Category Archives: Best Of

Best of the Best of 2012 Lists List

Best of the Best of 2012 Lists List

Youre the best around karate kid

Yes, you read that right.  Just about every year in October speculations and assertions start to be made about the best albums of that current year. That leaves a solid sixth plus (depending on when it gets posted maybe even a full quarter) of the year left!  I find it irksome.  Generally, the response to my comments from friends, colleagues, et cetera is, “It’s probably to sell albums around the holidays,” and that’s probably true to a certain (and probably large) extent.  It definitely doesn’t make it less irksome to see the amount of them that pop up.  The very idea of a best of list is pretty pompous in the first place – it’s actually impossible for any critic to listen to all of the music made in a year. The critic may argue that the filters they have in place for their music consumption lend towards their discernment or some other such rubbish.  It all just lends to further feed arrogance and self-congratulations over how great a list they’ve compiled before all of the music of the year has even been released or possibly even conceived of. Continue reading Best of the Best of 2012 Lists List

2010 At Length (Rick’s Favorite LPs)

2010 at Length
(Rick’s Favorite LPs)
This is my list of favorite long players from 2010. As opposed to the EP list this one has some heavy hitters. There are also a few compilations on here. They are great comp’s and speak to the strength of the labels that released them and that had the insight to put such collections together. As I said last year, I will say again this year: there are still things that have come out in the past year that I’ve yet to hear or even fully digest. This represents how I feel right now and I have no doubt that a year from now I’ll still enjoy these.

Here are the LPs (Record, Download, Cassette and Compact Disc formats) that I’ve enjoyed the most from 2010 (alphabetical):

Black Breath “Heavy Breathing” (LORD114)

I don’t use the word “rips” pretty much ever if I’m not talking about something like paper or pants or some object actually ripping.  This album rips.  Gut wrenchin’, doom tinged, crusty hardcore lovin’ rockin’ metal.  It helped their case that Black Breath‘s set at Maryland Death Fest last year was one of my favorites. RIPS! 

The Body “All the Waters Of the Earth Turn To Blood” (AUM002 [LP], At A Loss [CD]) 

This 2-piece band has been around for a while (7 years?).  The first time I saw them was probably on a bill that our friend, Brian F. (Iron Hand), booked.  I’ve seen them countless times since.  They are an entirely crushing live band.  Walls of sound (literally – the amps are often stacked to the ceiling; picture Jamaican sound systems in halls and basements).  They’ve released a bunch of things (CDs, 7″s,…).  I even own a few of them.  They are good, but I honestly rarely revisit them.  This album sees The Body going all out.  There is a choir!  There’s chanting.  There’s lots of fun things.  It is huge.  Humongous.  This album will weigh on you in the best possible way.  It will release all of the oxygen from your lungs and drown you in its sound.  Full volume is not required, but I recommend it.  Slow, plodding, orchestrated suffocation.

Cccandy “Lonesome Berlin” (AV007 [LP Only])

 Cold wave minimal synth fuzz rock dance and chill tracks right out of Europe in the eighties.  Cccandy can keep me company in the darkest recesses.

Dead Fader “Corrupt My Examiner” (3BY3005 [CD Only])

 Label mate of Cloaks, Dead Fader is the PAL to their Winterkalte.  That is as good an analogy as I could possibly make and I realize it will be lost on many.  It’s distorto-beats on the 4×4 side of things.  There is syncopation and there are some off-time happenings, but mostly, these are distorted bangers.  Also brilliant motivation to do anything fast.

Hooded Menace “Never Cross The Dead” (DOOM031 [LP], PFL057 [CD])

 Look at this cover.  Brutal, right?  Br00tal, dewd!  I honestly don’t know how to write a review for this without being entirely corny.  This is the best straight up doom release this year (The Body isn’t straight up doom in my opinion so it steps to the side of that comment).  I wish I could’ve seen them already so I could comment on that, but I’ll hold out to the next Maryland Death Fest to see Hooded Menace (yes, I have my ticket).

The Present Moment “The High Road” (Self-Release [D/L], DSR010 [Ltd. CDr, Cassette])

This is the release I’ve hinted at that exists on this list as a download and breaks my rule about having to be a physical release to be on the year’s lists.  Yes, it came out as a very limited cassette and CDr, but I didn’t get either of those.  I listened to this through a digital player.  I listened to it a lot, in fact.  Before nabbing this off the internet (it’s up for a very respectable “pay what you want starting at zero” price here) I was pretty stuck on listening to early Ministry on repeat.  This picked up right where that left off.  It’s actually pretty varied.  There are angry loud industrial ragers and some synth-pop sensible mood tracks and variables in between.  I’ve caught wind of some more physical releases from this project coming down the line – keep your eyes (and ears) out. 

Salem “King Night” (IAM042)

 You’ve at least heard of this.  It’s gotten praise and it’s gotten panned.  These miscreants make music influenced by the music they grew up loving.  Screwed (and not really chopped), for sure.  Down-tempo hip-hop worshipping adventurous electronics.  This is the band that inspired a bevy of clones under the “witch house” guise (one they don’t really ascribe to).  Salem make inspired music.

