Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Albums Countdown: Life Happens

Life fucking happens as I've repeated I can't count how many times in this blog, especially just in the last 9 months since I took my new job, and the last 4, when I decided to bring home my boombox and not listen to anything at work.

So, I'm afraid to say, an actual big, epic countdown, is beyond my ability in terms of time and knowledge of a percentage of these records (and many others I'm sure I am missing).

As I posted like a month ago, I have that all-time/favorite/5-star thing for the on the horizon, and I actually may jump into it tonight, a night I actually do have a little time to blog, being forced to my residence and not my gf's with the sub-zero temps, and snow + terrible driving conditions, even to drive over to her place (and have to warm my car up for 5-10 mins again before coming back here. It would be nice to save a little money on gas here and there as my residence includes heated underground parking, and hers does not, lol).

Blurbs and images, well..we'll see how much I get through before I just throw this sucker up. But then again, I've been known (or know myself to) edit in much of that stuff at later times anyway, which may or may not happen.

Gawd, this echoes of 2008..except, at least in 2008, I had that great admiration for the best stuff. This year? not at this point, but still, it included enough good records to like (and pay for, which I did).

edit: actually, this isn't far different than a typical Sound Opinions Message Board Annual voting post, stripped down, but not without some details.

Checked out, or came close to checking out, and may check out more in the future:

Yeah Yeah Yeahs | Mosquito
Andrew Stockdale | Keep Moving
Riverside | Shrine of New Generation Slaves
OneRepublic | Native
Jolly | The Audio Guide to Happiness (Part 2)
Jimi Hendrix | People, Hell and Angels
Falling Up | Midnight on Earthship
Eisley | Currents
Editors | The Weight of Your Love
David Bowie | The Next Day
The Besnard Lakes | Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO
Alpha Rev | Bloom
Blackfield | Blackfield IV
Born of Osiris | Tomorrow We Die ∆live
Levin Minneman Rudess | Levin Minneman Rudess

Bought many of these, but other than Fates Warning, I still have yet to hear any of these beginning-to-end

Fates Warning | Darkness In a Different Light
I played it once last week and did enjoy much of it. But I love Fates Warning, so if I ranked it, it could be as high as the top 5. But then again, some of it didn't blow me away, almost like some of the stuff off Inside Out. The closing epic "And Yet It Moves" and "I Am" were among the things that got my attention. But I probably need to listen to this thing 4 or 5 more times to really know how good this is.

Protest the Hero | Volition
a ton of praise, saying it may be better than Kezia. A retro-review and re-countdown may force myself to add and rank this high at that point. I helped them in their Indiegogo campaign, but never heard it, lol. I still have the download from the campaign on my hd though.

White Denim | Corsicana Lemonade
I enjoyed their last record a lot, but it came sort of out of nowhere, and I havent' gotten around to it.

Avenged Sevenfold | Hail to the King
Revere | My Mirror/Your Target

Fish | A Feast of Consequences
A lot of very positive comments about this should demand I listen to it soon.

Timmy Sean | East Coast Girls [EP]
Dead Letter Circus | The Catalyst Fire
East of the Wall | Redaction Artifacts
The Stepkids | Troubadour
Pinnick Gales Pridgen | Pinnick Gales Pridgen
Dug Pinnick | Naked
Russian Circles | Memorial
The Grape and the Grain | Better Keep Digging
The Elephant In The Room | The Collective &The Individual
Casey Crescenzo produced this (1 of a few on this countdown list)

67 Incura | The Lost
66 Arsis | Unwelcome
65 Flaud Logic | Flaud Logic
64 Jamie Lidell | Jamie Lidell
63 The Cloak Ox | Shoot the Dog
62 Graham Butler | Dread Fascination
61 Coheed and Cambria | The Afterman: Descension
60 Long Distance Calling | The Flood Inside 
59 Aaron & the Sea | Cloak & Dagger [EP]
58 Worldengine | Dark Matters
57 Buke and Gase | General Dome
56 Tangled Thoughts of Leaving | Failed by Man and Machine [EP]
55 The Appleseed Cast | Illumination Ritual
54 Cloud Caverns | Blind Willow [EP]
54 Rhye | Woman
53 Nosound | Afterthoughts
52 The Polyphonic Spree | Yes, It's True.
51 The Greening | Eon V. Aeon
50 The Aristocrats | Culture Clash
49 Fitz & the Tantrums | More Than Just a Dream
48 Infantephant | Cyclelicoptippopacalypse [EP]
47 Scale the Summit | The Migration
46 The Winery Dogs | The Winery Dogs

45 Annuals | Time Stamp
I love this band historically, and this album was just okay I guess. Sad how the band ended more or less with it, until something changes ( no official announcement, and they post on Facebook still).

