Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Album Index 10-1

10. The Baltic Sea - Period Piece
(ambient progressive rock)
This album/band honestly came in at the 11th hour, as 3 weeks ago I'd never even heard of them. But a user on the dredg fans forum suggested them as their best discovery of 2011. I've listened to this album probably 6 or 7 times already and each time enjoyed it more. Other than about a 3 minute section of the last nearly 13 minute track "The All Consumers", this album is more or less flawless.

Their style is of the college-prog vein, using a lot of odd time signatures, textures and varying styles. Their drummer especially  is notice-able throughout. Specifically on songs like "Foss" and "Heavy is the Coast." Extremely quick fills ala Neil Peart, Gavin Harrison., or others.

I guess if compared them to 1 band specifically, it might be the highly talented, yet still unknown Sound & Shape. Maybe their vocalist sounding rather similar is part of that. The moods and dynamics work incredibly on this album. Even many ambient or post-rock sections add to my enjoyment of it.

While I feel odd placing a record so new to me this high, I am pretty certain I'm going to love this album a lot in the coming years, it seems worth doing. And also their previous record Through Scenic Heights and Days Regrets which like this album, is also in its entirety, available to stream on their bandcamp page.

Maybe they could do a tour with Sound & Shape or another, seemingly-appealing band. I guess they're from Portland, ME, and not Spain, which I thought I'd originally read and posted recently in this blog. I'd certainly be up for seeing them play this stuff live. Maybe soon.

9. Three - The Ghost You Gave to Me
(heavy art/progressive rock)
The initial posting Joey Eppard of Three made, said he felt they made the best record of their career. And I had pretty high hopes for it, even before that message. But after reading that and hearing the 1st song/video "Numbers" I was starting to think it may be.

And I can't lie, this album did impress me a ton the 1st couple of times I heard it. Although since it hasn't been all that long that it came out, and partially due to a lack of time, I probably haven't listened to it as much as I initially listened to Wakepig or The End is Begun. At the same time, when I heard it, I couldn't find anything I didn't like. It's filled with catchy hooks (like "React," and "High Times" "Afterglows"and "Pretty" among them), technical sections, and even some music that without question is the heaviest the band has ever been (at least the guitar riffs on "Numbers" and "Sparrows" "It's Alive" specifically).

The biggest highlight, among many, is the epic track "Only Child." I love the gradual build and the way that song takes me on a journey. Each section really works, from the vocals and lyrics, to the changing dynamics that go back and forth. From some of the string arrangements to the subtle drums with brushes stand out. And the outro is just haunting with interplay between power chords and simple yet very effective piano texture.

I would say this album is at least on par composition wise with those last 2 proper full-lengths, and production-wise it's a step-up. And based on that, it may eventually become my favorite of theirs, even surpassing the incredible mostly live record Half Life. Time will of course tell, but for now, I am enjoying taking it in more each time.

8. Mercies - Three Thousand Days
(jangley power-pop/rock)
This is/was like Erick Serna's The Killing Floor, a project that came about after The Dear Hunter moved back home to Southern California, and touring members Josh Rheault, Sammy and Luke Dent, Nate Patterson and among others, the aforementioned Erick Serna. I guess Josh Rheault may be the biggest driving force behind this band, but it does seem largely like a collaborative effort.

When this album came out, I was definitely interested to hear it, but I had no expectation that it would be half as good as it is. This record is tremendous, from song to song. It's folk or jangle-ish  power-pop of a sort. Each song really carries something great about it, so much so, picking one or two as the best is rather hard.

I do love dearly, the final track "Call or Write" and it's echoing chorus that stays with me

"We'll call we'll write, we'll call we'll write, we'll call we'll write, if you want us to.
We'll call we'll write. we'll call write, we'll stay the night, if you want us to"

I suppose lyrically some of the songs are about the typical relationships, and being that I began one not that long before this album came out, this record spoke to me even beyond a musical level.

Scanning the track list, I enjoy things about every song. The vocal harmonies, the piano, the acoustic guitar, the dreamy nature of a lot of it. I think this album is one of the most consistent, accessible, mature, less-is-more, memorable albums from this year, or even to come out in the last 5 or 10 years. I'm not sure if these guys have always been this good at songwriting, or if Casey Crescenzo and The Dear Hunter's influence rubbed off on them to make an album this good. Nate Patterson is involved, and given he also is/was a member of The Receiving of End of Sirens, however much involvement he had, wouldn't surprise me as that band was filled with talent, even beyond Casey.

I really hope this is just the beginning for them, and we'll see more music, more touring (they have done a little in the Northeast I recall reading about), and an increase of visibility, as like a lot of bands I tend to latch on to, they could reach a much wider audience if they were given the exposure. Will it happen? I guess I can't help but just ask the rhetorical, what has happened to so many others like them? They need to get the folks who represent Warpaint and Local Natives helping them out I guess, since on they have the whole 2 ratings right now.

7. Battle Circus - Battle Circus
(modern/symphonic college progressive rock)
On the Ours fans forum, a friend of mine recommended this Australian band back in late 2008. She like myself, is a pretty big fan of Muse, which was the biggest thing I associated with them up until finally hearing this album. Given how much they reminded me of Muse, I wasn't exactly expecting this to be incredible or even that addictive. But it came out like Muse (in a good way), and a lot of others styles in a good.way.

They make a Wall-of-sound Cabaret style of progressive rock; at least which might be one way to describe them and this album. There's a lot of big, pounding guitar riffs, along with almost vintage piano. Their singer uses falsetto in a rather melodramatic or operatic way, much like Matt Bellamy or some others. A number of the tracks on this album start slowly, and crescendo into a lot of layers.

This album was one I enjoyed and was impressed with more than I expected, really from the point I 1st heard it back in June. While other albums didn't remain high, it did, and I suppose the biggest reason for that is it's consistency from song to song. There's not a song I ever skip, nor have I felt I wore it out. They have enough things going on in their music, from the pounding drums, to the dreamy lyrics, that I always felt it offered something with each listen.

The 14 minute "Much Like Mescaline" and it's multi-part composition, and the 9 minutes-plus "Flying Machine" are maybe still my go-to songs. The latter has this almost cinematic piano part towards the end, that while it is all in a major key, really hooks my ear every time I listen to it.

This record would be Battle Circus's last album sadly, as not that long after it was released, and moving from Australia to New Jersey, the band announced their breakup. The biggest reasons, I'm not sure, only that lack of interest, sales, and the move to America turned out to be more difficult than they anticipated. But for a Swan Song of sorts, this was a very big way to go out.

6. East of the Wall - The Apologist
(progressive/technical metalcore)
I became a fan of this band towards the end of 2008 with their 1st album Farmer's Almanac, which is an all-instrumental album. Then in 2010, their follow-up Ressentiment they added vocals, but at the same time it was all older material composed primarily under the Biclops name. But the biggest thing about that album from last year was how horrendous the cymbals clipped. I labored to listen to it maybe 3 times, and unfortunately could not bring myself to again.

And as a result, I really didn't expect a lot from this album. But as it turns out, I was extremely happy to be surprised almost beyond belief how good it turned out. There is next-to-no problems with the cymbals sounding like tambourines. And the flow and compositions are outstanding. This is one, extremely heavy, riffy, smash-your-face-in, balls-to-the-wall technical metalcore album.

The whole thing flows extremely well, with the vocals working wonderfully. Some clean with harmonies at times, and an extensive amount screaming that really fit. Punchy lead bass lines, jazzy poly-rhythms from the guitars and the drums really show off how much skill this group has.

As I wrote a few months ago on, I think this may be the best Metal album I've heard since  Burst's Lazarus Bird from 2008. It's really a statement record, and one where I sense they are now truly a "band" (and not a hybrid collaboration of the members other projects like The Postman Syndrome, Day Without Dawn and Biclops) and have found "their sound:" so to speak.

The Apologist is a record I put on and listen to, and afterwards I can't help but think to myself, "damn that was something." I'm really in awe of it, so much so, I probably look forward to playing it a fair amount more just to discover so many of the intricate sections even better. And also as I wrote on earlier this Fall, it seems like one of the most overlooked metal albums of 2011. Perhaps more time and touring will help, as the show I finally got to see them this past Fall, was nearly as impressive.

5. Between the Buried and Me - The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues [Mini Album/EP]
(avant-garde technical/progressive metalcore)
This is the first part of a multi-part series this band are taking on. I was pretty let down by their last record, 2009's The Great Misdirect, but I'd say this is more than a return to form. Three tracks, all in the 8-11 minute range, really seem to work in a less-is-more way. Which for this band, and considering their last release, is pretty impressive.

It's almost a tease in a way, believe it or not, as they do bring-in a lot of sections that seem almost too short. Stylistically, it doesn't vary incredibly from their traditional sound, with the unorthodox shifts in dynamics and sections that pound heavily, into a silly or quiet part, and then back and forth again.

Do any of the 3 tracks stand out over the others? I guess I never found that to be the case, as I listened to this thing almost every time, all at once, and saw it as 1 30 minute or so piece. A bit like 2007's Colors I suppose.

4. The Dear Hunter - The Color Spectrum
(conceptual progressive rock) 
Ever since hearing about this idea 3 or 4 years ago, it sounded extremely intriguing. Casey Crescenzo and The Dear Hunter were going to make a series of EPs based on all different colors. An ambitious idea, that he obviously thought about how to do it, a fair amount. And I sense has and will benefit him and the band long-term as songwriters. Casey wanted to do this, partially just as a way to challenge himself as a songwriter. And I think overall, the result has been a success.

