Music

The Best Pop-Punk of 2011

Kiel Hauck
Blink-182

It’s true, pop-punk is not dead. Far from it. And now is the perfect time to celebrate some of the best albums from a year that helped put the genre back on the map.

It wouldn’t be out-of-line to admit that evidence had been mounting over the past few years that the once plentiful and vibrant genre of pop-punk was beginning to ring a bit hollow. An oversaturation of similar sounding bands combined with a lack of innovation and increasingly shallow subject matter appeared to be leading to the death of pop-punk as we knew it. Fortunately, before the final bells of the genre had tolled, 2011 happened. Sure, it’s probably an overreaction to label this year as one of pop-punk's revival, but in a sense, a number of bands have taken on the task of breathing new life back into the music and have done so quite successfully.

This fall, when New Found Glory, the Wonder Years, and Set Your Goals headed out on the aptly named “Pop Punk’s Not Dead Tour”, it was as much a statement about their intent as it was a chance to showcase their new records. Certainly, there were some duds this year (we’re looking at you, All Time Low), but there were far more success stories. The triumphant return of scene veterans (Blink-182, Yellowcard), the rise of bands previously on the cusp of greatness (the Wonder Years, Fireworks), and a few surprises from unlikely places thrown in for good measure (Mayday Parade, Sparks the Rescue). It’s true, pop-punk is not dead. Far from it. And now is the perfect time to celebrate some of the best albums from a year that helped put the genre back on the map. Kiel Hauck

 
Artist: Sparks the Rescue

Album: Worst Thing I’ve Been Cursed With

Label: Fearless

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List number: 10

Sparks the Rescue
Worst Thing I’ve Been Cursed With

It’s difficult to know how seriously to take Portland, Maine, pop-punk act Sparks the Rescue. Whether lamenting a break-up in the form of “She’s a Bitch, and I’m a Fool” or celebrating drug and alcohol induced festivities on “The Better Side of Me”, the band’s lyrics sometimes smack of immaturity and boorishness. On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the fantastic guitar work throughout the album, along with the group’s obvious knack for crafting catchy tunes. Sparks the Rescue has essentially trimmed the fat from its promising 2008 debut Eyes to the Sun and put together one of the most fun -- and guiltiest -- pleasures of 2011.

 
Artist: Simple Plan

Album: Get Your Heart On!

Label: Atlantic

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List number: 9

Simple Plan
Get Your Heart On!

Although it appeared that Simple Plan had disappeared following the release of its 2008 self-titled album, apparently the band was riding a wave of success overseas, taking a two-year break from touring in the States. In response to its absence, Simple Plan exploded back onto the Warped Tour scene this year in support of its new effort Get Your Heart On!. A return to the bratty sound of the group’s earlier work, Simple Plan’s latest effort is a fast-paced, good natured romp that doesn’t feel old or rehashed. Featuring guest appearances from Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo and All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth, Get Your Heart On! is a welcome return for Simple Plan to the world of radio rock.

 
Artist: Go Radio

Album: Lucky Street

Label: Fearless

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Go Radio
Lucky Street

Since his days upon leaving Mayday Parade, vocalist and guitarist Jason Lancaster has been hard at work on his new project, Go Radio. Having released a couple of EPs over the past few years, the band’s debut full-length Lucky Street is more straightforward pop-rock than anything, but has just enough of a punk element to be included on this list. Featuring a wide array of sounds -- ranging from fiery and urgent (“Any Other Heart”) to mellow and anthemic (“Goodnight Moon”, “Forever My Father”) -- Lucky Street showcases the best of what the group has to offer. With a solid lineup and an obvious knack for catchiness, Go Radio has excelled with its 2011 debut.

 
Artist: New Found Glory

Album: RadioSurgery

Label: Epitaph

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List number: 7

New Found Glory
RadioSurgery

Veteran pop-punk act New Found Glory serves as one of the most consistent bands in the genre. Sure, there’s the occasional sidetrack such as 2006’s alt-rock outing Coming Home or 2009’s heavier-than-usual Not Without a Fight, but when it comes to New Found Glory, one thing’s for certain: it’s all coming from the heart. RadioSurgery is a fast outing, clocking in at just over 30 minutes as the band barely gives the listener a chance to catch his breath. Harkening back to ensemble’s earlier days, this release is truly pop-punk in every sense of the term. Fast paced, full of energy, and possessing just the right amount of gloss, RadioSurgery will likely be remembered as the album that put the band back on the map in the pop-punk world.

 
Artist: Red City Radio

Album: The Dangers of Standing Still

Label: Paper and Plastick

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Red City Radio
The Dangers of Standing Still

Oklahoma City natives Red City Radio have been quietly making their mark on the punk scene in 2011 in the form of one of the year’s best debuts. Full of fire and energy, the band’s first full-length manages to pull off the rare feat of capturing drunken punk revelry within the frame of a thinking man’s band. Red City Radio never takes its foot off of the gas throughout the album’s 13 tracks, as Paul Pendley’s gritty vocal work fits perfectly into the group’s sound. Crunchy guitars, gang vocals, and an adrenaline pumping pace --just a few of the things that make The Dangers of Standing Still one of the year’s finest, and an example of what punk should sound like.

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The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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