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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 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 Instrumental Albums of 2008 *

29th Dec 08 (Mon) 9 comments

Disclaimer section is again shamelessly plagiarized from Andy Whitman at Paste

Disclaimer #1: 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. But hey, this isn’t math class, and I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2008. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2008. And you might be right.


Disclaimer #2: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just get it out of your system now and be done with it. I am deliberately trying to be obscure. Who the hell has even heard of these people? So go ahead and vent, then read Disclaimer #1 again.

My Other Favorites of 2008 Recaps:

  • Fave Concerts of ‘08 are recapped *HERE*
  • Fave EPs/Vinyl/Live/more of ‘08 are recapped *HERE*
  • Fave Vocal Albums ‘08 are recapped *HERE*
  • Old Years: 2007V, 2007I, 2007C, 2006, 2005

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, MySpaces, my fave song recommendations on iTunes (in 30 second bursts), yadda yadda yadda.  OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year on the mainly instrumental front…

Honorable mentions (aka my list is too jam packed, and I still really love these records, too): Bill Frisell‘s History, Mystery (with Eyvind Kang, Jenny Scheinman, Kenny Wollesen, etc); Charlie Hunter‘s Baboon Strength; John Zorn‘s Filmworks XX & XXI: Sholem Aleichem & Belle de Nature / The New Rijksmuseum; Medeski Martin & Wood‘s Radiolarians I; and Dub Trio‘s Another Sound is Dying.

