15. !!! – Strange Weather, Isn’t It?
These post-punk, hard funk, jazz-alternative geniuses are another band that can do no wrong. They’ve created a groove that is downright delicious and never gets old. I would almost find it hard to be in this band because the consistent level of funkiness displayed would have to be exhausting after awhile. Can anyone (or anything) be that funky? They’re working on it. Weather only gets docked a point or two for merely sustaining the funk, rather than elevating it to a new level. More please.
14. Hoodoo Gurus – Purity of Essence
When one of your all-time favorite bands comes back with a new album after a loooong hiatus (one album in the last 15 years, no good ones in the last 20) the comeback better be good (I’m looking at you Howard Jones and Crowded House who both released junk last year). Thank God when it is! The Gurus started out with some of the most addictive jangle-pop of the early 80s, but then took a weird turn into almost metal for a while. Shame since they’re better at what they do than almost everyone. Purity returns them to the catchy songcraft of their early years, but with meatier hooks left over from their second half. The two sides combine for an excellent comeback. FINALLY!
Nugget: "Crackin’ Up"
13. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
I’ve never cared for this band’s brand of gauzy, fuzzy dream pop (if you can even call it “pop”). It’s too murky and shapeless. Halcyon Digest, however, is one beautiful piece of work. It’s still gauzy and, sometimes, murky, but with beautiful textures that stir true emotions rather than sounding like it’s all underwater and being made up on the spot. Some tracks are simple and languid, others build into an extended frothy jam. Both are good. Sneaky good. It’s the kind of album that worms into your skull and leaves a mark.
Nugget: "Desire Lines"
12. Film School – Fission
This is some beautiful 80s alternative in the mold of classic bands like Psychedelic Furs, the Primitives and Lush. They didn’t use to be. Always practitioners of the fuzzy distorted pop of shoegazer bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain, Film School added that priceless “chick singer” element (making for those transcendant boy-girl, Beach Boy-like harmonies) by putting the bassist’s voice higher in the mix, plus the occasional blip and bloop of 80s technology. They've warmed up the sound and improved the songwriting by simplifying the approach. Every track’s a keeper.
Nugget: “When I’m Yours”
11. Warpaint – The Fool
Think Deerhunter, only girls. Warpaint create these dreamy, dirge-like layers of sounds that penetrate deep in the heart and bring meaning to dark corners of the soul. It’s the kind of album you can put on and get lost in. That seemed to be their M.O. while making it, since many of the tracks just liftoff to jazzy improvisation that always serve the overall mood. Put it on and tune out the rest of the noise in life. Or, as John Legend would say, "Get Lifted". Did I mention they are girls? Maybe it’s sexist of me, but that's significant in my book. Of all the bands I've played for friends this past year, Warpaint got the strongest response.