It is 9 EPs of course, and all-together amounts to about 2 1/2 hours worth of music, and thus, it didn't become something I ended up listening to all-at-once extremely often. At the same time, each EP has songs that really stand out as being favorites, while others fit the sound (or color) of that EP. To make a list of specific favorites:

Indigo: What Time Taught Us, Mandala, Therma
Green: The Inheritance, The Canopy
Yellow: Misplaced Devotion, She's Always Singing
Blue: The Collapse of the Great Tide Cliffs, Trapdoor
Orange: Echo, But There's Wolves?, Stuck on a Wire
Violet: Mr.Mallum, Look Away
White: Lost But Not All Gone, Home
Black: Filth and Squalor, This Body
Red: I Couldn't Do it Alone

Indigo from the get go, was my favorite, and still is. Ironically, that is the one EP Casey and the band did for the most part all on their own, at home. I just love it when Casey uses an electronic element, at least on that EP, as it almost reminds me of some of how those Ms. Leading Demos sound. I think the track "Mandala" alone makes that EP tremendous. It has that gradual build I love, and a vocal melody+phrasing that is inspiring. I feel both sad and yet happy when I listen to it. It's one of the best songs of 2011 and certainly one of The Dear Hunter's best or one of my favorites at least.

But said favorite songs I posted above range from Post Rock (Blue) to Folk (Green) to electronic/industrial (Black), to very inspiring/uplifting lyrically (White), to majestic/cabaret (Violet), to poppy and almost Western (Yellow), to Blues Rock (Orange). I'd say the goal of exploring the emotional side of each color ended up working with the varied styles. But more importantly, the songs I highlighted above stand out due to how well written they are, within said style.

This project was a huge task that it seems Casey and the band managed to pull off. It very easily could be a key part in their history, as everything with the Acts seems to be of less significance for Casey now. But all for the better I would hope. This collection of EPs, while I'm not certain will go down historically as the most significant, influential idea, even this decade, I wouldn't be surprised will only grow more interest with time. Personally, perhaps as well, because I'd be lying if I claimed I loved every song on here. And it might have had a shot at taking the crown this year had I. But it still belongs this high due to far too much good music on it.

3. Arch/Matheos - Sympathetic Resonance
(modern/lyrical progressive metal)
I could not have been more excited, enticed, fanboy-ish, etc about this album. Or perhaps just the prospect of another album with Jim Matheos working with original lead singer of Fates Warning, John Arch. I adored Arch's 2003 2-song 27-minute EP A Twist of Fate . It's one of the greatest works in progressive metal, without a doubt. But it always left me and others with the huge desire/hope that John would do something again.

So, this is that something again, with his old Fates band mate Jim Matheos, and actually the rest of the current lineup of Fates Warning in Frank Aresti (guitar), Joey Vera (bass) and recently joined drummer Bobby Jarzombek.

This is more or less how good progressive metal, in the traditional sense, can get. The epic songs with frequent time changes, poly-rhythms, layers of vocals, etc. And where John and Jim standout at times, is the cohesiveness and flow. This record has that, but it also has so much going on, it offers a lot of new things to notice each time. And while I have enjoyed this a lot, I am still taking-it-in to the point of knowing what parts, melodies, etc really are to look forward to.

John's vocals are pretty crazy here. I know a lot of people don't care for them, or at least have had to have them grow on them at best. Me, of course, that's never been an issue. But I think John really experimented well with phrasing, rhyming and rhythm with regards to what is going on with the music. I think in some ways, that is the biggest different with this album, compared to his solo EP. And this was much more collaborative with Jim.

I enjoy every song on here pretty equally, it's not so easy to pinpoint so many things over others. The production is really exceptional. The drum work could not have been better, as much as I love Mark Zonder, Jarzombek is a technician-and-a-half. The ending of "Incense and Myrrh" with the gradual crescendo and sad, wailing from Arch and the guitar does stand out in a lot of respects. It kind of brings a tear to my eyes to be honest, sort of in a fuck you to all the haters, and THIS is what PROGRESSIVE METAL is about and JOHN ARCH is MY GUY! Also in a nostalgic way, as I felt somewhat the same seeing Fates Warning at ProgPowerUSA in 2009, feeling an identity with them, and all the years I have been a fan. Stuck with them, etc. It's amazing not only how older music can bring those memories and feelings back, but sometimes just hearing musicians again from that period can invoke those levels of joy, happiness and extreme sadness for longing for the past.

Also just with Arch, and that EP being so great, the doubt that anything more would ever come. This album was almost a disbelief in coming true, a little like the Soundscape album Grave New World in 2009. I had the mindset of thinking, "a new album from Jim Matheos with John Arch? really?, I don't believe it! I'll only believe it when I see it. "

And in the interview with Brian Slagel of Metal Blade Records about the album, it was confirmed there will be more. I'm kind of overjoyed and in Fates Warning fan-heaven of sorts. I guess that's why I owe it to myself, to keep going back to this album in the next few years. I suspect when that next work is made, I'll probably know this one even better.

2. Kimbra - Vows
(soulful, layered, retro, eclectic, vocal-driven pop)
Like many people outside of Australia and New Zealand presumably, I was first introduced to Kimbra from the Gotye song "Somebody That I Used To Know." And after reading more about Gotye and who this female singer he got to sing on that song, I was rather intrigued. I think with my background of enjoying artsy female singer/songwriter's over the last few years, namely Imogen Heap, St.Vincent and just last year Janelle Monáe, the interest in Kimbra's music was not that surprising.

What was surprising was how young she is, being only 21, to make a record of this quality. And this is her debut album, although it was many years in the making. Very similar to Janelle Monáe's The Archandroid's many years of buildup and anticipation, until being released in 2010.

I instantly liked this album, and not too long after I realized how while Gotye's Making Mirrors was good, this was breathtaking. It is/was very addictive as the songs had these incredible ear worms that took hours to leave my head. The pop sensibility, the energy, the production, the twists and segues many of them have. Especially vocally. Kimbra has an incredible voice, with range, heart and soul.

To name off favorites is kind of silly, because every song on here is great, but I guess the strongest ear worms for me would be parts of  "Cameo Lover" "Settle Down" and 'Two Way Street." But songs like "Good Intent" "Call Me" and Kimbra's take on Nina Simone's "Plain Gold Ring" really stand out as well. She has this sass and pizazz about her. The retro jazzy pop and soul side really comes out on them. Then there's the incredible ballad "Wandering Limbs" featuring the Daniel Johns-like singer Sam Lawrence. And then the closing epic of sorts "Withdraw" into "Build Up," Kimbra really extends herself vocally with these multi-part emotional harmonies.

This is such an exceptional record, I wonder how she'll ever be able to top it. I also wonder if in the longterm I might consider it among 2011 albums, my favorite or at least it may be the record I'll listen more in the future. The songs are just so addictive and infectious. The energy is so upbeat at times, and there's so much going on, in pretty much every song, that I find myself looking forward to hearing them.

Not to mention, she's rather easy on the eyes, which my girlfriend isn't all that thrilled with me saying, but given she became a fan as well, she may not be able to avoid hearing it from me. She actually is probably the 1st artist, at least newer/modern musician her and I like pretty close to equally, which says a lot about the accessibility and talent of Kimbra and this album.

That also suggests the near future, specifically in 2012 when Vows is released in the US (along with Gotye's Making Mirrors as well actually), she may blow up so much, she may become a hipster darling. I hope if that does happen, at least she'll not get pigeon-holed like so many others. But her interest/influence from the new drummer of The Mars Volta, Deantoni Parks along with The Mars Volta in general, may get some of those hipsters to not ruin how she's introduced.

1. Hotel of the Laughing Tree - Terror and Everything After
(modern/heavy college-progressive rock)
I was all ready to go ahead and review this album in the Fall of 2010, until the point some members of the band got in touch with me to hold off until it officially was released. It was supposed to be released in September of 2010, but as circumstances arose, they found it more beneficial to wait until February 2011. Much like Kaddisfly's Set Sail the Prairie in 2006, in more than one way.

By pushing it back, I was able to hear it even more, and they added one of the best tracks on it, in "Weather Maps for Nikolai." Along with re-ordering the track list (the album was originally intended to start with the song "Sanctuary" but after re-ordering the track list, it begins with the song "Barnaby's Bison Blind"). I honestly still have a love of the original order of songs, but ultimately, it doesn't impact how good this album is.

Why I find it so good, and it finished as my #1 album for 2011, there are a number of reasons. For one, it was my favorite or it took the #1 spot before the year even began, and nothing seemed to ever challenge it. A traditional story it seems with many years. It held up all year, and still does, as I have never had any feelings about it that detracted how good it is.

Another reason simply is how good each song is. Every track on this album is big in some way. From the guitar riffs, the dynamics, the horn parts, the mandolin, the gang vocals. They really explore a plethora of styles, from blues rock, to chamber, to folk-rock, to post-rock, to even a big classic rock influence. It's one of those albums that varies a ton, yet the songwriting is without a dud. And it also is very much "an album lovers" album in that it is best heard all-at-once.

"Weather Maps for Nikolai" is a rocker. A very tight, riffy tune that I look forward to hearing every time I play it. "Gunpowder Falls" has this great repeatedly pounding riff with a preachy vocal part that I love each time. It leads to this dreamy yet big keyboard part that is really epic. "Bad Canterbury" is one of the best songs of 2011, without question. It has that happy, catchy style to it, so much so, it could have reached a much larger audience. Much like Emanuel & the Fear's "Jimmie's Song" or some others in recent years, it's a song I hear every time and think, this song is just too damn good to not be known by more people.

"Noah" has this big vocal chorus that just never leaves my head. "Everybody wants to throw a party for me, everybody wants to throw a part for me." The horn section on it also just works so well, there's nothing they could do to make it better. The title track is a epic of sorts that features themes, led by very clean guitar, which I always think of dredg's Mark Engles. It's one of those songs, the more you hear it, the more you get sucked in.

This is a debut album, but it clearly is a band who put a lot into their 1st full-length. It has stood the test of time, as I probably like it even more now than when I 1st got to hear it. And it came somewhat unexpectedly, given their 1st EP I was only luke warm about. But I've seen it happen in the past, where a band sort of makes a breakthrough record. So much so, it does make me wonder what they can do to top this. But I'll certainly be paying attention no matter how good their next work may be.

