Sunday, December 18, 2011

2011 Album Index 60-51

This is the 1st entry, hopefully with the next 5 (50-1) rather soon. And an editorial/summary/hyperbole by myself of 2011 will be included either as an EDIT in here (unlikely), as a separate entry (maybe), in the to-follow Turkey Blog (quite possibly), or the final Entry 10-1 (probably).

But as I am definitely time-crunched for the next few hours, that part of this amateur-journalist's editorial will be put on hold.

60. Jon Anderson - Open [Single/EP]
I don't have extensive things to say about this 20-minute single/ep of Jon Anderson's other than, I checked it out a couple of times and enjoyed it. It has some great, at least isolated, moments of orchestration and various instruments. I suppose I might compare it a bit to the Yes album Magnification, but some of the ideas are drawn-out a little more effectively. But the honest to god truth be, I need to hear it more to see where it compares to his best work (namely Olias of Sunnhillow) and the Yes stuff of course. I guess at this point, I'd rather listen to this than Fly From Here which is sad, but not completely surprising. But then again, had I been able to listen to this more, it might be a bit higher as well.

59. Sigmund Droid - Black Motorboat [EP]
This is only a 2-song EP/Single of sorts, having the title track and "Nightrace" but both of these tracks are great. Much in the vein of their 2009 debut EP Maximum Grind. Catchy, groovy, and some of that 80's post-punk electro, almost-Thomas Dolby-esque vocal style that Apes and Androids used so well. This band are one of the best things around since A&A's absence. Although it doesn't hurt Pablo used to play with A&As, which perhaps some of those guys influence may have influenced their music. Given this was only 2 songs, hopefully Solomon and Pablo have more work coming soon, perhaps in 2012.

58. Steven Wilson - Grace for Drowning
I'm not gonna lie, I listened to this record maybe 3 times. And while I did like enough of it, I didn't find the desire to go back to it much, obviously. But, I guess given it's around 90 minutes in total, and includes enough moments I enjoyed, much of "Raider II" namely, it kind of by default skates by the Turkey-blog status. Is it jazzy? yeah. Are there many parts that echo his past work? definitely. Does it sound inspired by early King Crimson? yeah, but specifically, albums like Lizard and Islands are like this to me, *mood music* at best (unlike stuff like In the Court of the Crimson King, The Wake of Poseidon, Lark's Tongue in Aspic, or Red).

I'm not sure if ultimately I'll prefer this over his 2008 debut Insurgentes. Probably right now, I do slightly, maybe due to the fact it's actually 2 records (Deform to Form a Star and Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eye), not a double LP in fact. And looking at each LP individually, like Marillion's Happiness is the Road or The River Empires Epilogue Volumes 1 and 2 in a way, it's length doesn't seem so much of a chore.

But I guess I still distinguish in quality, Porcupine Tree's music to work best for my taste (save for the in-your-face-lyrics and lacking-substance hiccup in 2007's Fear of a Blank Planet). Unfortunately, his plans for 2012 are to work on his next solo record, instead of the next work from Porcupine Tree. So, given my feeling about these solo releases of his, I wouldn't foresee his return to the higher part of the Index soon. But, for what it's worth, I'll take this over the new Blackfield record in a heartbeat.

57. Stateless - Matilda
This is not as unique or song-quality wise as consistent as the Self-titled debut album from 2007. But, I listened to it a number of times early in the year to rate it around 3 stars. Songs like "Ariel" and "Song for the Outsider" have their big enough moments. In a way this record is a mixture of strings-and-electronica with Jeff Buckley-esque vocal inspiration.

I guess this record probably could have placed higher, but it wasn't as demanding when it was available, and a number of other records kind of usurped my attention from it. I suppose some revisiting may help it in the coming years.

56. Cynthesis - DeEvolution
This record could have found it's way up much higher than this. The Tiptun brothers from Zero Hour reuniting with ZH's original singer Erik Rosvold (namely from their classic 2001 release The Towers of Avarice) seemed like an incredible reunion. And my feeling about this album is it was pretty great in terms of the style and songwriting, even with a little departure of the Zero Hour technicality. However, after about 4 or 5 times hearing it, the ole mix-killer of tambourine-toned-compression problem of the splash and crash cymbals from Enchant's Sean Flanegan, killed my desire to go back to this. Although, there have been much worse cases of those tambourine-sounding cymbals, they just kept sticking out too much that I was forced to not listen to it much, after purchasing a hardcopy from The Lasers Edge even.

The actual songs style is quite cool though, with many psychedelic layers and transitions worthy of Pink Floyd. And Erick's vocals sound awesome here. It is pretty sad that the cymbals ruined this, because to hear him sing on record again brought a lot to me initially hearing this. Why this isn't in the Turkey Blog, is mainly due to how high it was originally, and it only having 1, albeit significant, issue.

