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Best Of 2011 - 2012 (jeffrey343)




ARTIST: Best Of 2011 (jeffrey343)

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:


Background
This has been a year that everyone has been raving about, with a lot of great releases. For me, I believe more albums from 2011 will stay in my rotation than from any of the prior years. It was hard to me to come up with a Top Ten. Many strong albums didn't make my list, including some by artists who had albums in my top ten from recent years.

I do believe that more and more albums are benefitting from improvements in production technology. Not too long ago, I could really tell a difference between albums produced on a limited budget compared both to big-budget newer albums and the big hits of 20+ years ago. While I believe the two best-produced albums on my list are the two U.S. major label ones, the gap has definitely narrowed substantially.

Here they are, in order from my top picks on down. This order may change, but I think the top 6 will stay the top 6. And there may be some others that move up if I happen to listen to them on the right day and hear something that I missed in earlier listens. I do tend to favor the more immediate albums, and some that are less immediate can grow on me over time.


In Summary


1 - White Widdow - Serenade
Very strong sophomore release from these guys. I hadn't heard the first one until after I had this one, and the first one has moved up possibly to #2 for 2010 for me. Great mix of hard guitars and keyboards, with strong vocals and superb production. Very immediate, and one I can play over and over (or even better, play both their albums back to back). These guys could be The Next Big Thing for me.



2 - Rob Moratti - Victory
I really liked the four Final Frontier albums, but the chipmunk vocals got a bit old after a while. I'm not really a big Saga fan, but I did play their album with Moratti handling lead vocals, and he sounded great on it. So I was glad that he used a more normal vocal style for this one, and it worked great. It is very similar to his work with Final Frontier. Another one I can play over and over.



3 - Daughtry - Break The Spell
This of course is a U.S. major label release, so it's gonna have superb production. What separates Daughtry from most other current U.S. rock acts is that Chris Daughtry has a truly superb voice. He made it to 4th place on season 5 of American Idol in 2006, and released a multi-platinum album that year and a platinum album in 2009. This is his third album, and I think it is as strong as his excellent debut and stronger than his very good second release. This is basically arena rock or corporate rock in the U.S. at the moment, and I bet most of you would enjoy it even if you eschew most of what is currently on U.S. radio.



4 - The Magnificent - The Magnificent
I have to admit that it did take this one a while to really grow on me. It reminds me of the excellent Treat album of last year. Michael Eriksen's voice is big-time for sure.



5 - Night Ranger - Somewhere In California
I absolutely loved these guys back in the 80s, from 'Dawn Patrol' to 'Man In Motion'. Their two 90s albums were among the very few rock albums I bought after grunge took over the world. Their 2007 release 'Hole In The Sun' left me cold, though (and still didn't do anything for me given a second chance this year). So it was refreshing to hear these guys do what they've done best - a fun rocker. I just wish they'd been releasing albums like this every few years since the late 80s. This sounds just like a logical continuation of what they've done best through the years, and that is a very good thing.



6 - 3 Doors Down - Time Of My Life
The second of my U.S. major label releases on this list. These guys have been around for over a decade, and their style has evolved from a more alternate sound to a fairly slick hard modern rock approach. Their 2008 self-titled release was a major hit, and they surpassed it with this one. Very similar in style to the Daughtry release. Lead singer Brad Arnold has developed a very strong AOR voice - no growling or any other unpleasant grunge-sounding vocal stuff going on here. Another one I bet most you guys would like if you give it a chance.



7 - House Of Lords - Big Money
These guys have been proficient and consistent the past several years, and this may be their strongest yet. Good mix of hard commercial rock and melodic metal. Keep it coming, guys.



8 - Shy - Shy
This may suffer some from 'they've been around and haven't blown me away before' syndrome. But so had 3 Doors Down. I think the song lengths (all 4:25 or longer) make it a tougher listen. But 'Ran Out Of Time' is on my short list of best songs of the year.



9 - Fergie Frederiksen - Happiness Is The Road
I've always liked Fergie's voice, and I was anticipating this album since I heard it was coming. Good effort - he sounds great, and there are several excellent songs on here. It's the lightest album to make my list, but it has plenty of rocking moments.



