fave albums of 2010

December 23, 2010 under Annual Fave Albums, Music

One could say that my blog has become merely a historical overview of the albums that I like each year. I do have plans to re-enter the blogosphere (does anybody even use that term anymore?) instead of solely Tweeting or posting Facebook status updates.

Until then, like I do every year, here’s my list of albums released in 2010 that I particularly liked. And for the first time, I’ve chosen not one, not two, but three “Albums of the Year”. Honestly, I couldn’t decide on a single one, so you’ll see three of those little trophy icons (Album Of The Year) this year.

Amusement Parks on FireRoad Eyes
Album Of The YearCanadianArcade FireThe Suburbs
Autolux Transit Transit
CanadianThe Besnard LakesAre The Roaring Night
CanadianBroken Social SceneForgiveness Rock Record
Corin Tucker Band1000 Years
DeerhunterHalcyon Digest
EngineersIn Praise Of More
Film SchoolFission
Four TetThere Is Love In You
God Is An AstronautAge of the Fifth Sun
GrindermanGrinderman 2
The Hold Steady Heaven Is Whenever
CanadianHoly FuckLatin
Frightened RabbitThe Winter of Mixed Drinks
Killing JokeAbsolute Dissent
Manic Street PreachersPostcards From A Young Man
Marnie SternMarnie Stern
MelvinsThe Bride Screamed Murder
No AgeEverything In Between
School Of Seven BellsDisconnect From Desire
Teenage FanclubShadows
Album Of The YearThese New PuritansHidden
Album Of The YearTitus AndronicusThe Monitor
CanadianTokyo Police ClubChamp
CanadianWintersleepNew Inheritors
CanadianWolf ParadeExpo 86

A few hornorable mentions:

The Depreciation GuildSpirit Youth
Jimmy Eat WorldInvented
LCD SoundsystemThis Is Happening
Minus the BearOMNI
The NationalHigh Violet
CanadianThe New PronographersTogether
CanadianOwen PallettHeartland
The Radio Dept.Clinging To A Scheme
Red SparowesThe Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies the Answer

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fave albums of 2009

December 20, 2009 under Annual Fave Albums, Music

It seems fitting that I end the year with a post about the only thing that it seemed that I could write about in the last 365 days – music. Honestly, to those who are able to work a hectic job, spend time with a significant other and do whatever else life requires of them and still find time to regularly blog about a variety of topics of interest to them…kudos! 2009 simply didn’t now allow me that luxury, and there’s no telling if 2010 will relent. The benefit to developing software in a fast-paced environment is that when I’m not in meetings or manically scrawling ideas on a whiteboard, it’s “nose to the grindstone” coding and I require a soundtrack for that.

Like bygone years, I have assembled a list of albums released this year that I found to be to my liking. As per usual, here it is in alphabetical order and includes my selection for “album of the year”.

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of DeadThe Century of Self
Bear In HeavenBeast Rest Forth Mouth
Built To SpillThere Is No Enemy
Cymbals Eat GuitarsWhy There Are Mountains
Dan DeaconBromst
Dinosaur Jr.Farm
CanadianDo Make Say ThinkThe Other Truths
Echo & the BunnymenThe Fountain
The Flaming LipsEmbryonic
Fuck ButtonsTarot Sport
Future of the LeftTravels With Myself And Another
Album Of The YearThe HorrorsPrimary Colours
IdlewildPost Electric Blues
Manic Street PreachersJournal For Plague Lovers
CanadianMatthew GoodVancouver
CanadianThe Most Serene Republic…And The Ever Expanding Universe
The Pains of Being Pure of HeartThe Pains of Being Pure of Heart
PhoenixWolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
A Place To Bury StrangersExploding Head
Silversun PickupsSwoon
Sonic YouthThe Eternal
Sunn O)))Monoliths and Dimensions
CanadianThink About LifeFamily
The Twilight SadForget The Night Ahead
Yeah Yeah YeahsIt’s Blitz
Yo La TengoPopular Songs

Some honourable mentions:
The Big PinkA Brief History Of Love
Lou BarlowGoodnight Unknown
MuseThe Resistance
Pearl JamBackspacer
CanadianThe Tragically HipWe Are The Same
CanadianUbiquitous Synergy SeekerQuestamation
We Were Promised JetpacksThese Four Walls
WilcoWilco (The Album)

I had hoped for the best of Spiral StairsThe Real Feel but I simply would rather see the reunited Pavement come to Toronto. And I was really anticipating Mew‘s follow-up to their excellent And the Glass Handed Kite album, No More Stories, but I found it quite “meh”.

Finally, I’m not Pitchfork nor am I some hipster with black-rimmed glasses, skinny jeans, ironic t-shirts and an iPhone in my hand. That being said, I always try to like an Animal Collective album when it’s released but I’m ultimately disappointed at how unlistenable (to me) their music is. Merriweather Post Pavilion is no exception. It’ll appear at the top of all of the “cool” year end lists, and maybe even some uncool lists too. However, it won’t be on mine. Yuck.

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fave albums of 2008

December 22, 2008 under Annual Fave Albums, Music

I know I can’t speak for everyone, but this year went by really quickly for me. So much so that I’ve been a dismally absent blogger in recent months. Work has been hectic and I found little time away from it to come up with original thoughts to share, since I’d hate to regurgitate what you already know or can easily read about elsewhere. For 2009, I’ll make a conscious effort to return to form, assuming I had a form at one point or another. I’ll add it to my list of New Years’ resolutions…making it the only thing on the list at the moment.

