ALBUMS of the YEAR / 2012
1. Ty Segall - Twins/Slaughterhouse
2. Woods - Bend Beyond
3. The Men - Open Your Heart
4. Japandroids - Celebration Rock
5. The Walkmen - Heaven
6. Royal Headache - Royal Headache
7. Spider Bags - Shake My Head
8. Damien Jurado - Maroqopa
9. The Tough Shits - The Tough Shits
10. Slow Country - The Late Great Slow Country
11. Boomgates - Double Natural
12. Father John Misty - Fear Fun
13. Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE
14. Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold
15. John Wesley Coleman III – Last Donkey Show
16. Golden Boys – Dirty Fingernails
17. The Babies - Our House On the Hill
18. Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
19. Beach House - Bloom
20. Burial - Kindred EP
21. Sic Alps - Sic Alps
22. Thee Oh Sees - Putrifiers II
23. Lotus Plaza - Spooky Action at a Distance
24. Apache Dropout - Bubblegum Graveyard
25. Ty Segall & White Fence - Hair
26. Hunx - Hairdresser Blues
27. Great Elk - Autogeography
28. Howls - Rocky Ground
29. Guided by Voices - The Bears for Lunch
30. King Tuff - King Tuff
50. I Don’t Know / Lantern
49. You Will Be Here, Mine / Will Johnson
48. On the Radio / Mind Spiders
47. Get Me in a Room / Hallelujah the Hills
46. I Want More / French Kissing
45. Am I Wrong / Mikal Cronin
44. Gone Tomorrow / Lambchop
43. She’s Like Dracula / John Wesley Coleman III
42. Always Forever / Hunx
41. Brains / Lower Dens
40. Bite My Tongue / King Khan & the Shrines
39. Master of my Craft / Parquet Courts
38. Headin’ for the Top Now / Spiritualized
37. Moonlight Mile / The Babies
36. Wind and Walls / The Tallest Man on Earth
35. Monoliths / Lotus Plaza
34. Wrecking Ball / Bruce Springsteen
33. Song for a Warrior (ft. Karen O.) / Swans
32. Become What You Are / Merchandise
31. Wildest Moments / Jessie Ware
30. Ekki Múkk/ Sigur Ros
29. Sledding / No Kill
28. Susannah / Woollen Kits
27. Numb / Andy Stott
26. I -80 / Apache Dropout
25. Do It For You / Plateaus
24. Myth / Beach House
23. Vacation / Howls
22. Lupine Dominus / Thee Oh Sees
21. Goodtime Blues / TRMRS
20. Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings / Father John Misty
19. Whispering and Singing / Boomgates
18. Kill for Love / Chromatics
17. Cats & Dogs / The Tough Shits
16. Adult / Ceremony
15. The Weight of the Sea / Great Elk
The lead track on Autogeography, Brooklyn indie/folk band Great Elk’s full length debut, can stand up to any mid-00s indie rock anthem and then some.
14. Impregnable Question / Dirty Projectors
Dirty Projectors turn in the year’s most disarming love song.
13. No Idea Why / TV Torso
Just got into this band’s Spoon-meets-new wave sound over the past few weeks after hearing their EPs from earlier this year. Here’s to hoping for a full length before long.
12. Thinkin’ About You / Frank Ocean
No doubt Ocean took the world by storm this year. The falsetto chorus on this song is genius. Soul music that truly bears the soul.
11. Oblivion / Grimes
Visions, as a whole, didn’t do much for me. But “Oblivion” and “Genesis” are undeniably thrilling and inventive singles.
10. Never Again / Royal Headache
I don’t think there is a band on this list whose future I am more excited about than Australia’s Royal Headache. From Shogun’s soul/punk vocals to the band’s blazing backing tracks, Royal Headache’s self-titled debut is full of brawlers and psychotic episodes so visceral they could be playing in your garage.
9. Friday Night / Spider Bags
Spider Bags’ drunken, take-no-prisoners rock & roll is best captured on this beer-soaked anthem.
8. Museum of Flight / Damian Jurado
Jurado has managed some gorgeous folk melodies in his 15 years of recording, but perhaps nothing he’s ever recorded is as purely celestial as this.
