15) White Crosses by Against Me!
I dare anyone out there who truly believes Tom Gabel and the rest of Against Me! have gone soft to grow a pair of balls, walk up to these guys next time they come to your town, look them in the eye, and tell them so. While your getting stomped out I hope someone with a sense of humor and some speakers blasts the seething, 1:43 track, “Rapid Decompression,” off the band’s latest “abomination” White Crosses. So the new album is poppier Reinventing Axl Rose. Big deal!!! Even the hardcore grow up. Eventually, you live long enough to lose faith in your fellow “revolutionist.” You realize the scene you’ve devoted a great deal of your life and talent to is a thankless dead end and that is what White Crosses is about. It’s a big “Fuck You” to the foe punks who devote more time to style than action and change, and don’t really give a fuck about music. Against Me! can’t say it any clearer than it did in “I Was A Teenage Anarchist.” “They set their rifle sights on me,” sings Gabel, “Narrow visions of autonomy/You want me to surrender my identity/I was a teenage anarchist/The revolution was a lie!” If writing punk tunes with hooks is good enough for The Clash, The Ramones, The Who, Bad Religion, The Bouncing Souls, Dropkick Murphys, Green Day, Rise Against, the list goes on…then it’s good enough for Against Me! and I’ll celebrate the band’s discourse on the church, loss of faith, and trials of growing older while you ass holes slash their tour bus’ tires, burglarize their equipment, and chuck bricks from a cowardly distance. Real fans would be happy some of their brothers made it.
“I Was A Teenage Anarchist”
I have a real love/hate relationship with The Suburbs. I can justify placing it further up on the list as well as leaving it off completely. I’ve grown angry at how much superb press its gotten but can’t quite quit listening to it. I can’t stand it because, well, I’ve lived in the suburbs all my life. I understand what this lifestyle is about, I get it, the monotony makes you want to go start a brush fire from time to time. And although Arcade Fire accurately depicts these pains of pedestrian living, there is nothing revolutionary about The Suburbs. It is nothing more than a collection of poppy Art-Rock tracks. There is only one song in which grandiose statements are made by Win Butler and company, one song that is more than just a simple observation of existence, and it’s the opening salvo, “The Suburbs.” Butler sings for the kids who dream of leaving town for bigger things. He serenades those stuck living under the facade of a society their parents built back in the ’70s. And he croons for those in a position such as his to learn from the demons of their pasts and show their children a more beautiful world. There is a lot going on in the title-track, but I fear people have read too far into the rest of the record…there is no depth in theme, only in great songs.
13) Fire by Green Paper
While speaking with the members of Green Paper in their practice space I learned that Fire, the band’s debut, is the first in a series of five albums and the only unifying aspect intended for this record is that it’s supposed to be fun to listen to on drugs…but that’s either modesty or a case of not truly understanding the fruits of one’s labors. Fire is much more than a collection of songs to play while you trip balls. This 10-track album was born out of toxic relationships, the loss of faith in your neighbor, and yes, different substances and mixed drinks used to cope with those issues. My recommendation, sit on the floor for your first few listens until an immunity is built to the impending head rush that will undoubtedly strike from this sonic bombardment. The catchiest of Pop tunes (“April 27th, 2004,” “Silver Linings”) are intertwined with fuzziest of Rock songs (“Carthage,” “Summer [Medley]”), not to mention the first track the band ever wrote together, “The Waltz,” a slow building volcanic eruption of a number that’s eerie tidings are properly introduced by a warped Nat King Cole loop. “The Waltz” is an appropriate indication of what Green Paper has to offer with Fire and I urge you to take a listen.
12) Gorilla Manor by Local Natives
Prior to seeing Local Natives performa at Bonnaroo 2010 I knew nothing about them. In fact, had it not been for my friend Mike Mehalick, I would have ventured to a different tent to see Manchester Orchestra, which I’m still pretty bummed about. However, in viewing Local Natives that evening, I found a band that will stick with me forever. Gorilla Manor is an impressive debut that fuses two diverse Indie-Rock ideologies from opposite ends of the country, the haziness of the West Coast (Wavves, Best Coast) with attention to echoing East Coast melody (Grizzly Bear, Freelance Whales). The big difference between Local Natives and the rest of these acts is the band’s coveted ability to alternate tempo. “Warning Sign,” “Sun Hands,” and “Airplanes” are roller coasters, and that’s just a handful of tracks I could have mentioned.
11) Sidewalks by Matt & Kim
After my first run through of Sidewalks I was a little distraught. The first three tracks (“Block After Block,” “AM/FM Sound,” and “Cameras”) had a distinct Hip Hop vibe to them and I was scared Matt & Kim had abandoned that Indie Piano-Punk sound I had grown to love. It later made sense when I learned Ben Allen, former producer for P Diddy at Bad Boys Records, worked on the duo’s third studio release, and eventually, all my fears dispersed when “Red Paint” flowed through the speakers. The quintessential Matt & Kim was not dead. Matt Johnson’s nasally, nerdy croon and rhythmic synth work, and Kim Schifino’s controlled chaos drumming style just lay hidden under grander gloss.
