Spiritualized

Rust Is Just Right’s Best Albums of 2022

Today is April 18, and it is time once again for us here at Rust Is Just Right to release our best-of list of albums from the past year.  We follow this unusual schedule for a few reasons: 1) It allows some of the albums that are released at the end of the calendar year to get some recognition, since they usually get swallowed up in the attention of the flurry of year-end lists and 2) We get the chance to analyze other lists to pick up on albums that somehow escaped our attention during the course of the year. Also, if you’re one of the lucky folks who get a refund this year, we hope you spend at least part of it on these worthy albums.

The process that is used to determine this list is highly rigorous and hardly scientific, but that is the charm and the benefit of The Process. Sure, it may look like a simple tally of the number of times we play each album, but believe us, there are plenty of working parts that contribute behind the scenes that help generate the results (and will be documented when we officially submit our eventual patent application).  It has served us well in years past, and we’re too tired to change systems now.

Note: Though the list is a Top 10, there are more albums than slots, because we don’t like breaking ties for the same play count.  If you’re really intent on focusing on only 10, I guess take the 10 highest performing albums from the list, but you really shouldn’t limit yourself like that if you can help it.

10. Alvvays – Blue Rev; Boris – Heavy Rocks; The Chats – Get Fucked; Father John Misty – Chloë and the Next 20th Century; Kiwi Jr. – Chopper; Knifeplay – Animal Drowning; Sharon Van Etten – We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong; Wet Leg – Wet Leg. (7 plays) Wet Leg was the hot new band this year that broke through into the mainstream, and I loved everything about their debut except their lead single “Chaise Longue”, so take that for what you will. Sharon Van Etten couldn’t top her previous effort which claimed our top spot a few years back, but her pandemic-inspired record did provide some comfort. Knifeplay is part of the resurgent shoegaze scene, on the more mellow end of the scale. Kiwi Jr. came out with their best effort yet, a fun and hooky indie rock effort that reminded us of a lot of bands, but none of which we could agree was the actual inspiration. Father John Misty dialed it back a notch with his moody new record, but we have the feeling it will have staying power over the years. The Chats put out some brilliantly bratty punk rock (as you might have guessed) that kept our fists and adrenaline pumping. A newfound fascination with the experimental metal of Boris led to their new album leaping onto our list. Alvvays barely makes it in, mainly because we loved their previous albums (but everyone else seems to like this one best).

9. Drug Church – Hygiene; High Vis – Blending; Preoccupations – Arrangements; Sports Team – Gulp!; Wilco – Cruel Country. (8 plays) Wilco keeps up their recent mellow run, but it still doesn’t feel like a chore even at double-album length. Sports Team helped revive memories of the mid-00s British indie rock invasion, but with more cheeky fun and more politically biting lyrics. “Arrangements” is an apropos name for the latest from Preoccupations, because the way the songs fit are intriguing enough, but still there’s something missing compared to their previous albums. High Vis shows that there’s still gold to be mined from 90s alternative rock, especially in the deeper Jane’s Addiction catalog. And Drug Church shows that you can be hardcore and have fun too at the same time.

8. Launder – Happening; Oneida – Success; Peter Matthew Bauer – Flowers. (9 plays) We loved another solo effort from a former Walkmen, but honestly we’re more excited that the guys are back and touring again. Oneida brought back memories of Open Your Heart/New Moon-era The Men, with their fast-charging rock carrying a bit stronger psychedelic streak. Launder was another great leader of the new shoegaze movement, though their reverby guitars are backed by a driving beat that will keep your energy up.

7. Cannons – Fever Dream; Earl Sweatshirt – Sick!; Horsegirl – Versions of Modern Performance; Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry; Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down. (10 plays) If we had not waited so long to pick up the latest from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, this album would have placed much higher on our list; after the uneven Mosquito we find the band reviving the It’s Blitz era, but with a slower more deliberate tempo. We may have heard some of these melodies before, but it never feels like a rip-off. Horsegirl reminded us of the recent debut from Yuck with its inspiration in 90s-era indie rock, but they focused on the scuzzier and more lo-fi end of the spectrum. We first heard Cannons in a beer commercial, but thankfully one of the local stations picked up on the song and put it into their rotation, prompting us to take a listen to their stuff, and we are huge fans of their dream-pop sound.

6. The Beths – Expert In A Dying Field; Orville Peck – Bronco; The Smile – A Light for Attracting Attention. (11 plays) The Radiohead side-project was a pleasant surprise, and their more animated efforts were up to the standard that we expect from the main gig. Orville Peck’s debut has remained a constant in our rotation, which makes us even more upset that the newer, more adventurous album from the goth-country crooner hasn’t been released on disc. The Beths consistently put out some of the tightest, hookiest pop-rock around, and we’re glad to see they’re getting more recognition for it. If the title of the album puts a smile on your face (like “Future Me Hates Me” did before), you’re sure to enjoy the actual music.

5. Chat Pile – God’s Country; Spiritualized – Everything Was Beautiful. (12 plays) Chat Pile proves that what “God’s Country” really needed was a return to the hard-edged noise rock of Big Black; granted, not everyone will have the same appreciation of an opening industrial drum track pierced by the scream of “HAMMERS AND GREASE!” like some of us do, but if you can get past the abrasiveness you can dig in and find real treasure. On the other hand, the best description of the band’s sound we can find is “pure evil”, but that’s not to say it’s anything cartoonish; their sound is best exemplified by the line “real American horror story” which perfectly encapsulates everything they want to say about homelessness in the brilliant “Why”.

On the other hand, Spiritualized is basically on the other end of the spectrum. A companion piece to their brilliant previous record …And Nothing Hurt, the focus here is on the more uplifting parts of life. Even the cacophonous finale “I’m Coming Home Again” finds real beauty in the dissonance.

4. Denzel Curry – Melt My Eyez See Your Future; Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia. (13 plays) While we enjoyed their previous albums, it wasn’t until their latest album that we came to fully appreciate the downbeat post-punk with an Irish accent of Fontaines D.C.

Denzel Curry had our song of the year with “Walkin”, a catchy mix that constantly shifts under your feet that never trips you up. The rest of the album comes pretty close to matching it.

3. Buddy – Superghetto; Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa [/Moon]. (14 plays)

We loved Buddy’s overlooked debut Harlan & Alondra, but it didn’t quite match the snap of Superghetto. Quick and to the point, the beats were fun which helped led to replayability, but it didn’t come at the expense of witty and often incisive lyrics.

If there is one thing you can count on in the music world, it’s Spoon putting out a great album. The streak since Girls Can Tell has been incredible, and every time you think their latest is going to fall short, they pull off the impossible and come back with another classic record. This time around they’ve stripped the sound down a bit and shifted some of the focus from synths to guitars, but this isn’t exactly a redo of A Series of Sneaks. Also, special props to the band for putting together a remix album that somehow is good enough on its own but still preserves the original album’s sound.

2. Hurray for the Riff Raff – Life On Earth. (15 plays)

This album is filled with memorable tracks from beginning to end, and a new track becomes stuck in our head with each listen.

1. Bartees Strange – Farm To Table. (16 plays)

We first caught wind of Bartees Strange when we heard of a dude putting together a cover of songs by The National, and you can definitely hear that influence in the song above (we especially love how he captures the ratatat-ratatatatat of the snare). But Bartees is more than just a fan of broody indie rock, and his new album mixes genres without ever sounding just like a tourist taking in different scenes. We also caught his live show a few months back, and the guy is fun as hell (fun fact: last year’s number one artist Pom Pom Squad was set to be the opener, but couldn’t make the show due to mechanical issues with their van. Hopefully they can team up again soon.

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Rust Is Just Right’s Best Albums of 2018

Today is April 15, and while the rest of the nation trudges through another Tax Day, we here at Rust Is Just Right choose this occasion to return from the dead and release our Best Albums of the Year list.  We follow this unusual schedule for a few reasons: 1) It allows some of the albums that are released at the end of the calendar year to get some recognition, since they usually get swallowed up in the attention of the flurry of year-end lists; 2) We get the chance to analyze other lists to pick up on albums that somehow escaped our attention during the course of the year; and 3) It provides a handy consumer guide for people to focus where to spend their tax refund.

The process that is used to determine this list is highly rigorous and hardly scientific.  However, we are still in the process of attempting to patent and trademark The Process, which if you may recall, is simply tallying up the play counts on iTunes for each album.  It has served us well in years past, and a quick glance at our list this year proves that it has worked once again.

Note: Though the list is a Top 10, there are more albums than slots, because we don’t like breaking ties for the same play count.  If you’re really intent on focusing on only 10, I guess take the 10 highest performing albums from the list, but you really shouldn’t limit yourself like that if you can help it.