ReptetChicken or Beef? (Monktail Creative Music Concern) :: I feel like I’ve written too much (especially on my Top 20 Vocal albums blog); so these descriptions / raves might be shorter… we shall see.  Reptet is a great 6-piece jazz band from Seattle.  I heard about them via Jim Wilke’s Jazz Nothwest podcast back in late 2007, when a collaboration of Seattle jazz & avant bands called the Monktail Creative Music Concern played a gig that got aired in its entirety.  Anyway, Reptet is one of my fave bands in the MCMC.  They’re a quirky jazz band with an odd sense of humor.  I dig it… a great, modern brass-forward jazz sextet.  Favorite tracks are “Reptet Score!” and “Eve of Thrieve.” http://www.reptet.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/reptet
Daniel ZamirI Believe (Tzadik) :: I have some of Daniel’s Satlah project, of which I dig a plenty.  This one was outside of the Satlah camp, enlisting NYC scene heavyweights Uri Caine, Greg Cohen, and Joey Baron.  I waffled on including it until I heard it again recently.  It’s really gorgeous.  More on the mellower, nee spiritual, side of the the music coming out of the Radical Jewish Culture series, Zamir really offers up his soprano sax melodies as prayers.  The title of the album and the music really match up perfectly. Favorite tracks are “Poem 10” and “Poem 51/52.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/danielzamir
John ZornFilmworks XIX: Dimitri Geller’s The Rain Horse (Tzadik) :: John Zorn put out a handful of Filmworks this year, and all of them are good.  FW XXI would have made it on the list as well, had it not been for the too often used harpsichord in The New Rijksmuseum scoring (the parts for the Belle de Nature score are really gorgeous, though).  Anyway, the Filmworks series are usually some of John Zorn’s most accessible. The Rain Horse is a subtle trio of Erik Friedlander on cello, Greg Cohen on upright bass, and Rob Burger on piano.  Favorite tracks are “Parable of Job” and “Tears of Morning.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/johnzorn
TalkdemonicEyes at Half Mast (Arena Rock) :: No, their album cover doesn’t really do the animation thing (a la Tool’s Ænima).  I just couldn’t help using that animated GIF from their MySpace page.  This Portland post-rock duo swung through Eugene at least twice this year.  I caught their brilliant February show.  Their album didn’t come out until later in the year, and it continues in the sound from their prior two albums.  Great electro-acoustic post-rock… drums, viola and electronics. Favorite tracks are “Duality of Deathening” and “Tides in Their Grave.” http://talkdemonic.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/talkdemonicmusicmaking
NIИ Ghosts I-IV (halo) :: Sparse and haunting, Ghosts I-IV reminds me of a soundtrack meets demos for Trent’s next album.  Perhaps that’s where they came from, ideas kicking around in his head.  For a fan of instrumental music, it’s a highly enjoyable 110 minute journey into many different soundscapes.  For the download version, each track has it’s own artwork attached in the file which is a nice addition even though I hate the shift towards the potential eventual demise of the “album.” Favorite tracks are “14” and “31.” http://www.nin.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/nin
Bobby Previte & New BumpSet the Alarm for Monday (Palmetto) :: A new version of Previte’s Bump the Renaissance, this group includes two of my favorite players – – Ellery Eskelin on sax & Steven Bernstein on trumpet.  Drummer Bobby Previte does many projects, some more in the avant-garde scene… but New Bump definitely fits into an accessible range (similar to Coalition of the Willing with Jamie Saft & Skerik).  This album is really “jazz-cinematic” a la a private investigator drama soundtrack perhaps. Favorite tracks are “I’d Advise You Not to Miss Your Train” and “There Was Something In My Drink.” http://www.bobbyprevite.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/previte
Steven BernsteinDiaspora Suite (Tzadik) :: This is Bernstein’s fourth in his Diaspora series for Tzadik’s Radical Jewish Culture, and it very well be my favorite.  It seems much more adventurous than the past efforts, which is what I like about Steven’s trumpet playing and compositions.  I think Suite fits better in with his larger Sex Mob and Millennial Territory Orchestra catalog (but from a decidedly Jewish musical culture standpoint, obviously).  I hope I get a chance to see him sometime… he played in Ohio just after I moved away, and he played in Seattle in November (as part of Earshot Jazz Fest), but being on a Wednesday… well, I didn’t make it up for the show. Favorite tracks are “Zebulon” and “Judah.” http://stevenbernstein.net/ -and- http://myspace.com/stevenbernsteinmusic
AuragamiEsoteric (indie) :: Auragami is a former Dayton, OH, now San Diego-based bass guitarist named Michael Miller.  This album isn’t commercially available, as far as I know.  I know Michael Miller from going to shows around Dayton (and surrounding).  We’ve got a lot of the same leanings with the rock stuff (Galactic Cowboys, King’s X, et cetera), and I’m happy that I made it on his Christmas card list… because the Christmas card list has been a new CD of his for the past few years. Esoteric is a 40-minute record with the melodies, crunch and remix-friendly bass that I’ve come to love about his music.  He also collaborates with others on this album (a personal fave, Mike Georgin, being one of them).  As far as the sound, it’s very much a bass with drum loop affair… some subtle melodies, some heavier/grittiness (a la NIN), and some organic-electronics that fit well with another San Diego artists, The Album Leaf and Goddamn Electric Bill.  Not being commercially available officially, you can check out his music on MySpace and maybe see if he’ll sell you a copy.  It seems to be a crime to not be out there.  Anyway, thanks for the Christmas gift, Michael! Favorite tracks are “Colab” and “Clover.” http://www.myspace.com/auragami
Goddamn Electric BillTopics for Gossip (99X) :: GdEB is a one-man electronic band from San Diego (Jason Torbert is his name), similar in that sense to The Album Leaf, but I’d say GdEB is less ambient and definitely more in the electronic / remix realm when compared to TAL.  GdEB might compare similarly to Frog Pocket, but maybe less… um… buzzy & bleepy.  I don’t know.  I suppose me comparing a little known San Diego electronic artist to another lesser known Scottish electronic artist doesn’t help much.  Check GdEB out for yourself… Favorite tracks are “The Morning Commute” and “The Shallows.” http://www.goddamnelectricbill.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/goddamnelectricbill
Hiromi’s SonicbloomBeyond Standard (Telarc) :: Hiromi Uehara is a freakin’ whiz on the piano.  I got into her with her 2007 CD Time Control after a few clips on BMG’s website (I was trying to round out an order).  Her style is very much a jazz-rock fusion, which I’d almost say the rock element comes from her piano skills rather than the rest of the band.  You wouldn’t expect this sound just based by the cover alone… the 29 year-old Hiromi amidst bright colors.  You’d think it were some Japanese bubblegum pop or something.  Anyway, this is her 2nd Sonicbloom album in as many years.  She played a several date run at the Triple Door in Seattle this past summer.  If she does it again soon, I’m totally making the drive up. Favorite tracks are “Led Boots” and “XYG.” http://www.hiromimusic.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/hiromimusic
Medeski Martin & Wood play John Zorn‘s Masada Book Two – Book of Angels, Vol. 11: Zaebos (Tzadik) :: Medeski Martin & Wood have been in the Tzadik family for a while.  They contributed a track to the Unknown Masada album, which was sort of the initial idea that eventually brought out the Masada Book Two series (i.e.- new, previously unrecorded Masada book tunes not recorded by the Masada quartet).  John Medeski has also appeared on many other Tzadik releases in a studio musician sense.  With that being said, MMW’s inclusion into the Masada Book Two series came as a total shock, though.  I think it was announced in early June ’08 for a July release.  Whereas Secret Chiefs 3’s Masada Book Two release was announced in winter ’07 for a May ’08 release (almost a year and a half).  Anyway, MMW’s Zaebos is a great record.  I’d say it doesn’t rank as high as Xaphan and Lucifer for this year’s releases in that for some reason I don’t think the MMW Masada tunes work as well with their style as the tunes work with Secret Chiefs 3 or Bar Kokhba Sextet’s style.  All said and done, it’s still a brilliant record for 2008 and for both the Masada and MMW catalogs. Favorite tracks are “Chafriel” and “Tutrusa’i.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://mmw.net/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/medeskimartinandwood
Tiptons Sax QuartetLaws of Motion (Zipa! Spoot) :: Similar to Reptet, I got into the Tiptons via Jim Wilke’s Jazz Northwest podcast.  I found out about them literally a day after they had been in Eugene in Dec ’07.  D’oh!  Anyway, I believe that this is their 3rd full length CD, though they had some former releases with different members under the name the Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet.  They’re an all-woman sax quartet (plus drums) from Seattle.  They’ve got ties to some great jazz musicians & composers (Eyvind Kang & Wayne Horvitz for example).  This album has some vocals, but all in all, it’s a jazz record with a touch of eastern European music (balkan-klezmer per my untrained ears) thrown in. Favorite tracks are “Fallout” and “Number Six.” http://www.tiptonssaxquartet.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/tiptons
Mostly Other People Do the KillingThis is Our Moosic (Hot Cup) :: I saw trumpeter Peter Evans in Eugene in February, and it was a mind-blowing avant-garde set.  This band on the other hand, led by Moppa Elliott, is more of a Sex Mob-influenced jazz funk romp.  Great music from these NY gents.  You can get their albums on CD Baby (please, support indie moosic). Favorite tracks are “The Bats in Belfry” and “Drainlick.” http://www.moppaelliott.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/mostlyotherpeopledothekilling
StebmoStebmo (indie) :: Multi-instrumentalist Steve Moore has played with Earth, Sunn 0))), and enlisted some friends (Eyvind Kang, Matt Chamberlain, Todd Sickafoose, Tucker Martine and more) to help out on his first solo album.  I saw him open for Skerik’s Maelstrom Trio this past spring as well as play with Earth in June.  As mentioned in the live review, his album is a bit like the organic/melodic elements of the Album Leaf mixed with the building nature of an Explosions in the Sky set mixed with a heaping handful of electronic jots & tittles like those that may have hit the Kid A cutting room floor. Favorite tracks are “Dark Circles” and “Waiting Game.” http://stebmo.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/stebmo
John Zorn’s Moonchild Trio (Mike Patton/Joey Baron/Trevor Dunn) – The Crucible (Tzadik) :: This album is a rare December release on Tzadik (since 2000, they’ve taken the month off).  Continuing in the Moonchild Trio’s glossolaliac noise metal theme, this album also adds John Zorn’s wonderful sax trade-off with Mike Patton’s screaming utterances.  Guitarist Marc Ribot also adds very Led Zeppelin riffage on one track (“9×9”).  When the original Moonchild album was released (2006), I thought it was going to be a one off… well, four albums in, I’m definitely hoping it continues a bit more… Favorite tracks are “Almadel” and “Maleficia.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/johnzorn
