Jay Bennett, Whatever Happened I Apologize - I’m sorry that it took Bennett’s death for me to become aware of this album, which is available as a free download. It’s a stripped down, intimate record that features mostly Jay’s voice and guitar (and, of course, excellent lyrics). Go grab it, listen to it, and remember what a great artist we lost this month.
Green Day, 21st Century Breakdown - I’ve been waiting a long time for this one, as have all the Green Day fans. The Foxboro Hottubs album was nice, but I think everyone has been wondering how these guys would follow up American Idiot. I’d guess very few would have guessed “rock opera,” but that’s exactly what this is, and it’s good. It’s not, you know, deep, but Billie Joe Armstrong has a grasp of, and ability to channel, teen angst that rivals Trent Reznor’s. This album adds things like strings(!) and timpani (!!) to the typical three-chords-and-a-snarl Green Day sound and the result is their most mature album yet (and that’s a good thing).
Rush, Moving Pictures - This is a bit of a cheat, since I (along with every other male who was in junior high in the early 80s) had, and listened repeatedly to, this album. I re-discovered it recently thanks to Jason Siegel - I saw ‘I Love You Man’ a few weeks back and also re-watched the entire run of ‘Freaks and Geeks’ - and though I was not much of a Rush fan back in the day (a little too proggy for this new wave fan), the awesomeness of “Tom Sawyer” cannot be denied. Catch the spirit, catch the spit indeed.
The Kills, Midnight Boom - I’ve been going through somewhat of a chick-singer renaissance lately. There have always been female singers (Liz Phair, Fiona Apple) and bands fronted by female singers (Pretenders, Breeders, Garbage) that I’ve liked, but for whatever reason - inertia, disinterest, sexism - I’ve never considered myself a fan of most female rock singers. So far this year, though, I’ve been blown away by a handful of great distaff rockers: the recent albums by Metric and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs may show up on my Best of ‘09 list, I really like St. Vincent after a first listen, and this Kills record absolutely, uh, kills. Allison Mosshart’s snarl and guitar sound perfect together and the album as a whole captures everything good about the current state of garage rock. Go buy it, and remember to get the Heavy Weather record when that comes out, too.