Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Album Index 50-41

50a. The Gloomcatcher - Starla Over the Fences [EP]

Jessy Ribordy's overflow project in the process of making music for The River Empires over the last couple of years. The debut LP from 2010 Slow Chorale I really enjoyed much of, and still find has not found quite the numbers from TRE and The Dear Hunter fans as I'd expect.

And this EP was I guess some material that he hadn't quite finished when Slow Chorale came out. Unfortunately, not many people talked about it or knew it was released this Summer. Although I did post some stuff about it, but in the grand scheme of things, 1 blog can only reach so many people, right?

Musically, it does share a lot with the Slow Chorale songs. The folky, dramatic, ironic lyrical style anyway. I'd say where it differs is primarily the use of keys, namely on the 1st 2 tracks "Junelight" and "Younger Wives." The other songs are more singer/songwriter, which hearing Jessy make those kind of tunes, I'm definitely more into than most typical singer/songwriters.

The concept behind it being about a Trial in the 1880's is not exactly mentioned in detail, but perhaps the lyrics are including more about the backgrounds of the people involved in the trial.

Overall, a good, solid EP, but I suppose The Gloomcatcher's potential is still unclear as there's a lot to like with this EP and Slow Chorale, but neither release has reached the addictive level of other great records. I guess depending on Jessy's schedule with The River Empires, Falling Up, and/or any other outside work, like scoring music for movies, The Gloomcatcher's future (or lack of sadly) may be based on.

Suggested: Younger Wives, Junelight, Horses

50b. Memoryhouse - The Years [EP]

This is technically the re-release/re-recording/re-mastering I guess of this Toronto based duo's debut EP from 2010. It includes a few new tracks as well. I guess the best thing to say about it is reminded me at times of a couple of groups I have adored. Warpaint, but maybe moreso, Kacica. The dreamy, ethereal, healing tone. And I'm a sucker for that trippy, sad, therapeutic music. I swear at least 3 or 4 times I listened to the tune "Modern, Normal" and thought I had been so mesmerized, I could have been somewhere else. Like astral-projection, something metaphysical, or having a dream and not realizing it.

And I'll credit Radio K for this one, as I heard them air songs off it a handful of times this Summer and Fall. Even though with the Radio K and P4K pimping, I'm still on board with this group. One of those (potential) rare hipster finds that are at least intriguing when they become visible. And their debut full-length is coming out on February 12, 2012 titled The Slideshow Effect. I guess we'll see if that ends up retaining their charm and special brand of hypnotic music.

One note about this though, as some people I know can't deal with drum machines, as I believe at least some of this does not include real drums. But their style of music actually doesn't seem to warrant much if any drums.

Suggested: Sleep Patterns, Modern, Normal

49. Opeth - Heritage

A polarizing record, and one that I can't say is even close to their best work. But I am not down about it really. It is what it is. And it's not Metal, which is not a big deal. But, it is more in the vein of Damnation, for me not to look at it like another band almost.

It really is Mikael getting to play Jethro Tull and King Crimson in some ways. Or Wolfmother for that matter. The 70's psychedelic (at times stoner) rock worship has been done by a number of other artists over the last 5 years especially. Some I found a waste of time (remember that band Astra?) to one-album wonders (Black Mountain) to some like Wolfmother, who don't try to reinvent any wheels.

And Opeth did not try to reinvent any wheels here. They just decided to make a retro-sounding record. And it worked for the most part. The songwriting is still good enough, and ear-worm worthy, namely "The Devil's Orchard" and "Slither."

Is this where Opeth is going? who knows. I do wonder if using the harsh-effect of growling on Mikael's voice all these years has led him to retire that trademark of his and the band's sound. Which may be sad, but understandable to me. But like some other records this year (that'll be in this years Index), this another case of the masses making too big a deal about what they expect from an artist with a large legacy they really have no responsibility to live up to.

So I'm just sitting back and not really expecting much. Much like 2008's Watershed, there's far too many who overreact and overrate things. Meanwhile, I just find other music to lean towards, and just enjoy this for what it is.

