|By Zach Patterson||Friday, 16 Jul 2010|
Finally, 2005! This year is just stuffed with fantastic vg cover music. This year also features a lot of music from our Shizz community, hence it varies quite a bit from some of our other lists. Nevertheless, it’s a great year for music, featuring some of my very favorite albums of the decade, starting with a gem from Bear Vs. Shark. Read on for more…
Why it’s on this list:
While Bear Vs Shark had a promising and good first album, I wasn’t entirely sure they were much more than a decent hardcore/rock one album curiosity at the time. Terrorhawk, however, showed the band quickly developing into one of the premiere indie hardcore bands of the time. With better production, more intensity behind each song, better songwriting, and just a much more consistent sound, this was truly their iconic and best album. Singer Marc Paffi steals the show here first and foremost, masterfully mixing his vocals up between melodic and chaotic, rough howls. Dude just has an amazing voice that’s a pleasure to listen to, and he’s harnessing it way better here than on any other their previous recordings. Beyond the vocals though, the music is interesting and diverse, with lovely piano ballads intros to some songs (“Baraga Embankment”), random fuckery (“India Foot”), chaotic improv-ish tracks (“Heard the Iron Bug, “They’re Coming To Town”"), and most importantly, the rockin’ shit (“Catamaran”, “5, 6 Kids”, Entance of the Elected, among many others). It’s an album that just sounds like it has all the intensity of a live show, which is always a plus in my mind. This is easily one of my most listened to albums when I need something catchy and upbeat for the summer. - Zach Patterson
Why it’s on this list: Boris had been making heavy, sludgy rock music in their own way since 1996, and by that I mean that their hallmark sound is to experiment within a variety of “heavy rock” subgenres while retaining a sound that is characteristically “theirs”. On Pink they essentially ditched the doom metal vibe in favor of white-hot riffs inspired by 80′s thrash metal and shoegaze music alike and made what was for me anyways, probably the most satisfying record I heard that year. The closing track, “Just Abandoned Myself,” is an eleven minute hurricane of buzzing guitars that sends me into a frenzy as if hypnotized like Pavlov’s dog. But there are surprisingly mellow and dreamy songs like the opening song, “Farewell,” which is shimmering and comforting to the listener- almost deceptively so. Whatever style they foray into on this album, Pink is constantly gratifying from beginning to end and served as my entryway into the cult of Boris, where I am a devout member to this day. - Matt Gburek
Just Abandoned My-Self
Why it’s on this list: 2005 was a great year for video game cover albums. Brian Davis’ work was some of the first stuff I had heard when I started listening to vg music, and this is perhaps his finest work yet. Last Level has all the things I’m looking for: an interesting selection of games mixing known stuff with lesser known (Nightmare on Elm Street, Metroid, Skate or Die, Mario Paint, Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2 to name a few), good arrangements of songs not always done on many of these games (see: Mystic Quest), and an energetic live band feel with a great meaty guitar tone suited for game covers and live drums (something I’m a bit of a sucker for in self released albums like these). There’s also great little touches on the album that separate it from the rest of the group. The menacing and alien noises added into Metroid create a chilling atmosphere. The fun and interludesque intro to Mario Paint that leads into a fresh and funky summery song. The ambulatory intro to Dr. Mario. The haunting voice clip and solemn intro to Ninja Gaiden gives off an epic feel fitting for the game. Nightmare on Elm Street’s…well, everything. It’s terrifying and amazing. Best song on the album by far. Nothing captures the feel of the game better than this track. Every track seemingly has a lot of thought behind it and an interesting take on the source material. I also like that the album isn’t just genre or shoving metal down my throat. It has lighthearted stuff like Mario Paint and Boy and His Blob, and then the thrashy Nightmare on Elm Street and the Silver Surfer shredfest. Not just a great vg album, but a great album. - Zach Patterson
Nightmare on Elm Street
