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Favorite Instrumental Albums of 2007
Most of what I’m really enjoying lately doesn’t include vocals. Maybe I’m getting sick of normal music, I don’t know. I still love a good pop song, but I’m definitely more into jazz and avant-garde the past two years. That’s why this “Instrumental” list keeps expanding and my “normal” Fav Albums list seems to be shrinking. Alas, here are my favorite instrumental (or largely instrumental) albums of 2007:
1) Holy Fuck – Holy Fuck LP2 – Brilliant groove-oriented “live electronic” post-rock. I saw these guys (almost twice) in 2007. Brilliant live show, excellent moving melodic-yet-avant-garde songs. Great stuff. Less than fortunate name, I know. Great music, though.
2) Dave Douglas & Keystone – Moonshine – A new one from trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas. This CD also includes interactive stuff online (remix source tracks, videos, bonus tracks). Trumpet is one of my favorite jazz instruments, and Dave Douglas is at the forefront of melodic, compositional-meets-improvisational trumpet in the current era.
3) John Zorn – Six Litanies for Heliogabalus – A completely powerful noise-rock onslaught from John Zorn’s Moonchild trio (Mike Patton, Trevor Dunn, and Joey Baron) plus a choral, electronics by Ikue Mori, keys from Jamie Saft, and John Zorn himself on saxaphone. This album is not for the faint of heart. It’s all over the place, but completely composed (hard to believe). I saw the trio in Seattle in Nov 2007. It was insane.
4) Floratone – Floratone – This album is a wonderful jazz gem from Matt Chamberlain (who I’ve seen drum for Tori Amos and A Perfect Circle), Bill Frisell (jazz guitarist who needs no intro), Tucker Martine, and Lee Townsend. It also has guest spots from Eyvind Kang (Seattle violinist on my “fav” list), Viktor Krauss, and Ron Miles. This fits with the Barnes & Noble clientele, but it’s enjoyable to a fan of the lower eastside NYC/downtown music scene, too.
5) Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone – I have a hard time defining “post rock,” but I know I like it. Ambient, wall of sound, momentous… anyway… Explosions in the Sky fits in well with other post-rock favs of mine like Mogwai, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Euphone, Boards of Canada, and even the borderline post-rock Sigur Rós. Anyway, EITS is a welcome addition to my collection. All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone is quality, moving ambient music.
6) Antibalas – Security – OK, not entirely instrumental, but probably at least 90% instrumental. Antibalas is an afrobeat band in the mold of Femi Kuti, et al. Driving rhythm, multi-percussionists, horns, guitars, political lyrics (when there is singing). Quality live show, too.
7) The Tiptons – Tsunami – A sax quartet with drums from Seattle. I just barely missed them when they came through Eugene, but I’ll see ‘em next time for sure. Thanks to Jim Wilke’s Jazz NW podcast for getting me into these wonderful musicians.
8 ) The Lithuanian Empire – The Lithuanian Empire – Funky horn-based klezmer jazz. Klezmer music is really interesting. I’m going to blame John Zorn’s Masada quartet and Tzadik label for my fondess. The Lithuanian Empire isn’t connected with Zorn in any business sense, but they connected with my ears. Great stuff…
9) Ric Hordinski – The Silence of Everything Yearned For – Ric Hordinski knows how to put layers of guitar down that build slowly, smooth throughout, and hit you with a wall of sound when you’re not paying attention. He’s a true midwest treasure. I’m gonna miss him now that I’ve moved across country.
10) Incubus – Look Alive – OK, this was a shock. Incubus isn’t an instrumental band. They’ve got a fabulous vocalist, Brandon Boyd. This CD was merely a bonus CD with the concert DVD. It contains 11 tracks of musical joy (plus 6 bonus live tracks with vocals, which are good too). These 11 tracks really show off the band’s music writing. I knew guitarist Mike Einziger could write some great instrumental jams (based on 2003′s Time Lapse Consortium live album), and I’m glad he and the band are still up to the vocal-less challenge, even though they’ve got one of my favorite vocalists in rock music today.
11) Method of Defiance – Inamorata – A flood of avant-garde mayhem unleashed by Bill Laswell. A mix of music collaborations (whether intentioned or illegal) from usual Laswell friends Buckethead, John Zorn (& Zorn’s Masada Strings), Bootsy… but also unlikely mixes with Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders, and more… masterful and avant-garde, heavy industrial and ambient meets jazz.
12) Hiromi’s Sonicbloom – Time Control – Cutting edge piano-based jazz on the primarily classical Telarc label. Hiromi runs circles around her tight band. a very enjoyable disc… I’m almost embarrassed that I didn’t pay for it (the BMG club system = awesomes).
13) For a Minor Reflection – Reistu Þig Við, Sólin Er Komin Á Loft… – A band from Iceland that is on the same foreign label and same audio approach as another band from Iceland, Sigur Rós. For a Minor Reflection are one of my “best surprises” of the year. They even sent me the CD for free. I said I liked their sound from the MySpace player, and I think they were trying to break into the U.S. or something. I don’t know. I dig their sound a lot, though. Just don’t ask me to pronounce their album title…
14) John Zorn played by Marc Ribot – Masada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 7 (Asmodeus) – A spastic take on new Masada tunes, not unlike Marc Ribot’s other guitar adventures on John’s Tzadik label.
15) Pocket Change – 4 – Blues based jazz/funk from Seattle. They play Eugene every once in a while, too… I hope I can check ‘em out the next time they’re here.
16) Ned Rothenberg – Sync with Strings: Inner Diaspora – A moving set of Jewish music on Zorn’s Radical Jewish Culture category on Tzadik. This set also features string-masters Mark Feldman and Erik Friedlander (who are part of Zorn’s Masada Strings group, among other Zorn incarnations).