Until then, let’s carry on with an annual tradition of mine – listing my favourite albums released in the past year. 2008 saw a deluge of albums from indie rockers who were either a) skinny indie rockers from England with tight pants and black-rimmed glasses producing watered-down jangle that would make 1980’s R.E.M. puke or b) bearded American indie rockers who look like they could fell you with a single swing with an axe, but instead choose to sing some Belle and Sebastien-inspired twee pop. Thankfully, my list contains none of those. I proudly present my “Album of the Year” award to Scotland’s Glasvegas. Their self-titled debut album packs plenty of emotional punch (if “Flowers and Football Tops” doesn’t make you pause to reflect on those you care about, you’re a prick) and wraps it in glimmering walls of reverb. Voici la liste dans l’ordre alphabétique pour toute le gang:

Bloc PartyIntimacy
The BreedersMountain Battles
CanadianBroken Social Scene Presents: Brendan CanningSomething For All Of Us
CanadianConstantinesKensington Heights
The Cure4:13 Dream
Death Cab For CutieNarrow Stairs
DeerhoofOffend Maggie
Album Of The YearGlasvegasGlasvegas
Her Space HolidayXOXO, Panda And The New Kid Revival
The Hold SteadyStay Positive
Local HTwelve Angry Months
M83Saturdays = Youth
Mercury RevSnowflake Midnight
MogwaiThe Hawk Is Howling
MudhoneyThe Lucky Ones
Nada SurfLucky
Nine Inch NailsThe Slip
No AgeNouns
The NotwistThe Devil, You + Me
Sigur RósMeð suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
CanadianSloanParallel Play
SpiritualizedSongs in A & E
CanadianTokyo Police ClubElephant Shell
TV on the RadioDear Science

2008 had its share of disappointing albums for me, too. I normally love Stephen Malkmus, but Real Emotional Trash did nothing for me; I preferred the deluxe re-release of Pavement’s Brighten the Corners. Also, both Wolf Parade‘s At Mount Zoomer and Tapes ‘n’ TapesWalk It Off were boring sophomore albums, and Weezer‘s “Red Album” seems too content to try produce “hits” in the hopes of amassing MySpace and YouTube views it seems.

My hopes for 2009? A new My Bloody Valentine album!

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fave albums of 2007

December 21, 2007 under Annual Fave Albums, Music

Another year, another smattering of good albums. There were plenty of shitty albums released this year, too, but you won’t find any of them here 🙂

In years past, I’ve written a thing or two about each album and how it left an impression on me. Due to the sheer volume of good music released this year, I have a longer list than usual and devoting a few sentences to each album would be too long for even the most avid reader. So instead I present to you a much-longer list of albums from 2007 that thoroughly impressed me. Of particular note is this year’s winner of my “Album of the Year” award going to The National’s Boxer. Enjoy!

A Place To Bury StrangersA Place To Bury Strangers
Pocket Symphony
AqueductOr Give Me Death
CanadianArcade FireNeon Bible
Band of HorsesCease To Begin
CanadianThe Besnard Lakes…Are The Dark Horse
Black FrancisBluefinger
Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubBaby 81
Bloc PartyA Weekend In The City
CanadianBroken Social Scene Presents: Kevin DrewSpirit If
Crippled Black PhoenixA Love of Shared Disasters
DeerhoofFriend Opportunity
Dinosaur Jr.Beyond
CanadianDo Make Say ThinkYou, You’re A History In Rust
Explosions In The SkyAll Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone
The FieldsEverything Last Winter
Film SchoolHideout
CanadianHoly FuckLP
IdlewildMake A New World
InterpolOur Love To Admire
LCD SoundsystemSound of Silver
MapsWe Can Create
MenomenaFriend And Foe
Modest MouseWe Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
Album Of The YearThe NationalBoxer
CanadianNeverending White LightsAct 2: The Blood and the Life Eternal
CanadianThe New PornographersChallengers
Nine Inch NailsYear Zero
Queens Of The Stone AgeEra Vulgaris
RadioheadIn Rainbows
Sigur RósHvarf/Heim
SpoonGa Ga Ga Ga Ga
The Twilight Sad14 Autumns and 15 Winters
Ulrich SchnaussGoodbye
CanadianThe WeakerthansReunion Tour
WeenLa Cucaracha
The White StripesIcky Thump
WilcoSky Blue Sky
YeasayerAll Hour Cymbals

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fave albums of 2006

December 30, 2006 under Annual Fave Albums, Music

I thought that 2006 was stellar year for music. My list of favourite albums for this year is the longest one since I started posting my annual list 4 years ago. It’s interesting to note the genres represented in each of my lists. Where last year’s contained many subdued electronic albums, this year’s has plenty of loud and aggressive rock. I’ve also given the ‘album of the year’ distinction to two bands to share; both of which are veteran bands.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

Crisis finds Alexisonfire recalling the intensity of their self-titled debut, which is was somewhat absent on their last release, Watch Out. Crisis is a full-on fast-paced assault on your ears. You would think that the success of Dallas Green’s acoustic balladeering side project, City and Colour, would have influenced this album by introducing calmer moments, but (thankfully) that didn’t happen. Surprisingly, Dallas’ vocal duties haven’t increased because of the air play that City and Colour got. George still shreds his vocal chords, and Wade has more vocal performances than ever before. And if you still write off Alexisonfire as “that screaming band”, I got a lavender-scented pillow, Belle and Sebastian album and cup of chai tea for you.

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of DeadSo Divided
Reviews of So Divided have been mixed, and I’ll admit that it’s not immediately satisfying. But after repeated listens, it’s sinking in, and doesn’t leave me pining for the days when Trail of Dead sounded like blasting dynamite filtered through amplifiers. So Divided‘s subtleties shine through on “Stand In Silence”, “Naked Sun” and “Witch’s Web”. To add, I actually prefer Trail of Dead’s cover of GbV‘s “Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory” to the original.

Built To SpillYou In Reverse
It took way too long for B2S to release a new album, and thank goodness they finally did. The 9-minute opener, “Goin’ Against Your Mind”, is a phenomenal way to kick off an album. you In Reverse is loaded with guitar mastery…long live the B2S extenda-jam.

The DecemberistsThe Crane Wife
Listening to the Decemberists conjures images of hip indie kids from Newfoundland who start a great band. And then I’m reminded that they’re actually from, of all places, Montana. The Crane Wife takes the Decemberists’ formula of prog rock mixed with sea shanties and applies it to a Japanese fairytale over the course of an entire album, and it works!

CanadianFinal FantasyHe Poos Clouds
When Owen Pallett isn’t providing strings to The Arcade Fire, he records as Final Fantasy. It’s hard to imagine beat-less violin-driven music actually rocking, but Pallett finds a way to make that a reality. He Poos Clounds is complete with references to Toronto real-estate heavyweights and video games; an unlikely winning combination.

The Hold SteadyBoys And Girls In America
The Hold Steady remind me of another band from Minnesota; The Replacements…and I love those ‘Mats. Swaggering indie rock with thought-provoking story telling is The Hold Steady’s forte. “Chillout Tent”, a love story involving a guy (played by Soul Asylum‘s Dave Pirner) and a gal (played by The Reputation‘s Elizabeth Elmore) who meet in the recovery tent at a music festival after pulling whiteys, is my standout favourite track.

IsisIn The Absence Of Truth
Texture. Lots ‘n’ lots of texture. I hate to use other bands to compare a band’s sound, but think Melvins + Black Sabbath + The Cure, and that’s where Isis is on In The Absence Of Truth. Sounds weave in and out of the mix and culminate in a loud and heavy burst of distorted guitars. Isis have introduced more subdued sounds and melodies into their repertoire and achieve excellent results.

MastodonBlood Mountain
When I listen to Blood Mountain (usually prior to playing hockey), I envision this huge craggy mountain where muscular cave dwellers drink from skulls. With loud, pounding sounds and quick-shifting time signatures, Mastodon are the new Rush.

MogwaiMr. Beast
I can never have one of these lists without a Mogwai album, it seems. Mr. Beast finds the band compressing their sound into 4-minute songs for quick consumption. There aren’t build-ups to climaxes. What we have are short bursts controlled noise like “Glasgow Mega Snake” and “Travel Is Dangerous”, which will make you want to knock down a building with your bare hands. And when the times comes for me to shuffle off this mortal coil, “Friend Of The Night” is the last song I’d want to hear.

MuseBlack Holes and Revelations
Big guitar and drums rock with a lot of epic drama regarding the end of the world and aliens. Muse have gone down this path before, but this time it’s super-sized. Muse even get a little bit sexy, as a change of pace, with “Supermassive Black Hole”.

PavementWowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition
Matador continues the tradition of reissuing Pavement albums complete with all B-sides, outtakes, rarities and live performances. Wowee Zowee was the last of great Pavement albums, and it starts to show. But I’d still pony up for similar reissues for Brighten The Corners and Terror Twilight, if Matador goes that route.

Pearl JamPearl Jam
This is by the far the best PJ album released in the last 10 years. When PJ experiments, they’re hit and miss (mostly miss). This self-titled release is a fine return to form.

Peeping TomPeeping Tom
Mike Patton (aka: Peeping Tom), has been quoting as saying that this album is his interpretation of modern pop music. With an array of collaborators like Dan The Automator, Kool Keith and Amon Tobin, this is definitely a pop album sonic-wise. It’s a stark contrast from the Mike Patton of Faith No More/Mr. Bungle/Fantômas/Tomahawk that we all know and love. “Mojo” is taylor-made for TRL on MTV. Yet, Mike still managed to surprise me when he managed to convince docile songbird Norah Jones to say ‘motherfucker’ on “Sucker”.

Red Hot Chili PeppersStadium Arcadium
By The Way, RHCP’s last release, was a snoozer. Actually, most of the Chili’s output recently has been pretty tame. Where’d the funk go? On Stadium Arcadium, it’s returned! Back in grade 8, Mike Fortin introduced me to the Uplift Mofo Party Plan and I was hooked; the raunchy mix of punk and funk had my 12 year-old ears hooked. Now Stadium Arcadium doesn’t exactly hark back to those days. Pussies are no longer partied on, and nobody needs to be knocked down. But the funk is back and John Frusciante puts on one hell of a show.

Silversun PickupsCarnavas
Love the fuzz. SSPU pick up where they left off on the Pikul EP. This is an extremely hummable album, easily capable of spawning lots of earworms.

