We’re already over halfway through 2011. I wanted to highlight a few fine records I’ve gotten into so far. I wrote up a list of my favorite Iowa City releases for Little Village Magazine already, so I won’t be rehashing that, I’ll just single out some stellar releases and unnecessarily pigeon-hole and qualify them cause, why not?

Thrill Jockey

From about ages 13 through 16, give or take a year or two, metal and hard rock ruled my radio. Discovering Radiohead around 16, marked the beginning of a pretty precipitous decline in head-banging and a more regular move toward “the standing still.” After a violent shunning of all things stupid, loud, and crude–my dismissive stance on metal and hard rock–for the early part of college, I allowed myself to enjoy the louder things in life. I have, since my junior year of college, found a few records that really up the decibel level and also appeal to my “more refined” tastes.2011 has only produced one metal record of note thus far (a couple post-hardcore bruisers have gotten regular play too): Liturgy’s Aesthetica.
If the title does nothing else, it should alert you to a much more cultivated brand of black metal. There’s loads of double bass drum, pulse-pounding guitar theatrics, and vocal chord-shredding howls; but there are also nods to freak-folk and psychedelica. This is not your big brother’s black metal. The second cut, “True Will,” opens with monk-like incantations that veer a little closer to Animal Collective’s vocal interplay than a more classical invocation of religious chants used by metal acts. Granted this is from the band who demanded more pretension from metal, so we shouldn’t expect less from them. If you can’t do the screaming and the pel-mel fret-work, you won’t be spared here, but if you’ve been looking for smarter, artier metal, you may have found what you’ve been looking for.

Runner-up: When I hear it, I’ll be the first to let you know (anticipating releases by Racebannon, Mastodon, and Aseethe among others)…