Top Albums 2011

It’s been a year. Blogging is so last decade, it’s all about the Twitters. Same as last time, you’ll get the countdown, the cover art, my thoughts, and a music vid. And without further ado:


10- 116 Clique – “Man Up”

Honestly, this album is only #10 because there’s only seven tracks. In more traditional terminology, they’d have called it an “EP” but that’s such a “physical media” thing of me to say. Basically, the 116 Clique is all your ravourite rappers from Reach Records – Lecrae, Tedashii, Trip Lee, PRo, Andy Mineo, Sho Baraka and KB – doing posse cuts non stop. This album, apparently, is a soundtrack for a curriculum & documentary – all aimed at, you guessed it, helping this generation of young men to “man up” – to lead and love boldly with grace. It’s a much-needed rallying cry, and the beats and rhymes are only outmatched by the heart behind it all.

09- Gungor – “Ghosts Upon The Earth”

Some of my in-laws turned me on to Gungor earlier in the year – specifically their debut album “Beautiful Things.” When I met Gungor, I met great harmonies, folksy vibes, and a well-honed sense of when to be quiet and restrained and when to be free, loud, and relaxed. Gungor excels at using variance in volume, pacing, and tone to capture emotion (or more accurately, capture worship) and this is true of 2011’s “Ghosts Upon The Earth” – a generous, difficult-to-describe multi-layered hyphenated-word-deserving album. Not exactly a worship album, but not exactly not one either. Delicious, in other words.

08- Emery – “We Do What We Want”

I keep thinking that Emery is gonna fall off. Hardly the case at all – We Do What We Want is arguably and in turns their most aggressive, loud and intense album and at the same time has perhaps their greatest “slow song” to date (I’d even argue it tops “The Ponytail Parades”). This is a band that has matured remarkably in… wow it’s gotta be close to a decade now! Anyways, the closing track on the album, “Fix Me” is one of the most heartfelt, earnest songs they’ve ever done and it’s my personal favourite on an album that is otherwise marked by a serious case of THE HEAVIES. Brace yourself, buckle up, and check it out. You’ll be glad and wear a grin.

07- Propaganda & Odd Thomas – “Art Ambidextrous”

Most people first heard of Propaganda when his video “G.O.S.P.E.L.” went viral early in 2011. Some of us (myself included) have been familiar with the dude since his days with the Tunnel Rats in the early 2000’s. Much to my joy, Props has gone in a decidedly Christ-centric direction with his content, and the results are great. This is not your average rapper – Propaganda is the sort of emcee who can put together a brilliant spoken word piece just as quickly as a boom bap attack. Needless to say, the lyrics on Art Ambidextrous are (generally speaking) rather heady. Not one to shy away from polysyllabics and weirding rhyme schemes, there’s a lot to sink your brain into here. Definitely worth a careful listen when you’ve got time to digest meat rather than “just some rhymes”. Oh, and did I mention that this album is FREE from HumbleBeast Records? No? Well, it is.

06- Matt Redman – “10,000 Reasons”

Frankly, there was a sizeable portion of my life where I didn’t care at all for worship music. Needless to say, those days are gone. In terms of what my generation would call “normal worship music” – Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons is by far the best effort of the year. Personal favourites on the record are “Never Once” (about the faithfulness of God), “10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)” which is about as anthemic as they get, and “Holy” (you can guess what that one’s about). Either way, they’ve been standards at church this year and for good reason – they strike great notes and (with the help of God’s people) bring down the glory.

05- Braille – “Native Lungs”

You’ll be glad to know that one of this year’s best is also one of this year’s… FREE. Braille’s been a constant companion of my hear-drums since high school and for good reason – excellent beats, excellent rhymes, and a knack for excellent guest artists. Native Lungs is, in my opinion, his best to date (closely followed by The IV Edition) – stuffed with head-nodding rhythms and brain-happy wordsmithery. There’s a decidedly West Coast flavour to this album (that’s not unusual for Braille) and there’s plenty of transparent, vulnerable honesty (quite usual for Braille) and far from a weakness, the honesty makes the record what it is. Did I mention this album is FREE? Get it here from HumbleBeast Records.

