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* Favorite Instrumental Albums of 2011 *

31st Dec 11 (Sat) Leave a comment

As I start this post, I will say that this is all very subjective and really put together for my own purposes.  I’ll also state that, yes, some of the music below does have some vocals (i.e.- the Goddamn Electric Bill & Mike Patton CDs).  For the most part, it’s sequestered to a track or two on a long CD of mostly instrumental goodness.  My list, my rules, and/or my breaking of the rules.  With that being said, all of the artists below tend to be in the jazz and instrumental frame of reference anyway.

As said before… I’ve been buying less music… or, at least a lot less mainstream (major label) music. This is also my fourth year now that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs. I think as I get older, I am drawn more towards jazz and other instrumental forms of expression. Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out the artists’ webpages, Facebox pages, yadda yadda yadda. Some of these also made it on to my 2011 Mix CD (free streaming/download).

OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Product Details Cyro Baptista’s Banquet of Spirits plays John Zorn’s Masada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 17 (Caym) :: The Masada Book two series is some of my favorite music coming out of Tzadik.  Banquet of the Spirits is the touring band of Latin percussionist Cyro Baptista, a long time Zorn collaborator.  Each track touches upon a different world tradition, steeped in Zorn’s klez-jazz score.  Lyrical and moving and fun!

Artichaut OrkestraT For Teresa :: Featuring four young musicians  from Toulouse, Artichaut Orkestra mix jazz, klezmer and classical music, blending rock energy with improv.  This is their debut record, and I’m definitely looking forward to more coming from them in the near future.
Curtis MacdonaldCommunity Immunity :: To be honest, this was an impulse purchase.  One of my favorite record labels is Greenleaf Music – founded by my favorite living trumpet-player Dave Douglas.  I was picking up some new music from DD and figured, “eh, what the hell!”  I was impressed with Curtis’ melodic compositions and emotive alto sax playing.
MogwaiHardcore Will Never Die, But You Will :: Stunning double-disc set from post-rock’s Scottish kings.  I’ll still probably forgo seeing them live again (too loud, beyond their needs), but they put out some amazingly beautiful music.

(3 CDs)
John ZornNova Express / At the Gates of Paradise / A Dreamer Christmas :: Three discs made the cut of the six Zorn releases in 2011.  Nova Express combines quirky atonal classical lyricism with a touch of the cut up techniques of Naked City and virtuosity of the Masada songbook. Zorn scored this for Joey Baron (drums), Trevor Dunn (bass), John Medeski (piano), and Kenny Wollesen (vibes).  Paradise features the same band as Nova Express, brings some Medeski organ into the mix and adds more of Zorn’s “mystical” ambiance.  The Dreamer Christmas album was an oddity for me.  Why would a Jewish jazz musician put out a Christmas album?  Because he can!  The Dreamers is one of my favorite Zorn-assembled ensembles: Joey Baron (drums), Cyro Baptista (percussion), Trevor Dunn (bass), Marc Ribot (guitars), Jamie Saft (keys), and Kenny Wollesen (vibes).  Very accessible, but not smooth jazz!  Adventurous!  Mike Patton joins them on the final track for a croon-y “chestnut roasting.”  The holiday album was also put out as a 12″ vinyl and a 7″ single – both with gorgeous artwork and design by Chippy.
yMusicBeautiful Mechanical :: The yMusic Ensemble had a kickstarter earlier this year for their debut album – with songs composed by Son Lux, Annie Clark, Shara Worden (aka My Brightest Diamond), Saraha Kirkland snider (who penned a favorite album Penelope last year), and Gabriel Kahane.  Their string-heavy, indie chamber rock approach excites me.  Being the musical backdrop for My Brightest Diamond’s All Things Will Unwind album (my #2 vocal album in 2011) doesn’t hurt.
Peter Mulvey & David GoodrichNine Days Wonder :: Peter Mulvey has toured all over the US and the world for about 2 decades.  Some of the first times I saw him in concert, he had “Goody” with him on backing guitar.  They don’t get a chance to tour together much lately, but they did find some time to hole-up inside a studio to write and record some instrumental guitar duets.  While I love Peter’s vocal storytelling, it’s nice to hear his and Goody’s instrumental interplay tell a different story.
Goddamn Electric BillJazz :: GdEB is the one-man brainchild of Jason Torbert.  He hits the spot for organic electronic meets post-rock for me.  Ambient at times, melodic other times.  His latest work has featured some vocals, but he’s primarily a groove-induced soundscape kind of guy.  Chirps and glitches, too.  Excellent stuff!
The Dead Kenny G’sOperation Long Leash :: The Dead Kenny Gs is a duo started by saxophonist Skerik and drummer/vibes Mike Dillon in 2004.  shortly thereafter, they started adding Brian Haas, keyboard genius, when he is able, as well as Brad Houser, bassist from another Skerik band – Critters Buggin.  They push through the jazz/rock minefield to fight “injustice, cheese, and dishonesty in music, and society.”
TalkdemonicRuins :: Portland-based chamber-indie-post-rock… goodness.  So much sound from two people.  If you’re in Portland, they’re playing a big NYE show tonight… if in Eugene, they’ll be through our way (at Sam Bond’s) on Feb 24th.  Not to be missed!
Mike PattonThe Solitude of Prime Numbers :: I had to put this album as #13.  This chiefly instrumental album is a tribute to the book (by Paolo Giordano) and film of the same name.  The score is 16 tunes spread out over a 53 tracks, with the only tracks with content being 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, and 53. *slow clap* Clever, Mr. Patton!  For people who bought the CD, you can thank me for entering in the info to CDDB (t’was a pain).  The score/album fits more with his prior score for A Perfect Place – more accessible when compared to Patton’s usual schizophrenic output.  The packaging design is also brilliant – a gorgeous die-cut leaf that fold outwards.  I’d always recommend getting physical releases from Ipecac versus the digital download version.

Garage A TroisAlways Be Happy, But Stay Evil :: Skerik, Stanton Moore, Marco Benevento (who replaced Charlie Hunter) and Mike Dillon make their way through Oregon quite a bit.  They are a sight to see – you don’t know exactly what kind of show you’ll get, but it’s definitely a fun time.  Fun, groove-oriented “new jazz.”
Explosions in the SkyTake Care, Take Care, Take Care :: If not jazz, this list is also overtaken by post-rock.  it’s a love of mine, and Explosions in the Sky are one of the best in that game.  Epic, sweeping guitars crashing over a hearty drum & bass end.  This is another album where I’d recommend the physical edition – the  case can be unfolded to form a model of a house, where if viewed from the inside, the view from the door of the house is overlooking a tornado across a plain.

Erik FriedlanderBonebridge :: I started 2011 seeing Erik perform his John Zorn-penned Volac album in its entirety… brilliant and moving.  Later in the year, he came out with Bonebridge – a new band/concept that takes his Broken Arm Trio (with Trevor Dunn & Mike Sarin) and adds slide guitar player Doug Wamble to the mix.  What you get is a perfect chamber-Americana-jazz album.  I hope there are more where this came from…
Kevin Moore – Shine (Küçük Kıyamet Soundtrack) :: Kevin Moore’s main projects are the trippy/sample-heavy Chroma Key & heavier prog collaboration band O.S.I. (with Jim Matheos). Shine is the soundtrack to the 2006 Turkish film Küçük Kiyamet (“Little Apocalypse“).  It came out in early 2011 after a successful Kickstarter in 2010.  The next album from O.S.I. comes out in February 2012 on Metal Blade.  I can almost guarantee it will be my Top album of 2012, and I haven’t heard a shred of it yet.
ReptetAt the Cabin :: This Seattle-based jazz sextet is fuuuuuuuuuun – both on record and in the live setting.  I wish the distance on I-5 between me and them wasn’t 5-6 hours, as I’d see them far more often if I could.

Matt Chamberlain, Viktor Krauss, Dan PhelpsModular: Sonic Explorations :: Gorgeous soundscapes from Matt Chamberlain, Viktor Krauss, and Dan Phelps.  The Modular Project is the collaboration of the aforementioned musicians working together to “discover what the spontaneous and organic manipulation of sound can yield. Inspired by the world around them, they set out to discover what it might sound like when continents shift, clouds form, and roots push through soil.”  The track, “Everest,” features one of my favorite cellists – Eyvind Kang (who has worked with Secret Chiefs 3, John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Mike Patton).  It’s a great mix of cello, vibes and soaring atmosphere.  The album is only available digitally or on vinyl (it’s a luscious triple-gatefold!)…

(3 CDs)
Dave Douglas – Three Views: GPS Series – Rare Metals, Orange Afternoons & Bad Mango :: Originally released as the “Greenleaf Portable Series” (download only), these three different releases in 2011 finally got a proper physical (boxset) release.  Dave’s prolific writing comes out with different bands on each record: Rare Metals features Dave’s most recent band Brass Ecstasy; Orange Afternoons features a specially put together quintet with Ravi Coltrane, Vijay Iyer, Linda Oh, and Marcus Gilmore; and Bad Mango paired Dave’s trumpet with So Percussion’s marimba, drumset, glockenspiel, musical saw, toy bells, shruti box, crotales, and more.  Three very different records tied together with Dave’s fantastic playing.

Tides From NebulaEarthshine :: This Polish post-rock group won my heart in 2009 with their debut, Aura (in 2009).  They continue to tease me with emails or news that says “tour” until I open and can’t pronounce the names of the cities that they’re hitting.  Drat!  At least their music will keep me company!  Earthshine is perfect for those fans of Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, and the like… and seeing as it beat out both those groups on my 2011 list, well, that should tell you something as well.

Michael KelseySubmerged :: Michael Kelsey is a HUGE amount of what I miss from the Midwest music scene.  He’s a musical genius – rarely paralleled on the frets.  Seeing him live (which I did any chance I could) was a site to behold.  His records do their best to capture his virtuosity, but they usually fail to capture his energy, too.  Catching fire in a bottle is tough.  Regardless, this one is a gem and also marks his first all instrumental affair.  Check him out, and if you live within a state or two from central Indiana, I count you a lucky one.  Go see him if he stops by your town.

Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1 :: More riff-oriented and melodic compared to the prior drone doom albums, Earth bring a cello into the mix for the first time and create an ominous soundscape that is both elegant and dreadful.  The follow-up, Angels & Demons 2, comes out in Feb 2012… and you can almost guarantee it’ll rise to the top of my list next year as well.

Note: Ric Hordinski’s Arthur’s Garden (which made it on my 2011 Mix) is technically a 2012 release, hence its absence above.

Where do I get most of these jazz and other instrumental releases?  My #1 favorite source for jazz is Downtown Music Gallery in New York.  Manny and Bruce and their great staff are superb… and being the official distributor for John Zorn’s Tzadik doesn’t hurt my affection for them.  I usually do a monthly Tzadik order (if the releases strike my fancy), and they have a ton of other non-Tzadik jazz and avant-garde releases as well.

And, no, I’m not affiliated, I don’t get a commission, and beyond my initial “big tax refund / gotta get caught up on Zorn order of 2005,” I haven’t gotten a discount with DMG.  I just love and support what they do.

Enjoy the New Years’ weekend!! Be safe! See you in 2012.

My Other Favorites of 2011 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Trent Reznor & Atticus RossThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

* Favorite Vocal Albums of 2011 *

29th Dec 11 (Thu) 6 comments

I’ve been buying less music… or, at least a lot less mainstream (major label) music. This is also my fourth year now that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs. I think as I get older, I am drawn more towards jazz and other instrumental forms of expression. For that reason, the favorite vocal albums list goes first this go ’round. Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out the artists’ webpages, Facebox pages, yadda yadda yadda. A lot of these also made it on to my 2011 Mix CD (free streaming/download).

OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Honorable Mentions: Iron & WineKiss Each Other Clean, Tres MtsThree Mountains, PomplamooseThe Album You Bought At Our Show (Thanks for That), MC FrontalotSolved and The RootsUndun.

BjörkBiophilia :: It started with an iPhone / iPad app… I was skeptical, but it turned out to be a really cool app and a really cool album.  I don’t think the actual music broke any new ground for Bjork, but her willingness to approach technology and manifest an album initially with a new format is what will keep her in the forefront for me.
Elysian FieldsLast Night on Earth :: Brooklyn-based sultry art rockers Elysian Fields don’t really tour outside of NYC often.  Jennifer Charles and Oren Bloedow find their way to Europe on occasion, but most U.S. fans only really have their studio albums to sate their musical desires.  This is their sixth full-length album in their near 16-year career.  Well crafted, well produced, lush vocals and folk meets dusky jazz.
BlackfieldWelcome to My DNA :: I was disappointed that I couldn’t make it out for this tour.  The album is good, albeit a little disjointed compared to their other two albums (probably due to Aviv Geffen doing more of the writing versus Steven Wilson who was busy with his solo album – see #9 below).  Nice orchestration and a solid offering from Blackfield.
Dream TheaterA Dramatic Turn of Events :: I almost didn’t buy this album.  I’m glad I did, but I’m still pretty pissed at the band for choosing to continue without founder/drummer Mike Portnoy after he expressed an interest in a short hiatus/breather.  They picked up a drummer I like (Mike Mangini, who i saw play with Extreme in 1995), but a BIG piece of what I loved about DT (after Kevin Moore left in 1994) was Mike Portnoy’s energy.  With his absence, I’m liking them less and less.  The album is good, but it’s way more bitter than sweet to me.
Foo FightersWasting Light :: Dave Grohl is a modern rock genius.  He rocks, he hooks, he continues to put out great music.
Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory OrchestraMTO Plays Sly :: A trumpet-led tribute to Sly and the Family Stone with guests vocalists.  This superb collection is less funk, but still quite enjoyable.  My favorite is the Antony-sung “Family Affair.”
Florence + the MachineCeremonials :: Soulful baroque-rock chanteuse won me over with their first album Lungs, even though I didn’t pick it up this year.  Her second album solidifies her as more than a fluke.  The album is dancey and dark.  Great for fans of Tori Amos & Kate Bush!
IncubusIf Not Now, When? :: Incubus took some time off so guitarist Mike Einziger could work on his degree at Harvard and singer Brandon Boyd could put out some art as well as his solo album.  They regrouped and put out an album that had a similar vibe to the ocean-groove Morning View.  They aren’t breaking new ground, but they still have a solid position in my ears.
The Jelly JamShall We Descend :: The supergroup of Ty Tabor (King’s X), John Myung (Dream Theater) and Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs) finally found some time to hit the studio!  The result is an excellent rock album…
ChevelleHats Off to the Bull :: Chevelle are a sleeper in my collection.  I almost write them off and then with each album, I think how stupid it’d be to write them off.  Great hard rock with a vocalist that reminds me of Maynard (Tool, etc).  I really need to see this band live – I’ve yet to have a the chance…
My Brightest Diamond & Murat EyubogluLetters to Distant Cities :: A short spoken word album, featuring the words of Mustafa Ziyalan.  Words spoken by Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), backing music by Murat Eyubolu, with two songs sandwiching the poetry – one by MBD and one by Clare & the Reasons.  A great arty piece.
 