17) John Zorn played by Erik Friedlander – Masada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 8 (Volac) – A quite moving set of arrangements on new Masada tunes. I’m really enjoying the Masada Book Two songs and the concept of having different artists tackle each batch makes for some interesting listening. I’m still waiting for the Secret Chiefs 3 one, though… next year…
19) Alex Kontorovich – Deep Minor – More klez-jazz. Again, it strikes my fancy. Sue me. :-)
20) Kenny Werner – Lawn Chair Society – Piano based jazz with Dave Douglas on trumpet & Chris Potter on sax. You had me at Dave Douglas, and Chris Potter made me a fan earlier in 2007 when I saw a show at Raymond Walter’s College in a north Cincinnati suburb. Anyway, Kenny’s piano playing is quite a feast as well.
Brian Bromberg – Downright Upright / Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead) – There Will Be Blood -soundtrack- / Eyvind Kang – The Yelm Sessions / Medeski & Martin – Mago / Rob Price Quartet (with Trevor Dunn, Ellery Eskelin, Jim Black) – I Really Do Not See the Signal
myspace/brianbromberg – myspace/radiohead – myspace/eyvindkangeyvind – myspace/martinmedeski – gutbrain.com/
I feel bad due to some likely gems didn’t make their way into my basket this year… David Buchbinder‘s Odessa/Havana, Anat Cohen, et cetera… but I guess you gotta stop somewhere and just make a damn list (or at least I do…).
The “regular” list in a week or so… it’s slow goin’ this year…
Well, this “Round 3” is decidedly less flashy (sans pics)… I’ve got too much homework to do to be putzing around on my 2007 pontifications… :-) I have included MySpace links for artists represented on MySpace, whether officially or fictionally represented (just click their names and check out their stuff).
1) Porcupine Tree – Nil Recurring
2) Holy Fuck – Holy Fuck
3) Kelly Evans – Easy
4) The Album Leaf – Green Tour
5) Auragami – +/-
6) Sia – Lady Croissant
7t) Sarah Masen – Magic That Works
7t) Sarah Masen – A History of Lights and Shadows
7t) Sarah Masen – Woman’s Work is Alchemy
8 ) Múm – The Peel Session
1) Secret Chiefs 3 – Path of Most Resistance: In History and Presence
2) Ani DiFranco – Canon
3) Sigur Rós – Hvarf-Heim
4) Peter Mulvey – Notes From Elsewhere : solo acoustic
5) Derek Webb – One Zero (Acoustic & Remixes)
hm) Nick Drake – Family Tree
Favorite Live Albums
1) Dave Douglas Quintet – Live at the Jazz Standard
2) Ken Andrews – Never Say Never – Tour CD
3) Ellery – What I’ve Said Out Loud
4) Dub Trio – Cool Out and Coexist
5) The Cracow Klezmer Band – Remembrance: Live in Warsaw
hm) Ani DiFranco – Boston, 11.10.06
hm) Over the Rhine – Live from Nowhere Farm, Volume Two
Favorite Music-related DVDs (huge tie for 5th, obviously a rigged election… or a sign of getting too many DVD for xmas from family)
1) Sigur Rós – Heima
2) Silverchair – Across the Great Divide
3) That1Guy and the Magic Pipe – Live in the Land of OZ (late-late 2006 release)
4) Ellery - An Evening with Ellery
5t) Ben Folds – Live at MySpace
5t) Estradasphere – Palace of Mirrors Live
5t) Incubus – Look Alive
5t) Kaada / Patton – Live
My final two rounds (Fave Instrumental & Fave Vocal Albums) should be posted next week or so. Yeah, I know. Whatever. :-)
Well, my 17-day vacation/ holiday break/ hustle-and-rent-the-house-2,600-miles-away trip went well… alas, my oft “too time consuming” year-end list of all that is fantastic to my ears is not done/barely started.
Now that I’ll be back to school, I’ll have some time to re-listen to my 2007 music. Expect something in mid-to-late January (perhaps). In the meantime, for those that care (all 2 of you)… here are some preliminary choice tunes from last year (in no particular order, except for likely the 1st two):
2. Radiohead – In Rainbows
Wussy – Left for Dead
Ken Andrews (from Failure/On/Year of the Rabbit) – Secrets of the Lost Satellite
Puscifer (Maynard from Tool) – V is For Vagina
Elliott Smith – New Moon
Antibalas – Security
Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
Hiromi – Time Control
Holy Fuck – Holy Fuck LP2
Marc Ribot – Masada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 7 (Asmodeus)
John Zorn – Six Litanies for Heliogabalus
Dave Douglas & Keystone – Moonshine
The Lithuanian Empire – The Lithuanian Empire
The full “Top ??” list will be jam-packed with more info, pictures, and links than you cared to know about said artists… as I would have it no. other. way.
~Dan – np: Gaston Zirko‘s experimental music on myspace
Well, there are still some 2007 CDs that may or may not arrive in my hands before the year’s over (specifically Eyvind Kang, Dave Douglas, Greydon Square, Radiohead, Doug Pinnick & La Mar Enfortuna — all of which have Top 20 potential); so I’m not ready to post my “Best CDs of 2007” list, yet. Look for that one sometime in early 2008…
This blog is for my favorite concerts of 2007. I went to too many to recount in detail, but these are the tip-top ones…
- Music Now Festival 2007 (Pedro Soler, Bryce Dessner, David Cossin, the Clogs, the Havels, Osso, Amiina, My Brightest Diamond, Sufjan Stevens) at the Memorial Hall, Cincinnati-OH (4/5/07 to 4/7/07) my review
- Masada (John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Greg Cohen, Joey Baron) at the Rose Theatre at the Lincoln Center, New York-NY (3/10/07) my review
- Nellie McKay at the Shedd Institute, Eugene-OR (10/5/07) my review
- Silverchair at the Fillmore @ the TLA, Philadelphia-PA (7/28/07) review snippet
- Secret Chiefs 3 at the Bowery Ballroom, New York-NY (3/15/07) my review
- John Zorn’s Moonchild (Mike Patton, Trevor Dunn, Joey Baron) at the Moore Theatre, Seattle-WA (11/4/07) my review
- Holy Fuck at the Southgate House, Newport-KY (4/1/07) my review
- Antibalas at the Southgate House, Newport-KY (4/29/07) review snippet
- Noctaluca at the Taste of Cincinnati, Cincinnati-OH (5/28/07)
- Blackfield (Steven Wilson & Aviv Geffen) at the Bowery Ballroom, New York-NY (3/16/07) my review
Happy thanksgiving, yo! One thing I’m thankful for is definitely music… :-)
~Dan – np: npr jazz profiles (podcast) – duke ellington: the bandleader, pt. 1
12/24 Update: wow… I totally forgot the kick ass Zappa Plays Zappa show at Moonlite Gardens in Cincinnati, OH on 7/24/07. I think I forgot because I didn’t blog about it when it happened (gettin’ ready to quit my job and pack up and head west at the time)… but now reading this week’s CityBeat, tons of people listed it as a favorite, and man, I was at that show, too… Dweezil = awesomes! Ray White = awesomes! Frank on a big screen behind the band, singing and soloing with the live band = awesomes! 2nd time seeing the ZPZ tour in 2 years (completely different setlist, too). I think it needs to be a once-a-year thing… in perpetuity.