10. Black Panther: The Album; Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs; Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance; Lucy Dacus – Historian; Nipsey Hussle – Victory Lap; Ought – Room Inside the World; Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs; Sleep – The Sciences (8 plays)

Against all odds,  we somehow once again agree with at least one of the “Best Album” choices from the Grammys with our inclusion of the Kendrick Lamar-assembled soundtrack to Black Panther.  Its inclusion was a surprise to us, but the Kendrick/SIA mega-hit “All the Stars” helped make this solid compilation one of the more memorable soundtracks to be released in years.  Another surprise was Ought’s latest release, which zigged when we expected it to zag–we were anticipating a return to their hard-hitting debut,  but instead it was an album marked by its ballads, most notably the show-stopping “Desire”.  Earl Sweatshirt returns with his latest venture into the avant-garde, eschewing choruses and hooks for the enigmatic Some Rap Songs.  Idles created one of the hardest-hitting albums of the year with the politically-influenced post-punk Joy, bringing to mind a British working class version of Protomartyr.  Lucy Dacus created some of the most gorgeously epic indie rock this year, unafraid to play with dynamics and mix her lovely voice with music that shifts from the tranquil to the anthemic.  Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever brought the chill factor, recalling a laid-back Real Estate kind of vibe, but with a bit more pep and greater variety to their overall sound.  Sleep seem intent to prove how Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality is the greatest album of all time, and considering the results, we are not inclined to argue.  As for Nipsey, his inclusion on this list is bittersweet because of his recent murder, but hopefully more people will seek out his music (and benefit his family–he owned all his masters).

9. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino; Beach House – 7; Black Thought – Streams of Thought Vol. 1, Vol. 2; Vince Staples – FM! (9 plays)

We were puzzled by the backlash to the latest Arctic Monkeys album, which we believed followed the same trajectory as their mainstream-breakthrough AM without being a shameless imitation; maybe we just appreciated their retro/futuristic lounge style more than most.  We initially felt 7 was an unremarkable addition to the Beach House catalog, but subsequent listens revealed a greater depth to their trademark synthpop sound.  Black Thought released two EPs this past year, and depending on the day we might switch our favorite, though we more often end to lean to the more energetic Vol. 2.  For FM!, Vince Staples made the perfect soundtrack for a summer cookout, and even the skits are still able to blend seamlessly after multiple listens.

8. Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy; Moaning – Moaning (10 plays)

Will Toledo dipped back into his past for his follow-up to RIJR favorite Teens of Denial, reworking his early work Twin Fantasy.  Fans of his hypersensitive attention to lyrical detail and his appreciation for classic indie rock tropes should be pleased with the results, though like Teens, it takes a few listens to appreciate the craft.  Moaning is a new group that decided to put a more lively spin on the current revival of shoegaze, and the result is some of the catchiest songs of the year.

7. Hookworms – Microshift; Cloud Nothings – Last Building Burning (11 plays)

If you were looking for a more rock-inclined version of LCD Soundsystem, then Hookworms provided the perfect album for you.  It is impossible to not get fired up after listening to opener “Negative Space”, and the album never lets up.  After cleaning up their sound and sanding down some of the edges for Life Without Sound, Cloud Nothings get back to basics and blow out their amps again for the furious Last Building Burning.

6. Mitski – Be the Cowboy (12 plays)

We loved Puberty 2, and Mitski continues her hot streak with her new album.  Mitski gets to the point quickly in each of the fourteen songs here, dispensing with conventional verse/chorus/verse structures and getting the message across around two minutes for each song.  Mitski does not necessarily switch between different genres; it would be more accurate to say she explores the limits of the various styles one can find within the larger umbrella of “indie music”, from the swelling “Geyser” to the effervescent “Nobody” to the gentle closer “Two Slow Dancers.”

5. Fixtures – Trust Yourself I Guess [EP]; No Age – Snares Like a Haircut (13 plays)

A link from Twitter led me to this Bandcamp release from Fixtures, and it did not take long for me to get sucked into its irresistible hooks.  If you aren’t humming by the end of “On Tape” or “Remember Who I’m Looking For”, then you might need to schedule an appointment with your local ENT specialist.  No Age returned from a long layoff showing no signs of rust (no pun intended), and were able to compose an album that effectively summed up the sounds they explored in their previous experimental works.  We also love the title, which we learned is a reference to how much like a haircut, one can usually pick out what era a song comes from simply by the way the snare drum is recorded.

4. Preoccupations – New Material; Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt (14 plays)

We continue to be impressed by the evolution of Preoccupations, who have now settled into a gothic post-punk sound.  We said it the first time we heard it, but we are glad to confirm that “Disarray” is the best song we heard this year.  Take note of the different time signatures employed by the guitar, bass, and drums, as they shift in and out of sync with each other in a perfect illustration of the title.

