My Best of 2011

2011 has been a very interesting year. Besides my first trip to South Korea and seeing Apollo 18, National Pigeon Unity, Vassline, Jambinai, and others live; I started a joint project site, Koreanindie.com where Korean Indie music is the priority.

Right now, the double duty is still a little off and I’m not meeting the goals I want, but the new year will bring a better standard of time. But also my now planned yearly visits to Korea to watch bands and keep in contact with the musicians and new friends that I met is important.

2011 was an incredible year for music. In all genres and both Japan and Korea. Though it also saw the break-ups of a lot of great bands, the year produced some already well-known classic albums that will be very important in the years to come.

But the albums of the year are (as usual in no particular order):

Indie/Rock/Hip-hop

Apollo 18 – Black

They toured the US in the Summer and came back near the end of the year with one of the best EPs. Dense and amazing, the trio mixed their previous work together and produced a tight and precise release. It’s a gigantic step forward for the band and even mixing more melody changed the tone.

Post-rock, post-hardcore, rock, indie, or any other genre label that could be applied, Apollo 18 are a band like no other.

적적해서 그런지 (JuckJuck GRUNZIE) – Soundchecking

Granted, the EP was given to me by two members of the band (one of which is also part of Vidulgi OoyoO), but I was amazed at the sound on the EP. And again, the band has since changed their sound, but the EP is great on its own.

National Pigeon Unity – Root

I actually didn’t like Root when I first heard it. It was mainly because of the first track “Format #1” which I felt was a throwaway song. Then as I listened through the album, I found an insanely excellent rock album. Finally, seeing them live, proved that a duo can make incredible music. I recommend “Tossing” because most of the song is sung by the drummer.

Yellow Monsters (옐로우 몬스터즈) – Riot!

Riot! is simply amazing. Only one year after their debut release, their second album releases and is better than the first in every way. And this is considering how great the first album was. A mixture of rock and punk, the album never falters even when introducing rock ballads.

사비나 앤 드론즈 (Savina & Drones) – Gayo

It’s different. It’s not standard and the variety on the album make it interesting. I didn’t know anything about Savina and Drones before I listened to it and I think that was the best way to start. I still listen to this album often.

Huckleberry Finn – 까만 타이거 (Black Tiger)

I listened to much of their older music and didn’t know that they were releasing a new album in 2011. The power behind the instruments and vocals is peerless for the age of the band.

The Quiett & Dok2 – RAPSOLUTE Mixtape Volume 1

I made it a priority to listen to a lot of Korean hip-hop this year and I wasn’t disappointed much. Though the second best album was the Rapsolute mixtape which wasn’t even an official release.

LeeSsang – AsuRa BalBalTa

Best hip-hop album of 2011. Just listen to it.

J. Rabbit – It’s Spring

From the first song, It’s Spring is a simple and cute indie album. Even though a lot of the album is covers, they’re excellent covers.

Simon D – SNL League Begins

The official solo release from one part of Supreme Team, the mixture of styles and variety in performances made this one of the best pop hip-hop albums.

ストレイテナー (Straightener) – Self-Titled

This Japanese band continued to release great rock music with every release and their self-titled showed even more improvement.

Pop

2011 was the debut, redebut, and comebacks of many groups. While the big names did the same things they usually do, the movement into Japan was a big deal for a lot of groups. Though while it didn’t work for everyone, the releases of 2011 were strong overall.

B2ST/Beast – Fiction and Fact

I don’t hide my enjoyment of Kpop and 2011 was a huge year for the genre. So many new groups and single releases throughout the entire year and I think 2011 was the year that Beast really showed their talent above others. It’s a great pop album and since the members are able to sing better than their peers, that makes it much better.

miss A – A Class

As much as I like Wonder Girls’ Wonder World, I think miss A had a stronger release. Besides my noted dislike of the mastering of the album, the songs and strength are better on this album.

GD & TOP – Volume 1

Big Bang spent time performing together and in separate groups, but GD & Top’s album was better than most debuted groups.

While I would have like to include Girls’ Generation’s The Boys, I felt like there was too much going on with the album. It was good, but not as good as it could have been with better planning and a distinct concept.

Honorable Mentions

I think there were tons of amazing releases this year and they should be noted here.

10cm – 1.0

Verbal – Visionair

Hee Young – So Sudden

Eloise – Video 1

Demian the Band – Your God Forgot

SiwaRainbow – 우리 모두는 혼자 (We are all alone)

Taru (타루) – 100 Percent Reality

디어 클라우드 (Dear Cloud) – Bright Lights

The Black Skirts (검정치마) – Don’t You Worry Baby (I’m Only Swimming)

Trampauline – This Is Why We Are Falling For Each Other

2011 also saw my gradual movement away from Japanese music. It wasn’t on purpose, but there weren’t as many releases that I found interesting this past year. I think 2012 will have more to listen to, but I guess it’ll be up to the musicians.

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