The Records That Were Important to Me This Year But Not Necessarily Released This Year, pt. 2

And while this may be a list, it is in no way in any order.
To continue this diatribe of what my neighbors have heard thumping through the wall, there was just way too many notable albums I’ve enjoyed this year. Some old, some new, and all important, to me at least.

Harry Nilsson

Duit On Mon Dei

Nilsson made a name for himself penning such classics as “One,” “Me and My Arrow” (from the first feature length cartoon, The Point!), and many others. Also widely known as either “The Fifth Beatle” (a few hold that title) or “The American Beatle,” his penchant for melody, quirky songs (check out “I’d Rather Be Dead” from Son of Schmilsson), and his astounding five-octave range certainly gave him the fuel and the know-how to becaome famous the world over. Alas, his later stuff, like Duit On Mon Dei, proved to be far too weird to be accepted into the mainstream. Where once he had Lennon on lost weekends (a product of, Pussycats, having stood the test of time and recently covered in its entirety by none other than The Walkmen) now finds him still with a record contract but a waning fan base that had moved onto the world-changing punk rock or the damning disco.

Opening the album with a shortened, demo version of “Jesus Christ You’re Tall” proves that he had kind of stopped caring by this point. There was no single from this record though a few would’ve fit perfectly in his earlier canon. The standout “Down by the Sea” is a more realized version than what popped up on the aforementioned Pussycats, a sort of homage to both wonderful songcraft and his work on the Popeye movie soundtrack.

I still am in awe that not more people dig this fellow after realizing the legion of influence the man had on modern pop/psych/kookyness. Died while working on his comeback record, Nilsson lived a wild, satiating life. At times confrontational and others gentle, this monster will never be forgotten in the Buckets household.



The unlikely duo of Ari Benjamin Meyers (Einstürzende Neubauten) and Chris Spencer (Unsane) doesn’t make much sense on paper. One, an experimental, homemade instrument German outsider, and the other, a straight-forward aggression-laden tough guy from Brooklyn, put together an amazing record and sound in Halo.

Seemingly more Unsane than Neubauten, the violence and coarseness of Spencer’s voice overshadows all the the layers going on in opener, “A Thousand Charms.” By the time this juggernaut of a band gets to “It’s Low,” every instrument falls into place, whether birthed in a creepy German apartment or not.

I didn’t hear anything about this in the rumor mill and nearly passed it up when it came in a package of materials to review solely because the album artwork BLOWS. Lucky for me I  read the bio and instantly dove in. The subsequent injuries are ones that only death can heal.

Recommended for long drives through the country.

The Flaming Lips


I had been a reticent supporter of the Oklahoma weirdos ever since a friend, Patrick Bower, introduced me to Clouds Taste Metallic back in the day. Sure, they had the “…Jelly” hit earlier but I was one of the kids that didn’t have cable growing up nor did I listen to the radio much. (You see, the radio didn’t play anything from Bleach or from the band Mortification…therefore it did me no good.)

Continuing after …Metallic was the 4-disc ball-buster Zaireeka. Luckily by the time of that release I was entrenched in the fertile music scene of Bloomington, Indiana and was able to attend a few ear-bleeding Zaireeka parties. Then the heart- and Earth-shattering The Soft Bulletin came out and I was convinced that we have the new Floyd on our hands.

Then there was the era where I didn’t even know the Lips anymore. Their three record descent into a pop candy hell went on without my ears. The bright colors, radio “hits,” and subsequent fame interested me little…all due to the music itself. I would never go so far to say that they sold out…it just seems that they were attempting to do too many things at one time.

The news of Embryonic came and went for me. I no longer cared. I happened upon a download online of the entire record (legal, mind you. It was through one of my outlets) so I decided upon a quick listen. It was free, after all.

And after all this time, I knew who I was listening to. And why I was listening to it. Here was the classic Lips, decked out in their singular song structures where the melody can, and usually does, venture off wherever necessary (picture a Priest Driven Ambulance, physically as well as an aural example of the circle of Lips). The sounds generated by these meddling old men can be both alarming and gentle (“Aquarius Sabotage” is a perfect example of this) as well as both familiar and foreign (“The Ego’s Last Stand” has parts that are reminiscent of Zaireeka).

I do have to say that leader Coyne’s attitude and disposition is something that I have always been behind even during his crappy music phase. I sincerely believe him to be a good role model for the lil’ weirdos, a fresh and honest voice in this world of ass-kissing, and a pioneer in both what is possible with a band and how far one can take one’s talents and still have someone else pretty much foot the bill.

(Sorry, I couldn’t find a postable video of their better video for “Watching the Planets.”)

