1. Cult of Luna
A labyrinthian musical interpretation of Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis. One of the most challenging listens of the year in any genre but even more rewarding. Don’t let the metal genre fool you—this is a composition worth deciphering.
2. My Bloody Valentine
Getting this album was a bit of a chore. It wasn’t available on iTunes or Amazon or any other one-click download service. I had to create an account on the band’s site, sort through their various album packages, give away all my personal data and in the end pay $16 for a digital album. It was likely the best investment I made all year as mbv doesn’t just sound like the vintage fuzz-ache of vintage My Bloody Valentine—this is vintage My Bloody Valentine—an album out of time.
What happens when shoegazing dream states meet black metal’s dizzying speed and unrelenting riffage? As it turns out, it is something gorgeous. Sunbather washes over you, filled with terror, longing and love.
4. These New Puritans
A steep departure from beat-heavy Hidden, Reeds instead floats and sinks like a boat lost out in a storm. Deep, warm strings and synths swirl around singer Jack Barnett’s sparse lyrics creating more lost, fuzzy moments than the sleepiest tracks on Radiohead’s Kid A. It’s like anesthesia for the soul.
5. Arctic Monkeys
And then there was rock . . . big, sleazy, dumb, sexy-as-hell rock and roll full of Sabbath riffs and Dre’s beats. Nothing was as sexy as this album this year—sorry R. Kelly.
6. Queens of the Stone Age
Like Clockwork . . .
Queens frontman Josh Homme came back from the brink of death and brought a glum, glam saga with him. Like Ziggy Stardust in the second circle of hell, Homme delivers the deepest album of the band’s catalogue—if not the catchiest.
7. The Shining
One, One, One
One, One, One is the sound of a jazz musician stumbling onto industrial and metal music and thinking, ”HOLY SHIT! THIS STUFF IS GREAT!!!” It might seem a bit preposterous, but the album is full of the glee of a prodigal musician imbued with a new muse, inspired and, in this case, ready to thrash his way into the most brutal sax solos you’ve ever heard.
If you are the kind of person who thinks the new Black Sabbath album is worthy of a top-10 list, this album will scare you. If you don’t like metal, this album should work as a weapons-grade laxative. This is the kind of intricate and overwhelming metal that is weaved together by musicians who aren’t fond of formulas. Colored Sands is beautiful in its unrestrained ambition and dizzying for the same reason. Did I mention that this is a reunion album?
9. Run the Jewels
Run the Jewels
A collaboration between Killer Mike and El-P, Run the Jewels is another step in the duo’s producer-rapper collaborations. I came late to Killer Mike’s 2012 album R.A.P. Music that was produced by El-P but it quickly entered hyper rotation on my playlists early last year. Run the Jewels isn’t as furious and profound as R.A.P. Music but it features some of El-P’s best production work and the two gifted MCs sparring with each other like it is the most fun they’ve had in ages. And it is fun.
10. True Widow
The creeping sludge of True Widow isn’t quite metal, it isn’t quite indie, and it sure as hell isn’t “slowcore.” It is something along the lines of what certain people used to call the blues—I’m not talking White Stripes/Black Keys blues—I’m talking “someone killed my dog/I’m gonna kill my lover” blues that stings and spews forth like an organ grinder. And it’s from Texas.