Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Handsome B. Wonderful's Thirty-Fifth Annual List of the Top Ten Rock Albums of the Year!

"Your favorite band does suck, dickhead."

Let me apologize in advance, for here's entry #14,744,536 of The Tunes Some Jerk On The Internets Liked A Whole Lot. At least I'm not a paid rock critic, which means I don't have a failed musician axe to grind, plus I actually paid cold, hard cash for my CDs. Yes, CDs. Fuck you bastards and your internetual downloadery.

As I stated last time out with much fanfare, i.e. used about 92% more words then necessary, this really isn't a top ten --or thirteen in the case of rock and/or roll because thirteen is evil, though not as evil as 666, but I haven't heard 666 new albums this year -- because tastes can, through internal alterations due to often external stimuli, change. Taking 2007 for example, Witchcraft would definitely move up a few notches and I would probably shuffle The White Stripes' Icky Thump to #2 since that's what I've probably spun the most save the Moonsorrow since then. En plus, I didn't pick up the new Deathspell Omega -- hey, The End Records, where's my fucking EP? I preordered that fucker, goddammit -- album until after I posted and I don't know how many times I've gotten my Cosmic Satan Groove on to that platter. My point is thus: #12 -- hell, #23 in a good year -- is probably just as stellar as #2; it's all about the mood, which can transmute at the drop of a wizard's hat or an unmentionable. Anyway, on to the list.

1. Opeth, Watershed. Hey, I already reviewed this, dammit. Just go buy the motherfucker unless you want me to laugh at you throw rotten vegetables at you send Chuck Norris send Dick Cheney after you. I'm far too lazy to write up a quality summary of a bad review of a great album, but here's a stab if you're far too lazy to click on the link: Yes and Deep Purple play death metal. Of course it's not all cookie monster bludgeoning, that's what makes these Swedes so bloody good, a brilliant usage of dynamics. Oh, and those heavy riffs.

2. Jill Tracy, The Bittersweet Constrain. Hey, I already reviewed this, too, dammit. Failure to buy this one warrants a visit from Kinda Sleazy, where she will expound on the neoconservative worldview in between breaks of her interminably long recital and displays of the fruits of her footwear shopping. Trust me, you'd much rather have Jill playing piano in your living room. Shorter: sultry, noirish tales of love and murder in the dark.

3. Esoteric, The Maniacal Vale. Sludgy, funeral doom at its finest, i.e. fifteen-minute pits of undulating, morbid despair and suffering where everything is tinted black and hopelessness is the coat you wear out into the cold, knowing full well that you're going to freeze to death, regardless of your routine, increasingly faithless protections against the inevitable. And there's two CDs worth of this stuff! Even crazy heshers have to be in a mood for this hypnotic hell, but luckily for you blokes, I usually am 23.5 hours a day, thus spend my American dollars wisely. Something misanthropic.

4. Revue Noir, Anthology Archive. Verily, shall there be anoythere revywedd albume on thy liste! An inviting, sexy tour de oh yeah of jazzy, ethereal cabaret songsmithing that makes you pine for the heady days of Weimar or any cosmopolitan, turn-of-the-century metropolis. And a companion that can belt 'em out like this. Garçon, check, please.

5. Enslaved, Vertebrae. A band that can certainly give the imperial Opeth a run for their darkly progressive money, these psychedelic black metal Vikings continue to expand their sonic palette on this, their tenth(!) full-length, leaving pretenders behind to rot in the sun upon the battlefield. Yes, there are atmospheric, cleanly sung Floydian elements in tracks like Clouds and The Watcher, but you'll always have visceral, monster riffs and Grutle Kjellson's gutteral vocals to remind you just who the fuck you're listening to.

6. Agalloch, The White. I reviewed this, too, way back when winter last had us in its icy grip. I don't know why I didn't get around to reviewing the rest on this list. "Laziness." Ahem, this EP is the furthest thing from the cold; a warm, sombre yet inviting work of neo-folk. So for those of you loathing this time of year, here's your chance to escape to the lands of languid sun and shadow. Unless you're into tepid, summery party music, in which case, have some Clear Channel fun instead.

7. The Raconteurs, Consolers of the Lonely. How to build a supergroup: find one -- not three or more, I'm looking at you, Audioslave, man, were you guys fucking boring boring boring -- famous dude/chick, pair him/her up with lesser known, yet skilled songwriters/players, then rock the fuck out. As good as Broken Boy Soldiers was, that was a haphazardly cobbled freshman term paper compared to the postgraduate rock work going on here. Like The White Stripes, lots of styles are thrown in the blender, and Brendan Benson's classic 70s singer-songwriter voice nicely compliments Jack White's rock god chops. A fun (Hold Up), emotional (You Don't Understand Me), rockin'(Salute Your Solution) record.

