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U92 Official Albums of the Year

Mason D: Live at Bush Hall by Black Country, New Road

Live at Bush Hall is the latest project from the English post-rock band Black Country, New Road. After the release of their 2022 album Ants from Up There, many were upset to learn of lead singer Isaac Woods' departure from the band, citing mental health reasons. However, with vocals split among the remaining members, the group came out swinging for the fences with this new release. The band continued their style of "talk-singing" and rollercoaster-esque instrumentals throughout the project. Released on March 23rd of this year, the album includes all original music, recorded at a concert at Bush Hall in London, England. “Up Song,” the album’s intro, carries a squawking sax that turns into a tune reminiscent of old-time rock and roll with piano violently dancing in the background. “Laughing Song” also sticks out as a highlight, with woefully beautiful lyrics eulogizing a relationship while admitting fault for the downfall of it all. My personal favorite, “Turbines/Pigs,” is a nine-minute, self-pitying ballad that brings one to tears, if not the lead singer May Kershaw herself, who sings “Don’t waste your pearls on me, I’m only a pig.” Right as you’d expect the song to end, Kershaw’s piano begins to wind us back up and crescendos for the last three minutes of the song, which I personally think is one of the best music “moments” of the year, if not the past decade. Not many bands can write a song I can sit through for nine minutes in a row, but the winding melodies and masterful songwriting demand nothing but any listener's full attention. Overall, this Black Country, New Road record differs from their previous albums, but its beauty and elegance can’t be understated when comparing it to other albums from this year, which is why it is my album of the year.

Max C: Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling by Slaughter Beach, Dog

Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling is the fifth studio release of Philadelphia-originated band Slaughter Beach, Dog. This ten track effort captures their laid back alternative rock style, one that captures the several emotional behaviors that its title reflects. Tracks like "Bobcat Club", "Henry", and "Tommy" are each touching ballads about different stressing circumstances, demonstrating the lyrical prowess and growth from frontman Jacob Ewald. "Bobcat Club" follows the tale of two lovers who are falling out of love but going through the motions of a date night, "Tommy" tracks the journey of what I can only assume is the plight of a student being shot by his classmate named Tommy, and "Henry" follows a boy named Henry whose enjoyments and hobbies were destroyed by his mother demonstrating tough love. The band is not without its uptempo pieces though. The opening song "Surfin' New Jersey" is a relaxing piece that would probably be best played on a warm but overcast August afternoon. "My Sister in Jesus Christ" is an uptempo bop that provides as many guitar riffs as it does beats to bop your head to. And "Engine", the group's third single from the album, is a masterful nine-minute story of life that truly passes like nothing at all. Slaughter Beach, Dog hits their stride and never strays from the tone of the album, creating a work full of well-crafted stories that flow into one another seamlessly. 

Olivia F: Desire, I Want To Turn Into You by Caroline Polachek

Desire, I want to Turn Into You is Caroline Polachek's sophomore album that came out earlier this year on Valentine's Day. Caroline Polachek is an American singer-songwriter and producer from Connecticut who has gained success from co-founding the indie band Chairlift and her many solo projects such as Ramona Lisa and CEP. Her newest album has been nominated for a Grammy as the Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. The album Desire, I Want to Turn Into You redefines a new age of pop music that incorporates multiple genres such as electronic, rock, trip-hop, etc. The opening track and fourth single to be released, Welcome To My Island encapsulates the ideas and sound behind the album and what's to come. My personal favorite track from the album, Sunset, incorporates spanish style guitar with complex syncopated rhythms and shows off Polachek's impressive range. The song, Fly To You, features the eclectic pop singers, Dido and Grimes which complement Caroline Polachek's unique sound and voice. The song I Believe discusses immortality and is dedicated to her friend and dance-pop icon, SOPHIE who passed away back in 2021. The album Desire, I Want to Turn Into You is an eclectic and genre-bending album with something for everyone. The album features bagpipes, children's choirs, Celtic Folk, and more to create a unique and "very maximalist album" as Polachek herself describes it.

Nick B: After the Magic by Parannoul

Parannoul’s rise as an artist has been fascinating to watch. In 2021, he started to gain steam on rateyourmusic with the release of his second album, To See the Next Part of the Dream which inspired a college student to start a small-time record label out of his Michigan State dorm room just to get it out on cassette. This album’s release on Bandcamp was accompanied with a brief letter describing his state of mind at the time, calling himself an “active loser” and saying he had never played a guitar and couldn’t sing. Despite his self-esteem, the album found success for its distinct emo-tinged shoegaze sound and helped spawn something of a movement within fifth-wave emo under the Longinus Recordings label, which now includes artists like Asian Glow and TURQUOISEDEATH. The follow-up to all this success was not to release more of the same, but to release an ambient album under a different alias in 2022. This paved the way for the much more hopeful sounds of his 2023 album After the Magic, an album that manages to combine the shoegaze sounds of Dream with an eclectic mix of influences to create a more matured yet still distinctly “Parannoul” sound. With endless highlights like the acoustic guitars the album opens with on “Polaris,” the Della Zyr accompanied “Sound Inside Me, Waves Inside You,” the vaguely Porter Robinson-inspired “Sketchbook,” and the fantastically noisy back half of “Arrival,” After the Magic not only reaffirms that Parannoul is an artist to watch, but that he is already one of the best musicians working in the 2020s, handily securing album-of-the-year-status in a rather competitive year. 

Mason L: 3D Country by Geese

The sophomore album of Geese opens with a shouted verse of esoteric references before immediately jumping into crunching, bluesy, rock but don’t expect that to last. “3D Country”, the second song and title track. is a soul and jam band influenced twinkly number, yet at other times on the album the band manages to exist just outside of something one would expect from the Talking Heads. The unifying factor is vocalist Cameron Winter, whose dynamic but often wailed and shouted vocals express the apocalyptic theme of the album.  Unfortunately, the vocals may also pose a difficulty in accessibility in enjoying this album as they border on unintelligible at times. This is especially noticeable on track 5, “Undoer”, which at only one second short of 7 minutes is the weakest and longest track; a loosely focused jam before devolving into pure chaos. Immediately afterward we have a “Heros”-like rhythm of “Crusades”, followed by a power-pop influenced “Gravity Blues”, and then the post-punk rocker “Mysterious Love”.  “Domoto” is the most delicate song on the album, featuring soft vocals, vocal harmony, and strings. These strings are retained on “Tomorrow’s Crusades”, a louder song overall which comes across as equally vulnerable at times as Winter sings “Where would I ever be without you?”. As is true of many songs on this album, it goes out loud and cacophonously, the clashing leading into the final track “St. Elmo”, which is angsty, features a jazzy fiddle in the mix, and ends with more esotericism for Mother Earth.  When asking a friend to describe this album, she told me it was an experience, not something you just leave up to shuffle to play, and I agree with her. It’s an experience, it’s contrasts of dynamics, post-punk vocals and the distinct Americana and blues infused guitar of a jam band, but it’s cohesive and worth the time.

Erin K: Life Under The Gun by Militarie Gun

Life Under the Gun is Militarie Gun's debut album released in June of this year. The album consists of 12 alternative rock/punk tracks that clock in at just under 30 minutes. Militarie Gun, originally started as a solo side project by Ian Shelton in 2020, has been constantly evolving. Shelton eventually got a band together including guitarist Nick Cogan and drummer Vince Nguyen, and pushed his vocals to the forefront in their new release Life Under the Gun. Militarie Gun's high energy, grungy guitar licks and primal growls are present in this new album, but the lyrics are much more melodic than some of their previous work. The album kicks off with "Do It Faster", the popular song in the album, and possibly the most popular of all their songs. The song's chorus urges the listener to stop sitting around and wasting time, and instead to do it faster, no matter what "it" is. Next up is the single "Very High" which is reminiscent of 1990s alternative rock and slightly pop-punk like. It is fueled by strong guitar work with vocals portraying feelings of sadness and drug use as a way of escaping the challenges of everyday life. "Will Logic" opens with the strum of a guitar followed by vocals with themes of violence and anger. The track ends with increasingly loud and intense vocals. "My Friends are Having a Hard Time" offers refreshing and almost wholesome themes of wanting to help his friends. "Think Less blends jarring vocals with a smooth sing-along chorus with themes of self-hatred. "Return Policy" starts off with off-putting guitars and furious vocals before going into melodic chorus. One of my favorites is "Seizure of Assets" which features crunchy guitar riffs and passionate, angry, and attention-grabbing vocals. "See You Around" is also of note because the tempo is drastically lowered for this track and the guitar work is less heavy. The title track "Life Under the Gun", another personal favorite, features strong and passionate vocals with a powerful ending message: "A life of pursuit ends up pursuing you." Overall, the Militarie Gun is a transformation from their previous work, showcasing a few of the many directions the band is capable of going for future projects which is why this is my album of the year. 

James P: Dressed in Trenches by Lifeguard

Chicago post-punk trio Lifeguard came crashing through Matador Records this past July with their EP Dressed In Trenches. Featuring two former Horsegirl members and billing themselves as “Chicago-Youth-Beat (to Dance to),” the band fuses the energy of classic punk and noise rock bands with the layered complexity of post-punk and post-hardcore while putting their own modern spin on it. The album opens with a crash on “17-18 Lovesong,” showing off drummer Isaac Lowenstein’s chaotic yet energetic playing, effortlessly switching between several strangely timed grooves, while singer and bass player Asher Case delivers an almost spoken word drone of surreal lyrics. The next song, “Alarm,” is perhaps the most listener friendly track, with its fluid, dynamic bass line weaving through the wall of fuzz created by guitarist Kai Slater. Another standout track is “Ten Canisters (OFB),” which starts off with a cascade of squealing feedback and guitar noise reminiscent of Goo-era Sonic Youth. Throughout the album, Lowenstein’s beautifully crisp snare drum punctuates the crashing cymbals and guitar noise, scratching the brains of any punk fans listening in. The disconnected, droning vocals contrast the chaos and panic of the instrumentals, calling back to British post-punk band Gang Of Four and their classic song “Love Like Anthrax.” Case’s bass style only adds to their dynamic sound, hitting both the highest and lowest notes possible on the bass. Slater’s guitar riffs may have the structure of classic hardcore punk songs, but they almost never resort to simple power chords, opting instead for dissonant single notes, open strings, and feedback. Dressed In Trenches is loud and energetic, as a punk record should be, but still experimental and dissonant enough to satisfy even the artsiest of listeners.  


  1. Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling by Slaughter Beach, Dog 

  2. Desire, I Want To Turn Into You by Caroline Polachek

  3. After The Magic by Parannoul

  4. 3D Country by Geese

  5. Intercepted Messages by Thee Oh Sees

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