50. THE BLACK KEYS- TURN BLUE
When “Turn Blue” dropped last spring I have to admit I was pretty disappointed. I have been a fan of the band for about a decade, watching them go from a White Stripes-influenced indie-rock upstart to very surprisingly one of the biggest rock bands in the world. The Keys last album “El Camino” was my favorite of theirs- both a huge commercial and artistic success. They had cleared the bloat of their previous albums- streamlining their sound and editing away the chaffe to deliver an album consisting of almost nothing but highlights. “Turn Blue” sees the band taking a bit of a left turn. They still, and I’m sure always will, play within the simple blues-rock template, a stripped down power duo getting back to the basics of rock n’ roll. But on “Turn Blue” they set out to make a stoner rock friendly, singles free headphones record, loosening up their sound to include psychedelic flourishes. The songs failed to distinguish themselves on the first few listens and I still only really like about half of it, but on this go round I found myself really loving a handful of tracks enough to recommend “Turn Blue”- in particular “The Weight Of Love”, “Bullet In The Brain”, “Fever” and “10 Lovers”. “Turn Blue” may not be the Keys at their absolute best but it is nice to see the group trying different things and keeping their audience on their toes.
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Buy 10 LoversAmazon
Buy Bullet in the Brain Amazon
49. PERFECT PUSSY- SAY YES TO LOVE
Perfect Pussy are a female fronted, five piece hardcore band from Syracuse, New York. The debuted in 2013 with their first EP and 2014’s “Say Yes To Love” is their full length debut after signing to indie label Captured Tracks late last year. With a name like Perfect Pussy it’s unsurprising that the group is uncompromisingly political and carries around a swagger. Outspoken front woman Meredith Graves is unapologetically feminist, singing of sex & violence, censorship, rape culture, body image & taking down the patriarchy. She comes off as optimistic rather than whiny though the vocals are buried down so far in the mix that you need the lyrics booklet next to you to understand what she is saying. I initially found most of the music off-putting though I like the group’s passion and message. But it just sounded to noisy and unintelligible. But that’s part of the point. The music is supposed to pummel, assault and incite the listener. And the more I heard it the more I was taken in by their energy. “Say Yes To Love” was not made for the masses and I know it will appeal to only a select few but like the best challenging art records, it can expand the way you think if you dig in and gives yourself over to it.
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Buy Interference Fits Amazon
Buy Driver Amazon
After delivering a handful of metal classics, Atlanta’s great Mastodon now gets penalized for anything less than epic. If “Once More ‘Round The Sun” was an unknown group’s first album it would certainly garner more acclaim. Heavy Metal music was my first love and my love of it coincides when I started becoming obsessed with music. After the hair bands dumbed down the music I lost interest for a while, sadly missing out on some awesome bands like Sepultura and Pantera. Mastodon is the group who got me interested in the genre again, even if the interest is mild in comparison to my fourteen year old self. “Once More..” mostly ditches the gargantuan epic tracks and has no trace of a concept making it feel like just a collection of songs by a great band. But that’s o.k. because the songs mostly are very good, delivered by two great but distinct vocalist who avoid the annoying cookie monster growl of much contemporary metal. And the group still displays amazing music chops, especially drummer Brann Dailor, one of the very best in the business. Mastodon manages to make such masculine, pummeling and aggressive music without being overly theatrical or too over the top and they’ve yet to have a misstep that I’ve heard.
Buy Once More ‘Round The Sun [Explicit] Amazon
Buy Ember City Amazon
Buy The Motherload Amazon
47. KING TUFF- BLACK MOON SPELL
King Tuff is singer, songwriter ad multi instrumentalist Kyle Thomas who blends together 70’s T. Rex influenced glam-rock, 60’s garage rock, punk and power pop into one package delivering the kind of fun, gut level rock and roll everyone seems to say we don’t have enough of these days. Because of several throwaway tracks “Black Moon Spell” feels a bit longer than it needs to be but choice tracks like “Headbanger”, “Rainbow’s Run” and especially “Eyes Of The Muse” make this well worth multiple spins.
Buy Black Moon Spell [+digital booklet] Amazon
Buy Eyes of the Muse Amazon
Buy Rainbow’s Run Amazon
46. THE MEN- TOMORROW’S HITS
The Men are a group likely being penalized for their consistency. The prolific Brooklyn group is on their fifth album in as many years and sees the group from noise-rockers to Neil Young & Crazyhorse. Any classic rock fan lamenting the lack of real music should check these guys out. They play with passion & they rock. The group stays loose and occasionally even sloppy like a great bar band and never feels the least bit overproduced. You can hear punk, southern rock, British blues rock and blue collar rockers like Springsteen, Petty & Seger. Though “Tomorrow’s Hits” doesn’t differ greatly from their last album “New Moon” they did record in a better studio with a bigger budget which may have led to the welcome horn additions. The Men are an old skool throwback to to the idea of slow and steady artist development. An album a year and constant touring while building their fanbase a few people at a time. There is a lot to like about the Men.
