'Autonomy Games' one of year's best albums

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

LOS ANGELES -- You listen to Endless Hallway's debut album "Autonomy Games" for a first time, and there are elements that jump out at you: the slashing guitars of "Autonomy Barrier," the aching vocals of "Grey Flats," the lock-step bass/drums rhythm of "Gamma," the trippy chorus that breaks up the frenzy of "Solvency."

Then you listen again and you realize there's no throw-aways on the record.

By the third or fourth play-through, it dawns on you that "Autonomy Games" is probably, from track 1 to 11, the best rock album released in 2009.

Signed by Wind-up Records after building a strong following around their Los Angeles home base, Endless Hallway -- singer Ryan Jackson, guitarists Jono Evans and Leesburg's Michael Tye, bassist Evan McCarthy and drummer Joe Mullen -- have become by default the future of rock music in a world that currently treasures hip-pop light and faux country.

"Our goal with this album was to create a record rather than a signature sound," Jackson said of "Autonomy Games." "There are a lot of themes on there, but bottom line the album is about what it was like for us growing into young men.

"It's about finding the things that you're tethered to -- what things in the world exist -- and then how you achieve the autonomy without emotional debt. It's about whatever we went through to get to that point."

Plus, it's kick-ass rock music.

Jackson nailed it when he said there is no signature sound on "Autonomy Games." The music is all over the place: a little Radiohead with a Beatles-esque bridge ("Autonomy Barrier"), a Toadies-like intro ("Cell"), the perfect pop/rock dynamic, but cool in a Smiths-like way ("Shallows"), hard rock guitar, bass and drums that will hold its own against any practitioners of the genre ("Cell," "Toppled Dynamo," "Games"), a moody number that brings to mind Pink Floyd ("In Transit") and Perry Farrell-like vocals that would have fit seamlessly onto Jane's Addiction's "Ritual de lo Habitual" ("Grey Flats").

Yet it all fits. Nicely. So much so, producer Noah Shain deserves major credit for making the disparate parts flow so well into the album/story Jackson and the boys were looking for when they conceived the disc.

Much as Endless Hallway sought to chronicle their turn from boys to men, lyrics like "You've given me nothing that I couldn't have made all by myself" ("A Bad Current"), "I've neglected all my blackest mistakes and they all collected to push me down" ("Shallows"), and "You make it easy to believe I'm not the same insufferable boy" (on the U2-like "Gamma") paint vivid pictures that illustrate the point.

If you're one of those who believes rock music will never die, "Autonomy Games" will reassure you. It's magical.