Music! Woo!

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Album Number One! The top of the mountain.

This may be a surprise to some of you.  It probably will be a surprise to a lot of you, actually.  Many of you picked some of the other albums in my top five to be the number one, and understandably so.  I wanted them to win it all, but they just didn’t have that extra magic that this album did.  It’s going to be tough to try to explain it, and you may disagree with what I think, but that’s just fine.  I’d love to hear what you all have to say about this list.  Most of you won’t read this until tomorrow afternoon, but I welcome your feedback.  

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Album II: The album that I thought would win it all

Prepare for this audio assault.  I saw this “band” live a few months ago, and I wasn’t exaggerating when I told friends that it was one of the greatest concerts I had ever been to.  It was a stunning audio and video experience, because the “band” played video on a screen in front of the musicians while they played songs.  I use the word band in quotes because this doesn’t quite qualify as a band and more as an artist, but close enough.  I’m talking, of course, about the musical genius, Steven Wilson.  The man that brought you the best album of 2011 is back with a mystical and musical vengeance.  More on that after the break, which I may now know how to do and wish I could put it in the other posts.

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Album Number 3! Dream Theater - Dream Theater

Yes, this album is third on my list.  Yes, it’s Dream Theater in one of their finest albums to date.  Yes, I loved this album this year.  Absolutely yes, Mike Mangini is one of the best things that happened to Dream Theater as a band.  Where should I start with this review?  Oh yes, I’ll let you know that today is going to be a big day for this list.  I’m going to give you all a triple whammy of the best albums of 2013, so prepare to refresh and read another album on this list soon after this is done!  Due to my schedule this end of December, I haven’t released an entry on my list like I thought I would.  I just now learned that I could write many entries and have the tumblr automatically post one at a certain time each day, so the more you know.  Next year I’ll try some new fancy posting things as I get to know this tumblr better.  For now, you’ll just have to deal with a wall of text broke up with a picture and an embedded youtube.

Here’s your youtube now, actually.  It’s a six minute track of pure genius.  It’s an instrumental, and it is my favorite instrumental track of this year without a doubt.  The only track that comes close is Cosmic Distance Ladder off Sound of Contact’s Dimensionaut that I wrote about the other day.  This song, though, my god.  I could write an entire paper on this track alone.  I won’t, because that’s a little much.  It is as talented and complicated a track as I have heard for a long time.  There are what seems like dozens of layers for each instrument on the album, and it somehow echoes music of Dream Theater’s past mixed with new techniques.  I can’t stress enough how much I like Enigma Machine, because it’s just so powerfully good.  It drifts from one solo to another, as each member shows their technical prowess, and blew me away the first time I heard it.  I know that my favorite track on the album usually is the longest magnum opus-esque one, but that’s not the case on this album.  Enigma Machine takes it one step above, and I am extremely impressed.  There were few words I had after I listened to Enigma Machine the first time, so I had to gather my jaw off the floor and my brain from the walls before I could make any thoughts.  It’s that good.

This album seems to draw a lot on Dream Theater’s influences, and there are tracks that seems as much more than nods to other bands like Rush that they draw inspiration from.  In fact, there are at least two tracks that sound like they would be Rush songs alone, which does not disappoint me.  They blend their own sound with what seems like Rush tracks and the result is something really special.  There is no real recurring theme or concept or story being told in this album, which is fine when the tracks are this solid from beginning to end.  Unlike a lot of the previous albums, this one does not need to stray any one direction or another, but it does seem that Dream Theater is attempting a more mainstream appeal with this album.  The tracks are less “prog for the sake of being prog” or attempts for the band members to one up each other like they have in the past.  The solos don’t step on each others’ toes, unlike several other Dream Theater songs where the song goes on and each member seems to be just waiting for their turn to play a solo.  This, like the rug, really ties the room together.  

Also unlike many other albums, the writing is done more collectively instead of John Petrucci writing most of the lyrics and Mike Portnoy and Petrucci writing most of the music.  We have another John Myung song, and that always makes me happy.  I know most of you don’t know what I’m talking about, so I’ll explain: John Myung, the bassist, is easily one of the most talented bassists to have ever lived, and he is the silent man.  He rarely ever speaks in interviews or for any purpose, and he has almost never written lyrics for songs.  The only songs prior to this album that he had written were Learning to Live, off my favorite DT album Images and Words, and Breaking All Illusions, off A Dramatic Turn of Events.  This is not to say that he doesn’t contribute to the music writing process, and only pertains to the lyrics.  The band, most of the time, writes their own music, and I believe the majority of the album’s music was written by the band as a whole.  This allowed for each of the band members to have their own voice, and after years of listening to Dream Theater, I can generally tell who had more influence on each song.  It sounds strange and possibly crazy, but for example I knew the Jordan Rudess had a major hand in writing Along for the Ride.  

