1. Isis - "In The Absence of Truth"
I only found Isis this year, as a friend kept harassing me to seek them out and listen to it. I was skeptical, as we have in the past had contrasting music styles, but...after hearing "Panopticon", it completely changed me. It was exactly the kind of music I'd want to make. And then when I heard a new Isis album was coming out this year, I had to get it. I did. I still love it. It's ethereal in some places, crushing in others, and an all around tight album that feels more complete than "Panopticon" did. "In The Absence of Truth" has fractured me, shown me ways to make music that I'd never conceived. It's standard instruments, but instead of masturbatory "musicianship", the music has a deliberately minimalist approach that keeps it as captivating as it is. It's crushing, but on a different level than other bands could ever even begin to think they could be.

2. Tom Waits - "Orphans - Brawlers, Bawlers, & Bastards"
We got three whole discs of Tom Waits this year. And while there's no such thing as bad Tom Waits, one disc of this set stands out as a masterpiece, and that's disc 3, or "Bastards." Combining vaudeville, spoken word, and the Industrial Jazz of "Bone Machine" and "Real Gone", the album is dark and completely insane. It feels like natural progression from Tom's efforts from the 90s. Both of the other two discs are strong on their own merits, showing essentially all periods of Tom's career in an unusually focused package, considering it's primarily all new stuff. But it's the third disc that puts it so high, for me, and if Isis hadn't changed the way I think about music, this would be #1.

3. Mastodon - "Blood Mountain"
I loathed "Leviathan." I understood what they were going for, but I didn't want a part of it. So I approached their latest album skeptically, expecting to be horribly underwhelmed, and I was pleasantly surprised. It's a perfect balance of "Remission" and "Leviathan"- my problem with Leviathan was that Troy Sanders had the best growl I'd ever heard and they hardly used it- yet it sounds separate from both of their prior efforts. While this is a poor way to judge, the Grammys have "Colony of Birchmen" up for Best Metal Performance. And it's fitting.

4. Bob Dylan - "Modern Times"
I'll be honest, I've never been much on Bob Dylan. My mother loves him, and she's always given me strange songs of his to listen to as examples of highlights of his career, that only really annoyed me ("Travelling World War III Blues" leaps most prominently to mind). So, for a birthday present, I got a hold of the album for her. And I listened to it a while later, once it left rotation in her car. This album is more focused than anything I've ever heard him do, and is a great surprise in ways music rarely is for me nowadays. It's pure and sincere (which I guess is part of his charm), with everything with rockabilly jams like "Thunder on the Mountain", "Rollin' and Tumblin'" and, of course, "Someday Baby", to country music that sounds like country music should, like "Spirit on the Water", and even including a bizarre rendition of "When The Levee Breaks", the album ended up accidentally popping up on my radar.

5. Midnight Brown - "Dope/Revenge"
An epic two part saga on life on the tough streets of Cotati and Petaluma, CA, full of lies, spies, betrayal, basketballs, and a belt buckle with a cat on it. ... Okay, in reality, it's two roommates making music, putting it out there for free, and not really investing too much time in it. However, the album is a great thing to listen to. It's not going to challenge you mentally or anything, nor is it going to set the clubs on fire with phat beats (the songs lean towards Rap most of the time, ending up sounding like lazy Beastie Boys). And in an interesting bit of trivia, the head of the group is the Senior Editor of Gamespot, Jeff Gerstmann. The music makes it's way, in instrumental form, around the site because of it, but that doesn't make it any less good. Just don't take it seriously.

6. The Mars Volta - "Amputechture"
Mars Volta is one of my favorite bands, and I was excited for the latest release. While I was originally taken aback, but as I listened to it, I liked it more and more. It strikes me that the first four tracks are like their own album, sound a good deal like an extention of "De-Loused", ending up sounding like space rock. Where as the last four songs take on a more spiritual, basic route, sounding like "Frances" in many ways. Decidedly as dark as "Frances." While other groups put out things I liked more this year, I cant say I didn't enjoy this album.

7. The Melvins - "(A) Senile Animal."
Like some crazy combination of The Melvins and noise metal, "(A) Senile Animal" came completely out of left field for me. From what I understand, Buzzo and Dale Crover united with Big Business in studio as well as live, and the result is a Melvins album that sounds reinvigorated, different, and powerful like little of their earlier work. It's gutteral, fierce, and most importantly, loud as all hell.

8. Pearl Jam - s/t
I've always liked Pearl Jam. They were my dad's favorite modern band, and one of my fondest memories was the day that Yield came out, we went to the store and bought it, then drove around listening to it. It was a great thing. I was one of the few people that enjoyed Binaural and Riot Act, appreciating the evolution of the sound. But the latest Pearl Jam album...it sounds like a Pearl Jam album used to. I can easily say this is their best work, even higher than "Ten." Everything they've learned over the years comes into the album, and while Jack Irons is still sorely missed from the band (for me), the sound is tight as it used to be. The guitars are howling in unison, the rhythm is strong, but what stood out most was Eddie Vedder. He finally sounds like Eddie Vedder again, not like a substitute Springsteen (my greatest criticism of Binaural). He's screaming his heart out, like he hasn't in years, and it takes the already solid music to a higher level. The highlight of the album for me is "Comatose", which is venomous in a way Pearl Jam hasn't been, the music violent, and Eddie's howling as piercing as it's known to be. Overall, the album is a fine piece of work, and while I like the last two albums, it's good to have Pearl Jam back.

9. Callisto - "Noir"
Found through boredom. I was searching on Wikipedia for more on Isis, and I kept coming back to this article about "post-metal," in which Callisto is mentioned in the same breath as Isis. So I gave it a shot, and while it didn't grab hold of me like Isis did, it proved to be an enlightening album all it's own. Relying more on reprises than Isis, and also featuring more in the way of death growls, plus an element of classical instrumentation. It's a very good album that stood on it's own, and is an enjoyable listen.

10. The Eagles of Death Metal - "Death By Sexy"
An enjoyable listen for an entirely different way, the Eagles of Death Metal caught my eye because of the Josh Homme involvement. The album is firmly tongue in cheek, which can be annoying, there's something genuinely infectious about the music. The production is fitting for the music, and the music is definitely fitting for the outrageous falsetto vocals. From what I keep hearing, though, the falsetto is not carried live, and that absolutely ruins the music. I saw them doing "Cherry Cola" live, and the chorus in a deep voice is just entirely contrary to the mood of the music. That's besides the point, though. "Death By Sexy" is a solid alt album, and while the oozing satire may not be your thing, the music's good regardless.

In the next post, I will have some kind of justification for the poetry, and more poetry too.


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12/23/2006 04:10:00 AM  

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