Why it’s on this list: In my opinion, Heart of Sawdust is an instrumental prog rock masterpiece. At 30 minutes and 6 tracks long, Chromelodeon provides a flowing and intense album that demands the listener’s attention. There is no context, no lyrics, the songs are simply named as numbers. This, I believe, is why the Chromelodeon succeeded so well with this album. I don’t know what the songs were written about, but I know this album has applied to my own personal struggles throughout the years and it has never stuck to one meaning for me. Oddly enough, “One” opens the album most victoriously, with a bittersweet climax leading directly into the somber “Two”, which also ascending to a climax, albeit one that conveys much more struggle and hardship. As the album progresses through it finally reaches another bittersweet victory in “Six”. I spent many nights driving around by myself listening to this album. Whatever troubles were getting at me, this album helped me through them. It didn’t make them go away, but it helped me push through them. I can’t ask for anymore than that. - Andrew Raub
|Chromelodeon – Six|
|Found at skreemr.org|
Why it’s on this list: Dr. Dog recalls 50′s and 60′s pop music, bits and pieces of The Beatles and Rolling Stones, and has a modern aesthetic. Their ability to expand upon simplistic ideas is their strong point. For example, the drum fills in the opening track, “The World May Never Know” would be nothing noteworthy were it not for the oddly placed delay effect making it much more interesting. Each of the songs on Easy Beat combine to form a great summer album. The instrumentation is light, giving each vocal harmony and each instrument room to breath. I don’t really know why I like this album so much. It just gives me good vibes and good times. - Andrew Raub
The World May Never Know (link)
Why it’s on this list: Welcome home. Hex, a meandering scrawl of a thought on the geometric art of the Pennsylvanian Dutch, speaks those words to me every time I queue up the opening track Mirage. I could go on and on with similes, metaphors and every other tired writing trope used when describing this album, but I won’t. It is a wonderful piece of art. Notes sing for days, and intricate layers of them lead up to a ridiculously atmospheric album, conjuring up images of barren plains, dust storms, withered plants, ancient buildings with creaking doors, idling swings and tilting porches. It is one of my most played records ever, and for good reason. Hex is an expansive, intelligent album that is engaging and compelling from start to finish, and worthy of all its praise as a groundbreaking work, and as one of the best instrumental drone albums. - Mike Callahan
Why it’s on this list: Why it’s on this list: As my tastes for metal developed and evolved I have heavily relied on word-of-mouth and track sampling online to blaze through the genre. I was only recently introduced to Gojira through Matsu, and it was his recommendation that I not give up on the band until listening to From Mars to Sirius and give it a few listens. They blend in a variety of sounds and styles to create very heavy and churning themes. Lyrics tend to carry a hopeful theme which underlie verse after verse of resigned disgust and frustration, although certain phrases uttered awkwardly remind the listener that this is indeed a foreign band singing in English. I was immersed in a few selective Death Metal bands at the time of my introduction to Gojira and they proved to be a very capable complement to the genre. - Sherv
The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe (link)
Why it’s on this list: IHYWYP is hilarious, witty, and at times offensive. I have offended people just by mentioning the name. It seems odd to say that the production values have improved greatly through the demos, but it is true. The songs on Demo 5 are upbeat, downbeat, sincere, goofy, and all around just good tunes. The album starts with a new-wave punk-like PSA: “Diagnose All Your Medical Problems”. Simple enough. Following is a callout to Kanye West (“Hey Kanye”), a song told vicariously through the eyes of a man with both status and liasons (“Status and Liasons”), and the wild “Hackeysack!” and “Number Five Is Alive”. While “Status and Liasons” shoots for high society, “Dollar Tree” shows the brutal truth of the less fortunate. The pinnacle of this album, and dare I say the entire IHYWYP discography, is without a doubt “Desiree”. It’s a wonderful heartfelt powerpop ballad dedicated to his special lady. Sadly, although there have been shows here and there in the past few years, this was more or less the end for the IHYWYP legacy. - Andrew Raub
|I Hate You When You’re Pregnant – Desiree|
|Found at skreemr.org|
Everything else on the album – link
Why it’s on this list: After Heart Ache redefined how I listen to music and created a new overarching idea on how I wanted my own work to sound, I was chomping at the bit for the full-length follow-up. This album didn’t disappoint, though it’s a lot more focused in its sound than Heart Ache was.
The album primarily encompasses the heavier sounds that Justin created on Heart Ache, but slows them down and it makes the songs even more massive. That’s probably because Justin was using a 7-string guitar and had his lowest string tuned to A (which is what I have mine tuned to as well).
