Gen 7 2009, 4:48

    24. Sigur Rós - Með suð I eyrum við spilum endalaust (Post-rock, Dream Pop)

    Why?: I still feel as if I'm ill-acquainted with this album despite listening to it quite a few times. I do know, however, that it's Sigur Rós, it's different yet still somehow just the same old beauty I'm accustomed to with the band. And I've come to love it.

    23. Ayreon - 01011001 (disc 1: Y) (Progressive Rock)

    Why?: Cheesy lyrics aside, this is an excellent release from the man who amasses many vocalists for his prog metal epics, Arjen Lucassen. And the vocalists here are awesome. I'd say the only complaint is that many of them sound familiar, but Daniel Gildenlow, Jørn Lande, Jonas Renkse, Anneke van Giersbergen, and Floor Jansen are all such a joy to listen to, that I don't mind getting the characters confused.

    Arjen's arrangements are also stellar. From his heavier moments, to his whimsical folk segments, the album contains a perfect balance of diversity. His synth parts, in particular, are most certainly the strongest they've ever been... So dynamic and distinct, that I think they'd do Wish You Were Here proud.

    22. Panic! at the Disco - Pretty. Odd. (Rock/Pop)

    Why?: Not only is Pretty.Odd. a HUGE step in maturity through songwriting, arrangement, and perhaps especially lyrics, it is a downright brilliant collection of songs that may end up being one of my favorite albums of 2008. Granted, I was always a fan of the Panic gentlemen and their particular knack for vocal harmonies and memorable hooks. But with the addition of some clearly eclectic (*COUGHYESBEATLESCOUGH*) influences a crapload of lush, multi-instrumental arrangements, along with some very unconventional progressions and ideas, Panic at the Disco have crafted a record that is both wholly entertaining and artistically relevant. It's an album that shows a great deal of promise, for a band that appears willing to change not for the masses or for the critical appeasement of their fanbase, but for their musical love and betterment.

    21. The Samuel Jackson Five - Goodbye Melody Mountain (Post-rock, Jazz)

    Why?: This band just tickles my fancy. Melody Mountain is incredibly fun and jazzy, with a bit less focus on post-rock than before. The compositions are infectious and adventurous, and frequently manage to put a smile on my face.

    20. Coldplay - Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends (Rock/Pop)

    Why?: So good it makes me want to dance around with lots of vibrant neon colors tracking my motions like in the ipod commercial.

    And I hate ipod commercials.

    19. The Faceless - Planetary Duality (Technical Death Metal)

    Why?: This was a tough call, because on the one hand, I felt like there was even less melodic structure and overall songwriting coherence than what was present on Akeldama. On the other hand, the leads on this thing are a beaut, and they manage to change this record up more than Akeldama with quotes, more clean sections, clean singing, and other assorted tech-progiesh goodies. It's not astounding, but I find it quite enjoyable none the less.

    After a bit of sinking in, I'm began to find identity in the songs a bit more, and this album became a great tech death experience for me.

    18. Man Man - Rabbit Habits (Indie, Experimental)

    Why?: While not as spastic or off-the-wall as its predecessor, Six Demon Bag, Rabbit Habits is still a zany, Tom Waits-ish barroom foray into eclectic indie music... And it's still damn good.

    Rather than focusing on faster songs driven by percussion, Rabbit Habits tends to be a bit more midpaced and places emphasis on the bands varied melodic instrumentation. A prime example of this is the end of "Top Drawyer" which employs a very effective arrangement of organ, keyboard, sax, and flutes that builds until the return of the infectious chorus.

    17. Finch - Finch (Post-hardcore, Rock/Pop)

    Why?: Easily four of the best songs this band has ever put out. Finch is back... With avengeance.

    16. Kayo Dot - Blue Lambency Downward (Avant-garde)

    Why?: This album does not represent the finest aspects of Kayo Dot's sound, for me, simply because it lacks drama. Don't get me wrong, it's still filled with beautiful, trance like songs that weave in and out of jazzy free-form, classical, and psychadelica. The main problem, and part that restricts me from truly embracing this record, is that it lacks drama. On both "Choirs of the Eye" and "Dowsing..." there is a distinct sense of urgency that creeps in from time to time.. And that doesn't really happen for me on this album.

    Still, it's still highly enjoyable music that is highly unique, and always seems to re-create itself in new ways on each listen.

    15. Burst - Lazarus Bird (Progressive Metal, Sludge)

    Why?: What an unbelievable step up from their last album. It's a tough album to nail down, as well, being progressive, sludgy, melodic, and just generally very adventurous in its songwriting. Not much to say, other than that this is a very fulfilling metal album.

    14. Off Minor - Some Blood (Screamo)

    Why?: It's a slightly grittier and more compact affair than "Innominate" to my ears, but still interjects all of the off-kilter jazzy riffing and passion that makes Off Minor such a cool fucking band. The last track is their longest, most epic, and quite possibly my favorite thing that they've done.

    13. Deathspell Omega - Veritas Diaboli Manet in Aeternum: Chaining the Katechon (Technical Black Metal)

    Why?: A 22 minute technical dischordant black metal opus. Sure it's only one song, but it is far and away one of the best metal songs I've heard all year. Chaos and darkness of universal proportions. KVLT.

    12. The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride (Folk, singer-songwriter)

    Why?: I always liked Tallahassee and haven't heard much else from the John Darnielle. Well, this album took me a bit by surprise. The songwriting is just superb, as it should be for a folk album... But what gets me isn't just the effectiveness of the melodies and the lyrics, but the overall diversity in mood and instrumentation of the album itself.

    Sure, this is still mostly a straight up folk record, but the inclusion of string, Hammond Organ parts, piano, female vocals, and more, all just seem to add so much to the experience. And even beyond those instrumental aspects, there's just very few songs on this record that sound all that much alike.

    Also, bonus points for referencing Marduk, lol.

    11. The Mars Volta - The Bedlam in Goliath (Progressive Rock)

    Why?: Another awesome release by the Mars Volta. The pace is their most consistently speedy that they've ever done, and the complexity and density of the music is just as prevalent as before. It's an album that's fun to listen to at first, and then engrossing and intricately consuming with further listens.

    10. La Dispute - Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair (Post-hardcore)

    Why?: Passionate, poetical, and overall really damn good. This band reminds me of Mewithoutyou, circa A>>B Life era in that it's emotionally overwrought post-hardcore that retains a clear focus on lyrics.

    09. Opeth - Watershed (Progressive Metal, Deathish metal)

    Why?: For the first time in my history with this beloved band of mine, Opeth, I feel like they've actually done something truly... Progressive. No, this album isn't a complete departure from what the band's been doing. There's still lots of loud-soft dynamic switches between death-influenced metal and folk inspired soft rock music. But here, Opeth have changed things up a bit.

    Opeth have deliberately toyed around with things on Watershed that make it a rather unhinged and slightly unsettling album this time around. There are moments of discordant strings and keyboards, gradually downtuning guitars, and maniacal pipe organ blasts. Overall, Watershed just feels much different than any Opeth record before it, and I think that's exactly what the band needed. It is, perhaps, not as memorable as some of their previous efforts, but what it lacks in melodic hooks it makes up for in genuinely intriguing and constantly shifting musical passages.

    08. Humanoid - Remembering Universe (Progressive Metal, Acoustic)

    Why?: A unique and wonderful acoustic album with some heavy stylistic additions of progressive metal. As he also displays with his main line of work in Augury, Mathieu Marcotte's ability to create celestial spacescapes within this realm of music is truly uncanny.

