This is not a year-end best of list, but it could be...
Blaze Foley Sittin' By the Road (Lost Art) CD - Solid collection of early demos from this Austin ghost. Features strong renditions of some of his best songs ("Clay Pigeons," "If I Could Only Fly," "Cold, Cold World") and more.
Clockcleaner Auf Werdersein (Load) CD - Blistering last blast from these Philly noise rockers with a dirgey nihilistic groove equally indebted to Swans and The Birthday Party. Great wiry guitar sound and awesome crushing rhythms beneath howling post punk vocals. Sorry I never got to see them live.
Pyramids Pyramids (Hydra Head) CD - Black metal and shoegaze hybridized successfully to invoke the lost soul of Kevin Shields after he's been banished to the bottomless depths as punishment for never delivering a proper follow-up to Loveless.
Thomas Köner Nunatak / Teimo / Permafrost (Type) 3CD - Type continues their reissue series of this dark ambient tone-weaver with a collection of three of his mid '90s works. Rumbling subharmonic voids for getting lost and never found. Darkest outer reaches of noise space but accessible and even "pretty."
Cyclobe Wounded Galaxies Tap At The Window (Phantomcode) LP - Masterful post-industrial sci-fi sound sculpture from this Coil related duo; offers up the expected and unexpected in equal measure from industrial, minimalism and harsh noise to prog rock, free noise, childlike lullabies. Should be available in the States through Forced Exposure next month.
Kevin Drumm Imperial Horizon (Hospital Productions) CD - One epic decaying celestial crawl from this master of lowercase amp hum and buzz.
Caboladies Live Anywhere (Aguirre) LP - Killer live document from this young duo sees samples, electronics and even some beats intricately (and spontaneously) assembled from thin air to invoke living, breathing hyper-realities.
Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet Air Supply (Erstwhile) CD - Yet another top notch collaboration between this unlikely duo yielding visceral sound mappings of the crossover between domestic living space and deeper terrestrial planes. Covers a lot of ground and a multitude of sound environments.
Sailors With Wax Wings Sailors With Wax Wings (Angel Oven) CD - Somewhere between black metal, post rock and classic shoegaze but really none of the above; it features some folks I really dig (Prurient, Marissa Nadler, James Blackshaw, Aidan Baker, etc), but more importantly, it rocks and rolls while always lulling with a detached lidded beauty.
Jesu Heartache & Dethroned (Hydra Head) 2CD - Far out, Jesu's using drum machines again! This 2CD is a monster -- one disc of two long Godflesh like trance metal trudges, and the second disc features more compact workouts that sound more Godflesh than Jesu, with the mellower vocals of recent releases intact. *Ed. note - Der, this is actually a reissue of two early EPs.
Giant Sand ProVISIONS (Yep Roc) CD - The master of dusty desert rock returns with another solid batch of broke dick country blues. Howe's Gelb's mumbling spoke-sung voice is an old friend, sympathetic and understanding, and on songs like "The Desperate Kingdom of Love" and "Spiral" as undeniable as the sunrise.
Altar Eagle Mechanical Gardens (Type) CD - Melodic dream pop with a cold wave feel at times built around simple beats, new wave fuzz organ, guitars, dynamic vocal interplay and bubbling electronics. More than enough hooks to go around. Very nice for this sort of thing.
La Otracina Reality Has Got To Die (Holy Mountain) 2LP - More psychedelic space metal mayhem from this Brooklyn trio; like the lost love child between early 'Maiden and the first Ash Ra Temple record. Love the sidelong title track and righteous prog metal cover art.
Bardo Pond Bardo Pond (Fire) CD - Been a minute since BP dropped a full length of all new material, and this one brings the goods and then some. Very possibly the most melodic and accessible long-player from these Philly heavies to date.
Failing Lights Failing Lights (Intransitive) CD - Mike Connelly of Wolf Eyes and Hair Police delivers with the first widely available CD from his solo project. Failing Lights is the sound of darkness seeping in, slowly and methodically taking over like a viral contamination. Only you don't get real sick when you listen to it.
Dark Smith Total Vacuum (Hanson) CD - Corroded murky power drones and surrealist gore movie soundscapes. Utterly grim and wrong but fascinating, like good dark ambient's s'posed to be.
Wooden Wand Death Seat (Young God) CD - JT hits the big time, wrangles Gira into the production seat, sounds kinda like Wooden Wand and The Angels of Light, and that's all right, brother.
Big Blood Dead Songs (Time-Lag) LP - Timeless psych folk duo with awesome guitars, banjo and the striking vocal stylings of Colleen. Some undeniably great hooks here. These two were also members of Cerberus Shoal.
Voice of the Seven Thunders Voice of the Seven Thunders (Holy Mountain) CD - Fierce tight prog rock workouts with a classic rock sensibility, but far from just another Led Zeppelin wannabe. Well rehearsed and lysergic at heart, third eye cast to the morning sun.
Crazy Dreams Band War Dream (Holy Mountain) - Wicked cult grooving heavy rock experimentation. Repetition and throbbing trance states with freaked out fem vocals. For fans of early Royal Trux, The Doors, Patti Smith and early '70s Nico, yet truly modern and unclassifiable.
Wet Hair / Naked On the Vague Split (Night People) LP - Awesome pairing of these two, operating in mellower trance pop mode here. Special mention to Wet Hair for turning Popol Vuh's "In the Garden of the Pharaohs" into sweet post Spacemen 3 electro pop.
Sylvester Anfang II Commune Cassetten (Blackest Rainbow) LP - Far and away the most impressive thing I've heard from this more recent incarnation of SA. Deep, tribal psych folk revelries.
White Hills White Hills (Thrill Jockey) CD - More righteous space sludge from this awesome trio with fairly conventional but seriously levitated psych that takes fuzz mantras to magical new realms. White Hills is never afraid to sound like a real rock band, a very stoned rock band. One track's called "Let the Right One In," and it smokes.
Jon Mueller The Whole (Type) CD - Brilliant latest solo effort from the owner of Crouton Music and drummer for Collections of Colonies of Bees and Volcano Choir. I like Mueller solo best, and this collision of percussion, voice and strings is a brilliant illustration of his many gifts with its hypnotic melding of driving percussive mantras and skeletal left field folk pieces.
Michael Pisaro / Taku Sugimoto 2 Seconds / B Minor / Wave (Erstwhile) CD - Fantastic duo explorations of mid to high register minimal drones unfolding across sidelong pieces. Time killing, deeply transportive, pristinely recorded and quite melodic at times.