Friday, January 31, 2014

Fiction Friday (24)

This month I read two books that pair well together. Both were historical fiction that center around two of my long time literary obsessions, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and In the Realms of the Unreal. Beyond the obvious similarities in these two works of literature, both displaying incredibly imaginative worlds, there are other interesting connections. Both books owe much of their existence to specific children who inspired the authors in different ways, and both books were written by authors with many unanswered questions about their lives. Given that, I thought the two novels below, inspired by the above mentioned works, would make for an interesting edition of Fiction Friday. Enjoy.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
(Random House, 2010)

Among fans of Lewis Carroll's work, there seems to be just as much fascination with the story of his life as there is with the fictional stories, specifically his relationship with Alice Pleasance Liddell, the little girl for whom he created his most famous work, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Though biographies of the author, of which I have read many, cover this aspect of his life in detail, there has been little attempt to examine the relationship from the point of view of the other person involved. There are very few biographies about the "real" Alice, and most don't delve too deeply into the circumstances surrounding her interaction with Charles Dodgeson (aka Lewis Carroll), which is probably what made Melanie Benjamin's novel Alice I Have Been an instant success when it came out.

Though I was excited upon its publication, I held off reading it until this month. When this novel came out, I had recently read Katie Rophie's Still She Haunts Me, a novel that also imagines the relationship between Alice and the author. I loved that novel, and wanted to wait for it to pass through my system before entering Benjamin's world. While they cover a lot of the same territory, the books are very different. The focus of this novel is the little girl and her thoughts and feelings, and properly leaves the intentions of others to her speculation, as any first person narrative should.

Beyond the appeal of telling a story that has long captured my curiosity, this is a remarkably poignant coming of age tale about a girl who doesn't really want to grow up, but who like all of us, must. It's a touching portrait of a child caught in situations that she cannot completely understand, and ultimately has to live with the consequences imposed by witnessing adults. In many ways, this imagining of Alice's life is similar to the themes in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland about the nonsensical rules of an adult world imposed on a child.

I really enjoyed that the book didn't end where most discussions of Alice end. It continued on, exploring her grown up life in depth, and the kind of burden that came with being "the real Alice". I also appreciated how it didn't attempt to settle the long standing debate on the nature of Lewis Carroll and his intentions when it came to his child friends. Through the entire novel, Alice remained the focus and how the ambiguous historical events may have been seen through a child's eyes, and later how they may have affected her. It was tragic at times, beautiful at others, and always engaging.

While many of the facts concerning the interactions between Alice and Lewis Carrol have been intentionally lost, either by the elimination of his dairy pages after his death or the destruction of the letters he wrote to a young Alice by her mother, Benjamin's portrayal feels very plausible. But the great thing about this book is that it doesn't really matter if they are factual or not. As a novel, the interpretations are carried through with incredible skill, creating a character as unforgettable as the real life inspiration. (My Pinterest Board of Alice Liddell)

Outsider by Stephen Tobias
(Book Publishers Network, 2013)

The life of Henry Darger, one the most intriguing Outsider artists to emerge in the last thirty years, certainly contains enough mysterious elements to conjure up a great novel. Instead of trying to get into the mind of someone whose intentions and thoughts are much debated, Stephen Tobias decides to tell the story of the landlord who discovered Darger's alarming illustrations for his manuscript of the longest novel ever written, In the Realms of the Unreal.

While based on facts surrounding the life of Darger, this novel is the story of Nathan Learner, a semi-successful photographer who has lost his desire to take pictures after his ten-year old daughter's long losing battle with cancer. Remarried, he is surviving on his real estate holdings and a teaching job at a Chicago art school when one his long-time tenants succumbs to age and illness. When Herman Viereck is taken to a nursing home, Nathan is tasked with the chore of cleaning out his apartment and sorting through the stuff left behind. What he finds ends up being an astonishing treasure of art produced in secret over the years.

Eventually Nathan decides that the work needs to be shared with the public for a variety of reasons. The art is so unique and visionary that he feels it would be a travesty to deny sharing it with the art world, but there are also finical reasons because by selling the artwork, he can recoup the rent owed on the apartment, and later, pay for Herman's funeral. But as the art becomes a sensation, he begins to dig deeper into the experiences that caused Herman to produce the shocking images of the Vivian girls endless, horrific war depicted in the illustrations and manuscript. This investigation leads him to the unsolved murder of a child years before.

Since many of the details of Darger's life are unknown, this is the aspect of the novel that takes liberties with the story. While it's known that Darger was obsessed with the murder of five-year-old Elsie Paroubek, it's unknown why, though there is some speculation that he may have somehow been involved in the child's death. It is also known that Darger spent most of his childhood in a mental home, and the book speculates on the horrific influence it may have had on him.

While these elements are fascinating, and the main reason I read the book, the surprising strength of the novel lies in its examination of the art world and how it creates and celebrates myth in order to sell art. It's look at grief and loss is also quite compelling as Nathan comes to terms with his daughter's death, and the realization that there was much he didn't know about her.

This is a great read for those interested in Henry Darger, but I feel my enjoyment relied heavily on my knowledge of the artist's life. I strongly recommend that readers research Henry Darger before reading Outsider, or if not, then definitely after finishing it. I worry that some readers will take this account as accurate, and therefore condemn Henry Darger to characteristics that may or may not be true. (My Pinterest Board of Darger art)

 (Elsie Paroubek/ Alice Liddell)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis

Last night, I finally went to see Inside Llewyn Davis, the new Coen Brothers movie. I'd been waiting for this film to play near me ever since it came out. I was excited to see it, not only because of the brothers' astounding history of making exceptional films, but also because I'm a big fan of the 60's Greenwich Village folk scene. Also, the movie was partially inspired by the life of one of my favorite performers on the scene, Dave Van Ronk, whose failure to ever reach stardom is an identical tale of the film's title character.

The movie was brilliant in its honest portrayal of an artistic career. The sad truth is that most artists fail to ever achieve success or fame, a truth that I've come to realize personally and so the story resinated with me on a profound level. Llewyn struggles with the question of what exactly is an artist without an audience? Are you a performer, or just someone who fails to face the challenges of life? Is the pursuit a noble one or a foolish one?  The answer is a little bit of both, but in the end, the pursuit is not always a choice, it's a calling.

 The film reminded me of the kind of cinema made in the 70's in that it was a rather bleak look at life. But the honesty in which it shows the character's life is remarkable and touching. As a viewer, you root for Llewyn, even as it becomes clear that he is never going to succeed in the way others are succeeding around him. As you see lesser talents getting their big break, you are left wondering why it is that truly talented people are so often overlooked. 

Perhaps it's because I understand the character's resentments and frustrations on a personal level that I really connected to this movie. Or perhaps it's simply because the Coen brothers are such skilled filmmakers. Either way, I loved this movie. It's told in subtleties and fits of emotion that give every scene a powerful impact.

Fun fact: The real boy who inspired Peter Pan was named Peter Llewelyn Davies...I somehow doubt the title character's name was coincidence. In some ways, all artists are Peter Pans in their refusal to grow up in the eyes of the majority of hardworking people.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

There haven't been a whole lot of new albums out in the last couple of weeks, at least none that I've been eager to devour. That's not unusual for this time of year, and it gives me a chance to catch up on records from the past. This week's list is made up of 2013 releases that I either just got around to listening to, or were part of my year-end splurge, and a few vinyl albums that I hadn't reviewed yet. There's a nice mix, moving away from the solid dose of folk and mixing in some true rock this time. Hopefully there's something you'll like. Enjoy.

The Verve - Sympathy for the Demos: It's been a long time since I've reviewed a true bootleg like this, and even longer since I've heard Verve songs that were unfamiliar. I sought this out earlier in the week after learning of its existence. It's a studio demo compilation of "Urban Hymns" era Verve. In addition to featuring amazingly raw versions of tracks from that album, and Verve editions of songs that eventually made it onto Richard Ashcroft's solo record, it also contains unreleased tracks that didn't make it onto any album or any of the singles. Their version of the later Ashcroft release "A Song for the Lovers" is brilliant. The loose feel of the demos showcases the band's manic energy in a way the studio album can't. Among the best unheard new tracks are "Misty Morning June," and "Lord, I've Been Trying." 

