1 / Radiohead - The King Of Limbs
A good friend from high school came out to visit, a couple months after this album was released. We both loved Radiohead back in the days, as most of my friends did, but he had largely written them off after Kid A
. I played him this new one as he hadn't heard it yet, and he didn't like it, rather angrily calling it "hard to listen to". I've seen many other people, even on this board, express the same sentiment, and can't fault people for saying so. TKOL isn't easy listening, and is at times rather challenging. I think Radiohead have to be credited for continuing to challenge and shake up their own sound, even if many longtime fans don't follow them on the journey.
Oh, and I think it's at least on par with 2008's In Rainbows
, if not better.
2 / True Widow - As High as the Highest Heavens and from the Center to the Circumference of the Earth
I've been enamoured of this band from Texas, since I heard the song "Duelist" from their last, self-titled record, last year on Pandora. Doom rock, sludge rock, shoegaze, it doesn't really matter what you call it--it's all good.
3 / Steven Wilson - Grace For Drowning
I've gone in recent years from scornful to curious to downright converted to the band Porcupine Tree
. They're doing what I probably most want to hear from any band right now: tight, at-times technical songs that actually feel written and not scrapped together. Which brings me to PT leader Steven Wilson's second solo album. Ambitious and sprawling, at many times ("Deform to Form A Star") looking back to the 70's for inspiration, with feet firmly planted in the now ("No Part Of Me").
I could do without the stabbing choral keyboard sounds (I just assume they're keyboards), which Wilson falls back on too often here, but this is largely a great album nonetheless that I'll be listening to a lot in the coming months.
4/ Screaming Trees - Last Words
Is it cheating to include an album recorded by the band somewhere in the late 90's? Here's a grunge-era rock act I didn't know I sorely missed until this collection came out. Intended to be their headstone as a band but never released, "Last Words" contains some of the Mark Lanegan-fronted band's stongest material ("Reflections", "Anita Grey") and some of it's lighter offerings ("Door Into Summer") are memorable reminders of this great band.
5 / Trail Of Dead - Tao Of The Dead
I had all but written off Trail Of Dead after the rather lackluster "Century Of Self", a fine but forgettable collection of songs from a few years ago that more often than not forgot the rock. "Tao Of The Dead" more than makes up for that, and frequently points back to their glory days of Source Tags And Codes.
6 / Rival Schools - Pedals
I missed out on this indie rock collective in their heyday. A friend took me to their show after the release of this album, and I'm pleasantly surprised by the straight-ahead, non-pretentious rocking out of this album and their sound. Recommended.
7 / Steven Malkmus and The Jicks - Mirror Traffic
Another 90's luminary (see a theme here with my picks?), ex-Pavement Malkmus frontman continues to crack out the solo albums, and this Beck-produced effort is at turns rocking, sweet, psychedelic, fuzzy, expansive, progressive, way out there and all in between, just like some of the best of Pavement. His best solo outing IMO since Pig Lib
8 / PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
To say I was a bit disappointed with Let England Shake is putting it gently. Harvey is constantly changing her approach, and this stylistically transistional album's paaens to her homeland are at turns jarring and disturbing, as are lyrics detailing the horrors of war. Like the best of her work, the listener is left with much to chew on at the end, and the strongest stuff here ("The Last Living Rose", "Written On The Forehead") makes up for the some of the more awkward material.
9 / Low - C'Mon
After the sonically eclectic The Great Destroyer
and the war-traumatizied Drums And Guns
, this album finds the former slo-core heroes settling in for some very laid-back but pleasant songs ("Try To Sleep", "Somethings Turning Over"). Guitarist / singer Alan Sparhawk also finds time to wield some very menacing guitar solos ("Witches"), and knock out an eight-minute epic that recalls some of their early work ("Nothing But Heart").
10 / Plaid - Scintilli
A headtrip in every sense of the word, the cinematic and very knotty, sometimes intricate electronic music that Plaid comes up with continues to dazzle and still take several listens to fully process. No one does this stuff like Plaid.
Honorable Mentions -
††† (Crosses) (EP)
Deftones' Chino Moreno's latest side-work finds him getting down with the electronics similar to his last offshoot, Team Sleep, but with an even more menacing and 80's influenced vibe. Looking forward to a full-length from these guys.
Also, I still haven't heard Reznor's amibitous, forthcoming Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
OST, which could very well deserve a spot on this list.