Monday, July 9, 2012

2012 Mid Season Index

This is hardly a perfectly accurate list, even right now. This year, like last year, has been filled with for me, many days/weeks with not enough time to take-in albums I before 2011 especially, would have.

In other words, I look to catch up on a lot of music over the next 5 months or so, not only in LISTENING, but BLOGGING.

The keyword is HOPE though, as my schedule with work and the relationship I'm in has really hampered my ability to really write as much and as often as I mean to in here. Will it change? I hope (again the keyword). But I guess I can only assume it won't greatly, save for me taking a day off from work every couple of months for writing, and writing only.

The listening part tho, I wish I could explain, but basically, when you do work that in order to do production like you need to, often all focus should be on the work, and not adding any music. It's the ole right-brain left-brain. My newest position, and the work I've done, especially this year, has required more right-brain work.

I mean there's literally, probably 30 or more albums, I have not heard I mean to, or have only heard once or twice and can't exactly justify ranking high. Even the list below, a few of them I've only listened to a couple of times.

I do the whole Albums Index every year, looking for the cream of the crop. The Apes & Androids and Kaddisfly's, and know, I should require to hear many albums that don't come close to those. But in those cases, it did require time and effort. Sure, reviews can help, but given my taste, I know it's possible (if not likely) I need to do the hunting myself in order to pull those albums in. And with my change in time priorities especially in the last 18 months, it's really not been quite the same as I'm used to.

Not to mention television (watching) and movie reviews.

However, at least I do have a week off coming up soon, which in the near time, should help.

I will say, there still are a lot of records to make their way into this mix, just to name a few:

Emanuel & the Fear, The Reign of Kindo, Archive, Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra, Vuvuzela, The Age of Rockets (maybe if it comes out), Annuals (if it gets released), The Book of Right On, Brice Plays Drums, Bloc Party, Minus the Bear, The River Empires (if it comes out).

So this below should likely be a fair amount different come December.

Rateyourmusic's 2012 Index list

Edit: Some parts of this list may be edited (or reposted) just in due time as I tend to do with the rym list.

1. Pepe Deluxé - Queen of the Wave. Awesome record that's as addictive for it's flow as for it's energy and length. So many moments I enjoy, from the catchy "Go Supersonic" to the riffy "Night and Day."

This album is like a retro-scifi soundtrack being recorded with modern mastering. It so perfectly captures how cool some of those vintage tones and sounds came out in the late 60's and early 70's. I just fall for the romantic element of it.

I pretty much enjoy every moment on it. It's one of those albums I love to continue to play on a weekly if not daily basis. My experience of it being a go-to record is reminiscent of many other Highly played/Ranked albums, or Albums of the Year. That's what I hope for and look for among other things in a top album. If I keep going back to it and enjoying it, likely as much if not more than when I 1st heard it.

I bought it on CD and Vinyl even.

And I'll retract 1 thing I said earlier this year with its chances to be an Album of the Year, being doubtful. I'd say that's long gone. Its chances are highly likely now, since I've played it so many times and still love it.

I know a lot of other folks haven't been wow-ed by it, or even liked it much, but so be it. Is it campy? maybe, but I don't care. I found it a bit cheesy at 1st. But the damn thing just works so well track to track.

The handful of singers, the layers, the influences, the energy, even the story. The last track "Riders on the First Ark" totally works to end its telling of a story of sorts, which I guess it's based on.

I think this is a record I'll be listening to for years, even if the band never makes another album. It reminds me of the evolution or culmination of time and changes in developing a sound that works.

2. Ne Obliviscaris - Portal of I. This is by default, better than more or less anything else I've heard this year. My initial impression of it was it almost sounded too much like Opeth, but after spending more time with it, I don't think it matters. The compositions, production, the use of violin of course adds a lot to the depth. It is a lengthly record being around 70 minutes, but it is definitely case of an album that flows well enough, the epic journey is more than worth the time it takes to get through it all. If I might compare it to another record, I'd say it has a lot of what I love from In Vain's classic debut album from 2007 The Latter Rain. You listen to this record and each song has those jaw-dropping moments that you always enjoy and look forward to. I think a great deal of how well it came out had to do with how long the band spent working on it, as of course all 3 of the songs on the Aurora Veil ep/demo are included and re-recorded and mastered.

3. Bend Sinister - Small Fame. I'll admit, I am cheating a bit here, having only heard this record 2-3 times via the stream online. It does drop this coming week anyway, and 3 of the tracks "On My Mind," "Give it a Rest," and "She Don't Give It Up" I have spent enough time with already before the online stream last week. But even with early impressions of the rest of it, I sense this is another record like their last album Stories of Brothers, Tales of Lovers where it is without a track to skip, and every song offers something to enjoy or look forward to.

"Quest for Love" I already sense is 1 of the best tunes they've ever written, very *epic* sort of in a Iron Maiden or Queen sort of way. " My Lady" "Don't You Know" "Hot Blooded Man" "Black Magic Woman" just re-scanning the track list and remembering, were some of the others that I'm already digging. Sound-wise it may not be a huge departure for the band, but the songwriting also isn't a departure, which is often all I hope for with an artist with their new album.

4. Gatherer - So Be It . A pleasant surprise coming from an endorsement from a native of down under, Kimbra. These guys have their own sound, which coming from the evolution of their sound from This City Sunrise, the band previous name. They know how to compose songs that incorporate harshness with beauty. Dynamics are a plenty. The drumming and vocal harmonies are among other parts which keep me going back to this album. Track-wise, the single "Regular Frontier" and "Thrive" may be the most accessible, although like a lot of great records, this one seems to have songs the more I hear them, the more I enjoy them, and notice new things about them to like.

