Monday, December 30, 2013

Shanies: Album of the Year

Looking back upon releases, 2013 at first glance felt a bit unassuming, however, was actually an incredible year of quality albums. To prove my point, note that the list below does not include epic 2013 releases from the likes of Clutch, Red Fang, NIN, BMRC, Gov't Mule, or either one of JT's 20/20 experience. That said, hard decisions must be made but as we all know and understand, the list below is undeniably perfect.

10. The Bronx – The Bronx (IV)

I’ll level with you – this was far from my favourite Bronx album and was even a stretch to make my top 10 when you consider just the album alone. However, given that the band has been so focused on mariachi music as of late and this is their first rock album since 2008, it was just good to have them back. The album didn’t really push any boundaries, but it was a solid, loud, hard-driving, Bronx album. With over half the songs clocking in at under 3m, you could tell that the band didn’t want to fuck around, but instead make their point and then drop the mic. This was enough to crack the edges of my top 10.

9. The Motorleague - Acknowledge, Acknowledge 

The Cape Breton quartet’s sophomore effort was yet another collection of anthemic rock sing-alongs. I positively loved this album and between you and I, it likely would have been a lot higher on my list were it not for the fact that I couldn’t help but compare it to their 2009 debut LP, Black Noise. If you want an infectiously catchy, rock n roll album to sing along with on long drives across the Trans-Canada look no further. Start with more accessible tracks like North America or Every Man Needs a Cape Breton, however, be sure to check out my personal favourite, We Are All Going Directly to Hell.

8. Jim Guthrie - Takes Time

Guthrie is one of those Canadian indie icons who’s been creating innovative music since before most kids you see at his shows were born. However, he had a long lull in his career in the later noughties, where he apparently really started getting into video games. Doing soundtracks for a couple games and a documentary about video games seems to have affected his writing style and it shines through on Takes Time. The whole album is a masterfully arranged work that blends together all sorts of interesting little boops and bleeps into something that coalesces into a really beautiful, comforting and happy album. Takes Time is a testament to what one man can do if he locks himself in a room for a very long time with great passion.

7. Baptists – Bushcraft

From the opening track, Betterment, you just know that this wrecking ball from Vancouver isn’t going to fuck around. Start to finish, this album is pure, loud, insanity. Bushcraft drops a stake into the ground and proudly proclaims Baptists as Canada’s long awaited response to Converge. I often listen to Betterment to get myself hyped up and end up having to listen to the whole album since it just draws me in and takes a hold. This is what metal/hardcore should sound like.

6. HBS - In Deep Owl

When Soundgarden reunited in 2010, I was excited to hear that one of my favourite 90s bands would be making music again. However, when King Animal was released, reality kicked in and reminded me that things could never be the same again. Yet when Bassist Ben Shepard decided to release a solo album under the moniker HBS, I was completely floored. It was incredible to hear one very important writing influence from Soundgarden’s early albums ripped out of context and given the space to fill the room with dark, baritone, engaged music. This album has become my gloomy, rainy day listen for when I don’t want to be happy or sad… I just want to be. The perfect soundtrack to nothingness.

5. Mutoid Man - Helium Head

You’re probably seeing a recurring theme here: MUTOID MAN IS FUCKING AWESOME. I’ve gushed enough about this band by giving them awards for both song and rookie of the year, but I’ll just say this – keep supporting these guys so that they want to make more music and don’t deprive the world of their audio insanity. I love Cave In. I love Converge. But I think I love the combination even more.

4. Sound City Players - Sound City Real to Reel

While being the obvious choice for my video of the year, Dave Grohl’s Sound City also produced one of my favourite albums this year. The premise was simple: Grohl would write the foundations for 11 tracks and use his connections to fill the recording studio with a rotating crew of all-star musicians. There is obvious quality and novelty in hearing tracks with Paul McCartney,  Stevie Nix and Rick Springfield, but what ultimately sold me on this album were surprisingly incredible songs done with people like Alain Johannes, Lee Ving, Rami Jaffee and Corey Taylor – which ended up being one of my favourite tracks on the album.

3. BCASA - Fuck You Shredder

They wrote a punk rock concept album about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and in addition to being hilarious, it fucking rocks. Bow down and worship this band – the adult in you should be blown away by their riffs and songwriting, andthe kid in you should be giddy at thoughts of sitting too close to the TV on Saturday morning. Long live the Bill Cosby Anarchist Society of America.

2. Monster Truck - Furiosity

Even though their entire approach to being an AC/DC inspired cock-rock band has been a bit tongue-in-cheek, I love this band and really wanted to love their first full-length release. That said, I don’t think I wanted to love it this much. The first time I listened to this album, I think I put the whole thing or repeat 4 or 5 times. I was confronted with the awkward reality of my upbringing – I was a hick-town raised rock n roll farm boy and no matter how I try to escape it, I will always love riff-heavy, vocally harmonic, four on the floor rock and roll. Furiosity delivers on this and then some, with each track being able to stand on it’s own as a single and then songs like My Love is True that bring me to my feet to scream along with the repetitive, glorious ending.

1. Queens of the Stone Age - …Like Clockwork

I feel like after Josh Homme was forced to eject Nick Olivieri from the band after doing way too many drugs and being somewhat psychotic, QOTSA had to walk through the dessert in search of itself for a while. Fitting. After essentially saving rock n roll with 2002’s Songs for the Deaf, a lot of pressure was riding on their shoulders. Don’t get me wrong; Lullabies and Era Vulgaris were both incredible albums, yet I felt as though they never resolved. It was as though Homme prepared a brilliant speech to make, but never thought about what his closing, inspirational words would be, possibly because he didn’t know where to go with a band that had exceeded the expectations of nearly everyone, including himself.

Clockwork was this band becoming who they needed to be instead of clinging to the past. The first time I listened to the album, I barely recognized the sounds I heard, yet I couldn’t stop listening. Dirty, sexy and uncomfortable, this album feels like what would happen if you let a lounge singer drop acid, strip naked and sing through a fuzz pedal in front of a convention of shocked, elderly evangelicals. It feels so wrong and yet feels so right. It rocks without rocking, it makes love without loving, it hates without anger and it touches you in all the right places. This is not the QOTSA you know and love, it’s something completely different and it is glorious.

-High five now let's all go get some pancakes

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