Julian Zanetti is the host of Only Human, a show heard every Wednesday morning from 10 - 11 AM. Only Human is a program that focuses on music made by artists in tight jeans, as opposed to marketers in grey suits. Here are Julian's favourite albums from the past year.
1. KEN mode - Venerable
This year's top album hails from Winnipeg, by all accounts a dreary, frozen wasteland. KEN mode has been taking all of this negative energy and channeling it into awesome metallic noise rock for years. This year's offering is no different, with added punch due to being recorded at God City with Kurt Ballou. The band sounds tighter than ever, and the increased production only serves to highlight the band's strengths: ripping riffs, haunting atmospheres, and a whole lot of vitriol. One of my favourite sections of the album is the last two minutes of The Irate Jumbuck, where the band loosens off the riffs and instead takes us through a section of decidedly creepy ambience. I had the great pleasure to see them live twice this year, and they are an incredible live band. A lot of sound to be produced by just three dudes.
2. Bâton Rouge - Fragments D'Eux Mêmes
This album just makes me feel great. It also helps to soften the blow of Daïtro's haitus. 4/5 of the members of Daïtro come together here to make some music that while on the surface doesn't share much in common with their former band, can definitely be recognized as being made by the same guys. It's emo music done so absolutely right. Bâton Rouge put out ten songs in 2011 and I listened to them a combined 850 times.
3. All Pigs Must Die - God Is War
As far as hardcore goes, this is probably the hardest album I heard this year, and definitely the angriest. Vocalist Kevin Baker of The Hope Conspiracy (who we haven't heard from since 2007) makes a convincing case that he may be one of the best hardcore lyricists and vocalists there is. Every line is spat out with such passion and malice. This is one pissed off dude. Backed by some amazing riffage from a couple of Bloodhorse dudes, blistering drums from Converge's Ben Koller (would you expect anything else?) and again produced by Kurt Ballou, APMD looks to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
4. Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972 / Dropped Pianos
Tim Hecker put out two releases in 2011, the lush Ravedeath, 1972 and the contrastingly stark Dropped Pianos, a collection of sketches that gave us a unique look into the creative process of the artist. Ravedeath was a departure from Hecker's past work, predominantly featuring the pipe organ which was then manipulated through the usual array of effects to create the wall of sound we know. While this may seem like a gimmick, the organ lends itself extremely well to Hecker's wash sound, pushing his music ever higher to heavenly reaches. I had the great pleasure to see him perform in a church on the pipe organ this year, which was extremely special and moving.
5. Young Widows - In and Out of Youth and Lightness
Young Widows has long been one of my favourite bands, and they returned with a changed sound in 2011. Gone is much of the distorted riffs, gone is most of the yelling, but the same dark, off-kilter sound permeates this album. This is the sound of a band growing up.
6. Light Bearer - Lapsus
Light Bearer proves that post-metal still has fresh sounds to offer. Featuring vocalist Alex of the now completed Fall of Efrafa, Light Bearer is another heavily concepted band and I really look forward to hearing all the music they plan to create. Like Bâton Rouge, this is another band that softens the blow of the loss of another band that was dear to me in the past. It appears my fears were in vain however, as Light Bearer more than fills the void and indeed is only the beginning of what promises to be another epic series of records. Full of crushing guitars and ridiculously heavy drums, this is definitely something to check out.
7. Trap Them - Darker Handcraft
Trap Them have been playing a mix of grindcore and hardcore for many years, but are at their dirtiest, fastest, and most focussed on their 2011 outing. Dirty is actually the first word that comes to mind when I listen to this. It's not pleasant music at all. But they are masters of their trade, and kicking through walls is what they do best. Just check out the transition to double-time at around 1:20 here. Just masterful. Again recorded with Kurt Ballou.
8. Touché Amoré - Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me
This is a great band. Angry, emotional, seemingly tireless... signed to Deathwish and put out their second album in 2011. Also I got to see them twice, once opening for La Dispute and the second time as a headliner, with Pianos Become the Teeth (who are only okay) supporting. This album finds the band knowing their strengths, crafting perfectly concise bursts of energy and emotion. The band especially shines live, giving it their all night after night. (I imagine. I for one have not been disappointed.) The opening track (~) was one of my summer songs this year. It makes me feel good.
9. Weekend Nachos - Worthless
Probably the heaviest thing I heard this year. Whether they're playing extremely fast or extremely slow, the band pummels the listener into submission. The 14-song album lasts just 26 minutes, and if you take out the three longer tracks, you're left with 11 songs in 11 minutes. Pretty goddamn tight.
10. Devin Townsend Project - Deconstruction
Devin Townsend once again becomes his absolutely insane self, reaching levels of energy and insanity that we haven't really heard since his Strapping Young Lad days. Featuring an insane roster of high-profile guests from bands such as Opeth, Between the Buried and Me, Ihsahn, Gojira, Meshuggah and many more, the album is a vertiable progasm. Also featured throughout is the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, giving the album a distinctly off-kilter feel. Each song brings together tons of different elements, which seem wanky on the surface but works in the context of the album.
Other music I really enjoyed this year:
Alaskan - Adversity; Woe
Algernon Cadwallader - Parrot Flies
Between the Buried and Me - The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues
The Body & Braveyoung - Nothing Passes
Boris - Attention Please
Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
Corrupted - Garten Der Unbewusstheit
Dads - Brush Your Teeth, Again ;)
Danny Paul Grody - In Search of Light
The Drift - Blue Hour
Grails - Deep Politics
Lipstick Lesbian - Madeleine
Man Man - Life Fantastic
Oathbreaker - Mælstrøm
Russian Circles - Empros
12XU - Les Grandes Marées