Ok, no rehearsal, let’s do this. There haven’t been very many albums this year where I have liked pretty much every song from front to back. To be honest, that’s not too unusual. It takes a pretty good artist to make a pretty good album. Ok, sometimes it can be a fluke, but you can pretty much expect that if you can’t stand an artist’s first 3 albums, you aren’t going to like their next one…
Alright stream of consciousness (one in which I can edit my words), here it goes:
5) Hayden- Us Alone
I’ve followed Hayden since “Everything I Long For”, which had two solidly good songs on it and a string of very listenable tracks. This album was the first this year where I really had to decide which track was my favorite because there were so many that were deserving.
4) Nine Inch Nails- Hesitation Marks
This was the first brand new release (outside of Record Store Day) that I bought on vinyl the week it came out. I’d bought new unplayed records, but before this one, they were albums I knew. With this one, I’ve loved almost everything by Nine Inch Nails, One of my favorite concerts of all time was seeing them in 2007. This album was a return to the moniker after Trent Reznor said he was tired of NIN as a touring band. As an example of how much I liked this, I knew I liked “Came Back Haunted” a lot before I got the album in the mail, but after listening, a different track, “Copy of A” was my favorite from the album. To me, this album sounds very much like vintage “Fragile” era Nine Inch Nails, which is my second favorite NIN album behind “The Downward Spiral”.
3) Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside- Untamed Beast
One of my very good friends thrust the first Sallie Ford album in my hands and told me to “just give it a listen”. One of the tracks from that album was a favorite from that year. The next year, I saw Sallie Ford at the Concerts at the Mural and my admiration for how she and her band performs grew. So, I knew that this album, their second, was going to be worth hearing. I don’t know, maybe i’m a sucker for the old-timey sounds of the record… Anyway, a very cohesive album that easily lends itself to repeated listens.
2) Kanye West- Yeezus
I’ve always been pretty touch and go with Kanye West. I’m very impressed with his abilities, but not so impressed with him as a person. However, this album completely threw me for a loop. There were three standout tracks: “Blood on the leaves”, “New Slaves”, and “I am a God”. For my money, any rap album that’s got the guts to sample “Strange Fruit” on two separate occasions earns my respect. For those who know the origins of that song, it sends a direct message regarding what Kanye was trying to convey in his lyrics.
1) Streetlight Manifesto- The Hands That Thieve
The final declaration by an amazing ska punk band and their main songwriter, where were desperate to terminate their record contract. This album was delayed several months over label negotiations, but when it came out, it was devoured by fans. I can’t think of another album this year where I was more excited for its release than this one. In “Toe to toe”, religious imagery tells the listener that, no matter what the odds, you can win (much like the battle with their label). On “The Three of Us”, the excitement never lets up through five minutes of strong instrumentation and rapid-fire lyrical delivery while a story about defending and defining your own arguments. I didn’t find out they were coming to town until the day before they played, but my brother did get a chance to see them. One day, I’ll get a full account of just how fantastic it was to see them in person. Look for more good work from these guys, but probably under a different moniker.