Jimmy Hitt rounds up the Top of the Pops/ Rocks/ Metal/ Indie/ Electro albums of the year. And as a CinCitizen he isn't bound in the least by the usual Top Ten. Instead he has compiled an astonishing fourteen albums that came out on top this year. Plus, he gives you a run-down genre by genre of music you have to check out.
There is no better way to kick off "Top Week"! Buckle your seat belts and get ready to be rocked!
1. Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping
Kevin Barnes and Co. continue to create the finest freak-out music in the world, with an equally amazing live show to boot (that’s him performing on top of a white steed). The album is essentially nothing but hooks, about 50 of them, just piled on top of each other. The key is to just play the album from track one and let it roll, otherwise the mass of pop and funk will become too confusing. Damn, what an accomplishment.
2. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak
This album deserves recognition just for the song “Paranoid,” quite possibly the finest song of Kanye’s illustrious career. But the other tracks are no stinkers, either, as Kanye drops all sense of rap-posturing for a more direct, danceable album filled with French techno flourishes. I also like that he sings with Auto Tune because he can’t sing that well by himself. It’s good to admit one’s flaws and correct them.
3. Crystal Antlers – Crystal Antlers EP
Their debut album is a searing, guitar and drum driven leviathan. Tracks like “A Thousand Eyes” make me wonder if Crystal Antlers will be the next Trail of Dead or the next U2. If they can make something this amazing and hardcore in their own bedroom, imagine what a real studio will produce…
4. TV on the Radio – Dear Science
The perfect album. As always, TVotR drop oodles of production prowess on top of inventive pop arrangements and real “message” music. “Hey Jackal, fuck your war, cause I’m fat and in love and no bombs are fallin’ on me,” Tonde Adebimpe croons on “Red Dress” with his usual bravery/naïveté.
5. Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing
Noise that’s danceable, dance that’s noisy. Fuck Buttons overcame their goofy moniker to produce one of the easiest albums of the year to really love, combining everything I like about noise, dance, and metal into a mix of sounds that never really settles for the term mash-up. This is original sounding shit.
6. Harvey Milk – Life…The Best Game in Town
When you’re good at something, never do it for free, or so the saying goes. Harvey Milk make some of the best hard charging rock this side of the Melvins and Big Business, and Life, their first album in almost a decade—or has it been longer?—reminds us that they still know how to drone out with the best bands around.
7. Sigur Ros – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
As Sigur Ros continues to refine its sound and move away from the crushing, long-drawn atmospherics of its classics—Aegatis Byrjun and ( )—I continue to respond favorably to their sound, which is as trippy and fun as ever, and now fairly rhythmic to boot.
8. Atlas Sound – Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
Poor Bradford Cox wasn’t made for this world. He belongs at the forefront of experimental rock, right alongside The Velvet Underground. Why do I say this? Because he does that late 60’s garage-pop genre better than the originals. Witness “Recent Bedroom.”
9. Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Lie Down in the Light
If BPB can make an engrossing set of tracks when he’s depressed—see I See a Darkness, all of his Palace recordings—then his happiness is everyone’s gain. Lie Down in the Light is this year’s most enjoyable folk disc, and some of the finest work of the artist’s formidably large and varied catalog.
10. Mount Eerie – Black Wooden Ceiling Opening EP
For years I’ve been wishing that Phil Elverum—the brains of the Mount Eerie outfit—would just grow a pair and rock out. He always alludes to his love of atmospheric metal in interviews, after all, and several tracks prior were colored in noise. So this EP that just sort of drizzled out of his camp came as a wonderful mid-year surprise. I especially love the straightforward track “Don’t Smoke,” which, as its name suggests, is part public service announcement and part psychological comeuppance.
11. M83 – Saturdays = Youth
Since I don’t really get stoned anymore, it’s nice to hear what that used to feel like. M83 do the psycho-dance tracks better than basically anyone, and Saturdays is their finest effort to date. With both approachable pop tracks—“Kim & Jessie”—and long barn burners—“Midnight Souls Still Remain”—M83’s diversity and gift for hummable melodies sets them apart from the rest of the French-techno aping crowd of late.
12. Nachtmystium – Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1
One of the finest metal albums in years, Assassins also paves the way for Nachtmystium to separate itself from the purely evil and sound-alike US black metal scene. If the name of the album isn’t a complete nod to Pink Floyd, some of the spacier arrangements are. Still, this is a metal fan’s metal, the kind of music that makes you want to go pick a fight or stage dive off your desk. The title track is pure sing-along madness.
13. Portishead – 3rd
I thought Portishead broke up or died, but here they emerged sounding sleeker and more intellectual than ever before…YES! This is a gift for everyone who got tuckered out by the dub step genre and was certain that Portishead would just deliver more tired late 90’s retreads. Finally, the vocals and noisy atmosphere take center stage.
14. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound
If you like Bruce Springsteen, New Jersey, and throwback rock and roll in general, then this is the album that will make your year. The ’59 Sound is a perfect slice of fun, brains, and anachronism done right, not the half-baked pseudo-classic rock of the jam circuit or the uninformed genre-mining top 40 crowd. This is street-level, amps in the backseat garage rock the way it was meant to be played.
Favorite Albums by Genre (also an effort to promote other worthy titles)
1. Nachtmystium – Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1
2. Leviathan – Massive Conspiracy Against All Life
3. Metallica – Death Magnetic
4. Menace Ruine – Cult of Ruins
5. Krallice – Krallice
6. Opeth – Still Life
7. Boris – Smile
8. Ancestors – Neptune with Fire
9. Intronaut – Prehistoricisms
10. Torche – Meanderthal
1. Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing
2. Lidstrom – Where You Go I Go Too
3. Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna
4. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
5. Ellen Allien – Sool
6. DJ/rupture – Uproot
7. Truckasaurus – Tea Parties, Guns & Valor
8. Max Tundra – Parallax Error Beheads You
9. Air France – No Way Down
10. Son Lux – At War with Walls & Mazes
1. Frightened Rabbit – Midnight Organ Fight
2. Deerhunter – Microcastle
3. The Alps – III
4. Crystal Stilts – Alight of Night
5. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
6. Beach House – Devotion
7. The Walkmen – You & Me
8. Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst
9. Black Kids – Partie Traumatic
10. Mount Eerie – Lost Wisdom/Black Wooden Ceiling Opening EP
1. The Drones – Havila
2. Fucked Up – The Chemistry of Common Life
3. Kings of Leon – Only by the Night
4. Kuroma – Paris
5. Earth – The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull
1. Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter III
2. Girl Talk – Feed the Animals
3. The Streets – Everything is Borrowed
4. Q-Tip – The Renaissance
5. Killer Mike – I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind Vol. 2
1. Belong – Colorless Record EP
2. Aidan Baker & Tim Hecker – Fantasma—Parastasie
3. Nico Muhly – Mothertongue
4. Hauschka – Ferndorf
5. Growing – Lateral
Top 10 Favorite Songs
1. Crystal Castles – “Crimewave”
2. Plants and Animals – “Bye Bye Bye”
3. Truckasaurus – “Fak!!!”
4. Beach House – “Some Things Last a Long Time”
5. Kid Cudi – “Day ‘N Night (Crookers Remix)”
6. Of Montreal – “Plastis Wafers”
7. Pictureplane – “Flashion (You Designed My Mind)”
8. Air France – “Maundy Thursday”
9. Kanye West – “Paranoid”
10. Lil’ Wayne – “A Milli”
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