    07. Anathallo - Canopy Glow (Progressive Indie Pop)

    Why?: What can I say about this album that hasn't already been said? It is Anathallo doing what they do best. Working as a cohesive and fully creative unite to birth works of musical wonderment. Though I still have reservations of the album lacking a central theme or story (something that made Floating World quite compelling for me), I cannot deny how great this album truly is.

    06. Cynic - Traced In Air (Progressive Metal)

    Why?: I'm a little surprised by the lackluster reaction to this album in some circles. I, personally, love the sound of the whole package. It's so warm and futuristic, overflowing with wonderful melodies and textures. The mix is a little vocal heavy for me, and there could be a bit more separation between the instruments, but it doesn't really ruin my appreciation of the album that much. It's Focus with less death metal, and perhaps even sweeter compositions.

    05. The Stiletto Formal - Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta (Progressive Rock, experimental, post-hardcore)

    Why?: Oh wow. I love this a lot. The Mars Volta comparisons are apt, as the vocalist takes a few cues from Cedric's acrobatic heights and general vocal tone qualities. But I honestly feel this band outdoes the Volta in a few areas, one being creating CONSISTENTLY engaging and infectious songs that are always constantly shifting in style and appeal. Seriously, this album has something for everyone. Blues, Hip Hop, dashes of post-rocky influence, Jazz, some strings for good measure... The Stiletto Formal put A LOT on their plate, and manage to do it without creating an uneven experience for the listener.

    For any fan of truly "progressive" music that also is insanely listenable, this is a no brainer. One of the finest 2008 releases, and I think it still has quite a bit of growing to do.

    04. Thrice - The Alchemy Index, Volume III and IV: Eart and Air (Post-hardcore, rock, folk)

    Why?: Ah, here we are, the second and final installment to Thrice's ambitious Alchemy Index.

    Air: The only even relatively heavy entry of these two. Air manages to create a lot of textures that are quite pleasing to the listener, especially on the last two shorter tracks. The story and impassioned vocals of Deadalus are amazing, and 2nd and 3rd tracks are suitable, if not quite up to par with many of the songs on tAI.

    Earth: Amazing. While the songwriting on "Water" is my favorite of the four, I think I may prefer the aesthetic created on this disc the most. It's very rich, gritty, natural, and of course, earthy. Making use of acoustic guitars, basses, banjos, piano, and limited additions such as the choir-esque samples in "The Lion and the Wolf," Earth just feels completely smooth and yet at the same time, so emotionally compelling.

    03. Agalloch - The White EP (Folk)

    Why?: Sometimes it pays to know what you're in for. Before listening to this EP, I had heard that there was no metal, and that it was, by all accounts, a folk record. What I got was not merely a wonderful album of that sort, but one also containing some haunting electronic experimentalism and some limited electric guitar passages. It definitely all has a slightly different feel for Agalloch, but the fact remains that it's grade-A darkly beautiful Agalloch material.

    02. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago (Folk, Singer-songwriter)

    Why?: Sublimely beautiful. This is an album of simplistic delights that also adds enough subtle twists to make it rather different enough from the standard acoustic singer/songwriter affair. For instance, there are some light touches of horns and even electronic effects, but none of it feels forced or detracts from the wooing fragility of the album. Each song is memorable, and there are more than a few moments that manage to pierce the soul with a sad yet somehow inexplicably hopeful melody.

    01. City and Colour - Bring Me Your Love (Folk, Singer-songwriter)

    Why?: While the melodies and guitarwork aren't instantly as pleasing and wonderful as on "Sometimes," the songwriting here is still Phenomenal. Dallas Green has such a way of working his voice and lyrics into this warmly enveloping package. There are moments that make you tear up, and others that make you want to stand up and sing along.

    Another brilliant album from a brilliant musician and performer.


    Special mention of a local band (composed of friends) that deserves special mentioning:

    Sickness Unto Death - Farewell (post-hardcore, progressive metal)

    I thought about ranking this in with the rest, but due to my personal connection, I wasn't sure I could really accurately put it in with all the other stuff that I've heard this year. Rest assured, however, that these are 3 of my favorite songs from 2008, and that I am still extremely pissed that these guys are breaking up.

    Download it here: http://www.sendspace.com/file/zjz8wa

    Okie doke, that's it folks. If you feel I've left something out, then let me say that this is, by no means, all of the music that I enjoyed from 2008. Frankly, I did find A LOT of music that liked this year and cutting it down to 50 was still a pretty difficult task. However, if I did forget something essential in your eyes, please let me know.

    Gen 5 2009, 7:15

    50. Hour of Penance - The Vile Conception (Brutal Death Metal)

    Why?: This is a towering achievement for the subgenre of brutal death metal. I've never seen such a commitment to songwriting individuality combined with unadulterated brutality and speed. The production is absolutely pummeling and bassy, yet still crisp enough so that you can hear the riffs, especially when using a good system or headphones. The songs are all fast as hell, but there are a few small key inclusions of solos, interesting classical instrumentation segments, and various different (again, for brutal death metal) song ideas that allow the listener to get through the album's 37 minutes whilst still feeling entertained and completely obliterated.

    49. You Slut! - Critical Meat (Math Rock)

    Why?: Ridiculously fun and infectuous Math Rock.

    48. Edison Glass - Time Is Fiction (Rock/Pop)

    Why?: This is definitely one of the better poppy rock records I've heard in awhile. Great high tenor singing that manages not to sound too feminine, catchy hooks, vibrant and occasionally interesting guitarwork, and a good mix of faster-paced feel-good songs and very pretty ballads. I see nothing but good in this album, and I'm sure it's going to get a lot of plays once Spring truly rolls around.

    47. Loma Prieta - Last City (Screamo)

    Why?: One of the years finer screamo releases, with some very skilled and inventive guitar parts.

    46. T.I. - Paper Trail (Southern Hip Hop)

    Why?: Great album with some absolutely killer tracks such as "On Top of the World," "Live Your Life" (using the ever popular melody from the made-famous by youtube song "Dragonosta Din Tei"), "Whatever You Like," and the more somber closer "Dead And Gone." T.I. has some great flow, and the guest singers and rappers make for an impressive cast all around.

    I tend to be a sucker for well-produced and economically catchy hip hop, so take that as you will.

    45. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (8-bit, Electronica)

    Why?: Catchy, danceable, video game sounding electronic music, that features lots of weird vocal disortions (I'm still unsure whether the singers ever attempt to say words or not).

    44. Enslaved - Vertebrae (Progressive Blackish Metal)

    Why?: Another great record from Enslaved, distancing them from their purely black metal roots, and furthering the bands flair for more

    43. Exotic Animal Petting Zoo - I Have Made My Bed In Darkness (Psychadelic Progressive Metal)

    Why?: You might see a lot of different bands being thrown around to describe this one such as Dillinger Escape Plan, Between the Buried And Me, The Mars Volta, and more... And honestly, they're probably all valid throughout some points of this album.

    It's a very interesting and diverse melting pot of progressive and heavy styles, and though it doesn't always work, it manages to remain consistently engaging throughout. Highlights for me are the clean vocals and the musician's penchants for using unconventional keys and scales (lots of tasty Eastern ones on this album, which I always enjoy).

    42. Canvas Solaris - The Atomized Dream (Instrumental Progressive Metal)

    Why?: Beautiful and cosmic sounding instrumental progressive metal. If you like the unique melodies conceived in bands like Augury, then this should be a very rewarding listen.

    41. United Nations - United Nations (Screamo)

    Why?: Geoff Rickley shows he's got some serious balls, along with various other members of renowned hardcore bands.

    40. Bleeding Through - Declaration (Symphonic Death/Metalcore)

    Why?: Heavy as balls and kind of strikes me as an attempt to fuse symphonic extreme metal with toughguy deathcore. The results, surprisingly, are really quite awesome. I have no doubts Devy Townsend had quite a hand in how well this actually turned out.

