Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 Albums Rankings Artwork/Comments/Links Part 1

Ok the podcast idea may have to put on hold as I started to do it the other night and my pc starting freezin up. However, that could have been due to many other factors including some spyware I hopefully ridded my pc of.

This is a write-up of the top 10. I will try and do a few more of these; but the difference I hope will be not as much time/length given to all 100+..I'll have to wing it I suppose.

1. Apes and Androids - Blood Moon

I love this album. The concept just sucked-me-in. The themes, melodies, creative arrangements among other things forced me to go back to it. Like Kaddisfly's "Set Sail the Prairie" this album spoke to me in many ways. It was one that I went back to whenever I needed an uplifting feeling, or an escape. I loved how it gave me this feeling of watching an 80's Scifi story. Emotional depth. For example the chorus that opens "Nights of the Week"..the guitar tone is such a goosebump moment.

It's also not to be overlooked how becoming a fan of this band, it opened me to discover other so-called experimental electro power-pop and related groups. Not the Elephant 6 bands, but the Matt Mahaffey stuff like Self and Wired All Wrong, and of course Brian Jacobs and David Tobias previous band Call Florence Pow.

The whole thing is greater than the sum of it's parts, so to suggest 1 or 2 songs wouldn't be the most effective opportunity to enjoy this. But to name a handful of the tracks: Riverside (1 of the most uplifting songs of 2008.."Nothing's Wrong"), Hot Kathy, Make Forever Last Forever, Johnny and Sarah (maybe my current favorite. It reminds me of a story about a Bonnie and Clyde couple, and the guitar solo just rules), We Don't Understand You ("Put Your Hands Up"), Radio, Sweetest Little Thing (one of the bigger growers), Golden Prize ("I don't think you know what girl's from the Midwest are all about")

Evidenced by the fact after 100 or more times playing the thing, I still am learning plenty of new things about it; the concept/story or even just understanding lyrics (for the better or worse).

This will be an album I will likely go back to again and again. My biggest curiousity is how they follow it up. They wrote it mostly in 2006 and 2007 I guess, and the 2 songs I've heard by them "Creepy Girls" and "Endless Dream" are of the quality of the work on BM. Jacobs and Tobias are impressive enough songwriters, I could see their next work being even better.

2. Burst - Lazarus Bird

A breakthrough record. I found myself being more surprised how much I enjoyed this record time after time. "Cripple God" has that great melodic section "I will..carry...I will carry youuuu...." and "We Watched the Silver Rain" with it's incredible rhythm. The melodies are so rich and cemented into your brain after you listen to this. It was the Metal release of the year. As a result, I may find my interest in a group like Mastodon to go up.

3. Ours - Mercy...(Dancing for the Death of an Imaginary Enemy)

I love this band, but after 6+ years of waiting for this (myself, admittedly about 3 since I became a fan during the Summer of '05), my expectations and excitement for this album was not what it would have been. But it managed to surprise me how polished every song was on here, that many of them seemed to have new life. "Worst things Beautiful" I love the catchiness too. Like U2 at their most catchy. "Willing," "Saint"..that one turned out a lot better than I expected. Contrary to many fans, the live version I had known never blew me away. "Ran Away to Tell the World" grew on me a lot. "Live Again" "Mercy" "Murder".."Get Up." It certainly was an album that didn't lack depth. I guess that's part of why it stood out.

I still doubt if it'll become the staple album their (10-years-in-the-making) debut record "Distorted Lullabies" is for me, but it does prove how Ours are a band who manages to record quality records. Maybe best, now that Jimmy Gnecco has announced the major label situation is over, the lack of studio catalog the group has had will not exist. 2009 another Ours record is expected, along with an acoustic solo album and a sideproject with April Bauer as well. Neverending White Lights perhaps too. Makeup for time lost given the fact he/Ours has dozens of unrecorded songs that didn't end up on this record. If he puts out more work like "Mercy" I will not be a disappointed Ours fan.

4. Mutyumu - Il y a

This was the record out of leftfield. The 2nd LP from this Japanese group. Vocals all in Japanese, in a subtle opera-style. I guess the strings and especially piano phrases just get me every time here. The emotional depth is echoed throughout this album.

Highlights: Kaenchō, Inori [prayer] are two of them. But I think like every record in the top 10, this is an album you put on and just enjoy the whole ride. Classical, Ambient, Jazz, hints of Hardcore. It's just a wonderful blending of styles with impressively written compositions.

I just wish I could somehow track down an affordable copy of this or their Self-titled debut cd. Maybe I'll find my way to Japan someday and a copy will be there to purchase. Or instead, they manage to get some import vendor to lower distribution costs to the Western Continents. Because I would call them somewhat of a brilliant secret. Maybe not for that much longer.

