So this is Christmas, it is also just after our two year anniversary so we are now at the end of year polls! This has not just been voted for by the bloggers here, but by the general public as well! So this is true democracy, the only control here is that the albums that are eligible have to achieved at least 8 out of ten during the year. If it is lower than that, it did not make the cut! This year has been a strange one vote wise (for me watching the votes come in at least). Before it started, I expected one album to run away with it because of how I thought some people votes; without naming the artist, I can confirm it was not even in the top end of the blog; not saying that the album is poor record, just shows what happens when you get the public involved as well. So, I truly thank everyone that bothered to vote, anyone that contacted and said yes, I want to do this and came through. You guys are why this blog is here. I also want to thank the bloggers this year, some of you guys have had a hard time and have not been able to do much, some of you have done above and beyond - all your work (no matter what size) is welcome. Lastly, I want to say well done to every band and artist we have had the pleasure of reviewing. It does not matter if we liked your record or not - without the musicians who make the music, this is a blog about nothing. You people are the ones who make this spin, so I applaud you all!
Now, on to the top twenty albums as voted by the staff and readers of the blog! Next to each album, we will quote part of each review (mainly because it has already been written). Also, we will have a link to a track from each album.
20 - Swans - To Be Kind
When the dust has finally settled on this record, you can see why it has been getting the praise it so richly deserves. This album made the top forty on both sides of the Atlantic, making it the highest charting release by the Swans in their career. It goes to show that aggressive and thought provoking music still has a place in the world. However I cannot give this a mark, how could I! I feel like I have been beaten to a bloody pulp again by this band, I did not expect anything less. It is the best they have released since they have gotten back together and I hope that this is not the last we will hear from them. It is a truly awe inspiring piece of work which will terrify weaker souls. File under: try it if you dare.
Here is a video (well, image) for the song Oxygen.
19 - Benjamin Booker - Benjamin Booker
This album is a brilliant debut, full of promise and energy; yes there are a few songs which could just change titles and lyrics with the same results, but this is the man's first record and it sounds like he is just trying out the water and he is starting to get a grip on what he is capable of creating. This man can make his guitar sing like an angel and shake it's ass like a money maker. It is an almost perfect debut with minimum filler and if his album sounds this good, his live reputation will be well deserved. I so wish that I saw this man live now, will have to remedy that next time, just to see if the live legend is the same as his album output.
Here is an offical video for Violent Shiver.
18 - Sunn 0))) + Scott Walker - Soused
The project is the stuff of nightmare - I mean that it is one of those projects that are designed to be harrowing, evil and tortured; it is also a rare project that mostly meets the expectations that were laid at its feet upon the revelation of its inception. Such talents were always going to be cursed with the air of expectation, but that is to be put to the side when looking at this album. It is still one of those albums which are currently receiving mainstream press where other avant-garde albums have been ignored. It is a good record, well crafted and worth exploring; I just wish it was a bit more off the wall.
Here is the offical video for Brando.
17 - Within Temptation - Hydra
As a package on the whole, this is a very confident album from this act from the Lowlands. They've certainly consolidated their position as one of the finest symphonic metal bands and the several crossovers have I'm happy to report have added quite a lot of sparkle to an already heady offering in Hydra, named after a Greek Mythical creature known for growing its heads again whenever they were decapitated. Fortunately, this isn't an album that's ever destined for the chop, and even in the early stages of 2014 I see it as a firm contender for album of the year.
Here is the video for Paradise (What About Us?).
16 - The Bug - Angels & Devils
Wow.....I am truly impressed by this album. The Bug can be added to the lists of artists that have truly terrified me from Ninja Records. I have said this before, but what a dark record this is! The bass is so solid through this record that it can probably level buildings into dust. The two halves of the record merge in completely and to be honest there is not a clear point where it starts to get heavier, but once it starts there was no prisoners to be took. The amount of artists that I have heard for the first time this year is getting quite long, this one can be another that will be hard to ignore when it comes to the end of year polls; this is utterly break taking.
Here is an offical audio video of Fuck You with Warrior Queen.
15 - Mastodon - Once More 'Round The Sun
The band has completely turned around their original sound from when I last heard them. This album is the polar opposite to 'Cracke The Skye'. This is a band who has hit their groove in a devastating form; it is almost perfect with only one track not quite reaching that high tide mark that this album will undoubtedly become in the future. If this is the best they ever release (or even their last one), they will have left a remarkable album.
Here is the offical video for High Road
14 - AC/DC - Rock Or Bust
Here is the offical video for High Road
14 - AC/DC - Rock Or Bust
This is the shortest AC/DC album by a few minutes, there is no wasted part of the album; no notes or riffs that is not required, there is no wasted space on the album. Whilst the wheel is not reinvented, you would have to have a heart of stone not to raise a smile or horns to this album. It is by no means the best album they have ever created; it is a really good record that does exactly what it says on the tin. Rock or bust? I think we all know the answer to that question.