He also put together a full band for this release, featuring folks that Justin’s played with before – Diarmuid Dalton on bass for a few tracks (he’s toured with Godflesh and worked on Justin’s Final project), Ted Parsons on drums for all of the tracks (he was also in Godflesh, as well as Prong and Swans), and Paul Neville (who played on Streetcleaner and Slavestate by Godflesh) on Man/Woman. It certainly helped things as the sound is definitely fuller than on Heart Ache.
Though Justin has never fully revisited this album’s sound with subsequent Jesu releases, this was an album that needed to be made for Justin to progress further with the Jesu sound, and the old Godflesh fans really appreciate this album. - Jason Vincion
Friends Are Evil
Why it’s on this list: This one found me at a few interesting points. It came out right around the same time as I started hanging out with a new group of friends, which in turn led me to writing for this site in a roundabout way. It also coincided with the summer of my first non-food service job. While the job no longer exists and the friends aren’t seen quite as often as they used to be, this album still holds up unbelievably well.
Meshuggah has always been an experimental band – fiddling with polymetrics and utilizing heavier tunings (they had 8 string guitars tuned to F on this album), and they further built upon that experimentation by having this album basically be one long 50 minute song. Sure, it’s broken up into 14 songs on the CD, but they all flow together as one. Fredrik Thordendal did something similar with his solo album that came out in 1997, but this album was a lot more diverse in its sections. There are a lot more dynamics with this release and it’s a long and slow builder.
My favorite part would have to be the vocoder use in Mind’s Mirrors, as it’s something totally out of left field for Meshuggah, but they incorporate it flawlessly. Also, the vocoder melody is used as a guitar part at the end of the song. It’s all very calculated and the end result is likely my favorite Meshuggah album – it’s a toss-up between this one and Nothing. - Jason Vincion
Why it’s on this list: This is, in my honest little opinion, the best video game cover album made. It’s been over 5 years since it’s release and it’s still the quintessential album for the genre. Everything about this album is absolutely flawless. The production is sparkling, the playing is tight, concise, and accurate to the original games, and the song arrangements are smart and logical. Additionally, the song choices are popular enough to recognize easily, but not simply Nintendo’s greatest hits or anything. The vg cover scene genre has become somewhat saturated in the past few years, with everyone and their brother’s band covering Mega Man 2 and Castlevania, yet the Minibosses manage to stand tall above them thanks to simply letting the song itself shine and doing the original justice. The harmonized guitars are sublime as well, feeling like some sort of spiritual rock brother to NES’ original sound chip. And what I really like best about this album is that it manages to be so intense and progressive and metal and you really don’t need to know a lick about the original music. It’s a great album not because it’s a video game cover album that’s performed well, but because it’s just a well crafted album made for people to crowd into a small bar concert, have a few beers, and loudly sing along to Mario 2 while having the time of their lives. Even if you don’t give two shits about video game music, this album still is a classic. If you don’t have it for some reason and are still reading this, you should be downloading it right now. - Zach Patterson
Why it’s on this list: After three albums of somber acoustic songs and alt. country anthems I suppose My Morning Jacket wanted a change. On Z the boys provide a darker, more lush sound with more keyboards, less classic rock riffs, and pulsing bass lines. All of this is evidenced right from the start with “Wordless Chorus” and sticks around for “It Beats 4 U”. Although it’s named like a Prince song it sounds more like The Flaming Lips at their most relaxed. The rocking songs aren’t gone for good, though. “What A Wonderful Man” is the most energetic song on the album and could fit right in with the best from It Still Moves. While we are harkening back to bygone albums, it seems apt to mention how well “Into The Woods” and “Knot Comes Loose” would sound on At Dawn. I guess looking back on it now, Z is not really as different as it seemed when it was first released. As a whole it is more laid back and spaced out, but their live album, Okonokos proves pretty well that these songs fit right in with the rest of their catalog. - Andrew Raub
It Beats 4 U
Knot Comes Loose (link)
Why it’s on this list: I think I had kinda cooled on my teenage fandom of NIN before With Teeth came out. I had been a huge fan since I had heard the pumping heart of “Closer” as a younger lad, and 1999′s The Fragile was an album that never left my CD player for 6 months. But oh, the delays. 5 years for The Fragile. 3 years to release a damned live album for the Fragile tour. 3 more years until an actual new album was released. At that point, I wasn’t 16 any more. The angst and frustration just wasn’t there to relate as well. At 22, what could Trent Reznor offer me? Well, as it turned out, more than I expected. “With Teeth” is full of little surprises, such as the surprisingly soft and melodic conclusin to the intro “All The Love In The World”, and the return of what Trent has always done best: catchy industrial music. “The Hand That Feeds” is a huge track for a variety of reasons, and has been overplayed to death, and yet it is still awesome. It has this “Closer” replayability and likability to it that had been missing in some of his more recent work at the time. The synth in the track still gets me every time, so good. The album has more than that though, it’s packed with catchy singles (“Every Day Is Exactly The Same”, the fantastic disco dance beats of “Only”, “Right Where It Belongs”) as well as ‘deeper cuts’ like the title track, the underrated high octane “Getting Smaller”, the slow building cacophony of noise that is “Beside You In Time”, and the nods to the past in “Sunspots”. Nine Inch Nails needed an album that appealed to both the mainstream and their hardcore fans in order to really remain relevant, and this was just what the doctor ordered. Once again I had NIN-fever and perhaps a better appreciation of NIN looking back. While I recognize it’s probably not their best album, it’s still one of the best, and considering I wasn’t sure if I’d ever even see another NIN album before this came out, it has to be considered a complete success and a great return to form. - Zach Patterson
The Hand That Feeds
Why it’s on this list: I really got into QOTSA when Songs For The Deaf came out. To me that album is a sun-baked romp of macho manliness. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Lullabies To Paralyze but it one me over by being darker, sexier, and more slyly evil sounding. For being a somewhat long album with 14 songs, the pacing is done beautifully. At times it is jagged and sometimes silky smooth. The dark vibe is created by keeping all of the instruments relatively close to each other in the mix. The bass is never booming and the guitars are never overly screaming with treble. The songwriting no doubt helps as well. Songs like “I Never Came” and “Tangled Up In Plaid” present a slow burning and gentle sense of dread with a Cream inspired chorus. Songs like “Someone’s in the Wolf” and “Little Sister” have jagged riffs pulling the listener in all directions. All said and done, this is my favorite QOTSA album. There’s no filler and rarely does a longer album manage to keep my attention all the way through like this one does. - Andrew Raub
Someone’s In The Wolf (link)
Why it’s on this list: This album is like the soundtrack to the end of the world. It’s wrought with an ominous tone of fear and dread, and the long song titles are appropriately doom and gloom that perpetuate the idea that everything is going to hell as a wave of extinction hits the human race. Outside of concept and “feel”, the album is a purely instrumental post rock album that feels like a bit of a mix of Isis, G!YBE, and Pelican type bands. At the same time, I also see a bit of a band like Sigur Ros in them, in the type of song construction and general feel of the album (if Sigur Ros was a bit more metal, of course). Most of the songs begin slow and menacing and work up to an angry and satisfying conclusion. And perhaps the best example of that is the album closer, and probably my favorite song on the album, “The Sixth Extinction Crept Up Slowly, Like Sunlight Through the Shutters, as We Looked Back in Regret.” If you need a proof of concept for this album being about fear, decay, and extinction, give this song a listen. It’s long, involving, grandiose, epic, whatever adjective you want to use, but it’s amazing until it finally builds to that final crescendo with a complex stuttering guitar solo shredding through the complete chaos the song has become. Like the album itself, it’s haunting, beautiful, and it fucking rocks. Probably one of the most complete albums of the year, and near the top of the list for my favorite instrumental albums ever. - Zach Patterson
The Sixth Extinction Crept Up Slowly, Like Sunlight Through the Shutters, as We Looked Back in Regret
Alone and Unaware, the Landscape was Transformed in Front of Our Eyes link
Why it’s on this list: Why it’s on this list: Plain and simple, this album reminds me of the first trip to Montreal with Colin in 2005 to see the Minibosses perform at Arcadia. We were excited for all the lovely perks that Montreal had to offer, from poutine to Unibroue to unmentionables, and in particular to see our friends perform. The math-rockish musical style of this trio blends in perfectly with the vocals, even on the oft-maligned song “The Sunshine Strangler”, and was a pleasant complement to my Hot Snakes craze which had fully taken off by that time. - Sherv
Our Guitars Are Haunted (live)
The Sunshine Strangler
Got This Feeling
Why it’s on this list: Why it’s on this list: What drives this album is the groove. This is a complete band effort that is consistent throughout all sixteen tracks. Keith Richards guitar and Charlie Watts drums lock into rhythm and create a spark that ignites A Bigger Bang. Mick Jagger’s voice sounds as sharp as ever which is great because the lyrics he and Richards came up with are top notch. This album is energized by the same fuel that created The Stones early albums: camaraderie. Jagger and Richards sat in the same room and wrote each song while they waited for Watts to recover from throat surgery. Whether they wrote these songs in competition with one another or their friend’s health inspired them to write wonderful songs, A Bigger Bang is a reminder of just why The Rolling Stones are the greatest rock and roll band of all time. This album came out after forty three years since their formation and rocks just as hard as any other Stones album. No band in history can match the consistency of The Rolling Stones. - Charlie Goodrich
Why it’s on this list: Because from the first notes of Zillion to the last notes of Doom, this album is an incredibly upbeat collection of well-executed video game covers (okay, Doom’s not so upbeat).
