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.
Ms. Niblett has described this album as "a journey through all emotions... almost like the different stages of grief... all about the same thing." The "thing" in this case is betrayal, in particular being cheated on, and the "journey" is, at times, a harrowing one. It's Up to Emma begins in excellent form, with a run of gripping, dramatic tunes, although the songwriting gets less impressive as the album wears on. However, right as the mood reaches a low point, Niblett inserts a hilariously earnest, incredibly well-executed cover of TLC's "No Scrubs," easily the highlight of the album's second half.
Low Fat Getting High - Bad Yoga EP
Debut release by this promising Brooklyn band, who I had the pleasure of seeing live at this show. The music is hard-driving, grungy punk, and the vocals sound kinda like Chris Cornell on "Ty Cobb." The awesome, "Aneurysm"-esque lick circulating through closing track "My Hate" hints at bigger and better things for these guys. Check out the EP in its entirety for free on their Bandcamp.
Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
This was my first time seeing Dope Body live, and I'm glad I made it out to catch their set of sweaty, shouty squall. Before playing the above song, "Leather Head," singer Andrew Laumann introduced it as "a Beach House cover - it's called 'I Fucking Hate Myself and I Wish I Was Dead.'" Pretty much sums it all up right there!
Got to Vitus 9ish. The evening's first band, whose name I'm not going to bother sharing here, started their set with generic-sounding bassy noise riffs (which, truth be told, normally I can get into) but then one of 'em started pouring talcum powder all over himself for some reason... I mean, really? Diediediediedie oh sweet mercy die. For the record, it's not like I'm against combining performance art with music (remember Monotonix? They were fucking awesome!!) but this was just lame, unless you're really into breathing some fat shithead's second-hand ball powder. I immediately walked out / fuck off.
After listening to the Yankees get the shit knocked out of them on my car radio for about a half hour, I reentered Vitus and was treated to Dope Body's sweaty, passionate performance. It seemed with every new note I was reminded of another band that I like, so I'm just going to write down the first five I can think of here - Fugazi; Rage Against the Machine; Dub Trio; Drive Like Jehu; fellow Baltimore contemporary noisemakers Roomrunner.
Wish I had more to report about Scout Niblett's set, but I wound up leaving after the first six or seven songs. Honestly, it wasn't anything about Niblett's performance that sent me away, rather the realization that I hate Vitus when it's this uncomfortably oversold. I'm enjoying Scout's newest record, It's Up to Emma (check out the chilling first single, "Gun," here), and what I saw of her set was really good, as she switched back and forth between solo, unaccompanied numbers and songs further fleshed out with drums and a second guitar. Check below for some videos of the "why the hell did I even bother" variety, which feature a very small amount of Scout herself and a very large amount of the backs of people's heads.