Saturday, December 1, 2012

2012 Album Index: under ****'s

Black Ribbons | Neurmancer
My order which was made on October 30th, has still not arrived. Incomplete right now as I haven't heard it. An Edit may come soon.

Felonious Bosch | Phenomena
Incomplete right now as I haven't heard it. An Edit may come soon.

Andre Matos | The Turn of the Lights
The 1st 5 tracks or so on this record, is more or less par for the course for Andre. Melodic Power Metal focusing on the songs, with the occasional technical or progressive part. For some reason, from the 6th Track "On Your Own" through the end of the album, he starts to experiment a bit more, and thus I enjoy that part of this record more than the 1st half. Especially the 8th track "Oversoul" works wonderfully. About midway through, there's this cool jazzy section, and if I'm not mistaken, the outro has this guitar work that reminds me of John Petrucci. Tasteful yet still technical.

Andre, while he may not have the vocal range he once did, and overall, may not be as progressive or ethnic sounding with his style of Power/Prog Metal, still is a better singer and somewhat better songwriter than more or less every other songwriter making said style of music now.

I was thinking though, it would be nice for him and the original guitarists of Angra, Rafael Bittencourt and Kiko Loureiro to let by-gons be by-gons and try and work together again. The Matos Angra was a special band, and had a special chemistry. It is kind of a shame, how distant Andre has become from those guys from what I know. Hearing "Sometimes," the closing track on this album, reminded me of my love of that stuff, as what that song really is, is a re-recording of the Angra track "Wings of Reality." One of my favorites off the Fireworks album from 1998.

Edit coming later today

Early Ghost | Cadaques
The title track stands out the most, in the alternative Spaghetti western element. I guess I enjoyed this album for what it was, but it sort only went into mood music territory after playing it a few times. Their EPs seemed to have more meaty songs that gave me intrigue about them. But, I just lacked the interest to play this a lot, as many of the songs, the best parts may seem hidden. Perhaps, it'll grow down the road.

Without a Net Cover Art
The Bewitched | Without a Net
I was really happy for Mary and Eric to finally release their 1st full-length album. And I enjoy it, mostly for the right mellow, subdued mood. "Small World" and "Another Day, Another Life" did both translate well on record, from remembering them live. And the rest of the album, at times stayed with me. But I suppose given their hypnotic/trancey approach to acoustic music, including a middle eastern element, I just save for those times I am up for hearing that kind of stuff. I also think, getting to see them live again may force me to put this one on again. Hopefully that will come soon, as it seems like it's been ages since I've seen them, and I miss their shows. The 1 cd release show this past summer at The Amsterdam Bar, I should have gone to, and regret in some ways. But I ended up having a conflict at the last minute.

Exotic Animal Petting Zoo - Tree of Tongues CD Cover Art

Exotic Animal Petting Zoo | Tree of Tongues
I enjoyed much of this, maybe more than I expected, the few times I put it on. The screaming, the jury is out on a bit for this album. Maybe my interest in Gatherer/This City Sunrise helped that. But how great this album is, or goes for me, is still unclear. I do recall some of the guitar-work being freakishly good at times.

Chrome Canyon - Elemental Themes
Chrome Canyon | Elemental Themes
Morgan Z, from Apes and Androids (live), new project. It was labeled progressive-ambient I recall on 1 site. And it was released on Mayer Hawthorne's old record label, Stone Throws.

It's an epic journey, but in some ways, it took more for me to get through than I hoped for. Although, at times, those are the kind of records that work with more time. And I only played this 2 or 3 times. And I do remember enjoying many moments. Some of the voice effects, over the wall-of-sound synths were interesting. I even recall some humor in spots, which maybe that came from his time with A&A's?

I think this is a mood record, that might become brilliant for what it is with more time. Almost like Tangerine Dream. I recall another description giving it the space rock tag, although not exactly fast/energetic space rock primarily. More in the a ton of layering, space rock.

The jury is still a little bit on the fence, and I truly do want to love this, as the guy likely enjoys music I do, and anyone associated with A&A's I want to go to bat for. But for now, it goes under mood music that could have some growing.

Hung - Hung (2012)
Hung | Hung
An edit may come soon.

