[Ed. Note: I hate ranking, don't you? You always feel as though things should be higher and it's so hard to rank music objectively. I like Phil Collins more than Brian Eno, but objectively Eno makes superior music. How can I possibly rank the two of them against each other? So in lieu of ranking this year or my planned award show format, I'm simply going to list fifty great albums you should have heard and should still listen to if you haven't. No order, no ranking, no judging which is superior to the other. They're all great and need to be heard. Following is the first ten, which will be followed by ten more each day until we get to fifty.]
After the Burial - In Dreams
Best Tracks: "Your Troubles Will Cease and Fortune Will Smile Upon You," "Pendulum," "Bread Crumbs and White Stones," "To Carry You Away"
A new standard for the progressive death metal/djent genre coming in the form of the third album from Minnesota's After the Burial. (Original Grade: A)
Alexisonfire - iTunes Originals
Best Tracks: "You Burn First," "Waterwings (And Other Pool Side Fashion Faux Pas)," "This Could Be Anywhere in the World," "No Transitory"
Alexisonfire has never released an official live album, but this come close. A compilation of new live-in-the-studio records of old songs mixed with new songs from their Old Crows/Young Cardinals album, this is a must-hear for fans of the post-hardcore band looking for revitalizing of their classics. (Original Grade: C)
Alexisonfire - Dog's Blood
Best Tracks: "Dog's Blood," "Grey," "Vex"
The latest EP from Alexisonfire, seeing them turn to a more experimental side. It consists of four tracks, all killer, no filler, and a return to styles they haven't dabbled in for nearly ten years. A surprising and welcome return to form. (Original Grade: A+)
Astronautalis - DANCEHALLHORNSOUND!!!!
Best Tracks: "Do You Believe in Life After Thugs?," "Voicemail Freestyle: Mike Wiebe"
This new mixtape sees Astronautalis deconstructing indie hip-hop as a whole and turning it upside down. It's his strongest work in a while and the remixes seen here are sometimes even better than the originals. (Original Grade: B)
Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea
Best Tracks: "Closer," "Paper Dolls"
Corinne Bailey Rae's soft and sweet R&B can be extremely powerful and that's shown on her strong new album. (Original Grade: not reviewed)
Max Bemis and the Painful Splits - Max Bemis and the Painful Splits
Best Tracks: "Assimilate All Bastards," "Do the Dohnk," "Piss on the Precedent"
On his first solo release, Say Anything frontman Max Bemis strips things down and writes some basic but highly enjoyable acoustic songs that leave nothing, including his immense songwriting talent, hidden from the listener. (Original Grade: A)
Black Francis - NonStopErotik
Best Tracks: "Lake of Sin," "Dead Man's Curve," "When I Go Down on You
The prolific Pixies frontman's latest album is a fun though slightly perverted diversion, proving his ability to write short catchy songs hasn't faded away after all these years. (Original Grade: not reviewed)
Burzum - Belus
Best Tracks: "Belus' død," "Morgenrøde"
Varg Vikernes returns after a lengthy prison sentence with a new Burzum in the black metal style fans know and love from their early albums. It shows some growth and maturity while never betraying the Burzum sound. (Original Grade: B)
Calculator - These Roots Grow Deep...
Best Tracks: "Our Homes, Our Graves," "2012"
Fantastic compilation of previously released, previously unreleased, and brand new material from the California screamo band. Normally a release like this would come after a band's break-up, but thankfully Calculator are still around and kicking ass. This compilation proves it. (Original Grade: not reviewed)
City and Colour - Live at the Orange Lounge
Best Tracks: "What Makes a Man?," "Comin' Home," "Save Your Scissors"
A live album from Dallas Green of Alexisonfire's solo project featuring songs from his previous albums. Though there's nothing really new here, these are fantastic performances, with almost more of a haunting quality to them than the originals. Green's voice and guitar playing are beautiful and it features some of his best songs. (Original Grade: B)