Well, this is Round 2 of the traditional year-end wrap-up… Round 1 (here) was all about concerts I attended. Since I’m still not ready for my favorite album recap, I’ll ease into with some non-standard categories…
Favorite Local Music 2007
Well, being caught in a move 2,600 miles away this year, my “local” is not quite Oregon-related, yet. In fact, I built up such a battalion of favorite local Cincinnati/Dayton artists, that I may always consider them “local” for me…
1) Wussy – Left for Dead – Simply a fantastic record through and through. “Airborne,” from the first Wussy record (Funeral Dress), may be one of my favorite songs as of late… and the new Wussy record had many songs up to its caliber. Don’t be shocked if this album shows up in my Top 20-something overall albums of the year. It’s a beaut.
2) Kelly Evans – Easy (ep) – I heard of Kelly Evans barely a year ago (MPMF in Sept ’06). Her debut -EP- is something of a gorgeous effort. Great guitarwork, great vocals, fun songs… sorta jazz with a world beat in spots. She’s posted roughly 10 more songs to her MySpace page over the year… this girl needs a full length record. :-) Her record is not in stores, as far as I know… so ask her how you can get one…
3) Auragami – +/- (ep) – This was a gift from a very talented bassist in the Dayton area named Michael Miller. I’ve been a fan of his music since Space (circa 1998). He’s got a great feel for groove, experimentation, and melody. To quote another SW Ohio bassist Mike Georgin, “bass is good.” His record is not in stores, as far as I know… so ask him how you can get one…
Favorite Backwards Technology Releases 2007
What’s not to love about vinyl? It crackles when you play it, scratches easily, and it a pain to put on your iPod, and some artists like to release things on it as special releases that won’t see the light of day in a more accessible format. That’s what not to love about it. With that being said, I still love it. Here are my favorite vinyl-only releases of 2007:
1) Secret Chiefs 3 – four 7″ vinyl singles – Cool design and music to boot. I wish they’d crank out some more music soon, but these vinyl singles were a good layover until Trey Spruance and the SC3 can get Book of Souls or his take on Masada Book Two out (in 2008).
2) Pearl Jam (with U2) – Love Reign O’er Me (fan club 7″ single) – PJ and U2. Nuff Said.
3) Sufjan Stevens – I Went Dancing with My Sister / Waste of What Your Kids Won’t Have (7″ single bonus with Seven Swans vinyl re-issue) – I dislike the “only way you can get this is by getting this, too” aspect of it all… but, hey, it was cheap(ish) and it is Sufjan. He’s new to my camp of “can’t do wrong.” I’m a sucker.
4) Sigur Rós – Hljómalind 7″ single – Of any current band that I’m happy to “grow up” with, this will be one that I’ll be happy to tell people 30 years from now that I saw live.
Favorite Internet-only Releases 2007
1) Ben Elliot – Fairytales (ep) – Rarely do those “band spammers” who claim to sound like “such and such” actually get much attention. Well, Ben Elliot actually bothered to message rather than just friend requesting me. His claims of Silverchair/Dissociative-ness seemed suspect. Alas, I found his music to be QUITE GOOD… so far his stuff’s only available online (no CDs), but well worth whatever change-per-song you throw his way. Do it!! You’ll thank me.
2) Derek Webb – One Zero (Remixes) – I’ve been a fan of Derek since the Caedmon’s Call days. The “remix” notion wouldn’t seem like it’d fit a primarily acoustic singer-songwriter. Alas, it does. Fun stuff…
3) Xenuphobe – 2.0: Electrolux – OK, technically, this one is not internet-only… but I only had funds to get the download version. Xenuphobe is Wally Farkas (of Galactic Cowboys fame) and Ty Tabor (of King’s X fame). It’s an experimental, psychedelic, ambient rock album… I dig it a bunch. I loved X1, and this one beats that one… great works, guys!
4) My Brightest Diamond – Tear It Down (b-sides) – I hate exclusives on iTunes… but at least I didn’t have to buy the whole album again to get these extra gems. I can’t wait for MBD’s next one, A Thousand Shark’s Teeth. Shara’s vocals are sublime.
5) Puscifer - Don’t Shoot the Messenger (ep) – Ah, Maynard James Keenan, you wiley tool of the devil. Not for the faint of heart or ears…
Favorite Podcasts 2007
I blame two people for this new addiction of mine… Gary Lenaire and Kevin Smith. Gary Lenaire was interviewed on The Infidel Guy show, and I got hooked on that podcast. I had stayed away from podcasts until that show. And then, Kevin Smith started pod’ing with the also amusing über-producer Scott Mosier… ensuing hilarity. Anyway, podcasts help fill my “new audible content” addiction… for free.
