Thursday, December 02, 2010

My Semi-Attractive Dimly-Lit Mostly-Obvious Year in Music

I couldn’t possibly label this as a Best Albums of the Year as it’s really just a list of the only records I’ve bothered to listen to more than twice. At this point it’s pretty evident that the older I get the less I care for being on top of what’s new or supposedly interesting.
Here are my favourite albums of the year.

The Crown – Doomsday King
In keeping with the theme of this list I’d typically try to mention newer bands that would be contemporaries of The Crown, as an attempt to make a point that even though Doomsday King is the first record in 7 years for the reunited band it still obliterates the competition. But I don’t even know who the competition is anymore. Is there any? I don’t care, ‘cause if there is, The Crown does it better either way. And listen, they’re not breaking new ground here, just REALLY breaking old ground with the best machine on the planet used for breaking ground, and a new vocalist that I’m not entirely convinced isn’t the long hair from the X-Files’ Lone Gunmen.

Witchery – Witchkrieg
Jensen from The Haunted
Sharlee “The velvet-clad swashbuckler” from Arch Enemy and Mercyful Fate
Axenrot from Opeth and Bloodbath
Legion from Marduk
Some other guitar guy, and a whole bunch of guest guitar soloists.
In the world of metal this really is a recipe for a total debacle, but half of this record completely shreds. The other half is wholly skip-able but the mostly dull patty of this heavy metal hamburger is sandwiched by the most satisfying Scando-Thrash buns tasted all year. When the first word of the best metal vocal performance of 2010 kicks off the record with “SAAAAAAAAYYYTAAAAHHHHHHNNN” it’s like slamming back a Slurpee into the driest, most thirsty throat.

Robyn – Bodytalk Pt.1
Look, I’ll admit it, this year I’ve stood in my kitchen with a distorted Flying V playing along with Dancing On My Own almost as many times as I’ve stood in my kitchen with a distorted Flying V playing along with Extreme’s Decadence Dance. And I did the latter a lot. And while one may have been more technically difficult in the tradish sense (shout out to my man, Nuno) they were both equally super fun. In fact, I could have easily put Bodytalk Pt.2 on this list but that’d kinda be a bit too CFL (8 teams, 2 with the same…never mind) and while the newly released Bodytalk does cover almost all the bases, including You Should Know Better’s jogging jet fuel, and Pt.3’s Call your Girlfriend, Pt.1 hit me at the right time. Partner Robyn’s record release pace with her touring schedule and you’re left with someone who makes everyone look lazy, and really un-catchy.

Soilwork – The Panic Broadcast
No amount of dismissive looks from Billy Curtiss could change my mind on The Panic Broadcast. No amount of “stock riff” criticisms, and no amount of “floofy chorus” comments.
When it comes to catchy, easily digested metal, no band does it better than Soilwork. The leads are awesome and Dirk Verbeuren’s excellent, excellent drum performance will always make for a worthwhile listen.

Enslaved – Axioma Ethica Odini
The Norwegian Black Metal scene, or Black Metal genre as a whole is a lot like Electronic music: easy to do but hard to do well, over-populated, overwhelming, and most of it is complete garbage.
Fortunately Enslaved hasn’t been interested in participating in the theatrics for years, and maybe the band being labeled Black Metal has long been suspect, but enough musical elements remain for them to be just that. The construction and layering of Axioma Ethica Odini is downright lovely, and the note selection of the guitar lead heard on the leadoff track, Ethica Odini, is so great it justifies being on my list for that sole reason. If you’re on board with Opeth’s 70’s prog-folk tendencies, Enslaved, too, is moving in that direction even more with this record.
Does anyone care about being “grim” anymore? Can any band out-grim Portal anyway? The Watain record was passable but will they be wearing corpsepaint to their scheduled Williamsburg meet and greet? Stand in that lineup if you want proof that Black Metal is very, very far from its dangerous history.

Nachtmystium – Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. II
Not since Dirt has a "Major Label" band released an album so overtly devoted to hard drugs. At points it’s a glorification; at others it’s very depressing. What’s so great about Nachtmystium, similarly to Enslaved, is Blake Judd’s complete disinterest in staying within the confines of Black Metal.
Elements of New Wave and programmed instrumentation are used to create really impressive textures and atmospheres. I didn’t listen to it often, and when I did I usually wanted to turn it off. Not because I didn’t like what I heard, but mostly because it’s like, totally a bummer.
What the band lacks in technical ability, especially in living up to the use of “Meddle”, it makes up with ambition, forthrightness, and pure songwriting.

Kanye – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
It’s an album of incredible sound, and as an exercise in listening one would be hard pressed to be left unfulfilled. The sheer audacity in some of the stylistic choices should never shake hands, yet somehow do, are a testament to West’s talent as a producer.
There are many cringe-worthy moments, for example the lyrical disaster of following “Colin Powell’s” with “Austin Powers” in Power, and the King Crimson 21st Century Schizoid Man sample, also in Power, falling so completely on its off-rhythm, rushed face, it must have been intentional (but not justified). And I don’t wish Runaway to be instrumental, but shouting out to the “douchebags and assholes”? I get it, and it makes sense, but it still sounds stupid. With stronger lyrics it could have been the single of the year.
MBDTF plays out like a series of well executed songs as opposed to a collection of beats and rhymes. By adding melody both vocally and instrumentally he has me convinced he's a legit musician instead of just rapper/producer.
West makes it a challenge to want to give him credit, but to be fair, he’s not the first buffoon to make great music. He’s just the most childish, public buffoon.

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