The Pentangle - Sweet Child: Following their self-titled debut in 1968, the London based progressive folk band released this live album in the same year. Their sound is steeped in British folk, taking inspiration from contemporary folk, and also medieval folk in the way The Incredible String Band does. But they also mix in jazz to create some new energy into it. This is a beautiful album, reminiscent of Nick Drake in ways, and sort of a root sound for bands like Fairport Convention. On the double album, there are moments where it doesn't shine as well as others, but still one of the better obscure 60's folk records that I've picked up on vinyl.

Beachwood Sparks - Desert Skies: In the first two years of the last decade, this psychedelic pop band from L.A. released two really great records before disappearing. They returned ten years later with the release of "The Tarnished Gold" in 2012, and now this album released this past November. Another record that I listened to towards the end of the year for possible inclusion on the best-of list, and though this one failed to make the cut, it's a quality piece of indie pop. It is very reminiscent of The Sunshine Fix in its Beatle's inspired use of catchy rhythms and melodies. "Make it Together" and "Time" are my favorites. Mostly a strong album, just a few spots where it feels a little uninspired.

Foreigner - Double Vision: Another album that came in a box of discarded vinyl that I recently came by is this 1978 record, the second LP from the New York City hard rock band. This album features two of their biggest hits, the title track and "Hot Blooded." Those two songs, along with "Blue Morning, Blue Day" are enough to make up for the weaker tracks on here. All in all, it feels like a collection of songs rather than a consistent groove, which was the way rock was headed in those days. A solid okay, but I could listen to the title track over and over again and never get sick of it. 

Hurray for the Riff Raff - My Dearest Darkest Neighbor: The three-piece contemporary folk band from New Orleans released this, their fifth album, sometime last year. This is an album of covers and includes beautiful americana renditions of John Lennon, George Harrison and others. All the songs sound wonderfully fresh and old fashion at the same time with a bluegrass, country feel. This was a real surprise for me this week and one I've been enjoying often. 

Horisont - Time Warriors: Released last September, this is the third album from the Sweedish metal band. With lots of guitar shredding, grinding drums, and high pitched vocals, it has a nice late 70's feel, playing off bands like Judas Priest and Scorpions. It's not as innovative as some other current retro-metal bands from Europe, but it still rocks pretty hard. Worth checking out if you're a fan of the genre.

Catching Bumble Bees

Sometimes it's easier to write the emotional sections that make readers swoon than to write those that sting. I've never had too much trouble affecting sadness, or sweetness. My challenge has always been detailing those events that cause the reader to shift uncomfortably in their chairs as something disturbing crosses the page. 

In my newest manuscript, I've created a story ripe with those moments and it's been difficult at times to secure the feeling I'm aiming for. As a writer, sometimes you have to step out of the areas you excel at in order to write something new and interesting, not only for the reader, but for your own interest in the process. Given this, the writing has been slow in parts as I try to move through unfamiliar situations. It's not always easy, but then again, no one ever said writing was supposed to be.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Powerpuff Girls Back in Action!

In case you missed it on Monday, the Powerpuff Girls returned to television with a brand-new half hour special to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of their debut. Needless to say, I was super excited despite the fact that I suddenly felt very old realizing how quickly fifteen years goes by once you're an adult. 

From the opening sequence, I confess to being thrown off by the new art style. I hadn't read anything about an updated look being used and having been a huge fan of the original, I found it jolting. By the end, I did enjoy the new look. Part of me thinks it was a strange choice in direction for a anniversary special, but I suppose the original art might look outdated now given that there have been so many imitators since the show aired. Also, it's not the first time the characters have been revamped as die-hard fans will know from Powerpuff Girls Z, the anime based series from Japan. 

