I hadn't really planned on doing one of these but when Danielle did hers, I felt challenged. My reputation as the World Heavyweight Champion of lists was on the line. How could I back down? I also felt like there needed to be a little balance between the representation of the mainstream and the underground. I used to make one of these lists every year but after that one I got a little bit lazy. But thanks to Vundablog I'm back on track this year! Let's get right to it, shall we?
11. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part 2
It's been a while but these guys still got it. Some of the best beats they've ever produced and I love the way their voices and lyrics have evolved.
10. Adele - 21
Unlike Danielle, I think this album is phenomenal front to back. The first five tracks are especially unstoppable as well as a sweet cover of The Cure's "Lovesong" and the beautiful single "Someone Like You." This woman's voice gives me chills.
9. Jay-Z and Kanye West - Watch the Throne
When one of the world's best emcees teams with one of the world's best producers, you can't help but expect greatness. While it didn't quite live up to the expectations of the names attached to it, it still plays very well to both men's individual talents (especially Kanye--some of his best beats ever are on this record) and what you're left with is the best hip hop record of the year.
8. The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
There's a pretty sizable wave of psychedelic/baroque/dark/minimalist folk and indie music going on right now and as much as I respect a lot of the bands doing it and know they're talented, very little of it moves me. This is a very notable exception. This record just sweeps you up in a whimsical world from the word go with walls of sound and texture. I wish more of these neo-folk bands sounded like this.
7. Esoteric - Paragon of Dissonance
7 songs. 94 minutes. EPIC DOOM.
6. Mastodon - The Hunter
After "Blood Mountain" and "Crack the Skye", it seems like Mastodon is pretty much expected to produce greatness pretty much every time they release an album at this point. This obviously doesn't live up to those two albums but it's safe to say that Mastodon has done it again and shows very little sign of letting up. Some signs...but not very many...
5. La Dispute - Wildlife
Saw these dudes open for Thrice in October and they really blew me away with their energy and intensity. Amazingly, the record does a pretty admirable job of capturing that powerful live energy. The vocals can be polarizing but I personally LOVE them. This band reminds me a lot of Modern Life is War in a lot of ways. Good ways.
4. Wilco - The Whole Love
It's truly a shame that this band isn't more of a force in the musical landscape of today because they do all the things everybody loves and do them better than all the bands that everyone loves but no one knows who they are.
3. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
This is the record that all the phenomenal female vocalists of today (including Adele) wish they could make. THIS is how it's done, ladies. Take notes.
2. Steven Wilson - Grace For Drowning
Listen to this on headphones and prepare to be carried away on a mystical journey through several very different dimensions, sometimes all at once. Prog rock surely is NOT dead.
1. Thrice - Major/Minor
I have to admit I'm biased on this one but I can't help it, I just love this band so much. This record was pretty much what I expected: a lot more pop-oriented, specifically in song structure, and much more focused on Dustin's voice and on melodies and harmonies. "Call It In the Air" is right up there among the most epic songs these guys have ever written. LOVE IT!