1) Flaming Lips: At War with the Mystics
For the second time this decade, the Lips have nailed it. While the first song (“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah“) annoys the hell out of me, the rest of the record is an honest-to-God masterpiece. “Vein of Stars” and “Pompeii AM Götterdämmerung” are my favorites with “Sound of Failure” and “My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion” not far behind. I don’t know what it is about these guys. It’s not like they are best musicians in the world and Wayne Coyne isn’t the best singer (seriously, sometimes he’s really out of key). It must be that they just write great songs and have mastered the studio process.
2) Built to Spill: You in Reverse
Music has given us a Neil Young and a J. Mascis but Doug Martch carries the torch when it comes to loud, garage-rocked guitar shredding. With no apologies, the album kicks off with the 8:42 guitar solo driven “Going Against Your Mind.” The best moment of the album comes later with “Conventional Wisdom” and it’s melodic guitar duals towards the end (although they were probably both played by Martsch). I wouldn’t want to take credit away from the rest of the band, they are certainly sound in top form and remain an indie-rock power house almost a decade later. At first listen this album disappointed me but it has really grown on me over the years. It contains some of the sound of their early work blended with a new energy and some different ideas.
3) Amy Winehouse: Back to Black
Those of you that know me, know that I don’t normally listen to this kind of music: Pop, R&B, Neo-soul, whatever you want to call it. But at the time I was reading a lot of dlisted.com as a guilty pleasure and Wino was featured everyday in some new humiliating picture or story. I guess any press is good press because I had to hear her music to find out what the big deal was. I’m not only attracted to the drama presented in her lyrics but I genuinely like the sound and structure of these songs. The title track and “You know that I’m no good” are my two favorite here. The record as a whole falls in place very nicely.
4) Sonic Youth : Rather Ripped
This is the album Sonic Youth should have made in 1995 coming off their Lollapollza headline spot instead of Washing Machines. In my opinsion, this is the most accessible set of songs they have ever put together. Gone are the ten minutes of feedback and in is some catchy indie rock that is “Reena“, “Incenerate” and Renaldo’s “Rats.” Even the quiet numbers, (“Do You Believe in Rapture?“, “Or“, “Turquoise Boy“) sound like something a person unfamiliar with their style would enjoy.
5) Ratatat : Classics
If you haven’t heard of these guy, go listen to “Wildcats.” This NYC duo creates music that is a fusion of metal sounds and dance beats with a signature fade-in guitar. I’d rate this as the instrumental album of the year. You won’t find any shredding solos here but you’ll find well arranged melodic compositions. It’s great background and foreground music.
6) Bob Dylan: Modern Times
I have said earlier that I don’t think this album is as great as most critics crack it up but I am a Dylan fan and I’d be lying if I said this album hasn’t spent some time in my rotation. His singing is still pretty raspy and irritating at times but His band sounds great and his lyrics are still poetic and profound. I’ll never understand why this album is called “Modern Times” when it sounds more like a shuffle, remincent of old American music. I like “Spirit On The Water” and “The Levee’s Gonna Break” best here. For the die-hard Dylan, be sure to read the wikipedia article about writing credit controversy