I haven't contributed any diaries lately, mostly because I've been preparing year-end lists for the various publications to which I contribute. I get an average of roughly 25 albums in the mail each week, and I set the best ones aside in stacks. I tend to those stacks throughout December, listening to all the contenders to make the final Top Ten cuts. Given that we occasionally discuss music on here, I wanted to list the best of what I heard this year, in hopes that people might find something they like. "Recommended if you like" comparisons are provided below the relatively obscure artists (defined as musicians who have not appeared on the cover of a major music magazine.)
Between the Buried and Me "Colors"
Recommended if you like: King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, guitar harmonies
Amy Winehouse "Back to Black"
Jens Lekman "Night Falls Over Kortedala"
RIYL: Smiths, Squeeze
Horse The Band "A Natural Death"
RIYL: 8-bit Nintendo music, Mr. Bungle
Blonde Redhead "23"
RIYL: Sonic Youth, Portishead
Shearwater "Palo Alto"
RIYL: Bowie's old slow songs, Neil Young
Shannon Wright "Let in the Light"
RIYL: PJ Harvey, Regina Spektor
PJ Harvey "White Chalk"
Electrelane "No Shouts No Calls"
RIYL: Elastica, Sleater-Kinney, Blondie
Nine Inch Nails "Year Zero"
James "Blood" Ulmer "Bad Blood in the City"
RIYL: Gritty blues about New Orleans, with Living Colour's Vernon Reid supplying extra guitar heat
Vic Chesnutt "North Star Deserter"
RIYL: Bob Dylan, Fugazi (on this album, the venerable paraplegic singer/songwriter hangs with some indie-rock backing musicians; it's a little louder than his usual fare, but by not abrasive)
Chris Knight "The Trailer Tapes"
RIYL: Merle, Waylon
Elliott Smith "New Moon"
Bright Eyes "Cassadaga"
Wilco "Sky Blue Sky"
Tiny Vipers "Hands Across The Void"
RIYL: Cat Power, Fiona Apple
Bat for Lashes "Fur and Gold"
RIYL: PJ Harvey
Figurines "When The Deer Wore Blue"
RIYL: Flaming Lips, Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds"
The following are subdivided into categories. I turned these in for a Pitch assignment; I'll add the RIYL's where applicable.
10. Dillinger Escape Plan, Ire Works (Relapse)
RIYL: Faith No More, spastic metal/jazz fusion
9. Death Breath, Let It Stink (Relapse)
8. Pig Destroyer, Phantom Limb (Relapse)
RIYL: Bands with names like "Pig Destroyer" (it's pretty much as brutal as it sounds)
7. Xasthur, Defective Epitaph (Hydra Head)
RIYL: Harrowing pain (it's darkly ambient synths and guitar paired with extremely scary screams)
6. Machine Head, The Blackening (Roadrunner)
RIYL: Early Metallica (this band tarnished its name with some radio-metal albums in the late '90s, but this album is filled with 6-9 minute classic metal epics)
5. Baroness, Red Album (Relapse)
RIYL: Queens of the Stone Age, Iron Maiden
4. Yakuza, Transmutations (Prosthetic)
RIYL: See Dillinger Escape Plan
3. Wolves in the Throne Room, Two Hunters (Southern Lord)
RIYL: See Xasthur
- Horse The Band, A Natural Death (Koch)
- Between the Buried and Me, Colors (Victory)
10. Arch Enemy, Rise of the Tyrant (Century Media)
RIYL: Slayer, with an attractive female singer
- Feist, The Reminder (Cherry Tree)
- Dri, Smoke Rings (Range Life)
7. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, 100 Days, 100 Nights (Daptone)
RIYL: '70s dancehall soul
6. Charlotte Gainsbourg, 5:55 (Vice)
RIYL: Air, seductive chanteuses
- Tiny Vipers, Hands Across the Void (Sub Pop)
- Bat for Lashes, Fur and Gold (Caroline)
- Electrelane, No Shouts, No Calls (Too Pure/Beggars)
- Shannon Wright, Let in the Light (Quarter Stick)
- Amy Winehouse, Back to Black (Republic)
10. Jesu, Conqueror (Hydra Head)
RIYL: Long, mesmerizing waves of ebbing and flowing instrumental sound
9. Sigur Ros, Hvarf/Heim (XL)
RIYL: Jesu description + indecipherable vocals
8. Isis, In the Absence of Truth (Ipecac)
RIYL: Jesu description + sporadic growly vocals
7. Gonzales, Solo Piano (Sunny Side)
RIYL: Contemporary jazz/classical
6. Grails, Burning Off Impurities (Temporary Residence)
RIYL: Jesu description + tribal percussion
5. Battles, Mirrored (Warp)
RIYL: King Crimson, Talking Heads, techno
4. Black Dice, Load Blown (Paw Tracks)
3. Explosions in the Sky, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone (Temporary Residence)
RIYL: Jesu description
2. Minsk, The Ritual Fires of Abandonment (Relapse)
RIYL: Isis + Grails descriptions
1. Hrsta, Ghosts Will Come and Kiss Our Eyes (Constellation)
RIYL: Godspeed! You Black Emperor, really creepy Bee Gees covers