7. Heaven / The Walkmen
“Little House of Savages”, “The Rat”, “Louisiana”, “In the New Year”, “Angela/Surf City”. The Walkmen have penned some of indie rock’s most memorable songs of the past ten years. Heaven has a handful of songs that could sit alongside those classics, but none more so than the title track.
6. (tie) Thank God for the Sinners / Ty Segall (from Twins)
The Tongue / Ty Segall Band (from Slaughterhouse)
I guess I’m skirting around my self-imposed “one song per artist” rule with this one. But without that rule about 50% of this list might belong to Segall.
5. Is It Honest / Woods
For Woods, this is about as close as they come to some sort of indie-rock anthem. Bend Beyond is full of memorable songs and wondrous melodies – “Is It Honest” wins this spot by a nose over all the other gems.
4. Land I Love / Slow Country
For most of the year this song made me think of what Neil Young might sound like if he were still 24. Echoes of Buffalo Tom and Sun Kil Moon as well.
3. Oscillation / The Men
There were a bunch of contenders for this list from Open Your Heart – the muscular hard rock of “Turn It Around”, the Stonesy-romp of “Candy”, the art-punk brilliance of the title track and “Please Don’t Go Away”. But in the end its “Oscillation”, an extended, kraut-like scorcher, that most made me come back to this one.
2. Wild Desire / King Tuff
King Tuff released a handful of outstanding songs this year, a few on his self-titled Sub Pop debut, and a few on a scattering of 7”’s. “Wild Desire” is from a Suicide Squeeze single, and pretty much any other year this would be my runaway #1. It’s just such beautiful rock & roll poetry on top of a near infallible jam.
1. The House That Heaven Built / Japandroids
I wanted King Tuff to be #1 so bad, but when I heard this song for the first time sometime last spring I knew that nothing else would stand a chance. This song is just so complete, so Herculean in its every sound and movement that even a track as perfect as “Wild Desire” gets TKO’d by that first chorus.
Another December, another list. God I love this time of year. These are my absolute favorite records of the past twelve months. Some things I posted about a long time ago, some things that snuck up on me over the past few weeks. Some things you’ve seen all over other people’s lists, some things that maybe differentiate PHW from those other people a little bit. Read & listen. I hope you find some new music to love. Onward:
40. The Roots – Undun
39. Real Estate – Days
38. The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
37. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain
36. Belong – Common Era
35. Balam Acab – Wander/Wonder
34. Future Islands – On the Water
33. A.A. Bondy – Believers
32. Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica
31. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
30. Centro-matic – Candidate Waltz
If you haven’t yet been introduced to this Denton, TX band before, and Crazy Horse, GBV, Drive-by Truckers, Son Volt, Sparklehorse, and early My Morning Jacket are your thing, then you have a goddamn treasure trove of Centro-matic releases to get caught up with. Starting with Candidate Waltz is as good a place as any.
29. Chris Kiehne – Pray for Daylight/A Widower’s Kind
Kiehne, a member of PHW faves The National Lights, finally finished and released Pray for Daylight – a hushed, immaculately-produced collection of folk songs he started years ago and lost in a hard drive crash – in 2011. With its subtle zombie theme, the album comes on like Our Endless Numbered Days meets The Walking Dead. Wasting little time, Kiehne went ahead and recorded A Widower’s Kind, a collection of Hank Williams covers/re-imaginings no less, in just two short weeks. There’s really no way I could chose between them, so they share this spot.
28. Apache Dropout – s/t
Fuzzed-out and otherworldly garage/psyche from Indiana
27. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead
I’ve never really loved The Decemberists, so when ths collection of simple folk/rock songs dropped I kind of ignored it for a while. Save a few songs here and there, they’d never been my thing, so I felt no urgency to listen to, what seemed like on paper anyway, a step backwards for the band. But after hearing the sublime, Dylan-esque “June Hymn” on the radio I gave it a shot, and The King is Dead became one of the year’s most pleasant surprises.
26. Pure X – Pleasure
A late season discovery, Pure X came out of nowhere for me over the past few weeks and have sort of blown my mind. With its gorgeous melodies and atmospheric guitars, Pleasure might well have been much higher on this list had I heard it earlier.