Admittedly, my expectations were very high. And while the episode was well done, it certainly won't rank among the funniest or most innovative in the show's history. A lot of the character jokes that make the show great were missing. Bubbles, always my favorite, was wisely made the star, but for some reason her personality went through a lot of changes during the course of the episode. The fight scenes weren't terribly creative either, having the girls rely on one tactic that was pretty basic. And then the girls were basically removed from the plot toward the end, putting the focus on the Professor's past dance fiasco. However, the ending was very sweet and rewarding. It was nice having the Pokey Oaks kindergartners back on the air, even if it was only for one episode.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

As the year marches on, I find myself being more selective with my listening time as I continue to try and work my way through a pretty intense backlog of records. However my thirst for new music is still never quenched and I took the plunge on three new 2014 albums this week, none of which disappointed. As with the mood of the past few weeks, there's a decidedly winterish vibe to my choices on this list and lots of eeriness. Hope you find something that interests you. Enjoy.

Sleepy Sun - Maui Tears: Due out next week, this is the fourth album from the San Fran psychedelic rock band. As is expected from West Coast psych bands, there's a heavy stoner feel, but it avoids any link to drone. It's a subtle album, one that takes the listener along for a ride that is not at all unpleasant. It reminds a bit of Dead Confederate's first album, but with Dead Meadow influence. Nothing groundbreaking here, but a solid experience nonetheless.

Neil Young - The BBC Sessions: This popped up online this week, it's a remastered version of long circulating bootleg from 1971. It's from a performance that I've seen on television, just Neil and a piano and guitar. This is my favorite era of Neil live recordings. Without a backing band, his fragile voice and delicate songwriting really shine. A beautiful remastering of a wonderful concert. Definitely worth checking out if you are new to Neil bootlegs, or even if you are well-versed. 

Best Coast - Fade Away: Over the past few years, this lo-fi indie dream pop band from L.A. has been growing an audience with their catchy twist on love songs. Though I've enjoyed many tracks on their previous albums, I found this to be their most enjoyable album as a whole. Released in the Fall, this was one of the records I pushed through towards the end of the year with the thought that it might sneak into my best of the year list. And while it didn't, it's still quite good. A more mature sound than their earlier work and it suits them well.

The Lumineers - The Lumineers: The debut from this Denver indie folk band received a lot of love in 2012, and came highly recommended to me by people whose opinions I trust. For whatever reason, I ignored it when it came out, mostly because I was already drowning in wonderful folk recordings. This is a solid album, anchored by the hit "Ho Hey," but as is often the case, I fail to see why this album stood out above other albums with a similar feel. Though I really like it, I didn't fall in love with it, with the exception of "Dead Sea," the best track on the record.

Warpaint - Warpaint: Another L.A. based dream pop band, this is Warpaint's second record, released this week. It's ethereal sound, with psychedelic undertones, works beautifully with the vocals to give the entire thing the feeling of listening to a dream. They manage to capture the effortless appeal of The XX and Mazzy Star, while adding a hint of Joy Division eeriness. "Feeling Right," "CC," and "Son" are my favorites in this atmospheric masterpiece of an album.

Blood, Sweat & Tears - Blood, Sweat & Tears: It's sort of rare for a blues rock band to come out of NYC in the late '60s. The city was dominated by the folk movement at the time, but somewhere in that environment this band emerged with one of the first true marriages of jazz and rock. This was given to me in a box of records rescued from a yard sale, and while it feels a little like a poor man's Traffic in some ways, the innovation and risks they take is worth applauding especially when it all comes together. Their rendition of "God Bless the Child" is fantastic, and "Spinning Wheel" is a near perfect blues rock tune.

One Step at a Time

For my new manuscript, I've been following a different course than usual. Typically I allow my characters to create their own arc and the story develops around that. But given the nature of the story I've chosen to tell this time, I decided to adhere to the classical three act structure. The first act being exposition and establishing the world until a dynamic incident occurs to set up the second act where the character attempts to deal with the situation, concluding in the third act.

In the past I've tried to avoid a strict interpretation of this natural unfolding of events. I've always enjoyed a fluid story that can overlap acts in interesting ways. But there are certain types of stories that are just tailored made for the established rules. Having moved into the second act, I feel as though this current tale is one of them. A big part of writing is not only having a good story, but knowing the best way to tell it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Paddington, Please!

