Due to the financial and temporal constraints of this topsy-turvy year, I wasn’t able to track down as much new music as I would have liked. However, there were some notable releases that made my world a better place, so let me offer paeans to Audysseus, the god of songwriting:
• Awolnation, Megalithic Symphony
I had heard the song “Sail” on the radio and meant to check them out, but forgot about it for a while, until my friend Sandi mentioned them and reminded me. Thanks, Sandi! Glad you said something, because this was one of my two favorite records of the year, and I went ahead and put it first on the list due to the novelty factor giving it a slight edge. Musically, it veers hyperactively from rock/metal to dance to aggressive electronica, but Aaron Bruno puts so much heart into his singing that it becomes a unique beast, something greater than the sum of its parts, if that makes any sense.
Favorite songs: Pretty much all of them. Seriously, there’s three short instrumental tracks that don’t really need to be there, but that’s just quibbling.
• Ladytron, Gravity the Seducer
My co-favorite record of the year. They don’t tinker much with what they’ve been doing all along, they just keep getting better and better at it.
Favorite songs: White Elephant, Mirage, White Gold, Ambulances, Transparent Days, 90 Degrees
• Rob Crow, He Thinks He’s People
The record that aurally defined my autumn. I had to furtively look for time alone so that I could listen to songs like “Tranked” on extended repeat without sending other people screaming out into traffic just to make it all stop.
Favorite songs: Tranked, Locking Seth Putnam In Hot Topic, Sophistructure, So Way, Hangnailed, I’d Like To Be There
• 16Volt, Beating Dead Horses
I would love to hear Eric Powell branch out from industrial metal, because he has such a knack for catchy melodies and interesting arrangements even within those somewhat tight confines, so much so that the more straightforward metal riffs and paint-by-numbers depressed lyrical themes sound flat and uninspired sometime, almost like he just put them in there out of habit or to meet expectations. Again, though, I’m quibbling. The dude just keeps on churning out great records.
Favorite songs: The Wasteland That Is Me, Fight Or Flight, Burn, Breathing Water, Ghost, Dissembler, Somewhere New
• Maximum Balloon, Maximum Balloon
Technically, this came out last year, but I only discovered it in January, so I’m counting it. A sorta-side-project of Dave Sitek from TV On the Radio with various vocalists contributing. Speaking of which…
Favorite songs: Groove Me, Young Love, Communion
• TV On the Radio, Nine Types of Light
It took me forever just to get past the first three songs on this disc long enough to listen to the rest of it.
Favorite songs: Second Song, Keep Your Heart, You, Killer Crane
• Elbow, Build a Rocket, Boys
The mournful post-Radiohead Brits haven’t let winning the Mercury prize cheer them up, and that’s a good thing. Keep moping, boys.
Favorite songs: The Birds, The Night Will Always Win, High Ideals, With Love
• Kasabian, Velociraptor
These Brits are neither mournful nor in any way resembling Radiohead. They’ve never recaptured the magic of their debut, but I still like them.
Favorite songs: Neon Noon, Re-Wired, I Hear Voices, Velociraptor, Days Are Forgotten, Man Of Simple Pleasures
• The Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2
Licensed to Ill was the first record (cassette, actually; remember those?) that I got as my own, the first music that my parents didn’t already have or even want to know about, back when I was thirteen. So the Beasties have always had a special place in my heart. This wasn’t even anywhere close to my favorite disc of theirs (that would be Hello Nasty), but hey, it’s still the Beastie Boys. It’s going on the list, goddamnit.
Favorite songs: Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament, Tadlock’s Glasses