    39. Final Fantasy - Plays To Please EP (Indie, Baroque Pop)

    Why?: Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy) released two EPs this year: This one, and "21st Century Spectrum." Of the two, I find this one to be superior.

    38. Nachtmystium - Worldfall EP (Progressive Black Metal)

    Why?: Miles and miles ahead of anything they've done. All of the new tracks are absolutely incredible. The cover song is also quite unique, showing a lot of breadth and versatility for a black metal band.

    37. Protest the Hero - Fortress (Powerish Metal)

    Why?: Both a progression and regression at the same time.

    +PtH has added and perfected to the technical element of their music. The guitar playing here is spectacular, creative, and rarely repetitive. This a bit daunting at first, but as with any complex yet competently written parts are, the guitar lines do begin to seep into your memory. The band has also done well at incorporating little bits and pieces to give the music an epic flourish, such as small string and horn parts, keyboards (LOL DRAGONFORCE GUY SOLO), and the small amounts of piano that were also present on Kezia.

    -The overall presence of the album is strong, but it lacks the peaks and climaxes that made Kezia such a complete feeling album. The album retains a fairly steady and speedy pace throughout, and even the more balladry moments don't make enough of an impression to give the album a real feeling of variety. The story element that was somewhat easy to decipher and engrossing in Kezia doesn't seem as strong here, and I think that also hurts the flow of the album. The closing song, in itself, is one of the bigger disappointments. Not in that it is a bad song (it's actually one of my favorites), but simply by the fact that it ends abruptly, giving the album no sense of closure or completion.

    Overall, still a very impressive album by a very talented band. I prefer Kezia overall, but those who were a fan of PtH's style on that album, will definitely be able to find many things to enjoy here.

    36. Raein - Nati Da Altri Padri (Screamo)

    Why?: Great, melodic, post-rocky European screamo.

    35. A Lily - I Dress My Ankles With God's Sweetest Words (Folk, electronic)

    Why?: A sublime little EP from one of the members of Yndi Halda that's part folk, part electronic, and part ambient soundscapes (mostly on "Hunter and Sky," for that last part). The music is more compact and stripped down from Yndi Halda, but it contains the same sensibilities for delicacy and beauty as that band.

    34. Decrepit Birth - Diminishing Between Worlds (Technical Death Metal)

    Why?: An amazing improvement. Decrepit Birth have transformed themselves from an impressive yet largely by-the-numbers brutal death metal act to Death Metal band mastering areas of both brutality, melody, and technicality. Some may have a problem with the over-saturation of solos and leads throughout the album, but to me it is a breath of fresh air for this modern style of death metal, and is what truly give the songs their identity.

    33. The Arusha Accord - Nightmares of the Ocean (Progressive Metalcore, mathcore)

    Why?: I really enjoy the mix of styles here. It's chaotic in a "mathy" Dillinger sense, but also very melodic and progressive as well. I really dig the tasteful inclusion of clean vocals, and overall it's just a very enjoyable, if slightly incoherent, collection of songs.

    Edit: Gets more and more enjoyable with each listen. The basswork alone is just such a joy.

    32. Envy - Envy / Jesu [Split] (Post-rock, screamo)

    Why?: Envy's songs are a change of pace for them. They're more laid back and atmospheric, rather than focusing on the aggressive portion of their sound. Very strong material from them.

    31. Becoming the Archetype - Dichotomy (Progressive Metal, death metal, metalcore)

    Why?: Though the band still has yet to touch thier amazing debut "Terminate Damnation," in my eyes, this album... Comes close. Produced by Devin Townsend, the band here boasts a more symphonic and beefier sound than ever more. Some of the songs at the beginning of the album don't do a great deal for me, but as it progresses, BtA settle in on a great combo of epic proggy metal with elements of both metalcore and death metal. They also get the award for most metal cover of a hymn with their own version of "How Great Thou Art."

    30. Have a Nice Life - Deathconsciousness (Shoegaze, drone, post-rock)

    Why?: Really cool, really unique, really wonderful music. Have A Nice Life just sort of throws all sorts of modern styles like Post-rock, Shoegaze, Drone, Electronic music, and what have you, but they do in the very subtle way that makes you not notice they're playing any particular style at all. The 11 and a half minute closer of the second album is probably my favorite... Sublime.

    As with most double albums, however, I feel that they could have simply made a more effective experience through one disc rather than two. Unless you have two distinct goals and sounds between two discs that are meant to operate as completely separate entities, just put out one and make it less overwhelming for the listener.

    29. Mutyumu - Ilya (Post-rock, classical, avant-garde)

    Why?: Interesting piano driven music that flies throughout various style of post-rock, metal, and classical. It's a pretty schizophrenic affair, but for those who don't necessarily subscribe to the "less is more" idea in their music, it's pretty rewarding.

    28. She Said Destroy - This City Speaks in Tongues (Progressive Death Metal)

    Why?: Wow, such an improvement from their debut (which I should revisit, perhaps). She Said Destroy have forged a pretty unique sound here, that I find tough to compare. It's techy death metal with an EVER so slight modern "core" influence in the riffing at times (I hesitate even saying that), and also some thrashier elements... In general, it's just a very diverse and well-written album. There are varying tempos, beautiful clean sections, and everyone puts on a great performance. The vocalist has a great low and resonant death growl, and adds in a lot of other harsh vocal timbres. The drummer presents a lot of really nice fills, and is pretty fantastic in general.

    A metal album that I find tough to nail down and find myself being curious about even after subsequent listens is almost always a good thing... "This City Speaks In Tongues" is no exception.

    27. Ivan Colón - Despite the Atlantic EP (Folk, baroque pop)

    Why?: This is a wonderful EP from recent times that sort of reminds me of Sufjan's less bombastic, yet still instrumentally diverse music at times. I'm thinking maybe mostly resembling the Michigan era? It's driven predominantly by acoustic guitar, but there's also lots of vocal layering, male/female harmonies, piano, flutes, horns, etc. Also, props for Curb to pointing me towards this with a high rating.

    26. Meshuggah - obZen (Post-thrash)

    Why?: Meshuggah didn't quite embrace the experimentalism and dynamics of I and Catch 33, BUT... They did say when they wrote C33 that they were also writing a more "standard album" for Meshuggah that would be released not too far down the road. And though this is a more conventional set up for the band, they do try some fresh ideas, and I think it easily has some of the best and most memorable songs they've ever written: Combustion, Bleed, Pravus... All about as "catchy" as a Meshuggah song can get.

    25. Venetian Snares - Detrimentalist (Electronica, breakcore)

    Why?: Not the best Vsnares release, but it's highly enjoyable in that it blends a lot of Aaron Funk's styles (classical, jazz, straight up chaotic breakcore) into one album. A great starter for someone curious of the man's music.
  • 99,999th and 100,000th tracks

    Dic 5 2008, 21:04

    Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the following

    Ludacris - Number One Spot (Instrumental)
    (can be heard here... Enjoy!)

    and finally

    Home Improvement - Home Improvement (theme song)
    (The full version can be heard here)

    It's been a great 100,000 last.fm. I can't wait to celebrate once I get to a million (target date, age 55).
  • 2007, Going out in STYLE(s): Progressive/Experimental Rock

    Gen 31 2008, 5:22

    For the record, this has been my hardest list to order yet. And also, I know what is and isn't deemed "progressive" or "experimental" can be pretty subjective so... Just trust me on this, haha.