Jason LudwigTanglings :: Jason Ludwig returns to the Cincinnati music scene after his 2010 band break up (Noctaluca) with two full-length albums (Tanglings and Lost in Love).  Tanglings is my favorite of the two, but they’re both quite excellent.  Well-produced, well-arranged, creative singer-songwriter that reminds me of a cross between the pop of Glen Hansard (of the Swell Season and the Frames) and the creative of Daniel Johns (of Silverchair). If you don’t like these albums, I’d be surprised.
Hotel LightsGirl Graffiti :: Darren Jesse was the drummer for Ben Folds Five, and wrote one of my absolute favorite songs for them – “Magic” from The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner.  He puts down the sticks and picks up the guitar and vocal duties for Hotel Lights.  This is HL’s 3rd album, and he continues to impress me with his versatile skills.  Poppy indie rock.
EisleyThe Valley :: The long gap between The Valley and their last album was trying for the band.  After many contract dispute with their former label (Warner), they were finally set free.  Many bands don’t make it out of contract disputes alive – it’s easier to break up sometimes.  Well, thankfully it’s difficult for Eisley to break-up, as they’d still see each other at holidays and family get-togethers (the band consists of 3 sisters, a brother, and a cousin).  The Valley picks up where 2007’s Combinations left off.  Alt-pop-rock goodness.  Vocal duties traded off between sisters Sherri & Stacy…
Tori AmosNight of the Hunters :: This was Tori’s first album on classical label Deutsche Grammophon.  I was skeptical at first, not because of the classical bent.  I knew she could handle that… I was skeptical due to the first artwork that looked plastic (which sadly stayed) and her last studio album was a lackluster (IMO) holiday album (blech).  Tori enlists her daughter Natashya on some vocals, and delivers one of my favorite Tori albums since 2002’s Scarlet’s Walk.
David BazanStrange Negotiations :: Continuing in his solo expressions after the official ceasing of Pedro the Lion, David Bazan manifests wit, a sharp tongue, and a questioning mind into his DIY-indie rock.  This year, he toured quite a bit, solo and with a band.  An album last year (Curse Your Branches), an album this year, and another on the way.  He’s slogging away, trekking all over the country, and making some great music on the way.
Steven WilsonGrace for Drowning :: Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson is a hard worker.  Whether he’s producing albums for others or making albums & touring with PT, Blackfield, No-Man, Storm Corrosion, or solo – he’s always busy each and every year.  This year brought his second solo album and a small tour.  The album is a bit more stripped down from his other projects.  It is reminiscent of Pink Floyd in spots – specifically this song “Home in Negative.”  He also rocks out a bit in the almost two hour double album… check out the video for “Track One” here (it’s a bit bleak then startling).  Gorgeous work.
WussyStrawberry :: Well, I was super happy when I found out that Wussy was putting out their fourth full-length studio album this year. They’re a fantastic rock quartet made up of Chuck Cleaver, Lisa Walker, Mark Messerly, and Joe Klug. They write catchy, poppy choruses and meld it perfectly with Midwest Americana-meets-indie-rock grit (or “Midwestern drone” as their press says).   Vocal duties are traded off with Chuck (of Ass Ponys) and Lisa (of Magic Words).
RadioheadThe King of Limbs :: I could probably put an “indie” icon next to Radiohead… I think technically they put TKOL out by themselves.  But they’re a huge superpower of a band.  I like this record, but I’ll admit that it’s still sinking in… I need to give it some more spins.  This album spawned a seven 7″ vinyl remix set.  The video for “Lotus Flower” also spawned a silly “Thom Yorke dancing” meme… one of my favorites being the tennis/fish and the “Single Ladies” editions.
Jeffrey FoucaultHorse Latitudes :: Jeffrey Foucault is a favorite Americana artist that I got turned on to by singer-songwriter/storyteller Peter Mulvey.  Jeffrey and Peter work together in the band Redbird (with David Goodrich and Jeffrey’s wife Kris Delmhorst).  I didn’t pick up Jeffrey’s albums until the past year and a half.  He’s definitely more on the cusp of country than I tend to traverse, but I dig his authenticity, poetic wit and charm.  He’s a delight on stage and a fantastic John Prine-esque songwriter for the new generation.
OpethHeritage :: Mikael Åkerfeldt hangs up the cookie monster vocals and “Swedish death metal” rattle and puts out a solid heavy metal album that is a tribute to his progressive metal ancestors.  I’ll admit, I miss the heavier side, but it’s still good to see Mikael evolve.
Over the RhineThe Long Surrender :: For those that don’t know Over the Rhine, they started out as a four piece in Cincinnati in 1989 and put out their “post-nuclear, pseudo-alternative, folk-tinged art-pop” indie debut ‘Til We Have Faces in 1991. After about a decade as a four-piece, Ric Hordinski (guitars) & Brian Kelley (drums) left.  Karin Bergquist (vocals) & Linford Detweiler (keys) carried on the Over the Rhine flame throughout the years… moving away from a rockier feel to a more folky-pop-Americana thing. What I like about Over the Rhine is they continually change and evolve into a different band with each album and each outing. I’ve seen them rock out, I’ve seen them jazz it up, I’ve seen them happy, I’ve seen them somber, I’ve seen them celebratory, and I’ve seen them tell stories that will make you laugh and cry.
dredgChuckles and Mr. Squeezy :: I love this band.  I hate the album title, but I love the band.  Modern progressive rock, tons of talent, thoughtful lyrics, none of that “prog wankery” that is generally detestable.  While it’s hard for them to follow-up the stunning The Pariah The Parrot The Delusion (from 2009), this new album does a hearty job of maintaining their quality rock standards.
My Brightest DiamondAll Things Will Unwind :: Shara Worden (aka My Brightest Diamond) took some time off since her last album – 2008′s A Thousand Shark’s Teeth.  She put out some stunning collaborations in the past three years (see #15 above) including her first kiddo; so the lapse in studio work was a-OK.  On this album, Shara teams up with NYC-based ensemble yMusic to create a lush backdrop for her gorgeous voice.  I can’t praise this album enough!
PusciferConditions of My Parole :: Tool / A Perfect Circle frontman Maynard James Keenan makes wine and makes other music in his time off from Tool and APC.  I loved Puscifer’s debut and the subsequent EP, but this album tops it all.  It’s a brilliant record, recorded in one of his wine cellars with his friends – featuring backing vocals from Carina Round.  It’s self-released by Puscifer music with a small distribution partner (available in indie shops, primarily).  The tour this year was great (I caught Seattle), and I’m glad they’re heading out in the spring again (I’ll be at Portland).

Check out the 2011 Mix for some samples, click the Amazon buttons for other samples, and support the music if you like what you hear!

My Other Favorites of 2011 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Trent Reznor & Atticus RossThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

* Favorite EPs / Vinyl / Live Albums & more of 2011 *

28th Dec 11 (Wed) 4 comments

This is sort of a precursor to my “official” Favorites of 2011 blogs. Up later this week, I’ll post my favorite vocal and favorite instrumental albums of 2011. Anyway, on with the music pimping

Favorite EPs of 2011

  • Savanna Coen – Strength
  • Auragamieverything. Now.
  • Works Progress Administration4×4
  • Amanda Palmer/Ben Folds/etc8in8
  • CelldwellerWish Upon A Blackstar 4

Favorite Vinyl-only Release of 2011

  • Secret Chiefs 3 (FORMS & Ishraqiyun)Saptarshi / Radar 7″
  • Chamberlain/Krauss/Phelps – Modular: Sonic Explorations 12″
  • John Zorn’s The DreamersThe Christmas Song/Santa’s Workshop 7″
    fave non-vinyl-only issue: My Brightest DiamondAll Things Will Unwind 12″ (is luscious)

Favorite DVDs of 2011

  • Fantômas – The Director’s Cut Live
  • Kevin SmithRed State
  • Morgan SpurlockPOM Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold
  • Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
  • Sigur Rós – Inní

Favorite Internet Only Releases of 2011

  • Derek WebbDemocracy Vol 2 (monthly series from March to December)

Favorite Live Albums of 2011

  • Sigur RósInní
  • Dave Douglas & Brass EcstasyUnited Front (live at Newport)
  • Damien JuradoLive at Landlocked
  • Medeski Scofield Martin & WoodIn Case the World Changes Its Mind

Favorite Podcasts in 2011 (they’re free, yo! Search for them on iTunes)

  • George Hrab Geologic Podcast
  • Keith Olbermann Countdown on CurrentTV
  • Rachel Maddow – The RM Show on MSNBC
  • Bill Maher‘s New Rules
  • Adam Carolla The Adam Carolla Podcast, Ace on the House and CarCast
  • Kevin Smith & Scott MosierSModcast
  • Kevin Smith & Ralph Garman – Hollywood Babble On
  • The Skeptics Guide to the Universe
  • CNN’s Political Notebook
  • Marc MaronWTF Podcast
  • Dan SavageSavage Lovecast

Best Cover Art & Packaging in 2011 

  • Steven Wilson – Grace For Drowning (special edition)
  • Chamberlain/Krauss/PhelpsModular: Sonic Explorations 12″
  • Over the RhineThe Long Surrender (special edition)
  • My Brightest DiamondAll Things Will Unwind (colorful, lovely cover art)
  • Mike PattonThe Solitude of Prime Numbers (stunning die-cut leaf design)
  • John Zorn’s The DreamersA Dreamer Christmas (vinyl, designed by Chippy)

Favorite Indie Releases in 2011 (DIY all the way)

  • Jason Ludwig – Lost in Love and Tanglings (Cincinnati/Austin-based, former Noctaluca frontman)
  • Savanna CoenStrength EP (13yo Eugene singer with a voice beyond her years)

Best Re-issues in 2011

  • Dream TheaterMetropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory (on vinyl)
  • Ben FoldsBest Imitation of Myself (hits w/ some new BFF songs)
  • Toad the Wet SprocketAll I Want (hits, rerecorded)
  • Various Artists/Sufjan StevensOn Joyful Wings (tribute album to Seven Swans)

Worst Music News in 2011 (for me at least)

  • Faith No More‘s reunion tour didn’t hit the U.S. proper, again… and the promised Mondo Cane U.S. Tour didn’t happen.
  • Dream Theater not wanting to take a short break/hiatus, and thus kicking out Mike Portnoy, one of the best parts of that band…

Best Late-Getter in 2011 (something that came out before 2011)

  • Florence + The MachineLungs (from 2009)

Best Musical Novelty / Ingenuity in 2011

  • F*ck That! Erin McKeown’s Anti-Holiday Album
  • Weird Al YankovicALpocalypse

Best Soundtrack in 2011

  • Kevin Moore – Shine (for Küçük Kıyamet)
  • The Book of Mormon

So, yeah, this was the catch-all post… check back later this week for the more traditional year end wrap-up festivities…

My Other Favorites of 2011 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Ani DiFranco – Which Side Are You On?

* Favorite Instrumental Albums of 2010 *

30th Dec 10 (Thu) 3 comments

Disclaimer: No, I haven’t heard all 8,000+albums released this year. I’ve heard about 120 of them, which makes me at least 98.5% likely to be wrong. I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2010. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2010. And you might be right. And, I while I generally agree with John Roderick about Year-End Lists, I still find it quite fun to compile my own.

As I start this post, I will say that this is all very subjective and really put together for my own purposes.  I’ll also state that, yes, some of the music below does have some vocals (i.e.- the Beats Antique & Tin Hat CDs).  For the most part, it’s sequestered to a track or two on a long CD of mostly instrumental goodness.  My list, my rules, and/or my breaking of the rules.  With that being said, all of the artists below tend to be in the jazz and instrumental frame of reference anyway.

As said before… I’ve been buying less music… or, at least a lot less mainstream (major label) music. This is also my third year now that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs. I think as I get older, I am drawn more towards jazz and other instrumental forms of expression. Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out the artists’ webpages, SpaceBook & MyFace pages, yadda yadda yadda. A lot of these also made it on to my 2010 Mix CD.

OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Honorable Mentions: The Album Leaf‘s A Chorus of Storytellers, For a Minor Reflection‘s Höldum Í Átt Að Óreiðu, Yuka Honda‘s Heart Chamber Phantoms, Medeski Martin & Wood‘s The Stone Issue Four (great NFP/charity live release), and Jamie Saft‘s A Bag of Shells

Boy Eats Drum Machine20 Beats (self) :: OK, due to its title, 20 Beats had to come in at #20, right?  Regardless of wherever it hit, it’s a great album.  I first saw Boy Eats Drum Machine (aka Jon Ragel) open for That1Guy in Eugene.  I loved his turntablism, his sax playing, and his trippy sounds.  He’s a Portlander, too; so I’ve had a chance to see him twice this year.  Hopefully more in the near future…


John ZornFilmworks XXIV: The Nobel Peace Prize / In Search of the Miraculous / Interzone (Tzadik) :: John Zorn put out a ton of stuff in 2010.  Some of it didn’t make this list.  Some of it was great (these 3), and some of it was stupendous (some others higher up on the list). Filmworks XXIV is a more genteel offering. It is performed by the Rob Burger trio (and it’s a film score… duh). In Search of the Miraculous is in Zorn’s spiritual / “magick” subcategory (which has been hit or miss to me).  This album seems like a souped-up Rob Burger/Alhambra piano combo.  Quite delightful. Interzone is a return to Zorn’s “filecard” system and a tribute to William Burroughs. Some people on the Zornlist have raved about it… I find it good, but not amazing. Too much filler in the long-tracks… moments of brilliance, but also moments of meh-ness.  I’d rank it definitely better than “for the completist,” but lower than “legendary.”  All in all… solid experimental record.  The players are the usual fantastic Tzadik studio players: Medeski, Baptista, Dunn, Mori, Ribot, Wollesen and Zorn.
Mostly Other People Do the KillingForty Fort (Hot Cup) :: So, I’m a fan of composer Moppa Elliott and trumpet player Peter Evans. Peter’s solo show in Eugene a couple of years ago was an avant-garde delight. MOPDTK is a little more straight forward than Peter’s solo stuff. It’s a fun jazz group… very similar in feel and youthful, party jazz energy as Reptet (up in Seattle). This is their second album that I’ve heard but their fourth released. My favorite tracks are “Nanticoke Coke” and the title track “Forty Fort.” I’m looking forward to more from this killer band ensemble.
Masada String Trio plays John Zorn’s Masada Book Two, Volume 16: Haborym (Tzadik) :: Greg Cohen, Mark Feldman, and Erik Friedlander are fantastic players, and their contribution to the Masada Book Two series is an essential release.  One of the best of the series, and the Trio’s first studio recording in five years (last one was 2005’s Azazel #5).  Masada Book Two Sidenote: Cohen was actually in the original Masada quartet, but all of the members of the String Trio have also shown up on other MBT releases – Cohen (Astaroth #1, Lucifer #10, Stolas #12 and Baal #15), Friedlander (Volac #8, #10 and the upcoming Caym #17), and Feldman (Malphas #3 & #10).
John ZornThe Goddess (Tzadik) :: The Goddess is a continuation of In Search of the Miraculous, but I fancy it far more.  It is also a souped-up Rob Burger/Alhambra piano combo, quite lyrical and melodic.  As the title suggests, it is dedicated to the feminine.  It also features some harp work from Carol Emanuel – who unbeknownst to me until now has been on quite a bit of Zorn’s releases.
Derek WebbFeedback (INO) :: From my original writeup: Feedback is a self-proclaimed “worship album.” I also love the general aesthetics of it. It’s definitely got some electronic elements, but it has a more sweeping feel as well. Some of it feels like a mix of a happier ambiance of Amiina/Sigur Rós meets an acoustic-electronic bridge in a Sufjan Stevens song meets a gentle Ric Hordinski lyrical guitar solo (I am in a Monk mood). It’s a great quality instrumental album from a man who I loved via his witty voice from the get go. It’s nice to see him expand outside his comfort zone. As an atheist, I take it as a conduit into introspection and the worship of the divine as I see it – music.
Secret Chiefs 3Satellite Supersonic Vol 1 (Web of Mimicry) :: A new format release of the 7″ vinyl singles that SC3 put out in the Spring of 2007.  Nothing majorly new, but still nice to have in this format.  Secret Chiefs 3 fans are still waiting on Book of Souls, the follow-up to 2004’s Book of Horizons.  Who knows if we’ll ever get it… but this compilation is a great “tweener” – especially if you weren’t able to get the limited 7″ vinyls or didn’t have a record player.
John Zorn’s Moonchild Trio (with Marc Ribot) – Ipsissimus (Tzadik) :: The Moonchild Trio is one of the more experimental / scary groups.  It’s a highly composed, but seemingly improvisational group made up of Mike Patton on voice (not lyrical), Trevor Dunn on bass, and Joey Baron on drums. Ipsissimus is the fifth in the series, and includes Marc Ribot’s guitar and John Zorn’s sax for more than just one tune (like on The Crucible).  This release is not for the faint of heart.  Purely energetic, glossolaliac noise metal.
AutorYnoPastrami Bagel Social Club (Tzadik) :: I am fans of some of the other Jewish rock acts on John Zorn’s Tzadik label: like Eyal Maoz’s Edom, Jon Madof’s Rashanim, and Yoshie Fruchter’s Pitom. The description for this AutorYno debut from Tzadik was “a wild klezmer/rock fusion by this crazed band of Paris-born punk rockers… AutorYno hits with a hardedged sound and an exciting musical imagination. Full of youthful energy, massive guitar and centered by a powerful beat, they present eleven instrumentals that combine the power of rock with a taste of Jewish tradition.” Regardless of Tzadik’s usual/expected hyperbole, I couldn’t not get it. I’m glad I did.  Utterly fantastic klez-jazz-rock blend.
Tin HatForeign Legion (BAG) :: The Bay Area acoustic group is no longer a trio.  They are currently made up of Carla Kihlstedt on violin & voice, Mark Orton on guitar & dobro, Ben Goldberg on clarinets, Rob Reich on accordion & piano, and Zeena Parkins on harp.  It also features Willie Nelson on guest vocals on a track.  The album is part European explorer, part cinematic, part chamber group, part tango.  I generally by anything Carla Kihlstedt is involved in.  So far, I haven’t been steered wrong…
Beats AntiqueBlind Threshold (self) :: I got to see Zoe Jakes of Beats Antique twice this year… once with Beats Antique during Eugene Celebration, and once with the Indigo Bellydance troupe as part of their Le Serpent Rouge tour. She had a knee in a brace during Eugene Celebration; so she lended her stage presence to additional percussion instead of dance – which was unfortunate. Beats Antique is a bellydance-friendly, electronic and live instrument band from the Bay Area. Elements of Balkan music and tribal-fusion dance music. “Egyptic” is indicative of their infectuous sound.
Anakronic Electro OrkestraSpeak With Ghosts (Balagan Box) :: One of my favorite EPs of 2009 was Anakronic Electro Orkestra’s The Yiddish Part. My only complaint with the EP? It was too short. Well, in mid-November 2010, unbeknown to me at the time, they came out with their debut full-length Speak With Ghosts. AEO hail from Toulouse, France, and crank out a mighty fine mixture of drum & bass mixed with Eastern European-fused klezmer. This album is a 40+ minute shuffle through a modern klezmer forest – including one song featuring David Krakaeur (another favorite musician of mine). I think AEO is also great for fans of Beats Antique and Balkan Beat Box.
Loose GripLooking Glass (Fabrikant) :: Loose Grip is a fantastic Edinburgh-based jazz quartet led by drummer Chris Wallace. This guitar and tenor sax infused contemporary jazz band is great for fans of Chris Potter and Joe Lovano on the sax angle, great for fans of the guitar jazz like John Scofield, etc. It’s a well made record, and clearly stands out amongst the many jazz records that came out this year.
John Zorn’s The Dreamers play Masada Book Two, Volume 14: Ipos (Tzadik) :: Let’s just put this out there now… with thirteen albums and a DVD out in 2010, John Zorn might seem to have more misses than hits. Well, I don’t think there’s been a more consistent set of songs than his Masada songs, and there hasn’t been a more consistently great series than the Masada Book Two series (Zorn’s Masada songs covered by others). The Dreamers is a supergroup, too: Marc Ribot, Joey Baron, Cyro Baptista, Kenny Wollesen, Trevor Dunn and Jamie Saft – pillars in the adventurous, downtown NYC scene.
Charlie HunterGentlemen, I Neglect to Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid (Spire Artist) :: One of the most amazing things from this past year was watching Charlie play live (twice). His seeming ease at which he plays bass and guitar on one instrument is stunning (and curse-worthy for the guitar aficionado in the crowd). If you weren’t watching the stage, you’d easily be fooled that it was a quartet and not a trio. It’s quite an amazing thing to see and hear. He’s so unassuming about it, too… a showman without the show-off attitude. Gentlemen came out in early 2010, and is a great melodic romp.  For prior fans of Charlie, you won’t be disappointed.  For people who aren’t yet fans… you will be.
Dave Douglas & KeystoneSpark of Being (boxset) (Greenleaf) :: Dave and his fusion group Keystone were busy with this 3-CD boxset. All three releases were inspired by Douglas’ recent collaboration with experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison on the new multi-media project Spark of Being. The first release is the soundtrack to the film.  Two additional releases, Expand and Burst, feature Douglas and Keystone exploring and interpreting the themes of the film. Expand was also available on vinyl (a first for Dave’s Greenleaf label).
Dave HollandPathways (Dare2) :: I got into Dave Holland around the same time as a lot of other jazz. I got into jazz through the backdoor (John Zorn) and then slowly moved into the more straight ahead jazz. I think I can officially blame Ken Laster and his In the Groove, Jazz and Beyond podcast for playing a lot of Dave Holland. Anyway, shortly after hearing Holland, I picked up Extended Play: Live at Birdland and Critical Mass. Both are great, but the latter is quite fetching. Pathways is a superb combo and features some amazing playing by some other favorites of mine: saxophonist Chris Potter and drummer Nate Smith.  Outside of Joey Baron (Masada, etc), I think Nate Smith is one of the most entertaining drummers to see play.  I love how Dave Holland surrounds himiself with amazing players.  Great band, great record!
Holy FuckLatin (Young Turks) :: Despite what you think of their choice of band name, these Toronto band continue to put out great, groove-infused live electronic music that is both experimental and a poppy-force in the indie rock movement. Latin, their third full length album, grabbed me immediately when it came out this past May… and it’s #1 with a bullet as far as instrumental albums go in 2010. To top it off, they swung through Oregon twice this year (both excellent shows), and they put out quite possibly the cutest video for the raddest song (“Red Lights” – click the kitty to the right). The video now has over 1,000,000 views on the YouTubes. Only 900,000 views are from me.

Where do I get most of these jazz and other instrumental releases?  My #1 favorite source for jazz is Downtown Music Gallery in New York.  Manny and Bruce and their great staff are superb… and being the official distributor for John Zorn’s Tzadik doesn’t hurt my affection for them.  I usually do a monthly Tzadik order (if the releases strike my fancy), and they have a ton of other non-Tzadik jazz and avant-garde releases as well.

And, no, I’m not affiliated, I don’t get a commission, and beyond my initial “big tax refund / gotta get caught up on Zorn order of 2005,” I haven’t gotten a discount with DMG.  I just love and support what they do.

Enjoy the New Years weekend!! Be safe! See you in 2011.

My Other Favorites of 2010 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Kevin MooreShine

* Favorite Vocal Albums of 2010 *

29th Dec 10 (Wed) 7 comments

Disclaimer: No, I haven’t heard all 8,000+albums released this year. I’ve heard about 120 of them, which makes me at least 98.5% likely to be wrong. I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2010. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2010. And you might be right. And, I while I generally agree with John Roderick about Year-End Lists, I still find it quite fun to compile my own.

I’ve been buying less music… or, at least a lot less mainstream (major label) music. This is also my third year now that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs. I think as I get older, I am drawn more towards jazz and other instrumental forms of expression. For that reason, the favorite vocal albums list goes first this go ’round. Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out the artists’ webpages, SpaceBook & MyFace pages, yadda yadda yadda. A lot of these also made it on to my 2010 Mix CD.

OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Honorable Mentions: Finger Eleven‘s Life Turns Electric, Gnashing of Teeth‘s Walking the Appian Way, Kaki King‘s Junior, Kim Taylor‘s Little Miracle (out late Dec ’09 digitally), and That1Guy & the Magic Pipe‘s Packs A Wallop!