CanadianSloanNever Hear The End Of It
At 30 tracks, it’s work to hear the end of Never Hear The End Of It. Stylistically, Sloan cover a lot of territory on this album; indie rock, ballads, punk and chamber pop. There are plenty of immediately catchy but gone-too-soon tracks reminiscent of Bee Thousand/Alien Lanes/Under The Bushes, Under The Stars era GbV.

SparklehorseDreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain
It’s good to have Mark Linkous releasing albums again. Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain is a contemplative album with many references to ghosts and pain; Sparklehorse staples.

Album Of The YearSonic YouthRather Ripped
Nobody could ever hope to record another Sister or Daydream Nation; not even Sonic Youth themselves. Toward the end of the last decade, I began to doubt that Sonic Youth could be interesting and relevant again. Murray Street and Sonic Nurse gave me hope and Rather Ripped is the crowning achievement of a trio of albums from this millennium that prove that the ol’ noise makers still have it. It has all of the trademark elements that make Sonic Youth one of the best bands of all time. Odd guitar tunings? Check. Feedback? Check. Melody? Check. Songs from Kim that are actually good? Check. Rather Ripped was a rather pleasant surprise.

Tapes ‘n TapesThe Loon
TnT wear their musical influences on their sleeves. With their sleeves covered in Pixies, Pavement, and Modest Mouse, TnT take the sounds from great bands and make it their own.

Tool10,000 Days
Complicated and always evolving, Tool have done it again. The one-two punch of “Lost Keys (Blame Hoffman)” and “Rosetta Stoned”, which could either be about alien abduction or acid trip recounts or a combination of both, is one of my favourite parts of the album.

CanadianThe Tragically HipWorld Container
The Hip, the best of the accessible rock bands that you’ve never heard if you live outside of Canada, prove that they still have plenty of fight left in them. Introducing a few new nuances like the highhat trickery on “The Lonely End Of The Rink” that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Bloc Party album, World Container is the still The Hip that your Canadian heart knows and loves, but with a new bag of tricks.

TV On The RadioReturn To Cookie Mountain
Skip “I Was A Lover” and you got yourself a brilliant album. The combination of layered vocals and instrumentation make for a very dense album. There are sounds everywhere; way more subtle and not-so-subtle textures than there were on Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. Turn the corner nonchalantly, and you’ll be poked with an unfamiliar sound in the eye. This album is best experienced with headphones.

Album Of The YearYo La TengoI Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
I love Yo La Tengo; I really do. They’ve covered everything from folk to blues to noise rock to electro-drone to jazz. Their two most recent albums, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out and Summer Sun, are hushed and gentle. To me, that’s fine in small doses, so I was pleased to hear that I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass, came back to their all-over-the-map-in-a-single-album ways. Kicking off the album with 10 minutes of noise and guitar on “Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Good Kind”, put my mind at ease. The next 14 tracks are a wild ride that cover a lot of territory in much the same way that I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One did, which is welcome to my ears.

Some other notable albums that didn’t quite make my list were The Flaming LipsAt War With The Mystics, Pretty Girls Make GravesElan Vital , Snow Patrol‘s Eyes Open and Thom Yorke‘s Eraser. Of course, there a many other good albums released this year that I haven’t had a chance to listen to, yet. So feel free to add to my list, if I’ve missed any.

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my fave albums of 2005

December 19, 2005 under Annual Fave Albums

This year, I was all about different sounds. 2005 might as well go down as the year that UK indie bands that sound like the 80’s Brit Invasion bands (XTC, Squeeze, Talk Talk, Joy Division, etc) took over. I wasn’t really into it since I heard it all before in the basement of my cousin’s when I was a little scamp. Instead, I gravitated towards bands with different and sometimes eclectic sounds. So here it is; the annual list of my favourite albums of the past year. Enjoy and discuss!

AFXAnalord 9, 10 and 11
AFX, Aphex Twin, Richard D. James – which ever name you prefer – put out a collection of analog recordings this year; no computers. Volumes 9, 10 and 11 are my favourites. “Fenix Funk 5”, “Xmd5a”, “W32.Aphex@mm” and “VBS.Redlof.B” are outstanding.

And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of DeadWorlds Apart
Not your typical AYWKUBTTOD album with plenty of screaming and feedback. I hate to use the term “mature” but it is a more mature album for them. Mind you, “Caterwaul” is like the best rock song I’ve heard in a very long time.

Boards Of CanadaThe Campfire Headphase
Moody and airy, but now featuring some cool processed guitar sounds. The perfect album for when you’re staring out the window, wishing you were outside.

Bloc PartySilent Alarm
I didn’t follow the latest trend of UK indie bands sounding like XTC and Joy Division; I heard all of that in my cousins’ basement when I was a kid. But these guys are way above the latest crop of those bands with fast melodies and crazy-swift drum fills at seemingly random times.

CanadianBroken Social SceneBroken Social Scene
You Forgot It In People was a great album that was a breath of fresh air in the indie rock world and anything else would pale in comparison. I like this self-titled release much better; it’s more fleshed out with hardly any filler. And “It’s All Gonna Break” is the cherry on the cake.