Today is Michael Bond's birthday, the author of Paddington Bear. Paddington was my favorite series when I was in second grade. It was also the first series I remember seeking out on my own to read. I wasn't much of a reader as a child. I was a good reader in school, but did little reading in my free time. I much preferred to play with toys and have them act out stories of my own creation. But something about Paddington spoke to my stuffed-animal obsession. I fondly remember checking out many books from the school library, and buying quite a few at the book fair. 

On a trip to London a few years ago, I bought the Paddington bear in the photo above and took him around with me in my pocket. Then I snapped this picture of him in front of Paddington Station. There's something about the books you love as a child that influences you throughout your life, which is one of the many reasons that I love what I do. So thank you Michael Bond for sharing your imagination with us all, and have a wonderful birthday!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

Welcome to the first roundup of 2014! This week I'll be reviewing some albums that I listened to over the last month and a half, as well as the first releases from this year that I'm super excited about. At the beginning of the year, there is always a level of intrigue as to what the musical landscape will be in the coming months. As is usual for the winter, the year is starting off with eerie folkish releases, which always seem to match the weather in a perfect way. Enjoy.

Ed Harcourt - Time of Dust: Releasing this week is the eighth studio album from the East Sussex singer songwriter. I was initially exposed to Harcourt's haunting style with his suburb 2000 debut EP, Maplewood and have followed his career sporadically ever since. After several albums that left me on the fence, this short album has really impressed me. It opens with the beautiful "Come Into My Dreamland," a Tom Waits piece of gloom folk. From there, it is populated with sad and beautiful songs, with nice piano work that livens up the bleak spirit. A solid release to start the year.

The Mars Volta - B-Sides: Sometime last summer, this 15 track bootleg surfaced online. Despite the title, these are not B-Sides. According to posts by Cedric Bixler-Zavala (singer), at least some of these are tracks that were apparently intended for an upcoming album before the band disbanded last year. A lot of it is composed of spanning instrumental pieces that feel like Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's solo work, while others feel like more developed songs. Though it's still sad to see them go, it's nice that we were left with this glimpse into what might have been.

Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left: For my birthday last week, I made a trip to the record store and picked up a few of my favorite albums on vinyl, including Nick Drake's 1969 debut masterpiece. Though I've had this on CD for 15 years, it's fragile beauty sounded fresh and immediate coming through the speakers from the 180 gram pressing. The stories within the songs are amazing, expressing insight far beyond the 21 years of age that he was when recording this record. One of the most haunting verses comes in "River Man" when he sings "Betty prayed today, for the sky to blow away, or maybe stay, she wasn't sure." The imagery in his music is unequalled.

The Warlocks - Skull Worship: The L.A. psychedelic rock band's sixth album came out in the end of November, their first release in four years and best since 2007's Heavy Deavy Skull Lover. This album takes a stoner feel, even more so than previous albums. The mellow drone influences create wonderful soundscapes and the slow drawl lyrics make the entire thing feel like a strange dream. Truly one of the best albums I heard in the mad rush to wrap up the last year. "It's a Hard Fall" is my favorite track. 

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra - Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything: The seventh album from the Montreal post rock band is the follow-up to 2010's Kollaps Tradixionales, and the first 2014 release that I listened to. It has the grand scope I've come to expect from them and reminds me of the more introspective parts of Arcade Fire's The Suburbs. I only wish Reflektor was anywhere near this good. "What We Love Was Not Enough" is a brilliant song on a wonderful album.

Nacho Picasso - Trances with Wolves: Starting on the first of the year, the Seattle rapper began offering his new EP on his bandcamp page for a name-your-own-price download. In my opinion, he's the greatest current rapper around who solidified his presence with two albums with Blue Sky Black Death. The beats are still strong even without BSBD's touch, and Nacho's flow is as impressive as ever. "Red Ridinghood" is one of his finest moments and highlights the darkness that he has grown to do so well. A fun album, even if not completely essential.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Look Out! Here I Come!

