The Best 20 Albums of 2011 (and they are all available on Vinyl)

There was a lot of great music released in 2011, and a ton on vinyl as the kids of today are learning to enjoy the warmth and expansive sound of a record while holding the cover reading the lyrics or liner notes. This makes the world a better place.

It was close to a perfect year in music, unfortunately the Strokes releasing another crap album brought down the year, you see if we have endure all of the hype regarding a record as bad as Angles, we have to add up all of that hype and reverse it for the weighted average of the year’s releases…overall this year on a scale of 100 would have been an 97, but when you factor in the Strokes album as 65 separate “0’s” it drops the overall year to a barely passing 66..

but anyway let’s move on with the top 20 albums, all should be listened to on vinyl as all are available that way, and they had to be on vinyl to make the list… no compilations or live albums are included in this.

and much to the dismay of the people who run my website, i’ve decided to list them all in one post as opposed to that aggravating “page view generating tactic” of making you go page to page to see each title. I respect you all too much to do that…to make my web people happy direct 19 people to this list and it will accomplish their desired result.

If you don’t have these albums go to your local record store and buy them on Vinyl, sit down with a loved one, crack open your favorite beverage and drop the needle and enjoy…

20. Cage the Elephant Thank You Happy Birthday
Well, maybe Bowling Green, Kentucky is the next Minneapolis or Seattle. This was not as great as their debut album but still merits the top 20 of the year. Their next album will be one of the most antipicated releases in recent years, when it’s coming, who knows, but in a wide open american young rock field, can Cage take charge? We shall see
My Favorite Tracks:
Shake me Down,
Japanese Buffalo,
Right before my Eyes

19. The Joy Formidable The Big Roar
Two Words: Ritzy Bryan
My Favorite Tracks:
I don’t want to see you like this,

18. Lucinda Williams Blessed
Preconceived notions are a dangerous thing when it comes to music, Lucinda Williams is a rare exception, you expect it to be great and it is. One of the best songwriters today and another solid effort.
My Favorite Tracks:
Convince me,
Sweet Love,
Ugly Truth

17. REM Collapse into Now
Who knew that this solid effort would be arguably America’s all time greatest band’s last album, but it was as they broke up later in the year for good.
My Favorite Tracks:
It Happened Today, Me,
Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I,

16. Smith Westerns Dye it Blonde
The first of two Chicago bands on this list. I thought their debut album tried too hard to be something, but not anything, a weird dicotomy. This album was more focused more polished and like Cage the Elephant as mentioned earlier, all eyes and ears are waiting for the pivotal 3rd album, while we wait we can enjoy this one.
My Favorite Tracks:
All Die Young,
Only One,
End of the Night

15. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart Belong
Fuzzy and plush indie pop from Brooklyn and NYC with some high octane production from Flood, makes this more accessible then their debut album and a lot more fun.
My Favorite Tracks:
Heaven’s gonna happen now,
Heart in your heartbreak,
My terrible friend,

14. Adele 21
You heard her voice on her debut album 19 and you just hoped it would be something special for a long time, when 21 came out I was floored as were most people, unfortunately it doesn’t seem as if she’s ever going to sustain doing tours, but as long as she can release records like this one, we’ll be ok with that.
My Favorite Tracks:
Rolling in the Deep
Someone like you
Set Fire to the Rain

13. Dropkick Murphys Going out in Style

Irish Punk from Boston. The Dropkicks deliver what may be their best album yet and it doesn’t hurt when the Boss sits in for rollicking version of an Irish Standard.
My Favorite Tracks:
Memorial Day
Peg O’ my Heart (with Springsteen)
Broken Hynms
Take ’em down

12. Nicole Atkins
Mondo Amore
The siren of the Jersey Shore music scene. Maybe it’s something in the water down the shore, as it seems that when an Jersey shore artist goes through hard times, the musical result delivers. and thensome. The hell with the boyfriend, the hell with the major label, let’s get it on. This album blows away her debut, and all eyes and ears are anticipating the all important third album, but for now let’s savor this one.
My Favorite Tracks:
You Come to Me
Cry Cry Cry
You were the Devil
The Tower

