Archive for the ‘Lists’ Category

Best of 2001, revisited

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

So, as anyone who reads this blog on a fairly consistent basis (insofar as it’s consistently updated, at least) knows, I do my best-of-year lists a year after the fact to correct for a number of errors, most obviously the fact that I can’t possibly hear or buy all the great albums released in a year all that quickly. The folks over at The Turntable - the blog associated with Stylus - do a similar cool thing, which is go back and draw up a new “best of year” list a year after the fact, and compare it with their old lists. The differences are interesting at least. So here: I’ll do the same thing - here is my Best of 2001 as I would have it today. Note that I made this up without looking back at the original Best of 2001 list I posted in December of 2002.

  1. Present - High Infidelity
  2. The Dismemberment Plan - Change
  3. Magma - Theusz Hamtaakh Trilogie
  4. Mogwai - Rock Action
  5. Miles Davis - Live at the Fillmore East: It’s About That Time
  6. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Grand Opening and Closing
  7. The Beta Band - Hot Shots II
  8. Green Carnation - Light of Day, Day of Darkness
  9. Outkast - Stankonia
  10. Satoko Fujii Quartet - Vulcan

Some other great albums released in 2001: Femi Kuti’s Fight to Win, System of a Down’s Toxicity, Djam Karet’s Ascension, Explosions in the Sky’s Those Who Tell the Truth…, Avant Garden’s Maelstrom, Bob Drake’s The Skull Mailbox, Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein, and John Coltrane’s The Olatunji Concert. Whew. It was a good year, apparently. Oh, and the best surprise of the year was Dream Theater’s Live Scenes From New York, which was actually really good - light-years better than their previous live album (though that’s damning with faint praise, I suppose). The Coup’s Party Music was pretty good, but a little disappointing.

You may note that Krakatoa’s Togetherness disappeared from my list (from #4 originally). I still think it’s a great album, but I just haven’t been inclined to pull it out very often for the past couple years. Same goes for their other albums, including the newer one on Cuneiform, which never really grabbed me that well in the first place. Hmm.

Also, High Infidelity took a huge leap from #7 to #1, and after peeking back at the archives, four of the ten items on the list above were not on the old one at all. Still, the top few more or less remained constant, which is cool.

It’s about that time: top 10 of 2002

Saturday, December 6th, 2003

Alright, so people on other forums are starting to post their Top 10 lists for 2003, which means it’s about time for me to post my Top 10 list for 2002. I started doing this last year - I think top 10 lists for the current year are dumb, because (1) the year’s not over yet, (2) there’s no way I already have many of the great releases from this year yet, and (3) a lot of great CDs have long gestation periods before I really start to like them (I’m looking at the new Thinking Plague here).

Without further ado, my top 10 favorite releases (not limited to prog, as will become obvious) of 2002 are as follows, in some kind of rough order:

