Damnit! I hate writing up “best of” lists at year’s end. Or year’s beginning in this case…reminiscing about last year’s top releases. I either can’t think of any or enough to fill a “top 10” because I was disillusioned with most of the music out there and I resolved to go back to old favorites. Or when I complete a list I go back and revise a gazillion times because I remember a certain release that grabbed and kept a hold of my attention.

With all of that out of the way. Let’s see how this list pans out for me.

1. Deafheaven
Self Released
This band took me by surprise. I only heard of them when they signed to Deathwish Inc. Their demo is a cross-genre mix of Black Metal, Doom, Hardcore, and aggressiveness. Can’t wait for their full-length out next year on Deathwish Inc. (I technically don’t have the physical tape as by the time I got around to wanting it, it was long sold out…so I borrowed the pic from the band.)

2. Taylor Swift
Speak Now
Big Machine Records
Hardcore and punk kids need pop music sometimes. Swift’s music may be categorized as “country” but this album is a pop gem. Musically a step above her prior efforts and still retaining her witty and charming storytelling. John-Michael Bond of The 1st Five wrote about the album: “Under the studio production gloss is a collection of songs that throw back to the things that made old country great.” I couldn’t agree more.

3. Nine Inch Nails
Pretty Hate Machine (reissue)
If there was a NIN album begging to be reissued, it was PHM. Reznor went a step further after finally securing the rights back by remastering the album and adding their cover of Queen’s “Get Down and Make Love”. The reissue is a reminder of why and how Reznor became the music genius and master he is today.

4. Integrity
The Blackest Curse
Deathwish Inc.
An Integrity album that harkens back to the sound and aggression of previous (and classic) albums like Humanity Is The Devil and Those Who Fear Tomorrow. Still holding no punches and always in your face, Dwid Hellion unleashed the beast once again.

5. Starkweather
This Sheltering Night
Deathwish Inc.
Old hardcore dudes like myself were stoked to have a new Starkweather record. One of the bands that helped combine hardcore and metal, they don’t get as much credit as they deserve. This new album reminded people of how great they still are. And that they’re still around.

6. How To Destroy Angels
How To Destroy Angels
The Null Corporation
Trent Reznor ending Nine Inch Nails as a touring entity may not be such a bad thing. With HTDA he, along with wife Mariqueen Maandig and producer Atticus Ross, has crafted a new level of music that may remind some people of NIN but takes a life of its own. Call it “post industrial” or “experimental”, it simply great music.

7. Daughters
Hydra Head Records
The most recent Daughters was to be their last. And they chose to exit while still on top. It’s definitely genre-defying but aggressive and heavy as all hell.

8. Narrows/Heiress
Split 7″
Deathwish Inc.
After the release of New Distances, I was clamoring for more from Narrows. And they sure delivered with this split release with Heiress which seemed a fitting introduction to that band. Heavy and dark, Heiress brings forth a metal and hardcore hybrid beast.

9. Nails
Unsilent Death
Six Feet Under Records
What if your favorite Death Metal band started playing Grindcore? Then you might be able to imagine what Nails sounds like. But it’d be better to just listen to them. Even though the album clocks in at about 14 minutes, it feels and sounds expansive and fuller.

10. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
The Social Network Soundtrack
The Null Corporation
Created and crafted by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the music retains some of the more familiar elements of Nine Inch Nails but it stands on its own as a piece that compliments and completes the film. It’s unrelenting and takes the Reznor body of work to a new level.

11. Deftones
Diamond Eyes
Reprise/Warner Bros.
Chino & Co. proved once more that they are a lot more than the “Nu-Metal” category they got stuck with in the early 90′s. Even facing tragedy and hardship, the band persevered with their strongest effort to date. Diamond Eyes is a lean and muscular record that not only harkens back to their first releases, especially Around The Fur, but takes the band’s sound into a new territory of heaviness and melody. Deftones are a band that continue to get better and stronger with each album.

So there it is. Let’s see how many times I go back to change it.

And yes…it you also read The 1st Five blog, my list there is exactly the same. But I have pretty, pretty pictures on this one.

“Snazzing up year end lists since 1995”


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