Like many previous albums, they have a track with orchestral support.  This last track, Illumination Theory, pulled out all the stops.  At over 22 minutes with five distinct and separate parts throughout the song, it ranks as one of their best “epics”.  I hate using the word “epic” because it has been abused the past five years or so, but in the musical sense, Illumination Theory is nothing short of an “epic”.  It has everything I could ask for musically, from strong vocals to a beautiful piano piece.  I guess that’s to be expected for a 22 minute track, having everything stuffed into it.  This track doesn’t feel forced, though, and goes by very quickly for a 22 minute journey that describes what people may be willing to kill for and what they may be willing to die for.  If you do end up listening to this track, or you have already, listen to the very last two or three minutes of the track.  You will hear a piano piece that to me sounds like it comes right off Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.  Maybe I was just hearing things, but I don’t think so.  

Can you believe it?  All this praise and it’s still only number three on my list?  Yeah, buckle up.  It’s about to get wild up in here.  Up in here, up in here.  This next album, the first time I heard it, I truly believed it would be the best album I would hear this year.  I held that belief for six whole months, until that top album appeared and…yeah.  Like I keep saying, you’ll see.  

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Album IV! Sound of Contact - Dimensionaut

I’m back again with another entry on my list, and this one is a real doozey.  For a debut album, it was simply fantastic.  This band, Sound of Contact, is a four piece from Britain, headed by a man named Simon.  For those of you who already know who this man is, good.  For those of you who do not, I want you to listen to his voice in this track and tell me who he sounds like.  

This band really knocked my socks off with this concept album.  I know I know, I love concept albums, stories, and beginnings/middles/ends of music.  While I admit that track I posted isn’t my favorite, it’s a good representation of what Sound of Contact is capable of.  The instrumentals are slick and solid, the vocals are very familiar and yet something, and the finale track goes off with a huge bang.  The album is one complete adventure, with a heavy sci-fi theme and a fair amount of actual science in it.  It’s not quite as clever as Ayreon’s rhyming of “Einstein’s Relativity” with “Heisenberg’s Uncertainty”, but it’s almost that close.  

The only criticism I have about Dimensionaut at all is actually regarding one of their tracks, which I previously enjoyed thoroughly.  The song Omega Point, which started off strong for me, ended up getting a little annoying to me because it sounded more like nonsense as I listened to the lyrics.  All of the lines rhymed but they did not make much in the way of sense for me.  The guys seemed to be just going for clever instead of well written, which works sometimes but not in this instance.  If my only gripe is about the lyrics of one particular song, you know it’s a tough comparison and I have nothing but respect for the band.  

Something remarkable about this album is that it was written and recorded back in 2010, which means that this wonderful album sat on the shelf for years before coming out this year.  Whether that’s because a record label didn’t sign them, because they did not know what band they wanted to be, or something else, I don’t know.  I don’t think they became Sound of Contact until 2012, so it may have been something as simple as the band members recorded the album but did not identify themselves yet until they could come together.  This took far too long and I wonder what they’ve been doing since this album was recorded.  They haven’t been touring, and this spring will be their first tour, on the “Bring the Prog Back” tour with some other big prog names.  

I’m so happy this album finally saw the light of day, because it’s a wonderful debut from a band that has a lot of promise.  I’ll tell you who the frontman is of this band, this Simon character.  First of all, he sings and also plays the drums.  Second, his name is Simon Collins.  Yes, that Collins.  He is the son of Phil Collins, and he sounds just like him.  I remember well when I played the album for Pat, John and James how shocked they were when they heard his voice.  I know the sons are supposed to sound and look like their fathers, but this is really something.  You be the judge.  With that, I hope you enjoy Dimensionaut.  It’s a fresh new album coming out this year for a new band that has a whole lot of potential.  I look forward to hearing them again maybe even next year.  We shall see.

