Michael P. O’Shaughnessy

Top 10 Albums

This year, I wasn’t impressed by very many records. What mostly caught my ear were live shows. The record industry will collapse, and it won’t really matter. The bands you’ll get to see will be the ones that have so much drive and love for their art that they can’t help but take it to as many places as possible, not the ones with big budgets and flashy stages. You should go to as many shows as possible. The band writes songs, and then the clubs books the band. You go out to the club and pay to see the band and buy drinks. You are satisfied, the club and the band both stay in business. Really, what’s your excuse?

Prince Rama
Trust Now
Paw Tracks

I’ll admit right now that the first thing about Prince Rama that turned me on was the name. I’d never heard tje, and thought this was a new undiscovered dubmeister from the ’70s whose tapes someone had unearthed. Then I saw the cover and knew I was wrong. Then I listened to the freaking songs, which were Björky, Panda Beary, Animal Collectivey, but not trite or contrived. Trust Now is hi-fi and interesting, unexpectedly and headbangingly good without ever getting boring or dull. Now I just have to see them live.

Strange Boys
Live Music
Rough Trade

I first came upon the Strange Boys in Austin in 2006. It was mod rock in jeans instead of slacks, with just the right mix of American punk and British pop. On Live Music, they’ve evolved into more of an Exile-era Stones than the Belfast Gypsies-esque kids I saw years ago. This is a good sign, as how far can you really push the Nuggets catalog until you find the limits of modern production techniques? The good thing is that they retain all that smart, well-rounded songcraft. There’s the “dudes around the pool table’ toughness, but also the sincere little guy with a bleeding heart lyricism.

Something Dirty
Bureau B

Normally, I laugh off comeback albums. Oh look, the misguided old guy wants to rekindle his prime and try to link up with some ill-informed youngster who is really just looking for coattails to ride to the top. When they come from bands I revere, I hang my head with empathetic shame. Because I spent so much time studying each rhythm and each note and explicating each line, when the band fails to live up to any expectations I’d built up I would have to share in their failure because of my psychic connection to the music. Then Faust put out Something Dirty and it blew me away and continues to blow me away. Much like Faust’s other work, it is challenging and exciting at the same time and as bombastic and aurally terrorizing. Thanks Faust for giving me hope.

I’m Bleeding Now
Smog Veil

So, who is the guy that’s always hanging out with musicians? The drummer.

How do you get a drummer to come to your house? Order a pizza.

How does a drummer do it? Just a little too fast. Just a little too slow. Just a little too fast.

But seriously, folks, someone let the drummer from the Bassholes get a guitar and a microphone and now, oh man, they should have kept him behind the kit because he’s blowing everyone away. Full disclosure: I grew up ripping off the drum techniques of Lamont “Bim” Thomas, watching him in many and varied Columbus bands, and buying records from him at Used Kids. I’d always had much respect for his drumming, let alone his work ethic as a drummer, but when I heard he had a new band and he was singing? I was almost as excited as I was worried. What if it sucked? Well, it doesn’t. It fucking rips. Try “Gin and Coke Water” on your hi-fi and see if you can resist bobbing your head.

Drag City

Neverendless isn’t much of a departure from Cave’s earlier material. Thank God. It sounds like it’s just an extension of Pure Moods or Psychic Psummer, that is crisply produced tightly polyrhythmic krautrock relying heavily on drone and repetition and trance. It is a solid formula and Cave pulls it off, still, without sounding formulaic or droll. The songs are long, thus the records cannot hold many of them. Neverendless has five. I want 10 more before they change somehow. Oh yeah, I first heard them live.

Go with Me
Hardly Art

Speaking of twee, Seapony does it with a drum machine. Go with Me is another record that makes me so glad to be alive and not in heaven in 2011. It gives me hope that they are using a drum machine for good and not evil. It makes me happy that they sound like Lois fronting Beat Happening at the Hacienda. I just hope they get a move on and tour out to Ohio. They started here anyway.

Twin Sister
In Heaven

When I was a kid I was obsessed with The Sundays. Later on, I found the Sugarcubes and Talulah Gosh. I never thought I’d be able to discover a new band on my own in the same vein (intelligent pop music, admirably unsexualized front-women, challenging hooks and rewarding lyrics) until I stumbled upon Twin Sister opening for Wild Nothing. I’ve been devouring their painfully sparse back catalogue and haven’t gone two days without spinning “Kimmi in a Rice Field.” It’s okay to be twee again.

Davila 666
Tan Bajo
In the Red

If I didn’t know better, after hearing their first single, I’d have thought Davilla 666 was a bunch of garage rockers from Chicago’s south side . Now, though, these dudes have essentially created and molded Boricua punk into a whole new thing all their own. All kinds of flanged-out gang vocals, boom-bap drums and spine twisting guitar solos—and everything sounds like it was recorded in a dank garage hideout facing away from the beach. The best part is the live show, and they tour so damn much that you ought to have a chance to catch them.

Seun Anikulapo Kuti & Egypt 80
From Africa with Fury: Rise
Knitting Factory

Obviously benefitting from the established star power behind him with dad’s old band Egypt 80, this album could have been Seun Kuti’s easy ride to a career covering Fela’s old material. Instead, Seun has become far more than the heir apparent to Afrobeat. From the start-stop banging of “African Soldier” to weed anthem “The Good Leaf,” From Africa with Fury: Rise excited both stuffy NPR jazzbos and off-the-grid psych-heads. I can’t stop listening to it either.

Center of the Sun

There are plenty of bands that take heavy cues from classic-rock monsters like Vanilla Fudge, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, but there are very few that get it right. Fewer still are those that can do it right and add shades of Amon Duul, Flower Travellin Band, or Kennelmus. EYE is that one band. They encapsulate the phrase “power trio.” They blew me away when I saw them live, but until I put the songs in my headphones, I hadn’t exactly realized how well they’d pulled it off.