11. Eddie Vedder Ukekele Songs
Just when i thought a Don Ho album would always be the best ukekele album, Eddie Vedder snatches it away. One of the most enduring things about Eddie is that he has no boundaries, no limitations, no fears, and the results are always great, but an album of songs on Ukekele? Opening with a redone Pearl Jam song and closing with a song made famous in the Ukelele scene from THE JERK, this is an enjoyable album.
My Favorite Tracks:
Can’t Keep
You’re True
Tonight you Belong to Me

10. Ryan Adams Ashes & Fire
So much for retirement. Ryan comes back and comes back strong. I don’t think anyone believed Ryan would never make music again, but i didn’t expect something this soon. I’m not complaining there can never be enough Ryan Adams music.
My Favorite Tracks:
Lucky Now
Save Me
Dirty Rain
Chains of Love

9. Emily’s Army Don’t be a Dick
A group of Teenagers from the Bay Area playing Punk Music, that always works for me. Even though my favorite song from this album is kinda sorta anti-radio, i still was more than happy to be the first to play it on the radio, that’s the beauty of a free form radio show, no rules.
My Favorite Tracks:
Broadcast This
Loch Lomond
West Coast

8. Garland Jeffreys The King of In Between
One of NYC’s all time great storytellers bestows upon us a modern local classic with vivid imagery of the Brooklyn where he grew up.
My Favorite Tracks:
Roller Coaster Town
Coney Island Winter
If John Lee Hooker calls me
I’m alive

7. WILCO The Whole Love
They just keep getting better and better and if they string a few more albums together like this and hit double digit releases, do they become not only shoo-in for the rock hall of fame (which i’m not sure is even an honor considering how they ruined it) they enter the discussion of being perhaps being America’s best band.
My Favorite Tracks:
I Might
Whole Love
Black Moon
Capitol City

6.Foo Fighters Wasting Light
All analog, loud as hell and one of the best marketing campaigns to promote an album in recent years. Unlike label mates, The Strokes, the Foos actually have something worth listening to after the marketing push is over.
My Favorite Tracks:
I Should have Known
These Days

5.Wyldlife Self-Titled
The best power punk band to come out of NYC in the last 20 years. Their debut does everything a debut album is supposed to do: Tell you who they are, what they do and leave you wanting more. I expect huge things from this band and you will too.
My Favorite Tracks:
Sidewalk Queen
City Of Inbreds

4. John Wesley Harding The Sound of his own Voice
If there were any justice in the world, John Wesley Harding would be an arena act, playing 3 hour sets every night weaving in and out of his catalogue of fantastic songs and you wouldn’t be able to escape him on multiple formats on your radio. Unfortunately we live in a world where the Strokes still get magazine covers and SNL appearances with lackluster efforts. It’s probably too much to expect Wes to top his 1st 3 albums which all belong in any discussion of best albums of the 90’s, but this one is damn good and damn close to it.
My Favorite Tracks:
There’s a Starbucks where the Starbucks used to be
Gentleman Caller
Captain Courageous (on Disko Island)
The Examiners

3. Girl in a Coma Exits and All the Rest
One of the coolest things is to watch the growth of a band you’ve listened to for awhile, after a brilliant covers album, Girl in a Coma returns with their best album yet. Smart is by far the best and most accessible song they’ve ever done
My Favorite Tracks:
One Eyed Fool

2. Black Keys El Camino
The Black Keys seventh album came out with much fanfare on the heels of the success of Brothers, and El Camino has surpassed it, a little harder, a little faster and a bit more melodic than previous efforts. We are now witnessing a band with a nice body of work establish themselves as an innovative force of the US music scene. And their stance on streaming is refreshing and hopefully others will follow suit. It’s very welcome and much needed.
My Favorite Tracks:
Run Right Back
Lonely Boy
Gold on the Ceiling
Stop Stop

1. Social Distortion Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
This was one of the first albums I had purchased in 2011, as it was released in mid January, and it hasn’t been far from my turntable since. It’s been a go to album for me, and i feel it’s not only Social D’s best album, it’s the best album of the year. There’s the sound we’ve come to expect from Social D, and then they throw a curve at you. Mike Ness is always in great voice and the songwriting is up a notch too. The production is by far the best ever on a Social D album. It’s the best album of the year.
My Favorite Tracks:
Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown
Can’t Take it with you
Far side of Nowhere
I won’t run no more (vinyl only bonus track)


23 Great Unsigned Local Free Downloads all better than Kings of Leon, Pete Yorn and the Strokes too!

as of March 1, 2011 the links have been disabled, but feel free to buy these songs on itunes or check out the bands’s websites for more info!

Baby You’re Too Young DES ROAR


California Girls (Ain’t So Great) ANTHONY D’AMATO




Favorite Day BESS ROGERS

Fractured 68AD



In your street today THE STALKERS


New York City is a Drug (kahne) DIRTY PEARLS




Sidewalk Queen WYLDLIFE

Someday you’ll be a Star MAX IS KING

Suddenly Saturday (acoustic) OUTSIDE THE BOX



This Is My Time KID SHIMMY

Tragic (Just Like Me) PLASTIQ PASSION

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Trust me, this is all better than Kings of Leon or Pete Yorn with FREE downloads of great local 2010 music

We’ve all heard the saying “everyone has a breaking point,” a point where they are mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore.  I  spent most of my life without ever reaching my breaking point. It was good while it lasted, but in the midst of one of the worst snowstorms NYC has ever seen, it happened. Not because the streets weren’t being plowed or because I was having impure thoughts about Janice Huff while she recapped the blizzard like it was a sporting event. It had to do with a Music Industry “year end best of list.”

Year end best of lists irritate me. I skim them with less then a grain. I love when a music writer sorts through the trash for me, (you know who you are), others leave me scratching my head, (you know who you are) and then there are writers who seem to me to be drinking too much eggnog with record labels publicists. (Do you know who you are?). As I read list after list that has neglected great albums or songs of 2010, I shrugged as I always do. When I saw that a few jackasses had Kings of Leon on their lists, a little steam built up inside of me.  I assumed the bands record label gave that writer seats next to a model who was told to pay attention to him or her. There’s no reason to ever include Kings of Leon on any best of list. Even if the label set me up with Adrianna Lima, I just don’t think I could follow through with adding Kings of Leon to even the bottom of the list. I just couldn’t take the dive.

When I read that someone remotely respectable ranked Pete Yorn’s album as the 3rd best of the year, I opened my front door and enough fire billowed from my lungs that it cleared out all of the snow in my driveway. Pete Yorn? Is this guy kidding? The only way somebody puts Pete Yorn on a best of list, is if their hoping  one of Pete’s  Hollywood brothers will hook them up with another story. Let’s be realistic, when dissecting  Pete’s career, it’s appears as if his brothers have stopped helping him. So music critics… why bother?

I need to right this wrong. Clark Kent runs for a phone booth, I ran for a listening booth. I started thinking of all of the great music from 2010 and then remembered  all of the local unsigned music this past year. So much of it is more note worthy than Pete Yorn or Kings of Leon.

Where would I begin? Where would I stop? I decided to make it close to the length of a 90 minute cassette tape, like the one you’d make for your crush in homeroom or one you made for your lover as he or she left for college. Do the math people! Kings of Leon have released 5 Albums, 61 songs, 6 of which I think are good for a batting average of .098, which for those of you who don’t know baseball, that’s pretty crappy. Pete Yorn has released 6 albums, 72 songs, 3 of which I think are good which is a batting average of .041, and for those of you scoring at home is crappier than Kings of Leon.

I’m giving you 23 free songs for download by local NYC area artists who aren’t on labels. In most cases you’ve never heard of them, yet I believe that all of these songs are more inspiring than anything by Kings of Leon or Pete Yorn. I realize that I have set  the bar low and I know that if you only dig 3 out of these 24 songs, it’s a higher average than their combined .088 batting average. I do believe you’ll dig these songs

I’ve listed the songs in alphabetical order by title, they are not ranked. The songs are all by local unsigned acts, some unsigned by choice, some just getting started, some probably will be signed by the time my next year’s list comes out, IF Labels still exist. It really doesn’t matter, it’s all good..and there are obviously more I wasn’t able to include unfortunately. Accordingly, this is NOT a best of list, it’s just a list of really great songs.