  1. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
    I’m one with the indie critics here: this was the best album of the year. When I reviewed it I was taken by its meshing of catchy melodies with slightly skewed instrumental tendencies, and its charm has yet to falter. Anyone interested in somewhat “out” pop-indie should check this out.
  2. Anti-Pop Consortium - Arrhythmia
    The biggest shame of 2002 was the dissolution of this group, one of the most innovative rap groups of the past decade. Arrhythmia has all the usual Anti-Pop trimmings: dazzling, abstract wordplay, production from an alien planet, and even some killer beats. For the cutting edge of hip-hop, look no further.
  3. 5uu’s - Abandonship
    This one made a huge splash in the prog/RIO world, and with good reason, marking a triumphant return to Hunger’s Teeth form. Best prog album of the year, easily.
  4. Shalabi Effect - The Trial of St-Orange
    This was the pleasant surprise of the year for me; I didn’t expect to like this kind of abstract psychedelia so much, but these guys are good enough at what they do that they make it accessible to anyone. There are some amazing moments of beauty swimming around the ambient haze here.
  5. NeBeLNeST - Nova Express
    Grandly portentous instrumental prog, full of imposing riffs and sinister, rumbling bass: epic “space-zeuhl” at its best. The closing title track on this album is simply a treat.
  6. Satoko Fujii and Tatsuya Yoshida - Toh-Kichi
    This is just about as weird and whimsical as you might expect from the pairing of Yoshida with a free-jazz pianist (in an improv setting no less), and amazingly, it works. By turns stunning, amusing, and fucking hilarious.
  7. Do Make Say Think - & Yet & Yet
    In a year with a dearth of good new post-rock, this album was a saving grace. Jazzy, atmospheric instrumental noodling that never gets too unfocused and yet always takes its sweet time getting to the point. Luckily, the journey is an enticing one.
  8. The Flying Luttenbachers - Infection and Decline
    Okay, I admit it: this one is on the list solely for the utterly blazing cover of “De Futura” (from Magma’s Üdü Wüdü), which takes the funk out of the equation and replaces it with pure, unmitigated aggression. The original pieces here are also capable of blowing your head off.
  9. Opeth - Deliverance
    Many a fan of this group panned this album, and indeed it offers little variation on a well-established formula. But for me, it perfects said formula, mixing perfectly its death-metal aggression and vocals with more leisurely (and accessibly melodic) passages. This actually might be my favorite Opeth album.
  10. The Roots - Phrenology
    This one’s just a lot of fun. Perfectly accessibly hip-hop with just a touch of experimental tendencies, particularly on the track “Water”, which has been called “prog-hop”. More importantly, this thing grooves, and has some great melodies to boot.

Barely missing the cut were Beck’s Sea Change, Missy Elliott’s Under Construction, Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot It In People, Uzva’s Niittoaika, and even PaatosTimeloss (solely on the strength of its closing track). Some mildly surprising omissions include ( ) by Sigur Rós, which simply didn’t have the staying power I expected it to have, and Univers Zero’s Rhythmix, which I liked at first but really pales in comparison to the band’s older work, IMHO.

Overall, despite everything I just wrote, I think 2002 was a pretty disappointing year. There are a lot of pretty good albums listed above, but only the top few on the list really blew me away. As preliminary as it is, I can already say that 2003 has been a much better year for music.

I just bought a lot of CDs

Wednesday, October 8th, 2003

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these stupid lists, so what the hell. I just bought a whole shitload of CDs from various sources -

Comments to come. Most of these haven’t come in yet. Of the ones that have, I’m most enchanted with the Boards of Canada thus far.

What’s spinning, March 26 edition

Wednesday, March 26th, 2003

I’m pretty psyched about some non-prog stuff I’ve gotten lately. Because I don’t really have anything of interest to talk about right now, here’s another list…

  • Cowboy Junkies - Lay It Down
    My favorite of their many studio albums that I’ve recently acquired, this one is just about a perfect meshing of their old-school country roots and their more conventionally rock tendencies. Beautiful and poignant in the music, vocals, and lyrics. Margo Timmins has one of the greatest voices ever.
  • Satoko Fujii Quartet - Vulcan
    After hearing Toh-Kichi, I knew I had to get my hands on this. And it doesn’t disappoint - quite the opposite! Truly fucking awesome - experimental jazz with a rhythm section that absolutely rocks (and has little to do with jazz at all). I also picked up Minerva, the quartet’s second release, but haven’t really listened to it yet as I’ve been digesting Vulcan for the past few days.
  • Kronos Quartet - Nuevo
    Perhaps the best-known avant-gardish string quartet active today performing their versions of traditional and folky Mexican tunes. Extremely - and surprisingly - eclectic, fun, and accessible. Hell, there’s even a dance mix of one of the pieces that closes the album.
  • System of a Down - Toxicity
    Cool pseudo-nu-metal stuff, rather spastic and wacky in exactly the sort of way that really catches my attention, while still being extremely hard-edged and intense. There’s also a nice balance between chugga-chugga metal riffing and more diverse guitar work, and the heavily politicized lyrics and fairly unique vocal stylings don’t hurt either.
  • Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
    Yeah, I’m late to get on this bandwagon. The last Wilco I heard was Being There, which I hated so much I don’t think I’ve listened to it since I first bought it on a random whim (based entirely on the cool packaging and the fact that it was $10 for two CDs) five years ago. Maybe I’ll have to go back and give it another chance, cause this album has some pretty great pop music that’s just out-there enough to be interesting while remaining readily accessible.