Next time, we’ll look at an album that many of you thought would be my top pick.  While it was an amazing album, it’s hard to believe that there were two other albums that came out this year that were even better!  I’m so excited to about these last three albums for you all.  Thanks for listening, children.

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Album V! Ayreon - The Theory of Everything

Well here we are.  It’s time for the top five.  I know I said I would go over another album before this, but I realized I didn’t have enough to say about that album.  I’ve been out of words this week…I guess I was completely burned out from exams and paper writing after all.  This break is refreshing though, so allow me to introduce you to this album.  This “band”, Ayreon, was created by a Dutch musical genius named Arjen Lucassen, and he decided to break his music up into different groups originally.  He had a solo record (and last year’s magical album), he had Ayreon which was the prog metal/prog rock stuff, he had Ambeon which was the slower stuff, he had Star One which was his prog rock/sci fi stuff, and what else do you need?  Anyways, Ayreon was his primary subject, each album telling its own story.  As the years progressed and he kept releasing albums, oh my god he linked them all together somehow.  One album involved a mystical journey of a bunch of people gathered from different places and times, another was completely within the mind of a troubled man, and so on.  This one is a doozey, though, with a story straight from several movies with distinct mentally skilled yet unstable characters like A Beautiful Mind.  

The main character, for whatever reason, is a silent savant, who has an amazing intellect but has no way of showing it other than in his own head.  He can’t speak or communicate, which echoes Tommy for you Who fans, and his family tries to bring him into this world.  They see doctors (no Jack Nicholson sadly) and eventually find one, but he says the medicine to give him has possible side effects.  To no one’s surprise, side effects are confirmed, and he gets all messed up.  I won’t spoil the rest of the story, but wow.  It’s one wild ride; a full length story from start to finish.  

As Arjen does with his other albums, he brings in famous guest musicians for the vocals (but he usually voices one of the main or supporting characters), and a few of the stars on this album include Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Jordan Rudess (keyboardist of Dream Theater), and Cristina Scabbia (lead singer of Lacuna Coil).  He gets all these great musicians together and makes his music, with each of the players having their own distinct roles in the story.  Cristina, for instance, plays The Mother in this story.  I thought about giving you a specific track on the album, but I realized that would be crazy out of context, so I will instead give you the first album.  Oh, I should have mentioned, Arjen has a lot to say so most of his albums are double albums.  The Theory of Everything is no different, clocking in an over an impressive 89 minutes.  I also should probably tell you know that this album is broken up into four sections, or phases.  Each phase has several sections that transition into each other, so it’s much better to listen to this album continuously instead of broken up track by track.  This makes it difficult to figure out a “highlight” or singleworthy track, because it’s not written to be broken apart.  One last awesome thing to mention: the album is called The Theory of Everything, and there are 42 sections altogether in the album.  Many of you should realize that the number 42 is quite significant in literature, and if you get the reference then so much the better.  If you don’t, you need to read more.   

I love this album.  There’s very little to criticize, and I don’t think I’m going to find much negative to say about this or any other upcoming albums on this list.  When we get into the top five, it’s a battle of inches.  This album has something for every prog fan, from metal to space rock to orchestral arrangements.  We have solos, we have duets, and there is a particular duet with The Prodigy and The Father late into the second album (disc?) that is particularly thrilling.  They harmonize perfectly and it just sends chills down my spine every time I hear it.  I’m not going to give you the whole album, because it’s one of the rare ones that is worth every penny to actually purchase.  It was difficult to put this only at 5 on my list, especially as many progressive fans put this in the top three, but whatever whatever I do what I want.

I hope you enjoy listening to Ayreon’s new album, The Theory of Everything.  It could be a while until we hear from him again, as he suffered a severe elbow injury while recording.  Arjen is so devoted to his music that he actually pushed through the rest of the recording with practically one arm instead of letting his fans down.  For those of you that don’t already know, he is a multi-instrumentalist and on the album he played electric, acoustic, and bass guitars, the keyboards, the synthesizers, and he even took a seat behind a Hammond.  He can truly do it all.  

Next time, we’ll talk about a wonderful album, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t have my other notes in front of me so I’m not completely sure which I put at 4 and 3, because they were so close.  Therefore, I can’t preview your next album for you, but I guarantee I loved it and I hope you will all too.  Thanks for listening, children.

