Sunday, May 24, 2015

2010-2014: Mid-Decade Favorites

Now that over 5 years has past in this (Christian Calendar) decade, I have made a vague list of all my favorite albums released from 2010 through 2014 thus far.

Most of these are albums that I don't feel vastly different than the year/season I heard them, but there are still some here and there that weren't put as highly in the said year/season.

Am I missing some stuff? very likely, but I didn't want to include 100 albums on this thing, so I chose some over others, that in a year or 2 or 10, I may wonder why I didn't, etc.

Anyway, this is a vaguely accurate list at this time.

A few observations:

-2010 clearly has been my favorite or the deepest year for albums thus far. I guess we'll see by the end of 2019 or 2020, 2021, if 2010 ends up being the best year of the decade.

-Maybe due to time, but also just from an all-time favorite thing, I don't think thus far, the 2010's have quite the level of favorites or statement all-time classics that the 2000's do for me yet. Time will of course tell more about that, but I suppose I can try (but not promise, at least when) and do a 2000's favorite albums list, updated, just to compare. I actually think I did at the end of 2009, but not with blurbs. The blurbs of course are the time-consumer, and why these things take so long for me to finish. But given we are over 5 years past the 2000's decade, It may be worth doing an updated version of that decade, even just to see if my comparison of 2000's > 2010's seems accurate.

Or then again, I could just hold off on that and not finish that until 2020, lol. I'll see.

Typhoon - White Lighter (2013)

Epic record that is my favorite among the band's catalog. The dynamics, vocal harmonies and all the instrumentation. This album has so many great things going on. The gang drums and percussion, to the gang vocals, to even the inspiring lyrics.

I even bought this album on cassette tape and have enjoyed even more playing it in my car off and on.

The Family Crest - Beneath the Brine (2014)

Great chamber folk/rock album with a ton of instruments and members singing together. Really impressive production and well-thought of songwriting. The opening title track still being my favorite.

Twilight Cinema cover art
Major Parkinson - Twilight Cinema (2014)

A grower record, that is from a band whose singer threw me off at 1st, sounding a little like Liam Neeson, but with a little time, very much won me over. "Wheelbarrow" is about as good of a progressive rock tune I've heard in recent years. And "Impermanence" is hauntingly good. The rest of the songs I have more or less grown to like more with time. "A Cabin in the Sky" "Heart Machine" "Black River" all have new things to notice with repeated play.

Forest Park EP cover art
Forest Park - Forest Park [EP] (2012)

3 mesmerizing tracks that are all epic in length in a way. "Golden" is just so dreamy. The vocal chanting and trumpet harmonies could not be any better.

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories (2013)

"Get Lucky" is about as catchy a tune made this decade, and I enjoy it still, despite it being played constantly still some 2+ years later. The rest of this album is a very cool trip with a lot of synths and samples that take me on a journey (or tell a story). Nile Rodgers guitar work probably has as much to do with that as anything. Even some of the jazz-rock influence (on the drum work) on songs like "Giorgio by Moroder" and "Contact."

SMALL FAME cover art
Bend Sinister - Small Fame (2012)

A very catchy record that includes some of my Bend Sinister favorites like "Hot Blooded Man" "She Don't Give It Up," "My Lady," "Black Magic Woman" and the *epic* album closer "Quest for Love"

Mutemath - Odd Soul (2011)

An experiment or transition in lineup and sound slightly that really worked wonders as this may be my favorite Mutemath album overall. The funky grooves are infectious as hell on a lot of this. I probably think most for that thumping bass in "Cavalries" and some others like "Allies" and 'Quarantine." Another favorite track is "All or Nothing" which features this amazing synth crescendo.

The Dear Hunter - The Color Spectrum (2011)

This was quite the achievement. 9 EPs, 4 tracks each, and each more or less in a different style. While the whole thing I don't find I listen to all-at-once, there so many good or favorite songs on here, that I still consider it one of the best releases this decade. The Indigo EP still being my favorite.

I also think time and seeing many of the songs live has added to it holding up some 4 years later.

Anathema - Weather Systems (2012)

The style is very much a continuation from We're Here Because We're Here from 2010, and this album is nearly as good. The 11-minute+ "Untouchable" suite it opens with, just alone, has me regard this album among this decade's best. But I do find I usually listen to this all-at-once, as I also love how it flows and the closing melancholy climax with "Internal Landscapes."

I have many memories of listening to this at work while having a bad day or something, and it immediately helping me.

22 - Flux (2010)

Unbelieve-ably catchy melodies on many tracks on this album. High energy, very tight compositions. Another debut album that has very schizophrenic styles that are combined incredibly well for the sake of the song. This album is filled with earworms, from "Gotodo" to "Kneel Estate" to "Plastik."

A very addictive album.