“Cleansing” music

Monday, February 3rd, 2003

The Best Song Ever Right Now: Beck, “The Golden Age”.

I’ve had this urge lately to make a list of music that I would describe as “cleansing”. I think this would be a totally useless list, except for the interesting connotations that I clearly ascribe towards the word. Hmm:

  • Avant Garden - the entirety of Maelstrom
  • Godspeed You Black Emperor! - I dunno, a lot of stuff
  • King Crimson - “Starless”
  • Mogwai - “Mogwai Fear Satan”
  • NeBeLNeST - “Nova Express”
  • Pink Floyd - “Echoes”
  • Sigur Rós - “Popplagið”
  • Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - “Sleepytime”
  • Uzva - “Drontti”

Obviously it’s something to do with lots of noise with melodies hidden inside, or long tension-and-releases, but I think it’s more complicated than that too, given the inclusion of some jams etc…

Good stuff from Wayside Music

Saturday, January 4th, 2003

Small delay in updating the site, as I spent a week or so visiting family in Phoenix, and then spent a fun New Years visiting friends in DC. Anyway, I’m back, and the full site should be going public within 10 days or less. Today I got a big order in from Wayside - my first $100+ music order in a really long time.

What’s spinning, individual songs edition

Tuesday, January 15th, 2002

Something a bit different: songs (as opposed to albums) that I’m digging.

  • Aksak Maboul, “Palmiers en Pots” (from Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits)
  • Biota, “Reckoning Falls” (from Object Holder)
  • The Coup, “Hip 2 Tha Skeme” (from Genocide & Juice)
  • DJ Shadow, “Midnight in a Perfect World” (from Endtroducing…)
  • Explosions in the Sky, “Have You Passed Through This Night” (from Those Who Tell the Truth…)
  • 5uu’s, “Noah’s Flame” (from Abandonship)
  • The Gathering, “Morphia’s Waltz” (from if_then_else)
  • Mr. Bungle, “Desert Search for a Techno Allah” (from Disco Volante)
  • Mogwai, “Dial:Revenge” (from Rock Action)
  • Nathaniel Merriweather, “Book of the Month” (from Lovage)
  • NeBeLNeST, “Stimpy Bar” (from Nova Express)

I saw a bunch of movies over Christmas break. One of them was Vanilla Sky. I enjoyed it until the awfully hackneyed sci-fi plot twists during the latter part, which sort of reminded me of Brazil but with a cheesy pseudo-happy-ending. However, I thought the soundtrack was awesome. Radiohead’s “Everything in its Right Place” couldn’t have been used more effectively, and the three Sigur Rós songs were also very well-placed. I recognized a couple other pieces too, but couldn’t name them. Good stuff.

What’s spinning, September 9 edition

Sunday, September 9th, 2001

Yeah, it’s been a while… like, a really long while. So what have I been listening to lately? Here comes another list, this one sans commentary:

The Roots just played a free show here in New Haven. An entire square block was covered in Yale students, New Haven residents, and people from surrounding towns and colleges. I stayed for a bit and they did a good show, but I couldn’t see jack and I’m not familiar with much of their music, so I wasn’t really feeling it. Shame, because what I have heard I’ve really liked. I’m going to have to pick up a couple of their albums at some point.

Although I’m really digging the hip-hop, post-rock, and indie-rock acquisitions that I’ve made in the past few months, I think I’m finally getting back into the swing of progressive rock. The list above has the highest proportion of prog-to-non-prog than any listening list has had for quite some time. This is dangerous for my wallet, but good for this website.

What’s spinning, May 18 edition

Friday, May 18th, 2001

Okay, my impatient readers: here’s an update.

In case my mysterious and virtually total absence from various music-related boards wasn’t enough of a clue, I’ve been away from the music scene for a bit. Oh, I’ve been listening to tons and tons of good music, but I haven’t been buying much, and I haven’t been writing about it much. This is mostly because I’ve finally immersed myself in photography, as I have wanted to do for some time. While it hasn’t replaced music as my consuming passion, it has left a bit less time and far less money for music.