    9. Fair to Midland - Fables From a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True

    Why? Fair to Midland's vocalist helps to purport the generality that all prog singers want to sound like girls. Seriously, he sings really, really high. Not only that, but the guy occasionally does some weird Disturbed-esque lower vocals. So overall? This album has some good, energetic, memorable tunes, often driven by some nice piano parts. Not much to say other than that.

    8. Coheed and Cambria - No World For Tomorrow

    Why? Considering "Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV: Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness" (mouthful, lol) is one of my favorite modern albums of any genre, it may be surprising that it's sequel is placed relatively low on this list. But don't get me wrong, this is a great album. In the context of this band, however, it's merely a "good" album. It's a "good" Coheed album, and not a great deal more for me. The album does not contain the epic peaks, refrains, dark feeling, and sublimely memorable hooks that made the first installment of IV such a masterpiece. This album features some of Claudio's best guitarwork/composition, but it fails to push him forward in almost every other element of his band.

    7. Moving Mountains - Pneuma

    Why? Had I actually listened to this album a bit earlier it would have been included in the Post-rock list. And I say that because this album is HEAVILY infused with post-rock. Post-rock in all of it's heavenly beauty, and epic apexes. Like the Appleseed Cast, Moving Mountains does essentially take a solid base of post-rock and adds onto it with emotional vocals, often shared by both male and female singer. The album is wonderfully written, and given more time, it probably would have been even higher. At this point though, I'm still a little leery of the vocalist, along with the production... And I'm unsure of how much staying power this album actually has. I will say this though, they have a trombonist. And that makes me extremely happy.

    6. The Receiving End of Sirens - The Earth Sings Mi Fa Mi

    Why? Time for a brief history lesson: In 2003 The Receiving End of Sirens released an amazing album called Between the Heart and the Synapse. The record was eclectic, epic, and even a bit spacey at times. Casey Crescenzo was a member of the band then, and it showed through some of the more multi-layered instrumentation of the album, and his passionate belt-so-loud-you-almost-ruin-your voice singing. In May of 2006 Casey had a falling out with the band (supposedly he can be pretty stressful/psycho at times). The band then splintered off into two parts: one being Casey's new project which will be on this list shortly, and the other was what remained of The Receiving End of Sirens.

    And all of the aspects of that band that were not exclusive to Casey really shine on this album. Many of the songs have a very ethereal, open feeling, and the vocals, while lacking a lot of the gut-wrenching passion of Casey's earlier contributions, retained their beautiful multi-layered harmonies. I also really enjoy the stories told throughout the various tracks on this album, such as the family falling apart in "The Salesman, The Husband, The Lover" or the mournful tale of lost faith in "Wanderers."

    5. Oceansize - Frames

    Why? This is a beast of a rock album. Oceansize rely on drawn out, lumbering song structures that build and build as they go on. This seemed relatively daunting and monotonous at first, but as time wore on I grew to appreciate how Oceansize adds little nuances to thier larger songs that make the lengths seem worthwhile. What do I specifically enjoy about this album, though? The vocal melodies, the creative guitarwork that borders on post-rock to sludgy polyrhythmic territory at times, the additions of bells, strings, and piano, and the economically paced, yet effective songs. It all comes together in a magnificent package. If you haven't checked out this underrated British band yet, then I highly recommend it. This isn't a bad release to start on either.

    4. The Dear Hunter - Act II: The Meaning Of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading

    Why? Ah, here we are. The project that resulted from Casey Crescenzo's departure from The Receiving End of Sirens was The Dear Hunter. Late in 2006 The Dear Hunter released their first material in the form of an EP titled Act I: The Lake South, The River North. In this EP, The Dear Hunter introduced the world to its melange of horns and strings laid over top of some dramatic and catchy rock music. This was truly Casey's band, and his voice and vision clearly shined through.

    Act II follows the same musical premise of Act I, along with continuing the same story of romance, revenge, and incest (ho boy). The music is diverse, full, and plentiful. At almost an hour and twenty minutes, Act II feels like a LOT of music, especially compared to compact EP formatted Act I. And though I feel there are certain points where the album dips a bit in quality, it's certainly worth listening through the whole thing with excllent tracks like "Red Hands," "Dear Ms. Leading" and the closing track "Vital Vessle Vindicates" all coming towards the tail end of the album. This album also gets special extra points for having probably the most catchy song I've heard this year, or at least the one I found myself having to sing along to the most: "Smiling Swine." It's seemingly perfect chorus is set along hand clapping, and it's one you wait for every time...

    Now All the While... She is still stuck in my mind! And though it might sound premature (WOAH WOAH), Her ambition strikes just when the mood is right! The mooood is riiiight!

    Awesome stuff.

    3. Thrice - The Alchemy Index: Vols I & II/Fire & Water

    Why? Just to clarify, these last three albums are extremely close. So close, I wouldn't even consider one definitively better than the other, but I'm putting Thrice at third simply because this is technically only "half" of an album.

    Fire and Water start off Thrice's "Alchehmy Index" beautifully. Every single song has a strong point, and every song on each respective part perfectly exemplifies that element. "Firebreather" starts off the Fire segment with an air raid siren, immediately evoking images of a fire-bombed city, perhaps, from World War II. All of the songs on Fire are cacophonous, powerful, and on some tracks, particularly "The Flame Deluge," apocalyptic.

    Water is, of course, drastically different. The songs here are soothing and spiritual. Utilizing the most electronic instrumentation Thrice has ever done, Water engulfs the listener in a (digital, lol) sea of layered and synthetic layers. The vocal lines on all of the tracks here are wondrously delicate and beautiful, but it's tracks like "Open Water" and "The Whaler" that especially hit you when that singing combines with deeply affecting lyrics.

    It should suffice to say that I am insanely impatient for Parts 3 and 4 (Wind and Earth).

    2. Kiss Kiss - Reality vs. the Optimist

    Why? Kiss Kiss is an interesting name for a band. Most people I've talked to don't like it, but I think it fits. It's unexpected, somewhat mysterious, somewhat inane, and completely abrupt... All at the same time. And to be honest those adjectives can all be used to describe the band's music at some point or another.

    Kiss Kiss experimental, string driven rock music. Think The pAper chAse if they dropped the serial killer motif, or Murder By Death if they dropped the cowboy motif... And hell, just because I'm into naming artists for this blurb, the singer reminds me of a more refined (at times), yet more frightening version of Will Sheff from Okkervil River.

    More specifically, Kiss Kiss create music that runs the gamut from spastic and chaotic to poppy and upbeat and then to being all balladry and beautiful... Sometimes all this in one 3 minute song. Kiss Kiss are masters of swiftly yet effectively changing dynamics. There are no moments or feelings on this album that stretch on too long, and there are few songs that don't evoke some sort of grand emotional pull or climax, resulting from crashing guitar chords, screeching violins, and soaring throat-tearing vocals. This album strikes me as brilliant, and I honestly can't think of a single thing I actually don't like about it, other than that it's a bit short. But as my friend http://www.last.fm/user/weezescorcho/ would tell you, sometimes short... Is good. Regardless, their new album is among one of my most anticipated of 2008.

    1. Kaddisfly - Set Sail the Prairie

    Why? I'll get the negatives of this album over with first: You can't understand a damn thing Christopher Ruff is singing. Seriously. The man has the enunciation skills of a 7 year-old Russian immigrant who's gargling fish eggs... I don't know why a Russian immigrant 7 year-old would do that but... anyway, moving on. At first the album sounds too samey, lots of uber-melodic songs with soaring, heavenly guitar parts, and other pretty things. Oh, and seriously, once you do sit down and read the lyrics... There's a good chance you're not going to understand what the hell the band is talking about. Seriously... I know there's probably some cool, underlying story to all of Kaddisfly's music, but at this point it all just seems like a bunch of crap about the apocalypse somehow relating to an aquatic dude ranch.