For a more in depth discussion on my dispassion for Kings Of Leon and or Pete Yorn tweet @DJrichrusso

Directions: The titles of each song are links, you can click them to stream the track or right click links and select “Save As”, “Save Target As” or “Save File As” to download file. Want them all? There’s a Megaupload link at the bottom of the page to download the entire list! Enjoy!

Baby You’re Too Young DES ROAR (from Brooklyn, one of the catchiest songs of the year)

Bullet STEEL TRAIN (New Jersey, they broke the chains of the their record deal and self released their best album to date and this is the single)

California Girls (Ain’t So Great) ANTHONY D’AMATO (Princeton NJ, I’m sure Brian Wilson and Katy Perry will have a fit when they hear this gem bashing the Girls of Cali)

Don’t Tell Me THERINA BELLA and the TERRIBLE GIRLS (Staten Island, I once stated on my show that Staten Island might have more musical diversity than the other boroughs combined, this is the first of 5 staten island songs on the list, this is the pop genre)

Eddie Said AVON JUNKIES F/ARIES (Staten Island, this is the Ska Genre)

Effigy URGE OVERKILL (Chicago, oops this ain’t local, but who cares, the first new Urge song in like 15 years and they self released it and it kicks ass!)

Favorite Day BESS ROGERS (Long Island, this is my favorite song of the aptly titled Bess Rogers presents Bess Rogers ep)

Fractured 68AD (New Jersey, classic Jersey rock and lyrics about a love gone wrong)

Garbage Man THE SECONDS (Staten Island, Garage Rock genre with one of the great lyrics ever “society hates a street scholar”)

Holy Ghost Town A MILLION YEARS (Brooklyn, actually Brooklyn was a ghost town when these guys were kids, and they are all born and bred there, a true rarity and a great band)

In your street today THE STALKERS (NYC. The lead singer is named Andy Animal, nuff said)

It Goes Like That BERN AND THE BRIGHTS (Montclair NJ, the jersey scene is as vibrant as it’s ever been and this is one of the bands leading the way)

New York City is a Drug (kahne) DIRTY PEARLS (NYC, the mothership of all NYC bands right now, with the first NYC anthem that’s mattered in the last 20 years, and oh yeah, David Kahne produced it)

One More Night to Rock SOUTHSIDE JOHNNY and ASBURY JUKES (Asbury Park, NJ One of the holy trinity of Jersey rock who continues to pack them in and self release great material)

Pix LES VINYL (Staten Island, this would fall under the cerebral rock genre)

Pullin’ Shapes THEODORE GRIMM (Nutley NJ, there ain’t nothing Grim about these guys)

Sidewalk Queen WYLDLIFE (Westchester NY, it’s the NY Dolls meet the Ramones, meet the sex pistols if there’s such a thing, pretty amazing considering not one member of this band was alive when those bands had their heyday)

Someday you’ll be a Star MAX IS KING (NYC, Nick Fowler on lead vocals is the best pure voice in NYC right now, and Artie the guitar player ain’t too shabby either)

Suddenly Saturday (acoustic) OUTSIDE THE BOX (Lavalette NJ, you know a band is good when their acoustic demo of a song is good enough for a list like this)

Suicide ink STRAWBERRY JAM (Elizabeth NJ, yes Elizabeth NJ of all places, who knew the city I was born in and lived in for the first 6 months of my life would spawn some great rock and roll)

The End JOHN WESLEY HARDING (Brooklyn, kinda sorta, Wes is originally from England, now lives in Philly, but did live in Brooklyn the last few years, and he’s great and under-appreciated, it’s my list and my rules!)

This Is My Time KID SHIMMY

Tragic (Just Like Me) PLASTIQ PASSION (Staten Island, Jersey City, Brooklyn, All girl new wave band and it doesn’t get cooler than this)

So there you have it 23 songs, all unsigned at the moment, all with either self releases, or demos and all local (well, almost all local)

Hope you enjoyed it and will do so for years to come, listen to it a few times as a body of work, while in your car, at the gym or even at a Pete Yorn or Kings of Leon show if you get dragged to one.

Happy New Year

Download All Songs In a Zip File!

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