The WeepiesBe My Thrill (Nettwerk) :: Lush singer-songwriter husband/wife duo from Northern California. Syrup-y sweet & poppy, but regardless of my penchant normally against those types of things – The Weepies do it up right. A superb piece of well-crafted pop.
Chali 2NaFish Market Part 2 (Decon) :: Another great solo outing from my favorite rapper from Jurassic 5. This is Chali’s 3rd solo album, and while the sound and vibe hasn’t changed much – his consistency is most what I like about him. Hard hitting, booming voice, witting lyricism, and generally moving into more positive territory (he’s not a “bitches and hoes”-type of rapper).
Caedmon’s CallRaising the Dead (INO) :: I’ve been a fan of Caedmon’s Call for going on fifteen years. I’ve stuck with them through some (personal opinion) lackluster lyricism after the departure of my favorite Caedmon’s songwriter – Derek Webb. He came back to produce and be in the band for this one; and quite frankly, I think this is their best record since 40 Acres. Lyrically, it still has a religious bent; but being in a minority of “non-Christian Caedmon’s Call fans,” I still didn’t find it cringe-worthy like most “contemporary Christian music.”
RedbirdLive at Café Carpe (Signature Sounds) :: Peter Mulvey, Jeffrey Foucault, Kris Delmhorst and David “Goody” Goodrich put out a great studio album of covers and originals in 2003. At the recent Mulvey/Foucault live shows this fall, they announced this new release. This new release is the live equivalent of the debut seven years ago (but different material) – a great mix of covers of people that influenced them, as well as a few of their own originals. Vocal duties split between Mulvey, Foucault & Delmhorst. I hope they are able to tour behind this in 2011.
Ty TaborSomething’s Coming (Molken) :: I’m a big fan of King’s X. As a trio, they put out a wall of sound, and a big component of their brilliance is Ty Tabor’s stellar guitar-work. His solo work also features his Beatles-esque vocals on top of his southern-grungy-rock sound. 2010 also saw the release of Ty’s Trip Magnet side solo project, Jelly Jam’s Additives bonus material, and the studio time with Jelly Jam (with John Myung & Rod Morgenstein) for their upcoming 3rd record. Whew, he’s been busy.
Ben Folds & Nick HornbyLonely Avenue (Nonesuch) :: I’m ambivalent about Ben Folds. I never know if I’ll like it; so I put off getting it. Then I get it and love it. This record was a collaboration between Ben and author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, etc). The lyrics are a little jumpier to me (Nick’s style versus Ben’s style), but it still feels very much like a Ben Folds record. They also feature a bonus song (iTunes version) with “video song” heroes Pomplamoose.
Jeanne CherhalCharade (Barclay FR) :: I first heard Jeanne Cherhal when we picked up her second album (Douze fois par an) when in Toulouse, France, for my MBA program in 2004. Only available in France, I’ve managed to get her albums via Amazon.fr (good thing the buttons are in roughly the same spot). I still don’t know what she’s saying, but I dig her style.
S (Jenn Ghetto)I’m Not As Good At It As You (Own Records) :: Carissa’s Wierd [sic] front woman promised this 3rd ‘S’ record back in… oh, 2007?? It was worth the wait. Haunting lyrics and vocals, simple yet complex acoustic guitar (that hearkens back to Elliott Smith). Bright emo and depressing pop music. Carissa’s Wierd also put out a retrospective (with a couple new tunes) and a small handful of West coast dates. Who knows – maybe they’ll get active again in the near future? I could dig it…
Greydon SquareThe Kardashev Scale (self) :: A little more mature in lyricism compared to The CPT Theorem. Perhaps it’s due to putting some of the ‘Rational Response Squad’ fighting behind him. Greydon, the foremost atheist rapper, made his 3rd record into what I think to be his most consistent. It’s solid, smart and superlative-worthy.
Damien JuradoSaint Bartlett (Secretly Canadian) :: I got into Damien Jurado via the Seattle-based melancholy, indie singer-songwriter scene (i.e.- Pedro the Lion / David Bazan). While similar in general geography and friendship, Damien strikes me as more of a pure “songwriter” when compared to David’s social critique set to music. Saint Bartlett fits well into Damien’s oeuvre. At a show this past February (6 months before the album came out), I hardly knew any of the songs but felt as though I did. That’s a testament to his craft.
ClogsThe Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton (Brassland) :: I first saw Clogs at MusicNow 2007 (in Cincinnati). Padma Newsome and Bryce Dessner (of The National) know how to make some interesting chamber pop. The album (as with the live premiere in 2007) features Sufjan Stevens and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). It’s quite a lush record – as the title suggests.
Sufjan StevensAll Delighted People (Asthmatic Kitty) :: Two albums in 2010, Sufjan’s 50+ minute “EP” hit us first. Beautiful and haunting in “The Owl and the Tanager” and primarily experimental and adventurous throughout, especially compared to his older material. Originally only released online via bandcamp, the EP saw physical form (CD & vinyl) earlier this month. I’m bummed Sufjan nixed future “State” albums, but I’m still glad with his 2010 output.
George HrabTrebuchet (self) :: George Hrab creates one of my favorite podcasts ever… the Geologic Podcast. It’s not about geology. It’s about science, skepticism, and his general life as a musician from Bethlehem, PA. He is both humorous and intelligent, and he puts out great albums as well. Trebuchet is his 6th studio album, and it features some great instrumental songs as well as some witty numbers fitting his skeptical, atheistic viewpoint. One of my favorite songs on it is “A Small Comfort,” which is about the death of his dog Oscar. I also give George some kudos for kicking off his album with the Christopher Hitchens’ inspired “God Is Not Great” (an atheist pop song). Bravo!
Damien & Drake JuradoHoquiam (St. Ives) :: Short and sweet and beautiful. My only gripe with this record… well, it wasn’t made available on CD, and the vinyl didn’t include a free download code for the mp3’s. Industry standard practice aside, the Jurado brothers put out some fantastic music. I borrowed a vinyl-to-mp3 device from my friend; so I could enjoy it on my iPod as well. So, my gripes have been abated.
ElleryThis Isn’t Over Yet (Set Adrift) :: Ellery is one of my favorite things in Cincinnati… I miss being able to see them multiple times a year (sad face). Husband/wife duo of Justin & Tasha Golden craft singer-songwriter pop songs… usually layered nicely on their albums with the help of producer, knob-twiddler Ric Hordinski (of Over the Rhine fame). This album, they switched it up with Malcolm Burn at the helm (Daniel Lanois / Bob Dylan / Iggy Pop / Kaki King / Emmylou Harris / etc).
Nellie McKayHome Sweet Mobile Home (Verve) :: Nellie McKay’s move to Verve (instead of Sony) has been good for her. They seem to give her free reign to put out Doris Day cover albums one year and an album of originals the next. HSMH is a return to the quirky, diverse collection of songs that drove me to fall in love with her. The album is full of Nellie’s modern piano jazz-pop, ukulele ditties, and even a pro-animal reggae tune. The album has grown on me nicely, and I’m looking forward to more Nellie in the near future. She seems to be in a period of prolificity as of late. This is greatly welcomed.
JónsiGo (XL) :: Sigur Rós-frontman’s debut solo album was going to be an acoustic affair, and then it turned into a lushly produced, Rós-ian opus with a multimedia firestorm of a tour (two U.S. legs with stunning stage design by 59 Productions). Jónsi is superbly brilliant and and ambivalently hyper-sensitively shy individual (ex. his abrupt cancellation of in-store performance tour) and boisterous-acting performer (ex. his magnificent stageshow). This album makes me excited for more solo work in the future, but I hope his day job with Sigur Rós is not on hold for too much longer.
Sarah Kirkland Snider & Shara WordenPenelope (New Amsterdam) :: Chamber pop featuring Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) is a theme this year (see #10). Quite frankly, I think Shara Worden has one of the best voices in indie rock. Period. Sarah Kirkland Snider is a new musical force for me… she originally wrote Penelope as music for a theater piece and then debuted it as a song cycle with Signal in May 2009. When Shara came aboard, Sarah revised and expanded the songs yet again, tailoring them to Shara’s talents and arranging them for a 25-person orchestra of strings, harp, percussion, drums, electric guitar and bass, and electronics (with sound design by Michael Hammond). It is gorgeous.
Sufjan StevensThe Age of Adz (Asthmatic Kitty) :: His second album of the year, The Age of Adz is a odd musical assembly. At first I didn’t know what to think of it, then I started to like it, and then after seeing him live – I truly loved the album. For those previously familiar with Sufjan, this album may not fit easily in with his prior albums – but I think if you have an open mind and a desire to explore, you may very well fall in love with this record as well.
Mike PattonMondo Cane (Ipecac) :: Mike Patton of Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk, Fantômas, et cetera is known for more boisterous, left of center fare. With Mondo Cane, he classes up the joint that is Ipecac Records. Mondo Cane, named after the film, is Mike’s homage to 50s Italian pop songs. He croons some classic Italian songs with the backing of the Orchestra Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini conducted by Aldo Sisillo. The artwork, in both CD digipack and vinyl, is stupendous. This is a magnificent record – both aurally and visually.

Top 20 instrumental albums coming up later this week…

My Other Favorites of 2010 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Kevin MooreShine

* Favorite EPs / Vinyl / Live Albums & more of 2010 *

28th Dec 10 (Tue) 5 comments

This is sort of a precursor to my “official” Favorites of 2010 blogs. Up later this week, I’ll post my favorite vocal and favorite instrumental albums of 2010. Anyway, on with the music pimping

Favorite EPs of 2010

  • Holy Fuck+Ghost (bonus disc with Latin)
  • AuragamiResistance (thanks, Michael)
  • Sufjan StevensAll Delighted People
  • Owen PallettDemo (with Shara Worden – FREE)
  • Haftor Medbøe GroupBox of Monkeys (technically 2009, but I got it late)
     

Favorite Vinyl-only Release of 2010

  • My Brightest Diamond & Dayna KurtzGone Away / Postcards from Downtown 7″
  • Erik FriedlanderAlchemy 10″
  • Isis / Melvins split 12″
  • Damien & Drake JuradoHoquiam 12″
  • John Zorn’s The DreamersThe Gentle Side 12″
    fave non-vinyl-only issue
    :
    Mike Patton‘s Mondo Cane 12″ (is luscious)

Favorite DVDs of 2010 (I didn’t really get any outside of music-related and an old H.Potter)

  • Porcupine TreeAnesthetize: Live in Tilburg
  • Steven WilsonInsurgentes
  • JónsiGo Quiet & Go Live
  • John Zorn & Richard ForemanAstronome: A Night at the Opera

Favorite Internet Only Releases of 2010

  • KembweKembwe
  • Derek WebbDemocracy Vol 1 (monthly series)
  • My Terrible Friend EP (a folky Pomplamoose spin-off)
  • CelldwellerWish Upon a Blackstar (a few chapters)
  • PuyaAreyto EP
  • Ty TaborTrip Magnet & Jelly Jam‘s Additives
  • Asthmatic Kitty‘s Library Catalog Music Series (I think they also put some of these out as vinyl)
  • Glen PhillipsTornillo
  • Kevin MooreShine (late, late 2010 – CD in early 2011)
  • RafterAnimal Feelings (maybe it came out on CD, too?)

Favorite Live Albums of 2010

  • King’s XLive Love in London
  • JónsiGo Live
  • Redbird (Peter Mulvey / Jeffrey Foucault / Kris Delmhorst / David “Goody” Goodrich) – Live at Café Carpe 2008 & 2009

Favorite Podcasts in 2010 (they’re free, yo! Search for them on iTunes)

  • George Hrab Geologic Podcast
  • Keith Olbermann’s Countdown on MSNBC
  • The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC
  • Bill Maher‘s New Rules
  • The Adam Carolla Podcast
  • Kevin Smith & Scott MosierSModcast
  • Kevin Smith & Ralph Garman – Hollywood Babble On
  • Starfucking with Kevin Smith (OK, not free – proceeds for charity, though)
  • SMoviemakers with Kevin Smith
  • The Skeptics Guide to the Universe

Best Cover Art & Packaging in 2010 (all vinyl, but the CDs were cool, too)

  • Mike Patton Mondo Cane
  • Jónsi Go
  • John Zorn’s The DreamersGentle Side (vinyl, designed by Chippy)

Favorite Local Releases in 2010 (PacNW represent)

  • KembweKembwe (Ashland-based ambient, vocal alchemy)
  • I suck… that’s all the local-ish stuff I got this year…

Best Re-issues in 2010

  • Carissa’s Wierd‘s first three albums (Ugly But Honest / You Should Be Home Here / Songs About Leaving)
  • Mr. BungleCalifornia (on vinyl)
  • Frank ZappaGreasy Love Songs (deluxe re-issue of Cruisin’ with Rueben & the Jets)
  • Elliott SmithAn Introduction to… (career spanning compilation)

Best Not-for-Profit Release in 2010

  • Medeski Martin & Wood – The Stone Issue Four (for The Stone NYC)

Worst Music News in 2010 (for me)

  • Cincinnati rock band Noctaluca broke up.  Here’s hoping Jason Ludwig goes on to do some more interesting stuff.
  • Faith No More‘s reunion tour didn’t hit the U.S. proper.  Argh.

Best Late-Getter in 2010 (something that came out before 2010)

  • Abagail’s Ghostd_letion (from 2009)
  • Fever RayFever Ray (also from 2009)

Best Musical Novelty / Ingenuity

  • Tristan Perich1-Bit Symphony

Best Music Videos

  • Holy Fuck “Red Lights”
  • Turf Fienz “Rain Dance”
  • Cee-Lo Green “Fuck You” (original)
  • The Gregory Brothers & Antoine Dodson “The Bed Intruder”

So, yeah, this was the catch-all post… check back later this week for the more traditional year end wrap-up festivities…

My Other Favorites of 2010 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Anakronic Electro OrkestraSpeak With Ghosts

recent jazz {Mar/Apr 2010}

24th Apr 10 (Sat) Leave a comment

So, I usually don’t do album reviews, but I get tons of music; so I figured I’d do little snippet reviews once a month or so… here are some recent jazz CDs I got recently. All of them were pretty darn fabulous…

The DreamersMasada Book Two, Book of Angels, Volume 14: Ipos (Mar 2010) The Dreamers sextet is made up of Cyro Baptista, Joey Baron, Trevor Dunn, Marc Ribot, Jamie Saft, and Kenny Wollesen and it quite frankly one of John Zorn’s most accessible bands.  They weave in and out of some new Masada compositions.  Highly enjoyable and easily drinkable with enough complexities to keep you coming back to the well!
http://www.myspace.com/zornroz

John ZornIn Search of the Miraculous (Feb 2010) This album was inspired by “esoteric spiritual practices, white magic, ritual, traditional myths and ancient legends.”  This album is a great adventure, and as a plus is performed by the soothing Alhambra Trio (who had a great, evocative album out in late 2009) joined by special guests Kenny Wollesen, Carol Emanuel, and Shanir Blumenkranz.
http://www.myspace.com/johnzorn

Jamie Saft A Bag of Shells (Mar 2010) This soundtrack album is for the four films Murderball, God Grew Tired of Us, Dear Talula, and Brooklyn Exile.  It jumps all over the place, starting with the harder edged “Murderball” title track to many different styles – some background music and some that catch your ears and take them for a ride.
http://www.myspace.com/jamiesaft

Haftor Medbøe – A Box of Monkeys EP (Jan 2010) My only complaint about this EP is that… it’s too short. Haftor Medboe bridges the gap from contemporary jazz to electronic, and while I’m usually not fond of vocals in my jazz music, the Björk-like vocals from guest singer Anneke Kampman are a superb match.  This guitar-driven EP has a great mix of electronics and traditional jazz instrumentation (sax & trombone).
http://www.haftormedboegroup.net/

Loose GripLooking Glass (Apr 2010) This guitar and tenor sax infused contemporary jazz band is led by drummer Chris Wallace.  I dig this record a lot… great for fans of Chris Potter and Joe Lovano on the sax angle, great for fans of the guitar jazz like John Scofield, etc.  It’s a well made record, that I’m sure will get many more spins from me this year.
http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/LooseGrip

VW BrothersMuziek (Feb 2010) The Van Wageningen Brothers have played with many immense talents in the jazz world (anyone heard of Stan Getz?).  Finally on their own… they captured some great sounds on their band-leading debut album. From the funk of “You Guys Done Yet?” to the South American flavor of “Benito” and “Zapatos de Madera” to the Miles Davis cover “Milestones,” the VW Brothers don’t disappoint – check it out now!!
http://www.vwbrothers.com/

Chris TedescoLiving the Dream (late 2009) Partially recorded with a big band and partially with a 32-piece studio orchestra, Living the Dream grabs for the 1960s jazz gusto led by Chris’s wonderful trumpet work.  This is a definite record to pick up if you dig the swinging big band style.  The album also features singer Tony Galla on a handful of tracks.
http://www.christedesco.com/

The Ullmann Swell 4News? No News! (early 2010) German reed-man Gebhard Ullmann and New York free-jazz trombonist Steve Swell trade off writing duties and collaborate to bring some great free-jazz improvisations as well as some concise, beautiful compositions to our ears.  There is definitely a noticeable juxtaposition between the four songs from each leader and the 2 collaborative pieces.  While the album isn’t cohesive, it’s not really intended as such.  With that being said, it is definitely an enjoyable spin for my ears.
http://www.gebhard-ullmann.com/
http://www.steveswell.com/

More by late April/early May…

~Dan – np: SevendustAlpha

recent jazz {Feb/Mar 2010}

15th Mar 10 (Mon) 1 comment

So, I usually don’t do album reviews, but I get tons of music; so I figured I’d do little snippet reviews once a month or so… here are some recent jazz CDs I got recently. All of them were pretty darn fabulous…

MycaleMasada Book Two, Book of Angels, Volume 13 (Jan 2010) I’m a BIG fan of the Masada Book Two series.  John Zorn’s post prolific book of music was for the Masada quartet… until he had a spurt of writing material and wrote 300+ songs for the Masada Book Two series.  Each year, 3 or 4 different artists release albums on Tzadik covering Zorn’s MB2 series (Secret Chiefs 3 and Medeski Martin & Wood have been my faves thus far).  This Mycale group is the first vocal group, and I was skeptical how it’d turn out.  Well, it turned out fantastic.  It features vocalizations by Ayelet Rose Gottlieb (Israeli singer), Sofia Rei Koutsovitis (jazz vocalist), Basya Schecter (of Pharoah’s Daughter), and Malika Zarra (Moroccan-French singer).  I am a fan!!  My favorite track is “Moloch.”
http://www.myspace.com/mycalevocalgroup

Yuka HondaHeart Chamber Phantoms (Jan 2010) Yuka Honda puts out great music – whether it be with Cibo Mato, Sean Lennon, or downtown NYC jazz musicians.  This is her third CD in Tzadik’s Oracles series.  It’s a breath of fresh air.  Experimental yet poppy.  She keeps making enjoyably melodic music that punches the envelope in the mouth.  Give “Hydrosphere” a listen.  I hope it’s sooner than 5 more years until her next solo record.
http://www.myspace.com/yukahonda

Mark Feldman & Sylvia Courvoisier Oblivia (Jan 2010) The duo of Feldman-Courvoisier is a familial one in the Tzadik catalog.  I always know I’ll like it.  While I can’t say that Oblivia is much different than their past releases, it is an enjoyable listen.  My favorite track is “Messiaenesque.”
http://www.myspace.com/sylviecourvoisier
http://www.myspace.com/markfeldmanviolin

Satoko Fujii & Natsuki Tamura4 records: Ma-Do’s Desert Ship / Zakopane / Gato Libre’s Shiro / First Meeting’s Cut the Rope (late 2009/early 2010) I’ve been a fan for Satoko Fujii’s for a while.  Her 2009 duo album Minamo with violinist Carla Kihlstedt (or Two Foot Yard & Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) was excellent.  For these four CDs, she teamed up with trumpeter Natsuki Tamura (with whom she has collaborated in the past).  Cut the Rope is a bit more experimental and improvisational (fave song is the title track). Desert Ship is an acoustic quartet jazz album (fave song is the title track and “February – Locomotive – February”). Zakopane features a larger orchestra led by Satoko (fave songs “Tropical Fish” and “Desert Ship”).  The Gato Libre album Shiro features a more subdued accordion and guitar alongside Tamura’s trumpet (fave song “Memory of Journey”).  All four of these records are great works in modern jazz, and Desert Ship has a great chance of making my 2010 favorites list.  These aren’t listed on Amazon yet, but they can be obtained from Downtown Music Gallery (my favorite jazz store, by far).
http://www.myspace.com/satokofujii
http://www.myspace.com/natsukitamura

Salvatore Bonafede TrioSicilian Opening (late 2009) This album is quite enjoyable, from start to finish.  Salvatore’s piano work is masterful, and the drums and upright bass bounce around nicely.  Sal has worked with Lester Bowie, John Scofield, Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas and more (and his musical chops show it).  He threw in a couple Beatles covers and a gospel number amongst a great album of original jazz numbers.  My favorite track is the opening title track, but the entire album moves really well from speakers to your ears.
http://www.myspace.com/salvatorebonafede

Peppe MerollaStick With Me (Feb 2010) So… drummers as band leaders.  I was skeptical, but I don’t know why.  Joey Baron’s done it nicely. Bobby Previte does it consistently well. George Hrab, while not in the jazz world, puts together a great band.  Paul Motian is legendary.  Art Blakey – do I even need to go into Art Blakey?  OK, Peppe Merolla… he’s in good company of being a great jazz drummer bandleader.  His smokin’ sextet is full of horns – which definitely adds to the appeal for me – sax, trombone, trumpet, piano, bass, and drums.  The album swings through its hard bop edges.  This is a great jazz album – plain and simple.
http://www.myspace.com/merollapeppe

More by late March/early April: including VW Brothers, Chris Tedesco, The Ullmann Swell 4, Loose Grip, Ron Miles, and February & March releases from Tzadik Records…

~Dan – np: OpethBlackwater Park

recent jazz {Jan 2010}

3rd Feb 10 (Wed) Leave a comment

So, I usually don’t do album reviews, but I get tons of music (some comp’ed and some purchased); so I figured I’d do little snippet reviews once a month or so… here are some recent jazz CDs I got recently.  All of them were pretty darn fabulous…

Mostly Other People Do the KillingForty Fort (Jan 2010) So, I’m a fan of composer Moppa Elliott and trumpet player Peter Evans.  Peter’s solo show in Eugene a couple of years ago was an avant-garde delight.  MOPDTK is a little more straight forward than Peter’s solo stuff.  It’s a fun jazz group… very similar in feel and youthful, party jazz energy as Reptet (up in Seattle).  This is their second album that I’ve heard but their fourth released.  My favorite tracks are “Nanticoke Coke” and the title track “Forty Fort.”  I’m looking forward to more from this killer band ensemble.
http://www.myspace.com/mostlyotherpeopledothekilling

Big Crazy Energy New York BandInspirations (Feb 2010) Led by trombonist Jens Wendelboe, BCENYB’s latest record is a delight.  The big band lead-off track, “Pleasant Pheasant,” is my favorite.  There are a few slower tunes on the record, and even a vocal song or two (of which I’m only “so so” on).  It ends strong with a big band instrumental version of the Beatles classic “A Day in the Life.”  This record is only available on CD Baby, from what I can tell.  Support indie music!
http://www.myspace.com/jenswendelboe

Charles Evans & Neil ShahLive at Saint Stephens (Dec 2009) Slow and meandering in spots with nice piano, this live recording from baritone saxophonist Charles Evans and pianist Neil Shah touches on the minimalist and sublime.  It’s a primarily improvisational and free-jazz in nature.  I think it gets a little tedious in parts (too long of movements that I felt didn’t go anywhere), but that’s sort of the nature of the beast with improvisational free-jazz.  Charles & Neil end of very strong with “What Worked, What Didn’t, What Wouldn’t, What Would’ve.”
http://www.myspace.com/charlesevansneilshahduo

Jon Lundbom & Big Five ChordAccomplish Jazz (Dec 2009) Moppa Elliott (from the aforementioned Mostly Other People Do the Killing CD) is also involved in this album… via playing bass.  Jon Lundbom is a jazz guitarist, and his pieces definitely gear towards that instrument.  A meandering piece and a more classical-influenced piece split up the album.  My favorite tunes were “The Christian Life” and the more energetic “Baluba, Baluba.”
http://www.jonlundbom.com/

Prana TrioThe Singing Image of Fire (Jan 2010) World music meets jazz… I dug the instrumental pieces moreso than the ones with vocals (that’s the nature of what I’m liking as of the past few years).  It features classic poetry from ancient Persia, India, and China – and I’m sure it’ll grow on me fairly well.  The music is very fit well with the poetry, very colorful and nuanced.
http://www.brianadler.com/prana.htm

Next up will be the January 2010 Tzadik & Franck Smith/Zn’shñ releases – which I just got and need to find some time to digest (soon)…

~Dan – np: John Zorn/Mike Patton/Ikue MoriHemophiliac

* Favorite Instrumental Albums of 2009 *

31st Dec 09 (Thu) 10 comments

Disclaimer (with a nod to Andy Whitman of Paste): No, I haven’t heard all 8,000+albums released this year. I’ve heard about 200 of them, which makes me at least 97.5% likely to be wrong. I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2009. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2009. And you might be right. So go ahead and vent. Enjoy!

As I start this post, I will say that this is all very subjective and really put together for my own purposes. I’ll also state that, yes, some of the music below does have some vocals. For the most part, it’s sequestered to a track or two on a long CD of mostly instrumental goodness. My list, my rules, and/or my breaking of the rules. With that being said, all of the artists below tend to be in the jazz and instrumental frame of reference anyway.

Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out their webpages, SpaceBook pages, yadda yadda yadda. OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year on the mainly instrumental front…

Honorable mentions: Uri Gurvich‘s The Storyteller, John Zorn‘s Filmworks XXIII: El General, AhleuchatistasOf the Body Prone, Secret Chiefs 3‘s Le Mani Destre Recise Degli Ultimi Uomini (The Severed Right Hands of the Last Men), and Skerik & The Dead Kenny G’s Bewildered Herd.

Osso String QuartetRun Rabbit Run: A Tribute to Sufjan Stevens’ Enjoy Your Rabbit (Asthmatic Kitty) :: I feel lucky that I got to witness the world premiere of Osso playing Sufjan Stevens’ Enjoy Your Rabbit at MusicNOW Fest 2007 in Cincinnati. I think almost immediately after that show, I emailed Asthmatic Kitty to see if they were going to release audio or video of that performance. Little did I know that they’d do me one better by putting Osso into a studio to record the full length stringed tribute. Huzzah! While the novelty of the initial project has worn off for me, the musical arrangements stand firm. I really dig Osso and I’m looking forward to their further collaboration with Sufjan, My Brightest Diamond, or their own pieces.
Mike PattonCrank High Voltage Score (Lions Gate) :: Well, Mike Patton pretty much took a year off of Ipecac stuff due to Faith No More reuniting. I supposed this score satiated me, but I would have loved for Mondo Cane to make its way out the door in 2009 (as was initially promised by Patton himself). Anyway, this album has a couple of vocal tracks, but overall, it features Mike’s voicebox gymnastics and razor-edged composition schizophrenia that I’ve loved since I first got into Mr. Bungle… Fantômas… and the rest of his vast body of work…
Feldman / Caine / Cohen / BaronSecrets (Tzadik) :: This album snuck on me as I was re-listening to my 2009 CDs. It has that klezmer jazz feel as is common in the Tzadik Radical Jewish Culture series, but it also has a much more accessible feel as well. With Uri Caine’s piano in the mix, he almost adds a Vince Guaraldi aspect to the klez-jazz that permeates.
Jónsi & AlexRiceboy Sleeps (indie) :: Sigur Rós is one of my favorite groups, and a few years ago frontman Jónsi started an arty project with his partner Alex. At first it was a hand-printed notebook and a few musical things on MySpace, but it transformed into a full album as time went along. It’s much more ambient when compared to Sigur Rós – but definitely appeals to fans of Jónsi’s main band. In other news… they have a raw, vegan cookbook PDF on their website (for free)… holy cow… I’m totally gonna make some raw strawberry pie when the season comes around. That and many other recipes look flippin’ delicious… much like the music. Yeah, this is a music blog, right? Sorry for my drooling over “Icelandic rockstar” recipe books.
Wadada Leo Smith with Jack DeJohnetteAmerica (Tzadik) :: I love trumpet… I have some of Wadada’s other work, and I usually find it to be hit or miss. I wasn’t coming in with a lot of preconceptions or whetted appetite about this album, and after the first spin, I loved it. It’s fairly sparse sonically, with only Wadada on trumpet & flugelhorn and Jack on drums. The sound from his horns is so brilliant and melodic, yet searching. I hope they can get together for a 2nd duo outing sometime soon. This wins my “best surprise” award for instrumental albums in 2009.
The Fantastic Terrific MunkleMusic To Dance To (Jazz Groove Australia) :: I got into the Fantastic Terrific Munkle via band member Julian Curwin, who put out his fantastic Tango Saloon out on Ipecac a few years ago. Munkle and Tango Saloon have similar jazz meets groove meets world music meets danceable rhythms. This one was harder to get, as I had to directly order it from Australia (but at least they accept PayPal in US dollars). I wish I could find similar luck with Tango Saloon’s second album, Transylvania (still no stateside release, and the AUD to USD conversion is killin’ me these days).
900XMusic for Lubbock, 1980 (Asthmatic Kitty) :: I got this download for free from Asthmatic Kitty along with the other Library Catalog Music Series (they’re great in supplying review subjects to music bloggers), and the 900X album simply surpassed the others in the collection, if you ask me. I ended up buying it on vinyl… a great addition to the collection. I don’t know if 900x (or James McAlister dba 900x) have any future plans for further releases of this nature. I hope so.
McTuff (Skerik & Joe Doria)McTuff, Volume 1 (indie) :: Joe Doria’s tribute to Jack McDuff has turned into a great Northwest jazz quartet (and trio when Skerik isn’t available). I’m lucky to have seen them a couple times thus far. Skerik’s sax is fantastic, Doria’s hammond keeps the groove, Lewis’s drums are killer, and Coe’s guitars really know how to burn (which I didn’t really pick up on until the 2nd time seeing them live).
Roberto RodriguezThe First Basket (Tzadik) :: Roberto Rodriguez’s Cuban-meets-Judaic music have been some of my favorites out of Tzadik the last few years… this one was a bit different. It’s a score to a film (of the same name) that follows the history of Jewish basketball… its scope covers klezmer, classical, rock, dixieland, and more. Its variety is what helped this album beat out his other 2009 album from the list this year (Timba Talmud is also really good).