File:Jessie Ware Devotion.jpg
Jessie Ware | Devotion
A fella at the Menomena show suggested this British singer/songwriter's debut record to me. Mentioning Janelle Monae among some others. And I did hear some Janelle-like moments, although more subdued on many tracks. But there were I'd guess 3 or 4 numbers, namely in the 2nd half, that impressed me enough, to say I liked this.

I think the Janelle comparison is slight.

edit: "Running" is definitely 1 of the tracks I am remembering. Haunting tune, but she extends herself in the soulful way, like Kimbra or Janelle.

Overall though, this is a bit like Scott Matthews. Good, but I'm hoping there's more to come, especially more energy and someone mentioned production issues, which in some ways makes sense as this album seems just a little sleepy to really grab me at the level it could.

The Beach Boys | That's Why God Made the Radio
I honestly checked this out, and was charmed by it, especially the title track. And then never ended up going back to it. Why? time, motivation, and other factors. Also now, the fact Mike Love kicked Brian Wilson and Al Jardean out of the band recently, kind of hurts my interest to put it on again, at least for now.

File:The Afterman Ascension album cover.jpg
Coheed and Cambria | The Afterman: Ascension
This is a short record, even though it's the 1st part, of a 2-part "The Afterman" story/series. The "Descension" coming early in 2013.

I'm going to be as short and sweet about this. It's better than Year of the Black Rainbow (although that didn't take much). And the music on it, overall is pretty good, approaching some of the levels of Good Apollo 1 and In Keeping Secrets.

But the narrative bits and SWALLOWING from them and Claudio I recall, KILLED THIS. It really did. This sort of goes with the Emanuel & the Fear issues.

It kind of sucks, as I was starting to believe a lot of the glaring comments about it. The "Entity Extraction" movements do have some amazing moments on them. But swallowing and the narrative stuff just bugged the fuck out of me, I couldn't go back to it after 2 or 3 times. I guess when the 2nd part comes out next year, maybe I'll try and give it another go, perhaps with the volume lower, but I can't say I expect those issues to go away.

Unlike The Mars Volta, even when they fixed the problems of their last couple of albums, they brought new problems that negated the elimination of the old ones.

Alcest | Les voyages de l'âme
I honestly listened to this once, liked how it sounded a fair amount like a heavier Klimt 1918, and never got around to revisiting it. I may go back and love it eventually, but for now, it's just another good album I didn't find enough time for to love.

File:Muse 2nd law.jpg
Muse | The 2nd Law
The comments, and initial videos with the dubstep and olympic song just made me think the band took an even deeper nose dive. But, actually, they didn't quite. I like about half this album, and the best tracks, are pretty damn good in fact. There's a few sort of okay songs, and definitely some I skip. But I'm not gonna write them off, nor lie about how bad this album is, how pretentious they are, how they are selling out for another trend. The dubstep, was only really on part of the 1 song. "Unsustainable" which is the 2nd to last track on the record. It was almost like the Mike Portnoy growling vocals on Dream Theater's Black Clouds and Siliver Linings, (or the Prince ripoff with "Supermassive Black Hole" on Black Holes and Revelations). It was barely even present, yet people made it seem like they recorded the entire record to sell out to try and be late to the (awful) dubstep trend.

No, this record, I guess just running down the track list, the following songs work for me:
Animals (love the subtle crescendo in this one)
Save Me (nice ballad with vocals by Chris, their bass player)
Big Freeze (catchy)
Panic Station (it's pretty, despite it sounding like INXS)
Follow Me (the heavy synths work, and it builds well)
Liquid State (heavy groove with Chris their bass player also singing on)
Isolated System (the closing track, that is just piano with some sound clips and some other layers. It gives the story/theme of this album sort of a cinematic close).

So, that's what, 7 tracks out of 13, not too bad. I'd be lying if I even felt this album was worse than The Resistance.

The Royal Veil Cover Art
The Royal Veil | The Royal Veil [EP]
The debut EP from this new heavy progressive/psych band from my hometown. I kind of liken their influences, if not much of their sound, combining music from artists like Tool, The Mars Volta and Pink Floyd. Of the 4 tracks (or 4 + 1 hidden) on this EP, the part that stands out most is the last instrumental epic "Trip" which definitely has a lot of shifting moods and time changes, along with dynamics, and textures. The rest of this record, is decent, including their singer, who has his share of range. I guess the other thing to keep in mind is, they have a debut record I shall be posting about soon, coming early in 2013 titled King of the Ocean. Which is among my most anticipated albums from Minnesota, and debut albums in general.

