Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Cusp of 50: Favorite CDs of 2007 Numbers 50-41

50. Coheed and Cambria - Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV: Volume II: No World For Tomorrow
The follow up to what was a classic and my favorite Coheed record GOOD APOLLO VOLUME I, this album sadly didn't come close to measuring up to that. Why exactly? This one has about half a dozen songs that sound very much in the 80's Hard Rock and Arena style which in a way is cool, but ultimately isn't like their past work or even that effective for this band. It also doesn't have the flow and unavoidable catchiness that was all over the hooks on their last 2 records. A bunch of the songs I do like still. "The Reaping," "Mother Superior" the title track and probably my favorite cut "The Hound (Of Blood And Rank)" along with the closing Pink Floydy "On the Brink"which reprises the guitar solo from "The Final Cut" off GA 1. By many standards, this album has a good amount to offer, but by Coheed's it fell very flat. Maybe over some time it'll warrant more playability, but for now I can't claim to be nothing short of disappointed as it was one of the most highly anticipated releases for 2007 and unlike some, a band who was coming off brilliance. Maybe on LP #5 we'll see them get that back.

49. Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos
The 9th studio record from probably the most important band I've discovered since getting into music. Sadly, this one was not the big return to greatness I was hoping. it to be. "In the Presence of Enemies - Part 1" is well-written and a great start to this album. Great crescendo and very much worthy of how long it goes. "Forsaken" is also a catchy, melodic ballad that I can appreciate. "Prophets of War" I don't care how much it sounds like Muse, I still actually like, if for no other reason, but the hook is impossible for me to not like. "Constant Motion" while not an amazing single, still is a song that grew on me, mainly because the bridge rocks out like only Dream Theater tends to do. But beyond that, I can't say I look at this album offering much of any other value. "The Ministry of Lost Souls" is a lengthly piece that seems far too sleepy and that drags on far too much for me to want to hear again. "The Dark Eternal Night" is highly cringe-worthy. The best part of that was seeing the live Video. I don't follow how this song has received the praise it has so often; it's one of the worst things they've ever done. "Repentance" while a nice idea, doesn't really have the beauty that a heartfelt song could have, but at least I would say it's not bad for what it is, I just don't really find the desire to play it regularly even *within* the flow of this record. "In the Presence of Enemies - Part 2" has a couple of fun, melodic sections, but what kills it is the Dracula/preachy lyrics. Another band can and has done songs like this, it's just it's not Dream Theater's game and the extended wanking sections that don't dismiss Jordan Rudess's need to use that plasticy synth-patch found on so many Walmart-bought Casio's kills the best parts of this song from desire to hear often. It's really too bad, Dream Theater seem to be a band who have some great ideas, but also a lot of being in their *comfort zone* with songwriting especially. Maybe the 10th record will see them change again, because this is a band with more than enough talent to produce classic records still, it's just not at the clip many (including myself) have come to want/expect.

48. Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet
Another highly anticipated disc that barely made the Top 50 due to it falling far short of expectation. I popped this one on again today and I guess my initial thoughts about it might have been slightly exaggerated about the depressing nature of it. Yeah, PT are known for writing sad songs, but the issue here wasn't feeling sad hearing this (or lack their of). No, this guy just doesn't have anything mind-blowing or classic on it. Really, what on here says "oh what an amazing part!" or "That song I can't get enough of." Where's the "Lazarus" or "Trains"? or even "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here"? No where. "Anesthetize" has a cool section that lasts about 8 minutes, especially the Meshuggah part that is hard to avoid raising the horns and banging your head to. "Sentimental" I still like, but having heard "Normal" later in the year I realized how it's inferior to that. And maybe the thing that comes across is even at 50 minutes or so, you finish the record without that experience of "wow, that was something." It's more like "That was it?..there's gotta be more right?" At least in their case "Nil Recurring" redeemed some of my faith in these guys, a band who seemed to be on a good roll with their last 3 discs. Hopefully a comeback will be in store for the next one.

47. People For Audio - The New Ancients
2nd release from the Montreal Art-Rock group. I stumbled upon this disc one day at Cheapo this fall when it read "RIYL: The Besnard Lakes, Do Make Say Think, Pink Floyd." While I haven't honestly played it that many times, I recall liking it the 1st time I heard it; and then last week revisiting it again I was more impressed than I remembered. The whole thing flows well beginning to end. The spacey, dreamy, psychadelic sections reminiscent of Hawkwind and the aforementioned Pink Floyd are included throughout. On the sticker I jotted down the following: 1,2,5,10,12 for the highlight tracks, but actually I think the composition of the entire album it's it's biggest strength. I should be playing it a lot more in years to come, but a fine work from this new Canadian outfit who barely anybody knows as far as I can tell. Maybe I won't be saying that a year from now.

