Sept. 201. Drive-By Truckers, “American Band”The hype is high for this new one. NPR Music has already said on the record that it “may be their greatest album.” The new album is powerful and emotionally charged with the frustrations of working folks all over the country. Let’s find out together if it can channel all this energy into something worth remembering.
2. Bon Iver, “22 A Million”Bon Iver never grabbed me. The first time I heard “For Emma Forever Ago,” I wrote it off as pure, no-holds-barred, hipster bullshit. Justin Vernon’s music then promptly fell off my radar. But with the relentless nagging of my friend Gareth, I succumbed to the fuzz that is “22 A Million.” This year, at Vernon’s festival Eaux Claires, he premiered the album in full and I was blown away, as it was steeped in massive amount of chamber feedback and old analog vocoder work, bringing in hooks and melodies out of nowhere while simultaneously embracing the tape delay prowess of people like Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. The album is no different. It’s a somber trip that feels all too familiar while at the same time being completely alien to any of Bon Iver’s contemporaries.
3. Alcest, “Kodama”Alcest is an enigma in the metal world. Starting out as a pure, third-wave black metal solo act by multi-instrumentalist Neige, Alcest gained popularity (and notoriety) for adding in elements of shoe gaze and post rock, eventually settling into a comfort zone of quiet, contemplative rock music. With “Kodama,” the fifth full-length from the project, Neige has embraced the most appealing elements of his sound and coalesced them into what I consider to be his masterpiece.
4. Opeth, “Sorceress”If you haven’t been paying attention to Opeth over the years, you may still think that they are one of the more artistically proficient death metal bands. But do not be mistaken: They no longer make death metal music. “Sorceress” and the three preceding albums, have seen Mikael Akerfeldt and Co. turn into a ’70s prog worship band. Songs like “The Wilde Flowers” will fit right alongside your Jethro Tull and Blue Oyster Cult jam sessions. The artistic and technical proficiency is still present, and Akerfeldt’s vocals have a wonderful warmth to them that serves to even more solidify that this album is actually a time capsule from 1971 and it’s all a sick joke on Opeth’s part.
5. Danny Brown, “Atrocity Exhibition”The weird voice. The gap in his teeth. Beats that make you think you might be dying. The Adderal admiral returns. Danny Brown has embraced his place in the modern hip-hop game as a black sheep. He cites Joy Division as a huge influence on the album’s sound. Beyond the obvious link in the title, the cold beats build without breaking, giving an unease that would make Ian Curtis proud and scare away all the x-ed out candy kids waiting for the drops that seem to permeate modern hip-hop production. Throw on top of that an amazing use of the rap language, features from heavy-hitters like Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, Earl Sweatshirt and even B-Real of Cypress Hill.