44 Sigur Rós | Kveikur
43 Biffy Clyro | Opposites

42 Shelter Red | The Split Sabre
I enjoy some of this, and I bought the CD and a shirt. Maybe they aren't as in-your-face as I recall..or maybe I heard some cymbals clip at times. Or, more likely, I only got to listen to it once or twice. It is a shame though, with all the Post-Metal worship bands like The Ocean and Russian Circles receive, and next to nobody ever talks about these guys.

41 Bed of Stars | I Fell in Love in the City [EP]
Nice debut EP I know Evan slaved over for a few years with Daniel Victor.  "Nothing Left to Lose" is still the standout track here, but I will admit to not revisiting this EP much after the 1st week or so when it was released. I wonder if he'll be on the next Neverending White Lights LP along with what this project has in-store soon as well.

40 Josh Rouse | The Happiness Waltz
Somewhat return to form for Josh.

39 Karnivool | Asymmetry

38 Renaissance | Grandine il vento
Good, but not addictive as I may have hoped. "Porcelain" is still my favorite. I love hearing Annie sing these new tunes still.

37 Spock's Beard | Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep
Ted Leonard did add something extra. Time unfortunately forced my hand again. But the brief amount of time I spent listening to this, I enjoyed a lot of it, almost like feeling the Old Beard was back. Neal Morse also wrote some of it, which may be why.

36 Falling Up | Hours
I never got around to hearing the other, acoustic/mostly-piano record from FU. This was traditional sounding Falling Up. The melodies are still there, along with extensive amounts of heavy synths and guitar textures. The concept, I am also still behind on. But, I am still happy to hear anything from Jessy Ribordy. I just worry at times how he requires to work to pay his bills with FU, and The River Empires and even The Gloomcatcher are just a longtime/almost decade or 2 project that will only appear when time and money allows. But, I am not giving up on them, nor my interest in Falling Up either still.

35 Sir Video | On and On/Do What You Wanna/Never Knew
3 really catchy singles in the synthy/dancey Hall & Oates vein. Timmy Sean can really write and produce well at times.

34 Cloud Cult | Love
Shorter album. Some good tracks, but not as breathtaking as 2010's opus Light Chasers. I'm not sure they are capable of making a bad album though.

33 Capital Cities | In a Tidal Wave of Mystery
Terrific live show opening for Fitz and the Tantrums in November. Odd how 1 of the members of this groups was in mid 2000's U2-influenced band Aviatic.

The trumpet is probably the best part of their sound. A soaring trumpet harmony can totally work at times.
Is it highly dancey and poppy? yeah, but also catchy and layered? yes. Also using samples at times. I hope they do more of that with their next record actually.

32 Subterranean Masquerade | Home / Beyond the Pale [Single]
I loved these 2 songs as I savor every ounce of music this project has ever recorded. The dreamy progressive folk metal of a kind. 2014 more is coming, and it's been 10 years since their lone LP Suspended Animation Dreams. But for 2013, this was a nice sample.

31 Everything Everything | Arc
30 Cynthesis | ReEvolution

29 The Royal Veil | King of the Ocean
One of my favorite local bands (from Minnesota), who I saw live perform this whole record. And it was pretty sweet. Sadly, I never got around to listening to this whole album. But having seen it and the Live From Studio 5 on KFAI refreshed my memory enough about it. It's a powerful, methodical, meticulous collection of compositions that like The Red Paintings, the band spent many years refining and perfecting. They style of progressive metal is not derivative; with elements of doom and sludge I suppose, but also more than enough time changes and chops to work for myself and many others.

But, like many others on this countdown, I can't completely say if I adore this album, or if it disappointed me given how little time I have spent listening to it. 

I do know; it has a plethora of influences, from Pink Floyd-ish sections, to bombastic elements I think of The Mars Volta for,  to the intensity of Tool, to even the subtlety of a lot of Jazz-Rock.