And Nothing Hurt is another wonderfully gorgeous space rock opus from Jason Pierce’s Spiritualized project.  As one may expect, repeated listens reveal brilliant sonic details, and soon you will be picking up the various random instruments that help fill out the sound.  Amazingly enough, most of the album was recorded in Pierce’s bedroom, though with the extent of the orchestration and the depth of the overall sound it would be easy to assume it was done instead in a giant studio.

3. Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer; Pusha T – DAYTONA (15 plays)

Considering we named his album I Love You, Honeybear our favorite album of 2015, you would be correct to assume we were disappointed with Joshua Tillman’s follow-up, Pure Comedy, which we found overlong and way too much of a chore to listen to all the way through, so much so it did not come close to appearing on our 2017 list.  However, FJM redeemed himself with the much tighter God’s Favorite Customer.  The bite has returned to the lyrics, but more importantly, it is an infinitely more interesting album from a musical perspective, filled with memorable melodies.

Pusha T once again delivers a batch of coke raps, but the wordplay on this quick-hitter is among his best work, and Kanye provides his best production work in years.  DAYTONA was at the forefront of the switch to shorter works, with its 7 tracks clocking in at 21 minutes, leaving the listener wanting more and never wearing out its welcome.

2. Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love (16 plays)

Deafheaven broke out with the genre-defying Sunbather, and then followed up their shoegaze-meets-black metal classic with an emphasis on their heavier roots with New Bermuda.  It seems this was a move made in response to concern about proving the group’s metallic bona fides, and while we loved both albums, it seems the audience expectations weighed heavily on the band.  With Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, Deafheaven threw out those expectations and indulged their inner muses, and the result is easily their most fun album to date.  If you were hesitant to dip into their work before, this might be the album for you.  It even features some actual singing at points!

1. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake! (17 plays)

We were initially weary when tracks from Wide Awake! began to be released, as we could not find a common thread between any of them–one of the singles was even a stitched together combination (“Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience”) that did not make much sense by itself.  However, the disparate styles explored by the band made sense within the context of the album.  Perfect for the streaming age, Wide Awake! seems perfect for shuffling, even though one track leads into the next through almost the entirety of the album.

There are several reasons why Wide Awake! is our favorite album of the year, including the overt nod to Pavement (their most obvious comparison) with “Mardi Gras Beads” (that somehow also seems to be influenced by The Walkmen), to the infinitely catchy “Tenderness”, to the goofy title track, which effectively parodies the current movement to appear “woke” even if it means sacrificing depth–which led to the surreal moment of the band performing the song on Ellen.  But it’s understandable–goddamn, that bass groove is infectious.

But the band is not just smart-asses looking for piss-takes.  The opener “Total Football” is the best summation of the group’s approach, with insightful lyrics and hooks galore.  And in this time of great division, we can all agree with the song’s final words: “And fuck Tom Brady!”

Feats of Strength: Spiritualized

In the world of Spiritualized, there is no such thing as subtlety; it seems that every song (and perhaps every lyric) that Jason Pierce writes is a matter of life and death.  Pierce’s subjects usually revolve around personal failings and attempts at redemption, whether it be through drugs, religion, or some other means, and he matches the grand scale of these topics with music that is equal in scope.  Spiritualized albums have become known for their multi-part epics that alternate between a wide variety of disparate genres, accomplished with the aid of a bevy of musicians and vocalists to help create dense layers of instrumentation.  Over the course of a career, the method can seem formulaic, but it can produce some truly glorious results.

Sweet Heart, Sweet Light is bookended by two soaring sing-alongs, “Hey Jane” and “So Long You Pretty Thing”.  The latter is a triumphant reflection of what has transpired over the course of the album, while “Hey Jane” is more of a fiery call-to-arms that helps give the record its initial spark.  Both songs create serious goosebumps in the listener, even though they accomplish this through different means.

Obviously, one of the keys for creating a song that compels an entire audience to sing along is writing a killer melody that both catches the ear and is easily repeated, a skill that Pierce has in spades.  But with “Hey Jane”, Pierce uses a more subtle technique that helps enhance the effect of the jubilant outro.  The majority of the song is built on a straightforward, chugging rhythm that propels the song forward.  As the song builds towards its climax, Pierce introduces a solo guitar that plays a riff that foreshadows the final melody.  This is laid on top of the previous chugging rhythm, and combined with Pierce’s vocals that echo the underlying rhythm, creates a sense of tension that builds with every measure.  The two figures compete against each other, until finally the tension is released with the mantra of “Sweet heart, sweet life; sweetheart, love of my life”, which takes a similar sweeping shape to that of the guitar.  From then on, it is simply a matter of repeating it to your heart’s content, but know that the “victory” is that much sweeter as a result of that initial “struggle”.