It is kind of sad, as last year at this time, I knew this album was a record I loved and made sense to be #1 going in to the year. Now, at the end of 2011, is there an album I can say that about? not yet, although there's some potentials like the new House of Fools album. But I'll admit, for 2011, this album held a great sense of security in that if nothing great came out the rest of the year, at least I could hold on to the fact this was a great, as-it-became 5-star album. Every year I look for at least one of those, and at the start of 2011 I had one in this record. Right now for 2012, I don't have one yet. So this was a rare case of offering an album of top-tier status during the entire year.

How much others caught on to this album, is a whole other story. They did not. And I told everyone I could about it pretty much. Which speaks less to me, and more to people's time, taste and maybe how circulated it became. I guess like some other examples such as Karnivool or even Kaddisfly and Apes and Androids, the years after the release, this album may reach a lot more people. It certainly deserves that. But only time will tell. I suppose in 2013 or 2014, it will be nice to look back on this and remember if it did.

And so that's it for the 2011 Album Index. However, I have a long Turkey/Non-2011 Album Index blog to include soon in here. Hopefully this weekend, or by next week sometime. There's definitely a fair amount of recollecting to do, and statements to make about other music, and the year 2011 in general. Once that comes, and a diarrhea-of-the-mouth podcast, I will hopefully put 2011 to bed and start to focus on the potential big year that will be 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

House of Fools article

link to article

I believe I mentioned this in a recent post, but had not read this article. It basically tells in more detail about the hell they went through with their former record label Drive Thru Records. Based on this, I'm actually surprised they are still a band now. We'll see how well Versus the Beast does coming soon, but in the mean time, this article definitely explains more about how awful things can get in the music industry.

It's probably worth adding there's some grammar or even part of the article not included here.

House of Fools has a new management deal, a new album and a new vision for their music. (photo by Josh Hofer,

I’m sharing a table with Josh King, David McLaughlin and Joel Kiser of Greensboro indie-rock band House of Fools at the Pour House on dollar can night; the former two huddled around cans of Bud as Kiser comes back from the bar with a frothy New Belgium draft. “Well look at you Mr. Moneybags,” King says dryly. The smashed-all-to-hell face of Kiser’s phone tells a slightly different story.

The last time I had spoken to the band was during the summer of 2009, when they had just welcomed in a new rhythm section: drummer Jack Foster and bassist Jordan Powers. House of Fools at the time was on the ropes, weathering a deteriorating support network, a bassist obliged to move on because of professional choices and a drummer forced to quit because of a bad back. The band was no doubt on the ropes, but quitting altogether had never been discussed.
The induction of Foster and Powers, however, was a shot of adrenaline for the fizzling band. For four years, they had toured to the point of exhaustion. Yet, they were still as broke as the glass on Kiser’s mobile despite being signed to a promising independent label in southern California almost before they even were a band. The two new faces represented a lifeline and they were chomping at the bit to talk about it. The subject they dared not approach, however, was anything to do with their label and the possibility of new records.
“Things just aren’t good right now,” McLaughlin said at the time. “That’s all I can say.”
All that changed over a few dollar Budweisers. It took three years and several attorneys, but the band had just won a drawn-out legal fight to be released from contract with their label, Drive-Thru Records, in a story fit for an episode of “Behind the Music”. Rancorous name-calling, shifty lawyers and contractual strong-arming — it’s got all of it.

The art of the deal

A contract can be a quirky thing. In theory, it’s a document that at least two parties enter into for the mutual assurance that both will fulfill the terms laid forth therein, for mutual benefit. In reality, the burden of fulfillment is almost always placed on the party with fewer resources at their disposal.
House of Fools become aware of this when Drive-Thru Records, for reasons not entirely known to the band at the time, decided to short them on promised advances for the next recording project.
The band was on the road and running on the fumes of the buzz afforded by their 2007 debut LP Live and Learn when they received an e-mail from the label’s co-owner Stefanie Reines. In it, King recalled, she insisted the band renegotiate their deal for three albums into a 360 deal, which would give a label a chunk of all proceeds: album sales, tour gate, merchandise sales. The 360 deal isn’t exactly a new practice; it goes back to the days of Motown when Berry Gordy was signing singing groups to them and thus given dominion over everything about his artists right down to the way they dressed.
The new deal would have certainly shifted a greater portion of the band’s income to the label, but by this time Drive Thru was feeling the effects of their own bad deals. Lopsided distribution contracts with MCA (and subsequently Geffen) and Sanctuary Records were handcuffing Drive-Thru’s profitability in new markets, and promises that the label made to House of Fools in regards to European tours and string quartets in the studio went unfulfilled.
“They sent us all an e-mail once we had formed the band saying that we could go ahead and quit our jobs,” King said. “So we all quit our jobs and went on the road with bands that we should have never went on the road with.”
At this point, King says that Drive-Thru had practically ceased with tour and recording support, and insisting the band agree to more stringent and less gainful terms was the proverbial straw. The band saw it as a breach of contract on the label’s part and rather than pursue litigation, they agreed that this wasn’t working out for anyone and they asked for their release.
“At that moment I remember that we got e- mails from them calling us redneck pieces of shit, hicks and hillbillies, all sorts of stuff,” King said.
It got worse. The band decided to simply try and placate their Drive-Thru bosses and fulfill the terms of their deal as best they could. Two more albums was all it would take and the band felt they could do that in a year at best. After that, McLaughlin said, every song the band sent to the label’s head Richard Reines was roundly rejected.
Matt Bowers tickles the ivory while laying down tracks for House of Fools' upcoming release Versus the Beast.

“They basically just didn’t like our music at that point,” King added. “I remember Richard saying, ‘We need it to sound more like Queen, with guitar solos.’” A quick history of Drive-Thru Records: The label was, for a time in the late 1990s to mid 2000s, the preeminent West Coast home for independent pop punk acts. Teen-focused acts like New Found Glory, Hellogoodbye and the Starting Line made a lot of noise while under the banner of Drive-Thru. The label also dabbled outside of that rather narrowly defined spectrum via folk rockers Steel Train and the ska-rock band Rx Bandits, but their bread and butter rested with teen bands making music for teen crowds. House of Fools has some marked pop leanings dotting mostly rockist influences, as noted by the Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Stevie Ray Vaughn posters lining their practice space, but they are not a pop-punk band. King intimated that Drive-Thru thought they could make them one, however, by pigeonholing them into tours with pop-punk and screamo bands.
“One of the last tours we did [for Drive-Thru], we were opening up for this band where all the dudes in it were 18, 19 years old. I think I was 25 or 26,” he said. “We used to play at five o’clock in the afternoon and it’d be a sold-out crowd, but there’d be kids falling asleep in the front of the stage waiting for us to be done. It was over their heads. It was rock and roll. They wanted pop punk.”
So House of Fools just kept touring, minus the support of Drive-Thru.
One of them was Peter Thall, who has counted Billy Joel, Weezer and Will Smith among his clients. According to King, Thall asked for $1,500 to make their contract go away. The band paid the money and then said they never heard from Thall again. They had one more legal avenue, however. Pinto Coates Kyre & Brown, a Greensboro firm that specializes in personal injury, not entertainment, and also employs Deb Bowers, mother of keyboardist Matt Bowers, came to their rescue.
Since House of Fools originally signed their contract in the state of North Carolina, once PCK&B served Drive-Thru with a court summons in early 2011, they would have been required to contest it in North Carolina. For a label that’s been listed as “on hiatus” since 2009, there was little incentive to fight this bucking horse. So they relented, and House of Fools was free.
Now they just had to do it on their own, but that wouldn’t be a problem because that had already been the case for a long time. The band had been sitting on a pile of 70-plus songs for the past two years, all demo-ed and tracked live in their home studio, many intended for Drive-Thru, but to the band, they had already grown stale.
“I don’t even know what I was talking about then. They’re old news,” King said. “So we started from scratch on a whole new album.”
That album is entitled Versus the Beast, a name that carries with it obvious implications. McLaughlin calls it the band’s rock album, but it is also therapeutic in that regard. Produced entirely at home by the band The band themselves, it tapped into the represents the associations they made melodic ideas and lyrical while on the road and got onto tours with other working bands. They toured the Southeast with alt-country quartet Limbeck and played through the Midwest with Los Angeles progrockers Particle all while battling the label, and enduring what Kiser referred to as the “House of Fools curse.”
“We had our first manager quit over frustration from dealing with the label, then the person who signed us to our publishing deal themes that resonate the most with House of Fools across 13 tracks. The specter of playing to pop-punk and metal crowds is long gone; the guys have gotten back to the music they set out to play in the beginning. Whether or not another label comes calling, this is the House of Fools sound.
“If we got a good offer, we’d love to have some help,” King said. “But it’d have to be pretty f**king good at this point.” with Universal got cancer, recovered and then got fired,” Kiser said. “We hired attorneys and they just tended to disappear on us.”
House of Fools releases Versus The Beast on Friday, Dec. 30 at Greene Street Club.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Crippled Black Phoenix - (Mankind) The Crafty Ape (2012)

12/28/11 8:23PM

Crippled Black Phoenix - A Letter Concerning Dogheads by coolgreen

They posted this last week on facebook. The song "A Letter Concerning Dogheads" which is stream and downloadable. I'm digging the ending especially.

12/5/11 8:45AM
Pre-Order link

CD 1:
Chapter I – A Thread
1. Nothing (We Are…)
2. The Heart Of Every Country
3. Get Down And Live With It
4. A Letter Concerning Dogheads
5. The Brain / Poznan
Chapter II – The Trap
6. Laying Traps
7. Born In A Hurricane
8. Release The Clowns
9. (What?)
CD 2:
Chapter III – The Blues Of Man
1. A Suggestion (Not A Very Nice One)
2. (Dig, Bury, Deny)
3. Operation Mincemeat
4. We Will Never Get Out This World Alive Faced With Complete Failure, Utter Defiance Is The Only Response

2011 I got pretty into these guys, or rather, they were/are one of my favorite new bands . So naturally I'm pretty interested in this. 2 CDs? This might be pretty lengthly, which may not matter. I will say, as much as I have really enjoyed getting into them, some of their compositons are pretty extensive, which hurts them I suppose a bit.