04- Great Awakening – “Songs In Secret”

Ok… so this one falls into the “worship” category, but it’s not in the “normal worship music” category I mentioned above. Great Awakening’s first album (Cities) would have largely fallen into that category. Songs in Secret, much to the contrary, is subtle, paced, quiet, meditative, pleasant, downtempo worship that is full of earnest heart. Which is to say, this album’s excellence lies in the intricacy, in the stillness, in the excecution of well-timed silence and the strange first track “Explore” which fools you into thinking that you’re about to hear an uptempo indie rock worship album. Which you aren’t. Get this album FREE from Come&Live! Records here.

03- Sovereign Grace Music – “Risen”

I’ve never kept it secret (in person, at least) that I’m a huge fan of Sovereign Grace Music. Now, in part at least, this is because most of their songs are in keys I can sing along with (unlike Chris Tomlin, for example). I like to sing, so selfishly that makes sense, right? Anyways, Risen is their 2011 album centered around the Resurrection of Christ. Fittingly, it came out just before Easter, but don’t be surprised if a grip of these songs are just starting to hit the air more visibly as we head into Easter this year (2012). Fantastic writing, theological depth, thrilling harmonies, and a load of modern hymns / spiritual songs to lend your vocal chords to. Trust me, your vocal chords are stoked to sing along.

02- Shai Linne – “The Attributes of God”

Honestly, if there could be two #1’s, this would be #1. Choosing between these two albums left me conflicted. Let’s get to the basics, shall we? Shai Linne has released the best hip hop album of 2011. The Attributes of God is not only a 15-track sendup to the character and nature of Almighty God, he’s done it with class, substance, and serious music to match. When I say “serious,” I mean these beats have my head bouncing even when I don’t have the record on. Highlights on the record are “The Glory of God (Not To Us)”, “Taste and See”, and “Mercy and Grace”, but you won’t find a dud on this one. Non-stop glory to God, non-stop beat rock.

01- Thrice – “Major/Minor”

This shouldn’t be any surprise. I love Thrice and I’m not sure if they’re capable of anything below excellence at this point. I’ll admit that I’m probably biased and blind to it, but everything Dustin Kensrue and company touch turns to ear-gold to me. Personal favourites are “Words in the Water”, “Treading Paper”, “Promises” and “Anthology”… but I could listen to the thing on repeat all day and not get tired. The lyrics, as usual, are solid “good plutonium” for your eardrums – packed with biblical allusions and weight that is difficult to describe. To say that Dustin is one of the best lyricists in music today is an understatement. To say that Thrice is one of the best rock bands in music today is, also and likewise, an understatement. Miss this one at your own expense.

Honourable Mentions:
Lecrae – “Rehab: The Overdose”
Playdough & Heath McNease – “Wed, White and Wu”
Hillsong Live – “God Is Able”
Hillsong United – “Aftermath”
Blindside – “With Shivering Hearts We Wait”
August Burns Red – “Leveler”

…breakdown in three quarters

Current Tunage: Frodus – Out-Circuit The Ending
In the dust of the least design I will take to the sky

Pictured is Durn. Weilding “Jin’Rokh, The Great Apocalypse”. Now at rest.

3 / 4

One to go.

Commentary: It feels so good to be done. Third year was difficult – not necessarily in terms of the content studied. Difficult in every way but scholastically, and so academics were thus rendered difficult as well. I feel like I’ve been stretched every way possible, and yet I know this is just the tiny, visible peak of a monstrous iceberg.

This year is significant for many reasons, but few of them relate to school. This year marked the beginning of my first real relationship in ~4 years. Real, in this case, meaning “she is actually, in fact, interested and reciprocal; capable of making her mind up and being clear about it”. I apologize if the previous sentence comes off as bitter, as I’m not much bitter anymore, just glad to not be tired in the same way I was when that sort of thing bothered me (ie. right before meeting Steph). To add encouragement to healing, I found myself engaged shortly thereafter to someone I oft refer to as “Miss MyUniverse”, among many other things. I freely admit my human propensity towards bias and preference and subjectivity, but I honestly and holistically would submit my Fiancee as the best woman in all chronology, geography, and my unchanging opinion. Bar none. If you disagree, I will fight you and your ignorance (gently).

