Alabaster Jones

Reviews 18
Approval 99%

Soundoffs 364
Album Ratings 719
Objectivity 66%

Last Active 11-28-15 4:38 am
Joined 06-28-13

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Average Rating: 3.77
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Objectivity Score: 66%
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5.0 classic
Aesop Rock Labor Days
Amebix Arise!
American Football American Football
American Football, for all intents and purposes, is a "cult band", a band which is heavily influential to their respective genre despite only hanging around long enough to release one or two things. American Football undoubtedly had a huge influence on emo and math rock, and their self-titled proves why. From the unmistakeable classic opener known as "Never Meant", to the wonderfully written "Stay Home", American Football is an exercise in emotion and nostalgia. Even the two instrumental tracks, "You Know I Should Be Leaving Soon" and "The One With The Wurlitzer" are emotionally poignant, and that is without Mike Kinsella's angelical voice. The trademark twinkly guitar sound is likely the best we'll ever hear from any band, and the drumming is stellar as well as fun. For every time you have ever reminisced about your past, American Football has created the soundtrack, one that would serve to cement the legacy of the man (rather, the legend) himself, Mike Kinsella.
Atmosphere Overcast! EP
August Burns Red Messengers
August Burns Red Constellations
Here is where the Pennsylvania quintet really started to distance themselves from the rest of modern metalcore scene. While Messengers does have an extreme amount of sentimental value to me, Constellations is objectively a better album. The album does have the technical, fast-paced riffage that August Burns Red is known for with songs such as "Thirty and Seven", "The Escape Artist", and "Meddler", but where the album really shines is the experimentation. Songs like "White Washed" and "Marianas Trench" employ fantastic build-ups not usually seen in metalcore, while other songs have nice acoustic/ambient breaks that provide a rest from the hectic atmosphere. Where the experimentation really comes to a head is "Meridian", a chilling track bordering on post-metal. If there is a better mainstream modern metalcore album, I have yet to hear it.
Avenged Sevenfold Waking the Fallen
People throw the word "sell-out" around a lot these days, but most of that is bull. It's not selling out if the band makes some money and is played on the radio. Selling out is when a band changes their style to get more money and exposure. Before Avenged Sevenfold sold out (Which only worked on "City of Evil"), they made what has to be a metalcore classic. The atmosphere on it is so dark, sometimes in a depressing way ("I won't see you tonight Part 1"), or in an urgent and passionate way ("Second Heartbeat"). Jimmy Sullivan's drumming is fantastic, and the dueling guitars are excellent. Shadows' vocals are decent; singing clean is his strongest point. The songs seem to take on a life of their own in the bleak, black void that is the atmosphere. It's great, and looking at Avenged Sevenfold now, they needed this album.
Blessthefall His Last Walk
Bob Marley and The Wailers Natty Dread
It is fitting that this album opens with a song titled "Lively Up Yourself". Everything The Wailers have done, from the old ska gospel days up until Catch A Fire had consisted of a sparse but effective formula. The music was simple, there weren't very many instruments, and variety wasn't exactly the strongest card they played. On Natty Dread, though, improvements are made that take them to new heights. For one, there are more instruments, such as horns and harmonicas and they are used with frequency. This helps the music have a much needed variety that a lot of their previous work lacked. Female back-up singers accent Marley's unmistakable voice, and there just seems to be a whole lot more going on with this record than ever before in the discography. Therefore, some of the best songs The Wailers ever crafted appear here, such as "No Woman, No Cry", "Rebel Music (3 O'Clock Roadblock)", "Talkin' Blues", and "Revolution". Truly a masterwork of reggae, Natty Dread cannot be missed by any fans of the genre, or fans of smooth, laid-back music altogether.
Botch We Are the Romans
Botch American Nervoso
Burial Untrue
Charles Mingus The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
Converge You Fail Me
I feel as if there is nothing left to say about Converge. Everything they've done has been documented, explained, reviewed, and loved to high heaven. So all I really have to say is this: I love Converge, and I love You Fail Me. When I listen to it I somehow feel any troubles I may have fade in to the background. And that, at least for me, is the purpose, the reason, the trophy, and the meaning.
Converge Jane Doe
Converge When Forever Comes Crashing
D'Angelo Voodoo
It's not easy to come up with something to say about Voodoo. People have already covered basically everything there is to know about it; its influence, its flawless tracklist, its seamless combination of neo-soul and funk, D'Angelo's angelical vocals and sexy production, Questlove's smooth drumming, the distinct hip-hop flavor that comes in on several of the tracks, and the perfect bass throughout the record are all things that went into Voodoo being one of the greatest and most critically acclaimed neo-soul albums ever made. For me, an hour and fifteen minutes flys by like it's only twenty when I hear it. I guess I'm having too much fun, but can you really blame me?
DJ Screw 3 'N The Mornin' (Part Two)
Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP
Eminem The Slim Shady LP
I often ask myself, what tortures a man's soul so that he doesn't want to live? Whatever the reasons, in 1996, Marshall Mathers, an aspiring rapper from Detroit, attempted suicide. From the ashes of the failed attempt, another part of him was born, and he called it Slim Shady. Slim's sole reason for existing? To piss the world off and upset the order. We all know this now, but when this album came out, few had expected anything like it. The angry, tortured, frustrated, sad, and pretty funny songs that appear on this LP are nothing short than the raps of a man who, as one of the classics on the album states, "Just Don't Give A F***"
Explosions in the Sky The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place
Explosions in the Sky Those Who Tell the Truth...
Since Godspeed was the first post rock band I ever listened to, I assumed other post rock bands would sound similar. They actually play a pretty strange style of post rock, now that I've listened to other bands. Explosions In The Sky, alternatively, are pretty straight-forward with what they do. Whereas Godspeed drops a bomb on you and burns the whole city down, Explosions In The Sky moves by like a forceful hurricane, and "Those Who Tell The Truth..." is a fantastic example of that.
Fleetwood Mac Rumours
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
Everything that can be said about how incredible this album is has already be said, so anything from this point on is redundant. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor F#A# (Infinity)
Sometimes we find something we cherish and appreciate during a time in which we are restlessly seeking an escape from. I was sick with the stomach flu, which isn't the worst thing in the world by a million miles, but still, vomiting in a pan for three weeks with nothing but ramen noodles and sports drinks to sustain myself isn't too fun. Anyways, I was aimlessly browsing YouTube while on a concoction of Vicodin, anti-nausea medication, antibiotics, and Gatorade, and I came across this album in its entire length on a single video. I remembered that this was the band and the album that had "East Hastings" to its name, and I'd heard that song while watching a movie called 28 Days Later. Now it was time to hear the whole album. It was thunderstorming outside when I wrapped myself in blankets, put my headphones on, and pressed play. The minute those first drones and the spoken word passage began, I knew I was going to be in for a ride. The strings soon accompanied the voice and the drone, and soon guitars and cellos and wailing violins joined in. When it all died down with the whistle of a train, I was left in shock. The album is hard to describe in words from thereon after. When it was over, I really honestly felt as if I had experienced something, rather than just having heard an album. I replayed it again with the browser light off and the covers up to my chin. The thunderstorm still raged on in the background as I drifted off into an induced sleep, with this album playing all throughout my dreams. TL;DR: Album is a trip, yo. Jam it when you can.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada
Hiatus Kaiyote Choose Your Weapon
Utilizing a gorgeous combination of neo-soul, electronic, funk, rhythm and blues, jazz, world music, and the occasional sprinkling of hip-hop, Hiatus Kaiyote has released one of the most ambitious and gratifying records of the year so far. Though extensively eclectic, each song from the album contains a style, an image, that never wavers. This is a good thing, because that style is something all their own, dubbed "future soul", and it never fails to impress. From Nai Palm's sublime and intimate vocals to Perrin Moss' smooth-as-butter drumming, everything here sounds so passionate and involved that is hard not to fall in love with it. The lyrics might be written about simple things, like old video games for instance ("Atari"), but they're backed by a musical ensemble that is as complex and carefully structured as the newest video games out there. All this being said, it would be a sin to miss this record, as you might just be missing the evolution of "future soul."
Iced Earth Burnt Offerings
Kendrick Lamar good kid, m.A.A.d city
Compton, U.S.A made him an angel on angel's dust.
Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly
I can't tell you how big of a fan I am of good kid, m.A.A.d city. Ever since the first listen in late 2013, I thought it was a classic record, and knew Kendrick Lamar was an excellent artist, what with that and Section.80 in his discography. To Pimp A Butterfly is much different. There is so much to digest, so much to catch on this thing, and so much that needs to set in that there is no way that one listen will suffice to call this a "classic". Some time needs to pass, many listens will be needed, and no amount of comparisons or hype will change that. However, the notion that this could potentially be a classic in the future is both a valid one and an incredible one. All three of his LP's, then, will have had the focus of the rap game firmly on them for a time. The interesting thing here is, his rhyming ability and flow are at a peak for him, the production is a beautiful blend of jazz and funk that FlyLo, Thundercat, and Sounwave are all in their zone on, and his lyrics have never been as relevant and hard-hitting as they are on this. With that said, the possibility this ends up as a classic record is very strong, and that is truly impressive.
La Dispute Somewhere at the Bottom of the River...
Linkin Park Hybrid Theory
Lorde Pure Heroine
Nas Illmatic
You could say that this record is a template for everything east-coast hip-hop is all about. And you know what? You'd be right. Illmatic is undoubtedly one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever recorded, but I'm sure you knew that already. Personally, I can't get enough of it, especially from the first half. There are so many songs and lines on this thing that are etched into hip-hop history, as well, serving to illustrate how truly widespread and intense the acclaim and love of this record went and still goes. "N.Y State Of Mind", "The World Is Yours", "Memory Lane", and "One Love" alone make this record excellent, but everything else here is just as good. Simply put, absolutely essential, impeccable, and wonderful east-coast hip-hop.
Neil Young Tonight's the Night
People often think that the man on the cover of this album is Neil Young himself. It's actually Danny Whitten, a longtime friend and rhythm guitarist for Crazy Horse, one of Neil's bands. He died of a drug overdose a few months before these songs were written. In order to capture exactly how he felt, Neil recorded all of these songs within one day in the studio, keeping a raw and passionate feel throughout the record. There really isn't a record quite like this one in Neil's discography, and the dark and gloomy atmosphere has a lot to do with that. Here, we see Neil at his most vulnerable, his most stripped-down, his most angry, and his most sad. You can tell just by his vocals that he's troubled, and at this point in his discography, they are the roughest by a nice margin. Bookended by part 1 and part 2 of the title-track, the album follows a clear concept of grief, introspection, loss, and hope. His fifth essential album in a row, Neil turns in a truly incredible performance in honor of his late friends.
Neil Young After the Gold Rush
Neil Young Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Radiohead Kid A
I think that there isn't much left to say about Kid A. It's just amazing to me, even after hearing the greatness that is OK Computer, that Radiohead could make something equally as ambitious and interesting. Just those two albums alone contain 22 unforgettable songs. The 10 here are often seen as some of the bleakest written by the band, but underneath Kid A's cold exterior lies something truly hopeful and beautiful that never really gets to come out in full until "Motion Picture Soundtrack". I've heard a lot of people say that it grew on them, but this album clicked instantly for me. Kudos, Radiohead, for two unforgettable records.
Radiohead OK Computer
I was hearing this for the first time when LeBron James decided he'd come back to Cleveland. This album now holds a special place in my heart, 5'd so hard for every reason.
Red Hot Chili Peppers By the Way
Sadistik Flowers For My Father
It might sound cliche, but I hate this record. I hate how perfectly it says all of the things that I can't say when I feel that crushing helplessness that every last minute of this album was born from. I hate how badly I wish I could say these wonderfully crafted words myself, but can't. I hate how the ethereal, melancholy production provides the backdrop for my own fears and mistakes. I hate how this record would just be made of these beautiful instrumentals if I was the rapper. I hate that I know others have problems much larger and more important than Sadistik's and I's, and yet we both treat them like they're the worst thing to ever happen. The truth is, it's the worst to happen to us, so I guess in our world, it is the worst thing to ever happen. It sounds selfish, and it totally is, but that's all part of the disease known as depression that we, and millions of others across the world, carry. And I can't speak for those millions, but to me, this album portrays depression down to the last inch. All pretentious, sad-time, sobby-weepy crap aside, all I really want anyone to get from this soundoff is that I find this album to be absolutely incredible, even if I hate it.
Suffocation Effigy of the Forgotten
Contrary to what I was anticipating, Effigy is not an immediately gratifying record. The production of the album and the speed at which the members play their instruments make the record sound truly suffocating. It's like the whole thing is played under dirt and debris. Once your ear is trained to the production style, though, you're able to appreciate the impeccable musicianship and songwriting skills from the band. Multiple metal subgenres were pioneered by this record, and while most have come to be reviled by many, Suffocation knew how to do everything tastefully, making the breakdowns and slams (two terms that would earn the metal community's scorn years after the fact) seem like natural progressions of the songs. It's immensely technical, but not in a flashy way, as there's very little showboating to be found here. Rather, it is the malevolent riffs, solos, and slams that do the talking, and when backed by a truly excellent drum performance and vocals straight from the garbage-filled mud, make this pioneer of a record one of death metal's finest.
The Black Crowes The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
People often point to The Black Crowes' debut as their best record, but this is truly the definitive Black Crowes album. It's everything Shake Your Money Maker is and more, with small upgrades made in several places that take their southern blues rock sound to new heights. Female vocals sing beautiful harmonies, harmonicas and keyboards play wonderful lines, and pianos add soul to the whole concoction. The album ends with four straight classics in the gritty combo of "Black Moon Creeping" and "No Speak No Slave", which segue into the wondrous romp that is "My Morning Song", ending with the beautifully made cover of Bob Marley's "Time Will Tell". Sure, it's still the Robinson brothers' show, but this time around the music is not nearly as dependent on those two as before. That being said, they too arguably turn in their best performances here, making this record a collection of the best that The Black Crowes have to offer, and a cornerstone of 90's hard rock.
The Dillinger Escape Plan Calculating Infinity
Good Lord... This album is twisted, unrelenting and punishingly heavy. Way ahead of it's time, a true classic.
The Pogues Rum Sodomy & the Lash
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra Born Into Trouble As the Sparks Fly Upward
I've always considered TSMZ to be GY!BE-lite, always sort of hanging in the shadows of a much larger project. While this is by no means a bad thing, it can cause struggles with a bands own identity. That is, if you don't make an ambitious, beautiful record such as this. The follow up to 2000's He Has Left Us Alone..., Born Into Trouble is exactly the type of record TSMZ needed to separate themselves from their parent band, and it is done expertly. This album can certainly get some tears out of the listener with songs like "Sisters! Brothers!..." and "Built Then Burnt", but it also has songs that display a sense of urgency, like "Take These Hands And Throw Them In The River" and "C'mon COME ON". The true highlight is "Could've Moved Mountains", which just may be one of greatest post-rock songs ever made. Though on the whole TSMZ tends to stay in the shadow of GY!BE, this album proves that they are most certainly their own band, and are capable of making fantastic records, too.
Thomas Newman Wall-E
Trophy Scars Darkness, Oh Hell
I feel like Trophy Scars' style of music should not work. A mixture of blues, punk, jazz, and small bits of post-hardcore doesn't really seem like it would sound that good. Yet, it does. I don't really even know why it works, it just does. Every piano note, every guitar lick, every pained lyric, and every throaty croon. And each song flows seamlessly into the next, like we're listening to one twenty-eight minute play. The fact that everything they've done since releasing Bad Luck has been this well-received is really impressive. I mean, it's hard enough to make four straight releases that are acclaimed, but the fact that they've done it using a style all their own is simply astonishing. However, this album is perfect. While Bad Luck suffered from some cringe-worthy lyrics here and there, and Holy Vacants had a few melodramatic moments, everything on Darkness, Oh Hell is done perfectly, down to the last detail. One hell of a release, indeed.
Violent Femmes Violent Femmes
If there were ever a soundtrack to being a horny, angsty, pissed off, stoned teenager, this record would be it. Musically, it's full of addicting bass, sparse drumming and guitars, and an emotional vocal performance. It's generally in the style of folk punk, which works excellently as the band channels both the youthful passion of punk and the beautiful wisdom of folk. The lyrics are probably the best part about the whole record, and I say this as someone who doesn't put a massive amount of stock into lyrics. They are humorous, nostalgic, witty, and yet tantalizingly simple. "I'm high as a kite, and I just might, stop to check you out" or "Why can't I get just one screw? Believe me, I'd know what to do, but something won't let me make love to you." So many bands since 1983 that write about teenage angst and experiences secretly wish they could write lyrics that good. What they don't understand is that Violent Femmes caught lightning in a bottle with this record, one that influenced several genres en route to becoming an undeniable cult classic.
Weezer Pinkerton
Weezer Weezer

4.5 superb
Wow, did this thing sneak up on me. I don't know why I put off listening to this, but I'm glad I finally did. This is the debut record from A/T/O/S, which stands for "A Taste Of Struggle". The way the group mixes trip-hop and R&B is basically perfect, and though it may run slightly long, this is definitely one of this years chillest releases. The closer, "Variations", could possibly be my favorite song from this year. "What I Need", "Roses", and "No Heart" are also incredibly dope tracks. The chilly atmosphere on here is pretty great too, accompanied by soulful vocals and melancholy lyrics. With a debut like this, A/T/O/S makes me very optimistic for what the future holds for them, and they are certainly a group that people should keep their eyes on.
Ad Nauseam Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est
One of the things that appeals to me most about death metal is that it's not afraid to explore the darkest and most surreal areas of our minds, and isn't afraid to show us things we otherwise would be reluctant to see. It's this sentiment that permeates this record in bulk, sounding like a fierce case of dementia and sporadic rage that combines to create something quite unnerving. This is true even in the beginning seconds of the album. "My Buried Dream" starts with relatively calm, contained strings that quickly spiral downward into a chilling and atonal chasm. The band rushes forth from thereon out, and though they are influenced by the likes of Gorguts and Deathspell Omega, they keep these influences under wraps in favor of showing their own style and abilities. In general, what you'll hear is some of the most twisted, interesting, and really, really fun metal that this year has to offer. Quite a start for the Italian quartet, indeed.
Aesop Rock Music For Earthworms
Aesop Rock Daylight
Aesop Rock is undoubtedly one of the kings of underground hip-hop, and possibly the biggest reason for that is because his lyricism is second to none. On this EP, Aes reworks his most famous song ("Daylight") on a track called "Night Light", spits wonders over an El-P produced track on "Nickel Plated Pockets", and even shares the spotlight with fellow rapper Blueprint on "Alchemy". But perhaps the greatest moment on this EP is one that isn't even included on the tracklist. A hidden track called "One Of Four" that ends the silence after "Maintenance" is easily Aes' most confessional and heartfelt song. It is a self-produced track that is dedicated to four people that saved his life during a time of depression. It is surely not as lyrical as other Aesop Rock songs, in fact likely being his least lyrical, but nowhere else do we find such a straightforward, personal, and emotional Ian Bavitz. This EP is a must-have for all of Aes' fans, and a rewarding listen for underground hip-hop lovers.
Arca Mutant
Arca has been on the scene for a couple of years now, but this is his first true full realization of his sound. Everything on this LP is equal parts expansive, subdued, loud, experimental, and interesting. He combines IDM with industrial techno and glitch, and as a result it has a wonderfully layered and full feeling to it, but also a flexible one as well. The use of stop-time on several of these tracks is sleek, and in general there's a lot of dynamics to the music. The album flows very well, giving adequate breathing room when needed, but pouring on the progressively loud and explosive electronics after the downtime. There is nary a bad track to be found throughout the hour long runtime, and though it may seem daunting to get through, it is actually surprisingly smooth and seamless. You never feel like it's been an hour, essentially. In short, Arca creates one of the best electronic releases of the year, one that is as gratifying on a first listen as it is rewarding on several more.
Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That's What...
It's hard to pin it down, but something about this album screams "nightlife" to me. Maybe it's the guy smoking on the album cover. Maybe it's the riff-driven fun packed in the tracks of this album, which seem as if they're being played inside a smoke-filled bar between drunken bouts. Either way, I'd love to listen to this thing on a night on the town.
Arctic Monkeys Favourite Worst Nightmare
Atmosphere Sad Clown Bad Dub II
August Burns Red Thrill Seeker
August Burns Red Rescue & Restore
Between the Buried and Me Colors
Colors marks when BTBAM went from a more progressive style of metalcore to toeing the line between progressive death metal and technical death metal. The experimentation was still very much alive, but the sound was tighter, faster, and more expansive than ever before. Having the entire album connect together like one whole hour-long song helped the fluidity of the compositions, and transitions like the one from the mid-tempo ending to "Sun Of Nothing" to the frantic and epic beginning to "Ants Of The Sky" are more than exceptional. There isn't much left to say about Colors, though, being the loved album it is. In my opinion, Colors was BTBAM's first truly superb record, and though they'd top it later, it's still an excellent listen.
Bob Marley and The Wailers Catch A Fire
Bob Marley and The Wailers The Wailing Wailers
Brian Eno Ambient 1: Music For Airports
Brian Eno Another Green World
Another Green World marks a change in Brian Eno's style, namely from the Bowie-esque art rock with glam sensibilities to the ambient soundscapes people know him better for making. Although it's not purely ambient, some tracks on the album give insight into what he would eventually become widely known for, such as the addictive "The Big Ship" and the breathtaking "Becalmed". "Zawinul/Lava" even has piano similar to "1/1", the opener of Ambient 1: Music For Airports. Only a handful of tracks even have lyrics here, and those that do are pretty subdued in comparison to his previous work, as "Golden Hours" and "Everything Merges With The Night" while show you. He still hasn't lost his art rock ways, though, as opener "Sky Saw" and the lovely "I'll Come Running" are both catchy, upbeat, and unique. In all, a huge transition album for Brian Eno ends up becoming one of the crowning achievements of his storied career.
Brian Eno Here Come the Warm Jets
Brian Eno, as we know him today, is one of the undisputed kings of electronic music. However, in 1974, it was a bit of a different story. Rather than making fantastic ambient electronic or art-pop, he was creating art-rock with glam rock sensibilities and a bit of an influence from synth-driven electronica. Almost every song on his debut album, Here Come The Warm Jets, is as catchy and as fun as they come. The lyrics on this record are very memorable, and Eno delivers them with an interesting inflection that makes the record sound very unique. The obvious highlight here is "Baby's On Fire", but "Cindy Tells Me", "Some Of Them Are Old", and the title track are also gems that can't be missed. Here Come The Warm Jets is unlike any other album Brian Eno has ever made, and in that regard, any fan of the man should listen to it without delay.
Burial Truant/Rough Sleeper
It speaks volumes about Burial that we expect nothing less than excellence from him every time we listen to one of his new cuts. Many believe that everything he's made is at worst very solid and at best otherworldly. On this EP, that sentiment does not change, and he delivers once again. "Truant" is a pretty sparse and atmospheric track, one that conjures up the feeling of the seedy London underground and its issues, something that Burial has always been able to provide with little trouble. It is messy without feeling completely disjointed, and it's clear a lot of ideas were explored in the creation of this track. "Rough Sleeper" is a bit of different territory for Burial, as there are certain segments during this track where the music is upbeat and hopeful. Overall, it carries a certain charm, with bells coming in that can remind one of a snowy, comfortable Christmas. It's actually pretty interesting to the see the contrast between these two styles put up against each other on a two-track EP. Surely, this is a record that you could show to anyone who wants to get into Burial, or atmospheric garage/dubstep in general.
Candlemass Epicus Doomicus Metallicus
Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is one of the most revered albums, not just in doom metal, but in metal as a whole. It's been discussed to high heaven, but it's worthy of its praise. In my opinion, "Solitude" makes its mark as one of the greatest metal songs ever written, and though every other song is great, they just miss the opener's prowess by mere inches. That said, this record is one every fan of doom metal (and metal in general) should hear.
Candlemass Nightfall
When you think of Swedish metal, you probably think of melodic death metal a la At The Gates and Dark Tranquility. Yet, one of the best metal albums ever to come from Sweden is this, a doom metal album that takes what makes the sub-genre so great and amps it up. From the fantastic and memorable riffs, to the dreary yet wonderfully chimeric atmosphere, this is a top-tier doom metal record through and through. Some of Candlemass' best material is on this thing, not least of which are "The Well Souls", "Samarithan", and "Mourner's Lament". Despite having four instrumental tracks, which are all excellent at building atmosphere and suspense, the album is dominated by captivating frontman Messiah Marcolin, who is not only at the top of his game vocally, but lyrically as well, as each of the songs he's in tell interesting and entertaining tales. All in all, an absolute cornerstone of doom metal, recommended to metal fans everywhere.
Caravan In the Land of Grey and Pink
Caravan If I Could Do It All Over Again...
Celtic Frost Morbid Tales
Chelsea Reject CMPLX
The first full-length record from female emcee Chelsea Reject is faithful to the roots of female-fronted hip-hop, blending jazzy production with R&B hooks and slick rap verses. The production here is rife with positive vibes and jazzy synths that really gives the album a laid-back and smooth feeling. The guest spots here are used to optimum proficiency, whether it's Kirk Knight's introspective rapping as seen on "47", or Atownomas' trap-influenced chanting on "So High". Chelsea herself is quite good, dropping some really tight verses on this thing, especially on a small, yet impressive track "Tree". The quality of this record is notable, as it starts at a high level and never wavers from that point throughout the whole thing. There may not be a track I'd classify as a standout, but there are definitely some wonderful songs to be heard from this record. If you're looking for some more great hip-hop this year, or just want a record with some good vibes, look no further than CMPLX.
Clarence Clarity No Now
Noisy, ambitious, and entirely unconventional, Clarence Clarity's debut full length is really something to behold. To call this album "alternative R&B" is not doing justice to how varied and eclectic these tracks are. The one-two punch of "Off My Grid" and "Those Who Can't, Cheat" is absolute can't-miss material, and the former easily stacks up as one of the best songs of 2015 so far. The amount of experimentation that works within these songs transforms something relatively simple into a cohesive piece made up of layers of instrumentation and vocal chops. Aside from a couple of unstructured and needlessly abrasive interludes, and some similar pointlessness that completely interrupts "With No Fear", the record is a fantastic representation of how well someone with an ear for experimentation, catchy melodies, and layered production can make music. If you are a fan of those formerly mentioned qualities, do yourself a favor and listen to this record.
Converge Petitioning the Empty Sky
Converge No Heroes
Converge have always been one of the most forward-thinking bands in hardcore, never making the same album twice. Acting as the follow-up to the bleak You Fail Me, No Heroes is the band at their most uncomplicated and simplistic, but also their most primal and brutal. The album makes use of short bursts of intense, noisy hardcore with tons of guitar feedback and longer, more atmospheric numbers. It's easily their most sparse and stripped down, but therein lies its charm: it's their tribute to their roots of in-your-face hardcore, to the immense and sloppy punk-tinged metalcore from whence they were born. The standout tracks are the swift punch to the face "Hellbound", the post-metal influenced "Grim Heart/Black Rose", and the anthemic "Trophy Scars", but all of these tracks have at least something to take from them, no matter how short. With all that said, No Heroes may not be Converge's best work, but it is definitely not one to be overlooked.
D'Angelo Brown Sugar
It's hard to believe that it's been two whole decades since the release of D'Angelo's debut album, Brown Sugar. It sounds like it could've been made days ago. That, I suppose, is a testament to how much influence D'Angelo had over the budding neo-soul movement, and how much of his influence is heard throughout the genre even today. So what, exactly, made him worthy of this? This album, for one, as it is an absolutely sublime slab of neo-soul and rhythm and blues that is addicting to listen to. From the opener, the title-track, we find what it's all about: smooth rhythms, soulful vocals, sexy lyrics, and that oh-so-important bass undertone. The only bad thing I could say about the album is that it does not stray far from the formula set by the opener at all. However, when you're putting out songs like "Jonz In My Bonz", "Me And Those Dreamin' Eyes Of Mine", and "Lady", who cares? All in all, a fantastic debut from one of the leading artists in neo-soul.
D'Angelo Black Messiah
Famed neo-soul and R&B artist D'Angelo was beginning to become a bit of an afterthought for a lot of people during his fourteen-year-long hiatus. But, to those who love soul music and R&B, D'Angelo would remain in their hearts for decades. Now, things are starting to change. D'Angelo is now back on the forefront of soul/R&B, titillating dedicated fans, making former fans refocus, and making many new fans in the process. The reason for this refocusing is simple: Black Messiah is one smooth, soulful, and (for some) nostalgic record. From the opening spaceship-like noises on "Ain't That Easy" to the final piano strokes of "Another Life", Black Messiah showcases everything D'Angelo's about. From smooth bass lines, soulful singing, and lyrics that have just as much relevance today as they did when they were written, Black Messiah is a fantastic comeback album. If you're going to listen to one more record in 2014, make it this one.
Dead in the Manger Cessation
There's always been something mystifying about bands that can play to the extreme side of both spectrums. In the case of Dead In The Manger, a mysterious and anonymous band, they play a mix of black metal, grindcore, doom metal and a hint of sludge metal. The main draw of this, however, is not the styles they play, but how passionate and emotional their playing is. The riffs shift from sinister to heart-wrenching, and the pained and distressed vocals echo that sentiment in spades. There's a very deliberate and calculated feel that backs up the emotion too, especially in the case of the drumming. It's over quickly, though, as the album only clocks in at a half-hour. Still, there is tons of replay value to be found here, as there aren't many moments during its runtime that aren't engaging, both mentally and emotionally. There really isn't an image to these guys, or a discernible reason they have for being a band, other than just to play the furious and impassioned tunes they love to play.
Deafheaven New Bermuda
There has always been a weird mystique surrounding the Bermuda triangle. Tales of aliens, supernatural forces, and just about anything the mind can conjure have been told all stemming from this particular place. This mystery and eeriness is how Deafheaven have decided to approach their new record, New Bermuda, through tightened black metal dirges, beautiful and melodic post-metal swoons, and introspective lyrics. Things are much darker than on their previous opus Sunbather, as opener "Brought To The Water" will immediately show you, but that doesn't mean there aren't any pleasant and hopeful moments. Take the endings to "Come Back" and "Gifts For The Earth". The former makes use of an evocative post-rock passage to get the feeling across, whereas the latter makes use of a loud crescendo of black metal that eventually just becomes piano and acoustic guitar. In all, the refusal to stagnate is a great sign for the band, and by utilizing this tweak of sound, they've added another dynamic record to their discography and certainly cement their status as the premier "blackgaze" band.
Death Leprosy
One of the most important death metal albums ever recorded, Leprosy is just one of the those fantastic albums that have been praised to the ends of the earth and back again, with little more to be said. In my opinion, the first six tracks and the closer are death metal perfection, with "Primitive Ways" being a good song, but not quite up to snuff with the others. With that said, "life ends so fast, so take your chance and make it last."
Death Grips The Powers That B - Part II: Jenny Death
I suppose it is fitting that Death Grips (presumably) end on their most rugged and abrasive set of tracks to date, and which is certainly their best work in years. MC Ride is up to his usual tricks, but he still sounds as angry and schizophrenic as he ever has. The production on the album is extremely heavy, making use of booming drums, thick basslines, dissonant guitar samples, and industrial noises. It's a bit of an acquired taste, like most of their records, but I wouldn't say it's fully inaccessible. Take the awkwardly catchy and memorable hook of "Pss Pss" for example. And of course, it wouldn't be a Death Grips album without some quotable one-liners scattered around, "The Powers That B" being an obvious example. If this is truly the end for Death Grips, at least they left with a massive and spectacular bang.
Deniro Farrar Rebirth
I'm always going to be a fan of storytelling in hip-hop. For some reason, a story told over metal riffs or smooth acoustic guitar just doesn't have the same emotional effect that hearing the story told through rapping and looped beats does. There are storytellers that are very cryptic with their lyrics and meanings, and then there are storytellers that don't mince words, get straight to the point, and let you know that every word that escapes their mouth is unabashedly real. The latter describes Deniro Farrar, who, instead of crafting a painting symbolic of his life, takes a picture of his life with a camera of the highest definition. No photoshop here. Mixing introspective questions and thoughts with immediate existential surroundings and flowing masterfully over excellent cloud rap/trap production, Farrar lays himself bare on this 25-minute EP. The guest spots are used to optimum proficiency here as well, showing that Farrar is smart with choosing artists that compliment his aesthetic and overall theme. An overlooked gem, Rebirth is a fantastic hip-hop EP that is dying to be heard.
diSEMBOWELMENT Transcendence into the Peripheral
DJ Screw Bigtyme Recordz Vol. II: All Screwed Up
Besides the hip-hop essential Three 'N The Mornin' (Part 2), this is probably Screw's most famous record. And honestly, it has every right to be. Musically, this album is a chopped and screwed DJ mix, and it just oozes from your speakers. "Ethereal" is a word people (like me) throw around a lot as a description of sound, atmosphere, and aesthetic. This is the album that holds the standard to what "ethereal" really is, at least in my eyes. Besides one unfortunate misstep, this record is impeccable. All of the tracks with 20-2-Life and Point Blank are incredible, and everything from "After I Die" onwards is pretty much perfect. The atmosphere is constantly changing, with the first few songs after the intro actually being kind of terrifying. There also tracks that are pretty melancholy too, with "Inside Looking Out" and "My Mind Went Blank" comprising one of the greatest one-two punches in hip-hop. Mostly, though, the tracks are smooth, laid back, easy to listen to, and generally flowing with good vibes. If you love that type of hip-hop, or just want to know what "ethereal" actually is, listen to this record as soon as possible.
DjRum Mountains
Earth Primitive and Deadly
Earth is considered one of the premier drone metal bands in existence, and with releases like Earth 2, it's easy to see why. While their early work was mainly droning with little percussion and no vocals, on Primitive And Deadly they change this. Cleaner sounding production, airy vocals and slow, methodical drumming combine with the droning riffage that Earth is known for to fantastic effect here. "Torn By The Fox Of The Crescent Moon" and "Even Hell Has Its Heroes" are two instrumental tracks that show a nice psychedelic rock influence. "From The Zodiacal Light" and "Rooks Across The Gate" show the vocal styling of Earth to be an excellent fit with the instrumentals established, and are as ethereal as they are heavy. Altogether, Earth has another excellent release under their belt, and prove that they certainly still have it.
Eminem The Eminem Show
Explosions in the Sky All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone
I've always been a fan of how Explosions In The Sky do post-rock. While I do love the louder, dronier stuff like Godspeed, there's something to be said for the simple, yet effective way EITS play their music. Unfortunately, this also has garnered them some flak for having a been-there-done-that feel to their music on occasion. While that is true in the case of All Of A Sudden, I Miss Everyone, it never gets to the point where it will bother the listener. In fact, EITS add a different feeling to this record: darkness. This is evident even from the opening notes of "The Birth and Death of the Day". "It's Natural To Be Afraid" adds to this feeling, but it does have an uplifting crescendo the likes of which only EITS can create. "What Did You Go Home To?", with its melancholy piano, does a perfect job of setting up "Catastrophe and the Cure", which might just be the best song on the album, despite not being as dark as the rest of the album. A return to form from the disappointing The Rescue, EITS really deliver on this record, and no fan of post-rock should pass it up.
Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac
Flying Lotus Los Angeles
It seems as if, no matter what style he employs, that Flying Lotus creates some of the most textured, intelligent, and engaging electronic music that always has layer upon layer of wonderful sounds to peel back every album. There are plenty of subgenres explored on Los Angeles, including trip-hop, wonky, IDM, instrumental hip-hop, and even glitch-hop. It's a very urban record, not unlike Burial's full-lengths, but the difference here is a rather relaxed, playful sentiment rather than a detached and paranoid one. Things are constantly swirling around in the space-like atmosphere, whether they be the kick drums you can feel in your bones on "Breathe Something/Stellar Star", the tribal drums of "Melt!", the simple and smooth guitar on "Riot", or the beautiful vocals on "Roberta Flack". In a nutshell, FlyLo's second full-length is a unique and refreshing take on trip-hop, as well as other aforementioned genres, that shouldn't be missed by fans of electronic music or fans of beat-driven music in general.
Flying Lotus You're Dead!
Flying Lotus, also known as Flylo, has truly made a name for himself in the past eight years. His work, being of the experimental electronic and jazz fusion genres, have garnered a large amount of critical acclaim. In terms of the quality we all expect from him, he delivers once again on You're Dead! The production on this album is stunning, making use of so many different instruments and styles. For instance, on "Tesla", he makes use of very skilled bass, mixing it with xylophone and piano to create a great jazz fusion track. On "Cold Dead", the use of trumpet and electric guitar is seen along with piano. Elsewhere, we find very ethereal and euphoric tracks like "Coronus, The Terminator", "The Boys Who Died In Their Sleep", and "Obligatory Cadence" make this release as fun to listen to as it is ambitious. All I know is, if I'm really dead, at least I've got You're Dead!
Frank Ocean channel ORANGE
George Clanton 100% Electronica
I suppose if "electronica" is a term applicable to a wide range of electronic genres, then this record pretty much has the perfect title. I say that because this release is a surprisingly eclectic collection of songs of all sorts of electronic genres, including synthpop, downtempo, vaporwave, chillwave, and ambient pop. In terms of relativity, it's eclecticism is somewhat similar to Pastel Ghost, just more subdued, with male vocals, and not swamped in reverb. The whole album, while certainly produced wonderfully, also has catchy hooks scattered throughout, with Clanton's voice being quite adept for the job. The album has a watery, fluid texture due to all of this, and it's quite relaxing, yet also very fun. It's a remarkably enjoyable listen, and though it can get slightly samey near the end, it's also a consistent effort. Needless to say, more albums from this man are a tantalizing thought.
Gnaw Their Tongues Abyss of Longing Throats
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Yanqui U.X.O.
Goldie Timeless
If being timeless is what Clifford Price was aiming for with his debut, then he just may have attained it. What is now seen as a groundbreaking drum and bass release, Timeless was one of the first records ever to mix the genres trademark hard-hitting breakbeats and deep bass lines with atmospheric strings and synths, along with a slew of angelical female vocals. The album gets off to an incredible start with the title track, which is one of the best electronic tracks I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. The entire first half of this record is absolute can't-miss material, the best of it being on another wonderful track in "Sea Of Tears", and on the lethal "Jah, The Seventh Seal". Though the second half of the record does stray a bit from the perfect path set by the first half, there are fantastic moments here as well with "A Sense Of Rage", "Still Life", and "You & Me". It's nearly two hours long, so there will be some time and patience needed to digest everything that appears on this album. However, I believe it is well worth it, and though I can't quite say it's a 5 for me, it's the closest it can possibly be without being one. If you call yourself a fan of drum and bass, jungle, or electronic music in general, make sure you give this beast of an album a well-deserved listen.
Gorillaz Demon Days
Here Comes the Kraken Here Comes the Kraken
Hiatus Kaiyote Tawk Tomahawk
While it sometimes lacks the endless dynamics that its successor, Choose Your Weapon, has, Hiatus Kaiyote's debut is still a wonderful journey into a style of neo-soul and R&B that they deemed "future soul". Things are buttery smooth on this LP, with what might be their best track in album closer "Nakamarra" being the gold standard. Small instrumental interludes are still a common occurrence, and manage to be entertaining enough to warrant a spot on the record. Nai Palm is much more subdued than she would end up sounding later, but she's still got the vocal chops to take the music behind her to the next level. Needless to say, this isn't quite as good as their follow-up, but this project is most certainly worth checking out if you want a better look into what exactly went into creating Hiatus Kaiyote's incredible modern soul sound.
Horrendous Anareta
In astrology, the term "anareta" means "the killing planet" or "a planet capable of great destruction." When you pair that name with that album cover, you're expecting some pretty gnarly death metal to say the least. Yet, Horrendous doesn't go that route, rather opting to be merely ominous and, more often than not, beautiful. And it's really quite the ride. The production here is pretty much perfect. It's cleaner than a lot of death metal production jobs, but it still lets the sound ebb and flow and be organic. Don't be surprised to see more death metal bands in the future employ a similar production style to this one. The bass is audible, the drums sound lively, and the guitars are astounding, both in sound and in skill. The vocals are excellent, and the songwriting here improves from the stout OSDM-revival style to a better amalgamation of old school and new era influences. Needless to say, this results in a sound that is distinctly Horrendous, and the record is all the better for it. In short, it's a wondrous display of death metal, helped along by masterful production.
Horrorshow The Grey Space
Iced Earth Night of the Stormrider
Interpol Turn on the Bright Lights
Johann Sebastian Bach Harpsichord Concerto in D minor BWV 1052
John Cage 4'33''
As far as experimental music goes, I suppose this would be the pinnacle, given that it is an experiment conducted through music, or through what one would perceive to be music. A lot of thoughtful discussion has been generated as a result, and that's pretty cool, even if it is just varying degrees of silence and background noise. As such, it's completely arbitrary to rate something like this, so since 4'33" converts to 4.33 in decimal form, and 4.33 rounds up nicely to 4.5 within this rating system, a 4.5 looks as good a rating as any.
Johnny Cash American II: Unchained
The man in black is often considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, country artists that ever lived. It's not hard to understand with records like this, his second stint with Rick Rubin and the second album in the American Recordings series. This album features a bit more than just Johnny and his guitar, making fantastic use of strings throughout, and containing more drumming than the original American recording. This album contains several of Cash's best songs, like "Rusty Cage", "Southern Accents", and "Meet Me In Heaven". However, the best song on the album (and in my opinion Cash's best song) is the riveting and tearjerkingly beautiful "Spiritual", which features some of the most emotional singing the cashman ever recorded. Truly, this album is not to be missed by fans of country music.
Johnny Cash American Recordings
Johnny Cash American III: Solitary Man
I know that hearts were loving long before I was here, and I'm not the first to ever cry in their bed or in their beer. There were songs before there was radio about love that stays and love that goes, they were writing melancholy tunes and tearful words that rhyme. Before my time. There were songs in old dusty books of love that's always been, sweet lovers in their glory who are now gone with the wind. Old fashioned love-words spoken then keep coming back and around again, nothing's changed except the names, their love burns just like mine. Before my time. And in the dim of yesterday I can clearly see that flesh and blood cried out to someone as it does in me, and there was some old song that said "I'll love you 'til you die." Before my time. But what the old-time masters had is what I feel for you, love is love and doesn't change in a century or two. If someway they had seen and knew how it would be for me and you, they'd wish for love like yours and they'd wish for love like mine. Before my time
Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience
It's hard to believe that Justin Timberlake took seven years to make this. He's a multi-faceted guy, and what with his acting career and his great sophomore LP Future Sex/Love Sounds, people have been taking much more seriously than just "that guy from N*Sync" for a while now. But, if this is the result of seven years of work, then by all means, J.T., take your sweet time. He sounds very confident, but doesn't come off as narcissistic. He sings with a soothing and oftentimes beautiful voice, but never lets it become overbearing. The production on this thing is top-notch, and though a few of the songs stay a little past their welcome, this album is excellent RnB/pop. The lyrics here follow a pretty common theme: women. Still, there are none that are bad, and he honestly sounds like he's putting emotion into them when he sings them, "That Girl" being a fantastic example. The highlight of all this, of course, is the ending duo of the insanely catchy "Mirrors" and the smooth "Blue Ocean Floor." So, yes, the praise for this album is most certainly justified.
Kendrick Lamar Section.80
Krallice Ygg Huur
Avant-garde black metal band Krallice have received their fair share of praise and criticism over the years. Many praise their abilities with their respective instruments and appreciate the anti-traditionalist view they hold of black metal. Others dismiss them as self-indulgent, with no understanding of what black metal actually is or what it stands for. For my part, I've considered Krallice quite talented, but occasionally directionless. That being said, this new record of theirs is far from directionless, and offers a new take on the established Krallice sound. Yes, there are hyper-fast tremolo riffs and blast beats galore, but one of the coolest things about this record is how it constantly walks the line between black metal and death metal, never straying too far into one style. This means that slower, more atmospheric playing is incorporated, especially on the opener "Idols". The vocals, though sparse, sound wonderful, and the guitars are as absorbingly fun as ever. With this release, Krallice tighten their game, and the end result is quite enjoyable.
Linkin Park Meteora
Little Simz A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons
Women can be kings. That is one of the predominant themes of Little Simz' sophomore LP, one that paints a masterful picture of her fascinating life and the place women are unfairly relegated to in hip-hop. With her distinct British voice and skilled lyricism, Little Simz herself is pretty easy to get into. The production, which is at some points hard-hitting and loud and at others subdued and melancholy, is an excellent backdrop for her to spit her wonders over. Though it might be sonically accessible, Little Simz' message spends time confronting what few people in hip-hop are willing to confront: the mistreatment and societal stereotypes against women. She also has an introspective point of view, as well as telling stories of the people around her. This sounds so much more convincing when coming from the mouth a woman who has experienced this first hand, which is part of what makes A Curious Tale so interesting and worthwhile. We might, and bear with me on this, might be witnessing one of the most important female emcees to ever pick up a microphone, and thus, it would be a sin to miss this record.
Loma Prieta Self Portrait
I know many of us, myself included, have either been through or are currently going through depression and anxiety. For all its wonder and intricacies, music cannot cure something like that. It can, though, in my experience at least, take the edge off a slight bit. That's why records like Self Portrait exist. The album is a cacophonous, angry, sad, hopeful, and at some times beautiful collection of screamo that ranges from pulsating, loud hardcore riffs with a sound like that of locusts and quieter, more melodic post-rock crescendos. Emotionally, it begins giving off a feeling of uneasiness, but this quickly tailspins into anger and finally into melancholy by "Nostalgia". Yet, "Never Remember" is surprisingly upbeat, and by the time closer "Satellite" begins to soar, the uplifting nature of the record is revealed. It manages to map out this range of emotions in only thirty-one minutes, but it feels quite a bit longer, and I say that in the best possible way. In all, Self Portrait will probably end up being the screamo album of the year for many people, myself included. It has its bevy of cathartic moments to thank.
Manners Pale Blue Light
This album is one of the most depressing albums I've ever heard. The lyrics are heart-rending and the dissonant guitars are both haunting and sorrowful at the same time. The vocals sound as if the vocalist is pleading with every tormenter he's had to stop his torture. It's a true, soul-bearing melodic hardcore release, that succeeds in all it tries to accomplish. Listen here:
Maribou State Portraits
I don't think that Maribou State could've picked a better title for this record. Whether it be wafty, beautiful downtempo electronic with sublime vocalization in the background or piano-driven downtempo pop, each song paints an incredible picture with its textures and atmosphere. Sometimes they paint portraits of people, like an estranged lover ("The Clown"), or an addict struggling for a way out ("Steal"). Other times, they paint portraits of landscapes, or the simple daily pleasures we find in life. The quality of these songs never waver for a second, always remaining as professionally done as possible. The tracks with vocals often deal with melancholy subjects, but the instrumental tracks serve as a reminder of anything you find gorgeous, or any memory that brings a smile to your face. In all, Maribou State work wonders with their debut LP, one that shouldn't be passed up. Absolutely wonderful.
Marxman 33 Revolutions Per Minute
Massive Attack Blue Lines
Massive Attack is one of the most famous groups to ever come from the UK, and are considered to be the essential trip-hop outfit. Their excellent beginnings are seen here on Blue Lines, and album widely considered to be the first trip-hop record. Their work with sampling is the shining aspect of the album, as each and every song contains an array of expertly woven sounds, backing the vocals of Shara Nelson and Horace Andy beautifully. There is some rapping here by Tricky Kid, like on "Daydreaming", and it's actually not half bad. The highlights are many on this album, but the middle trio in "Be Thankful For What You've Got", "Five Man Army", and "Unfinished Sympathy" is absolutely astonishing. Big props to Neneh Cherry, who, as Daddy G said, "kicked our arses and got us into the studio." Who knew it would result in this?
Mayday Parade A Lesson In Romantics
Mello Music Group Self Sacrifice
I think that there's something to be said for albums that have several different artists contributing to the project and yet put out something cohesive and engaging. It's so difficult to have that many artists on the same page when it comes to ideas, sounds, and aesthetic that albums like this aren't always possible. Yet, Mello Music Group does it as if every artist is working within the same mind. That's not to say you don't know who's who on the record, but they generally work so seamlessly with each other that it all seems part of a collective effort. With simple, yet soulful boom-bap production, wonderful storytelling, buttery flows, and an insatiably confident mindset, Self Sacrifice harkens back to the golden era of hip-hop, and intends to show you that there are those who have remained loyal to the style while also adding a distinct modern flavor. If you know any of the guys on the label (which you should), or just enjoy some outstanding hip-hop, don't hesitate to try this one out.
Mello Music Group Persona
Mello Music Group is an independent hip-hop label that has been making waves recently in the underground scene. Featuring rappers and producers like Open Mike Eagle, Oddisee, Apollo Brown, yU, and L'Orange, the label certainly has some talented artists under their name. Understandably, when an album made of original material from the many members of the label dropped in March, people had reason to be excited. It all stacks up as a fantastic hip-hop release that, as described by the label itself, is "Boom-bap at its best: evolving and expanding the art form, capturing stories of the struggle, upholding the tradition, and keeping the crooked honest." The production on tracks like "Requiem", "Pnt", "Celebrity Reduction Prayer" and "No Future" is top-notch, and the rapping on this thing is solid at all times and more often than not brilliant. Fans of underground hip-hop, or just hip-hop in general, should not pass this one up.
Michael Jackson Thriller
Miles Davis Cookin' With the Miles Davis Quintet
It may only be four tracks totaling thirty-three minutes, but don't let any of that fool you: this is a varied and engaging hard-bop listen. That should come as no surprise considering the likes of Davis, John Coltrane, and Paul Chambers play the trumpet, tenor sax, and bass respectively. With its smooth and memorable piano intro and outro played by Red Garland, "My Funny Valentine" starts things off excellently, segueing into "Blues By Five", a group jam featuring a wonderful bass solo by Chambers. "Airegin" speeds things up, with Davis and Coltrane each getting two minutes to show what they have over Philly Joe Jones' quick drumming. Everything culminates in the strangely catchy but wonderfully composed closer "Tune Up/When Lights Are Low", which shows a more subdued quintet similar to the second track, but with arguably the best playing on the entire record. This record is quite interesting and beautiful despite its short runtime, and is immediately accessible and enjoyable. Needless to say, fans of jazz should definitely listen to this one.
Miles Davis 'Round About Midnight
Miles Davis is one of, if not the, greatest jazz innovators of all time. Many albums of his have been christened as classics of the genre, and throughout his career he dabbled in the many sub genres jazz had to offer. Here, he plays hard bop, and with himself on the trumpet and John Coltrane on the tenor sax, some melancholy yet gorgeous music is made. Featuring songs arranged by jazz greats Thelonius Monk and Stan Getz, this record is a forty-minute excursion into smooth, sad, and altogether endearing jazz, with songs such as "'Round Midnight", "All Of You", "Bye-Bye Blackbird", and "Dear Old Stockholm" stealing the show. Though it was initially received rather lukewarmly, 'Round About Midnight has proved itself to be one of the essentials of hard bop, and an all-around great record for fans of jazz everywhere.
Moderator The World Within
An eclectic producer of Greek heritage, Moderator sets out on a soulful, chilled, and beautiful journey that is teeming with good vibes on his newest full-length. Using a wonderful array of trip-hop, jazz, and funk, Moderator uses a half-hour to put you under his spell. From the hazy "Harlem River", to the jazzy and caressing "It Wasn't For You", to the middle-eastern beauty in "Vasai-Virar", and finally to the ethereal boom-bap of "Space Vandals", there really isn't a moment here worth passing up. And though it is on the short side, there is certainly enough to appreciate here to warrant many listens, especially from those with an ear for the laid-back and chilled out.
Neil Young Harvest
Neil Young On the Beach
Despite having great financial success with his 1972 album Harvest, Neil Young found himself depressed. One of his best friends, named Danny Whitten, had overdosed on heroin in 1972 after being fired from Young's band, Crazy Horse. And so, in 1974, when On The Beach was released, audiences were met with dreary production and a pessimistic Neil, in stark contrast to Harvest. Lyrically, Neil is at the top of his game, with the hopeful "Walk On" and political "Vampire Blues" as obvious examples. However, it is side B of the album, containing three of his best songs, lyrically and instrumentally, in "On The Beach", "Motion Pictures", and "Ambulance Blues" that cement this record as one of Neil's best. For Neil, this is the fourth record in a row, chronologically speaking I might add, that has been hailed as a classic by critics around the world, something as challenging as it is impressive.
New Order Movement
New Order Blue Monday
There really isn't much left to say about "Blue Monday". It's just one of the greatest dance tracks ever made, no question. It's importance cannot be understated either, as it is often seen as one of the strongest links between the disco of the seventies and the dance/house music that permeated the late eighties. The B-side remix known as "The Beach" is really cool as well, but nothing can compare to the greatness of the original.
Nickelus F and Shawn Kemp Trick Dice
It's funny to me that the NBA's Shawn Kemp is one of the most underrated dunkers to ever pick up a basketball, while this Shawn Kemp, better known as Lil Ugly Mane, is one of the most underrated artists in hip-hop, criminally so given his impact on the underground. His production here is, as expected, superb, using an array of samples and production styles throughout the record. The record is lifted to new heights by Nickelus F, who sounds absolutely furious and hungry on all of his verses. The wordplay and metaphors on display are definitely up to snuff, and the lyrics tend to focus on one thing: depravity. Whether it be drugs, violence, prostitution, poverty, or pain, you can trust Nick Fury has it covered. The record is split up into two sides acting as one song each, but both play out similarly, with several smaller songs within each. The second edges out the first in terms of my own personal enjoyment, but the quality is unwavering. Altogether, it's another gem from Ugly production-wise, and very entertaining, clever, and endearing lyrically thanks to Nickelus F's bars.
Nujabes Metaphorical Music
Oasis (What's the Story) Morning Glory?
Opeth Morningrise
Opeth Deliverance
Benefitting from a production job less sterile than their previous opus, Opeth's Deliverance is an engrossing and massive listen from start to finish. Boasting tightened songwriting in a style similar to Blackwater Park's, the record is made of fluid progressive death metal that neither runs out of ideas or loses itself in its ideas. There are plenty of memorable moments here, from the opening riff of "Wreath" to the lovely acoustic passage two minutes into the title-track, to the beautiful solo that segues into solemn piano in "A Fair Judgement", there isn't too much worth missing here. Unfortunately, the parts worth missing are found in the closer, "By The Pain I See In Others", which uses some questionable effects on Mikael Akerfeldt's vocals, which are otherwise excellent, and just generally meanders somewhat, ending the album on an anticlimactic note. Still, the band managed to create an album that, in my opinion, bested Blackwater Park, even if slightly so.
Paramore Riot!
Paramore Brand New Eyes
Pixies Doolittle
Pixies are a band that I had a hard time getting into at first. Surfer Rosa had some of the greatest material ever written in alternative rock, but felt a bit jumbled and messy to me. After getting used to them, I realized how much genius really went in to the Pixies music. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in their magnum opus Doolittle. They turn in their most coherent work here, but also their funnest and most memorable. Songs like "Here Comes Your Man", "Monkey Gone To Heaven", and "No. 13 Baby" are catchy and brilliantly written. Even the shorter songs, which for me were Surfer Rosa's weakness, are much improved this time around with songs like "Mr. Grieves", "There Goes My Gun", and "Crackity Jones". Altogether, Doolittle is a cornerstone of alternative rock that every fan of the genre must have.
Pretend Tapestry'd Life
I never would have guessed that one of the best albums from this year would be a post-rock one considering the staleness of the genre as it stands today. Still, Tapestry'd Life isn't exactly a typical post-rock album, is it? Rather than focus on build-ups and crescendos, Pretend is unpredictable, sometimes exploding in a fury, and other times being as subdued and quiet as they come. There is a distinct emphasis on vocals and drumming here that you don't often get with other post-rock records, and the bass is audible and incredibly fun to hear. The crown jewel of the record are the guitars, which are as mathy and complex, neither of them functioning as a rhythm guitar, but both working with each other with the utmost precision and beauty. Just take the opening minutes to "Paternless Tide" for instance. The album is so easy to get lost into, what with the dreamy guitar work and the incredibly jazzy drumming, and the lovely vocals that permeate the songs. It's definitely an album that requires many patient listens, but the payoff for such patience is amazing. At least for me, this is the post-rock album of the year.
Protest the Hero Kezia
When I first heard this album, I thought it to be the work of geniuses that would be remembered for decades afterward. Though I don't necessarily same opinions two years later, I will say that a great amount of credit should be given to the then-18-year-olds from Protest The Hero for making this album. Guitar wankery and Rody Walkers' puberty vocals be damned, this album is a socially conscious shredfest that tells a gripping story from four different perspectives, and poses some pretty interesting questions that might cause cognitive dissonance in some listeners. But, the story and message would be diluted were it not for the music in front of it, and the band has that covered in spades. The guitars sometimes get a bit lost within their technical ability, but overall they do a great job of keeping things interesting, especially during the many tempo changes. The drums are ambitiously fun, but can become ferocious when needed, like on the one-two punch of "Turn Soonest To The Sea" and "The Divine Suicide Of K." The bass is audible in some parts, and it's great when it is. Walkers' vocals are raw, but he does well, even though he often goes from cringe-worthy to angelic in seconds. Overall, it is clear a lot of time, passion, thought, and skill went into the creation of this record, and while transcendal it isn't, it's still an awesome listen.
Radiohead The Bends
Raw Poetic and K-Def Cool Convos In Quantum Speech
I adore records that can make me feel nostalgic even though I hadn't heard them before then. Two albums this year have done that for me: Tenement's Predatory Headlights, and this album. Raw Poetic, the emcee of overlooked and underrated hip-hop duo Panacea, teams up with an esteemed producer in K-Def and makes some great things happen. In general, the production is minimal and jazzy, and holds a soulful charm. The rapping here is as smooth as can be, and the flows are excellent. The lyrics are generally just observations and musings about daily life and the questions they pose, but Raw Poetic goes about it very chilled and confidently. Add some surprisingly catchy hooks into the formula, and you've got thirty-six minutes of easy-listening and enjoyable hip-hop with tons of replay value. There isn't a bad track to be found on here either. I personally enjoy "Easy Way Out" and "No Difference" the most, but the quality remains pretty much the same throughout the entire record. If you're familiar with Panacea, or just love hip-hop with great vibes, give this record a listen.
Red Hot Chili Peppers Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Rush A Farewell to Kings
I think the title of this record is a bit ironic looking back on history. That's because this album cemented Rush as the kings they were, the kings of progressive rock. This album is everything great about Rush in a thirty-seven minute package: great riffs, inventive drumming, audible and wonderfully skilled bass work, enjoyable vocals, interesting song structures, and so much fun to be had. Pretty much every track is wonderful, the best of these being the immortal "Xanadu", and although "Madrigal" isn't exactly up to snuff with the rest of the tracks, it's still a pleasant listen. Alas, so much has been said about this record by others that it's redundant to state anything more after this: this record rules, and Rush rules. Just listen to it.
Self Defense Family Heaven Is Earth
When it was released as a seven inch earlier this year, "Talia" wrote a pretty big check for Self Defense Family's then-upcoming LP, Heaven Is Earth. I believe it's safe to say the check has been cashed, because it's quite a great record. From the one-two punch of post-punk that is "In My Defens Self Me Defend" and "Talia" to the subtle punk of "Ditko" and the title-track, to one of the tracks of the year in the sentimental "Basic Skills", the album is filled to the brim with wonderful moments. The trademark "gruff old man" vocals of Patrick Kindlon are still very much intact, the instruments are all soulfully played to a high degree, and the album is easily replayable at only thirty-one minutes. What stands out as a surprisingly subtle yet still beautifully emotional record, Heaven Is Earth is well on its way to being one of the most respected albums in the family's discography, and rightfully so.
Shape of Despair Monotony Fields
A comeback of monolithic proportions, Monotony Fields is exactly what you want from a funeral doom metal record: bleak guitars, thundering drums, pained vocals, and some great piano work with female vocals to boot. Though the album doesn't stray very far from the blueprint set by opener "Reaching The Innermost", every track here has something to appreciate, like the beautiful endings to "Descending Inner Night" and "Withdrawn", both utilizing evocative and airy vocals to create excellent dramatic effect. All of the tracks here are slow burners (the average track length according to the review is about nine minutes), but even with the albums immense length, this record is engaging enough not to bore the listener halfway through. A serious contender not only for the album of the year in metal, but also the comeback record of the year.
Simon and Garfunkel Sounds of Silence
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were a once-in-a-lifetime tandem, and together they put on wax some of the best albums in folk music. What is often seen as the beginning of their run of classics, Sounds Of Silence truly is a wonderful album. It may only be twenty-eight minutes long, but it evokes a lot of emotion and is pretty varied nonetheless. Just take the catchiness of songs like "Leaves That Are Green" and "I Am A Rock", the sparse beauty of tracks like "April Come She Will" and "Anji", the somber loveliness of classics like the title-track and "Kathy's Song", and the immense story telling genius in songs like "Richard Cory" and "A Most Peculiar Man". All of this and more is what makes Sounds Of Silence an album that should not and cannot be missed by anyone who considers themselves a fan of folk.
Social Distortion Social Distortion
Son Lux Bones
Somehow, trip-hop producer Ryan Lott, better known as Son Lux, was able to turn shimmering rays of light into sounds. That's really what I can gather from this record, it sounds like it's alive with beams of light. From the stellar and beautiful trip-hop production on the tracks, that all seem to have some sort of weird noise as the crux of their beat, to the pianos and strings that are always put to great use on Lott's records, we have a lot going on here. It's not overbearing, though, as the album paces itself pretty nicely by having some great stuff in the beginning ("Flight", "You Don't Know Me") and some absolutely masterful tracks at the end ("Undone", "Now I Want"). It all manages to be pretty catchy as well, as single "Change Is Everything" will so eloquently point out after the intro track. For me, this is probably Lott's best work yet, and I'm very interested in what he can do to push the envelope after this.
Soundtrack (Film) O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Sunny Day Real Estate Diary
As far as Midwest Emo goes, this was the album that started it all. Everything is here: the twinkly guitars, strained vocals, melancholy lyrics, and a sense of youthfulness growing up into something more. It also has one of the greatest trio of songs to ever start an album in "Seven", "In Circles", and "Song About An Angel". As such, it has been discussed and lauded by fans of emo and post-hardcore everywhere, and ultimately launched a recognizable and beautiful style of emo music. I believe Dylan Matthesien of Tiny Moving Parts describes it better than I ever could: "I did not know what steps to take after graduating high school. I never knew much of anything. The Midwest has blessed me with great friends and unforgettable relationships, and still hits my head each and every day."
System of a Down Toxicity
Aside from the nostalgic Linkin Park and the atmospheric Deftones, I've never really been a fan of nu-metal. That is, if I discount System Of A Down. Their style of nu-metal is my favorite of them, mainly because the band plays it with such a schizophrenic and punky attitude that caries the spirit of Los Angeles hardcore with the aesthetic of a delusion-suffering wearer of tinfoil hats. Just take the rebellious "Prison Song" for an example. Serj's frenzied yells, complete with a thick bassline, strange guitars, and a staunch message, set the tone perfectly. Essentials like "Chop Suey!" and the title-track are more of the same greatness, but the band can slow things down, like on "ATWA", and "Aerials", and make their sound more subdued, yet still forceful and excellent all the same. Altogether, Toxicity isn't an album to be missed by those who love fun, energetic, and sometimes just insane music.
Tempel The Moon Lit Our Path
I love albums that can tell a story without using many, if any, words. I also love albums that sound like their covers. Tempel's sophomore effort is both of those things. The album tells a tale of a perilous journey with only hope and determination leading the way. At least, that's what I've gotten from it. That's part of what's so fascinating about this album and those like it: the music has no centralized, inherent meaning, and thus can be put to anyone's context if they so choose. Your imagination does a lot of the work here. In terms of sound, it's a tale of two halves. The first two songs and the first half of the third are in a more progressive metal style of post-metal, whereas the second half of the third song and the last two have much more of a folky black metal feel to them. The latter style is wrought with uplifting riffs and solos, while the former relies on aggression to make it work. In all, this is a pretty dynamic record, full of emotions and wonderful sounds just begging for someone's, anyone's, context.
Tenement Predatory Headlights
Tenement are not a pop-punk band. They're so much more, as a matter of fact. This notion is reinforced in spades on this, their second full length LP. It's an interesting affair, to say the least. It opens with a strange piano piece, but quickly transitions into six straight punk jams, "Feral Cat Tribe" being the highlight from this. It then throws a curveball with "Ants + Flies", a somber, yet hauntingly beautiful piano-driven track. The next three songs are all perfection, what with the incredible catchiness of "The Butcher" and the anthemic "Whispering Kids" being a part of the trio. Elsewhere on the album, we find more of these great songs, but some songs like "A Frightening Place For Normal People" come totally out of left field, and really surprise. Alas, an album with 23 songs on it has too much material for one soundoff, so really all that's left to say is: this album rules, so jam it as soon as possible.
The Black Crowes Shake Your Money Maker
The Black Keys Rubber Factory
The Crinn Shadow Breather
A mathcore/grind group from the twin cities, The Crinn has been making music since 2004, and take heavy influence from bands like SikTh and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Though they've been active for a decade plus, the band didn't really grab much attention until 2010's Dreaming Saturn. This album, the follow up, is decidedly better and more entertaining than its predecessor. The sound of this album is very reminiscent of early Dillinger, and while it's not exactly as good, it still packs a mean punch, as ferocious opener "Wanderman" will show you. What follows is a consistent, well thought out beast of a mathcore album with a couple of instances of melody and experimentation. The crown jewel of the record is "Deaf Effort", the penultimate track, which makes use of the best riffing on the album and a bassy build-up to craft an incredible song. Still waiting for new Dillinger? This should tide you over and then some.
The Dillinger Escape Plan Ire Works
The Dillinger Escape Plan Option Paralysis
Whereas TDEP peaked in intensity on their sonically insane debut Calculating Infinity, they have peaked in creativity on their fourth full-length album, Option Paralysis. Whereas the former of those two can be described as chaos, the latter can more accurately be described as organized chaos. For while their debut was certainly innovative, that innovation took a backseat to the sheer intensity of the record. Here, the intensity is still very much alive, but the spotlight is on the innovation this time around. And with such songs as "Farewell, Mona Lisa", "Gold Teeth On A Bum", and "Widower", it's very easy to see why. This album often feels like a more realized version of Miss Machine, which can only be a good thing in this case. With this release, The Dillinger Escape Plan has certainly cemented themselves as one of the most unique, creative, and interesting bands in the world today.
The Dillinger Escape Plan One of Us Is the Killer
An underrated beast in Dillinger's discography, One Of Us Is The Killer features the band at their most frenzied since Calculating Infinity, but also at their most subdued since Ire Works. Opening with "Prancer", the record gets off to a fierce start, a staple of Dillinger albums. The technical, blisteringly played songs are as good as they've been, but the album does very well in the experimental department to boot. Songs like "Hero Of The Soviet" with its weird backing vocals, and "The Threat Posed By Nuclear Weapons" with its immediate quiet-loud bursts show that the band still has a great edge to them. They just refuse to phone it in, which is all I hoped for this album and all I can hope for with the next.
The Faceless Planetary Duality
The Hotelier Home, Like NoPlace Is There
The Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland
The Jimi Hendrix Experience Are You Experienced
The Prodigy Music for the Jilted Generation
The Prodigy Experience
The Sisters of Mercy First and Last and Always
The Strokes Is This It
The War on Drugs Lost in the Dream
My vote made this go from a 4 to a 4.1. Thank me later, Adam Granduciel.
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra This Is Our Punk-Rock, Thee Rusted Satellites Gather and Sing
It's a testament to how eclectic Thee Silver Mt. Zion is that they decided to implement a new style on this record that neither they or their sister band GY!BE had previously explored: a choir. How much of a difference does that really make, though? As it turns out, it's an excellent and freshening addition to an already great band. This is shown in full on "Sow Some Lonesome Corner So Many Flowers Bloom", the opener, and easily one of their best songs. The use of these choir-backed harmonies, emotionally potent vocals from Efrim Muneck, and the classic somber-string/beautiful ambience combination that characterizes the band, permeates the record and makes a gripping experience. Since moving out of the shadow of Godspeed with the post-Rock essential Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upward, they've made sure they stay out of it with this one, even if it is a slight step down from their previous effort.
Thomas Newman Finding Nemo Soundtrack
Thou/The Body You, Whom I Have Always Hated
Though it is only twenty-seven minutes long, this split full-length from Thou and The Body is chock-full of great moments. From the monstrous opener "Her Strongholds Unvanquishable", which features vocals reminiscent of a banshee, to the short but powerful "The Devils Of Trust Steal The Souls Of The Free", and even on to the eerie ambient track "He Returns To The Place Of His Iniquity", the album is ridden with pummeling drums and sloth-like riffs. The closer, "Lurking Fear", is truly something to behold, taking a punishing start and a subdued middle (complete with clean vocals) and smashing them together in the end, creating an unnerving yet strangely beautiful concoction. My only gripe with this album is that it could be a bit longer, but as stated before, there is still enough on this record to keep the listener satisfied. All in all, a superb release from two of the leaders in modern sludge metal.
Tiny Moving Parts Pleasant Living
One of the best emo/math rock combinations ever put to wax. How has no one 5'd this yet?

EDIT: Well, after repeated listens this has grown off a little bit, but it's still AOTY for me.
Trophy Scars Bad Luck
Trophy Scars Never Born, Never Dead
At this point, if you haven't at least checked out a Trophy Scars record, you're doing something wrong. I'm not going to sit here and try to explain the appeal of the band, but in context, it's easy to explain the appeal of this EP. What I mean by that is, if you've heard the counterpart to this EP, 2010's Darkness, Oh Hell, it's obvious enough why you should listen to this record, which is a very evocative and effective sequel. Though it's not quite as good as its predecessor, it's got some great material on it, especially the wondrously engaging love song "Never Dead". The use of samples is very fitting and gives everything a timeless feel to it. All this being said, it works well standing alone, but within the context of its predecessor, it's just that much better, everything connecting very well throughout its runtime. It's probably their most bluesy album, and the use of strings has diminished a bit, but the horns are better this time around as well. In essence, this is just another great outing from one of the leading bands one experimental rock.
Trophy Scars Holy Vacants
Viet Cong Viet Cong
Formed from the ashes of experimental post-punk band Women, Viet Cong's self-titled album was one of the most anticipated records of 2015, and it was released in January. Does it meet expectations? I would say so. Granted, it is not Public Strain, but it is still a great listen and it is easy to tell the two bands apart. That is not say that there is no experimentation one here, quite the contrary in fact. The strange noises the guitars make while the bassline swirls inside of them is a highlight of "Pointless Experience". The odd, staticky buildup in "March Of Progress" gives way to oriental instruments and a thumping drum beat. It's a droney record, but it still manages to be very catchy, as opener "Newspaper Spoons" and "Continental Shelf" prove. The highlight of the record, though, is massive closer "Death", a fantastic amalgam of all that is great about the record. All in all, a superb listen, as if anyone expected anything different.
Warm Brew Ghetto Beach Boyz
West coast hip-hop outfit Warm Brew may have released this record in January, but make no mistake: this is a summer album to the nth degree. Backed by some fantastically swirling and upbeat production, Ray Wright, Manu Li, and Serk Spliff spit stories of the good times they share in California, and prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that they deserve their new spot on Dom Kennedy's label, OPM. With a bevy of soulful anthemic hooks and that endless summer vibe, this record has a very high replay value, especially with songs like "Hold On To Her", "Whispers", "W$ Phonk", and "Live From Wimbley" on the tracklist. Ultimately, this is one of the most overlooked records from this year, criminally so. Warm Brew is definitely worth your time if you want some nice west coast hip-hop, or even if you just want an album to jam perpetually in the summer.
Winter Into Darkness
Wire Pink Flag
Wolves in the Throne Room Black Cascade
Diminishing their use of ambient, folky acoustic passages and female vocals and replacing them with a shoegaze influence and rawer, more furious playing, Black Cascade might just be the best record WITTR has released so far. Impassioned riffs are the bread and butter of the album ("The Wanderer Above The Sea Of Fog"), but the notion that Nathan Weaver turns in his best vocal performance so far and his brother Aaron Weaver is an unstoppable, ferocious beast on the drums throughout the record make it so much more. Sure, this is the most bare-bones release the band had made in their discography so far, but therein lies its charm: it's relentless, windy, and altogether beautiful melodic black metal, even while being so simple and stripped-down from past releases. The album also does a nice job of keeping within the environmental and earth-centric lyrics and aesthetic that the band employs so well, which helps make this a fantastic release for the American trio.

4.0 excellent
A Day to Remember For Those Who Have Heart
A Tribe Called Quest People's Instinctive Travels & The Paths of Rhythm
Abstracter Wound Empire
With a venomous combination of smoky sludge metal and blackened crust punk, the sophomore LP from Abstracter is yet another excellent addition to this years slate of slower, punishing metal music. Utilizing a formula of crafting sludgy build-ups around single, memorable guitar riffs and then exploding forth in a fury of punky energy, the way the band goes about this album is excellent in and of itself. Each song is incredibly solid, and while there isn't a truly standout moment on this record, the quality of the compositions stays at a high level throughout. The vocals have a black metal feel to them and are very well done even while remaining unchanged, except for the droning chorus vocals in "Glowing Wounds". In short, a really good concoction of sludgy crust here with a lot of replay value.
Abyssal Antikatastaseis
Hailing from the UK, the multi-instrumentalist known only as G.D.C. has been working at his atmospheric blackened death metal craft for four years now in the one man project called Abyssal, but several notable improvements have been made on this, his third LP. His use of melody in these tracks is impressive, with the eerie, ominous riff that dominates "Chrysalis" and the strangely uplifting end to "The Cornucopian". He also hired a studio drummer, Timo Hakkinen, to replace the drum machine implemented on his previous works, which turns out to a worthwhile investment, as the drumming seems much more natural and fluid this time around. Experimentation is also at work here, most notably on the track "Veil Of Transcendence", which features a music box-like piano which establishes itself just enough before being swallowed by massive riffs and low, unsettling vocals, but manages to survive the whole ordeal by the end. In short, this is a great release from Abyssal, who manages to shed some of the fat present on his previous releases to excellent results.
Aerosmith Toys in the Attic
Aerosmith Get Your Wings
Aesop Rock Bazooka Tooth
Aesop Rock has made quite the name for himself in the underground, due to his penchant for surreal lyricism, complex rhyme schemes, and obscure references. The follow up to the underground classic Labor Days, Bazooka Tooth sees Aes with his most ambitious production job (even if sometimes it sounds like El-P-lite), with some more lyrical acrobatics. The result is a remarkably consistent effort that doesn't lose quality throughout the runtime. Granted, the album is quite long at one hour and ten minutes, so there is quite a lot to digest here. Still, you can't go into an Aesop Rock record expecting everything to become readily apparent, and as always the record opens up much easier with patient listening. No one track is better than the others, but rest assured, the majority of them are high quality. In all, it's another dense, interesting record by Aesop Rock, and one that is surely worthy of a spot in his discography.
Aesop Rock Float
Aesop Rock Appleseed
Why is this record not noticed? Aesop Rock is too dope!
Agalloch Pale Folklore
I think that the reason folk and black metal work so well together is that they are both, at their core, relatively simple, and make fantastic use of atmosphere and aesthetic to help give the simplistic nature of the music texture and depth. Agalloch is one of the premier bands that use this combination, even mixing the folk elements with atmospheric metal in general to create soaringly beautiful folk metal. There isn't anything that technically impressive on the record, but what it lacks in technicality it makes up for in its pronounced sense of atmosphere and melody. Occasionally, the vocals can stray into cringeworthy territory, but on the whole they are solid and alternate between screamed and cleanly-sung depending on the style. Yes, Agalloch would eventually go on to do bigger and better things, but the blueprint for those achievements was laid very well by Pale Folklore.
Algiers Algiers
Formed in Atlanta, Algiers is a trio that mixes industrial and post-punk instrumentals with soul vocals. Franklin James Fisher is the frontman on this record, and he possesses a wonderfully versatile voice. This is best exemplified in two of the last tracks on the record, "Games" and "In Parallax", the former of which features a soothing and subdued Fisher, and the latter of which features a wailing and heavy-voiced Fisher. The instrumentation is plodding and dark, but can speed up when called upon. The deep feedback from the guitars creates a great atmosphere, and overall the record is a pretty ambitious affair. Absolutely recommended for fans of experimental music, especially when based in the dark clutches of the industrial genre.
Amebix Monolith
Amebix has been credited with creating the genre of crust punk, a lethal fusion of heavy metal and anarchist hardcore punk that few bands can pull off successfully. Thankfully, Amebix is one of them, and their sound is still great on their sophomore LP Monolith. The riffs here are pretty reminiscent of speed metal bands like Motorhead, but still retain the crusty edge they had on Arise. The songwriting has taken a bit of a hit here, though, as they don't usually stray away from the formula of melodic intros and speed metal riff passages. The production gives it a very murky feel, and though it pales in comparison to Arise's atmosphere, it is still good enough to hold its own. And with great songs like "Nobody's Driving", "Time Bomb", "I.C.B.M.", and "Coming Home", Monolith proves itself a worthy successor to the essential Arise, and is an excellent listen in and of itself.
American Football American Football EP
Anberlin Cities
Anberlin has always had a great reputation for being one of the more consistent alt-rock/pop-punk acts of this day and age. Their music is simple, but insanely fun and undeniably catchy. Nowhere is this more apparent than on their third record, Cities. The band gets off to a roaring start with "Godspeed", an absolute romp of a song that sets the tone of the record perfectly. The band tries their hand at some synths on this record, and they actually work very well, like on "Reclusion" and "Hello Alone". The vocalist, Stephen Christian, is at the top of his game here, both in the performance aspect and the lyrics department. The album is absolutely rife with infectious choruses, and they make the album as memorable as it is a good time. The highlight of the album are the two final tracks, "Dismantle. Repair.", and "(*Fin)", the latter of which is the best song Anberlin has ever written. Surely, if you love alternative rock with heavy pop sensibilities, you can never go wrong with Cities.
Anenzephalia Noehaem
Anenzephalia is one of the more recognizable names in the completely inaccessible genre of death industrial, and while they tend to mix this style with dark ambient, the end result is not only an interesting listen, but a worthwhile one as well. The track names are just sequential Roman numerals, further pushing the mechanical, yet subtlety of the record. "I" starts with an eerie drone which repeats seemingly ad infinitum. The next three songs are all impenetrable, with huge amount of static, background noise, and drones engulfing them. The music barely forms what can be heard as notes, but it all comes together quite nicely. By the time "VIII", which is a slightly more demented reprise of "I" comes around, you feel like you've been there a while, even if only thirty-six minutes have gone by. That shows how tense and unnerving this record can get, especially on tracks like "V" and "VII". A challenging yet rewarding listen, Noehaem should be checked out by anyone interested in death industrial/dark ambient.
Arctic Monkeys Humbug
Arsonists Get All the Girls Portals
As Blood Runs Black Allegiance
Four-piece Los Angeles deathcore outfit As Blood Runs Black owes a lot to melodic death metal bands like The Black Dahlia Murder, as their sound on this record is essentially TBDM, just with ungodly fast double-bass, romping breakdowns, and Wu-Tang quotes. And if none of that sounds appealing to you, then I'm sorry. Beginning with the triple-headed medusa of "In Dying Days", "My Fears Have Become Phobias", and "Hester Prynne", the band make it known that they can write some good riffs, especially in the case of "Hester Prynne", and also have a fantastic drum performance. Essentially, the first six songs (including the intro) are perfect deathcore, sans "Pouring Reign", which is still incredible, but rather than deathcore it is a surprisingly beautiful acoustic interlude that provides a nice break from the relentless action. But, once "The Brighter Side Of Suffering" ends, things never get back to the quality they used to be at. The next four songs are unimaginative and unmemorable, and they do no justice to the first half of the album at all. Despite ending on this sour note, the albums' first six songs are basically perfect, and had they been released as an EP, it likely would've been the greatest deathcore EP ever released.
Atlas Losing Grip Currents
I'd imagine it's a tough life for sailors, rarely being able to see your family and constantly being out on the ocean or lakes. Of course, Atlas Losing Grip uses this as a metaphor for losing your way in life (lost at sea) and righting yourself again (finding your way home). Musically they sound like a faster, punkier, and darker Anberlin, and though they're excellent at making fast-paced songs with catchy choruses, they are really on their game with slower, sadder songs as well. Take for instance "Closure" and "Kings And Fools", back-to-back songs that are easily relatable and make great use of atmospheric guitars. The back end of the album is particularly good, though, with the impassioned "Through The Distance" paving way for the closer, "Ithaka", which ends the album on a hopeful and endearing note. Though the first couple of songs aren't as good as the rest of the album, this record is strikingly consistent throughout and is a pretty fun listen. I'd recommend this if you're a fan of melodic punk rock or just fast-paced, energetic rock in general.
Autechre Garbage
Autechre Anvil Vapre
Autechre have had their fair share of great EP's in their time, with the Anti EP and Garbage being two obvious examples. Here, the masters of IDM release the follow up to Garbage, using buzzsaw-like noises, static, and a lot of awkward synth passages. The whole thing sounds very spacey, and you can often feel the noises and static in the back of your head. Despite this, the songs are actually kind of catchy, especially "Second Scepe". "Second Scout" is probably the most sparse of the tracks, being very atmospheric in nature. The closer almost sounds industrial, with many of the aforementioned buzzsaw noises whirring in the background. The overall sound, though a bit subdued in relation to something like Tri Repetae, acts as somewhat of an entranceway into their more well known records, and is an important listen in Autechre's discography.
Avenged Sevenfold City of Evil
Baths Cerulean
Will Wiesenfeld has always had a soft spot for his home. Even his stage name is derived from his love of relaxing in his home bathtub. His debut was recorded over a period of two months in 2010 in the bedroom of his house. What came from this is an interesting take on electronic music that features influences from experimental electronic, downtempo, and even small doses of glitch. His chops with faster paced songs are seen on tracks like "Apologetic Shoulder Blades", "Indoorsy", and "Plea", but he is also crafty with the slower songs as seen on "Rain Smell" and "Departure". However, "Maximalist" is the true highlight of this album, combining great atmosphere and skippy samples to create a very fun song. Some of the samples may get a small bit irritating after a while, and a couple of the slower songs overstay their welcome, but this accounts for only a couple songs off the record. All in all, a debut that shouldn't be overlooked by electronic music fans.
Bee Gees Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack
I don't know if it's right to call this album the quintessential disco album, but it is certainly one of the most recognizable releases in the genre. It has some bonafide disco classics such as "Stayin' Alive", "A Fifth Of Beethoven", "You Should Be Dancing", "Boogie Shoes", and "Disco Inferno". It also has a few romantically tinged songs that are just as good, with the slower "How Deep Is Your Love", and the incredibly catchy duo of "More Than A Woman" and "If I Can't Have You". That being said, there are a couple of filler songs, as any seventeen-track album will likely have. Still, it's a pretty consistent release, and the first six songs alone could've made this album a great one. If you haven't heard this yet, you either missed the late seventies/eighties entirely or don't have parents that were around in the late seventies/eighties.
Bell Witch Four Phantoms
A doom duo of only smothering bass and thundering drums, Seattle born Bell Witch's sophomore full length is as dense and foggy as the city they hail from. The four tracks on this record deal with one thing: the elements, or, more specifically, death at the hands of merciless Mother Nature. The tracks are split up into two parts: the "Suffocation" tracks and the "Judgement" tracks. It is a tale of two halves here, as the two "Suffocation" tracks, especially "Suffocation, A Drowning.." are monolithic, evocative dirges that encapsulate the atmosphere and feeling of what the wonderfully descriptive lyrics portray. However, the two "Judgement" tracks are relatively lackluster, and just sound like the standard fare. They aren't bad, but they don't really do anything. That said, two thirds of the album are comprised of the "Suffocation" tracks, so you're hearing great stuff more often than not.
Between the Buried and Me The Silent Circus
BTBAM has always been a polarizing band among fans of metal in general. I've never really understood why that is. Sure, Tommy Rogers isn't exactly the most talented vocalist, and there certainly is some guitar wankery, but "faux prog"? Hardly. Taking what made their debut an interesting listen and expanding on it, The Silent Circus is a much more tight, focused, and fun BTBAM. "Camilla Rhodes" and "Mordecai" form a massive one-two punch of progressive metalcore, while the ambient "Reaction" is a nice break from the relentless action. "Ad A Dglgmut" fires the engines right back up from a relatively dull acoustic piece, and "Aesthetic" is quite possibly one of the funnest songs the band have ever made. The lyrics here are pretty interesting as well. Just to list a couple of examples, "Aesthetic" deals with the last moments of the RMS Titanic, and "Mordecai" tells the story of a desensitized man reconnecting with human emotion. Though they'd go on to do bigger and better things, The Silent Circus is an important album in BTBAM's history, and is a great listen even today.
Between the Buried and Me Alaska
Alaska is seen a transition album for polarizing progressive metalcore band Between The Buried And Me. Albeit a bit more inconsistent than The Silent Circus, the album has better moments than its predecessor, the best moments they've had as a band pre-Colors. The album does take a minute to kick into gear, though, as opener "All Bodies" isn't that great until the final uplifting thirty seconds. Those seconds transition perfectly in to the title-track, which features a fantastic and memorable opening riff. Staples like "Selkies: The Endless Obsession" and "The Primer" make their impact known fairly quickly and confidently, though nothing quite touches the former in terms of songwriting ability on the record. Usually, I've found the heavier BTBAM tracks to be less enjoyable (such as "Roboturner"), but "Autodidact" is an outlier, being one of the finest tracks on the album due to its tactfully aggressive riffing and drumming. The record also features one of their best slower songs in "Medicine Wheel", with great ambience and spacey guitars. With all this said, this is the peak of BTBAM before Colors, so if you want to jam an early album of theirs, this is the one for you.
Blessthefall Awakening
Bob Marley and The Wailers Soul Revolution
Bob Marley and The Wailers Rastaman Vibration
Following in the footsteps of the reggae classic Natty Dread, Bob Marley & The Wailers continue expanding their sound past the raw, simple, bare-bones reggae of the early 70's, and turn in another wonderful record here. Classic tracks like "Johnny Was" and "Who The Cap Fit" feature the most instrumentation out of any song created by the band at this point in their discography, with pianos, various synthesizers, and female backing vocals all adding a fantastic texture to the songs. Though some of the tracks on the latter half, such as "Night Shift", are a bit lackluster, they are certainly not bad, and the whole album is generally well written and full of instrumentation that simply would not have been there if the album was made four years prior. Marley himself turns in an excellent vocal performance, per usual, and though the album doesn't quite stack up to its predecessor, there are plenty of classic moments and wonderful songs to warrant this record a spot in The Wailers' discography.
Boris Cosmos
Boris has always been a force to be reckoned with when it comes to drone music, but to just call them a drone band sells them far too short. They're one of the most inventive, original, and eclectic drone bands out there, and their 2012 EP Cosmos illustrates this very well. One of the most accessible releases they've ever made, Cosmos is an exercise in ambience and atmosphere as much as it is in the classic, heavy droning we've come to know. "Cosmos Part 1" kicks things off with a shroud of ambient samples and ethereal cymbal work, and "Cosmos Part 3" ends things in a similar, but much more minimalistic way. The highlight of the album is "Cosmos Part 2", which works fantastically as a catchy pop song shrouded in noise, drone, and echoes, complete with weird electronic noises. All in all, a great EP by Boris that can serve as an easy entry point into the bands' lengthy discography.
Botch An Anthology of Dead Ends
Brian Eno Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
I think one of the strangest things about Here Come The Warm Jets was that the music was always upbeat and bouncy, but the lyrics were more often than not pretty dark. That being said, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) follows both sonically and lyrically after Brian Eno's debut earlier that same year, but does have a more melancholy and experimental side to it this time. Eno's goofy-yet-endearing vocals are backed this time by a full rock ensemble, and it shows, as the instrumentation here outdoes Warm Jets pretty handily. He loses some of his catchy hooks from his debut, though, but that doesn't mean the album is not memorable for other reasons. Enter the classic title-track, which would serve to show what was in store for the rest of Eno's career, as well as being one of the best songs he's ever written. All this said, Taking Tiger Mountain is an excellent follow up to his debut, and shouldn't be missed by fans of art rock.
Bruno Sanfilippo Inside Life
I'm sure it's hard to make different emotions come across through ambient minimalist classical piano music, but that's exactly what Bruno Sanfilippo, a man who has always been fascinated by the parameters of what music can do, has done here on Inside Life. Probably the best instance of how he weaves these emotions into the music is shown on "The Place Where Dying Crows" and the subsequent "Tea Leaves At The Bottom Of A Cup". On the former, an eerie, ominous, and uncertain atmosphere is created first by the cascading piano intro and then by wafting ambience. On the latter, an uplifting, calming, and reassuring atmosphere is expertly made by beautiful piano segments and an airy, wonderful ambience. Altogether, the album plays out a lot like this, and though it doesn't necessarily do new things, it is executed very well.
Burial Burial
Burial South London Boroughs
The humble beginnings of Burial are quite enjoyable, unsurprisingly. The two middle songs, "Southern Comfort" and "Broken Home" are much more well known as being a part of the self-titled debut, but they are just as beautifully brooding on here. The title-track on this EP is a magnificent start for Burial, showing that he was able to bring a fresh sound to the table even if you can still hear traces of the artists that influenced him. The closer, "Nite Train" is decent enough, and continues from the sounds of the tracks preceding it very nicely. In all, a great start for a man who would go on to mystify the electronic world with future releases.
Burial Street Halo
Burial Rival Dealer
"Don't be afraid to step into the unknown..." A woman's voice says around the four minute mark of "Come Down To Us", expressing the sentiment of Rival Dealer as a whole. Whereas in his past work Burial's sound always seemed to have this paranoid vibe to them, the tracks on here feel extremely comfortable and unabashedly natural. That's not to say these tracks have somehow lost personality; Burials staticky intros and beautifully woven samples of sublime female vocals still permeate the runtime length, but there's a distinct sense of contentness here, something that had only previously been explored by Burial in one or two songs, "Rough Sleeper" being the most obvious candidate. Altogether, the title track is a nice starting point, but "Hiders" and "Come Down To Us" is where things really get cooking. I don't feel uncomfortable saying that the latter is one of his shining moments as an artist, and a definitive turning point for him if he continues on this path. In short, Burial isn't afraid anymore. What that means for his music, we shall see, but if it's anything like this, it will be welcomed.
Cage The Elephant Melophobia
Cerberus Shoal Cerberus Shoal
If Cerberus Shoal has sold the rights to this album to Slint, and they released it marketed as some old demos, no one would be any the wiser. That's not to say that Cerberus Shoal rips off or copies Slint, but the influence is obvious. Seriously, this album sounds like if Slint had a rawer sound and also played emo/screamo. And it really is quite beautiful and, in some sections, heart-wrenching. Bands like La Dispute owe a lot to Cerberus Shoal, as the gorgeous mixture of spoken word and post-rock/emo is a huge, lovely part of the bands' sound, especially on songs like "Elena". Unfortunately, sometimes what Chriss Sutherland says is too quiet to hear over the guitars, and occasionally songs will overstay their welcome a bit. However, this record is an important listen, if only for the notion that it doesn't quite sound like much else in Cerberus Shoal's discography, which would experiment with countless genres as time went on.
Chelsea Wolfe Abyss
It's kind of hard to pin down Chelsea Wolfe. I suppose you could call her experimental-gothic-industrial-doom-folk-darkwave, but that's a mouthful. Her experimentation is quite apparent on Abyss, being rife with dark, noisy synths and a quite ominous ambience. The one thing that seems to keep everything from cascading into chaos is her voice, which remains a constant, beautiful anchor, keeping some things familiar while the background music becomes increasingly restless. Perhaps the best example of this is closer "The Abyss", which contains a discordant piano line that becomes drowned in guitars and synths before being replaced by equally discordant strings, while Wolfe's voice is strangely comforting and reassuring. It's strange and amazing indeed, but Chelsea Wolfe never intended her music to be anything but.
Chevelle Point #1
Chevelle have always been known for their soft-loud dynamics, which has often garnered them comparisons to alternative metal giants Tool and Deftones in this regard. Their humble, yet very solid beginnings are seen here on the Steve Albini produced Point #1, coming on to the scene with a bang. The best work on this record is an exercise in soft-loud dynamics, with "Point #1", "Dos", and "Long" providing excellent examples. They even manage to get some catchy riffing in on "Mia" and "Peer". The louder songs on the record sometimes overstay their welcome, but they are still decent enough to warrant a listen. Though their debut wasn't a commercial success, it did well critically, and is a great starting point for anyone wishing to get into Chevelle's discography.
City and Colour Sometimes
City and Colour Bring Me Your Love
City and Colour Little Hell
Clint Mansell and Kronos Quartet Requiem for a Dream
When you think of the feelings strings are supposed to conjure, you'd probably think either warm, happy feelings or melancholy ones. Biting anxiety and fear are probably the last things on the list. I'm sure everyone remembers the famous "Shower Scene" from Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece of film Psycho, and those immeasurably shrill strings playing during it. That's a good example, but this score takes that up a notch. Sure, there are spots on this soundtrack that are dreamy and laid-back, and sometimes almost humorous, but the majority of the score is alienating, cold, tense, and sometimes even horrifying. Pieces of music do repeat themselves a lot here, but there's enough variety in the many themes to keep the listener interested. Put simply, it sets the mood for a movie like Requiem For A Dream, an intense, hopeless journey through the perils of addiction, with stunning perfection.
Cloakroom Further Out
Cloud Nothings Attack on Memory
Cocteau Twins Head Over Heels
Cocteau Twins is one of the most influential bands to have ever existed. They were part of a movement known as "ethereal wave", which musically sounded like a much more atmospheric take on The Cure records a la Seventeen Seconds and Faith. They would go on to have a heavy influence on dream pop and even post-rock, a wonderful example of the latter heard in the final minutes of "Musette And Drums". The atmosphere here works very well, and goes through moments of tension, like on "When Mama Was Moth", moments of smooth contentness as on "Glass Candle Grenades" and "Multifoiled", and moments of melancholy, as heard on "Musette And Drums". There isn't necessarily a standout track here, but most of the songs are very good and the album certainly sounds well rounded and complete. In summation, it's a great early release from one of the most influential and under-appreciated bands in the world.
Code Orange Cycles
Colleen Captain of None
For her entire music career, French multi-instrumentalist and experimental electronic producer liked her work to be completely instrumental. That is, of course, until Captain Of None, when she decided to write her own lyrics and sing them as well in addition to manning several instruments that include the cello, the spinet, and a classical guitar. All of this wafts in an ambient downtempo style, keeping the atmosphere free-spirited and engrossing. The album is pretty consistent, and as far as a standout track goes, that honor is held by "Lighthouse", a gorgeous piece that wouldn't be out of place while walking on a beach. As far as her voice goes, she's quite adept, choosing a style that fits the atmosphere very well. All in all, it's an enjoyable release, one that doesn't quite sound like anything she's done thanks to the addition of vocals.
Corb Lund Things That Can't Be Undone
When most people say the words "country music", they generally mean the pop masquerading as country often heard nowadays. It's a shame, seeing as how guys like Corb Lund are full-on, no-frills, old-timey country and tend to be overlooked by many. Lyrically, the man is quite adept, telling stories of his life and times, best exemplified on the trio of "Sadr City", "Washed-Up Rock Star Factory Blues" ("I've done a lot of singing about sticking it to the man, today's the day he's gonna stick it right back if he can" is so subtlety perfect), and "S Lazy H". Musically, it's excellently executed, even if unambitious, country, with acoustic and electric guitars, occasional backing vocals, and Lund's wonderful voice keeping things authentic and enjoyable. You have your melancholy slower-paced acoustic songs, but you also have your more upbeat, faster-paced jams, and they both generally sound great. Altogether, it's a great country album, thanks to Lund's excellent vocal, lyrical, and instrumental work.
Cruciamentum Charnel Passages
I suppose I could start this soundoff with a rant about how a lot of OSDM revival is a bunch of surface-level trite, but when bands like Cruciamentum exist, why even bother? I mean, the riffs are there, the passion is there, the aesthetic is there, everything's there. These guys understand that slapping a really pointy band logo on a macabre album cover and then proceeding to rip off Morbid Angel or Obituary does not a death metal album make. You gotta breathe this stuff, you know? It starts out decently enough, but once "Tongues Of Nightshade" begins, things get serious. It's furious, full of riffs and blast beats, and above all, it's fun. That's what I think is so cool about this: here's a group of guys who obviously get the style and love what it's about, even if it's old. They take that and run with it, and manage to make something old sound fresh and entertaining.
Death Spiritual Healing
One of the originators of old school, no frills death metal who changed into a seminal technical/progressive death metal band, Death is easily one of the most recognizable bands in metal. This, their third record, marks an interesting turning point for the band. Sure, they weren't quite playing their more technical, progressive style yet, but the signs were definitely there. The songs are longer, the riffs progress more slowly in certain songs like the title track, and can be decently technical on songs like "Low Life". The drumming is competent, but pretty lackluster compared to what's going on around them. Instead of the horrific tales of chaos and destruction detailed on Leprosy and Scream Bloody Gore, Chuck Schuldiner opts for a more serious and interesting lyrical approach, as well as adding some ghastly effects to his voice, that actually work, in certain passages. The solo work here is also very good, and we have James Murphy to thank for that. All this being said, Spiritual Healing is not quite Death's greatest record, but an important record in their discography nonetheless.
Death Grips The Powers That B - Part I: Niggas on the Moon
Death Grips Fashion Week (Instrumentals)
I mean yeah Runway E is pretty good, but Runway E is easily the best here. EDIT: After a few listens, it appears to me that this is Death Grips' most accessible release. That is majorly due to the absence of MC Ride, but a few of the beats on here seem a slight bit more accessible than the ones they've done in the past. Take the second "Runway H" and it's oddly upbeat guitar riff for instance. Also, a couple of rtracks on here have a bit of a vaporwave influence. It's not much, but it's noticeable. The rumors are that this is supposed to be the soundtrack to Zach Hill's movie. That movie is going to be an absolute trip if that is truly the case.
Del tha Funkee Homosapien Both Sides of the Brain
Possessing an unmistakable voice and a penchant for lyricism, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien is one of the more prominent figures in underground hip-hop. His work with Deltron 3030 is seen as classic, and his debut record established him as a very capable rapper. Both Sides Of The Brain is arguably his best work, featuring his most recognized song in "If You Must", some songs dealing with personal addictions in "BM's" and "Skull & Crossbones", and his affront to "fake rappers", something that has always characterized Del. The production on this record is much more varied than on his previous albums, and the guest appearances on here are excellent as well. Though it drags slightly in the middle, Del manages to put his best foot forward on these tracks, and shouldn't come as a surprise that it ends being a great success.
Del tha Funkee Homosapien I Wish My Brother George Was Here
Dendritic Arbor Romantic Love
A twisted combination of experimental grindcore with a distinct black metal aesthetic, Romantic Love is an album that wastes no time in bludgeoning you over the head with a mallet, then dragging you into its decrepit, hollow dungeon. The atmosphere is quite chilling, given that bursts of extremely dissonant grind are interrupted by ambient passages, in which things such as unintelligible voices, far-off screams, and the low hum of machinery swirl around in it. There seems to be something new to catch through every listen of these tracks, and at thirty-two minutes, there's no problem re-listening. The vocals are quite atonal, and though sometimes a bit off putting, really contribute to the atmosphere. With that said, Dendritic Arbor may be on to something here, so if you're interested in the more experimental side of grind, I would definitely recommend listening to this.
Depeche Mode Some Great Reward
In the world of synthpop and electronic rock, Depeche Mode are one of the seminal bands. With this album as the starting point, they would up their game to essential-listening levels, and would be forever cemented as one of the top bands in the genre. Here, we have brooding, yet occasionally upbeat synthpop, and though a few songs are plagued by awful lyrics, it is for the most part a great album. The scathing closer, "Blasphemous Rumors", is one of the bands' crowning achievements, while other excellent tracks like "Lie To Me" and "Master And Servant" really make this record the first truly great one in Depeche Mode's discography. Basically, if you're looking for a great slab of catchy synthpop with slight industrial and electronic rock leanings, you should give this one a spin.
