I don't remember what started me thinking... It was a shower thought. (Probably something about the bell curve of the music I still listen to over the course of my life, with the greatest focus still being on the music of the 90s, despite the fact that I hated the 90s and the popular music of the time was fucking awful.)
Anyway, the thinking somehow ended up with me wondering what would happen if I had to narrow down certain years to individual songs. Then, given that bell curve, I wondered if I could even find songs for every year, eventually working my way back to the beginning of my life.
For whatever reason, a couple of weeks ago, I actually sat down, went through my collection - sorted by date - and tried to find something for every single year, which only ended up being difficult (to nigh-impossible) for about 4 or 5 of them. I was surprised how quickly I was actually able to narrow down years where there were a hundred songs I loved into a single track, especially compared to some of the years where there was nothing I particularly cared about.
Here are my results.
1977: Foreigner - "Cold As Ice"
The obvious choices for the year of my birth were both Foreigner tracks. "Cold As Ice" and "Long Long Way From Home" were both released that year and are songs I still listen to with great regularity. Ultimately, there was a more obvious choice...
1978: DEVO - "Gut Feeling / (Slap Your Mammy)"
Much of the 70s and 80s could be nothing but DEVO and Foetus tracks and I probably wouldn't be displeased with the outcome. But the release of Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO! in 1978 made it the only choice for that year, no matter what else came out.
1979: DEVO - "Smart Patrol / Mr. DNA"
As I was saying previously, the wealth of DEVO material could dominate much of the 70s and 80s and the fact that they released so many great albums in close succession made it almost impossible to find anything else during the pre-industrial period to find any real competition. While Duty Now For The Future might not be Are We Not Men?, there were tracks that easily lived up to the same standard on multiple listens, even if every track wasn't a killer.
1980: DEVO - "Freedom Of Choice"
The streak continues, with DEVO releasing their three best albums in the course of three years. This was the end of the DEVO domination as their music became less interesting and other bands soon came into focus.
1981: Phil Collins - "In The Air Tonight"
The early 80s were a period with some choices but not always obvious answers. 1981 initially didn't offer much. Once I noticed "In The Air Tonight", it became one of the most obvious answers of most of the years.
My parents had no real musical tastes. They didn't feel strongly about music and I rarely remember them listening to anything with intention. My mother had a few tapes she would play throughout the 80s (including Foreigner's Records) and my dad owned some albums from the early 70s, but they never showed any strong preferences, choosing instead to leave 80s adult contemporary radio as a constant staple for every moment that I was in a moving vehicle up to the point that I got a tape player with headphones in middle school. Phil Collins and Genesis, were of course a constant in adult contemporary music and, despite that fact, they were foundational in my music interests, interest in electronic music, and a sense of experimentality within mainstream popular music. I remember asking for Invisible Touch for Christmas one year and receiving No Jacket Required instead. I remember buying Face Value on CD just to own "In The Air Tonight" or the first time I heard "Mama" as an adult (since adult contemporary radio wasn't playing "Mama" for obvious reasons). But nothing quite feels like the tone of this song.
1982: Toto - "Africa"
I don't have much music that came out this year. Or maybe I have enough, but I just don't connect with any of it in the way I should to make it an obvious pick. There's random new wave and pop bullshit that I don't really care that much about; there's Alan Parsons Project's "Sirius" and "Eye In The Sky", which I enjoy but don't really feel are MY music, somehow; Billy Idol should probably carry more weight, especially "White Wedding"; nothing on DEVO's Oh, No! It's Devo! stands out as compelling and I don't rally listen to any of the tracks outside of "Time Out For Fun" and "Peek-A-Boo!"; Foetus' Ache should probably earn a place with "Dying With My Boots On" or "J.Q. Murder". Instead, the track that I found, strangely, that I had to pick is a song I find myself singing when I'm making a sandwich, when I'm folding my daughter's clothes, when I'm wandering around the house. It's not a song I'd ever list as a favorite but can't deny the fact that it's ingrained in me and I legitimately got angry at how mediocre and shitty Weezer's half-assed, soulless cover was. Sometimes it's not the cool song, it's the one that you can't ever get out of your head for the rest of your life.