10) Plastic Beach by Gorillaz
There is a good chance that the world will never see the creation of an album like Plastic Beach ever again. Sure, there will be other records with cameos from a diverse group of famous musicians, but, will the production ever be pieced together as perfectly as the director of this project, Damon Albarn, fused it? Plastic Beach is more than a collection of 16 tracks, it’s an entire universe. Its a modern day Neverland aboard a rogue pirate ship governed by a cast of cartoon characters, and manned by a crew that includes Snoop Dog, Bruce Willis, Mos Def, Bobby Womak, De La Soul, Lou Reed, Little Dragon, and half of The Clash. The ship floats aimlessly along the coastline, just near enough to observe and comment on the inhabitants faulty way of living, but never intending to make port. Gorillaz is no longer something bound to a movie screen, its a living, breather, artistic organization of musicians and designers, and Plastic Beach is its masterpiece.
“Empire Ants (feat. Little Dragon)”
9) Fortress by Miniature Tigers
I got hooked on Miniature Tigers when I heard the band’s 2008 debut Tell It To The Volcano, and at the end of it I honestly thought this band outdid itself. It didn’t seem like it left itself anywhere to go but I was proven wrong. Alan Palomo of Neon Indian was intrigued enough by Miniature Tigers’ knack for creating tropically injected Pop-Rock that he decided to produce the track “Gold Skull” on the band’s sophomore release, Fortress, one of a series of intricately pieced together, hook laden tracks (Mansion Of Misery,” “Rock & Roll Mountain Troll,” “Japanese Woman Living In My Closet”). However it’s Miniature Tigers’ talent for inserting what I can only describe as echoing, Animal Collectivey-pieces, within its poppy compositions (“Egyptian Robe,” “Bullfighter Jacket,” “Lolita”) that have caused me to fall deeply, deeply in love with this record.
8) Treats by Sleigh Bells
In the hypothetical situation that two albums could walk down the street and throw hands, assuming they had limbs, Treats would gut Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream like Jack The Ripper to a Dickensian prostitute. Sleigh Bells is the musical foil to the Slut-Pop of KatyPerry and Miley Cyrus. Instead of whipped cream spouting from breasts, tsunamis waves of sound explode from speakers. Meteorite drum tracks puncture holes into the fabric of the listeners mind, while layers of Derek E. Miller’s thunderous guitar riffs accompany the Bubblegum-Pop croon of Alexis Krauss. Let me put into perspective just how powerful a sound this record produces. In May I was living with some unreasonably obnoxious neighbors above me that enjoyed hosting nightly dance parties on my ceiling. Now, I’m not one to turn down a battle of the sound systems, so I indulged. The war raged on for days. I hit them with Megadeath and bombed them with Metallica without any results. Even Slayer on full blast was no match for their stubborness and Ludacris. However, on that fateful afternoon, that I now refer to as T-Day (Treats Day), after only 15-minutes of the Sleigh Bells debut on full blast (“Tell Em,” “Kids,” “Riot Rhythm,” and “Infinity Guitars”), not only did my neighbors to the north turn off their stereo, but an apology was personally delivered to my door, and they left the apartment for the rest of the night. Thank you Sleigh Bells.
7) Stuck On Nothing by Free Energy
There are a number of acts these days doing Weezer’s music better than Weezer but none more superior than this Power-Popping five-piece from Philadelphia. Free Energy is picking up where Rivers Cuomo and company left off five years ago on Make Believe (and some, namely Pitchfork, who granted that album a 0.4 out of 10, would push back even further to Maladroit) with its debut release Stuck On Nothing. “Bang Pop” is the singalong chorus radio hit while “Dream City” and “Free Energy” battle for second place in the race for best song which belongs to “Bad Stuff.”
6) My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West
On My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West comes across as a rambling psychopath that’s escaped the asylum and is hell bent on convincing us all that he is not only the best rapper on earth, but the most superior performing artist this galaxy has to offer…and he just may have done it. Collectively, these 13-tracks make up one of the greatest Rap albums ever dropped with savage rhyme after rhyme spit over a mix grandiose orchestral and Rock compositions. And separately, a majority of these songs stand alone as hits including, but not limited to, “Dark Fantasy,” “Power,” “All Of The Lights,” and “Monster.” And let us not forget “Runaway” the 9-minute epic with the accompanying 34 and a half-minute music video. Yes, Kanye West is more interrupting than that knock-knock joke cow. Sure, President Obama doesn’t care for him. And yes, he won’t think twice about clogging up your Twitter feed with nonsensical banter. But, props must given where props are due, and Kanye West has created a master work.
“Monster (feat. Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, and Bon Iver)”