Dragged Into Sunlight / Gnaw Their Tongues N.V.
Though it's been a quiet three years for Dragged Into Sunlight, it's been a great year for Gnaw Their Tongues, which saw the release of a vicious album in Abyss Of Longing Throats. This collaboration is Dragged Into Sunlight's reemergence (a welcomed one at that), and something of a raising of a victorious glass for Gnaw Their Tongues. Like most collaborations, it seems better on paper than in practice, but here, it's not too far off. Gnaw Their Tongues' Maurice De Jong contributes an excellent vocal performance, while the guitars and drums are handled by Dragged Into Sunlight. The guitars sound forceful and imposing, and the drums, while not too well produced, are competently played. It creates an atmosphere similar to the one on Abyss Of Longing Throats, yet instead of a nihilistic sentiment there is often a murderous one. The samples are very hit or miss. The samples in "Visceral Repulsion" just seem forced, but the ones in "Absolver" are very well placed. In all, it's a great collaboration; maybe not as disgusting and venomous as was hoped, but still great nonetheless.
Drake If You're Reading This It's Too Late
I've never been too fond of Drake. I thought that Thank Me Later was good in spots, but very misguided. Take Care had some great singles and nice production, but I thought it was a bit inconsistent. NWTS was Drake with very little confidence in himself, and it reflected in his music despite the ethereal production. And now? He hits the mark in a totally unexpected release that just might be my favorite project of his. Drake has never been a lyrical rapper, but he drops some surprisingly good lines on this thing, most notably on closer "6 P.M. In New York". The production is similar to that of NWTS, and it's pretty sweet on its own. The biggest improvement here is that Drake approaches things with confidence in himself, while also recognizing he has flaws and turning them around on his detractors. His charismatic boasts don't sound so empty this time around, and his overall theme of getting used to being famous really works here. That is not to say the album doesn't have filler, but overall it is a consistent endeavor that has one thinking if this is just a preview of something bigger and better. We shall see.
Earl Sweatshirt EARL
Earl Sweatshirt I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside
I remember the first time I heard "Earl", back when Odd Future was really starting to blow up and everyone around my town was wearing Supreme hats and constantly quoting lyrics off of "Yonkers". Things were simpler then, for both me and for Earl. As the years go by, he has drifted further and further away from the Odd Future collective, and though he is still technically a member, he's really on the fringe. Gone are the violently entertaining raps of his eponymous debut, substituted now for more introspective and story-telling lyrical escapades. The lo-fi production that permeates Odd Future records is still very much alive, but utilized in a different way. Earl was quoted as saying that he wanted the beats on the record, made by himself under the persona RandomBlackDude, to sound like they're melting. That's exactly what happens here, and it fits rather well with his trademark monotone rapping style. Though the album is a bit samey, Earl openly invites you to explore more thoroughly the personal side of him that he expressed somewhat on Doris, and it makes for an interesting, yet strangely mesmerizing experience.
Earth Pentastar: In The Style Of Demons
In the world of drone music, Earth are living legends. On their third LP, they drift further away from the hypnotic, smothering drone they employed on Earth 2 and decided on a more conservative style. This meant shorter songs, quieter drones, and even some vocals here or there. And in all, it is a very tasteful and enjoyable drone metal/stoner rock album that takes influences from psychedelic rock as well. As such, it is also Earth's most accessible record, but not necessarily their most conventional in terms of drone. Rather, this is relatively unconventional, as it constantly straddles the line between drone metal and stoner rock, never quite sounding completely like either of those genres. Someone once described it as "Aerosmith songs played really slowly", and I can't really argue against that statement. The tightened songwriting is s nice change of pace from the sloppy Earth 3, and rather than being a mixed bag it is very consistent overall. They'd never truly return to this style afterwards, but it was certainly great while it lasted, as a listen to this album will show you.
Earth Earth 2
Earth Hibernaculum
Earth, one of the premier drone metal bands, is very well-respected in the community of noise music. With records such as this, it's easy to see why. Though three of the songs on this record are old songs they've played before, they changed the style of the song from their original fuzzy, heavy drones into the style more prominently explored on Hex: Or Printing In The Infernal Method, making them sound like different songs altogether. The one original song on the record, "A Plague Of Angels", is rife with psychedelic, yet mesmerizingly thin drones, plodding drums, and a distinct country influence. It's a bit long for an EP, but don't miss it if you are a fan of Earth, or just need some ethereal drone metal in your life.
Earth Extra-Capsular Extraction
Ego Ella May Zero
Using a combination of beautiful electronic production and sublime vocals, Ego Ella May crafts a wonderful little EP rooted in soul, R&B, and some splashes of funk. The album completes everything it sets out to accomplish in its eleven minute runtime, making it incredibly easy to listen to and to re-listen. What does it set out to accomplish? Giving us a sample of what we can expect from a future full-length project, and making us excited for that. Needless to say, I'm eagerly awaiting some more material, because if it sounds anything like this ("Tea & Sympathy" especially), it will be divine.
Eminem The Slim Shady EP
Enigma MCMXC a.D.
Every Time I Die Gutter Phenomenon
On the surface, Every Time I Die seemed to dumb it down from their breakout record Hot Damn! to Gutter Phenomenon. The songwriting became more samey, and less complex as before. Yet, upon further examination, this all seems to be an expression of intent. Taking a look a Keith Buckley's lyrics for this record gives appropriate context for the music. The lyrics very cleverly deal with drunken revelries and reckless behavior that the catchy breakdowns and pronounced southern tone of the guitars echo, all while remaining tongue-in-cheek and slyly critical of said behavior throughout. This sense of irony is what makes Gutter Phenomenon a subtly intelligent metalcore/hardcore record, and though musically it doesn't really stand up to their previous opus, lyrically and conceptually it's one of the best, if not the best, albums the band has to their name.
Every Time I Die Hot Damn!
Despite improving noticeably from their debut EP The Burial Plot Bidding War to their first LP Last Night In Town, Every Time I Die nonetheless seemed as if they were struggling for an identity, still having yet to find their niche. Hot Damn! put all of that to sleep. The lyrics, production, and playing ability of the band didn't change much at all from their first LP. The real upgrade was in the songwriting department. The music was tighter, faster, and more intense, as well as having a few standout tracks in "Off Broadway" and "In The Event Things Should Go Horribly Wrong". The guitars have that small southern tinge to them, and it gives them a lot of personality. The bands influences begin to appear less obvious as well, and though it's not all that original, the musicianship here is as good as the band has been. In all, with this release, Every Time I Die began to separate themselves from their influences and began running with their own sound to satisfying results.
Explosions in the Sky How Strange, Innocence
FatGyver Talk To Strangers
Boom Bap used to be one of the leading styles in mainstream hip-hop in the 90's. Nowadays, it has fallen out of the mainstream spotlight, but still retains a dedicated following in the underground. Enter Fatgyver, a producer from Helsinki, Finland, who holds a special appreciation for boom bap, so much so in fact that his debut album, Talk To Strangers, is chock-full of instrumental songs wonderfully crafted from the style. That said, there are a lot of different vibes coming off of this album. From the smooth "Monday Stroll" to the humorous yet jazzy "Ain't Got No Bacon", to the somber and introspective "Interror Design", the album never becomes dull due to its exploration of differing textures. The highlight for me is "Sharkitekt", with samples swirling in and out of its unnerving yet strangely smooth piano tones.
Fela Kuti Confusion
Finsterforst Mach Dich Frei
One of the current leaders in viking/folk metal, Finsterforst craft another journey through distant lands with the use of massive songwriting and several additions to the usual metal formula such as choirs, horns, accordions, fifes, and the like. Their music is loud and attention-grabbing, and there aren't many boring moments on the record. There are several soaringly uplifting sections in songs like "Zeit Fur Hass" and "Finsterforst", making great collective use of guitars, choirs, and horns to create a heroic atmosphere. Though in general this style of music has its cheesy moments (this album is no exception), a lot of the cheesiness usually present in the lyrics will be lost on anyone who doesn't speak fluent German, I presume. All in all, this is a pretty engaging folk/viking metal record, one that fans of the genre have come to expect from Finsterforst.
Flying Lotus 1983
FlyLo's debut is an interesting piece of work, and showcases synth-heavy instrumentation and a very spacey atmosphere. The opener (also being the title-track) begins with some alien, spaceship-like sounds before catching fire on a strangely catchy synth line and thumping beat, making a fantastic start to the record. Though the album isn't as experimental as his later work, to say that it is without any experimentation is false. Take "Pet Monster Shotglass" for instance, with its weird basslines moving in amidst a constant swirl of glitchy synth work. And on the closer, "Unexpected Delight", we see FlyLo's affinity for jazz, as a middle-eastern sounding wind instruments and elegant piano lines accent Laura Darlington's voice excellently. Certainly a great debut, 1983 shows FlyLo's humble beginnings, but hints of what he would soon become as well.
Fogh Depot Fogh Depot
A trio of musicians from Mexico City, Fogh Depot is an interesting project that combines smooth dark jazz, ambient, and experimental electronic. It's an album that fits the aesthetic it wants to give (foggy and tranquil), but also manages to do more than that in the process. Opening with "Anticyclone", the foggy atmosphere is set well. From inside this atmosphere, great things are done. On "Nevalyashka", a beautiful piano line turns evocative when surrounded by whirling wind instruments. On "Saggitarius", a fantastic jam session from the members really stands out from the original ambience. And on "Tattoo", an awkwardly catchy, yet wonderfully subdued guitar line enriches the track very well. While ambitious, some songs can get a little too abrasive for the style, and that hurst the flow of the album a bit. Still, the album is an excellent listen for those with an ear for the experimental.
Fort Minor The Rising Tied
Frank Ocean Nostalgia, Ultra.
Freddie Gibbs Shadow of a Doubt
After the successful year Freddie Gibbs had last year, as well as adding "father" to his list of occupations, you'd think he'd take a step back for a bit. You'd be wrong, as Gangsta Gibbs comes out firing, sounding hungry and relentless, over excellent trap production from a wide array of producers. Gibbs is really in his element here, as he sounds comfortable but never lazy or stagnant, spitting harsh street truths, dismissing his copycats and enemies, and occasionally retiring to his place of perpetual indulgence. The guest spots here are done well, especially Black Thought of The Roots, who shifts into "Extradite" rather seamlessly to drop a couple of great verses. The hooks on this record are pretty good as well, as "Careless" and "Insecurities" will show you, and there really isn't a bad moment to be found throughout the fify-eight minute runtime. In all, Freddie Gibbs refuses to slow down, and makes a fun, yet sometimes dark, trap/gangsta rap record that fits perfectly into his ever-growing discography.
From A Second Story Window Not One Word Has Been Omitted
Future DS2
It's a general consensus within a number of (wrong) people that the use of auto-tune is somehow entirely and solely indicative of ones lack of talent and ability with vocals. What these people fail to realize is that if used properly, auto-tune provides quite the enjoyable aesthetic. That's why Dirty Sprite 2 is a good record: it's bursting at the seams with an addicting and insatiably fun vibe, helped along well by the use of auto-tune. If you're listening to this for lyrical ability, you're doing it wrong (That's not to say that a huge chunk of this record isn't immediately quotable, though). The real draw is the production, though, with its trap-influenced beats giving a very druggy feel to the whole thing. There's no shortage of bangers here, but there's also a nice bevy of relaxed, leaned out tracks too. DS2 is definitely worth your time if you're a fan of fun and entertaining trap-influenced hip-hop.
G.L.O.S.S. Demo
Chances are, if you're a fan of punk, you've heard the name G.L.O.S.S. pop up a few times this year. Even if you're not a fan of punk, you might've heard of the controversy that Whirr started over this band on social media. Truth is, G.L.O.S.S.'s members have had to put up with homophobic and transphobic slurs their entire lives. And they are pretty sick and tired off all that noise, if this record is anything to go off of. Relentless hardcore punk riffs and drumming mix with memorable lyrics and an excellent lead vocal performance by righteously pissed singer Sadie Switchblade on this eight-minute hardcore punk demo, which is right in your face and right to the point. The whole thing comes off rowdy and rebellious, and minds are definitely spoken, which is exactly what a good punk record needs. Point blank, it's punk down to its very core, making for a great demo through and through. Needless to say, this will leave the listeners eagerly awaiting a full length record.
Get Bent Discography
Get Bent was another one of those short-lived-but-full-of-awesome punk bands that write some of the best music the genre has. In Get Bent's case, this is their discography compilation, which is a tandem of their practically flawless debut demo and their solid sophomore demo, along with their contribution to the split with Jean Claude Jam Band and a bonus track. Musically, it is full of catchy indie-punk with a pop-punk aesthetic. The half-shouted, half-sung vocal delivery is lovely, and the bass on this thing is too fun not to mention. Lyrically, the album focuses on life experiences and questions, and there's no shortage of sing-along choruses and quotable shouts here. Basically, if you need some great pop-punk in your year, Get Bent has you covered and then some.
Ghost of a Dead Hummingbird Sin Forma
I like getting calls from friends rather than texts. It's just something about hearing their voice that gives me a strange reassurance. I suppose I'm happy I know I'm talking to a real person and I know that they're okay. It's like that if you worry about your friends' safety, even if you know they're probably perfectly fine. That's a big part of the emotion that goes into this album. A few moments on the album recount simple phone calls from a best friend and a girlfriend, with much of the sentiment of the record revolving around the feelings for these people, whether they be love, uncertainty, worry, or happiness. Musically, it's melodic hardcore-inclined screamo for the first six songs, and post-rock influenced screamo for the last four. It's nothing all that original, but it's just so well done. There's some subtle things, like the horn on "If You Need A Place To Stay" and the startling burst of energy on "Lover Boy (Balbo And State)", that keeps things from falling into monotony, and it's great these guys understand the importance of those nuances so early in their careers. Great stuff.
Give Sonic Bloom
Of all the things to choose as an aesthetic choice, Give decides to have an obsession with flowers. I suppose that it serves as contrast, because their music isn't flowery as much as it Self Defense Family-esque hardcore with a particularly groovy edge to it. Despite clearly being influenced by the likes of the family, Sonic Bloom is a wonderfully executed and very fun EP that can be played again and again with little trouble. The standout moments include "Learning To Die", which has a guitar tone that has a distinct groove on it, and "Eat The Rainbow", as the bass is absolutely infectious as well as the chorus. In all, this is a pretty awesome little post-hardcore EP. If you enjoy the family in any capacity, check these guys out.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Goldfrapp Black Cherry
Allison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory make up the duo of Goldfrapp, an interesting and well known project that goes through several clear progressions throughout their discography. The first one, seen here in between their debut Felt Mountain and sophomore effort Black Cherry, was one of ambient electronic and trip-hop turned glam rock-infused synthpop and electroclash. The atmosphere here is pretty wafty and dreamy, especially on songs like the title track, "Tiptoe", "Hairy Toes", and "Forever". Allison Goldfrapp's vocals accentuate this atmosphere perfectly, and though most of the songs generally stick to the same formula and aesthetic, the album is pleasant enough to keep the listener satisfied throughout its runtime. The whole album remains pretty consistent in terms of quality, and while there is a lack of a standout track, you can rest assured that you won't be wasting your time if you chose to listen to the whole thing.
Gorillaz Gorillaz
Gorillaz Plastic Beach
Green Day Dookie
Have a Nice Life The Unnatural World
Hiatus Kaiyote By Fire
Hiatus Kaiyote is a neo-soul quartet that makes some sublime stuff. If you want to see for yourself what they're all about, then this EP is the perfect thing. The title track is absolutely rife with interesting vocal/synth harmonies, fun drumming, and Nai Palm's wonderful, soulful singing chops. The final track, "Molasses", is a bit slower than the title track, but it is the catchiest song on the record, Palm's vocals are at their best, and the bass makes a more pronounced appearance as well. The song ends with the drums kicking it into high gear, and Palm repeating "Might not get any better..." before a final refrain of the second verse. It's a great showcase of the skills Hiatus Kaiyote possess, and it would be a mistake not to hear it.
Howls of Ebb The Marrow Veil
The Marrow Veil is a peculiar beast. On paper, it's a death/doom metal album with sections of black metal and the occasional drone. In reality, all of these things are done in ways that are as unique as they are interesting. Everything on this record is remarkably thin for a metal record The vocals, drums, and bass are present, but feel almost weightless in some spots. In a genre such as this, these things are almost always detrimental. Yet, Howls Of Ebb somehow makes it work to a stunning degree. The guitars, for much of the record, don't even sound like guitars. They sometimes sound like, among other things, horns, keys, screeching birds, and buzzsaws. And yet, in each instance, you can still vaguely tell they are guitars, which in my mind is incredible. The atmosphere is like fire. It's not a smokey, raging fire though, rather being a slow-burning, incensed fire that is beautiful rather than destructive. It's quite the interesting record, one that I sincerely hope will be built on in the future.
Hozier Hozier
It's nearly been a year, and "Take Me To Church" has been mauled to death by every radio station I can think of at the moment. Yes, Hozier might be the newest "indie" (read: indie for radio-only listeners) act that people who don't know any better gush over as being original and groundbreaking, but forgetting all of that, he does put together a really good album here. He has a nice formula for his songwriting: on the bluesy numbers, a good riff and some soulful backing vocals is the norm. On piano-driven tracks, he subdues his voice before turning it lose later in the song, rather impressively. And on tracks were he mans the acoustic guitar, other instruments are slowly added to the mix until the songs' climax. The one thing they all have in common? They're catchy as can be. While "Take Me To Church" is the song that introduces Hozier, "Jackie And Wilson", "Sedated", and "It Will Come Back" keeps the listener returning.
Iced Earth The Dark Saga
Iced Earth Horror Show
Iced Earth has always been one of the better known acts in power metal, and for good reason. Their style of thrash-influenced power metal has worked wonders with great, perfectly over-the-top vocals and lyrics from guys like Matt Barlow and Tim Owens. Here it's more of the same loveliness, with a horror monster theme and probably the best vocal performance by Matt Barlow under the band. Tracks like "Damien" and "The Ghost Of Freedom" blend the power metal riffing with lovely acoustic passages, while tracks like the instrumental "Frankenstein" have an almost punk-like exuberance to them in their relentless energy. The record in no way does anything groundbreaking, but it sure is a fast-paced, fun album that is just so perfectly Iced Earth.
Iced Earth Something Wicked This Way Comes
About three years removed from their lethal thrash/power metal magnum opus Burnt Offerings, Iced Earth was at an impasse. The direction they went in on 1996's The Dark Saga was to ditch most of the thrash metal and focus on the power metal sound they would soon become known for. The move received mixed reactions, even though The Dark Saga was received decently. On 1998's Something Wicked This Way Comes, they harken back a bit to the older, thrashier days, and to great effect. The three-headed monster that ends the album; "Prophecy", "Born Of The Wicked", and "The Coming Curse" is an obvious highlight, but slower songs like the heartfelt "Watching Over Me" get the job done as well, showcasing that Iced Earth can play all of their styles with professional level skill.
Into the Moat Means By Which The End Is Justified
James Blake James Blake
James Blake is one of the more interesting producer-songwriters out there, at least in my opinion. He always seems to be trying something new, and even if sometimes his experimentation doesn't always pan out, he hasn't made the same record twice. This, his debut LP, is one of his best projects. The production here is decidedly minimal, but sublime nonetheless. The real focus of the record is his angelic vocals, which combine with the production to produce some pretty mesmerizing stuff. Take "The Wilhelm Scream" for instance: the production is ambient and subdued, and the lyrics consist of the same line repeated with small variations occasionally, leaving his voice at the forefront. It wouldn't be better any other way. Many people prefer Overgrown, but in my opinion, this record encapsulates everything that is great about James Blake.
James Horner Avatar
Jamiroquai Emergency on Planet Earth
Jethro Tull Songs from the Wood
Jethro Tull are a band that requires no introduction, being one of the most recognizable progressive rock band out there. This album marks an interesting change for the band, as they shifted from a progressive rock style to an electric folk sound mixed with elements of hard rock and progressive rock. It is initially weird, but once things settle in with "Cup Of Wonder", the album becomes pretty easy to get into. With the classic "Hunting Girl" and the strangely catchy "Ring Out Solstice Bells", the band carves a further niche into the album, providing a lot of variety through acoustic guitar, audible bass, flutes, piccolos, and effectively subtle drumming. Perhaps the best instance of these instruments working together is on the eight-minute track "Pibroch (Cap In Hand)". Surely, Jethro Tull showcased throughout their career that they can play a wide spectrum of rock music, and this record is easily one of the most important and strong pieces of evidence to substantiate that claim.
John Murphy 28 Days Later Soundtrack
In 2002, 28 Days Later took the horror world by storm with its frenetic action, paranoid atmosphere, and scathing commentary on the state of the world and human nature. That said, it would be much less of an experience were it not for John Murphy's terrifying, beautiful, anxious, and all-around gripping score. From the ominously threatening "Rage" to the adrenaline pumping "Tower Block" to the all-encompassing thriller "In The House - In A Heartbeat", it is clear Murphy knows how to get the juices flowing in the audience. That said, he also knows how to get the listener on the edge of their seat with ambient works such as "And Then There Were Two" and "The Search For Jim". Elsewhere, we see other musical artists appear, with Godspeed You! Black Emperor's "East Hastings", Brian Eno's "An Ending (Descent)", and Grandaddy's "A.M. 180", making this soundtrack a great listen for fans of the film and the music alike.
John Powell & Harry Gregson-Williams Chicken Run
John Williams Saving Private Ryan
Joyce Manor Joyce Manor
One of the more successful bands to come out of the modern pop-punk scene, Joyce Manor has a winning combination of sloppy, youthful punk instrumental work with poetic lyrics and catchy vocals from lead man Barry Johnson. Though the material on this LP isn't wholly original or diverse, it still delivers some great pop-punk tunes in its seventeen-minute runtime. Things are very good right from the word go as "Orange Julius" provides an excellent template for the band to follow. This template is followed well, as the next eight songs are all good in their own right. It is the closer "Constant Headache", however, that is the crown jewel of the record, and is simply one of the best pop-punk songs I've ever heard. In all, this album is short, fun, sloppy, punky, and simply great.
Joyce Manor Never Hungover Again
Joyce Manor's new record is pretty much what you would expect from them, just better. They definitely change up their style more often on this record, and though the record is pretty short at 19 minutes long, it is still a satisfying listen. The first four songs on the album are some of the best tracks Joyce Manor has ever written, along with "In The Army Now". Not one song overstays its welcome on this album, and all the ideas presented run their course with smooth quickness. Along with the personal and relatable lyrics, this record is surely one that shouldn't be overlooked this year, and is certainly a worthy addition to Joyce Manor's discography.
Justin Timberlake FutureSex/LoveSounds
Kauan Sorni Nai
Telling the tale of the mysterious and captivating Djatlov Pass Incident that killed nine hikers in 1959, Kauan puts their talents to great use when creating this seamless record. It sounds sprawling, complete with soaring vocals, post-rock passages, doom metal dirges, and beautiful strings and horns. The record's seamless nature is helped by the fact that each song flows directly into the next, creating one fifty-two minute epic of a track. In its heart of hearts, it's a post-rock record, so emotions and atmosphere are paramount. Fortunately, the band has that covered with an atmosphere that fits the story and the cover perfectly, and a range of emotions explored including hopefulness, hopelessness, wonder, and suspense. Musically, it doesn't do anything all that new or original, but it is executed with near precision. The point is, Kauan has released yet another great album in their discography, one that will duly reward the attention given to it through its wondrous sounds and story.
Kiasmos Swept
On this EP we see the Icelandic duo create more of their trademark ambient, minimal techno and microhouse with a firm aesthetic and sound compositions. The songs here are driven by minimal beats, yet have beautiful pianos and short, repetitive buzzing synths that accentuate the atmosphere very well as they move in the ambience. The record sounds cold, but not in a detached or robotic way. Rather, it sounds like going outside during the nighttime winter and gazing at the stars. In general, this is a great ambient techno EP from one of the best in the business, so give it a look if you've got some time.
Kraftwerk Autobahn
Kraftwerk Radio-Activity
It is a staple of Kraftwerk albums that all the songs follow a central theme and contribute what ideas they can to it. A year before this album, that theme was roads and cars, and seeing how Autobahn was an excellent record, it would make sense to follow in its footsteps. Here, the theme is radiation, radio waves, and all sorts of invisible transmissions. Yet, the songs are decidedly shorter and more to the point than the songs on Autobahn. That's not to say, however, that this album is any less enjoyable. The title track has one of the catchiest Kraftwerk hooks around, and they even sometimes stray into ambient territory on songs like "Radioland" and "Ohm Sweet Ohm". Needless to say, it doesn't quite sound like anything else they've done, which is something you can say about many of their records. Oftentimes forgotten about in favor of other records in their discography, Radio-Activity isn't an album that was meant to be missed, especially if you enjoy some good electronic music.
La Dispute Vancouver
La Dispute's first record, a thirty minute EP, can be accurately described as Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River: The Prequel. Though their debut LP that would make them famous is somewhat more experimental and conceptually interesting, there is a lot to appreciate on this record. For one, the riffs here are pretty nice, and the bass has excellent moments all throughout here. The sound lays the blueprint for the post-hardcore songs on Somewhere At The Bottom, but it also has its own identity too, as this is probably the angriest we will ever hear La Dispute. Jordan Dreyer's vocals are still raw, but sound a bit more conventional than they do on Somewhere At The Bottom. It is conceptually similar to the aforementioned record, dealing with the hardships a relationship in turmoil brings, though being much more straightforward on this EP. The EP's second half is a bit lackluster, but the first half is some of the bands' best material. If you are looking to get into La Dispute, this EP is a great place to start.
La Dispute Untitled
Though it may only be two songs, this EP from the polarizing post-hardcore quintet known as La Dispute showcases some truly great things about the band in its nine-minute runtime. Both of the songs are very good, and contain the most technically proficient guitar playing they've ever done at this point in their discography. With plenty of riffs to have things moving, there are also plenty of subdued passages that the band implements so well. Dryer's vocals are still very much like they were on Somewhere At The Bottom...(whether that's good or bad is up to the listener), but his lyrics are typically fantastic, especially on "Shall Never Lose Its Power", which deals with the troubles associated with faith and religion. Point is, this EP is really great for what it is, and would most certainly act as the perfect sampler for someone new to La Dispute's music.
Lantlos Melting Sun
LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver
James Murphy is a multi-instrumentalist kingpin of the dance-punk genre, and he gained a lot of respect in the music world under the name of LCD Soundsystem. This album is his biggest draw. While his debut was certainly fun in some places, it was equally boring in others. Here, he cuts off the fat of his debut and refines his sound for the better. With dancier tracks like "Time To Get Away", synth-driven pieces like "Someone Great", exceedingly fun and a bit experimental songs like "All My Friends", and the beautiful "New York, I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down", there is a lot to appreciate here. There are a couple of songs that stay a bit beyond their welcome, but for the most part this is a great improvement, and there are no tracks that are bad at all. It's a perfect album for having a good time, and is a satisfying listen in any case.
Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin
Lianne La Havas Blood
Serving as an adventurous departure from her acoustic folk debut, Lianne La Havas' new record is a sublime mix of neo-soul and R&B, but while also retaining much of what made her debut so enjoyable. From opener "Unstoppable", these changes are apparent, with production taking cues from jazz and soul providing an excellent backdrop for Havas' beautiful vocals. On the majority, though, the record isn't as bombastic. Just take "Wonderful" and closer "Good Goodbye" for example. The latter of those songs is undoubtedly one of the best things Havas has created, using acoustic guitar, strings, and her evocative voice and lyrics to carry the song to heavenly heights. For someone wanting to get in touch with her roots, Havas spent months in Jamaica creating the record, and does not skip a beat despite this change in sound.
Lil Herb Ballin Like I'm Kobe
At first glance, you understandably might think the Kobe that Lil Herb is referring to is Kobe Bryant. Alas, it is not the NBA star, but his late friend Jacobi Herring, who was affectionately known as Kobe to his friends. It's this type of self-aware cleverness that sets G Herbo apart from many of the rappers from the drill scene in Chicago. Lyrically, he's one of the best to come from the scene, and while that isn't saying much, it's actually quite the virtue for him. He paints a more vivid and grimy picture than many of his contemporaries, and though there's no shortage of absolute bangers with chant-worthy hooks here, there's also no shortage of introspective and sometimes even self-deprecating lines. He also has a great, hungry flow that coexists very well with the beat selections, adding to his huge presence on the microphone and solidifying an already good lyrical performance. Even though much of the drill scene is scorned by many hip-hop listeners (undeservedly so), it's guys like G Herbo that are keeping Chiraq a place well worthy of keeping an eye on.
Mad Professor Dub Take the Voodoo Out of Reggae
This album is a collaboration between two of the most important figures in dub music, Mad Professor and Lee "Scratch" Perry. What you'll find on this album is an array of different textures and emotions all confined within the relative simplicity of dub. It's swirling, featuring some synths, as well as the classic island instrumentation that everyone knows and loves. It may be a bit samey, but songs such as "Cheerful Dub", "Bounce Boy Dub", "Mystic Powers Of Dub", and "Dub Connection" make this collaboration album one that deserves to be heard. If you like dub, or even just reggae, check this one out.
Mantronix Mantronix: The Album
Mantronix is a duo made up of rapper MC Tee and DJ Kurtis Mantronik, who despite their short seven year career managed to be a influencing factor in the budding genres of hip-hop and electro. The album is half old-school hip-hop rhyming and half driving electronic beats that were pretty ahead of the times in the mid-80's. With classic cuts such as "Bassline", "Needle To The Groove", and "Get Stupid Fresh", Mantronix created an early yet effective blueprint for both hip-hop and electro, and certainly the combination of those two genres. It's deceptively simple, in both style and execution, but don't let that fool you: there is a lot of interesting sounds to be taken in here, and really provides an immersive look into what hip-hop and electro were during the early-to-mid-80's. It's an essential listen for fans of both hip-hop and electronic music, especially if you're a fan of the old-school versions of each genre.
Marvin Gaye What's Going On
Massive Attack Protection
When people talk about Massive Attack, usually only two albums tend to come up in conversation: Mezzanine, which is glorious perfection of craft, and Blue Lines, which was the enthralling beginning to trip-hop. People often forget about or overlook the link between those two records, which is Protection. Musically, it is a pretty tight affair. The first seven tracks are decidedly minimal, which establishes the link to Blue Lines, but the last three, including a live cover of The Doors' "Light My Fire" are all much more expansive and large in scope, foreshadowing Mezzanine quite nicely. As far as album highlights go, the opener/title track is an undeniable trip-hop masterpiece, and the mesmerizing and oddly catchy "Weather Storm" is another wonderful track. In all, it's an always good, sometimes brilliant, and fairly influential piece of trip-hop, one that unfortunately tends to be an afterthought.
Maxo Kream Maxo 187
The smiling man on this cover is Maxo Kream, a rapper that in sound is comparable to A$AP Mob, but with a distinct Houston style to him that solidifies his authenticity, is one of the leading faces of the present hip-hop scene in his beloved hometown. Rightfully so, as this record is full of menacing, high-energy, and admittedly very fun hip-hop with heavy trap influences. From the fantastic production heard on tracks like "Thirteen", "Paranoia", "Sold Out", "Murder", and "Endzone", it's evident Maxo has the perfect backdrop for his rhymes about his daily life as a gangbanger. He may not be the most lyrical rapper, but he does drop some gems on the record, as well as having a very confident charisma and flow. Overall, an excellent outing from one of Houston's best up-and-comers.
Milo So The Flies Don't Come
If it's one thing I can appreciate about Milo, it's that he's been working tirelessly since his debut to perfect his craft, and for the most part he's been quite enjoyable. On his newest record, he lyrically sounds like a mix between Earl Sweatshirt's introspective raps and Aesop Rock's intelligent lines, with a voice reminiscent of the former. Yet, the sound is distinctly Milo's, as he coexists wonderfully with the abstract and jazzy production, and sounds ultimately pretty comfortable within it. The guest spots are decent, and the album manages to remain at pretty much the same quality throughout, "Souvenir" and "Going No Place" being the highlights, the former having some truly clever and rewind-worthy lyrics, and the latter being an evocative piece leaning on beautiful production. It's a short listen, but there's stuff to digest lyrically, while also being a pleasant listen production-wise. Ultimately, Milo continues his foray into abstract hip-hop, sounding better and better as he goes.
Miss May I Apologies Are for the Weak
Mount Eerie No Flashlight
It's always been one of the things on my bucket list to spend a few days in the boreal forests and get to see the Aurora Borealis at least once. I've heard it's a pretty amazing experience. But until then, I'll have to settle for Phil Elvrum's music, because it's probably the closest thing to spending some nights in the woods with only your natural surroundings and yourself to reflect on without actually doing it. This, his first album under his Mount Eerie moniker, is a pretty ambitious experimental folk album. The backbone of everything is his almost stoic, beautiful voice and his woodsy guitar playing. Add some noise, pianos, backing vocals, intermittent electric guitar moments, and an outdoor ambience, and you've generally got what this record can sound like at any given moment. Things are always happening, even if the sturdy rock the album is formed on is cold and chilling. In all, an intimate and enjoyable record thats marks the beginning of Elvrum's chapter as Mount Eerie. Oh, and the lyrics are pretty great too.
