J-Mann’s Top 5 Albums of the Year

Whooooo hoooooo! Another year has nearly come to a close so you know what that means…. I have to categorize, sort, rate, and belittle the best and worst of everything! I’m breaking it down by media so if you’re incapable of reading the title because your head only points slightly downward, today we are starting with music.

In general, this has been a pretty sweet year in music. Especially if you are a fan of 70’s style hard rock like me (Oh yeah, that might be a major spoiler right there… whatever). Some really neat stuff has crept to my attention and I’m quite impressed. Yet at the same time the music industry seems to have sunken to an even lower depth than I could have ever imagined (yeah, I’ll point it out to you in a bit). It’s ok though, the good stuff this year definitely makes up for the bad stuff. So without typing a bunch more unnecessary garbage to make it look like I’ve really thought this out, ON WITH THE LIST!

#5 – Cosmic Egg – Wolfmother

When Wolfmother broke onto the music scene with their 2005 self-titled debut album; I was impressed. I actually picked the album up  thinking it was a re-release from some 70’s era band I had never heard of. This was a band that that obviously loved Led Zep and Deep Purple as much as me. They may not have been as technical as the rock heroes of old, but damn, did they ever know how write catchy riffs! They actually gained quite a bit of popularity and I had great hopes they would signal a return the great rock of the 70’s.

In mid 2008 it seemed my dreams were crushed. Wolfmother’s keyboardist/bassist and drummer left with the usual “creative differences” gag. While you think most people would have given it up with half the band walking out on them, singer/guitarist Andrew Stockdale rose to the challenge and reformed the band, eventually pumping out my #5 album of the year.

While their first album stuck quite heavily to a “greatest hits” of the 70’s style, Cosmic Egg sees Wolfmother diversify and experiment with their sound, and it pays off. From the metal-laced  guitars of “California Queen” to the mid-tempo piano based “Violence of the Sun”, this album is a great testament to why the sounds of the 70’s were great. My only major complaint with this album is its stupid title and accompanying cover art. Seriously, a cosmic egg? What does a cosmic egg even do?

Favorite Track: Violence of the Sun – A perfect way to end off the album:

#4 – Prior to the Fire – Priestess

When I heard Priestess’ first album “Hello Master” I liked it. It was hard rock with a metal edge that wasn’t too fancy, but managed to still be catchy. Far from amazing, but solid. I was really surprised when I first heard “Prior to the Fire”. Priestess took a complete 180 on their style, now attacking from the metal end, pulling back ever so slightly into hard rock territory. How’s that sound you may ask? It is intense. The knob has officially been cranked to 11 and I love it. This album barely stops to breath! It’s just one head-banging metal extravaganza to  the next! I’m going to go as far as to say Priestess earns my “best new direction” award for the year as well!  Good work Priestess, It’s always nice to see some heavy hitting tunes come from the good ol’ home land! I mean Canada by the way, we’re speaking of my home (and current) land, in case you were confused…

Favorite Track: The Gem – Priestess goes all kinds of places with this track and I love it! A great “pumping up” (I don’t know what that even means) tune!


#3 – Baby Darling Doll Face Honey – Band Of Skulls

Band of Skulls is an incredibly unusual group, and they’re all the most interesting because of it. Put one guy on guitars and vocals, one girl on bass and vocals, another guy on the drums, let them all write the music, include a diverse range of styles from blues to folk to hard rock, and you’ve just made yourself the Band of Skulls. That’s a bit of a mouthful for sure, and while some people seem to be ragging on them for a lack of consistency, I for one love every single track on this album. It’s never too complicated, but it always sounds passionate. My father has already declared this his favorite album of the year and we spent a good part of Christmas Eve rocking out to it. With it’s amazing blend of styles and general groovy-ness, this album is a great first release for Band of Skulls. I cannot wait to see what they come up with in the future!

Favorite Track: Hollywood Bowl – Shows off both vocalists soothing sides perfectly.

Crap! I can’t find a version of that one online, “I Know What I Am” is also pretty amazing (heck, I love this whole album to death)!


#2 – Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures

When a friend told me that John Paul Jones (of Zep fame), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) were getting together as a new group… I think I filled my pants with joy, right then and there. While I’m not a particularly large fan of Queen’s or the Foo Fighters, I have a lot of respect for Josh and Dave, they are very good at what they do, but this was one of those albums that I knew would be worth picking up even if just to hear JPJ play again (If my understanding is correct, he has hardly done a thing since his Zep days). JPJ was by far the most underrated member of Led Zeppelin. He wrote some of my all time favorites including  the hauntingly beautiful “No Quarter”.

