Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holiday Buyer's Guide (Alternative)

Other Sections:

-Symphonic/Power/Folk Metal
-Accessible Metal
-Classic Metal
-Mainstream Rock
-Extreme Metal


For the most part, alternative and indie rock had a fairly disappointing year. Major label debuts by indie veterans Modest Mouse, Interpol, and the White Stripes failed to rank among the genre’s best of the year, and there weren’t enough quality alternative rock records to divide the best into more specific subgenres. That being said, there were still a few truly outstanding alternative records released in 2007, and even a few “Album of the Year” contenders.

Arcade Fire
Neon Bible

Neon Bible has been out since March, so chances are that fans of the band’s debut already own this album. If you’re one of the few Arcade Fire fans that are still up in the air, know that Neon Bible has some truly outstanding moments that make up for its shortcomings. The album is a solid experience as a whole, and many of the songs themselves stand alone as some of the best of the year. Alternative fans who aren’t sure if they should buy into the band’s massive hype are advised to take the plunge, but not at the expense of some of the other albums on this list. There are times when the Arcade Fire sound amateurish, and Neon Bible is not as polished of an album as their debut. However, what works is generally outstanding, and there’s enough of what works to highly recommend Neon Bible to all alternative rock fans.

Arctic Monkeys
Favourite Worst Nightmare

The Arctic Monkeys deserve credit for number of reasons. The first and most simple reason is that they’ve made a great album. On top of that, they’ve created an accessible album with great lyrics, catchy beats, and some surprising evolution. It’s rare to see a band that has had as much success as the Arctic Monkeys improve as much as they have on their sophomore album. Fans of their first release may be disappointed by the darker and more serious sound of Favourite Worst Nightmare, but anyone that wants more than just a catchy beat should be more than pleased by the band’s improvement. With this album, the Arctic Monkeys have ascended beyond just a young band that can combine catchy tunes with witty lyrics. Now the band has evolved into a truly unique indie artist with as much substance as wit. Any fan of alternative rock should enjoy Favourite Worst Nightmare, and it’s surprisingly one of the best alternative albums of the year.

Black Lips
Good Bad Not Evil

Describing the sound of the Black Lips is quite a difficult task. Fans of the band should know what to expect, and it’s doubtful that anyone who is already into noise rock or the Black Lips will be disappointed. If you’re already lost, then this album probably isn’t for you. Although Good Bad Not Evil is more accessible than one would expect, it’s hard to tell who exactly will like this album outside of the Black Lips’ fan base. In all actuality that’s the beauty of both of the band and album. The Black Lips have evolved their sound to the point where it is truly unique, and open-mindedness is a requirement to fully appreciate what they’ve accomplished here. If you’re not lost at this point, this album is highly recommended. If you’re one of the many who have no idea who the Black Lips are, then listen to a few songs and get the album if you like what you hear.

Explosions in the Sky
All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone

All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone isn’t an album that everyone will enjoy, but those who appreciate beautiful instrumental music are highly recommended to give this band a listen. Those who are already familiar with the group might be disappointed by their lack of evolution, but it’s hard to argue with yet another beautiful release from one of alternative’s best. The emotion put into the melodic riffs creates a far more touching story than any lyric, and All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone is an album worth experiencing for anyone that appreciates sheer instrumental talent and beauty. You won’t find anything catchy, but you will find true musical beauty. It may not farther their sound much, and this is in no way their best album, but Explosions in the Sky have created another worthwhile gem.


Although Grinderman’s self-titled debut is about as pure rock ‘n roll as modern rock gets, its appeal has been mostly with indie and alternative fans thus far. Nick Cave, a famous indie musician known for work with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, is certainly talented and creative, and his Grinderman project might just be his best work to date. The dark, catchy, and often sexually driven songs make Grinderman an album that can almost certainly be recommended to indie faithful, and open-minded fans of hard rock might also be wise to give this one a shot. Nick Cave has made an album that varies from genius to just plain odd, and the result can be recommended to any open-minded adult (this album is NOT for children or families, and that can’t be stressed enough) rock fan.

In Rainbows

If you only buy one album this year, do yourself (and the music industry) a favor and make it In Rainbows. You won’t find this one in stores, but instead exclusively on Radiohead’s website (radiohead.com). The album’s much talked about sales method lets the buyer pick their own price, and that revolutionary protest of CD prices is worth the download alone (even if you chose to download it for free). However, In Rainbows isn’t on this list because of its sales method. It’s on this list because it’s quite possibly the best album released this year. The album is brilliantly experimental, as well as accessible, and any fan of music will likely find at least something to love about In Rainbows. Just download this one immediately and experience it for yourself. You’ll thank me later.

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Unless complicated instruments are a requirement for you, any and all alternative rock fans need to take notice of the outstanding music Spoon has been putting out throughout their career. They get more and more creative with each release, and although the music seems to only get simpler, the band’s music is only getting better with time. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is an album just as simple as its name, but also just as charming. It’s catchy, creative, and especially unique. The lyrics are simple but intelligent, and the band knows what they’re good at. Spoon doesn’t try to do anything overly complicated, and they don’t even do anything outstanding in particular, but it’s the entire package that makes things great. This is an album that is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of any alternative fan, and it’s the type of album that can and should be appreciated by anyone.

The Good, the Bad & the Queen
The Good, the Bad & the Queen

One look at the personnel behind The Good, the Bad & the Queen will make any alternative fan start to drool. Considering the amount of creative talent that went into it, it’s easy to call this supergroup’s self-titled debut a disappointment, but the initial listen to this album is one of the best experiences of the year. The problem is that the album lacks standout tracks and staying power, and it’s likely that only huge fans of Damon Albarn are going to find life in this album past the first couple of listens. That being said, The Good, the Bad & the Queen is a unique experience that makes for a very interesting listen. Fans of Albarn’s other projects (Blur, Gorillaz) that are interested in this one are advised to go ahead and get it, as you’ll almost certainly get at least something out of it. Any alternative fan looking for a unique experience should put The Good, the Bad & the Queen on their list as well.

The National

Boxer is a perfect example of quality indie rock. On top of being one of the year’s most consistent albums, The National has proven with this album that they know what it takes to play indie rock right. You won’t find tricky riffs or complicated instrumentals, but you find intelligent lyrics with clever wordplay, soothing guitars that bring the listener into the dark and beautiful world of Boxer, and a large amount of musical variety. Any fan of indie rock should appreciate what The National has accomplished with this album, and Boxer is accessible to warrant a very high recommendation for any fan of alternative rock in general. In fact, anyone that appreciates dark and beautiful music should at least consider Boxer this Christmas. It’s a superb album, and unlike many other indie gems of the past few years, you don’t need to be a fan of the genre to appreciate the brilliance of this record.

The New Pornographers

Often beautiful and always interesting, Challengers is an album that may not rank as the band’s best, but it’s easily among the best alternative albums of 2007. Although the band hates being labeled as a “supergroup,” that’s essentially what The New Pornographers are. They’re a supergroup made up of some of the most creative indie rock musicians of today, and their albums continue to show just how creative indie rock can be. The only thing holding Challengers back from being a must-buy album is that the band has released slightly better albums in the past. If you’re looking to get into the band, this album shouldn’t be your first, but this is an easy recommendation for those who have already delved into the creative world of The New Pornographers.

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