5. The Stiletto Formal - !Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta!

The energy on this record is perhaps my favorite part. The 1st 6 tracks had me going back to it a number of times over the last few months. The title track, and "We Are All Muckrakers" maybe being 2 of the best songs. I love the post-rock guitar over the hip-hop narrative on the title song. I won't deny the fact at 1st the Mars Volta similarities were unignorable. Like Portugal the Man. Except their singer wasn't singing as high as Cedric Bixler for one, and the fact they combined a much better melodic sense along with Violin and Cello, that it didn't matter. So in other words, energy, melodic sense, and strings pulled me in. And the whole record over time just got better. I dig Kiss Kiss and Murder By Death (1st 2 albums w/ out the Johnny Cash vox and with the Piano); and this band included a lot of elements that I love about those 2 (mainly the strings to be honest).

A step-up from their 2 EPs which I need to play more, but I don't recall enjoying quite as much. I expect to play this album a lot in the future.

6. Marillion - Happiness is the Road

It was totally free to download, and I decided to pass on the $40 pre-order deal after the less-than-impressive value for that with "Somewhere Else." But they are my favorite band still. This album was a lot to take in, and I honestly am still digesting a lot of it. The fact it was 2 full discs, 1 being "Essence" and the other "The Hard Shoulder"..as-a-whole it gives me reason to want to hear both albums back-2-back. The reason for that is due to the fact I enjoy both discs about equally. They both have many great Marillion-moments. And they also both contain much of the style/sound of this album. Wall-of-sound or ambient passages, that unlike some groups including Porcupine Tree, can often drag and bore me. But the slower sections on here, don't go on so long that I fall asleep. I suppose I would say they are worth getting through for the big moments. In fact, over some time, "Somewhere Else" I would claim the same about.

Among my favorites..

ESSENCE: "Trap the Spark," "A State of Mind," "Happiness Is the Road," "Half Empty Jam," (Ian Moseley does his best Neil Peart impersonation towards the end).

THE HARD SHOULDER: "Thunder Fly" "The Man From the Planet Marzipan" "Asylum Satellite #1" "Whatever Is Wrong with You" "Real Tears for Sale" (I always think of "The Last Straw" with this..big goosebumps)

This may not be a top 10 decade contender "Marbles" is. And it also could be one of their last records at least for awhile if not ever. But if that is the case, I can't deny that the boys finished on a big note.

Now only if they could manage to tour the States again without losing $..maybe someday. A tour with Porcupine Tree or on Progressive Nation perhaps?..we'll see. The Fan Weekend in Montreal, sadly I don't have $1200 to invest in right now.

7. Bend Sinister - Stories of Brothers, Tales of Lovers

I was very excited for this after loving their debut "Through the Broken City." Definitely one of the most addictive debut discs for me over the last couple of years. And that album had a ton of riffs and hooks that I loved. Crescendos that totally worked for me.

This album is a concept album, much like BROKEN CITY, but didn't catch my ear as much right out of the gate. However, it has grown a lot on me. Another one that fits in "greater than the sum of it's parts." Very thematic, and classic rock-sounding. best listened to all-at-once. Over some play I concluded it's for the better that it wasn't exactly about the individual song, but more about getting swallowed-up by the ideas and styles. To give a few highlights: "Give Into the Night" "Dr.Lee" "Jimmy Brown" "The News" and "Demise" is probably the one piece that had a build-up like some of the epic tracks on "Broken City." Overall though, I enjoyed this more and more and it probably has grown close to the same level of their debut record. The *progressive* tag still fits them for the fact it's quality, but not the same thing. I just still wish more people knew about them and they could manage to tour America.

8. Sculptured - Embodiment: Collapsing Under the Weight of God

The early leader. Folky progressive death metal project from Don Anderson of Agalloch. I love how this is less-is-more and how this is how progressive rock and heavy metal can work without an overly self-indulgence. The artwork even kicks ass. The title track is a 10 minute emotional build-up. The conclusion has this fading guitar melody over some sound samples from the David Cronenberg short film "Camera" about a man who has a dream he describes the experience aging rapidly from seeing a movie in a movie theater and waking up "terrfied" and aged.

Not a record I would say everyone will love (mainly due to it's methodical pace and the vocal style being slightly black-metal, but not in-your-face or anything), but for fans of Agalloch or progressive metal that isn't too Dream Theater-ish, this really worked. Less is in fact more on here. Like Agalloch or Subterranean Masquerade, the atmosphere and epic quality they create really won me over.

9. Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer

Total grower. I think these guys fall into the category of Indie-band-i-never-expected-to-like-that-would-never-have-progressive-rock-in-their-sound-but surprisingly-do. The Decemberists, The New Pornographers, Midlake, Cloud Cult and a handful of others as well. There is this great, subtle epic quality in their music. Many songs seem kinda meh..but then they go into sections I just love. They rock out. Maybe it's how they arrange the keys and piano, I dunno. Their singer is nothing special; in fact on paper I'd call him slightly annoying, but like death metal vocals I suppose, over some time his voice grows on you. And the music is so damn good, it doesn't matter.

No this is one the Indie crowd got right. My favorite pieces perhaps are "California Dreamer" "Kissing the Beehive" and "Call It a Ritual" ..but again, I'd rather play the whole thing. I'm not as certain about their debut LP from a couple of years ago. But this record works really well start to finish.

