Dec 252011

Two years ago in December, when NCS was barely one month old, I pondered the tradition among metal sites of publishing lists of the year’s best albums. It seemed like something NCS should be doing, but there were two problems:  First, we had no metal cred at all, and almost no readers, so it seemed pretty presumptuous and pompous for us to be proclaiming which albums were the year’s best. Second, it seemed like waaaay too much fucking work.

So I came up with an alternative idea: Instead of trying to pick and rank the best albums or even the best songs, why not just make a list of the songs that I and my two NCS co-founders had heard from 2009 releases that we thought were the “most infectious” — which was just a way of saying they were the songs we listened to the most because they were . . . catchy. So that’s what we did.

The first year it was pretty easy. Because we started NCS so late in the year, we’d spent most of 2009 just being average fans. Between the three of us, we listened to a lot of new albums, but not nearly as many as would come our way later, after bands and labels started flooding us with new stuff. Each of us just threw together our lists of favorite songs, and then we collaborated on whittling the combined master list down to 10.

Last year, it was a lot harder. My two co-founders had pretty much become inactive, with school and life in general getting in the way. I was not in school and had no life, so I forged ahead. In addition to all the music I’d personally heard, I solicited suggestions from NCS readers. The result was a really long list of candidates that included songs I’d never heard myself during the year. The master list was a lot longer than the one the year before, and I got a headache trying to narrow it down. I started publishing the list in installments before I’d even finished the whittling-down process. Eventually, I just made myself stop — after naming 30 songs as “most infectious”.

This year, the process has become even more difficult. I’ve personally listened to more music than ever before, and my personal starting list of candidates was really fucking long. Also, we’ve got additional writers “on staff” who threw me their own ideas, and once again I solicited suggestions from readers. I’ve listened to every suggestion, and even after the first round of winnowing down the master list, there were still more than 100 songs on there.

And once again, I’m going to start rolling out my picks even though I’m still not finished picking, because it’s the only way to force myself to finish. Like last year, I’m going to reveal two songs every day. I’ll begin tomorrow and stop when it’s time to stop. I don’t know how long the list will be by the time I’m done — though I’ve told myself not to let it exceed 30 songs.

To save time explaining what I’m doing every day, I’m using this post to explain what the list represents, and I’ll link back to it in the daily features.

– The key feature of the songs on this list is that they’re infectious — they’re catchy, they stuck in my head, I went back to them to listen again repeatedly, they make me move or headbang or just nod dreamily.

– These are not necessarily the best songs of the year in terms of artistic achievement. It’s kind of like the way Andy Synn divided his NCS lists of the year’s best albums between a “Critical Top 10” list and a “Personal Top 10” list. Except, this isn’t really even a personal “best songs” list, because I have some favorite songs this year that I wouldn’t call “infectious” or “catchy”. For example, I really liked the albums I heard this year by Dragged Into Sunlight, Mitochondrion, and Antediluvian, but although their music is definitely diseased, I wouldn’t call it infectious (in the sense of “catchy”). The same is true of a lot of the more traditional black metal I heard and liked a lot. So, although there will be songs on the list that I do think are among the best of the year, critically speaking, that wasn’t one of the criteria I used.

– Although the master list I used included suggestions from many other people, whatever turns out to be the final list of picks will be a very personal one. It shouldn’t be considered a list that represents the collective consensus of everyone who regularly writes for this site. Andy and BadWolf and TheMadIsraeli don’t know what’s coming, and I didn’t try to include them in the final selection process. That would have been too complicated. So, there will be songs on this list I think each of them would approve, but it will omit songs they would have put on their own lists and it will include songs they wouldn’t have picked.

– Probably more so than in previous years, the list will include bands who don’t have “big names”, standing side-by-side with bands who do. It will also include songs from albums we never reviewed and bands we’ve never previously mentioned.

– More than in previous years, the list will include songs with clean singing. They’re in the minority, they’re exceptions to the usual rule around here, but there will be some on the list because they were too infectious to exclude.

– The list will be un-ranked, because it’s going to be tough enough to cut the list down to a manageable size, and trying to rank them is just beyond what I’m capable of doing. I’m also not rolling them out in any particular order, though I am going to try to be creative in the way I pair up the two picks each day — sometimes to provide contrast, sometimes to provide symmetry, sometimes because I think the two songs fit well together.

So, that’s it for the long-winded introduction. Tomorrow, it begins . . .

Let me leave you with two songs I heard this year that would have been on this year’s short list of candidates, except for the fact that the album was released in 2010 — and at least one of them would have made the 2010 list except I didn’t discover the music until too late to include them then. The band is The Evil Amidst, and I reviewed their 2010 album Lords of the Nine here.

“Evil Amidst”

[audio:|titles=The Evil Amidst – Evil Amidst]


[audio:|titles=Evil Amidst – Decreator]


  1. “Andy and BadWolf and TheMadIsraeli don’t know what’s coming, and I didn’t try to include them in the final selection process.”

    What makes this even weirder is that we’re all just aspects of Islander’s fractured personality. None of us are really real.

  2. I don’t even like death metal much anymore and I was banging my head to this. Excited for the full list! \m/

  3. I too jammed out numerous times to The Evil Amidst album because it was a great workout album. I also feel the first song on Hatred for Mankind is an infectious song, I use it as a power song on my Nike App. That song really kicks my ass!
    I do however have a correction for us both, I sometimes go by the Itunes catalogue to find release dates for albums. So I too believed Hatred for Mankind was a 2011 album, it’s actually a 2009 album! Pretty, pretty, pretty fucked up!

    • Well you make a fair point, though I had a reason for treating Hatred for Mankind as a 2011 release. It was originally released in very limited distribution by Mordgrimm Records in the UK, and then Prosthetic Records re-issued the album in January of this year, making 2011 the official US release. I don’t know if that works, but that was my logic.

  4. I’m all for that logic, and think the album deserves praise. I honestly was just passing my hurt ego onto you as I had called the album one of my favorites of 2011 when someone corrected me. Upon further research, I found they were right, hence the bruised ego.

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