8. Moonsorrow, Tulimyrsky. The mighty Finns follow up last year's emotionally crushing masterpiece with the world's longest EP, featuring the 29-minute title track which can only be another primal, pagan black/death/folk prog epic, a cover of Metallica's classic For Whom the Bell Tolls (thankfully not a carbon copy, but done in their own unique style -- follow this idea, bands of the world!), a couple of rerecorded demo tracks and a cover of Merciless' Back to North, all in all totaling over an hour. These fuckers can simply do no wrong, assuming they don't switch to techno.

9. Les Fragments de la Nuit, Musique du Crépuscle. Equilibrium does it again, adding yet another masterful neo-classical ensemble to their label. Where do you find such sullen beauty so redolent of a soundtrack to your own interior film? Copious, yet skillfully woven, amounts of violin, cello and piano intermittently entwined by the human voice successfully marry foreboding cold and voluptuous warmth.

10. Gojira, The Way of All Flesh. If the weirdos in Faith No More decided to go all metal, all the time, and were serious-minded, dirty fucking hippie tree huggers from France instead of Bay Area loons, Gojira is what they might sound like. Flush with off-kilter, stop/start riffs, double-bass brutality and a melodicism alternating between lilting and jazz-inflected swing, Gojira masterfully document the emotional and physical fuckery that humanity is perpetrating on itself and the only home it knows. The songs are
busy, progressive, but everything makes sense, just like recycling. So bang your head with much drunkenness, but when you're done, throw that empty can of Schlitz in one of those blue bags.

11. A Forest of Stars, The Corpse of Rebirth. Progressive, meandering, post-black metal alchemy best suited for moments, not of clarity, but of welcoming opacity, the journeys we make of the depths within. A scent of the flautist, of subterranean percussion layered with the vastness of a crushing riff carries the listener away from the mundane on the updrafts of male and female vocals; this is the soundscape of quite a faraway place. Of course, if you're one of those happy types, you won't like it one bit, but what the hell are you doing reading this blog anyway?

12. Amanda Palmer, Who Killed Amanda Palmer. The Dresden Dolls' frontwoman's first solo work isn't all that much different from her other band, and that's a good thing. Sure, skinsman Brian Viglione's monster chops are missed, but the sardonic textures remain and Miss Palmer can still write a good fucking song. So think a little bit less cabaret rock backbone and a bit more stringy introspection. I refuse to make any Twin Peaks jokes. Okay: why did the cherry pie cross the road? So it wouldn't get killed like Laura Palmer.

13. I said thirteen, didn't I. Some of the following I've heard in their entirety but haven't yet spent enough time with to make an emotionally-informed judgment, or I just didn't have enough loot to buy all the music that I wanted and felt that listing 30% of an album would be wrong, and if I'm against anything, it's wrong. So choosing between the thrash-is-back of Metallica's Death Magnetic, the precision, old-school brutality of Bloodbath's The Fathomless Mastery, the psychotic dark ambience of Darkspace's Darkspace III, the Viking death marches of Amon Amarth's Twilight of the Thunder God, the ethereal yet organic neo-classicism of Arcana's Raspail, the abyss of stark emptiness that is Nortt's Galgenfrist, the violent catharsis of Hate Eternal's Fury and Flames, the black-n-roll of Satyricon's The Age of Nero, the macabre return of Voltaire with Oooky Spooky, the even longer return of deathly tech/fusion-masters Cynic with Traced In Air and on and on and on is nigh impossible.

Yes, I'm cheating.


okjimm said...

I think the music would drive me to drinking.

..which is not a bad idea...I could use a driver...

Beach Bum said...

Great post but I am really entering a new and scary phase of the music I like. Was surfing through the Sirus channels on the satellite television and came upon the "Seriously Sinatra" channel with Franky, Dean, Sammy, and even Bing laying on the melodies and loved the shit out of it. This of course is after hearing my son's classic and gruge rock and my wife's stuff that I will simply not go into. I guess this is what it feels like to be a dinosaur, musically speaking.

Liberality said...

plus I actually paid cold, hard cash for my CDs. Yes, CDs!

Me too!!! At least I'm not the only one left.

Liberality said...

oh and fuck! I have got to check this stuff out. It's like right up my tree!!!

