Best of 2011: Ryan

December 31, 2011

The best of any year is a tough write-up and to be honest I was really reluctant to put one together for the sole reason that I was holding out until I could hear the new Kayo Dot EP, unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet. So here it is, in all it’s pretentious glory!

Rustie – Glass Swords

Although many will disagree, I cannot stand the new age of music we begin to live in where music like dub step has overrun everything. That statement might sound strange however, to anyone that first takes a listen to this album. To be honest some of the music on this list may have first been tagged as this and really didn’t entice me to check out such gems. Although this album features low bass, and some cheesy drum samples, it certainly doesn’t sound like a Skrillex song. In fact, rather than rave and do E, this album finds a home somewhere like if Beethoven drove a low rider and only wanted his homies to listen to the absolute most grandiose “hood music”.

East of the Wall- The Apologist

These gentlemen have been impressing me for a few years now, and although the sound is almost completely different on each album (mostly because they are) they always deliver something special. Amongst the backdrop of a zillion other instrumental metal bands these days, their craft falls somewhere between Irepress and Dysrrythmia, but this time they add some of the most gorgeous and otherwise well placed voice into the caustic rhythms that truly explore todays wildest of composition.

Krallice- Diotoma

This might be my favorite album of the past year. I cannot begin to describe the amount of pure beauty this album contains, not to mention some of my favorite moments in music. Perhaps early on I may have written this album off, but if you simply take some time to sit down and listen you hear some of the most dynamic of shifts amongst what seems like a hypnotic wave of pure intensity. The production that guitarist Collin Marston implements makes the album literally sound like a thousand buzzing violins at constant tremolo. I think in tens years this album will feel like Ride the Lightning did for me as a kid.

True Widow- As High As the Highest Heavens and from the Center to the Circumference of the Earth

The story that this band originated from playing bars in Texas to recording and surviving in Portland isn’t a shock. They play Spoon man at maybe half the speed, while reinventing Cobain technique. If people really want to feel any sort of nostalgic fit then perhaps this would be a better tool than searching YouTube to find every episode of Rocco’s Modern Life only to realize that Sick Animation is way less creepy. But anyway, rule number one intervenes: If a band describes themselves as Stone-Gaze, then you must listen to them.

Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage

I can’t say enough good things about this band. Their album also came as a huge surprise to me, it is so different from anything happening in black metal today, especially in the United States. Firstly, Randall Dunn continues to produce the majority of the atmosphere on this album and again recreates some feeling I got from early nineties black metal that are all too uncommon now. There seemed to me a trend of bands like this to oversimplify until there was nothing left of the sound but crashing symbols, overly reverberated guitar, maybe a stream or a loon in the foreground (not that I don’t love that). However, this album is a sure testament to symphonic black metal in the cleverest of ways.

Washed Out – Within and Without

I can’t exaggerate enough what I needed more this year: an album that made me feel like I was in the 80s in the desert. This album came extremely close, just replace desert with beach. I cannot express how cool of a project this is in my opinion as well. The seems to be a faux nostalgia with this place that Washed Out takes me.

Tycho – Dive

Ghostly international does release some of my favorite music and this subtle masterpiece of electro has become probably my most played album of this year. If you just want to relax, then this is the best thing to just throw on, lay down, and stare out the window. The fact is though, there is some serious composition on this album, and every single melody proves it.

A Winged Victory for The Sullen – S/t

This is a marvel of present day musical ingenuity. Adam Wiltzie is able to take the ambient music I always loved him for and romanticize it with the grandeur of classical music, all recorded in large spaces with large pianos directly to magnetic tape. If there is any album that will stand the test of time, when all our money lights on fire, it will be this beautiful seven song album. If anything on this list, go get this one and play it as loud as possible and let the sound of what music was supposed to be sink into you.


Also labeled as dubstep, this is rather, the real return of the Mack. This time he’s become a whole lot more melancholy. The singer and composer of this album quite possibly the most original take on electronic music that I’ve probably ever heard, at least since Aphex Twin. That is a huge statement to live up to, but it’s only a matter of time before everyone I know listens to this on the way to the club. And everyone will be kinda bummed at said club.

Liturgy – Aesthetica

I know there is more trash talk about this band than anything of which I’ve seen since Dimebag Darrell was an idiot and got himself shot. But I might argue that this is probably the best album of the last five years. Every thing about it is just so so even, except for the fact that drummer Greg Fox is putting on the best performance in metal music. The sheer complexity of the mathematical altered patterns is sometimes even outweighed by the intensity of moments that call for driving simplicity. Hunter Hunt-Hendrix is very keen on writing some of the most major guitar work in black metal history, and once again Colin Martson has made a record that is very precise in its tones. This album sound like Flemming Raussman recording New Wave of British Heavy Metal it in the late eighties in Sweden (*Second Metallica reference in this list).

Best of 2011: Cameron

December 27, 2011

Note: In the next few weeks, we’ll be posting “Best of 2011” lists from Black With Sap’s family and friends. This was by far the most exhaustive and meticulous write-up I’ve ever done. It probably wasn’t even worth the time I put into it, but here goes nothing:

Honorable Mentions (In No Particular Order)

Tom Waits – Bad As Me

Tom Waits is back from a spell of inactivity to prove he’s still the king of barrooms everywhere. This album has been dragged through the gravel, soaked in whiskey, set on fire, and run over by a train, but it still comes out smelling like roses. Seriously, how can one man be this good for this long?

La Dispute – Wildlife

I’ll be honest. I wrote this band off when the masses began to adore them (because I’m way too cool for popular hardcore, or something…), but this album surprised me. La Dispute gave up their heart-on-the-sleeve urgency for a more subtle, mature sound. This album is dark, inspiring, and incredibly well-executed. I still can’t listen to “King Park” or “Edward Benz, 27 Times” without getting goosebumps.

Lee Corey Oswald – Moon Songs

At first, Lee Corey Oswald might seem like just a bunch of dudes with punk influences that can’t decide what style they want to play. Give it a little time though, this one’s a grower. Once you realize what makes these 14 songs so special (namely: the musicianship, crafty songwriting, vocal melodies and harmonies, etc.), the truth becomes evident: these guys are just too talented to pigeon-hole themselves into one particular sound. Lucky for us, they don’t have to.

Mike Adams at His Honest Weight – Oscillate Wisely

Half way between singer-songwriter and a lo-fi garage band, Oscillate Wisely is its own beast entirely. Mike Adams plays every instrument on the album and isn’t afraid to layer on rich instrumentation along side healthy doses of fuzz and reverb. It’s an interesting dichotomy, but it serves his ambitious songwriting well.

Portugal. The Man – In the Mountain In the Cloud

Portugal. The Man has released some pretty mediocre albums lately, in my opinion. Interestingly enough, their major label debut turned out to be my favorite in recent years. In the Mountain In the Cloud is the perfect balance of psychedelia, pop, and rock n’ roll. It’s simultaneously the most experimental and the most accessible album they’ve written in years, and I guarantee it will leave songs stuck in your head for days.

Wu Lyf – Go Tell Fire to the Mountain

Even with the mysterious persona and blogosphere hype aside, I think this band is super fascinating. On paper, the combination of  soaring guitars, almost unintelligible growls, church organs, and banquet hall-sized reverb seems almost laughable. Yet Wu Lyf (short for World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation) pull it off in every way. Check out this awesome video for a taste of what I’m talking about.

Restorations – Restorations

Seeing Restorations at The Fest is what really cemented this album as one of my favorites of the year. To fully appreciate the dense and complex nature of these songs, they should be played at full volume in a packed bar. I love how the low end of this album makes it as heavy as it is melodic and expansive. Even punks have to grow up sometime, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make a great album to showcase their newfound maturity.

Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo

A smoke ring is the perfect imagery for this child prodigy’s newest album. These songs are ethereal at times and well-defined at others, floating carelessly through smokey landscapes and smooth melodies. Just when you think you’ve got a good grasp on what defines Kurt Vile’s songs, his “smoke ring” starts to lose shape and dissipate, replaced by something different – a halo, maybe?

Future Islands – On the Water

Heart-break album of the year. On the Water is a synth-heavy, low tempo pop album full of bitter-sweet melodies and ambient textures. The group’s signature vocals are a bit strange, but they complement the music well and the vocal delivery only enhances the already stirring lyrics. This album may be a bit one-dimensional, but Future Islands are so good at what they do, I really can’t complain.

By Surprise – Mountain Smashers

An endless supply of disposable emo bands seem to be appearing as of late. By Surprise have separated themselves from their peers by crafting an album that doesn’t “twinkle” or “noodle” in any way. Instead of recreating the standard emo formula, this album seems to be more influenced by 90’s alternative and indie rock. It’s quirky, fun, catchy, dynamic, and refreshing. By Surprise is here to show us the light, and thank God, it’s not shining on American Football for once.

BOAT – Dress Like Your Idols

I’m a sucker for shameless 90’s alternative worship, and well, that’s pretty much exactly what this album is. It’s clever, retro, and full of more hooks than you can shake a telecaster at. Any disillusioned thirty-something with graying hair will fall head over heels for this band, and particularly, this album.

Top Albums

10. Algernon Cadwallader – Parrot Flies

I don’t think Parrot Flies is as immediate as Some Kind of Cadwallader was, but it reminds us why we all fell in love with this band. If you can manage to listen to the whole thing without cracking a smile, I’ll be surprised. I think Peter’s lyrics have really improved on this album, and Joe’s guitar playing is out of control. These boys are still the best at what they do. See them live before you die.

9. Big Kids – Phone Home

Big Kids were busy this year. With all the touring and split releases, I’m surprised they had time to write another full length at all. Still, this record was so much better than their last that it caught me off guard. The sound they produce is still huge, but they’ve added so much more to their song writing. Songs like “Catchers Mitt” and “Full Gainer” pack an emotional punch I didn’t know they had. Throw in a few anthemic sing-alongs and some noticeably dynamic songs, and well, I loved the hell out of this album.

