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Old 12-27-2017, 10:02 PM   #31 (permalink)
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6. Moonchild - Voyager


Genre: Space Age R&B, Neo-Soul

Sounds Like: Erykah Badu, Monday Michiru, Esperanza Spalding, D'Angelo, Maxwell, Janelle Monae


Adherents to the jazzier, up past midnight side of the neo-soul sound, Moonchild are masters of mood here and carry their twilight torches with a certain breed of quiet confidence. I've been aware of them a few years, but it is with 2nd full length Voyager where I feel like they've coalesced into something like a top drawer artist. The production is amazing subtle at times, complete with woodwinds and breezy Rhodes. At times, it seems like they are purposely evoking the dreamiest moments on those classic early acid-jazz Jamiroquai records or D'Angelo's debut, yet still sounding unlike them in some definitive respects. That's a hard line to walk and doesn't leave a massive amount of room for variation...but sometimes focus on one specific aesthetic is what makes the music work.

The best songs here are clear as day, and that's saying something in an album at this level of consistency: '6am' sounds like a lost vocal number from the Samurai Champloo anime OST. It has a cloying, almost nostalgic melody running through it that defies description and reason. It's an early high point, matched later only perhaps by the most upbeat cut here 'The List', which rides on a bouncy piano / horn section combination to near perfection.

Whilst perhaps just a bit "too" samey aesthetically from start to finish for some people, Moonchild made that into a strength on these songs and created a fabulous lounge album in the process. And hey, you can always cherrypick and slide the best songs here into your next jazzy hip-hop, R&B, etc. mix at your GF's place and watch those clothes fly off.


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Old 12-29-2017, 11:12 PM   #32 (permalink)
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5. The Midnight - Nocturnal (EP)


Genre: Synthwave, EDM

Sounds Like: John Carpenter soundtracks, FM-84, Timecop1983, Gunship


Still my favorite among all the artists out there who identify as part of the whole "synthwave" genre, dynamic duo The Midnight made a storm last year with the fabulous Endless Summer, an album that felt very much of the late 80's but somehow very out of time as well. I loved that one, but I think this EP might be in a class of its own altogether. This one throws out ear hooks like Jack Dempsey with Shiva arms. Carrying a saxophone. There's a lot of saxophone.

Tyler Lyle, being the vocalist and primary melody maker here, remains an intriguing element that elevates the music above most of The Midnight's peers. He's not a typical 80's music sounding frontman. He's got a very plaintive, almost Southern Gothic sensibility to his delivery. Like someone from 2000's alt-country scene suddenly transplanted into the lead singer's position of a Tears For Fears cover band who might've shown up as the opener in Lost Boys. His closest cousin (in a sense) might be Bruce Hornsby...but Hornsby never did sleek, at times nightmarishly lyrical EDM-as-it-might-have-been-in-1989.

There's only seven tracks here, but all of them work very well. My favorites would be the sinuous opener 'Shadows', the almost-AOR of 'River Of Darkness' and the vibrant Nikki Flores duet of 'Light Years', the last of which would have been perfect on the Stranger Things 2 soundtrack and has a killer melodic progression.

All in all, this album was pure gold and it almost makes you want to go back to the 80's....almost.




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Old 12-30-2017, 11:46 PM   #33 (permalink)
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4. The Breathing Effect - The Fisherman Abides


Genre: Jazz-fusion, Post-Rock, Chillwave

Sounds Like: Toro y Moi, Mogwai, Ariel Pink, Solution, Return To Forever, Snarky Puppy


The Breathing Effect are another band I've grown fond of over the past few years but whose overall approach is a hard one to box in. If pressed, I suppose the easiest way to define the fluidity of The Fisherman Abides is an album that sounds like The Flaming Lips doing Bitches Brew. This is an old school fusion record as interpreted by our millennial generation that loves the more experimental side of 90's and early 00's rock and the whole chillwave sound that showed up right after that. You get the sense these guys are well versed in subverting all things jazzy and vaguely commercial, as those yacht rock Rhodes keys at the beginning of 'Water Static (Blinding Phoenix)' indicate, though it quickly morphs into a nearly avant-garde exercise in sound manipulation, complete with some classic tension-and-release post rock dynamics.

Of the main two players here, Harry Terrell is particularly awesome on the skins. He's got massive dexterity, able to convey Steely Dan level precision in tripped out soundscapes that remind me more of Swans circa 1991 or so. And that's just how great the dichotomy here is: this is the kind of album that will sound completely different depending on the person listening. There's just that much variability here, and it's fantastic.

So for those looking for a little jazz in your math-rock with an extra dash of creativity, this comes with my highest recommendations. At the very least, you might be surprised.



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Old 12-31-2017, 09:43 PM   #34 (permalink)
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3. Drab Majesty - The Demonstration


Genre: Gothic Rock, Post-Punk, Darkwave, Synthpop, New Wave

Sounds Like: The Cure, This Mortal Coil, The Chameleons, Fields Of The Nephilim, New Order, Depeche Mode


What a bag of goodies this one is folks. It's that stone cold classic that never emerged from 4AD in their heyday. Or, at least, that was my first impression when I got this almost a year ago. The brain trust here and lead vocalist Andrew Clinco is better known as a session drummer in L.A. with various other bands, but here he takes lead as an androgynous vampiric persona known as Deb Demure, with a voice that sits somewhere between Roland Orzabel (Tears For Fears) and his idol Robert Smith. Does it work? Splendidly.