Here is the video for Rock Or Bust
13 - Crowbar - Symmetry In Black
Overall, the main reason I like this so much is that I am a massive fan of this type of music. It connects to me in a way that I find truly mesmerising, but I do see that it is a very closed record in terms of appeal, I know that sounds weird but sometimes that is just the way of things. It is not a musical boundary cross-over record and it knows this. A few of the tracks whilst they are really powerful do start to merge with other tracks on the album. But it has took me a long while to make up my mind with this album and I have to say that it is a brilliant record that will have fan boys like me really pleased; but it does seem to be one only for the faithful.
12 - The Haunted - Exit Wounds
When played live, the songs are guaranteed to whip up an awesome mosh-pit. Mind, one does have to question as to why they has released an album when there At The Gates album at the same time as this? I guess that any shortcomings found within this album will be rectified with ATG and vice-versa. I'll be keeping an open mind on that and will get back to you, but I'd not rule this album out yet. So, there you go. This album is possibly the finest example of thrash in a long time. I'd recommend it any day of the week.
Here is the official video for Cutting Teeth
11 - Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright In The End
As a midlife crisis goes, this is not as glorious as Grinderman; to be fair it is almost a return to youthful way, but with a hint of estranged sadness. It does take a while to get go and it also takes even longer to release its hidden charms, but with repeat listenings it does show its secrets. Is it the best Weezer album? Well, for me it is just part of a great vain of form that helped the band release 'Hurley', 'The Red Album' (which is my personal favourite) and 'Raditude'; but it is not quite up with those titles at this point. It is very good and it has been given a lot of attention, but it strikes me as slightly unnerving that these guys are having a midlife crisis. They were supposed to be the Peter Pan's of American alternative music!!!! (Warning - the last sentence may has sarcasm, for a brighter tomorrow - Ed).
Here is a live performance of The British Are Coming.
10 - Corrosion Of Conformity - IX
This is a simple formula that so many bands tend to get wrong, but not these guys – monster riffs, thumping bass, drums which sound both solid and loose and combine. Considering that for a long while these guys were not existing, I just find it hard to comprehend why they are not bigger than they currently are. Maybe it is because people think they know them for their previous efforts, I myself am guilty of making that assumption. Now though, now I will be trying out as many of their albums that they have made as a three piece as possible. A great sludge/punk/speed metal hybrid that just keeps on giving.
Here is the offical audio of The Hanged Men
9 - The Smashing Pumpkins - Monuments To An Elegy
Firstly, I feel I have to mention the length of the album; it is surprisingly short for a Smashing Pumpkins release. At just over half an hour, it goes by in the blink of an eye. Also, only one of the songs is over four minutes in length and it is quite frankly very refreshing to be honest. There has been a couple of releases from these guys which would have been better with just a song or two kept for the b-sides, but this is by the by; this song is stripped down and on first listen is a very good record. On the second, third and fourth listens, it just keeps on improving. It is a brilliant album and shows that there is still a fire in the heart of Billy Corgan; if he carries out his threat to end the Pumpkins if this does not meet his commercial expectations is another thing, but this album is really good. I fully expect that I wished I gave it a better mark in a few months time....
Here is a live performance of Being Beige.
8 - Mogwai - Rave Tapes
Back when rock was new, albums literally had two sides when they were released on vinyl and cassette tapes. This album is a modern representation of that era; but in terms of frustration, it is also quite high on that measure as well. I have to point out that this is by no means a bad or awful album; quite far from it, it is a beautiful release. So why am I so down on it? Well, it is due to the high standards which Mogwai have handed themselves since they first came onto the scene with Young Team. They have constantly been carving a path which braver men fear to tread, which is a blessing and a curse at some points. It also makes me wonder if the band needed a little more time to record the album so soon after the 'Les Revenants' OST, maybe they needed a few more months with the tracks. But that takes nothing away from the album itself, especially the last four tracks which are so special that they up the mark by a few points alone. I have been listening to this album for over a month and I still find myself going backwards and forwards on how to mark it, but I think the best way to describe it as I said earlier - it is a grower and will take time to reveal its secrets. Frustrating and beautiful in one lovely package of beautiful noise.
Here is a live performance of Master Card.
7 - Various Artists - Guardians Of The Galaxy: Awesome Mix Volume 1
Taken separately they’re an unusual bunch of songs, and definitely, with exception of Bowie and Marvin Gaye, not something I’d generally choose to listen too, but together, they’re just great, silly, sad, rocking, eccentric and sweet.
Here is a live perforamce of Hooked On A Feeling From The Blue Swede.
6 - Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways
I think we can safely say that this is probably the most interesting and relevant Foo Fighters record in an awful long time. As an experiment recording in different cities, it is obvious that it has had an effect on the overall tone of the album and it makes for each song having its own distinct sound and quality. With only two of the tracks being average (and in one case – “Subterranean”) bat crap crazy, I must admit that I have enjoyed this album a lot more than I was expecting. It will probably not change the views of people who dislike the band, but overall I think it is their best album since the gigantic “The Colour & The Shape”.
Here is the official video for Something For Nothing.
5 - Robert Plant - Lullaby... & The Ceaseless Roar
I will be honest I was not expecting very much from this record; it was the main reason I gave it to Mr Richardson to review as it seemed to be his type of thing. I am actually really glad he did not do the review now as it has turned out to be a brilliant album. This album does not feel like a last stand against the world, it does not feel like a fuck you to the people who want Led Zeppelin; it does not feel like someone who is trying something new to seem hip and with the in crowd. It is an excellent example of an artist who is making the music he wants to do, not giving a damn about what the rest of the world want; yet he is hoping that people will still be interested enough to listen. Whilst Mr Plant is not able to reach ever note he could in his youth, he is still a powerful and amazing singer. He is also a clever man, he does not need to wheel out the hits from yesterday all the time and that is a great position to be in. If this is his last stand (and after this record I really hope that it is not), then he is going out with the sort of album which anyone would be proud to have created.
Here is a live performance of Little Maggie from Glastonbury.
4 - Queen - Live At The Rainbow '74
As a live documentary of a band at the height of their live powers, this is a really good release. Three albums into their career, they were just about to start that roll which would have 'A Night At The Opera', 'A Day At The Races' and 'News Of The World' coming after 'Sheer Heart Attack'. The confidence from shows like this would make those albums the classic releases. Without spoiling the next part of this review, the show from early in the year also showed a lot of promise as well. If you are going to get any version of this album, I would go for the deluxe addition to be honest. However, he is the crux of the matter - is it better than 'Killer Queen' which was taken from the 'Jazz' period of the band's history? For me, I would have to say....maybe. I've not lived with 'Live At The Rainbow '74' long enough to make that decision right away. I'll say this though; if initial impressions are anything to go by, it just might end up being THE Queen live album.
Here is a video of Keep Yourself Alive from those shows.
3 - Slipknot- 5:The Gray Chapter
So, in answer to the question of whether or not they’re any good without Gray and Jordison is a resounding yes. This is a fantastic album. It’s not an easy listen at times and it’s probably longer than it needs to be but it reeks of quality and is more than a worthy addition to their catalogue. There’s plenty of songs that would do well as (bleeped) singles but enough evil and riffage to keep the “sellouts!” crowd at bay. If you’re a slipknot fan then it’s definitely not going to disappoint and it’s one of my favourite albums of the year so far.
Here is a video for The Negative One.
2 - Royal Blood - Royal Blood
I have been told good things about this band and the album is a very good album indeed. There is a perfect storm forming around this band that will take them onto better things, this album is really good and just a shade over 30 minutes it is an incredible ball of noise from this two piece. The fact that this noise is only coming out of two people is another source of amazement/amusement (delete as per you own personal leaning). Now, whilst this album is really good that it is not the second coming that some people are saying that it is. There are a few moments which don't quite work for me, but there is a lot that does work as well. I have been advised by many people that have seen this band over the last few months that the racket that these two people can make live is amazing. A very good debut album, they are well placed to take over the world, let’s see what they do after this. Also, one of the few hyped bands which aren't a pile of bollocks as well.
Here is the official video for Figure It Out.
1 - Pixies - Indie Cindy
So onto the actual album itself, how has mixing the EPs up affected the actual music. Well to be honest it actually works much better, it has more of a flow and is about the same as I had predicted in my head when I heard it would be the EPs thrown together. It ebbs and flows with a great fluency and makes for a great album. Now here is the bedrock of all people's thoughts - is it better or equal to their classic period? To be honest, it is not better than the classic albums; however it is at least equal to 'Trompe Le Monde' and in someways it was always going to be a hard job for any release that has came after that twenty three year wait since their last work. But if you look at it as an individual album then it is a very good record, will it mature into a classic? Well it is a possibility that it might, but that is for future discussion. For now, let's just enjoy the album for what it is - fun.
Here is the official video for Another Toe In The Ocean.
Well, there you have it! As voted by you and the staff, the Pixies have got the album of the year! Thank you all for voting, may your Christmas time (or Holidays, or whatever you celebrate) be pleasant and nice and from all of us here may we wish you a happy new year. As a parting gift, here is a photo of a baby Groot in a pot (which can be ordered from Krafty Katz Lardz & Keepsakes - cleverly linked here!!!)