Utah Savage said...

Is that you, you sexy beast?

God, I'm afraid to even try to listen, I've had my brains scrambled here before.

And I'm with Beach, I likes me some old jazz standards.

anita said...

i asked jack white if he would marry me. but he said no. he's only into supermodels.

nevertheless, i forgive him that slight, and he remains at the top of my list of this generation's Rock Gods.

but he'll come around to the whole marry-me idea. i know it.

Randal Graves said...

okjimm, see, and you scoff at my tastes. I'm helping you get good and plastered.

BB, at least that stuff was from this century. All that old polyphony is, what, pre-Cambrian?

I think as we age, and I realize I'm making a broad generalization, we're more open to other styles. At least that's been my experience. I like my metal more extreme than I used to, but I'm also digging stuff I wouldn't have listened to as a young man.

liberality, aesthetically, vinyl is the best, but unwieldy. CDs are the next best thing. I dig the artwork and liner notes and all that.

Some of this stuff might be a bit too loud - I don't know how much you're into walls of brutal power chords - but it's all dark.

utah, if it is, then I'm quite dead! You should listen anyway. A little death metal never killed anyone. Of course if it does, then we'll have to start that blog for dead people.

anita, when you guys get hitched, can you see that The White Stripes play the reception? Oh, and I've got a list of what they should play. Thank you.

Bull said...

Never could get into Death Metal; being from Sweden I guess you could call it the "lutfisk" of music.

But your reviews are interesting...almost interesting enough that I may look for some of it and take a listen on iTunes or imeem. :P

Oh, and send Cheney after me...met him last summer, he ain't all that big.

susan said...

I started reading the post in serious trepidation that you were actually going to review 100 albums and, if you'd done so, my own career as a lazy blogger would come to a sudden stop since I'd be honor bound to read all then listen to all, leaving no extra time for reading, typing, working, eating, sleeping, shopping or.. drawing. You do good reviews and I may just check out a couple. Bien venue.

Anonymous said...

Oh my... You're from Ohio and you didn't pick The Pretenders Break Up The Concrete. Talk about loyalty!

My Inner French Girl said...

Why you still speak to me, I'll never know. I've never heard of any of these bands outside of your blog, except maybe Gojira, although really I'm just thinking of the Japanese monster flick, and that doesn't count, does it? I fear that you will hate me for saying this, but I'm a big Hall & Oates fan. The only thing I can say in my defense is that the Flight of the Conchords dudes love them, too, and if they love them, well, hell, that's good enough for me.

Still, I absolutely loved reading this. Why aren't you paid to do this? You review better than those folks over at Bust, and I LOVE those reviews!


Anonymous said...

I would blow our crappy bandwidth every day for the next month and a half if I tried to listen to the music listed here that I haven't yet heard. So instead (because the other house-inhabitants would kill me), I'm simply going to say that I agree with you about The Raconteurs. Fab.

FranIAm said...

I am just here to say that I have missed visiting you and that I love The Raconteurs cd.

Well the second part came as a result of stopping by.

I hate it when I am dull here. Shit, it sucks ass doesn't it?

Randal Graves said...

bull, just for that smarmy comment, you know Satan is going to pay you a visit. Wait. If Cheney is going to visit you, that's redundant of me. Do something terrible to him and the world will thank you. ;-)

susan, the 100-album review comes next December when I wrap up the decade. Just kidding.

Aside from adoring the art of music, that's why I post this stuff and why I dig when others do the same: hopefully someone will be turned on to something new. If not, no harm, no foul.

spartacus, I've only heard the first few tracks! Don't worry, it's on the list. I told my wife we should subsist on meals of oats and bread in order to save cash for more tunes but she flipped me the bird.

marjorie, one could say the reverse: why do you keep on visiting? You know, in between disappearances. ;-)

Gojira/Godzilla is indeed the source of their name, and I wouldn't dare insult Hall and Oates for Freida of the Bees would strike me down something fierce.

dcup, I should mail you guys some extreme stuff to punish the kids with. No, wait, opera works better. You guys have any Verdi?

That Raconteurs does rock a wee bit, no?

fran, dull? Certainly not. I will, however, get on your case for your lack o' visits, but you might be the world's most popular blogger, so I understand.

pissed off patricia said...

Damn, guess I better climb out from under this rock more often.
These are all Greek to me.

Freida of the Bees said...

I've heard of one this year.

You are sooo damn sexy. I love it when you wear that flowered shirt I got you, and yo 'stache be stylinz!

Happy New Year!!!!

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