40. Greyhaven — Empty Black
Equal Vision Records has a special place in my heart, releasing some of my favorite albums in one of the most important periods of my life. From Fairweather’s entire discography, to Coheed and Cambria’s Second Stage Turbine Blade to Saves the Day’s Through Being Cool and beyond, they’ve always had their finger directly on the pulse of the music I wanted to listen to without having heard about it yet. So when they began advertising this album on their twitter feed, I thought I’d give them my trust and check it out. Definitely thrilled that I had, as this is an album that seems to have stemmed directly from the Every Time I Die tree of influence, with the raunchy riffs and sassy singing style that cross hatch between the heavy screams and chunky prebreakdowns. Whenever there are bands that end up sounding like this after so long, it’s refreshing and find themselves in such a fine light for me. Is this style of music now one that inspires nostalgia?
Check Out: Mortality Rate
39. The Decemberists — I’ll Be Your Girl
This isn’t typically the kind of band or album or genre that I’d listen to. It’s very dramatic and sweeping and folksy and sort of everything that bothers me about music that other people like. But the writing on these songs is beautiful and organic, genuine in a way that strikes deep chords within me. They feel written elegantly and thoughtfully, especially when longing to end it all. There are apparently some political undertones which I’ll outright ignore (sorry), but lyrically when it comes to sadness, depression and finding the complete end of your rope, this album really lets it all hang out.
Check Out: Sucker’s Prayer
38. Ian William Craig — Thresholder
I discovered this artist a few years ago with his release ‘Centres’, and it’s sparse electronic atmospheres. It’s tough for records like this to be listened to regularly, to find them on shuffle, to select a track and show it to friends and get them really hyped on it. But that almost adds more personality, more deliberate decision making when it comes to hearing his albums in full. This is a perfect record to get into your head with, to either fill your mind out or empty your mind through. The angelic sizzle, the roaring halos can take a long time to build into the grace that they’re destined for and that journey is a gorgeous thing, from start to finish. The singing voices start to sound like groans, the scattered vocal cacophony begins to sound like a choir. This is more of an experience than an album, less a collection of songs than it is a linear audio extraction. A spectacular listen if given the right circumstance, like getting lost in creation. Brilliant in its own way.
Check Out: And Therefore the Moonlight
37. Dylan Carlson — Conquistador
When the single (which shared the name of the album) was offered up for this record, I was very happy. Carlson has never disappointed, even in his work with other artists (last year’s record with The Bug was one of my favorites of the year) and everything Earth has done has been dense and dark and amazing. This is my first venture into one of his solo records and while it still has the same fuzz and drift that his previous sun-baked prayers have given us, it’s easy to notice that there is a lot more singular energy on the guitars and doesn’t create that same wave of overwhelming ambience that some of his other stuff has carried. That doesn’t take anything away from the moods that are set up here, the dry palettes and cosmic reaches that his guitars dissipate out into. The pools are muddy and carry depth and there is a very real sense of time being stretched out into the thinnest of threads. This feels like the score to a film about a man’s desert death, one where he earns his piety over miles of regret; one where hope is a chime he’s grinding his teeth to hear. This is perfect meditation music, perfect music for creating. Bring this one with you on a night drive, one where you take a road less traveled.
Check Out: Conquistador
36. Camp Cope — How to Socialize and Make Friends
Something as simple as the standout australian accent from Georgia Maq’s clear delivery was enough for to stop and take notice of this band’s album, one that I listened to during an evening walk during this past summer. The music itself was indistinct upon the first few passes, but during the more distressed and urgent verses, I was shook to pay attention at not only the voice itself, but the message that it carried. Much of its delicate facade is blasted forth in a backdraft of airing out some interactions with the shitty male promoters and self important gurus who still haven’t seemed to figure out how to coexist with women in bands or women as a whole. Upon the follow up, the guitars sounded more crystal clear, more concentrated and deliberate. The vocals sounded more concerned, confessional. These events felt real and felt current, like someone sitting beside me at a coffee shop and griping about something that they had just experienced. A powerful record, one whose punch is all the more impactful when you take note of the stripped down individual elements that its members are each using to dissect the conflicts.
Check Out: The Opener
35. Logic — YSIV
Logic is a household name in modern rap conversations. Point blank, hands down. Everybody needs to have an opinion on this man if you’re trying to talk about anything hip-hop (do we still use that terminology?) today. Wasn’t really my thing for a long time, but mostly because I had to go in on my own and often found a bunch of stuff that wasn’t my speed. I’m a bit too old school for whatever songs I was hearing and ultimately probably not in the mood for it at the time. But this one showed up and provided something different. There was an inherent sense of quality there that I hadn’t picked up on previously. This record has a lot in common (in my mind, at least) with Talib Kweli and Lupe Fiasco, flowing with a clarity and not spitting repetitive nonsense about sex, self and wealth. The beats are smooth and clear, creating a pristine environment for the Young Sinatra to pen rhymes and perform on top of. The entire experience from front to back is a positive one, even when you let the verbiage become a cadence without definition. For me to find a non-meditative album that runs longer than 70 minutes and enjoy it from beginning to end is giving a lot of credit, without question. And let’s not ignore… this man brought THE ENTIRE SURVIVING WU-TANG out on a single track which honestly… let me tell you. That shit was emotional for me. The beat, the sound of that Wu-Tang march gets me bugging.