And as noted in that link above, the release date is January 30th, 2011.

Still, among the upcoming records, this is still pretty high on my list.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Epic Rock Talk - Episode 3

nearly 2 hours, separated into 2 parts


Dream Theater (Red, Ra)
The Dear Hunter (Flying Colors)
Scale the Summit (Mono, Pelican, Isis)
Devin Townsend (Apes and Androids, Strapping Young Lad, Marillion)
Daniel J (Orphaned Land)
Mastodon (Between the Buried and Me, Protest the Hero, Skeleton Staff, House of Fools,
Animals as Leaders (Liquid Tension Experiment, Platypus, Cloudkicker)
Djent (Born of Osiris, Attack Attack, Djentstep/Dubstep, Autotune, Imogen Heap, Cynic, Peter Frampton)
Iced Earth
Revocation (Last Chance to Reason, Dead Letter Circus, Fair to Midland, What's Left of Her, Solstafir, Steven Wilson, Hands of Despair, For the Imperium)
November's Doom (Subterranean Masquerade, Novembre, Klimt 1918, Katatonia)
Doom Metal (Zebulon Pike)
Metal Evolution Documentary
Black Metal (Gloriabelly, False, Alcest, Meshuggah)
Protest the Hero (Coheed and Cambria, Muse, Between the Buried and Me, Zero Hour)
Erick Serna and the Killing Floor (The Dear Hunter, Trent Romens, The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra, The House Harkonnen, Nicole Atkins)
dredg (King's X, Pain of Salvation, Marillion, Dream Theater)The Dear Hunter
Apes and Androids
The Stiletto Formal
Hotel of the Laughing Tree
Margot & the Nuclear So & So's
The Baltic Sea
Radical Face
Bruce Peninsula
Neverending White Lights (Bed of Stars, Dallas Green)
Team Me
*Shels (Tangled Thoughts of Leaving, Younger Brother, Tokyo Jihen)
The Book of Right On
House of Fools
Ne Obliviscaris
Lehto & Wright
The Age of Rockets (Rosetta)
Fates Warning (Arch/Matheos, OSI)
The Reign of Kindo (Steven Wilson)
Crippled Black Phoenix (Godspeed You Black Emperor, Clann Zu)
Emanuel & the Fear
Spawn of Possession (Subterranean Masquerade)
The Faceless
Cynic (Metal Evolution Documentary: Fates Warning, Between the Buried and Me maudlin of the Well, SikTh, Pain of Salvation, Porcupine Tree)
Local Natives Warpaint
Flying Colors (John Sykes, Derek Sherinian)
The Mars Volta

2011 Album Index 20-11

20. dredg - Chuckles & Mr. Squeezy
So many fans, whether they were longtime, dedicated fans, or even newer, fringe fans, HATE this album. Me? I actually never found it repulsive. I probably spent a good 2-3 weeks listening to it regularly, and I more or less enjoyed every song off it. Is it different? yes, for sure. Is it less "epic" yeah, it's probably their shortest record. Is hip-hop producer Dan the Automator's impact on it pretty notice-able? of course. But guess what? the songs still sound like dredg, and that being a FACT, is what matters first and foremost to me.

I don't anticipate it becoming a favorite of mine historically, but this was definitely a case of a band I love, making a somewhat different style of record, that I found still worked. Song-wise, my favorite still remains "The Thought of Losing You" which has one of the huge choruses I can't seem to get out of my head. "The Tent"? good tune, I don't follow why people have crucified that one. It's just a slower, moody track that certainly works within the flow of this album. "Upon Returning" ? I recall only being lukewarm about it live, but it definitely grew on me. Rather catchy, and the sarcastic lyrics I didn't mind.

The ballad "The Ornament" a lot of the fans have been waiting for, for a long time, and it turned out very well. "Down Without a Fight" even with the heavy synths, still really works. 'Somebody is Laughing" "Kalathat" "Another Tribe" etc, to me, EVERY SONG IS GOOD. A lot of people can't handle a band trying new, different things. Me? if the songs still sound good, I find it can almost be better that the artist did something different, just not to get stagnant.

Down the road here, perhaps more people will come around on this record, but for now I'm going to hold true to that I enjoyed this album when it came out, and applaud the band for doing something new. I love dredg, and while this album never became as addictive as their others, I am definitely not going to look at it the way so many others have. And I won't be surprised if others do come around on it eventually.

19. Brice Plays Drums - I Laugh at Your Greener Pastures
I saw this band at the so-called "Prog-gasm 2011" at the 400 Bar back in May with The Royal Veil, Orphan Bloom and Water Colors, and other than The Royal Veil, I'd never heard of any of the bands at that show. But I was impressed by more or less all of them. Brice Plays Drums specifically are a younger group of musicians who hail from the Hastings, MN area I guess. And this debut album of theirs was a long-time in the making.

Their sound, I suppose could be compared to a number of artists. Specifically, music like Carlos Santana, The Mars Volta, Cavil at Rest, RX Bandits, Kaddisfly among others. This record, is in-effect one 30 minute song, separated into 4 movements. Very much in the progressive rock tradition, but it also is successful in being less-is-more. I put it on many times this year, and would get through it, then wanting even more. Which while it sucks to want more, it does show how something may look long on paper, really isn't. It's rather refined, and tight sounding. The transitions from fast to slow, soft to heavy, really seem to fit perfectly. I'd guess some of that is how much time it took to finish.

It has those sections that I love, whether it be a jammy riff, a keyboard solo, the syncopation between guitar and keyboard, the spacey, almost-under-water-sounding parts, or even a lyric or two I enjoy. I'd also say, as their name suggests, the drum work at times really stands out.

A few quotes that come to mind:

"Little gnome, why don't you go back to your home"
"Did you realize?..did youuu reeeee-ahhhh-lyyyyyze??
"There lies an entire disassembled army, just waiting to get off their feet and move their ass's"

The band have another record expected in 2012 titled Man the Animal Cannon which I guess they played a lot of it live at shows I was and wasn't at. But with that coming, and with this debut record of theirs, they've immediately become one of my favorite local or band of any kind. And being as new/young as they are, hopefully this is just the beginning for them. Another band I can claim from my home state, doing progressive rock rather well, and holding promise for the future. Whether the prog-ignoring media sources like 89.3, Radio K, Citypages, Chris Riemenschneider, Jon Bream, Pitchfork, and other notable websites ever notice them? I'm skeptical. But this blog and whatever forums I'm on at least should receive mention from me. The progressive rock scene outside of Minnesota, the jury may still be out on.

18. O'Brother - Garden Window
The 1st time I saw this band's name, it was in I think Alternative Press 100 Bands You Need Know 2011, and why their name caught my eye was due to a comparison to among others, the band Annuals. I also recall reading the highly talented Timbre was going to be playing some Harp on their upcoming album.

I think I had seen their name previously, from them going on tour with a band I knew. It may have been The Dear Hunter, or another band. But they did tour in 2011 with The Dear Hunter, and were at the show at The Triple Rock Social Club in July.

At that show last Summer, I recall liking some of what I heard, but also was a little wary about their sludgey/doomy sound overall. Ironically, it wasn't that long after seeing doomy local band Zebulon Pike, and more or less writing them and most of that style of music off. But I recall being curious enough, I wanted to not forget to check out this record of theirs coming soon.

And the overall result ended up being a fair amount better than I expected. The flow, textures, styles explored, etc, really work on here. The doom Metal element I don't think hurts this album, in fact I think it adds to it. There's a very thick, heavy, almost wall-of-sound side to this album, that is impossible to ignore. There's also some extremely memorable, even catchy/poppy parts. I'd say the track "Easy Talk (Open Your Mouth)" is *easily* one of the best songs of 2011. I instantly loved it.

 The echoing chorus "Why don't you open your mouth and let it out now" 30x's

That song is one of those tunes that stays with me. It reminds me of Kaddisfly, dredg, Ours, Fair to Midland, The Velvet Teen and a bunch of other bands, when they come up with a piece that just is so powerful, it stays with me. The dreamy vocal harmonies, soaring guitar textures give me goosebumps every fucking time I hear it.

This was beyond a pleasant surprise, but one I kind of a had feeling about. And O'Brother are now a band I'm on board with, and will look forward to what they do next. But this record of theirs is one I'm actually still discovering a lot about.

17. Vektor - Outer Isolation
2009's Black Future album took down that abhor-able Animal Collective record on and I could never forget that. And I'll admit to checking that out, and up-rating it a bit, because I can't stand the childish activities so many of those users have by creating multiple accounts to down-rate an album that may be rated/ranked higher than their hipster trash (Radiohead also comes to mind). But there was some legitimacy to rating Black Future pretty high, as it was a really well composed, somewhat new spin on (progressive/modern) thrash metal.

So, naturally I was excited to hear this album, and I can't say it disappointed in any way really. It's filled with intricate parts, from the drumming, to the guitar solos, to even how the blackened vocals blend so well. It really is a badass, ballsy metal album. I can't say I'm a huge fan of thrash, but when it's done like this, in a really tasteful and punchy way, I get sucked in

I'd put this album on some times, and instantly get a high energy level. And that's one thing that scores well for me with any album, especially a Metal record.

16. For the Imperium - For the Imperium
As I posted about this album a few weeks ago, I have been more or less shocked how quickly I started to enjoy this, and how much. This is a new Finnish avant-garde Metal band's debut record. They sound like they are fans of a number of bands, namely Avenged Sevenfold, Faith No More, Coheed and Cambria and System of a Down. Their singer specifically. And some of the stuff written about them says how much of a Mike Patton fan he is, which may be true. However, I don't think it hurts this record at all.

I love it when a band is odd/weird/quirky/outrageous by combining genres and manages to do so while not losing song composition quality. It's not easy, but when pulled off, is some of if not my favorite kind of music. It shows they are taking chances, and trying to push boundaries. And For the Imperium have managed to do that on this debut album of theirs.

I'd say most notably, from about 3rd or 4th track on, it just comes at you left and right with unexpected parts, dynamics. Whether it be a really poppy chorus that almost sounds cheesy, but ends up sounding catchy. Or some technical section that is followed by something tongue-in-cheek.

And because I'm almost surprised what they pulled off here, I keep going back to this album. Like Apes and Androids, Crotchduster, Between the Buried and Me or some other out-there kinds of music (Mr.Bungle certainly, Unexpect), I am drawn to this stuff when it works. And it's melodic enough, and not boring, that I keep playing it and enjoying it more and more. I think this band may have just begun, in that a few years from now, I'll remember 1st hearing this band and album for the 1st time. I still need to check out their previous EP, but I'd certainly include this band with the likes of Painted in Exile, Leprous, Ne Obliviscaris and a few others in the next wave of experimental Metal bands actually doing different things, being progressive, and still being able to write impressive songs.

15. Bruce Peninsula - Open Flames
As I posted many times on this blog over the last year or more, this album was a minor miracle, with Bruce Peninsula's lead singer Neil Haverty being diagnosed with Leukemia. Thankfully, the Leukemia went into remission, and the band were able to finish this album and release it.

I got introduced to them I recall in early 2010 from a big fan on The Mars Volta forum.They released their debut record A Mountain is a Mouth in 2009, and had I heard it back then, it would likely have finished pretty high on my 2009 Index. It's a great record, filled with tribal drumming, frequent female-gang vocal harmonies, and some really nice, almost earthy melodies. Along with Haverty's trademark gruff vocal style, almost like a more digest-able Tom Waits.

And thanks to the same user from the Mars Volta forum, a lot of the new songs were made available live. Many of them intrigued me how they'd sound on recording. I'd say they for the most part were as good, if not better than I expected. They included more of those energetic percussive parts, and those passionate female vocals. Sometimes lead, sometimes harmonies. Songs like "Say Yeah," "Pull Me Under," "Chupacabra," "As Long As I Live" all have a hook or something I look forward to hearing each time I play this album. And I'd say there isn't any song I skip, including some of the ballads. My only disappointment might be Neil Haverty's lead vocals aren't as noticed as on A Mountain is a Mouth. But perhaps with their next album and some other related projects, that will return.

I guess the only other thing about this band is the bands they get compared to like The Rural Alberta Advantage, I don't really follow. Nor is their popularity probably close to what it should be. They're from Canada, the Toronto area specifically. I suppose they have sadly found the same fate of Bend Sinister, Neverending White Lights and a few others (People for Audio?) in that I know they could and should reach a much wider audience, but for various reasons, largely being in Canada, it hasn't happened, yet at least. Maybe in due time.

14. Jimmy Gnecco - The Heart: X Edition
Some people might remember from my 2010 Index including this album, the original, stripped-down version. And to be honest, as much as I love Jimmy and Ours, that album ended up as low as it did due to not being as impressed, attached, etc to it. Even a bit of swallowing on the vocals didn't help.

But, I often felt seeing those songs live, it might change my mind. And having seen many of them, in person or hearing/seeing live recordings, they did. And this is the re-recording of those songs like they are live; with the full band. And for some reason, they all pretty much sound even better. The piano, some electric guitar, or even a little bit of re-arranging/extended parts.

I knew songs like "Gravity," "Darling," "Mystery" were great live, but they finally came out bigger and more layered on this. Plus, I cannot discount the inclusion of the last/new track "The Bells" also improved how much I enjoy this. That tune is just terrific, although admittedly, it's more or less an Ours song. Except that, Jimmy and Ours are one in the same pretty much. But for anyone who loves Ours, loved 2008's Mercy or really any awesome, soulful screaming vocal parts, check out that tune. It's one of the best songs Jimmy's ever recorded.

go here, as it was uploaded by Jimmy himself on Youtube.

So, while the acoustic edition I bought, and still like a lot of, it's clear these songs were made greater to me with more of a full sound. And I'm not sure exactly the status of Jimmy with his solo work, because Static (Ours/Jimmy's guitarist) posted something recently about writing new Ours music. Plus he will be working with Slash and/or Velvet Revolver soon, along with Weathervane and even an appearance on the upcoming 2nd Neverending White Lights part of Love Will Ruin next Summer. But for now, this is another release supporting why he's my favorite singer and one of my favorite, and best songwriters working today. All the work he's doing right now also adds to that.

13. Water & Bodies - Light Year
The debut full-length from 4 of the 5-members of Kaddisfly, after 2 promising EPs in 2009 and 2010. Every time I listened to this album I enjoyed it, even given how different it is to Kaddisfly. It's more song-oriented and poppy I suppose in some ways. Some of the best songs, have those parts I always enjoy. From "Written & Read" with it's wonderful, sad guitar melody over subtle layers of synths. "Free World" being quite the rocker to "Moments in a Life" having the inspirational line "We've got to live before we die."

Some others like "Lonely Night" has this great groove to it and yet is rather catchy and upbeat at the same time. "1980," 'Echoes," and "Parallels" have really grown on me. The title track, and even the last epic, saying-goodbye track "Already Gone" really work for me. Tight songwriting, really nice blend of layers including the often slow, sad yet beautiful guitar work from Aaron Tollefson on many tracks. Those slow yet soaring lines just grab me and add such a richness to many of these songs.

I guess the reception to this album was mixed at best from others, with some being surprised, and others just sticking with wanting Kaddisfly back and nothing more. My feeling is now, nearly a year later, is it's still a very  good, consistent album song-to-song. It's not really found the blow-me-away factor like Kaddisfly, but I also never really expected it to. It's just a solid album without a bad song it, with less amazing songs, but just one with many very good ones.

I'm not sure the immediate future for the guys, given the recent Kaddisfly demos that were shared and everything, and the level of success of this 1st album. They've sort of found their audience locally in Portland and somewhat on the West Coast, at least for touring. Whether it makes sense to focus still on W&B's or mix things up with both, I guess we'll see. I am still a fanboy of Kaddisfly, but at the same time I will continue to look forward to what Water & Bodies do in the future.

12. *Shels - Plains of the Purple Buffalo
This band I 1st listened in early 2008 with their debut album Sea of the Dying Dhow. I recall liking that album, but for some reason not going back to it all that much soon after. For some reason, I thought they broke up, but I may be thinking of another band of a similar name or style.

They are another one of these "post" bands making a rather distinct style of music. They use this thick wall-of -sound at times that is just breathtaking. Along with stuff like trumpet and vocal harmonies, they have this recipe that is really epic or just incredibly dense sounding. That is probably the best way I'd describe most if not this whole album.

And considering some factors, I really wondered after a little time, if this might be an album-of-the-year contender.  But sadly, it never quite was. That outstanding combination of layers and textures works extremely well on Plains of the Purple Buffalo for maybe 40 or 45 minutes. But the final 3 or 4 tracks seem to go on a little too long for me to bump it into 4.5 star or album of the year status. Why that is, is I'm not sure they flow as well as those 1st 8 or 9 tracks, and some of the cymbals I recall clipping a bit here and there.

While that was the fate I gave this album up to this point, it's certainly one I'd suggest to anyone into a somewhat original style of Post-Rock. It's just ended up with a little too much on the end to find myself addicted to it. But I would certainly call myself a bigger fan of this UK band, and also might want to include something more on their last/debut record Sea of the Dhying Dhow as well.

11. Tangled Thoughts of Leaving - Deaden the Fields
I wrote about this band a lot this year. Like their fellow Australian "post" band Meniscus, they had a debut record coming, after some pretty impressive music on EPs previously. And the video footage the band shared online sounded awesome. Great dynamics, blending of textures. From major to minor keys, heavy to quiet, dark to beautiful.

As I wrote more than once, I really thought this record would be one of those statement debut albums, and in some ways it is or was. It's very meticulous and extensive in a lot of ways. It only has 6 songs on it, but it clocks in over an hour. That on paper, appears like an homage to many traditional progressive rock albums. One reason why it's as long as it is, or just each song is, is due to the fact the band write music within jam sessions. They love jazz, and a lot of jazz is composed in a similar way.

I guess I never grew addicted to it enough for it to find my top 10 due to a few factors. One being, the cymbals do clip on it intermittently. As sad as it is for me to accept, they do, and not just in one or two spots. Not to the point I wouldn't listen to this album again, but enough so, it hurts my feeling about it. Although a record like The Reign of Kindo's Rhythm, Chord & Melody I can claim the same about, yet I still love that album.

Another factor I suppose is how long some of it is, even though I'd support its flow for the most part. It never reached the point of wanting to play it everyday. The opening 17 minute piece "Landmarks" might be part of that.

But at the same time, there's more than enough to enjoy about it, to have it still hold intrigue for me. The interval patterns, driving piano parts, many of the songs have those gradual builds. And I will say, I happen to love the climax of the last song "They Found My Skull in the Nest of a Bird." It's incredibly intense and layered. It almost captures something from a movie score, and it's like a realization of something, or a reaching of a bigger, ultimate goal, in the final scene.

I would still highly endorse more people check it out, as this is one of the most talented instrumental bands in the music industry today, like *Shels, doing their own take on Post or just progressive rock. Are they carrying on a tradition from a band like Tortoise ? (jazzy post-rock), I guess I can't agree with that, but I honestly haven't heard an extensive amount of music from Tortoise to know. I guess it doesn't really matter at this point to me. Deaden the Fields is a very impressive debut album that I can see myself, even despite some tambourine-toned cymbals in spots, to explore in the future along with whatever else they put out.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 Album Index 30-21

30. Nicole Atkins - Mondo Amore
I was really impressed and surprised by this record when it came out. Not so much that it had good songs on it, but I sort of forgot about Nicole after enjoying much of her 1st proper full-length in 2008's Neptune City.
But for whatever reason, I had no clue this was coming out. And this was released in February I recall, and as a result, it was early-on, one of my top records.