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A great album that didn’t make the list…

I’ve been pretty busy lately, to say the least.  So, I’ve taken a few days off from this wonderful list, but I found it calling to me tonight.  It wanted to be continued, so I decided to write something without actually going into the top five.  As you can see, this album didn’t make my list but it’s an honorable mention for me.  It’s called Pelagial, by the band The Ocean.  It is a powerful concept album that describes the depths of the ocean.  It’s a brilliant idea, because as the album progresses, the tracks get darker and heavier, in an effort to represent the growing darkness and increasing pressure of going deeper into the ocean.  This album, a post-metal juggernaut, blew me out of the water.  Yes, pun intended.  However, it had some flaws for me that kept it out of the top 13 this year.  

The biggest problem I had with this album was the vocals.  That sentence doesn’t look written correctly, but I’ll move on.  I really hate growling vocals and this album’s singer just grated on me the whole time.  Instrumentally, it was brilliant…some of the best of the year.  I just couldn’t get past the vocals, which is unfortunate but also the main reason that Deafheaven’s Sunbather is way off this list.  Sunbather made me feel like I was having heart palpitations listening to it.  It was so heavy and intense it was actually too much for me to enjoy.  I had to take a break after a couple songs, and that was almost the case for Pelagial.  You be the judge.   

There was something special that The Ocean did for this album, though, by releasing their album additionally as an instrumental-only.  It was as if they had heard my pleas to get rid of the growling…But alas, that was not enough to put it on the list.  I gave this album an honorable mention ranking on my list because musically it is spectacular.  It is heavy and increasingly dark but still has purpose.  The songs sound different as you go through the album, as I mentioned, so that I can feel the music changing and swirling around me.  What drives me crazy is that Loic, the singer, can actually sing.  I would sincerely love bands like Between the Buried and Me if they stopped that obnoxious and abrasive growling, especially when I know the singers can sing.  I loved Thomas Giles’s (The lead singer of Between the Buried and Me) solo album Pulse, because he actually sang on that album!  Mikael Akerfeldt can sing beautifully, and he finally is singing more as I discussed about Opeth’s Heritage a couple years ago.  I feel like I’m not all focused on this review, so I will wrap it up.

The Ocean’s Pelagial was a unique album that granted my wishes by releasing a vocal-free copy along with their album.  If it didn’t have any vocals to begin with, that would have been better, but I don’t think any instrumental-only albums made the list this year.  This may be a spoiler, but Scale the Summit’s Migration did not make this list either.  It was solid but didn’t do enough for me to go above and beyond the other albums this year.  Pelagial was just too much for me to enjoy in one full sitting, and that is definitely a criteria for me.  If I can’t listen to an album in one sitting without having to take a break, I can’t say it’s a ‘best’ to me.  

Next time, I’ll talk about another album that didn’t quite make my list but stood out with its clever lyrics and catchy beats.  I want to talk about it so I can tell you about how much I enjoyed it.  After all, that’s what this list is for.  I just hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I like writing it.

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Album 6! Queens of the Stone Age - …Like Clockwork

Boom!  I couldn’t possibly write this list without this album on it somewhere.  I had to put this album as close to the top five as possible to give it the recognition it deserves, but unfortunately for QotSA there is some serious competition in the top five, and you’ll find out more about that next week.  Josh Homme wrote all the lyrics to these songs, and that’s the first thing I’d like to mention.  These songs are quite clever across the board.  I mean, who contemplates in song form if they had a tail, other than Mr. Homme?  Not to mention, he hates most of his friends, like I do.  

Before I delve into the album, I’d like to tell a little story about the discovery of this album.  As I mentioned in my preview post about this album, this album was indeed discovered during a grand adventure.  Over the summer, the three amigos united yet again to explore, and explore we did.  After a fantastic week of seeing where the wind took us, we were travelling home when I discovered that this album had…made its way out to be heard by some fans earlier than its scheduled release.  As an opportunistic gentleman, the album found its way into my possession and we turned this album on for the home stretch of the trip.  We were all immediately blown away by the fullness of the album, and QotSA’s signature sound was back in force.  It was a fitting end to an excellent escapade.  

I could go on but I will not, because I will just say that you had to be there.  Anyways, this album is powerful.  It’s full bodied rock music, plain and simple.  I know, you can call it alt rock but I don’t even know what alt rock means anymore.  It used to mean whatever WCYY was playing back in Maine but as rock radio stations have “evolved” over the past twenty years (god we’re getting old), they only play that Breaking Benjamin Three Doors Death Punch nonsense now.  The terrible state of radio rock music aside, this album grabbed me by the throat but left just enough air for me to sing along to it.  I won’t lie that I’ve learned a lot of the words to the songs, which is surprising because they are quite unusual.  If I had a tail, I’d own the night?  Don’t even get me started on trying to break down Smooth Sailing, because that could take all night.  The songs are heavy but they don’t take too much out of me, and they tend to let up a little so they aren’t just pounding into your brain for 46 minutes.  I can’t help but feel a little melancholy amidst the sea of rock, and there are interpretations out there that feel this album is the band saying goodbye.  After several listens, I don’t think this is the final effort from QotSA, and I think this is more the new beginning for the band.

This album brought together a lot of musicians from the band’s past as well as some famous fans into the process.  By famous fans, I mean musicians, which include Trent Reznor and Elton John.  Yes, Josh Homme called Elton John and asked if he wanted to play piano and sing background vocals to Fairweather Friends.  Elton happily obliged, and why not.  They even brought back Nick Oliveri and Dave Grohl to play along in a few songs, and Grohl drummed on half the album.  Grohl came in, if you hadn’t heard, because their former drummer Joey Castillo was fired mid recording.  Grohl was the perfect person to bring back into the studio, because he was their drummer on their best album, Songs for the Deaf.  I still think Songs for the Deaf edges out Like Clockwork in terms of best QotSA album, but that does not at all diminish Like Clockwork in any way.  

Something else that stuck out to me about this album, and I feel like a broken record, was the fact that this album as a whole had a clear beginning, middle, and end.  Keep Your Eyes Peeled started off slow with glass breaking and went big with If I Had a Tail (above), My God is the Sun (which is nominated for a Grammy), and Kalopsia (my favorite song).  The album ends well with strings and piano with the title track, and it’s the complete package.  If I had one criticism about this album, it doesn’t have a (clear) theme.  I mentioned above that I felt sadness from the album, but that may just be my interpretation of what I’m hearing.  I hear a few tracks and it sounds like Josh Homme is singing about regrets, but maybe not.  I know, music doesn’t have to be this big all-encompassing thing where everything has meaning, but at the same time, it kind of does.  It’s a creative journey and the band wrote these songs for a reason.  We’re beyond music and songs like “Diarrhea of Jane” or whatever it’s called, into a category of music and musicians that actually care about what they’re doing.  This may be a utopian vision, but I like to think there’s something more to it.  

Anyways, I’ll stop rambling about what I think the music tells me, and just tell you to listen to this album.  It has a lot of sentimental value to me already, and I can’t see QotSA stopping now.  There’s more gold to be mined from these hills…ah, that sounded better in my head.  

Now that we’ve reached the top five, I’m going to take a break for a day or two writing these pieces and instead talk about bands that didn’t make the cut but should or could have.  I may just talk about an album I really liked but didn’t fall into the “best album” area.  I have a few in mind, so this may be a fun adventure.  After this list, I may decide to write about a couple other albums that stuck out to me this year, like a live album or a soundtrack or two, because those kinds of albums aren’t included in this list.  Thanks for listening, children.

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Album 7! Tesseract - Altered State

Oh my god, what an amazing album.  A few years ago, Tesseract came out with a couple EPs and an LP called One between them.  One absolutely ruled, and right in the middle of it there was a sweet 27 minute multi-part track that blew my face off.  This time around, Tesseract made Altered State, which was split up into four parts called Of Matter, Of Mind, Of Reality, and Of Energy.  They decided to go in favor of clean vocals in this album and what a brilliant choice it was.  If I had to pick a “most talented” album of the year, this would be the choice.  What an awesome prog metal creation that Tesseract created for our enjoyment.  I will share with you all the first of four parts to this album, called Of Matter.  

This album is heavy and rocks so hard, and it is done is beautiful prog metal style with the incredibly irregular time signatures and stunning percussion.  I know I’m gushing about an album that is only ranked number seven on this list, but it has to be said.  Any prog fan friend of mine who is reading this and hasn’t heard it already really needs to get this album underway.  This album can be very aggressive, but not in the heavy metal or death metal way.  Ok, maybe it is a bit in the heavy metal way, but it’s not like much I’ve heard before.  A lot of people in the prog community compare Tesseract to Periphery but I find Periphery to be a little too abrasive to listen to for an extended period of time.  The vocals are a lot cleaner than Periphery and the music isn’t quite as exhausting.  When I finish sitting through an album like Periphery 2, I am wiped out afterwards.  However, when I listen to Altered State, I get pumped up instead.  

