Arcade Fire made the best album of the year and Savages released the top debut I heard. Mikal Cronin recorded pure pop bliss, while the new Deerhunter album reminded me how lucky we are to have Bradford Cox churning out intriguing music. See the full list for the year’s top 10 albums below.
1. Arcade Fire – Reflektor. The latest from Arcade Fire is far more diverse and imaginative than the Grammy-winning album The Suburbs. Produced by James Murphy, Reflektor mixes disco, Caribbean, dub and other styles. There is more than a nod to the Clash’s Sandinista!
2. Savages – Silence Yourself. This is an aggressive debut from a U.K. female quartet that pays homage to earlier post-punk bands. Think of Siouxsie and the Banshees only tougher.
3. Mikal Cronin – MCII. Cronin makes great music, but he really over achieved on this hook-laden record. Irresistible pop from Ty Segall’s collaborator.
4. Deerhunter – Monomania. Even by Deerhunter standards, this album is pretty edgy and raw. It’s one of the more overlooked albums this year.
5. The National – Trouble Will Find Me. The latest from the National doesn’t hit you in the face. But the depth of the songs will pay off after repeated listens.
6. Bill Callahan – Dream River. Callahan more often resembles a poet than a singer, speaking through his songs in his deep, impassive voice.
7. Kurt Vile – Walkin on a Pretty Daze. As meditative as this album sounds at points, Vile lays down some serious guitar licks. An original musician with a distinctive sound, he sometimes reminds me of mid-70s Neil Young.
8. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt. This is a personal-sounding album from Katie Crutchfield, who performs as Waxahatchee. The songs and music are reminiscent of the very best parts of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville.
9. The Men – New Moon. While New Moon explores a hodgepodge of styles, the new love for country rock stands out. Maybe because the album was recorded in a cabin?
10. Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin. Some day, I expect Thee Oh Sees will make the No. 1 album of the year (at least on my list). Frenetic, infectious rock ‘n’ roll. Sheer enjoyment.
Rounding out the top 20:
11. Superchunk – I Hate Music. Elder indie rock statesmen make a record to keep your head nodding and feet moving. A strong offering from a band who has been going for almost a quarter century.
12. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. This has to be one of the most fun albums of the year from guys who take a real tongue-in-cheek approach to ’60s and ’70s genres.
13. Cass McCombs – Big Wheel and Others. Here is an excellent collection of songs from a great singer-songwriter. If you pare it down to the very best tracks, this would be a top 10 album.
14. Polvo – Siberia. What a great comeback for these ’90s noise warriors. Essentially, they stick to the same formula but it sounds fresh today.
15. Ty Segall / Fuzz – Sleeper / Fuzz. We again see the two sides of the prolific Bay-area rocker. With its slow to mid-tempo acoustic and electric numbers, Sleeper is similar to Segall’s 2011 release Goodbye Bread, while his new band Fuzz pays tribute to stoner rock from four decades ago.
16. King Khan & the Shrines – Idle No More. If you listen to just the upbeat, soulful music, you’ve got a great dance party. Underneath, Khan wants to make a statement about the wretched world we live in after battling his personal demons.
17. Queens of the Stone Age – Like Clockwork. I really didn’t think Josh Homme had another good album in him (at least not as Queens), but Like Clockwork is a rollicking good time.
18. The Love Language – Ruby Red. Listening to the full sound of Ruby Red, you wouldn’t know the Love Language originally started as a guy making bedroom recordings. Stuart McLamb created a powerful pop album that’s also a blast.
19. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II. The second album from Unknown Mortal Orchestra is quirky, funky and sometimes breezy like its predecessor but I like the songs better on this one.
20. Wavves – Afraid of Heights. The latest album from Nathan Williams doesn’t stray far from King of the Beach (2011). Afraid of Heights is tighter and rocks harder.
Honorable mention. Here are some other albums you should check out: Majical Cloudz, Impersonator; Swearin’, Surfing Strange; Crocodiles, Crimes of Passion; Iceage, You’re Nothing; Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven; No Age, An Object; Yo La Tengo, Fade; Fidlar, Fidlar; Suuns, Images Du Futur; and Charles Bradley, Victim of Love.