1) Smodcast – Filmmakers Kevin Smith & Scott Mosier discuss things that probably should never be discussed. For fans of their movies/commentary tracks, this is right up your proverbial alley. Guests include Kev’s wife Jen, Jason Mewes, Walt, Bryan, Malcolm, and others in the askewniverse.
2) Real Time with Bill Maher – Posted a few days after the show airs on HBO. This show is fantastic. I wish I had HBO for this show (and Curb Your Enthusiasm), but this podcast is the next best thing. Great sociopolitical content, discussion, comedy, and world class guests (almost as world class as Ali G’s guests). :-)
3) Ken Laster’s In the Groove, Jazz and Beyond – There seem to be a bunch of jazz podcasts out there that are just plain weak or irregular… or play things that simply aren’t jazz. Ken plays a great jazz mix from old greats to up-and-coming to local… not too “smooth jazz” and enough hard bop and experimental thrown in to keep me interested.
4) The Infidel Guy: The Way of Reason – Reginald Finley, Sr. puts on a great free-thinker show, hitting many topics primarily revolving around religious dogma and other atheistic topics.
5) Dogma Free America – RIP. It just ended at 50 episodes… after lasting about a year… it’ll be missed. (Note: this podcast came back to life in May 2008… woot!)
6) NPR: Jazz Profiles – Superbly crafted A&E-type audio biographies on the greats. Duke, Monk, Bird, Dizzy, Miles, Billie… I came into jazz via the avant-garde scene (Zorn, et al); so getting some exposure to the founding fathers (and mothers) of jazz is awesome!
7) Jazz NW with Jim Wilke – A Seattle-based radio show that more often than not makes me happy to be living in the PacNW. Who knew there’d be such a great jazz scene? Favorite find thus far has easily been Seattle-based Monktail Creative Music Concern (and side band Reptet).
8 ) George Hrab’s Geological Podcast – I just got into this one… it’s fuuuuuuun. and his love for all things Zappa can’t be bad. Geo’s music is pretty damn good, too.
9) Soccergirl, Incorporated – I just got into this one, too… because of GeoHrab. SG’s very similar to Sarah Silverman in comedy stylings — oft-raunchy, un-PC, oft-ridiculous. And that’s a good thing.
10) Compassionate Cooks: Vegetarian Food for Thought – One word: quinoa. It changed my life with regards to home stir-fry, salads, burritoes, and all around superfood goodness. :-)
best videocast: (tie) Les Concerts à Emporter -and- Liam Lynch’s Lynchland – One for intimate performances in public places by indie-rocks’ biggest indie-stars. One for crazy videos and tidbits from the guy who brought us the puppet-rific Sifl & Ollie (an unrelated pre-cursor to Greg the Bunny), who happens to be friends with the Tenacious D guys and Sarah Silverman, etc…
best internet mini-series: Clark and Michael – Michael Cera (George Michael from TV’s Arrested Development) is one of the funniest young men in comedy. He is straight-man GOLD. He and Clark made a witty, pseudo-documentary, 10-episode internet series. Clever.
That’s all for now…
TOP 15 Instrumental Albums of 2006
Estradasphere – Palace of Mirrors (epic and cinematic) : A sibling band of Secret Chiefs 3… Estradasphere got their start on SC3′s label Web of Mimicry (and many of their members from SC3 as well). This is their The End Records debut, and it went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting. Their previous albums have been quite ADHD (a la SC3 and Mr Bungle), but they always had a gypsy-meets-cinematic feel. This album is quite epic and gypsy-cinematic throughout. It’s got a touch of metal in spots and some SC3-type middle-eastern roaming, but the production on this album is masterful compared to their prior works. It truly blew me away. Seeing them perform this year also helped the album’s appeal with me. Brilliant band. Web: http://www.estradasphere.com/
Bobby Previte – The Coalition of the Willing (groove-laden jazz) : A drummer-led jazz band with inescapable grooves, this CD was a “whim” purchase that totally paid off. It also features some of my fav NYC jazz musicians: guitarist Charlie Hunter & organist Jamie Saft, to name a couple… Web: http://www.bobbyprevite.com/
Irving Fields Meets Roberto Rodriguez – Oy Vey…..Olé!!! (klezmer jazz with a latin flavor) : This album is quite the engaging mix of Jewish and Latino musical culture. More of a collaboration than a mashup, though. Great stuff from a great bunch of musicians. My wife liked it, too… Web: http://www.tzadik.com/
Frank Zappa – Trance-Fusion (the return of meedley meedley meeeeee) : Apparently FZ fans have been waiting on this for 10 years… hell, I only found out about it a month before its release, but it’s a great guitar-centric album that fits nicely near the top of my Frank Zappa collection. Web: http://www.zappa.com/
Dweezil Zappa – Go With What You Know (the son of the return of meedley meedley meeeeee) : The lead-off track has vocals, but after that it’s an entire shredfest. Wicked fast, but with a nice groove that DZ usually delivers at a level on par with his father… *gasp* Web: http://www.zappa.com/
