The Six Sweetest Riffs of 2011
3. Deerhoof - "Let's Dance The Jet"
Last month, a preteen saw a burned copy of Deerhoof's Apple O' amongst a stack of CDs and asked me what the band sounds like. I fumbled through some description that involved Led Zeppelin and Hello Kitty and "Low Rider" by War. I would have had an easier time explaining where babies come from. The band's oddly un-talked-about record Deerhoof Vs. Evil is excellent proof of its singularity; it doesn't sound like any of the band's other albums but sounds exactly like Deerhoof. Its songs are a bit scattershot, including the awesome instrumental "Let's Dance The Jet," a cover of an obscure Mikis Thedorakis song from an obscurer Greek-British comedy (The Day The Fish Came Out, for you cinephiles out there). Deerhoof's version lands somewhere between Austin Powers segue music and the underground music from the second level of Mario 2. The highlight of the brief track is the sporadic guitar melody that jumps in like Jimmy Page's searing pentatonics of "Black Dog" for three seconds at a time -- proof that a riff doesn't have to pound you over the head to achieve maximum sweetness.
2. Liturgy - "Generation"
Heavy-handed quartet Liturgy pissed off quite a few people this year, just by making thoughtful, punishing rock music with terrible vocals and calling it "black metal." After all, nobody is expecting the members of Liturgy to shoot somebody from rival Brooklyn hipster metal band Behold... The Arctopus in the face and make jewelry from the bone fragments. If you look past the probably overdramatized drama, the band's full length Aesthethica completely rules. "Generation" is the album's strongest cut, and not only because the instrumental track spares the distraction of Hunter Hunt-Hendrix's acquired-taste screams. Hunter spends a majority of Aesthethica making his Gibson SG sound like a pipe organ, but on "Generation" the band finally gets into the meat of the instrument with a repetitious riff that owes more to early Philip Glass than to church-burning Norwegians. For all its braininess, Liturgy is a visceral band; listening to all seven minutes of "Generation" is physically exhausting and completely exhilarating.
1. Mastodon - "Blasteroid"
This year, Mastodon took a break from intensive concept albums and cranked out The Hunter. Essentially, the band pulled the record from its collective ass. Let's be thankful - overthinking could have stifled the full-throttle rocker "Blasteroid." That riff, oh, that riff. It's Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back In Town" and Johann Strauss's "Blue Danube" waltz joining the mile high club in Iron Maiden's private jet. Sweet enough to give you diabetes. If Mastodon is not the best band in metal today, then I will personally let Lars Ulrich sue me for illegally downloading the Loutallica record.