As you can tell by the title, the albums released (and that I have purchased) this year have been just “meh” – so far. I wish that there were albums to be excited for in the second half of 2013, but judging by a site that I frequent (HERE), there isn’t much on the horizon.
I understand that there is still one Tuesday left before the first 6 months of 2013 are in the book, but since NPR has released a stream of the only LP I have already PRE-ORDERED (and therefore, the only one I will likely purchase), I have all the info I need to write the short review that starts…
10. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
Not a bad album, just not near the perfection that was attained with Rated R. Though this album is more cohesive than Rated R – it’s theme being much slower and somber – I kind of like the variety when it comes to my QOTSA. I’m glad that Nick Oliveri, Mark Lanegan, and Dave Grohl were brought back into the fold, but it’s definitely still the Josh Homme Show for better or worse. Look at the liner notes (or wikipedia) and see the HUGE list of pretty stellar guests – Jon Theodore (The Mars Volta), Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys), Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Brody Dalle (Spinerettes/The Distillers), ELTON JOHN, as well as the 3 listed above.
Favorite Track: “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” (this is the edited version; album version is 2 minutes longer and I recommend you listen to all of it)
9. The Strokes – Comedown Machine
After a bit of a departure from their staple sound in 2011 (Angles), The Strokes return with a more familiar sound. Though the first two LPs were wonderful, and this LP channels that sound, Comedown Machine sounds more like a “going through the motions” album. There are a few decent tracks, and the rest is listenable, but it’s not the pinnacle of their catalog.
Favorite Track: “Welcome to Japan”
8. Sigur Rós – Kveikur
Wow, this album starts pretty dark and heavy. Dare I say that it is a Sigur Rós take on metal?! Sigur Rós will probably never land a #1 album on my lists, but they make some great music to listen to in the background (maybe it’s because I can’t understand the lyrics?). Lyrics aside, this album is solid throughout.
Favorite Track: “Brennisteinn”
7. Bosnian Rainbows – Bosnian Rainbows
Have you ever experienced live for the first time, before you had purchased an album? This happened to me with Bosnian Rainbows, when I saw them in April – this album will be released June 26th, by the way. I have followed Omar Rodriguez-Lopez through his entire musical journey, so much so that I feel like I have subscribed to a record club (check out his solo career and you’ll see why). When it was announced that he was taking a break from The Mars Volta (quite possibly for good) to form Bosnian Rainbows, I knew I had to at least experience it. The experience, being as strange as it was, left me pumped to hear this album…
But there was one thing wrong, it sounded WAY better live. The weirdness and eerie qualities that made the performance and thus the music so good was not captured on this LP. I am chalking it up to the fact that this might just be one of those bands that you have to experience live, and know that their albums are just the tip of an entire iceberg known as their live show.
Favorite Track: “Turtle Neck”
6. Kate Nash – Girl Talk
To say I have a soft-spot in my musical-heart for Kate Nash would be an understatement. I honestly loved her last album, My Best Friend Is You, and with this album she keeps the love alive. While I do enjoy each of the tracks on this LP, the one downfall it has is cohesiveness. If you were to combine the strengths of this album with the strengths of the Queens of the Stone Age release (#10 above) you might have an “A-range” record. Bonus points for her mission to empower women/girls in music. Check out this interview where she explains how she is trying to give back and help girls regain their place in music.
Plus, do you want to watch a video of her watching cute animals and then commenting on them? Of course you do.
Favorite Track: “Sister”
5. Kanye West – Yeezus
At the very least, the album art is very intriguing. Kanye, to say the least, is a polarizing figure; as a person, I do not care for him, but as a musician, I have to admit that I like what he offers. If you go back to my 2012 “Best-of” list, you will see a local musician named P.O.S listed, and this album is semi-P.O.S-ish in that it starts to address the disdain for decadence. Yes, you read that correctly, Kanye – after releasing Watch the Throne – starts shedding light on what is controlling a large portion of our population, MONEY. Maybe Kanye is just jumping on the “Anonymous trend”, but we can only hope that he actually believes some of what he raps about on Yeezus (I didn’t say ALL, since he indeed is NOT a God and already has a beyond healthy ego).
Favorite Track: “New Slaves” (but this is only slightly, and may change by the end of the year)
4. Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart
Maybe it’s because England Keep My Bones is that good, or maybe it’s because Frank is such a nice guy (and I can honestly say that I liked his solo career before nearly everyone else). Why the “maybes”? The fact that this album is just “OK” and I haven’t warmed up to it like I did with some of his other releases. Hearing “Four Simple Words” and “Tattoos” the last time he came to Minneapolis made those tracks immediate stand-outs when the album dropped, but I felt a little deflated, since the lyrics weren’t NEARLY as deep and strong as that last record. I have come to realize that it’s a more personal and lighter album, again about reflecting on the past, so it’s more of a grower in my mind.
Favorite Track: “Four Simple Words”
3. Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
The duo completely change their sound and decide to make a surprisingly catchy pop album. Upon first listen, a longtime fan of Tegan and Sara might be left confused and worried (I know I was), but then multiple listens reveal that batch of 10 songs is an extremely solid album that not only challenges today’s pop moguls, but with typically great T+S lyrics.
Favorite Track: “How Come You Don’t Want Me”
2. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
Let’s get this out of the way and say what every reviewer has already said, “they dropped their world sound!” Sure, Vampire Weekend was strengthened by a more “worldly” sound on past albums, but it’s not like they are writing a straight-up bubblegum album here! The sound on this LP are still textured and complex, more so than typical releases, but dialed down a couple of notches. I like the fact that Vampire Weekend is still evolving and proving that they don’t HAVE to rely on any one sound. Much like the Tegan and Sara record above, the change might be a little harsh at first, but when you can prove that your songs and lyrics are well constructed, it is going to hard to write a bad album.
Favorite Track: “Ya Hey”
1. The Flaming Lips – The Terror
Let me be the first to say: I am not your typical Flaming Lips fan. I enjoy some of their songs, but never have I actually been pulled so hard into one of their albums… until now. This album is dark, dreary, and at times dirty. The album makes me feel alone, slightly depressed, and like I am floating – things might get better, but they might not, and I’m becoming OK with that. Due to my personal experiences as of late (anxiety), The Terror is very easy to relate to, things were bad and still kind of are, but you are trying to look back on it now and prove to yourself that you can be above it all.
Favorite Track: “You Lust” (but PLEASE let this track flow into “The Terror”; 20 minutes of GREATNESS!)
And that’s that. The first half of 2013 is official, let’s see how many of these LPs survive to make the list at year’s end.
***The title was a bit harsh, looking back at it, but that is only due to the lack of a clear-cut winner or clear-cut classic album. This class is strong and deep, but no superstar(s).***