1983: Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel - "I'll Meet You In Poland Baby"
Foetus changed my life. My musical sensibilities never changed much. Maybe some of the attitude and the level of aggression has changed, but the same components have always interested me. When I picked up Foetus' Nail at the Tower Records in Atlanta in 1998, it was a revelation. The avant-garde spawn of classical, swing, jazz, industrial, experimental, big band, and lounge music, it gave voice to all the worst parts of human nature without the angst, theatrics, or self-deception of other genres. "Evil" isn't cool or scary or impressive; it's a banal part of human existence and the darkest acts can be portrayed with the detached whimsy of a "Weird Al" song. It was everything I found interesting, cloaked in a Vaudeville sensibility instead of self-serious dickheads in vinyl and bondage gear.
But Nail and the "Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel" concept was already the second part of something larger. Hole was the precursor, the companion to the even-stronger Nail that made it possible and made it even better. Amidst surf rock tracks about going to literal Hell and often-more-goofy songs about the pain of existence that would be handled a little more darkly on Nail, there was the preeminent track that Foetus seemed to be known for, a patchwork of vocal samples and audio from Nazi rallies, a tale told from Hitler's viewpoint about the beginning of World War II, strange and historical and something that couldn't be repeated by anyone else in any era but this.
1984: Skinny Puppy - "Smothered Hope"
There's a strangely small amount of music I have from 1984. There a touch of Gary Numan that I'm indifferent to. There's DEVO's Shout, which doesn't do that much for me. Skinny Puppy ends up winning almost by default, because the next best choice is Hall & Oates' "Out Of Touch".
1985: Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel - "The Throne Of Agony"
As stated previously, Nail is one of the greatest albums I've ever heard and it's almost impossible for me not to pick a track from it. The only question was really "which track?" and there were a few ways of looking at it. Ultimately, I went with my gut and what my favorite track was to still listen to on a daily basis.
1986: Ministry - "We Believe"
I think this is the first year that I truly had a hard time choosing because of having both a wealth of choice but no tracks that I feel completely connected to. Sure enough, there's a lot of songs I like. Just not many songs that I think of and say "I want to hear that track right now" or can't think about the song without singing it to myself. Ultimately I was torn between Jourgensens; both RevCo's Big Sexy Land and Ministry's Twitch came out that year and may stand and the best era for both of them, even if there are plenty of songs from other eras that I connect with more or an individual basis.
Initially, I picked RevCo's "Attack Ships On Fire", which was the first Revolting Cocks song I ever heard (except for some of Linger Ficken' Good which I heard in my friend's car in high school; but, other than "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?", fuck that album), back in 1995. I also thought about "38" and "We Shall Cleanse The World", but I had a hard time feeling strongly about any of them.
Then, I waffled and went back and decided on Ministry. I probably could have picked several songs. "The Angel", "Just Like You", and "All Day" are just as good, but I landed on "We Believe".
1987: Pop Will Eat Itself - "There Is No Love Between Us Anymore"
This year featured early works by bands like Numb, Nitzer Ebb, KMFDM, Front Line Assembly, Front 242, Faith No More, The Young Gods, and Skinny Puppy, but I don't really give a shit about any of those albums. The only one that I've listened to tracks from more than a few times is Pop Will Eat Itself's Box Frenzy. And, even with that album, there's only a few tracks I listen to with any frequency. This is the most prominent one.
1988: Foetus Interruptus - "A Prayer For My Death"
Honestly, Foetus could dominate most of the years in which there was a release were it not for personal restraint and the rare case that there was something I love much more released in the same year.
If Deaf and Ache were clunky, experimental avant-garde new wave and Hole and Nail were a tour of mid-century pop music filtered through industrial and human decay, Thaw and Butterfly Potion were Foetus giving in to vicious, noisy rock music and turning the examination of human misery up to 11. It was dirty and grimy and let go of much of the whimsy in favor of a sense of brutal honesty and anger about the state of life viewed by a man entering his 30s in New York at the end of the Reagan era.
While I love "Don't Hide It Provide It" and "English Faggot", and "Hauss-On-Fah" is one of the first songs my daughter ever sang along to, the choice was always going to be between "The Dipsomaniac Kiss" and "A Prayer For My Death". It could have easily gone either way, but I eventually went with my gut and the one that bears the most listening.