Alright, enough about the past! We’ve established that we’ve got 3 of the most talented guys in rock together, so what happens? Well, they rock. They rock like there’s no tomorrow. They rock like they love what they do and this is really just for the hell of it. They rock, and I love it! This is a great album by 3 amazing musicians who really have nothing left to prove, they just damn well want to have a good time. It’s a quick paced album leaving very few slow moments, but damn, is it ever groovy! You’ll be slipping into your groove-pants and rocking your butt off before the first guitar riff even starts! When they do come, you’ll be impressed. Josh jumps from one crunching-ly awesome riff to the next with JPJ and Dave hamming home a solid rhythm section all the way through. The only way it could be better is if they gave JPJ a few more opportunities to show off his multi-instrumentalism and writing skills. Still, I’m overjoyed to see the man back in action, and with such a great group too. Here’s to hoping this isn’t the last we see of Them Crooked Vultures!

Favorite Track: “Nobody Loves Me and Neither Do I” – The opening track! I especially love the break down and build up section (3:10 mark in the video below), it’s the perfect balance of groovy and heavy.


#1 – The Resistance – Muse

Now I have to admit I’m a bit of a late comer to Muse. Actually I’ve only known about them for the past 2 months or so. But when a friend showed me the song “Knights of Cydonia” off their “Black Holes and Revelations” album… I was hooked. Muse consistently blends a diverse range of styles perfectly and The Resistance is no exception. In fact they even go as far as to extend their delicious musical smoothie to include some chillingly beautiful classical elements this time around. I am consistently impressed with Muse’s ability to change and incorporate more influences, yet at the end of the day always still sound like Muse. While not their best album,(the world will tell you absolution but trust me, it’s black holes) you can’t knock it. It would be like saying Houses of the Holy is a bad Zep album because it isn’t IV, you just don’t do that sort of thing.

Sounds on this album range from the danceable “Uprising” and “Undisclosed Desires” to the Queen-esque vocal harmonies of “Resistance” and “United States of Eurasia” and then to the beautiful and classical laden 3 part “Exogenesis Symphony”. What can I say, it’s a great ride through and through. The Orwellian influenced lyrics definitely don’t hurt either. So if you’re a fan of electronic, hard rock, industrial, queen style harmonies, and now even classical music, you owe it to yourself to give Muse (and specifically this album) a good hard listening to!

I’m so impressed with Muse that I’m going to also award them my “Band of the Decade” sticker of approval. Good work Muse, good work indeed!

Favorite Track – Undisclosed Desires – This is a tough call,  but I’m going to have to pick this one for its awesome danceablilty without being trashy and neat lyrics.


(Should really say Exogenesis because it’s intense… but no, you look it up yourself!)

Whew! that was some tough picking! Here is a brief list of some of the…

Other Albums I Enjoyed This Past Year:

  • In the Black – Kittie (The all Canadian, all female metal band has finally released an album people seem to like, I don’t mind it)
  • Endgame – Megadeth (Dave Mustaine believe it or not, still has it.)
  • Black Clouds and Silver Linings – Dream Theater (another solid entry to the Dream Theater Discography)
  • Kiss – Sonic Boom (never the most skilled musicians, but they can still put out a solid rock album)

and now the sad part….

Albums That Have Disappointed Me This Past Year:

  • American Soldier – Queensryche (It’s just way too bland. Nothing compared to their classic albums)
  • Infini – Voivod – (again, its not terrible, its just really uninspired compared to their old stuff)
  • The Devil You Know – Heaven and Hell (Bryn is gonna kill me for saying this… I love these guys, and this album isn’t terrible, but I just didn’t feel it beyond a few really good tracks)
  • I’m Not a Fan…But the Kids Like It! – Brokencyde (NOTE: This is the death of music I mentioned previously. I never liked this kind of music, but this is a new low for the industry as a whole. Watch the video if you really don’t believe me yet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5GNwCITd9g&feature=fvw )

And lastly…

The Albums I Missed This Year That Might Be Good Still:

  • Foot of the Mountain – a-ha
  • Back from the Dead – Spinal Tap
  • Billy Talent III – Billy Talent
  • Awake – Skillet
  • Here Waits Thy Doom – 3 Inches of Blood
  • Black Gives Way to Blue – Alice in Chains
  • Crash Love – AFI
  • Kaleidoscope – Tiësto
  • Embryonic – The Flaming Lips
  • I Told You I Was Freaky – Flight of the Conchords

So that about wraps things up!

What do you think?
Am I crazy?
Is my opinion extremely biased for some undisclosed reason?
Do I ask too many questions?
Let me know!

– Jordan A. Mann

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