Some haunting synth patches on instrumental opener 'Induction' sets the tone well before a haunting guitar motif marks the beginning of 'Dot In The Sky', a catchy slab of gloom, doom and paranoia that would have been my pick for lead single if such a thing had any real meaning in 2017. That synth counterpoint melody that weaves in around the halfway mark is pure brilliance, but there's quite a few mountain peaks on this record without many valleys. The reverberating, almost chant-like vocal layering on 'Not Just A Name', the strangely upbeat 'Too Soon To Tell' that sounds like something from early Joy Division, that rising industrial wall of noise as the second half of closer 'Behind The Wall' goes on....there are so many great moments like this across every song that give you a real appreciation to just how much Mr. Clinco has immersed himself in his music in order to create such an authentic, vibrant recreation of this particular golden age of synth-pop.

One thing I find interesting about The Demonstration is it's lyrical preoccupation with the idea of death betraying the expectations we have in life, but at the same time embracing the idea that there's something beyond this life where people who have been separated can be together again. For an album that is so wrapped up in the dark sounds of this music's nihilistic forefathers, the idea that there's some kind of hope buried within the dark eyeliner and grave soil is rather fascinating and extra icing on the cake for me. Check it out!


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Old 01-01-2018, 09:02 PM   #35 (permalink)
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2. Nightlands - I Can Feel The Night Around Me


Genre: Psychedelic Yacht Rock, Dream Pop, Alternative

Sounds Like: The Beach Boys, Roxy Music, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Ambrosia, Tame Impala


The chillest album of the year by a long country mile, equal parts Surf's Up as it is Dark Side Of The Moon and a whole lot more. The culprit behind this delectable set, Dave Hartley, is better known as the bassist in The War On Drugs. But in the case of 2017, he has one-upped his parent band in some respects, especially when it comes to crafting pure ear-candy that seems to draw on every ounce of nostalgia I could possibly have for the late 60's through the early 80's. Swooning synths straight out of Smokey Robinson's Quiet Storm sessions breeze by here and there alongside his Brian Wilson-esque (and quite massive) sounding vocal harmonies, but variety is the spice of life: we get a Brazillian MBP flavour on 'Moonbathin', doo-wop on closer 'Human Hearts' and even a taste of yacht rock-gone-shoegaze with the ghostly 'Fear Of Flying'.

Somewhere on a lonely beach in south Cali, David Lynch is sipping one of his weird drinks and playing this album on repeat while he contemplates his next masterpiece for the silver screen. Take it for a swim.


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Old 01-02-2018, 09:58 PM   #36 (permalink)
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1. Damnations Day - A World Awakens


Genre: USPM, Progressive Metal, Thrash Metal

Sounds Like: Sanctuary, Queensr˙che, Crimson Glory, Alter Bridge, late 80's Fates Warning, Savatage, Judas Priest


U.S. Power Metal is my favorite overall "style" of metal. It's one of metal as a genre's foundations at this point, powerful and massive and infinitely melodic but indulging in the heaviness of early thrash, NWOBHM while still being able to incorporate the more elaborate structures of progressive rock. Few bands have the vocal chops or the nuance to pull this style off well. But just when all hope was lost, Australia birthed a dark horse to little fanfare this year - A World Awakens, the sophomore release from Damnations Day.

Their first album a few years ago, Invisible The Dead, wasn't anything special so I get the lack of hype....but this album is such a massive step up. Yuge. Ginormous in every respect. The vocals from Mark Kennedy here rival Geoff Tate, Midnight and Rob Halford in their respective primes. He's an overwhelming force that could make even reading off the phone book sound like a titanic event, maybe one of a handful of frontmen in the metal world today who can sing at that level. That's not light praise coming from these fingers!

The songs are pretty good too, with a strong sense of variety from track to track and a balanced production style to match. Kinda earthy, with the guitars neither too high or too low in the mix. The orchestral indulgences on 'Into Black' are pretty nice, reminding me of 'Silent Lucidity' from Queensryche's Empire (probably intentional), though I think third track 'Colours Of Darkness' actually one-ups the prog-metal kings at their own game. It starts off mid-tempo but builds to a soaring climax in its final minute that'll drop your jaw. For fans of speed and melodic thrashiness, opening cut 'The Witness' and the speedy 'The Idol Counterfeit' are both pretty stellar. The latter is particularly interesting, if for nothing else that it's got a fun Iron Maiden meets mid 90's post-grunge chord progression.

This is one of those albums that probably wouldn't be able to get away with this particular style under normal circumstances. USPM and Alter Bridge-styled proggy grunge aren't normally the friendliest of bedfellows, but Damnations Day were determined to make it work and it pays off way more often than you'd ever expect it to. Hell, it's actually pretty fun. And fun is a hard thing to find sometimes.



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Old 01-02-2018, 10:13 PM   #37 (permalink)
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Nice job! Thanks
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Old 01-03-2018, 03:38 PM   #38 (permalink)
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Nice job! Thanks
Ya'welcome.

I'm going to follow up with a brief list of albums that almost made the cut. There's at least ten lol....
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Old 02-25-2018, 11:56 AM   #39 (permalink)
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That Nightlands albums awesome.Borrows something from every great album out there but still sounds fresh.Great production too have it on repeat in the car.
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Old 02-26-2018, 07:05 AM   #40 (permalink)
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Added #5, #3 and #2 right onto my spotify queue. All look right up my alley.
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