It's been an interesting year. The Cardinals underperformed and I really am tired of LaRussa's genius. In June, I moved in with a friend. It's a great house, but it increased my work day drive time by more than double. While that has increased my car fuel costs, I also have a lot more time to listen to and think about music. I can nearly get through complete albums in one morning. Some albums I do. Rather than ranking albums this year, I wanted to give a little more detail on how I feel about some albums. This list isn't comprehensive, but what is?
Best Album For Your Inner Teenage Punk: RVIVR -- LP.
This LP had some of the best hooks I've heard this year. The dual vocals between Matt Canino and Erica Freas create a great atmosphere. The lyrics are simple and, although the songwriters are at least in their mid-20s, have an innocent and idealistic quality to them. This can be distracting if you're looking for something more substantial than "everybody's talking shit/you get used to it/we float on and on and on/." That said, I can see this album being very reassuring to a young, disillusioned punk looking for a band that knows what they are going through. RVIVR also released the Dirty Water EP this year. Of the few listens I've given it, it's pretty damn good, too. All releases are available for free (or donation) at Rumbletowne Records.
Best Album to Get PWNED to: Sleigh Bells -- Treats
I had heard this album was loud. At first, I kind of brushed off the analysis because being the seasoned veteran I am of loud bands playing loud shows, I had never heard of these guys. My roommate actually bought it. He cued it up in his iPod as we went to some shindig this summer. I'm sure my first reaction to that earsplitting first riff was the same as everyone who hears the album for the first time: WHAT THE FUCK IT THIS? Anyway, it turns out that this album is the perfect soundtrack to play Red Dead Redemption and Call of Duty: Black Ops. I've been shot in the head many times as "Crown on the Ground" encourages me to keep going.
Rager Soundtrack of the Year: The Brokedowns -- Species Bender
This is the soundtrack of getting drunk and partying at a show with your buds. Let's not kid ourselves here: a lot of bands do the gritty vocaled Midwest punk thing. But to me, The Brokedowns do it without a lot of frills aka the right way. Quick bursts of yelling. Throw in some fun sing-a-longs. You got a fantastic party album. Red Scare Industries out of Chicago put out this album. They do good work there and this album is no exception. This album is my audio 4 Loko this year.
Anticipated Album from this Year Satisfied Division: Gaslight Anthem -- American Slang
Gaslight Anthem has been one of my favorite bands for the past few years now. I've trekked hundreds of miles to catch them live, on numerous occasions. These guys put in their dues and all success they get is earned. American Slang is an improvement over '59 Sound in that it sounds like an album Bandleader Brian Fallon wanted to make. It has a consistent theme and each song highlights that theme in a unique way. Also, no more annoying reverb. I didn't listen to this album very much in the latter half of this year, but after a few recent listens, I can say this album is a strong statement by a great, young band.
Anticipated Album from this Year Disappointed Division: VRGNS -- Manimals
Boy, did I really want to like this album. After hearing a few of their songs off of compilations and EPs, I eagerly awaited this release. I preordered the damn vinyl. This band, consisting of former members of New Mexican Disaster Squad, had some high expectations from me, and for the most part, didn't quite meet them. The first track, "Everyone is Weird," is fantastic. Unfortunately, many of the other tracks don't quite reach that success. A lot of them sound like forgettable B-sides.
Best Album to Mash Potato to: Titus Andronicus -- The Monitor
Sure there are some convoluted themes about the Civil War but it's not actually about the Civil War but about today's political climate, but actually about Patrick Stickles internal conflict. Whatever. This album is fun. Forget the eerie monologues performed by Craig Finn, a lot of these songs about enemies being everywhere and being fucked from the start are just fantastic to beat your steering wheel to or even dance if you're so inclined.
Sad Bastard Album of the Year: Mumford & Sons -- Sigh No More
I didn't really know what to expect with this band. I had never heard of them. After a local musician whom I respect told me it was his favorite album of the year, I had to give it a chance. Do you like Avett Bros., but hate when they cut that tension with a sweet love song? Then this album is for you. While I confidently compare the two bands, I will say Mumford & Sons have a little more balls behind their tunes, even if it is one of the most depressing albums I've heard. (Except for the song I picked below. I don't even know any more.)
Best Overall Album of the Year Part 1: Someone Still Love You Boris Yeltsin -- Let It Sway
I hadn't expected to give this album such praise. They are the local band that has made it (relatively) big (Polyvinyl). I am a moderate fan of their debut, Broom, and was less than enthused with their follow-up, Pershing. Pershing felt tired, like they had burnt out before they ever reached their full potential. I bought Let It Sway partly out of local scene loyalty and partly to see if they could capture the lightheartedness they had in Broom. Initially, I wasn't very impressed, but after putting it on the shelf for a few weeks and coming back to it, I couldn't stop playing it. I might have exclusively played this album for most of September. Each song fits perfectly with the next. If someone had told me something so poppy would be one of my favorite albums of the year, I'da asked them for lottery numbers then punched them in the throat. But here we are. Sorry about the punch, dude.
Best Overall Album of the Year Part 2: The Riot Before -- Rebellion
Rebellion opens up with a distorted guitar and an almost primal drum beat. Brett Adams sings over the odd beat as if stumbling, then all of a sudden with one beat: everything is coordinated. A driving rhythm that is as good an album catalyst as you can get. The Riot Before's Rebellion has improved on their previous, more folky releases with an honest, brutal, and beautiful vision. If you follow lead singer Adams on Twitter or Tumblr, you can see that he has no bullshit notions about what he is doing. When his band has to play sparsely filled rooms in the middle of nowhere, he doesn't just say "It's okay, everyone that was there was THE BEST!" No, he is honest and says it sucks. He's been on the road with bands for years. He's in his mid-to-late 20s and you can tell he's starting to have doubts. He honestly misses his girlfriend on the road. His doubts are often my doubts. Can you be punk at 26? Is that embarrassing? Is it okay? When do I have to grow up. This album was written at a very specific time in a young man's life, and I feel like I am also at that point in my life. I don't know if this album is as universally understood as I understand it. I hope it does. And I'm sure Adams does, too.
Per usual, here's a track from each featured album:
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