10. Cloud Cult - Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)

Finally a band from Minnesota pops into my radar and makes an album I grow to really enjoy. Finally a MN band is tapping into prog rock, that I like and know. I've known their name for many years, but always associated them to be 1 of a ton of "alt" bands that community champions that I can't stomach. Hardly here. These guys use strings well, and have a great energy and emotional element throughout this album.

Definitely an exception within the Pitchfork's playlist (and light years better than flavor-of-the-year Fleet Foxes). "Everybody Here Is a Cloud" is the one 89.3 played a ton of, and it is a radio-worthy song. However, pretty much every track on here works well and could work on the air.

The only thing I suppose I could say is, it never blew me away entirely. It was consistent, but not classic. But given it is without any songs or elements I'd skip, it managed to make the top 10.

11. King's X - XV
12. Woven - Designer Codes
13. Protest the Hero - Fortress
14. The Gutter Twins - Saturnalia
15. Demians - Building an Empire
16. Amanda Palmer - Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
17. Margot and the Nuclear So and So's - Not Animal
18. Margot and the Nuclear So and So's - Animal!
19. Adebisi Shank - This is the Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank
20. Arsis - We Are the Nightmare
21. Annuals - Such Fun
22. The Stills - Oceans Will Rise
23. East of the Wall - Farmer's Almanac
24. She Said Destroy - The City Speaks in Tongues
25. Agalloch - The White (EP)
26. Anathallo - Canopy Glow
27. Gojira - The Way of All Flesh
28. Exotic Animal Petting Zoo - I Have Made My Bed In Darkness
29. Jeremy Messersmith - The Silver City
30. God is an Astronaut - God is an Astronaut
31. The Reign of Kindo - Rhythm, Chord, & Melody
32. Bloc Party - Intimacy
33. Black Mountain - In the Future
34. Hills Like White Elephants
35. Eluveitie - Slania
36. Mason Proper - Olly Oxen Free
37. Distrails - Virginia Creeper (EP)
38. Gloria Morti - Eryx
39. Big Fresh - Big Fresh Forever
40. Panic at the Disco - Pretty Odd
41. Opeth - Watershed
42. Ebu Gogo - Worlds
43. Russian Circles - Station
44. The Faceless - Planetary Duality
45. Steven Wilson - Insurgentes
46. Darla Farmer - Rewiring the Electric Forest
47. The Mars Volta - The Bedlam in Goliath
48. Brendan Canning - Something for All of Us...
49. The Big Sleep - Sleep Forever
50. Foals - Antidotes
51. Paper Route - All We Are Forgotten
52. Damiera - Quiet Mouth, Loud Hands
53. Genghis Tron - Board Up the House
54. The Jealous Girlfriends
55. Textures - Silhouettes
56. Klimt 1918 - Just in Case We'll Never Meet Again (Soundtrack for the Cassette Generation)
57. Opus Dai - Touch the Sun
58. Skeletons - Money
59. The Atomic Bomb Audition - Light Will Remain
60. Deerhoof - Offend Maggie
61. The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead
62. !Forward, Russia - Life Processes
63. dEUS - Vantage Point
64. Brain Drill - Apocalyptic Feasting
65. Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires
66. Nomia - Nomia (EP)
67. Roger Joseph Manning Jr - Catnip Dynamite
68. Sigur Ros - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
69. The Arusha Accord - Nightmares of the Ocean (EP)
70. Coldplay - Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
71. Other Lives - Other Lives (EP)
72. Go-Neko! - Una Especie de Mutante
73. Andy Dixon - The Mice of Mt. Career
74. Metallica - Death Magnetic
75. Lehto and Wright - Between the Jigs and the Reels
76. Big Blue Ball - Big Blue Ball
77. Jenny Dalton - Rusalka's Umbrella
78. The Alps - III
79. Enslaved - Vertebrae
80. The Alps - Something I Might Regret
81. Tangled Thoughts of Leaving - Tiny Fragments (EP)
82. Pitchblend - Lines of Unreason
83. Braintoy - Vehicles
84. Blowing Trees - Blowing Trees
85. Shiny Toy Guns - Season of Poison
86. Radius System - Escape / Restart
87. Hate - Morphosis
88. Hieronymus Bosch - Equivoke
89. Eaten by Tigers - Solstice (EP)
90. Sleepin Pillow - Apples on an Orange Tree
91. The Dresden Dolls - No, Virginia
92. Hiromi Uehara - Beyond Standard
93. Janus - Red Right Turn
94. Mt.Helium - Faces
95. Fleet Foxes - Sun Giant (EP)
96. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
97. Evangelicals - The Evening Descends
98. National Bank - Come on Over to the Other Side
99. Cynic - Traced in Air
100. The Deer Tracks - Aurora
101. Tiger Lou - A Partial Print
102. Brian Wilson - That Lucky Old Sun
103. Black Milk - Tronic

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