Okay, so my rant goes like this: I've read so many year-end lists, now, and have been utterly *appalled* at how much awful, ball-less music is contained therein. Indie Rock reigns supreme these days -- playing music that lacks actual, honest-to-christ rock is cool, and being completely intellectual and up in your own head (vs. enjoying rocking your balls off) is, like, totally in. As much as I try, I can't get it up for, like, Vampire Weekend. Or Death Cab For Cutie. Or Likke Li, or British Sea Power or or or or - GAHH. GAHH! Ball-less! And drab, and so totally NOT SEXY, if that makes any sense.
That said: there's lots that DOES turn me on, and you'll notice a preponderance of actual, sexy ROCK. I'll leave the R&B list to friends of mine who know more and listen more -- there was a lotta great THAT this year, too, but this is my expertise:
Glasvegas, S/T -- sounds like the Jesus and Mary Chain fronted by the bloke from the Proclaimers. And if that frightens you, and it probably should, you'll be pleasantly surprised, methinks. The songs are magnificent, epic, big, sweeping, great, fun.
Black Angels, Directions To See A Ghost -- one chord and the truth, or something like that. Dark, evil psychedelia, from the Spacemen 3 region, filtered through a bit of freak-folk sensibility, but not the icky bits, if that makes any sense.
Black Mountain, In The Future -- dark, ominous, HEAVY rock and roll. Stoner rock to be sure, but damn smart, mysterious stoner rock.
Glen Campbell, Meet Glen Campbell -- in which the man proves that he's STILL FUCKING GOT IT, as witness his ability to turn my very least favorite Foo Fighters song (do I have a favorite? I do not!) into something transcendent. I could listen to him sing the phone book. Swear to god.
Darker My Love, 2 -- would be on the list if it contained only "Two Ways Out," my favorite single of the year, hands down. As it happens, it contains ten other magnificent songs, and a healthy smatterin' of pure fuzztone bliss.
Duffy, Rockferry -- THAT VOICE! THOSE SONGS! THAT PRODUCTION! I mean, you'd have to be, like, *dead* to not appreciate how cool this is, and how righteous. If yr. sad that Amy Winehouse will never make another album, Duffy should at least ease your pain a little.
Flight of the Conchords, S/T -- comedy rock that actually, y'know, rocks. Most comedy records have very little replay value -- once the joke is done, YOU'RE done. Meanwhile, I played "Motha'uckas" about two hundred times this year and still love it.
Foxoboro Hottubs, Stop Drop and Roll!!! -- pure, unmitigated, hook-laden garage-rock glory from a disguised Green Day. Who knew they had it in 'em? Best song: "Red Tide," which appears to be a Kinksian ode to a woman's "special time."
Magnetic Fields, Distortion -- hated it at first. STILL hate the sound. Like, HATE. Meanwhile, the songs have grown on me, BIG TIME.
Oasis, Dig Out Your Soul -- in which our esteemed Mancunian heroes turn in an album with only two dud songs. Its a fairly magnificent work, and if this list was in any order, would reside near the top, if only to piss off Jim DeRogatis, who continues to (as always!) miss the point.
Primal Scream, Beautiful Future -- the fuck? Did nobody buy this record? Did nobody notice its strange and unholy combination of fuzzrock and 80s new wave pop?? It's magnificent. Go back, relisten. It should be in EVERY critics' top ten.
Raphael Saadiq, The Way I See It -- Motown revivalism at its purest -- but oddly, it doesn't just wallow in soppy balladism, it actually ROCKS. A magnificent album that gets better with every listen.
The Raveonettes, Lust Lust Lust -- my SECOND favorite single of the year was the fuzz-laden "Aly, Walk With Me," a mysterious spy-music slab. Elsewhere, there's enough three-chord pop to make the ghost of the Primitives happy.
Ryan Adams, Cardinology -- discussed in these very pages. I shan't reiterate other than to say its my favorite breakup record.
The Verve, Forth -- one shitty hit single and an entire rest-of-the-album of cool psych-rock stoner jamz. It was far better than it was given credit for, and deserves a relisten.
Polara, Beekeeping -- their best since the 2nd, or even the 1st -- a magnificent slab of angry, fuzzy, uplifting, rip-snorting songwriting, one of THREE (!) albums auteur Ed Ackerson put out this year, ALL of which are totally worthy listening. Maybe my second most-played album this year.
AC/DC, Black Ice -- if it wasn't so perverse, and if it wasn't five songs too long, I'd let this one top my list of the year just for being, y'know, so damn PURE. It's AC/DC, it's heavy, it rocks, game over.
Brian Wilson, That Lucky Old Sun -- in which our man finally delivers an entirely solid album of pop glory in the form of an odd conceptual ode to California, the less boosh-wa version of his Van Dyke Parks collabo "Orange Crate Art."
Kings of Leon, Only By The Night -- Amazon.com let this album top their list, and power to 'em for it. I think I would too, if this list had numbers. "Stadium rock?" Sure, if you define the term as meaning "songs with tremendous hooks and power." A killer album, and CRIMINALLY underrated.
Paul McCartney / The Fireman, Electric Arguments -- in which our other man delivers a fully experimental, loose, fully awesome psych-rock album for the first time in years. If you'd wondered where "Pepper"-era McCartney went -- here he is, like *really, fully is*.
MGMT, Oracular Spectacular -- yeah, okay, this one IS indie, but its magnificent. Here's a group that writes great disco-pop-dancey-whatever songs, perfect for indie radio play, but with INSIGHTFUL, INTERESTING lyrics and great arrangements and hooks.
REM, Accelerate -- who knew they had it in 'em? I certainly didn't think they had a jot of actual rock left, and they managed to turn in a non-sucky album that's about, oh, 2/3 great. This one is tending to hover at the bottom of official polls, like they feel they should nod to it so REM doesn't think its okay to go back to writing bad Beach Boys pastiche -- but I think it stands on its own.
PS: Oh, I forgot Gary Louris' "Vagabonds!" A phenomenal, gorgeous little record -- modest, homespun charms, to be sure. Better even than the last batch of Jayhawks records -- and that's saying something, the group never managed anything close to a bad record. Oddly, the best track is the bonus track "Three Too Many" which is the very best song Gene Clark never wrote.