CanadianCaribouThe Milk Of Human Kindness
The best way to describe The Milk Of Human Kindness is to refer to it as – and these are not gospel but simply my own words – a history lesson in contemporary music. Within a span of eleven tracks, Dan Snaith manages to cover chamber music, 70’s stoner rock, hip-hop, folk, shoegazing and electro pop. The eighth track, “Brahminy Kite”, is my idea of marching band music that actually sounds good.

Death Cab For CutiePlans
If Dena can put “Soul Meets Body” on her iPod, this must be a pretty accessible album. This harks back to DCFC‘s pre- Photo Album and Transatlanticism era and the change is good.

FantômasSuspended Animation
It can only be described as the result of combining Saturday morning cartoons with cheap drugs. Play this album when you don’t want to be disturbed by people. Anybody who hears you listening to this will think you’re a schizophrenic with Tourette’s and will wisely leave you alone.

Another “mature” album full of tight melodies and an excellent album closer in “Goodnight”.

M83Before The Dawn Heals Us
I totally have an affinity for shoegazers and M83 fit the bill niceley. Dense soundscapes and easy beats are this album’s bread ‘n’ butter. There is a little bit of danger in Before The Dawn Heals Us – Dena woke up from a nap to hear “Car Chase Terror” and she hasn’t been the same since 😉

MogwaiGovernment Commissions (BBC Sessions 1996-2003)
There aren’t any new songs on this, but John Peel recorded perfectly captured Mogwai in these amazing live sets. All of the songs have more punch; especially “Like Herod”. And the songs from Ten Rapid sound even more beautiful.

Nada SurfThe Weight Is A Gift
Let Go was good, but The Weight Is A Gift is much better and more consistant. Pure guitar pop bliss.

Album Of The YearCanadianNew PornographersTwin Cinema
This is my vote for Album of the Year. 5 stars. 10 out of 10. Many thumbs. Whatever. It’s perfect.

Queens Of The Stone AgeLullabies To Paralyze
This is heady rock music for those disciples of Allan Cross who would kick ass on Rock And Roll Jeopardy. There isn’t a lot culled from recent Desert Sessions, except for “In My Head”. But there is plenty of punk, skronk, funk and more to keep rock nerds happy.

Sigur RósTakk
Their last album, ( ), would be the perfect soundtrack for the Apocalypse. The world hasn’t ended yet, so Sigur Rós put out an album that’s uplifting and actually rocks at times; see “Glósóli”, “Hoppípolla”, “Meo Blódnasir”, “Seaglopur” and “Gong”.

Silversun PickupsPikul EP
This EP shows that the Los Angeles quartet will be a promising new band when they release their debut LP next year. They have the sounds that give me the warm ‘n’ fuzzies. Check out an interview I did with them on Earlyfish sometime in early 2006.

Stephen MalkmusFace The Truth
S.M.‘s gone back to his style on Wowee Zowee when he was in Pavement and it’s refreshing to hear. BTW, hey Matador! It’s 2005; where’s the Wowee Zowee 10-year anniversary re-release?

White StripesGet Behind Me Satan
With the exception of two songs, there isn’t any of Jack White’s trademark big guitar work to be found. Essentially, every instrument except for the guitar is represented on this album, and it works.

CanadianWolf ParadeApologies To The Queen Mary
Many may think this is a Modest Mouse sound-alike (Isaac Brock did produce this album) but there’s much more to Wolf Parade. They meld raucous melodies with ambient keyboards and plenty of lyrics about ghosts, which makes for erie yet hard-driving rock music.

Bring on 2K6!

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my fave albums of 2004

December 21, 2004 under Annual Fave Albums

Here’s the moment that you’ve all been waiting for. Like I do every December, here’s the annual list of my favourite albums from the year that was. It was an excellent year for good music. I mean c’mon, I never thought I’d be able to have Nirvana and Pavement on the same list ever again. I’m in highschool! Anyway, here they are in alphabetical order:

CanadianAlexisonfireWatch Out
To some, Alexisonfire are known as “that screaming band from St. Catharines“. If you tune out the screaming for a moment, you’ll hear some excellent melodic rock music. But at the same time, if you tune out the screaming, you miss out on one of the band’s key instruments. To me, Alexisonfire are a way more agressive version of Sigur Ros, and I like Sigur Ros. Like many Mogwai albums, crank Watch Out realy loud (and thier self-titled one too) when you have some chores around the house to do.

Album Of The YearCanadianThe Arcade FireFuneral
If Broken Social Scene were from Montreal instead of Toronto, they might be The Arcade Fire. It should be noted that this album is completely different from any BSS album, so I hope you enjoyed that comparisson 🙂 Funeral is an emotional album with a unique sound, especially given the lyrical content.

The CureThe Cure
It’s always good to see a new Cure album released. This time Robert Smith is filled with plenty of energy and anger, but not in the manner of any of the Dark Trilogy albums (that includes Pornography, Disintegration and Bloodflowers in case you’re not aware). “Us Or Them” and “Alt.End” are good examples of agitated rock ‘n’ roll ventine against the current goings-on in the world, without the whine of bands like sucky Linkin Park, Papa Roach or Nickelback.

FantômasDelirium Cordia
Mike Patton. You can’t really say much more. The album is one 74-minute track of, what I believe, to be a surgical procedure gone horribly wrong. Mike never sings a single note. Instead, he’s twiddling knobs and using his magical voice to scream, gasp and spit over sparse guitar chords, bells, the wind and any sound that you can imagine hearing on a demented surgeon’s operating table. Like Doom3, play this album loudly when you’re alone in the dark. Stare at the gorey surgery pictures in the album art, too. I’ll come to bail you out of the psych ward afterwards.