The Reign of Kindo - Play With Fire (2013)

The Reign of Kindo's 3rd album, one which I anticipated for many years, and was not disappointed with at all. From 'The Hero, The Saint, The Tyrant and the Terrorist," to "Dust," "Impossible World," and  "Feeling in the Night,"; and even the poppy "Sunshine" I all enjoy a lot, and find are among the best songs they've ever written. And then "I Hate Music" which is probably still my favorite song on this album, per the music being catchy and still proggy, along with lyrics that speak to me and I imagine many other fans of underground rock, and quality (or lack there of) of mainstream music

Arch / Matheos - Sympathetic Resonance (2011)

Great comeback album from basically the early-mid 80's Fates Warning. I am a big John Arch-fanboy, and I don't know if there's more to explain why I love this album so much. It is not quite as good, but still in league with that incredible A Twist of Fate EP from 2003.

A painting of a samurai warrior in black, red, and white with the name of the album and artist written around it.
Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz (2010)

My favorite Sufjan Stevens album by a fair amount. Even as long as the 25 minutes that "Impossible Soul" clocks in at, and its repetitive element, I find the length does not hurt it at all, as I enjoy its flow maybe as much as the melodies, and harmonies.

Also I don't hear any swallowing into-the-mic from Sufjan really.

Gatherer - So Be It cover art
Gatherer - So Be It (2012)

Original and schizophrenic. Combining many influences, the songs have loud, heavy riffs, and the gruff yet clean screaming/yelling of a sort really complement the instrumental work.

This band sort of has a style of music I've heard other bands do, but not work for me as well. I'm not sure if it's due to Gatherer's singing (and those other band's singing not working for me), or something else. But this album was good off the bat, and just kept growing with time.

"Regular Frontier" and "Thrive" are still my favorites and probably the most accessible, but the rest of the album is filled with songs that offer good things.

Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused to Sing (2013)

My favorite Steven Wilson solo record, that while it does sound a lot like modern progressive rock and seems to reference a lot of his favorites from the 70's, I find the song writing and flow of this album worked rather well.

Even if I will probably always associate 2 of the tracks with Kevin Gilbert ("The Pin Drop") and Savatage ("Luminol")

The Red Paintings - The Revolution is Never Coming (2013)

Nearly a decade of time in the making. This album in some ways seems like they incorporated everything and the kitchen sink into it.

While the mixing can and still does bug me, there is so much wonderful stuff going on, even as political and preachy in some ways it can come across.

"Art Rock" in so many ways. The use of strings and dynamics are among my favorite points to this epic and ambitious work.

3 - The Ghost You Gave to Me (2011)

Time has only had this record age better. From the closing epic "Only Child" to energetic and catchy tunes like "React," "High Times," and "It's Alive."

I'm not sure this is my favorite 3 album, but I also can't say I prefer anything over it.

Jazzkamikaze - Supersonic Revolutions (2010)

Like Mew doing Jazz-pop. Song to song, every track works. Great energy, and hooks. The line/chorus "Music is My Heroin" I never can get out of my head.

This is really an anomaly with this band's sound as they tried doing more poppy/prog music instead of their jazz-centric and instrumental other albums. And they really did it well, but maybe it wasn't in the band's desire longterm.

But with this one release they made in a non-traditional style for them, they made some of the best songs I've heard in recent years.

A number of people are swimming under water.
Foals - Total Life Forever (2010)

Foals are a band I've grown to love more and more, and this still remains my favorite of theirs (although I also love their other albums too). "Spanish Sahara" is so good, almost too good. The climax is just perfect and I could listen to that guitar solo for a lot longer than it goes on for.

Blue Blood, Black Gold, Afterglow, Miami, Alabaster, are also all great tunes with their blend of textured mathy catchy prog/psych rock.

Cloud Cult - Lightchasers (2010)

My favorite Cloud Cult album. I kind of see this as the result of all the great work they did on their previous albums, coming together all on one album. Some of the emotional moments totally win me over, like on "Running with the Wolves," the lyrics and guitar solo among other moments.

Also songs like "Room Full of People in Your Head," and "Exploding People" they get crazy with the gang vocals and riffs.

And another favorite being "There's So Much Energy In Us" which is the closing piece, which is very much a classic epic closing piece. So much emotion comes out on that, which concludes the story of a sort. Very much the end of a great long journey.

East of the Wall - The Apologist (2011)

A tremendous progressive metal work. Ballsy riffs and incredible flow. The crescendos and dynamics stand out as much as anything else on this album. I probably still regard this as the best progressive metal album this current decade.

Vuvuzela - Hollow Choir (2012)

Waltzy-prog with piano and harp, that is very much less is more. Josh Benash is one of my favorite songwriters of the last decade, and like his band Kiss Kiss, this music works on many levels. The dynamic changes from loud to soft, fast to slow, etc, he and this album has a great knack for.

Man The Animal Cannon cover art
Brice Plays Drums - Man the Animal Cannon (2012)

3 amazing multi-part songs that all have many moments I enjoy. The groove and layers of guitar lines, bass and piano. Each song seems to tell its own story. This very much reminds of the classic progressive rock albums from the 70's like Relayer or Thick as a Brick among many others.

