[All hail Metz. Also, all hail this Metz tee shirt, which is appropriate to wear absolutely nowhere.]
OK, I gotta get this one done quick - the stamps have let me out of my cage just long enough for me to stretch my legs and get a drink of water. Let's do this.
THE BEST (AND WORST) ALBUMS OF 2015, pt. II
The King Khan and BBQ Show - Bad News Boys-- Reunion album for these garage-soul bad boy lifers. For all of their public bickering and onstage meltdowns, the fact that remains that the much of the best music *both* has made throughout their prolific careers has been in the company of one another. Grade: B-
Lightning Bolt - Fantasy Empire-- Ya had to laugh when purists fretted about Lightning Bolt's decision to finally record an album in a proper recording studio. What did people expect, a fucking No Doubt record?! Fortunately, the material on Fantasy Empire fits in nicely with much of Lightning Bolt's previous output, with the benefit of a little added clarity and dynamics. (Not to mention what's likely the best song of the year.) Grade: B
Liturgy - The Ark Work -- This is either one of the worst albums I've ever heard, or another chapter in what just might be the greatest troll in history. (Either way, trust me, you don't want to listen to it.) The ever-irascible Triple H has incorporated all manner of cheap, shitty-sounding keyboard effects here, while somehow transforming Greg Fox' once-mighty drum sound into something that makes the production on St. Anger sound like a job well done. Grade: F
Lower Dens - Escape From Evil -- It's a little disappointing that as the proper follow-up to their their deep, dark, thrilling breakthrough album (2012's Nootropics), Lower Dens has settled for more conventional songwriting and occasionally aimless, bland melodies. But this one is growing on me. Grade: B-
Metz - II -- True, Metz does only one thing, but they do that one thing better than any other band does ANYTHING. Just a devastatingly awesome sonic assault, and the likely Album of the Year. Grade: A
Mike Pace and the Child Actors - Best Boy -- Pleasant, wistful power pop from the former Oxford Collapse main man. Nothing on here manages to approximate the infectious awesomeness of Oxford Collapse's landmark (well, at least in my mind) Remember the Night Parties album, but it's still a decent listen. Grade: C+
My Morning Jacket - The Waterfall -- This is the type of Dad Rock you listen to if you really want your kids to think you're a total pussy. Grade: F
Palma Violets - Danger in the Club -- The Palmas' debut, 180, was a surprise success on the back of countless, uh, "repurposed" '70s UK post-punk riffs. Now that these blokes have actually gotten around to writing their own riffs, the results are predictable. Grade: D
Pelican - The Cliff -- The title track (and centerpiece) of this EP includes vocals, an anomaly in Pelican's nearly entirely instrumental / post-metal catalog. Amazing, then, that the lyrics (written from the point of view of a creepy, desperate man, seemingly on the precipice of committing a violent act against the unwilling object of his affections) hits the nail on the head so perfectly. Grade: B
A Place to Bury Strangers - Transfixiation -- Amazingly, probably their noisiest, most feedback-scarred release ever, and it's a good look for them. Best APTBS album overall since 2009's Exploding Head. Grade: B-
Ok, that's it for now. Will try to wrap this up next week, or not. Memphis tomorrow!
I, for one, think this was a fine year for music. I've been called out for giving out too many B+'s amongst my album grades over the last few months, but, if you think about it, it makes sense: at this point, I'm not going out of my way to listen to albums I think are going to be horrible. There are at least, what, 40-50 acts every year that are going to put out albums that I'm going to listen very closely to just based on my previous history enjoying the work of said acts; the rest of the stuff I end up hearing is based on either a (well-informed, I'd like to think) hunch or ideas from friends (usually Beafvy and Bricer). Again, it's not like I'm going around listening to the new Danielson or Grizzly Bear or Best Coast or Vivian Girls or whatever just so I can write something snarky and rubber stamp a "D-" on that garbage. Believe it or not, my time is actually worth more than that.
When 2012 was all said and done, I heard nearly 80 albums, with the final one being the EP Mogwai sneakily released this morning (spoiler alert: it's not worth spending actual money on). The majority of the albums listed below reached double digits in my play count on iTunes.
So, here's the list, unadorned by such frivolities as relevant information about the albums, cover art, or helpful links that would make it easier to locate the individual album reviews, wherever they may be on this site. [EDIT: fixed that.] I'd love to dress this post up and make it a little less bare-bones, but I'll be heading towards JFK in a few short hours, so yer on yer own.
So that's it for now, and I'll check in with y'all before Phish's upcoming 4-night run at MSG (unofficially titled "Four Bros, Four Shows"). HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Mark Sultan - War on Rock N' Roll -- This is a recording of Mark Sultan's full live set, captured at a club in Brazil, and it's available for free download here. [Yes, this originally came out in 2011, but I believe somebody put out a physical copy of it this year for Record Store Day, and since I didn't hear of this in '11, it gets reviewed here.] As per ushe, Sultan manages to stir up quite an unholy racket, especially considering that he performs one-man-band style, singing and playing guitar while playing drums and other assorted percussion with his feet.
Now, I've long been a sucker for Mark Sultan's particular blend of doo-wop and dirty garage, but I can see how approaching an unlabeled 50 minute slab of his live material (that's what War on Rock and Roll is) might be a bit daunting for the uninitiated or the casual Sultan fan. So, if you want to check out a few representative tracks of his before taking the plunge on War on Rock and Roll, here's a woefully incomplete list of what he plays on this: "Keep 'em Satisfied pt. 1," "I'll Be Loving You," "Keep 'em Satisfied pt. 2," "Third Avenue," "I Am the End," "We're Sinking," "Nobody But You."
[As a bonus, here's video I shot of him back in May, performing the aforementioned "I'll Be Loving You:"]
Pelican - Ataraxia / Taraxis EP -- The first two songs on this EP are probably as close to the mighty Mogwai as Pelican have ever gotten on record, mirroring "Auto Rock" > "Glasgow Mega Snake" from Mogwai's criminally underrated "Mr. Beast" album. The other two songs on here are kinda meh.
Best songs: The opening salvo of "Ataraxia" into "Lathe Biosas."
Robert Pollard - Mouseman Cloud-- Hmmmmmm. I really don't want to interrupt the great flow of positive mojo Bob's accrued this year, so let's just say "stick with the three GbV albums he's put out this year, fair listener." Move along; there's nothing more to see here.
Best song: "Obvious #1."
Torche - Harmonicraft -- Since Steve Brooks started Torche (or even before Torche, if you consider his time fronting Florida sludge legends Floor in the '90s thru the early aughts), he has been on a steady trajectory that's somehow managed to make each successive Torche release both hookier and faster at the same time. These are very good things, and this is a very good album.
Best songs: "Kicking," "Letting Go," and "Snakes are Charmed" for starters, but this is a really, really consistent release.