#1. Mark Lanegan – Somebody’s Knocking/Orville Peck – Pony
Two very unique, yet very similar song-writers working generations apart but somehow existing within the same creative space. My sensibilities are a tad elastic, I understand this; but Peck has immensity in his talent (in many ways) that resembles Lanegan’s acid-and-whiskey balladeer mentalities. One’s a little bit country and one’s a little bit rock-and-roll, but I recommend both in equal measure.
#2. Wand – Laughing Matter
I thought psychedelic rock was an artifice for hipsters to trade and flaunt, lost to the truest practitioners for the sake of popularity, but a very, very focused band from LA (of all places) gave me a much needed boost of reassurance this year. Wand hit me out of nowhere with Laughing Matter, a concise, yet ambitious outing rooted in the rainbow roads paved by King Crimson and (the) Pink Floyd. Do it up!
#3. PUP – Morbid Stuff
If you were a friend of mine, you’d be very frustrated with me right now having seen this. Give this album a listen…alright?…yep…but no – there’s more. I understand on top there’s a frothy head of pop-punk that might…detour the more ingrained punk enthusiast, but once the album grows legs it takes off, hurling Molotov cocktails and pissing on walls. It’s really good, and it deserves some attention.
#4. Chris Forsyth – All Time Present/Delicate Steve – Till I Burn Up
I am a serious guitar nerd, so when I get hit with a bunch of good guitar music in one year it’s hard to choose which is which to pick and pluck. So I went with these two. Forsyth has an old-school-Neil-Young-meets-new-school-Jay-Mascis sensibility that really speaks to me, while Delicate Steve brings that new-wave shred shit to the Dire Straits show and makes me think about getting a synth pedal.
#5. . Ezra Furman – Twelve Nudes/Joan Shelley – Like The River Loves The Sea
Two very personal, very guitar-based albums that couldn’t be more sonically disparate. Furman can’t contain themself in this ridiculous, perilous world and strikes out with wit, distortion, and driving drums. Shelley can’t bring herself to exist in a world without her past, delicately strumming (literally) her way through trauma towards relief.
#6. Mammoth Penguins – There’s No Fight We Can’t Both Win
The prevalence of emotional transparency in rock-and-roll has been a welcomed injection of immediacy. That being said, kick-ass rock music is always good, regardless of the issues being worked out. This album turned out to be a much-needed helmet in such a clumsy sort of year, both nationally and personally.
#7. Sunn O))) – Pyroclasts
For once, Sunn O))) put out too much music and I have to choose the best. So I chose Pyroclasts. In all honesty, I prefer the “warmer” pieces on Pyroclasts over the “orchestrated” pieces on Life Metal. Which shouldn’t connote any ambivalence towards Life Metal – it’s great. But I prefer the casual nature of Pyroclasts. Yum.
#8. Stella Donnelly – beware of the dogs/Tallies – s/t
Female voices are booming in music these days, and I’m glad to know these specific talents in general. Donnelly pulls no punches, scathing stereotypes and tossing tea like a Bostonian. Tallies front-woman Sarah Cogan brings the retro-radical guitar of Cocteau Twins to her soaring pro-active choruses with grace and aplomb.
#9. Kyle Craft – Showboat Honey/Malibu Ken – s/t
There’s a difference between neon and spray paint, obviously, but the two do share some similarities. For lack of a better analogy, Kyle Craft is like neon and Malibu Ken is like spray paint. Craft pays homage to Big Star and Prince and Lionel Richie, while Malibu Ken lets TOBACCO go totally nuts and try to reinvent the Warner Bros. wheel by way of Aphex Twin and George Clinton while Aesop Rock recites his entire life’s thoughts from memory.
#10. Lana Del Ray – Norman Fucking Rockwell!
I had to listen to this album twice in a row to understand it at first, which I’m glad I did. Catharsis is a very personal experience, but to be able to share it in such vivid connotation (oxymoron definitely recognized) is a talent of the highest order. Long story short – if I have to steal myself during a lengthy and heavy confessional rap and ask ‘Is this really an organ solo right now?’ I’m on board.