Year of the Supergroup
10. Wolfmother – Cosmic Egg
Most people’s issue with Wolfmother is that they are a pretty blatant rip-off of bands like Black Sabbath. I can’t argue with that; but I will argue that I love Black Sabbath and they rip it off pretty goddamn well. Let’s not over-think this band – Stockdale is a great front man, and the guitar work is nothing to scoff at. Just sit back and enjoy some throwback rock n roll.
9. Handsome Furs – Face Control
Handsome Furs is definitely a band that on paper I should hate, but they do what they do so well I can’t help but enjoy this record. Sparse and mostly synthesized, there’s not much to it but what’s there is leveraged to its full potential. The Russian tossed in throughout doesn’t hurt either (“Nyet Spasiba”)
8. The Von Bondies – Love, Hate, and then there’s You
I’m probably the last one out there who thinks the Von Bondies matter now that Jack White has up and deserted the D-town garage rock scene. Nevertheless the Von Bondies have put together a nice little record here with raw and catchy tunes that keep the scrappy Detroit spirit going, with lyrics like “We are the spark, we are the great, we keep our cities loud and far. We keep their ears glued to the streets – we are the underground.”
7. Del the Funky Homosapien & Tame One - Paralell Uni-verses
Del is still one of the most underrated rappers in the game and this new project with Tame one only pushes the boundaries of his fantastically weird flow further. Digging through his closet and pulling out obscure samples and beats that perfectly compliment their lyrics, this is one of Del’s best collaborations since his outing in Gorillaz. Best lyrics –“Life sucks, reality blows. Responsibilities is killing me. All I wanna do is rock and do shows.” Can we all not relate?
6. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand: Tonight
This album took a bit to grow on me but it’s earned some steady rotation on the iPod. The whole album could easily be the soundtrack for your next epic night out on the town – building momentum as it goes along, and coming down to some slow jams just in time for that point of the night where you’re having your last beer with your buddies on a front porch somewhere (or if you’re a member of this band, probably in an alley or gutter in Leith). Definitely a step forward for Franz – they have established they aren’t just a novelty act, and I’m looking forward to what these chaps will do next.
5. Electric Six – Kill
How I love it when local boys make good! This is the tightest album E6 has put out since Fire – much less filler than there has been on past albums, and this sounds the most like an album of all the E6 albums (as opposed to a collections of songs they’ve been playing in a frathouse basement somewhere). The Detroit references alone would have earned this a place on my list (“there aren’t any people on the people mover” – “you can’t kill Detroit” – “the Detroit river isn’t a good place to scuba”) but they threw in a bonus by dedicating a whole song to how much Ohio sucks. Bless! “Body Shot” is also one of their most fun songs to listen to – I don’t know where they got the inspiration for this one, but it’s one of the most complex E6 songs they have put out. This concert was also a blast to attend (St. Andrew's Hall, Detroit) – they brought on an all-girl acapella group to perform “Gay Bar” which was followed by the band playing “Gay Bar Pt. 2” and ended the show with what they called the Dance Trilogy – Dance Epidemic, Dance Commander, and Improper Dancing. For my money, you can’t beat the booty-shakin’ raunch of a live E6 show. This group just revs my engine. In spite of (or perhaps because of) their cheese and juvenility, I just heart E6.
4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
When I heard YYYs new album was going to be their dancefloor material, I have to say – I was pretty horrified. Why run a great thing? But they proved me wrong. YYYs proved they could master the synthesizer while staying true to their original spirit. “Runaway” drips with the dramatic – spare piano building into vibrating strings – the crescendo of this part sends chills down my spine. It’s the perfect compliment to the subject matter – an ode to a lover you can’t live with or without. And I always love the token YYYs love songs – Hysteric is another touching step in that tradition. Oh yeah, and the dancefloor songs are pretty good too.
3. Ida Maria – Fortress 'Round my Heart
How is it that Scandinavia breeds such adorable little musicians? It must be something in the water. This album is good plain fun rock with a dash of punk and a tablespoon of pop. Some of these lyrics are so token to what many of the young adults are experiencing entering the working world and trying to find their purpose…“Find a cure, Find a cure for my life....Pin a smile on my face, put a price on my soul” – anyone who wound up in a job they didn’t quite dream about as a kid can relate – do we sell out & settle or look for the cure? And “Queen of the World” is the ultimate lady lush soundtrack. This was hands down my favorite set al Lollapalooza this summer – everybody in the vicinity couldn’t help but be infected my Ida’s onstage enthusiasm.
2. Them Crooked Vultures (s/t)
John Paul Jones on bass? Check. Dave Grohl on drums? Check. Josh Homme on guitar/vocals? Double-check! This group is basically a wet dream for hard rock fans around the globe. And it lives up to the hype – it’s face meltingly good. The only reason this didn’t get #1 is that unlike Dead Weather, many of the songs sound distinctly influenced by the Foos, Led Zep, or QOTSA as opposed to new entities in themselves. But in certain moments - like midway through opening track “Nobody Loves me and Neither do I” when they drop the hammer of thor and unleash the darkest bowels of rock – they transcend into something epic. Bottom line is, I would sacrifice a human baby to get tickets to their next show in Chicago.
1. The Dead Weather – Horehound
I just love it when my rockstars play nice with each other, and Dead Weather is an example of the great things that can happen when musicians step out of their comfort zone (although I’m starting to think that Jack White just permanently lives outside of his comfort zone). Dead Weather is truly a supergroup who together make something infinitely better than the sum of its parts. Although there are members in this band from the Kills, the White Stripes, the Racontuers, and Queens of the Stone Age, together they sounds like something unique and separate from all of these groups – we hear glimmers of their past work but none ever dominates the sound. Live, they ooze with suspense – I got tickets to both nights the played the Vic and I did not regret it one bit.
Best Concert – LAYN Rocks with Slash and Friends
This benefit for the LA Youth Network, supporting homeless teens, at the Avalon in Hollywood was a gathering of Slash’s closest friends…and counted among those is Dave Navarro, Travis Barker, Tom Morello, Andrew Stockdale, Duff McKagan, Perry Farrell, Steven Adler, Billy Idol…oh yeah, and perhaps you’ve heard of Ozzy Osbourne? They rocked out with Led Zepplin, GNR, Black Sabbath, Wolfmother, Billy Idol, and Jane’s Addiction material just to name a few….as well as some new Slash solo material, which is magnificent. In addiction we all learned that Slash still owns the flannel shirt from the November Rain video, ‘cause he was totally rocking it onstage. Just seeing not one but THREE guitar legends onstage at once was worth the ticket price.
Check out this “Mountain Song” clip with Farrell, Navarro, Slash, Morello, and Barker. And some incredibly lucky studio bassist who got booked for this gig.
Best Video – “Treat me like your Mother”
Allison and Jack are the coolest mofos on the planet in this video – just add leather, cigarettes, a desert and machines guns. Notice at the end how you can see through the bullet holes in Jack’s chest.