When working on a manuscript there always seems to come a moment when I'm unsure what should happen next. I'll be chipping away at a nice pace, knowing that after this chapter or that chapter, my current path will have expired. Not that I would say I'm completely lost, but I've reached the end of what I'd completely thought out. 

These are the parts of a story that one must navigate with care. But they must be navigated quickly. At some point you have to simply barge through, commit to a turn and take it or you risk sputtering out. Today I'm going to reach one of those points in my current novel. Thankfully, I've spent enough time taking the long view before I started writing that I know a lot of things that I want to happen. So it becomes a matter of choosing a direction rather than inventing one.

Perhaps the worst part of dealing with these dilemmas is the way I tend to slow down before reaching them. It's as if I don't want to finish the scene I'm working on until I know the next one. But tomorrow is an off day for me, so I should have plenty of time to plot out my route. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Year End Music Roundup - The Best of 2013

As the calendar turns over, it's finally time to assess the albums of the previous year into a list of those that are not to be missed. This year it was pretty clear for me to determine which albums belonged in the top ten or so, but as usual, after that it gets kind of murky. The rest of the list could have gone a million different ways. Over the past week I've been spending my time listening to the albums that could make up #11-#25 trying figure out which ones would edge their way onto the list. The one thing that process proved to me was that there were a ton of great records this year. If you feel I've missed anything, which I'm sure I did, please let me know. Enjoy.

#1. Portugal. The Man - Evil Friends: It was really tough to decide on which album would be number one, but this album finally won out. From beginning to end, I completely love it. This is definitely one of their best efforts to date, showcasing their catchy psychedelic indie sound at it's best.
#2. Arctic Monkeys - AM: I kept going back and forth on whether this should be number one or two, but in the end it doesn't really matter because it's fantastic. AM maintains the heavier groove of their last album, but adds the eerie elements of psychedelic pop. They're not as angry as they were on their first two albums, but they make up for the lack of angst by upping the musicianship to yet another level.

#3. Beady Eye - BE: Interesting enough this album title follows the same structure as the album above, and also like that album, it's a band who I've admired for a long time who came through with some of their best work. Over the course of 17 songs, the band has finally found its identity beyond Oasis. This doesn't sound like Oasis, it sounds clearly like a Beady Eye record. The band has moved on, and without Noel on board, the other members seem to be hitting their creative stride, quite impressive for musicians with such amazing careers.  

#4. The Icarus Line - Slave Vows: I loved this album upon first listen, but for some reason it fell out of rotation in the last few months. Over the past week, I've been listening to it again and remembering how amazing it is. There is something about their music that captures that seedy L.A. vibe, dark and dangerous and irresistible at the same time. Fantastic stuff.

#5. Kurt Vile - Wakin On A Pretty Daze: A masterpiece of psychedelic folk. This double album plays like a mellow Dinosaur Jr. album washed in a haze of a lazy day. The entire album keeps a consistent groove throughout, making it almost feel like one continuous song. With each album, Kurt seems to improve, and he's well on the way to becoming one of the best songwriters of the moment.

#6. Samantha Crain - Kid Face: Samnatha's voice is easily one of the best around and her songs tell such beautiful stories. On this album, there's a return to the gloom that hangs over her first EP, and which works phenomenally well with her voice. This is a really powerful album.  
#7. Kanye West - Yeezus: It would be so easy for someone of Kanye's stature to simply repeat himself and play it safe, which is one of the reasons why it's so commendable that he continues to push himself to give people something they've never heard before. This record, like his last, is the sound of an iconic artist given the space to experiment and succeed. 
#9. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Mind Control: A wonderful heavy psyche album. While it lacks the manic frenzy of their last album, Blood Lust, it makes up for it with heavier droning riffs that harken back to Black Sabbath, yet keeps the relentless guitar and haunting vocals of a ghost hidden in the music. 
#10. Mazzy Star - Seasons of Your Day: After 17 years, the L.A. dream folk band finally return. Every song on this record is soothingly beautiful, and captures the wonder and worry of being alone. Worth the wait...definitely.
#11. Babyshambles - Sequel to the Prequel: Musically, like previous Babyshambles records, this album draws on a wide-range of influences that come together in vagabond brilliance, offering poetic insights on the world through the perspective of a disillusioned and tragic romantic.
#12. Low - The Invisible Way: When you've perfected a sound as well as these guys, there's no real reason to mess with it. Their songs are incredibly minimal, but incredibly powerful emotionally. Another truly wonderful album to add to their catalog.
#13. Manic Street Preachers - Rewind the Film: For their first album in three years, the Manics seem to be moving away from their more radical politics to a sense of living for ourselves. They no longer seem to be preaching an all out revolution so much as a revolution of perspective and personal discovery.
#14. Neko Case - The Worse Things Get...: Neko returns with her best work to date. This album sounds like a coherent folkish version Fionna Apple. The songs are amazing and meaningful. Glad to have her back.
#15. Earl Sweatshirt - Doris: Earl has his own easy going style, spitting rhymes about this that and whatever and not caring about the image he projects. It's definitely a stoner rap album, and satisfies that niche to perfection. 

