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ha’fway 2017

4th Jul 17 (Tue) Leave a comment

Happy 241st birthday, United States!

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Ah, the annual halfway through the year music recap where I rarely post an end of year recap. *eyeroll* Eh… I don’t blog much anymore… regardless, here goes for my Top 10 of 2017 so far…



Artist Album (style)

  1. Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Mulhy & James McAlisterPlanetarium (indie rock)
  2. Burning GhostsReclamation (jazz metal)
  3. KXM (Doug Pinnick / George Lynch / Ray Luzier) – Scatterbrain (hard rock)
  4. Peter MulveyAre You Listening? (singer-songwriter)
  5. SexmobCultural Capital (jazz)
  6. David BazanCare (indie rock)
  7. Ani DiFrancoBinary (singer-songwriter)
  8. Future IslandsThe Far Field (indie pop)
  9. Mostly Other People Do the Killing (with Steven Bernstein of Sexmob) – Loafer’s Hollow (jazz)
  10. Incubus8 (rock)

Honorable mentions…

  • Albums by Lydia Ainsworth, Alt-J, Brian Marsella Trio’s Masada Book Two, Aimee Mann, Dave Douglas’ Riverside, and Throttle Elevator Music (Kamasi Washington).
  • EP – ANOHNI’s Paradise
  • Live – ISIS’ Live VII: 2.25.2010
  • Re-issues – Pink Floyd early years boxset(s), the Beatles Srgt. Pepper’s 50th, U2 The Joshua Tree 30th, Radiohead OK Computer 20th
  • Novelty – A**l Trump’s If You Thought ********* **** Was a Lot of People, You Should Have Seen My Inauguration 5″ vinyl (in “Seth Putnam form,” shall we say).

What’s still to come in 2017…

Claypool-Lennon Delirium 12″ (RSD wider-issue), Spotlights, Antibalas, Steven Wilson, Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, Mogwai, Radiohead OKNOTOK (physical), Failure live vinyl, Lo Tom (David Bazan, TW Walsh & Starflyer 59 folks), Celldweller, The National, Secret Chiefs 3, Weird Al boxset, plus much more, I’m sure.

Will I continue with blogs in the future? I don’t know. :P

Dan – np: Critters BugginMuti -EP-

ha’fway 2016

4th Jul 16 (Mon) Leave a comment

Happy 240th birthday, United States!

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Ah, the annual halfway through the year music recap where I never post an end of year recap. *eyeroll* Eh… I don’t blog much anymore… regardless, here goes for my Top 10 of 2016 so far…

Sia - This is Acting81toq1nqrhl-_sx522_71526zlzvzl-_sx522_
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Artist Album (style)

  1. SiaThis Is Acting (pop)
  2. RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool (rock)
  3. WussyForever Sounds (indie rock)
  4. Holy FuckCONGRATS (live electronic)
  5. Elliott SmithHeaven Adores You (soundtrack) (indie rock)
  6. Steve Taylor & the Danielson FoilWOW to the Deadness -EP- (indie rock)
  7. David BazanBlanco (indie rock)
  8. Allison Miller’s Boom Tic BoomOtis Was a Polar Bear (jazz)
  9. The Claypool-Lennon DeliriumMonolith of Phobos (rock)
  10. Damien JuradoVisions of Us on the Land (indie rock)

What’s still to come in 2016…

Chevelle, Peter Mulvey (it’s in the can), Alex Somers’ score for Captain Fantastic, John Zorn (about every month), TOOL (music done, lyrics nearing completion?), Sigur Rós (maybe 2017), Charlie Hunter, and based on kickstarters/pledgemusic that I’ve supported: Jeremy Enigk of Sunny Day Real Estate, Derek Webb‘s Mockingbird Remixed and Fleming & John, plus much more, I’m sure.

Will I continue with blogs in the future? I don’t know. :P

Dan – np: AuragamiFormation (single)
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ha’fway 2015

2nd Jul 15 (Thu) Leave a comment

Happy 239th birthday, United States!