Medeski Martin & WoodRadiolarians II & III (Indirecto) :: Starting in 2008, MMW set out to record three albums back to back to back, heading out on a short tour before each album and going directly into the studio and then out on the road again. They swung through Eugene in late 2008 as part of the Radiolarians III Tour. By that time, only R1 had come out; so the crowd didn’t really know the material being played. They played two sets, one set of experimental meets groove and one set of the eventual R3 material. Near the end of 2009, they released the Evolutionary Boxset (all Radiolarians albums with tons of extras: vinyl/live/remixes/DVDs)… great material from a fantastic groove-oriented jazz band. I’m stoked, as they’re coming through Eugene again in Feb 2010. Yay!
Wynton MarsalisHe and She (EMI Blue Note) :: Wynton is a great trumpet player, puts on a great live show, writes and releases great music, and he’s also a jazz bigot. Sigh.
Eyal Maoz’s EdomHope and Destruction (Tzadik) :: Great Jewish instrumental rock. I dug Eyal’s first album, Edom. It appears he’s made an official band out of it… yay. I don’t have much else to add; so I’ll leave it with Tzadik’s P.R. niblit… “Hope and Destruction presents powerful Jewish rock instrumentals from a cutting edge guitarist who combines the harmonic lyricism of Bill Frisell with the angst and skronk of Marc Ribot.” Ribot and Frisell influences… me likey.
Jon Madof’s RashanimThe Gathering (Tzadik) :: Similar but a bit rockier compared to Eyal Maoz’s Edom, Jon Madof has been on my radar since his first instrumental Jewish rock album, Rashanim (which subsequently turned into the band name similar to Edom’s recent evolution). Anyway, this is Madof’s third album under this band moniker. Guitars, bass, drums… banjo… banjo bass… jaw harp… glockenspiel… melodica… tiple… chonguri… it all sounds great!! Jon also has another band called CircuitBreaker that I’m waiting on with baited breath.
Stabat AkishStabat Akish (Tzadik) :: From Toulouse, France, this is one of those rare Tzadik releases that fits into the “Composer Series” that doesn’t bore me to tears. Don’t get me wrong, there are some gems in the CS catalogue, but most of them are violin noodlers. This is more of the rock band variety of composers. It has elements of French street music (which I witnessed first hand in Toulouse, coincidentally), elements of Zorn’s schizophrenia, and elements of the ever excellent Frank Zappa… thanks to the vibraphone and bass marimba acrobatics.
ZuCarboniferous (Ipecac) :: I got this due to Mike Patton’s involvement… he actually sings on one track (and vocal instrumentation on another). Despite that Patton vocal song, this is definitely an instrumental band and a chiefly instrumental album. Zu is powerful rock from Rome, sometimes lumped in with the math rock scene, sometimes with metal. They have had their hand in the jazz scene in the past, too (their album placed in The Village Voice‘s 2004 jazz poll). This album is my only experience with them, but I hope to get into their diverse and vast back catalogue soon.
SF Jazz CollectiveLive 2009 (SF Jazz) :: SFJC 2010 will not quite be the same… they lost Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano, and Miguel Zenon – all key players in the 2007 through 2009 seasons. This 2009 season was dedicated to the music of McCoy Tyner and also features great compositions by the eight members of the band. It is truly a collective of many great musicians, not just a band fronted by a few.
Tim SparksLittle Princess: Tim Sparks plays Naftule Brandwein (Tzadik) :: A fingerstyle guitar virtuoso, I’d heard Tim on some other Tzadik releases, but I think this one is my favorite of his. This album is a trio of Tim, Cyro Baptista on percussion, and Greg Cohen on bass. I think the added players helped fill out Tim’s sound – which was awesomely virtuosic, but a touch too sparse on prior releases.
Dave DouglasA Single Sky (Greenleaf) :: This was the third of three Dave Douglas releases this year. It features three new Dave Douglas tunes and four rearranged Douglas tunes by Jim McNeely and his Frankfurt Radio Bigband. The entire album has a great big band feel, something I’m a sucker for – obviously. I love Dave Douglas’s prolific nature – 2009 was good to his fans.
John ZornAlhambra Love Songs (Tzadik) :: One of the more accessible albums in Zorn’s catalogue, this is his ode to his favorite San Francisco Bay Area artists and musicians: Vince Guaraldi, Clint Eastwood, David Lynch, Mike Patton, Harry Smith, and more. The music is played by the Rob Burger Trio (Rob + Greg Cohen & Ben Perowsky). The albums leads off with the very Guaraldian tribute to Vince himself – “Mountain View.”
Dave Douglas & Brass EcstasySpirit Moves (Greenleaf) :: Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy is coming to Portland / PDX Jazz Fest this coming February! I’m so stoked. This band features Dave on trumpet, Vincent Chancey (French horn), Luis Bonilla (trombone), Marcus Rojas (tuba) and Nasheet Waits (drums). The tuba really adds that bouncy backbone that I love (I’m also a fan of the rockier band Drums & Tuba). Check out DD&BE’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert (video).
Sufjan StevensThe BQE (Asthmatic Kitty) :: It is atrociously difficult to read the lettering on the front cover… maybe as easy as navigating the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in rush hour. This was Sufjan’s first foray into studio album land since the Avalanche (but that was more of a b-side collection of 2005’s Illinoise). Anyway… it’s a moving, 40 minute piece dedicated to NYC’s traffic clusterbomb. It comes with a film to accompany it, and if you get the double-gatefold vinyl, you get a spiffy comic book written by Sufjan and a fantastic full-color booklet. I like it how Sufjan “keeps it weird” when he’s “keeping it real.”
John ZornO’o (Tzadik) :: While the music is stunning, I think longtime Tzadik artwork designer Chippy deserves a ton of credit as well. This album is the band from The Dreamers: Baptista, Baron, Dunn, Ribot, Saft, and Wollesen. It carries on that world music / surf / exotica sound, but adds the element of nature: being a tribute to rare birds (the album is named after an extinct Hawaiian bird).
Tides from NebulaAura (indie from Poland) :: Tides of Nebula is powerful, evocative progressive post-rock goodness from Poland. They have links on their MySpace page on how to get their CD. It’s really, really, really, good. It combines the huge sound from post-rock giants like Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai, but adds a tight edge as well – similar to if Brit progressive rockers Porcupine Tree tweaked some Explosions or Mogwai songs. This is one of those bands and albums that I had no idea about even this summer, and then out of nowhere – BAM! Way up to the top of the pile. I’m looking forward to more from this great group.
Masada Quintet & Joe Lovano play Masada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 12: Stolas (Tzadik) :: The original Masada quartet’s last studio album was in 1999. They continued as a quartet (John Zorn / Dave Douglas / Joey Baron / Greg Cohen) throughout most of the 2000s (I got to see one of their last shows in March 2007). Zorn moved on in the 2000s with writing a 2nd book of Masada tunes, not to be played by Masada, but rather interpreted by other bands. The past 11 albums in this series have been fantastic (Secret Chiefs 3, Medeski Martin & Wood, and the Bar Kokhba Sextet (related-to-but-not-Masada) albums have been my faves). I would never have imagined that Zorn would “allow” Masada to record an album for this Masada Book Two series. Well, he didn’t (sort of). He added pianist Uri Caine and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano to the mix. A great “supergroup” album!!

Where do I get most of these jazz and other instrumental releases? My #1 favorite source for jazz is Downtown Music Gallery in New York. Manny and Bruce and their great staff are superb… and being the official distributor for John Zorn’s Tzadik doesn’t hurt my affection for them. I usually do a monthly Tzadik order (if the releases strike my fancy), and they have a ton of other non-Tzadik jazz and avant-garde releases as well.

And, no, I’m not affiliated, I don’t get a commission, and beyond my initial “big tax refund / gotta get caught up on Zorn order of 2005,” I haven’t gotten a discount with DMG. I just love and support what they do.

My Other Favorites of 2009 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Brian BorcherdtTorches

* Favorite Vocal Albums of 2009 *

29th Dec 09 (Tue) 20 comments

Disclaimer (with a nod to Andy Whitman of Paste): No, I haven’t heard all 8,000+albums released this year. I’ve heard about 200 of them, which makes me at least 97.5% likely to be wrong. I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2009. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2009. And you might be right. So go ahead and vent. Enjoy!

As I start this post, I will say that this is the second year now that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs. I think as I get older, I am drawn more towards jazz and other instrumental forms of expression. For that reason, the favorite vocal albums list goes first this go ’round. Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out the artists’ webpages, SpaceBook pages, yadda yadda yadda. OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Honorable Mentions: Jars of Clay‘s The Long Fall Back to Earth, U2‘s No Line on the Horizon, Madeleine Peyroux‘s Bare Bones, Piano Magic‘s Ovations, and Ember Swift‘s Lentic :: 子玉.

ChevelleSci-Fi Crimes (Epic) :: I don’t find Chevelle to be all that original. I mean, I found them early on (the Squint days) and I liked them due to their sound similar to Tool. I don’t know… I continue to like what Chevelle puts out, regardless of its similarities to other bands. They have good hooks, vocals, and melodies. I’ve yet to see them live… they tend to always show up where I’m not. Maybe I’ll get lucky on their next batch of tour dates.
Kim TaylorLittle Miracle (indie) :: Kim is a Cincinnati favorite of mine. She tours a lot with another Cincinnati band, Over the Rhine – which is how I first heard of her (so many years ago). Anyway, if you’re in Cincinnati, swing by her coffee shop – Pleasant Perk (and buy a CD along with the Mocha you’re craving). This record came out only about a week ago. It still needs to sink in, but it’s got that Kim Taylor vibe – sultry/smoky vocals with heartfelt lyrics. This album is more stripped down than her prior releases, full of warmth.
Tori AmosAbnormally Attracted to Sin (Universal) :: Tori’s heyday for me was the 1990s. Sin hearkens back to those days, but still remains in this weird phase of “I don’t know if I like, but I do kinda like it” for me. It’s not classic Tori, but it is a good record. Her live show this year in Portland helped me get into this album a bit more. After 20 or so years of touring, she still delivers the goods consistently.
Chali 2NaFish Outta Water (Decon) :: Chali 2Na was always my favorite rapper in Jurassic 5. I dig all of those gents, but Chali has that powerful booming baritone with quick delivery. His first official solo album [he had a mixtape type thing a few years back], this one doesn’t disappoint the J5 fan in me.
Alice in ChainsBlack Gives Way to Blue (EMI Virgin) :: New singer, same great grunge sound. Jerry Cantrell and Company are back with a great new hard rocking record. While Layne can’t be replaced, the band goes on and it doesn’t disappoint. Their live show this year was excellent as well.
IsisWavering Radiant (Ipecac) :: Post-rock, post-metal, ambient metal… I don’t know what you want to call it. I first saw these guys open up for Tool a few years back, and I subsequently quit putting off getting their music. They’re on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label (so I had heard of them prior to the Tool gig), and they are both meandering and powerful. This is not a metal band full of riffs… they would fit more in the camp with post-rockers Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed! You Black Emperor than with Metallica and Megadeth.
Talking Snakes (Gary Lenaire)Nonogram Zen (indie) :: Former guitarist/vocalist for metal band Tourniquet, Gary Lenaire, released his book An Infidel Manifesto a few years back. This album is his first solo album as being an out atheist. I love the music and lyrics in Nonogram Zen. I think this album stacks up to anything he did in Tourniquet (OK, Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance still “owns” Gary’s catalogue, in my opinion). Musically, Nonogram Zen ranges from really heavy, to electronic-tinged, to more melodic pop songs (with auto-tune… *shudder*) – but all in all, I’d consider it to be a metal/hard rock album. It’s only currently available as a digital release, but perhaps it will see a physical form in the near future.
Dream TheaterBlack Clouds and Silver Linings (Roadrunner) :: I bought the special edition of this record, mainly for the CD of completely instrumental versions of Black Clouds songs. While I love the instrumental versions better, the entire album is really well crafted. As much as I think James LaBrie’s vocals and Mike Portnoy’s oft-clunky rhyme-writing get in the way, I think this album holds up in their ever-expanding catalogue.
Bad VeinsBad Veins (Dangerbird) :: Three years in existence and the band finally gets their debut album out the door. While I think it’s a solid album, and I think the song-writing is superb, I think my fondness of their early live shows and acoustic / in-studio sets have more musical magic to me. I did get a chance to see Bad Veins twice this year, which was quite the coup – as they live 2,300+ miles from me. I’m glad that this album finally made its way out and I hope there’s another one to follow in less than three years time.
dUg Pinnick (of King’s X) & RAZR 13RAZR 13 (RockArmy) :: Doug Pinnick (aka dUg) has an amazing voice; so when he starts lending his voice out to other bands, well, I am not complaining. This collaboration finds dUg rockin’ out with Austin metal band RAZR 13. It is more like his prior metal collaborations with The Mob and 24-7 Spyz than the more straight-ahead Supershine or Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament collaborations. 2010 promises another dUg Pinnick collaboration in the new group with 24-7’s Jimi Hazel called A.N.M. Yay, more metal Pinnick!!
Regina SpektorFar (Sire Warner) :: Regina’s latest album grew on me slowly. By the time I saw her in Portland (in early November), I was digging this latest album the best out of her material thus far. It is quirky, poppy, and makes you think (especially on “Laughing With”). Her live show is energetic and quite a full night of music.
Extra GoldenThank You Very Quickly Vol. 3 (Thrill Jockey) :: I didn’t know about Extra Golden until about 3 or 4 months ago, when my friend Aaron told me about their set at Eugene Celebration. I went to that show and was a fan. They are a half American, half Kenyan group… and they play sort of jammy, sort of African songs. It’s a great melting pot of sound. Their record and live show are highly recommended!
Various Artists (produced by Ric Hordinski) – Notes From the Monastery (indie) :: Rarely do I buy a “various artists” album… in the age of iTunes, it’s easier (and usually beneficial) to just buy the few tracks from artists that I know. Well, this compilation is all music produced by a person who I enjoy and respect… Mr. Ric Hordinski. He was a founding member of Cincinnati band Over the Rhine, the creative force behind the more meandering band MONK, and the knob-noodler for his Monastery Studios. This album features all new, previously unreleased songs by Ellery, Over the Rhine, Sarah Masen, Ric Hordinski, Phil Keaggy, David Wilcox, and more. There is not a bad song on the whole disc. Kudos, Ric!
Works Progress Administration (featuring Glen Phillips)WPA (Elite Artist Services) :: While I often lump this in the “Glen Phillips side project” category, it that doesn’t really do it justice. My favorite songs are the Glen ones, but Luke Bulla and Sean & Sara Watkins (of Nickel Creek) round this album out into an important Americana album in 2009. Let’s just say, I came to find WPA due to Glen, but I stuck around due to it being a great band with a great new record.
FanfarloReservoir (indie) :: The best way to build a fanbase overnight… have a moderately successful internationally touring artist pimp your music directly via their website and offer your album for a $1 download months before it’s available in shops. Sigur Rós’s web viewers and mailing list got a first taste and nudge to check out Fanfarlo, and that’s all it took – a gentle nudge. While Fanfarlo isn’t really all too much like Sigur Rós, I can see why their fans intersect… gentle songs with complex and often unusual instrumentation. I missed Fanfarlo as they swung through the Pacific Northwest, as I was on vacation, but I hope they come through again soon.
Tegan and SaraSainthood (Sire Vapor) :: This T&S album is rockier than their last few albums, but after the second listen, I think I like it more than both The Con and So Jealous (and, yeah, their pre-Jealous ones, too). I think with The Con, they had started to really figure out to write really hooky yet still mature songs. While Sainthood heats it up on the rockier edge, I think the songs are better overall. This was their first album where they wrote a large chunk of the songs together in the same room – maybe that was their secret formula. I’m looking forward to their upcoming tour… April 2010 in Portland!
The Swell SeasonStrict Joy (Anti-) :: The ONCE soundtrack sunk in immediately after I heard it. While Strict Joy took a while to sink in, I think it’s a more solid record than Once. While this album represents their personal “break up,” I hope they keep working together as a band. I’ve heard some of Glen’s work with The Frames, and it’s good – but Marketa and Glen together really seems magical.
David BazanCurse Your Branches (Barsuk) :: The oft-used tagline for this record is “David’s break-up album with God.” Sure, OK. I never really thought his prior albums were all that ostentatiously “God-y” anyway. I admired David’s doubting and questioning in his prior Pedro the Lion music. His move to a more agnostic / atheistic-leaning artistic expression is a-OK with me. I realize that it’s a personal journey, and as long as he keeps putting out challenging and witty lyrical numbers, and he keeps touring & bringing some fun Q&A time to stages near me – I’m fine with whatever his philosophy moves towards.
O.S.I.Blood (Inside Out) :: What, a Kevin Moore album at #7 in its release year? I know, I know… Chroma Key and the first two O.S.I. albums were at least Top 3 spots in their respective years. While I have been moving towards a lot more instrumental music, this year’s vocal albums that I did get had some great music… the Top 10 vocal albums for me this year are especially strong albums, regardless of my bent towards the sans vocal route. Anyway, I really dig this new O.S.I. record. I wish more news and touring from Kevin Moore would leak out… I mean, news bites are few and far between. It gets a bit frustrating in this era of readily available information. Chroma Key or O.S.I. album #4… I hope not too far out there.
Nellie McKayNormal As Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day (Verve) :: While I dig Nellie’s own music better than this batch of mostly Doris Day cover songs (there is one Nellie original), this may be the most perfect tribute album. From the cover art, to the campy photos inside, to the delivery that truly honors Doris Day, to Nellie’s excellent jaunt with The Aristocrats – this album I think is more than the sum of its parts. Back on a major label (this time Verve instead of Sony), I hope they give Nellie some creative control to go back in the studio to make her next originals album.
Porcupine TreeThe Incident (Roadrunner) :: I think I like the non-concept songs on disc 2 more than the individual parts in The Incident concept disc. Regardless, I think Steven Wilson has turned the corner away from Fear of a Blank Planet, and maybe he’s heading back into a more interesting progressive arena. The tour was also great this year, but maybe they play their instruments too perfectly. I almost felt as if I could have gotten as much out of the DVD of the show as the actual show (hey, my only negative about this latest effort is that they play “too perfectly”). Go figure!
Peter MulveyLetters From a Flying Machine (Signature Sounds) :: Half spoken word, half poppy singer-songwriter tunes… that doesn’t scream “Top 5” album release. But it is. I think this is Peter’s most solid piece of work in a while, and it ranks amongst The Trouble with Poets and Kitchen Radio for me. Peter is still fairly unknown… but he is quite prolific (12+ full lengths in 17+ years), hard-working (constantly touring all places from Alaska to Ireland), quite witty (he could be a comedian if the whole music thing doesn’t work out), and energetic (he did a 1,100 bicycle tour this year – playing gigs from Michigan to Massachusetts). He plans to do a bicycle tour from Wisconsin to the West Coast in 2010… yay!
Derek WebbStockholm Syndrome (INO) :: I grew up with Derek Webb as he made his musical start in the contemporary christian music scene – with Caedmon’s Call. I always loved his songs and vocals the best; so when he left the band, I followed. His latest album gets it right in both music and lyrics… calling out those who hate others due to their sexuality (the “controversial” What Matters More) and calling out hate in the name of God (“Freddie, Please” dedicated to Westboro Baptist’s jackass preacher). I feel that even though I have differing (non-)religious beliefs, I still can call Derek Webb a compatriot. The more electronic-tinged music is also welcome from his more “guy & a guitar” days (though, he carried that sound well, too). I look forward to his upcoming subscriber series in 2010 – Democracy, Volume 1.
WussyWussy (Shake It) :: Wussy just keeps getting better. Lisa and Chuck & Company have really stepped it up on their third full-length. I wish I still lived in Cincinnati sometimes after seeing their “hey, we’re playing at Northside Tavern” posts on SpaceBook and MyFace. Anyway, I’m utterly delighted with this record, and they’ve unofficially promised to hit the West Coast in Spring 2010. Fingers crossed…
dredgThe Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion (Ohlone) :: dredg has evolved from “good opener” the first time I saw them to “really good rock band” after I delved into Catch Without Arms (specifically “Ode to the Sun” and the b-side “Stone By Stone”) to one of my favorite bands with this new release. Quite honestly, from the first full listen back in June, I knew this would be my #1 album for 2009. It’s a concept album based loosely on Salmon Rushdie’s “Letter to the Six Billionth Citizen,” and, well, it shows off dredg’s great vocals, subtle progressive guitars, and unique and inspiring drumming. I hope album #5 is not another 4 years away… or, if it is, I hope they keep touring. I got to see them twice this year – both fantastic shows.

