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Archive for February, 2004

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.

So I got an MP3 player

Monday, February 23rd, 2004

A little before last Christmas I went and bought myself a 40GB Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra (how’s that for an overly long name). It’s noticeably larger than an iPod and the interface, to be blunt, sucks ass - but it was also more than $200 cheaper than the comparable 40GB iPod. I’m not generally one to pay extra bucks for style, and this was no exception. I can put up with the shitty interface.

So anyway, the interesting thing about this purchase is that my listening habits have changed. That in and of itself is neither interesting nor particularly surprising: when you suddenly have the capability to carry 500 albums (encoded at high-quality variable bitrate) in your pocket, some things are bound to change. What is interesting is how my habits changed: I now am more likely to listen to full albums rather than random individual tracks. This is surprising, to me at least: I’d think that given the ability to access any of thousands of songs with the touch of a button, I’d listen more to great songs rather than entire albums, which more often than not are padded with weaker songs among the good ones.

Indeed, when I had my CD player in my car I would invariably listen to mix CDs that I’d made - personal greatest hits collections. Now, when I plug my Zen Xtra into my cassette adapter, I skip the playlists and just listen to whole albums. Previously, I rarely had the patience to sit through an entire album in the car. The annoyance of having to switch CDs while driving meant that, instead of listening to original CDs, I burned mixes so I wouldn’t stick in a CD, get bored halfway through, and have to change it. Now, because I can just push a few buttons to change to a new album if I get bored halfway through, I’m far less hesitant to start playing a full album from the beginning. This all makes sense. The mystery is, why is it that now I seem to have more patience and am more frequently able to listen to an album in its entirety?

Maybe part of it is a physical fetish thing. I see all these great CDs lying around, and just seeing them makes me think of the music on them and makes me want to listen to them. So I’m compelled to keep switching CDs. With the MP3 player there are no visible cues as to other music I could be listening to, so I have no motivation to switch music and am instead content to listen to whatever I’m listening to already.

I’m rambling. But this is odd. I remember posting a long time ago that I was afraid of what an MP3 player might do to my already-fragmented listening habits; evidently these fears were entirely misplaced.

Opeth @ the 9:30 Club

Tuesday, February 17th, 2004

I saw Opeth again (I saw them last year in New York) last Sunday night at the 9:30 Club. It was pretty good, not quite as tight as the last time I saw them, but the sound quality was definitely far, far better. They did a pretty cool set, including some tunes they had apparently not done live on earlier tours (”April Ethereal” from My Arms, Your Hearse, “The Moor” from Still Life - which was awesome - and the title track from Blackwater Park), and a couple from Damnation which were, just like on the album, pleasant but kind of boring.

One interesting thing was that the crowd here in DC was totally different from the crowd in New York. They were much tamer, with a lot less moshing and crowd-surfing. What moshing there was was sort of lame and halfhearted. I’m not one to get myself into mosh pits, preferring to pay attention to the band, but I was fascinated by the difference. There were also a lot more women in the audience (okay, girls - it was a pretty young audience as far as I could tell). I’m not sure if this is the nature of DC versus New York (the latter city almost certainly has more metal shows and thus probably has a bigger set of metalhead concertgoers), or if the band’s release of the softer Damnation brought more female fans into the fold. Who knows.

Also interesting was one of the opening bands, Moonspell. They had some good moments musically, but they were also insufferably cheesy. The front man took himself waaaay too seriously and was even waving around a pole with some sort of fake skull on top of it for one song. I found the whole affair absolutely hilarious. One of the nicer things about Opeth is that they eschew the cheesy Satanisms of some of the more pretentious death- or black-metal bands, and their front man is very amiable, joking around and bantering with the audience. Yet he still managed a threatening, larger-than-life stage presence during the heavier numbers, delivering his trademark growl convincingly. (During the Damnation pieces, on the other hand, he transformed into a vulnerable, expressive singer - if his versatility wasn’t impressive before, it certainly struck me as so this time around.)

In which Dream Theater fanboys threaten to kill me

Tuesday, February 17th, 2004

It took longer than I expected, but my extremely negative review of Dream Theater’s Train of Thought combined with the launch of our comment engine is finally garnering some reactions. Some are fair enough (I’m glad there are plenty of people out there who like the album, it’s just not my bag whatsoever) and some are the raving-mad fanboy lunacy you’d expect. The latter are highly entertaining and are recommended reading :)


Tuesday, February 10th, 2004

Anyone who has an opinion on Magma, positive or negative, or who is simply bemused (or amused) by the idea of the Kobaian language, must read this site. It is the embodiment of brilliance.