Buy Tomorrow’s Hits Amazon
Buy Different Days Amazon
Buy Another Night Amazon
45. LA SERA- HOUR OF THE DAWN
“Hour Of The Dawn” took awhile to sink in for now it has and it’s a good one. La Sera is led by singer Katy Goodman, the former bassist of all-female, lo-fi Brooklyn punk group Vivian Girls. “Hour Of The Dawn” is their third album and in press releases Goodman states that she wants this album to sound like Lesley Gore fronting Black Flag. That’s pretty on the money. The vocals are a throwback to 60’s girl groups without the wall of sound production. Guitarist/producer Ted Wisenbaker is a big weapon for La Sera, ditching the Vivian Girls lo-fi, murky production and putting the guitar front and center with Goodman’s great vocals. Wisenbaker tries on lots of styles- from Johnny Marr influenced jangle pop, to metal to punkish surf guitar. Nearly every song is a quick burst of fun. The album is over and done with in just over thirty minutes leaving you wanting more. The more album starts with its very best- the excellent “Losing To The Dark” which should be heard by more people.
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Buy Losing to the Dark Amazon
Buy Kiss This Town Away Amazon
44. DUCK SAUCE- QUACK
Duck Sauce is a dance music collaboration between Armand Van Heldon and A-Trak. The band’s hit from several years ago. “Barbara Streisand” is included and you need to check your sense of fun if you don’t like it. Much of the rest of the album is nearly as good, if not quite as memorable. Skits are intertwined between many of the songs and for once they’re actually pretty funny. The music is a mix off 70’s disco, 80’s house and modern hip hop. It’s unsubtle and in-your-face music and a blast of a listen. There is nothing deeper about “Quack” than sheer joy and fun. Party time all the way. As a bonus the album cover made my kids laugh their asses off.
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Buy Barbra Streisand [Explicit] Amazon
Buy Spandex Amazon
43. ARIEL PINK- POM POM
For me Ariel Pink is equal parts brilliant and frustrating. He makes very, very weird music- some of it impenetrable but his best stuff is undeniable. This past year Pink has made so many off-hand misogynistic comments that they’ve come across as intentional sabotage. For an artist so campy and ironic it’s tough to tell when he’s trying to put one over on his audience or the media. “Pom Pom” is a double album and it’s even excessive by Pink’s usual standards. Pink gets prime credit for inspiring the lo-fi chillwave movement, taking 70’s and early 80’s style radio music and weirding it up with tape hiss and other warped sounds so that his music sounds fresh & unique but at the same time familiar but out of time. About half of the time Pink makes jokey sounding songs with more of a punk rock edge to them but I think he’s at his best when he’s at his most sincere. While “Pom Pom” is hardly perfect and is overly long, his biggest fans will celebrate it and say that’s as it should be. Maybe so, but I still love him when he’s at his heartfelt best like on tracks “Put Your Number In MY Phone”, “One Summer Night” and “Picture Me Gone”.
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Buy Put Your Number In My Phone Amazon
Buy Picture Me Gone Amazon
42. EMA- THE FUTURE’S VOID
I know this music isn’t for everyone. I’m still wrapping my head around it myself. EMA’s last album “The Past Life Of Martyred Saints” was her breakout record- a coming of age album, about a young gay woman breaking away from her upper midwestern life and moving to L.A. “The Future’s Void” is a more outward looking, topical record performed from the point of view of a smart, righteous person. EMA is a singer-songwriter but her music is often drenched in feedback, closer to Sonic Youth or maybe early PJ Harvey than Joni Mitchell. As with her first album, not every single song stands out and “The Future’s Void” contains less immediate classic tracks than “The Past Life”. That said, great songs emerge with repeated listens like “So Blonde”, “Satellites” and “3Jane”.
Buy The Future’s Void Amazon
Buy So Blonde Amazon
Buy Satellites Amazon
41. LA ROUX- TROUBLE IN PARADISE
La Roux’s self-titled 2009 debut was an unexpected hit, led by the runaway success of brilliant crossover single “Bulletproof”, but the album was loaded with other great songs as well. Five years is a long time, but I’m a bit disappointed their follow up “Trouble In Paradise” didn’t receive more accolades and commercial success. La Roux was also formerly a duo made up of singer/songwriter and face Elly Jackson and Producer Ben Langmaid. The two were also linked romantically. Even without Langmaid La Roux maintains a similar sound. The lyrics focus on sex and romance, particularly its complications. “Trouble In Paradise” starts with a bang- the first two tracks “Uptight Downtown” and “Kiss And Not Tell” are two of the albums best. While there are a couple of other greats like “Tropical Chancer” and “Cruel Sexuality” the rest of the album, while competent, fails to distinguish. That said Elly is still a very interesting artist and any of the above songs would have sounded great on the radio. I hope La Roux aren’t forgotten soon.
Buy Trouble In Paradise Amazon
Buy Uptight Downtown Amazon
Buy Kiss And Not Tell Amazon