10) Grinderman - "Grinderman 2"
Gasoline Hip Thrust. Nick Cave just made a new music genre and it's called "Gasoline Hip Thrust."
For those of you that do not know "Grinderman 2" is the second installment from Nick Cave's side project. Almost the same lineup as Bad Seeds but this sound is FASTER and HARDER.
Nick Cave has been rocking 20+ years more than the rest of the artists on my list. I can feel it. As Cave says in their first single, Heathen Child, "you think your great big husband will protect you - you are wrong - you think your little wife will protect you - you are wrong - you think your children will protect you - you are wrong - you think your government will protect you - you are wrong." This Grinderman record has completely taken me over and I imagine it has a lot to do with his 50 something year old prowess.
The guitars on this album are like shovels - digging a dirty manly grave for you to have sex in. I love every minute of it.
Rock n Roll never left, Nick Cave just brings it out when he wants to.
9) Dinosaur Feathers - "Fantasy Memorial"
Fans of Vampire Weekend, Mates of State, Dirty Projectors will love elements of this band. It's as if a zombie Buddy Holly was backed by the Animal Collective dudes. Smart/Dancy/Fun.
This LollyPop Rock Trio from Brooklyn has quite the interesting line-up. Andy Dick plays the drum machine and keys. Kevin Smith (aka Silent Bob) is on bass. Alex Winter from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is on vocals and acoustic guitar. Each member in this band looks like a Hollywood actor and it's hilarious. Seriously, it adds a lot to the experience of seeing them live. They've come to Milwaukee three times now (twice at Club Garibaldi and once in a basement with the Fatty Acids). Don't miss them the next time they come around!
Frontman, Greg Sullo's jangling guitar and high soaring vocal harmonies is mixed in with these huge hip-hop sized beats. I hope this band doesn't get lost in all the somewhat similar bands coming out of New York these days, but I believe their creativity sets them apart. I'm very interested to see what this band comes up with next.
8) Arcade Fire - "Suburbs"
Arcade Fire are gods among men. This is the only band on this list I KNOW I'll still be listening to when I'm 75. They could offer me farts in shrink wrap and I'd respond, "Mmm that sounds good, I'll have that." Enough said.
7) Beach House - "Teen Dream"
Dream pop at it's best. I love a good haunting sound. Beach House will “hushhhhh” you to sleep and then slit your throat with a broken plastic sand shovel.
Doesn't Victoria Legrand sound like she's a 45 year old cougar that smokes too much? I have no idea how old she is. 25? Nobody cares. In any case, I can't help but be swooned by this cougar. There's something very magical about Beach House's sound. There last album, Devotion, was good but I think they've reached a whole new level with Teen Dream.
However, truth be told, I've always been a bigger fan of Bat For Lashes who hold a similar sound. Beach House has won me over with this recent album. We'll have to see what Bat For Lashes comes back with in 2011. Jury is still out.
6) Junip - "Fields"
This album provides the perfect backdrop for a Wisconsin winter. Throw some headphones on, bundle up, and go for a walk through Milwaukee this winter while listening to Junip. It's beautiful.
Shame on you if you missed Junip's concert this summer at Turner Hall. Learn to trust anything Jose Gonzalez lends his unique voice to. That voice. That voice is so haunting yet as comforting as your mother singing you to sleep.
However, don't let me mislead you, this is not a Jose Gonzalez band with a couple of dudes behind him. This is a solid 3-piece band from Sweden.
Gonzalez and Elias Araya (drums) have been playing together since they were 14. The two met Tobias Winterkorn (keyboards) attending hardcore shows in Sweden in the mid-90s. That familiarity comes across on this album. Jose's voice is unmistakable but the music on this album is a totally different ride. Tobias and Elias have helped give Jose a new layered and darker edge.
I had the immense honor of taking the band out after their show at Turner Hall and two things stick out about their personalities and I think the same can be said about their music. They are, especially Jose, three of the kindest and thoughtful people I've ever met. They are also, especially Tobias, very very strange. They're strange in a Bjork kind of way and I love it. Whatever your past experience with Jose Gonzalez, give Junip a listen. This is a whole different animal.
5) Conspiracy of Owls - "Conspiracy of Owls"
Fans of Pet Sounds era Beach Boys will love this record.
Jaill recommended this band on their facebook page over the summer. Who knew I'd end up liking their record more than Jaill's. Conspiracy of Owls is a side project of the Detroit based band The Go. Both projects are on Burger Records.
Burger Records have ownership of my favorite "sound" of the year. Black Lips, Jaill, Happy Birthday, and Harlem are all on or were on Burger Records. Brian Wilson is a huge influence on Conspiracy of Owl's only single of the album and their best song, "Ancient Robots." But instead of surfer girls they’re talking about robots. Robots is a topic that resonates more with me anyhow - no offense Mr. Wilson.
With that said, don't think that this is a straight Beach Boys remake. A large portion of this album is a mix of new wave and psychedelic and a light coat of grunge. Think Julian Casablanca backed by the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band but they're young, full of life, inventive and playing at a dark, sweaty CBGBs and it's 1993 and Joe Jackson is definitely in the crowd somewhere, tapping his white shoes in approval. Now that sounds like a run on sentence – I mean good concert. Wouldn't it be nice?
