Alright folks - I'll just be doing a top ten albums and top ten live performances this year. Look for the live performances list on New Year's Eve after I see Clutch again, but I figure since I know what my album list is gonna look like, I'd just slave over it tonight.
So without further ado, here's my honorable mention albums, in alphabetical order only. (The next post in this thread will have my top ten.)
Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
(Merge) – Okay, I'll be the first to admit I'm not very interested in so-called "indie rock" anymore, and this is the only album I heard this year that could earn that genre tag. But God, if it all sounded this good, I might still give a shit. The third long-player from Quebec's favorite suburbanites is lyrically Rush's "Subdivisions" expanded to record length and musically somewhere around the crossroads of Guided By Voices, Depeche Mode, The Cure, and Blondie. It's tender and emotional when it needs to be and synth-driven and upbeat when the songs demand it. It's probably the worst of Arcade Fire's three records, but don't be fooled: The Suburbs
is still a gem.
Key Track: "Sprawl II: Mountains Beyond Mountains"
Coffinworm, When All Became None
(Profound Lore) – Black metal is a pretty grim, ugly genre in the first place, but fusing it with NOLA-styled sludge makes a toxic cocktail that only the foulest of palates should attempt to taste. If you're feeling up to it, though, the six songs on Indianapolis natives Coffinworm's debut are about as good as that sound gets. The riffs are thick, disgusting and, most importantly, heavy as hell, and the screamed-from-a-skyscraper vocals and some incredibly well-chosen samples complete the ungodly package.
Key Track: "Start Saving For Your Funeral"
(Profound Lore) – It's hard to believe that this Pennsylvania band used to make poorly-produced Swedish death metal worship, but that's thankfully all in the past on their first disc as a traditional heavy metal outfit owing its key debts to the likes of St. Vitus and Thin Lizzy. There's solos, leads, and soaring choruses in every damn one of these songs, and while it'll probably take another record before some of the fretboard wizardry gets reined in enough not to feel gimmicky, Nucleus
is an incredible start by a band that I expect will put out some of the best metal of the next decade.
Key Track: "Swing Hard"
Howl, Full of Hell
(Relapse) – Sometimes there's an album that doesn't quite have everything in place but it's just so fucking good
at one particular thing that you can't stop listening to it. That's Full of Hell
and riffs. The vocals aren't great, the songwriting leaves a lot to be desired, and the production is stale, but goddamn, these Rhode Islanders wrote approximately 100 of the best riffs of the year. There's not a whole hell of a lot else to say about this one, just turn it on and bang your goddamn head.
Key Track: "The Scorpion's Last Sting"
Johnny Cash, American VI: Ain't No Grave
(American) – If five previous American
albums didn't exist, this one would be a top ten record, no doubt. Unfortunately for Johnny Cash (or really, for Rick Rubin, since everything but the voice is his on the album), those albums do exist, and some of the emotional resonance of the sixth installment is lost as a result. Still, when Cash is on, he's on
, and a few of these tracks are just as tear-jerking as "Hurt" was the first time we heard it.
Key Track: "I Corinthians 15:55"
(Indie) – Here's a candidate for the most fun album of the year: I don't know what any of these Norwegians' lyrics mean and I still
sing them at the top of my lungs when I'm listening to their album at full blast. This LP has been most usually called a fusion of punk and black metal, but I get more of a "D-beat with Baroness parts" vibe from it – no surprise, then, that John Dyer Baizley bestows upon it another masterpiece of an album cover. Great, great disc.
Key Track: "Fossegrim"
(Nuclear Blast) – This album would have fought for my #1 spot back in 2004 or so, I'm sure of it. Today, I've just too heard too much metal to be quite as impressed by solid execution of tried-and-true formulas. Ironbound
is still pretty badass, though, and in spite of a few dud tracks ("The Head and Heart" is sooooo bad), it's probably my favorite thrash album by an old guard band to come out in the last ten years. 2004 me is shitting his pants to some of these riffs, dude.
Key Track: "Ironbound"
Nevermore, The Obsidian Conspiracy
(Century Media) – 2005's This Godless Endeavor
was one of my favorite metal albums of the last decade, so the fact that the new Nevermore disc didn't completely blow my brain out of my skull makes it technically a disappointment, but it's still a great record. They've swapped out the technical, jagged songs of their last record for a more polished, melodic approach, but as long as Warrel Dane is howling and Jeff Loomis is shredding, Nevermore is Nevermore, and this is another instant semi-classic.
Key Track: "And the Maiden Spoke"
Off With Their Heads, In Desolation
(Epitaph) – I feel like I'm being a little bit unfair making this an honorable mention album instead of a top ten album, because before I saw Off With Their Heads live, this was one of my favorite records of the year. Their brief, flaccid performance that night made me unable to revisit In Desolation
with much excitement, even though it is some of the best, leanest punk rock I've ever heard. Fair or not, that gig, paired with the fact that their previous LP, From the Bottom,
is better, keeps this album down.
Key Track: "Clear the Air"
Sailors With Wax Wings, Sailors With Wax Wings
(Angel Oven) – This is a psychedelic, minimalist post-rock album made by the dude from Pyramids (who used to collaborate with Romance of Young Tigers), with guest vocal appearances from My Dying Bride's Aaron Stainthorpe and Katatonia's Jonas Renkse, and all of the song titles are lines from Stephen Crane's poetry. Need I fucking say more?
Key Track: "There Came a Drooping Maid With Violets"