25. Bry Webb – Provider
Though released with little publicity and even less fanfare just a few weeks back, the solo debut from Constantines’ front man Bry Webb is an understated, somber, and beautiful collection of songs about family and struggle.
24. David Shane Smith – Controls SM
The latest from this prolific, experimental L.A.-based songwriter plays out like a soundtrack for a decaying natural world.
23. Dirty Beaches – Badlands
Road songs for some lost desert highway, Alex Zhang Huntai’s Badlands is one of the year’s most promising debuts.
22. Antiques – JWNS
JWNS is an endearingly slapdash collection that uses 90s alternative/lo-fi as a springboard into something completely refreshing. My album of Summer 2K11.
21. Arrange – Quiet State EP/Plantation
One of my favorite discoveries of the year, Arrange is the work of a Florida teen who seems intent to be one of the internet’s most prolific artists. With at least 3 EPs, one full length, and handful of free singles (and much more in the works) all in the past 16 or so months, Malcom Lacey is a name to keep in mind in the years to come.
20. Wilco – The Whole Love
As a whole, Wilco’s latest is somewhat scattershot, but The Whole Love certainly has enough brilliant individual moments to warrant inclusion on this list. “Art of Almost”, “Open Mind”, “One Sunday Morning”, and the quartet of great pop/rock songs (“The Whole Love”, “Dawned on Me”, “I Might” + “Born Alone”) are a welcome return to form from one of my favorite songwriters of all time.
19. Atlas Sound – Parallax
It seems like it will be quite some time before a year goes by without a great album from Bradford Cox, whether it be as Atlas Sound or Deerhunter. Truly, he has become one of the most reliable and affecting songwriters working today.
18. The Vaccines – What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?
A fun, promising debut from these U.K. darlings – perhaps the best album of the year to blast and shout along with.
17. Disappears – Guider
The Chicago band’s second album in as many years is downright primal – all controlled chaos, minimalism, and old fashioned rock & roll swagger.
16. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lenses Alien
In an era where guitar-based indie ROCK seems to be dying off, Cymbals Eat Guitars are here to shed glorious light on what you (or your parents) were listening to way back in, like, the late 90s.
15. Clams Casino – Instrumentals
Without vocals on top, “visionary beatmaker” Mike Volpe’s tracks as Clams Casino fall somewhere closer to ambient/trip-hop than hip-hop – slow beats; gauzy, fading electronic sounds, lo-fi production, and the occasional abstract vocal presence. It’s truly hypnotic and beautiful stuff.
14. Blackout Beach – Fuck Death
Just read the CMG review already.
13. Forest Fire – Staring at the X
A huge improvement over 2008’s promising Survival, Staring at the X is a truly expansive 34 minutes and finds the eclectic folk/pop band exploring all sorts of weird, wonderful ideas.
12. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far
One of the most unjustly overlooked records of 2011, Okkervil River’s latest almost entirely eschews the kind of safe folk-rock a band of their stature could rake with for something darker, noisier, and distinctly claustrophobic. I don’t think there’s a band out there that does the Phil Spector-influenced indie-rock thing as well as Okkervil River – if “John Allyn Smith Sails” wasn’t proof enough in ‘07, then “Rider” is here to put the argument to rest.
11. Mikal Cronin – s/t
Ty Segall buddy Mikal Cronin’s self-titled full length debut features an equal mix of surf/pop gems and heavy garage rock workouts.
10. Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler/The Dream
Carrion Crawler/The Dream is filled with positively damaged, bone-rattling garage/psyche jams from prolific San Fran war horses Thee Oh Sees.
9. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
Adam Granduciel conjures up a shimmering, atmospheric classic rock freeway on his band’s second full length record.
8. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
Mogwai’s latest hasn’t turned up on many year-end lists that I’ve seen thus far (props though), which is mildly shocking, if such a thing is possible. This is a streamlined, engrossing, and, at times, harrowing collection of post-rock instrumentals (P.S. – the two tracks with vocals are absolute killers, mind you) that gets better every single time I hear it.
7. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for my Halo
Vile’s stream-of-consciousness ramblings, his oddly affecting version of a young-man’s blues, left me dazed and confused (in the best possible way) over and over again this year.
6. Yuck – Yuck
Yuck deliver a virtual Best Of Comp for the Alternative Nation with their debut, mining a who’s who of 90s all-stars – Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Pixies, Hole, Pavement, Elliott Smith, etc – for inspiration.
5. Shabazz Palaces - Black Up
A stunning full length debut from this Sub Pop crew whose positively interstellar jams draw as much from jazz and minimalism as hip-hop. Clear some space out….
4. The Men – Leave Home
Leave Home is just a pummeling rock record whose brutal intensity is personified best in that moment in “L.A.D.O.C.H.” where everything drops out except for the bruised drums and rasping cough. Rock & roll at its ugliest and most beautiful.
3. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Is there an “indie” musician with a brighter future than Justin Vernon? Doesn’t seem like it. Leaving the remote cabin behind for a fully realized studio effort, Bon Iver loses none of the disarming intimacy that caught the world by storm on his neo-classic debut, and just proves that Vernon is every bit the genius sonic architect as he is the amazing singer and songwriter.
2. Destroyer – Kaputt
Enough has been written about Kaputt’s sound and vision over the past 10+ months that getting into all that would just be white noise. I will say this though – in a year where so many of my favorite artists from years past dropped albums that were just more of the same old same old, Bejar went in an unlikely direction and knocked it out of the park.
1. Tim Hecker- Ravedeath, 1972
Nothing I heard in 2011 hit me as hard as Tim Hecker’s drone/noise masterpiece. There were countless late nights this year where the lights went off, the headphones went on, and for 50+ transportive minutes it seemed as if time and space ceased to exist. Perhaps the year’s heaviest and most intense album, and quite unlike almost everything else on this list, Ravedeath, 1972 is everything I never knew I needed in a record.
30. The War on Drugs – Future Weather EP
The War on Drugs’ follow up to their excellent 2008 debut is actually comprised of songs culled from sessions for an abandoned full length. Regardless, Future Weather is still 8 songs long (the last record was 9) and holds together beautifully as an artistic statement in its own right, with some of Adam Granduciel’s prettiest songs surrounded by one or two of his weirdest. And by weird, I’m referring to the brilliant 8 minutes of warped psyche-folk that is “The History of Plastic”.
29. Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues
It’s been a trying year for Earle to say the least, but that shouldn’t take away from this inspired collection of country, soul, blues, folk, and rockabilly that continues to show growth from one of the best young roots musicians working today.
28. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks
Ted Leo is the most underappreciated punk I (don’t) know. The Brutalist Bricks is utterly fantastic – his strongest work since Hearts of Oak – and was completely slept on for the majority of the year by too many. It captures everything great about one of New Jersey’s most exciting artists.
27. Evenings – North Dorm EP
An addictive set of soft-beat, ambient, electronic instrumentals that still manage to feel completely natural, like music made on a laptop in the middle of a forest. Download the North Dorm EP free of charge at Evenings’ Bandcamp page.
26. James Blake – CMYK/Klavierwierke
Promising, incredibly hypnotic music from this 22 year old U.K. phenom. Look for big things in the very near future as Blake prepares his full length debut for early 2011.
25. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
Listening to Have One on Me was pretty much the year’s greatest endurance test. It’s also a staggeringly ambitious album that succeeds overwhelmingly more than it falters. Ironically, the two songs I skip most often come first and second – after that it’s pretty much classic after classic for an hour and 45 minutes.
24. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
The gloriously unhinged indie-pop of Before Today was a real grower for me – gradually becoming something I considered for this list over the past month or two. If I revisit this list next year, I bet it would be in a much higher spot.
23. Cotton Jones – Tall Hours in the Glowstream
The second record from Cotton Jones (featuring Michael Nau, formerly of Page France), Tall Hours in the Glowstream might just be the most perfectly named album I’ve heard all year. On it Nau trades in the carnival-like folk rock of his former band for a melodic, soulful dream-pop/country hybrid that, props to An American Drunkard, sounds like what Gram Parsons probably had in mind when he coined the term “Cosmic American Music”.
22. Four Tet – There Is Love In You
It was a banner year for Kieran Hebden, releasing a string of the year’s best remixes after his shimmering, gorgeous There Is Love in You.
21. Future Islands – In Evening Air
In Evening Air is Future Islands best distillation of their soaring electro-pop and the wild, manic vocal dynamics of singer Samuel T. Herring.
20. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
James Murphy continues to make intelligent dance music for people who also like to rock the heck out.
19. Great Elk – Great Elk EP
On which my friends Paul Basile and Patrick Hay arrive in the world fully formed as Great Elk, armed with superb songs and ready for a Mercury Lounge battle of the bands with Okkervil River, Band of Horses, and Whiskeytown.
18. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record
Forgiveness Rock Record was a welcome return from one of indie-rock’s most consistently thrilling bands. An enormously fun album that’s worth it solely for “Meet Me In the Basement”, which might actually be theme music for catching a joyride on a comet.
17. No Age – Everything In Between
After one album and one singles compilation of sonically daring fuzz-punk and lo-fi noise experiments, California duo No Age have drastically broadened their sonic approach on their brilliant third album, Everything In Between. No doubt the new songs still assault with a distinct noise/punk sneer, but the band has brightened its corners with more songwriting focus, tighter melodies, and just about the greatest use of noise effects on a rock record that I can think of.
16. Botany – Feeling Today EP
The 5 songs that comprise the debut EP from Spencer Stephenson’s recording project are straight up found-sound electro/pop gems whose incandescent melodies promise nothing but continued greatness.
15. Marah – Life Is A Problem
After a tumultuous couple of years, 2010 saw the Philly underdogs in Marah return with their finest collection of battered folk & roll anthems in a decade. Life is a Problem borrows its title from a collection of obscure religious country blues music that lead singer Dave Bielanko found in a Williamsburg record shop in 2008, providing him with some degree of comfort after his band more or less imploded on the eve of the world tour to support Angels of Destruction!. With the musical inspiration covered for a new start, Bielanko and keyboardist/vocalist Christine Smith soon discovered an old farmhouse deep in Pennsylvania’s Amish country that became a refuge to write, rehearse, and record new material. The resulting album captures the audacious, ramshackle spirit that has always marked Marah at their very best. It’s their best and most consistent collection since 2000’s seminal Kids in Philly.
14. The Black Keys – Brothers
The Akron duo of Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach just keep getting better with every record they make. Brothers is their most fully realized music yet – a rough and tumble trip through blues, soul, and some fiercely gritty rock & roll.
13. Ty Segall – Melted
Melted has some of the most primal, ferocious rock & roll you’ve heard all year over its 30 blistering minutes. It’s almost as ugly as the cover art would suggest. Yet Segall never lets the noise overpower the hooks – Melted is full of sparkling and gritty garage-rock melodies.
12. The Radio Dept. – Clinging To A Scheme
When The Radio Dept released Clinging to a Scheme last spring, I barely noticed. I enjoyed “Heaven’s On Fire” enough to pick up the rest of the album, but for a long stretch of the summer it sat on my hard drive untouched, save one or two cursory listens. But based on that single’s Jackson 5-by-way-of-Slumberland Records brilliance, I went back to the album this fall out of curiosity, and gradually allowed the slightly out-of-focus Swedish indie-pop of the other 9 songs to reveal itself to me. Once it clicked, it did so in a big way, shooting into my top 10 and easily becoming one of my favorites of the year.
11. The Walkmen – Lisbon
Contrary to how most of the internet reacted to this record, The Walkmen have always been a “mature” band. They were among the first wave of indie-rock bands to have a song played in a car commercial; they were using toy pianos all over their 2002 debut and New Orleans-styled horn sections by 2006. They released a Harry Nilsson cover album for crying out loud. Needless to say, this was never a band that was ever tied to some punk mindset or limited themselves to one-dimensional fast/loud song structures. Lisbon simply continues The Walkmen’s string of consistently excellent “mature” rock records. The boozy New Orleans horn sections (“Stranded”), bouncy pop songs (“Woe Is Me”), skeletal ballads (“Lisbon”, “All My Great Designs”), and, of course, anthemic indie-rock jams (“Juveniles”, “Victory”, “Angela/Surf City”) all suggest this band is riding the peak started with 2008’s You & Me.
10. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Win Butler and co. don’t quite have the weight of the world concerns on their minds here as they did on Neon Bible, but The Suburbs is every bit as grand and sweeping as we’ve come to expect from the Canadian rock heroes. Nostalgia, innocence lost, and suburban sprawl inform these 16 songs, and Butler handles everything with more intimacy than a band that’s played MSG has any right using. Did I mention that he gives the records’ best song to Regine?