Dave Douglas – Meaning and Mystery (trumpet-led jazz quintet) : After getting into klez-jazz phenom Masada earlier this year, Dave Douglas quickly became one of my favorite jazz soloists. He’s got great sound, composition and groove. Web: http://www.davedouglas.com/
Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood – Out Louder (groove-jazz with guitars and a bit more meandering) : I dig MMW a bunch, and MSMW adds a familiar guitar tone to the groove-jazz. Web: http://www.mmw.net/
Cracow Klezmer Band – Masada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 5 ~ Balan (klezmer jazz) : Masada still plays live, but I’m fairly certain that John Zorn’s quit writing tunes for them as a band. His new Masada tunes (“Book Two” as it were) are numbered upwards of 200-300 songs that he wrote over a few years, and different artists are recording them and putting their own spin on the music. Five Masada Book Two albums came out from different artists in 2006, and this one by the Cracow Klezmer Band was the most engaging (Jamie Saft Trio’s & Kobe Israelite’s were also good). 2007 looks to be awesomer, though… as Secret Chiefs 3 (one of my fav bands ever) is going to releasing their Masada Book Two angel-demon incarnation in May (or so). Web: http://www.tzadik.com/
John Zorn – Astronome (glossolaliac noise metal) : I’m a big avant-garde, screamo fan. I dig many projects from John Zorn and Mike Patton that are so absurd that no one should really listen to them on a recommendation. This one is just that way. I don’t expect anyone to take a recommendation to check out Astronome (or Moonchild). If you’re curious, maybe check it out on iTunes… or shove a guitar into a blender with some avocadoes. I’m a big Fantômas fan — and for both Astronome and Moonchild (below), John Zorn has written some Crowley-influenced, magick-heavy “tunes” with vocal-utterance master Mike Patton in mind. The songs are all fairly instrumental, with the “vocals” not being lyrical, but rather very primitive. He rounds out the trio with fellow-Fantômas bandmate Trevor Dunn on bass and Masada drummer Joey Baron. Astronome beats out Moonchild only due to Mike Patton’s vocal acrobatics being more kooky. The third in the series is due in 2007. Web: http://www.tzadik.com/
Jon Madof’s Rashanim – Shalosh (klezmer rock) : Great fretwork with the sound of old culture seeping through. Of all of the radical Jewish culture series that I’ve gotten into this past year, Jon Madom & Rashanim stands out due to its “rock band” feel… Web: http://www.tzadik.com/
Flat Earth Society – Psychoscout (orchestral big-band with a sense of humor) : I first heard of FES while getting into bands on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label. They stood out as not really fitting the heavy, screamy type of band. Multi-instrumentalist big band with its hand in jazz and its other hand in orchestral scores. Fun stuff that’s very much “familiar” without being “all up in your junk.” More Ennio Morricone than, say, um… John Williams. Web: http://www.fes.be/
Electric Kulintang (Susie Ibarra & Roberto Rodriguez) – Dialects (percussive, yet smooth) : Two drummers making a very accessible instrumental record… crazy, huh? There are some non-lyrical vocalizations by Susie on some songs; but all in all, this is straight up instrumental fun. It’s way more poppy than I would have thought. Web: http://www.susieibarra.com/
Talat – The Growl (klezmer jazz) : Lots of klez-jazz this past year… this one rose to the top. Web: http://www.tzadik.com/
Mogwai – Mr. Beast (post-rock ) : Mogwai put out some solid material in 2006… the Zidane Sountrack is also good, but more mellow in spots (not head-butty, like I expected it would be). Web: http://www.mogwai.co.uk/
John Zorn – Moonchild: Songs Without Words (glossolaliac noise metal) : Ditto reason as #9 (Astronome) above, ‘cept Moonchild had some neat-o artwork… Web: http://www.tzadik.com/
TOP 5 EPs of 2006
Glen Phillips – Unlucky 7 (poppy singer-songwriter) : His full-length this year was good/OK, but this -EP- is what I feel is up to par with his prior work. Great stuff!! Web: http://www.glenphillips.com/
David Bazan – Fewer Moving Parts (melancholic singer-songwriter) : Two versions of five songs (one acoustic, one band format) from the former Pedro the Lion frontman. PTL was pretty much a one man band; so his “departure” doesn’t hurt me so much. I look forward to his “debut” full-length in 2007. Web: http://www.davidbazan.com/
Thom Yorke – Spitting Feathers (twitchy electronic rock) : This -EP- has some nice b-sides, a video and an extended version of “Harrowdown Hill.” Web: http://www.theeraser.net/
O.S.I. – Re: Free (progressive rock, remixed) : A great follow-up to a wonderful sophomore album. Web: http://www.osiband.com/
Tristeza – En Nuestro Desafío (organic electronic) : This -EP- was coupled with a great live DVD; which is fun, seeing as they never seem to come ’round these parts… Web: http://www.trstz.com/
and now… my favorite albuims of 2006… at the time… note: I got lazy after I had written little blurbs for all of the instrumental and EPs by the time I got to the album list. Eh.
