Uncommon music criticized by the common man. (Or, exercises in futility masquerading as critical thought.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Top Ten of 2006: Musica Generica Style

You'd never know it by looking at the activity of this blog this year, but I've actually listened to a ton of music, most of it new. Of course, it's never really enough, as I realized as I was compiling this list. The number of albums I didn't get a chance to peep is staggering, and with a new year upon us, I have no idea when I'll catch up. The short list of artists with new albums that I completely neglected includes Isis, Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, The Coup, Mars Volta, Tool, Neko Case, Napalm Death, Kataklysm, Cult of Luna, Motorhead, and Ornette Coleman. It's sad that I could keep going.

But let's not dwell upon the negative. Instead, let's celebrate the good music that I did manage to get my mitts upon. As always, there were some noteworthy records that just missed the cut. Worth your time are:

Boris - Pink (Southern Lord)
DragonForce - Inhuman Rampage (Roadrunner)
J Dilla - Donuts (Stones Throw)
Kayo Dot - Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue (Robotic Empire)
Lamb of God - Sacrament (Epic)
Slayer - Christ Illusion (American)

And now, in alphabetical order, the ten albums that gave me the most enjoyment of 2006:

Agalloch - Ashes Against The Grain (The End)
Comets On Fire - Avatar (Sub Pop)
Ghostface Killah - Fishscale (Def Jam)
Gojira - From Mars To Sirius (Prosthetic)
Jesu - Silver EP (Hydra Head)
Korpiklaani - Tales Along This Road (Napalm)
Mastodon - Blood Mountain (Reprise)
The Melvins - A Senile Animal (Ipecac)
Om - Conference of the Birds (Holy Mountain)
Voivod - Katorz (The End)

First, I will say that the Melvins album was my absolute favorite of the year, beating out Ghostface's Fishscale, which I wouldn't have believed way back when I first picked up that disc. So if you really need numerical assignments, right there are one and two. The Melvins delivered an album I really didn't think they were capable of delivering this late in the game, especially given the new personnel and their propensity to weird things up (and I mean that in a good way). I never imagined them going back to balls out rockin' out like they did here, and with such a sense of urgency to boot. Breathtaking. And what can I say about Ghostface's album that hasn't been said over and over since its release. It has everything you want out of a great rap album: great production, good to mindblowing lyrical skill, and that one song that will make it onto every mix you'll make for the next ten years ("The Champ").

The Agalloch album was my introduction to the band and is one of the most beautiful records I heard this year, the occasional black metal vokills (which are not nearly as distracting as many metal vocalists) notwithstanding. I need to get their earlier records, because I'll always have the time to listen to wintry, atmospheric music. Comets On Fire, meanwhile, released their most focused record to date, while managing to keep most of the freewheeling squall intact. France's Gojira another band new to me, released one piledriver of a record, equal parts technical wizardry (hello Meshuggah!) and spitfire brutality, but tempered with a certain atmospheric quality worthy of Devin Townsend himself.

And speaking of tempering their music, Jesu did just that on their EP, which saw the band inject a bit more melody into their claustrophobic ambient metal. On the other end of the spectrum are Korpiklaani, whose Finnish folk metal should inspire the kind of drunken revelry reserved for Irish weddings/funerals. Anybody who thinks metal is all skulls and Satan and slit wrists would do well to check this album out. Mastodon, under the pressure of dropping their first major label disc, not to mention having to top Leviathan, their previous album that was the subject of so many critical mash notes and handjobs, unleashed Blood Mountain. It was a terrific album to be sure, if not as immediately bracing as its predecessor, and should not be missed.

Om, bka the rhythm section of stoner metal godz Sleep, put out their second album, which is right up there with Agalloch on the beauty scale. Consisting only of two tracks that clock in past fiteen minutes each, Conference of the Birds is what the duo do best: repetitive rhythms and drones that change subtly over the course of each piece, the heaviness of Om's music carrying the listener along without every getting waist-deep in dullness.

Finally, there is Voivod's album, which will always carry with it the weight of the death of Denis "Piggy" d'Amour, the band's co-founder and guitarist, who recorded all of his parts for the record prior to his untimely passing. These parts were later completed by the rest of the band and released (there's also supposed to be a second album in the making, using the rest of the guitar parts Piggy recorded) as Katorz. Even without the backstory, this would have been a noteworthy release, as Katorz is the fierce roar of a band at its technical peak, crafting rock solid metal without ever putting it into cruise control.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hipster Shuffle

It seems my iPod is in a very hep cat mood this morning. Here are the first ten songs it played:

Dysrhythmia "Touch Benediction"
Pavement "Old To Begin"
Pepe Deluxe "Salami Fever"
Public Enemy "Don't Believe The Hype"
Teenage Fanclub "Older Guys"
Damon & Naomi "The Great Wall"
Gnarls Barkley "Crazy"
Superchunk "Garlic"
Elliott Smith "Waltz #2"
Pixies "Bone Machine"

(And the 11th song, playing as I type this, is New Pornographers. I'm a Ted Leo song and funny pair of shoes away from being me three years ago. Except I don't actually own any Ted Leo albums.)

The year end list is almost complete and will be posted later today. Another fine year in music.