46. Inme - Daydream Anonymous
Coming somewhat out of nowhere to me, and slipping my mind the fact this was to come out this fall. Like the People For Audio disc, I heard this once, and liked it but sort of forgot about it. Well in going back to it in recent weeks a few times, I was a lot more won-over the 2nd time around. What is the best way to describe this one? An album that never loses you because it has track-after-track with this lovable energy. Electronic touches and different sounding guitar riffs all are well put together throughout pretty much every song. There's one piece toward the end "Soldier" almost sounds like something Coheed And Cambria wrote a few years ago. The singer does sing with what sounds almost like a Scottish accent; a bit like Biffy Clyro's singer in fact, but it doesn't really hurt the quality of the songs at all. A great flowing, infectious record for me, and one I'll probably go back to a lot more soon and possibly their back catalog as I understand they formed over 10 years ago. However, finding their cds at an affordable price is whole nother story, which may be one reason this one has had such little mention.

45. Alter Bridge - Blackbird
Big sound, epic in some ways, grandiose and heavy. This is Metal, but also poppy. I guess their past work was more in the Creed-school, but this one doesn't have much evidence of that. I guess my impressions on this is they do some of what I loved about Queensryche and Extreme, but with a modern writing approach. Not highly original, but at the same time, I can't say I know or listen to many bands who are doing what's on here (or as well). The whole record is good. Tight songwriting, hooks, some ballads, some rockers. Probably the title track and the opening cut "Ties That Bind" are the songs that grabbed me the most right away. However there's no question this one surprised me as much as any others, the production work included.

44. Serj Tankian - Elect the Dead
Many good tracks on here, the biggest thing, well two biggest actually that stick out about it though are. 1. This sounds *highly* like System of a Down. Some feel that's fine since SOAD may be no more, or are at least on a lengthly hiatus. 2. The themes and lyrics are so overtly political, they're right in your face. As a result it ends up hurting the best parts, being the music itself. Putting that aside, it still has many well-written songs with some nice hooks and layers. String parts and whatnot. The two singles that made radio, "Empty Walls" and "Unthinking Majority" I suppose are among the best. I guess if we don't see a SOAD reunion down-the-line this may be traced back to be a decent to bordering on impressive debut disc, but right now it doesn't go quite that far.

43. Menomena - Friend and Foe
This Seattle-based chamber-rock group of a sort, I 1st heard on the local Indie radio station. I really dug the subtle piano parts especially. I later came to learn much of the material I liked was from a previous record "I Am the Fun Blame Monster!" which I've come to enjoy immensely. But in getting into that one, I was still wanting to dig their most recent release. And what it amounted to is a record that grew on me some, but still doesn't measure up to that other one (I have yet to hear the one the preceded this one). The 1st 1/2 of this album is quite good, and then a few of the cuts toward the end I found to myself liking. The best probably being the single "Wet And Rusting" and opening cut "Muscle and Flo." At this stage it's not a classic, but hardly without value. I guess when this band hits the pretty nail on the head melodically with a piano melody or the use of horns for example, it *really* works well, thus I still find myself going back to this one often. Fans of groups like Margot and the Nuclear So and So's, Anathallo, or Sufjan Stevens who don't know these guys, may want to check them out.

42. The Polyphonic Spree - The Fragile Army
Some have said this was a bit of breakthrough or just their finest work. I'm not as versed in this Texas based Rock ensemble, enough to say necessarily as I only have heard their debut as well this one. No question this group are a totally different animal live, but this cd is pretty solid beginning to end. My favorite track remains the title cut which I just can't help but love the choir-vocals "We all wanna know"..and maybe some of that is the unavoidable cuteness of those female singers on the risers doing the dance. The album does bring me back to the show I saw, or even witnessing them on Austin City Limits. They have a special quality about them that when bought into, you can't avoid getting a *natural high*. Not to mention all the stuff going on with their music, all 21+ members, 2 drummers, trumpet, trombone, 2 keyboardists, 2 or 3 guitarists, etc..including Annie Clark aka St.Vincent even, and of course their leader Tim DeLaughter who reminds me a bit of Peter Gabriel vocally at times. Some other highlights here would be "Running Away" and the ballad "We Crawl" which reminds me of a bit of what they were doing on "It's the Sun" and "Reach the Sun" on the debut. Solid studio band, and even more enjoyable to hear this material live.

41. Deas Vail - All the Houses Look the Same
A record I went back to somewhat often as this group reminded me of one of my biggest discoveres last year in Mew. And rightfully so, Mew fans could and I have seen do dig this band. The only thing that has dropped this down the list some is the fact they do have a bit of a Christian-Rock slant lyrically; comparisons to Mae among others. And the fact what I dig about them, is also what doesn't seem as much their own sound I guess. This being a debut cd, I give them a pass, a bit like Portugal the Man last year. The pieces that are worth mentioning for fans of bands like Mew or even Fields to an extent. "Surface," "Shoreline," and "Shadow and City Lights" at least do capture the beauty and melodic sense I tend to enjoy and go back to often. Uplifting songs, which can demand repeated play. The rest of this album flows well and I found myself listening off an on throughout the year, afterall, this did drop onto shelves on March 6th, 2007.

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