Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: The Year In Metal, #50-41

Everything to be said about most of these albums has been by multiple sites and people over the last few weeks. I originally planned on starting this December 14th, but something happened nearby that kinda killed my motivation to write about anything.

Once again, I don't claim that these are the best or most important albums of 2012; they are the albums released over the last 12 months that I enjoyed the most. Have at 'em.

(Some short review blurbs will accompany certain higher-place albums in subsequent posts.)

#50: Murder Construct - Results


#49: Superchrist - Holy Shit


#48: Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine


#47: Hour Of 13 - 333


#46: Melvins - Freak Puke


#45: Candlemass - Psalms For The Dead


#44: Mutilation Rites - Empyrean


#43: Cauldron - Tomorrow's Lost


#42: The Shrine - Primitive Blast


#41: Love Sex Machine - Love Sex Machine


Thursday, December 6, 2012

2012: The Year in Non-Metal, #10-1

#10: Rush - Clockwork Angels

Is there really anything I need to say here? It's fucking Rush.


#9: Spiritualized - Sweet Heart Sweet Light

A grand, uplifting album that is J Spaceman's best output in a decade, Sweet Heart Sweet Light is full of hope. Not everyone gets it; that's the point.

#8: Mark Lanegan Band -  Blues Funeral

One of the best rock voices of the Nineties puts out an incredible album informed mostly by...synthpop? It's weird to hear Lanegan's gravelly delivery matched with drum machines and keyboards, but it works. Really well.

#7: Murder By Death - Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

Murder By Death is about as American as a band can get. They weave Western, country, rock and singer-songwriter motifs into campfire stories that recall a much different time than ours. This album is a Faulkner novel in song.

#6: Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet On Sky

A more laid-back approach than 2009's Farm, this album is reminiscent of the band's late 90s output. All the usual tropes are in place, but overall it comes across as a bit more sad than the rest of Dino Jr's post-reunion output. Still, there are plenty of anthems to choose from here. 

  #5: Golden Void - Golden Void

The thrill of discovering a new favorite will never diminish. Led by Isaiah Mitchell of Earthless, Golden Void is full of fuzzed-out guitars, moody keyboards and - most importantly - memorable songs. It recalls both Queens Of The Stone Age and Atomic Rooster, bridging a generational gap with the sheer power of rock & roll.

#4: Those Poor Bastards - Behold The Abyss

This album is meant to accompany the novel it was released with, The Terrible Tale of Edgar Switchblade. The book is a brutal and haunting story, and the album is the aural haunted house to read it in; all Gothic vocals, acoustic guitar, and dread. This is for fans of God or Satan.

#3: Buffalo Killers - Dig. Sow. Love. Grow.

It's flown under most radars, but Buffalo Killers' fourth full-length is a gem. It matches 60s pop sensibility with 70s psych/rock flourishes. The production is warm and full, and singer/guitarist Andy Gabbard's Joe Walsh impersonation is in top form. This is what a "feel good" album is supposed to be.

 #2: A Place To Bury Strangers - Worship

Yes, I am biased. But hey, as someone who wears his influences as badges of honor, how could I not love what APTBS does? You know the drill: fuzzed out, abrasive and LOUD. But with just the right amount of mood and longing. When you gaze deep into the shoe abyss, the shoe abyss also gazes back into you.

#1: - Bobby Womack - The Strongest Man In The Universe

27th studio album. First album in 12 years. Pneumonia. Colon cancer. A lifetime of success, addiction, tragedy, scandal and redemption. He made it. This is not only the best album of 2012, but of Bobby Womack's career as well. And it took a long, hard life to get here.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

2012: The Year in Non-Metal, #20-11

Unlike years past, there was no central theme to my listening habits in 2012. This list, more than my forthcoming Top 40 Metal Albums, reflects exactly where I was this year: all over the place. These rankings will always be subjective, as all "best/top" lists should. Taste is never definitive because it is constantly changing; personally, culturally, etc. One man's trash and all that. On to the picks!

#20: Metz - Metz

Aping the Nineties noise-rock heyday has been all the rage lately, but these guys get it right. Jesus Lizard worship is still fine by me. This is raucous punk rock with a purpose, and we could use more of it.