Swami Late Plate (Bobby Previte & Jamie Saft) – Doom Jazz (Veal) :: The album’s title, Doom Jazz, says it all.  This album fits well for fans of Sunn 0))), Earth, Bohren & Der Club of Gore and others in the slow rock, doom, sludge movement.  I find it completely compelling… Favorite tracks are “Malignant Cloud” and “The Bearded Man Cannot Help You.” http://myspace.com/swamilateplate -and- http://myspace.com/doomjazz
God of ShamisenDragon String Attack! (Reptile) :: God of Shamisen is Kevin Kmetz, an I first heard of him when he was playing with world metal band Estradasphere.  He’s also played (briefly) with Secret Chiefs 3.  He’s had a few solo albums, but this year saw GoS release two band efforts: the 7″ vinyl for “The Science Fiction of Ray Bradbury Attack!” and then their full-length debut this past fall.  I picked up this debut at their show in Eugene (go here for my review with pictures).  While it has some minor vocals on a song or two, it’s still primarily a instrumental attack.  Japanese metal fusion… excellent stuff. Favorite tracks are “The Science Fiction of Ray Bradbury Attack!” and the spread across the album in several waves “Dragon String Attack!” http://godofshamisen.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/gos
MogwaiThe Hawk is Howling (Matador) :: 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 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. Favorite tracks are “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead” and “The Precipice.” http://mogwai.co.uk/ -and- http://myspace.com/mogwai
Yoshie FruchterPitom (Tzadik) :: Wow… I’m definitely looking to more from Yoshie Fruchter in the future.  Like Jon Madof’s Rashanim and Yves Weyh’s Zakarya, Yoshie Fruchter brings in a great rock vibe to the Radical Jewish Culture series. Favorite tracks are “Go Go Golem” and “Lungs and Spleen.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://www.yoshiefruchter.com/
SF Jazz Collective 2008 (Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano, Miguel Zenon, and more) – SF Jazz Collective 2008  (Wayne Shorter feature) (SFJAZZ) :: I became a fan of this band because of one man: trumpeter since their 2007 band, Dave Douglas.  I also got to see them this past February at the PDX Jazz Fest (see my combo SF Jazz & Ornette Coleman review here).  This jam-packed 3-CD set is full of Wayne Shorter arrangements and originals by the band members.  It’s a little step on the price by today’s standards, but it helps support the not-for-profit SFJazz organization. Favorite tracks are “Aurora Borealis,” “Secrets of the Code,” and “Aung San Suu Kyi.”
http://sfjazz.org/
John ZornThe Dreamers (Tzadik) :: Played by the Electric Masada band, The Dreamers continues with the motif and accessibility of 2001’s The Gift… mixing world, jazz, exotica, surf and more into a very pleasing John Zorn package.  Combined with the fantastic cute animal art by Chippy, this one will most definitely rank in the top Zorn releases.  I hear it may find its way onto vinyl, or perhaps that’s just me stoking the embers of the rumor house’s fireplace. Favorite tracks are “A Ride On Cottonfair” and “Nekashim.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/johnzorn
Jason Schimmel’s Orange Tulip ConspiracyOrange Tulip Conspiracy (Web of Mimicry) :: Jason Schimmel has played with two bands that I love: Estradasphere & Secret Chiefs 3.  This album continues on with Estradasphere’s Palace of Mirrors’ eclectic world music sound, but also brings in a bit of exotica, cinematic sound.  I saw them in Eugene in November, and John Whooley’s sax blew me away as much as Jason’s guitar work. Favorite tracks are “Fall Creek” and “Rendezvous.” http://orangetulipconspiracy.com/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/orangetulipconspiracy
EarthThe Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (Southern Lord) :: I went to their show at WOW Hall in Eugene in June after getting into Stebmo (see #12 above).  They pretty much played stuff from their latest album.  After the show, I quickly nabbed their prior work from Amazon used (and whatnot).  Great band in the slowcore genre.  They have deep ties to the Seattle scene, co-mingling with Kurt Cobain, the Melvins, Sunn 0))), and others.  In fact, Kurt Cobain even guested on Earth’s 2nd EP, Extra-Capsular Extraction.  With that being said, they’re definitely not grunge, they’re not rock, they’re not metal… they’re what you might call drone rock.  Slow but powerful. Favorite tracks are “Engine of Ruin” and “Rise to Glory.” http://www.thronesanddominions.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/earthofficial
The Bar Kokhba Sextet plays John Zorn‘s Masada Book Two – Book of Angels, Vol. 10: Lucifer (Tzadik) :: The Bar Kokhba Sextet showed up in 1996 as an almost direct spin-off of the Masada book; so them doing a Book Two album was almost a given.  Holy cow, it’s a brilliant record… but I always loved what the Sextet had done previously.  The Sextet is the tour de force of Cyro Baptista, Joey Baron, Greg Cohen, Mark Feldman, Erik Friedlander, and Marc Ribot.  This is one band in my list that I wish I’d seen… I’m crossing my fingers that Earshot Jazz can bring ’em over to the PacNW sometime. Favorite tracks are “Sother” and “Abdiel.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://www.last.fm/music/Bar+Kokhba+Sextet
The Secret Chiefs 3 play John Zorn‘s Masada Book Two – Book of Angels, Vol. 9: Xaphan (Tzadik) :: I shant write too much about Xaphan, as I wrote a fairly in-depth review of it back when it came out.  I will say that it aged well and still held the Top spot all year.  It’s a GREAT record.  My main disappointment is that I wish they’d have played some from it at their tour this past fall.  Favorite tracks are “Shoel,” “Bezriel,” and “Balberith.” http://webofmimicry.com/ -and- http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/secretchiefs3

