Talib Kweli (Rap/Hip-Hop)
Quality (3.5/4)- 2002
After two classic collaborations (Black Star and Train of Though), Talib Kweli was just a few gems short of another masterpiece with Quality. Talib’s skill as an emcee is matched by few when he’s on point, and he is for much of this album. The flow, the lyrics, and even the beats are all top-notch, and it’s only during moments of filler that the album fails to live up to Kweli’s talent.
Tame Impala (Alternative/Indie Rock)
Inner Speaker (2/4)- 2010
Tama Impala are an indie rock band that has been getting a lot of hype recently. The reason is pretty simple. These guys sound like The Beatles, and well, that’s enough for many rock fans to go crazy (just like at the critical and commercial success of Oasis). It goes without saying that Tama Impala aren’t the most original band in the world, and it may be unfair to criticize them in that regard. With that being said, it’s hard to image anyone going back to Inner Speaker after the initial rush of nostalgia wears off, and for that reason it’s impossible to recommend.
Tarja Turunen (Symphonic Metal)
My Winter Storm (2/4)- 2007
Many fans of Nightwish have taken it upon themselves to compare My Winter Storm to Dark Passion Play, Nightwish's first album without Tarja Turunen on vocals. While Dark Passion Play saw Nightwish experimenting with new territory, My Winter Storm has Tarja treading over familiar ground. However, this time she lacks Nightwish's creative songwriting, beautiful melodies, and just about everything else that made Nightwish great. This is nothing more than a vocal record, and Tarja's vocals unfortunately lack passion and uniqueness on this particular record. Everything on My Winter Storm has been done before by Tarja, and all of it has been done far better with Nightwish.
Temple of the Dog (Grunge)
Temple of the Dog (4/4)- 1991
Born from the ashes of grunge legends Mother Love Bone and Green River, Temple of the Dog would later break off into Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. However, they recorded one album before grunge blew into the mainstream, and it so happened to be the single best album of the grunge era. Chris Cornell is at his vocal peak, and Eddie Vedder’s trademark grit aids the raw instrumentation. Temple of the Dog is the evolution of Dinosaur Jr. and the Pixies’ 80s alternative rock, and it’s a landmark grunge album that is often in the shadow of albums released by the members more famous projects. However, it bears repeating. Temple of the Dog, in this critic’s opinion, is the single best album of the grunge era, and one that every alternative rock fan should own.
Tesla (Hard Rock)
Forever More (3/4)- 2008
Tesla have been around for over 20 years now, so it’s a bit unfair to call them mainstream rock. They actually have a large audience with fans of classic hard rock and heavy metal than with active rock fans, but Tesla’s Forever More is a pure rock ‘n roll album that really doesn’t fit anywhere else on this guide. Still, if you’re a fan of hard rock, definitely give this album a shot. In a year where Chinese Democracy has been the most hyped album for classic hard rock fans, Tesla’s lesser known Forever More is the far better option. Great vocals, solid guitar work, and some of rock’s most intelligent songwriting this year make Forever More a very solid album for rock fans.
Testament (Thrash Metal)
The Legacy (4/4)- 1987
Testament’s classic debut still remains one of the greatest thrash metal albums of all-time. This is heavy, technical, and original thrash that is an example of the genre at its best.
The Formation of Damnation (3.5/4)- 2008
When a band takes 9 years to release an album, it's nearly impossible to say it was worth the wait. For that reason, that cliche can't apply to Testament's The Formation of Damnation, which is Testament's first album in 9 years, and their first album in 16 to feature most of their original lineup. Still, this is Testament's best album in a quite a long time, and The Formation of Damnation is simply superb in every sense of the word. Fans of thrash metal are in for a treat, as this album is pure thrash from start to finish. Its heavy, brutal, and has just about everything a Testament fan could ask for. Even after all of these years, Testament sounds modern, and possibly the biggest surprise of the album is the progression of Testament's sound. The Formation of Damnation feels like the 2008 version of a classic thrash metal album, and it's very easy to recommend what could very well be an instant Testament classic to any and all metalheads.
Therion (Symphonic Metal)
Ghothic Kabbalah (3.5/4)- 2007
It’s been a long time since Therion had any sort of misstep, and Gothic Kabbalah continues that trend. In fact, Gothic Kabbalah may even be better than Therion’s last few albums, and that’s saying something. Gothic Kabbalah is a concept album that tells an epic fantasy story and incorporates some of the best symphonic metal the genre has to offer. With nearly 20 musicians working on the album, this is truly one of the best and most unique experiences of the year. Often beautiful and always epic, Gothic Kabbalah is an album that every symphonic metal fan should experience. It’s among the year’s best releases, and it’s easily the most epic metal album released in 2007.
