Top 10 albums of 2011: Mike Usinger
As a rule, with some admitted exceptions, I tend to like chicks better than dudes.
Past Life Martyred Saints
Bailing out of underground cult act Gowns, Erika M. Anderson goes the solo route, refashioning herself as ever-inventive guitar warrior EMA. The meticulously detailed aural sculptures on her debut range from scraped-raw ballads to distortion-flared art-star laments, the results as beautiful as they are painfully unflinching.
Dum Dum Girls
Only in Dreams
Dum Dum Girl Kristin Gundred delivers an echo-drenched triumph that’s part love letter to her husband and part touching ode to her departed mother. Think crystalline pop and doom-generation surf sung by an up-and-comer who sounds thrillingly like the spawn of Chrissie Hynde.
Bad as Me
At a point in his career when he should be shuffling off to the Sunset Lounge Retirement Home in a bourbon-scented haze, Tom Waits recaptures the feel of his ’80s landmarks like Rain Dogs and Franks Wild Years. One of pop music’s true originals, he’s crazier than a shithouse rat, but his genius remains undiminished by time.
Sonic experimentalists Lief Hall and Quinne Rodgers hunkered down in the basement of a haunted-looking East Van house, set the synths for circuit-frying, and then fused ethereal electronica, death-march industrial, and grave-robbing goth to create something truly terrifying. This is what real-life nightmares play out like.
Cage the Elephant
Thank You Happy Birthday
The pride of, um, Bowling Green, Kentucky, puts on a classic ’90s-style clinic in unhinged genre-mashing, hyperactively bouncing from surf’s-up rawk to cracker-slacker hip-hop to cheeba-fried freak pop. As an added bonus, the band traffics in a brand of guitar violence that suggests someone has a thing for the early teachings of Greg Ginn.