Mount Eerie Sauna
I've always been interested in people that are in touch with their surroundings as much as they are in touch with themselves. It's this sentiment that makes Sauna an engrossing listen, as the sparse, lo-fi eclecticism of the record is just flowing with these vibes. Even from the opener, "Sauna", in which a drone swirls around a recording of a crackling fire, the atmosphere is excellent. The album is an interesting mix of lo-fi indie folk, drone, and small hints of black metal and ambient. Therefore, though the atmosphere is sparse, it never becomes boring or a chore to listen to. There is plenty of experimentation here as well. The vocals here are soothing and comforting, and the use of female vocals in a few of the tracks is a nice touch. The lyrics are about relatively simple things, but they are put together in such a way that you get to appreciate the significance of each of them. Overall, a great album from Mount Eerie that should be heard by indie fans everywhere.
Mr. Bungle Mr. Bungle
In 1991, Mike Patton, Trey Spurance, Trevor Dunn and co. were hell bent on giving you a tour of their carnival. You undoubtedly know a little bit about this carnival already; that it's flashy, loud, fun, and outlandish, even if a bit amateurish. Beneath the surface, however, lies something more sinister than they initially show you. I mean, just look at these lyrics. The topics covered include domestic violence, pornography addiction, various taboo fetishes, heavy drug use, animal cruelty, and even the meaninglessness of many aspects of life. Carnival doesn't sound too fun now, does it? They want us to know: life is like this carnival. It's this strong emphasis on thematics and concept that lets us know, while there was undoubtedly some immaturity in the songwriting and pacing of the record, that Mr. Bungle was a band ahead of their years. It would only be until they perfected their craft that the full realization of that notion would be made.
Municipal Waste The Art of Partying
Municipal Waste has always been one of the more well known bands in the crossover thrash genre, and for good reason. They have a tongue-in-cheek approach to their music that makes it known they're just here to thrash and have fun. And that is exactly what they do. This, their third full-length, is ridiculously fun, even if it is a bit predictable. There's nary a break from the furious pace on the record, but it's just short enough to not completely bury you in its aggression. The drumming is particularly good, and while the guitars might be pretty standard for the genre, they're still very solid. The bass is audible occasionally, and when it is, it's very fun to listen to. There's not a song on the record that isn't at least decent, and with a couple of standout moments like "A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Destroyer)" and "Sadistic Magician", you've got yourself a very fun and satisfying crossover thrash release.
My Bloody Valentine Isn't Anything
For those of you whose only dealing with My Bloody Valentine was their 1991 shoegaze/dream pop magnum opus Loveless, the groups debut LP, Isn't Anything, will be an entirely different beast. Here, we see the band experimenting with their sound and seeing what works. You'll hear glimpses of what they would eventually become, but you'll also hear the band as you've never heard them before. It's not too noisy, but the are still veils of texture around most of the songs that are pretty interesting to hear, and with the band's inherent catchy pop sensibilities, you essentially get a prototype of Loveless, only with so much more substance and value than that description would have you believe. Yes, there is a lot of experimentation, but it's not like the band is just throwing things against a wall to see what sticks. It's a varied and fun release that is definitely worth your time if you enjoy experimental rock.
Napalm Death Apex Predator - Easy Meat
It's ironic that one of the songs on the record is named "How The Years Condemn", because it seems the years have been very kind to seminal grindcore band Napalm Death. A more apt description would be "Timeless Flogging". The group of 40-somethings still manage to be unrelenting and intense with their fifteenth album, though the opener, which is also the title-track, is plodding and slow-paced. From thereon after, it's full speed ahead, with tracks like "Smash A Single Digit" and "Stunt Your Growth" being especially ferocious. There's moments of experimentation here, most notably on the title track, and there is some clean singing on "Hierarchies" that makes an appearance, but this is kept under wraps in favor of unbridled aggression. All in all, Napalm Death still have it after all these years, somehow.
New Order Low-Life
Night Birds Mutiny At Muscle Beach
When it comes to hardcore surf punk quartet Night Birds, consistency is key. They way they've managed to remain at a high level of quality with only the slightest of deviations is nothing short of impressive. Mutiny On Muscle Beach, then, is no exception. The record is pretty much exactly as good as you'd think it would be: 24 minutes of fast-paced, high-energy, surf-tinged hardcore punk with enough quotable chants and endearingly goofy moments to satisfy the listener with ease. The album starts with six straight blasts of energy before slowing things down a slight bit with the title track. The rest of the album is ever-so slightly slower paced, but gains a fair amount of catchiness as a result, ending on a superb closer in "Left In The Middle". Sure, this record does not reinvent the wheel, but that's not the point. The point is: Night Birds are one of modern punk's finest bands, and they just want to play and have fun doing it, with Mutiny On Muscle Beach being the next excellent catalyst for that sentiment.
Norma Jean O' God The Aftermath
Norma Jean Meridional
After moving from a straightforward metalcore/hardcore group into a more melodic hardcore styling with 2008's The Anti-Mother, Norma Jean decided to go forward with the melodic hardcore, but not before returning to their roots to help shore up some of the shortcomings of the previous LP. The result was Meridional, a mix of melodic hardcore and metalcore that hits hard, but provides rest and resuscitation as well. The first five tracks of the record were as good as anything the band had ever done and could've went go toe-to-toe with some of the better tracks off of O God. Needless to say, this record was their best since O God, and that notion was only reinforced by songs like the evocative "Falling a From The Sky: Day Seven". They still wore their influences on their sleeves, though, so the record isn't wholly original. In general, though, this is a great listen, and the combination of metalcore/melodic hardcore with some pop sensibilities is always enjoyable.
Oasis Definitely Maybe
Of Monsters and Men My Head is an Animal
Opeth Still Life
Opeth Blackwater Park
Opeth has a reputation as one of the most consistent and to many, brilliant, progressive death metal acts in the world. Blackwater Park is considered to be their magnum opus by the majority, and has been lauded and discussed ever since it was released. The first half of this album is pretty great, but the second half trails off a bit. The reason for this is the very clean production sometimes sounding too clean and, dare I say, emotionless. Therefore, those spots become unintentionally boring and tend to drag on. There's a lot to appreciate here, even if some moments aren't up to par with the rest, and though it's not Opeth's best, it is certainly a worthy addition to their discography.
Opeth My Arms, Your Hearse
Oxxo Xoox Namidae
I hate the term "Alien Metal". It writes a check that basically can't be cashed when bands like Rings Of Saturn call themselves that. It's worth mentioning, then, that they literally have no stake in that claim when bands like Oxxo Xoox are around. This is the closest thing to "Alien Metal" that I've ever heard. The band never makes such a statement, but the fact that they created their own language to sing with, and have such an avant-garde take on epic doom metal is all the proof I need. There really isn't a way that I can relay all of this to you without you actually hearing it, though. It's actually quite hard to describe in words how weird and yet so, so fun this music is. The length may seem daunting, but this is an album that is pretty easy to get lost into. It's a bit of a slow burner, though, as things start out pretty good, but don't get especially serious until "Da I Lun". The fact that it is in an esoteric tongue has its vice, though, as the lyrics basically mean nothing. Still, the music behind it sounds incredible, and the vocalists are pretty good regardless. As it stands, Namidae is one of the most interesting pieces of metal I've heard in a while, and certainly one of the coolest metal albums this year.
Pastel Ghost Abyss
I love when old things clash with new things in music. Just seeing the contrast, and yet the undeniable similarities, between an old style and a new one is very interesting. It's that idea that leads to albums like these. Vivian Moon, known better as Pastel Ghost, decided that combining 80's synthpop with chillwave was the route she was going to take, and the result is a drugged-up, flowery, and gorgeous album. Her airy vocals are swamped by endless layers of atmospheric synths and driving beats, creating a hazy and wavy atmosphere. The lack of a standout track hurts the album a bit, but things are a pretty high quality overall, and there is enough syrupy synth melodies to keep you listening. In all, Pastel Ghost is definitely on to something here, so give this one a listen if you like 80's synthpop or chillwave.
Phantogram Nightlife
Pile You're Better Than This
An excellent blend of sparse indie and discordant noise rock, You're Better Than This is another excellent outing from Boston's own Pile. Rick Maguire's vocals are absolutely addicting, and the guitar work will turn from melodic and relatively quiet to loud and abrasive in moments. The album has a wonderful punk tinge to it that really permeates the drumming and many of the louder moments on here. Things get off to a roaring start with "The World Is Your Motel", but takes a more somber route on "Mr. Fish", with Maguire's storytelling lyrics about a solitary man in Daryl Fish taking the spotlight early in the song and giving way to an excellent, noisy buildup later. Other highlights include "Waking Up In The Morning" and "Appendicitis". Honestly, if they are better than this, I'd love to hear it.
Primordial The Gathering Wilderness
Before 2005, Primordial played a style of black metal heavily influenced by Celtic folk music and tales of the Irish lore. Starting here, though, the Celtic folk would be on the forefront, with the guitars becoming cleaner and the atmospherics becoming even windier than before. Even Nemtheanga, an established and renowned vocalist, had to change his style from his ghastly screams to a cleaner, more epically styled way of singing. The results are quite great, as The Gathering Wilderness sees this transition almost seamlessly from their old style. There are definitely traces of the old style, like the openings riffs of "The Song Of The Tomb", but for the most part, this is windy, gripping folk metal with Celtic stylings, and it works very well. Alas, the record is a bit samey, but the melodies from the guitars and the heartfelt singing from Nemtheanga really overshadows that aspect. At the end of the day, this is a record exemplifying that a band can change their already established sound and make another sound that is just as good or even better than the old one.
Primordial Storm Before Calm
Here we see Primordial at their bleakest, blackest, and most bare-bones since their inception. From the opening monologue of "The Heretic's Age", wrapped in blast beats and windy tremolo riffing, the band sets up the dark, stormy atmosphere that they have always done well. There isn't much of the folky acoustic guitar passages on this record as compared to the others so far in their discography, but they do show up here and there and are typically great, especially the inspiring "What Sleeps Within". Where the band truly shines, though, are their brooding, heavily emotional black metal epics, the best of which on this record is "Sons Of The Morrigan". With a great vocal performance and more excellent lyrics from frontman Nemtheanga, complete with a furiously passionate instrumental performance, this record marks the height of Primordial's early records, before they would start implementing more Celtic influences and instruments.
Radiohead Amnesiac
Radiohead's fifth studio album is often called "the B-sides of Kid A" or "Kid B" because of its similarities with the seminal turn of the century electronic rock album. While their might be similarities, there are big differences that separate the two. For instance, the electronics experimented with here are much weirder and unyielding than on Kid A, "Pulk/ Pull Revolving Doors" and "Like Spinning Plates" being great examples. There is also more straightforward, less experimental songs that harken back to The Bends, like "You And a Whose Army?" and "I Might Be Wrong", that are exceedingly well done. Though the album drags a bit in the second half with "Hunting Bears" being major filler and "Morning Bell/Amnesiac" being filler as well, the album ends on a wonderful song in "Life In A Glasshouse", which beautifully exemplifies the bands' penchant for jazz, and really ends the album with a bang. It might not be as good as its predecessor, but Amnesiac is so much more than "Kid B".
Radiohead Street Spirit (Fade Out)
Rafael Anton Irisarri A Fragile Geography
You know those rainy days where it almost feels uncomfortable not to be lying in bed doing nothing but relaxing, not caring, and possibly getting a little stoned? That's basically what A Fragile Geography sounds like. Rafael Anton Irisarri is a master at making this type of atmosphere, and on this new record of his, he does it just as well as he's ever done. Musically, it's an ambient record, but it blankets you in drones that, when coming from a good pair of headphones, almost massage your brain. Things can get pretty loud, like on "Reprisal", but more often than not, it's just beautifully subdued ambient drone. Some tracks may use conventional instruments, but they are used pretty minimally, like the strings on "Secretly Wishing For Rain". Although it's not necessarily all that new of a concept, especially for Irisarri, the record is still another great addition to his discography, and thus, shouldn't be overlooked.
Rasputina Oh Perilous World
Red Death Permanent Exile
A straight up relentless crossover thrash band from D.C., this is the debut record of Red Death, and it's sixteen minutes of rigorous, punky riffage. The album starts with six straight punches to the gut, "Palace Of Unending Pain" being the highlight of those. But when the bomb that is "Alleviate" is dropped from the skies to wreak havoc on the world below with a crushing build-up followed by more thrashy hardcore fit with solos, the album will never be the same. "Atomic Howl" scours the wreckage left in its predecessors wake, and finally "Perpetrator" ends everything with one last monstrous fist to the face, bringing the album full circle. Long story short, this album is crossover thrash in all its essence. Listen to it if you dig that kind of stuff.
Red Hot Chili Peppers Californication
Rogue Wave Descended Like Vultures
Rogue Wave Out Of The Shadow
Rogue Wave Asleep at Heaven's Gate
Rogue Wave Nightingale Floors
I think the thing I admire most about Rogue Wave is their consistency. Each one of their albums is worth a listen, and they have written some truly great songs throughout the years. Nightingale Floors is no different. Released three years after Permalight, which was a bit rough around the edges, Nightingale Floors is a testament to how consistently great Rogue Wave has been. Although the album gets off to a bit of a slow start, the middle of the record contains some of Rogue Wave's best tracks, and closes on a very strong note on "Everyone Wants To Be You", an excellent combination of indie and post-rock. The album has something for everyone, from acoustic tracks like "The Closer I Get" to the swirling indie-rock they've perfected on songs like "Siren's Song" and "S(a)tan". Altogether, another great release by Rogue Wave, and I certainly did not expect anything less.
Rush 2112
Sadistik Ultraviolet
Sadistik and Kid Called Computer The Art of Dying
If this release flew over your head like it did me, you might be under the impression that Sadistik spent five years in between releases tightening his craft as tight as it possibly could go for his second LP. You'd be half-right, given that he underwent the significant portion of the adjustments in just two years before collaborating with little-known, yet highly skilled, Chicago producer A Kid Called Computer and releasing an EP known as The Art Of Dying. You can see much of what he was going for on Flowers For My Father on these tracks, and with some pretty great production behind it all (especially "Save Yourself"), the record works as a standalone project as well as a premonition of what was to come.
Simon and Garfunkel Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.
There isn't really a duo out there like Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Together, they made some of the greatest folk tunes the world has known, and remain easy listening and wonderful today. This, their debut record, wasn't exactly a roaring commercial success, but looking back, it is certainly a great album. The best songs here are written by Paul Simon, including "Bleecker Street", "Sparrow" and "The Sound Of Silence". Here, melancholy yet evocative folk is used at its best, with excellent lyricism all the way around. Other songs like "Benedictus" and "Go Tell It On The Mountain" are covers of traditional folk songs passed down through the years, as well as a cover of one of Bob Dylan's most famous songs, "The Times They Are-A-Changin'". Altogether, it is the excellent start of something fantastic in the folk world, and the start of one of the most recognizable duos in music.
Skinny Puppy Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse
I don't think I've ever heard a record that devolves as good as this one. That's not to say that this devolution is a vice to this record, as that is what makes it so fascinating. From the opener, "One Time One Place", to "Three Blind Mice", the record acts as an electronically inclined industrial record complete with shrill and chilling vocals. But from "Love" until the closer, "Burnt With Water", the album seemingly falls in on itself as the established structure completely unravels and things get quite unnerving. The industrial sound surges to the forefront and the vocals turn to demented yells and hyperventilating. Samples can range from speeches to screams of terror, and by the end of the record you're left shocked at how quickly and sharply the album changes direction. In the end, it's a pretty interesting listen, and when you peel back some of the layers of weirdness, there's some great musicianship to be found as well.
Slum Village Yes!
Slum Village has been one of the most important hip-hop acts in the Midwest for a time now. A look through their past members include the likes of J Dilla, Elzhi, and Illa J, but T3 and producer Young RJ still can hold their own, as exemplified on this new record of theirs. Featuring nine out of twelve songs on the record with J Dilla production, the album sounds very much like their early days and is pretty nostalgic in that regard. Add in some excellent guest appearances from the likes of De La Soul, Phife Dawg, Black Milk, Bilal, and Illa J, and you've got yourself a recipe for success. The standout tracks on the record, at least for me, include "Tear It Down", "Push It Along", "Right Back", "We On The Go!!!", and "Where We Come From". That being said, no song on here is in any way bad, and it is incredibly easy to listen and re-listen to. In all, this album is a great throwback to the hip-hop of the late 90's, and yet another great hip-hop record this year has to offer.
Snarky Puppy Sylva
Snarky Puppy is one of the leading collectives in jazz fusion, their sound being a mixture of funk, jazz, and world music. The Netherlands' own Metropole Orkest lend their talents to the band for this album, recorded live, and makes them sound more grand and bombastic than usual. It's still Snarky Puppy running the show, though, and for the most part they sound wonderful. Meandering bass and smooth keyboards permeate the record, as does explosive sections of brass instrumentation. A variety of moods are explored here, including suspenseful, triumphant, content, and sensual. The closer, "The Clearing", is one of the best examples of this, going through a wide range of sounds and emotions in a nineteen minute monster of fusion jazz. In all, Snarky Puppy continue to impress, and with some added help from Metropole Orkest, add another dynamic to their sound.
Son Lux At War With Walls And Mazes
Son Lux is quickly becoming recognized as one of the up-and-comers of trip-hop, and his debut, At War With Walls And Mazes gives a perfect example of why. While the album does get off to a bit of a slow start, the middle has some great songs like "Betray", "Stay", and "Raise". "Wither" is without a doubt the catchiest song on the record, but "Stand" really steals the show. Though the song consists of one line being repeated, so many things happen around that line, such as soaring female vocals and whirling violins. The use of strings on this album gives a breath of fresh air to many of the songs, and give it an experimental feel to it on occasion. Though the album suffers on its slower, more subdued tracks, it is incredible everywhere else, and for that, Son Lux's debut surely deserves a listen from trip-hop fans and fans of electronic in general.
Steve Jablonsky Transformers - The Score
Steve Von Till A Life Unto Itself
As the lead vocalist for seminal post-metal band Neurosis, Steve Von Till has been a recognizable name in the metal scene for a while now. That being said, he has also made a name for himself in the folk scene, given that he already had a trio of well-received albums before this. With this album, it isn't all just bare-bones acoustic guitar and raspy singing, despite what the first two songs on the record show you. "A Language Of Blood" incorporates strings and chorus-like backing vocals that drone on behind Steve's voice. "Night Of The Moon" makes use of a haunting, yet oddly catchy synth line, and "Birch Bark Box" throws droney guitars into the mix, and "Chasing Ghosts" substitutes the acoustic guitar for a piano. All in all, it's a very solid outing, and there is something on this record for everyone who likes folk music.
Suicide Silence The Cleansing
Suis La Lune Distance/Closure
In French, Suis La Lune means "am the moon". The moon is a desolate, lonely place, and it's from those feelings that the band draws from on this thirty minute EP. The emo/screamo combo is still intact, but the band also throws in a post-rock influence, as shown in the opener "Different Perspectives". In the grand scheme of things, the band doesn't really do anything all that new here, but it's the execution and palpable emotion that really suck the listener in. The record is probably their darkest to date, and vocalist/bassist Andreas Oleras makes quite sure of that with his pained and convincing vocal performance. There are some great moments to be found all throughout the record, from the clean singing in "Better Parts" to the heart-wrenching melodies in "Within", there isn't much of the record worth missing. Altogether, a beautiful screamo record courtesy of the Swedish trio.
Svalbard One Day This Will End
Manners disbanded earlier this year (*tears up*), so I suppose Svalbard is the new melodic hardcore band to keep my eyes on. And so far, they've delivered. Vocalist and guitarist Serena Cherry is the one running the show here. Her shouts and yell have the bark, and her riffing has the bite. Everything from the vocals to the drums to the lyrics sound so passionate and intimate on this album, which is exactly what a record in this style needs. You feel like someone has confided in you after you hear it. And while there's definitely a few moments where what the band is doing has been done before, it never feels disingenuous or phoned in. In between the riffs and the blasts, there are moments of relative tranquility, with a post-rock-esque sound, that provide a welcome change of pace and feel like natural progressions of the songs. It's a really professionally done debut, and for a band only a few years into playing, that can only be a good thing.
Swans Filth
Swans To Be Kind
Talking Heads More Songs About Buildings and Food
Talking Heads' sophomore LP may be titled like it's just part 2 of their debut, but in reality it is a much more focused, consistent, and worthwhile endeavor than 77. With an extremely catchy opener, "Thank You For Sending Me An Angel", David Byrne turns one of his best performances, and really sets the standard for him for the rest of the album. The production on this album was handled by Brian Eno, and is better than the production on 77 by a couple steps. Elsewhere, the band experiments with country ("The Big Country"), synth-driven post-punk ("Take Me To The River"), and more funky, bluesy numbers ("Found A Job", "I'm Not In Love"). Overall, Talking Heads made a noted improvement on their sound established by 77, and made an excellent album as a result.
The Black Dahlia Murder Nocturnal
The Black Dahlia Murder What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse
Despite being The Black Dahlia Murder's most well recognized song, "What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse" does not appear on the Detroit quintets debut demo, which bears its name. What does, however, is the most varied and arguably the most entertaining collection of songs the band has made. It's very much unlike any other TBDM release. The production is very solid for a demo, and the drum tones' raw sound fits perfectly with Trevor Strnad's frenzied shrieks. There is a distinct metalcore influence heard here, but with an energetic punk edge to it that comes off as incredibly fun. There are also moments that you will not hear on any other record from the band, such as the subdued, acoustic guitar break in "The Middle Goes Down" and the clean vocals in "This Ain't No F*cking Love Song". Truly, a must listen for any fans of The Black Dahlia Murder, and a very enjoyable listen for fans of energetic melodeath.
The Black Keys Thickfreakness
The Contortionist Exoplanet
The Cure Faith
The Dillinger Escape Plan Under the Running Board
Before their sonically insane debut full-length, The Dillinger Escape Plan had also released a self-titled EP, and although it was intense, it was nothing compared to Calculating Infinity. Their second EP, Under The Running Board, then, is the link. Tightening their songwriting from the self-titled, Under The Running Board sees the band's first truly successful attempts at experimentation, while also upping the ante as far as technicality and intensity were concerned. All three songs here are wonderfully written explosive bursts of mathcore riffing, hardcore breakdowns, venomous vocals, and intricate drumming. Put simply, this is the record where The Dillinger Escape Plan started to realize their potential, potential that would certainly become cashed in on later.
The Faceless Akeldama
The Internet Feel Good
The Jimi Hendrix Experience Axis: Bold as Love
The Number Twelve Looks Like You Put On Your Rosy Red Glasses
The Number Twelve Looks Like You Worse Than Alone
12 was always a band I considered to be on the progressive side of metalcore/mathcore, but never had they quite been "experimental". Worse Than Alone changes that, and it's quite interesting. Almost gone are the immensely technical mathcore riffs, replaced with tasteful and worthwhile progressive experimentation, seen in full on songs like "Given Life", "The Garden's All Nighters", and "Retort, Rebuild, Remind". Don't let that fool you into thinking they can't still make a great, intense metalcore song, though, as "To Catch A Tiger", "If They Holler, Don't Let Go", and "I'll Make My Own Hours" are all very mature and interesting songs. While there isn't necessarily a standout track here, they're all high quality, and sound different enough from each other to prevent bleeding into each other. With what is certainly their most ambitious project and easily their best since their debut, 12's swan-song is an album that shouldn't be missed by fans of metalcore, especially metalcore with experimental tendencies.
The Prodigy The Fat of the Land
The Prodigy Invaders Must Die
Liam Howlett, the mastermind behind British big beat group The Prodigy, had said that their fourth studio album would be a return to their roots, even receiving help from the likes of Dave Grohl and James Rushent on various instruments. That check was most certainly cashed with Invaders Must Die, which takes a big beat blueprint and adds slight bits of new rave to it as well. Some of the groups classics are here, like the title-track, "Omen", "Warriors Dance", and "World's On Fire". However, the albums best moment is actually its most subdued. Closer "Stand Up", a remix of jazz rock band Manfred Mann Chapter Three's "One Way Glass", is an entirely instrumental yet insatiably catchy song that mixes jazz and electronic breakbeat to perfection. In all, a pretty great album from one of the worlds biggest electronic acts.
The Specials Specials
The Stone Roses The Stone Roses
The Strokes Room on Fire
The Who Who's Next
The Who, being one of the most recognizable hard rock bands out there, have had plenty of coverage from all around the world. This extends onto Sputnik, too, so going into too much detail here is pointless. The record spawned three unmistakable classic songs in "Baba O'Riley", "Behind Blue Eyes", and "Won't Get Fooled Again", and one very underrated classic in "The Song Is Over". The rest of the songs, while not on the level of the aforementioned four, are still all solid blues-influenced hard rock. Just listen to it, and you'll understand why it's one of The Who's most revered records.
The Who My Generation
The World Is a Beautiful Place... Death To New Years
I've always heard that TWIABP was one of the better bands to come out of the emo-revival scene, but I never actually checked them out until this came out. I wasn't disappointed in the slightest by what I've heard. Here we have a beautiful ten minute EP centered around quiet, evocative post-rock build-ups and heartfelt lyrics that gets better every listen. It's not necessarily anything groundbreaking, but it is very well executed and is pretty much everything I look for in post-rock/emo combinations. From start to finish, the EP is great, with small moments of brilliance interweaved. Needless to say, I'm interested in whatever they're doing for their next full length.
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything
Thelonious Monk Monk
Three 6 Mafia Live By Yo Rep (Bone Dis)
The beef between Cleveland rap group Bone Thugs 'N Harmony and seminal southern hip-hop/horrorcore group Three 6 Mafia was quite short lived. Still, some truly intense and sinister stuff was made by Three 6 Mafia in response to Bone Thugs insulting their beloved hometown of Memphis. The beats on this record are very reminiscent of a horror film soundtrack, giving the record a spooky and disturbing feel. The lyrics are quite violent and unnerving, and the presence the members give on the mic is a very menacing and intimidating one, going along wonderfully with the overall aesthetic of the record. A few songs off of the record are from Three 6 Mafia's influential Mystic Stylez, but a few new tracks ("Throw Yo Sets In Da Air", "Be A Witness") get their chance to shine, and in typical fashion, do not disappoint. Overall, a great EP from the Memphis group, who truly made it known in the hip-hop world that they were not to be taken lightly.
Tiny Moving Parts This Couch Is Long & Full of Friendship
Though they're only a couple full-lengths and a raw EP into their career, Tiny Moving Parts have established themselves as one of the more worthwhile bands the "emo-revival" scene has to offer. This, their debut LP, shows exactly why. The guitars have the twinkly guitar sound down as good as any band has done it since American Football disbanded. The drums are fun, yet subtly intricate, which is very reminiscent of This Town Needs Guns in that regard. The vocals are a cathartic mix of singing and shouting that while on an initial listen may seem grating, but are emotional and well done. The lack of a standout track on this thing does impede it's progress a bit, but it is remarkably consistent and doesn't let up in quality. If you have twenty-six minutes and love the math rock/emo combo, then this should be right up your alley.
Touche Amore ...To the Beat of a Dead Horse
Touche Amore Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me
Touche Amore have the uncanny ability to condense the emotions they bring across. What might take several minutes to express for other bands usually only take a minute or so for Touche Amore. This formula was extremely calculated and focused on their debut, and for the most part this continues onto this record. While a bit samey in the middle, Touche Amore plays some of their best songs like "~", "The Great Repetition", "Method Act", and "Amends", utilizing their penchant for short, melodic emo breaks within their cathartic hardcore. The drumming is again excellent, and the vocals remain as emotion-infused as ever. While some consider this record to be a step down, I find it to be relatively on par with their debut, and a great album in its own respect.
Touche Amore Is Survived By
Here, the screamo-tinged hardcore band Touche Amore sacrifice rage-ridden bursts of emotion for a more structured, yet still cathartic, sound. "Just Exist" is a fantastic opener with some of the best lyrics the band has employed so far, and it truly sets the stage for the rest of the album to perform on. Adding a minute or two onto songs that would have originally been about a minute, the band does some great, subtle things that show a definite maturation. For instance, some of the tracks have thin little backing vocal harmonies that accentuate the passionate yells, and still others have a wonderful break in the action that lets a song regain its breath before starting up once again. However, the best thing about the record might just be that they repeat the moments with the most emotional impact, something they chose not to do before. Though their original formula was pretty great, this record shows a much more mature side of Touche Amore, which is just as good as their other works.
Tyler, the Creator Bastard
This album is, without a doubt, Tyler's most consistent and overall best album he's put out so far. His lyrics are personal without sacrificing wordplay, and the sinister production on this thing is excellent. He lays it all out for you in the form of a therapy session, and is unapologetic about everything he has to say. Granted, it may get a little drawn out towards the end, and thus, loses a bit of steam, but the album is consistent in what it does, which is draw out Tyler's life as it is: Depressing, funny, strange, and eventful.
Ufomammut Ecate
Italian psychedelic drone metal project Ufommamut have been a very underrated and overlooked band, but manage to keep a strong, dedicated following through their fuzz-heavy albums. Opening with a staticky drone, and closing with an unnerving piano line, Ecate is an album that finds itself firmly rooted in the eerie, using an array of tactics to challenge the listener. From the fuzzy noises and synths that you can feel in the back of your head, to the shouted and murky vocals, to the smoldering and oftentimes groovy riffs, this album is layered with interesting sounds and textures. All of this retains a slightly bluesy edge, especially in songs like "Temple". Though a couple of songs drag a slight bit, this record should be picked up by people who appreciate drone music with experimental tendencies.
Washed Out Life of Leisure
White Reaper White Reaper Does it Again
The first LP from Louisville quartet White Reaper is an infectious medley of garage punk jams draped in psychedelic synths and catchy hooks. On a first listen, they sound like a rawer, synthier form of the punk tunes Arctic Monkeys used to put out in the mid-2000's. The album does suffer slightly from not having much variety, but all of the songs here are very solid and don't overstay their welcome. Some songs, like "Pills", "Sheila", and "B.T.K." are fantastic representations of how this style of garage punk should be done. The album is over quick at a mere thirty-three minutes, but due to its relentless catchiness, the replay value is very strong. Lastly, it's fitting that the album cover is just a first person view of someone driving at night, because this would be a great album to drive to.
Wolves in the Throne Room Diadem of 12 Stars
Something has always turned me off of black metal. I can't quite put my finger on it, it just doesn't sit very well with me. I guess it's just not my style. That being said, I do understand why people appreciate what the genre has to offer and I can't deny the importance of it as a whole. This album, though, as I understand it, is a bit different from traditional black metal in the sense that there are very folk-sounding pieces scattered throughout, as well as some clean vocals too. After one listen, I can safely say I appreciate this folkier style of black metal more than the traditional form. The production is foggy and the sound of it shifts a couple times during songs to accentuate the change from tremolo-picked riffs to acoustic music. There are some droney moments to be found on here as well, and the vocals are distant and full of emotion, focusing lyrically on mankind's lost appreciation of nature. The drumming is actually nicely varied, and the guitar tones fit the atmosphere very well. Wolves In The Throne Room has created quite the album in Diadem Of 12 Stars, and may very well be a stepping stone into faster, murkier, and harsher black metal for many people.
Wolves in the Throne Room Celestite
Yautja Songs of Lament
The mixing of crust or hardcore punk and sludge metal is a combination that seems magnificent on paper, but many bands who have attempted said combination end up taking the most basic parts of each genre and running with that, usually making inconsequential, relatively boring music. Songs Of Lament (in addition to Wound Empire), is one of the best albums from this year played in this style. They're sure to add personality and even a bit of catchiness into their sludge, and are brief and intense with their crust. The length of the record makes it easier to digest, and each song, whether it's a swift gut-punch like "Disgust; Disguise", a slow-burning romp like "Crumbling", or an eerie, subdued piece like "Revel; Writhe", has its own singular identity. Altogether, this makes for a great EP, so listen to it if you've twenty-three minutes on your hands.

3.5 great
A Breath Before Surfacing Death Is Swallowed In Victory
A.R. Rahman Slumdog Millionaire
It was good, don't get me wrong, but I still don't see how this won the Oscar for best film score over "Wall-E"
Aerosmith Rocks
Aerosmith Aerosmith
Aesop Rock Cat Food
This release by prominent underground hip-hop artist Aesop Rock may just be a two song EP, but it has some nice things to offer. The title track sounds like it would fit perfectly on his previous release, Skelethon, and shows a nice tightening of the ideas explored on it. The last song, "Bug Zapper", sees Aes rapping about paranoia over an awkward piano line that fits the subject very well. Overall, a solid EP, something that will hopefully be expanded upon on his next full-length.
Amebix Who's the Enemy
Here we witness the beginnings of Amebix, one of the most important names in punk, but also the further development of the crust punk genre. Their debut EP gives insight into what they would eventually become, but also has its own charm to it as well. It shows the riffier side of Amebix on tracks like "Carnage", while also showing their intense punk energy on songs like "Curfew". There's almost black metal-like production values here, with the drums remaining consistently low in the mix and the riffs all being pretty murky. The bass is audible and a great force, especially on "No Gods, No Masters". The vocals are shouted with varying degrees of gruffness, and are typically raw, but understandable and fun to hear. In all, the birth of Amebix helped flesh out crust punk as a genre, which makes this EP an important listen any way you slice it.
Amebix Winter
On Amebix's formative EP's, the blueprint to crust punk was created. On Winter, a two-track, nine minute EP, Rob Miller is the driving force behind it all. Due to the production value on this EP, the guitars and drums are pretty low in the mix, whereas the vocals and bass are at the forefront. However, this gives Miller a chance to shine, as he turns in a fantastic performance both vocally and on the bass, especially on the title-track. In short, it's a great EP, and crust punk fans should definitely hear it.
Ampere/Raein Split
It's pretty much exactly as good as you'd think it would be. Raein's songs are a slight bit longer and have a more melancholy vibe to them, whereas Ampere's songs are bursts of anger and frenetic energy. Four minutes of Raein, three and a half minutes of Ampere, seven and a half minutes of well done screamo. Sweet.
Anberlin Never Take Friendship Personal
Apocalyptica Worlds Collide
Arctic Monkeys Suck It and See
Arctic Monkeys AM
Arctic Monkeys have always been a band I know to be consistent and, for a time during the beginning of their career, brilliant. With their last couple of albums they've lost some of that brilliance, but still manage to make some good tunes. AM follows suit in this sense, as the first half of this album has some great stuff, but the second tends to drag a bit. Songs like "Do I Wanna Know?", "R U Mine?", and "Arabella" work well as late-night rock jams, but many of the slower songs on the album don't really do anything. They could be played in the background at smoky pubs, as can most of Arctic Monkeys' music, but this time around it seems like that is the only discernible intention of the songs. Simply put, it just doesn't feel as genuine as before. Still, it has enough new things, like the sublime backing vocals, to keep it interesting, and to make it a respectable addition into the Arctic Monkeys' discography.
Arsonists Get All the Girls The Game Of Life
Arsonists Get All the Girls Motherland
Atmosphere Leak At Will
August Burns Red Leveler
After creating a modern metalcore masterpiece in Constellations, ABR decided to experiment further on their fourth LP. What follows is the bands most stagnant release, but there is still plenty here to appreciate. The album starts with a bang with "Empire", which quickly transitions into "Internal Cannon", which makes the use of salsa-tinged acoustic guitars that strangely fit well. "Cutting The Ties" stacks up as one of the best songs the band has made to date, with very memorable melodic riffs and uplifting lyrics. Things go downhill after "Pangea", though, as the songwriting loses its experimental edge and the songs slam into each other as a result. Getting through the middle is a chore, and though the closer (also being the title-track) is pretty good, the payoff doesn't quite cut it. Still, the beginning five songs are all excellent, and the band is still doing bigger and better things than the vast majority of their contemporaries.
Autechre Incunabula
Despite it being their debut LP, both Rob Brown and Sean Booth have said that Incunabula is merely a compilation of previously constructed material rather than an album proper. That said, it was released to great reception as part of Warp Records' Artificial Intelligence series. The way Warp Records described the series is as apt of a description as you'll ever get for Incunabula: "For long journeys, quiet nights, and club-drowsy dawns, listen with an open mind." Musically, this record is a collection of swirling ambient techno, but the IDM ideas are certainly there as well. The album is pretty long though, and with the repetition on display here, things can get pretty taxing on some of the longer tracks near the end. And because it is, evidently, just a compilation, the album doesn't flow as well as it could have. In general, though, this is some pretty dense and consuming ambient techno, as Autechre begin to come ever so more slightly into their own.
Autechre Anti
On this interesting little EP, the jazz trio from Toronto put their own spin on songs made by Odd Future's own Tyler The Creator. Tyler has always had a love for jazz and incorporates jazzy influences in some of his music. Naturally, this is a match made in heaven for these artists. Some of the tracks feature Tyler himself rapping over a BBNG rendition of a song he wrote, but where the EP really shines are the two "Session" tracks. Here, it's just BBNG, playing a medley of tracks from Bastard and Goblin. Any fan of jazz will like this, and any Odd Future fan will fall in love with it.
Baths Obsidian
In stark contrast to the mellow, content, and fun debut album of his that was Cerulean, Will Wiesenfeld, or Baths, puts together a dark, nervous album that serves as the antithesis to his acclaimed debut. Even from the opener, "Worsening", you understand that things are much different, as the glitchy downtempo has been replaced with a more subdued, straightforward sound. That is not to say that he's lost his charm, though. You can still tell it's Baths producing the record, and though his work is more stripped back, he lets his voice take the spotlight this time around. The first half of the record is considerably better than the second, with songs like "Ironworks" and "Incompatible" stealing the show. "No Eyes" is, unfortunately, irritating, and a completely awkward and out of place piano line repeatedly interrupts "No Past Lives" constantly. Still, with "Earth Death" and "Inter" being the penultimate and closer respectively, the album ends on a high note. If you think this will be the same Baths you heard on Cerulean, think twice, as he crafts his darkest work here, and manages to do it very competently.
Baths Ocean Death
Between the Buried and Me Between the Buried and Me
Between the Buried and Me The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues
Between the Buried and Me Coma Ecliptic
Rarely ever do you see a band rooted in metalcore have the openness towards and will to do experimentation that Between The Buried And Me have. Though controversial, they've essentially been playing the music they want to play since their inception, and one would have to assume that remains the same with Coma Ecliptic. It's probably their softest offering, leaning heavily on progressive metal, but that's not to say there aren't good moments, despite the first trio of songs being pretty lackluster. "King Redeem/Queen Serene" really picks things up for the album, and the final trio of songs end on a triumphant note both in the context of the concept of the record and for the enjoyment of the record itself. Tommy Rogers has a hodge-podge of a performance, which sometimes can affect the songs pretty deeply, but the instrumentation behind it is solid and does well enough. It is the moments where everyone is on the same page that make moments on this record excellent, and while it's not even close to their best, it's still a decent record and is still distinctly BTBAM.
Blessthefall Blessthefall
Bob Marley and The Wailers Burnin'
Before The Wailers became Bob Marley & The Wailers after founding members Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer took off for solo careers, they released a sort of last hurrah in the form of 1973's Burnin'. While previous releases focused mainly on laid-back themes, much of what is contained on Burnin' is a call to action. With songs like "Get Up, Stand Up", and the oft-covered "I Shot The Sheriff", the album has a more revolutionary feel than previous albums. Still, songs like "Pass It On" still show the peace-loving, dope-smoking side to The Wailers we all know and love. Some of the best songs they've ever written also appear on the album in the form of "Hallelujah Time" and "Burnin' And Lootin'". Don't pass it up if you're a fan of The Wailers and reggae in general.
Bob Marley and The Wailers Soul Rebels
Bon Iver Blood Bank
Aside from a few songs here or there, this is my first taste of Bon Iver. Justin Vernon, the angel-voiced lead singer, is mesmerizing here, especially on the title-track. As far as the sound of the record goes, it's beautiful, often starting out sparsely before building up the sound with more instruments and vocal layers. The use of piano in "Baby's" is a nice touch, and "Woods" is cool and funny in an ironic sense, because what would a guy like Vernon need auto-tune for? It kind of helps dispel the myth that using auto-tune in any way makes you a crappy singer. In short, Blood Blank is really nice indie folk, and it serves as the perfect sample for anyone willing to try out Bon Iver.
Brian Eno Ambient 4: On Land
Brian Eno Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks
Cage The Elephant Cage the Elephant
Carcass Tools of the Trade
Carcinoma Carcinoma
Taking dissonant, loud black/death metal, mixing it with a much quieter form of sludge metal, and having an enjoyable punk edge to it makes Carcinoma's debut EP worth checking out. RYM has this listed under "War Metal" in addition to sludge, and while it's a bit too cleanly produced to be "War Metal", I can see where one may have heard the influence on several occasions during "Inner Tyrants Become External Parasites". Basically, this EP is short, sweet, fun, and has some intense moments during its runtime, as well as some eerie melodic moments too.
City and Colour If I Should Go Before You
"the chances that this album is just a misstep on Green's part are high." - Me, on The Hurry And The Harm. Well, someone better pick up the phone, because I friggin called it! In all seriousness though, Dallas Green has definitely improved since his last album, adding a distinct blues influence and still possessing his unmistakable voice. The songwriting has improved, as evidenced by the catchiness of "Mizzy C", "Killing Time", and "Wasted Love", as well as the structure and atmosphere of tracks like "Woman" and "Blood". The album starts pretty melancholy, but picks up the mood as it goes along. That said, it is still one of Green's darkest projects, and definitely his darkest under the City And Colour moniker. Some longwindedness hurts songs, especially when the formula doesn't vary too much, but it's still a refreshing listen, and it's a good reminder that Green is back on track.
Cloud Nothings Here and Nowhere Else
Code Orange Love Is Love // Return To Dust
Converge Halo in a Haystack
Very few names in the hardcore world carry weight like that of "Converge." What would become one of the most important acts the genre has ever seen started here, on their sloppy yet promising debut album. Opening with "Shallow Breathing/I Abstain", the record gets off to a good start, and though this is much different than the Converge we know and love, you can still hear traces of what they'd eventually evolve into. Other album highlights include "Divinity" and "Antithesis", two longer, but subdued, Converge songs that end up doing the band justice. An interesting record for Converge fans and a decent listen for fans of hardcore, Halo In A Haystack marks the humble beginnings of a band that would become so much more.
Corelia Nostalgia
Crooks Are We All The Same Distance Apart
It's been a long time since I've even appreciated a modern post-hardcore album in this style. The style, of course, is catchy hooks, passionate-yet-simple instrumentation, and an almost alt-rock take on post-hardcore. The latter quality usually kills it for me, as many albums in the style are sterilized and bland. Yet, Crooks do things bigger and better, with an emphasis on Josh Rogers' excellent vocal performance and the simple-yet-effective playing of the guitars and the rhythm section. Songs like opener "Above Me", "A Few Peaceful Days", and closer "Harmony Falls" see the band firing on all cylinders, and the album really comes together in those respective spots. Though it's not that original at all and gets a bit samey towards the end of the record, Crooks have put a good foot forward on their full-length debut, which is honestly a very welcomed surprise.
Cryptopsy The Book of Suffering – Tome 1
Cryptopsy are somewhat of a legendary group within technical death metal, and with releases like No So Vile and Blasphemy Made Flesh, it's not hard to see why. Still, it's been some time since the band has created a superb album, and they're only seven years removed from a widely panned release. That's why it's so good to hear a record like this even in its brevity. It's tight, fast, relentless technical death metal that stands up as the best thing the band has done in nearly a decade. The opener, "Detritus", might even be their best song since 1998's immense Whisper Supremacy. Plenty of blistering tremolos, endless drum fills, and nifty bass work permeate the EP, and the vocals, while not incredible, are pretty solid in their own right. It's going to take a lot to recapture the magic of years past, but the band has made a good step in the right direction here.
Dead in the Manger Transience
After the mysterious black metal collective known as Dead In The Manger released their debut LP, Cessation, it has become clear as to what their EP, Transience, is meant to be. Whereas Cessation featured tightened songwriting and an all-around better sound, Transience shows the bare bones idea of what music the band wanted to craft. Although at this point it seems like a bit of an afterthought, Transience laid the foundation for what Cessation would eventually be: fun melodic tremolos, passionately raw vocals, a bit of sludgy/doomy goodness, and the violent, all-encompassing grind-influenced drumming. And do not be misled, Transience isn't a watered-down Cessation as much as Cessation is a beefed-up Transience, if that makes any sense.
Death Scream Bloody Gore
Death Grips No Love Deep Web
"Bass Rattle Stars Out The Sky" is an appropriate description of a lot of Death Grips' work, but somehow I find that it's not as good of a description of this album compared to the others. The sound is a bit more electronically driven than previous efforts, which would foreshadow Government Plates, but MC Ride is still very much at the forefront of things, especially early on with a career highlight in "Lil Boy". After that point, the quality dips ever so slightly, but remains consistent throughout. The production can range from loud and abrasive ("World Of Dogs"), to relatively subdued ("Artificial Death In The West"). And of course there are the insta-quotable one-liners peppered throughout the album that you can always count on Death Grips for providing ("Lock Your Doors", "Stockton"). In all, a good release from the band, a release which would be built on for their next record.
Death Grips Government Plates
In Death Grips' short career, they were known as one of the loudest, most abrasive bands in years. An outlier, at least by their standards, is Government Plates, which is an electronically-driven album that subdues MC Ride and lets Zach Hill work his magic. Of course, you wouldn't be able to tell this from the first four songs, as they're all classic Death Grips, with MC Ride yelling obscenity-laden verses and hooks over explosive production from Hill. Yet, when "Birds" starts, things become a bit more subtle than usual. Over the next six tracks, the focus of the album is Hill, and he puts together some interesting stuff like "Feels Like A Wheel" and the title-track, but also has a couple of unfortunate duds as well. The closer is uncharacteristically obnoxious; the band has always been good at being aggressive and loud without being annoying, but the closer crosses that line, especially vocally. That being said, this record is unlike anything Death Grips has made, and thus is an important listen in their discography.
DJ Screw Chapter 245 - Waitin' on Slant
According to everything I can find, Waitin' On Slant is Screw's first official tape. I'm sure it's not the first tape he's ever made, but here is as good of a place to start as any. The bare-bones blueprint of chopped and screwed is definitely here, as the songs are slowed down and occasionally chopped up, though certainly not as professionally done as later tapes would be. An hour and forty-five minutes is a lot to digest, though, and there is some filler on this. Still, there are great moments here. An early highlight is N.W.A.'s "F*ck The Police" screwed to the instrumental of Dr. Dre's "Ain't Nuthin' But A G Thang". Near the end, a masterful screw of Public Enemy's "By The Time I Get To Arizona" leaks from the speakers even more smoothly than the original. The recording quality here is pretty lo-fi, which is understandable, but it also gives off that gritty feeling that is lessened a bit on later, more clearly-produced screw tapes. Altogether, this marks a great beginning for one of hip-hops most important artists.
Domo Genesis Rolling Papers
I suppose if the term ?Stoner Rap? is acceptable, then Domo Genesis is probably one of the more famous artists within it, and his debut shows why. Domo's ganja-obessed, smooth lyrics combine effortlessly with some cloudy production by fellow Odd Future members Tyler, The Creator, Left Brain, and Syd Tha Kyd. Tyler drops a couple of nice verses as well, best exemplified with Domo in the jab-trading song,?Super Market?. The subject matter is a bit samey, but overall this is a decent release, one that would only be built upon by Domo Genesis.
Domo Genesis Under The Influence
Domo Genesis No Idols
Drake and Future What a Time to Be Alive
With all the work and time both Drake and Future have put in and are still putting in on their main projects, it seems a little pointless to have a collaboration in only six days. Yet, with all their respective success, why not? The production has a bit of a stronger leaning towards Future's style than Drake's, so naturally he sounds a bit more comfortable on this record. That said, Drake spits some pretty nice verses, and does especially well on his solo song, "30 For 30 Freestyle". At times, the record feels like the B-sides to Dirty Sprite 2 with sprinkles of Drizzy, but a few songs here have both artists equally contributing great stuff, including "Big Rings", "Live From The Gutter", "Diamonds Dancing", and "I'm The Plug". Overall, the Drake and Future collaboration works, and although it may seem a bit unnecessary, it's still a good time, and only really tries to be just that as the two stars celebrate their huge years.
Earl Sweatshirt Doris
Emery You Were Never Alone
To be honest, this is my first full stint with Emery, but I'd be lying if I said I hadn't heard a few songs off of their polarizing 2009 LP In Shallow Seas We Sail. Everything from "post-hardcore's finest" to "the death of post-hardcore" was said about that record. I've never heard it fully, so I can't say. But if what was said echoes any sentiment as to how Emery is as a band, I'd be more inclined to agree with the former statement. Granted, there are a few moments on You Were Never Alone that are cringeworthy, but for the most part, this is some solid and occasionally wonderful post-hardcore/emo, staying within the modern sound of those respective genres. There's a decent lot of experimentation, and while sometimes it isn't exactly great ("Go Wrong Young Man"), other times it can be very tasteful and enjoyable ("Thrash"). The end result of Emery's first independent LP is quite nice, and the high points definitely outweigh the lows.
Eminem Straight from the Lab
While not an official EP, this release by Eminem was meant to tide over rabid fans who were eagerly anticipating his fifth album, Encore. What they got was a collection of decent songs, along with some very clever diss responses. A response to Murder Inc. rapper Ja Rule called "Bully" is the best of these, as it not only shows Em's cleverness on the microphone, but also his ability to keep a tune going, as his delivery is half-sung. Another standout is the track "We As Americans", which features likely his most controversial line in his discography. While not a release for someone looking in to Eminem's discography for the first time, it is a great EP for the hardcore fans of the Detroit rapper, one that shouldn't be passed over if you fall into that category.
Emissary Emissary
Enya Watermark
Escape the Fate There's No Sympathy for the Dead
Before the ridiculously overblown melodrama concerning Ronnie Radke of Escape The Fate and Craig Mabbit of BlessTheFall, the two bands lived in relative peace. BlessTheFall was the better band, and would soon become the template for this style of post-hardcore with the "scene-core" classic, His Last Walk. Still, that doesn't mean Escape The Fate wasn't playing some good music of their own. Opening with the incredibly catchy "Dragging Dead Bodies In Blue Bags Up Really Long Hills", this EP was a surprisingly good release that served as a preview of their fun and catchy debut full length. Though the screams and growls on the record are rough and grating, Ronnie Radke's singing voice is very good, especially on "The Ransom", as song as easy to sing along with as it is to listen to in general. Overall, there's some really catchy and fun post-hardcore to hear on this EP, and if you're a fan of that, then jam away.
Explosions in the Sky Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Explosions In The Sky has become the stereotypical post-rock band. Many feel that they embody everything that is wrong with post-rock i.e. stagnant songwriting, long-windedness, and an air of irritating pretentiousness. Make no mistake, that is often true of many post-rock bands, but when it comes to EITS, it is different. Different, of course, because they do this formula better than anyone else. Is anything new explored on this album? Not really. Is that a bad thing? Not when it is this well done. Take the subtle ambience of "Human Qualities", or the strange catchiness of the main riff of "Postcard From 1952", or the somber, happy-under-stress emotion of "Let Me Back In". These moments are anything but derivative. True, the overall musicianship, style, and formula remains very similar, but the things are easy to overlook if the music is well done and passionate, something this record definitely accomplishes.
Flying Lotus Reset
As we know, Steven Ellison's production style has gone through an evolution from his spacey 1983 days to the whirling jazz fusion of You're Dead! On each album, his sound progresses further. So, as far as the often overlooked Reset goes, it acts as a midway point between Ellison's debut and the critically acclaimed Los Angeles. Here, there are elements of trip-hop, glitch-hop, experimental electronic, and even doses of wonk at work. Two songs stand out in particular: the sensual opener "Tea Leaf Dancers", and the chilled and relaxed "Massage Situation", which was often used in Adult Swim commercials after it was released. In all, it's a pretty slick collection of stuff that could be used as an easy entry point into Flying Lotus' discography.
God Is an Astronaut A Moment of Stillness
Haste the Day That They May Know You
Haste the Day Coward
This marks the second straight year a band I used to jam in middle school has returned from hiatus. Needless to say, this album was a wave of nostalgia for me, but for a new listener, it won't be. That being said, this album does have some great melodies and riffs, with the two vocalists trading off well done harsh vocals song after song. The drumming is as good as it's ever been, and some great songs are made here, closer "Gnaw" being of particular note. So, if you need a solid slab of modern metalcore, Haste The Day has you covered.
Hester Prynne The Goswell Divorce
Underground deathcore band Hester Prynne hails from Kansas City and does deathcore right: fun, fast-paced, some decent breakdowns, and a death metal-like energy. The album, though not exactly a story, is kind of a concept album, dealing with a divorce due to infidelity, and the lovers revenge in murder. And it's actually not half bad. True, it would be nothing without the music behind it, and the band takes care of that well. With excellent drumming fronted by guitars with menacing tones, the instrumental work is very good. The vocals are generally easy to understand, and though they can get grating, are pretty well done. The album isn't all breakneck speed and breakdowns, though. Take for instance a few synthy breaks placed in the middle of "That Night, A Forest Grew", and "Bad For Business", and the ambient intro to "Seventeen Is My Favorite Number." The best moment on the record is "Leann Legore", in which a very atmospheric build-up interrupts a monstrous romp. This explodes into a wonderfully crafted guitar solo, which leads into an intricate breakdown. Overall, a solid release from a little-known band.
Hodgy Beats Untitled
Horsepower Productions In Fine Style
I Killed The Prom Queen Beloved
So many breakdowns... So much nostalgia... This brings me back!
Iced Earth Iced Earth
Iced Earth's debut has much more of a thrash metal sound than the power metal sound they are now famous for, but that doesn't make it any less good. The licks by Randall Shawver and Jon Schaffer are really nice, and the album is excellent lyrically despite having two instrumental tracks, which are both good. Gene Adams' vocals are the main detractor, though (They're really bad), and Mike McGill's drumming is nothing to write home about either. Despite that, the album is still able to hold its own pretty well.
Iced Earth Enter the Realm
This is Iced Earth's first release, a demo, which has the best songs on their self-titled sans "When The Night Falls", along with a couple of songs that don't appear on any of their studio albums. It essentially has the same strengths and weaknesses that their self-titled had, but some fat is cut off here. "Enter The Realm" is a nice intro, and serves as a part 1 to "Colors". Then we have "Nightmares", which is a very solid song that has a nice mix of thrash metal riffs and power metal solos, showing the link between the two genres that the band would become famous for combining on albums like Burnt Offerings and Night Of The Stormrider.
Interpol Antics
Intervals In Time
Intervals A Voice Within
Jack The Giant Killer Dead Mans Demo
The crap that is most of deathcore is quite deplorable, but every once and a while a good band will spring up like this one did. The vocalist's high scream is absolutely bone-chilling, and the guitarists are quite technical for deathcore. There's even a solo in the last song, and it's fantastic. Complementing the technical guitars, the drummer's fills really spruce up the tracks as well. The lyrics might be a bit immature, and it's really short, but it makes up for it in this regard.
James Blake Overgrown
It's one thing to be a singer-songwriter with your own guitar, but a totally different thing to be a singer-songwriter with your own beats. The latter describes James Blake, who composes ethereal electronic music rooted in dubstep only to grace the beat with his voice afterwards. This is exemplified perfectly in the opener/title-track, and only gets stronger with the catchy "Life 'Round Here". RZA of Wu-Tang Clan makes an appearance on "Take A Fall For Me", offering up his rapping abilities to complement an excellent beat. Things get a bit more stripped down in the piano-driven "DLM", but it starts right back up on "Digital Lion". Though the next two tracks are a bit lackluster, the album ends on a great note with "Our Love Comes Back." Point being, this album is a good one from James Blake, one that fans of angelic voices and atmospheric production should hear.
Jedi Mind Tricks The Psycho-Social
Johnny Cash Johnny Cash With His Hot And Blue Guitar
Joyce Manor Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired
Joyce Manor's brand of emo-tinged pop-punk, usually played in short bursts of songs, is as fun as it is passionate. OATIWSGT is no different, being an effective album that has a nice amount of substance despite its extremely short runtime. Granted, it's not as fun as their latest album (Never Hungover Again), and not as impassioned as their debut, but there are some great tracks here, such as the catchy, synthy "See How Tame I Can Be" and the punk romp of "Video Killed The Radio Star". It's very accessible, and there aren't any necessarily bad songs, although some ("Drainage", "I'm Always Tired") are indeed filler. Check it out if you like pop-punk and you've got fifteen minutes to spare.
Kayo Dot Stained Glass
It's funny when you listen to something expecting one thing, and then you get a totally different thing that while initially a surprise ends up being pretty damn sweet. That's me hearing this EP, the first work I've ever heard of Kayo Dot's. From what I can gather, this is a pretty stripped down and sparse album from the band, but in no way does that make it bad. It is predominately ambient with beautiful xylophone, saxophone, slight guitar feedback, and even a few quaint drones here and there. It's actually pretty mesmerizing, but also tense, as you're waiting for an explosion of sound that hints at coming but never does. It's quite interesting and enjoyable, and I will be very content to hear more material from this band in the future.
Kendrick Lamar Kendrick Lamar
King Woman Doubt
Kristina Esfandiari, the ex-lead singer of Whirr, has been a part of the modern shoegaze scene for a time now. After distancing herself from the often brash and rude (even to their own fanbase) Whirr, she seems to have found herself in a great position with her new band, King Woman. There are dreamy textures created not only by the guitars, but also by Esfandiari's voice. Evocative melodies in "King Of Swords" and "Burn" make the middle of this EP the strongest part, but in the long run, the closer is the only lackluster track. It's a good EP that effortlessly mixes shoegaze and sludge metal, but I can't escape the feeling that they're holding something back. Hopefully they'll show us what that is if and when they release a full length record.
Knives Exchanging Hands The War Of Speech, The Weapon Of Words
Krallice Krallice
Here we see the establishment of a sound both typical and atypical of black metal that can only be described as "Krallice". You know what that means, undoubtedly: hyper-technical tremolos, relentless drumming, sparse vocals, and long songs. It's a formula that they've since made adjustments to, but as it stood in 2008, it was as good an idea as any they've had as a band. Alas, some of the songs here, namely closer "Forgiveness In Rot", seemingly meander along, with not much new being implemented into the song for what seems like minutes at a time. On the other hand, tracks like "Molec Codices" and "Timehusk" progress very well and no single section really overstays its welcome. As a whole, the record is good, yet still a bit unrefined. It's good to know that in the future, Krallice would build off of this release and manage to tighten up their songwriting while doing so.
La Dispute Rooms of the House
Left Spine Down Smartbomb
Much like how Genghis Tron mixed grindcore and electronic music, Left Spine Down operates with hardcore mixed with digitized electronic breakbeats. On their debut EP, they tastefully combine the two genres to make some really fun music. On opener "Last Daze", a catchy chorus and infectious synths get things started very well. The formula continues into the next three songs, with "Hang Up" being an obvious highlight. Solid, but not too overbearing, this is a great digital hardcore release, and should be heard by any fans of the genre.
Lorde The Love Club
lovechild demonstration
lovechild In Heaven, Everything is Fine
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis VS.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis The Heist
It has been two years since "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us" all but consumed the radio, and I'm sure we've all been grateful for that, but credit is definitely due to the pop-rap duo for showing that an independent artist can take over the music world, and in some ways transcend into pop culture. The album itself isn't the greatest thing in the world, but it has its moments. The production by Ryan Lewis is of particular note, because he puts together a solid project from end to end. Macklemore himself puts in a generally good performance, like on "Ten Thousand Hours", "Make The Money", "Jimmy Iovine", and "Starting Over", but can drop some pretty cringeworthy lines here and there. The differential in quality on the record reflects the the two artists abilities. When you combine Macklemore's penchant for storytelling with a rapid-fire beat from Lewis, you get "Jimmy Iovine". When you combine Macklemore's nagging soapbox corniness with snore-inducing production from Lewis, you get "Neon Cathedrals". Still, there is more good to be found than bad on the record, and there is no questioning the effort put into it. That said, this is a good pop-rap record, and a very accessible way for people to get into either genre.
Malthusian Below the Hengiform
Sounding like an impenetrable cavern with magma oozing from the walls, this Dublin quartet plays some very solid death/doom metal, but with a wonderful black metal aesthetic and atmosphere to it. This EP of theirs may only be three tracks, but they have an average length of about eight minutes, so there's a lot of material to digest here. The whole thing is very consistent, and while there aren't exactly any moments that truly floor the listener, it's still a good listen in and of itself. The production here is the main selling point, as it takes the riffs and turns them into some ugly death/doom trudging. At the very least, this EP makes me interested in what they could do on a full-length, which I'm certainly anticipating.
Manners Apparitions
Maths The Fires Courting The Sea
Solid, no-frills screamo has always been Maths' forte, and on their first record in four years, things are no different. Lasting all of ten minutes, The Fires Courting The Sea is as straightforward of a screamo record as you can get, and though it definitely doesn't do anything new, it's still an enjoyable and easily digestible listen, one that can act as the perfect introduction to the band. It's all packaged right here in a neat little EP, so give it a spin if you like screamo and you've got ten minutes.
Meek Mill Dreamchasers
Meek Mill Dreams Worth More Than Money
Meek Mill is a guy I've always considered to be one of the better lyricists in trap rap. Granted, that isn't saying much, but he's at the very least competent lyrically, while also having a fantastic presence on the microphone, a charged and heavy-handed delivery, and that contagious charisma that every trap rapper needs. He does all of this in spades on his sophomore full-length, and manages to surprise near the end of the album as well. While things get off to a roaring start with "Lord Knows", there isn't a song matching it's quality for a while, even though they are still good fun. Still, once "Check" comes through, it starts a chain of five excellent songs that end the album on a wonderful note. The penultimate track "Stand Up" does a great job of setting up the closer "Cold Hearted", which is one of the best things Meek Mill has done to date. All in all, it's fun, charismatic trap that can be pretty interesting when it wants to be, and that's a welcome surprise.
MellowHype Yellowhite
Mike G ALI
Miles Davis Birth of the Cool
Ministry The Land of Rape and Honey
Ministry wasn't always making aggressive industrial metal that shot themselves to the forefront of the genre. In their early days they made synthpop, and eventually evolved into EBM a la Skinny Puppy. The Land Of Rape And Honey acts as a midway point of their final transformation from EBM into full-on industrial metal, and it's pretty good. The one-two punch of the catchy "Stigmata" and the punk-sounding "The Missing" is an excellent way to start the album, which progressively gets more electronically driven as it goes forward, beginning with the wonderfully bassy "Golden Dawn". By the time "Abortive" ends, the album has gone back to its EBM roots, but the bridge to future releases like Psalm 69 was definitely created with this record, especially in the first trio of songs.
Ministry Twitch
Standing around the tables spinning fables and signing autographs. Can't your hear them laugh in their secrecies? They plan their strategies and it's called hypocrisy and we believe. Mornings, they tell me all I need to know, or I care to know. Well I can visualize the look in your eyes, the horror as the plane goes down and the siren sounds. We can't believe. We can't believe. In the east where the bear is dancing, in the west where the eagle flies. In the middle we stand our ground, the forces pull us down, down, down. We're paralyzed and victimized, we're terrified and petrified, demoralized and mortified. Of genocide and suicide and patricide and cyanide, we're pacified by every side, force-fed pride, and then we die for them. We die for them.
Moby Everything is Wrong
If it's one thing I have to give Richard Hall, A.K.A. Moby, credit for, it's his eclecticism regarding electronic music. This type of style eventually helped dance music and electronic music reach the mainstream, but at the time Everything Is Wrong was made, it wasn't quite out of the underground yet. Still, the blueprints are here, with several genres including house, techno, jungle, downtempo, and even ambient are touched on throughout these tracks. Moby acts as a sort of jack-of-all-trades on this record; he's not particularly excellent at any one of the genres explored, but he is at the very least good with each of them. In this sense, Everything Is Wrong is like a smorgasbord of electronic music, showing the genres as they generally are, but encouraging further exploration into them by not being exceptionally original or experimental.
Muddy Waters Folk Singer
Municipal Waste Hazardous Mutation
Muse Muse
My Bloody Valentine Glider
Everyone has at least heard of MBV, likely because of their 1991 magnum opus Loveless, which is often hailed as one of the greatest shoegaze albums of all time. However, MBV had been a relatively successful band before they released their masterpiece, having released a full length and a slew of EP's beforehand. One of them is Glider, and it showcases some excellent songwriting and developing ideas. The opener, "Soon", would later be the closer of Loveless, so most know that song already. "Glider" however is a weird piece that is made of screeching guitars. The last two songs on the record, "Don't Ask Why" and "Off Your Face", are two great songs that employ an early version of the style MBV would later perfect: taking dream pop songs and draping them in weird noises, distortion, and droning. All in all, a very good transitional EP that marked an important crossroad in the bands style.
Nechochwen Heart of Akamon
Nechochwen have always been extremely intrigued by Native American culture and lore, and this reflects in their sound and lyrics. On Heart Of Akamon, things get off to a blistering and gripping start with "The Serpent Tradition", which is rife with melodic black metal riffs and well-interspersed folk passages. Unfortunately, the album doesn't quite get back to the prowess of the opener, but there are other parts worth hearing. "October 6, 1813" is a great dark folk song, and after "Traversing The Shades Of Death", no lyrics are sung or spoken until two minutes are left in closer "Kiselamakong", bringing a nice change of pace to the album as a result. During this period, the songs do become a bit more formulaic, and thus predictable, but it is a nice listen in general. As a whole, Heart Of Akamon is a good pagan black metal/dark folk record, with an interesting and tasteful Native American theme coming through in the lyrics.
New Order Power, Corruption and Lies
New Order Brotherhood
Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, and Stephen Morris, the guys behind New Order and also Joy Division, are some of the most influential people in the entire post-punk genre. That said, they are also highly influential when it comes to dance music, and with albums like Brotherhood, it's not hard to see why. Musically, it's a bit different from releases like Low-Life, with a first half that harkens back to the Joy Division days with electric and acoustic guitars, bass, and an emphasis on atmosphere. The second half of the album brings it back to the 80's dance scene, with such classics as "Bizarre Love Triangle" stealing the show. Altogether, it's a really solid album with some flashes of true brilliance shining through on tracks like "Paradise" and "As It Is When It Was", so it's quite impressive that despite the creative clashes the band members were having, they were able to release a record as cohesive as this.
Nicolas Jaar Nymphs II
A minimalistic electronic ambient soundscape with some sprinkles of downtempo and IDM is what this latest two-track EP from New York's own Nicolas Jaar is packed with. Though it may only be fifteen minutes, it's a quite interesting and calming fifteen minutes. "The Three Sides Of Audrey And Why She's All Alone Now" sets the stage with a beautifully tranquil atmosphere which builds bit by bit into something slightly bigger. It's subdued, but a keen ear will hear the subtle influences from the house genre as well as IDM. "No One Is Looking At U" takes the atmosphere from the opener and runs with it, but takes an even more subdued route than its predecessor. It's a nice EP, it's very easy to listen to, and any fan of ambient electronic should enjoy this.
