Yes, here it is: the obligatory "Best Albums of the Year" list. I mention the EPs because those four are fantastic albums in their own right and are better in my mind than most of the LPs this year. Is that the way of the future? Or are those bands just on the verge of breaking out strong?
Also, as a special treat this year, enjoy the media player with a track or two from each of the albums listed below.
SeeqPod Music beta - Playable Search
1. Kaddisfly- Set Sail The Prarie: A clear winner in my book. These guys simply get music and get life. As with any "progressive" rock, you have to have a taste for the sound before you can dive deeper, but I highly encourage everyone to pick up this album and give it a chance. And if you needed any more reason to purchase it, a goodly chunk of the profits (trust me, they don't make much as is) is donated by the band to the Mr Holland's Opus Foundation, supporting music education in schools.
2. Against Me!- New Wave: Most accesible and yet deepest punk rock album to come out in quite a while. I'm not usually a fan of shouting every line, but these guys pull it off with grace. Their nonstop energy carries over to their live sets, too, which they play without pause for banter or tuning--just plain rock.
3. House of Fools- Live and Learn: I'm not really sure why more people aren't huge fans of these guys. They have some pop sensibilities coupled with a folk-rock feel and ripping guitar solos. What more can you ask from a few North Carolina dudes?
4. Modest Mouse- We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank: Modest Mouse is simply the best thing the major labels have going for them these days--despite "selling out," they continue to spew brilliance and reinvent themselves with every song, just like they have for a decade.
5. Of Montreal- Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?: Man, these guys are out there. But man, do they ever pull off some beautiful songs. On this album, they embrace their own quirkiness to put personality into twelve delicious pop tracks.
6. Say Anything- In Defense of the Genre (sorry, no mp3s): I, like many folks, put this epic double-disc album as an early favorite for album of the year, simply based on 2004's ...Is A Real Boy. While Max Bemis and the gang may have fallen just shy of their target (thanks in large part to the relative inaccessibility of much of the album, which is long and works best when listened to straight through--not something a lot of people have time for), they did manage to create one of the most lyrically brilliant personal journeys in recent memory.
7. Iron & Wine- The Shepherd's Dog: I hadn't been an Iron & Wine fan until this album--I had left him to the swooning coeds who went ga-ga over his previous efforts. But WOW what a display of musicianship in every sense of the word. He definitely made a believer out of me.
8. Limbeck- Limbeck: With new drummer Jonny P in tow (formerly of Milwaukee favorites The Benjamins), Limbeck bounces back strong from a mediocre sophomore effort. This is what life on the road sounds like.
9. Sage Francis- Human The Death Dance: In his most personal album in recent memory, activist/rapper Sage Francis plays with many musical and lyrical concepts that hadn't seen light on his previous albums.
10. Anberlin- Cities: One of the most passionate rock bands around, these guys are poised for a serious breakout. Cities takes their force up yet another notch from Never Take Friendship Personal. Can their major-label debut match that?
11. Steel Train- Trampoline: A reinvented sound (much more upbeat and uptempo) brings these jam-band-turned-pop-rockers up a level, and hopefully people will take notice.
12. Radiohead- In Rainbows: Did you think I was gonna leave it off the list? Nah. This is definitely one of the best albums of the year, even looking beyond all the hype of the pay-what-you-want release. I'd put it higher, but as much as I respect Radiohead, I'm so rarely in the mood to listen to them that I just haven't spent the time with it.
13. Aesop Rock- None Shall Pass: Some absolutely fantastic tracks on this alt-rapper's latest effort. See especially "None Shall Pass," "Five Fingers," and "Coffee."
14. They Might Be Giants- The Else: Gotta show these veterans some love for their best effort since Factory Showroom. While it lacks a bit of the absurdist energy of their earliest stuff, John and John get back to what they do best: writing quirky pop songs laced with ingenious metaphors.
EPs (in no order--they're all too good to compare)
1. The Reign of Kindo- EP: This is what happens when a talented emo band loses its lead singer and decides to jam out for a while, only picking up a lead singer at the last minute. The result is an alt-jazz-jam EP that maintains the overall sound of This Day and Age but pushes their own musical boundaries into completely new waters.
2. Edison Glass- Let Go: Christian rock gone horribly right. While A Burn or A Shiver was a solid LP with 5 or 6 really worthwhile tracks, Let Go is a quick and gloriously appealing peak at what these guys have planned for the future--complex, catchy riffs coupled with a few extra Red Bulls. This is what you love to see: a band really taking what they do best to a new level.
3. Days Away- Ear Candy For the Headphone Trippers: Fueled By Ramen made a horrible mistake dropping these dudes, though there's no doubt they don't fit with the Fall Out Boys, Panic! at the Discos, and Gym Class Heroes that comprise that label. These jam-rockers have recouped incredibly well from their being dropped, and continue to play one of the most entrancing live shows around.
4. Ben Karis-Nix- We Are Giants Now: At the low cost of free, this is far and away the deal of the century. After the disbandment of Jupiter Sunrise earlier this year, Ben has ventured out on his own. Please please please do yourself a favor and go to http://www.myspace.com/benkarisnix and download the tracks (and maybe even buy yourself a poster or shirt or something).