Well, I bought ten (10) John Zorn CDs this year (unless I’m misscounting), and 2 of them didn’t make it anywhere on the list (the Lou Reed & Laurie Anderson improv benefit CD for The Stone NYC & the score for The Last Supper, aka Film Works XXII)… so, you can’t say that I’m totally biased towards John Zorn. :)  Though, I do buy just about everything in his label Tzadik’s Archival series, Key series, and Radical Jewish Culture series (and a handful of the rest of the other series).

What I’m looking forward to in 2009? More great music…

~Dan – np: Miles DavisMiles in the Sky

* Favorite Vocal Albums of 2008 *

24th Dec 08 (Wed) 7 comments

Disclaimer section shamelessly plagiarized from Andy Whitman at Paste

Disclaimer #1: 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. But hey, this isn’t math class, and I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2008. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2008. And you might be right.

Disclaimer #2: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just get it out of your system now and be done with it. I am deliberately trying to be obscure. Who the hell has even heard of these people? I am a sell-out who includes ridiculously well-known artists such as Metallica on his list. Who the hell actually believes that Metallica could make a great album after their atrocious efforts post-1996? So go ahead and vent, then read Disclaimer #1 again.

My Other Favorites of 2008 Recaps:

As I start this post, I will say that this is the first year (ever) that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs (though after 12/31/07, 2007 instrumental albums have since overtaken 2007 vocal albums in the CD racks).  For that reason, the favorite vocal albums list goes first this go ’round… and now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Jude ChristodalCuba (indie) :: 2008 marked the first time in 8 years or so where I had the absolute pleasure to see Jude live.  He came through Portland in June, and absolutely blew me away.  This Cuba record didn’t necessarily “blow me away,” but it is full of some gems that for some reason or another never made their way onto a real release.  Call it a “b-sides” record.  Since Jude is totally independent these days, it’s available on CD Baby.  Favorite tracks are the title track and “One of These Days.” http://www.judemusic.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/judechristodal
Praxis – Profanation: Preparation for a Coming Darkness (Columbia Japan) :: Bill Laswell’s supergroup with Buckethead & Brain on just about every track with guests spots by Iggy Pop, Mike Patton, Serj Tankian, Killah Priest, Tatsuya Yoshida, Otomo Yoshihide, and more… It’s a veritiable onslaught of sound.  This is definitely on the heavier side of things, with a touch of the avant-garde.  As far as I know, it’s only available in Japan (or cool outlets like the Downtown Music Gallery in NYC). Favorite track is “Larynx” with Mike Patton. http://www.innerhythmic.com/
MetallicaDeath Magnetic (Warner Bros) :: Ever since May of 1996, I never thought I’d really care that much about another Metallica record again. Load, Re-Load, St Anger, and all of the crap in between was utter rubbish. St Anger being the absolute nadir of their recorded work, in my opinion.  Well, somewhere inside I hate to say it, “Death Magnetic is a great record.”  I don’t know if the band (specifically Lars Ulrich) can pull it off live… nor do I plan on spending a brazilian dollars for a nose-bleed seat to find out.  Anyway, it was good to hear the band in good form again (even with their ridiculous lyrics).  Sometimes it’s like it’s a comedy record with shreddin’ guitars behind it.  Favorite track is “Broken, Beat & Scarred.” http://www.metallica.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/metallica
Ty TaborBalance (Molken Music) :: A late release… just got it a few weeks ago.  Ty Tabor is one of my favorite guitarists around.  He’s got the whole “volume swell” thing down to a science, and while he can do some flashy work, he’s more of the subdued genius.  Being in King’s X, he’s one of the founders of the grunge sound (though rarely gets credit).  Anyway, he’s got the chops, but when he puts out a solo album… it’s usually more of a subdued affair.  Well, not this time… it’s definitely more rocking and shows off some of his great guitar work while still maintaining the balance of his usual songwriting.  I could totally skip the opening track (“Money Mouth”), but he recovers from it greatly (IMO).  My favorite track is “Good that Way.” http://www.tytabor.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/tytabor