28 Evarusnik | In a Poker Slash Refrain
Good record that Mark Engles of dredg played and produced on I think. Almost gothic chamber folk rock of a kind. The Pledgemusic campaign was a success thankfully.
27 Mother Falcon | You Knew
Like Typhoon, another large ensemble of instrumentalists doing rock music of a kind. I remember liking a lot of this, "Dirty Summer" probably the most. These guys could do a tour with either Typhoon or the Polyphonic Spree and have the largest ensemble of chamber musicians in 1 venue for a rock show ever, lol.
26 Leprous | Coal
I like this more than anything else I've heard from these guys. I enjoy In Vain more, but these guys are a lot more unique than most of the so-called prog metal out there.
25 Dream Theater | Dream Theater
Not going to say much as I listened to it 1.3 times. That is all. I liked much of it. But it's still something I am clueless as to how great it may or may not be. Sorry guys, but maybe the concert in April will force me to catch up.
24 Northern Abbey | The Sounds of Glowing [EP]
Another great sublime collection of tracks from this sideproject of Falling Up's Nick Lambert. Its all on their bandcamp of course.
23 The Age of Rockets | Adults
2 or 3 years ago, I likely would have invested the time to hear this whole thing. No time to, and my initial impression of this record was the 1st version was good, but maybe not even as good overall as Hannah. The other versions? I maybe listened to as few tracks here and there. Cool idea, unfortunately, it may take a few years before I know how brilliant it did come out ultimately. At least Andrew still has Field Mouse.
22 Radical Face | The Family Tree: The Branches
I purchased this album on Vinyl at the concert I saw in October. However, I haven't listened to it enough to say if it may belong higher. But the concert from a few months ago supports how good a lot of it is. "The Gilded Hand" is probably my favorite track thus far.
21 Miracles of Modern Science | Meems [EP]
lots of attention for their cover of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," but the million+ people who enjoyed that, should also enjoy this. As good if not better than much of the debut LP Dog Year.
20 For the Imperium | Hail the Monsters
Not as good as the debut, but still different in some good ways. But kind of forgettable overall as I just didn't find the time last Spring to play it enough to enjoy it to even rank it this high perhaps. But, I can't say the records below it are really any better I suppose.

Spiritual Migration cover art
19 Persefone | Spiritual Migration
This album has a lot of great technical stuff on it. And it's much better than their last album.

File:Holy Fire II.jpg
18 Foals | Holy Fire
Love this band. Good album with a few standout tracks.

17 Orphaned Land | All Is One
I definitely enjoyed this, and it's length didn't seem as excessive as ORwarriOR.

Beyond The Ragasphere
16 Debashish Bhattacharya | Beyond the Ragasphere
another excellent, busy, spiritual, style-blending Hindustani-classical record from Debashish. This guy really can't do anything wrong, and his shows are just mind-blowing. John McLaughlin and Jerry Douglas are among the excellent guest musicians.

Get Lost cover art
15 Genders | Get Lost
love a lot of this dreamy, trippy female-driven debut record.

Collisions and Near Misses cover art
14 K Será | Collisions and Near Misses
an early favorite. They remind me of 22, As Tall as Lions and The Dear Hunter among others. Good debut record and certainly a band to watch in the future.

File:Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady cover.jpg
13 Janelle Monáe | The Electric Lady
It's not as memorable as The ArchAndroid, but still songs like "The Ghetto Woman" and "Dorothy Dandridge Eyes" rank up there with her best songs. Ambitious though, this record may gain more steam in the future as a grower.

12 Mayer Hawthorne | Where Does This Door Go
pretty consistently good track-2-track. There are some Steely Dan-like songs, and some extremely smooth and slick production. I suppose this is my favorite Mayer record, but I kind of see his catalog as about equal. My Mayer-aholic gf would beg to differ, as she adores his Motown-heavy early stuff even more. 2014 maybe more will come from him as he wrote 40 some songs while making this.

 photo Oursballet_zps83df4713.jpg
11 Ours | Ballet the Boxer 1
I love them, and this was a different kind of record sonically. Like Fates Warning and Protest the Hero, I owe it to myself to spend a ton more time with it. "Sing" is catchy and may be about Michael Jackson. "Devil" sounds like a piece that would be worthy of the Mercy record. "Boxer" I like. "Pretty Pain" "Been Down"..more or less every track I enjoyed, it's just maybe not in terms of Homerun tracks. And I have not listened to the better mixes nor of course the vinyl which is still delayed some 6+ months later.