Frank BlackFrank Black Francis
On the first disc, to hear the original demos recorded prior to the recording of the PixiesCome On Pilgrim is a real treat. Listening as Black Francis is pointing out how these songs will take shape and be played in the studio is phenominal. The second disc is Frank Black re-working his masterpieces, or as the liner notes say, “messing with the gospel”. While the original songs are works of art that most contemporary rock music is based off of, it’s neat to hear them reworked with horns and strings. Sometimes, the lyrics are clearer than the originals and you can hear things you might have missed.

Franz FerdinandFranz Ferdinand
This is one of those albums that sounds great in the car. I don’t think it would be possible to fall asleep while listening to Franz Ferdinand. The reworked version of “This Fire”, retitled “This Fffire”, makes the re-release of the album worth it.

Turn on the Bright Lights was amazing. Many critics think that Antics is much weaker by comparisson but I disagree, and not just because music critics suck. The heavy Joy Division influence has been shed a little and we’re left with ten excellent songs that work well together as a whole, as well as capable of standing on their own. I can’t wait to hear what’s next from Interpol.

Jimmy Eat WorldFutures
Folks expecting Bleed American Part 2 will be disappointed. Futures reminds me of Clarity and that was a great album. There’s some excellent rockers on this album but if I could’ve written a song like “Night Drive” in highschool, I would’ve had all of the chicks 😉

Local HWhat Ever Happened To PJ Soles?
This is the best pure kick-arse rock album of the year, IMO. Period. “California Songs” should’ve existed a long time ago so we wouldn’t have to hear all of those songs about California and New York. “Buffalo Trace” is a wild retro ride. Aw hell, it’s all just so rawk-tacular.

Modest MouseGood News For People That Love Bad News
This year Modest Mouse made me feel like a fan of a hockey player who finally made the “big team” after paying his dues in the minor leagues. I never would’ve expected to hear Modest Mouse played on commercial rock radio like the Edge or see them on Saturday Night Live. But it all happened this year. This wasn’t their strongest album but it’s still excellent. Please release “The View” as a single. <TEARING UP>Our lil’ Modest Mouse is moving on to bigger things. I’m so proud of ’em.<SNIFF>

NirvanaWith The Lights Out
It’s called a box set but it would be more appropriate to call it a rarities box set for the fans. I love hearing songs as they take shape, as well as the songs that we weren’t meant to hear. Even the most obscure tracks are better than anything on the radio or music video channels that passes for modern rock these days. And the DVD is a nice surprise. Hearing Kurt announce “a new song…this is called Smells Like Teen Spirit” at a gig in early 1991, prior to Nevermind‘s release will send chills up your spine since you know that music as we know it is about to change forever.

PavementCrooked Rain Crooked Rain: L.A.’s Desert Origins
If Matador keeps releasing these Pavement collection albums, I’ll keep buying them. There are plenty of unplucked gems to be found that never made it onto Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain like “Haunt You Down”, “All My Friends” and “Soiled Little Filly”. Bring on the Wowee Zowee collection!

Preston School Of IndustryMonsoon
More Pavement? Not really. There’s a definite Wilco influence at work here and it’s a good thing. Spiral Stairs has put out an album comprised entirely of actual songs. In the past, some were songs and some were fragments. I still would rather see a worthy Pavement reunion, though 😉

Snow PatrolFinal Straw
Final Straw is an excellent and varied album. Everbody loves “Run” but take a listen to “Wow”, “Spitting Games”, “Chocolate” and “Half The Fun”. Hopefully Snow Patrol will be around for many years to come to release albums during the years when Idlewild doesn’t release an album.

Sonic YouthSonic Nurse
I loved Murray Street, after they kinda got off-track a little, but Sonic Nurse one-ups it. Kim hasn’t had any memorable songs from the last couple of albums but “Pattern Recognition” and the very-rollicking “Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream” totally redeem her. The album as a whole, though, is wonderful and sometimes harks back to the days of Evol and Sister. Brilliant stuff from a veteran band that hasn’t lost their touch.

Ulrich SchnaussA Strangley Isolated Place
Ulrich Schnauss is an electronic DJ/composer from Germany. But does he really make electronic music? Sort of. He’s heavily influenced by the shoegazing guitar bands of the late 80’s/early 90’s like My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Swervedriver. Coincidentally, I’m a huge fan of My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Swervedriver 😉 If "A Clear Day" wasn’t inspired by a combination of "When You Sleep", "I Only Said" and "Come In Alone" from MBV’s Loveless, then I’m a poor excuse for a music geek. Ulrich somehow recreates the wall of guitar noise with electronic sounds and the results are amazing. Play A Strangley Isolated Place when you need some soothing.

Worthy Mentions…I’ve a heard a little of but would love to hear more of Singapore Sling’s Life Is Killing My Rock ‘N’ Roll, TV On The Radio’s New Health Rock, Death From Above 1979’s You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, The Polyphonic Spree’s Together We’re Heavy, The StreetsA Grand Don’t Come for Free and The Tragically Hip’s In Between Evolution. I’d even like to take the Deluxe Edition reissue of Nine Inch Nail’s The Downward Spiral into one of those rooms at Future Shop with the surround sound setups. I haven’t listened to U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb enough yet to formulate an opinion but I’ll probably love it and I think “City of Blinding Lights” is a wicked song. The same goes for the Blues Explosion’s Damage; I bought it a couple months ago and like it thus far, but it needs further spins. We even got a new Pixies song this year with the iTunes-exlusive “Bam Thwok”. Could more new material be far behind?