Consequential to these remarkable and unexpected developments, focusing on academics has often been the last thing on my mind this year – and my marks will likely show the proof. I do expect to pass everything (some by the skins of their teeth), for which I am thankful and admittedly quite surprised in a couple of cases. Papers and topics for them filled my head throughout the year, and I feel some of my best writing ever was done – and some of the most mediocre as well. I discovered I rather dislike open-ended English essays, and rather love open-ended Philosophy essays. I nurtured a growing passion for poetry (which hasn’t really manifested itself in much writing for my poetry blog as of yet, but I’m sure it will come. Finally, I took to calling myself a “Philosophy and English joint major” where before I had called myself an “English and Philosophy joint major”. The reasoning is simple: I get excited about Philosophy. Almost always. English Literature, (especially the historical, remembering names and junk stuff) not so much.

Without further ado:

Annual Thirty “Best” Things of 0708 school year:
01. Going with Al & Shane & Gord to Barrie to commit random high-jinks.
02. Doing 2v2 Arenas with my friend “Serida” in the Fall (August-November ’07).
03. Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii – a more ‘epic win’ could not be conceived.
04. Getting myself into a real, honest-to-goodness relationship with someone-awesome.
05. Getting engaged to that same someone-awesome.
06. Thursday nights studying Colossians here at the house with my TCF small group.
07. Playing Dustin Kensrue’s “Blanket of Ghosts” with Todd at TCF Coffee House in honour of Robert Jordan. RIP.
08. Five months of unemployment (which was, simultaneously among the worst things).
09. No classes on Thursdays.
10. Getting both of my characters in WoW to level 70.
11. Quitting World of Warcraft in December. Again. For good this time. (It’s even uninstalled.)
12. Regular weekends in Toronto visiting Steph and so many other friends.
13. Trips way up North (South Porcupine) for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Premarital Counselling Round 1.
14. Mondays hanging out with Todd, talkin’ life.
15. Early Modern Philosophy with M. Neumann, and, more importantly, T. Anderson.
16. Acquiring a second family. /wave
17. TCF Retreats Fall & Winter.
18. Our new boarder – my friend Shane!
19. Finding my old green toque. Wearing it.
20. Walking the pooch (Nuka) late at night during warmer months.
21. Dangerous prayers.
22. Installing Covenant Eyes. Reaping the benefits.
23. Opening a PC Financial account. So. Good.
24. Studying Metaphysics, Epistemology, and 20th Century Continental Philosophy.
25. Joining up as a staff writer for The Phantom Tollbooth.
26. Not getting Windows Vista, a Mac, an iPod, a metal water bottle, a blackberry, etc. XP really is better…
27. Playing Team Fortress 2 and DotA with my brothers, friends, and enemies.
28. Having a sweet, sweet beard. Getting rid of a sweet, sweet beard.
29. Renos on my room being finished after a decade in limbo.
30. Stephanie.

Sleep soundly in silence
Knowing that we will never return
To what we once were
What was now is a distant memory
I guess that I should thank you
For freeing me from my naivety
-Project 86 “Breakdown in 3/4”

Annual Ten Most Important “New-To-Me” Records of 0708 school year:
01. Sev & Dust – “Back To Dust”
02. Thrice – “The Alchemy Index”
03. Project 86 – “Rival Factions”
04. As Cities Burn – “Come Now Sleep”
05. Matthew Good – “Hospital Music”
06. He Is Legend – “Suck Out The Poison”
07. Dashboard Confessional – “The Shade Of Poison Trees”
08. Lovedrug – “Everything Starts Where It Ends”
09. August Burns Red – “Messengers”
10. Oh, Sleeper – “When I Am God”

This is the sound that drives you to deny
These are the words that remind you we’re alive
This is the voice that haunts you in your sleep
Outdated, forgotten, we’re yesterday’s obsolete
-Project 86 “Breakdown in 3/4”

And my general plan now… is to rest. And work my (posterior) off. And contribute more than my share of the wedding planning. And have phun with friends. And read books I want to. And write lots of music reviews. And blog posts. And and and… get married.