Yep, we're counting down the top 50. Click here for overview and criteria.
It is only by sheer luck that I stumbled across Ladyhawk. They don't get much press or credit, but lucky for me they were opening for Tapes 'n Tapes at the Abbey Pub. I really dug both openers, but didn't bring enough cash to buy the releases from both. I nearly flipped a coin, but instead went with my gut, chose Ladyhawk and have been reaping the benefits since that day. This is a small record from a small band, but it fits right in there at #43. It has just enough of everything - strident vocals that may or may not mean anything, ambiance, a decent groove, and a heaping spoonful of thick guitar fuzz.
There's something sleepy about this album - to the point that the first track never even really gets going. But before long, "The Dugout" riffs on in and gets your head bobbing in that way that makes you feel good all over. "Tell me the truth of your heart, please tell me" along with the title of the song, hearkens back to high school yearning - at least the movie version, anyway. From this point on, you should be won over as there's nothing inherently bad about any guitar riff that makes your head move. But we're just getting started.
"Long 'til the Morning" really means it, whatever it's saying. Frankly I don't care about the lyrics one bit as the track builds to an intense finish that lasts nearly the second half of the song. This shows off the band's chops for making noise, but more importantly it perfectly sets up the album's high point. "Came in Brave" is perfectly titled. It's the kind of tune that demands your attention from the first beat and doesn't let go because it's just so sure of itself. It stomps, it grooves, and Duffy Dreidiger's vocals (fed through a feedback microphone) are the icing on top of the cake made of pure fuzz. At every potential break, the guitars pour on the distortion. It's 3 superb minutes of 1970s rock with an 00s polish. In the "quiet" moments, we are barely allowed to make out the lamenting mumbles: "I know that this song is about you, and I'd say it to your face, but I got no guts." When it's had enough, it fuzzes back a bit more before the drums signal its end. From that point, we don't really have anywhere left to go, leaving the second half of the record as basically an encore. But it's one we feel comfortable taking us the rest of the way home.
After seeing their fine performance, I didn't expect this album to wind up on heavy rotation, especially this much later. But I keep going back to it again and again. Bottom line, this record feels better than it actually is. And there's not a damn thing wrong with that. I honestly don't think I'll ever stop playing it.
#44 - José González - In Our Nature
#45 - Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
#46 - Caribou - Andorra
#47 - Mastodon - Crack the Skye
#48 - Shout Out Louds - Howl Howl Gaff Gaff
#49 - At the Drive-In: Relationship of Command
#50 - Rival Schools: United by Fate