The past year has been one of the better years for rock music in recent memory. There was an onslaught of incredible releases, music headlines, powerful videos and unexpected surprises.
While most online publications will compile the ever-so-predictable “Most Popular” and the inevitable “Top Ten Albums Of The Year” lists, RedBullUSA.com is giving readers something completely different.
As the year winds down, RedBullUSA.com is hitting you with the Top 11 Standout Rock Bands of 2011, listing 11 unique and well-known outfits who have either veered off into an alternative direction, emerged into musical prominence or re-captured glory that might have previously slipped away.
So, without further ado, here are the Top 11 Standout Rock Bands of 2011.
11: Dead Letter Circus
After conquering their home country in 2010 with their debut album “This Is The Warning,” Australia’s Dead Letter Circus made it their New Year’s resolution to go global with their pro-freedom ideals for 2011.
With Aussie accents and a resonance mirroring Linkin Park minus the hip-hop swagger, the five-piece made a great first impression when they dropped the album Stateside this past summer.
Furthermore, Dead Letter Circus constructed a brilliant record deal where Warner Music controls their Australian distribution, Sumerian handles all of North America and the band themselves are responsible for the rest of the world. Simply put, the rock quintet has major muscle to go along with their independent hustle. Resolution achieved.
10: Eyes Set To Kill
With an overpowering DIY mentality, Eyes Set To Kill gained success strictly on their terms. The Phoenix, Arizona-based quartet broke away from the confines of independent juggernaut Suburban Noize, launched their own label Forsee Records and dropped their fourth studio album “White Lotus” in August without a major distribution deal.
But that wasn’t the only change. The group abandoned their signature screamo-pop flavor for a solid hard rock resonance with a metal ting. Also, the four-piece toured alongside Rob Zombie and the Rodriguez sisters were highlighted in Revolver Magazine’s “Hottest Chicks In Hard Rock” issue. Hard work goes a long way.
He might be signed to Red Bull Records, but that isn’t why AWOLNATION makes the list. Truthfully speaking, Aaron Bruno’s solo project has become a viral sensation due to his electro indie rock flavor.
The debut album “Megalithic Symphony” dropped in March, the hypnotic single “Sail” has appeared on several television programs including “House,” and AWOLNATION has recently made another big splash in the media. He is something original and unique to the market, and you can blame it on his A.D.D.
blessthefall spent the summer recording their third studio effort “Awakening” and left with a refined sound and a stronger identity. Incorporating a harder edge into their already heavy resonance, it’s as if the Phoenix-bred quintet transformed into life coaches because the album encourages listeners to take hold of their lives and to be the best version of themselves they can be.
While the band is still young, they show tremendous promise. Music compositions aside, look at the numbers. The album debuted at #32 on the Billboard 200 and #7 on the Indie Albums Chart.
Furthermore, the band recently headlined the second annual “Fearless Friends Tour,” proving that they are capable of carrying a show and deserving of top concert billing. Perhaps that’s the biggest “Awakening” of all.
7: Manchester Orchestra
They’ve had their noses in the dirt for the past six years, but it’s paid off for Manchester Orchestra. The indie rockers dropped their third passionate full-length “Simple Math” in May, and it gave them their highest debut on the Billboard 200 at #21.
But more importantly, they developed a name for themselves as a strong touring band that have helped nurture groups like Cage The Elephant and Sleeper Agent. The group scored even more exposure by serving as the opening act on the 10th annual Honda Civic Tour for headliners Blink 182 and My Chemical Romance. Now, the Georgia collective can smell the flowers.
6: Dropkick Murphys
Chances are Dropkick Murphys would’ve looked at 2011 as a banner year simply because they collaborated with the legendary Bruce Springsteen. But everybody’s favorite Celtic-tinged punk rockers actually have more reasons to celebrate.
The Boston-based collective dropped their seventh studio album “Going Out In Style” and it earned the lads their highest showing on the Billboard 200 ever as it debuted at #6. In addition to that, the group launched their mega successful “Shamrock ‘N Roll Festival” in September, a new tradition they plan to hold annually. At the end of the day, the pride of Boston dropkicked this year in the face.
5: Foster The People
Never underestimate the power of the Internet. Foster The People never did and as a result, they’ve become rock’s newest stars. Formed in 2009, the Los Angeles indie pop band originally recorded “Pumped Up Kicks” and, through the almighty blogosphere, the song went viral. Colombia Records gobbled them up, threw ‘The People’ into the studio and released their debut album “Torches” in May.
The label also pushed “Pumped Up Kicks” as the first single and the crossover hit got quite cozy with the Billboard Alternative Songs Chart, eventually hitting #1 and turning double platinum. The digital world upstreamed Foster The People and the group used their “Pumped Up Kicks” to kick 2011’s ass.
4: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Five years removed from their last release “Stadium Arcadium,” Red Hot Chili Peppers crashed the rock scene re-energized and as popular as they’ve ever been. With new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer filling in for John Frusciante, the California quartet stormed the commercial market with their tenth studio offering “I’m With You.”
The effort moved over 229,000 units in its first week alone and was fueled by the bass-driven smash “The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie,” which immediately shot to #1 on the Billboard Rock Songs Chart. To cap it all off, the Chili Peppers learned that they will be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2012. This will undoubtedly be one year the band never, ever, forgets.
3: Bon Iver
Three years ago, Bon Iver was relatively unknown to the mainstream media. But when the Wisconsin-based group released their self-titled album in June, the indie folk rock darlings became overnight sensations as their sophomore effort debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200.
While the album received positive reviews among critics, their biggest recognition happened a few weeks ago when their single “Holocene” earned multiple Grammy nominations including “Record Of The Year” and “Song Of The Year.”
Although it isn’t necessarily a big feat in the eyes of band leader Justin Vernon (he said the Awards Ceremony was “ridiculous” and “not important”), it nevertheless indicates that Bon Iver have hit the big time.
2: Rise Against
Countless music videos were unveiled all throughout the year, but Rise Against delivered the most powerful and life-changing messages. While the Chicago collective’s sixth full-length “Endgame” threw them deeper into the commercial market, it was their music clips that helped the band stand out.
For instance, their smash “Help Is On The Way” depicted a family struggling for survival during Hurricane Katrina and “Make It Stop (September’s Children)” raised awareness about the high school bullying of teenage homosexuals. Both videos would go viral, which unquestionably aided Rise Against in having their highest appearances on the Billboard Charts yet.
1: Foo Fighters
2011 belongs to the Foo Fighters. The rock troupe released their seventh full-length disc “Wasting Light” in April and haven’t looked back. In addition to debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200, their singles have been a constant fixture at the top of the Rock Songs Charts since “Rope” premiered in March!
The five-piece also won the Moon Man for “Best Rock Video” at the MTV Video Music Awards for “Walk” and received six Grammy nominations including “Album Of The Year.” Music aside, front man Dave Grohl has been very vocal as he counter protested the protest-heavy Westboro Baptist Church and traded barbs with the creator of television series “Glee.” Foo Fighters didn’t waste away the year. They owned it.
For more from Bear Frazer, follow him on Twitter.