Check Out: Wu Tang Forever
34. Gorillaz — The Now Now
Modern Electronic Pop
My worry for the new Gorillaz record is that it would end up feeling overly generic, and would reach even further beyond what last year’s did. In my opinion, it was way too long, had way too many guest appearances, and did so much that I felt lost in the whole work of it, like a museum with no floor plan. This is the exact opposite of last year’s album, with very few other people showing up on tracks, and almost every track coming in under 4 minutes and all of them coming in under 5. The ironic thing here is that the record comes in only about ten minutes less than Humanz, but the pace of it goes much more quickly. I think this one feels like an easily likeable collection of songs, probably the most commercial yank he’s made in a little while, and I don’t even mind it, because this is what I go to Gorillaz for. I’m still happy when Clint Eastwood comes on the radio. My favorite of theirs is still Plastic Beach. I roll my eyes when Snoop Dogg’s verse comes up on ‘Hollywood.’ So maybe Gorillaz in its most ambitious state isn’t for me. That’s fine. But the songs here are well written and very cool, and the sounds used, the production, all of it expresses the strong ability of Albarn and his masterwork skill. This album proves that it doesn’t always have to be a knockout punch.
Check Out: Magic City
33. Thom Yorke — Suspiria
A Horror Score
I really liked the Argento original of Suspiria, and when it was announced that it’d be remade, I was pretty excited. Especially when they attached Thom Yorke’s name to the score. He has the ability to become the art in which he’s creating, to make himself in the shape of whatever the passion is before him. And with a bizarre horror film like this one, I was ready for him to take horror and embody it in new ways. When the movie got somewhat written off by critics as too long and a bit too strange for its own good (still haven’t seen it; still want to see it) I still dove deep into the score, now ultimately as a solo project and an album in and of itself, for its own sake. It starts off a little movie-score-ish, with long piano chords and a bit vague on the overall mood and tone, you begin to hear strange things, like taut rope and struggling grunts. Moving on, even later, while cyclic piano keys swirl about you, there’s a hushed mumbling mixed just far enough back, right below the sounds of crashing waves. And this is where it really picks up and becomes bizarre. Yorke’s vision here begins to take shape, with choir voices filling hidden chapels, slowly pulsing mood music shivering directly up your spinal column. This whole collection feels like a drifting lull into madness, lots of things becoming more clear as you focus on the loose threads. As with many things Radiohead and Thom Yorke, multiple listens will reveal lots of different angles. And while the preceding tracks all set a brilliant mood, I think starting with Suspirium Finale and onward become so weird, so engrossing, that if you’re going to check out anything on the record at all, start here. Choir of One is a lengthy journey, but one that is absolutely incredible.
Check Out: Suspirium Finale
32. The Armed — Only Love
This record sounds to me the way The Blood Brothers and The Locust were always described to me as. When people used to talk about how interesting those bands were within the aggressive music movement, not quite hardcore, not quite indie, throwing in art to make things sound like chaos framed in experimental genius, I never really got there with those two. But with The Armed, that’s sort of what I’ve found. Only Love is well off the rails, a collection of songs that feel like looking into the Hellraiser cube at the darkest midnight. It is no less than a frenzy. Channels distort and rifle left to right, guitars buzz like murder weapons, vocals scream like both victim and executioner in matrimony. There are moments, though, like in Middle Homes and elements of Fortune’s Daughter, that they take things away from the field hospital and into a more attentive and clear spiral, making songs instead of armaments. I feel like this is the sound that Sex Positions would have evolved into if they hadn’t disappeared just as quickly as they’d appeared.
Check Out: On Jupiter
31. Vein — Errorzone
The New Nu-metal
I believe Vein is a hardcore band, one that didn’t come out here to bring the novelty of some old genre back to life while ironically wearing huge JNCOs and ball necklaces. I just think that’s the way these things ended up panning out as they recorded Errorzone. All of the flange, all of the flat-tone Corey Taylor style singing, all of the repetitive palm chugging… these are indicators that this record dropped somewhere around 1999’s nu-metal hey-day. But listen to those ripe breakdowns, those fat deep tones, those throaty growls. These are clearly influenced and represented more in hardcore and metalcore than that oft-ridiculed genre that has been dead for what feels like decades. This album perfectly marries what made the genre cool then and what influenced the heavy bands now. I mean, shit there’s even a part that allows a breakbeat to break through the ranks. They do a quick “voicemail woman” sample right in the middle of one of their wild breakdowns. It’s an album that makes perfect sense for those of us who have grown through this style of music through all of the hoops that it’s grown us through, and have just now come back to realize it. But one thing that is truly fascinating is watching the kids who felt that Slipknot was far too corny for them to get into, but are now repping them hard with the uprising of bands like Vein and Code Orange. However you get here, I’m glad to have you.
Check Out: End Eternal