4) Girls - "Broken Dreams Club"
6 songs? 6 fucking songs! These Girls are such a tease. I really just look at this record as a welcomed extension of their self-titled debut from 2009. Not much has changed and I, for one, have no problem with that. It's the same droopy eyed, Macaulay Culkin looking, Buddy Holly sounding, swooning about the ladies and drugs and pain in his life. Unfortunately, it seemed with the immediate buzz and acclaim of Girls debut last year brought on some sort of hatred from many indie-music lovers. That's a shame. However, I'm confident that over the years people will rediscover this band as something far more innocent and deserving than originally perceived. Broken Dreams Club helps that movement. It's six extremely heavy songs sung lightly and honestly. "Substance" is my favorite song off of this album. It's a great example of what Girls does best. Broken Dream Club is more sorrowful that the last album as a whole, but still packs an upbeat pop-punch.
3) Eddy Current Suppression Ring - "Rush To Relax"
This Australian post-punk band has swapped shows with Milwaukee locals The Goodnight Loving over the past couple years. They've yet to carve much a niche here in the states however.
I heard Alejandro Escovedo say a couple months ago that, "I Wanna Be Your Dog by The Stooges is the perfect example of a true rock n roll song." Eddy Current Suppression Ring has made an album in that same light.
Eddy Current recorded this entire album in less time than a regular work day. Six hours... "rush to relax," I guess. This album has many crescendos and pits and drunken falls till your smashing your head against some jagged brick wall. (Finally a band that kicks you in the face but they do it in such a catchy way!) This album is honestly somewhat exhausting but after multiple listens it is sort of beautiful and complete and it's own beast. You go on this punk adventure with the band for nine songs and you end up at my favorite song on the album, the title track, "Rush To Relax." It starts with a big fast beat and goes into their familiar jangly guitar and loud rambles, but this trip is different. He starts to calmly say "slow down before you fall down," over and over. You start to hear waves mixed in with the rhythm of the song until it morphs into only that. Just waves crashing up against rocks and the occasional seagull for an extended 20 minutes on the end of the record. There is a certain mantra and continuity to this album that I haven't heard on previous Eddy Current albums. It's another true testament to the punk artistry of this band.
2) Avi Buffalo - "Avi Buffalo"
This is my “Debut-Band of the Year.” Much has been made about their age. They're only 19. This only makes me excited for the future of this band. What will lead singer, Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg, do with a few more years of life under him? His age is evident in his lyrics, but not in a bad way. The lyrics are intelligent and poetic, but age appropriate as he writes about being horny, summer cum, and sings about having "too much time to die." Somehow with all this self-inspection he never manages to take himself too seriously. There's a certain tongue-in-cheek feel and playfulness to a number of the songs on the record that I love. Frank Zappa was the King of this and I think Avi has a little of that in him - even if he can't grow a mustache yet. That baby face in overalls can sure as hell play the guitar though. His playing seems to be so quick, like Brandon Jennings but without the broken foot. I had a chance to talk briefly with Avi when they were in town opening up for Blitzen Trapper at Turner Hall, we spoke mostly about the strangely beautiful Talking Heads movie "True Stories," but the whole time he gave off this aura of confidence. Not in a dick way, but just self-assured. He doesn't seem too nervous of the future because he has no reason to be. I have no idea what kind of music he'll be putting out ten years from now. I wouldn't be surprised if he was screaming in a heavy metal band or crooning in a smooth jazz band. Either way, I'll be listening.
1) Kanye West - " My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy"
We will not have a more polarizing artist in our lifetime than Kanye West. Let me get one thing out of the way, dude is an asshole (he does refer to himself as a D-bag on "Runaway"). But he is so much more than that. Much has been made about how many collaborators he has on this record. Let's be clear, they are only support. This is the Kanye West show. However, you do need a good team around you. He explains this on the first song "Dark Fantasy," "Too many Urkels on your team, that's why your Winslow." OHH! I love it. There is a whole Chicago feeling to this record. It's big city but hard working and blue collar. It's cold but so hot. It's big beats but so smooth. As a whole, I like the "Graduation" album a little better but this album has something on that album, the song "Monster." "Monster" is the best hip song since Mos Def's "Casa Bay," a couple years back. "Monster" is exactly what it’s title suggests. It is utter excitement, surprising you at every corner. Your 30seccommerical/Twitter/ADD/FastFood brains try to runaway from this song but it snatches you back every time and takes a big bite out of your brains for 6 minutes and 19 seconds. Just to give you a bloody taste of the complexity of this song: at 4:57 Nicki Manaj screams "I'M A MOTHER-FUCKING MONSTER!" and then at 5:18 Justin Vernon comes on and starts singing. Underneath all this is Kanye, as always. Take six minutes right now, throw this song on, and try NOT to dance.
Before you dismiss Kanye, remember who you're dealing with. This 33 year old rapper from Chicago and son of a Black Panther and Professor of English, has been behind all our favorite Hip Hop / Pop music for the past ten years - from Jay-Z to Alicia Keys to Mos Def to Nas to Janet Jackson to Ludacris to Dr. Dre to Talib Kweli. He also has his own label, GOOD music with features the best in the game, Kid Cudi, Common, and John Legend. This man knows talent and how to make it better. That includes himself as it seems he just keeps getting better and more diverse.
"The same people that try to black ball me, forgot about two things - my black balls."