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

I don’t blog much. Not much time. I haven’t even put out my Favorites from 2013 or 2014… well, here goes for my Top 10 of 2015 so far…

The Heart Is A Monster

Carrie & LowellSol InvictusGoliath
Hand. Cannot. Erase.TalkSong Project Live at Lpr
https://i0.wp.com/artistxite.com/imgcache/album/004/501/004501077_300.jpghttp://o.scdn.co/cover/ac550bf091effa553d4b043ae338e563f29347e7Purge

 Artist Album (style)

  1. FailureThe Heart is a Monster (rock)
  2. Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell (indie rock)
  3. Faith No MoreSol Invictus (hard rock)
  4. Steve Taylor & the Perfect FoilGoliath (rock)
  5. Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree) – Hand. Cannot. Erase. (progressive rock)
  6. Daniel Johns (of Silverchair) – TALK (pop, dance, rock)
  7. John Zorn’s The Dreamers with Mike Patton, Sofia Rei & Jesse HarrisThe Song Project Live at Le Poisson Rouge (jazz, avant garde, pop)
  8. Dave DouglasHigh Risk (jazz with electronics)
  9. Nellie McKayMy Weekly Reader (cheeky 70s rock tribute)
  10. DRKWAV (Skerik, Medeski & Deitch) – The Purge (doom, jazz, electronic, all over)

What’s still to come in 2015…

Ben Folds with yMusic, Holy Fuck (no release date, but they recorded it in late 2014), John Zorn (about every month), Puscifer (teaser on their Instagram?), TOOL (music done, lyrics nearing completion?), Charlie Hunter, and based on kickstarters/pledgemusic that I’ve supported: Chali 2Na of Jurassic 5 has a couple more EPs due, Dweezil Zappa, Jeremy Enigk of Sunny Day Real Estate, Jude Christodal, Dylan Carlson of Earth, and Fleming & John.

Will I continue with blogs in the future? I don’t know. :P

Dan – np: Critters BugginStampede

My Favorites of 2012

5th Feb 13 (Tue) Leave a comment

Life has been a been busy/hectic lately, to say the least. Not enough time to do the usual extended blogs for best of instrumental, vocal and whatnot with lots of descriptions. And since, hell, it’ll be 2014 before too long; so I figured I’d get out my favorites of 2012 list in some fashion now before it’s officially too late.

Here’s what was my favorite music from last year…

vocal top 10
(in no particular order beyond #1)

O.S.I. - Fire Make ThunderO.S.I.Fire Make Thunder

Damien Jurado - Maraqopa Peter Mulvey - The Good Stuff Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Ani DiFranco - Which Side Are You On? Bad Veins - The Mess We've Made Ben Folds Five - The Sound of the Life of the Mind

Storm Corrosion (Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree & Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth) Sigur Rós - Valtari Aimee Mann - Charmer

instrumental top 10
(in no particular order beyond #1)

Charlie Hunter & Scott Amendola - Not Getting Behind Is The New Getting Ahead

Charlie Hunter & Scott Amendola
Not Getting Behind is the New Getting Ahead

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Alleujah! Don't Bend Ascend Guillaume Perret - The Electric Epic Buckethead - Electric Sea

Celldweller - Soundtrack for the Voices in My Head, Vol 2 Floratone - Floratone II Cosa Brava (Fred Frith with Kihlstedt, etc) - The Letter

John Zorn / Masada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 18 (Pruflas by David Krakauer) John Zorn / Masada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 19 (Abraxas by Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz) John Zorn - A Vision in Blakelight

ep, internet, etc

Best Novelty: Sufjan Stevens’ Silver and Gold boxset

Best Internet-only releases: Glen Phillips Coyote Sessions,
Greydon Square Type II : The Mandelbrot Set,
Sufjan Son Lux & Serengeti (s/s/s) beak and claw

Best EPs: Levi Weaver’s I Am Only A Tiny Noise
Peter Mulvey’s Chaser (OOP)

Best Vinyl-only: Wussy “Dangerous Highway” 7″
Sufjan Stevens & Rosie Thomas “Hit & Run” 7″

Enjoy! I’ll sort of promise to do better with timeliness on next year’s lists!