5. House of Fools - Versus the Beast Consistently good throughout. It's been a long time coming for various reasons. I love Live and Learn, and while this is probably not quite as good an album as that, it is still more than good enough to have me going back to it and with each listening.

Will it help them catch-on like I always thought they could? I assume no. But that is status quo, save for they are still a band making music. I at least hope that can still happen.

Pretty much every track has something enjoyable. Specifically, the guitar solos, including some of House of Fools trademark southern-bluesy double (or triple even) solos, are perfectly placed and fit each song's mood. There's a bunch of them.

Song-wise, "Time" "Dogfight" and especially "Need to Be Free" stand out the most. Although, I'll admit the demo of "Need to Be Free" on Fresh Hot Shit, I may still prefer a little due to my love of fat, bubbly keys. But they added an interesting element by using a lot of vocal distortion. Some of the other songs that continue to grow for me include "Daylight," "Johnny Utah," "Another Place," "Oblivion," and "Pick or Choose."

here's the rest of my review on rym

6. Anathema - Weather Systems. I have enjoyed this album close to as much as their last proper record We're Here Because We're Here. Although admittedly, Anathema make rather melancholy music, that best works for the mood I desire, so often it doesn't become addictive right away.

But specifically, the moods, and the drum work are what I can say at this point, standing out. The "Untouchable" suite opening the album, and the closing piece "Internal Landscapes" are among the most memorable. Probably with the samples about the man claiming to experience dying I suppose helps.

This may end up higher than WHBWH due to my previous interest, hopes, etc for this record. Although I'm skeptical if I will find it better or even as good as its predecessor.

But with this album following WHBWH, Anathema have become one of the most interesting bands making college-prog of a sort today.

7. Ramona Falls - Prophet. "Spore" stands out as one of the best, most memorable tracks of 2012. I have that song in my head for hours after I hear it.

It couldn't be this galaxy is lifeless
I keep on searching for a sign Olly oxen free, my telescope is watching For any trace you leave behind"

"Take off the veil Let yourself be found. Ready or not, here-I-come."

That is the standout song on it, but I definitely find it shares in common with the 1st RF's record Intuit, not having a weak track. I suppose in a way, it's an album like that record, but includes 1 or 2 of the best songs Brent Knopf's ever written.

"Archimedes Plutonium," "Bodies of Water," "Brevony," "Proof," "Fingerhold," "If I Equals U," etc, all tracks that work here. I guess I enjoy some of the textures Brent used on this album, specifically the strings and keyboard patches.

Like House of Fools, I am pretty convinced the progressive rock scene will never latch on to them. For whatever reason, it just never happens. They're too college-rock sounding, or not technical enough, or something. But I suppose seeing it happen as often as I have, I've become accustomed to it and reminding myself and others of it in writing/talking about it. Maybe it'll become a fun sarcastic cliche? lol.

8. Lehto & Wright - November. Not as jaw-dropping as 2010's Children's Songs, but this still includes more than enough music to compare favorably with the rest of their extensive catalog. Even the Bob Marley and Bob Dylan covers, "Redemption Song" and "Tom Joad."

They didn't leave their proggy side either with the opening suite "The Humors of Tuaimgreine / RakishPadddy / The Callahan Stomp" along with the closing piece "Dominion of the Sword." Really nice dynamics and guitar work on both of those.

9. Josh Benash - The Dismal; The Beautiful

Pretty impressed how trippy, layered, experimental, yadayada, this album is. Not too surprising, given how outside the box a lot of Kiss Kiss's music is. But this definitely differs in enough good ways.

Lots of humor, and surreal parts are going to give me enough reason to go back to this a lot early in the year.

10 The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet

I am on board with this more than any record they've made since Frances. Some of the best vocal lines Cedric has ever come up with. The electronic element adds something, and the lack of clipping cymbals along with lack of repetitive-ness helps this one a lot.

11 Umbrella Tree - To the Memory of a Once Great Man

I enjoy a fair amount of this experimental electronic dark-pop. Nice saxophone, and an intriguing story. Nice blend of male and female vocals. I believe Timbre may have participated again with this.

This album actually was made thanks to a Kickstarter campaign which I was a supporter of. Enough so, the band thanked all those who put in enough for the Vinyl which it and a compact disc release I recall is expected sometime later this year.

12 Sucré - A Minor Bird

sublime, tasteful, very nice orchestral arrangements. "No Return" may be my favorite track, early on.

13 Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pandora's Piñata

14 Northern Abbey - Northern Abbey [EP]

Much in the vein of The River Empires. Sublime.

15 Forest Park - Forest Park [EP]

Terrific atmosphere. This is a side-project, I guess from some of the members of Portland, OR-based Chamber rock group Typhoon. After listening to this enough, I'm not sure if I don't like this more.

a 3-track, 24 or so minute EP.

16 Mercies - The Ballet[EP]


17 Memoryhouse - The Slideshow Effect

Like their debut EP, this is still dreamy and catchy. "The Kids Were Wrong" maybe the most accessible.

18 Crippled Black Phoenix - (Mankind) The Crafty Ape

Epic record, and not one I've been able to digest fully at this point. It doesn't stray all that much from their other albums, with the infectious blend of Ennio Morricone and Pink Floyd influences. With Floyd, the Meddle-era seems to be notice-able as much as any. I do still feel this band/project, which is related to, among others, Mogwai, has taken the baton from the likes of Clann Zú and Murder by Death in doing progressive rock of a sort that emphasizes country/western music effectively. Too bad those other two aren't anymore.

19 Rush - Clockwork Angels

a pleasant surprise.

20 Jazzkamikaze - The Return of JazzKamikaze

Pretty much back to their purely jazz/jazz-rock roots. Has not blown me away, but still enjoyable enough.