HEY THERE! All the Young punks has a new home. Read this article and others at alltheyoungpunks.com.
Before Thee Oh Sees or the band’s earlier incarnation, front man John Dwyer led a more frenetic outfit called Coachwhips.
Lucky for us, Coachwhips first album, Hands on the Controls, is reissued Tuesday on Dwyer’s own Castle Face Records. It’s the first time the album is out on vinyl and there are some unreleased tracks thrown in. You can also buy a digital copy.
Having crossed the midway point of the year, it’s time for a look at the best albums of 2013 (so far). And since it’s too early to give anyone the crown, I’ve listed my top 10 in alphabetical order by artist.
Mikal Cronin – MCII: This is great power pop from Ty Segall’s buddy.
Deerhunter – Monomania: Bradford Cox teased this album before its release by calling it a “mystery disc of nocturnal garage.” Cox is one of the most interesting musicians out there today.
Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic: First of all, I’m a sucker for bands who can work a clever foxy reference into their band names. These guys bring a light-hearted approach to ’60s and early ’70s music worship.
The Men – New Moon: The rockers go a little more country than their last album. But this is a record full of multiple genres, punk, classic rock, post punk and more. This has to be one of the most under appreciated albums of ’13.
The National – Trouble Will Find Me: I’ll be honest. As much as I love the National, I had to warm up to this one. But patience pays off. This is good stuff and it’s potentially another classic from one of our national treasures.
Savages – Silence Yourself: It begins with a snippet from a John Cassavetes movie and then explodes into an old-school post-punk beast. As I said in a previous review, this is a brutally good album.
Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin. Do Thee Oh Sees make new albums or do they just record the same one over and over. I would argue that the band branched out a bit on its last two or three releases. Floating Coffin even includes a ballad. And who cares if each album is so freaking awesome?
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II: Like Mikal Cronin, the band didn’t spend a lot of time on a creative album name, but this is highly original music from a band you should get to know.
Kurt Vile – Walkin on a Pretty Day: Kurt Vile is Mr. Reliable as he always delivers great albums. As mellow as this one seems at points, it ranks among his best.
Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt: Katie Crutchfield, who performs as Waxahatchee, reminds me of the best parts of Liz Phair’s debut Exile in Guyville. That’s not to say she’s aping Phair, who flamed out quickly. This is great, honest music.
You can catch some of these acts in Chicago over the next week. Mikal Cronin, Foxygen, Savages and Waxahatchee play Pitchfork fest this weekend. Savages also plays Lincoln Hall Friday. Schubas hosts Foxygen Friday and Waxahatchee Saturday.
Listen to this new song from Thee Oh Sees, Minotaur. It’s not your typical breakneck, frenzy of a psych garage rocker. Minotaur is a slow ballad and an interesting diversion for John Dwyer and his crew.
I’ll be interested to here the rest of the album, Floating Coffin, which is set for an April 16 release.
It was a strong year for new releases, especially indie (which comprises the vast majority of my list). I could easily do a Top 80, but, alas, we have to make difficult decisions. Here’s the first part of the All the Young Punks Top 40 for 2012. Nos. 11 through 40 are presented here in dramatic countdown fashion.
40. Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes. Great story telling by the Hold Steady frontman.
39. Eternal Summers – Correct Behavior. Instantly likable new wave pop music.
38. Black Moth Super Rainbow – Cobra Juicy. A little more rocking than past BMSR offerings.
37. Willis Earl Beal – Acousmatic Sorcery. On his debut album, this Chicagoan entertains and confounds. He was a highlight of Pitchfork fest for me.
36. Crystal Castles – III. Crystal Castles and Purity Ring essentially made the same album in 2012. I liked Crystal Castles just a little bit better.
35. Guided By Voices – Let’s Go Eat the Factory. “Classic” GBV’s comeback resulted in three albums in 2012. This was the first.
