The Gaslight Anthem (Punk Rock)
The ‘59 Sound (3/4)- 2008
2008 was not an especially great year for punk music, but that doesn’t mean The Gaslight Anthem’s The ’59 Sound is the best punk album of the year by default. While it didn’t have a lot of competition, this is the one 2008 album that punk fans need to get. The Gaslight Anthem play punk in its purest and most raw form, and in doing so put most modern punk to same. They don’t do anything particularly unique here, but they do it better than just about anyone else. If you listen to punk, you’ll know what to expect once you hear the opening of the first track, but you’ll also love the album for it. It uses classic punk conventions the way they should be used, and it’s the type of raw rebellious album that has becoming increasingly rare in punk over the last few years.
The Gathering (Alternative Rock/Metal)
The West Pole (3/4)- 2009
The Gathering’s first album without Anneke van Giersbergen is surprisingly as good as anything in the band has done with their former vocalist. The new vocalist is Octavia Spearti’s Silje Wergeland, who while no Anneke, is an exceptional vocalist in her own right. The West Pole continues The Gathering’s progression towards art rock, although there are some heavier tracks that are slightly reminisce of the band’s early sound. Metalheads who aren’t as big on The Gathering’s recent alternative rock albums likely won’t find enough of that heavy sound to change their opinion, but open minded rock fans should take notice. Even without Anneke, The Gathering is still here, and they’re still damn good.
God is an Astronaut (Post-Rock)
God is an Astronaut (4/4)- 2008
God Is An Astronaut’s self-titled fourth album is one of the most challenging listens you’ll find in instrumental rock. This is a beautiful album that takes multiple listens to fully appreciate, and while it may seem like a typical post-rock offering at first, it’s really far more. God Is An Astronaut is actually an astonishing and complex album that goes in directions rarely found in post-rock. The band is willing to experiment with electronica and hard rock, among other genres, and does so in a ways that build tension and create truly unique and engaging sounds. This is far from the same thing done over and over again, as care has been put into every moment of every song, and as a fan of music, it’s pure bliss to listen to. Take some time and really immerse yourself in the experience. This is an album full of beauty and subtlety, and it’s an experience that doesn’t come around very often.
Age of the Fifth Sun (2/4)- 2010
Coming over their incredible self-titled third album (which earned a 4 star rating), God is an Astronaut take a huge step back with Age of the Fifth Sun, a surprisingly generic take on post-rock. The epic soundscapes of albums past are nowhere to be found, and the constant tension that helped God is an Astronaut stand out is mysteriously absent as well. In its place is mundane post-rock filler, rarely playing with tension and building up only in the most predictable ways. If you listen to post-rock, chances are you’ve heard this done before, and if you don’t there are better places to start- such as God is an Astronaut’s previous albums.
Gnarls Barkley (Alternative/Pop)
The Odd Couple (3/4)- 2008
While nothing on Gnarls Barkley’s second album received as much radio play or mainstream exposure as their hit “Crazy,” The Odd Couple is every bit as good and catchy as their first album. In a world where idiotic pop music is far more widespread than the intelligent form of the genre, Gnarls Barkley are the rare group that makes pop music that is as catchy and fun as it is creative and intelligent. Danger Mouse’s production is top notch and Cee-Lo Green’s vocals are as powerful and unique as they were on the band’s debut. The Odd Couple is certainly an odd album, but it’s also a surprisingly polished one that is at times beautiful, consistently fun, and always creative. Whether you’re a fan of alternative, pop, soul, funk, or hip-hop, The Odd Couple has something for you.
Gorillaz (3.5/4)- 2001
Damon Albarn’s strange animated band is nothing short of phenomenal. Hidden behind the cartoon image is a rare blend of experimental pop and hip-hop that manages to break new ground while still remaining fun and catchy.
Doomsdayer’s Holiday (3/4)- 2008
If the album artwork doesn’t give you the impression that the Grails are one completely demented band, then their music almost certainly will. This is one seriously odd album, and I mean that mostly in a good way. Doomsayer’s Holiday, like the Grails past work, is entirely instrumental, but judging by the oddity of the music at hand, it's probably for the best that we don't get to hear what kind of perverted lyricism might go along with the music. Grails sound is one that is very different from most instrumental groups, not just in sound, but in structure. Their sound is closer to Mr. Bungle than Mogwai, and while the musicianship is both impressive and creative, the strength of the album comes from the psychedelic and almost perverse nature of the music. It’s quite odd and difficult to describe, but that’s the nature of experimental music, and anyone who is intrigued by the strange and bizarre is likely going to enjoy Doomsdayer’s Holiday.
Green Day (Alternative Rock/Pop Punk)
39/Smooth (2/4)- 1990
39/Smooth is a pop album that tries way too hard to be punk. It’s stupid and immature, and worst of all takes itself far too seriously. There are, however, moments that show the band’s potential for catchy songwriting scattered throughout, and it’s not hard to see the basis for some Green Day’s better releases buried beneath the flaws.