It is/was a consistent record start to finish. Bluesy piano and string driven rock. To add, here's a little from what I wrote in my delayed review back in March.

I guess in terms of songs to namedrop: Cry Cry Cry, The Tower, My Baby Don't Lie, Vultures, War is Hell. Memorable melodies and sections. Even just how she used piano in it, with the segues and transitions.

The Tower is great, epic, and probably up there with "Neptune City" among the best songs she's written.

At this point, I can't say this album went much further than it did early in the year. I suppose I may have worn it out a little, and the fact whenever I went into Barnes and Noble last spring and summer to visit my girlfriend, they had it playing. I heard it so much in a short period of time, it may have run its course for me. I guess that's why it didn't hold up the whole year and dropped this low. But unlike other records from 2011, I don't find anything or any songs bad on it. I suppose when her next record comes out, or the next time she hits Minnesota on tour, I'll be up for revisiting it again.

29. White Denim - D
I noticed this band added to the "New Prog" list on Wikipedia over the Summer. I read a bit about them and even sampled their music, but didn't follow why. At that point I dismissed them. However, when they were included on the tour with The Dear Hunter and Manchester Orchestra this Fall, I was a little more curious.

At said show in Minneapolis at The Cabooze in November, I wasn't expecting to watch them on stage. But in the process of being there, after The Dear Hunter finished, their music drew me in. They played 2 or 3 songs that almost sounded like The Mars Volta. I was impressed enough, I decided to pickup this new album of theirs on Vinyl after their performance.

After hearing this album enough times, The Mars Volta comparison might not be so accurate. But they or this album has a great, late 60's/early 70's psychedelic rock vibe to it. It's really playful, energetic and upbeat. Their singer almost sounds like the singer from Skeleton$ or Dirty Projectors, but is not annoying in any way.

In re-reading some of the comments about it on rateyourmusic, I would agree with stuff like, they have a familiar sound, yet there isn't exactly any band who combines all the styles they do. They're prog, they're jammy, they're blues-rock, they're psych, they're even poppy at times.

My favorite song probably is the instrumental "At the Farm." I have yet to get tired of that one. The drumming and guitar interplay is just infectious. It's almost like Led Zeppelin, Cream or early Rush or something.

I even hear a band like Wishbone Ash in their sound. Not sure if them or The Volta is the best comparison, but I recall wanting to pull out Argus more than once when listening to this record recently. I may do that, along with spending time with their back catalog. now, as this is one of the better new bands I've been introduced to in 2011. And one I would definitely see live again.

28. NewVillager - NewVillager
The next Apes and Androids? Well, that may be wishful thinking and never actually happen. However, as I posted in here a few weeks ago, this band may be one-of the best bands to come since, making that style of  melodramatic, humorous, falsetto-driven electronic pop/rock.

And like Apes and Androids, I understand their live shows outdo this studio work. But, since all I have to go on is this record, I was still impressed enough. I suppose they fall sort of in between Apes and Androids and a band like The Chap. And this being NewVillager's debut record, it might just be a foreshadowing of what may come in the coming years (assuming they do make more music after this).

But as I posted a few weeks ago, this record has it's share of highlights. The single "Lighthouse" especially is uplifting.

Go out, go free, up to the lighthouse
Go out, go free, up to the lighthouse
See what you never
See, see what you never...see

I could see Apes and Androids writing that. Others like "How to Get Back" "Say the Code""Upholder"; and the rest, I honestly enjoy pretty much every tune on here. Some of it almost sounds like TV on the Radio, who are a band I've never loved, but never found repulsive. I might say the same about Abba, who maybe they are fans of as well by listening to the track "Black Rain."

I think part of me wants the next Apes and Androids, and by finding this band, I am partially believing they are in a way, and their future may bring the same ambition AandA's had. Although I kind of thought the same about The Chap and few others a few years ago, but I'm hoping this band may stand out more. Also hopefully I'll have an opportunity to see them live at some point soon, because that is maybe my biggest regret with AandA's. Perhaps I'll even regard this record greater as that has happened to me with others (a great live show makes the studio work seem better).

27. Meniscus - War of Currents
This Australian "post" band released an EP in 2007 titled Absence of I which I have enjoyed off and on for many years. But I always was curious about when they would put out something new and longer. And actually this release isn't a great deal longer being about 35 minutes. That EP though, had these great builds and dynamics, which in truth, isn't all that different than a lot of "post" music. But, for whatever reason, the heavy riffs, the samples including bees, or something else, I found their brand of "post" music better than a lot of the formulaic Explosions in the Sky copycats.

Well this record varies a bit from Absence of I, but not incredibly. The samples are there again, and some of, but maybe not as much of the heavier sections. The flowing nature of it is like their 1st release. I don't ever get bored or wonder when the song will go somewhere.

The style at times almost reminds me of some trip-hop or another "post" band I like in God is an Astronaut. Even the early Porcupine Tree I hear moments similar to. Although I honestly was thinking this could be bigger, more epic, etc of a debut record, and for that I can't say I was attached to it. At the same time, I enjoy it a lot for what it is. And the truth is, I'm not even sure the band themselves regard it as a full-length, as I recall reading something from them saying they wanted to include more music, but due to time/budget they didn't record more. So perhaps this is just the next part leading to their 1st extensive work. I guess we'll see, but for now I am enjoying this as much if not more than their other release. And they along with some others like Tangled Thoughts of Leaving, support a great scene down under for this kind of arty instrumental rock.

26. UneXpect - Fables of the Sleepless Empire 
A long awaited and celebrated release by the band and their dedicated fan base. I have enjoyed Unexpect for a few years now, although not to the point of being addicted. But I'd say along with a few other unique extreme metal bands such as SikTh, maudlin of the Well, Between the Buried and Me and a few others, they have always stood out as being original and much less derivative. In other words, they have defined their own sound, as opposed to aping off of others (even with some exceptions when that happens, but the songwriting is still good).

That all being said, I was rather excited for this like most of their fans. And honestly, I enjoy it, but not really as much as I hoped. Why is it this high on my list? I suppose part of that is just respect and it still works really in the *mood* music purpose it has for me.

Some have said it's a departure from their other records, namely their last record from 2006 In a Flesh Aquarium. And I understand that, but I also don't think it hurts how it's more accessible, melodically. The vocals are still outrageously crazy, and there are still extremely technical sections that seem darn silly.

I probably have taken a number of years to digest their other albums, and perhaps this one will require more time in the future as well. More of a grower, but right now, I'd call it a well polished (production-wise for one) record that given the desire to hear something really busy, I will probably give it another go. But it wasn't sniffing my top 10 just purely on how much I listened to it alone.

25. Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events
Well well well. The post-Portnoy Dream Theater now has been produced, and the end result actually ended up pretty damn good. A Grammy nomination, more attention they've received probably since Images and Words. Yada yada yada.

The truth about this album for me is, it sounds like Dream Theater, not any other band. And the quality songwriting and meticulous sections are there throughout most of the album "Build Me Up, Break Me Down" is probably the only track I'm not all that crazy about. But the rest is what I at one time, really looked for in an album from them.

Now is it a classic? not at this point. I really, probably listened to it 5 or 6 times, and then just was content with what it was. Why that is, is primarily due to my interest to listen to Dream Theater music regularly. I just don't. Maybe once or twice a year at best. Although I did recently purchase Scenes From a Memory on Vinyl (and not realizing I wasn't receiving a 20% discount from The Electric Fetus until after the clerk rang me up).

But just from when I was listening to it, some of the sections of "Breaking All Illusions" and "Outcry" really worked, even giving me goosebumps. Maybe part of that is due to hearing them make music like this again. They didn't seem to include those long-winded noodle-y sections I roll my eyes at, and Jordan's keyboards were not as plastic-y, nor did they seem to overstay their welcome. Even the single "On the Backs of Angels" I really enjoyed.

Mike Mangini? he seemed to fit well with the band. No disrespect to Mike Portnoy, but I could easily see the parts he had, being parts Portnoy would have made. In other words, I didn't notice Portnoy's absence.

Now the BS about it copying Images and Words that went down, I just rolled my eyes at. Musically, tonally, structurally, sonically, this album sounds more like their last couple of records as-a-whole. It just doesn't include nearly as much of the un-desired parts of those (Portnoy vocals being one, but not the only part).

A step in the right direction. We'll see if anything happens at The Grammy's. I would be up for seeing them again live supporting this, but their tour with Trivium didn't end up in the Twin Cities anyway. But perhaps another US leg happens next year and it will.

24. Anathema - Falling Deeper
Another year, and another Anathema record comes out of nowhere to me. Although unlike 2010's wonderful We're Here Because We're Here, this album was actually not new material, just newly arranged versions of songs from their 1st 2 albums and EPs (1992-1995). And I guess it's the 2nd time they've done this, with previously re-arranging older songs on the Hindsight compilation from 2008.

The string arrangements, the flow and textures, the guests (Anneke Van Giersbergen ex-The Gathering among them). The emotional element that comes across much of it. Very melancholy, yet extremely beautiful. I could probably listen to this album 10 more times and receive the same therapeutic, calming reaction.

Anathema, a band I have known about for years, but only the last couple have I spent any time with their music. Their darker, gothic Metal period, perhaps I'll dive into eventually, but for now, I am really adoring their recent transition into somber progressive rock of this sort.

23. Erick Serna and the Killing Floor - The Grip
When The Dear Hunter decided to move back to California late in 2009 from Rhode Island, Erick Serna decided not to go with them, being that is not where he's from. So, he wasn't on tour with them, nor recording with them. As a result, he decided to start his own project, and with the aid of bandcamp, was able to make this debut record of him and "The Killing Floor," which became available for $5 digitally.