TOP 30 ALBUMS of 2006
O.S.I. – Free (prog rock meets trip-hop beats) : Web: http://www.osiband.com/
Nellie McKay – Pretty Little Head (witty & spunky piano pop) : Web: http://www.nelliemckay.org/
Sean Lennon – Friendly Fire (John would be proud) : Web: http://www.seanonolennon.com/
Tool – 10,000 Days (art metal) : Web: http://www.toolband.com/
My Brightest Diamond – Bring Me the Workhorse (quirky pop with operatic training) : Web: http://www.mybrightestdiamond.com/
Peeping Tom – Peeping Tom (hard rock meets hip-hop meets pop-avant-garde) : Web: http://www.ipecac.com/bio.php?id=44
Au4 – On: Audio (sweeping and lush atmospheric rock) : Web: http://www.au4-audio.com/
Noctaluca – Towering the Sum (hard rock masterpiece) : Web: http://www.noctaluca.com/
Ellery – Lying Awake (passionate Cincinnati songwriting duo) : Web: http://www.ellerymusic.com/
Kim Taylor – I Feel Like a Fading Light (singer-songwriter with a Berquistian voice) : Web: http://www.kim-taylor.net/
Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam (rock icons) : Web: http://www.pearljam.com/
Sufjan Stevens – The Avalanche (quirk-folk b-sides) : Web: http://www.asthmatickitty.com/musicians.php?artistID=5
Ani DiFranco – Reprieve (consistent folk hipster) : Web: http://www.righteousbabe.com/ani/index.asp
Beck – The Information (electronic hip-pop) : Web: http://www.beck.com/
Dramagods – Love (melodic hard rock) : Web: http://www.dramagods.com/
Thom Yorke – The Eraser (not kid a… maybe kid b ) : Web: http://www.theeraser.net/
Jude – Redemption (golden-voiced songwriter) : Web: http://www.judemusic.com/
Evanescence – The Open Door (hard rock, angsty and hooky) : Web: http://www.evanescence.com/
Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways (his last complete work) : Web: http://www.johnnycash.com/
Incubus – Light Grenades (melodic hard rock) : Web: http://www.enjoyincubus.com/
David Gilmour – On an Island (longing for Floyd) : Web: http://www.davidgilmour.com/
Placebo – Meds (post-punk brit-glamrock) : Web: http://www.placeboworld.co.uk/
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium (funk rock?) : Web: http://www.redhotchilipeppers.com/
Isis – In the Absence of Truth (heavy metal ambiance) : Web: http://www.isistheband.com/
The Gotan Project – Lunático (modern tango) : Web: http://www.gotanproject.com/
Ty Tabor – Rock Garden (melodic rock) : Web: http://www.tytabor.net/
Jurassic 5 – Feedback (rap) : Web: http://www.jurassic5.com/
Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope (quirky piano pop) : Web: http://www.reginaspektor.com/
The Blood Brothers – Young Machetes (screamo) : Web: http://www.thebloodbrothers.com/
Rivulets – You Are My Home (Nick Drake-ian singer-songwriter) : Web: http://www.rivulets.net/
Audioslave – Revelations / Cut Chemist – The Audience’s Listening / DJ Logic – Zen of Logic / Jars of Clay – Good Monsters / Mugison – Little Trip / The Receiver – Decades
Best Album Packaging & Design
Peeping Tom‘s snazy pull-out casing (runner(s)-up: Anathallo‘s Floating World die-cut slipcase and Beck‘s The Information sticker set)
Best Album Artwork
Tool‘s 10,000 Days artwork, including “Net of Being,” by Alex Grey (runner-up: Au4‘s On: Audio)
Web of Mimicry Records not coming through with their “Fall 2006″ promise… and way too many X-mas albums this year (including Over the Rhine‘s Snow Angels, Sufjan Steven‘s Songs for Christmas, Aimee Mann, Bootsy Collins, your mom, your grandma)… ugh. X-mas albums usually sucked (save parts of Sufjan’s and “Goodbye Charles” from OTR’s)
and since I didn’t want to end on a sour note, here are some more “Best Of” winners…
Best Book on CD
Noam Chomsky‘s Failed States (runner-up: Eric Schlosser‘s Fast Food Nation (Updated))
Best Music-related DVD
Tori Amos‘s Fade to Red (runner-up: Megadeth‘s Arsenal of Megadeth)
Best Live Album
dredg‘s Live at the Fillmore (runner-up: Over the Rhine‘s Live from Nowhere Farm Vol 1)
Best Internet-only Release
Iron & Wine‘s iTunes Live Session (runner(s)-up: My Brightest Diamond‘s Disappear -EP- and Celldweller‘s Remix -EP-)
Porcupine Tree‘s Stupid Dream (runner-up: Steven Wilson‘s UEM on black-CDR)
Best “Late Getter”
Masada‘s Alef through Sanhedrin (runner(s)-up: Elysian Fields‘ Queen of the Meadow and Cibo Matto‘s Stereo Type A)
Best “Best Of”
No-Man‘s All the Blue Changes (runner-up: Medeski Martin & Wood‘s Note Bleu: 1998-2005)
Electric Kulintang (Susie Ibarra & Roberto Rodriguez)‘s Dialects (runner-up: Xenuphobe (Ty Tabor & Wally Farkas)‘s Xenuphobe 1.0)
Looking forward to in 2007: Secret Chiefs 3 x 6 (or so), Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, OTR, Mum, Megadeth, Andy Yorke, Tori Amos, Amiina, Jenn Ghetto’s S, Silverchair, John Zorn’s 3rd in the Magick series with Patton/Dunn/Baron, Monk (Ric Hordinski), Tegan and Sara, Coheed and Cambria, Time Lapse Consortium, Eisley, Tomahawk, My Brightest Diamond (remix album) …
FAV Albums of 2006 coming in a month or so…
My Favorite Local* Artists’ Albums for 2006:
* – local for me equals the Dayton/Cincinnati, OH-area.
1) Noctaluca – Towering the Sum ~ Long, long, long awaited debut album from Jason Ludwig-fronted rock band Noctaluca. Solid, powerful, well-crafted rock songs in a loose-concept album. Overall, a crowd pleaser. I loved Jason Ludwig solo, but I’m really digging his band — and his vocals are superb. The only dissappointment with the album is that it didn’t include the early Noctaluca song “Monkey Moon.” Kim Taylor also makes an appearance on backup vocals on the sprawling “My Magic Hour.” All of the album’s artwork is from (legendary?) Gottfried Helnwein. If you love good rock music, this is one of my favs this year.
2) (tie) Ellery – Lying Awake ~ Ellery are quickly becoming my new favorite wife-husband duo from Cincinnati. Eh… sue me, Apples. Passionate, well-crafted pop songs… and Tasha’s vocals are simply surreal. Former-Over the Rhine guitarist Ric Hordinski and (Cincinnati drummer/percussionist-extraordinaire) Josh Seurkamp appear on the album (Ric produced half of it). I first heard (of) Ellery when they opened up for my friend Ashley Peacock in 2005, and then I first heard them (for real) when they opened up for the ever-wonderful Ryan Adcock at his EP-release party earlier in 2006 (see below). Anyway, I think I’ve seen Ellery 4 or 5 times since then… and I’ve got ‘em on my calendar 2 more times for the month of December… You all owe yourself a new fantastic CD by Ellery.
