Top 20 of 2011: 5-1

5. Thursday – No Devolucion

For me, the announcement of Thursday’s (don’t call it a) break up in November saw No Devolucion finally make sense. As a farewell statement from the most influential post-hardcore band in history it is a poignant, mesmerising piece of art.

The signature dynamic shifts are still ever present on No Devolucion, but here the highs and lows are even more pronounced than before. If Common Existence was Thursday’s heaviest record this may be the opposite, but never does its generally subdued nature compromise the power lurking within. In fact, the defining moment of No Devolucion is the quietest of all – Empty Glass. It is a song that is utterly perfect. The intimate lyrics discussing Geoff Rickly’s marriage breakdown, his hushed delivery and the layered, restrained, synth-heavy accompaniment that slowly and subtly builds to a devastating crescendo all combine to make the song the embodiment of all that is great about this band. And on the other side of the coin, Turnpike Divides is a classic, crushing, shout-out-loud Thursday anthem that shows that to the end the band could still shift up and make passionate, heavy post-hardcore. And then, as if they knew that No Devolucion was to be their last, the album ends on the most fitting note of all with the epic Stay True which speaks to the die-hards like nothing and no one else could.

In any other year this would have been top 3. If there had to be a final Thursday album, No Devolucion was the perfect farewell. Thursday are a band that will never be forgotten, and No Devolucion only adds to their already immeasurable legacy.

 

4. Make Do And Mend – End Measured Mile

Such a pleasant surprise from a band I only discovered this year. The album was released in the US in 2010 but got a 2011 release locally, so makes this list.

Playing the sort of passionate but accessible melodic hardcore that you might have thought had disappeared, MDAM feel important on End Measured Mile. It’s a determinedly working class set of songs from a determinedly working class band. No frills, no tricky obvious overdubs, just beautifully written songs performed like the band means every note.

The one-two punch of Ghostal and Transparent Seas is maybe the strongest since Radiohead backed High and Dry up with Fake Plastic Trees, with the chilling spoken word bridge of the former contrasting with the ecstatic, anti-religious chorus of the latter, the most exhilarating moment in music in 2011. It’s the highlight of an album that delivers the sort of punk that reminds me exactly why I love the genre.

Recently signed to Rise Records and set to hit the studio in February for the follow up to End Measured Mile, MDAM are one to watch. If you’re serious about music this is a band you need to know. One of the best live bands I’ve seen this year too.

 

3. Fireworks – Gospel

Fireworks made one of the better pop punk records of 2009 with All I Have To Offer Is My Own Confusion but nothing in that solid effort could have prepared listeners for what they have unleashed with Gospel, 2011’s most joyful, exciting pop punk release.

Fireworks stretch the genre in an almost entirely new direction with Gospel. Traditionally, pop punk bands either fall into the raucous punk-influenced or polished pop-influenced camps but on Gospel, Fireworks roll influences like 80s pop into a sound that has enough rough edges to sit on the same bill as The Wonder Years or Living With Lions and shares nothing with the neon-clad, synth-toting bands commonly associated with said influences. The result is something truly original, and infectious as hell. I challenge anyone to listen to Oh, Why Can’t We Start Old And Get Younger and sit still. It is clearly the best pop song released in 2011.

The summery, upbeat vibe continues throughout the album, but the real substance comes from lyrics which consistently see positivity bleeding through the cracks of adversity. Continuing the “best of 2011” theme of this review is this stanza from Paintings of Paul Revere, which stands as the best lyric I’ve heard in 2011: “The past is something I wanna kiss in the rain/Then get back in my car and never let it happen again”. And the album is packed with lines almost as memorable as that one.

This is an album that truly has “Summer Soundtrack” written all over it, and serves that purpose better than anything else this year, but in actual fact is so much more. There is a depth here that is rare in music in general, not to mention the genre, and it marks Fireworks as perhaps the band to watch in the pop punk new wave. Their next step could be anything.

 

2. The Wonder Years – Suburbia, I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing

The best pop punk band in the known universe hit the mark again in 2011. Suburbia is impossible to review in short form, so here’s my review in long form.

 

1. The Horrible Crowes – Elsie

Put simply, the best album of 2011. It, too, deserved a longer review than would fit here. So here it is!

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