By super popular demand...here we go! The Tastemaker of All Tastemakers Top Twenty List!
Look, let's be real here; it's rare that I get out and about and discover new music the old fashioned way. I'm far too new school for old convention. My exposure to new things is both haphazard and slapdash...shit either falls in my lap (via someone saying, "hey stupid, listen to this") or it is randomly unearthed in an internet k-hole (bandcamp can be a real time suck). Point being, there were probably loads more great records out there this year that I simply won't know about until it's too late to include them on a year end list of any sort. No big deal, there are other lists out there, and hopefully, if it's good enough I'll stumble upon it one day.
So, without further ado, here's a sorta ranked list (the rankings are subject to wild mood swings, and number 1 could easily be number 20 if the moon and my menses are aligned just right [or wrong]).
20 (tied) Air Wolves - Life Is A Bloodsport
Southern gothic death rock stomp, and that's what does it a lot of the time. Doesn't it?
20 (tied). Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends - The Enemy Of Everyone
Just a weird enough blend of bombast and balls and rock n roll and good times. This one is a grower
20 (tied). Protomartyr - The Agent Intellect
Like a dark and dirty version of The Walkmen mixed with The Fall, they scratch a certain gloomy but upbeat post punk itch.
19. Author and Punisher - Melk En Honing
Taking the punishing crush of Godflesh and injecting a brutal homemade industrial scraping, this one man jam has carved out a special spot in my (cold, dead) heart, and this album continues to expand my love for his battering ram assault.
18. Christian Fitness - Love Letters In The Age Of Steam
I'm a sucker for that Andrew Falkous, what can I say? An off kilter blend of aggressive post punk and well crafted pop songs, say no more.
17. Meatwound - Addio
Total punishment from the jump, and sometimes total punishment is what you want. It's what you need. Ask you mom for a Meatwound tshirt for Christmas and let the good times roll (off a cliff).
16. High On Fire - Luminiferous
If it ain't broke, right? The American Motorhead chugs on with another volume of super high quality, super potent biker speed annihilation. Lord love Matt Pike and his mighty riff wielding axe, he is (not joking in the least) a national treasure.
15. Elephant Rifle - Ivory
This band has quietly (but with so much volume) been making a case for themselves as Numero Uno Noise Rock Bad In The USA, but it doesn't appear to be a campaign that's really taking off. Yet. Which I don't get, because these fellas are checking all the right boxes, and this album pulls together their heavy handed, hardcore drenched version of burly fighting music, and I, for one, love it.
14. Hammerhead - New Directionz
A "Vaz-y" version of Hammerhead, but it's still Hammerhead, and Hammerhead are not to be taken lightly. Hammerhead will hammer your head, they've been doing so for years and seem to continue unabated (luckily for us).
13. Wailin' Storms - One Foot In The Flesh Grave
This album could be the surprise of the year to me, beause previous to a Magic Bullet sampler (those things really DO work!) I had never heard of this band, and I haven't heard of them since. Nobody is talking about how great they are, and I don't understand that. How can you deny Samhain meets TSOL meets Gun Club meets Dax Riggs meets Young Widows meets Clockcleaner?! Essential!
12. Icarus Line - All Things Under Heaven
A band that for all intents and purposes should have been dead and buried many times over the years as they seemed to slash and burn (not crash and burn, mind you) their way across the cultural landscape, but a band that against the odds has come out the other side with another high water mark in their discography with this one. Psych damaged bravado that reaches out and grabs you by the throat. Up against the wall motherfuckers, indeed.
11. Sumac - The Deal
Admittedly this record didn't click until seeing the band play, whereupon it was evident that the power was no joke, the mass was real, and the effect was pulverizing. Drawing heavily from the old Isis well (thankfully the mid period Neurosis well) to great effect. Musically it pulls you into a dark, warm hole (no, not that one) then savagely attacks with teeth fully gnashing and shit. It's an investment, this record, but it certainly pays off pig time. Worth it alone for the drumming.
10. Gaytheist / Rabbits - Gay*Bits split
Just the name should be enough, but in this case the name is just the tip of the iceberg. Two of the best going teaming up to ruin your eardrums with good timing rock blasts that dip into heavy sludge, black light velvet painting parties, and strong edibles. The fact that Gaythiest ends their side and Rabbits begin their side with their own versions of the same song is genius.
9. Manhandle - This Massive Load
So, it was recorded back in 2012, but the fact that nobody really heard it until this year counts. Counts to me. Tightly wound but liable to go off at any moment, heavy duty fuck you's all around. So, so, def.
8. Process Black - Demo 2015
I mean, fucking Tim Singer bringing the heat...what else is there? Haven't heard anything else about the band since they quietly released this demo in January, so it seems like we're due, right?
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7. Deerhunter - Fading Frontier
I wasn't crazy about the last one, 'Monomania', so didn't have much anticipation for this one, which possibly heightened my appreciation. I can't say. My brain is a dusty and dank place, so trying to guess it's inner workings is a fool's errand. But that aside, I'm back on the Deerhunter bandwagon, which if you would have told me that 10 years ago when they (he) was releasing ambling psych pastiches, I would have said "no way", but the band has proved me short-sighted (again).