Top 25 instrumental albums coming up later this week… still making my way through them at this point… oy…

My Other Favorites of 2009 Recaps:

  • Fave Concerts of ‘09 are recapped *HERE*
  • Fave EPs/Vinyl/Live/more of ‘09 are recapped *HERE*
  • Fave Instrumental Albums ‘09 are coming soon
  • Fave Artists of the Decade are coming soon
  • Old Years: 2008I, 2008V, 2008ep, 2008C, 2007V, 2007I, 2007C, 2006, 2005

~Dan – np: Roberto RodriguezThe First Basket

* Favorite EPs / Vinyl / Live Albums & more of 2009 *

28th Dec 09 (Mon) 6 comments

This is sort of a precursor to my “official” Favorites of 2009 blogs.  Up later this week, I’ll post my favorite vocal and favorite instrumental albums of 2009, as well as my favorite artists of the decadeAnyway, on with the music pimping

Favorite EPs of 2009

  1. CelldwellerWish Upon a Blackstar Chapters 1 & 2
  2. Emily WellsDirty
  3. PusciferC is For…
  4. Anakronic Electro-OrkestraThe Yiddish Part
  5. EisleyFire Kite
    hm: ElleryDown, Down, Down
    hm: One EskimoTour EP

Favorite Vinyl of 2009

  1. Symphony of Science featuring Carl SaganA Glorious Dawn 7″
    (best song of the year, too)
  2. Holy Fuck & Off the International RadarHot Lips 12″
    (playable at 33 & 45)
  3. ReptetAgendacide 7″
    (great jazz from Seattle)
  4. Sufjan StevensThe BQE special edition
    (luscious packaging)
  5. Melt Bananainitial t. 5″

Favorite DVDs of 2009 (I didn’t really get many)

  • Michel GondryVideos 2
  • Dollhouse: Season One
  • Bill Maher’s Religulous
  • Criss Angel Mindfreak: Collector’s Edition
  • Secret Chiefs 3 Live at the Great American Music Hall 2007

Favorite Internet Only Releases of 2009

  • Jenny Owen Youngs “Hot in Herre”
  • Anakronic Electro-OrkestraThe Yiddish Part
  • My Brightest Diamond Shark Remixes
  • Celldweller Wish Upon a Blackstar Ch’s 1 & 2
  • Eisley Fire Kite EP
  • Glen Phillips “Little Bunny Foo Foo”
  • Talking SnakesNonogram Zen
  • Puscifer C is For…
  • Ellery Down, Down, Down
  • Kim Taylor Little Miracle

Favorite Live Albums of 2009

  • Over the Rhine Live from Nowhere, Volume 4 (’08 Reunion Taft show)
  • Noctaluca Unplugged
  • Ani DiFranco – the Saratoga and Chicago shows

Favorite Audiobooks of 2009

  • David Cross I Drink for a Reason
  • Richard Dawkins The Greatest Show on Earth
  • Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant, and Karl Pilkington The Guide to… (series)

Favorite Podcasts in 2009 (they’re free, yo!  Search for them on iTunes)

  • George Hrab Geologic Podcast
  • Keith Olbermann’s Countdown on MSNBC
  • The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC
  • Bill Maher‘s New Rules
  • Kevin Smith & Scott MosierSModcast
  • The Adam Carolla Podcast
  • The Skeptics Guide to the Universe

Best Cover Art in 2009

  • Celldweller Wish Upon a Blackstar Chapter 1
  • Nellie McKayNormal As Blueberry Pie
  • John ZornO’o (designed by Chippy)

Worst Cover Art: Tori AmosMidwinter Graces

Best Packaging in 2009 (de-lux!)

  • Sufjan StevensThe BQE (gorgeous double-gatefold layout, super hero comic book, fun stuff)
  • Porcupine TreeThe Incident (deluxe edition: sturdy hardback book with arty photos)
  • Steven WilsonInsurgentes (deluxe edition: sturdy hardback book with arty photos)
  • FanfarloReservoir (deluxe edition: complete with a small board game)
  • John ZornFemina (standard size, but nice clear slipcase and 52 page booklet.  Tzadik has been kicking it up a notch!)

Favorite Local Releases in 2009 (PacNW represent)

  • Douglas DetrickThe Turning Point (Eugene jazz)
  • Hashem AssadullahiThe Strange Neighbor (Eugene jazz)
  • I didn’t get jazz trio from Portland Trio Subtonic‘s CD yet… but soon…

Best Greatest Hits Releases of 2009

  • Iron & WineAround the Well (tons of b-sides and new songs)
  • IncubusMonuments and Melodies (ditto)

Best Re-issues in 2009

  • Radiohead – vinyl re-issues (I got the Drill EP on vinyl)
  • Radiohead – Capital Special Collector’s Editions (2 CD + 1 DVD for their first 6 albums)

Best Surprise / Adaptation in 2009

  • Despite the horrible cover art, Tori Amos‘ holiday album Midwinter Graces was quite delightful

Best Late-Getter in 2009 (something that came out before 2009)

  • RoninHolon (from 2008)

Favorite iTunes iPhone Apps

  • Facebook
  • Lose It
  • BeatMaker
  • I Am T-Pain
  • Veg Out (Around Me for Vegetarians)
  • Veggie Passport (international translator specific to vegetarian concerns)
  • Vegan Yum Yum (like Epicurious for veg only)
  • Vegan Xpress (find veg items on national chains menus)
  • Shop Saavy (bar-code scan and price shop)
  • Dragon Dictation (speak an email or text message)

So, yeah, this was the catch-all post… check back tomorrow for the more traditional year end wrap-up festivities…

My Other Favorites of 2009 Recaps:

  • Fave Concerts of ‘09 are recapped *HERE*
  • Fave Vocal Albums ‘09 are coming soon
  • Fave Instrumental of ‘09 are coming soon
  • Fave Artists of the Decade are coming soon
  • Old Years: 2008I, 2008V, 2008ep, 2008C, 2007V, 2007I, 2007C, 2006, 2005

~Dan – np: Mike PattonCrank High Volume Soundtrack

Opeth “Burden” single

9th Dec 08 (Tue) Leave a comment

Opeth released an internet-only single today for “Burden” (from the Watershed album).  Sigh… where has the metal gone?  Anyway, this single is definitely more in the non-metal / Damnation-era style – – which is fine, I suppose.  I only bought the b-sides: “Mellotron Heart” and a cover of Alice in Chains‘ “Would?

Mellotron Heart” is a reworking of their first single, “Porcelain Heart,” but on mellotron and mini-moog.  It’s pleasant, but mellower than the original – – which was mellow to start.

The cover of “Would?” is a surprisingly true to the original version of the Alice in Chains hit.  From Opeth, I think I expected more re-working for a cover version.  No offense, Mikael, but if I wanted to listen to a straight-up version of “Would?,” I’d put on Alice in Chains’ Dirt.

They should have made this the cover art…

Anyway, the “Burden” single can be obtained from the iTunes or (I’m sure) other music retailers on the Intertubes.

Also out on iTunes today (which I haven’t vouched for yet)… a new one from Kevin Max, a many artist collaboration called “Price of Silence” with Jurassic 5’s Chali 2Na (I’m sure other big names, too – – I just heard of it from his MySpace bulletin), and the new DM Stith album (he’s done some great work with My Brightest Diamond, Sufjan Stevens, and other Asthmatic Kitty artists).

~Dan – np: BeckOdelay (deluxe edition)

limited editions up the ying yang

24th Nov 08 (Mon) Leave a comment

(photo by xPyralisx)

Holy cow… I got (Porcupine Tree, No-man, Blackfield frontman) Steven Wilson‘s double-disc+dvd uber-deluxe edition of his first solo album Insurgentes in the mail today.  Holy cow.  Like, seriously… wow.  Gorgeous artwork.  Utterly gorgeous.  If most albums are just normal, this one is a Hyperbole Department’s Executive Management.  Check out http://www.swhq.co.uk/ for a trailer or two for the album.  The limited edition only had 3,000 pressings (for the 2CD/1DVD version) and 1,000 pressings for the (2CD/1DVD/vinyl version).  Alas, the normal album will be well worth the cover price as well (and out in Feb 2009 on KScope)… Steven Wilson is one artist in the rock scene that truly excites me lately.

I also got a notification for “not enough postage” on the Sigur Rós uber-deluxe edition of Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust.  Gotta pick that up at the post office tomorrow and bring my $3.28 to resolve the postal inequity.

I’ll post reviews with pics over the weekend, while I’m chillin’ the empty cavities where my wisdom teeth used to be.

~Dan – np: MSNBC Countdown Keith Olberman11/24/08 podcast
-and then after it ripped to my iTunes-
Steven WilsonInsurgentes

art

Vladimir Bozar ‘n’ Ze Sheraf Orkestar

8th Nov 08 (Sat) 1 comment

new music alert

Vladimir Bozar ‘n’ Ze Sheraf Orkestar‘s Universal Sprache is one of those albums that is hard to define.  Vladimir Bozar started as an offshoot from a French Frank Zappa cover band, The Children of Invention.  Their last gig was Vladimir Bozar’s first gig.  The music on this debut CD is a great mix of the insanity that comes from artists like Frank Zappa, Mr. Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3, and to some extent John Zorn.

Clearly not for the purveyor of “pop” music, this is a very imposingly hard to digest collection of great sounds that I wouldn’t necessarily call “songs.”  With that being said… I love it.  It jots and tittles across your mind, and right when you start getting into the groove… it slaps you upside the mouth, buzzes up your leg, claws through your pant leg and sits down like a puppy who wants to be petted, then zooms off for an espresso.

Metal, punk, classical music, jazz, movie sound, Tzigane music, electronic, and spoken word.  This Ritalin-side effect gang of misfits has toured in Europe with Trey Spruance’s Secret Chiefs 3, as well as the stripped down Estradasphere Trio.  Trey Spruance said of Vladimir Bozar ‘n’ Ze Sheraf Orkestar that “obviously, this music is composed of lunatics hopelessly.” :)

The album, Universal Sprache, was recorded in Estradasphere’s Seattle studio with Tim Smolens recording, Tim Smolens and Jason Schimmel* mixing, and Timb Harris contributing trumpet, TIm Smolens contributing bass & vocals, and Jason Schimmel contributing mandolin.