This album reminds me of the last dredg record in a lot of ways. It still sounds like MY band, it's just not including as many WOW tracks at this point. But bad songs? not really recalling any.

10 The Dear Hunter | The Migrations Annex [EP]
Very nice collection of extras I am not regretting getting on Vinyl. "Old Demon" is maybe the most standout track, but I remember wishing much of this was on Migrant still.

9 The Dear Hunter | Migrant
Different, non-conceptual record for Casey to make. It still has many memorable, strong, powerful moments, even not being as busy or traditional sounding for them (if they even have a traditional sound? lol). "Whisper" "Shame" "Bring You Down" and maybe "Let Go" are the tracks I enjoy the most. The ballads are nice, but not as addictive, although they did sound very good with the strings live. I don't have a lot more to add for now, but Casey continues to take this project in different directions, even if I don't adore the latest release to no end, it's still worth as much time as I can give it.

8 In Vain | Ænigma
great comeback record! My memory is failing me right now, but I just remember thinking it gave me the same feeling as when I went apeshit for them with The Latter Rain back in late 2007. These guys know how to create interesting blackened progressive metal, frankly, WAY BETTER than a lot of the bands who get name dropped so much more. But fuck it. Being down about that rarely seems to make much of a difference. 

Some of the vocal choruses stay with you. "Against the Grain" and "Rise Against" off the top of my head I recall among much of the rest of it. This record, like TLR, flowed quite well (unlike 2010's Mantra from memory).
7 Brooke Waggoner | Originator
I love especially the 1st 2/3 of this album. Compared to her last record Go Easy Little Doves, there's not as much classical, but more pop and energy I suppose.Brooke still stands out as 1 of my favorite female or other, songwriters working today. "Ink Slinger" "From the Nest" "Rumble" among other favorites included.
6 Local Natives | Hummingbird
worthy follow-up to the awesome Gorilla Manor. More subdued at times, or more subtle. But many of the tunes on here will reveal a lot over time.

"Black Balloons" "Mt. Washington" "Breakers" probably still stand out the most. I guess like Mayer Hawthorne or the new Ours record, while this differs from GM a fair amount, it still sounds like THEM and they still know how to sing and write great vocal lines and harmonies (despite working with the dude from The National).

5 Typhoon | White Lighter
A later in the year record I probably only heard twice, but also got totally floored by seeing live. There's far more to say about this album than I have time right now, or the memory yet. But it's a great layered record that includes the trademark chamber-elements that this band of 12-16 members include. 2 drummers among them.
And some of the hipsters actually have noticed, for better or for worse. 

"One Hundred Years" 'Hunger & Thirst" "Young Fathers" are among some of the best stuff. 

I have a feeling, when the time is available, I could grow to love this record a lot more, as I purchased it on both CD and Vinyl (along with the rest of their catalog on Vinyl in fact).

Anathallo, Margot & the Nuclear So & So's among others, aren't around or making this cool kind of chamber rock I love. But these guys thankfully are.

File:Random Access Memories.jpg
4 Daft Punk | Random Access Memories
Great record beyond ":Get Lucky" which has held up as much if not more than Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know." Love the jazzy drumming, and atmosphere like on the "Giorgio by Moroder."
I like more or less the whole thing except that track "Doin' It Right" (not "Touch") which has that gawd awful singer from Animal Collective, Panda Bear.

edit: I forgot/mixed up the title, that's how memorable of a song it is/was, lol.

Great soundtrack-like album.
And no, the fact the hipsters among others shoved it in my face doesn't bug me, because the music stands up.

3 Steven Wilson | The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)
Very intense record, with tracks that follow in the progressive rock tradition. The hints of Kevin Gilbert, Savatage and Oceansize aside, the songs/epics still work.

I guess I'm bait for writing good prog, when it's done by musicians I like. 

I also can't get past how dark it is lyrically, and tonally at times. Even with the subtle/sad parts like the vocal harmonies, alto sax and flute parts.