In any case, a list of stuff I’ve been listening to a lot for the past month or so:

  • Arise From Thorns - Before an Audience of Stars
    Acoustic gothic-styled rock with pleasant female vox. Pretty nice stuff; lots of acoustic guitar, which I like, and a dark, moody atmosphere, which I also like. The whole thing is sort of on the level, with few peaks and troughs, but there are a few gorgeous acoustic guitar solos and some cool lyrics.
  • Einstürzende Neubauten - Silence is Sexy
    Still spinning a lot. What a great album, man. See below for comments. I find myself singing the ridiculously catchy “Dingsaller” refrain to myself a lot.
  • Garmarna - God’s Musicians
    Rockified Scandinavian folk music - pretty nifty stuff. I will now demonstrate my utter lack of knowledge about European world/folk music by saying that when I first heard these guys, they reminded me of Capercaillie, the band that plays rockified Celtic music. I was introduced to them by a friend at Yale, who played me a couple tracks from Vengeance, which is next on my list.
  • Karnataka - The Storm
    Sort of like a modern adult contemporary band with good female vox and lots of guitar solos. At their best, they write stuff that’s on par with the most beautiful pieces by, say, October Project. Unfortunately the album is quite uneven, with the best stuff at the beginning and end. Nevertheless, I like it.
  • Colin Masson - Isle of Eight
    Three really long compositions, almost completely instrumental and almost all of it played by multi-instrumentalist Masson. A lot like Mike Oldfield, but with more of an emphasis on the guitar work (mostly electric, with some nice acoustic parts). The textures are cool, with good variation in the thematic material. When the female vox kick in things get much simpler, but at least those parts are quite catchy. A pleasant surprise.
  • Radiohead - Kid A
    I listened to it a bit when I first got it and liked what I heard; now, listening more closely, I still like what I hear. “Idioteque” reminds me strongly of Squarepusher, but then that’s about all the experience I have with that sort of beat-driven music. The opening track couldn’t be more perfect.
  • A Silver Mt. Zion - He Has Left Us Alone…
    This took much longer to grow on me than Godspeed You Black Emperor! albums, but it’s now one of my favorites. Wistfully beautiful stuff, and perfect for road trips or train rides.
  • Spaced Out - Spaced Out
    Fusion. Not my cup of tea, in general - the stuff tends too much towards soloing without much melody. But there’s definitely some good music on this album, particularly the bass playing which is showy and fun. Fusion fans should definitely get a kick out of this one.

I’ve also been listening to a lot of various MP3s. A few Outkast tracks that have convinced me that I need an Outkast album, now. More Garmarna, most of which I actually like better than the stuff on the album of theirs I have. Some tracks from the album of remixed Sigur Rós songs, some of which are really cool and some of which suck a fat one. Univers Zero “Central Belgium in the Dark”, from the Crawling Wind EP - ah, classic stuff from one of my all-time favorite bands.

Stumbled across Brendon Rapp’s music blog. Some interesting reading there. Hi *Legion*.

They say money’s the root of all evil but I can’t tell
You know what I mean - pesos, francs, yens, cowrie shells, dollar bills
Or is it the mind state that’s ill
Creating crime rates to fill the new prisons they build
Over money and religion there’s more blood to spill
The wounds of slaves in cotton fields that never heal
What’s the deal?
Black Star, “Thieves in the Night”

Mos Def, whatever I might think of his solo album, writes some damn fine lyrics. The Black Star album - his collaboration with Talib Kweli - is masterful.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer is dominating the list of “top ten most visited reviews” on the stats page, with no other band having more than one album on the list. Blah. I hate those guys. They’re just so bad. Arr.

Recent purchases from Syn-Phonic

Sunday, January 21st, 2001

I just made an order from Greg Walker that I’m highly excited about:

These are some of the few prog albums topping my wish list; most of the remaining ones that are high priority are non-prog: Dr. Octagon Dr. Octagonecologyst, Kid Koala Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Sigur Rós Von (I already ordered Ágætis byrjun from Insound), Autechre Incunabula, Mogwai Ten Rapid, and so on and so forth. I must say, though, I’m more excited about this Syn-Phonic order than I have been about most any music for a few months.