1989: Mussolini Headkick - "Your God Is Dead"
Sometimes, despite all other factors, despite all the other songs that are released in a year, you have to go with the track that is just undeniable in how perfect it is, despite the fact that the band never did anything else interesting or how little that track has necessarily changed your life. Faith No More's The Real Thing holds a much more important place in my heart, as does the Foetus compilation album Sink (though any track on there would have to be considered for the year it was released), and Pretty Hate Machine and The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste are drastically more important in the scheme of things. And then there's other honorable mentions like Skinny Puppy's Rabies and PWEI's This Is The Day...
But, instead, I can't escape a track I heard on the Wax Trax! Black Box back in 1995, which helped foment my love of industrial music and made me search out every release by the band, despite the fact that nothing else they wrote was particularly interesting, much less came close to the near-perfection of "Your God Is Dead".
1990: Lead Into Gold - "Faster Than Light"
This year is reminiscent of 1989. Despite Thrill Kill Kult's Confessions Of A Knife, RevCo's Beers, Steers + Queers, Skinny Puppy's Too Dark Park, and releases by the likes of PWEI and Pigface, there was one obvious choice that was only obvious because I could compare every other track from those albums to it and it would always come out ahead, as ludicrous as it seems. I should be picking "Convulsion" or Cyberaktif's "Nothing Stays" or "A Daisy Chain 4 Satan" or "Stainless Steel Providers". Instead, you get another perfect track that completely outdoes all the other output of the band.
1991: Machines Of Loving Grace - "Burn Like Brilliant Trash (At Jackie's Funeral)"
Perhaps the unintuitive obviousness of the previous two years were a precursor to how easy much of the 90s was. No matter how many amazing albums there were in a year, there would be that one artist or one album or, sometimes, one track that overshadowed everything else with how much I loved it.
1991 saw the release of PIG's Praise The Lard and Out Out's Pepperbox Muzzle, two of my favorite albums over the years; Big Electric Metal Bass Face, my favorite Die Warzau album; The Fair Sex's Bite Release Bite. There's a wealth of options, but there's few bands that have affected me on the level of Machines Of Loving Grace. Even with the release of their worst album, a self-recorded demo they recorded that the label was happy to release as it was, I can't help but choose something from this album. The obvious choice was my favorite song, "Lipstick 66", and I probably should still choose it. But I didn't. Maybe it's because the remixes by Trent Reznor showed what could have been if the label had given them the means to re-record the best tracks and build a real album out of their demos. Maybe it's just that it's one of the four really good songs on the album that I listen to over and over again. Maybe it's because when I listen to it, I can't help but think what I'd tinker with in the mix without it ever changing how I feel about the track itself. For whatever reason, "Burn Like Brilliant Trash (At Jackie's Funeral)" gets my vote, even if "Lipstick 66" is still my favorite song on the album.
1992: Nine Inch Nails - "Wish"
I didn't really listen to Nine Inch Nails until 1994. I forget the order everything went in, but after years of resisting because my friends with bad taste in music liked it I think I got Pretty Hate Machine, then The Downward Spiral (which I'm pretty sure I heard in my friend's car right after he bought the tape at the mall), then after who knows what else I finally got Broken, which only had a mere 6 songs on it and didn't seem worth it to buy earlier. Unfortunately, I really buried the lede for myself on that one. I had been looking for something in music for a long time, a certain sound, a certain level of aggression and musicality that wasn't being met by anything I was finding in the mainstream of the early 90s, amidst all the Metallica and grunge and bullshit. Even other Nine Inch Nails wasn't quite right, but the moment I finally listened to Broken, I thought "Why hadn't anyone told me about this fucking album?" I think people just brushed it aside when compared with PHM and Downward Spiral. I don't know why. It's still the best thing that Trent Reznor's ever done. And a single song pretty much sums up the whole album.
1993: Therapy? - "Screamager"
A year before (inarguably) the best album to ever be released, Troublegum, came out, the single "Screamager" was released on the Shortsharpshock EP in the UK and the Hats Off To The Insane EP in the US.
I remember tuning in one night in '93 to our local alternative station, Power 99, as I was going to bed and the song came on. I listened intently for the two and a half minutes of the song. I then waited an hour for the next break in the music, hoping they would announce the songs they'd just played. They did not.
Many months later, I begged a ride to school from my friend Johnny, who picked me up in his station wagon. As I got in, he popped a tape into his tape deck and it was Hats Off To The Insane. "Screamager" immediately came on and what could have been one of the great mysteries of my life was solved by happenstance.
Troublegum went on to be one of the first CDs I purchased for myself and has been a constant fixture of my life for 25 years. If not for Johnny, who knows what would have happened.
1994: Pop Will Eat Itself - "Everything's Cool"
This era should have been much harder, but it wasn't. There are certain tracks that age well, your mind never changes on, and they only seem to get more relevant with age. It wasn't that songs like "Everything's Cool" and "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" were prescient, it that the nature of our world makes them constantly relevant. There will never be a moment in time that it doesn't seem like those songs were written just for NOW. (That said, I almost picked "Underbelly", because that song is amazing.)
1995: Machines Of Loving Grace - "Richest Junkie Still Alive"
Gilt was my first Machines Of Loving Grace album after hearing them on The Crow soundtrack. As I explored their older albums, I started to dislike its less industrial nature, blamed Sylvia Massy in my mind for changing the tone of the band with her glossy mainstream rock production, and started to focus on Concentration as my album of choice. With enough time, eventually I came back around; while Gilt may lack the electronics and the tone that Roli Mossimann helped them to perfect on their second album, the layered grime and darkness of Gilt continues to thrill me years after Concentration started to seem shallow. The first track of the album, the first real song of theirs I ever heard off of some free compilation I got at a show or with Alternative Press or something, is one of those tracks that exists as basically perfect, that I could stand to listen to dozens of times in a row, because every time it ends, I feel the need for it to continue. If I'm still alive in 40 years, I'll still be listening to this song over and over and regretting that I never saw them live, that there's not more to listen to. (If you ever want me to show up to something like Cold Waves ever again, it'll probably take a reunion of Machines Of Loving Grace.)
1996: Hate Dept. - "Flesh Feeds Soul"
I feel I'd be remiss if I didn't include Hate Dept. in some shape or form and, if it wasn't something on Omnipresent, it wasn't going to happen at all. The obvious choice was going to be "Won't Stay Lit", as it was already my vote for one of the best industrial tracks of all time. But I didn't go that way; I went with the track that's spoken more to me over the past 13 years, though "Won't Stay Lit" and "Rejoice" were always damned close in that regard.
1997: Christ Analogue - "No Daughter Icon"
In Radiant Decay was pretty much a perfect album. (It would have been a little more perfect if "Antibody" had been on the album, and I could take or leave "Unclean".) There's a few tracks I'd be happy to listen to endlessly for the rest of my life. The simplicity of "Wear", the softness of "Cradle And Debase", the beat of "Optima". All of it is laid out, layered, and treated in a way that Wade doesn't even understand how it worked so well. But the most compelling part of the album is its opening moments. Nothing Christ Analogue has ever been or ever will be again can match up to the static blasts and vocal layering of "No Daughter Icon".
1998: Therapy? - "Straight Life"
My era of industrial music started to contract during the late 90s. Re-Constriction was dying out before my eyes. The labels of the 90s were closing up. Most of the bands I was the most enamored with were disappearing, breaking up, changing into something else. The musical scene was abandoning industrial rock and wannabe Skinny Puppy-likes in favor of more European and electronic sounds. People were beginning to listen to digital music. Soon enough, people would be promoting music on mp3 .com, finding new bands on the internet instead of at shows, and "futurepop" would be the trend for several years.
There were choices, for sure, but the market was changing and things were starting to feel different. Babyland's Outlive Your Enemies arrived this year, as well as Kevorkian Death Cycle's Dark Skies, Numb's Language Of Silence, Pitchshifter's game-changing www.pitchshifter.com, as well as early albums by bands that would go on to create better music in the early 2000s.
There were many things that probably could have represented this year well, but it was the year that Therapy? released their last cohesive album, the last time they were really satisfying as a band. Semi-Detached had several songs that could have held this spot, but "Straight Life" got the vote in the heat of the moment.
1999: Hednoize - "Pay Me No Mind"
Hednoize's Searching For The End was one of those albums that nobody heard. It was released at the very end of the TVT era of Wax Trax! and was one of the last few releases before the label disappeared entirely (only to be truly resurrected by Julia Nash in the past few years). Coming out of former Wax Trax! band Psykosonik, main songwriter Daniel Lenz and live keyboardist Brent "Free" Daniels moved on to create a more varied extension of the tone Psykosonik was exploring on their Unlearn album. Combining industrial, rock, and most of the electronic sounds of the late 90s into more downbeat, vocal-driven tracks, I found Hednoize to be incredibly influential. To this day, despite my musical incompetence, I imagine creating songs that sound like Hednoize filtered through Numb.
The fact that no one paid attention to the album was a damned shame. It was inevitable, given the state of Wax Trax! when those final few albums were being released, but maybe it's best that it exists as its own little time capsule. Maybe further releases would have only diluted or tainted what this album accomplished. As it is, there's a few tracks, like "The Road" and "My Machine" that I think the album would have been much better without, but the rest of the tracks exactly provide what I wanted in a way that most bands on the edges of the industrial scene have never accomplished.
2000: Pitchshifter - "Wafer Thin"
There are people that swear by the metal era of Pitchshifter. Others who prefer www.pitchshifter.com for its incredibly stripped down and sampled punk attitude. I always enjoyed each Pitchshiter release exponentially more than the last.
Industrial and Submit were grungy and uninteresting, so metal that they were entirely out of the range of my tastes. Desensitized had a little more depth to it, but never spoke to me. Infotainment? had a few songs I liked, but was mostly still too metal for my tastes.
www.pitchshifter.com broke away from that formula and finally eschewed the vocal pitch-shifting of the earlier albums that gave the band its name (and may have been the real reason I could never get attached to any of the earlier material). Finally free to actually sing and to bring out the punk and industrial aspects of the music, Pitchshiter took a huge step forward, though the stripped-down album lacked some of the depth it needed.
For me, that started to be rectified with Deviant, an album that always sounded like it was mastered wrong and was muddier than it should have been, but started to show the true genius of the Pitchshifter formula in a post-metal era.
"Condescension", "Forget The Facts", and "Everything's Fucked" are all amazing tracks that I still listen to at least once a week, but I had to go with "Wafer Thin", a song that still carries a lot of weight while also reminding me of everything about the time period it was released in.
2001: Therapy? - "Dance"
I suppose you remember what I said above about Therapy?'s last cohesive album being Semi-Detached. That's true. But what I was also saying earlier about the industrial rock of the 90s giving way to an era of relentlessly European synthpop-inspired "industrial" music that was only tangentially related in any way by the slow evolution of EBM, an early counterpart to the American industrial scene of the late 80s, into techno and then drum & bass and IDM-infused electronic music was even more true at this time. You had bands like :wumpscut: losing all their rough edges, VNV Nation bringing in a tone that was more comfortable in synthpop and dance music than it was in industrial circles up to that point, Haujobb becoming more subdued until they finally changed into a drum & bass act for an album before finally returning to their roots this year with Polarity, their first truly good album, all while the only industrial music given any notice was a series of synthpop bands out of Europe who just happened to wear black vinyl onstage.
Under the radar, Contagion released Infectant, Firewerk self-released their first demo album, Amplified Fragments, Flesh Field was building their sound, while other mainstream bands were crumbling along with their former labels. Most music was on the decline in quality, except for Foetus, as Flow may be one of the strongest albums as a listenable product. Zeromancer was on the ascent, releasing Eurotrash. But somehow Therapy? won out for perhaps the last time with Shameless, the band's least favorite album, though that is tainted by the issues that went into its production and other problems surrounding them. They've been on the decline since 2000 and Shameless was one of their better offerings of the 21st century, despite their instincts. Perhaps it lacked the punk attitude of earlier material, as Andy Cairns grew more interested in Captain Beefheart and 70s rock than he was an anything contemporary, leading to a different tone for this album. Still, tracks like "This One's For You", "I Am The Money", and "Endless Psychology" are satisfying, though none more than "Dance", a track that continues to work well after 18 years in its cold simplicity. "Welcome to Fuckland."
2002: Pitchshifter - "Whatever"
You could probably guess what was going to happen, given that this was the last year that a Pitchshifter album was released. To think now that it's been 17 years without regular recurrences of Pitchshifter releasing new material seems impossible. The few final demos and unreleased tracks that have trickled out in the past year have only added salt to that wound.
PSI, being the last hurrah for Pitchshifter aside from an EP and a couple of barely-released tracks isn't quite as sad because of the quality. As I said, I liked every album more and I, while I listen to a few tracks from the previous albums with regularity, I still listen to "Stop Talking (So Loud)", "Eight Days", "MyKind", "Misdirection", "Down", "Shutdown", "Whatever", "We Know", and "Slip" all the time. The remaining quarter of the album isn't bad, it's just as interesting and not something I want to sing along with in the car, so it's fallen by the wayside over the years.
It was hard to pinpoint the one track that was going to represent them all somehow and I went back and forth from something more single-ly like "Down" to "Slip" and "We Know". Each has their own hooks, sections that really work, parts that I love, but "Whatever" probably had more of those moments in the end.
2003: Hate Dept. - "Glamorous"
2003 seemed like a time that it was still possible to be excited about new music. Bands were still touring. The momentum of the 90s was still pushing a few things forward before they would inevitably come to a stop. 2003 was a last gasp for some bands who released their first albums in years. So was the case with Hate Dept. It's strange now to think of not having released an album for 4 years as being a significant wait, but some of the tracks from Ditch had been demoed and released to the internet for years before the album finally arrived. (It ended up being the same for A New Ghost, with an even longer wait.) The early 2000s had been a waiting game for bands that should have been releasing music to finally put it out. There were even some that were briefly teased back into existence, like Penal Colony. But Hate Dept. had seemed so regular and businesslike about its releases up to the point that Technical Difficulties came out. Perhaps it was aftereffects of being on a larger label or all the expectation that came with it. I'm pretty sure Seibold wasn't interested in going back to playing goth clubs after seeing what it was like to play decent-sized rooms. And part of that time period was a certain expectation of a label releasing your music and you touring to support it. That would all soon come to an end, but in this middle period, there wasn't the easy distribution of a BandCamp to make it seem obvious that a band would keep going as the labels dried up.
When the album finally arrived, it obviously wasn't old Hate Dept. Though I had been enamored with Technical Difficulties at the time, it didn't age nearly as well as Omnipresent and I was sick of even thinking about it. I wasn't sure what I was going to love out of Ditch, but it didn't have an obvious "Hitback" to woo me. I had already heard "Do It For Money" and "California" plenty of times by the album's release, so I was left to dwell on the songs that were left as to what would really speak to me. There was a certain oddness to all the tracks, something different than anything I expected out of Hate Dept. in some way. There were solid tracks like "Peace Is Your Dream" and "Not The One" that harkened back to an older Hate Dept. and rock-oriented songs like "One Hundred Stairs" and "Meaner". There was "Gravity", which reminded me of the parts of Technical Difficulties that I enjoyed the least. "Insects" would breed a classic Pigface song, but gave Hate Dept. a totally new tone to play with. "Bleed And Smile" was an underdog of the album, cold and dark and slow and sad. Ultimately, the song that I found myself most drawn to wasn't really much of a Hate Dept. song at all; it sounded more like the clips I'd heard of Choker, Seibold's emo-rock-ish side-project. I'm not sure "Glamorous" had a single sequence or bit of electronics in it. The fact that it was more of a dark, moody guitar rock song was strange at first, but then it never really occurred to me again. It was what it needed to be and was one of the best songs of the year.
2004: Firewerk - "Pray"
Firewerk is a band whose influence and importance I have to carry alone. I've never heard anyone mention them before or since I discovered them. I bought their self-released first album, Amplified Fragments, from a Metropolis Records sale because it was only two or three dollars and I was buying a large quantity of random, unknown, cheap CDs. After being turned off by the first track, I was immediately in love with the album and wanted to hear their second release. I was writing an industrial rock demo column for IndustrialnatioN at the time and, as I hoped, I ended up receiving the demo in the mail for review. The album was one of my favorite things of the year, despite that fact that it was virtually unknown, I'd never see the band live, there'd be no more music, and the band was essentially already in the process of breaking up. At its core, this album contained some truly great tracks. I consider "Without A Sound" one of the best, prototypical industrial tracks, up there with the very best of the genre. But, after some time, my favorite track ended up being "Pray". One of the great tragedies of music is there can't be more music like this.
2005: Foetus - "(not adam)"
Obviously Foetus has its special place in music for me. Still, I didn't enjoy the title track very much when the (not adam) EP came out in 2004. (Already I feel like I'm cheating.) When Love was released the next year, I found it to be a soulless pale imitation of Flow. Ultimately I warmed to four of the tracks over time, but it was a disappointment after so many good albums, and there was never another Foetus release I enjoyed after that. It was strange how immediately it moved away from me as a project and I couldn't find any good in it anymore.
Before it all went to shit, Love was the last gasp of the Foetus I loved so much. The tone might have changed, harpsichord might have become more integral to the music-making for some unknown reason, but there were some great tracks in there. "Aladdin Reverse" went from an imitation of "Mandelay" to being its own special track. "Blessed Evening" and "Time Marches On" are both exceptional tracks. But "(not adam)" soon became one of my favorite tracks. There's so much packed in there to explore. It's its own mini-opera, contained in a few minutes.
There were other albums that are better, like The Damage Manual's Limited Edition and Out Out's Hasten The Burning..., but "(not adam)" continues to be my obsession to this day.
2006: Pitchshifter - "Does It Really Matter?"
There was some good music in 2006. Parts of Dismantled's Standard Issue, Imperative Reaction's As We Fall, several tracks on Therapy?'s One Cure Fits All ("Rain Hits Concrete" was almost my choice and "Private Nobody" was also great). Ultimately, this was the year of the final real Pitchshifter release, the None For All And All For One EP. Really, it was two tracks, two remixes of those tracks, and a collaboration track with This Is Menace, a Pitchshifter side-project. So, with two tracks to really choose from, you'd think it'd be easy.
I went back and forth a bit on the track. While "Burning (Out Of Control)" is quintessentially more Pitchshifter of a track than "Does It Really Matter?" and is equally as good, "Does It Really Matter?" is something a little different, a track written with Billy Morrisson for J.S. Clayden's post-Pitchshifter project, Doheny. Given the Pitchshifter treatment, it's something new and fresh, and the two tracks on the EP are some of the best material they ever released, a tease that, had the band not withered away, that it could have continued releasing their best material yet.
2007: Victory Pill - "Free-Fall"
It was easily apparent that, as the year that Victory Pill's self-titled first album was released, everything else would fall by the wayside. Destroid had some real competition with "Bird Of Prey" and "Run And Hide", Cyanotic released some iteration of their first album again, Idiot Stare's Welcome To Babylon came out, an album that I had waited 5 years for. Nothing could compete with Victory Pill, even if it had been a year full of favorites.
Victory Pill was a side-project from Pitchshifter guitarist Jim Davies, who also played with The Prodigy. It took a lot of the ideas and riffs he had written during the Pitchshifter days and changed up the tone slightly, took out the punk flavor, and made as good of a product and, in some ways, a better one. The album had several excellent tracks that could have taken this spot: "Wasted On Me", "King And Country", "Thin Line", and I'm not sure "Worst Case Scenario" shouldn't have been my choice. In the end, I went with "Free-Fall" because there's something so intensely satisfying about it, even if it's not quite as challenging in some ways as "Worst Case Scenario" or "Wasted On Me".
2008: Danny Elfman - "The Little Things"
I have some personal contentions about my own choice for 2008. Why did I pick this song when there's "You Will Never Have It" from Babyland's Cavecraft, or "Fail" from Everything Goes Cold's Prepare To Be Refrigerated, or "Guns" from Rabbit Junk's This Life Is Where You Get Fucked? I'm not sure. I don't know if it's a better choice. But it was definitely a song that immediately captured my interest when I watched the movie Wanted. I can't say I was an Oingo Boingo fan and never cared at all about Danny Elfman's shitty Tim Burton scores, but Wanted featured some really cool choices and made me really appreciate the fact that Danny Elfman might have some really cool musical ideas outside of the Burton shit he churned out for a long time. "The Little Things" is a straight-up grimy roadhouse rock track that's just really enjoyable to listen to. Maybe that trumps a lot of the other stuff.