55. Typhoon - A New Kind of House [EP]
I noticed this name among some of the Margot & the Nuclear So & So's fans. Also I recall a review on suggesting this Portland, OR-based band over another band I discovered this year in The Minor Canon. I ultimately enjoyed them more than The Minor Canon this year. Their use of strings and horns appealed to me as I tend to be a sucker for the college rock bands using the chamber-element effectively. Also their use of dynamics and percussion (even just clapping, like Margot, Anathallo, Jared Micah & Hats or many others have used) Their singer has an odd way of pronouncing some words, but not so odd that it detracts from his singing, and in a way, it makes them a little more distinct.

I also enjoyed some of their 2010 debut record Hunger and Thirst, which supplants them as a band to keep tabs on. Perhaps their next record will be coming soon, and allmediareviews should pass along info when it crosses my radar.

Suggested: "Claws Pt 1," "Home"

54. Strange Maps - Technicolor Experiments [EP]
Space-rock is one of those styles of music that when it works well, it's pretty awesome. And this debut EP from this group from down under, does include some of that awesome-ness. What's odd is how they have a female singer and it does tend to work well enough. I suppose their style isn't purely space rock though, with some more traditional blues-based rock. But the trippy wah-wah-pedal guitar tones and even use of samples are what stand out most. There's even some saxophone on the epic last track "Ornamental Damages."

Another promising new band doing prog of a sort from down under, and one of the best EPs of 2011.

Suggested: "Era Vision" "Ornamental Damages"

53. The Cloak Ox - Prisen [EP]
Back in March I saw this band open for Menomena the lone concert I have seen at the University of Minnesota's Coffman Student Union. And while seeing Menomena was obviously the reason I went, I was sure glad to have seen these guys as well. It's kind of a supergroup or at least new collaboration from members of other Minnesota-based bands/projects. Namely Martin Dosh of Dosh, and Andrew Broder of Fog. And while I have never listened to either of those bands extensively, I have known and respected them.

That evening they kind of shocked me at the various styles of rock music they explored. From Post-Rock, to Power-Pop, to Prog, to blues-rock and more. I was pretty intrigued to not only see them live again, but hear what they came up with on record.

And this EP does feature some of that blending of genres, although overall it reminds me of a few bands at times, like the aforementioned Menomena and Broken Social Scene. Twin Cities radio loved the title track (with an "o," not an "e") and "Artist at the Door." But my favorites would easily be the changing dynamics of the opening track "AllahYouAkbar" and "Vacuum Cleaner."

Suggested: "AllahYouAkbar" and "Vaccum Cleaner" available on their Bandcamp page.

52. Oedipus - Holding Out for More [EP]
La La La La La La La-La-La, La La La La La La La-La-La, La La La La La La La-La-La. New EP from this band whose been working off and on since their debut album in 2004 Humbility. I kind of have seen them in a similar mold to the college-hard-prog-power-pop style of some others like Muse, Silverchair, Biffy Clyro and even Fair to Midland a bit. On this new EP of theirs, they have embraced the power-pop side of their sound more so. And the la-la-la's I refer to, are from "Tres Las" an incredibly catchy tune.

But beyond that track, the entire EP seems to work in their style of catchy, slightly experimental hard rock (and humorous/ironic lyrically). The title track, "Gimme a Chance" "Burn it Down" "Jack and Ginger" etc. And this EP is to the springboard for a full-length record expected to come in the Spring of 2012, after they announced signing to the hybrid record label THC.

51. False - Untitled [EP]
Pretty impressive debut EP that only includes 2 songs, but both clocking in over 12 minutes, from this Minnesota-based atmospheric black metal band. They impressed someone enough, they got written up on
 National Public Radio's site.

Although, as great as that is, NPR, like Minnesota Public Radio, when they try and include various forms of Metal, namely extreme Metal, they come across as doing so, just to say they include some Metal, lol. Yeah, well, that's like me claiming I cover Hip-Hop in depth. Or even seeing Opeth, Mastodon, Agalloch and whatnot get publishing from P4K. Sorry, but there's an underlying hippocrasy to an extent about it, and I can't be fully on board until they really start including artists who they have no business ignoring.

But about this EP, impressive and moody at the same time. Black Metal that gets heavy, dark, therapeutic, and climactic. One of the best Metal bands in Minnesota. I met Andrew from the band outside after seeing Opeth a few months ago, and I was immediately impressed by the stream. What I don't get at this point is, how to find out when they play live (or if they do) given they have no facebook page. Only bandcamp and an email (and I suppose). But hopefully more of that stuff will come up in 2012 as one of the oddest things was seeing many votes for them on the 2011 Citypages "Picked to Click" poll. A poll, ironically, I did not get to vote for them or anyone (no thanks to/despite an email I sent to Andrea Swensson about it last year, lol).

Suggested: Go to False's Bandcamp page to hear it.