Lovebites – Glory, Glory, to the World: Lay me in peace with this melody.

Artist: Lovebites
Album: Glory, Glory, to the World EP
Year: 2021
Grade: A-

In Brief: The Japanese metal band continues to make incremental steps forward with their pulverizing blend of power and thrash metal, incorporating some prog rock influences on a few tracks, and even finding a little inspiration in Gospel music on this EP’s title track. While recording these five songs during lockdown was challenging, I’d say that Lovebites succeeded in their goal to deliver a positive vibe and a jaw-dropping performance from everyone involved.

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Obsessive Year-End List Fest 2020: Favorite Albums

Though I’m sure many of us are tempted to remember 2020 as something of a “wasted year”, I genuinely have to say that it had far more excellent music in store than I would have guessed. Given that most of my year was spent in my makeshift office at home, hunched over a laptop and sometimes not leaving the apartment for days at a time, I can only imagine how utterly unbearable it would have been without new music as an avenue for exploration. I probably racked up more Spotify streams this year than in any previous one, what with the extra time afforded by not commuting to and from work or running most of my usual errands. I feel like that led me to branch out and try new things a little more often than in a normal year, whereas much of my listening time in the car during a normal year is dedicated to music I already know I like. With that said, I do feel like I got outside and got that much-needed Vitamin D whole doing a healthy amount of activities such as hiking and enjoying local parks and scenic drives with my family (we even managed a few road trips, despite the logistical difficulties of minimizing human contact while traveling during a pandemic), and it was great to road-test a lot of 2020’s best records during some of those excursions, as a way of making sure my visual memories of them wouldn’t be tied to sitting in the same boring spot all year. Whether the music was dark and cathartic and moved me to more authentically express my sorrow and anger at the current situation, or it was lighthearted, imaginative, and full of hope for brighter days ahead, these are the records that did the most to help keep my morale up during a year when answers, hope, optimism, and faith in humanity were in extremely short supply.

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Lovebites – Electric Pentagram: Make some noise! Raise some hell!

Artist: Lovebites
Album: Electric Pentagram
Year: 2020
Grade: B

In Brief: 70 minutes of non-stop Japanese power metal might seem like a daunting prospect… and honestly, it would be if I wasn’t already enamored with this band from a previous album. But listen beyond the consistently fast tempos, the insanely technical solos that seem to be a requirement in every single song, and the predictably anthemic choruses, and there’s actually quite a bit more variety here than meets the eye. This is one of those records where I’d actually be hard pressed to point out weak links – the songs all range from good to great in quality. But perhaps a breather or two is advisable, rather than trying to take it all in at once (unless of course you’re a die-hard metalhead who just can’t get enough of that sort of thing).

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The Best of the Tenny Tweens, Part II: 61-80

Before we get on with the next 20 albums in my decade-end list, I thought it’d be interesting to break down all 100 by which year they came out.

9 of these albums came out in 2010.
17 of these albums came out in 2011.
10 of these albums came out in 2012.
18 of these albums came out in 2013.
7 of these albums came out in 2014.
9 of these albums came out in 2015.
6 of these albums came out in 2016.
9 of these albums came out in 2017.
12 of these albums came out in 2018.
4 of these albums came out in 2019.

(Yes, I know that the numbers above add up to 101. One of these albums was re-released, and I’m having a hard time choosing which version I like better. That’ll be addressed down below.)

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Obsessive Year-End List Fest 2019: Wait, That’s Not an Album! (and Last Year’s Leftovers)

It’s inevitable most years that some of the best music I listen to either isn’t going to fit strictly into the album format and thus won’t be eligible for my Favorite Albums list, or else it’ll have been released the previous year, and thus get added to that year’s list retroactively. In 2019 in particular, there were enough cases of this that I’m basically willing to consider this rundown of EPs, live albums, re-releases, and/or seasonal albums as my “Honorable Mentions” list for the year. 2018 also proved to be the gift that kept on giving, as I got turned on to several strong releases that I hadn’t known about yet when I wrote up last year’s countdown.

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Obsessive Year-End List Fest 2019: Favorite Songs

2019 was a weird year for me, in terms of the music I enjoyed most. A lot of artists put out genuinely great singles, only to follow them up with lackluster albums, EPs as stopgaps between albums, or really nothing at all. It’s a good thing I was following all of my favorite artists on Spotify, as well as some newer ones I was curious to hear more from, or else I might have not heard a good quarter of this list until 2019, if ever. Usually the vast majority of my Top 100 songs for the year comes from my favorite albums released that year, with some spillover from the year before. While that’s still true in 2019, it’s worth noting that nearly a tenth of my list this time comes from EPs or compilations rather than albums, and close to another tenth of the list is made up of non-album singles, that have yet to be attached to a larger collection of songs (assuming that will ever happen at all). While this speaks to the ability of many of my favorite artists to strike while the iron is hot in terms of getting new music out, it also worries me slightly where the longevity of the album format is concerned. But that’s an issue to discuss when I get to my list of Favorite Albums for the year. My Favorite Songs list, while eclectic and probably whiplash-inducing at certain points, definitely required some tough decision-making because there were so many great songs that spoke to me this year. At the end of the day, whether a song is part of a larger narrative or not, that’s really all that matters – whether the song stands out to me as unique in some way, and makes me want to keep coming back to listen to it over and over again. And everything on this list passed that test with flying colors!

As I do each year, I’ll give some insight into my reasons for picking the Top 30, and you can assume after that point that the ordering is somewhat arbitrary. Many of these songs (limit one per artist) are collected in my 2019 in a Nutshell playlist over on Spotify.

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