8. Kite Party – Baseball Season

Baseball Season is an album that hits the sweet spot between post-punk, indie, and emo. It’s the perfect halfway point between nostalgia and looking forward, between listening your favorite classics and finding something new and exciting. Few albums this year managed to keep my attention after so many rotations. It’s both playful and thoughtful, and I think it paints a picture that will remain as timeless as its name sake.

7. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation

I take some weird sort of pride in knowing that this album was born from Boise, Idaho, even though I had absolutely nothing to do with it in any way. Youth Lagoon is the bedroom recordings of Trevor Powers. These songs are filled to the brim with soaring melodies, textured synths, airy vocals, and heaps of longing. It’s like electronic indie’s version of an emo album, and while that may seem like a bad combination, it’s passion and sincerity makes it really quite engaging.

6. Fucked Up – David Comes To Life

I’m not sure where to even start with this album. Only a band like Fucked Up could have created such an ambitious album. The story, instrumentation, and lyrics are all perfectly crafted. The only real reason this album isn’t higher on my list is because it sort of drags on in the middle for me. Still, that’s hardly criticism. This album is a masterful, moving piece of art that needs to be experienced in its entirety. Don’t sleep on this one.

5. Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math

Liking this album so much might lessen my punk cred (Do I even have punk cred? Is that a real thing?), but I don’t care. It’s amazing. Every song is extremely passionate, original, honest, and different. I think my favorite part about this album is how it relies on subtleties to express emotion rather than just spewing it out haphazardly. It almost follows a story-arc with only 10 songs, but I’m amazed time and time again by how much weight each one of those songs can carry.

4. The Horrible Crowes – Elsie

I always knew that Brian Fallon could write a heartfelt punk tune, but I never had any idea how soulful the man really was. For his side project (alongside The Gaslight Anthem’s guitar tech Ian Perkins), Brian tries his hand at about a half dozen other genres. My God, that boy can sing. If you’re not convinced that his voice was meant for something greater than Springsteen-esque punk songs by the end of the second song, you’re delusional. But this album is great for so many other reasons too. Fallon’s sincerity and lyrics are at a career high, plus the duo have a knack for constructing bluesy songs with some major hooks. I pretty much fall in love with a new song every time I listen to this album.

3. Bomb the Music Industry! – Vacation

Bomb the Music Industry! seriously gets better with every album. As you might imagine, this album was the perfect companion for a careless summer. Rosenstock and company are growing up a bit, adding a healthy dose of positivity to their usual cynicism and brutal honesty. Drinking beer whilst listening to “Hurricane Waves” or “Can’t Complain” is usually enough to cure me of any bad mood. If you’re interested in catchy, thoughtful, quirky, intelligent punk rock or indie, look no further. Hell, even if you’re not in to that sort of stuff, download this album anyway.

2. Pygmy Lush – Old Friends

If Vacation is the perfect summer album, Old Friends is the perfect Fall and Winter album. Pygmy Lush’s ability to make emotionally charged  folk is unparalleled in music today. This album is so much more multi-dimensional than their previous effort, Mount Hope, which was already incredible. Songs vary from haunting dirges to high energy acoustic rompers and everywhere in between. We could talk about this band’s pedigree in the hardcore scene for days, but the truth is, they’re carving a better niche for themselves as Pygmy Lush than even the most influential bands they’ve been a part of in the past.

1. Teenage Cool Kids – Denton After Sunset

Have you ever heard a song and thought to yourself, “I could/should have written this.”? Well, that’s how I feel about this entire album. I’m not implying that I have enough talent to do such a thing, only trying to illustrate how much this album resonates with me. I think it’s pretty much perfect. There’s not a single thing I would change. The laid back vocal melodies and smooth delivery, cynical and disenchanted lyrics, skillful use of guitar dissonance, shimmering acoustic solos, prominent bass lines, etc… It all complements itself so well. Teenage Cool Kids may have drawn heavily from their 90’s indie influences, but this magnum opus has proven that they are so much more than just imitators. They’ve created a sound as relevant and distinguished as any other band you’ll hear this year.

This is Black With Sap’s newest release, in conjunction with our good friends at Carucage Records and The Ghost is Clear Records. Artwork was done by Harrison at Kid Sister Everything, and he’ll be hand-screening every cover. Saying I was extremely excited to put this record together would be an understatement. All parties involved (bands, labels, and artist) have been amazing to work with. 2 songs from both bands, and as we’ve come to expect from the two of them, both bands kill it. Carucage has a preorder up, you know what to do with it. If you run a blog or whatever, feel free to spread this shit like wildfire.



I’m going to keep this brief because I’m swamped with projects and finals. If you’re unfamiliar with Lee Corey Oswald, check out Dylan’s old post. This album is damn great. It’s 14 songs –  half electric and half acoustic. They play around in all sorts of genres and sounds and really do them all well. They’re on tour now, check out the dates here. Go see this band and buy this album on cassette while you’re there. This is easily among my top albums of 2011.