OpethWatershed (Roadrunner) :: My favorite Swedish death metal band, Opeth, is known for their blistering drums, shredding guitars, cookie monster vocals, and… their softer side?  Eh, since 2006’s Damnation album of slower tunes, they’ve had that option to expand into more genteel tunes.  The two videos from Watershed thus far (“Porcelain Heart” and “Burden”) have (IMO) been a mockery of their sound.  I mean, regardless of Damnation, these videos are totally butchered into ballads that I don’t think are giving a good representation of Opeth’s sound.  Anyway, with that being said, the nearly hour-long 6.5 song album finds great favor to my ears.  My favorite tracks are “Heir Apparent” and the aforementioned “Porcelain Heart.” http://www.opeth.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/opeth
Mike PattonA Perfect Place (Ipecac) :: While Mike Patton has had some silver screen exposure (he “acted” in the indie flick Firecracker and was the voice of the evil animals in Will Smith’s I Am Legend), this was his first time scoring anything (though he’s on the docket to score the feature-length Crank 2).  Released as a double-disc (soundtrack CD and short film on DVD), this was a great way to get a small budget indie short film by Derrick Scocchera out to people who may never have seen it.  It’s got a twist of murder, idiocy, and humor.  Mike Patton’s score suits it well, and it also fits his eclectic back catalog fairly well also.  Favorite tracks are “A Little Poker Tomorrow Night?” and the title track. http://ipecac.com/
King’s XXV (Inside Out) :: King’s X rarely disappoints (2003’s release fit that rare disappointment category).  Anyway, getting beyond the opening track “Pray” (what is it with both King’s X and Ty Tabor leading off with doozies?) it gets into the great rockin’ groove that King’s X is known for.  Doug Pinnick covers most of the lead vocals on this album, but Ty handles a few, and drummer Jerry Gaskill also pulls out his excellent lead vocals this time around on “Julie.”  I also got to see them in August in Cincinnati (my review with pictures), and they were a tight 3-piece unit.  They’ve been making music together for more than 25 years.  I hope they continue for a little bit more.  Favorite tracks are “Move” and “Alright.” http://www.kingsxrocks.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/kingsx
NoctalucaStill the Wicked Rest (indie) :: I bought this thinking it was just some live CDR or something (I don’t pay attention sometimes).  When it showed up, I was all like, “holy cow, they went all out on packaging a live CD.”  Well, my mind was blown when I heard the first bursts from the newly recorded “Monkey Moon,” which didn’t make it on their last stellar album (2006’s Towering the Sum).  Let’s just say that I hope Jason Ludwig and Noctaluca can continue to make great music.  This sophomore studio record doesn’t disappoint at all.  It’s a great mix of grungy hardrock with dreams of Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and Alice in Chains with Rage Against the Machine meets Operation:Mindcrime lyrics.  And, yes, I’ll continue calling them one of my favorite local bands.  I still own property in Cincinnati (under duress due to the whole housing bubble elephant dump in Ohio); so they still count as local to me here in Eugene, Oregon. :)  Favorite tracks are “Monkey Moon” and “Hegemaniacal.”  And the vocal work by Jason at the beginning of “Doomed are the Killers Who Hide Behind the Banner of God” totally pwns me. http://www.noctaluca.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/noctaluca
Kaki KingDreaming of Revenge (Velour) :: Venturing more and more into singing… Kaki’s 4th album shows off her songwriting in addition to the reason I found her music – her superb fretwork.  She’s on my list of “why does she keep swinging through town when I can’t go see her” artists.  Anyway, excellent songwriting, excellent guitars… a beautiful record.  Favorite tracks are “Bone Chaos in the Castle,” “Life Being What It Is,” and “Can Anyone Who Has Heard This Music Really Be A Bad Person?.” http://www.kakiking.com/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/kakiking
