For the first time in several weeks, most of the albums on this list were released this year. But I suppose that's not unusual. Around this time I'm always trying to catch up on anything I might have missed as I try to sort out my BEST OF 2011 list. There's a definite contender on here for top album of the year, so that's always exciting. This is also the time of year for bands to throw a holiday bone to fans, so there's some of that on this list too. All in all, a good week of music. Enjoy.
Uncle Acid & the deadbeats - Blood Lust: This is an album I picked up after gazing through the top rated albums on Rateyourmusic.com the other week. It's currently ranked #19 for the year and once I saw the band name and cover, I knew I needed to check it out. Almost impossible to believe, it's actually even better than I thought it might be. Heavy 70's prog metal music reigns throughout. Pounding swing drums, blistering guitar, and a singer that's absolutely phenomenal. From the first song when they sing, "I get my kicks from tortury and screams," I dare anyone not to take notice of the madness going on in this record. Easily near the top of my list for favorite albums of the year. These guys are from the UK and have a previous album released last year called Vol 1. A review of that album to follow soon.
Wilco - Speak Into the Rose EP: Released last week, this a companion EP to the band's The Whole Love, released back in September. There seems to be a trend of releasing companion EPs these days and I have to confess to being a huge fan of it. Especially when the EP, like the Decemberists - Long Live the King, coincides with one of my top albums of the year. This four song release includes two alternate versions of albums tracks, "Art of Almost" and "I Might," which are two of my favorites from the album. These aren't terribly different, but well-worth it. It also includes two new tracks that could easily have made the album.
The Black Belles - The Black Belles: This is the long-awaited full length album from the band Jack White signed to Third Man Records. There's no wonder why he was attracted to them, they sound like a cross between late era White Stripes and the recent album by The Dead Weather. There are a few songs on here that sound like warped versions of Icky Thump, but perhaps that's because Jack White also produced the record. Either way, it's not groundbreaking or particuliarly new sounding, but there's this strange quality to it that is appealing, like the sound of songs that have been left out in the rain before going through the record player.
Grand Ole Party - Under Our Skin: I really enjoyed this San Diego based indie band's 2007 debut Humanimals. It was a wild record that felt that everything was strained to the breaking point, always to be pulled together again at the last moment. Released in August, this is the follow-up album, four years later. The music on here is definitely a bit more indie dance than rock, pulling in the 80's New Wave element that is popular these days. I have to admit that I miss some of the manic nature of the first album. I can listen to this, in fact it's quite easy to listen to. It sounds like The Gossip meets the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which isn't bad, but the first album felt more original to me. That said, there are some great songs on here as well.
Russian Circles - Empros: This is the Chicago instrumental metal band's fourth album, but the first I've heard since the 2006 debut. They still deliver great songs, full of space and story without showy electronic influence. It's straight stoner rock done well. If anything has changed since the first album, it would be that the music feels cleaner now. Decent stuff this.
Moonface - Organ Music: This is an album I reviewed back in July. I recently picked it up on vinyl and wanted to repost my review as this is another album on my list for the year's end.: Moonface is basically just a Spencer Krug solo project (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Frog Eyes). The EP put out under the Moonfacename was one of my favorite EPs of last year. It was just one 20-minute song, but it was fantastic. This is a full album of five songs, all over 7-minutes long, which keeps the feel of the EP. These are definitely story songs, told in Spencer's wonderful Neil Young-esquehowl and experimental instrumentation. Of all Spencer's other projects, the Moonfacetracks remind me most of early Sunset Rubdown in structure, but with later day Wolf Parade soundscapes. The combination is excellent, like most everything he does.
Iron & Wine - Morning Becomes Eclectic: Released as part of Record Store Day back in April, this is a recent radio session that includes songs from various albums, including tracks from this year's Kiss Each Other Clean. It's a great show. I've heard other radio shows by him and they are always good. He's a great performer and has the kind of voice that brings new emotion every time he sings a song. I was surprised none of my favorite tracks from the last album were on there. Definitely worthwhile even if you have all the albums.
Showbiz & A.G. - Runaway Slave: A friend of mine has a masters degree in hip-hopology and introduced me to this MC duo recently. The Bronx crew released this album in 1992 and it totally captures that NYC sound from the time like Gang Starr, EPMD, Tribe Called Quest, Das EFX, among others. The style was straight dissin' over phat beats back then and this does it well. Tag team always seems to work in hip-hop, especially when both MCs can play off the other's flow. There are definitely some songs that didn't age well, but there are also some stone cold classics on here like "Soul Clap," "Bounce to This," and "Represent." ....just clap yer hands and bebop....