Normally I go in alphabetical order when listing new releases that I'm interested in, but I'm letting The Whigs cut the line because I am on my third listen today of their excellent new album In The Dark and I've listened to nothing else but because this record is just hitting the spot and I can't get enough. There is not a wasted track on here and practically every one is instantly memorable.
I've heard The Whigs called both alt-country and garage rock and both of those labels are grossly inaccurate. Their last album Mission Control was my #3 record of 2008 and there was nothing alt-country or garage rock about it...it was just a straight up fun alternative rock record. Hell, the second track on that album, "Production City" actually sounds like a lost INXS track (more "What You Need" than "Never Tear Us Apart"). This new record still has some elements of that late '80s alternative rock sound, but is more akin to the alternative rock that absolutely dominated modern rock stations in the '90s. If In The Dark had been released 15 years ago, then it would have ruled the airwaves and MTV along with Marcy Playground, The Toadies, Semisonic, The New Radicals, Smashing Pumpkins and another band that got a start out of the The Whigs hometown of Athens, GA, the legendary R.E.M. Now you might be scoffing and thinking that doesn't sound appealing at all, but I'm not saying that they sound like any of those bands or are in any sense a retro band at all. The record simply has a similar vibe to that sound....great playing, hooks, catchy choruses and nothing processed or fake sounding about it. And be honest with yourself and remember that you LOVED all those bands' hits and have a lot of their songs and/or albums on your iPod.
I can't recommend this record highly enough and fully expect it to be in my Top 10 for 2010, if not in the Top 5.
THE BEST OF THE REST:
Armored Saint is one of those bands that always got the respect, but never the fame. I mean, they weren't ignored to the degree that a band like Anvil was, but that is because they actually had fantastic songs (sorry, I think Anvil pretty much sucks and it is completely understandable why they never went anywhere...still loved the documentary though). I had always heard Armored Saint's name mentioned a lot when I was a teenage metalhead, but didn't actually get one of their albums until 1991's Symbol Of Salvation came out. After it was released, their singer John Bush left to join Anthrax and that was more or less the end of Armored Saint. They did have reunions and new releases after that, but I've never heard any of those albums. As time has gone on I've found that Symbol Of Salvation has really stood the test of time as has their excellent debut, March Of The Saint. That being said, I figure La Raza is worth giving a shot because the band has never had any misfires in their career that I am aware of, are great players and John Bush is a top notch metal singer.
I've written about my extreme fondness for the Drive-By Truckers and how excited I am about this album already, so I won't bore you with another gushing post about how they are one of the greatest bands on the planet, but if you aren't on board with this band already, then you need to get off your ass and get with the program. People talk about how The Hold Steady are going to save rock n roll, but even THS would tell you that the Drive-By Truckers are the true saviors of rock n roll and I have no doubt that The Big To-Do will be further evidence of that.
[Fun fact: Just like R.E.M. and The Whigs, DBT also calls Athens, GA home.]
Back in January, I wrote about this album's cover and how I was thinking about completely avoiding hearing Landmine Marathon and just buying the album based on the artwork and seeing if my instincts were right just like I did when I was a teenager. Well, I was unable to avoid hearing the band as my favorite metal website, MetalSucks wound up streaming the album in its entirety last week and I couldn't resist hearing it. While my will power may have been weak, Landmine Marathon's music is most certainly not. Sovereign Descent is definitely recommended for fans of classic Earache Records' bands like Carcass, Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower and the like and for those who think metal-core, death-core and whatever else-core is boring, formulaic and severely lacking in creativity. And while it makes me feel a bit sexist to say it, I still can't believe that is a woman singing...she puts a lot of the boys in the metal game right now to absolute shame!
Speaking of female metal singers, Ludicra is another female fronted band dominating the extreme metal scene. I've been meaning to write a post about them since I was turned on to them a few months ago, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Along with Wolves In The Throne Room, Tombs, Liturgy and Black Anvil, Ludicra is part of a wave of bands (if not the leaders of said wave) putting American black metal on the map in a major way. The Tenant is their newest release and I actually picked up a physical copy of it this past weekend at Scion Rock Fest as they were playing there (unfortunately I didn't seem them play live for a couple different reasons, but basically because I knew they were playing NYC next month and that would be a better time and venue to see them live), but haven't gotten around to listening to it just yet. [And yes, you've probably noticed a pattern of me obtaining albums, but not having listened to them yet...any music junkie will tell you that it is hard to keep up with all these new releases and you don't want to listen to something until you are in the proper mood for that style of music because first impressions are hard to undo.] Their prior two releases Fex Urbis Lex Orbis and Another Great Love Song are jaw droppingly good and the band seems to have the right amount of momentum and buzz surrounding them for this album to be the one that takes them to the next level.