It might make me unpopular but… I think year-end lists are basically BS.
As new media expands, offering every snot-nosed blogger and Facebook fiend the chance to weigh in with an opinion, you’d expect year-end album lists to become a bit more all-inclusive. But, in indie rock especially, what’s emerged is a new consensus machine driven by the very mechanisms that could drive dissent.
No matter which way a writer goes, it’s inevitable that a host of Beardly wonders will fall through the cracks. So, rather than add another inane list to the pile, what say we look at (and listen to) some amazing rock records that you won’t see on anyone’s year-end lists? Thus it is that Flavorwire proudly unveils The Top Ten List That Never Was (And Never Will Be).
Whisker-twisting reviews and essential MP3s after the jump.
- 10. The Wrong Trousers – One and Counting
- While the Wrong Trousers are best known as the kids who hauled a harp into the street for a down-home version of “Video Killed the Radio Star” (the YouTube clip has almost 400,000 views!), there’s nothing one-hit about these inexplicably talented high schoolers. Not only do the band’s singers look like a young Colin Meloy and Joanna Newsom respectively, they sound just as sweet.
- Download: “Such Great Heights” | Buy the Record
- 9. Németh – Film
- Situated squarely between ambient, techno, jazz, post-rock, indie, and the avant garde, Radian offshoot Németh is pretty tough pony to pin. Suffice it to say that Film incorporates all of the above, stacking bizarre rhythms, crackling electronics, organic drums, guitars, and bizarre statics into a series of warm, welcoming instrumentals that reward repeat plays.
- Download: “Via L4 Norte” | Buy the Record
- 8. Menace Ruine – The Die Is Cast
- Proving that black metal really can appeal to everyone (like you had any doubt), Menace Ruine are a gateway act if ever there was one. While the Canadian group’s last release reveled in dissonant skronks and demonic howls, The Die is Cast takes a more measured tone, marrying the throaty moan of Marble Index-era Nico with deep psychedelic drones and haunting string orchestrations.
- Download: Stream Entire CD | Buy the Record
- 7. Fredrik – Na Na Ni
- Toeing the line between the Notwist’s post-Death Cab emoisms and the Dodos’ fire-and-brimstone, kitchen-sink Americana, Swedish indiekins Fredrik wrap marching-band drums in smooth ensemble croons, sweeping cello, and bell-driven melodies. “Black Fur” and “Alina’s Place” court Sufjan Stevens-style catharsis while “Evil and I” reaches back to classic folk tropes, laying Fairport Convention’s open-country vibe across the sweeping hills of Scandinavia.
- Download: “Black Fur” | Buy the Record
- 6. The Childballads – Cheekbone Hollows EP
- Helmed by former Jonathan Fire*Eater singer Stewart Lupton — the only member of his former band who didn’t eventually join the Walkmen — the Childballads‘ Cheekbone Hollows is at once an inspired indie-folk outing and whiskey-soaked rocker. Proving that genius can wriggle over acrimonious interactions with labels and illicit substances, the band’s Wilco-esque ramblings infuse straight-laced rock with hip-shattering swagger.
- Download: “Cheekbone Hollows” | Buy the Record
- 5. ARMS – Kids Aflame
- Toeing the line between upbeat emoting and ukulele-soaked rambles, ARMS threads songs with morally questionable characters and wandering, adolescent angst. Whether plonking through a uke-stomper (“Kid’s Aflame”), echo-pining to Grizzly Bear (“Fall”), or fuzzing out a bit of Pedro the Lion power pop (“Whirring”), his reference points are as inspired as they are expertly applied.
- Download: “Kids Aflame”| Buy the Record
- 4. Shugo Tokumaru – Exit
- On Exit, Japanese wunderkind Shugo Tokumaru touches indie rock with the odd percussion and strange strings of traditional Japanese folk, fusing a melange of deftly mixed guitars, mandolins, stings, harmonicas, toys, bike wheels, and ambient atmospheres. Recent appearances with a backing band comprised of members of Beirut and the National say it all: Tokumaru’s only one short step away from indie-rock royalty.
- Download: “Parachute” | Buy the Record
- 3. Nana Grizol – Love It Love It
- Combining the free-wheelin’ croon of Jonathan Richman with the breezy jangle of electric-guitar Americana, Elephant Six friend Nana Grizol is an everyman troubadour for the indie age. Tunes like “Circles Round the Moon” and “Voices Down the Hall” are both unfocused calls to action and heart-bearing rock anthems, mining sing-along anthemry and undiluted positivism.
- Download: “Circles Round the Moon” | Buy the Record
- 2. Deer Tick – War Elephant
- Avoiding the often-haphazard pastiche of his twang-tinged indie-rock peers, Deer Tick mastermind John McCauley’s moans are like paved-over gravel — their slicked surface a thin cover for the jagged edges below. Reissued this year on an only slightly larger label, War Elephant now holds the distinction of being one of the most impressive albums to ever be ignored by critic’s lists two years in a row.
- Download: “Art Isn’t Real (City of Sin)”| Buy the Record
- 1. Mother Mother – O My Heart
- With O My Heart, a potential indie powerhouse comes into its own, simultaneously mimicking the Killers at their popiest and Man Man in their most clomp-stomp moments. Mother Mother singer Ryan Guldermond leads the Canadian five-piece in each of its seemingly disparate incarnations, courting indie-electro shudders in songs like “Body of Years,” before squawking to high heaven over “Burning Pile.”
- Download: “Burning Pile” | Buy the Record