While this album may have been partially inspired with his work with The Dear Hunter, this is not music The Dear Hunter would seemingly make. This is, really great ballsy blues-rock. A lot of thick riffs, and including a great old-school tradition from the likes of Robert Johnson and of course Jimi Hendrix.

It's definitely a less-is-more record, and one that I would put on semi-regularly because how good it was, and how it never felt long at all being around 35 minutes. Maybe blues-rock works best around half-an-hour? I dunno, but I just know how it brought in that love for dirty, grindy, blue-collar sense I have often loved about Blues based rock music.

My favorites specifically include "Whiskey Song" "It's Been a Long Time Comin'" "Jet Plane Blues" "Hey Sweet Thing," "The Grip, "some are ballads, some nice twangy acoustic guitar, and some use what sounds like slide-guitar. And his vocals work well in this style. I'd say more or less every song is good, as this album I never skip a tune.

We'll see what Erick does now after this. I know he was involved with Mercies and he has played some shows supporting it, at least in his native Massachusetts and the Northeast. He emailed me wanting to come play in Minneapolis again, and I'd love to see that happen. Perhaps if the situation arises, such as opening for another band he knows, it may happen. But in the mean time, I'll be enjoying this record along with other new Blues-Rock releases like the one from Trent Romens, and look forward to what he may do next.

22. Neverending White Lights - Act III: Love Will Ruin (Part One)
An album that Daniel Victor in a lot of ways, SLAVED OVER, for many years. I recall an interview and/or perhaps the recent online webcast with Evan Konrad he did, he mentioned more about the tumultuous amounts of stress over it.

How to summarize? Basically he wrote blog after blog on myspace about struggling over the songs for it for the better part of 2 years. Re-writing, and re-working. He wrote a ton of songs, so much so, this became only Part One, and Part Two will be released next Summer.

Daniel Victor also had a scary situation with damaging one of his vocal chords, he was in danger of never being able to sing again. I recall him mentioning going for a few months, not even being able to speak, let alone sing.

So, this was a miracle to finally, after the better part of 4 years, being released. And the end result was pretty damn good. Although less guests than on the past records, and maybe not as many breathtaking tunes like "Dove Coloured Sky" or "The Grace" there is still a great flow and consistency on here. These songs are well written, very well and cleanly produced.

Evan Konrad also known as Bed of Stars, clearly is a talented singer and songwriter, so much so, he was featured one three songs, "Falling Apart" "The Lonely War" and "The Hereafter," including some of which he co-wrote. His voice definitely channels/is-influenced by Jimmy Gnecco and even Dallas Green, who had been on the previous 2 NWL records. His has a great falsetto, and I can totally see why Daniel has taken him under his wing. Bed of Stars is to be releasing music under Daniel's label, Ocean Records, soon as well.

I guess to offer a reference point, musically the songs on here do remind me of Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd and maybe more on this album at times, U2. But they aren't exactly aping that style. It's more just using those artists ability to make at times darker, textured/layered pop/rock. The songs I wouldn't call simple or simplistic. But they aren't overdone. It's somewhere in that happy medium, that I have always liked about their music.

Now given this is only the 1st part, the 2nd may eventually impact how much I appreciate this album. I suppose to see the two as a double, or even listen to both all-at-once may happen. Although the previous two records were longer than this, I recall Daniel saying how he didn't want to release something as excessive as a double album. But the 2nd Part coming next Summer will feature among others, Jimmy Gnecco on 1 track. That alone has me very optimistic about it. But until hearing that, I am still going to be extremely satisfied with this one, especially given how much work I know it took to make. Also the fact a few weeks ago, Daniel sadly lost his studio due to water damage, makes this album and all the music he made there, almost more sad, and thus I want to appreciate it more.

21. Radical Face - The Family Tree: The Roots
I don't recall exactly who recommended this band, but I suspect it was a friend of mine on rateyourmusic who has been rather good at suggesting bands to me. And in looking back, it was May of 2010 I 1st checked out the 1st record Ghost from this band/project of Jacksonville, FL native Ben Cooper, whose also known for playing in a few other bands such as Electric President, Iron Orchestra and Mother's Basement.

I remember liking Ghost last year, enough to rate it at 3.5 stars and suggesting it to others. But not so much, I was keeping tabs on Radical Face after that. So, reading about this album, and it being the 1st of a trilogy (the other two "Family Tree" releases "The Branches" and "The Relatives" are expected in 2012), really got me intrigued.

It ended up being a really sublime composition of chamber folk/rock. I almost think I was surprised how good it was at 1st, almost forgetting what drew me to RF's music in the 1st place.

As I wrote in my initial posting:

So, in describing Radical Face, I suppose to call them sort of melodic, layered acoustic/chamber rock/pop/folk might be somewhat accurate. Of course hearing the music itself is best, but as a necessary evil, the artists I might compare them to being Punch Brothers, The Age of Rockets and even The River Empires, to name a few.

Its an album that has this dreamy almost spiritual side to it. Almost like an escape album of sorts. I do love how the subtle melodies and harmonies play with my attention. I'll put it on, enjoy the various emotions expressed, and think wow, damn that was great.

So, when the 2nd and 3rd parts come next year, I suppose any and all connections to this album may be made. I am expecting some ambition, given what it seems like Ben Cooper's trying to do here. How they compare musically, or other facets, we'll know soon enough. But just with this album I have come to already view Radical Face in a more favorable/memorable way.

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Album Index 40-31

40. Falling Up - Your Sparking Death Cometh
Jessy Ribordy's original, heavier, more electric, rock-oriented band. Their last album, 2009 Fangs! I have come to enjoy a lot. And part of that is the production quality, and part of that also is the seemingly departure of the Christian element. Like  Fangs!, this album was produced by Casey Crescenzo, and it was recorded at Casey's studio in Southern California.

I had high hopes for it, after enjoying Fangs! more and more, and contributing to the successful Kickstarter campaign. While I'd say at this point, I don't enjoy this album as much as Fangs! nor was it as addictive as I hoped (like The River Empires of course), I guess I enjoy a lot of it. There's a strong sense of grandiosity and epic-ness (if that is really a word to use), about it. It often sounds like Jessy's trying to sound like a rock band backed by a symphony orchestra. Lot of heavy, thick synthesizers and guitar tones, and doubled (or more tracked) vocals.

I suppose part of what hurt it overall is it's length. I'd say I enjoy the first two-thirds (or the 1st 35 or so minutes) of the album okay, but the last 3 or 4 tracks I almost get a sense of samey-ness to it.. But as far as specifics, the 1st track "Circadian" has one of those repeated vocal lines I can't get out of my head.

(x2) And they're burying all of the evidence
My glamorous words will catch them
Burying all of the evidence
Some thousands of eyes are watching (x2)

Songs like "The Wonder" reminds me of something off Fangs!, with the vocal and guitar textures. "Diamnds" and "Blue Ghost" are catchy enough, their melodies stay with me.

So while this album didn't blow me away, it still ended up as one of the albums I enjoyed this year. I guess it's clear though, I don't look for them to reach the interest level that The River Empires is, and maybe even The Gloomcatcher. But especially leaving the Christian side out of their music, I enjoy Falling Up enough. Now what exactly happens with Jessy's schedule and priorities in the future for each project? it seems still only up for speculation. I recall reading things favoring both Falling Up and The River Empires, and as well, the thing Casey Crescenzo mentioned to me about scoring films. I guess no matter what he does, it'll be something I and this blog will keep tabs on.

39. Skeleton Staff - Psychomorphism
The sophomore release from one of the best new power-pop bands. They hail from Australia, which happens to becoming more and more of a hotbed for new music.

Honestly, this album was released on December 12th, and I've only been able to listen to it 3 or 4 times. And the best things I can say about it is, it's like their last record, rather consistent and catchy. It doesn't vary too much, and it includes about 40 minutes worth of music.

Many songs include the trademark vocal harmonies and Brian May-ish guitar parts, catchy piano, and the occasional string layers.  "Prince of Thieves," "The World In 7 Days," "Capsize" "Rat Poision" and "Gateway to the Stars" among them.

I think my favorite track could be "Turnstyle" which stands out stylistically being more groove/almost-funk oriented. It's very energetic and catchy.

A solid 2nd record from this band, which is one I suppose time will tell more on how well it holds up. But for now, it's an album I enjoy, and given how recently it was released, I probably will listen to more than some other 2011 albums in 2012.

38. The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra - All Out of Peaches
One of John Wright's, of  Lehto & Wright's other, newer projects, which features his wife Lisi and 2 other talented musicians in Dan Neale on guitar and Mark O'Day on drums. Their sound blends a few genres pretty well in jazz, bluegrass and progressive rock, or as they like to call themselves "New Grass Art Rock."

This is their 2nd release, and I guess I'd say it's about as good if not a little better than their debut album from 2009 Lookin' For a Little Strange. There's a few songs on here that stand out, "The Blaze" "Five Up Front" "At Cross Purposes" the title track, plus the 2 epics "Memo 9" and "Minion." Some very nice violin work from Lisi on those, especially "The Blaze." That tune could be on pop radio to be honest, but of course, save for KFAI and maybe KBEM, none of the stations would ever consider playing it.

There's really good production on this album, and it captures at least a good amount of the energy they have live. Good musicianship, tight songwriting, dynamics that keep your attention, and a blend of styles all work here, like on their last record. They even covered surprsingly, a Lady Gaga song in "Paparazzi."

They've garnered some attention in other parts of the country on tour, which is good to know, but also silly that the same interest level may not be what it is even in their home here in Minnesota.

37. Jolly - The Audio Guide to Happiness (Part 1)
I first head this band's name in the summer of 2010. And I don't even think I listened to them, just based on some of the comments. They sounded like they were another one of those bands who are aping other, better bands. And then the Used Bin Radio guys interviewed one of the members and started talking about them enough to get me curious. And I checked out this record and enjoyed it somewhat, but not enough to go back to it more than one or two more times.