Bill Callahan

Sometimes I Wish I Were an Eagle

Fact: I have never been a Smog fan. Nor even a fan of his first solo, Woke on a Whaleheart. They just simply bored me.

I don’t know what happened. It could’ve been myself that changed and accepted such soft and lovely tomes like “The Wind and the Dove,” or he just got much, much better at what he does: a heavy, heady voice over the simplest of melodies. My profound respect for this record was not even dented by the info that in real life the guy is a complete cocksucker, and that says something as I usually write those bastards off quicker than one can say Win Butler. Possibly the impossibility in my head that the author of beauties like this collection could be a shadow of a prick has skewed my perception to be completely false…or maybe the man is completely commodious…just misunderstood.

Though we now live in the same city I will never know for I have no plans to hang out with the guy…I will simply sit and rock by the speakers to the timeless tunes of “Eid Ma Clack Shaw,” “Rococo Zephyr,” and “My Friend.”

Your hard heart, Bill, has softened mine.


Worship or Die

I’ve gone on and on about black metal and all that surrounds it: recent popularity, history, and my love for all of it. I have enjoyed the elders in the genre (Darkthrone, Gorgoroth, Immortal, et al.) and the recently-crowned kings (Watain, Leviathan, Krallice, et al.) and everything in between (Hellsaw, Arckanum, Woe, blah blah). I stumbled upon Italy’s Hiems this year on a whim from a review that I read and was simply amazed.

Amazed that, although nothing really new, a release like Worship or Die could sound this exciting. Mostly midtempo (sorry blastbeat hangers-on) wretched mayhem, Hiems takes the greatest parts of Watain (evil groove), Anaal Nathrakh (tasteful, effective samples), and Leviathan (in-the-red decimation) and delivers it in a simple punch across the face. The choruses can be catchy (“Scum Destroyer”), the verses clean and melodic but not annoying (“Race With the Devil”), and the musicianship is all around top-notch; Worship or Die is even more proof that year-end best-of lists are entirely useless.

How many more gems like this are there out there? Countless, I’m assuming.

(Sorry, there is no video of Hiems available. Dig this photo montage instead.)

Iron Age

The Sleeping Eye

Discovered a mere week ago (thank you, Chris Mammothgrinder), Austin, TX’s Iron Age were a hardcore band not long ago. Morphing into a death/thrash powerhouse with the release of The Sleeping Eye seems to be the best thing for them…because they are near-perfect at it.

Breakdowns aplenty, solos puddled here and there, and patience to move slow enough to fully develop ideas, it is no wonder that now-metal-giants Baroness picked these guys for the opening slot on their world domination tour. Dueling, melodic guitar lines fall right into half-time stretchings that eventually blossom into a nasty stench not easily washed off.

Anyone else pick up the Om-worshiping groans of opener “The Sleeping Eye of the Watcher”? Yeah, it was my favorite part of Shrinebuilder, too.



Colorado’s snow-ridden solo-black metal dude Cobalt is fucking weird. At times menacing (“Arsonry”) and others gentle (“Pregnant Insect”), Cobalt is an honest-to-god all-over-the-place cornucopia of madness, luckily not to the extreme of a Mike Patton project, though.

My loved mid-tempo rage makes up most of Gin, though it is not all “black metal,” per se. There’s thrash, death, and basic rock ‘n roll infused throughout. Could this be the album that gets those friends of yours that “should be into black metal” a ticket to what it’s all about?


It is hard to pin down what it is about Gin that makes it so unique; the antique photo on the cover snagged me, sure, and it is an interesting choice, the combination of clean and screech is alluring, and the freedom each song has to go anywhere is really important. I can’t pick a single thing…this is just something to experience.

(Audio only)


Hunt Like Devil EP/Jamz EP

Psych and jammy music has had a mild resurgence lately. Maybe it is due to the interwebs opening up genres for money-wielding kids to delve into, or maybe it’s the near-mainstream acceptance of marijuana that has munched on a need for “tunes.” Whatever the case, Chicago’s Cave do an excellent job of losing not only the listener but themselves in a washed out mind trip worthy of poor fashion choices and glassy-eyed encounters with society.

I had heard word of them through the Permanent Records newsletter and a few friends. While doing the merch table for a friend I witnessed their controlled mayhem at the Hideout one cool summer night. I could take my eyes off the group of pals playing off of each other wildly and with abandon…farfisas, leslies, and melodicas, oh my!

This may just be good drugs at work (none of the actual musicianship is that great) or taste-makers on the horizon…nevertheless Cave is as fun as mind-bending background music goes.


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