9. How To Dress Well – Love Remains
HtDW is the solo project of Tom Krell, a guy with a sick falsetto (clearly reminiscent of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon) who writes lithe R&B slow jams and records them on the cheap – full of crackling clicks and hisses. But where some bands use lo-fi recording as a gimmick, the lack of sonic clarity is perhaps the most vital component on Love Remains, allowing the music to come across, as intended, as if they were being drawn out of the deepest corners of childhood memory. The result is a ghostly, highly intimate listening experience and unquestionably one of the most unique albums I’ve heard in ages.
8. Flying Lotus – Cosmagramma
This was the year’s biggest grower for me, and one of the few artists on this list that I don’t think I’ve posted about before. As Spencer from Botany said earlier this week, Cosmogramma is “a sprawling masterpiece of an album.” It took me a while, but yeah.
7. Frog Eyes – Pauls’ Tomb: A Triumph
Carey Mercer is known to roar, howl, and yelp like a lunatic, and on Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph he holds nothing back. It’s a 45 minute vocal death charge – raw, manic, reckless, and utterly unnerving. The fact that his band plays every note with such a distinct and disarming volatility only elevates the whole thing.
6. Beach House – Teen Dream
Teen Dream is a lush, starry-eyed masterpiece from this enigmatic Baltimore duo who have now delivered three records of increasingly rich textures and confident arrangements. Victoria LeGrand has become one of indie-rock’s defining vocalists, showing both more self-assuredness and nuance here than ever before. Teen Dream was hanging around the top of this list before 2010 even started, and never lost its lofty perch over the past 12 months.
5. Women – Public Strain
Women blur the line between noise and melody on Public Strain until the two are so inextricably linked that there’s just no difference between the two extremes. As the cover art suggests, listening to this record is like being caught in a blizzard, a near claustrophobic experience that’s both terrifying and wonderfully cathartic.
4. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is Ye’s magnum opus, darker and denser than his previous high watermark, Late Registration, and a rarity in hip-hop in that it’s crafted as a big picture artistic statement rather than few hot singles and some filler. Every redickuhlus verse, every perfectly orchestrated note, every mind-blowing guest spot, every minute of vain self-absorption, the occasional moment of guarded vulnerability, and every dark twisted fantasy make the genius behind the jackass all the more obvious.
3. The Tallest Man On Earth – The Wild Hunt
Perhaps more so than any other artist today, The Tallest Man on Earth knows his strengths and plays to them perfectly on his latest album. The bare-bones, weirdly evocative confessionals that Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Mattson gives us on The Wild Hunt and its equally impressive follow up EP hardly ever contain more than a violently strummed or delicately-picked acoustic guitar and Mattson desperately yelping away. Nothing else is needed.
2. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
Deerhunter’s best album to date is a stripped-down, narcotic meditation on nostalgia and how closely intertwined music becomes with memory. Bandleader Bradford Cox has evolved from one of indie-rock’s most divisive figures to one of its most compelling in a matter of about 2 years, and there just doesn’t seem to be a ceiling on how great this band can become.
1. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
When Patrick Stickles sings “this is a war we can’t win, after 10,000 years it’s still us against them” the real theme of The Monitor comes into sharp focus. While shrouded in Civil War imagery and blood and guts male bravado, The Monitor is simply another great rock record about girls. Its grand statement: after 10,000 years of human evolution, men still haven’t figured out the fairer sex. These 10 anthems burst at the seams with angst and pain and truth, and are made even more timeless with spoken interludes from the words of Abe Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Jefferson Davis, and William Lloyd Garrison. The constant historical and cultural references provide the thematic glue between the songs, but it’s Stickles monumental despondency, and the way he makes us all rally around his gloom, that makes the songs so memorable. You’ll pump your fist, play air guitar, and go hoarse shouting along, and if you’re not completely swept away by the “it’s still us against them” climax of “Four Score and Seven”, shouted over and over like a soldier going off to his certain fate, then I’m not sure you should read this blog anymore. And it’s only my second favorite song on the album. The Monitor is the best rock album in years. Maybe 10,000 of them.