Let’s face it: Everybody loves a comeback story. And a comeback album. This year, there were plenty of both, from artists of all stripes, styles and genres — including a bunch of my favourite artists. I could have picked almost any of the discs listed at the bottom as a winner, so narrowing the field down to just one was impossible. Faced with this dilemma, I took the easy way out: I picked the two biggest and most historic entries on the list (even though I’m still on the fence about one). As always, your mileage may vary:
WHO ARE THEY? The artsy, psychedelic prog-metal band from L.A. whose music is almost as complex as iconoclastic frontman Maynard James Keenan — though perhaps less complicated than his relationships with fame, his bandmates and Tool’s massive legion of insanely dedicated fans.
WHAT IS THIS? The band’s seventh studio album and their long-overdue followup to 2006’s 10,000 Days — aka the very thing those rabid fans have been impatiently awaiting for nearly 5,000 days.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A Tool lover’s dream come true. Which is to say: A sprawling 80-minute voyage divided into seven epic tracks (plus three experimental soundscapes in the deluxe version), all fashioned from serpentine grooves and prime-number time signatures, beefy drums and searing guitars, shape-shifting arrangements and mind-expanding textures — all topped with Keenan’s creepy croon and articulate, ambiguous lyrics.
READ THE FULL REVIEW AND HEAR THE ALBUM HERE
WHO ARE THEY? At the risk of initiating the classic-rock equivalent of an Abbott and Costello routine, yes. They’re The Who. Or at least the once-great-band’s sad and bitter remnants: Guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend, who seems determined to alienate every fan he’s ever had in his neverending quest to go down as the most miserable multi-millionaire in rock ’n’ roll; and pugnacious vocalist Roger Daltrey, a man somehow afflicted with both a Napoleon complex and lead singer syndrome at the same time. After all their decades together, you could conceivably argue they deserve each other. Either way, you still have to feel at least a little sorry for longtime drummer Zak Starkey (aka son of Ringo), bassist Pino Palladino, Townshend’s guitarist brother Simon, former Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench and the other the innocent musicians caught in the middle.
WHAT IS THIS? The eponymous Who is, somewhat surprisingly, just their dozenth studio album in 55 years. Their latest comeback disc is also their first full-length set of new music since 2006’s Endless Wire, and — far as I know — the first Who album recorded without Townshend and Daltrey ever being in the same room (or even on the same continent; one was in London while the other was in Los Angeles).
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Daltrey claims it’s their best work since Quadrophenia. That’s a bit much — even if you acknowledge that their diminishing-returns list of post-Quadrophenia outings like The Who By Numbers (1975), Who Are You (1978), Face Dances (1981), It’s Hard (1982) and Endless Wire (2006) aren’t exactly stiff competition. Still, here’s a slightly more realistic assessment: The 11-song album, much like their concerts over the past few years, isn’t nearly as dreadful as you fear (or assume, if you’re less charitable). Admittedly, none of these cuts will replace their timeless classics in your playlist. But a few might just grow on you. And there are enough glimpses of greatness — particularly from the undiminished and still feisty Daltrey — to make you happy they’re back (and even happier that they didn’t royally fuck it up).
READ THE FULL REVIEW AND HEAR THE ALBUM HERE
Angel | Risen
The Beasts | Still Here
Josie Cotton | Everything is Oh Yeah
Perry Farrell | Kind Heaven
Gang Starr | One Of The Best Yet
The Flesh Eaters | I Used To Be Pretty
Flying Luttenbachers | Imminent Death & Shattered Dimension
The Get Up Kids | Problems
Long Ryders | Psychedelic Country Soul
Meat Puppets | Dusty Notes
Buddy & Julie Miller | Breakdown On 20th Ave. South
The Minus 5 | Stroke Manor
Northern Pikes | Forest of Love
The O’Jays | The Last Word
The Raconteurs | Help Us Stranger
Redd Kross | Beyond the Door
Rheostatics | Here Come the Wolves
Robbie Robertson | Sinematic
Hunt Sales Memorial | Get Your Shit Together
Sebadoh | Act Surprised
Stray Cats | 40
Tanya Tucker | While I’m Livin’
Various Artists | The Desert Sessions Vols. 11 & 12
Vivian Girls | Memory
TO FIND REVIEWS OF THESE ALBUMS, PLEASE USE THE SEARCH WINDOW AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE