The end is near. The end of the innocents. The end of compromise. The end of occupation. The end of the season for the Eagles and Bills. The end of my transmission. The end of total lung capacity. The end of my 60th month in this undiscovered underachieving city. The end of the year.
I was off my game this year. The ebb and flow of input at Circle of Fits floated in static waves between tired sacrifice and burden. The reviews were few, the inspiration whittled down to ones and zeroes pushed through the shredder in some lawyer's office. Such is life, the steady see saw of disgust and excitability. I'll keep going, because music, love it or hate it, is essential. It will always be my go-to, when I'm unimpressed by or frightened by strangers, my something to talk about.
I had new music to listen to. Through headphones. The whole listening experience has changed for me..a parsed together, never planned, hunter/collector mentality has overtaken the place I had for the simple acts of stop, look and listen. Sometimes more than never, it is "used" merely used for a tool of distraction rather than escape. I don't use music to white boy dance or as a backdrop/beatbox for getting high or a metronome for jogging fucking calories away. I use music to change thought, channel moods and escape the monotony of whatever is safe. Escape whatever's cool. Escape whatever hell flicks its fucking flames at me.
These are my top 10 albums of the year. Some have been reviewed here. Some have not.
10. Radiohead- The King of Limbs. Meh. It never really knocked me flat the way In Rainbows did. I thought it was rushed, too short for the so called prolific tendencies of Thom and Co, and too many buttons and not enough sticks. But even a second rate album for the likes of Radiohead is a masterpiece for most any other band, so they make the list for not giving enough of a shit and still sounding like nothing else. Listen to Morning Mr. Magpie.
9) Steel Panther-Balls Out. Get out the Aqua net, the Charvel-Jackson, and the stretched out spandex from the basement..cuz yull need em. Sounds just like 1986 Sunset Strip, blow job in the back seat metal. Exquisitely played down to the power ballads and the shredding. But the lyrics.....a parody of everything that goes with the over the top-ness of the times tied to the entendres, sex and topics of today. It's supposed to be ridiculous. And it is. Listen to It's Not Gonna Suck Itself.
8) tUnE-yArDs-WHOKILL- A one of a kind project by ukelele wielding New Englander Merrill Garbus. Taking equal parts tapeloops, chants and the funkier side of afrobeat, she has come up with a truly mesmerizing original sound. She sounds like a husky black woman who's been done wrong and about to head out on a baby daddy rampage but then again...no. Listen to Gangsta.
7) Beastie Boys- Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2- I don't like hip hop. But I like the Beastie Boys. They can play. They record mostly live. Their posturing is playful, their braggadocio is hilarious. They're not selling Vodka or Headphones. They give back. They put their causes out there. The beats are still space rock solid. They MC old school and aren't ashamed of it. They've been around for decades and still nobody sounds like them. And guess what...this album sounds like it could have snuck out right before Hello Nasty and right after Check Your Head and it still rocks. Listen to Nonstop Disco Powerpack.
6) Blitzen Trapper-American Goldwing. Portland's perennially overlooked and under appreciated real rock band. All the ingredients have been there like the perfect meal in a hidden restaurant on each release. Fantastic vocals, well crafted melodic mini-masterpieces, rock-i-cana snappy crisp solos and so on. They haven't topped 2008's Furr but this one, albeit a bit mellower, comes close. Listen to Street Fighting Sun or Astronaut.
5) The Black Keys- El Camino. Three in a row for the Akronites, and the last release of the year to make it. As of press time, it was released TODAY. Dan and Pat found Danger Mouse to do their bidding again,(you can hear what he's famous for in the sprinkled key textures and the portable, mini wall of sound that traverses through a handful of tracks.) and the three of a perfect pair just murder the modern blues. Dan Auerbach rivals Jack White in write- ability. There, I said it. And he's a better singer. Yeah, he has been using that semi distorted vocal wash a bit too much, Yeah, Pat is the male Meg White. Yeah it veers into Fitz and the Tantrum territory in spots, but...its the songs, stupid. Danceable even in a two left foot sorta way, move-matic and eclectically dirty in all of the right places. Listen to the whole album, then go and listen to Little Black Submarines and Gold On the Ceiling over and over...Even in traffic, it will sho' nuff put a smile up on ya'.
4) Red Fang- Murder the Mountains. Is that not the best album title you've heard in a fuck of a decade? This album should be played on cue when magma rips and spurts from the hot scars in the earth and burns everything in its path only to form new landmasses from the smoldering piles. Or at every demolition derby, everywhere. Just nails it loud, hard and understandable in a more accessible, melodic Melvins sorta way. Two singers, one gruff and razor gurgling( Bryan Giles), the other (Aaron Beam) a crooner on steroids. Listen to Wires or Throw Up on your way to Asgard before walking up to Zeus and bitchslapping him before you take the throne.
3)Wild Flag -self titled The super group tag that gets fastened like a reflex to this band does not do this album proper justice. One half of Sleater- Kinney( Janet Weiss and Carrie Brownstein) would be enough, but add Mary Timony from Helium on vox and axe and the vintage thump and bass of Rebecca Cole on keys, and a joy filled post punk dance stratosphere hatched from the garage is reachable with every track. This album is completely buy-able for the super sexy smart( and almost predatory) lyrics fleshing out the murky side of relationships or shining hot light on the powerful force of how making music makes one feel.... from a female perspective...which after the first listen didn't matter anyway. This is a a rock album to the deep marrow. This album is dirty and fun and dripping with post gig sweat from the first needle drop. Listen to Glass Tambourine, Race Horse, Romance, Short Version...shit they're all real good.
2) Wilco- The Whole Love How do you describe an album that is a "return to form" when you love all of the said band's forms? Well, after two albums that toyed with a mix of folky laid backness and simplicity....we get everybody's Wilco on The Whole Love. The post modern folk swatches from A Ghost is Born (Born Alone), the lengthy sonic freakscapes of YHF (Art of Almost), the arena sing- alongs( I Might), and a multi-multi verse masterpiece of slightly somber repetitive reflection (One Sunday Morning). This is the Wilco snob's Wilco album. And I am one. Just listen............
1) Mastodon- The Hunter You gotta love a band of metal perfectionists and precision addicts that grew so tired of the concept of a concept album for the 4th time that they burned the blueprint and just jammed an album out born of newborn ideas and riff memory...and manage to make the best album of their career. Hardly a track over 5 minutes long, massive plate tectonic challenging riffage, and VOCALS...lots and lots of soaring, melodic (hey, I can understand these lyrics, what a fucking awesome story) VOCALS.. Nary a fucking growl....anywhere. This band is a trendsetter already, but you watch...for a post "The Hunter" world,.I predict a whole bunch of metal bands will hide the cookies and start hiring vocal coaches for their next time out of the gates of hell. Everybody sings, Brent and Bill are still paving the new metal high way with their inventive and earth shattering twin leads, and Brann Dailor has eased up on the fills and focused on rocket charged rhythm. Curl of the Burl is the best song of the year. Civilizations could be formed around it. But the track The Hunter(a thinly veiled tribute to Brent Hinds' brother who died while on a hunting trip a few years back) is hauntingly epic and poignant at the same time. I never ever tire of Blasteroids or Dry Bone Valley or Stargasm or All The Heavy Lifting or Octopus Has No Friends or Black Tongue or Spectrelight or Creature Lives either.
So there you have it. On to the next one. But first we have to get through the Grammys and Madonna at the fucking Superbowl.
Cheers, Jeers and hoppy beers, Seano