2) (tie) Kim Taylor – I Feel Like a Fading Light ~ Kim’s debut album (So Black, So Bright) was fantastic. Her extended play, also fantastic, gave us a glimpse of what Ric Hordinski could do for her… then she toured a-plenty in 2005 with Over the Rhine, which made the “production by Ric” somewhat of a difficult scheduling situation. In September of 2006, after re-recording with a new producer (Jimmy Zhivago), her sophomore full-length album finally dropped. It was worth the wait. While I’m missing the Ric & Josh element in Kim’s live sound… her songwriting and vocals are still what make her a special artist. Josh Seurkamp does drum & “percuss” on some tracks… which makes all three of these “Favorite Local Albums of 2006″ connected… or incestual, perhaps. I look forward to more Kim Taylor in the future.
All three of which have a serious chance of being in my Top XX list for 2006 overall…
Favorite Local -EP- for 2006:
?) Ryan Adcock – Unfinished -EP- ~ Ryan’s first two albums (Like Orville Stared at Air -and- From Silence and Joy) remain frequent “pull out and listen” albums in our house. Unfinished is comprised of 5 songs — full-band “singer-songwriter in rock mode” songs that expand upon his great songwriting from his first two albums. The only problem is that you’re actually wishing it were a full album. Here’s where Ryan got clever… on the actual slipcase for the -EP-, he’s got the missing tracks listed, and you can download the 5 acoustic tracks from his website and put them all in order and viola… a full-length album (with new artwork on the site, too). My run-on sentences notwithstanding, it’s a solid EP with a little web add-on that makes it bigger. In other Ryan releases this year, he was on a Cincinnati Reds album called Cincinnati Clutch Hits. The album (as a whole) is on par with “would someone do me a courtesy and keeeeeeeellll meeeeeee!!” (to quote the “having a bad time in the bathroom” rabbit on TV’s Greg the Bunny). However-however-however, Ryan Adcock’s song (“The Cul-de-sac League“) is brilliant, funny, and well… sweet. Ryan’s and Greg Mahan‘s songs are the only ones I enjoy on that album, and luckily can be bought online by themselves…
MySpace: http://myspace.com/ryanadcock ?disappearing myspace page?
Admittedly a lot of swapping around from my 1st Half Recap… but here are my thoughts on 2005′s Music… as of now…
TOP 20 ALBUMS of 2005
1) Sigur Rós – Takk (ambient & angelic), released Sept ’05: This Sigur Rós album didn’t catch on with me as quick as their two prior albums, but after several listens, it gains the top spot for the year. I still don’t agree with many people’s assessment that it is “more accessible,” but regardless, they continue to make captivating music. Web: http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/
2) Porcupine Tree – Deadwing (modern progressive), released Apr ’05: I saw Porcupine Tree live twice within about a month of owning this disc. I think it spun in my rental car in Chicago about 8 times… then it finally sunk in. I still hold In Absentia or maybe Lightbulb Sun as my favorite PT CDs, but Deadwing made music listening in 2005 a lot more enjoyable. Web: http://www.porcupinetree.com/
3) Sufjan Stevens – Invites You to Come On Feel the Illinoise (quirky folk), released July ’05: Wow. 12 months ago, I had only heard a few (boring) songs by Sufjan. Now, I’m hooked. His quirky, banjo-driven, xylophone-infused group-folkrock stylings really make me happy. His show at the Southgate House in Newport-KY this year was easily one of my top two concerts this year (Sigur Rós in Ann Arbor being the other). With two states under his belt (Michigan being the previous state album), I wonder how the remaining 48 will turn out… Web: http://www.sufjan.com/
4) Glen Phillips – Winter Pays For Summer (pop singer-songwriter), released Mar ’05: This was in the top spot for the better part of the year. A great follow-up album to his solo debut Abulum. As of early December, Glen’s also in the studio for a follow-up to this one… yay! Web: http://www.glenphillips.com/
5) Eisley – Room Noises (rocks more than Sixpence), released Feb ’05: Another “hadn’t heard of them 12 months ago” band. I can solely blame the Paste Magazine DVD sampler for this crush. Anyway, I’m looking forward to great music from Eisley in the years to come… assuming they can keep their sibling rivalries in check… :) Web: http://www.eisley.com/
6) Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine (jazzy, sultry broodstress), released Oct ’05: Long-awaited… not as jazzy or cohesive as When the Pawn, but still a stellar performance. I dig this version of the album over the earlier Jon Brion/leaked version, but I do dig the Jon Brion-produced tracks that sandwich this record the most (go figure). Overall, this album was mostly worth the wait… now if only she’d tour on her own and not part of the Clodplay: Cloding Up the Great Indoors Tour ’06… Web: http://www.fiona-apple.com/
7) King’s X – Ogre Tones (melodic hardrock), released Sept ’05: 25 years and still counting… damn. I’ve been a King’s X fan for a longtime (not all 25 years, though), but their last two efforts left me nonplussed. This latest one, however, hits me square across the mouth — in the good way. Fantastic return to form, Jetydo! Web: http://www.kingsxonline.com/
8 ) Coheed and Cambria – Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV – Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness (geekcore, emo-pomp), released Sept ’05: There are so many cheesy aspects to C&C’s sound and marketing that make me cringe (it’s such an over-the top geek-and-wank fest)… yet their sound simply sucks… me in. To quote a drummer from an unrelated band, “balls and chunk is where it’s at!” Web: http://www.coheedandcambria.com/
9) Beck – Guero (folk-tronic), released Mar ’05: One of the best Beck albums in years… reminds me a lot of Odelay. Really funky, and it fits the “folk-tronic” badge well. And he’s got a remix album of it coming out soon (entitled Guerolito)… Web: http://www.beck.com/
