It is widely considered that the golden age of rock music is long gone, having died when Muse started making dubstep—not since Weezer has a great rock band disappointed like that—and Coldplay went all “beep-bop” anthem pop on us with Mylo Xyloto. But fear not! Great rock albums are being released, and this year has proved to be a fertile year for great albums, and next year, with albums from bands such as Modest Mouse, Silversun Pickups, Agent Fresco, Foo Fighters and more set to be released, the potential for another godly year in music is very much present.
The first great album of 2013 came in the form of the unexpectedly awesome “…Like Clockwork,” the masterpiece that Queens of the Stone Age always had the potential to make. Josh Homme sounds more sincere than ever on this album, with lyrics that actually make sense for once, and the production…sounds golden. Almost tasty. From the epically mouth-watering guitars and lyrics of “I Appear Missing” to the bipolar piano-noise rock of “Kalopsia,” this is the Queens most laid back record to date, but somehow, simultaneously its most powerful, creepy—check out the accompanying videos—and awe-inspiring.
Then there is the uncharacteristically loud “Kveikur” by Icelandic beasts Sigur Rós. Starting off with the loud noise-rock of “Brennisteinn” to the drum-powered pop-rock of “Ísjaki,” Sigur Rós no longer sounds like a slow-moving glacier, but more like a volcano exploding with each distorted bass line or bowed guitar note feeling like an earthquake, and each lyric sung like an angel speaking through the volcanic ash. This all may sound very dramatic and un-radio friendly, but in reality, this album is one of their most accessible, with only two songs crossing the six-minute mark, and most of the songs, despite being noisy, laden with hooks and melodies. Sigur Rós sound refreshed with their best album since 2002’s fantastic “().” And the fact they pulled this off only a year after releasing the dull “Valtari” makes this album all that more impressive.
September was blown wide open with the fantastic stoner-rock of “AM,” the new album by the Arctic Monkeys. Sounding like Queens of the Stone Age with a dance groove, “AM” might just be their best album yet. From the background feedback, pounding drums on singles “Do I Wanna Know” and “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” to the operatic guest vocals provided by Homme on album highlight “Knee Socks,” this album is the band transitioning from a Strokes-sounding British indie band to a full-fledged desert-rock band.
A couple of days later, singer-songwriter Emiliana Torrini released her sixth album, “Tookah,” which expands her simple acoustic pop to an almost eighties-sounding take with waves of synths riding under her usual storytelling and guitar playing. The album invokes memories of her sophomore album “Fisherman’s Woman,” an album of entirely acoustic songs, filled with stories and beautiful melodies. Overall the album works, holding true to Torrini’s past sound while adding various drum loops and synth surges under her usual songwriting style.
And most recently, Cage the Elephant just released their third album, “Melophobia,” a deviation from their previous outings, sounding more art-rock than the grungy style of indie rock found on their second LP, “Thank You, Happy Birthday.” The guitars are noisy, vocals distorted and drums loud, making this possibly Cage the Elephant’s defining album, showcasing the band finding their own sound, while showing great promise for the future as the album sounds unique and flows well, qualities lacking on their first two releases.
– Day Gudmundsson