Oedipus | Vicious Little Smile
After a few EPs that followed a nice heavy, catchy, groovey college-prog debut record in Humbility from 2004 (or 2005?). This album, I think it's clear they decided to emphasize the catchy, energetic side more than any other. This really is a band who are power-pop in a lot of ways. They just use heavier guitars than say The New Pornographers.

It's a consistent record from track to track, with not too many amazing showstopping songs that overshadow others. But to point out a few of the ones I like the most:
Tres Las, Kiss on the Fist, Gimme a Chance, Perfect Strangers, Burn it Down and Lizzy.

Flying Colors | Flying Colors
Mike Portnoy, Steve Morse, Neal Morse, Dave LaRue and Casey McPherson. Yeah, supergroup, doing pop-oriented songs, sorta, kinda, maybe on some of it. I think my friend That Drummer Guy pointed out something that seems to be more or less unavoidable with anything Neal Morse sings on, and even plays on (which in most cases, are the same). Whatever music Neal Morse does tends to sound more or less like his other work.

This being no exception. And I am a fan of Neal's, at least when he's not singing about Jesus. And of course Casey McPherson does the majority of the lead vocals on this anyway, which I still stand by his Nick D'Virgilio vocal similarities. Which ironically, I ended up getting into Casey's band Alpha Rev as well, and I'd say I like their last album New Morning, overall a little more than this album.

The thing about this album is, I was hoping it would capture what I loved about Jellyfish and especially Kevin Gilbert, and I really didn't get too reminded of those bands by it. It really, more sounded like a mixed bag and slightly stripped down version of Transatlantic, if NDV was singing lead vocals. And while I love TA, it just ended up being somewhat unmemorable. I mean, there are some moments like on "The Storm," "Kayla," "Infinite Fire," and "Blue Ocean,"  that I do enjoy. And the rest of the record, nothing was awful (including the Portnoy sang ballad 'Fool in My Heart" which the comments about the song and his vocals on the song were polarizing in a lot of ways. And I guess it wasn't even his song/or idea to sing on the song in the first place).

But, this is certainly a band to watch, and even see live if by some odd circumstance, they did a tour that had enough dates to come to Minneapolis. And what they may do next is worth keeping tabs on, certainly. However, this album I just found to be okay, and didn't love like I thought the potential was enormous for me to. Ironically, this blog seems to find a wealth of hits about this specific project, I assume pretty much due to the fact someone linked my initial entries about it on both Flying Colors and Mike Portnoy's Wikipedia page. So, based on the traffic, you'd think I was obsessed with this album and band, when that was far from the case this year.

Did I enjoy this more than Mike Portnoy's other 2012 new band debut album, Adrenaline Mob's Omerta? uh, yeah, you could say so, lol. And as far as what he does next, I guess his plans in 2013, are more new projects, namely the Ritchie Kotzen + Billy Sheehan Classic Hard Rock-oriented thing, that should be worth looking forward to. Another maybe Transatlantic record, and perhaps something else from some of his other projects (PSMS: Billy Sheehan, Derek Sherinian, Tony McCalpine).

EP Cover Art
British Theatre | British Theatre [EP]
The 1st of 2 EPs, that Mike Vennart and The Gambler who created this group out of the ashes of the late Oceansize. This EP, from memory, was rather ambient. A bit like Oceansize's Home & Minor EP. I remember enjoying it, but it not staying with me greatly. Especially comparing it to the EP that followed later in the year. At this moment, I'm not going to give much in terms of specifics, but I guess for those unfamiliar, I'd check this out 2nd, instead of 1st. Also, consider this group was talking of a full-length as well, which likely will come early in 2013. This EP may be considered like a demo of sorts down the road. But I wouldn't say it's never worth playing again.

Bend Sinister | On My Mind [EP]
The EP that was a mix, but some of which were included a few months later on Small Fame, "Give It a Rest" and "Got You On My Mind.". "I'm the One Leaving You" "Please Say" and "The Road Divided" also carry the Bend Sinister sound, and their current element of emphasizing the pop/power pop and classic rock vibe in some ways.

