Yakuza (Avant-Garde Metal)
Samsara (3.5/4)- 2006
For a band with a such a unique style, it’s odd that what stands out about Yakuza is their relentless ability to make their sound work against all odds. Here is a metal-jazz hybrid without exceptional technical skills or even mastery of their base sounds. Essentially, Samsara is an album of jazz that no fan of the genre would be caught listening to, and metal that anyone outside of the metalcore fan base would laugh off. Yet, somehow it works. Yakuza go all out, implementing seemingly jazz elements whenever possible and throwing musical conventions out the window. The result is a chaotic barrage of sound that gets just enough right to remain interesting. It’s a kind of mess goes to such extremes that it’s flaws become an afterthought. Against all odds, Samsara is great.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Alternative/Indie Rock)
Show Your Bones (2.5/4)- 2006
Show Your Bones is a fairly enjoyable indie rock album. It’s both catchy and surprisingly mature, but the Yeah Yeah Yeahs still don’t do enough to stand out.
Yeasayer (Indie Rock)
All Hour Cymbals (3.5/4)- 2007
All Hour Cymbals is a creative debut album that is shockingly refined. Yeasayer mix indie rock with psychedelic pop with stunning results, as they never cease to be fun or unique. This is both a truly enjoyable debut, but also one of high artistic merit. It does start to drag near the end, but there’s something to be said for a band that achieves such a refreshingly unique sound on their first attempt.
Odd Blood (2.5/4)- 2010
Odd Blood is certainly an odd album. The problem is, it’s odd in a different way than one might expect. What makes Yeasayer’s second album such an odd release is that it’s a huge step backwards from their debut, both in ambition and fun. This is a much simpler record, but it’s also nowhere near as enjoyable as All Hour Cymbals, and does little to evolve their sound. It’s far too safe, yet still manages to stray too far from what made Yeasayer such an intriguing new artist just a few years before.
Yellowcard (Pop Punk)
Ocean Avenue (2/4)- 2003
Thankfully, not every song on Ocean Avenue is as bad as the annoying title track and hit single. Much of the album is your standard pop punk/emo with the occasional glimmer of potential coming in the form of a well-placed violin or surprisingly intelligent lyric.
Paper Walls (1.5/4)- 2007
Any originality that Yellowcard once had is missing from Paper Walls. This is an album that is caught between forced maturity and a desperate attempt to re-enter the pop charts. Suffice to say, none of it works.
Yndi Halda (Post-Rock)
Enjoy Eternal Bliss (4/4)- 2006
Yndi Halda’s debut and only album in the post-rock genre is one of the most passionate and beautiful releases of the past decade. This is a kind of beauty that’s made on subtlety and atmosphere, and the progression throughout the four 10+ minute songs is a perfect example of that. The songs are not epic in the usual sense of the word, but deliberately paced soundscapes that add new instruments and sounds at just the right time, and end having reached the “eternal bliss” that album promises in the title. Yndi Halda are a rarity among post-rock bands, and on their first attempt they’ve created the masterpiece that so many before them have fallen short of achieving.
Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force (Neo-Classical Metal)
Rising Force (3/4)- 1984
As a debut album, it’s a lot easier to forgive the faults of Yngwie Malmsteen’s songwriting, and instead focus on his overwhelming technical ability. If you’re a fan of ridiculously fast shredding, look no farther than Rising Force, just don’t expect anything other than a series of complicated guitar exercises.
Unleash the Fury (1.5/4)- 2005
In the 21 years between Malmsteen’s solo debut and 2005’s Unleash the Fury, Yngwie Malmsteen has done absolutely nothing to improve the sound that made him famous on Rising Force. His technical ability was impressive the first time around, but it hasn’t grown or changed since. His songwriting has only gotten worse, and there’s no passion to speak of. This is simply one of countless Malmsteen albums that feature the exact same emotionless guitar exercises, and it’s a chore to listen to.
Perpetual Flame (3/4)- 2008
Perpetual Flame is another one of the year’s most surprising albums. Of course Malmsteen’s guitar work is technically impressive, but it’s the vocals from Tim “Ripper” Owens that makes Perpetual Flame more than just your typical speed metal album. Yngwie’s guitar playing still lacks the passion that he has been missing for most of his career, but the riffs he’s come up with here are some of his most technical and even some of his most unique. There’s no denying his technical skills, but Owens’ vocal performances adds a much needed dimension to the music that makes Perputal Flame a good album. If you’re a fan of Malmsteen, power metal, or blazing fast guitar solos, Perpetual Flame is a solid choice.
Yo La Tengo (Indie Rock)
I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (4/4)- 1997
I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One is simply one of the best albums that the indie rock genre has to offer. The songwriting is simple enough, but also multi-layered and intelligent. It’s the little things that make this album such a masterful effort, and it’s the very definition of that charming little indie record that makes a big impression.