Howlin' Rain - The Russian Wilds
It was the year 2012 and I was convinced rock n' roll had departed for the Undying Lands, marking the end of the third age. I even scribbled down the lines "The fate of rock n' roll proves / That everything I love will eventually leave." But it may be still alive in this cathedral of neo-classic rock, complete with gritty vocals, driving backbeats, crunchy guitars, and an almost 1:1 song to organ solo ratio. Evoking all of the epic sounds I wish I had experienced in the 70's, The Russian Wilds is something like a tour-de-force, but not as overused of a phrase.
Jack White - Blunderbuss
I think I lost a lot of potential friends by going up to strangers on my way to class one day and singing, in my best overdriven falsetto, "I EAT SIX-TEEN SAL-TEEN CRACKERS THEN I LICK MY FINGERS!" But if they didn't get the reference, then maybe I don't want to be friends with them anyway. White comes out with a high energy, hard grooving album, which sounds like higher-fi version of his previous acts.
Lord Huron - Lonesome Dreams
We've had to put up with a lot of self-indulgent indie singer songwriters in the past few years, most of whom were two white to now what a real beat is and instead lost us in a fog of self-indulgent harmonization and flannel. Since they are, on paper, an indie folk band hailing from LA, Lord Huron could easily be a caricature of the aforementioned type of band. Sure, I did discover them via Shazam (on an Android NOT an iphone, people) in an overpriced knicknack shop of some kind (with wooden spoons for forty dollars, why I was there I have no idea) but I went home and listened to them one GrooveShark, not Spotify! While eating spaghetti, made with no organic ingredients! Then I probably watched football, drank a Coors Banquet Beer, and argued against performative gender roles! I guess if I'm going to be usefull they sound kind of like Local Natives but without the weak attempt to sound worldly.
The Sea and Cake - Runner
Last year, I described The Sea and Cake's sound as the molecular distillation of cool. I stand by that statement. When you're trekking through Bakersfield, this is good music to keep the zombies away. (I'm sure Bakersfield is a very nice city with much to offer but I have yet to see it.)
Dispatch - Circles Around the Sun
Maybe if I had got the chance to see these songs performed live I would have rated this a little higher, but I did not get to see this with the added magic of live Dispatch. They're all great tracks in their own way, but what makes you fall in love with a Dispatch song is the live rendition. That's the way it was with the new EP that came out last year, and I hope it will be that way when I see them again. Don't get me wrong, I am ecstatic this exists. January 1st, 2011 the band announced they were touring again, and I got my tickets right away. Then I found out there was a new EP. This wasn't just a reunion tour. This was a full on resurrection. Then we got word of a new album. I know it's not quite the same as when they were a vague rumor on the breeze that you would then discover on Napster and experience full force when they rolled up to your college campus in two beat up vans, but still, they're a force the universe needs. Also, the title track may be the best song about space exploration since "A Space Oddity," which, coming from the Ozone Shack, is saying something.
The Sheepdogs - The Sheepdogs
"My heart is won by southern fantasy / could you understand how much that means to me." These lyrics encapsulate all you need to know about the Sheepdogs, who might be the Allman Brothers Band reincarnated as Canadians. Granted, they are from Saskatoon, which is kind of like the Deep South of Canada. Well, actually, maybe that's Calgary. Much like the Gaslight Anthem wants to be in the universe of a 50's motorcycle movie, I can tell The Sheepdogs want to be the hard rockin, hard drinking, heavy tokin guys raising hell in backwater Mississippi. I don't know, don't quote me on that. Just listen to this album.
The Bouncing Souls - Comet (Also Winner of Album Cover of the Year)
The Bouncing Souls prove that you can keep make high-energy, melodic punk without losing any of the attitude or the edge. These guys have been around for a while, at the forefront of New Jersey's pogo punk scene, making quality music for two decades now. (In fact, they started playing as a band before I was born, so when people tell me to tone it down, I can just point at these guys and say you're never too old to fist pump.) I first put on this album driving myself to the emergency room after I got a concussion.
Why was I driving myself to the emergency room? Well, on a Monday, I gave blood, and since I had probably drank too much Coors Banquet Beer and not enough water during the preceding weekend, and had only eaten a pack of fruit snacks and trail mix that morning, I was dehydrated my blood sugar was low. When I stood up upon finishing the machine sucking my blood out, my blood pressure fell over the fiscal cliff and I passed out, hitting my head on the tiled floor. When they revived me, my blood pressure was 80 over 20 - any lower and they would have had to defibrillate me. I went home with nausea, hating light and sound, but thought it was just my brain starved of blood and nutrients. Tuesday night I went to a wine and dessert thing and puked after two and a half glasses of wine, but I thought "ok, I just gave blood, maybe blood loss affects your blood alcohol content more than I thought." Wednesday I felt even shittier, and I assumed that it was some weird kind of hangover. Thursday I felt even worse and I realized something was wrong. Friday morning I called the blood bank and they told me that I should drive myself to the emergency room to be evaluated for a concussion. ANYWAY, I was worried about my ability to maintain focus, so I put on loud, energetic punk to keep me going. And I made it. I'm still here. Thanks guys.
Stay tuned for the top 12, coming tomorrow and Monday!