Anathema - We're Here Because We're Here (2010)

Some of my favorite music that goes very deep emotionally. Melancholy rock I don't know if I've ever enjoyed more at points on this album. And this is definitely a record I have grown to love more since its release year. The track "Angels Walk Among Us" maybe being my favorite.

Fjokra - Thoughtsteps [EP] (2014)

Very original blending of styles, that as schizophrenic as the music seems, combining 80's sounding pop with trance, big-band jazz, hip-hop and almost industrial-style metal; somehow the the songs totally work, and each in their own way. The music is all over the place in a good way.

Image of an African American female shoulders up with headgear consisting of multiple buildings and sculptures whilst wearing large triangular earrings she looks into the camera with robotic style metallic shoulder-wear. The background of the image is blue with it darkening away from her head with the title placed across the top of the cover and her name and the words "Suites II and III" of the bottom left hand side whilst four circles three of which are shaded in are placed on the bottom right hand side.
Janelle Monae - The Archandroid (2010)

A record that grew on me more and more. From the poppy and high energy tracks like "Cold War" and "Faster" to the epic narrative of "BabopbyeYa" are some of the many moments that I love about this album.

Lehto and Wright - Children's Songs (2010)

4 tracks, and over an hour in length. The 32-minute "Children's Songs" probably alone, makes this one of my favorite records this decade (or ever), with its incredible flow and how each movement transitions really into the next. And the references from Bartok, to Chick Corea to Led Zeppelin.

But the other 3 songs also add a ton to how great this album is. Some of the folky acoustic and electric guitar work, with dynamics, and that Celtic tinge of storytelling that I am always charmed by. "Betsy Bell and Mary Gray" including many moments of that.

This is as good of a modern progressive rock album I have heard. It very much harkens back to the tradition of the likes of Yes or Jethro Tull, but somehow does it in its own way.

Kimbra - Vows (2011)

Like Hotel of the Laughing Tree's debut record, this album clearly was the result of many years of work and fine-tuning her songwriting craft.

It has so many moments to enjoy, from the upbeat energy of songs like "Cameo Lover" and "Two Way Street" to the twists and turns on the opening track "Settle Down" and "Call Me." Even ballads like "Wandering Limbs" "Withdraw" and "The Build Up."

Her cover of "Plain Gold Ring" and "Good Intent" among the rest of the record also stand out. I think I wrote at the end of 2011, this album is so good, I'm not sure if she'll ever be able to top it. But the good news is, it is a debut album and she has hopefully a long future ahead of her still.

Pepe Deluxe - Queen of the Wave (2012)

A 45-minute "Pop Opera" that the influences and styles are quite deep.Maybe the thing that stands out most about it is beyond the incredible amount of thought and production quality used in its making, they managed to make a retro-sounding record still sounding modern somehow.

The Dick Dale influence shows up frequently, but it also is incredibly tastefully arranged. Also the vocal styles and arrangements, to the energy, hooks, instrumentation. That actually may be as big of a thing that makes it standout, given the organic and unique use of retro instruments including an actual Stalacpipe Organ which I guess they waited for a couple of years to access.

This album really is an album-lovers album with so many details included, that it likely will be offering new things to receive many years from now.

Hotel of the Laughing Tree - Terror and Everything After (2011)

Amazing record that has stood the test of time and many years of repeated play. It's one of my favorite energy records, that through the whole album, there's a handful of songs or sections that I always look forward to. From the solo and uptempo synths in "Weather Maps for Nikolai" to the harmonic and incredibly catchy melody in "Bad Canterbury" to more or less every track keep offering new and enjoyable things.

This record seems like the result of many years of perfecting songwriting ideas and chops that it came out as a monster debut album that is a statement record and one I likely will always love.

Epilogue cover art
The River Empires - The River Empires (Epilogue) (2010)

This album still seems  to claim my taste as the most ambitious and maybe original record this current decade. Why? I'm not sure, but part of it being so grand and with big ideas and big-in scale. Part of it telling this sort of creative story thematically. I mean musically, it is a great blend of acoustic styles of bluegrass, chamber or baroque, singer/songwriter, cinematic and/or field recordings, and progressive folk/rock/pop etc. Which I suppose other albums have explored as many if not more styles, but I guess I can't say I was won over by them as much.

It's an 88-minute album, that actually doesn't *feel* nearly as long, in that I honestly listen to it and don't feel like stopping it until it's over.

The concept of a Scifi or fantasy story of some characters adventures (2 boys finding a bottle that changes their lives forever?) in the forest? country-environment? a circus? out in nature? a jungle?, etc all come to mind each time I hear it, yet it still reveals new things after many times hearing it.

And the songwriting is rather memorable. The themes and different melodies or string arrangements are just a couple of things that come to mind.

All of that and more I guess why at this point, this album stands out the most over the 1st 5 years of the 2010's. I guess we'll see by the end of 2019 (or 2020/2021/2022 if anything has grabbed me any more, but if not, this is a record I'll likely always love).