Friday, January 5, 2001

McQ's Best of 2009 - Recommended Mixes Volume 5 - The Harder Stuff

2009 was a solid year for metal, but very weak for hard rock, punk and rap. Nonetheless, given the underwhelming quality of most of the albums from which this material is pulled, this is one of the strongest mixes of the collection.

Similar in composition and feel to last year's Let 'Er Rip but grittier, hard rock, psychadelic freakouts, metal, drone, rap, garage, and traditional, no-fi and hardcore punk all get their due here. Listen/Subscribe on Spotify!


Solid Recommends: Fits - White Denim, Travels With Myself and Others - Future Of The Left, Journal For Plague Lovers - Manic Street Preachers, Post-Nothing - Japandroids, Horehound - The Dead Weather, Only Built For Cuban Linx Pt. 2 - Raekwon, Farm - Dinosaur Jr., Monoliths & Dimensions - Sunn O)))

Mild Recommends: Them Crooked Vultures, The Chemistry of Common Life - Fucked Up, Why There Are Mountains - Cymbals Eat Guitars, King of Jeans - Pissed Jeans

Not Recommendeds: Life...The Best Game In Town - Harvey Milk, Skeleton - Abe Vigoda

1. 60' Feet Tall - The Dead Weather
2. Barnburner - Harvey Milk
3. Scumbag Blues - Them Crooked Vultures
4. Jackie Collins Existential Question - Manic Street Preachers
5. Arming Eritrea - Future Of The Left
6. I Start To Run - White Denim
7. Crooked Head - Fucked Up
8. Lantern Lights - Abe Vigoda
9. Rockers East Vancouver - Japandroids
10. Big Church - Sunn O)))
11. Cold Outside - Raekwon
12. Some Trees (Merrit Moon) - Cymbals Eat Guitars
13. The Hope That House Built - Future Of The Left
14. Pieces - Dinosaur Jr.
15. 3 Birds - The Dead Weather
16. False Jesii Part 2 - Pissed Jeans
17. Regina Holding Hands - White Denim
18. Drink Nike - Future Of The Left
19. Journal For Plague Lovers - Manic Street Preachers
20. Wet Hair - Japandroids


Fits - White Denim: A highly spirited, southern-fried garage rock slopfest, Fits is simultaneouly one of the least disciplined and most entertaining releases of the year. The first half of the disk is mostly bluster and stomp (I Start To Run), the second half contains a number of winning power ballads (Paint Yourself, Regina Holding Hands) and psychedelic freak-outs (Syncn), but regardless of your favorite genre, if you like your rock loose, unpretentious and absolutely free-wheeling, I highly recommend this disk (try to get the set that includes earlier release Exposion for no extra charge...the track Transparency, on the Nancy's Favorites mix, came of that bonus CD).

Travels With Myself And Others - Future Of The Left: If fiercely political, poorly sung but nonetheless hooky, old-fashioned punk is your thing, then this snarling Irish trio's latest offering is the album for you. Taking on every establishment or anti-establishment icon under the sun...including condescending elders (Arming Eritrea), organized religion (The House That Hope Built, Lapsed Catholics), hypocritical environmentalists (You Let Your Manatee Down), and out-of-control consumerism (Drink Nike)...Travels is one tightly wound, propulsive rant...and in my opinion, the year's best punk album...33 minutes of hysterical, unrelenting bile.

Post Nothing - Japandroids: No album gets punished more in my rankings for mix quality this year than this debut outing from a young Canadian garage/punk duo. Based on song/performance quality alone, this album is an easy strong recommend...uniformly excellent, propulsive tunes played with tons of youthful passion. But the band's decision to go trendy no-fi with their mix kills their already limited vocals, making what should be a great, energetic listen a bit of a struggle. Still well worth the money, but had they gone for a little more polish, they might have ended up with one of the year's top albums instead of just an underground critical fave.

Horehound - The Dead Weather: Yet another side project for the White Stripe's Jack White, this is his heaviest, hardest hitting, most psychedelic effort yet. Focusing on nasty, primal blues soaked grooves rather than sharp turns or melodies, fans of the Stripe's poppier efforts probably aren't going to dig this one much, and in all honesty, the sound, not the fairly mediocre songs, is the main draw here...but when the band hits on all cylinders and front woman Allison Mosshart (from the Kills) gets it going, this is one of the nastiest records of the year. Very spotty, but cool with awesome peaks.

Only Built For Cuban Lynx, Part II - Raekwon: The only rap album featured in this year's collection is another Wu Tan Clan alum hardcore, pushers working the streets, gansta-epic. Though Wu Tan compadre Ghostface Killah adds a lot of production help, this is a far grittier, less musically adventurous work than Ghost's 2000s efforts, with a greater emphasis on the words as opposed to the beats. Critics ate this one up in even topped one or two lists...but I'm lukewarm on it and found significant chunks a bit boring. For serious rap fans only.

Them Crooked Vultures: Fairly disappointing jammy debut from new supergroup comprised of Queens of The Stone Age's frontman Joshua Homme, Nirvana/Foo Fighter's Dave Grohl, and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. Though the band has chops to spare, Homme unfortunately dominates the songwriting, and the end result feels like just another second rate Queens of the Stone Age release (which we've gotten a lot of this last half decade). Still, Homme and crew do knock one track out of the park with the fabulous, Cream-styled Scumbag Blues, which feels like it was lifted right off of Disreali Gears. But otherwise, as with Raekwon for rap fans, I recommend this one for hardcore fans of Queens of the Stone Age styled material only.

The Chemistry of Common Life - Fucked Up: Passionate, smart, but murky hardcore punk offering from a young Canadian sextet. With layers of feedbacking guitars piled upon layers of feedbacking guitars burying most of the instrumental melodies (that I think in a cleaner approach would start to feel quite Who-like), I find it a difficult album to process on a purely auditory level, but fans of aggressive, metal-leaning punk will probably like this one a great deal.

Life...The Best Game In Town - Harvey Milk: Highly celebrated 2008 heavy metal album, considered by many one of best metal releases of the decade, primarily for it's reintroduction of gallows humor to the genre. There's some definite creative touches here, like turning verses of the Velvet Underground's I'm Waiting For My Man and the Beatle's A Day In The Life into mock suicide anthems at the end of album opener Death Goes To The Winner. But in all honesty, for me, it was just more of that same old thrashy, gutteral vocal-led sludge that's dominated metal for the last 25 years ever since Metalica hit the scene. So other than the nimble Barn Burner, included here, not my cup of tea.
Next Best Tracks: Death Goes to The Winner, Motown

Skeleton - Abe Vigoda: 2008 debut for these no-fi punk rockers and regular denizens of L.A.'s Smell, the same club that launched No Age. Though promoted heavily last year by Pitchfork, this is without question my least favorite listen of the last twelve months. To their credit, they do occassionally hit a intriquing Love/Echo & the Bunnyman flavored groove, but the majority of the time I found this combination of amateurism, expirementalism and that awful no-fi asthetic unlistenable. Lantern Heights, my one selection from this trendy turd, is the best of the three tracks on the disk I can actually stomach. Save your money on this one.

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