Yep, we're counting down the top 50. Click here for overview and criteria.
The first note we hear is Gabriela's curt rap of the knuckles on the side of her guitar. It's probably the simplest form of music there is, just a percussive beat. Yet in that moment it indicates where the album is heading. I'm pretty sure there are no overdubs on this record, just two Mexican guitarists frenetically strumming. The first thing you notice is now agile they are. Having built up their chops playing heavy metal in Mexico city, the duo spent their free time exploring other forms of music, arriving at this hybrid of Metal and Flamenco. In the meantime, they moved to Dublin even though they spoke no English. It's hardly the most common or even sensible plan, but it has all worked out for Rodrigo y Gabriela.
Perhaps to make clear to everyone their roots, they include covers of Led Zeppelin and Metallica. "Stairway to Heaven" comes off as novelty by the second listen, but their take on Metallica's Orion is inspired. To be sure, much of the credit belongs to the band who wrote the song in the first place. Still, R&G are the ones who chose to cover it, and they play the fuck out of it on two acoustic guitars. I'm not going to aver that the sound is as rich and full as the Master of Puppets version, but I'll be damned if they don't come close.
I dug the album right away, but wasn't totally won over until I caught them live. Seeing them in person drove home how difficult it is to play these songs, and also how effortless they make it seem. What they do is physically impossible without extensive training. Gabriela's hand was a cartoonish blur for the entire set. She's a sure bet for tendinitis when she gets old.
One could argue that this is a small record. There are no vocals, and only nine tracks that wrap up in under 43 minutes. But there is no doubting it's a fun record, great for playing in the background of a party or privately head-bopping with headphones on. I expected to get a bit tired of it, but perhaps moving to Argentina has helped keep it in the rotation. The locals aren't quite ready for Hot Water Music, and this always seems to be a fan favorite. They have a new album I've yet to hear that has received raves. Perhaps in time it will knock this impressive release out of my list. I can't wait to find out!
#36 - Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
#37 - Crooked Fingers - Red Devil Dawn
#38 - The National - Boxer
#39 - Hot Water Music - Caution
#40 - Eels - Daisies of the Galaxy
#41 - Gogol Bordello - Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike
#42 - Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy
#43 - Ladyhawk - Ladyhawk
#44 - José González - In Our Nature
#45 - Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion