11. Black Mountain, Destroyer (Jagjaguwar)
Music critics will never admit it, but as much as they publicly deny it, they rely on press kit bios and one-sheets a lot. The trick is to work the little factoids and anecdotes into the piece without making it look like a cut-and-paste job, but there are plenty of writers who do the latter time and again. Black Mountain maestro Stephen McBean must have been aware of that, because he snuck a delightful red herring into the press release for his band’s fifth album, claiming that the album’s title was inspired by the “rare” 1985 Dodge Destroyer muscle car. True enough, when the album came out in May and the reviews ran, so many writers fell for it: there was no Dodge Destroyer.
Although the muscle car was fake, the actual album Destroyer is a perfect album to blast on the road, no matter what your vehicle of choice is. The record is a rebirth of sorts, too, coming after a period of upheaval that saw three members (including co-vocalist Amber Webber) leave the band after the touring cycle for 2016’s IV. With longtime keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt and new singer Rachel Fannan, McBean picked up the pieces and crafted a fiery, fuzzed-out blast of ’70s-derived heavy rock that feels equal parts Hawkwind, The Godz, and Deep Purple. His riffs are towering, Schmidt provides wave after wave of vintage synthesizer sounds, and while the vocal power of Webber is indeed missed, Fannan and McBean form a new lead vocal dynamic that feels rawer, more similar to X than, say, Fleetwood Mac. Ragers such as “Licensed to Drive” and “Future Shade” and the spacey “Horns Arising” are immediate highlights, but “High Rise” is the pulsating heart of the album: built around a modal rhythm section groove, it’s a wicked krautrock/metal jam that builds and builds in intensity as McBean and Fannan paint a dystopian portrait akin to the JG Ballard novel of the same name. Hit the road, crank Destroyer on the stereo, and cruise into outer space.