Stephen Slaybaugh

Top 10 Albums

Northren Psych
Columbus Discount

I guess I’ve hung out with Ron House enough over the last decade to have not felt his absence. Musically speaking, though, aside from a relatively sedate solo outing in 2002, Obsessed, House has been silent in the new millennium. Thankfully, Northren Psych remedies the situation with fittingly tumultuous aplomb. Joined by an ad-hoc group of Columbus musicians, House channels metaphysical musings into noisy nuggets that unravel in the best of ways.

Edwyn Collins
Losing Sleep

While the internet has made international borders irrelevant when it comes to release dates, Edwyn Collins’ most recent solo album technically wasn’t available in the U.S. until this year. And though the record features guest appearances from Johnny Marr, Roddy Frame and members of Franz Ferdinand, Collins is still the star here. The fact that just six years ago Collins could barely speak (he suffered a stroke in 2005) makes this album all the more incredible. But these aren’t charity kudos; Losing Sleep is a remarkable album filled with soul-inflected pop on par with his work in Orange Juice.

Mikal Cronin
Mikal Cronin
Trouble in Mind

After several years of playing in the Moonhearts and frequently collaborating with Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin released his solo debut this year. Segall and Charlie Moonheart helped out on the album, as did John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees), and the end result proves that Cronin is every bit on par with his San Franciscan cohorts. “Green and Blue” and “Gone” are filled with big wooly riffs, but despite their lysergic tendencies, are pop songs just the same. This is all the more apparent when the gauze is lifted, as on “Again and Again,” where Cronin shows his heritage of sunny California rock. Few records this year seemed so unforced and naturally brilliant.

The Feelies
Here Before

The Feelies’ first new album in 20 years, Here Before couldn’t be more perfectly named if the New Jersey band had called it Deja Vu. On cuts like “When You Know” and “Bluer Skies,” it’s as if no time has passed at all, with guitarists Glen Mercer and Bill Million trading propulsive riffs that hearken back to their work on classics like The Good Earth and Only Life. On the leadoff cut, Mercer asks, “Is it too late to do it again?” Here Before answers that question with a resounding “no.”

Times New Viking
Dancer Equired

As much as one might want to use words like “mature” in describing Dancer Equired, the story here is not so much the methodology, but the songs. It’s been six years and four records since Times New Viking debuted with Dig Yourself, and so they are a little longer in the tooth and, perhaps, a little wiser. Where once Adam Elliott and Beth Murphy sang with romantic nihilism, here they sound a little world-weary on cuts like “Want to Exist” and “No Room to Live.” The latter is one of the group’s finest songs to date, a mix of lyrical bittersweets, chiming guitars and a shuffling snare backbeat. The track, like much of the album, is devoid of the squall that characterized past records, but one gets the sense that it would have been just as astounding had it been lovingly fucked with. Dancer Equired sits among TNV’s best, not because of what it isn’t, but because of everything it is.

Wooden Shjips
Thrill Jockey

With West, the San Franciscan band’s third album, the Wooden Shjips have come into their own. The production work of Phil Manley has done wonders, and the studio-recorded album makes their previous efforts now sound pale by comparison. With the improved fidelity, the trails of guitar and keys have been thrown in sharp relief, while the bass and drums rumble and crack underneath. Beginning with the cold rush of guitar fuzz of “Black Smoke Rise,” the album plunges headlong down an intoxicating path, each of the subsequent six songs more vivid than the last. West is a towering accomplishment for the band, one that never diminishes with subsequent listens.

w h o k i l l

There’s no good reason why the constructions on Merrill Garbus’ latest foray as tUnE-yArDs (she’s one of the few whose arbitrary capitalization I honor) should work. But the multi-culti junkyard funk she bangs out is wicked smart, full of momentary pastiches of sonic reference, which give reason to the record’s bumpy facade. The record also possesses enough of a sense of abandon that one is assured of Garbus’ intentions, which seem to be to try to unite the spate of sounds littering her brain. At that, she has certainly succeeded, as w h o k i l l is a pop record with a heart of Afro-beat.

The Men
Leave Home
Sacred Bones

While The Men’s debut record has been likened to the secondcoming of pigfuck, I think of it as another beast altogether. Sure, there are elements that will have you thinking Pussy Galore must have put these guys up for adoption many years ago, but in addition to big hairballs of noise, Leave Home is characterized by enough psych swells, as well as a direct reference to Spacemen 3 (“( )”—no that’s not a typo) to let you know that the band favors potions stronger than your average boilermaker. With noise sculpted into all kinds of permutations, this is a monster of an album.

New Brigade
What’s Your Rupture?

With unnerving instincts—especially when one considers the band’s median age—Iceage created an album that was unlike anything else released this year, or any other year for that matter. Cuts like “White Rune” and “Never Return” were austere and cold, a harsh clashing of tones rendered in sharp contrast and with the ferocity of youth. Over the course of the 76 seconds of “Count Me In,” one can almost hear the band coming of age as a palpable sense of enervation sets in. In less than 23 minutes, New Brigade captures everything that punk once promised us.

Zola Jesus
Sacred Bones

Over the last two years, Nika Roza Danilova (a.k.a. Zola Jesus) has evolved from the latent noisescapes of her early years into a realm of sounds much more majestic. Where once she muddled in bedroom-recorded confines, she has since progressed to become the modern day heir apparent to Siouxsie Sioux, combining the dramatic with the poptastic. Conatus capitalizes on her two EPs from last year, Stridulum and Valusia, and is her most concise artistic expression yet. Songs like “Hikikomori” and “Seekir” are 21st century goth at its finest, delighting in depressive undertones and the joy of our bleak future, though the coming years look much more bright for our heroine.

Top 10 Singles

10. Casiokids, “Det Haster!” (Polyvinyl)

9. Generationals, “Ten-Twenty-Ten” (Park the Van)

8. Widowspeak, “Harsh Realm” (Captured Tracks)

7. Anika, “No One’s There” (Stones Throw)

6. The Raveonettes, “Forget That You’re Young” (Vice)

5. We Are Augustines, “Chapel Song” (Oxcart)

4. Ladytron, “White Elephant” (Nettwerk)

3. Cut Copy, “Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution” (Modular)

2. Zola Jesus, “Seekir” (Sacred Bones)

1. Times New Viking, “No Room to Live” (Merge)