Oct. 71. Meshuggah, “The Violent Sleep of Reason”Meshuggah has been making mind-bending metal music for as long as I’ve been alive. They are the band that introduced me to the idea of concept albums, that songs can be a half hour and not be boring. They taught me words like “abnegation” and “pravus,” and the concept of ego deconstruction when I was very young. Meshuggah is dear to me. They make an overly-technical type of metal that can be very hard to listen to. You will be able to bob your head to it for maybe 20 seconds before you have to rethink your rhythm. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone willing to try something new.
2. Green Day, “Revolution Radio”Green Day is back, and continuing its relentless trek across a vast ocean of punk rock fans who don’t know Anti-Flag exist. Will the new album win back any of the street cred they lost when they made a Broadway play? I don’t know. Probably not. “Bang Bang” and the title track both sound like songs that didn’t make the cut on “American Idiot.” But regardless of my feelings about the band, they are important, and still remain culturally relevant in an age when commercial punk rock consists of maybe three bands. For that I give them props.
3. Phish, “Big Boat”Getting this out of the way early: I am not a Phish fan. The single of this one, “Breath and Burning,” sounded as if Michael Franti or Jack Johnson had access to a brass section. The lyrics are playful metaphors that are relatable until you think about them for too long. If that gets your giblets jumbling then, by all means, jam out and get crazy.
4. Shovels and Rope, “Little Seeds”Shovels and Rope is a husband and wife roots folk duo out of South Carolina who play a soulful, cynical type of folk that pulls some influence out of punk-rock attitude. Think Townes Van Zandt or Neko Case with a little bit more energy, or Shakey Graves with a bit more of an edge. It’s beer-drinking music. Or, if you have the funds, bourbon-drinking music.
5. Xylouris White, “Black Peak”I saw these guys open for Godspeed You! Black Emperor earlier this year and they blew me away. Consisting of drummer Jim White, whom you may know from the weird Australian rock band Dirty Three, and George Xylouris playing the Cretan (as in the Greek island) lute, these guys make a, frankly, awesome blend of folk music, world music and free-form rock that utterly baffled me when I saw it live. White plays with such ferocity and precision while also maintaining a higher base level of swagger than any rapper could dream of. I saw him throw a stick up in the air and have it hit the snare on time while the man took a drink from his beer. Xylouris seemed a master of his craft as well, jamming out melodies on an unfamiliar instrument that blur the eyes and ears. On top of that, he has a wonderful voice, calling to mind folk songs of a bygone age. Highly recommended.