Carla Kihlstedt’s 2 Foot YardBorrowed Arms (indie) :: Carla Kihlstedt almost made it on here with another album as well (her collaboration with Matthias Bossi & Dan Rathbun called Ravish and Other Tales for the Stage).  She’s an outspoken violinist from the SF Baby area, who works in the chamber music, avant-garde jazz, and experimental metal scenes with Tin Hat Trio, Book of Knots, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Fred Frith’s Cosa Brava, and many more.  2 Foot Yard is more of her string rock band with Charming Hostess’s Marika Hughes and avant-world guitarist Shahzad Ismaily (who has worked with the Secret Chiefs 3 & Marc Ribot to name a couple).  2 Foot Yard is a supergroup of sorts.  Anyway, their 2nd album, Borrowed Arms, is a tour-du-force… my favorite track “Octopus” grabs you with it’s first lyrical sting of confusion, pizzicatto strings, and reverse-sounding effects on the drums in spots… “I have three hearts and one’s for you.  It’s only big enough for two.” fwoup fwoup fwoup http:/www.2footyard.com/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/carlakihlstedt -and- http://www.myspace.com/2footyard
Greydon SquareThe CPT Theorem (indie internet release) :: As if being a rapper doesn’t bring you drama enough… Greydon is also an atheist who tends to have beefs with his own group of people (Brian Sapient and the Rational Response Squad).  Anyway, major drama notwithstanding, Greydon put out a great follow-up to 2007’s The Compton Effect.  With content like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and style like Eminem (and some say Germaine Williams aka Canibus, of whom I haven’t heard), Greydon’s music really pops with me.  Favorite tracks are “Cubed” and “Judge Me.”  This album was an internet-only release; so it’s only available on iTunes and other e-music shops. http://myspace.com/greydonsquare
Hotel LightsFirecracker People (Bar/None) :: I loved Ben Folds Five… a lot.  One of my favorite songs of theirs wasn’t one of the quirky tunes, it was the sentimental “Magic” written by their drummer Darren Jessee.  Well, after Ben Folds Five broke up, Darren went on to form Hotel Lights.  He’s traded the skins in for a guitar and the vocal duties.  2006 brought the excellent self-titled debut.  Last year brought a great EP, goodnightgoodmorning.  And this year brought their sophomore record, Firecracker People.  My favorite track is the lead-off “Blue Always Finds Me.” http://www.hotellights.net/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/hotellightsmusic
Ani DiFrancoRed Letter Year (Righteous Babe) :: Ani DiFranco played a few tunes that made it on this record for us in Eugene in April.  It was a fantastic show, but it doesn’t take an accountant with a spreadsheet fetish to tell you that she was bound to release that album 9.38 months after her previous release, Canon.  Oh wait, yeah, it might take an accountant with a spreadsheet fetish to get that detailed.  Anyway, this is yet again a solid product put out by her indie empire build on car tires and chicken wire.  Sometimes her detractors think her albums have too much filler (and she shouldn’t put out so much music).  Well, with every song that doesn’t work like (IMO) “The Atom” (it might work better as a poem), she has gems like “Alla This,” “Present/Infant,” and the horn-driven “Red Letter Year Reprise.”  I think if she had a new album every other month, it’d still be more geniius than what’s hovering at the top of the Billboard charts. http://www.righteousbaberecords.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/anidifranco
Sigur RósMeð suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (XL) :: With a buzz in our ears we play endlessly… Sigur Rós continue to deliver excellent music in superbly and lovingly crafted packages.  This album might be their most “accessible.”  It took a bit to grow on me, though.  While it doesn’t seem as compelling as their earlier albums, I still dig it a plenty.  I also got the chance to see them in Portland in October (excellent show!).  It baffles me how this group of non-conformist, non-mainstream musicians from a small country like Iceland seem to have taken the indie rock scene by storm since 2001.  I mean how does it happen?  I guess I’m just glad that it did happen.  My favorite tracks are “Gobbledigook” and “Við spilum endalaust.” http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/ -and- http://myspace.com/sigurros
CelldwellerSoundtrack for the Voices in My Head (FiXT) :: OK, this one actually fits my rules for an instrumental album… most of the tracks are instrumental industrial jams that Scott Albert (aka Klayton aka Circle of Dust aka Celldweller) has been kicking around since working on the follow-up to his utterly superb debut (under the Celldweller moniker).  However, one of the lead off tracks and other tracks intertwined in the CD have lyrics.  So, I’m making a judgment call and including it in this list rather than the instrumental list.  The truth is that my instrumental top list is getting jammed up and I needed to flip this one to the vocal list to make room.  I make the list… I can break my own rules.