10) Opeth – Ghost Reveries (swedish death metal), released Aug ’05: The last three Opeth records had Porcupine Tree Steven Wilson at the production helm. Perhaps he was too busy supporting his own band to help the O out, but this album came out a-OK anyway. Sometimes the keyboards sound… um… dumb… but luckily there is enough thrash and growl to cover it up. Hail Satan! Hail Satin! Hail Stan! Web: http://www.opeth.com/
11) Dredg – Catch Without Arms (passionate hardrock), released Jun ’05: From out-of-nowhere… I heard (and liked) Dredg’s song on the Stealth Soundtrack, even moreso than the Incubus songs that I bought the soundtrack for in the first place. Then I saw Dredg open up for Coheed & Cambria in Columbus on 9/30/05, I was hooked. Powerful melodic rock, with an ecstatic drummer and great vocals. Web: http://www.dredg.com/
12) Foo Fighters – In Your Honor (power-pop rock), released Jun ’05: Pure double-album pop enjoyment. Dave Grohl continues to impress me with his relentless delivery of great rock tunes. It seems effortless for him. Kurt is missed, but after its all said and done, I think Dave might win out as being the better pop songwriter… Web: http://www.foofighters.com/
13) The Mob – The Mob (hardrock übergroup), released Nov ’05: A supergroup made up of a bunch of ’80s washouts (from Winger and Night Ranger) and also Doug Pinnick from King’s X (“and also” meaning he’s not included in the “washout” category). Doug sings on most of the album, and it doesn’t really sound dated like I thought it would (mainly due to Doug’s involvement, mind you). It’s got some classic rock / hairband overtones, but again only “overtones.” Overall it’s a great record!! It can be had directly from the Italian label for as much as Amazon is hocking it for… but there’s a slight “PSOL“* issue. Web: http://www.kingsxonline.com/
14) Ben Folds – Songs For Silverman (piano pop with fuzz), released Apr ’05: Ben continues his solo path, while bringing back the sound very reminiscent of “The Five.” His new bassist and drummer definitely harken the sound of Darren and Robert from BFF. This album is solid, which is usually expected from the songwriting likes of Mr. Folds. Web: http://www.benfolds.com/
15) Tristeza – A Colores (experimental twitchy instrumental rock), released Nov ’05: Tristeza continues on even after Jimmy LaValle’s departure to dedicate his time to his solo effort, The Album Leaf. Both bands, Tristeza & The Album Leaf, have a similar style. I dig ‘em both. If you like mellow, yet ecstatic, instrumental-tronica… you’ll dig ‘em, too… Web: http://www.trstz.com/
18 ) Erin McKeown – We Will Become Like Birds (pop singer-songwriter), released Jun ’05: I bought this album due to Peter Mulvey guest vocalling on it. I continue to enjoy this album for the other 11 songs that are sheer singer-songwriter pop-delight. Web: http://www.erinmckeown.com/
19) Copeland – In Motion (power-pop rock), released Mar ’05: One of my rock heroes is Ken Andrews. I got into him backwards… first ON, then Failure (then Year of the Rabbit, in the correct order). Regardless of all of that, I noticed his imprint on Copeland right away, almost subconsciously. Anyway, I stuck around due to the great vocals (vocals are usually the “make-it-or-break-it” with me). Mr. Marsh’s vocals are a delight for me. Web: http://www.thecopelandsite.com/
20) Headphones – Headphones (melancholically sung synth-pop), released May ’05: I dig David Bazan’s Pedro the Lion music a lot. This seemingly one-off project with TW Walsh was great as well… casio-sound and all. Web: http://www.headphonesmusic.com/
*- PSOL = PayPal for Speakers of Other Languages.
TOP 5 Eps of 2005
1) Iron & Wine – Woman King (whispy americana), released Feb ’05: If I didn’t force myself to split “Fav Albums” from “Fav EPs,” this EP would probably crack the Top 5 Fav CDs of 2005. Great songs, great vocals… it got me back into Iron & Wine. Web: http://www.ironandwine.com/
2) The Album Leaf – The Red Tour -EP- (electronic-fused organic instrumental rock), released Jan ’05: Originally available on TAL’s 2004 tour, but not commercially available to the rest of us until early 2005… this great EP whets the appetite for their follow-up to In a Safe Place which should be out sometime in mid-2006. Web: http://www.thealbumleaf.com/
3) Iron & Wine with Calexico – In the Reins (whispy americana stops over in a bordertown), released Sept ’05: More of an Iron & Wine record than Calexico. Sometimes the combination works, and sometimes it seems awkward. Luckily, again, it’s more I&W… overall a great CD for 2005. Web: http://www.ironandwine.com/
4) Euphone – V (jazzy groovy post-rock), released Apr ’05: I saw Euphone open up for Sunny Day Real Estate in 2000. They were a primarily instrumental band, and when there was singing, the drummer sang. They had a nice vibe and were on indie Jade Tree. I love their records. This EP caught me by surprise. Its five songs clock in at only 13 minutes. However, I could listen to it on repeat for hours. It’s not instrumental anymore either. It’s also a completely solo effort by the drummer (Ryan Rapsys played all instruments & sang). It’s very well recorded for being basically a “bathroom”-type recording. Very well received! In concert, I hear he drums, sings, and plays organ. Wow! Chicago peeps… check him out sometime. Web: http://www.recordlabelrecordlabel.com/
5) Pristina featuring Sarah Masen – So Alive (indie alt-electronica), released May ’05: Well, it’s been 4+ years since Sarah Masen released any music. She is desparately missed, but this Pristina single/EP with some Sarah Masen vocals hit the spot for now. Sarah, got anything in the works? Web: http://www.pristinamusic.com/
Best Album Packaging & Design
Fantômas‘s Suspended Animation and its 30+ page spiral calendar with illustrations by Japanese artist Yoshimoto Nara (runner-up: Ani Difranco‘s Knuckle Down)
Best Album Artwork
The Iron & Wine and Calexico collaborative In the Reins -EP- painting (runner-up: Sufjan Stevens Invites You to Come On Feel the Illinoise‘s cease-and-desist-inducing “Superman cover”)
and since I didn’t want to end on a sour note, here are three more “Best Of” winners…
yes, I like lists… and the “concatenate” function…
~Dan – np: nellie mckay‘s “the big one” from the forthcoming album pretty little head (early front-runner for Best of 2006)