I first encountered this album at MAGFest 5 after seeing the Chromelodeon play for the first time. They played an amazing set and at their merch table, I found out that the group did this album together under the Sprite Slowdown name. It was full of video game covers, so I picked it up along with other Chromelodeon releases.
It became a staple of my playlist for the longest time afterward and I’ve used it many a time as my “morning disc” – the CD I put in my CD player to use for my alarm clock. It works amazingly well, as Zillion is easily the most upbeat song I can think of off the top of my head. From the first notes, it makes me want to get up and it starts my day with a smile on my face. - Jason Vincion
Why it’s on this list: This record still wells me with an overwhelming sense of dread that I can’t quite place. It may be because of the rough patch in life I was going through in most of 2005- no direction, no prospects, no job, no joy in life, and this sludgy metal record has coated that place in my life in the time-space continuum and melded with it entirely like an alien parasite- the association is and always will be there for me.
The ghastly screams from tattered vocal chords you hear come courtesy of a guest-appearance by US Black Metal hermit Xasthur, and it’s these vocals that really separate the album from most of Sunn O)))s catalog for me. Sometimes to really appreciate where you are and where you’ve been, you need to go to a dark place. This album is always there when I need to go into that hole. - Matt Gburek
Bathory Erzabeth (link)
Why it’s on this list: The jangling burn of single coil pickups and the plight of the twenty-something male in the new millennium is a match made in heaven. Troubled Hubble, with their poignant, if yet a little nostalgic and sad lyrics, fit right in with the crowd of early 2000s bands that were indie/emo/punk/rock/whatever. However, Making Beds In A Burning House, the last album of Troubled Hubble’s brief career, is a genuinely fun gem. Powered by Chris Otepka’s shrill, melancholic, pointed voice, Troubled Hubble’s songs touch on the pharmaceutical industry (Ear, Nose & Throat), the pacing of modern life (Even Marathon Runners Need To Nap), insomnia (Safe & Sound), simple road trips gone by (Floribraska) and consumerism and capitalism (Jackpot Stampede Deluxe). None of these are topics are groundbreaking, sure. Yet, the album’s production is spot on, with just the right amount of strings and horns to back up the four-piece. The songs are all sort of same-y, but each is satisfying and different enough to make up a solid, fun light-rock album. Maybe an album crystallized in the listener’s age and era, but what album isn’t? I got my fun’s worth. - Mike Callahan
14,000 Things To Be Happy About
|The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema – Twin Cinema is a great indie pop album that has a sound seemingly familiar, yet unique. It’s poppy, but beneath that labelling is a diverse and deep album that also is catchy, cohesive, and fun. - Matt Gu.
Listen: “Star Bodies” link
|Psychic Paramount – Gamelan – The Psychic Paramount’s debut album is a psychedelic masterpiece consisting of five tracks that range from meditative to soul-destroying but always heavy on feedback and white noise either way. Play it at loud volumes if you want to simulate the effect of a train running into your house. - Matt Gb.
Listen: “Echoh Air” link