I guess where this EP differs a bit from Small Fame, is maybe other than a little of "The Road Divided" it doesn't have as much of the little twists and things that many of the Small Fame tracks do. But as a b-sides and sampler for the band in the present state, it is pretty good.

Minus the Bear | Infinity Overhead
After 2010's Omni, and liking about 3 or maybe 4 tracks on that album, I just have lowered the bar for this band. And as a result, I don't mind this album. It's more of the synthy-poppy with little mathy/proggy bits thrown in some of the songs.

Some people hated this album since it was like Omni, some like me thought it was a little better than Omni. And some loved it. I remember liking some tracks, "Diamond Lightning" I recall and "Lonely Gun" (and it's energy, twists and the saxophone namely). among a few others. I mainly just remember thinking, uh, that wasn't so bad, after playing it the 1st couple of times. I suppose it's sort of captured a percentage of what I loved about Planet of Ice, but given the way they are, another PoI seems unlikely. But this still is enjoyable enough.

Agalloch | Faustian Echoes [EP]
I adore 2008's The White EP, so much so, I'm kind of depressed it's out of print. Maybe at some point it'll get reissued again. So the bar was kind of high for another EP. And while this is much different than that EP, it does share Agalloch's great use of soundclips from film.

It's one 20 minute song, that musically, the 2nd half/last 10 minutes, are better and worth the buildup to. The 1st 10 minutes are mixing sound-clips, atmosphere, and their Black Metal vocal styling of shrieks, moans and chants. The sound bytes I honestly didn't do research to get an idea of where they came from (like The White EP use of clips from The Wicker Man).

But just guessing, the audio sounds like it may be from some horror movie about Lucifer. Which I suppose story-dialogue wise, doesn't bring me as much as The Wicker Man clips. But, I am finding the more I listen to this, the more the sound bytes bring to the table.

I'm not sure, but with more time, I may grow to love this more than initially am now. Because this band know how to capture that emotion really well, especially with the right mood. Sort of like how The White EP seems to work wonders of sadness/melancholy for me on Friday afternoons in the Fall and Winter.

Perhaps Faustian Echoes will find a perfect timing for me as well down the road.

Spawn of Possession | Incurso
Well, among the Metal records that came out in 2012, not that many of them really stood out to me. A few did, but many of them just didn't do much, or impress me as much as I hope. I think some of that has to do with my mood for Metal, and also how much Metal there is to check out. I'm not the Metalhead some are, and thus, the quantity my Metal diet requires, especially in recent years and with less time in general for music, my Metal consumption has frankly, been reduced.

That all being said, Spawn of Possession are one of the best technical death metal bands historically. This record was praised by plenty. I understood why to a point, as the production and performances are among the best of their career, and that I've heard in recent years. But, my reduced interest in tech/death just didn't lead me to listen to it that much.

What I can conclude though, is if I'm looking for some technical metal right now to play, I may go to something like Brain Drill, or East of the Wall's album The Apologist from 2011. But I also may just keep this one in mind as well.

Jazzkamikaze | The Return of JazzKamikaze
I loved 2010's Supersonic Revolutions, so much so, I kind of expected something in the same vein here. But my lack of hearing their back catalog much, led me to understand why the title is what it is, and how SR was sort of a 1-album experiment.

I guess the band Mogwai did that as well, by having a singer on 1 album, and then realizing they were best as an instrumental group. IQ made a Punk Record in the 80's, etc. 1-album style changes are not new.

This record, is pretty much Jazz and subdued jazz of sorts. It's stripped down. They do use a lot of sax of course, like their past work. But the big production and heavier riffs are less present.

I guess I'm not crushed by the style *return*, and I have grown to like some of their earlier, all-instrumental jazz/jazz rock albums. Traveling at the Speed of Sound from 2007 namely. But to be honest, compared to a few of the other 2012 jazz-oriented records, I didn't give this one as much time. I have been on a recent Jazz kick of late, so I may revisit this soon just to see if may go any further.

But for now, it's decent for what it is, but middle of the pack for Jazz-related 2012 records even.

Moonloop | Deeply From the Earth
A late addition thanks to That Drummer Guy's list. I have enjoyed this for it's ability to capture the mid-period Opeth, and make it maybe a bit more psychedelic.But I can't say a ton more about it, given how new and lack of time with it. But for some reason, among many on TDG's long list of 2012 albums, this one stood out more than most.

Certainly another to revisit and maybe elaborate at some point.

Crippled Black Phoenix | No Sadness or Farewell  [EP]
A late year release that I just heard a few weeks ago. It clocks in around 30 or 35 minutes I recall. Some rather mesmerizing passages on it from memory. I suppose in some ways it works better than the Crafty Ape album just for a bit less extensive experience time wise.

I mean style wise, there's not much variation from the Crafty Ape or some of their others, it's just less total time.

CBP are a band I like, and have found they have created some wonderful pieces. But they are not exactly into moderation, which given how long Crafty Ape was, or 2009's even the double (or 4?) LP The Resurrectionist &  Night Raider 2007-2009 A.D. .

But ya know, this EP, has some of those great moments, even as gradual as some are like the outro with the chanting on "Hold On (So Goodbye to all that)" and the segue into the mesmerizing, methodical piece "What Have We Got to Lose?"

I'm sort of torn about them, because they do have a lot of great music, but the fat that exists on their albums, like a lot of Post Rock I don't enjoy but think I could enjoy, sometimes kills their potential. But this EP, for the most part I do enjoy, and may enjoy even more with time as it's only like 2 weeks old.

Oddland | The Treachery of Senses
Another That Drummer Guy submission that worked for me, late in the year. And of course it's Metal. This album is like 50 or so minutes long, and the odd thing is, the version I have was all on 1 track. So, I can't point out all the specific songs from experience.

But, I'll say, the 2nd half or maybe just as the album goes on it continues to get better. The singer continues to get better. He sounds like a mix of Mikael Akerfeldt and a bit less so, Daniel Giildenlow. But, he also sort of has molded his own vocal sound within reminding you of at times those two. Not to the point of a clear, extensive, copycat voice, but just in subtle nuances, that within the writing of his vocal lines, do work rather well at times.

I am probably thinking of some of the parts where he's expressing some kind of passionate part that harmonizes with the music. I really doubted he would come up with vocal lines that good, but unlike many of these wannabe singers in Metal bands, trying to sound like their heroes, he still focused enough on how his singing fit the music and songs.

I will say, the style here, while like Opeth, does not include a lot of growls. It's more like Green Carnation I suppose, in that there is a high level of intensity, but to call it extreme or a form of Death, or 'core Metal doesn't really, exactly fit. It's more dark, and a bit black, symphonic progressive metal, that doesn't emphasize chops, but more arrangements and emotion.

This band/album I'd put along side some others in past years like Enditol, Journal and Hands of Despair. Good songwriting, good enough technical prowess, and not really sounding highly derivative, which ends up being like 90% of the Metal bands I get suggested it seems.

Josh Benash | The Dismal; The Beautiful
The 1st of 2 2012 releases from Josh Benash, ex-Kiss Kiss frontman/singer/guitarist. Well, this album I supported and enjoyed, rather early in the year. But I didn't listen to it addictively, mainly due to much of ithe overt humor in a lot of the songs.

I don't like to describe his music as novelty, as Kiss Kiss only could  be in a few tracks historically, and I'd say more than half of this album isn't. But there's a few on here, namely the Pancake tune, that is comedy. "Asshole" sort of it excessively tongue-in-cheek. "She is Bad" sounds almost like a failed attempt at sounding drunk, high, or something else, over lots of layers of distorted background tones.

"My Little Noose" is goofy, but also catchy/circusy. And with sythns, is almost the opposite of Vuvuzela. It does remind you of a lot of Josh's best songs.

"The Worst" is a tune that slowly builds to a louder layered section, but that part only goes on so long until it transitions back to the quiet base of the song.

"I Like the Way You Sigh" does work, even as slow as it seems, does have this sad, sympathetic, almost prayer-like chanting.

I mean there's some good work on this record, certainly, but a lot of it really mixes pieces that are really quiet or seem slow or too short, with Josh's experiments at humor. And the end result, I'm sure he's totally proud of, and myself, I'm left with mixed feelings.The best moments still are not to forget, but after enjoying it a lot early in the year, a revisiting of it led my feeling of it to come down to earth a bit.

And of course Vuvuzela, well, that gave more proof why when he's good, Josh is one of the best and original/experimental songwriters working today. And still, some of that is evident on here as well.