Umberto “From The Grave” (PERM012 [LP], SM004 [Cassette & CDr]) & “Prophecy Of The Black Widow” (NNF212 [LP], SM020 [Cassette])

 Umberto is Matt Hill (also associated with Expo70).  With this project he explores the world of the giallo soundtrack; the world of Goblin (see: Gatekeeper summaries from my favorite EPs of 2010).  This is just really well done Italian Horror Disco.  These were both released in 2010 and are both worth revelling in. Revel.

Various Artists “Bangs & Works Vol. 1” (ZIQ290)

Juke! If you were to tell me you were into footwork tracks long before Planet Mu put out this compilation I would have a hard time believing you (there are a few people I know that might be exceptions).  Planet Mu put out a few juke 12″s and a full length (by DJ Nate) this past year (in fact, if this comp. didn’t come out I very likely would have put that DJ Nate album on this list).  When I heard this it was similar to the first time I heard a punk song as a kid.  “Where has this been all these years and how can I hear more?”  “Bangs & Works” gave me that answer I was looking for.

Various Artists “Future Bass” (SJR234)

It’s 2011.  We’re now fully engulfed the Information Age.  Things move at the speed of those tubes called the internet (that is a joke-like way of saying it, yes).  Musical movements come on in the blink of an eye (witch house) and can leave in that same blink.  Dubstep begot funky and wonky and whatever else myriad other micro-genres.  Frankly, I still just put it all under the simple dubstep umbrella still.  There’s a million types of metal too, but it’s all metal.  So, why not call all these things dubstep.  I do.  Soul Jazz just calls it Future Bass.  Actually, they call this compilation “Future Bass.”  That side-steps the issue completely.  Bravo.  Let’s just mash out on the dance floor of the future.

Various Artists “Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music From South Africa” (HJR052)

 Remember what I said about footwork tracks and if you said you’d been a fan for a while?  Well, that goes tenfold for some Shangaan electro.  A huge thank you to Honest Jon’s Records for bringing these hyped up afro-beats with some fun production to my ears.  Thanks for inspiring many fun nights of dancing without inhibition with a few friends.  (Also notable: Father Manganyi “Ndzi Teke Riendzo” – a singular approach to Shangaan electro by a pastor on the more mellow side.)

That’s that for my favorites of last year.  And if you’re curious about the availability of any of these at the shop, please do ask. 

2010 in Short (Rick’s Favorite EPs)

2010 in Short
(Rick’s Favorite EPs)

All right.  I’ve gone ahead and done-did-ed it.  I made a list of things that I enjoyed heavily in 2010.  This year I’ve split it up into EPs and LPs (shorties and longies).  By the way, I still heartily endorse my year end picks of 2009 (click if you want to check those).  That post also came with an intro about how I don’t consider this definitive and if it didn’t come out on a physical format then it’s most likely out of luck (made luck).  That applies just the same this time around – however there is one exception you’ll read in the LPs list.  In 2009 I put a numbered order on them.  I’m not doing that this year.  They are alphabetical this time around. 

Here are the EPs (12″ and 7″ format) that I’ve enjoyed the most from 2010 (alphabetical):
Balam Acab “See Birds” (TRI ANGLE 01)
I was looking forward to this one before it came out and since it’s come out I’ve listened to it a whole lot.  It’s good.  Down-tempo internet beats (all sounds found on the internet).  It’s just a completely serene wash of sounds.  Get blissed with Balam Acab.

Gatekeeper “Giza” (ME034V)
I really really like sound track jams.  Goblin, right?  Sure, but so much more.  Gatekeeper takes that Italian Disco Horror sound and gets a little spacey with it.  This EP actually has videos for each track and they even released it as a VHS (kitschy, for sure).
Gatekeeper “Optimus Maximus” (FRIGHT 001)
Yes, they released two big EPs this year.  Had they released a full-length it probably would have landed on the LP list for the year.   The title track on this one is what sold me on the band.  If you haven’t heard these guys yet and you want to know what they sound like – go here.
Greatest Hits – Danse Pop (OESB-702)

I have a bit of a sweet tooth when it comes to both food and music.  This is basically as sugary and dance-able as it gets.  “Stop & Go” could be on repeat for the duration of a weekly commute and I’d be happy.  Actually, this whole 7″ could be more effective than one of those light boxes when it comes to fighting seasonal affective disorder.  Besides, the band is named Greatest Hits (video link). 
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble “Heritage” (CCEP001)
 I think the greatest musical group I’ve ever personally been a part of was my middle school marching band.  We traveled a bunch and even did a … what the hell am I talking about that for?  We sucked compared to this.  Not even the same stratosphere.  This is like the end scene of Drumline level of good (I could watch that scene a good 1000 times more through my life and probably 1000 times beyond that).  Hypnotic Brass Ensemble have that hip-hop swagger brass and drums. 