    So, now then, why did I put this album here? Well, it's very simple really. There is not one single album this year I enjoyed singing along to more than this one. So many, SO many of the 14 tracks present on this album are just undeniably infectious and uplifting... It's hard not to become addicted to yelling them outside of your car window on the highway, EVEN THOUGH YOU DON'T ACTUALLY KNOW THE LYRICS. This album is just that good.

    And the thing that's also great about this album is that, insanely catchy as it is, there are still some very interesting musical ideas accompanying the melodies. The dense and intricate duo guitar parts are constantly playing unique backing melodies, often implementing odd time signatures and interesting textural layers. As with many bands on list, Kaddisfly also make good use of the piano, along with some interesting parts of xylophone and cowbell (in b4 Chris Walken joke) thrown in for good measure. Beyond all of that, I also must say that though he can't get his words across worth a damn, Christopher Ruff is still a phenominal singer. His range, expression, and creativity in his voice is incredible, and is still probably the main highlight of the band for me.

    In closing, I should say this album is not for everyone, and even I'm not sure it truly outdoes Thrice or Kiss Kiss' albums here, as I've explained. Anyone with an aversion to overtly poppy and energetic music such as this probably will never be able to appreciate the album on the same level as I do. Even beyond that, you may not fully grasp the album at first glance, as I know I didn't. But as you gradually begin to understand the songs along with the band playing them, each listen of "Set Sail The Prairie" becomes more and more compelling, and sing-along worthy to boot. With an album coming out (hopefully) this year, Kaddisfly is another highly anticipated act for me in 08.


    Honorable Mentions/Albums That Need More Time:
    -Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
    -Battles - Mirrored
    -Neal Morse - Sola Scriptura
    -Rush - Snakes And Arrows
    -Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - In Glorious Times
    -Tera Melos - Drugs to Dear Youth

    As always, inform me on what I missed out on, how you disagree with the list, or if you just hate me in general. :-)
  • 2007, Going out in STYLE(s): Folk/Singer-Songwriter

    Gen 26 2008, 6:08

    5. Akeboshi - Meet along the way

    Why? Yoshio Akeboshi, as you might infer from his name, is a Japanese fellow. And he's one that makes some very pleasant folky pop music. Unlike many Japanese accents that sound choppy or slightly aggravating to listen to for long periods, Akeboshi's seems light and very endearing. He sings mostly in English on "Meet Along The Way," and though I still have problems deciphering a lot of his lyrics due to the accent, his voice and wording never fails to lull me into a world of joy and contentment.

    For some reason his style reminds me of Neko Case... If she was, ya know, Japanese.... and a dude.

    4. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha

    Why? This album is my first experience with Mr. Bird, and it's ashame it took me so long to get into his music, because it's a kind that I'm automatically drawn to. Both eclectic and lush, Andrew's sound revolves around both his guitar and violin skills, and the number of layering effects he applies to both. The results can be almost epic at times, such as at the beginning of the track "Armchairs." I also really enjoy the man's affinity for whistling, as I'm a whistlin' man myself. And ain't nothin wrong with whishlin' away to a happy tune........ Right then, onto the next album.

    3. Tegan & Sara - The Con

    Why? I'm not sure I should like this album as much as I do... Mostly because it comes off a bit "cutesy" at first. And cutesy music can either be really hit or miss with me. But Tegan & Sara are two talented lesbian twins that know how to write songs, and know how to write them both concisely and consistently. Throughout "The Con's" 14 tracks, there are hardly any I'd consider less than strong, and all end leaving the listener wanting more rather than dragging on too long.

    These two have a knack for melody construction, and though their voices may allude to a sense of childhood "cutesiness" or innocence, some of the lyrical topics do reach a certain level of darkness, especially on "Knife Going In" or "Dark Come Soon" or "Burn Your Life Down" or... Come to think of it, the album is pretty dark overall o_o

    2. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog

    Why? When Sam Beam's not combing his beard or peddling M&Ms, I can only assume he's writing and perfecting his songs. I say this because the man has been more than invariable in his songwriting quality over the years, and in my opinion, he has managed to get better and better with every release.

    This is by far the most full-sounding I&W album yet, featuring a relatively large cast of musicians, and utilizing a rich-sounding production job. However, don't let the inclusion of a Hammond B3 here or an electric guitar part there fool you into believing this isn't Sam's music. The album still has the same intimate, soft-spoken and soul-baring quality that has always been present in Iron & Wine's music. It's truly what makes his music such a joy to listen through.

    Also, how about that cover art? It looks like some drugged out Van Gogh dog that ate too many grapes. Freakin' awesome.

    1. Rosie Thomas - These Friends of Mine

    Why? Egads, this is beautiful. And it should be, honestly... When you have musicians like Sufjan Stevens, David Bazan, Damien Jurado, and Denison Witmer all appearing on one album together, the results should be downright gorgeous. And they are. These songs are chock full memorable vocal lines, and beautiful, beautiful vocal harmonies (I love vocal harmonies).

    The adorable and bubbly Rosie Thomas managed to get all of these folks together to create an album which still essentially carries her own personal sound. One that's light and delicate, and one that's also very personal, in a friendly sort of way. In my blurb for my post-rock list, I mentioned how You, You're A History In Rust manages to entreat the listener with a genuine sense of friendship and community. This album does the exact same thing for me. There are moments throughout the album when the music is over or before it begins where it's simply Rosie conversing and joking with the other musicians. These moments are often pretty goofy, and might annoy some listeners. But to me they're just another gateway into the lives of those creating the music. And in styles like folk music, especially, I think you need to have that personality behind the music shining through. I think in this kind of music more than any other, the person and soul behind the notes is just as important, or perhaps MORE important than the notes themselves.


    Honorable Mentions/Albums That Need More Time:
    -Loney, dear - Loney, Noir (I thought this was originally released earlier than 2k7, but since it was on Jeremy's List I'll at least include it here. Great record.)
    -Marissa Nadler - Songs III: Bird On The Water
    -The Snake The Cross The Crown - Cotton Teeth
    -St. Vincent - Marry Me

    As always, inform me on what I missed out on, how you disagree with the list, or if you just hate me in general. :-)
  • 2007, Going out in STYLE(s): Post-rock/Post-metal

    Gen 18 2008, 2:02

    7. Irepress - The Samus Octology

    Why? Though I've heard this called full on "post-metal" and being compared to Isis, it feels more or less like a standard post-rock album with a few flourishes of heaviness. That's not to say the band is cookie cutter, either, as those bits of heaviness in addition to some interesting clean-jazz inspired breaks make the album an entertaining and not entirely cliche'd listen.

    6. *shels - Sea Of The Dying Dhow

    Why? I realized when writing this blurb that I have no idea what a "Dhow" even is, and according to Dictionary.com it is "any of various types of sailing vessels used by Arabs on the east African, Arabian, and Indian coasts, generally lateen-rigged on two or three masts."

    I suppose then, this title could be meant to somehow give the image of a sailing ship at sea, not necessarily sinking, yet just fading into the sunset, moving lifelessly with the tides. To me that image fits with the music here, anyway.

    *Shels play an interesting brand of progressive rock and metal with a prominent post-rock base. The songs are often epic in stature and sound, yet also often mournful rather than completely inspiring. The implementation of clean vocals, brass (trumpet and trombone), and various samples all help to give the album a lush feeling. My main complaints are that these eclectic pieces of instrumentation could have been used to a greater advantage, and that the pieces lose steam/memorability as the album goes on. Still, a great album from a band I knew nothing about before this... And it also taught me a new vocab word.