#19: Colour Haze - She Said

This album is a long time coming, and it is a sloooow burn. Eight songs stretched out over 2 CDs (or the double LP) require your rapt attention. This stoner/psych voyage isn't background music; it settles into your bones and stays there.


 #18: Richard Hawley - Standing at the Sky's Edge

A departure from his crooner solo style, this album finds Hawley cranking the guitars and bringing some punk rock sneer into the proceedings. It doesn't always work, but he's managed to create something mostly successful outside of his comfort zone. And the songs rock.

#17: Shooter Jennings - Family Man

There is no denying that true country has lost its way; these days Music Row is full of CMT suits, not heart. With an undeniable last name, Shooter Jennings has born the torch for all the shit-kickers out there. Family Man brings Jennings' rock and soul forays into the mix and the result is an album of varied, fantastic songs. This might not be his daddy's country, but these days, what is?

#16: Van Morrison - Born To Sing: No Plan B

In a word: effortless. The man exudes class and cool; even with politically charged lyrics, the songs flow by in a jazz/blues river of calm. Morrison's greatness is still present.

#15: Grizzly Bear - Shields

Can music that recalls the past really be categorized as "refreshing"? Maybe it's the fact that Shields sounds like it was made for a turntable, not an iPod. Regardless, Grizzly Bear know their way around a song, and "Sleeping Ute" might be the best song they've ever written.

#14: Japandroids - Celebration Rock

This album is perfectly titled. Post-Nothing impressed the hell out of me a few years back, and this follow-up is even better. Power chords, caveman drums and a singer so earnest you might think he's being ironic. But he isn't, and these songs are anthems. 

#13: Brian Jonestown Massacre - Aufheben

At this point, BJM could release albums full of Anton Newcombe insults and they would still make my top 20. (They will at some point, I'm sure.) Why? Because the man has the ability to wield glorious Kinks/Stones/Beatles songwriting ability in one hand and outer space, nonsensical head-scratchers in the other. And no one ever knows what's coming. Aufheben, mercifully, is in the former hand. 

#12: The Cult - Choice Of Weapon

This is the best Cult album since 1991's Ceremony. There is a cohesiveness that has been absent in the band's previous efforts, and as an act closely identified with a particular time - the Eighties - it's great to see them still making relevant music. 

#11: Joe Walsh - Analog Man

Walsh might be the most overlooked and underrated American guitarists from the classic rock era. His slide work is easily on par with Duane Allman or Billy Gibbons, and his humorous, idiosyncratic songwriting style has rarely been matched. This is his first solo album in 20 years, and while it might sound goofy or out-of-touch to your typical Pitchfork listener, it has more staying power than any swoopy-haired flavor of the week.



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Streaming Album, Streaming Thoughts #1: BARONESS - Yellow & Green

This may or may not be the first entry in a series. As new albums are released to music "journalists" (like me) in streaming form, I can jot down my thoughts as said album flows. The score is based completely on my first impressions. Let's see what happens.

Yellow & Green
Relapse Records - July 17, 2012

Looking for metal? You're in the wrong building, try First or Second.

One song on the Yellow side sounds like an unearthed Meat Puppets track.

I hear Jethro Tull and the Byrds creeping through...

"Cocainium" is a great song title. Whoa, total Goblin worship going on!

If you don't like fuzzy guitars, leave the hall. There are lots. What were you expecting, anyway?

For a side called Yellow, they sure do talk about water a lot.

People will want to smoke to "Board Up The House". It's the feel-good hit of the summer. Haha, "Green". I get it.

Do I hear a little Elvis Costello going on?

Man, a lot of people are going to hate this. I take almost as much satisfaction in that as I do in this album so far.

 If the first minute of "Collapse" had a fatter bass line and different vocals, it could be a Brothers Johnson song.

Whoa, whoa, whoa...this is entering Weather Channel background music territory...OK, it's over. And now the first two minutes of are redeemed by a double-tracked theramin-sounding solo!

 "Stretchmarker" might be instrumental, but if Jackson Browne was singing over it no one would blink.

The heaviest song comes next to last, and it's still "lighter" than half the songs on Blue Record. It also contains the album's best guitar solo.

It ends not with a bang, but a pensive shimmery instrumental. The vibrato gives it a Western vibe. Nice and reflective.