Kerplunk (3/4)- 1992
Kerplunk is not only a huge improvement over Green Day’s debut, but also one of the best pop punk albums of the 90’s. The songs are catchy throughout, and the lyrics are some of Green Day’s most intelligent. It still switches between pop and punk at an awkward rate, but that often times the least polished punk albums are the best.
Dookie (1.5/4)- 1994
Despite being Green Day’s mainstream breakthrough and often a favorite among early fans, Dookie is an unfortunate step backwards for Green Day. This album is even more immature than 39/Smooth and it’s attempts at being clever are often unintentionally laughable. It’s not even as catchy as other Green Day albums, nor is it anywhere near as intelligent. Dookie isn’t fun, and it’s rarely funny. It just stinks.
Insomniac (3/4)- 1995
If there’s one thing that can be said about Green Day, it’s that they never made the same record twice. After breaking through to the mainstream with Dookie, they go in a completely different direction with Insomniac. This is a loud and obnoxious pop punk album, but this time around that’s a good thing. The songs are fast yet dangerously catchy, and the lyrics return to the more witty style of Kerplunk. Insomniac may have considered a disappointment by fans looking for Dookie part two, but in truth it’s a much better album than its predecessor, and a far better punk album than most give it credit for.
Nimrod (2.5/4)- 1997
Nimrod is almost certainly the most varied album in Green Day’s discography, and not just stylistically. The songs on here rank from immature pseudo-punk tracks to well written alternative rock, and as such is a mixed bag of an album.
Warning (3/4)- 2000
The epitome of a transition album, Warning sees Green Day leaning away from pop punk and going into pure alternative rock territory. There’s a reason this album didn’t sell, as its not as pop oriented and far less radio friendly, but it was also the most mature and intelligent Green Day album at the time. There are definitely moments where the maturity seems forced, but more often than not Warning strikes a balance between catchy and intelligent.
American Idiot (4/4)- 2004
It’s unfortunate that so very people seem to appreciate or even understand just how great American Idiot is. Ignore that this album spawned a number of ridiculously overplayed radio hits, and ignore any tags or labels that cynics use to describe their sound. Instead, sit down, take a deep breath, and actually listen. American Idiot is a political concept album with a powerful message and surprisingly well written story. Actually, well written is an understatement. The story here is masterful and is told with true emotion attached to it. Even overplayed pop hits like “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Holiday” take on a new meaning when heard in the context of the story. Forget everything you think you know about Green Day, and give it a chance. American Idiot is a masterpiece, and deserves your attention.
21st Century Breakdown (3/4)- 2009
Similar in style to American Idiot, 21st Century Breakdown is a much less coherent concept album than Green Day’s masterpiece. Many of the songs are boring, and the story fails to redeem them, but that’s not to say 21st Century Breakdown is without its share of mastery. Certain tracks work surprisingly well on their own, each telling an individual tale of religion and politics. The simplicity of the music is much more apparent than on American Idiot, even though Billie Joe Armstrong has grown into a decent vocalist in his own right. There are some definite flaws, and many of their attempts to branch end up hurting them in the end, but there are moments of pure brilliance that earn this a spot among Green Day’s best albums.
Grouper (Ambient Pop)
Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill (3.5/4)- 2008
If pure ambiance and beauty is what you desire, than look no farther than Grouper’s Dragging a Dead Dear Up a Hill. This is an essential experimental ambient pop album, and yes, it just as unique as it sounds. However, experimental music rarely sounds as natural and purely beautiful as it does here. While the sound is relaxing and full of melody, there is an extensive amount of subtlety to appreciate. Grouper has made one of the finest, most challenging records of the year, but also one of the most beautiful and relaxing. It doesn’t necessarily remind the listener of a dragging a dead dear up a hill, but the sound is of a very pure naturalist form, and it’s one of the most beautiful experiences to be had in music.
Guilt Machine (Progressive Metal)
On This Perfect Day (3/4)- 2009
Guilt Machine is a solid diversion from Arjen Lucassen’s better project, Ayreon, but it’s similarities often make it sound like Ayreon-lite. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but it’s a shame that Guilt Machine doesn’t stray too far from Arjen’s formula. It’s an album for Ayreon fans, and while the music itself is great, On This Perfect is a little too forgettable.
Guns N Roses (Hard Rock)
Chinese Democracy (2/4)- 2008
It’s interesting to think of what this album could have been if its development cycle hadn’t been so unorthodox. There are moments on Chinese Democracy that show signs of brilliance, or at least potential. The problem is that even within each song there is absolutely no cohesiveness whatsoever. It’s noticeable that this album has been altered too many times and by too many people, taking away that said coherency. Again, Chinese Democracy is an interesting album, but it’s unfortunately not a very good one.