. The song has since gone on to get radio play and place in the Adult Top 40 (Billboard). However, I don’t know of any song on this album which wouldn’t get great reception on the radio. From the beginning with “Angel with a Shotgun” to the end with “Living Louder”, the album is a melodic powerhouse. The Cab is different than the music I usually embrace, but I guess you could call this a guilty pleasure. This pop band from Vegas has had me wrapped around its finger since 2009. Do I regret anything? Not a chance. The band produced this album without a label. Many more bands are doing this and I’m interested to see where it goes from here.

There you have it. This is my overview of the albums I encountered in 2011. Remember, this is my opinion and only my opinion.