20. Deathspell Omega - Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum
This is probably some of the most toneless and heavy black metal that I have ever heard. At all the blasting parts, it seems so busy, chaotic, jumbled, and incredibly difficult to discern what exactly is going on and the notes which are being played, more so than most metal. However, after various listens, I came to the conclusion that it’s the contrast of those parts with their strange avant-doom (someone please tell me a better way to describe it) breaks that make this album so…intense, dark, and ferocious. Also, as with a lot of metal on the heavier side of the spectrum, there are many little parts that catch my ear and stand out, making this album so worth sitting through.
19. El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
This album is bleaker than a walk through a hard section of New York on a rainy day. Rap was something I always imagined to be for the sake of fun, but some of these songs are so depressing/dark that it’s nearly painful (in a good way, though). El-P pulls off songs about prison and hard city life in a unique and fresh manner, which is quite a commendable accomplishment for an MC. His flow is definitely my least favorite part of this album, but the beats completely redeem any problems I have with it. Not to mention, guest appearances by numerous musicians/rappers (The Mars Volta, Cat Power, Aesop Rock) is a big plus.
18. Radiohead – In Rainbows
Before this release, my only experience with Radiohead was Kid A, which I find to be exceptional but rarely find the desire to listen to. This album doesn’t quite meet those standards. The first half of the album is stellar, but after that it seems to really drop in quality. I know that they’ve already released two electronica(?) albums, but I really wish that Thom and company would expand more on the sound heard in songs like “15 Step”. It’s easily the strongest and catchiest aspect of the band, and starting the album with a tease like that and then following with their good-but-not-great alternative rock side is a little disappointing. This is a good album, but at the same time, predictable, and definitely not as great as many hipsters would like to claim.
17. The Pax Cecilia – Blessed Be the Bonds
The Pax Cecilia is an awesome screamo turned avant-post-metal outfit that offered (or maybe still offers, check their website to find out) their album for free to anyone who wanted a copy…and I mean, an actual copy, with ace packaging and all. I like free stuff, so I got it without really knowing what to expect, but it was a very pleasant surprise. One thing that is clear about this band is that their direction is very unclear. All the elements are present, but are constructed in an awkward manner. Some songs are really slow and have a neat classical feel to them, some of them remind me of Isis with strings, and some of them (the last one specifically) remind me of Tool at their slower moments. All of these sides are pretty great, but the album has a feel of disunity that it can’t quite shake. However, I definitely look forward to where this band goes in the future.
16. Becoming the Archetype – The Physics of Fire
This is an album that, at first listen, I was positive that it would be in my top five, if not number one. It was just so…epic and powerful, to be brief. However, after more and more listens, I have to agree with those who say that the progressive qualities of the band almost…weaken them. What’s worse, it seems a little tacked on. Becoming the Archetype was never a cookie-cutter hardcore band to begin with, but there’s something about the new and old sounds that doesn’t mix completely, and they still seem to be trying to figure out exactly what band they want to be. Maybe I’m wrong and they’re quite sure of themselves, and there are still many things to enjoy about this band. Alex’s solos and clean vocals are a great addition, and there are still heavy as balls moments that will simply destroy you. A pretty dang good album, just not exactly what I expected from this band.
15. The Dear Hunter – Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading
I love Casey Crescendo’s song-writing abilities, and the way he so carefully layers strings and other instruments with the traditional rock instrument set-up, creating some really awesome, catchy progressive pop/indie-rock. However, this album does have one major flaw: it’s simply too long. It starts off with so much energy and lift that when I first listened, I seriously could not believe how good it was. Unfortunately, my instincts were right, and it drops in quality and memorable song-writing after about five songs in. There are definitely some memorable tracks that follow, such as “Red Hands”, “Smiling Swine”, and “Blood of the Rose”, but they are buried in songs that while good, are considerably skippable. I understand that this is a concept album, which makes it difficult for the artist to cut anything out or render something as filler, but clocking in at nearly 80 minutes, it definitely could have been shorter. All that being said, it’s still a great album, just a little inconsistent.
14. Fair to Midland – Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True
This album is catchier than that new sweater you got that always seems to pick-up animal hair no matter what you do, only in a good way. Alright, terrible similes aside, Fair to Midland does an incredible job on this album of just making really good rock songs, with awesome guitar lines/riffs, beautiful piano melodies, and Darroh’s incredible vocals, which range from really low to, well, really high, and then some almost nu-metal harsh vocals in between (don’t worry, the latter is only really in one song, and even then, it’s awesome). At first, this album sounded pretty repetitious, but after listening to it quite a few times, the songs begin to separate, you remember the distinct melodies and lyrics (which are incredibly fun to sing-along to, by the way), and that’s when this album truly gains the great replay value it has.
13. Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Another rockin’ album from a good ole’ rockin’ band. This album, however, adds a whole lot more dancey elements…maybe not in the traditional sense, but listen to songs like “Dashboard” or “We’ve Got Everything” and tell me if you didn’t just get up and dance. If the answer is no, you’re probably paralyzed. It’s a huge contrast from the more folky, raw sound of three guys rocking out that Modest Mouse used to be, but I welcome this change, as it’s both catchy and, well, different. Not to mention, they still keep up the older sound on excellent tracks such as “Parting of the Sensory”…maybe not as much as myself and other fans had hoped, but it’s there, and the balance of these two dimensions is what makes this album so fun and just awesome.
12. Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
This is just a great album from a great post-rock band. While bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sigur Ros focus on the more textural and ambient side of the genre, Explosions in the Sky focuses mainly (or it would seem on this album) on creating beautiful, shape-shifting, rocky, epic songs with incredible builds and breathtaking climaxes. “The Birth and Death of a Day” gets the album off to a perfect start, and seems like the catchiest and overall best song on the album at first listen, but as you continue through the album, it takes on an incredible feeling of loneliness, which is surprisingly comforting. I still think I prefer bands like Yndi Halda and Godspeed You! to Explosions, but they still cannot match the rockin’ side of the post-rock genre that Explosions in the Sky pulls off so well, especially on this album. Excellent stuff.
11. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum – In Glorious Times
Sleepytime is just plain weird, and this album proves that to be quite true. It starts off with the slow moving yet building “The Companions”, and like this track, the album crawls on, slowly progressing and yet keeping you entertained for every second of it. “Helpless Corpses Enactment” follows with a much more fast paced, heavy edge, but that isn’t really seen much again for the rest of the album. Strangest is the track “The Greenless Wreath”, where Nils slowly crawls through his vocals over top of a cacophony of strings and guitars, giving off an incredibly chilling feel. Unfortunately, this album suffers from little replay value. This is sad, as it is a rewarding listen, but the replay value of it all is next to nothing.
10. Ulver – Shadows of the Sun
This is such an excellent and chill album, and listening to it whilst drifting off into sleep is one of the most pleasant experiences in the world. It begins with “Eos”, a simple song based completely off of held out synth notes, with violins slowly entering and Garm singing “The sun is far away…it goes in circles…” almost in a soft, low whisper. It then moves to the second track, “All the Love”, where drums are added (and present for most of the album) and a beautiful monolith of piano and stings take over. One member has stated that he took a year off to study classical music prior to this release, and you can really tell. Most surprising is a Black Sabbath cover, which, while sounding incredibly odd for a band like Ulver, fits very well with this album. I can really this holding up after dozens of listens.
9. Thrice – The Alchemy Index: Volume I + II - Fire & Water
I really like Vheissu, and while I hate to say it, I really think it pales in comparison to these two joint EP’s. The fire disc is as ferocious and crushing as it needs to be, and the heavy moments top just about anything of it’s sort on Vheissu. What is the most rewarding about this release, however, is the water disc. Dustin has an amazing voice, and it really shows as he sings overtop an orchestra of soft keyboards, creating a beautiful oceanic setting. Most remarkable of all is how close Thrice gets to actually sounding like fire and water should sound, chaotic and peaceful. I look forward to Earth and Air with little patience.
8. The Shins – Wincing the Night Away
This dreamy slab of rock took me awhile to really get into it, but once I did, I found it an enthralling experience A lot of the tracks have a really sleepy feel to it, which I love, but the best thing about this album is how thick and textural it is when it needs to be, and at the same time, it can be very thin and simplistic. This album also sees The Shins trying a few new tricks, such as the trip-hop beat in Sealegs, which might I add, is one of the better songs off of this disc. A nice mix of folk, indie rock, and commendable experimentation makes this a top ten album for 2007.
7. Kiss Kiss – Reality vs. The Optimist
Kiss Kiss is just a straight-up, awesome indie rock band. They remind me a bit of Cursive, but while Cursive is sitting around with his friends discussing deep issues such as the church and the emotional pains of divorce, Kiss Kiss is the cheery little sibling who is just more fun to hang around. The strings are the high point of this album, but the rest of the band isn’t left on the backburner. In addition, the vocals are beautiful and in songs like “Vagabond”, absolutely crushing. One of my biggest complaints is that this album really could be longer, as with such talented musicians and song-writers, 30 minutes is just too much of a tease, but it doesn’t become a really big issue. That said, they should be releasing a new album of some sort sometime this year (I hope), and if it’s as good as this and maybe a little more lengthy, it’ll be a major contender for the top spot.
6. Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass
Aesop Rock is excellent, and embodies everything I enjoy about rap—catchy and creative beats with good instrumentation, and a memorable and unorthodox flow. I’m not sure if the beats are all just samples and programming or if a lot of them, such as the guitar, horns and stand-up bass, are raw recordings, but if it’s the latter, then this album has some incredible musicianship packed into it. His flow is unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and that along with his thoughtful, intelligent (and sometimes nerdy) lyrics make this the best experience I’ve ever had with the genre. That being said, I haven’t listened to a lot of non-commercial rap, so that may take away from the validity of the statement, but I would easily recommend this to anyone with even the slightest interest in good hip-hop.
5. Cephalic Carnage – Xenosapien
Cephalic Carnage are masters of all things heavy, and they’ve done nothing but improved their sound on this release. A melting pot of death metal, grindcore, and doom, this album is quite a behemoth. Their previous two efforts were both excellent, but had some pretty prominent flaws, such as a poor use (and sometimes no use at all) of repetition, and hit-or-miss riffage. This time, the riffs are at their best (which is also helped by superb mixing), and repetition is used to it’s full potential to create some catchy and head-banging songs. Basically, this is the most enjoyable and technically proficient album Cephalic Carnage has crafted, and really my go-to album if I want something just plain heavy.
4. As Cities Burn – Come Now Sleep
After “Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest”, which was a triumph of emotive hardcore, As Cities Burn lost their vocalist and decided to disband. However, due an outcry of fans, they decided to continue without the presence of T.J., a seemingly daunting task. However, what resulted was even better than their previous album, but at the same time, completely different. Gone are the heavy breakdowns and nearly constant harsh vocals, and taking their place is a slew of atmospheric, chilled-out post-hardcore with a beautiful bluesy sound and the most honest lyrics I have ever heard in a “Christian” band. Cody was apparently dealing with a lot of doubt in God and rejection of standards of “Christian” thinking, and it’s something that I can relate to more than most artists. Because of this, Come Now Sleep holds a close place in my heart.
3. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Ire Works
The magnum opus of Dillinger's career. Here they successfully mix everything that was great about their previous releases, and some how manage to improve on every bit of it. The heavy, tech-metal moments are up to par with 90% of Calculating Infinity, and I all the pop tracks are more enjoyable than any off of Miss Machine. But what is even better is here we see Dillinger do the above, while still adding more freshness to the mix. Strange glitchy electronica can be heard on quite a few tracks, not to mention the last track, which has a pretty extensive jazzy section that will get your toe tapping in less than one measure. What's bad about this album? Some could complain that a few riffs sound recycled. I honestly don't hear this at all, except for one riff on Black Bubblegum which sounds like a slowed-down section of "When Good Dogs...", but it really isn't close enough to bother me at all. All fellating aside, this album lives up to its name with intense and wrathful tracks, but there's so much more beyond that. People will look for reasons to hate it, but after dozens of listens, it's beyond anything this band has ever accomplished.
2. Kaddisfly – Set Sail the Prairie
There’s just something about this album that I absolutely love. It’s really long…probably even painfully long if you haven’t given it enough time to settle. But there’s just something about the atmosphere it creates, the beautiful and poppy guitar melodies, and the breathtaking vocals of Christopher Ruff. He has an incredible range and can get higher than you’d believe without sounding the least bit “whiney” or clichéd. I also love how varied the guitar work is. Some moments sound really smooth and poppy, some sound really jazzy, and in some songs it almost sounds sludgy, such as the epic Snowflakes. This right here is simply a great, large helping of modern prog-pop.
1. Between the Buried and Me – Colors
I’m still not sure if I enjoy this as much as Alaska, but I’m pretty certain that it’s a better album overall. I’m sure you, the reader, have already heard about how brilliant this band is, mixing progressive rock, jazz, and hell, even some country into their own brew of technical metalcore, so I’ll spare you more ranting. I believe this album to be brilliantly constructed and executed, and the prowess of the music itself justifies any complaints of the pretentiousness behind it. Colors is, plain and simple, one of the best metal albums I have ever heard—and that’s saying a lot.
There you are. Tell me what you agree/disagree with, or if I missed your favorite...keep in mind, there are a lot of albums I have yet to hear.