10 - Outloud - Love Catastrophe
This one seemed to slip under the radar on this site. The 2009 debut album was strong, with one truly epic song ('We Run'). This one is a great hard rock album. Chandler Mogel has a great voice for this, and I absolutely love the way Mark Cross beats the hell out of the skins.

Other good stuff:

Reckless Love - Animal Attraction - Their debut in 2010 was a pleasant surprise, and they built upon that (IMO) for this one. Less glam, more hard rock / AOR. Kind of like a better Poison, I believe.

Work Of Art - In Progress - I think this may eventually move up. I agree with George's review that the vocal mix is a bit thin, which means the songs kinda go in one ear and out the other. But it is good stuff.

XorigiN - State Of The Art - Still kinda new for me - lots of good songs, not sure it's as good as the albums above it but still quite good.

Issa - The Storm - I think this is an improvement over the very good debut. But it's been a very good year.

Shotgun Alley - Shotgun Alley - Just got this, and it's a good hard rocker, kinda like Outloud.

Chris Ousey - Rhyme & Reason - I like this better for the sound and production than the songs.

Airrace - Back To The Start - I need to play this more, as it is good.

Stuff that disappointed me at some level:

Fiona - Unbroken - Definitely not bad, but I was slightly underwhelmed. I think the production could have been better in places. I'd like to hear her sing the songs on the Issa album. And obviously she looks damn good for pushing 50.

Elevener - Symmetry In Motion - The debut grew on me once I got used to the vocals. The new guy has a more traditional voice, but it's not up there with the best I've heard, and that limited my desire to play this over and over. It may grow on me if I give it more of a chance, but it is not gonna surpass the debut.

Toby Hitchcock - Mercury's Down - Again, not bad at all, but I prefer him singing the style of songs from Pride Of Lions. Didn't quite live up to the expectations I had after George's perfect score.

Journey - Eclipse - I didn't dislike this as much as most of you. But a Journey album to me has always been about big killer songs with some great ballads and a bunch of other good songs. This one had just the 'other good songs', and many of them took way too long to get started and then to finish.

Mecca - Undeniable - This got some rave reviews on other sites. I had listened to the debut several times in anticipation of this one. But the songs just are not as catchy as the ones on the debut. Joe Vana's voice is not the issue. Just haven't gotten into this as much as I wanted to.

Stuff I need to give some more spins to:

Bad Habit - Atmosphere
Myland - Light Of A New Day
Sencelled - Sencelled


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Comments

#1 | george_the_jack on February 08 2012 13:46:19
Will give a chance to Daughtry and 3 Doors Down, despite the fact the new-rock sound is making me sick. Thanks for the tips Jeff.
#2 | jeffrey343 on February 08 2012 17:55:35
I do think most of y'all would like Daughtry and 3 Doors Down (probably Daughtry more). There have been lots of good individual songs by various modern rock bands, but these two albums are full of good songs with none that leave me cold. The musical style is more consistent than what you find in a lot of modern U.S. rock. They don't have an 80s sound, but they're as consistent as the great 80s albums.

I do think these two bands get lumped together with other similar groups that are either loved or loathed, with Nickleback being the prime example. Nickleback has had some good songs, but I can't listen to any of their albums straight through. To me, Daughtry and 3 Doors Down are in a much higher league.
#3 | jeffrey343 on February 08 2012 18:30:26
Also, I did like all the albums on my "disappointed" list - I just didn't initially like them as much as I expected to. I don't think the Journey album will grow on me any more than it has, but the other ones very well could. Sometimes it all comes down to when I listen to an album and the mood I'm in at the time.
#4 | englandashes on February 08 2012 19:59:06
Recently picked the 3 Doors Down myself and a much improvement over their earlier albums, very good release and deserves a place.
#5 | jeffrey343 on January 22 2013 04:10:13
White Widdow easily remains #1 for the year, with Daughty moving up to #2 and The Magnificent up to #3. I played the House Of Lords more than some of the ones above it too. Overall, still a good year. The Mecca grew on me - not really commercial, but a good album. The Bad Habbit one was pretty good, but the Myland may not get another spin unfortunately.
#6 | jeffrey343 on January 26 2013 05:06:49
Just got a hold of that first Lionville album, and yeah, it's gonna be in the top 10. And I'll put that Mecca album there too.

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