2009: Zeromancer - "Mercenary"
Honestly, there wasn't that much music I was thrilled about in 2009. There was a few tracks here and there, but "Mercenary", a track co-written with Pigface and also released on the Pigface album 6 in the same year, was genuinely amazing. While the Pigface version features a little bit more punch to the drums, thanks to Martin Atkins, the Zeromancer version feels like the real deal.
2010: Zeromancer - "V"
Hot on the heels of the previous year came Zeromancer's last good album. It had a few enjoyable tracks, pushing DEVO's Something For Everybody out of the running. Nothing else was particularly interesting, making one of Zeromancer's best, "V", the track to pick off of The Death Of Romance.
2011: Imperative Reaction - "Time Doesn't Care"
Imperative Reaction had always been a good band, but tracks like "Arrogance" alone couldn't quite get them there. As We Fall was a really good album, overall, but 2011's self-titled album was finally the one to really do it and put them over the top. Tracks like "Time Doesn't Care" even put it above Dismantled's The War Inside Me, Gary Numan's Dead Son Rising, Haujobb's "Dead Market", and, shockingly, Victory Pill's The Digital Divide, which by all rights deserves this spot for the power of "Black & White", "Burnout", "Save Yourself", or "Spit" alone. But "Time Doesn't Care" is a really good track in the midst of a good album.
2012: Everything Goes Cold - "The Iron Fist Of Just Destruction"
2012 wasn't a strong year. There were some enjoyable tracks, between Mindless Faith, More Machine Than Man, Rabbit Junk, and Therapy?, but Everything Goes Cold was way ahead. Perhaps Eric Gottesman's melodramatic villainous character in this song is to be taken humorously, but the song speaks to my personal ethos. "The Iron Fist Of Just Destruction" is an anthem that can't be stopped.
2013: Hate Dept. - "Still Child"
Hate Dept. wasn't without competition for their final entry on this list. Gary Numan released Splinter, which may be one of his best albums. There was also a wealth of unreleased Therapy? material dropped this year in the expansive Gemil box. But there's still not many albums from 6 years ago I've even really taken the time to listen to yet.
In many ways, this is some of Hate Dept.'s finest work, nuanced and varied, but it hasn't been as satisfying in the long run. "Matrimonial Blood" was the obvious choice, a track I've loved since it appeared back in the MySpace era, but maybe I've moved past it. "New Son Army" was another easy choice that I didn't feel was right. The same could be said for "Already Over" and "Amanda Jones" and "Hard Times". Ultimately, I was drawn to the frigid sadness of "Still Child". Maybe I've grown past what Hate Dept. is now, or maybe Hate Dept. isn't what it used to be.
I can't think of anything. Nothing in 2014 did anything special for me.
2015: Ministry - "Same Old Madness (Video Version)"
This one feels like a cheat, but there wasn't much that excited me in 2015, as would be the trend for recent years. Nothing impressed me nearly as much as some of the unreleased tracks from Ministry's Trax! Box, all material from the early 80s. In particular, the "Same Old Madness" single, a song that a video had even been produced for, had never shown up on any album until 33 years later, when it finally arrived here and reminded me that I really enjoy Ministry more in the pre-Land Of Rape And Honey era most of the time.
2016: Out Out - "S.Y.O. Version 2"
I didn't really have anything for 2016. I either didn't listen to any of it or didn't really care. I never got around to really listening to Swan/Dive?, but "S.Y.O." had been released years earlier in a different version on an internet compilation.The more finalized version is the closest thing I have to a choice for 2016.
2017: Gary Numan - "My Name Is Ruin"
There was only one real answer for 2017, because Savage was the only album I really cared about that year. And if there's one song that outdoes the rest on that album, it's "My Name Is Ruin".
2018: Pitchshifter - "Messiah"
Another cheat of sorts, "Messiah" had only been released as a four-track/four-band CD given away at two shows in 2007. It was essentially another demo for what was to come, but then never came. It only saw public release on BandCamp finally in 2018, due in part to my nagging J.S. Clayden to release it along with the other rarities he was putting up for sale in anticipation of a Pitchshifter reunion show. If not for this excellent track, I might not have anything to pick for 2018 anyway.