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Old 12-22-2014, 08:57 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I've heard that Devin Townsend track somewhere this year, on a movie or TV show maybe? Love it although I'm not huge on anything with even a twinge of metal, it's brilliant. Any idea where it might have been used?
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Old 12-23-2014, 12:15 AM   #12 (permalink)
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^ Metal that can even appeal to someone not normally into that side of the musicverse is something special indeed...I'd be interested to know if 'Rejoice' was actually used in any commercials though. Maybe the corporate world is catching D-Townsend fever.

Anyhoo...


10. Opeth - Pale Communion



Put On A Playlist With: Porcupine Tree, early Camel, King Crimson, Brian Auger's Oblivion Express

With the release of this excellent album came a question that's fairly interesting in its own right: can a "classic" metal band release something completely cut off from that aspect of their musical architecture and still be "accepted" as a metal band?

According to dozens upon dozens of metal "best-of" lists this year, the answer seems to be a big yes. Opeth are no strangers to prog: Lead singer Mikael Akerfeldt's obvious obsession with the dark, Hammond-drenched occultic rock of his youth has been ingrained in Opeth's sound since Still Life from the late 90's and beyond. And this isn't even the first time we've gotten a completely "non-metal" album from him either: 2003's Damnation and 2011's Heritage would have fit right in on a playlist between Black Sabbath's Paranoid and Camel's first two albums on mid 70's "indie" radio.

While I was initially a tad underwhelmed by Pale Communion when it hit stateside earlier this year, subsequent listens since that time has eventually allowed it to eclipse 80% of my existing (and very excellent) list. The "why" of it is a bit harder to quantify: its definitely the strongest of the "non-metal" Opeth albums in their lengthy canon, but it might also be due to songs like the luscious 'River' and the surprisingly soulful closer 'Faith In Others', pieces of a great puzzle that mark a subtle difference in that kind of material we've gotten from the band so far.

It's kinda fascinating really, having observed these guys over twenty some years completely shed many of the traits that initially drew in their core audience. Hell, you can literally hear Opeth coming to grips with Mikael's new "vision" for the band over the course of these eight songs, coalescing into that vivid early 70's time capsule that Heritage or Mikael's earlier collaboration with Steven Wilson, Storm Corrosion, really wanted to be but ultimately weren't. Sometimes less is more, and there's an organic sense of progression to Pale Communion that isn't "quite" there in the previously mentioned material. It's a small thing, but it makes all the difference to the long-term listener.

Rock music will continue to progress in a literal sense past the trappings of previous decades with the help of many, many forward thinking bands in a variety of times and places. Many will fail, some will succeed, and few might even make some money at it. But for those of us who don't mind looking back into the old well tread heart of the experimental early 70's, this record could very well be remembered as the incantation that came the closest to raising it from the tomb for a larger audience's benefit.


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Old 12-24-2014, 10:52 PM   #13 (permalink)
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9. Trioscapes - Digital Dream Sequence



Put On A Playlist With: Pharoah Sanders, Between The Buried & Me, Mahavishnu Orchestra

A dynamite cocktail between savage old school jazz-fusion and the crazier side of modern metal that has culminated into an experience so stellar that it would be impossible for me to leave it out of my top ten. The band itself, made up of Between The Buried And Me’s Dan Briggs on bass, tenor saxophonist and flautist Walter Fancourt (Casual Curious, Brand New Life) and drummer Matt Lynch (Eyris), has a chemistry that rivals Rush at their peak in sheer teleplay and enough variety to easily stride ahead of the majority of other jazz albums that have hit the market this year. At the very least, you'll find yourself raising your eyebrows a bit in appreciation for the talent on display here.

What I like most about the record is the range and overall balance of ideas on Digital Dream Sequence: for example, there's a lot of quieter interludes with cool keyboards and jazzy flute on cuts like 'From The Earth To The Moon' or the noir-drenched 'Hysteria", but there's also plenty of blistering bass runs and a lot of energy and awesome sax solos that makes the quieter or more contemporary touches in the electronics and production stand out even more vividly in the mind of the listener.

In short, it takes something exceptional to "wow" me in jazz. Now, its true that I cut lot of contemporary jazz slack because you treat that stuff more like pop music: the hooks work or they don't. In the case of something treading more typical "jazz territory" however, my standards are high. The best jazz isn't experimental to the point of being unsustainable to one's ears or safe to the point of boredom: its a highwire act that strikes just the right vibe to catch you and draw in your imagination...and Trioscapes accomplished that with flying colors in 2014. Bravo with a capital B!


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Old 12-24-2014, 10:59 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Heavy prog jazz, right up my alley. You ought to check out the new Many Arms album "Suspended Definition", which is what I pictured when I read the "put on a playlist with" section, except maybe switching out Pharoah for Coltrane.

I wanted to put the track "Greater Mass" up, but they don't have it on Youtube unfortunately. This one's just as good, even if it goes in a less jazzy direction.


Cheers man and thanks for filling me in on Trioscapes! I hope you dig Many Arms as much as I dug your rec.
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Old 12-26-2014, 11:48 PM   #15 (permalink)
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^ That is pretty kickass, man. Thanks for the recommendation!

8. Adrian Bourgeois - Pop/Art



Put On A Playlist With: Todd Rundgren, Elliott Smith, Jellyfish, Brian Wilson, Rufus Wainwright

Easily the most ambitious double album in the singer-songwriter mold I've seen in many years, Adrian Bourgeois is one of those prodigies who is a complete unknown to most people unless you live in Sacramento or are really into power pop (I'm in the latter category).