Rush | Clockwork Angels
I could say a lot about this, or just put it simply. This is their best record since at least Counterparts. But, it also is not as good as their extensive more or less flawless run of Caress of Steel through Presto.

But track wise, here are the goods:
Caravan, BU2B, The Wreckers, The Garden, Carnies, and Headlong Flight.

The rest, including like the title track, have some parts that work.

"The Garden" is gorgeous, and really sad in many ways. I almost cry hearing that tune and "The Wreckers." Maybe because it is Rush, and I have loved them for so long, and this may be their last work ever.

I really appreciate the strings used on this record, at leasths most of the moments they are used. It was a really nice touch to hear with Rush's music.

The concept, well, I'm not all that into getting into, but I find it cool they are made a concept album after a long list of epic/conceptual mutli-part songs but not album? (some say this is their 1st concept album, but, I would ask them how 2112 is not a concept album).

Anyway, the idea of death, existence, and time travel? I dunno, whenever I get to read the novel that Kevin J Anderson wrote and was published/released on September 4th. I recall reading Neil wanting to be a consultant for a stage version or something.

But, anyway, novel schmovel. This record I enjoy, but also would hardly call perfect. But it's a big improvement on Snakes and Arrows and I'd say I like more than Vapor Trails certainly (as much as I've grown to enjoy that record despite the production issues).

If it's their last, it's a great Swan Song. And if not, I am definitely optimistic about their next record, how many years down the road that could be.

Crippled Black Phoenix |(Mankind) The Crafty Ape
Well I would echo much about what was written above with the No Sadness or Farewell EP..Actually, early in the year, a lot of people were praising this album, and for good reason as it has a lot of good music on it. My issue mainly was, it sounded a lot if not pretty much the same as I, Vigilante from 2010. The record I caught on to them with. But I Vigilante is 6 songs, and maybe 45 minutes? Plus the cover of  the early/pre-Steve Perry Journey, "Of a Lifetime" is infectious.

But this record, is like a Tales or Skinny Fists or something in that it's a double disc, and 3 "Chapters" worth of music. Yeah, I can love epic records, even when they last 2 discs worth like The River Empires. But with those, there's usually a great flow. This album, while it can flow, just kind of could use some fat trimming for the sake of not getting worn out by their sound.

I mean yeah, I love how this band have a big Pink Floyd influence, and have carried on the Post Rock tradition of Alt-Country/Western/Morricone elements that Clann Zu and Murder By Death used to do. However, those groups kind of had album composition in mind along with where the ideas took them.

I guess overall, this album is still not without value, and has many moments to enjoy, but it may never receive the addictive level, even I Vigilante has. Now the No Sadness or Farewell EP I think may have a chance to surpass this with some time. We'll see.

Between the Buried and Me | The Parallax II: Future Sequence
I tried awfully hard to love this thing, and it hasn't happened yet. I enjoyed the 1st Parallax Part EP last year more, I think due to the fact it was like 30 minutes, and the whole thing never overstayed it's welcome. A bit like Colors.

But I'm afraid this suffers very much of what The Great Misdirect does. The extensive parts don't always go places, and when they do, the build up isn't worth it overall.

I mean I would say I enjoy this, a little more than TGM, but the band have just fallen in love with wanky chops, and some other stuff like Tommy's fixation with Mike Patton. He has channeled Patton before, but the approach seemed to stick out too much this time to me.

Some of the guitar work is nice, yeah. And I'll lay it out here. Ironically, 1 of the sections that does work start to finish is the 15 minute piece "Silent Flight Parliament" where you get some jaw-dropping, and for some reason, the noodling doesn't ruin it.

Also "Astral Body" is another highlight without flaw.

But part of the whole album's flaw is, there's so much to get through to get to "Silent Flight Parliament" I ask myself, why couldn't have this part of the album come earlier?

Damnit, this band just irks me. Because I totally dig them when they do great things, but i'll say the stupid meme that is on some of the boards: They're becoming Dream Theater, which is not necessarily a good thing.

I want them to do different things, but it's hard to ignore how great Colors and Alaska are, and then look at TGM and this and scratch my head.

Maybe they need to evolve back a bit like The Mars Volta. The Volta found my doghouse with Amputechture, and with their next record, they fucked up again with terrible production on Bedlam. But since, they scaled back with an acoustic record in Octahedron, and the new album Noctourniquet, they fixed their mixing problem and wanking problem, by writing interesting SONGS.

