11. Electric Six
Johnny is currently being reprimanded (by himself) for neglecting to review this album after promising to. As you undoubtedly know, we’re all huge fans of Electric Six around here. When they release an album, we immediately ask for more. It’s never not enough, but we ask for more because life is short. Electric Six is older than us, and will very likely die before us. We’re stockpiling.
12. The Dead Weather
Sea Of Cowards
If the Dead Weather set out to prove themselves eccentric with Sea Of Cowards, they’ve certainly succeeded. Uncompromising, they wear their jacket full of bullet holes proudly, escaping direct classification with varied style & influence, always returning to a core of sexual tension and brooding cool.
13. Massive Attack
To call Heligoland a successor to 100th Window wouldn’t be inaccurate, but would diminish the album’s thermosphere-scraping impression, where only the best know how to breathe. Massive Attack have proven their mettle once more as trend-setting masters of collaboration and ambience, growing organic textures in electronic jungles and pushing just enough envelopes to not alienate their core. As with their previous releases, it will be fascinating to see what other artists’ sounds are spawned from Heligoland’s inspiration.
14. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
On all three of this duo’s albums, yet especially on Hawk, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan’s forces are perfectly complementary. The sum is simultaneously innocent and guilty, shy and fearless, a mourning young widow walking out of the desert, shovel in hand. Objectively, Hawk is an adept, yet humble artistic expression of emotional torrents. Subjectively, it’s cool as shit.
At Night We Live
Far is a band that preceded the hyperbolic scene divisions, and their undeniable influence on various facets of today’s music scene allows them to effortlessly transcend the genre boxes.
It’s promising enough that At Night We Live is an accessible album for the historically unaware, but fans of Far will find a familiar home with a release that’s a calmly confident, passionate and powerful return to the sound we knew so long ago.
16. Joanna Newsom
Have One On Me
Here’s how Chris Goss pitched this album to us: “..She’s my hero right now. I saw this little girl with a harp play 5 years ago in front of maybe 50 people, and it was like ‘look out, we’ve got a little genius on our hands.’ And she’s followed it up flawlessly. The spirit she has and what she’s trying to do is instill that patience again. She’ll open her album with a piece that’s like 16 minutes long, and have the balls to pull it off. I adore her.
It’s just gorgeous. Not to mention that she’s one of the best musicians and poets to come along – that combination is really rare. You find that in John Lennon, Dylan, Bowie, there’s not too many musicians who are also great poets. She’s one of them, for sure.”
17. Neil Young
It’s roughly once a decade that Neil has upped his own ante, from his sophomore album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere to 1979’s punk-rooted Rust Never Sleeps and 1989’s Freedom. Gripping, raw and perfectly seasoned with Lanois’ restrained color, Le Noise takes Young’s familiar sound and adds an entirely new testicular fortitude. The album’s got balls to match the honest heart, and will be celebrated as a late-career highlight for the revitalized icon.
18. Portugal. The Man
Recorded just a few weeks after the completion of 2009’s outstanding work The Satanic Satanist, it’s surprising to find that American Ghetto sounds like anything but an extension of those sessions. Launching from the Motown grooves of last year’s release, thick flavors of soul-folk psychedelia and funk run through the Rock current, with new directions taken in experimentalism that blow open a new sense of spirit.
19. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Beat The Devil’s Tattoo
A ton of bands are trying to be nothing more than good old fashioned straight up Rock N’ Roll bands, but few are pulling it off like BRMC. Beat The Devil’s Tattoo is thick, deep, and rich, and not summed up by any simple comparison to any particular previous album or influential band. It’s a long 65 minutes, with stretches of plowing distortion, and at times, you’ll really have to listen to hear more. It isn’t immediately accessible, certainly not compared to the band’s self-titled debut or Howl. But it’s ready when you are, a perfect soundtrack to a moment that we can’t force just by making you put a CD on.
20. Turin Brakes
With their fifth full length studio album, UK folk rock duo Turin Brakes prove themselves to be a truly exceptional band, handsomely rewarding fans like us who have been following them since discovering their promising 2001 debut.
In perhaps the toughest battle for 20th place in any of this year’s best-of lists anywhere, Outbursts narrowly edged out worthy contenders Grinderman 2 and Dax Riggs’ Say Goodnight To The World.
If you’re looking for a one-stop spot to pick up any or all of these on vinyl or other antiquated media, check out Insound.com. Highly recommended, great quality stuff. And no, they’re not giving us anything to tell you that.