48. Jonas Bjerre - Songs and Music from the Movie Skyscraper

The 2nd release (or more?) in as many years from Mew singer/frontman Jonas Bjerre, outside of Mew. 2010's Apparatjik project, was a nice diversion and way to hear him sing in something similar, but slightly different than Mew. And this, I'd say also has that similar-to-Mew-but-not-exactly-Mew element as well.

This is a soundtrack to the Danish film Skyskraber (or "Skyscaper"), and the cinematic part of the music is evident. When I 1st heard it, I was rather impressed, almost to the point I wondered how addictive it might get. However, over some time, I guess a lot of the songs seem to blend, or have a similar melodic style. Some of that is just the vocals Jonas sings on here. And part of that likely is just what worked for the movie, which I'll admit, to not having seen.

But, it's a record that's enjoyable, and has enough moments like "There's a Cloud In My Brain" "The Story of a Would-be Traffic Light and "Waste It" that are dreamy, playful, calming like a lot of Mew's last record No More Stories, I still got enough from this recording. The interludes, instrumentals, and slower ballads I suspect involved much of the story, which I guess is a coming-of-age-story about a young man who faces challenges involving family, love, social anxiety among other things.

47. Pain of Salvation - Road Salt Two

This was a bit of a comeback record to me as I didn't expect a ton given how uninterested I was in 2010's Road Salt One. Although some of that could be how forgettable Road Salt One was, there was almost no chance this record would even be half as bad. So, I'd say it wasn't.

The 70's blues and psychedelic rock influence is here again of course, but with some nice flourishes and orchestral sections. "Healing Now," "To the Shoreline," "The Deeper Cut," "The Physics of Gridlock" all have their moments. Jazz-like drum work from Leo Margarit, to sweeping acoustic guitar. Even the previously released "Mortar Grind" has it's charm and memorability.

Is this a step in the right direction? I might say yes, but with Fredrik and Johan Hallgren now leaving, the bar is still rather low for what Pain of Salvation does next. That is the best way to avoid being burned I've found, and with this record even placing this year (as opposed to RS 1 not placing in 2010), it might say something about learning from experience. I just wonder if eventually I'll never expect Daniel to ever make anything resembling the style or quality of their "peak period" (Entropia through Remedy Lane) sadly. But its not like every band/artist even has a "peak period" in their history anyway.

The album cover features Campbell wearing a long black coat standing with an open guitar case to his right and an acoustic guitar to his right. Above him are the words "GLEN CAMPBELL / GHOST ON THE CANVAS" written in white.
46. Glen Campbell - Ghost on the Canvas

Much of this was very unexpected. Thanks to a caller named Tony on Used Bin Radio for suggesting this record to the hosts Brad and Joe, and then myself taking their recommendation. Some of this is orchestral, some of it is epic. Some of the melodies stay with you. It's not overwhelming, but it's also not really boring.

The title track may be the song you retain the most. But others like "A Thousand Lifetimes" "It's Your Amazing Grace" "In My Arms" and even some of the segues tracks and sections of songs, add to the charm of this album. Some great banjo, piano, and mix of slide, acoustic and electric guitar add to how well this record came out.

Bittersweet how the man has alzheimers, and how this could be his Swan song work. But I don't sense his condition hurt how well this record came out.

45. Canon Blue - Rumspringa

One week over the summer I noticed at KFAI we got a copy of this record. Around the same time, Radio K was playing the 1st track on their air "Chicago" quite frequently.

This band reminds me of a couple of other bands, namely Mutemath or even Paper Route.
It's that textured, loopy, almost-electronic style of poppy Rock they fall into. But they also include many chamber elements like horns and strings, almost like Sufjan Stevens. The songwriting is pretty consistent, which features rather precise drum work on nearly every song.

The songs are all named after different cities, almost entirely in the Upper Midwest. They are from Nashville I guess, so maybe that was mostly inspired from their time on tour. I'm not sure if there's any more to that being a concept of a sort, but for what it's worth, the record sounds pretty cohesive.

Suggested: Fading Colors (Bloomington), Indian Summer (Des Moines), Heavy Heart (Minneapolis A), Chicago (Chicago)

44. Trent Romens - Aware

This is the debut record from a new, young blues-rock/singer-songwriter from Minnesota. I just posted some stuff about this album a few weeks ago after purchasing a copy of this at a headlining show he did with The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra.