BTBAM could do something like that, but not if they end up continuing to make music about length, chops, and an endless number of ideas with a lot of time (unlike say Kiss Kiss, or Unexpect), which is like 65 minutes? Even at 65 minutes, it just *feels* long..too long, maybe even longer than the just over an hour it clock in at.

I dunno, I do love this band in many ways, I may have to eventually just accept this is what they want, and try and just focus on the best parts of each album, kind of like Muse or even Dream Theater, lol.. Because there's some awesome music here, it just reminds me a little too much of the major chore and lack of enjoyment of 2009's largely looked down upon album, The Great Misdirect.

But I did say back then, following up Colors would be no easy task. Now I guess it's not about making another Colors, it's just trying to accept this is who they are, and I can focus on the great stuff despite it not being on the whole record.

Memoryhouse | The Slideshow Effect
The debut EP they released last year, came out of nowhere, being a Radio K staple, and a therapeutic/mesmerizing work for me to go to in the right mood. And this debut album, while even though P4K pimped it, I enjoyed a fair amount of it regardless. The single "The Kids Were Wrong" was an upbeat, pop tune, that got some airplay, but disappeared I noticed by late Spring.

I guess having not listened to this in many months, I'm just remembering it being good, but more standard College Pop/Rock with the dreamy/psych element toned down. But I did enjoy more than half of it, and was surprised when reading some disappointing reviews about it. The Years EP was different, but I found Denise's vocals to be soothing still, and Evan's guitar work still found that melodic sense I enjoyed about them.

They really are a much more creative, organic, and still dreamy version of She & Him.

Mercies | The Ballet [EP]
Edit coming later today.

Bloc Party | Four
Edit coming later today.

Menomena | Moms
Edit coming later today.

Umbrella Tree | To the Memory of a Once Great Man
Edit coming later today.

The Mars Volta | Noctourniquet
I can't believe the traffic this blog got when I started posting stuff about this. It was insane. Almost like I represented a label, or some professional media source (I'd like to say I am, but I am DEFINITELY NOT at this point). Something like 1100 hits in 1 day.

Blech, but that was early in the year. And this was an album I was very curious about, despite my love/hate relationship with them.

This album, ended up being refreshingly good for a number of reasons.

1) there's about 3 or 4 outstanding vocal lines Cedric Bixler put down here that don't leave your brain for hours. The tracks:
- "Aegis" I'm not running awayyyyyyyyyyyy..I'm not running awayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, ayyyyyy"
-"Zed and Two Naughts" Saint Chris-to-fer..don't go wandering with no one left to save. because no one is at the wheel..Saint Christ-to-fer..don't go wandering with no one left to save. because no one is at the wheel"

I love the reward with "In Absentia" and the hypnotic ending.

The electronic element for the most part works, and I'll say, it doesn't sound drastically different from their "sound."

"The Whip Hand" and "Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound" are probably the only 2 duds on this album, the latter being primarily due to poor production, but not so much on the cymbals mix, but just WAY too much Reverb and compression. But I don't find really any other tracks on this record that suffer from that issue.

more to edit in later, but a conflict just arised as I am heading out from my Saturday afternoon Overtime shift to meet the gf for lunch and a movie.

Lehto & Wright | November
Another group following up an absolute classic in 2010's Children's Songs. And I pretty much assumed this would not be CS Pt 2 or anything. And actually, this record in some ways is sort of like a mini-album or 1/2-new music, 1/2 interpretations of covers. And I really enjoy every track on here. It's just more subdued and not nearly the length of CS's. But the covers are nice, I think my favorite being the Woody Guthrie cover "Tom Joad" which is sort of epic in a way, as each verse seems to feature the guitar work of Steve Lehto.
"The Humors of Tuaimgreine/RakishPadddy/The Callahan Stomp" is a cool medley that does remind me not only of moments from CS's but many of their other classic multi-part suite compositions. Some of it even features a bit of Sitar-tone moods.

"Shenandoah" which also was on the EP of that name from 2011, is really a nice, calming/soothing ballad. The closing track "Dominion of the Sword" is another track that originally was on that Shenandoah EP, and that included on here. It is a piece where they went for the time changes and riff emphasis, even as short as it is, it almost feels longer than the just under 4 minutes it lasts.

This record is comparable to a lot of their other records in terms of consistent song quality, with some big moments. And the fact they did 3 covers and 2 tracks from an EP, I almost see this as an EP of new work. John Wright is really prolific, including his work with his wife Lisi in The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra, playing with Greg Herriges, and a number of other local talents; the odds of another L&W record coming in a year or 2 are probably good. I guess it'll be interesting to see how much more writing he, Steve Lehto and drummer Matt Jacobs will do soon.

They're still one of my favorites, and proof prog is alive and well with the musicians residing from my hometown.

Archive | With Us Until You're Dead
An interesting record, that I really enjoy a fair amount of. It's kind of the natural step for the band after 2009's trip-hop heavy Controlling Crowds to do even more darker laden, almost using synthesizers as a dark-bedding, for their entire album.

But I guess this album doesn't include quite as many breathtaking moments as their last. I will say, a song like "Hatchet" the more I played it, the more I love it. Along with the track that follows, "Damage."

The strings (orchestra?) they used worked in a way, although when I 1st read about them using a string section, and thought of the potential, I wondered if they may be used in a much bigger, grander way. But they were more purely for darker textures, outros, and subtle moments of light.

This is a good record, and one, like most of Archive's albums, probably will be more enjoyable with time. But I guess it is a common case of a band whose previous record was so good, it's almost impossible for them to impress me at the same level the next time, at least right away.

I do think, like Controlling Crowds, this album went even under the radar, probably even more so. Any momentum they got from Controlling Crowd's, at least outside of their native England, seems hard to notice, as I didn't see anyone talk about this album, at least yet, unfortunately.

I actually think the fan-base from bands like dredg or Woven (and the British band Stateless for that matter), would enjoy this, maybe even as much as CC's.

Emanuel & the Fear | The Janus Mirror
The 2nd release from this ambitious, orchestral rock band. This album works on some levels better than Listen, their debut record from 2010. However, it does not include any tracks as amazing as "Jimmie's Song" or possibly even "Guatemala" or "The Finale." But it is not as long a record, and it flows better.

It also doesn't include as much of the swallowing that killed much of my love for Listen, however, there is still enough subtle swallowing, I found myself frequently turning down the volume in spots, namely towards the start of many tracks.

Emanuel Ayvas does share a number of things in common with Sufjan Stevens (and Matt from Anathallo), with his ability to arrange instrumentation in rock, conceptual ideas, using dynamics well, and his approach to vocals and the in-your-ear whispering that has you feeling like you're in the inside of his mouth. Something, I would love to avoid hearing. But it may never happen, as it's his approach to singing/writing and RECORDING softer vocal parts. But sadly, it has prevented me from loving their music a fair amount more than I could.

That being said, there is still a lot of nice, riffy, chamber rock on this album. And it does work on many levels, one being less-being-more.

Negroni's Trio | On the Way
Another nice record from these guys. They call themselves "World Jazz" or "Latin Jazz," but at least my favorite moments from them, are at least somewhat in the fusion vein. "Oak Tree" is intricate and really badass. The piano phrasing is rather technical.. "Matices," "Expressions," "My Way," and "Looking For You" all stand out with the syncopation and interplay between the piano, bass-guitar and drums. There's even some violin work that fits.

This is modern jazz, that works in the less-is-more way. But they do get playful and technical enough for my tastes, even when it's subtle.

Diablo Swing Orchestra | Pandora's Piñata

I really enjoy a lot of this, maybe as much as their last album from 2009 Sing Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious. I suppose I never got addicted to this album, as much as that last one, for one reason, maybe due to expecting more of it. I used to hate the Opera vocals from this band, but they don't bug me now. Plus they are only sparsely used. But this album definitely has a catchy-ness and energy to it. It's heavy enough in spots, but also more uses cabaret in a on odd way, that is chaotic, but controlled chaos I guess. The opening single "voodoo mon amour" is maybe the most memorable track.

I suppose it didn't make the 4-star mark due to lack of time spending with it. But I did revisit it a few weeks ago, and enjoyed much of it. It may be an album I'll get more out of down the road, as nothing about it bugged me, and it still included more or less throughout the whole album, what I like about this band.