This is, more than most years, a reflection of where I am at the end of the year than what happened over the course of the year, because my tastes crossed a line somewhere and I can't see what was on the other side of it. I could almost make a list to mirror this one (probably bigger, actually) of things I thought would be on my best-of list, but eventually got cut without a second thought. But I'm not going to.
25) Yearling - Yearling
When David Lynch was writing lyrics for Angelo Badalamenti, Badalamenti complained that they weren't lyrics, because you couldn't make a song out of them. Lynch told him not to try to make a song fit the words, but just to make the words float. The same principle, if not the sound, applies here.
24) The Smith Westerns - The Smith Westerns
Trashy rock and roll, somewhere between garage and glam and power pop.
23) IUD - The Proper Sex
Another harsh, grating industrial noise album, like many others on this list. The songs are a lot like actual songs, mostly. But not entirely.
22) T.I.T.S. - Second Base
Lots of feedback and harsh post-hardcore guitar noises, with a melodic style reminiscent of The Residents. Imagine Lee Ranaldo and Bikini Kill doing a cover of The Commercial Album.
21) Rabid Rabbit - Rabid Rabbit LP
Gritty, metal-derived art noise that manages to avoid being pompous on the merits of simply being just that good.
20) Cheveau - Cheveau
Crunchy electro-punk with the recording budget equivalent to that of your average visit to the local Aldi.
19) Yoko Ono & The Plastic Ono Band - Between My Head and the Sky
In a couple of months, I might wish I had put this higher on the list, but I haven't taken the time to fall in love with it yet. Yoko's collaborators on this record, the new Plastic Ono Band, fully appreciate what her eccentricity contributes to her music, but keep her grounded enough to make the album fluid and (by my estimation) far more palatable to the average listener.
18) Liechtenstein - Survival Strategies for the Modern World
Icy Swedish new wave pop with impeccable melodies and harmonies that are actually harmonious, unlike some bands that are getting famous this year (coughcoughviviangirlscough).
17) Baroness - The Blue Album
Another statement in defense of metal as a truly magnificent art form, eloquently stated.
16) Throbbing Gristle - The Third Mind Movements
I'm not sure these cats are human.
15) Death - For All The World to See
Another amazing "new" record this year that was recorded almost 35 years ago. Urgent, honest punk rock from Detroit, circa 1975.
14) The Ganglians - Monster Head Room
It's like Brian Wilson and Syd Barrett and a large bottle of glue had a magical weekend together.
13) Pissed Jeans - King of Jeans
Sort of like The Jesus Lizard taking late-period Black Flag songs and making them not suck. I play this a lot when I'm really annoyed by someone.
12) Black Heart Procession - Six
If Nick Cave had an album called "Songs for Funerals," it would sound like this. It rolls along slowly, considering every move carefully, and savoring the morbidity of each note.
11) St. Vincent - Actor
The first few times I heard St. Vincent, back when her first album came out, I lumped her in with boring female singer-songwriters with pretty voices, and ignored all the surprisingly weird stuff she was doing. I figured it out later -- just in time for Actor, which is bombastic in all the right places and manages to be good despite being cute.
10) Coathangers - Scramble
I was initially disappointed that this album wasn't as childish and silly as its predecessor, but it eventually weaseled its way into my heart. One of the few garage rock records I'm not getting bored with right now.
9) Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You
Shut up. I get to have a guilty pleasure. I don't know why I like such a tarted up pop sensation, but I can't deny that I think the songs are really fun. As you may have noticed, there are a lot of serious bummer jams on this list, and this is the cure.
8) Nothing People - Late Night
Aptly titled. This is music for 4am when any more coffee won't keep you awake, or even give you the shakes, it'll just fray your nerves even more. Unusual noises with lots of open spaces.
7) Pisces - A Lovely Sight
I'm not sure if it's a statement about me or the year we've had that one of my top ten records is a 40-year-old psych record that was never released. But my god, is it good. It's stunning that with all the labels trying to dig up rare psychedelia, it took the Numero Group, who are known mainly for their soul albums, to bring this one to light.
6) Evangelista - Prince of Truth
Carla Bozulich can do no wrong in my eyes. Far more gentle than her previous albums with Evangelista, but no less potent.
5) Kurt Vile - Childish Prodigy
Believe the hype. Vile takes the boring old "sad, skinny white guy with an acoustic guitar" idea and reinvents it with lush production and deconstruction, and launches us into inner space.
4) Magik Markers - Balf Quarry
No-wave and noisy avant-garde music with a strong foundation in punk rock. Every time you think they're just brainy wanks, they crank out some adrenaline and play some blazing-ass rock and roll.
3) Flaming Lips - Embryonic
Krautrock is alive and well and living in... Oklahoma City? After a long flirtation with being a pop band, the Flaming Lips have given it up, and in doing so may have turned out the best album of their career.
2) Vee Dee - Public Mental Health System
The psychedelic sounds of what happens when you fall 13 floors without an elevator.
1) Zola Jesus - The Spoils / Zola Jesus & Burial Hex - Split LP
Imagine Diamanda Galas singing for Suicide. Cold, distorted synthetic sounds and one of the most amazing voices I've ever heard. When this music plays, it's hard for me not to stop and stare at the stereo in awe.