But to summarize why this is in my top ten: take the best elements of weird country ('Waterfalls', 'Pictures Of Incense'), razorblade power pop ('Time Can't Fly A Plane', 'Shot In The Dark', 'Sunflower') and a yummy, experimental approach to composition and production not too far off the beaten path of guys like Rundgren or perhaps Phil Spector ('Celebrate The News', 'Still Life') and you'll see why its easy to dig into this guy's eclectic approach to songcraft. Its as DIY and organic as it gets, and Adrian is a painstaking perfectionist in studio: he brought in plenty of guest musicians on a variety of instruments to bring this massive record to life and flesh it out into something rather special.

Enough rambling though: check the album out yourselves via this Bandcamp page and enjoy the music at your leisure. Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!
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Old 12-27-2014, 12:42 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Pale Communion was and is a weird one for me because I really like it as an album, but it's not up there with their other non-metal albums. I think it's great, it's definitely proggy and Mikael sounds fantastic as always, but I still feel kind of underwhelmed by it for some reason. Glad to see it in your list though, I would've been surprised if it hadn't made it.
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Old 12-27-2014, 08:49 AM   #17 (permalink)
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You had me at Todd Rundgren, Elliot Smith, and Brian Wilson. I'll give it a play today.
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Old 12-27-2014, 02:53 PM   #18 (permalink)
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9. Trioscapes - Digital Dream Sequence



Put On A Playlist With: Pharoah Sanders, Between The Buried & Me, Mahavishnu Orchestra

A dynamite cocktail between savage old school jazz-fusion and the crazier side of modern metal that has culminated into an experience so stellar that it would be impossible for me to leave it out of my top ten. The band itself, made up of Between The Buried And Mes Dan Briggs on bass, tenor saxophonist and flautist Walter Fancourt (Casual Curious, Brand New Life) and drummer Matt Lynch (Eyris), has a chemistry that rivals Rush at their peak in sheer teleplay and enough variety to easily stride ahead of the majority of other jazz albums that have hit the market this year. At the very least, you'll find yourself raising your eyebrows a bit in appreciation for the talent on display here.

What I like most about the record is the range and overall balance of ideas on Digital Dream Sequence: for example, there's a lot of quieter interludes with cool keyboards and jazzy flute on cuts like 'From The Earth To The Moon' or the noir-drenched 'Hysteria", but there's also plenty of blistering bass runs and a lot of energy and awesome sax solos that makes the quieter or more contemporary touches in the electronics and production stand out even more vividly in the mind of the listener.

In short, it takes something exceptional to "wow" me in jazz. Now, its true that I cut lot of contemporary jazz slack because you treat that stuff more like pop music: the hooks work or they don't. In the case of something treading more typical "jazz territory" however, my standards are high. The best jazz isn't experimental to the point of being unsustainable to one's ears or safe to the point of boredom: its a highwire act that strikes just the right vibe to catch you and draw in your imagination...and Trioscapes accomplished that with flying colors in 2014. Bravo with a capital B!


This is amazing.
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Old 12-27-2014, 08:20 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Ki: Pale Communion is a pretty subtle record: probably on par with Damnation for me. That being said, I don't think its as strong as Ghost Reveries or their other "best" albums.

Pet_Sounds: Tell me how you like it after you've given it some time.

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7. Jonn Serrie - Day Star



Put On A Playlist With: Brian Eno, Max Corbacho, Harold Budd, planetarium music

Jonn Serrie, former Air Force pilot and the galactic sovereign of all things related to space ambient and cosmic electronica, is in fine fine form with this year's Day Star. He's been exploring the depths of space since the late 80's, and yet somehow he's never run out of steam musically in his quest to evoke interstellar voyages. His best tunes are the auditory equivalent to watching the birth of a galaxy, and at his quietest your a satellite floating without word or sound in the nethersea.

For most people, their ambient music collections stop at Brian Eno and a few Aphex Twin B-sides, but trust me: there's enough amazing atmospheric tuneage out there to fill your collections a dozen lifetimes or more. Amidst all the various artists out there though, few strike that fine balance between pure texture and melody like this guy does. Of craft-quality equivalence with Eno or Steve Roach, Day Star is top stuff for sleeping and studying alike. He's neither obvious like those guys who do film scores nor obscure to the point where the music is indistinguishable from formless noise, and that's harder than you'd think to pull off.


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My Top 30 Albums of 2018
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frownland
You can't blame the Jews for everything...just most things.
Quote:
Originally Posted by OccultHawk
Trump might be the best thing since free jazz.
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Old 12-28-2014, 11:53 PM   #20 (permalink)
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6. Occultation - Silence In The Ancestral House



Put On A Playlist With: The Cure, Death SS, Black Sabbath, Mercyful Fate

A rip-roaring ride through the decaying remains of a Martian haunted house, Occultation certainly don't pull any punches on Silence In The Ancestral House. Its a bit of a shapeshifter musically, a mutation springing from the annals of classic doom and heavy metal yet demonstrating a pitch black breed of versatility that has crept forth from the nascent waters of early Goth-metal and alternative music. To put it another way, this is Mercyful Fate by way of Siouxsie And The Banshees, and that's definitely not a bad thing in 2014.

Beyond the ghostly, glistening production job courtesy of Kurt Ballou (Converge), the biggest draw here for me is the mysterious frontwoman V.B. On some of the more rolicking cuts like 'Laughter In The Halls Of Madness', the menacing sonic landscape sounds as though its ready to swallow her up at any moment...and yet still she shines through like a searchlight cutting through thick smog. What can I say: great music and a killer album cover comes together into one of this year's best heavy metal experiences for me from start to finish.


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Quote:
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You can't blame the Jews for everything...just most things.
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Trump might be the best thing since free jazz.
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