34. The Babies – Our House on the Hill. Side projects should be fun and this one from members of Woods and Vivian Girls is a blast.
33. Chuck Prophet – Temple Beautiful. Indie vet turns in a great album.
32. Dan Deacon – America. An epic journey as Deacon reflects on the “frustration, fear and anger” he feels about his country.
31. King Tuff – self titled. Great quirky garage rock.
30. 2:54 – self titled. A very cool debut from U.K. sisters Colette and Hannah Thurslow.
DO YOU WANT TO CUT TO THE CHASE? ALSO CHECK OUT: All the Young Punks top 10 albums of 2012 here.
29. The Fresh & Onlys – Long Slow Dance. A great collection of pop, pysch and garage songs.
28. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory. Steve Albini helps toughen up Dylan Baldi’s musical project (now a band).
27. DIIV – Oshin. A blend of Real Estate and New Order, Zachary Cole’s side project was pretty neat.
26. Grass Widow – Internal Logic. Nothing groundbreaking about this girls group — just a solid output.
25. Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light. I didn’t get this band in the past. This album changed my mind. Hey Jane is a standout.
24. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold. I almost overlooked this punk / post-punk treasure.
23. Japanadroids – Celebration Rock. Good rockin’ and a Gun Club cover!
22. Wild Nothing – Nocturne. Dreamy pop that recalls ’80s grandeur.
21. Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse. Everything Segall put out in 2012 was great. This was the hardest of the bunch.
20. Metz – self titled. If you prefer your rock ‘n’ roll to be of the maximum variety, you have to check out this skull crusher.
19. Grimes – Vision. One of the most irresistible albums of the year, this young Canadian, Claire Boucher, put out a unique and original electronic album.
18. Peaking Lights – Lucifer. By the time you get to the second song, Beautiful Son, you realize you have a pretty intriguing album — electronic that draws on reggae, psychedelic and more.
17. Dusted – Total Dust. Holy Fuck’s Brian Borcherdt took an alternative path on the lo-fi offering from his band Dusted. Parts of it are stunning.
16. Santigold – Master of My Make-Believe. Not a token major label pick. This is a thoroughly enjoyable second album from the artist fka Santogold.
15. Beach House – Bloom. Beach House makes magic on Bloom, continuing where it left off with Teen Dream.
14. Suckers – Candy Salad. Big pop, synth, folk all in one album, and Suckers actually pull it off.
13. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp. A career album from the artist I used to consider a folkie. Very edgy — and great.
12. Thee Oh Sees – Putrifiers III. I’ve never met an album by Thee Oh Sees I didn’t like and this one I love for its great garage rock.
11 . Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action at a Distance. The best thing next to a new Deerhunter album, this is guitarist Lockett Pundt’s impressive side project.
NEXT UP: All the Young Punks Top 10 of 2012.
In his mid-20s, Ty Segall draws inspiration mostly from music made decades before his birth. Segall just released Twins, his third album of the year and one that nods stylistically to Stooges, T-Rex, the Beatles and a number of metal, psych- and garage rock bands of the ’60s and ’70s. Twins is a feast of different musical tastes, all cranked up. It’s actually more tame than Segall’s scorcher, Slaughterhouse, released earlier this year, but Twins is still a rocker.
One thing that gave me pause about Twins, is that it’s so instantly likable. Is this just cotton candy? After repeated listens, I don’t think so. It’s truly an enjoyable album like those classic rock releases I instantly fell in love with as a kid. I’m still struggling to declare that it’s Segall’s best. If it’s not, it’s up there.
The Hill , featuring vocals from Thee Oh Sees’ Brigid Dawson, is a highlight:
Here’s Segall on Conan:
Also see, New Music: Ty Segall and White Fence
Here’s a little tease from Ty Segall — a minute-long commercial for the new album Twins, which is scheduled for release October 9. Segall also plays a pair of shows with Thee Oh Sees at Logan Square Auditorium Friday.
Also see New video: Ty Segall’s ‘The Hill’