Altered State is incredibly complex, highly technical, and really complicated.  I love those sound walls, and this album provides that in spades.  That isn’t to say this album is the perfect album, because some stretches do drag on a bit longer than I would like, and that’s coming from a prog fan that likes 20 minute tracks.  The songs offer a lot of diversity, but there isn’t always a clear path of where they are taking the song as it may start heavy and then fluctuate and end heavy.  The album also feels top heavy, and the first two parts shine more than the second two, but that is to be expected for something that is at this high level.  The vocals don’t really factor into the music until you are partway through the album, and then they harmonize but it takes a little getting used to.  All in all, not too heavy criticism as this album is solid as a rock.  

Altered State is a massive improvement over the already impressive debut effort they had a few years ago, which shows incredible promise for Tesseract.  If they can come up with something this awesome, and by that I mean it actually inspired awe in me the first time I listened to it, on their second album, the sky is the limit.  The band members are going to get better and the band should keep improving.  I’m very excited for them in the next five to ten years, because at this rate we’ll have an all time great on our hands by the time I turn 30.  Don’t do that math.  

Next time, we look at an album that I discovered while on a grand adventure, and it rocked me all the way home.  I won’t give any more hints, but you’ll see soon enough.   That is, in about 24 hours from now.  Thanks for listening, children.  

Oh, by the way, if you read “thanks for listening, children” as something creepy, it’s not supposed to be creepy, it’s the sign-off for the radio host Three Dog.  

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Album 8! Daft Punk - Random Access Memories


I’m sure some of you are rejoicing for actually having heard of this band unlike some of the others before (besides Black Sabbath, and if you haven’t heard of Black Sabbath before reading this tumblr, stop reading this list and go back in your cave).  Daft Punk…yeah, it wouldn’t be proper without putting this album on the list.  It’s just so good.  It’s not the best I’ve heard this year, but it has the mainstream appeal that a lot of you may like more than some of my strange progressive rock/metal submissions in the past.  I do not agree that radio play equals a successful album, and I’m sure most of you have heard ‘Get Lucky’ a few dozen times on the radio already.  Even my dad had heard this song a bunch of times, but he still thinks that they are saying “Get some of that mexican loving” instead of “We’re up all night to get lucky”.  Can’t make that kind of stuff up.  Maybe I should write a *Stuff* My Dad Says type of book out of his quotes, there would be some gems in there.  Oh, right, Daft Punk.

This album really has some toe tappers in it, and many are very catchy.  There are slow ones like The Game of Love and Within, but it’s well spaced so there isn’t a rush of slow songs followed by a slew of fast ones.  There are also an astounding amount of guest musicians on this album, most of them being singers of some form or another.  I also must stress that outside of this album, I do not like Pharrell, or that Julian guy from The Strokes (except for his contributions to The Lonely Island).  Yes, I know he also sang on Sick, Sick, Sick by Queens of the Stone Age, but I still am not a fan.  I’m torn on the vocals in this album, actually, because I really don’t like voice modulation effects.  Instant Crush is a perfect example of the phase shift/auto-tune garbage that has been wrong with music the past ten years or so.  I blame it on Cher for that horrible song that we all know what I’m talking about.  I get it, Daft Punk, you want the voice to sound like it’s part of the synthesizer, but it sounds mediocre at best to me.  

I admire Daft Punk for taking a lot of chances in this album, and most of them paid off.  There’s a whole lot of instruments going on which is a sharp contrast to their mostly-electronic sound previously, but that’s a sign of a band trying to evolve its sound.  One track where that works perfectly is Giorgio by Moroder.  I can’t stress how much I enjoyed that song this year, at least what comes from 2:00 on.  It’s a nine minute track which is unusual in electronic music this side of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, but its direction is what really sparked my interest.  To me, Giorgio by Moroder is what a progressive electronica song would sound like if there were such a thing.  Progressive House/Trance is not quite the same as the progressive element that I’m talking about, but there are some similarities.  GtM starts off slowly with Giorgio telling his story for two minutes, and the music builds and builds into a crescendo with complicated drum tracks and impressive keyboard work with guitars to boot.  It’s exactly the kind of track I’m looking for in a great album, and I was very happy to hear it when I listened to the album for the first time.  I love songs with a clear beginning, middle and end.  