    5. 65daysofstatic - The Destruction of Small Ideas

    Why? It's hard for me to say why, but this is probably my least favorite album that 65dos have put out. I guess it could be that I was expecting something dramatically better than their older works, as I had just gotten into the band only a few months before hearing this. Or it could simply be that I don't find the songs as appealing as those on The Fall of Math or One Time for All Time.

    That's not to say the songs on this album aren't appealing, however. 65daysofstatic still do what they do quite well here; combining electronic effects and the standard post-rock formula to create melodic, swelling climaxes and scenes of musical beauty. And if there's one thing they have improved in, it's their production. Everything on this album just sounds so smooth and natural. In an era where any album with an electric guitar is typically compressed to death, it's nice to hear a recording with such pleasant restraint, allowing the listener to really experience the peaks and valleys of the music.

    The last track, also, deserves its own mention. Featuring collaborative vocals from members of Circle Takes the Square, the track brings out the best in both bands, showcasing an incredible sense of passion and dynamics.

    4. Caspian - The Four Trees

    Why? Caspian's album is probably the least original on this list, but that's about as far as I can fault it. "The Four Trees" is a swooning, climactic, and efficient iteration of the typical Explosions in the Sky-inspired post-rock sound, and it doesn't do anything to convince you it's something more than that.

    If there were one thing to define Caspian among the hordes of electric guitar-driven post-rock, however, I'd say it's their slight emphasis on acoustic guitar passages.

    3. Envy - Abyssal

    Why? If you're not familiar with Envy, do yourself a favor and get familiarized... Quick. The Japanese band has had a rather prolific, gradually changing career, and one filled to the brim with intense, impassioned music. The band started out as a full-fledged screamo act and have progressively been adding more and more post-rock influence to music with each piece of new material. On this amazing EP, I'd consider most that screamo in Envy's sound to be whittled down to mild stylistic additions, such as Tetsuya Fukagawa's throat tearing scream (which he still always seems to deliver in the same three beat cadence... Weird).

    No, this is largely a brilliantly executed post-rock album, that excels on every level, from the sublimely epic "A road of Winds the Water Builds" to the lovely closing ballad "Fading Vision." I'll admit it seems unfair to put a four track EP so high on an end-list like this... But each track is so undeniably good, that I can't stand putting it any lower.

    2. Do Make Say Think - You, You're A History In Rust

    Why? A very soothing and folksy post-rock experience. There is seriously something going on here that builds such a sense of community and warmth... I don't know if it's just the fact that a lot of this album relies on a lo-fi sound coupled with banjos and acoustic guitar segments, or if it's simply created by the few vocal segments in which many of the band members sing. There are even some special, select moments where the music dies down, and the band can still be heard going off in tangents of laughter and simple conversation. This is truly an album that makes you feel like you're not just listening to music being made, but you're listening to music being made by people that have a deep felt appreciation for one another.

    The icing on the cake to all of this, for me, is The Universe!. It's a 5 minute bombastic departure from the lazier feel of the first two tracks that breaks out into a fully distorted and active guitar riff that repeats throughout most of the song. It is surely one of the most exciting and consistently energetic song I've ever heard on post-rock album, and it makes me want to travel through... THE UNIVERSE!

    1. Explosions in the Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone

    Why? As their sound has become more and more replicated throughout the ranks of post-rock, Explosions in the Sky has seemed to have become a little less relevant to hardcore explorers of the style. And the truth is, EitS was probably the first real post-rock band, along with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, I had ever heard. So perhaps one might expect me to give them a little less credit now that I've listened to various bands with similar goals and skills?

    Not really. Despite my fascination with post-rock, and all of the bands I had unearthed as a result of my fascination, those two immense bands remain my favorites. And in the case of Explosions in the Sky, I can only say that it is simply because they affect me like few other bands can.

    The first time I truly "got" this album, was when I took a long walk around my wooded community here in Lancaster Pennsylvania. I put this album on, and what I experienced was my very demeanor being transformed along with the state of the music.

    "The Birth And Death Of The Day" gave me hope, and put a giant spring in my step. All was good in the world, and I remembered of all the reasons I was glad to be living in it. Then, as the album gradually began its descent into a more somber tone, I truly felt... Lonely. Amidst the scores of trees around me, and the day which was quickly turning to night at it's early, Winter hour... I thought of my life through a drastically different lense. I thought of the relationships I had that were dead or dying, how everything was different in my life from the past few months, and how people were distancing each other more and more. It all came to me in full force.

    And then, with "Catastrophe And The Cure," and finally "So Long, Lonesome," I was given a resolved feeling of contentment for the remainder of my walk. From the beautiful shrilling melodies of the former song, to simplistic yet blissfully tearful piano notes of the later, I was filled with a sense of peace.

    That's what this album can do to you, if you let it. Or maybe it's just me, I don't know. Regardless, this is my favorite post-rock record of 2007, and quite possibly my favorite overall.


    Honorable Mentions/Albums That Need More Time:
    -Ghastly City Sleep - Ghastly City Sleep
    -Loss of a Child - Adam and Eve
    -The Pax Cecilia - Blessed Are The Bonds
    -Sigur Rós - Hvarf-Heim (not new material, but worth mentioning, because they're Godly)
    -Stellardrive - ERS-2
    -World's End Girlfriend - Hurtbreak Wonderland

    As always, inform me on what I missed out on, how you disagree with the list, or if you just hate me in general. :-)
  • 2007, Going out in STYLE(s): Hardcore/Punk/Post-hardcore

    Gen 14 2008, 22:46

    Pretty self-explanatory, let's go!

    5. Comeback Kid - Broadcasting

    The last time I heard comeback kid on their album Turn It Around they were largely a good, but by-the-numbers hardcore punk band with short songs, and a pretty formulaic songwriting style. On "Broadcasting" I was somewhat surprised to find average song-lengths of 3 minutes, and a bigger emphasis on creating and developing songs. On the one hand this makes them a bit more of a matured and effective band. On the other, it makes them a bit less intense and impassioned like they were on "Turn It Around." Still, it's hard not to pump your fist and bob your head to those ascending hardcore styled chord progressions and anthemic choruses that Comeback Kid rely on, and perform so well.

    4. The Fall of Troy - Manipulator

    I gotta bone to pick with this album. First of all, what's up with the production? Thomas' (the lead guitarist and vocalist) voice sounds very hollowed out and awkward in the mix, and there was really no problem with how it sounded on Doppelganger. Second of all, where did my ridiculously catchy guitar leads go?

    Don't get me wrong, there is some awesome, sweet shredding on this album, but none of the songs contain those single-worthy, hum-in-your-head-until-you-kill-yourself leads like on "F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X." or "I Just Got This Symphony Goin." Still, The Fall of Troy have advanced as a band on this album, experimenting with different sounds (BALLADS?) and ideas that will help them maintain steady growth in the future. And yet still... I want my catchy guitars back.

    3. Chiodos - Bone Palace Ballet

    This is another album with a few things against it: the cover artwork reminded me of 10th grade art rendition of Tim Burton's "A Nightmare Before Christmas," Craig Owens' voice still needs work, and the lyrics, at times, go beyond "dark and dramatic" and flirt with being just pathetic.

    However, this album is still great for all that it does right. Even though Craig's voice still is a bit pitchy at some points throughout the album, he has improved quite a bit from his performance on All's Well That Ends Well, where it was almost painful to listen through some songs. Also, what Chiodos really went all out on for this album was their symphonic tendencies. Many of the songs feature driving string orchestrations that gives the album a very aggrandizing feel, especially on tracks like "Lexington..." and "Life is a Perception of Your Own Reality." Some of the more balladry songs, particularly "I Didn't Say I Was Powerful, I Said I Was A Wizard" (did I mention long songtitles?) also manage to be quite memorable and emotional.