That concert back in May (on the gf's bday btw, something she'll probably always hold on me, but 8 years is a long time anyway)., had so much heavy, intense, dark, black imagery. I guess Steven gets drawn to it for inspiration (or his inspiration draws it? if that makes any sense, lol).

Better than his previous 2 solo records, and without question better than the last 2 Porcupine Tree albums (even though I still like The Incident)


2 The Reign of Kindo | Play With Fire
Honestly, this record just goes here, because I went apeshit over it the 1st week I got to hear it. I'm not sure I like it more than their debut album Rhythm, Chord & Melody, and in some ways even their last record 2010's This Is What Happens. But, I still found myself falling for it. Nearly every track. Maybe the standout track of 2013 for me being "I Hate Music," least in some ways. The lyrics totally win the award for saying something that I and many other music fanatics want to say, but have not been able to get our voice out to say.

Fuck Reality shows and the shit on Youtube that receives 10 million plays. That's not real music. At least not to them and not to me. It's just a bunch of talent-less ass-kissers.

I can't do this
People call it music but I'm not sure
If there's a difference between the set of blueprints
for radio and just plain noise

I turn my television on to pass me through the night
I'm watching fools try to sing an awful song they didn't even write
I know some tool is just sitting at a desk pulling the strings
They shove their garbage acts down every dial the towers reach

I hate music if that's what you call music, but I don't know
Who approves the shit they pass for music on these shows?
There's no difference between the set of blueprints
for radio and failure

There was a time you couldn't fake your game
They turned the red light on and you delivered the goods
Or you were chased off stage by someone else who could
You were making magic or you couldn't make (nothing) at all

I hate music
If that's what you call music, that's for sure,
If you're amused by the poly-sonic zoo, well, it's all yours
Every day there's a new song being played that sounds like hell
Whoever puts that garbage on the air must love the smell

You can listen to whatever you like
I'll try and keep it bottled up inside
But don't pretend it's not polluting the world
as it plays on and on and on and on

Somewhere they must have lost their way
And threw their souls out for attention and fame
Their taste is bad, their opinions are wrong,
They make awful shit but the radio keeps playing their songs

 Play With Fire has a ton of other moments I could mention, but time is not on my side. I guess I'll just add some track titles: The Hero, the Saint, the Tyrant & the Terrorist, Sunshine-poppy of course, but still way too catchy not to love, namely coming from this band. Feeling in the Night-romantic. Make a Sound, Impossible World-love the piano and ethnic sounding textures.

Fuck, I am probably leaving out 35 great qualities about this record I can't include at the moment, but I should just say, this record is of the quality of their music. Waiting 3 long years to hear it, it was well worth the wait. I love this band, and would love to see them have more success. But I know all too well, that doesn't happen too often when it should.

The Revolution Is Never Coming

1 The Red Paintings | The Revolution Is Never Coming
This record was very original sounding, and that is why I guess I place it on top. It's really all over the map in rock styles. From punk, to cabaret, to heavy almost metal-intense levels of riffs from not only guitars, but violins and a large string section.

It also is incredibly layered, so much so, I almost hate listening to it, given my sensitivity to cymbals and compression.

But my gawd, it's a massive undertaking of sound. A concept album and a rock opera sort of. And it took Trash McSweeney like 8 years to finish. 8 bloody years, or more. He rewrote, reworked, recorded various parts all around the globe. It sounds like he nearly died trying to make it.

But, even with the overly excessive layering, and the extensive lengths (including many with silent sections), along with lyrics that are a little preachy, political and depressing. 

The songs are very good and keep you engaged. The energy is almost off the charts at times. 

Tracks: Wasps, The Fall of Rome, Walls, Street Fell Into My Window, Rain, The Revolution is Never Coming, 

In other years, this may have been defeated just because I'm not 100% in love with it due to the production/mixing. But in terms of ambition, this is in league with stuff like The River Empires and Blood Moon. Why more people in progressive rock circles (among others) haven't noticed? the fuck if I know, as the band constantly posted glaring reviews. And they have been on tours with some big names recently. I guess chalk it onto the huge failure list of course, and maybe the coming years those folks will come around. Or maybe, the production or Trash's vocal style doesn't work for them. It's nothing surprising or new, but still a shame for now.