So. What the hell happened this year?
It’s like the crazy-juice that we supposedly banned after Obama got elected somehow got its formula changed and is now part of the Tea Party company.
And now it’s made with extra crazy!
Thankfully, new music was in full bloom which made narrowing down a list to just thirteen fairly difficult.
At least some things stay the same.
After considering a large list, narrowing it down some, and then breaking it down to the top thirteen with an obligatory honorable mention of thirteen more.
1. Roky Erickson with Okkervil River – True Love Cast Out All Evil
It helps if you know the story of Roky Erickson before listening to True Love Cast Out All Evil, because it makes its impact a lot more noticeable. But even if you’re not familiar with Erickson’s incredible tale of redemption, True Love paints an aural biography for you, one that will undoubtedly have you discovering more about this man’s legacy. Truly inspiring.
2. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
At these prices, you’d be silly not to check out Kanye’s tale of discontent. His issues with ego, fame, and his own talent are presented in this challenging record that is both catchy and clever. After watching Ye come close to getting crucified for some of the most ridiculous “controversies” that our lazy media conjured up, MBDTF comes across as a welcomed ball of vitriol that ends up being the best rap album in a long time.
3. High On Fire – Snakes For The Divine
For years, Matt Pike seems pretty content with delivering album after album of solid metal. With Snakes For The Divine, he ramps up his ambition and delivers his first album that matches the brilliance of the genre’s most notable efforts.
4. Paul Weller – Wake Up The Nation
Another impressive rebirth as Weller gets back to the Mod swagger of his youth. It is, quite simply-the best work since The Jam while managing to be more consistent than his old trio’s own output. Getting older has its advantages, but the Modfather sounds like he’s having a blast during his second wind.
5. Pantha Du Prince – Black Noise
With probably the most perfect cover-the music sounds like it was created in a cabin in the Alps-Pantha Du Prince combines organic ambience with subtle beats into a deceivingly brilliant effort. This will no-doubtedly become an electronic reference point but Black Noise’s quality will be apparent to any music fan. A perfect soundtrack to winter, Pantha Du Prince has created a warm counterpoint to electronic music’s traditionally cold landscapes.
6. Vampire Weekend – Contra
Not only does Vampire Weekend overcome the sophomore slump with Contra, they manage to explain the hype of their over-rated debut through sheer musicianship. They’ve won me over-hands down-with this quirky and complex gem of mood improving music, and if you let your own cynical guard down a bit, you might just hear it’s impressiveness too.
7. The National – High Violet
Stunningly good. The first half sounded a bit too slow at first, but now I’m wondering if it’s a matter of pacing. Because the second half of High Violet is about as good as you can get in rock. It’s a perfect soundtrack for these troubled times, with references to the economy (“I still owe money to the money I owe”), the war (“It’ll take a better war to kill a college man like me”) and how the past decade was ruled through fear (“Venom radio/Venom television/I’m afraid of everyone.”). If the next decade is just as bad, The National will just get that much better.
8. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
By my accounts, Deerhunter are probably the most consistently good American band operating today, and each record seems to further affirm how talented they are. Halcyon Digest builds upon a few layers of accessability, but it includes the band’s wonderful penchant for Velvet jangles (“Desire Lines”) and Brandon Cox’s love of atmospheric textures.
9. Best Coast – Crazy For You
Just a cute little scurvy pop record that’s perfect for anyone who doesn’t mind limited songwriting, primitive musicianship, and an abundant amount of beach blanket bingo. A fun, thirty-minute distraction that could have easily been a guilty pleasure if it wasn’t so awesome.
10. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
Nothing like reaching for the skies when a bunch of New Jersey boys ape Born To Run and Rum, Sodomy and the Lash in equal measures. Titus Andronicus write and perform like it’s their last musical statement ever. And when it doesn’t fall over from the weight of its own Ritalin-aided spaz, it damn near reaches the heights of those aforementioned classics.
11. Wavves – King Of The Beach
Another shameless blast of 80’s pop-punk that also manages to place Wavves’ frontman Nathan Williams in a better light than his previous offerings. Thanks to a bigger production, Wavves is no longer a band of enormous hype and dubious talents, they are contenders who finally found out that clearing your head occasionally gives you the clarity to create a tremendous album.
12. Wolf Parade – Expo 86
Another record planted firmly in the sonic landscape of the 80’s with a firm eye towards tomorrow. Expo 86 sounds as wide-eyed and nervous as the moment you tossed your graduation cap up in the air, only to ponder “Now what?” It’s also the first Wolf Parade album that sounds like it was created by a band instead of just a side-project. And what a good sound that is.
13. The Sword – Warp Riders
A concept album of sci-fi proportions that fueled by laser-tight guitar chords and asteroid destroying tempos. There’s a bit more shitkicking in the guitar chords than other comparable metal band mining from the same creative pool, which makes The Sword a unique fixture in the genre and Warp Riders one of metal’s high points.
I'm sure that other albums will crop up after posting this, causing havoc on the overall list. While I'm confident that the Baker's Dozen will remain as listed, the real danger comes in the following honorable mention, which has changed about a dozen times prior to this post.
14. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
15. The Fall – Your Future Our Clutter
16. Gil-Scott Heron – I’m New Here
17. Holy Fuck - Latin
18. Serena-Maneesh – SM2: Abyss In B Minor
19. Bryan Ferry – Olympia
20. Morning Benders – Big Echo
21. Love Is All – Two Thousand And Ten Injuries
22. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks
23. Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago
24. Bob Dylan – The Witmark Demos
25. Foals – Total Life Forever
26. No Age – Everything In Between