I can't say which one I like more than the others, hence alphabetical order. I told one of my friends that all the albums I liked are either by bands I've loved for pretty much ever, or stuff that's metal, which means maybe three people care about it or something in real life. It's a dirty word for my hipsteriffic cousins, for sure, and in fairness, the stuff I dig falls outside the usual manic guitar solo djentery and the heavier end of things. Also, I know what I like, but it takes awhile for tuneage to soak in for me...
Alcest - Les Voyages de la'me
More songs about fairies and stuff, or something, since it's in French and I can barely read or speak it. The opener on here's the best song and made it onto a few mix CDs because it's just that good. I was honestly a little underwhelmed at first, but it's continued to grow on me. Strangely enough, I like the ones with the last vestiges of black metal best on here, if for the dynamic shifts and the way the songs take a few more directions.
Ecailles de Lune will always be special, and sometimes I need a little more crunch to my tunes, but this is shimmery and shoegazey in a way that I love and haven't been able to find since the halcyon days of early 90's Brits like Ride. The metal kids seem to be doing it better than the indie kids right now, but no one believes me on this. Also, Fursy's swank art nouveau-inspired design is always lovely.
Corrosion of Conformity - s/t
I got into CoC junior year of high school while still stuck in the morass of progrock wankery and pre-college radio immersion, heard Congratulations Song on WMMS wedged between Staind and Nickelback and got Wiseblood from the library, loved it, tried to share it with lunch table homies who weren't nearly into metallic Southern rock that was smarter than Pantera (Flannery O'Connor references were not gotten until later but hey) and definitely not hip with The Kids then or now. Forgot about them for a bit during the undergrad years, rediscovered said sweetness during esoteric morning coffee rituals.
I also dig 80's hardcore punk for reasons I can't quite explain, but the alt-rock Pepper Keenan incarnation for those vocals alone is still my favorite, and this record would be completely golden if he was singing on here. Still, the songs are great, swampy and murky and ragey and letting out some of that frustration that shit is indeed still fucked up.
Dead Can Dance - Anastasis
so the first time I heard this I felt there was too much synth and rolled my eyes when Brendan was singing about children of the sun with flowers in their hair but then I kept listening and it kept sounding better and better. It sounds more like Spleen and Ideal than Aion, but the songs are there, sufficiently long and beautiful. I wasn't sure how I felt about this on first listen, since I prefer all those dulcimers and strange percussion to the more meditative feel of the earlier work, but I keep coming back to it. Something about the ancientness that it evokes makes it perfect for those nights when I get super-introverted and decide to paint, read, drink pots of tea and burn a lot of incense.
Earth - Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II
More of the same lovely stuff as the first installment, with a little extra jazz perhaps. One of The Kids told me this was too metal but I don't hear that at all and he probably digs Of Montreal or something anyway. Lovely unspooling drone sounds dull to the unititiated, but carries enough weight, and the sonorous cello conquers all. It's like classical music for people who listen to rock and roll, I guess. I guess this year I've either been rocking out or spacing out. Nothing wrong with that.
Elder - Spires Burn EP
A guy I know who loves the Smiths turned me onto this band, go figure. About a month or so later, I paid five dollars cover to watch them rock out muchly at one of the best shows out of many seen this year. I've played the heck out of Dead Roots Stirring and this on my show. It fills that Soundgarden-shaped hole with the long numbers of power-trio psych-sludge goodness that calls to mind Seattle but without the mope or the heroin. Nice guys too. My dad likes it. Go see them if they come through your town. This is on vinyl only, but it's on the Youtubes.
Hammers of Misfortune - 17th Street
I don't know why I like this record so much, or why other bands mining similar sonic territory get more press. The songwriting chops are here, the lyrics hover between fantastical-quasi-epic and rage against The Man and forces of gentrification, more technical than punk, less pretentious than prog. It reminds me of if X was a classic metal band that took more from Deep Purple or Queen than the Doors, with the male/female vocal interplay, galloping rhythms, generous keyboard lines, intertwining guitars (Leila's SG-rocking and vocals warmed my heart when I saw them play to six people including me this summer), unvarnished production that keeps it from being overly ponderous. It's driving music in the Corolla and something I keep in regular rotation when I fill in the metal slots.