And now for the disappointments. Guided by VoicesHalf Smiles of the Decomposed contains two amazing soon-to-be classics in “Everybody Thinks I’m a Raincloud” and “Huffman Prairie Flying Field” that bookend an entire album of wishy-washy filler crap. I think it’s a good thing that Bob decided to end GbV right now before any more disgrace comes to the GbV name. R.E.M.’s Around the Sun put me to sleep…literally.

Well that’s the way I heard the music in 2004. It’s pretty varied, don’t you think? Hey, I’m no black rim-glasses-and-thrift-store-clothes wearin’ indie rock snob dork :) Do you want to be? Either way, I have a feeling that 2005 will be just as good or perhaps even better.

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my fave 2003 albums

December 15, 2003 under Annual Fave Albums

Well, folks, here it is. It’s what you’ve all been waiting for. Here’s my annual list of favourite albums that were released this year. Once again, you won’t find any shlock that’s sandwiched between commercials on “new rock” radio stations and music video channels. This is pretentiousness at its finest 😉 2003 was a surprisingly decent year for music, so I’ve left off some good albums due to sheer volume. If you’re a serious music fan, you’ll seek them out. Let’s get on with the list (in alphabetical order).

1. A Perfect CircleThe Thirteenth Step
Is it a coincidence that this album is entitled The Thirteenth Step and I have thirteen albums in my list this year? Yes, because that is what a coincidence is defined as. This album rawks even though distortion is kept at a minimum and the amps never go all the way up to 11. This is what The Cure would sound like if they were headbangers. Jeordie White’s (the dude formerly known as Twiggy Ramirez when he was in Marylin Manson‘s band) bass riff in “Vanishing” has to be one of my highlights. I can’t wait to hear the next album when James Iha is around for the recording of it.

2. Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubTake Them On, On Your Own
Sure BMRC ape The Jesus and Mary Chain a little bit, but they do it well and I’m a huge JAMC fan. This album has more kick than their first album, which is a good thing.

3. Death Cab For CutieTransatlanticism
If Lou Barlow were to have a child and it matured at an alarming rate, there’s a good chance he would become Ben Gibbard. No, DCFC don’t sound like Sebadoh or the Folk Implosion. They sound like DCFC, duh. Dena might actually approve of this band since they were name dropped by one of the stars on a fave TV show of hers, The O.C..

4. Frank Black and the CatholicsShow Me Your Tears
Frank got divorced and it’s all over this terribly depressing album. There’s no Pixies flourishes or sci-fi references to be found on it. Instead, we have a cathartic release from one of rock’s foremost icons and he pulls it off with style and dignity. He even manages to rock a bit, too.

5. MogwaiHappy Songs For Happy People
Mogwai rawk, lull, spook, hypnotize and rawk some more. I love these buggers. “Hunted By A Freak”, “I Know You Are But What Am I?”, “Stop Coming To My House”…aw bloody hell, all of the songs are great.

6. New PornographersElectric Version
The Vancouver super-group’s second album is as good as guitar pop gets. Most ciritcs think this album is better than their first. I disagree but the Electric Version is still a wicked album.

7. The Postal ServiceGive Up
Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard shows up twice in my list this year. This time, it’s for his electronic side-project with some guy called Jimmy Tamborello from a band called Dntel that I’ve never heard of before. It’s Ben’s lyrics on top of electronic music. Now I’m not the world’s biggest electronic music fan, but this is good stuff. Anyone that can sample the Super Mario Bros’ theme and make it sound good is ok in my books.

8. Pretty Girls Make GravesThe New Romance
They’re sorta sounding like AYWKUBTTOD and then they’re sorta not. It’s stuttery at times, laced with interweaving guitars, screaming female vocals and the odd Sonic Youth-like blast of noise here and there. They’re first album was a little “punkier” and had appeal right out of the box, but The New Romance is still an awesome album. It took a few repeated listens to sink in for me, but wow, is it great.

9. RadioheadHail To The Thief
Let’s face it, if Radiohead released a CD of fingernails scratching a chalkboard, it probably would be hailed as a masterpiece. As the world’s best band, IMO, they can do no wrong in the eyes of many. This album is comforting in that although it contains some of the electronic flourishes of Kid A and Amnesiac, there’s more of the familiar guitar rock that they were once known for. That and the kewl alternating left-right stereo effect at the beginning of “Backdrifts” is a nice touch (headphone stoners take note).

10. SloanAction Pact
I’ve been a Sloan fan since Smeared (I missed out on the Peppermind EP the first time around) and in each of their phases (shoegazers, indie rockers, 60’s rivivalists, etc), they’ve always sounded great. This time, they appear to be celebrating rock for rock itself. This album is massive guitar onslaught with a steady dose of hooks, ya’ll!