Well in the last month I revisited it, and realized it's definitely a grower, and the band can be awfully good at times. They do remind me of Oceansize among some other bands. Their singer I think was part of my issue with them, but his voice works well enough with their music. He has a deeper, (tenor?) style of singing on most of their songs. A bit like other bands such as Minus the Bear or Umphrey's McGee, in that they don't need a standout lead vocal for their songs to work. They just need to have vocal lines mix well enough with their music.

I'd say highlight-wise, tracks like the catchy-ness of  "Joy," the almost-ethnic (Pat Metheny-s Pedro Aznar) vocal chanting on "Where Everything's Perfect" and "Still a Dream" along with the raw, heaviness and crunchy layers on "The Pattern" really do enough for me. Along with the narrative and segue sections, which might seem cheesy at 1st, but I think works overall and don't go on for extensive amounts of time.

So, while I don't know how big a fan of this band I'll ever become, nor are they the most original group I've listened to in many years or anything, I think their songwriting and the way this album was composed is impressive enough, I could easily see myself going back to it and their previous record in the coming years.

36. Younger Brother - Vaccine
This is a side-project of Simone Posford of the English electronic band Shpongle and Benji Vaughan of Prometheus. I've been continuously impressed in just hearing this in recent weeks, it jumped all the way up in the Index. I guess why that is, is primarily due to the flow and great moody nature of it. It's kind of a mix of electronic-pop/rock, and ambient music. I guess being a fan of groups like Stateless and Woven, among others (Porcupine Tree, Pure Reason RevolutionOSI ? even), this seemed to work really well. This album featured more vocals than their previous 2.

The 1st couple of tracks sound kind of poppy, but it seems from then on, the album flows rather well. A nice mood record, and also trippy enough at times to want to go back to listen closer. Their use of samples, vocal effects, guitar textures, and the drum work, are reasons to continue to go back to it.

Suggested: Night Lead Me Astray, Spinning Into Place, Train

35. Al Di Meola - Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody
I saw Al play a solo show I want to say back in 2008, and he played some of the music that ended up on this record live that was pretty great. I distinctly remember the Italian vibe to much of it, with accordion namely. His acoustic fret-board work plus those accordion textures, I couldn't forget.

So hearing this album I was brought back to that show a bit. Al Di Meola being who he is and his past work, the changing times and ultra busy leads are not something unusual. But I think the actual varying textures and dynamics give this record a unique style. It does remind me some of his early work (namely his 1st 4, classic lps), where I have my head-turn intermittently. I can't help just love hearing Al solo and play fast, but still within the structure of the songs he writes.

This record goes from multi-section italian, to latin jazz pieces that build to great peaks, to ballads that evoke great calm. While his presence was missed on the Return to Forever tour this Summer, this record at least gave me and many others our Al Di Meola and Jazz-Rock fix.

Kaddisfly - Demos & Rarities [Compilation]
Well I posted about this over the weekend, and it sort of came out of nowhere. I might not be so knowledgeable as to know the exact date Kaddisfly formed, but it was 10 years ago this past week, and this was the way they decided to say Happy Anniversary.

Kaddisfly has been on Hiatus since 2009, but not too long before that, they had recorded these demos for a showcase I recall in New York City in front of some major record labels. Some of these tunes I recall them playing live (and some other new songs as well, that apparently never got demo-ed well enough to share). "It Has to Be This Way" specifically is the song that I recall most. And I'll admit to having heard other versions of it, but the one on here they made available on their bandcamp page is without question the best.

But I'd say every song on here is excellent. It's almost a tease as it reminds me why I love Kaddisfly's music so much. "Man on a String" is probably as powerful and emotional a song I've ever heard them make.The ending of "Conan" is pretty crazy, almost like "Via Rail" in a way. "Hourglass" and "Lately" are both songs I could see working on any of their other records. Very lyrical and having those driving choruses. 'Slow Motion" and "You Are a Painter" are kind of epic, in a subtle way.

Most of the guys are now doing Water & Bodies, which is great, but this collection of songs just reminds me of what was so great about Kaddisfly, and what is different about Water & Bodies.

I suppose among the songs that didn't get included, one specific song, the 8-minute track "Flowers" is the main thing that comes to mind given it was supposed to be a b-side for Set Sail the Prairie . But in reading a comment a bit ago on their Facebook page about it, the band don't own the rights to it, their ex-record label Hopeless Records does. So the band sadly had no ability to include it. But it is on Youtube amongst other places online for those wondering.

34. Tokyo Jihen - Daihakken
A friend and co-volunteer in KFAI's music library was playing some stuff last June for me one week I was there, and this happened to be one of the bands he brought in. Tokyo Jihen (or Tokyo Incidents) are this Japanese group who explore many different styles of music, while featuring a female lead singer who can sing in many different styles (and accents). Call them J-Rock, J-Pop, jazzy punk, loungey-prog, pop-ballading reggae, Symphonic-pop, etc. They really pull off, quite well, an assortment of styles. But I suppose it's their overall songwriting I am impressed by the most.

I checked out some of their other records, and eventually their singer Ringo Shina's solo work as well. I believe it was Adult that was what my friend at KFAI was playing for me. A great energy record, and something I wanted to try and track down a hard-copy. I have yet to do so with that album, nor with this new album of theirs. "Daihakken" I guess means "discovery" in Japanese. A fitting title for me anyway.

Like a number of other albums this year, I find about a couple of songs in, it really starts to work. "Osorubeki Otona Tachi," is extremely catchy and yet jazzy/funky/loungey at the same time.

"Adam and Eve would toss the apple away,
the earth would turn the other way
You'd live up far on some barren star,
but down below you might hear us laughing
I'll give you all you're wanting so bad,
hold out your hands,
whisper a prayer
Can you feel forever and ever?

"(Kinjirareta Asobi)" is quite the rocker, "Atarashii Bunmeikaika" is playful power-pop number. I love the flow of "Sora ga Natteiru," which fades and then nicely segues into the following song "Kaze ni Ayakatte Ik,." That one which features some odd guitar textures along with Shina Ringo's repeated vocal phrasing on some lyrics, one being "Space Space Space Space Invaderssss" Even the last standard track "Onna no Ko wa Daredemo" has this great jazzy-pop charm to it.

So this is one of those records that has a handful of quite good, memorable tunes on it. And I can't say I ever got bored with it. The Japanese music I've gotten into in recent years is not extensive, with Mutyumu, Kacica, Presence of Soul and a few others. But this band (and Ringo Shina's solo work) are one I can include among that group now.

33. Team Me - To the Treetops
A member on the forum suggested this band I want to say sometime last Summer. And honestly, a lot of the suggestions I get from that site are nice thoughts, but often don't do much for me. But this band for whatever reason, really did.

After checking out and liking their Self-Titled EP, I noticed this debut album coming out from this band from Norway. I actually didn't expect a full-length so soon. But after hearing the EP, I was rather intrigued by this full-length coming, and it turned out to be one excellent debut record. It's filled with upbeat, energetic, orchestral pop/rock. Vocally they remind me of Mew and some other bands. Including wonderful use of vocal harmonies  Musically I'm reminded of the likes of The Polyphonic Spree, Annuals and Anathallo.

Song-wise, the thing that stands out most, is the outstanding flow from track-to-track. I'd say just the 1st 5 or 6 tracks are equally good. It's really one of those albums that's great to wake up to, or one to put on for energy or an uplifting mood. And that's why it got rather addictive, in a short time. And why I wouldn't be surprised I'll be listening to it often in the coming years.

32. Mutemath - Odd Soul
The 3rd album from this band, and the 1st since the departure of original/longtime guitarist Greg Hill. I was initially skeptical how good this could be with his leaving, but as it turns out, even with a little style change, the quality of the songwriting wasn't affected much if at all.

Actually, many others have said this is better than their last album from 2009 Armistice. While I wouldn't necessarily agree with that, I can understand why. There's some wonderful, epic tracks on this album. And they showed they can write music that's more heavily influenced by 70's classic rock and funk. Some of the fuzz guitar really grooves on this album. "Tell Your Heart Heads Up," "Quarantine," "Allies," and especially "Cavalaries" for example, have that great, badass groove.

The song "All or Nothing" is another standout, in that it starts out like one of their traditional ballads, but about 2:45-in this build starts on with what sounds like on a synthesizer, and it leads to this awesome climax.

This may ultimately become my favorite record of theirs (why I think I probably am underating it a bit at 32), and while I'd be surprised if I'll ever prefer their recorded music over their shows, this is definitely a sign of a band who hasn't tailed off in their songwriting. Now, they haven't made one of those perfect, epic, classic records yet, but at least they aren't a band I would soon dismiss based on this.

31. Hands of Despair - Hereafter
This is one of the best produced Metal albums I've ever heard. I'm not sure how, but I'd say this ranks up there with The River Empires, Kevin Gilbert and the last Soundscape album in amazement on the clarity and clean-tone that was able to be captured. So much so, I'm not sure I pay enough attention to the actual music itself.

But I did enough to appreciate this. Their vocals sound fantastic, some clean, some using deeper guttural growls really effectively. Some of the songs have nice quieter sections that segue well to the heavier parts. Many symphonic parts including synths (and mellotron perhaps?), blast beats, and forceful power chords all seem to work together with their vocals.

This is how Death Metal can work, or at least Death Metal with some doom and progressive elements being it's only 6 tracks, but all of which range between 7 and 11 or so minutes.. It's not over-the-top, but it's not generic. It's just well thought-out and precise. And it clearly is a band whose doing this music, to make good sounding music. If even a fraction of the hard rock and metal bands had this band's attention to detail, the production issues with so many albums would not factor in.

A really intense album, that at times is a mindfuck of ferocity.

Suggested: Creator, Shattered Memories