Happy 236th birthday, United States!
So, here are my faves of the first half of 2012… and outside of the Top 5, it’s all kind of random order on how I feel today… it’s all bound to switch around by year’s end (click album art for sound samples):
Artist – Album (style)
- OSI – Fire Make Thunder (glitch prog)
- 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 (jazzy pop)
- Peter Mulvey – The Good Stuff (indie songwriter playing standards with a band)
- Damien Jurado – Maraqopa (indie rock)
- Celldweller – Wish Upon A Blackstar (electronica)
- Sigur Rós – Valtari (ambient icelandic)
- Emily Wells – Mama (chamber hip-pop)
- Floratone – Floratone II (jazz)
- s/s/s (Sufjan Stevens, Son Lux, Serengeti) – Beak & Claw -EP- (interesting)
- Storm Corrosion (Steven Wilson & Mikael Akerfeldt) – Storm Corrosion (ethereal proggy departure)
- John Zorn – The Gnostic Preludes (jazzy experimental)
- John Zorn’s Moonchild Trio (Mike Patton, Trevor Dunn & Joey Baron) with John Medeski – Templars (noise rock)
- Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 2 (drone)
- The Chance Brothers – Growing Concern (indie rock)
- Regina Spektor – What We Saw From the Cheap Seats (pop)
- Ani DiFranco – Which Side Are You On? (folk pop songwriter)
- Buckethead – Electric Sea (gentler instrumental guitar)
- Bad Veins – The Mess We’ve Made (indie rock)
- Cosa Brava (Fred Frith, Carla Kihlstedt, etc) – The Letter (rootsy jazz adventure)
- David Krakauer plays Masada Book Two – Book of Angels, Vol. 18 (Pruflas) (klezmer jazz)
I didn’t get a few that already came out this year (yet) and whatever “et cetera” that the cool kids are listening to these days; but they may make it to the list at the end of the year.
The 2nd half of 2012 promises to bring some potential great ones, too… a few more from John Zorn, Mike Patton & Luciano Berio’s Laborintus II, Ben Folds Five’s reunion studio album, Ric Hordinski’s Arthurs Garden (physical CD, though the download came out a bit ago), the Dusted debut from Holy Fuck’s Brian Borcherdt, Erin McKeown’s kickstarter, and I’ve heard rumors of a new Nellie McKay disc for the Fall.
Favorite concerts of 2012 (so far):
- Penn & Teller and Cirque’s Zumanity in Las Vegas, Jan 18th & 20th
- Secret Chiefs 3 in Eugene & Portland, Feb 6th & 7th
- Nellie McKay’s I Want To Live! in Eugene & Portland, Mar 2nd & 4th
- Puscifer in Portland, Mar 14th
- Seun Kuti & the Egypt 80 in Eugene, Mar 18th
- Radiohead in Seattle, April 9th
- Roger Waters presents Pink Floyd’s The Wall in Portland, May 22nd
- Beck in Bend, May 27th
(click pictures below for review links)
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Favorite Instrumental Albums of 2007
Most of what I’m really enjoying lately doesn’t include vocals. Maybe I’m getting sick of normal music, I don’t know. I still love a good pop song, but I’m definitely more into jazz and avant-garde the past two years. That’s why this “Instrumental” list keeps expanding and my “normal” Fav Albums list seems to be shrinking. Alas, here are my favorite instrumental (or largely instrumental) albums of 2007:
1) Holy Fuck – Holy Fuck LP2 – Brilliant groove-oriented “live electronic” post-rock. I saw these guys (almost twice) in 2007. Brilliant live show, excellent moving melodic-yet-avant-garde songs. Great stuff. Less than fortunate name, I know. Great music, though.
2) Dave Douglas & Keystone – Moonshine – A new one from trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas. This CD also includes interactive stuff online (remix source tracks, videos, bonus tracks). Trumpet is one of my favorite jazz instruments, and Dave Douglas is at the forefront of melodic, compositional-meets-improvisational trumpet in the current era.
3) John Zorn – Six Litanies for Heliogabalus – A completely powerful noise-rock onslaught from John Zorn’s Moonchild trio (Mike Patton, Trevor Dunn, and Joey Baron) plus a choral, electronics by Ikue Mori, keys from Jamie Saft, and John Zorn himself on saxaphone. This album is not for the faint of heart. It’s all over the place, but completely composed (hard to believe). I saw the trio in Seattle in Nov 2007. It was insane.
4) Floratone – Floratone – This album is a wonderful jazz gem from Matt Chamberlain (who I’ve seen drum for Tori Amos and A Perfect Circle), Bill Frisell (jazz guitarist who needs no intro), Tucker Martine, and Lee Townsend. It also has guest spots from Eyvind Kang (Seattle violinist on my “fav” list), Viktor Krauss, and Ron Miles. This fits with the Barnes & Noble clientele, but it’s enjoyable to a fan of the lower eastside NYC/downtown music scene, too.
5) Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone – I have a hard time defining “post rock,” but I know I like it. Ambient, wall of sound, momentous… anyway… Explosions in the Sky fits in well with other post-rock favs of mine like Mogwai, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Euphone, Boards of Canada, and even the borderline post-rock Sigur Rós. Anyway, EITS is a welcome addition to my collection. All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone is quality, moving ambient music.
