The laws of inclusion are simple. Amuse me in some way. Strike a chord that runs deep or hits me quickly over the head. Make a fool of yourself that's irresistible. Mope like you mean it. Rock till you drop. Or until your mom calls you home for dinner.
The one record to get dumped from this list -- since there were actually 26 at the cut-off date -- is The National's new album, since I can't tell if it was growing on me or just attaching itself due to overexposure. I think they might be just another band who play to their reviews and who fail to find the second gear. I love monotony even more than the next guy, but even I have my limits.
Wondering what missed my cut-off? Pastels, NAAM, Olms, GRMLN and five more.
In truth, though, most days, I'd rather be listening to Terry Reid's River album.
24) Frank Turner -- Tape Deck Heart: One listen to his voice and I'm suspect. The way he jumps for higher notes in "The Way I Tend To Be" has a shiny emo touch that makes me want to hit him. The British singer-songwriter relocated to Burbank to record his "breakup" album, which is not where people go to be at one with their depressed selves. I suppose I should champion his 'can-do' spirit. I would if it didn't seem to get in the way of the decent songs in hiding here.
22) The Blank Tapes -- Vacation: One of the joys of listening to roughly 40 albums a week is that a few stand up and say "I'm not as bad as you think I am!" Turns out The Blank Tapes is a man named Matt Adams who's recorded a bunch of albums on his own. He's one of these guys who loves music from so many eras that had he lacked for musical talent, he could've been an angry, bitter blogger like the rest of us!
20) The Thermals -- Desperate Ground: I knew the day would come where this trio would scare me. All young bands are constantly in danger of falling to the wrong side of their influences and this pretty good record has enough hooks to sustain whatever damage occurs when they go emo instead of clear. I just tell myself it's their Mountain Goats homage and not emo at all and hope that sticks.
18) Appleseed Cast -- Illumination Ritual: The years have been good to Appleseed Cast. Well, if getting a thumbs up from this dreary little blog is what they've waited their lives for. Whatever they were doing before has been replaced with a band that sound like they know what they're doing. It sounds much like what an improvisatory band such Sonic Youth might sound like if they hadn't been so convinced that making "edgy" music had to be so gosh-darned loud and abrasive all the time.
16) Wolf People -- Fain: Since the music industry makes so little money for anyone, a band can start up in the image of Jethro Tull or Traffic or Fairport Convention and not feel like they're bypassing fortune and/or fame. Should a song like "When The Fire Is Dead In the Grate" have a 2013 copyright? As much as "Tam Lin" could have one in 1969.
14) Natalie Maines -- Mother: The Jeff Buckley cover is what she's good at. The Patty Griffin cover makes the most sense. And if you can't get at least a chuckle over her singing Pink Floyd's "Mother," you shouldn't be here at all. For a mainstream move, Maines has made do with misfits.
12) Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood -- Black Pudding: Lanegan's become the 'go-to' guy when other folks want the devil to visit their recording sessions and they know Leonard Cohen isn't stopping by and Nick Cave would be too expensive/ obvious. Duke Garwood is an old acquaintance who toured with the Gutter Twins. Together, they make dark music that at this point you expect. Surely, this stuff will sound even better years from now when no one is making this kind of music anymore.
10) The Stranglers -- Giants: I'm not even sure who's still in the Stranglers in 2013. True to form, the album stuck around for a year as an import, so by the time it hits these shores I'm slightly less enthused, even though I haven't heard a note. Then I put it on and hear the urgency driving the bass guitar and decide to stick it out. Welcome back, old friends. Even if I've never heard of any of you.
8) Various Artists -- Way To Blue -- The Songs of Nick Drake: Tribute albums should mostly be banned. Unless the person in charge actually knew the artist well and is allowed 100% power to block a manager/ label's choice. (Sorry, J Mascis, you and Thurston, can't be "long-time fans" of EVERYONE). This album, however, is under the control of Joe Boyd, who produced young Nick, and stuck to his few friends in the family circle and refused to soil the reputation with stupid moves, though Robyn Hitchcock is the one surprise. You almost don't miss Nick, until it hits you that these are his songs.
6) Iggy and the Stooges -- Ready To Die: I wish the news were better, but it'll have to do. You can't capture lightning in a bottle on purpose. Even with all the elements in place. But you can get near the neighborhood where these things happen and Iggy with James Williamson is always a dangerous combination and with enough volume this sounds close enough. Nobody makes Raw Power II. Especially when the guys who made the first one didn't make it that way on purpose.
4) Savages -- Silence Yourself: They're young, female, foreign, with smart black and white photography and an overall graphic sense that says they're not kidding around. Only young people can be this serious without getting a lashing. It's part of the social contract. We let them believe the world is theirs for the asking. We take the offer off the table a few years later. For now, dream, baby, dream.
2) The Fall -- Re-Mit: Who am I kidding? I'd only recognize a bad Fall album if it was completely terrible and even then I'd think it was on purpose and, therefore, probably brilliant over the long term. I'm liking the usual turbulence here and I don't pay attention to the lyrics as closely as I should so he's off the hook there, too. I think Mark E. Smith should consider issuing a book of Complete Lyrics, published in a font that can be read, you old bugger!
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