I’ve been a fan of Scott/Klayton since, oh, 1995?  His music is mezmerizing, full of powerfully rhythmic industrial music with a very heavy dose of pop sensibility.  “Celldweller” is my favorite project of his, though his other musical work (even with magician Criss Angel) rank high in my music collection.  I hope the long-awaited sophomore Celldweller release sees the light of day before 2012.  Oh, this album is available for free in mp3 format (though the CD is cheap and comes with extra bonus tracks).  Favorite track is “Birthright.”  Check out his webpages for more info. http://www.celldweller.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/celldweller

Plover (Glen Phillips / Neilson Hubbard / Garrison Starr)Plover (indie freebie on the internets) :: I’m a big fan of Glen Phillips, whether with Toad the Wet Sprocket, solo, or side projects.  Well, this year saw him release a solo EP (which is grand), tour on his own (of which I saw when he came through Eugene), tour with Toad the Wet Sprocket (which I sadly didn’t see this time), collaborate with nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot, tour again with Jonatha Brooke (which I missed due to work schedules changing), sit on and break a glass coffee table and shred up his arm (he’s recovering nicely, I hear), and put out two solid A++ side-projects.  Plover is the more subdued side-project (compared to RemoteTreeChildren further down the list), but it really fits in well with Glen’s music.  I’d never heard Neilson or Garrison’s music before, but I like what all three artists brought to the table.  Also, it‘s absolutely free (if you want).  You can pay what you want for better quality 320kbps or FLAC (and you should, as it’s also the only way the artists get money).  Favorite tracks are “Wishing You Were Somewhere Instead of Wishing You Were Somewhere Else” and “All Eyes.” http://plovermusic.com/
ExtremeSaudades de Rock (Open E) :: What can I say?  I spent more than words on this band this year… I flew to Cincinnati to see them put on a kick-ass show at Union Center Blvd Bash.  Go here for my review with many pictures of King’s X and Extreme.  While I think there are a couple of snoozers on this record, overall it’s still a very solid record.  I hope Gary, Nuno, Pat and whatever drummer they bring along (sorry KFigg) continue to make great music.  And I hope it’s not another 13 years until their 6th studio album comes out.  Favorite tracks are “Comfortably Dumb” and “Interface” (one of Nuno’s from Dramagods). http://www.extreme-band.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/extreme
Steven WilsonInsurgentes (indie) :: I felt guilty paying for this limited edition release.  The original pressing was only 4,000 copies, complete with in a special coffee-table book photo edition. Well, I felt guilty until I got it and saw how beautiful it it turned out.  Great job Steven!  And the music is pretty damn kick ass as well.  For those familiar with Steven Wilson (and his many bands: Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, No-Man, Bass Communion, IEM, et cetera), this first solo album hit the spot for me compared to the most recent PT & No-Man releases.  It’ll be out in a “normal” version in Feb 2009.  My luck is that Steven will tweak it or add stuff to the Feb 2009 (or later) release(s) and I’ll have to buy it again.  He’s like that… hmph.  Favorite tracks are “Harmony Korine” and “Insurgentes (Mexico).” http://swhq.co.uk/ -and- http://myspace.com/therealstevenwilson
My Brightest DiamondA Thousand Shark’s Teeth (Asthmatic Kitty) :: When this album first came out, I liked it.  But I didn’t think it’d rise to be in the top 2.  I mean, I like it, but I liked her debut (Bring Me the Workhorse) a lot better right out of the gates.  This one was more of a slow burn.  I suppose seeing her play a lot of these tracks live last month also helped solidify the album in my mind as a gem.  Shara is charming, witty, powerful and sublime.  This is a great record, and there has also been a plethora of other MBD activity on the internets (iTunes EPs, remixes, etc) to keep me happy this year.  My only complaint… she needs to get her buddy Sufjan back in the studio and on the road.  Favorite tracks are “Inside a Boy” and the deliciously cute “Apples.” http://mybrightestdiamond.com -and- http://myspace.com/mybrightestdiamond
Remote Tree Children (Glen Phillips / John Askew / others?)Veteran of the Loudness Wars (indie freebie on the internets) :: OK, first off, this may seem totally unfair to the albums that were in my collection for longer… but as of December 9th, I had no idea about the impending pwnage of this record.  Then Glen Phillips posted a blog and dropped it on top of the internets’ head.  Then I downloaded it… and it’s such a slut, it made sweet love to my ear holes.  I think I spun it about 10 times that first day.  Actually, maybe my ears are th sluts.  Never one to not be hyperbolous, I think it’s great and it wins as my favorite vocal album of 2008.  And the kicker?  It’s absolutely free (if you want).  You can pay what you want for better quality 320kbps or FLAC (and you should, as it’s also the only way the artists get money and can continue to make sweet love to ear holes all around the world).  Favorite tracks are “You Will Be Pwned” and “Blood Pressure Rise.” http://remote-tree-children.com/

OK, so 3 of my top 6 are ones you can nab for free (legally).  So… go on… get some great music!

Top 25 instrumental albums coming up later… before year’s end, I promise.

~Dan – np: Goddamn Electric BillTopics for Gossip

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