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2011 According to… Nick Lê

Read the rest of our end of the year coverage as well: 

I’m a twenty-one year old college senior with little direction in what to do with my life and a ton of other problems on the side. I guess I’m no different than anybody else my age. But rather than talk it out with my friends like a normal person, I tend to gravitate towards music to help funnel all my teenage angst and hopeless romanticism into something that’s a bit easier for me to process. In 2011, these were the albums that helped me do that. That probably explains why I can use the word ‘cathartic’ to describe at least 30% of the albums on my list - but don’t worry, I only used it once.

There were a few albums I wish I could have on here, but I had to do the impossible and limit myself to a mere twenty albums. Apologies go out to bands - like City and Colour, Title Fight, Polar Bear Club, and Mansions - that released amazing albums that are nowhere to be found in the list that follows. I became pre-occupied with life other things this year and as a result, I didn’t I follow music as closely as I used to. Or at least that’s how I feel about it and that’s the excuse I plan to use when somebody berates me for not having so-and-so on my list. But looking back, doing that allowed me to really immerse myself in the albums I did hear. I stumbled upon releases that I connected with in a way that reminded me of that connection I had with albums I heard when I was 16. You know, those records we all still love, even if its only for nostalgia’s sake. Those are the records you’ll see in my Top 10.

I’m not expecting everybody to agree with my list and based on what NSB typically covers, most of you will be wondering why I have so many pop punk bands on my list. Hell, you’ll be wondering why there’s even one pop punk band on there. Wait, there’s a metalcore record too. Dammit. But I think that’s what’s so great about the subjectivity of music. We all have our different tastes, but what’s even better is, like life, we all experience music and its effects on us in different ways. It’s more than safe to say the way I lived out my life this year went a little differently than yours and so did the music we both experienced. The songs and albums that made you sing, dance, and cry in 2011 probably didn’t sound exactly like the music that I sang along to, danced to, or cried to this year. 

So here it is, my 2011.

EPs of the Year

  1. Transit Something Left Behind
  2. Transit Promise Nothing 
  3. Dikembe Chicago Bowls
  4. Hawkboy - Hawkboy/King Folly
  5. Childish Gambino - EP
  6. Make Do and Mend - Part and Parcel 
  7. Handguns - Don’t Bite Your Tongue

Songs of the Year 

  1. Jay-Z and Kanye West – ”Ni**as in Paris”
  2. Childish Gambino  – ”Bonfire”
  3. The Swellers – ”The Best I Ever Had”
  4. The Wonder Years – ”Summers in PA”
  5. I Am the Avalanche– ”Holy Fuck”
  6. Such Gold – ”The World That You Live In”
  7. Title Fight – ”Society”
  8. Polar Bear Club – ”Screams in Caves”
  9. Yellowcard – ”With You Around”
  10. New Found Glory – ”Dumped”
  11. blink-182 – ”Ghost on the Dancefloor”
  12. Drake – ”Crew Love, ft. The Weeknd”
  13. Hawkboy – ”King Folly”
  14. Fireworks – ”Oh, Why Can’t We Start Old and Get Younger”
  15. Mayday Parade – ”Oh Well, Oh Well”
  16. Defeater – ”I Don’t Mind”
  17. The Dangerous Summer – ”Work in Progress”
  18. Balance and Composure – ”I Tore You Apart in My Head”
  19. Touche Amore – ”Home Away From Here”
  20. La Dispute – ”King Park”
  21. Thrice – ”Listen Through Me”
  22. Pianos Become the Teeth– ”I’ll Get By”
  23. Hands – ”Give Me Rest”
  24. All Get Out – ”Come and Gone”
  25. Saves the Day – ”Daybreak”
  26. This Time Next Year - “Drop Out of Life”

Hear (almost) all of these songs on Nick’s Spotify playlist. [link]

Albums of the Year 

20. New Found GloryRadiosurgery

19. The Story so Far - Under Soil and Dirt

18. Jay-Z & Kanye WestWatch the Throne

17. All Get Out The Season  

16. Drake Take Care

15. The Devil Wears PradaDead Throne

14. blink-182Neighborhoods

13. Childish GambinoCamp

12. Defeater Empty Days and Sleepless Nights

11. The SwellersGood for Me

10. Yellowcard When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes

I’ve loved Yellowcard longer than any band on this list, dating back to my days as a freshman in high school. Needless to say, I had high expectations for Yellowcard and their first album in nearly four years. I wrote “[I’m] happy with this album. But I’m hoping I’m not saying that just because I’m really excited and in the moment. I don’t think I am” in my journal back on March 16 of this year after that first listen of When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes. That was how many months ago? Just counted. It has been nine months and nothing’s changed.

9. Touché AmoréParting the Sea Between Brightness and Me

There is a lot you can do in twenty-two minutes. You can watch an episode of How I Met Your Mother, like I’m doing right now, watch an episode of Community, or — actually, you can watch any half-hour sitcom minus the commercials.  You could also spend that time listening to the 13 quick bursts of emotion on this album. The songs, as short as they may be, are heartfelt confessions of vocalist Jeremy Bolm. That’s what I loved most about it.

8. Pianos Become the TeethThe Lack Long After

This album is 2011’s best example of a catharsis. I can’t say that I’ve listened to anything sadder than this album. I’m not much of a crier, but I was near tears at the end of my first listen of “I’ll Get By.” Okay fine, maybe I was in tears.

7. The Dangerous SummerWar Paint

For a while, I thought this was going to be my Album of the Year. I was pretty much set on that for a while, but instead, it landed here. It’s not often that I find a whole record I can relate with on such a personal level, but The Dangerous Summer created exactly that with War Paint. 

6. The Wonder YearsSuburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing

I think I’ve said everything I’ve thought about this album in my review and my thoughts then are the same as my thoughts now. No, this album didn’t hit me the way The Upsides did, or at least not yet, but that’s okay. I still love this record. And I’ll forever have my not-so-humble brag of saying you can hear my guitar at the end of “You Made Me Want to Be a Saint.”

5. Thrice Major/Minor

I think Major/Minor is offsetting the imminent depression that comes along with your favorite band – in this case my favorite band, Thrice – announcing their hiatus. This album is likely Thrice’s last output for I don’t know how long, but they’re at least leaving us with some of their best examples of lyricism, songwriting, and musicianship to date.

 4. Transit Listen and Forgive

If Listen and Forgive was just “Long Lost Friends” twelve times, I would still put this album in this spot. The song is just that good. Their third release of 2011, the album is a bit more polished than their previous output, but it is still just as honest and passionate as ever.

 3. La DisputeWildlife

Wildlife tells a story and I like stories. Stories are just one of many ways I can escape from the mundane that is my life and Jordan Dreyer’s lyrics on this album allow me to do just that. The album is filled with stories of loss, of love, of hope, and even the lack thereof. The album is emotional, it can be sad at times – really sad, actually, and that’s what drew me to it in the first place.

2. Fireworks Gospel

Gospel has Fireworks diverging from the typical pop punk everyone is familiar with. You know, simple songs packed with gang vocals and that one hook to reel you in. But that’s not to say Fireworks no longer has the hooks or gang vocals, because they are still very much there. The band just became a bit more varied with this album and it worked wonders for them.

1. Balance and Composure - Separation

I’m still having the hardest time grasping the fact that this is a debut album. Separation has the band perfectly blurring the lines between emo, post-hardcore, and 90’s alternative to craft not only the best debut album of 2011, but also one of the best records of the year. I love how Balance and Composure can be mournful in one song and sound completely punishing in the next, seamlessly retaining the high level of introspection found in the Jon Simmons’ lyrics. 

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