*– Speaking of Jason Schimmel, I’m stoked for his amazing Orange Tulip Conspiracy tour coming through Eugene, Oregon, next week… November 17th @ Samurai Duck.

Vladimir Bozar ‘n’ Ze Sheraf Orkestar are planning to tour Europe and (hopefully) the US in 2009.  In the meantime, you can hear clips of the album on MySpace and order it from iTunes, EMusic, Rhapsody, et cetera… or physical CDs via Estradasphere’s Lobefood mail order should be coming soon (not yet, though).

The band is:

  • Djé de Vence (Jérome Simond)-Clavier/Sequencer/Accordion
  • B’hz (cédric Benard)-Drum
  • Cyro (Cyril Torres)-Guitar/back vocal/kazoo
  • Mina (Jasmina Barra)-Bass/vocal
  • Pedral (Pierre Lacasa)-Lead vocal/mandolin

On the web:

~Dan – np: Frank ZappaOne Shot Deal

Latest: Noctaluca, Puscifer/Lustmord, David Bazan’s Xmas

20th Oct 08 (Mon) 3 comments

In order of awesomeness…

Noctaluca, one of my favorite Cincinnati-based rock bands (and quite frankly, one of my favorite rock bands regardless of local flavor) just put out their newest CD, Still the Wicked Rest.  I ordered it the same time as their Live DVD, and somehow thought that the new CD was just a live thing, too.  Well, when it showed up, I was all like, “hmmm… this looks like a legitimate studio CD.”  And, well, it is a new studio CD.  And it’s awesome.  Think two-guitar hard rock (with a sound that’s equal parts Led Zeppelin & early Alice in Chains) with a strong singer-songwriter core, powerful vocals, and lyrics for the Rage Against the Machine set…

Noctaluca is fronted by singer-songwriter Jason Ludwig.  His solo debut, PeLL MeLL, was one of my Top 10 from 2003.  Right after he got a lot of local acclaim for this, he ditched gigging by his name and started gigging his new band, Noctaluca.  In 2003, I snagged a copy of of the “Monkey Moon” radio single they had at a table at the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.  This was the only recorded Noctaluca until 2006’s long-awaited Towering the Sum.  Towering the Sum was in a good group of favorite local CDs that year, as well as being in my Top 10 vocal CDs in 2006, too.  All this to say that I LIKE NOCTALUCA.  Being surprised with a new studio CD is well, awesomes…

And they start the new Still the Wicked Rest CD off with a re-recording of “Monkey Moon“… natch.  It deserved to make its way onto an official CD… finally.

Check ’em out!
http://www.noctaluca.com/
http://www.myspace.com/noctaluca

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Next up in awesomeness… getting endless mileage out of the same songs, there’s a new download-only dub mix of Puscifer songs by the dark & ambient Lustmord.  Puscifer is Maynard James Keenan (from Tool & A Perfect Circle).  Lustmord has had his hand at remixing the Melvins, Puscifer music previously releases, as well as maybe A Perfect Circle song(s).  My mind fails me, and I’m too lazy to check at this point. :)  The new album is 53 minutes, 8 songs… and fits in with the Puscifer album as well as a darker dub sound.  I’d recommend it if you like Maynard’s music, Lustmord’s music, dark dub, or remixes…

It’s available only at Puscifer’s store for now:
https://store.puscifer.com/

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Next up in awesomeness… still awesome, but it is Christmas music (of which I usually don’t like); so it gets last billing.  David Bazan of Pedro the Lion put out another holiday-themed 7″ vinyl – a split of melancholy Jingle Bells & All I Want for Christmas.  This was the first one since I’ve lived on the West Coast.  The East Coast people got a 3 hour jump on the overnight email he sent out, and they snatched them all up… except for a few on Suicide Squeeze‘s website.  I scored one… but barely.

A 1,000 quantity pressing may not be enough, bro.

~Dan – np: TeslaForever More

recent spins

30th Sep 08 (Tue) 2 comments

9 recent releases in random order…

Medeski Martin & WoodZaebos :: MMW had a song on 2003’s Unknown Masada compilation.  That compilation is what I see to be the basis for the whole Masada Book Two set-up (other bands playing Zorn’s new Masada tunes).  MMW don’t disappoint on the full-album workings of Masada tunes.  While I think I like Secret Chiefs 3’s Xaphan and the Bar Kokhba Sextet’s Lucifer better from this year’s Masada Book Two crop, Zaebos does rocketh much.  MMW also has something like 3 more CDs coming out this year… the 1st one due out today (Radiolarians 1) – – and I hope to pick it up at their Eugene gig in mid-November.  I am curious about the sales numbers for Zaebos, as I think this is one of Tzadik’s more “mainstream artist” releases (very relatively speaking).

Ani DiFrancoRed Letter Year :: Glow in the dark moon on the front… nice.  I also dig the chunky guitars in “Alla This,” a fav of mine from her concerts the past two years or so (recent review HERE).  More band oriented, as well as a return to some horns on a few songs… a good move for Ani, IMO.  I’ve only made it through the CD twice so far, but it doesn’t seem to have any filler.  It’s good to hear the formerly only live tunes done up right in the studio.  For a more in-depth review, check out my friend ZSS’s 8th Notes blog HERE.

SF Jazz CollectiveLive 2008 :: SF Jazz Collective 2008 features Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano, new MacArthur Fellow Miguel Zenón, and many other great modern jazz talents.  The 2008 SF Jazz Collective features original compositions and compositions by Wayne Shorter.  Originally planned as a 2-CD set to come out in July, it ended up being a 3-CD set getting bumped back to late Sept/early Oct.  It was worth the wait… this is 3 hours of solid new jazz music and solid arrangements of Wayne Shorter’s classics.  Favorites from each CD: “Aurora Borealis,” “Secrets of the Code,” and “Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Mitch HedbergDo You Believe in Gosh? :: A good remembrance of one of the funniest guys who used to like to stay at the hotel with the two trees.  It’s only around 40 minutes, but it doesn’t contain many misses or duplicates from his prior offerings.  Short, but sweet.

Hotel LightsFirecracker People :: Darren Jesse (former drummer of Ben Folds Five) wrote one of the best songs on BFF’s final record (“Magic” from The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner).  In Hotel Lights, he takes up the guitar, piano, and songwriting torch and delivers from indie pop brilliance.  Much mellower than BFF material, but in line with the aforementioned “Magic.”  This is the Hotel Lights 3rd release… they’re on the indie Bar-None Records.  Support indie music.

George CarlinIt’s Bad For Ya :: While he is missed, his legacy lives on.  Brutally honest, or funny, or both.  He pulls no punches, even at 70 years young.

The Tiptons Sax QuartetLaws of Motion :: Yay, the Tiptons are coming back to Eugene in December.  I got into them late last year, right after they played here.  Four sax players, drums, and some great jazz meets world songs.  They are based in Seattle… and I think Amy Denio has ties to the Monktail Creative Music Concern and/or Eyvind Kang.  Anyway, the Tiptons are in good company.  Their Tsunami CD from 2007 made a late entry into my instrumental favs of the year.  Laws of Motion has a great shot for this year as well.  Indie music alert… support indie music.  Check ’em out on CD Baby.

Ben FoldsWay To Normal :: While I wish I could have made it to the Ben Folds Five “Reinhold Messner” reunion show (sponsored by MySpace), I wish Ben Folds Five would just reunite for good.  Alas, I suppose two albums by BFF alums in a span on one month isn’t so bad either (see Hotel Lights above). :)  While this album is slightly not as solid as recent Ben Folds solo outings (or perhaps he’s just predictable for me nowadays), it’s still a good album.  Maybe the super special edition b-sides from the overpriced special boxset fill the album in better.  I wasn’t up for paying that kind of coin, though… I’m sure they’ll surface somewhere.

Yoshie Fruchter – Pitom :: One of the more “rock band” efforts in Tzadik’s “Radical Jewish Culture” series.  Along with Zakarya & Jon Madof’s Rashanim, this is a welcome addition to the fold.  Great guitars and great violin & viola as well.  Grounded in Jewish music, yet soaring riffs.  I’m looking forward to hearing more and more from this great band.

~Dan – np: Ani DifrancoRed Letter Year

new post-rock gems

28th Sep 08 (Sun) 3 comments

AristeiAHow to Kill a King -EP- :: This band from Portland caught me by storm like the warrior’s prowess that their Iliadic name suggests*.  This debut CD is truly great post-rock for fans of Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, and others in that vein.  My favorite track is “Feedback King,” and it’s all-in-all a solid outing.  Their packaging of the CD is also quite unique… it’s a hand sewn golden pouch** with oversized liner cards and a paper sleeved CD.  It doesn’t fit nicely in my standard rack (between Argyle Park & Arrested Development); but it definitely stands out and shows that they put effort into their record as a whole, not just the music.  I’m excited about seeing them live in October when I’m up in Portland for work.  Check them out at:
….http://www.myspace.com/aristeiaband

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TalkdemonicEyes at Half Mast :: Yet another band from Portland, but I got into them back when I lived in SW Ohio.  I finally got a chance to see them live (review link) in February.  They are a great two piece that is more on the subtler, gentler side of post-rock.  Perhaps “electro-acoustic chamber rock” is their subgenre. :)  Anyway, Eyes at Half Mast picks up where their past two records left off… nary a disappointment.  I’ve been waiting for this record since they mentioned it as “upcoming” at their show in Feb…

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

MogwaiThe Hawk is Howling :: Much more enjoyable to me than their recent tour (review link).  I can control the volume… yay!  I dig this record A LOT.  This Scottish band, or band from Scotland (so all three bands are from places that end in “land”), has put out some consistently great records.  This one bounces back from their mellower Zidane with more gusto, more power, yet still retaining the melody.  You know… the melody that gets drowned out in their live show (::rolleyes::).  Anyway, I think this record will stand up as one of the better releases in 2008.

2008 is a banner year for great instrumental music.  Every year I get more and more instrumental music, but this year is shaping up to be the first year ever where instrumental music beats out vocal music on CDs making their way on my shelves (and it’s by a landslide at this point).  These three records above are a good indication why I’m leaning towards the vocal-less preference lately.

~Dan – np: Ani DifrancoRed Letter Year

*– gotta love Wikipedia
**– though it is fraying a bit, they could have used some pinking shears***
***– gotta love Wikipedia

iRandom {28 Aug 08}

28th Aug 08 (Thu) Leave a comment

Some random listening this morning from the iPod’s shuffle option…

 

  1. Mogwai “Kappa” from Government Sessions

    This was fortuitous, as I’m going to see Mogwai in Portland next week.
    :) The Government Sessions was my first experience with Mogwai.
  2. John Scofield “Whatcha See is Whatcha Get” from Up All Night

    A little bit too hotel lobby jazz for me compared to some of J.Sco’s other stuff… but great for reading through employee benefit audit guidance.
  3. Frank Zappa “The Moon Will Never Be the Same” from Joe’s Xmasage

    More of the avant-garde meanderings from FZ. Short, but not sweet.
  4. Sigur Rós “Bíum Bíum Bambaló” from Angels of the Universe

    This is easily my favorite track from this soundtrack / score.
  5. Silverchair “No Association” from Freak Show

    Ah, from their good ol’ gah-rung-ah era…
  6. The Sheds “Rootwings” from You’ve Got a Light

    Cincinnati quirfolk duo… but one of their more straight forward songs… they haven’t put anything out lately, I don’t think. I may have to poke by their website when I get home tonight.  http://www.theshedsmusic.com/
  7. Tim Sparks “Where Are You My Lover?” from Tanz

    Gentle guitars on this overall beautiful Tzadik release.
  8. Frank Zappa “Flakes” from Beat the Boots #7: Saarbrücken

    Two FZ tunes in the 10-song spin… what are the odds? Well, actually, they are 1,110 available FZ songs out of 14,678 non-replacing permutations (all songs currently on my iPod) would be a 0.57% chance for 2 FZ to land somewhere in the first 10 spins (unless I did the math incorrectly – which is highly likely, as my stats book from last term was borrowed from a colleague). Anyway… fun song, complete with a pretty bad, but funny, Bob Dylan impression.
  9. Caedmon’s Call “I Just Don’t Want Coffee” from I Just Don’t Want Coffee -EP-

    This one has different lyrics from the Warner debut version. It’s one of the more compelling, and thankfully not Jebusy, Derek Webb-penned early Caedmon’s tunes. Derek Webb is a great songwriter. Even though I have philosophical differences with him, I still love him and his music.
  10. Yann Tiersen “Soir de fête” from Rue des Cascades

    Yann, you wiley devil. Great instrumentalism with the grounded feel of folk music, but the fun of a circus parade.

Well, I shant type robustly about the 11th and so on shuffled tune… even thought I want to (#11 was Estradasphere and #12 was Isis). Anyway, that’s just a peak inside my ears this morning… check any of them out on iTunes or the Amazon.

 

~Dan

Greydon Square, Ani DiFranco & Steven Wilson

7th Aug 08 (Thu) 2 comments

Atheist rapper Greydon Square comes back strong on his latest album, The CPT Theorem. This is his third album, though his debut (Absolute from 2004) is long out-of-print… so it’s only the 2nd album of his that I am lucky to own. His album The Compton Effect was one of my favorite albums in 2007. This album branches out more beyond the primarily atheist lyrics, more about his life and other topics (to some extent). I’m on my 2nd time through, and I’m diggin’ it. Fav track thus far… “Cubed.” The album is on some internet stores, specifically iTunes. Give it a listen… as well as his last one (The Compton Effect), too…

In non-atheist rap news, Ani DiFranco‘s got a new song posted to her MyScpae page*. The song is called “Smiling Underneath.” I dig its more “band-oriented” sound. Her new (20th studio) album, Red Letter Year, comes out on 9/30/08.

Yep, 20 albums in, what, 18-19 years?!  Crazy… but I dig just about all of ’em.

Regarding Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson, of whom I posted a news bit 2 weeks or so ago, there’s a YouTube trailer for his upcoming solo album, Insurgentes:

Coming up this weekend for me… King’s X and Extreme playing on the same stage. Woot! How’s that for diverse music in one post: atheist rap, hipster folk, progressive rock, the founders of grunge, and a hair band. :)

~Dan – np: JudeCuba

*MyScpae is a new networking site for people who can’t tuckin’ fype.

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