In this album, we have some creative adventures in Touch and Motherboard, but then we have more formulaic pop beats with songs like Get Lucky and Lose Yourself to Dance.  I won’t even get started on Contact, because I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it as a closing track.  Most importantly, Daft Punk dared to be different, and I strongly approve.  I was even lucky enough to get a great wandering instrumental track that was completely devoid of obnoxious vocal effects, and that is the track I will share with you today.  

Overall, this was a great album but it was quite hit or miss for me.  The tracks were arranged right, and the mixing was exceptional, but I just didn’t like a few tracks very much.  The songs I liked, I really liked, which is what earned this album a spot on my top ten.  Well done, Daft Punk.  You may earn a few Grammy Awards this year, which clearly means that you’ve made it to the next level.  Sarcasm aside, I really hope Daft Punk beats the pants off Taylor Swift, that piano girl, that Macklemore idiot, and someone I’ve never heard of before named Kendrick.  I feel like I could write pages and pages on how Grammy Awards are the worst thing to happen to music (maybe second to MTV, historically speaking).  I won’t subject you to that, though.  You’ve all been really good sports reading my rambling posts about music I like every year, and I appreciate it.

Next time, we’ll go over a compelling album that is broken up into four distinct parts.  Interestingly enough, there are actually two albums this year that have four separate parts to them on this list.  In terms of pure technicality, this next band is one of the most skilled bands I’ve had the pleasure to listen to.  I look forward to breaking this one down for you all tomorrow.  Thanks for losing yourself to dance with me.

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Album 9! Riverside - Shrine of New Generation Slaves

I had to take a night off from this list last night, what with finals week happening now.  I still have a lot of work to do, but this is a nice study break.  Anyways, it was very difficult to put this album as low as it is on this list, because I really enjoyed it.  I had never heard of Riverside prior to a few months ago, and I am glad I know them now.  This Polish prog rock band has been around for a bit over 10 years now, but this album really helps put them on the progressive map.  Their previous album, Anno Domini High Definition, was arguably their breakout album within the community, and Shrine of New Generation Slaves really pushes them to new heights.  ADHD (get it?) was quite popular within Poland, but didn’t really spread out internationally, but this one has done so more.  

The lead singer, Mariusz Duda, has some interesting vocal effects going for him on this album.  He gives his voice a more electronic sound in some songs, to make it as if his voice was just another instrument.  However, he has a great voice and doesn’t need to use any electronics to make him sound good.  I must say they do sound a lot like Anathema, which in my opinion makes for something great.  As you may or may not remember, last year’s Weather Systems completely blew me away, so hearing a band with similarities to Anathema is welcome.  The songs in this album do not sound the same track to track, and while there are some commonalities between tracks, they all go together well.  I felt at peace listening to this album, and maybe you will too.

If I had one criticism, it is that there does not seem to be a track that stands out above and beyond the others.  I don’t mind this, though, because some of my favorite albums are solid from cover to cover, and this is an example of that.  There isn’t really a single, other than perhaps Celebrity Touch, but I don’t think prog rock albums really need singles.  I mean, how often do you hear modern prog on the radio, other than Rush?  This criticism does not take away from the strength of the album, because it is a complete package, and it does sadden me to place it at 9.  While I may believe that this album is technically (as in instruments and skill) better than some of the albums higher up, those albums have other intangibles going for them that put them over the top.  

This album is really satisfying, and it listens best when you hear it from start to finish.  Each song, for the most part, is an independent track, but there is a certain cohesion to this album that I appreciate.  While it is solid and strong, it does not really break the mold or go somewhere that other bands haven’t gone.  Sometimes it is unnecessary to try to go above and beyond the norm, but some other albums further on this list have done just that.  You’ll see.  I absolutely enjoyed Riverside’s Shrine of New Generation Slaves, and I hope you enjoy it with me.  It did not let me down and I look forward to their next album in a few years.  I hope it doesn’t take another four years for them to come out with an album, though.  

Next time, we’ll look at an album from a band that you may have actually heard of.  I know, highly unusual, but it just goes to show you that there are a few popular bands that can still make good music these days.  Thanks for stopping by.