11. Stephen MalkmusPig Lib
I wasn’t a huge fan of his first solo album and prefered PSOI’s All This Sounds Gas instead. SM’s sounded like a bunch of Pavement toss-aways from the Wowee Zowee sessions gone awry, except for “Jo Jo’s Jacket” and “Jenny And The Ess-Dog”. But this album sounds more like the SM I remember. It’s funny but never seems like it’s trying to be funny and it rocks when it’s required to. This album will remind you of how great of a band Pavement really was while charting a good future direction for SM.

12. The StrokesRoom On Fire
Critics lauded the Strokes‘ first album, Is This It, as a masterpiece. Personally, I thought it was pretty good, but not all it was cracked up to be. You might say that I was pondering “is this it?”. Heh ;) But this time around, the Strokes hit the nail on the head. The album’s ending trilogy of songs is an awesome way to conclude Room On Fire.

13. The White StripesElephant
Let’s face it, Michigan hasn’t produced any good music in a long time. It’s been some time since Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper and the MC5 burst onto the scene. Eminem, Andrew W.K. and Kid Rock aren’t good music folks, sorry. At least they can claim one of the world’s best bands as their own. If you don’t _get_ the White Stripes, that’s a shame for you. And why “Black Math” hasn’t been released a single is beyond me.

Here are a few albums that didn’t make the list for whatever reason, but could have.

This album is a rarity for Grandaddy in that it’s quite upbeat. They do upbeat well. It’s not the most exciting album, though, but “Stray Dog and the Chocolate Shake” has to be one of the catchiest songs…ever.

Folk ImplosionThe New Folk Implosion
This is a great album but only 9 songs?!? C’mon Lou, give us some more.

The MusicThe Music
I haven’t listened to the entire album but from what I have managed to hear, it’s definitely good. The songs don’t contain insights into the secrets of the universe, so the lyrics are mostly a secondary thing. But the sounds are what count and they definitely have a great groove at a very young age.

Sam RobertsWe Were Born In A Flame
Here’s another album that I haven’t heard in its entirety, but he’s released 4 singles and I’ve liked them all. Who would’ve thought that the one to take over for the Beatles’ sensibility would be some guy from Montreal in need of a shave and a haircut.

OutkastSpeakerboxxx/The Love Below
Hip-hop bores me these days. It didn’t always, though. In my younger days, Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Cypress Hill, NWA and Ice-T were going boldly where nobody else had gone before. The last hip-hop album that I actually listened to daily was A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory and that was a wicked album that was released back in 1991. After that, it became all about the bling-bling. Boring. Enter Outkast, who remind me of A Tribe Called Quest. Not in sound per se; mostly about style and muscial intelligence. Here’s another album (actually two solo albums combined into one) that I haven’t heard in its entirety. But what I have heard, has been a breath of fresh air in an otherwise boring (to me) hip-hop world.

Yo La TengoToday Is The Day EP
EPs aren’t albums and won’t make it on to my list. But the version of “Today Is The Day” on this EP crushes the wimpy version found on Summer Sun. It’s refreshing to hear distortion and feedback from YLT after they’ve released two very light and breezy jazz-ish albums in a row.

The Flaming LipsFight Test EP
Another EP that has no chance of making my list but I gotta mention the Flaming Lips every year ;) Sure, the Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell EP was just released but Fight Test EP contains three special gems; the creepy cover of Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”, the rip-roaring cover of Radiohead’s “Knives Out” and the awesomely hilarious “Thank You Jack White (For The Fiber-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)”.

Lost In Translation Soundtrack
This has a few new songs from Kevin Shields. Since there may never be a follow up to My Bloody Valentine’s perfect Loveless, I guess we have to take what we can get. But I haven’t heard any of the new songs yet (except for one and it was almost over but it sounded kewl)!

Here are two albums that I wanted to make my list but they just couldn’t.

Guided By VoicesEarthquake Glue
Bob, what happened? I’m all for the rock, but GbV is not Yes.

Yeah Yeah YeahsFever To Tell
Their first EP was great. But this over-hyped album, though, seems like nothing but filler except for one amazing song; “Maps”.

What albums will 2004 bring us? If 2004 knows what’s good for it, they’ll be good ones ;)

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my fave albums of 2002

January 5, 2003 under Annual Fave Albums

Happy 2K3, folks!

Dena and I are back from our holidays. Yup, no code for ten days. It was a nice break, but became horrendously boring towards the end of my holidays. Most of my time was spent shoveling snow (which I don’t get to do in Kitchener), watching hockey/football with my dad, watching my mom sew up any holes in my clothes, participating in obligatory family functions and doing some social mildly irksome meet ‘n’ greets. In the end, it all became tiresome and I looked forward to being a geek again in my own groove. It’s deperessing to think that holidays aren’t exciting for me as when I was younger. Sad to say, but it happened.

Since I said I’d do it, here it is…my top ten picks for albums of 2002:

1. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
2. Sonic Youth – Murray Street
3. Guided By Voices – Universal Truths and Cycles
4. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
5. And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Source Tags And Codes
6. Coldplay – A Sudden Rush Of Blood To The Head
7. Sigur Rós – ( )
8. Pearl Jam – Riot Act
9. Queens Of The Stone Age – Songs For The Deaf
10. Weezer – Maladroit

An honorable mention goes to the Foo Fighters for One By One; a wicked album that didn’t quite meet the hype, IMHO. Also, I would probably have included Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Beck’s Sea Change, but I haven’t heard them in their entirety yet, so it wouldn’t be fair to list them.

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