Music Roundup – Completely biased reviews

I do a yearly top-ten list of music I like.  Throughout the year leading up to it, I’ll take occasional looks at the stuff I’ve bought and think about if I can see any of it making the list.  I decided to play that game today and toss it on the blog.  So…here’s where we are, with some of my thoughts.  I’m arbitrarily grading the releases and giving my two-cents.  I’ll try to be concise.  Enjoy!

List of Stuff I’ve Bought (no particular order):

  • Jason Isbell – Southeastern: A+
    Probably my record of the year, and I’m prepared to say that already.  I think I was prepared to say it by the second week I owned it.  The songs are personal and beautiful, and it represents some major strides forward for Jason as a writer and a person.  He’s also a hilarious Twitter follow, by the way.
  • David Bowie – The Next Day: A
    If you had told me this would be anywhere other than the number-one slot before I heard Isbell’s record I’d have called you a damn dirty liar and run your pants up a flagpole.  Not just the pair you had on.  ALL your pants.  It’s great to have Bowie back.  This one’s going on the Top Ten for sure–probably at number 2.
  • Hatebreed – Divinity of Purpose: A-
    Picked it up on a whim and it’s been a regular in my player ever since.  Loud and pissed, just like it should be.
  • Stone Sour – House of Gold & Bones Part 2: B+
    Not as good as “Part 1,” but still pretty kick-ass.
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter at the Feast: B+
    This record overcomes some serious challenges and does it wonderfully.  I’ve had it playing in the car with more than one person (with VERY different musical preferences) and each time, the conversation has included, “This is really good…who is it?”
  • Coheed & Cambria – The Afterman-Descention: A
    Coheed seems to just be getting better with age.  Sonically, the “Afterman” records have been their best sounding, and the songs might just be the best written stuff in their arsenal, too.
  • Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart: B
    This record had a big challenge in front of it, attempting to live up to the previous record, “England Keep My Bones.”  And…it didn’t.  But it’s still good.  It suffers from being drug down by a couple of poorer tracks, and the deluxe edition (which I bought) has three songs on it that are probably best left off.  But, the stuff on it that works, works really well.  “Plain Sailing Weather” is one of my favorite songs of the year.
  • Tegan & Sara – Heartthrob: A+
    Blown away by how much I like this one.  Not only a great, fun record, but a LEAP into a whole new type of writing for the act.  These ain’t your teenage angsty pop-songs.  These are grown-woman angsty pop-songs!  (And you WILL dance your ass off to it.  It can’t be helped.)
  • Sound City: Real to Reel: A+
    It’s a soundtrack, so I’m not sure if it’s eligible for the top ten…but it probably should be…and it might be.  “You Can’t Fix This,” “From Can to Can’t,” “Mantra,” and “Man That Never Was” are instant classics, and this record should be in every home.
  • Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze: A
    Slip off your shoes, sit in a warm room, and enjoy the hell out of this.  Trust me.
  • Steve Martin & Edie Brickell: Love Has Come for You: A
    Absolutely beautiful.  Some of the lyrics aren’t QUITE to my liking, but all of the music is. Wonderfully crafted.
  • Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks: A
    Nice to have Trent back doing what he does.  He’s the best at it.  At times, you feel like you never left “the spiral,” but this still manages to feel fresh and relevant.  Good for him.
  • Newstead – Heavy Metal Music: C
    It’s fine…but that’s all.  Maybe my hopes were too high…but I just expected more.  I may need to re-listen to it now that I know what to expect.
  • Camera Obscura – Desire Lines: C
    It isn’t bad.  I’m giving it a C because it isn’t BETTER.  Even though it’s absolutely fine and sounds exactly how you expect Camera Obscura to sound if you’ve got any of their previous work…that’s kind of the problem.  I HAVE their previous work…why did I need this one?  It’s nice…but I want them to grow and branch out…and they didn’t.
  • Queens of the Stone Age: Like Clockwork: F
    I don’t know what everyone else is hearing in this one.  I really don’t.  I’m starting to feel like the only thing that’s “Like Clockwork” in the QOTSA camp is how they’re going to disappoint me with every record since “Songs for the Deaf.”  It’s just…it’s boring.  Everything from the packaging that is an insultingly slapped-together middle-finger to those of us who still buy the physical product (not to mention the guest musicians they didn’t even bother to list in the liner) to the music that just doesn’t build to anything is a complete letdown.  I’m sorry…but it’s boring as hell.  I keep hearing people saying, “Dude…you’ve got to give it a LOT of listens before you really start to like it!”  Umm…isn’t that sucking?  I feel like that’s sucking.  I should find something to grab onto without having to memorize it first.
  • Steven Wilson – The Raven Who Refused to Sing: B
    It’s wanky, pretentious, long-winded, and not anywhere near commercially accessible.  Just as it should be.
  • Anthrax – Anthems: F
    Hey!  It’s a bunch of songs I already have re-done in a way that is absolutely no different from the originals!  Nice money-grab, guys!  Here’s hoping your next REAL album redeems this…  Might I suggest a $2 off coupon for anyone who submits a valid UPC code from the copy of this they purchased?

Stuff I haven’t heard yet, but am looking forward to (most of which isn’t out yet):
Hugh Laurie
Christopher Lee
Beady Eye
Motörhead
Dream Theater
Arcade Fire
Pearl Jam

…and that’s how the year’s shaping up so far.  Looking forward to seeing how it ends!  🙂

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