Theory of a Deadman (Post-Grunge)
Scars & Souvenirs (1/4)- 2008
Theory of a Deadman's Scars & Souvenirs is a radio rock album. That's really all you need to know. There is nothing here to separate Theory of a Deadman from any of the many other post-grunge bands currently receiving airplay on active rock radio. In fact, the average radio rock album is much better than Scars & Souvenirs, and in a bizarre way, it takes skill to be able to make a more boring and tired album than what has become the standard of the post-grunge genre. Theory of a Deadman have clearly spent time listening to what modern rock stations have been playing, and they've also clearly spent time trying to replicate the style of what sells. At least most post-grunge bands are actually influenced by grunge. That's not to say mimicking Nirvana and Alice in Chains makes for high art, but it certainly makes for a more tolerable sound than Theory of a Deadman's, which bears strong resemble to that of Nickelback and Godsmack. Much like the former of those bands, Scars & Souvenirs sees Theory of a Deadman recycling old material that really wasn't any good to start with. There's no progression, and the passion of grunge music has been completely drained in this poor replication of Nickelback and other popular post-grunge bands' poor replication of grunge music. This, in essence, is one sad and pathetic album, and it ranks among the worst and most boring releases of 2008 thus far.
Thriving Ivory (Alternative Rock/Pop)
Thriving Ivory (2/4)- 2008
Thriving Ivory isn’t so much a bad album as it is a boring one. This is the same kind of radio rock that can be found on pop stations around the world, albeit with a slightly more original vocalist and slightly catchier hooks. If that doesn’t sound like a bad thing to you, then it’s probably worth checking out. Everyone else should pass.
Tokio Hotel (Pop Rock)
Scream (1/4)- 2008
Teenage pop rock group Tokio Hotel may have blown up in Europe, but one can only hope that their popularity does not follow them to American soil. Scream is a compilation of English language versions of past Tokio Hotel hits, so it's no surprise that the album feels like a collection of individual tracks instead of a coherent album. The album is made up of one generic pop rock song after another, and only Bill Kaulitz's especially high vocals (although his voice has dropped since the original German recordings of the songs) separates Tokio Hotel from the rest of the emo rock pack. The lyrics are mind numbingly awful, the song structure is as basic at it gets, and there is simply no reason to listen to this album. Some songs may be catchy, but most of the record is just mundane and boring, and it’s impossible to recommend to anyone who has moved on from boy bands.
Archetype (3.5/4)- 2005
When listening to Tonedeff’s Archetype, it’s hard to be floored by the emcee’s absolutely insane flow. In fact, it’s often hard to get beyond Tonedeff’s amazing skills and focus on the other aspects of the music. However, what makes Archetype a truly great album with staying power has as much to do with Tonedeff’s intelligent wordplay and strong production as it does with his gift for rapping. Tonedeff acts as a singer, rapper, and producer on this album, and he shows exceptional talent at all three. Occasionally, Tonedeff does focus too much on showing off his flow, making his message secondary, but more often than not he puts his talents to good use. “Porcelain,” for example, is a beautiful gem that alternatives between singing and rapid-fire rapping with clear and passionate lyrics. Even if he doesn’t always reach that same level of high art, Tonedeff is far too talented for any hip-hop fan to overlook.
TV on the Radio (Indie/Art Rock)
Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes (3/4)- 2004
TV on the Radio’s full-length debut is a chaotic album, often unintentionally so. The band has a wide array of influences, but are rarely able to piece them together into something coherent. Regardless, Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes is intriguing throughout, and it has a few legitimately great tracks.
Return to Cookie Mountain (4/4)- 2006
If you like your music predictable and hackneyed, stay far away from Return to Cookie Mountain. This is a multi-layered and challenging listen that even at its core is undeniably entertaining. It’s unique, but not simply for the sake of being unique. No two songs are alike, and every listen is a new experience, so be prepared to hear something a little different and truly masterful.
Dear Science (4/4)- 2008
How good is TV on the Radio’s Dear Science? Let’s just say that if you buy one album in the next ten years, I recommend this one. Years from now, this very well may be the record that defines this decade in indie rock. Dear Science is the modern day equivalent to the Pixies’ Doolittle and Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. That is to say, it’s a jaw dropping masterpiece of creativity, lyricism, poetry, and experimentation. It exemplifies what modern indie music is all about, and in a year where dance-punk has been the major indie trend, TV on the Radio have introduced just enough of that into sound to show how much better than the rest of the indie rock crowd they really are. Dear Science is an unbelievable masterpiece, and it belongs in the collection of every music fan.