Because I only got turned onto Destruction Unit's great recent album after they came through on their proper tour last year, this would be the first time I'd seen them live. On this night, what there was of their frustratingly brief set was awesome, although a lot of bad shit (delayed set time; awful opening acts; cramped room full of chatty idiots) conspired to make this evening waaaaay less enjoyable than it should've been. But let's not spend any more time thinking about that bullshit if we can avoid it.
Destruction Unit finally took the stage after 11:30, following a maddeningly long setbreak which featured the band openly puffing a bowl and wandering around aimlessly onstage. Although they played less than a half hour of music (seriously, wtf), what they *did* play was fucking excellent. At one point during the set, I realized "well, this is probably as close as I'm going to get to seeing the mighty Comets on Fire perform ever again, so I might as well enjoy it." And enjoy it I did. For the uninitiated, Destruction Unit's fierce, druggy noise rock evokes the work of other artists like Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion, TV Ghost, Stooges, early Crystal Antlers, and said aforementioned Comets on Fire - heavy on aggressive, memorable riffs and mind-bending gusts of feedback.
From memory (read: this is probably inaccurate) Destruction Unit performed about four or five songs, all of them from Deep Trip, but none of them being the stellar "God Trip." I'm pretty sure they opened with "Final Flight," which was frickin incredible, and (uh, I think) we also got "Slow Death Sounds," "Bumpy Road," and the Stooges-indebted "Night Loner" (see above for video). These guys are pummelingly, excruciatingly LOUD, as any band boasting three guitarists and two drummers should be, and they really get after it onstage. No navel gazing here, instead plenty of onstage histrionics as befitting a band whose music is so heavily swathed in squall and feedback.
So, a pretty damn good set - I only wish there had been more of it. Their upcoming tour takes them from their home state of Arizona to the west coast, back to the midwest, and down through Texas over the coming weeks - check out their itinerary at the bottom of this page.
Yeah, this one's not even close. After being fortunate enough to attend 12 shows during Summer Tour, then 9 of 12 shows on Phish's Fall Tour (and couch touring the other three), I have to say that these sonsabitches haven't performed / improvised at this level since the legendary Fall Tour '97 / NYE Run '97 / Island Tour '98 era. With '13 NYE Run just 5 days away, we can only hope that they deliver something close to what went down from late October thru early November. STOKED BRAH.
In Russian Circles' sonic arsenal, the atmospherics are the glue that binds their whole bag of tricks together. Curtis, formerly of Secret Machines (and a touring member of Interpol), has helmed the last three (excellent) Russian Circles albums, helping to shape the band's evocative, dramatic music into something that's entirely lyrical despite being totally wordless.
This one's kinda a dark horse. It's loud and fast, which will help you keep the RPMS up. But the fact that it's scary as fuck will want to make you outrun it like it's a relentless methed-up boogeyman who's looking to get some tail. (Yours.)
1.) SONG OF THE YEAR: Palma Violets - "Last of the Summer Wine"
Just like countless other great rock n' roll songs, this one's greater than the sum of its parts. Yeah, the intro's too long on this song. And so's the outro. The lyrics are moronic. (The "official" video is absolute garbage - see above.) And the chord progression isn't exactly original but... there's just somethin' about the classic guitar tone and the finesse they play the lick with and the sweet, sweet melody that slays me every time.
"How bad did this year suck?" you ask. Well, it sucked so bad that I had to change the rules to where live albums are disqualified just to keep an archival live release from being my Album of the Year. Why did I feel the need to even bother tweaking the formula? I DON'T FUCKING KNOW!!!!! So, I guess, congrats to Phish for having the year's best release overall. Huzzah!
Anyway, let's have at it, shall we........
1.) ALBUM OF THE YEAR - Deafheaven - Sunbather
A gorgeous, terrifying, exhausting album - casual listening this is not. While retaining the unrelenting brutality of black metal as the musical underpinning, Sunbather adds gorgeous, melodic guitar lines reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky, ratcheting up the drama with a keen Mogwai-esque understanding of how to manipulate quiet / loud dynamics.
2.)Ceramic Dog - Your Turn
This is a helluva album, and it's also a helluva unexpected album. It's incredibly rare that a musician who has attained Marc Ribot's level of success and renown in the jazz world chooses to express himself artistically in a manner that's as angry, ornery, and loud as Your Turn, but it's not simply experimenting with a mode of expression that's a triumph here; it's that the album is a smashing success. Your Turn takes its detours down several stylistc alleys (heavy blues / hard rock, grunge, distorted fusion jams reminiscent of late-period Hendrix, and even a cacophonous, distortion-heavy update of a classic jazz tune) while streamlining the more freeform, scattershot approach taken on the trio's more noodly previous album, Party Intellectuals.
Ribot's tone on Your Turn is furious, his desire to rock is unwaveringly unapologetic, and the music's heavy grooves are arresting. So, listen to this if you like great music, otherwise feel free to go fuck yourself.
3.) Jimi Hendrix - People, Hell and Angels
If you're skeptical of yet another posthumous Hendrix release, you should be; the list of "archival" stuff that's been pinched off in the 43 years since Hendrix' death is littered with shoddy quality bootleg material and inessential, often redundant crap, the sheer quantity of which greatly outpaces the (occasionally transcendent) worthwhile stuff by a large margin. Sure, I'm definitely a sucker for unreleased / archival stuff, but this release works surprisingly well on its own as a cohesive album. Comprised mostly of material Hendrix was working on as a follow up to Electric Ladyland, People, Hell and Angels allows the listener a rare glimpse at what might have been had Hendrix' appetite for heroin and pills been less fiendish.
4.) Palma Violets - 180
Earlier this year, Palma Violets were apparently the subject of the creepy-ass UK music press' embarrassing crush; of course, if you're actually regularly reading the NME you've likely already lost the battle. Regardless, this album is a real success, incorporating classic chord progressions, strong melodies, and a warm, inviting garagey sound into their sonic stew. Where many indie acts seem to be self-consciously stuck playing small ball, 180 is unafraid to swing for the fences, evoking the work of several of music's heavy hitters (J&MC, Stone Roses, Velvets, even Springsteen) without being dominated by their influences.
5.)The Men - New Moon
The Men are a band that's seemingly always in the middle of significant stylistic flux, and growing pains are to be expected as a side effect of significant experimentation. New Moon sees them attempting to situate their music on an AM AOR station circa 1976. But for all the genre hopping that they've done over the course of their relatively brief career, to their credit these guys seem like real students (and practitioners) of "what makes rock music great," instead of simply hipster dilettantes.
The "deluxe" version of Hesitation Marks comes with several remixes, which is kind of unintentionally hilarious considering that practically every single song on this record sounds like an inferior remix of The Fragile's "Somewhat Damaged." What's more, this album contains what appears to be Trent Reznor's first attempt at writing a "summer jam," the results of which are embarrassing.
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
The party album of the year, if you're really into throwing overrated, boring parties.
There are several highly anticipated (by me) "heavy"ish albums that will be coming out in the coming weeks - Melvins, Pelican, Russian Circles, the Netherlands, Red Fang, Cleanteeth, Doomriders. Destruction Unit's Deep Trip album has been rocking my world for the past month or so. Highly recommended for fans of the Stooges, Comets on Fire, Hawkwind, early The Men, TV Ghost, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, etc.