    2. A Wilhelm Scream - Career Suicide

    Wow, this is a very late entry to the list, as I just received this album last week. In that time, however, A Wilhelm Scream has impressed me IMMENSELY with their own brand of technical hardcore punk. And when I say all of that, I don't want to give the impression that the band sounds anything like Protest the Hero. In fact, A Wilhelm Scream truly do have their own sound, featuring the aggressive yet distinctly hardcore raspings Nuno Pereira and his clever yet aggressive lyrical sensibilities, along with some thrillingly excellent playing from both the guitar and bass. The band is hardly a showcase for the instrumentalists, however, as each song varies in structure, length, and are all written in a way that will leave an impression on the listener.

    1. Dance Gavin Dance - Downtown Battle Mountain

    I'm a singer. My voice is the only "instrument" I've ever wielded that I consider myself even somewhat proficient in. So when I hear a vocalist that showcases a unique, strong, and expressive voice and really nails a performance, it makes me want to love the music as a whole. And that's exactly what Jonny Craig does on "Downtown Battle Mountain."

    The most immediate comparison I'd make to Dance Gavin Dance is Alexisonfire, largely because that band also features one of my favorite contemporary vocalists, Dallas Green, and also because they happen be play in this post-hardcore sing/scream trade-off style. I'll concede that this sound has been done a thousand times before, and as such, I can't say that DGD is the most original band on the block. But what they do, they do beyond well. Jonny's soaring tenor range simply compliments the music to a tee, and also fits in nicely with Jonathan Mess' screaming.

    Unfortunately, this band's future is uncertain, at least in terms of what new material will sound like. In the past 7 months Dance Gavin Dance lost both their lead guitarist, Sean O'Sullivan, and Jonny Craig, the man I just spent this review praising. Jonny's now in the band Emarosa and the new vocalist for DGD is Kurt Travis of the band Five Minute Ride. From what I've heard of the later band, I doubt they will be able recapture the magic they had here, but we'll see.


    Honorable Mentions/Albums That Need More Time:
    -Chasing Victory - Fiends
    -Modern Life Is War - Midnight In America
    -My Epic - This is Rescue

    As always, inform me on what I missed out on, how you disagree with the list, or if you just hate me in general. :-)
  • 2007, Going out in STYLE(s): Hard Rock/Metalcore

    Gen 11 2008, 19:54

    All right, I originally stated somewhere that I wasn't going to make a tried and true metalcore list. And I'm not going to. August Burns Red's Messengers, Darkest Hour's Deliver Us and My Bitter End's The Renovation all deserve mentions for being enjoyable, through and through. But honestly, I didn't find them compelling enough for me to write something about them.

    But here's a list for hard rock bands, or bands that sort of blur the line between hard rock and forms of metal and hardcore... In general, this is just "the rest of the heavy stuff." I enjoyed all of the albums here greatly, and actually had a really hard time picking my absolute favorites.

    4. Chevelle - Vena Sera

    Why? Ever since their release of Wonder What's Next, Chevelle has really pleased me as a band. I wouldn't consider them completely amazing or groundbreaking, and I wouldn't say they're one of my absolute favorite bands... But they're very good at what they do, and I enjoy listening to them. This album follows the same basic formula of their last two albums, combining crunchy, heavy-as-balls rock riffs with Pete Loeffler's pleasing singing voice and throaty yelling. I'd say this is both Chevelle's most consistently aggressive album, as evidenced on the track "Well Enough Alone." The song starts with Pete letting out a heavy sigh before decimating his vocal chords in a somewhat startling scream, accompanied by pulsating riff and bassline that continues to grow for the next 20 seconds. Chevelle is catchy melodies and accessible aggression at its finest; the perfect driving music.

    3.Evergreen Terrace - Wolfbiker

    Why? I was definitely a bit surprised by this release. The last time I had heard Evergreen Terrace (yes, that is a blatant Simpsons reference) was on their 2002 release Burned Alive By Time, which was essentially a dark, metal-tinged slab of hardcore. So I was a bit pleased when I learned online that the band had added a full-time clean vocalist Craig Chaney, and adopted more of rock-based dynamic. This album makes wonderful use of Chaney's triumphant singing voice, and many memorable vocal lines and riffs pelt different tracks. And to my delight, their sense of humor is at it's finest with songs like "Bad Energy Troll," the self-deprecating "Chaney Can't Quite Riff Like Helmet's Page Hamilton" or the album name itself, which, like the cover art, is ludicrous but completely awesome.

    2. THE END - Elementary

    Why? Another band that took, perhaps, an even more interesting twist this year, was The End. Previously playing Calculating Infinity-inspired metalcore, the band switched their sound on this album to a more conventional and melodic hard rock-oriented sound. According to singer Aaron Wolff, the band simply wanted to know what it felt like to play songs like rockstars do. And honestly, for those with an open mind, this album is a treat.

    The End don't totally abandon their chaotic and time-changing, off-kilter technical riff roots, as seen on tracks like "Animals" and "In Distress." And the inclusion of lighter melodies and Wolff's clean singing really brings an entertaining factor that was never present in the band before. It all caps off nicely with the acoustic driven 9-minute closer "And Always..." which is a tune both beautiful and sad.

    1. Maximum the Hormone - Buiikikaesu

    Why? Earlier this year, I was deeply engrossed in the anime series "Death Note." It's a really gripping series about a guy who gains the ability to murder people simply by writing their name in a notebook. Long-story short, midway through the series the creators of the show decided to change the theme song from your typical, annoying J-pop tune sung by a 12-year old Japanese girl seemingly with a hormonal disorder... To a montage of two songs by this band I had never heard of, Maximum the Hormone. "Zetsubo Billy" and "What's up, People!?" were the songs, and when I first heard the tunes, I was immensely intrigued. In the 90 seconds before the show started I heard what sounded like System of a Down mixed with the large ensemble insanity mentality of Unexpect, if both bands injected a lot more poppy melodies into their songs, along with complete zaniness, and if they were Japanese.... And if they included immense breakdowns in their songs followed by grindcore segments.

    This album is so wonderfully diverse, that I hesitated to put it on ANY list. But I feel it does deserve a place on this list, because if there's one thing this album is above all others, it's absolute fun (like Hard Rock should be). The vocals on the album have such variety, that's hard to keep track of them: some screamed, growled, sung, rapped, by both males and females alike. And those sung lines are so vividly entertaining and catchy, that I find myself singing along, even though I don't understand or speak any of the lyrics. The music itself runs the gambit, as I've stated, combining elements of technical metal, hardcore, death metal, pop, and more. And yet the band hardly feels like their just trying to implement different styles for the sake of it.

    Simply put, Maximum the Hormone take heavy music and make it as fun and entertaining as possible. Recommended for anyone with a hard rocking, senselessly fun bone in their body.


    Honorable Mentions/Albums That Need More Time:
    -Big Business - Here Come the Waterworks
    -Every Time I Die - The Big Dirty
    -Mustasch - Latest Version of the Truth
    -Queens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris

    As always, inform me on what I missed out on, how you disagree with the list, or if you just hate me in general. :-)
  • 2007, Going out in STYLE(s): Jazz

    Gen 11 2008, 3:45

    None of the ranked albums on this list are Jazz, at least in the conventional or traditional sense. None of them feature your average jazz ensemble set-up with exclusive solos being given to saxes and trumpets, and all of them deviate from any more common style from jazz history pretty heavily in some form or another. Why do I have no hesitation putting these albums here, then? Because Jazz isn't regarding tradition and history. Jazz is a very spiritual form of music that relies as much in the mentality and artful inclinations of its performers, as much as it does the training and skill of them.