6. Meat Wave - Delusion Moon
Man oh man oh man do I fucking love this one. Perfectly balanced punk-ish indie rock that brings the catchy good times straight out of the gate. Not a lot of bands can handle the responsibility of harkening back to my youth without pandering to some idealized version of early 90's rock music. but Meat Wave do it. They do my youth justice! Which, I can only imagine was their goal. Mission accomplished gentlemen, thanks! This is what Built To Spill should have sounded like, but wimped out on.
5. The Kneads - Letting You Let Me Down
Not unlike Meat Wave up there, The Kneads have done the seemingly impossible, that is to resurrect the corpse of North Carolina indie rock past and bring it back to life with vim, vigor, and verve (and vinegar based bar-b-que). Saying that there's an ex-member of The Raymond Brake seals the deal. Bands aren't playing like this anymore, for whatever reasons, so when the real deal comes out and reminds you what it was that you loved about jagged, loose, urgent indie rock...well, that's some special shit. Super special shit.
4. Mutoid Man - Bleeder
Steven Brodsky and Ben Koller make a compelling case, I mean, there's not much to argue there really. But Steven Brodsky, for my money (what little there is...can I borrow a dollar?), has become a powerhouse songwriter, and certifiable riff-master. With the last couple Cave In records (once they shed that Converge worship way back when) and now with Mutoid Man, he has managed to bring thunderous guitar whallops, but temper them with big soaring melody. And he's found his voice, a perfect foil to the din. Big, heavy rock records come in handy.
3. The Powder Room - Curtains
As Phil Fay Fock so eloquently put it, "I can't remember the last time I had a local band on fairly regular rotation". And for me, "fairly regular rotation" has meant almost weekly this entire year. They took what their old band Pride Parade had been doing and beefed it up, refined it, and consolidated it into a fucking perfect album. Post hardcore noisy classic rock...get in or get fucked.
2. Ken MODE - Success
Have you ever been attacked by someone with a knife? No? Nor have I...and why would I, people love me. But I imagine, this record sounds a lot like a knife fight feels. The ominous dread that you know you're going to walk away with a great deal of your own blood on your shirt. You know it's going to hurt. All you can focus on is the flurry of steel coming at you over and over. Seems scary, but somehow exhilarating. Come out on the other side and you've accomplished something, you're stronger for it, you earned it. This band continues an upward trajectory, and with this record they have melded all their uber heavy tendencies into a noise rock sharpened blade. Let's dance.
1. Pigs - Wronger
This one just slays ballzzzzzz. Your ballzzzzz, my ballzzzz, pretty much any set of ballzzzz fortunate enough to hang in its path. The continuation of JJ Paradise Players Club's version of hardcore influenced noise rock, this band roars like nobodies business. The best. It's the opposite of a warm bubble bath with your favorite pinot grigio and Danielle Steele novel...but better.
*Bonus Hip Hop Corner*
I find myself listening to hip hop about a third of the time I'm listening to music for whatever reason. And as would be expected, my tastes are also predictably stuck in the past, to the 'Golden Age" as it were, when Rap City was mandatory afterschool viewing (holla at ya boy Donnie Simpson!). But, I do get stoked on new shit all the time (although it appears that it's a smaller solar system of artist that I'm gravitating towards...but), so here's a Top 5 of what I've been rocking in the whip (until I pull up next to a black person at a stop light, then it immediately is turned down to a respectable volume). Disclaimer: I have an extremely low tolerance for affected vocal style of dudes like Future, Fetty Wop, Young Thug, and all that. Drives me nuts, so none of those guys got much time this year (I'm sure they're crushed), and I'm by no means an expert, digging around mix tapes and Instagram pages, so I'm sure there's plenty of "better" stuff out there, but, fuck it, this is what I was listening to when I wasn't listening to old Big Daddy Kane records waiting to see on Worldstar that Slim Jesus has been shot (as of this writing, he has not).
5. Drake - Back To Back
I used to hate Drake, and think I probably still do, but this fucking jam was nuts! Plus, the feud with Meek Mill was weeks of hilarity on the internet...I love that stupid shit.
4. Run The Jewels - Rubble Kings Theme (Dynamite)
truth be told, I listen to more Run The Jewels than most everything else on this list, but they also didn't put out a full length this year (not counting that fucking cat thing). Killer Mike forever!
3. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly
yes I know, this is on every Top Whatever list everywhere, but, I mean, shit's good. It's got legit weirdness mixed with a real unique delivery, so, yeah, I'm with it. Admittedly, the really good tracks make up for a handful of duds on here, but those really good tracks are really fucking good.
2. Action Bronson - Mr. Wonderful
beef with Ghostface Killa aside, and collateral hipster damage notwithstanding, there's not much to dislike about Action Bronson and his goofy ass. Not everything need be serious.
1. Pusha T - Untouchable
yeah, one track, no new album this year, but goddamn this track!