Like the show I saw, I guess I became unexpectedly surprised how much of the blues, and the guitar solos got my attention here. Blues rock often features those great solos, and when they work, they are really tasteful to me. Among the songs on here that do include those, the track "Loves Lost Cause" is probably go-to track 1st and foremost. I just can't help but turn my head when he goes into salsa-prog mode on that one.

Other songs on this record add to its flow and consistency such as "Fairy Tale" "Right Back Where I Started" "Key to the Highway" and "Going Down Slow" "I'm Sorry Sheriff.." Twang guitar, keyboards, vocal harmonies, and the less-is-more feeling I get from it, really impressed me. Given this is his 1st release, Trent Romens seems like he may have a bright future for fans to look forward to, locally in Minnesota or otherwise.

43. Gotye - Making Mirrors

"Somebody That I Used to Know" the song featuring Kimbra, probably has been and still is the best song I've heard all year. At least the most memorable and addictive. And after a ton of buzz in Gotye's native Australia this Summer, it seems the last few months, it's finally reaching the audience it warrants. The video being as visually noteworthy, in a Peter Gabriel-esque way also has helped.

And this record should finally be released in the US in 2012, which probably will get his name out there even more. Although whether the interest in Gotye's new album will go far beyond that specific song is unclear. But for myself, this record does go beyond that tune.

"Easy Way Out" reminds me of The Beatles "Daytripper" for some reason. "State of the Art" uses what sounds like vocoder and some other voice-effects, pretty well, even as it can sound a little silly at times. That song also features some samples, which having listened to his previous record Like Drawing Blood, is one part of his music I really enjoy..

"Eyes Wide Open" almost sounds New Wave-ish. "Smoke and Mirrors" is another one that has a vibe that I retain, with it's moody, mystical element. "I Feel Better" almost sounds like it could have been written in the 60's, and is a rather uplifting power-pop-ish tune. "In Your Light" is rather percussive and almost tribal sounding, but also including horns.

The only thing I guess hurt this record is there's like 3 or 4 tunes, specifically towards the end, that are more or less forgettable. Because along with it's hit, this record has a lot of meat to it, that it probably could've warranted placing a fair amount higher. But perhaps being attached to Kimbra's record and his previous one hurt the way I saw this, and how addictive it was. However, I wouldn't be surprised if I end up listening to it more in the coming years still.

42. Marketa Irglova - Anar

The female presence of the duo The Swell Season. The globe got to know her when the 2007 movie Once came out, and then the following Movie Awards season saw them nominated and win at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and Independent Spirit Awards for the song "Falling Slowly."

And I've enjoyed seeing her live with The Swell Season, and their recorded music. But this is the 1st music I've heard from Marketa on her own. And some of this reminded me how much I love her voice on some of the TSS songs she's featured on.

Even though, many of her vocal parts don't vary here, there's a wonderful, almost melancholy element to this whole record. She has a subtle, touching soul to her voice, vocal harmonies, along with much of the instrumentation including strings and piano, I got sucked in to really enjoying this album, probably more than I expected.

And I now feel even worse not seeing the new The Swell Season documentary, along with missing her show at The Cedar Cultural Center on Black Friday (I went to see Rush Heads in Eau Claire, WI instead).

Suggested: Crossroads, Go Back

41. What's Left of Her - Perceptions

Technically, this is a 2010 album, given it was 1st made available from the band back in November. But as in this blog's history, I wasn't introduced to it or the band until early this year. And given the late point it was released last year, it qualifies for 2011.

In re-reading my comments earlier this year, their sound could be described as "progressive deathcore." Which most deathcore, I don't care for. But the way they use keys, including at times in a video-game toned/style, seems to allow them and this album to stand out. I also noted how the flow of this record was/is a reason I kept going back to it. Great energy, and lacking in dead spots. Along with very little to no issues with the cymbals clipping that I recall , I found myself going back to this album many times early in 2011.
(although streaming on youtube might not be the best way to tell, edit: yeah, the free mp3 zip on their facebook sounds VASTLY BETTER than the streams on youtube)

Along with Painted in Exile and a few others, this is one band who does hold some reason to still pay attention to the 'core styles of Extreme Metal.

Suggested: : A New Aesthetic, Oceans, Needlework, When I Was Human