#16. Ty Segall - Gemini & Sleeper: Another year and another wealth of releases from the non-stop Ty Segall (member of Sic Alps). His two solo efforts this year outshine the band's releases. He channeled his garage sensibilities into neo-psychedelic folk rock with an amazing softer sound. 
#17. Rob Zombie - Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor: Sun soaked psychedelic metal infused with a healthy dash of psychotic hillbilly horror, without ever managing to feel like a gimmick. The metal version of Trout Mask Replica

#18. The Bevis Frond - White Numbers: This is his first album since 2011's phenomenal The Leaving of London. Like that album, this is another double album of fantastic rock. There isn't a bad song among the 24 tracks, and the album ends with a 42 minute monster of a jam.

#19. Lightning Dust - Fantasy: Over the course of their career, the band has progressed from the minimal sound of their debut to a more traditional indie folk sound, even including some electronic elements into this record. Amber Webber (of Black Mountain) has such an amazing and fragile voice that has always made this band stand out among a sea of indie folk rock.
#20. Dead Meadow - Warble Womb: Another fantastic achievement in fuzzed out stoner bliss from one of the leading bands in the genre. I've always loved the way they meld heavy psyche influences from the late '60s with heavy riffs, yet manage to keep this California easy vibe going.
#21. Secret Colours - Peaches: Formed in Chicago, this band describes itself as the seed of 60's psychedelia and '90s Britpop. This album is definitely influenced by both, showing moments of early Pink Floyd and then shifting into Spiritualized type hymns. 
#22. Enforcer - Death by Fire: This album is so authentic to the speed metal played in the early 80's that it would fool even the most die-hard metal fans. But it's not simply an ode to that music, or a knock-off, more like a re-birth. It's incredibly great, the perfect mix of pounding drums, screeching guitars and classic NWOBHM vocals.
#23. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros: L.A. based psychedelic folk band with a hippy groove that is heavily influenced by Paul McCartney quirkiness and Beatles mantra of all you need is love. Super enjoyable, and at times, quite brilliant.
#24. Midlake - Antiphon: The haunting vocals are accompanied by a wash of Pink Floyd rhythms, creating a beautiful sound. Midlake has always been able to stand out among the wave of bands using similar textures and influences, and once again have succeeded in making another outstanding album. 

#25. Nik Turner - Space Gypsy: Teaming up with other members of Hawkwind, this album returns to the space rock roots of the '70s band. This is pretty flawless, and could easily pass for a classic Hawkwind album.

Honorable Mentions: Here's some other albums that came close to making the list, and as I said, on other days may have made it.
Black Sabbath - 13
The Flaming Lips - The Terror
Kadavar - Kadavar
Dead Ghosts - Can't Get No
Black Spiders - This Savage Land
Brendan Benson - You Were Right
Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork
Terra Tenebrosa - The Purging
The Strokes - Comedown Machine
White Denim - Corsicana Lemonade
Woodpigeon - Thumbtacks and Glue
Psychic Ills - One Track Mind
Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium
Kings of Leon - Mechanical Bull