Les Discrets - Ariettes Oubilees
A cousin to the Alcest record, especially sharing band members and such. More acoustic, more melodic, heavier at parts, a step up from their stellar debut. I wish I could be as crazy-talented as Fursy. Songs for rainy days, for autumn, for winter, for wanting to be out in the woods and far away from pollution and drama. Words really can't describe here.
Melvins - Freak Puke
This one hasn't completely been absorbed yet, but something about sludge played with some jazztastic drums and upright bass genius via Trevor Dunn is fabulous... and there's strangely sweet harmonies on top of that. Seeing Buzz Osbourne's amazing rock and roll hair bob up and down in front of me has finally been scratched off the nonexistent bucket list. Still don't understand the couple in front of me who spent the whole set making out. Still, so damn good.
Soundgarden - King Animal
so I've been moaning the past few years about how Chris Cornell has sucked massively since Soundgarden called it quits in the mid-90's and I still stand by that.Thankfully the rest of the band does not suck, and the reunion disc isn't the rifftastic cornucopia of sweetness that was Superunknown, the downer-psych thorniness of Down on the Upside, but it really could have been much much worse, but Thayil's one of my all-time favorite guitarists, Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron are stellar on the rhythm end and Cornell's at least put off shilling for Obama and hitting on younger chicks at the club to put out a disc of songs that could have been way longer and more jammy (there are lots of times when it seems like it's about to cut loose but never seems too) but aren't bad and surprisingly good. It hasn't left my car yet, thanks especially to cuts like Eyelids Mouth, Attrition, and Non-State Actor. It's no Superunknown, but it's a good listen, and those days are long gone.
Torche - Harmonicraft
Torche is what should be getting played the hell out of by The Kids instead of whatever twee milquetoast represents their generation on the radio. It somehow manages to be catchy as hell in a way that theoretically would have been more radio-ready in days when Jawbox was on a major label, but also bottom-heavy at the same time. Punky raveups, My Bloody Valentine-esque walls of sound, perfect for summer driving and blowing out my old boombox during punkrocksoftball this summer. I missed their gig at the rock hall but loved them opening for CoC. The guy I went with liked them but didn't like the other bands too much. Mike Huckabee likes them even though there's a high amount of gayness lyrically inherent. Snots on the Internet say it's what your girlfriend listens to. They're not wrong.
Worm Ouroboros - Come the Thaw
I described this on first listen to Randal as sounding like if Hildegard Von Bingen or that girl from Portishead started a doom band. I don't know how accurate this is, but it's the only words I have for such cathartic gorgeousness. It may not be as technically brutal but the emotional heft is there in its own right, each instrument has its room to breathe and resonate, and comes together so perfectly. Don't let the name scare you away from such ethereal beauty.
Amadou & Mariam: Dougou Badia
The collab-heavy album doesn't do it for me like previous stellar efforts, but this song is pretty fabulous and about as perky as it gets here in my melancholic world. Santi White knows how to add to a song and not overwhelm it, the hook is catchy as hell even if I don't know what's all being said, and the guitar and harmonica work lovely here.
Half of this album is fabulous, the other half isn't bad but gets skipped a lot. The lower-profile Sleater-Kinney alumni and band of other oldsters from when indie kind of rocked put out a nice little record. There's a little bit of punky reggae skank in here and some lovely slashy guitar work and girl-power teenage memories.
Mark Lanegan - St. Louis Elegy
Not my favorite Lanegan outing but this could be a lost Gutter Twins take with the melancholic mood and Greg Dulli's harmonies.
Witch Mountain - Bloodhound
Haven't quite gotten into the sophomore effort that was Randal's album of the year, but this song is pure heavy awesome from the viola intro to the blistering guitar solo at the end. I've played this on every metal show I fill in on. Also, it's about police brutality, which would make Balko proud.