~Dan – np: Pinnick Gales PridgenPinnick Gales Pridgen
pinnick gales pridgen

Favorite Concerts of 2012

31st Dec 12 (Mon) Leave a comment

Well, this year was once again good to the Pacific Northwest on the concert front… 366 days, 85 shows, 144 artists, many long nights driving home, and a lot of photos… my best albums lists will likely push off into mid-January (due to being busy & heading out on vacation), but here are my favorite concerts of 2012…

My favorite concerts of 2012:

  1. Secret Chiefs 3 :: WOW Hall :: Eugene, OR {6 Feb} [review with photos] – I saw them twice on this tour, and both shows were great. The Eugene show gets the nod mainly because it was first in the order. :)
  2. Roger Waters presents Pink Floyd’s The Wall:: Rose Garden :: Portland, OR {22 May} [review with photos] – Wow. I don’t even think The Wall is in my Top 5 of Pink Floyd albums, but holy cow, this was an amazing show.  Truly stunning.
  3. Radiohead :: Key Arena :: Seattle, WA {9 Apr} [review with photos] – A phenomenal band that keeps making me drive multiple hours anytime I want to see them!  I’ll gladly continue, though.
  4. Sufjan Stevens presents the Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant On Ice :: Aladdin Theater :: Portland, OR {6 Dec} [review with photos] – I hate Christmas music, but this spectacle of wonderment warmed me over.
  5. Puscifer :: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall :: Portland, OR {14 Mar} [review with photos] – A wine tasting and a concert from rock’s favorite frontman? Yes, please.
  6. Seun Kuti & the Egypt 80 :: WOW Hall :: Eugene, OR {18 Mar} [review with photos] – I love Nigerian music, and anyone with the last name of “Kuti” should come with a mandate that you go to the show.
  7. “Weird Al” Yankovic :: Lane County Fairgrounds :: Eugene, OR {18 Aug} [review with photos] – A long, many be-suited set of songs.  Saying it was a “fun time” would be an understatement.
  8. Over the Rhine :: The Triple Door :: Seattle, WA {17 Nov} [review with photos] – It had been too long since seeing Over the Rhine (a year).  I got spoiled when I lived in Cincinnati; so now Ive got to get my OTR fix when I can.  This was a gorgeous night.
  9. Levi Weaver :: my house :: Eugene, OR {16 Jul} [review with photos] – Going to an intimate house concert is great.  I recommend it.  Hosting an intimate house concert – doubly so!
  10. Peter Mulvey & Kris Delmhorst :: 3 venues :: 3 Oregon cities {17-19 Oct} [recap with photos] – Story time from two stupendous singer-songwriters.
  11. Dan Deacon :: Hawthorne Theatre :: Portland, OR {25 Oct} [recap with photos] – Dancing some asses off.
  12. Sigur Rós :: Edgefield :: Portland, OR {9 Aug} [review] – This was my first time at Edgefield and also my first time seeing Sigur Rós in an outdoor venue.  Plus side on a great venue, but a slight knock for loving how Sigur Rós works within a theater setting.  A great show regardless of venue, though.
  13. Fiona Apple :: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall :: Portland, OR {26 Jul} [review] – A bit spastic, but a phenomenal performer.  A mix of her new and old tunes, truly great show!
  14. Nellie McKay :: The John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts :: Eugene, OR {2 Mar} [review with photos] – I saw her four times this year, and they all rank well.  I’ll see Nellie any time she comes through.  She’s always a delight!
  15. Portland Cello Project plays Radiohead’s OK Computer :: The Majestic Theatre :: Corvallis, OR {21 Sep} [setlist] – While I would have gone a different route than a men chorus for the vocal aspect (i.e. the one song with a regular vocalist was the best one), this was a very special night.

Runners-Up: My Brightest Diamond in Tacoma (Sep) – only because it was a short set, Penn & Teller in Vegas (Jan), Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity in Vegas (Jan), Trevor Dunn & Travis LaPlante at the Wandering Goat (Jan), and Skerik’s Bandalabra at Cozmic (Mar).

Disappointment: the absurd volume of Jack White at the Hult Center (May).

My favorite concert photos of 2012: (in chronological order)

 

(all images are free to use under a creative commons designation,
simply identify Daniel Temmesfeld with a
photo credit and link to pacificlectic.com.

Past Favorite Concerts Lists:

Favorite music of 2012 will be coming in a few weeks (unless I can squeak them out sooner)… EPs/DVDs/etc, vocal albums, instrumental albums

~Dan – np: George HrabCoelacanth
George Hrab - Coelacanth

* 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

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