6) Antibalas – Security – OK, not entirely instrumental, but probably at least 90% instrumental. Antibalas is an afrobeat band in the mold of Femi Kuti, et al. Driving rhythm, multi-percussionists, horns, guitars, political lyrics (when there is singing). Quality live show, too.
7) The Tiptons – Tsunami – A sax quartet with drums from Seattle. I just barely missed them when they came through Eugene, but I’ll see ’em next time for sure. Thanks to Jim Wilke’s Jazz NW podcast for getting me into these wonderful musicians.
8 ) The Lithuanian Empire – The Lithuanian Empire – Funky horn-based klezmer jazz. Klezmer music is really interesting. I’m going to blame John Zorn’s Masada quartet and Tzadik label for my fondess. The Lithuanian Empire isn’t connected with Zorn in any business sense, but they connected with my ears. Great stuff…
9) Ric Hordinski – The Silence of Everything Yearned For – Ric Hordinski knows how to put layers of guitar down that build slowly, smooth throughout, and hit you with a wall of sound when you’re not paying attention. He’s a true midwest treasure. I’m gonna miss him now that I’ve moved across country.
10) Incubus – Look Alive – OK, this was a shock. Incubus isn’t an instrumental band. They’ve got a fabulous vocalist, Brandon Boyd. This CD was merely a bonus CD with the concert DVD. It contains 11 tracks of musical joy (plus 6 bonus live tracks with vocals, which are good too). These 11 tracks really show off the band’s music writing. I knew guitarist Mike Einziger could write some great instrumental jams (based on 2003’s Time Lapse Consortium live album), and I’m glad he and the band are still up to the vocal-less challenge, even though they’ve got one of my favorite vocalists in rock music today.
11) Method of Defiance – Inamorata – A flood of avant-garde mayhem unleashed by Bill Laswell. A mix of music collaborations (whether intentioned or illegal) from usual Laswell friends Buckethead, John Zorn (& Zorn’s Masada Strings), Bootsy… but also unlikely mixes with Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders, and more… masterful and avant-garde, heavy industrial and ambient meets jazz.
12) Hiromi’s Sonicbloom – Time Control – Cutting edge piano-based jazz on the primarily classical Telarc label. Hiromi runs circles around her tight band. a very enjoyable disc… I’m almost embarrassed that I didn’t pay for it (the BMG club system = awesomes).
13) For a Minor Reflection – Reistu Þig Við, Sólin Er Komin Á Loft… – A band from Iceland that is on the same foreign label and same audio approach as another band from Iceland, Sigur Rós. For a Minor Reflection are one of my “best surprises” of the year. They even sent me the CD for free. I said I liked their sound from the MySpace player, and I think they were trying to break into the U.S. or something. I don’t know. I dig their sound a lot, though. Just don’t ask me to pronounce their album title…
14) John Zorn played by Marc Ribot – Masada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 7 (Asmodeus) – A spastic take on new Masada tunes, not unlike Marc Ribot’s other guitar adventures on John’s Tzadik label.
15) Pocket Change – 4 – Blues based jazz/funk from Seattle. They play Eugene every once in a while, too… I hope I can check ’em out the next time they’re here.
16) Ned Rothenberg – Sync with Strings: Inner Diaspora – A moving set of Jewish music on Zorn’s Radical Jewish Culture category on Tzadik. This set also features string-masters Mark Feldman and Erik Friedlander (who are part of Zorn’s Masada Strings group, among other Zorn incarnations).
17) John Zorn played by Erik Friedlander – Masada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 8 (Volac) – A quite moving set of arrangements on new Masada tunes. I’m really enjoying the Masada Book Two songs and the concept of having different artists tackle each batch makes for some interesting listening. I’m still waiting for the Secret Chiefs 3 one, though… next year…
19) Alex Kontorovich – Deep Minor – More klez-jazz. Again, it strikes my fancy. Sue me. :-)
20) Kenny Werner – Lawn Chair Society – Piano based jazz with Dave Douglas on trumpet & Chris Potter on sax. You had me at Dave Douglas, and Chris Potter made me a fan earlier in 2007 when I saw a show at Raymond Walter’s College in a north Cincinnati suburb. Anyway, Kenny’s piano playing is quite a feast as well.
Brian Bromberg – Downright Upright / Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead) – There Will Be Blood -soundtrack- / Eyvind Kang – The Yelm Sessions / Medeski & Martin – Mago / Rob Price Quartet (with Trevor Dunn, Ellery Eskelin, Jim Black) – I Really Do Not See the Signal
myspace/brianbromberg – myspace/radiohead – myspace/eyvindkangeyvind – myspace/martinmedeski – gutbrain.com/
I feel bad due to some likely gems didn’t make their way into my basket this year… David Buchbinder‘s Odessa/Havana, Anat Cohen, et cetera… but I guess you gotta stop somewhere and just make a damn list (or at least I do…).
The “regular” list in a week or so… it’s slow goin’ this year…