There were a lot of terrific rock albums in 2011, but the one that stood out for me was Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life, and not just because I can’t say the band’s name in front of my mom. The Toronto hardcore act has been around for a decade or so, signed to Matador for the last three. David Comes to Life is a sprawling rock opera about a factory worker in 1970s-era England, but more importantly, it kicks serious ass all over the place. Fucked Up songs are often a tug-of-war between the majestic guitars and the distinctive gravelly bellow of singer Pink Eyes, occasionally set off by angelic backing vocals. Whether you care about the storyline or just dig the catchiness of “Queen of Hearts,” “Ship of Fools” and “The Other Shoe,” David Comes to Life is an album that sticks with you.
The rest of my top 11 are nothing to sneeze at, with Sloan proving that after 20 years together, they’re still the kings of tight power pop. Deer Tick lived up to the buzz surrounding the band (hey, Brian Williams of NBC likes ‘em!) with boozy collection of Replacements-esque songs. The ‘90s alt-rock scene was in full force: Wild Flag’s debut was a rock masterpiece featuring ex-members of Sleater-Kinney and Helium; Greg Dulli’s Twilight Singers unveiled another brilliant album and late in the year announced he was reforming the Afghan Whigs for some festival dates in 2012; fresh off a Pavement reunion tour, Stephen Malkmus rolled another fine solo album; alt-rock stalwarts Buffalo Tom made a new album that holds up to their early ‘90s heyday; the Beastie Boys survived a cancer scare for Adam Yauch and bounced back with a fun new release; and Dinosaur Jr. frontman/guitar god J. Mascis recorded a subtle acoustic album in between touring with Dino behind the re-release of the band’s classic album Bug.
Rounding out the top 11 are the latest from the ever-prolific Drive-By Truckers, who released Go-Go Boots, which fused ‘60s soul influences into the band’s country-rock mix, and the debut from the Mighty Fine, a fun combo fronted by Steve Myers (former Afghan Whigs backup singer) that merges R&B with garage rock and features guest spots from Dulli and Dirtbombs leader Mick Collins. And there were plenty of albums that just missed the cut, including releases from Yuck, Foo Fighters, Mastodon, PJ Harvey, The Feelies, Johnny Foreigner and Boston Spaceships.