White Denim - Let's Talk About It
One of the best bands to appear at South By Southwest last spring, this awesome Austin drum-bass-guitar trio proved you don't need a badge to rock. They played a killer unofficial, blogger-sponsored day party that left each and every lucky early riser craving more than just free BBQ. We had to wait a few months before WD committed anything to record and maybe three more weeks for Slowtrain to special order a few copies of the vinyl/CD release. It’s available on iTunes, but we prefer the real deal. Get. It. Now.
Handsome Furs – Plague Park
You might recognize Handsome Furs singer Dan Boeckner from his work with Wolf Parade (he's the voice that doesn't verge on a yodel). Plague Park refers to an actual place in Helsinki where 17th century plague victims are purportedly buried. The morbid reference informs Park's hollow, minimalist sound that aches with every fatalistic musing (“Life is long/and hollow) and tinny drum-machine crash (courtesy of Boeckner's fiance/writer/beatmaker Alexei Perry). Heavy stuff, but not too depressing if you've come to terms with post-industrialism and looming apocalyptic doom. Interestingly enough, Boeckner claims to have listened to a lot of Liars while writing and recording Park, which brings us to...
Liars – Liars
“Plaster Casts of Everything” is one of the year's best songs, hands down. I love Liars' primal energy, especially when they let loose with a tune that clocks in under ten minutes. It makes me want to drive off a cliff. In a good way. Too bad most of the kids at their SLC show deemed them too loud and abrasive for dancing. Waaaaaah. Go buy some jeans or something.
Miles Davis - The Complete on the Corner Sessions
This six-disc box set, the eighth and final installation in the deluxe Miles Davis Series, combines 1972’s On the Corner with 1974’s Big Fun and Get Up With It, including two hours of previously un-issued material. Those new or averse to traditional jazz might find this collection more accessible than Davis’ earlier, arguably more conventional releases, with its groundbreaking experiments that helped lay the foundation for contemporary rock and hip-hop. Each listen brings new revelations, from the first driving thump of Michael Henderson’s dammmnnn-that’s-funky bass to Davis’ discordant Vincent Price organ on the mind-blowing standout “Rated X.”
Music from the Motion Picture I’m Not There – Various Artists
I know—compilations and soundtracks have no place on a year-end list, but surely we can make an exception for Bob Dylan? I've never been a fan of the folk legend's voice, but after hearing 34 artists including Stephen Malkmus, Cat Power, Calexico, Sonic Youth, Karen O, Tom Verlaine and John Doe covering some of his less obvious songs, I have an even greater appreciation for him as a master songwriter. Nearly all of the contributors (save for Hold Steady and Willie Nelson) manage to evoke both Dylan’s style and their own signature deliveries.
Apostle of Hustle – National Anthem of Nowhere
Broken Social Scene guitarist Andrew Whiteman’s pet project combines Canadian indie-rock aesthetic with a longstanding passion for traditional Cuban rhythms. Smart and sensual, their second full-length album takes you on a journey to places both familiar and unexpected. Not a bad record to pair with a nice rioja.
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
This album came out just as I nearly tired of the group’s tremendous debut. One can only hear “Wake Up” so many times without turning to her old Bruce Springsteen records. Speaking of Springsteen, guess whose influence is felt on several Bible tracks? The band recently gave a nod to this uncanny comparison by inviting the Boss onstage to perform “Keep the Car Running” and Springsteen’s “State Trooper.” I love them even more now.
!!! – Myth Takes
The band with the best interpretive name since Prince’s symbol years scores again with more electronic disco-punk. Like the group’s previous efforts, this album kills on attitude alone. There’s something so deliciously naughty about Nic Offer’s crude narratives (“she said 'u just got me hot/ I finished off while you were snoring”). Now that’s something you can thrust your pelvis to!
Band of Annuals – Let Me Live
From their days as Annuals to their current incarnation, Band of Annuals has always impressed. In all honesty, they had me at pedal-steel. The instrument’s mournful tone, paired with gorgeous harmonies, really drives home Jay Henderson’s tales of whiskey and heartbreak, redemption and friends thicker than blood. This group is going places.
Low – Drums and Guns
Haunting and graceful, this album turned me on to a band I should have listened to long ago.
Deerhunter –Cryptograms LP, Fluorescent Grey EP
When I saw Deerhunter open for The Ponys on Easter Sunday of this year, I was not prepared for the visceral sonic downpour that bypassed my skin entirely and saturated my bones. I wish someone would have photographed my face the second Deerhunter stopped playing, because I’m sure my mouth was hanging wide open. My expression must have been similar to that of one who had just seen a ghost, or a glowing green alien, or a band as good The Velvet Underground in their prime. Until my dying day, I will remember the ferocious sheet of sound cascading from the stage at that show. It was bliss. Cryptograms and Fluorescent Grey continue to captivate and mesmerize me, and they are steadily becoming two of my favorite albums ever, anywhere, period.
Celebration - The Modern Tribe
The Modern Tribe is a joyful dirge. Bursting at the seams with relentless percussion, throaty female vocals, and a mournful organ, it is oddly danceable, dreamy, and somber all at once. The type of album you fall in love with over time, and love for all time.
Billie Holiday- Lady Day: The Master Tapes and Singles
French actress Jeanne Moreau said of Billie Holiday, “She could express more emotion in one chorus than most actresses can in three acts.” This four-disc collection brilliantly showcases the raw emotional spectrum of joy, pain, and longing that made Lady Day a legend. Jubilant “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” on disc one will make your hips swing, whereas achy “Night and Day” on disc four will cleave your heart into two lovesick pieces. These songs are steeped in the blissful intoxication of young love, and the bitter desolation of being double-crossed, overlooked, and broken-hearted. Billie Holiday’s uncanny voice is the ultimate tonic for those who have been smitten or slighted by love.
The Ponys – Turn The Lights Out
I developed this habit of listening to Turn the Lights Out while doing the dishes at the end of the day. I eventually had to listen to something else, because Turn The Lights Out always inspired me to abandon the dishes, shimmy across the kitchen floor iPod commercial style, and track dish soap all over the house. Quite simply, Turn The Lights Out will rock your socks off. It is the perfect marriage of reverb, dueling guitars, and distinctive vocals.
Black Lips –Good Bad Not Evil
I wish I could provide you with an eloquent summation of why I like Good Bad Not Evil so much, but it seems every time I talk about the Black Lips, I morph into a beer-swilling frat boy, and all I can say is “they rock man, Black Lips … WOO!!!” However, instantaneously morphing into a frat boy at the mention of one’s band is a sure sign of top notch rock music. I will say that these Georgia-based flower punks have a roguish Southern charm that reminds me of the rowdy cast of deviants in my own Southern family.
Neil Young—Live at Massey Hall 1971
Yes, I realize it’s 2007 and not 1971, but this devastating live disc from one of the most incisive singer/songwriters of the 20th century provides listeners with plenty of reasons to rejoice in the 21st century. Young’s stark rendition of “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” never fails to unabashedly induce tears in my eyes. Live at Massey Hall reminds us all why Neil Young is a legend.
Low – Drums and Guns
I’ve been a fan of Low since I was 15-years-old. They never cease to amaze me. With every new album, they skillfully add impossibly beautiful flourishes to their sparse sound. My heart skips a beat every time I hear that Low is in the studio, because I know something magnificent is on the way. If you’re searching for a blue hour of downtempo enchantment, Drums and Guns is your record.
St. Vincent – Marry Me
I was initially attracted to St. Vincent (a.k.a Annie Clark) because I thought her songs sparkled. St. Vincent’s fresh, inventive, luscious music is mind-blowingly impressive when you consider that virtually every vocal, sample, and instrument on Marry Me is the work of, well, Clark. Did I mention that this is her debut album, and she was 24-years-old when she recorded it? “Holy Shit,” you say? Yeah, I said the same thing.
Dirty Projectors – Rise Above
Rise Above initially gave me vertigo. My punk-loving ears didn’t know what the make of this vocally spastic collection of recalibrated Black Flags songs. But, after a few skeptical spins, it became a fixture in my CD player. Now I can’t imagine life without it.
Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala
Jens Lekman: latter-day blonde Swedish Morrissey meets Abba. You’ll either fall in love, or never stop throwing up. I fell in love.
10. Big Business - Here Comes the Waterworks
With only two people, the Biz kills it harder than most full metal bands. No use trying to intellectualize this, just lay down on the tracks and let it run over you.
9. Against Me! – New Wave
So what if they signed to a major, AM! are still making the most interesting straight-up punk nowadays. And even at their worst they're still better than the rest.
8. Black Lips – Los Valientes Del Mondo Nuevo
Despite two amazing releases this year from the Black Lips, no other recording has ever captured the drunken mayhem quite as well as Los Valientes. When they exclaim, “This is gonna be the best live record of all time!” you can't help but raise a tequila shot and agree.
7. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
You got no fear of the underdog, that's why you will not survive." No other band could sing a line like that and epitomize everything that's still right with rock and roll.
6. Jay Z – American Gangster
Forget "99 Problems," "Hello Brooklyn 2.0" is the best thing Hova's recorded. Ever.
5. Interpol – Our Love to Admire
What other band can be consistently dark, beautiful, haunting and anthemic? (Joy Division, right ... even though I heard you the first million times you said it)
4. White Stripes – Icky Thump
After the calculated rock he made as part of the Raconteurs, Jack White once again proves that, when let loose, he can be the most creative songwriter/accomplished guitar player in modern music. And whoever's still complaining about Meg White's drumming can keep on listening to the Raconteurs.
3. Radiohead – In Rainbows
Finally, Radiohead fans can breathe a sigh of relief and stop pretending that Hail to the Thief was a good album.
2.5. Black Kids – Wizard of Ahhs EP
Dreamy. Sexy. Pop. Dancey. Songs called "I'm Not Going to Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You." Free download. Get it.
2. Pharoahe Monch – Desire
It's kind of weird to think that some rappers have gone through their whole careers in the time period between Pharoahe Monch's two albums, but Desire is definitely worth the wait. Soulful, complex, intelligent, and fun, it may also be the most important thing to
happen in rap since his last album, 1999's Internal Affairs.
1. The National – Boxer
Every once in awhile, an album comes out that so selfless, so honest, so beautiful, so brutal, so tender--all at once—that it reaffirms why we listen to music in the first place. Boxer is that album. Listen to "Fake Empire," and let it out--don't even pretend you have something in your eye.
Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
She's a soulful, sexy mess--but the drama overshadowed a great album. It's called talent, Britney.
Arch Enemy - Rise of the Tyrant
Brutal, technical and melodic Euro-metal from hairy Swedes and a scary woman. Their finest hour.
Clutch - From Beale Street to Oblivion
America's smartest rock band goes balls-to-the-blues, grinding CNN through the Deep Purple filter.
The Hives - The Black & White Album
Not a hell of a lot different than its predecessors, but nobody does herky-jerk garage clang better.
MIA - Kala
She's brilliant and annoying, but her second album proved MIA still has plenty more of both in her.
Ministry - The Last Sucker
The "final" Ministry album isn't their best, but Al Jourgensen has enough Dubya hate for all of us.
Patton Oswalt - Werewolves & Lollipops
An instant, rare comedy classic that smokes the failure pile in sadness bowl that is Dane Cook.
Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet
Fuck Radiohead: Fearless prog-rock pushers Porcupine Tree are crazy for concept albums.
Queens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris
QOTSA's commercial curve continues, but the subversive guts and subliminal sleaze remain intact.
The White Stripes - Icky Thump
Remember when rock bands knew how to play real guitar instead of Guitar Hero? Jack does.
DOMINIQUE LAJEUNESSEAmy Winehouse - Back to Black
I agree with Bill and my Mother on this one. You know as soon as she stops doing those drugs she will go all Stone Temple Pilots on us, and it's downhill from there.
Kings of Leon - Because of the Times
I like that this one is a bit more mellow than previous albums. They will always have a place in my boys-in-tight-girl-pants heart.
Gary Glitter - Touch Me
There is nothing wrong with new discoveries of old music. There is, however, something wrong with pursuing young boys. Oh Gary ...
Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
Screw the video game; Nels Cline is my guitar hero.
Okkervil River - The Stage Names
A different sound from the previous records which will reduce sighs emitted of another alt-country band I love.
LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
It punches the dance and dancibility right back into your life.
The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
Fine, I love it. It's better than all of the other ones put together. Leave me alone.
Mika - Life In Cartoon Motion
Sometimes you have to man up and admit that you like something that is blatantly crappy. For me, it is the song "Love Today."
Stars - In Our Bedroom After the War
Stars are poptastic and sweet like honey. With no calories. And not sticky.
Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger
OK, not one of his best, but it is worth some listens. Radiohead never sent my damned download key for their album, so I had to squeeze something in here.
See something missing? Let us know!