    “I never thought that the music called "jazz" was ever meant to reach just a small group of people, or become a museum thing locked under glass like all other dead things that were once considered artistic.”

    -Miles Davis

    3. Panzerballet - Panzerballet

    Why? One of the most consistently good and entertaining examples of metal and jazz working together in tandem. Panzerballet uses a groovy "post-thrash" school of thought in guitar playing, made famous by the band Meshuggah, although the metal segments certainly do sound a lot less focused on pummeling polyrhythms and more on funky hooks than that seminal Swedish band. This sound is than juxtaposed with some of Gregor Bürger's bright and acrobatic sax playing, that brings to mind some of the poppier fusion and crossover jazz groups of the 80s and 90s, and it all wraps together very nicely.

    2. John Zorn - Six Litanies For Heliogabalus

    Why? John Zorn is the craziest son of a bitch in the history of jazz music, and Mike Patton... Is probably the devil himself. So it's a foregone conclusion that their pairing artistic talents and ideas on this album would create something utterly demented.

    Parts classical, heavy metal, hardcore, thrash, and free jazz, this album is about as easy to categorize as it is to listen to without raising an eyebrow. Zorn's spastic and flighty tendencies are translated mostly through his Alto Sax playing as well Trevor Dunn's ridiculously distorted bass parts. However, there are also interesting segments that border on celestial using a small female vocal ensemble and an organ. So, at this point you have a recipe for something akin to Zorn's other recordings, but then you inject Mike Patton into the equation.

    Throughout the album's 45 minute running time Patton does not utter a single decipherable word in any language. His voice is used solely as an instrument of insanity, rapidly changing tone quality, speed, and... varying levels of humanity. Nowhere is this more well and uncomfortably displayed than on the 8-minute "Litany IV." Words cannot explain it, so view it if you like.

    Also, I need to give credit to my High School theater director, Matt Good, for informing me of this album's existence. Would you director/teacher of anything (save maybe professor of modern music or jazz) ever recommend something like this to you? No, probably not.

    1. Shining - Grindstone

    Why? I couldn't think of how exactly to approach describing Shining (no, not the black metal band), so I referred to their allmusic.com entry and decided to let them do it for me "Norway's the Shining specialize in a genre-hopping prog-jazz style that is part bop, part experimental composition, part rock, and might even be called jazz-metal, although specific labels have a hard time sticking firmly to this intriguing quartet."

    Honestly though even regarding all of those categorizations, I have no idea what the hell to call this album. It is just this wonderfully gargantuan collection of progressive, heavy, jazzy sounds that all sort of manage to ebb and flow and work out in their own sort of way. The songs are spastic, but memorable, and the instrumentation is zany but never to the point of feeling unlistenable.

    There are all-out jazz attacks like "The Red Room" which features interweaving sax hard bop parts with hand clapping. There are spaced out psychadelic tracks that also are quite melodic and fun to listen through ("Moonchild Mindgames," "-... .- -.-"... Yes that is a song title). Plenty of King Crimson influenced, heavy songs with all kinds of other crazy electronic interjections... Hell there's even a positively angelic 7-minute piece near the end that builds with the help of a soaring soprano voice.

    If I haven't convinced you that this album is about as ambitious, fun, and eclectic as albums get, then just... Just listen to it anyway, because it really is awesome.


    Honorable Mentions/Albums That Need More Time:
    -Charles Mingus with Eric Dolphy - Cornell 1964 (Not new music, but worth mentioning anyway, for my love of Mingus alone)
    -Chick Corea and Béla Fleck - The Enchantment
    -Sam Yahel Trio - Truth And Beauty

    As always, inform me on what I missed out on, how you disagree with the list, or if you just hate me in general. :-)
  • 2007, Going out in STYLE(s): Electronica

    Gen 10 2008, 6:44

    Here's another genre of music that I attempted to grow into more this year. It's been another rewarding experience, as I've tried to weed out my likes and dislikes of electronic music, figuring out what specific styles, sounds, and artists I preferred. Not a great deal of my finds were from this year, but here they are, the best electronicaz from 2k7.

    5. Amon Tobin - Foley Room

    Why? Amon Tobin is quite the ambitious musician and technician. On older recordings, Tobin relied on previously done samples to aid his electronic beats and sound explorations. On this album, however, he called upon various contemporary musicians and his own field recordings to create a work that was attempted to be more audibly pleasing and emotionally connecting:

    "I always saw a divide between music that was based purely on sound design and tunes that were written to physically move people. A challenge for me has been to try and make 'tunes' using aspects of sound design normally associated with highbrow academic studies in this area. I don't know how successful I've been but that was a goal anyway."

    Did he achieve that balance on this release? Not quite. There are still long stretches of the album that feel melodically sparse and removed, and seem to be more feats of engineering or experiments in sound design, rather than stirring works of art. Still, the album is memorable and emotional at times, and I feel that Amon Tobin's ambitions shine through to create a flawed, yet still fascinating experience.

    4. Burial - Untrue

    Why? Burial is a artist working out of London. Like most dubstep, as I understand it, the music is distinguished by a dark sound, sparse electronic beats, and an emphasis on pulsating bass. However, despite the relatively sterile nature of the music, the album has a very soulful and even woeful vibe, provided especially by the singing featured on much of the tracks. And honestly, my main complaint is that the mood throughout is so dry and sad that it's a hard album to listen through without feeling drained. Still, it's an engaging record that those interested in this particular facet of electronic music should endeavor to hear.

    3. Infected Mushroom - Vicious Delicious

    Why? Vicious Delicious is, indeed, a sumptuous serving of poppy, rocking, and sometimes even epic trance music. I've always loved the zany vocals and generally weirded out sensibilities of Infected Mushroom on their other albums, but felt they weren't quite focused enough on songwriting. That's remedied a bit on this album, as melody takes more of a forefront to psychadelic freak-outs, and diversity provides an incentive to surviving through the album's 70 minute running time. The particular highlight, for me, is the track "Artillery" which features some excellent rapping and a truly gigantic rock build-up that's sure to please music fans of any persuasion.

    2. Drumcorps - Grist

    Why? Holy shit... This is some intense stuff. Aaron Spectre is an artist out of Germany that blends breakcore with extreme music likening hardcore, thrash, and even death metal. In general, he creates some ferociously kickass music. What I also find interesting is that Spectre also enjoys mixing in actual drumming tracks (apparently he is a classically trained percussionist) with his electronic breakbeats, which creates very interesting rhythmic textures.

    1. Venetian Snares - My Downfall

    Why? I hesitated between putting this here or on the classical list, but I decided on this because of what Aaron Funk (the man behind Venetian Snares) is more known for. Here we have a record filled to the brim with classical orchestrations that take cues from various 20th century composers, perhaps most specifically Béla Bartók. This album is both grand and melancholy, and it never fails to both amaze and consume me on various listens. The electronic segments still give a unique quality to the compositions that make it quite different from listening to most classical music, in an almost dark form of musical energy. It's amazing how Aaron Funk can transition from an EP like Pink + Green filled with sample-rich, straight-up breakcore insanity, to something like this... A colossal piece of music with immense emotional depth.

    The guy truly is a renaissance man.


    Honorable Mentions/Albums That Need More Time:
    -The Depreciation Guild - In Her Gentle Jaws
    -Justice -
    -M83 - Digital Shades, Vol. 1
    -Venetian Snares - Pink + Green

    As always, inform me on what I missed out on, how you disagree with the list, or if you just hate me in general. :-)