Norma Jean The Anti Mother
Taking a departure from the metalcore-played-straight route they took on Redeemer, Norma Jean opts for a melodic hardcore approach with small hints of post-metal interweaved throughout the tracklist. This might not be readily apparent on opener "Vipers, Snakes, And Actors", but once "Self Employed Chemist" comes bursting through the speakers in a bevy of melodic chords and riffs overlapped by half-shouting-half-singing vocals, the change is very noticeable. This is probably Norma Jean at their simplest, and you know? They put together their best effort at the time (sans O God, of course), so it obviously did them some good. It's nothing that reinvents the wheel, but this is some solid and occasionally fantastic melodic hardcore from a band that would only get better as the years went on, building off of this release in particular.
Opeth Orchid
Paramore All We Know Is Falling
Parov Stelar Kisskiss
Parov Stelar is a prolific electronic music producer who is known for being one of pioneers of electro swing. What we have here is a smooth little EP that has enough jazz to be soothing, but enough backing bass and beats to get you moving as well. The best instance of all this is "Super Eight", where an addicting bassline sets the tone for a piano to play lines and solos all over. It's definitely easy listening, and while it's really nothing all that spectacular, it is incredibly solid and provides a really nice feel to it. Check it out for a quick, fun electronic jazz EP.
Passion Pit Chunk of Change
For reasons unknown to me, Passion Pit forgot how to toe the line between whimsical and just plain irritating. Still, when they were created, they did know how, and they do it very well on Chunk Of Change. Things are cute, but never too cute. Things are sappy, but never too sappy. The result is an infectiously fun electropop/indietronica record that is brimming with charm. Some moments on this EP might slightly overstep the boundary, but for the most part everything is done in good taste. Take for instance that really catchy synth chorus in "Sleepyhead". That easily could have been overdone, but it was done tastefully, and thus retains its charm. In all, it's a good, fun electropop EP with some wonderful synth melodies.
Pixies Surfer Rosa
Pomegranate Tiger Entities
Primordial A Journey's End
Primordial Imrama
Primordial has a reputation for being one of the most consistent (and occasionally brilliant) Celtic black metal bands in existence. Their debut reflects this very well, even if it might be a bit samey at times. This is more of a black metal release than it is Celtic metal, but there are moments here that show hints of what the band would become. "Beneath A Bronze Sky" is an acoustic piece that also features flutes and clean vocals, and it transitions into an absolute beast of a closer in "Awaiting The Dawn". Other highlights include the passionate "Here I Am King" and the mesmerizing "The Darkest Flame". The vocals on the album are pretty haunting, as Nemtheanga turns in a shrieking, ghoulish performance. With a story regarding soul-searching through Irish mythology, the foundation was set for Primordial to turn in more great albums in the future.
Protest the Hero A Calculated Use of Sound
Protest the Hero Volition
Protest The Hero have always been known for their ability to play their respective instruments at a ridiculous level, even at the young age of sixteen. Whereas when they started, it seemed they always had some sort of political message behind their music, they gradually drifted away from that, in the process losing some of the magic that had captivated listeners on Kezia. 2011's Scurrilous was an admittedly fun record, but it left a lot to be desired. Now, with 2013's Volition, they are still sweeping-picking and shredding away, but this time more urgency and maturity. Walker's vocals have improved, evident even from the first lines of "Clarity". While a bit on the inconsistent side, Volition has some of the best songs Protest The Hero have ever made ("Mist", "Plato's Tripartite", "Skies"), proving that even after eleven years, Protest The Hero still have it, and are still relatively young to boot.
Radioactivity Silent Kill
On Radioactivity's sophomore record, the solid punk jams they employed on their debut translate again, with the quality of the record staying the course throughout the twenty-six minute length. Catchy and never overbearing, the vocals and instrumentals are quite fun, and although the album generally sounds the same throughout, it's still an enjoyable listen. The album does suffer from tracks bleeding into each other, and as such, the album does lose some steam by the end. That being said, there are isolated moments of brilliance hidden throughout, like the guitar solo on "Pretty Girl" and the underlying bass on "With You". Everything considered, it's still solid punk rock, and you're a fan of that, this should obviously be right up your alley.
Radiohead Hail to the Thief
Up until this point, most of what Radiohead had made was very well received, to put it lightly. Hail To The Thief is an album that people are so what divided on. Some call it a lukewarm offering from the band, and others call it a continuation of their greatness. For my part, I find Hail To The Thief to be a bit of a hodgepodge. The first three songs are great, but "Backdrifts" unfortunately kills the momentum. "We Suck Young Blood" is a classic Radiohead song, full of unnerving piano and wonderful bass, but is followed by a series of relatively unspectacular songs. They're nice, good even, but seem pretty nondescript aside from "A Punch Up At A Wedding". The album does close magnificently, though, as "A Wolf At The Door" recaptures the emotional and passionate side of the band that is somewhat lost on the previous group of tracks. That all said, it's a good record, with classic Radiohead moments, but it just doesn't stack up to their best releases.
Rogue Wave Permalight
Rush Caress of Steel
Rush Fly by Night
Rush Rush
Rush, at least as we know them today, are one of the most legendary bands to ever play progressive rock. However, their roots are much more simple. Taking a heavy amount of influence from bands like Led Zeppelin and Cream, their debut reflects this sound in a big way. That's not to say that Rush shamelessly ripped their influences off, though. Great songs like "Finding My Way", "Here Again", and "Working Man" prove that even before they became prog legends, Rush could write songs. Though Neil Peart isn't on this album, his predecessor, John Rutsey, is great in his own right on this record. Geddy Lee's vocals are great, his bass audible and is very fun to hear. Still, it is Alex Lifeson that truly makes the record, with his excellent solos and hard rock riffs dominating the album. A great start, indeed.
Sadistik The Balancing Act
No one really knew who Cody Foster, A.K.A Sadistik, was about seven years ago. Now, he's gained a lot of steam very quickly in the underground, in part due to an extremely dedicated fanbase. His beginnings are seen here on The Balancing Act, in which he describes to us how he must balance out his issues and pain with good things in life. As far as the sound of this record goes, there isn't much straying from saddening piano and strings that permeate the beats, and Sadistik himself is very emotionally distraught. Occasionally, this can become melodramatic, but he ends the album on a hopeful note with "The Exception To Everything." Sadistik is very comparable to the sadder raps from Slug (one-half of Atmosphere), both in sound and sometimes in flow. Though the album sounds a bit samey, songs like "Ashes To Ashley", "Absolution", "Murder Of Crows", and "November" are some truly fantastic tracks that shouldn't be missed. Though Sadistik perfected this sound on Flowers For My Father, his debut is certainly good enough to warrant a listen from fans of personal, intimate hip-hop.
Self Defense Family Talia b/w Taxying
To be honest, this is my first taste of Self Defense Family, a band which has been well-known for being remarkably hardworking, churning out albums, EP's, singles, and splits like it's just another day at the office. Their music however, is anything but. "Talia" opens with a distinct western twang to the guitars, and the gruff vocals fit excellently. The song swells near the end, adding pianos and harmonicas to the mix to create a wonderful ending. "Taxying" sounds a bit more standard, but audible bass work and a nice guitar line manage to make a pretty good song. Altogether, a pretty good release from the band, who I personally can't wait to hear more of.
Sensory Deprivation Godspeed
Stuff like this is why I love music, and why I love following it. To see the very beginnings of something that could someday be astonishing, and to watch it grow. Godspeed to you, indeed.
Silence Lies Fear Future​:​ The Return
Usually, when something is cleanly produced, it runs the risk of sounding sterile and emotionless. This is oftentimes a trap that metal bands tend to fall into, and initially, that was my impression of Silence Lies Fear. Yet, upon further listening, the album finds other ways to succeed in spite of the production. There is a lot of energy within these tracks, something that melodeath must have, that fights through the production and makes itself known. The songs themselves are all very solid, and make excellent use of piano on most of them. Also, a nice range of emotion is explored here, through melancholy to urgent to uplifting. The songs sometimes do bleed into each other, though, and the lack of a truly great track besides the opener deepens this effect. Still, this is a solid slab of melodeath, and though it looks like something that would be emotionless and boring, it defies that notion by being energetic and having discernible feelings.
Son Lux Alternate Worlds
Sorority Noise Joy, Departed
A nice blend of pop-punk, emo, and acoustic rock, the sophomore effort from Hartford's own Sorority Noise is an exercise in catchy, fun, and relatable indie punk. The effective one-two punch of opener "Blissth" and "Corrigan" starts things out on the right foot with their memorable choruses, but softer escapades like "Fluorescent Black", "Your Soft Blood", and "Fuchsia" are just as enjoyable in their own right due to their quaint instrumentals and beautiful vocals. The best song, however, is "Using", a heartfelt memoir of dealing with addiction and feeling suicidal, with a fantastic climax that ends in a triumph. The album might not do anything new by any means, and loses a bit of gas by the end, but it's still a nice listen for fans of pop-punk with an indie rock tinge.
Structures All of the Above
Sunn O))) Flight of the Behemoth
Sunn O))) is one of the loudest bands out there, and it makes at lot of sense, seeing as how they started as a tribute to drone metal kings Earth. On their second album, Flight Of The Behemoth, the band makes it known that they're their own band through five punishing drone/doom tracks. The first two tracks, "Mocking Solemnity" and "Death Becomes You", are solid, contemporary drone metal tracks that set the tone for the album right from the get go. The two "O))) Bow" tracks feature some wonky piano and invading static that come to the forefront of the drones quite easily. The last track, "F.W.T.B.T.", is the best one, featuring some nasty grooves as well as sparse drums and beastial, atmospheric growling noises that may or may not be vocals; I can't really tell. Overall, a record full of bleak soundscapes that began to establish Sunn O))) as a force in drone music.
Surgeon Basictonalvocabulary
One of the more interesting producers to come out of the Birmingham techno scene, Surgeon is a self-made man, having his own record company named after one of his EP's, Dynamic Tension. This album of his takes a bit of patience to fully appreciate, as the tracks may first seem boring, but on further inspection are very textured and interesting. He uses mind-numbing repetition (and I mean this in the best way possible), to create a paranoid and unsettling atmosphere. The assembly-line noises that permeate "Depart" are a nice touch, whereas the glitchy nature of "First" is quite unnerving. An eerie ambient track, "Waiting", is an excellent feature, and "Scorn" makes itself known as a hypnotic mess of electronic noises that sounds jumbled, but is actually very structured. And though the first half of the album doesn't quite do as much as the second, the album is still an interesting listen from an interesting individual.
Swans Cop
No one's kidding when they say there isn't anything quite like early Swans records. What has been described as "the pinnacle of Swans' brutality", Cop is certainly a monolithic and destructive record. Surprisingly, though, it is fairly sparse in its instrumentation, mainly consisting of methodical drums, industrial guitars and other noises that sound like the inside of a factory. The middle of the album is very well done, with four straight punches to the face in the form of "Why Hide", "Clay Man", "Your Property", and the title-track. Michael Gira is once again the driving force, and is quite unnerving on the record as well as being lyrically adept. The problem with the album is that most of the songs follow the same formula, and sometimes bleed together as a result. However, the homogenous aspect of the songwriting is pummeled by how well done the tracks really are. Surely, Cop is not an album to overlook if you are a Swans fan, or a fan of noise rock in general.
Talking Heads Fear of Music
I have a weird relationship with Talking Heads. I believe that can best be expressed by my opinion of David Byrne: talented, zany, sometimes endearing and humorous, sometimes irritating. Brian Eno handles the production here, and it's clear he had a good influence on them, especially on some of the weirder tracks. Overall, it's pretty scatterbrained, and sometimes this is a good thing, but other times it's not. "I Zimbra" and "Drugs" are two examples of experimentation done correctly and tastefully, while songs like "Animals" are awkward and sometimes even aggravating. Still, the instrumentation is fantastic, and Byrne does do well, but the album could have done without some of the experimentation. It's a small step down from More Songs About Buildings And Food, but it's still a good album in its own right, and serves a clear transition between the pop-influenced Talking Heads of old and the more experimental Talking Heads we know now.
Tenacious D Tenacious D
Terminally Your Aborted Ghost Suicide As Self Expression
Terminally Your Aborted Ghost was another one of those brutal death metal bands that won't ever get the respect they are due because of the scene they were associated with. Their debut demo, one that this release remastered, was just the beginning of an intense, technical, and nihilistic take on brutal death metal and slam death metal. Of course, there are problems that befall the band, such as sometimes resorting to the stereotypical "bree-bree" vocals, and some choppy songwriting here or there. As such, it's not the greatest representation of the band's abilities, but it is certainly a good listen that let whoever listened know they were full of potential.
TesseracT One
The Black Dahlia Murder Unhallowed
The Black Dahlia Murder Ritual
Melodic death metal with relentless drumming, At The Gates-inspired riffing, crazy solos, shrieking and howling lead vocals, and over-the-top lyrics? It's a The Black Dahlia Murder record alright. One of the things I've come to appreciate about them other than their remarkable album-to-album consistency is that you can always rely on them for a great opener. "A Shrine To Madness" just might be their best, as it not only is an excellent song on its own, but it really sets the tone for the rest of Ritual. No song other than "The Window" and closer "Blood In The Ink" ever really comes close, but that's not to say there isn't some good stuff elsewhere. Still, the issues with this record are the same with all of the other records from TBDM: not entirely original, occasionally boring, and relatively samey. Still, this is a good melodic death metal record full of energy (as if they'd ever release anything but), with a couple of career highlights on the tracklist.
The Black Dahlia Murder Abysmal
At this point, you know what you're going to get when you listen to a TBDM record: fast-paced, energetic, and sometimes over-the-top melodeath that does nothing for originality but a lot of things for fun. Abysmal is absolutely no different. The album actually shines a bit after the start as the title-track, "Re-Faced", and "Threat Level No.3" form a triple-headed monster that features the best songwriting on the record. The rest of the album is decent enough to keep you there until closer "That Cannot Die Which Eternally Is Dead" mashes you with a quality similar to the aforementioned trio. In all, this record isn't going to make the band any new fans, but it will most certainly satisfy the ones they already have.
The Black Keys The Big Come Up
The Black Keys Magic Potion
The Contortionist Apparition
The Contortionist Language
The Contortionist has been received as one of the best deathcore bands in recent history. Their debut album, Exoplanet, was a breath of fresh air in a very stale deathcore scene, taking traditional deathcore elements and mixing them with elements of djent, ambient, and progressive metal in the vein of Cynic. They shed most of their deathcore influence on 2011's Intrinsic, which was met with mixed reactions. Now, they have released a more focused and all around better album in Language. The clean vocals employed on Intrinsic make a return here, but they fit much better with the music this time around. The first three tracks are excellent, melding all of their influences into this third of the album, even harkening back to their Exoplanet days on "Language II: Conspire". The middle of the album, though, is a bit of a drag. Songs like "Integration" and "Arise" are sort of just there, not really doing anything. However, the album does close on a strong note with "The Parable", which is entirely indicative of what The Contortionist can, and hopefully will, accomplish in the future.
The Cure Three Imaginary Boys
Here we see the humble beginnings of a band that was to become one of the most famous, and most important, in the history of gothic rock and post-punk. This record consists of catchy, bassy post-punk that is very solid throughout its runtime. It's true standout moment is the title-track, which takes the aforementioned formula and combines it with swirling guitars and echoing vocals. It takes a bit to get to this standout track, though, and while no track on the record is bad, some of them can bleed into each other a bit due to the repetitive nature of the formula the band decides to go with here. Still, it clocks in at a mere thirty-three minutes, so you're certainly not wasting much time if you don't enjoy the record. All in all, a very nice debut from The Cure, but one that is much different from the next trio of records they would go on to make within the gothic rock genre.
The Cure Seventeen Seconds
The Devil Wears Prada With Roots Above and Branches Below
The Dillinger Escape Plan Miss Machine
The Dillinger Escape Plan The Dillinger Escape Plan
The Faceless Autotheism
The Haggis Horns What Comes To Mind
It's always nice to hear an older style of music done well by a modern band or group. In the case of this eight-piece ensemble from Leeds called The Haggis Horns, that style is 70's deep funk. Beginning with a triumphant start in "Return Of The Haggis", each and every that follows on this record is brimming with jazzy horns, and underlying bass that provides a perfect backbone. Occasionally, though, some songs may overstay their welcome a bit. While it's certainly not reinventing the wheel, it's a good listen, flowing with positive vibes and a feel-good attitude. Essentially, if you want some good modern funk that is not only well rooted within the old 70's style, but is also immediately accessible and danceable, then What Comes To Mind is a record you're going to want to check out.
The Killers Hot Fuss
The Lonely Island Incredibad
The Number Twelve Looks Like You Nuclear, Sad, Nuclear
TNTLLY has always been one of the strangest mathcore bands out there. Their debut was an insane mix of mathcore, grind, and progressive metal that sounded like nothing else out there. With their sophomore release, the band opts to ditch a lot of their grind sound in favor of more subdued passages and songs, but still contains the mathcore edge they're known for. The album opens in the exact opposite way you'd expect it to by implementing an almost salsa-like riff before exploding into a rage. "The Proud Parent's Convention In The ER" ends with guitars that sound almost like train whistles, and "Remembrance Dialogue" has a very post-rock like sound, complete with lots of guitar feedback. The album closes with "Category", which ends with a beautiful acoustic guitar passage. The album fits these moments in between moments of complete chaos the way only TNTLLY can, and even though some of the songs are a bit unmemorable, manages to be a nice addition to the bands' discography.
The Number Twelve Looks Like You An Inch of Gold for An Inch of Time
The Number Twelve Looks Like You Mongrel
12 has always been and band whose style is hard to put into words. In a way, they are very scatterbrained and randomized, but retain moments of calculated structure as well. Mongrel is no different, given the tranquil and subdued experimentation woven within abrasive, spontaneous mathcore riffing and drumming. This is not the 12 you heard on Put On Your Rosy Red Glasses, or even Nuclear, Sad, Nuclear. This is the bands tightest, most technically proficient effort so far in their discography. The grind influence that shone on their debut is all but gone, and the sloppy play of their sophomore effort has turned tighter this time around. Still, some of charm of those previously mentioned qualities is missed. The vocals are still absolutely insane, but they aren't as intelligible on this record as opposed to previous works. All of this is very apparent on songs like "Imagine Nation Express", "Jaywalking Backwards", "Grandfather", and "Alright... I Admit It, It Was A Whorehouse", and although the record definitely loses some steam near the end, this is still a great effort from the band, even if it's not their best.
The Panacea Chiropteran
The Prodigy Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned
The Prodigy has always had a reputation for making massive albums. I don't just mean massive in length, but in sound as well. There is rarely a dull moment to be found with The Prodigy. That again rings true on Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. This 2004 release received mixed reviews, but it has aged well a decade later. Some of their best tracks are found on this record in the form of "Spitfire", "Memphis Bells" and "Phoenix". Another interesting song is "Medusa's Path", which is one of the few songs in The Prodigy's discography that does not contain a vocal sample. Though the album drags a bit in the middle, The Prodigy still manage to excite on this record. If this is the worst thing they've made, I'd say they have a collection of albums that they can be proud of.
The Prodigy The Day Is My Enemy
The Prodigy have always been known as a consistent group within the electronic scene, and have been described as "the outsiders with a rocker attitude." This statement is still true on their sixth full length, though it takes a bit to come to fruition. The first half of the album is plagued with irritating samples, which in a repetitive genre such as this is always a downfall. However, once "Beyond The Deathray" begins, things change. The song lets you know something massive is approaching, and in this case it happens to be six straight banging romps. They not only save the album of being a very mediocre offering, but end the album on a fantastic note, "Medicine" being the highlight of all of this. It makes me wish they had just released the last seven tracks as an EP, which, in my opinion, would have been a doozy. Overall, a good addition to The Prodigy's discog, even with the first half bogging it down.
The War on Drugs Wagonwheel Blues
Since perfecting their sound on Lost In The Dream, The War On Drugs has become one of the more prominent faces in heartland rock nowadays. Their debut, while raw and a bit underwhelming, is more charismatic and fun than the subsequent Slave Ambient and is a solid record as a whole. The first two songs, "Arms Like Boulders" and "Taking The Farm", showcase the catchier, more straightforward side of the band, whereas longer songs like "There Is No Urgency" and "Show Me a The Coast" show the bands penchant for beautifully structured, dreamy-sounding pieces. There is variety on the record, as the plethora of instruments ranging from traditional rock gear to harmonicas and violins will show you, and the band is adept at playing them all. While it does suffer from some songs that go absolutely nowhere, this record has enough great things on it to warrant a listen.
The War on Drugs Barrel of Batteries EP
The debut EP from the heartland rock sextet from Philly, this small record consists of three contemporary songs and three ambient interludes. The interludes are nice, if inessential, but they don't do much worth talking about. As for the other three songs, "Arms Like Boulders" is still the best thing they've done pre-Lost In The Dream, and "Buenos Aires Beach" is still good. The only non-interlude song you won't find anywhere else is "Pushing Corn", which would have fit very nicely on Wagonwheel Blues had it made the cut. In short, this EP is the perfect sampler for those interested in The War On Drugs.
The Weeknd Beauty Behind the Madness
It's a far cry from work such as House Of Balloons and Echoes Of Silence, but the newest album from The Weeknd is a solid, catchy pop album that doesn't try to be anything else. While it is unfortunate that the last five tracks leave the album on a lackluster note, the first nine are all varying degrees of good, "Often", "The Hills", and "Shameless" in particular being great tracks. Tesfaye's voice is still very good, and his lyrics have become more self-aware in addition to his usual antics. The production is what tends to shift the album from good to middling, and it's no surprise that the production is much more lively on the first half. Still, sometimes it can get slightly overproduced, like in the case of "Earned It", which is saved by an excellent vocal performance. At the end of the day, The Weeknd crafts a solid and occasionally fantastic pop record, sell-out criticisms be damned.
The Who The Who Sell Out
The Who, while one of the more famous bands that've existed, were actually pretty tongue-in-cheek with regards to how their music was advertised back in the mid-sixties. They made this album with a lot of recordings that blatantly advertise real-world products, and surround them with some great original tracks like "I Can See For Miles" and "Sunrise". The irony is that none of the companies to which the products belong to ever mentioned anything to The Who about advertising their products, netting the band a couple of lawsuits. Still, the record did well, with a leaning towards psychedelic pop and power pop rather than the, blues rock, psychedelic rock and hard rock they'd go on to play later. A lot of the music is kind of goofy and jingle-sounding, with a couple of electronic noises coming through on many of the tracks. Though the first half of the album is more miss than hit, the second half makes up for it with songs like "I Can't Reach You", "Relax", and "Rael 1".
The Who A Quick One
The Words We Use Morals
The World Is a Beautiful Place... Harmlessness
Earlier this year, I was formally introduced to TWIABP by Death To New Years, which I thought was a pretty great emo/post-rock combination. On Harmlessness, the band loses some of that post-rock and replaces it with indie rock. The result isn't exactly as good as I'd hoped, but it's still pretty good nonetheless. The record does go through distinct emotional peaks and valleys, as the beginning of the record has a playful, youthful vibe to it, while the middle of the record gets more melancholy, reaching an emotional low point at "Mental Health" before bringing itself out of the gutter again. In general, the instrumentation is pleasant enough, but some of the longer songs can drag on a bit. That said, there are moments of excellence on this album, like on the aforementioned "Mental Health", the opener, and "We Need More Skulls", even if some parts of the record can be unspectacular.
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra Horses in the Sky
While A Silver Mt. Zion did remarkably well on "This Is Our Punk Rock...", they were never a band to stagnate, and that rings true once again on Horses In The Sky. This time around, things are decidedly minimal, with a huge emphasis being placed on Efrim Muneck's vocals and small, simple instrumental repetitions. On certain tracks, like the evocative title-track, the music leans toward contemporary folk stylings, and approach the simplicity tactfully and precisely. While a couple of songs might have a passage or two that slightly overstay their welcome, things are pretty well done as far as pacing is concerned. The only problem is that, while becoming more contemporary, the band lose a part of themselves that made them so interesting to listen to, and lose a bit of originality as a result. Still, the release is definitely a good one, and is surely a worthy addition to A Silver Mt. Zion's discography.
Thirty Seconds to Mars 30 Seconds to Mars
The realm of space rock isn't exactly a vast one, though bands sometimes dabble in its otherworldly features. 30 Seconds To Mars craft a decent slab of hard rock made over with a space rock finish. Jared Leto and brother Shannon Leto are a force on the vocals and drums respectively, though it is Jared who really runs the show. Even from the opening lines of "Capricorn (A Brand New Name)", you know he is much more than just an actor. Spacey atmosphere makes the anthemic "Edge Of The Earth" can't-miss material, and the furious "Buddha For Mary" also makes its mark as one of the best on the record. The album does suffer in that much of the material, while not necessarily bad, seems like it's been done before. It's a classic case of a band having some ambition, but not enough to take their work to the next level. That being said, it's still a solid release, and shows that the band had some good ideas in their early days.
Three 6 Mafia Chapter 2: World Domination
Touche Amore Touche Amore
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross The Social Network
Tycho Past is Prologue
Scott Hansen, more famously known as Tycho, has been making music for a long time. His smooth and comforting ambient downtempo has the aesthetic of a sunny morning through the mist of his hometown, San Francisco. On this, his sophomore full-length, we see much more of a downtempo twist on his usual pleasant ambience, rather than the chillwave he'd employ on 2011's Dive. Some really beautiful songs are made here, like "Dictaphone's Lament", "PBS", and "Cloud Generator". The problems with this album are the problems that have plagued all of his records: some songs far overstay their welcome, and the general formula is never deviated from in any meaningful manner. Still, it's very easy to listen to, and none of the songs are particularly bad, so if you like easygoing ambient electronic/downtempo and can withstand a few overdrawn songs, this will be a very enjoyable listen.
Tycho Dive
With this release, Tycho takes his skill with ambient electronic soundscapes and mixes them with some chillwave influence reminiscent of Washed Out. Though the album does drag somewhat in the middle, it gets off to a fantastic start with "A Walk", "Daydreams", and the title track being some of the finest songs he has created to date. While the middle songs can sometimes overstay their welcome, they are typically pleasant and easygoing, and the emphasis on that atmosphere is very distinct. The album also closes on a high note with "Elegy", which is perhaps the most contemporary song on the album, consisting of acoustic guitar passages and electric guitar overtones. Overall, a solid album from Tycho, one filled with tracks tailor-made for a walk along the beach.
Tyler, the Creator Wolf
Uncle Tupelo No Depression
Washed Out High Times
One of the esteemed members of the chillwave scene, Washed Out has been making atmospherically potent electronic music for a but now. While nowadays he seems to stick to the formula of airy and ethereal production surrounding swirling vocals, his formula was a but different back we he began. Sure, the tracks "Belong" and "Phone Call" bring the signature Washed Out sound, but it's the shorter, vocal-less tracks like "Good Luck" and "Luck" that show another side of him on this, his debut EP. The production is kind of lo-fi, with a constant stream of static behind the music on every track. The record has an authentic charm, while at the same time feeling effortless and weightless. Altogether, this is a really nice start from one of the leaders of chillwave.
Washed Out Paracosm
Washed Out is one of the biggest faces in the chillwave genre, and for good reason. His 2009 EP Life of Leisure was an excellent showcase of his ethereal, almost lo-if production. Though his debut album, Within and Without, was inconsistent and in some places boring, he is back on his game with Paracosm. With a focus on simple, catchy melodies and beautifully flowing tracks, his sophomore record is a nice improvement. "It All Feels Right" has absolutely infectious synth work, "Weightless" and "All I Know" have soothing vocals ,with a nice acoustic guitar background on the latter, and the title track stands up as one of the best songs he's created. It takes all the great things about the aforementioned tracks and combines them skillfully. Overall, a solid and pleasant album from Washed Out.r
Wolves at the Gate We Are the Ones
Wolves in the Throne Room Malevolent Grain
Released in between 2007's Two Hunters and 2009's Black Cascade, this two song EP by American black metal trio Wolves In The Throne Room illustrates the changes the band would go through in the years between the two aforementioned LP's. While the opener "A Looming Resonance" plays out very much like their old work; melodic guitars, blast beats, intermittent clean vocals, and transitions between the quiet and the loud. Closer "Hate Crystal", on the other hand, could've fit into Black Cascade well enough, as it is bare-bones, passionate black metal with ghostly vocals. It's a pretty sweet EP, and it shows the transition of the band better than any other release.
Woods of Ypres Pursuit Of The Sun & Allure Of the Earth
Xibalba Hasta La Muerte
I don't know if it's beatdown hardcore or some sludgier form of deathcore, but whatever it is, it's pretty punishing. It's kind of monochromatic, given that not many riffs are actually played and those that do always come with chugs, so there isn't much in the way of dynamics. It's boneheaded, almost humorously so, but darned if it's not catchy as can be. No matter what, be they breakdowns, slams, or what ever else have you, they're catchy and mosh-worthy through and through. The only times where this is broken are the opening minutes to "Mala Mujer" and "Cold", which have clean sung female vocals and a decent drone respectively. Alas, an album consisting of this type playing style can get a bit tiresome after a while, and the album's later tracks suffer as a result. Despite that, this is a good beatdown hardcore/sludgy deathcore album that really packs a punch.

3.0 good
808 State Quadrastate
A Day to Remember Common Courtesy
A Day To Remember V: Remember Who You Are. After a lawsuit with Victory records, ADTR self-released their fifth album, which is in every way a dedication to the fans of the band. The album is certainly an improvement over their previous two records, and features some of the best songs they have made to date. As with all of their albums, the pop-punk songs are the most enjoyable off of the record, with songs like "Life @ 11" and "I Surrender" being obvious examples. However, the highlights of the record are two slower songs, "I'm Already Gone" and "End Of Me", which both use the acoustic guitar excellently, with a mix of infectious hooks throughout. The problem with the album is that the metalcore tracks are very lackluster, and some of the lyrics on here are cringeworthy to say the least. Still, it's nice to see ADTR realize how fun they used to be, and return to form in that aspect.
Affiance No Secret Revealed
Anberlin Blueprints for the Black Market
Animals As Leaders The Joy of Motion
Arsonists Get All the Girls Hits From the Bow
ASC Imagine The Future
ASC has a lot to be influenced from, seeing as how he was brought up on Detroit techno, UK hardcore, and scores of ambient artists and manages to be progressive with these influences when he implements them into his music. Yet, with Imagine The Future, a heavily ambient album with small hints of techno thrown in, there doesn't seem to be much at play. That isn't what the first four tracks of the album, especially opener "Sunspots", would have you thinking, though. They sound sparse, but rather that in a tight way, it sounds widespread and massive. That changes, though, after "Response Code", when things not only start to become homogenous, but also quite uneventful. Truthfully, not a whole lot happens throughout the midsection of the record, making it a bit of a chore to listen to, and the album never really recovers, unfortunately. A decent outing at best.
Atmosphere Lake Nokomis
Atreyu Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses
In the world of an angsty teenager, listening to Atreyu is an appropriate release of anger. I know that it was for me. Still, as the years go by, I understand the appeal Atreyu had, and still has, to their listeners. They play melodic metalcore, but it goes a bit further than that. The lyrics to these songs express heartbreak, angst, and sadness, and while they might be juvenile in most places, they're surprisingly good on songs like "Someone's Standing On My Chest" and "Lip Gloss And Black". There is an aesthetic here that fits the broken feelings of an angsty individual, and it's reflected through the music very well. The instruments sound so weak, so fragile, so sloppy, and so unthreatening that ultimately you have an accurate representation of how the band and their avid listeners feel. Alex's vocals are trying so hard to sound angry, but they just comes across as sad and alone. And yes, the majority of the songs here don't do much, but when they do, they do it great. "Ain't Love Grand?", "Someone's Standing On My Chest", and "Lip Gloss And Black" are all excellent songs that really work when all these things are considered. So yes, the album does indeed deserve criticism, but it also deserves credit for utilizing a sound that would appeal to their target audience: people like them.
Atreyu The Curse
August Burns Red Found in Far Away Places
When it comes to modern mainstream metalcore, there isn't a band that does it better than August Burns Red. Their last LP, Rescue & Restore, was a great progressive metalcore album that used its experimentation tastefully and tactfully. Does this new record follow suit? Sort of, but not really. Much of the experimentation here seems as if it was haphazardly slapped into the middle of the songs, causing the interludes to feel as if they're interrupting the rest of the song rather than being a logical part of it. That being said, on songs like "Identity", "Everlasting Ending", and "Vanguard", the experimentation is very clearly mapped out and incorporated nicely. Elsewhere, it's standard ABR, with technical riffs, an extremely tight rhythm section, and growling vocals. There isn't necessarily a bad song on this record, but aside from the three mentioned above and "Ghosts", there aren't really any great ones either. Still, it's decent enough, even though I'm sure they can do better in the future.
Avenged Sevenfold Sounding the Seventh Trumpet
Avenged Sevenfold Nightmare
With this release, Avenged Sevenfold made it known they could still make some decent tunes. Seen by many as a tribute to their late friend and former bandmate Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, who tragically overdosed in late 2009, Nightmare is an improvement over their self-titled in many ways. It is more varied than the self-titled and features some of the better slow songs Sevenfold has written, such as the heartfelt "So Far Away" and the surprisingly good "Fiction". "Danger Line" and "Save Me" are another duo of enjoyable songs, but the rest range from listenable to inescapably boring. The album suffers from being very long-winded, and has an unfortunate amount of cringeworthy vocal moments. At best, it was a step in the right direction for the band, which is at least commendable, especially after losing their beloved drummer and friend.