Maria & The Mirrors “Omar” (PLR09)
 Take that tribal drum sound and introduce it to some heavy bass lines and a nice hefty dose of the most adventurous side of dark wave.  Maria & The Mirrors make intricate rhythms, chanting and noise arranged for a deep skull massage.

oOoOO “oOoOO” (TRI ANGLE 02)
This was another one that I’d been waiting for since a bit before it was actually released.  It’s another on Tri Angle Records.  It’s also fairly down-tempo, but this one has a darker aesthetic and plays like some slowed down freestyle jams.  oOoOO (I’m told it’s pronounced simply as “O”) make sweet sweet freestyle jams of doom.
Puerto Rico Flowers “4” (FDR013) & “2” (FDR021
These are together, yes.  “4” is a 12″ consisting of 4 songs.  “2” is a 7″ that came out months later consisting of 2 songs.  Puerto Rico Flowers do melancholic Joy Division worshiping rock well. 

Arthur Russell & The Flying Hearts Featuring Allen Ginsberg “Ballad Of The Lights” (PPMTEN-002)
 Some things sound exactly like you’d expect.  This is basically that.  It just hit me when I heard it, finally.  This is, of course, an old recording unearthed and released this year.  I also wouldn’t recommend this as an introduction to Arthur Russell‘s material, but for fans this is a definite must-hear/own.
That’s that for my favorite EPs of last year.  Favorite LPs will be coming within the next couple days.  If you’re curious about the availability of any of these at the shop, please do ask. 

Best of 2009 (Rick)

Best of 2009 (Rick)

One major thing to keep in mind is that if something doesn’t come out on LP/Record/Vinyl/Wax/Plastic/… then there’s a good chance I didn’t give it a full shot. There are also cases of things I just haven’t fully heard yet for one reason or another (Basement Jaxx, Sunn, others… and yea, they are notable). My only claim with this list is that these are the albums (full albums, mind you) that I’ve most enjoyed from the past year. Were I to mention all the singles and EPs that I’ve enjoyed to an equal degree the list would be considerably longer. I’m not going into that though. Enjoy this list. On another day it might find a different order with different content.

1. Fever Ray “Fever Ray”
This is almost cliche, but I think this is the best album of the year. I didn’t think it would be upon initial listen, but I came back to this one time and time again. Melancholy.

2. Cloaks “Versus Grain”
I don’t remember what led me to listen to this – some blog post somewhere. I had ignored their first 12″ on Werk Discs back in 2007 (2008 stateside). I then wrote a love letter via my own blog post this year upon finally giving them a shot (a couple months after their full length actually dropped). To see my full thoughts: HPSU “Dear Cloaks”

3. Iron Age “Sleeping Eye”
4. Hatred Surge “Deconstruct”

#3 & 4 share members so I’m writing this up together. Iron Age takes pieces from a bunch of different psychedelic biker bad ass influences as well as some death metal and hardcore. Nothing is new (ever anywhere) so why not just take parts of things you love and mush them together. Of course, that could be a recipe for disaster. Here it works brilliantly. As for Hatred Surge – short, fast and sweet. It’s like when you want to do a really good belly flop and you do. It hurts and rules.

5. Cathode Terror Secretion “Spectre Of History’s Design”
6. Halflings “Self-Esteem”

These guys are from the same area and released records at the same time on the same label (RRR). It’s noise. It’s power electronics. It’s brutal and it’s a cathartic wash of full body massage (change the settings by adjusting the volume – preferably all the way up).

7. Bill Callahan “Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle”
Here’s another album I wouldn’t have expected to be on this list upon initial listen. Bill Callahan used to record as Smog. This is his third album under his own name. It is his best under his own name by far. If’n you like Mark Kozelek like I do you will enjoy this’n.

8. Kryptic Minds “One Of Us”
Here’s the second album on my list that would fall into the dubstep category. As opposed to Cloaks though this one is very much the definition of dubstep. These fellas have put out the best examples of by the books (not by the numbers) dubstep this year. It avoids cliches and doesn’t come off as being made purely for dance floor fodder. This is worthy listening music (not just atmosphere). It’s a bit dark and minimal. Solid.

9. Royksopp “Junior”
What’s funny about this album is that at one point this is what I would’ve hoped the Fever Ray album would sound like (having just heard that Karen of the Knife was producing a solo effort). I wanted the dancey part of the Knife. Of course, Fever Ray is atop this list. Royksopp is right here. Karen is actually on a couple tracks here too (along with a cast of other guests). Royksopp has been around for a solid ten years (formed 1998, first album in 2001). They produce left of center dance music. This effort is exactly that. It’s happy and fun and seemingly the antithesis of most of my list so it really needs to be on here.

10. Estrogen Highs “Tell It to Them”
Local New Haven based boys playing trashy rock that I enjoy. If you like rock and roll you should check it out.

11. V/A “Hyperdub 5”
Hyperdub is a dubstep label that’s been going on for 5 years now. This double disc set (on CD – a few 12″s with key tracks were also released) full of it’s history and great new tracks. Joker, Zomby, King Midas Sound, many others. Top notch!