Beach Slang The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel
I feel as if Beach Slang, while surely talented folks, have made a record that is by certain people for certain people. Those certain people being, of course, teenagers in California who love to party and don't like rules. And it's not even as if the lyrics are that esoteric at all, it's just that pretty much every song here says the same thing, and a couple of them almost sound the same too. It's not bad in any way, but the entire record can be summed up by hearing one song, "Young & Alive". And it's a shame they spread themselves that thin, because the instrumentation and vocals here are quite great more often than not. The notion that such qualities can be befuddled by an irritatingly repetitive and cliched lyrical performance makes this record a bit of wasted potential. Time will only tell if this gets fixed or not, though I certainly hope it does.
Beneath the Massacre Evidence Of Inequity [EP]
Blessthefall Witness
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony Creepin On Ah Come Up
Born of Osiris The New Reign
Bring Me the Horizon This Is What the Edge of Your Seat Was Made For
Buck Owens I've Got A Tiger By The Tail
Cage The Elephant Thank You Happy Birthday
Chevelle La Gargola
Circle of Contempt Entwine the Threads
Code Orange I Am King
When "Code Orange Kids" took the last word off of their name and became "Code Orange", it implied a sense of maturity, and hinted that the band was growing up. It's a bit ironic, then, to know that this album represents a regression for the band in many aspects, chief of which is the songwriting. There isn't much variation on this record, as a lot of the hardcore punk riffs that made their debut so fun are replaced by slow, chugging breakdowns that don't exactly do much at all. There are slow, sludgy moments that don't have breakdowns that work just fine without them, like on "Dreams In Inertia". When the band does play faster, there are some great moments like on "Your Body Is Ready" and "Unclean Spirit". The vocals have improved since their debut, and sound punishing along with the dark production. Overall, it's a bit of a drop-off from their debut, but Code Orange is still young and will have plenty of time to tweak their sound for the better.
Decades Of Despair Alive
Earth Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions
Enter Shikari Nodding Acquaintance
Every Time I Die Last Night in Town
With their debut full length, Every Time I Die makes an improvement in the department they had lacked in on the Botch-worshipping The Burial Plot Bidding War, which was the production. It sounds so much crisper here, and the vocals are not as raspy and irritating as they were before. This gives the band a chance to show what they have. The lyrics written by Keith Buckley are pretty interesting, and while the instrumentation still bears an obvious influence, the songwriting has improved as well. Still, there is a lack of a truly stand-out track, or even a stand-out moment on this record. The songs are solid, but they lack an identity, which causes them to bleed into each other and become indistinguishable. There's certainly a noticeable improvement, though, that the band had made from their EP on to this record, and the talent was there for them to expand this improvement on to the next record in their discography.
Every Time I Die From Parts Unknown
Explosions in the Sky The Rescue
Four Tet Pause
Four Tet is one of the more well known artists within the realm of folktronica, a mixture of folk music and electronic downtempo. Pause opens with a great song in "Glue Of The World", but things on this record never quite get back to the greatness of the opener. The unfortunate thing about this is that there isn't a whole lot going on at all here. It sounds nice, but it's almost too sparse. The opener, "Parks", "Untangle", and "Everything Is Alright" have just the right amount of instrumental work to keep the music from collapsing on account of being too thin. Sometimes a perfectly good track like "No More Mosquitoes" are bogged down by irritating samples, and other times a track that shows potential, like "You Could Ruin My Day", is stretched out beyond its welcome. While all of this is unfortunate, when it is good, it's really good, and all of these issues are things that can be weeded out or refined respectively. The idea that that can happen still has me pretty interested in Four Tet, despite this lukewarm offering.
Genghis Tron Board Up the House
Godspeed You! Black Emperor 'Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress'
Godspeed You! Black Emperor have the reputation of always pushing the envelope, always experimenting with their sound, and just generally being one of the largest bands, in both size and sound, that ever played. That's why it's such a shock that this record can be perfectly be described as safe, and ultimately rather unimpressive. The album starts out decent enough, with thundering drums providing the perfect backbone for the tracks 10 minute run length. Then, some nice drone tracks come into the fray, rather unambitious in nature, but not bad. The closer is the best song on the album, utilizing Godspeed's unique crescendo strengths as well as some nice drones and strings to boot. Altogether, it's a nice listen, as there isn't any bad tracks, but it's short length and lack of anything truly gripping (something that has always been on their records) make it a sort of uninteresting and unengaging experience. A bad album by no means, but we all know they're capable of so much better.
Gorillaz G-Sides
Grimes Art Angels
You ever try a piece of candy or a drink or some other edible substance that tastes good but is just too sweet for your tastebuds for you to really enjoy it? That's kind of what it's like for me hearing Art Angels. Don't get me wrong, there are some really good pop songs here like "Flesh Without Blood", "Realiti", and "World Princess Part II", but more often than not I find myself wishing it wasn't so oversaturated with sugar. "California", "Butterfly", and especially "Kill V. Maim" are all guilty of this style that's too adorable for its own good, and sometimes comes off as kind of forced. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Boucher doesn't have a good voice or that none of the songs are catchy, because she does and some of them are, but I believe one of the lyrics of "Butterfly" say it better than I ever could: "Don't know this song; sweeter than a sugar cane." In all, the album as a whole is okay, but I can't help feeling it would've been much better if not for the aforementioned issues.
Iwrestledabearonce Iwrestledabearonce
James Blake Air & Lack Thereof
James Blake is one of the more well known producers in the world today, and it's no surprise given the success of his full length albums, which saw him become just as much of a songwriter as he was a producer. His beginnings are seen here, and it's a nice listen. The production has more of stereotypical dubstep sound to it, and while it's not conventional per say, it's interesting to hear a small amount of wub along with the bass, though nowhere near the extremely pronounced bass-porn of American dubstep producers. In all, it's a nice start for Blake, one he would definitely grow on.
Keith Urban Defying Gravity
Kendrick Lamar Overly Dedicated
La Dispute Here, Hear.
If you ever needed background on the story told in Somewhere At The Bottom Between Vega And Altair, this spoken word EP by post-hardcore/emo band La Dispute is a needed listen. It might just be Jordan Dreyer reciting some poetry over some acoustic guitars, but it's pleasant enough on the ears to make you absorb everything being read, and understand how they influenced La Dispute. For instance, "Two" is a reading of an E.E. Cummings poem containing the phrase "Nobody, not even the rain has such small hands." And on "Three", which is a quite wonderful reading of Edgar Allan Poe's "Annabel Lee", which would go on to serve the basis for "Fall Down, Never Get Back Up Again". If anything, it's interesting to see who and what influenced the band during the creation of a wonderful record.
LCD Soundsystem LCD Soundsystem
Linkin Park A Thousand Suns
Before this album, Linkin Park was not a band you could describe by using the word "experimental", as their style consisted of straightforward Nu-metal with some pop sensibilities. Here, though, Linkin Park rework their entire sound into something much more electronically driven. Sure, this is far from Hybrid Theory and Meteora era Linkin Park, but that does not mean there isn't something here to enjoy. It might be hit-or-miss, but when they hit, they hit right on the money. Some truly excellent songs such as "Iridescent" and "The Catalyst" shine through what is otherwise an underwhelming release, as there is a bit too much filler on this album for it to be considered great. Still, credit is due to them for switching up their entire sound and still putting out a halfway decent album.
Machito Kenya
Make Them Suffer Neverbloom
Miserable Failure Hope
My Chemical Romance I Brought You My Bullets...
Neil Young Neil Young
There are few names more important to both rock and folk than that of Neil Young, a Canadian-born genius of a songwriter that has released seminal albums in many sub-genres of folk and rock. His humble beginnings are seen here, on his self-titled debut, and though it pales in comparison to his later works, it still shows flashes of brilliance that would come to encompass his career. Opening with the gorgeous country instrumental "The Emperor Of Wyoming" we see Neil's knack for a great backing band, as while he might be a great singer, guitar player, and harmonica player, he can't do it all himself. Then comes a classic song, "The Loner", which seamlessly combines southern rock and folk to make an early masterpiece. Unfortunately, none of the songs that follow even come close to its greatness, as they mostly range from enjoyable to uninteresting. Still, give it a listen if you're familiar with Neil's better work.
Norma Jean Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child
Norma Jean Redeemer
Norma Jean's third studio album is a bit of a departure from the Botch-esque hardcore that got them famous. There are much more conventional song structures on this album, and the relentless intensity has been brought down a bit. The thing that really holds this album back is the lack of a true standout track, which unfortunately results in the songs bleeding together. That being said, songs like "Blueprints For Future Homes", "A Small Spark vs. A Great Forest", "The End Of All Things Will Be Televised", and "The Longest Lasting Statement" are all very solid tracks. It's decent hardcore with more clean vocals than Norma Jean has done before, but it's a step back for the band overall, as it is easily their most homogenous record so far in their discography.
Opeth Apostle in Triumph
At only three-and-a-half minutes, poor recording quality, and no vocals to speak of, these two demo songs represent the humble beginnings of Opeth. Even with these small moments, you can see small hints at what Opeth would soon become. It truly is incredible to hear the first moments of a band that would soon grow to be one of the defining acts in progressive death/black metal, and even metal as a whole.
Oxxo Xoox Reveurt
I think what makes Namidae such a great album is the notion that it's long, but it doesn't feel long. You have a lot of fun while hearing it. That's not to say Reveurt has no fun moments, but they're not as frequent, and the album certainly feels like it's an hour and seventeen minutes. The sound here is more gothic than its successor, and it sounds just a bit more thin as well. Tracks like "Ama" and "Lini" are ultimately fantastic, but it's no coincidence that those two are two of the shorter songs here. The longer ones feel very drawn out and unsatisfying, which is definitely an issue on an album of this length. The vocals are still good, and the overall musicianship is very good, but the songwriting and pace of the album is surely a detriment to the whole product. It's comforting to know that they worked out the kinks and made a truly great album in the years following this.
Paramore Singles Club
Paramore is as Hayley Williams is. That has always rung true, even when the band was stable in its lineup. Still, that is probably for the best, as Williams has always been adept at getting everything out of catchy hooks and energetic vocal performances. 2011 EP The Singles Club reaffirms this through its short runtime, with "Monster" being a great highlight. Other than that, the songs range from decent to boring. "In The Mourning" sounds far too similar to Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" to grab any attention, and "Hello Cold World" adds nothing new to the table. "Renegade" is decent enough, but is heavily out-shined by "Monster". All in all, it is a solid showing from Paramore, but it's nothing we haven't seen before.
Paramore Paramore
Periphery Periphery (Instrumental)
Djent is a genre that, like a lot of metal subgenres, is maligned. I can't speak for the masses, but it's certainly never been my cup of tea. The only bands I really enjoyed within Djent where The Contortionist, which is on the fringe of the genre, and the instrumental Intervals. Periphery is the face of Djent, for better or for worse, and though I've only had small samples of the band, they weren't all that great. While this release is void of any vocals, which were too clean and perfectly-produced for my liking, the record doesn't do all that much for me. While the quieter moments are indeed pleasant and there is a nice amount of technical skill on display here, nothing really grabs me about it. The record is pretty long as it is, but to not have a song in the entire length where anything stands out from the rest of them makes it much longer than it should be. If I had to choose a favorite track, it'd probably be "Zlglorx", as the track contains the best instrumental playing on the record and is the closest the record comes to a cathartic moment. The band undoubtedly has a lot of skill with their instruments, and nothing on the record is bad per say, but it's unfortunately pretty forgettable on the whole. Still, isolated moments on the record are pretty enjoyable, and it's definitely better being completely instrumental.
Phantogram Voices
Primordial The Burning Season
Protest the Hero Fortress
Protest the Hero Scurrilous
Red Hot Chili Peppers One Hot Minute
The more I listen to the Chili Peppers, the more I appreciate John Frusciante's influence on them. It's a shame he wasn't on board for 1995's One Hot Minute. The follow-up to the 1991 classic Blood Sugar Sex Magik is a bit of an underwhelming release, but it has flashes of brilliance that warrant it a listen. It is a funky album, but it has heavier riffs than it's predecessor. However, some of the softer songs on the album, like "My Friends" and "Tearjerker" are the best featured. It drags heavily in the middle, but it is bookended by a couple of great songs in "Warped" and "Transcending". Though Frusciante was missed, One Hot Minute is not without substance, even if it is spread out over the album. Also, for you Flea fans, he has a solo song called "Pea" that is kind of humorous.
Seether Disclaimer
Radio rock bands are a dime a dozen, and Seether happens to be one of the more famous groups involved with that tag. That being said, they're not half bad on their debut. Is it radio rock? Most certainly so. Is it well done? You bet. From lead single "Fine Again" and its evocative guitar line and lyrics, to the strangely catchy "Sympathetic" to "Broken"'s gorgeous chorus and nice acoustic guitar, much is well crafted here. This comes to a head on "Fade Away", a mish-mosh of all of the aforementioned songs' qualities with the added sweetness of an addicting bassline. Yes, elsewhere we find some homogenic songwriting that really kills the vibe the good songs had going, but a few, like "69 Tea", are decent enough to keep the ball rolling a bit further. Overall, it's a radio rock album, but with some well done added flair that deserves a listen.
Set Your Goals Mutiny!
Skillet Comatose
Skrillex Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites
Yes, it may have given rise to the unending swarm of "dubstep" remixes of everything ever and simultaneously brought America's bastardization of dubstep to the mainstream, but for its time Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites was actually pretty sweet. Why? Because it, for the most part, was content to be party music. Nothing more, nothing less. It sounded like a guy just having fun with producing rather than trying to recreate the title track of this EP for years on end. It sounded, for all of its wubs and bass drops, like it had at least some emotion in it. And that, as far as I'm concerned, is pretty cool.
Stan Getz Getz/Gilberto
Swans Greed
In contrast to their massive one-two punch of unrelenting heaviness and brutality to start their career in Filth and Cop, the Swans we see here are much more subdued, and also more open to experimentation. Michael Gira actually attempts to sing this time around, most notably on the piano-driven opener "Fool". The closer, "Money Is Flesh", is paced by a drum machine and some high-pitched synthesizers coming in ever so often. The middle of the record isn't too eventful, and though nothing particularly bad happens here, it isn't necessarily the most entertaining music Swans put together on the record. Still, with the aforementioned good qualities, and with a beast like "Anything For You" being on the tracklist, there are certainly things to appreciate on Swans' third album.
Talking Heads Talking Heads: 77
The Beatles Long Tall Sally
The Black Dahlia Murder Miasma
The Black Keys Attack & Release
The Black Keys have a reputation for playing no-frills, raw blues rock. So what exactly happens when you sprinkle some electronic noises on top of the slowest album the Keys had made at the time? Not a whole lot as it turns out. The album truly shines for the first five tracks (not counting the opener), but tails off into uninspired and underwhelming territory in the middle. Though it does close on a good note with "Things Ain't Like They Used To Be", there is simply too much filler on here for it to be great. It is nice that the Keys chose to experiment a bit, but it doesn't really pan out. The electronics are oddly placed and for the most part unnecessary. There are good tracks to be found, but overall Attack & Release doesn't do much, and is likely the worst album in The Black Keys' discography.
The Chills Submarine Bells
The Chills were at the forefront of a style of rock known as the Dunedin Sound, which was named for their hometown of Dunedin, New Zealand. The classic Dunedin Sound is poppish rock that is driven by keyboards and synths, and that is exactly what we get on Submarine Bells. Though much of the first half, sans "Part Past, Part Fiction" is pretty forgettable, the second half really saves things. "Don't Be - Memory", a catchy, piano-driven song featuring acoustic guitars is a beautiful change of pace, and the swirling guitars and pianos of "Effloresce And Deliquesce" make another excellent track. The final track, complete with strings, is the title track, and it is easily the best song on the record. Though a chunk of the album is forgettable, this album is still a very important one in the Dunedin Sound, and a nice listen in general.
The Contortionist Intrinsic
The Devil Wears Prada Zombie
The Devil Wears Prada 8:18
After tightening up their songwriting in the riff department and unfortunately losing some their catchy personality on Dead Throne, Dayton metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada find a nice middle ground in between their previous effort and 2009's With Roots Above And Branches Below. The catchiness has returned somewhat, and the improvement in the riffs has stayed the course. Detractions remain though, as Hranica's vocals continue to regress, and the bands attempt at experimentation doesn't go over quite as well as they would've hoped. That being said, the band crafts some pretty nice songs here, especially in the catchy "First Sight" and the soaring "Sailor's Prayer". Overall, a decent improvement on Dead Throne, which will hopefully continue on to their future work.
The Internet Purple Naked Ladies
The Red Shore Unconsecrated
The War on Drugs Slave Ambient
The White Stripes The White Stripes
I have always enjoyed The Black Keys, especially since I've spent a great amount of my life in Akron. Yet, for as much as I love The Black Keys, I know their style isn't quite all their own. They took a huge amount of influence from the blues rock/garage rock tandem of Jack and Meg White, a tandem known as The White Stripes. They began here, on their self-titled debut record, and while it suffers from songs bleeding into each other, on the whole it is a nice, raw blues rock record fed through a garage rock aesthetic. "When I Hear My Name", "Do", and "One More Cup Of Coffee" constitute highlights here, and no song is necessarily bad, but the aforementioned problems with songs slamming into each other and coming off as monotonous is the vice of this record. It's a nice start to a unique take on blues, but the better days were definitely yet to come.
Thundercat The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam
Stephen Bruner, a bassist that played for influential crossover thrash band Suicidal Tendencies for 9 years, is one of the most sought-after studio musicians in recent memory. With his work on Flying Lotus' Cosmogramma, Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, and Kamasi Washington's The Epic, he's got a nice track record so far. His solo career, in stark contrast to the band he used to play for, is based in neo-soul, funk, and R&B. This EP, his third release, sees him with a relaxed vibe that is also deep in thought. It generally sounds nice, but there are a few things that plague the release. It seems as if some of the songs here run out of ideas before they end, and end up being kind of boring as a result. There isn't much variety here either, which contributes to the general underwhelming feeling. Still, "Them Changes" is a great song, and while the record does sound underwhelming, it does have a good vibe and smoothness to it as well. It's good, but surprisingly nondescript.
Tiny Moving Parts Moving to Antarctica
On their debut EP, Tiny Moving Parts showcase some impressive talent with playing their respective instruments. That has always been the staple of the band, as we know. Unfortunately, this EP is hindered by its production, which makes the guitars sound much too thin. That is all well and good during the twinkly, math rock sections, but they don't sound nearly strong enough to play the screamo sections the band attempts throughout the record convincingly. The band sounds a bit like a more quiet, earlier version of Merchant Ships when not playing their complex math rock riffs, which is by no means a bad thing, but the songwriting isn't too original in this regard. Still, there is enough good on this EP to warrant a listen, as the passionate "You Have No Idea How High I Can Fly" and the surprisingly moving "I'll Sum This Up" prove.
Tool Undertow
Tycho Adrift From Home
Tycho Awake
Tyler, the Creator Goblin
Will Haven Open The Mind To Discomfort
Will Haven has been around for almost two decades now, but their discography isn't too extensive. Still, they've been making nice post-hardcore mixed with sludge metal and noise for a bit now, Carpe Diem being the most notable record of theirs. This EP is no different, if inessential. There are four ambient tracks all named after letters of the alphabet, and each corresponding song is sort of woven in around them, drowning them in shouted vocals and dissonant riffs. "Do You Have A Light?" does this particularly well. Still, the production leaves a lot to be desired, as the drums sound dull and pretty lifeless for the most part. It's not bad by any means, but it's not all that great either.
Within the Ruins Creature
Wolves in the Throne Room Celestial Lineage
The extent of how far Wolves In The Throne Room could take their sound was seen on two separate releases: 2007's Two Hunters, which was as compositionally sound and folky as they'll ever be, and 2009's Black Cascade, which was as stripped down, passionate, and emotionally resonant as they'll ever be. Celestial Lineage, while certainly having its moments, seems all too much like a retread over the best parts of their older material. While this does ensure that the album does sound good, the pitfall lies in the notion that they had simply run out of ideas at this point. It speaks a lot about the bands' realization of that notion that they decided to release a completely ambient project as a progression. The album has some nice segments, especially on "Prayer Of Transformation", but on the whole it feels like a rehashing, and that's unfortunate coming from the leading band in "cascadian black metal".

2.5 average
A Day to Remember And Their Name Was Treason
A Day to Remember Homesick
A Day to Remember What Separates Me From You
Arsonists Get All the Girls Listen to the Color
The first self-released record by experimental deathcore band Arsonists Get All The Girls is their most grind-influenced release, but is also their most unvaried. Many of the shorter songs bleed together and sound very similar, and the electronics that the band is famous for are at a creative low here, despite the all-electronic "Balloon Battle". Still, the album does have some bright spots in "Watchers" and "MK DELTA: Glorified Killers", which are coincidentally the two longest songs on the record. The return of Remi Rodburg is a decent touch, but his vocals have become rougher since The Game Of Life. The song remains the same, though: if you like Arsonists Get All The Girls in all of their off-kilter humor, you'll like this record. If you don't like Arsonists Get All The Girls, you will have a hard time getting into this.r
Asking Alexandria Stand Up and Scream
The infamous British quintet of Asking Alexandria has received a lot of flak from critics over the years. I understand why they'd get criticism, but the amount of vitriol and hate directed towards this band, and especially this album, just seems out of place and forced. The reason for that is the band doesn't do anything criminally wrong here, and while the music is indeed homogenic, it's not like it's any more so than most of their contemporaries. So why they became the band to detest, I don't know. It's not original in any way, but it is very catchy and thus pretty fun. And yes, the music is kind of dumb, as it is essentially just Emmure with some actual guitar leads here and there and some ridiculously catchy and fun choruses, but in this case it doesn't have to be smart. All they've done here is make an album to mindlessly mosh to while having a sing-along in between. And in that sense, the album succeeds.
Atreyu A Death-Grip on Yesterday
August Burns Red Looks Fragile After All
If I was told in 2004 that August Burns Red would become one of the leading bands (and to many, the leading band) in modern metalcore by 2015, I'd call that person crazy. That really shows how far they've come, especially from such a lukewarm offering such as this. There is little production value to be found here, as everything sounds so bogged down and unclear, especially when the drums mix in with the guitars. Jon Hershey is very rough in his vocals, and on three of the songs J.B. Brubaker and Brent Rambler, who are both excellent usually, do nothing of interest. Matt Greiner is great on the drums, per usual, but the production really hurts his impact. The two songs that save this EP from being an entirely poor outing are "Missing This Opportunity" and "Accidental Shot Heard 'Round The World". The former makes great use of melody and manages to be coherent and discernible despite the production. The latter combines a romping metalcore start and middle with a quaint, down-winding finish to illustrate the progressive nature that they had even then. In short, this EP is one for the fans. If you're looking to get into August Burns Red, start elsewhere.
Avenged Sevenfold Avenged Sevenfold
Avenged Sevenfold Welcome to the Family
Though it's listed as an EP officially, this release from polarizing metal band Avenged Sevenfold seems more like a single than an EP. The title track is decent, but the second song on the release fails to do much of anything but serve as a stand-in to make this release marketable as an EP. It's not awful, just boring and derivative, which unfortunately sums up their latest release, Hail To The King.
Betraying the Martyrs The Hurt, the Divine, the Light
Blessthefall Hollow Bodies
Chelsea Grin Evolve
City and Colour The Hurry and the Harm
After three successful albums under his belt with his solo project, Dallas Green chose to quit his post-hardcore band, Alexisonfire. He said that being the band was killing him, and that he wanted to focus more on his solo work. He also stated that he won't ever "find a way home" musically, as he'll always be looking for something new. The record he made after that is a typically pleasant listen, but it also his most long-winded. He adds more instruments on this record, rather than it just being him and his guitar, but they don't do much to hold the listeners interest. It sounds more like a rehashing of previous material, just dressed up a little bit nicer. It is very nice to listen to, but it is just so stagnant and complacent that it becomes boring as a result. Still, "Harder Than Stone" and "Two Coins" are a couple of highlights, and the chances that this album is just a misstep on Green's part are high.
Every Time I Die The Burial Plot Bidding War
Every Time I Die has been one of the better metalcore bands in the past decade or so, with releases like Hot Damn! and New Junk Aesthetic. During their roots, it was clear they listened to good metalcore, namely Botch, but on their debut EP, they stick a little too close to their influences. That being said, opener "The Emperor's New Clothes" is actually a really good song. Elsewhere, though, they sound so much like their influences that it becomes boring, and with the awful vocal quality, it doesn't translate into good metalcore. Fans of ETID will appreciate this, but if you're just starting to get into them, start elsewhere.
Hester Prynne Black Heart Market
Hoobastank Hoobastank
I, Valiance The Reject of Humanity
There's undoubtedly a lot of work that needs to be done here, but there are things to catch on this EP from deathcore four-piece I, Valiance that keep it afloat. For one, the song "Thrown To Belial", with its recurring eerie synthesizers, two unexpected solos, and definite progression from one idea to the next make it a song that the band can truly be proud of. "God's Mouth" is also pretty good, as the atmosphere from the former song carries over pretty seamlessly. "The Loneliest Soul" showcases some decent experimentation to boot. The vocals are competent enough, as is the drumming. Still, things such as cringy robot vocals, a pointless intro and outro, and an over-reliance on breakdowns hinder the advancement of the record. The guitarists have moments on this that clearly take a lot of skill and sound great, so to hear them keep returning to breakdowns, no matter how heavy, seems like a bit of wasted potential. That said, this EP shows a band that, with maturing, could be one of the better bands in deathcore today.
Izmo Early Night
Linkin Park Hybrid Theory EP
Mac DeMarco Another One
Mac Demarco's newest EP is a pleasant listen, but it ultimately falls short of being a record worth returning to due to its relative stagnation and lack of variety. It's not a good thing when a twenty-three minute EP seems much longer than it is due to the aforementioned qualities, and while it's not bad, it's far too middling and lazy to be impactful. "No Other Heart" is a highlight, but besides that, things aren't memorable, even if they sound decent. The music is just kind of "there", you know? And it's unfortunate, given his success with his previous LP's
OFWGKTA The OF Tape Vol. 2
Periphery Icarus
Pixies EP2
Skrillex My Name Is Skrillex
Sky Eats Airplane The Sound of Symmetry
Structures Life Through a Window
Suicide Silence You Can't Stop Me
To say that Suicide Silence lost a key member in vocalist Mitch Lucker is a massive understatement. The man was the face of deathcore, for better or worse, and his death has affected millions of fans around the world. So when Eddie Hermida, ex-vocalist of All Shall Perish, joined up with Suicide Silence after Mitch's untimely death, would the band form a new identity? Not quite. Hermida turns in a fantastic vocal performance on the record, but aside from that it does not stray from the path Suicide Silence has followed all along. That is not to say there aren't moments where genuine improvement shines through ("Ouroboros", "We Have All Had Enough"), but for the most part the album is a mish-mosh of everything they've done up until this point, albeit sounding more lively than they have in a while. Suicide Silence have improved a bit, but they will need much more improvement if they are going to make a great album in the future.
Taylor Swift Beautiful Eyes
The Black Dahlia Murder A Cold-Blooded Epitaph
The Black Dahlia Murder Deflorate
The Black Dahlia Murder is nothing if not consistent. They churn out respectable melodic death metal and have made some excellent songs in the past. They added ex-Arsis guitarist Ryan Knight for this release, so how does it stack up? Well, Knight does help out in the solo department, and Shannon Lucas is still a beast on the kit, but this release stagnates a bit too much to truly be a great one. Many of the songs overstay their welcome, and tend to bleed together in this regard. It doesn't really present an idea that The Black Dahlia Murder haven't tried before, rather being a rehashing of their previous work. That being said, the album does end on a strong note with "I Will Return", which is easily the best on the record. If you're a fan of The Black Dahlia Murder, you should enjoy this. If you want to get into The Black Dahlia Murder, I suggest starting elsewhere in their discography.
The Contortionist Shapeshifter
The Devil Wears Prada Dear Love: A Beautiful Discord
The Devil Wears Prada Dead Throne
Though TDWP seems to have matured from their early days on this album, they also lose part of themselves in the process. Sure, there aren't as many meet-headed breakdowns, but there is a distinct lack of the infectious choruses that made WRAABB such a fun album. It also stands to mention that Mike Hranica's vocals have gotten rougher this time around. And while there are some good songs on here in the form of "My Questions", "Born To Lose", and "Holdfast", the majority of the songs are too boring to have any effect. Still, the improvement in the songwriting is apparent, and if they can keep that up while also regaining their penchant for catchy choruses, they may be able to make a great album sometime in the future.
The Red Shore The Avarice Of Man
Thirty Seconds to Mars A Beautiful Lie
Tool Opiate
Washed Out Within and Without

2.0 poor
A Plea for Purging A Plea For Purging
Avenged Sevenfold Hail to the King
A7X has arguably the biggest name and following of any modern metal band around. It's not hard to see why that is, given that their mainstream debut City Of Evil was a fun and accessible heavy metal record with some thrashy riffs, energetic drumming, and infectious choruses. Nearly a decade later, they seem to be a mere shell of their former selves. What they've created here is on the whole middling, inoffensive, and boring. That in and of itself is a huge failure on their part. The music that influenced them, most notably Guns N' Roses and Metallica, weren't like that when they were in their respective heydays. Heavy metal isn't supposed to be middling, inoffensive, and boring. A decade ago, A7X knew that. Now they've hit a place that is agonizingly complacent and unfortunately lazy. At least on their self-titled and Nightmare you could tell they were trying. Hail To The King just feels so phoned in, so bland, so lacking of any identity, and that's something I'd hoped I would never have had to say about these guys.
Chelsea Grin Desolation of Eden
Chelsea Grin Ashes to Ashes
I think that at least some improvement was seen in Chelsea Grin when ex-Born Of Osiris guitarist Jason Richardson joined them on their 2012 EP, Evolve. How much, though, would he help them on this album? Not that much as it turns out. The formula for this album seems to be to play the painfully generic deathcore they're known for, but then adding a piano interlude in the song, or an acoustic part in the beginning. The guitar work is the same chugging, but maybe with a sweep or a melodic break every coupleminutes, lasting about 3-10 seconds each. This continues for an hour. There are more shouted vocals on this record, and less of the screeches Koehler employs, and they generally sound acceptable. The album does however have a bright spot in the form of the last four songs, which show some genuine improvement, and are likely the best songs Chelsea Grin have written. However, this improvement is diluted by the first eleven songs and their unimaginative, long-winded feel. Overall, a step down, but the last four songs on the record give a little hope for the future.
Eminem Encore
At this point in his storied career, Eminem had few missteps. His first four albums were extremely well respected, and garnered him immense acclaim. His streak of great albums ended here, though, as Encore shows an unfortunate lack of self-awareness on his part. "Like Toy Soldiers", "Mockingbird", and the title-track are all legitimately good songs, but the rest of them are listenable at best and, more often than not, embarrassing at worst. The hooks on this album are irritating so say the least, and the use of heavy and often overbearing fake accents by Eminem gets very old quickly. There also seems to be a complete disregard for subtlety or maturity as well, save for the three songs mentioned above. Lyrically, there's nothing he says on this that he hasn't expressed already in a much better way. This album was made in the peak of Eminem's addiction to various drugs, and it often echoes that detached sentiment by not being the least bit self aware. However, if an album such as this is what it takes for you realize you need to turn your life around, then so be it. At least there's no Ken Kaniff skit on this one.
Eminem Relapse
After half of a decade and a rehabilitation period for heavy Vicodin, Valium, and Ambien abuse, Eminem released his comeback album, titled Relapse. Despite critical opinion, it's actually slightly better than Encore, but that really isn't saying much. The last four songs, not counting the skits, are all very good and showed that he still had some left in the tank. It's a shame you had to sit through fourteen songs of crap before then. Using that obnoxious accent and lyrics that weren't the least bit self aware, Eminem makes the good part of this album a bit hard to sit through. His shtick at this point had become so tired and played out that every mention of a murder or rape is almost a desperate grasp at attention. It tried its damnedest to bring back the magic of The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP, but aside from those last four songs, nothing even remotely touches those two records in terms of quality. Overall, a frustrating effort from Eminem, especially since he's proven he could do better.
Gorillaz The Fall
I'm sure I'm not the only one who believes that Gorillaz had a very anticlimactic end to their storied career. It's not even that The Fall is that bad of an album, but it's just so pedestrian. It feels so uninspired, uninterested even. There are no tracks on the album that are really hate-able, but only a few that are enjoyable. It's just there, just kind of in the background not really doing or saying anything. It reeks of wasted potential, as we all know they're capable of much better. It doesn't even feel like a Gorillaz record, because whereas Demon Days and their self-titled were as innovative as they were fun, The Fall is neither of them, just banal and boring. It almost makes me wish that Damon Albarn would resurrect the project just to give it the ending it truly deserved.
Linkin Park Minutes to Midnight
Red Hot Chili Peppers The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Suicide Silence No Time to Bleed
Suicide Silence The Black Crown
Sunn O))) White1
Sunn O))) has been quite a good band ever since they decide to stop being purely an Earth tribute band and start doing things with their own personal flair to it. Still, on this record, it seems like Sunn O))) is not an Earth tribute, but rather some kind of Earth parody. If that's the case, the joke isn't funny. If that's not the case, it's still not very good. The album is an exercise in drawing things out way longer than they need to be. That opening monologue by Julian Cope? Way too long and unnecessary. And even after that there's still fifteen minutes of the song to go. The second track is ruined by whatever those things meant to resemble drums are, and while the closer is decent enough, it doesn't make up for the songs before it. It's a good thing they'd turn it around later, because the questionable choices made here are a detriment to the record.
The Devil Wears Prada Plagues

1.5 very poor
Annotations Of An Autopsy Welcome To Sludge City
Chelsea Grin My Damnation
Suicide Silence Suicide Silence

1.0 awful
brokeNCYDE BC 13
Chelsea Grin Chelsea Grin
Waking the Cadaver Demo

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