Sunday, October 14, 2012

Top Albums of the Year 2005, Part 2: Others


Other Albums from 2005 Worth Listening To



NOSOUND Sol29

Having started with LightDark I was a bit worried at how other NOSOUND albums would be heard. I am pleasantly surprised at how much I like Sol29. It has much more of the feel of the softer side of STEVEN WILSON's PORCUPINE TREE music--the early stuff that I love so much. Also, I was quite surprised by the diversity on this album. As opposed to the near uniformity or constancy I hear and feel from LightDark, eachsong on Sol29 seems to have an identity on its own, a freshenss, too. Where I can see where LightDark came from, I am relieved to see that GIANCARLO has other directions he can (and has) chosen to explore. Highlights for me include the PT-sounding "Wearing Lies on Your Lips" (9/10), the PF-sounding "The Broken Parts" (8/10) the LightDark previews in "The Moment She Knew" (8/10) and, "Idle End" (9/10) (can't get enough of that outro). My least favorite: the HEARTS OF SPACE theme music, "Sol29" (6/10). (Please don't go New Age on us, Giancarlo!) This collection of songs is, IMO, an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.

Four stars.



THE FUTURE KINGS OF ENGLAND The Future Kings of England

A very good Post Rock album that ranks right up with the best I've heard from this sub-genre . . . but can't quite earn a 5 star "masterpiece" rating cuz of the fact that the boys stick fairly closely to the standard format--with very few real innovations other than sounds and multiple guitar layers on "October Moth."

Oops! this isn't Post rock?!!

Oh well. The songs:

1. "At Long Last" (1:02) a musically supported abdication speech from England's King Edward VIII.

2. "10:66" (7:46) opens with a Frippertronic/"infinite guitar" note (kind of like Fripp did on Sylvian's "Wave") and is then joined by the full band. A mysterious interlude spoken vocal is in a Slavic language--which all but negates its effectiveness but is followed by guitar arpeggios from the opening section and background violin noodling. The song crescendos in a rather violent almost punk-like sound with 'hoodlum' type voices running off in the background. (8/10)

3. "Humber Doucy Lane" (8:55) opens with some very old-style "Rising Sun" electric guitar arpeggios with full ANIMALS sound in the accompanying band--at least, that is, until the 3:40 mark when there is a shift to some slow chord strums tying a different set of arpeggios together. Then at 4:45 we're suddenly thrown onto some reverbe/echo guitar picking on the playgrounds from the end of Pat & Lyle's "As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls." Obviously the lane referred to in the song title means something to these blokes. Mellotron and bells play out in a French film score way to end. (7/10)

4. "Silent and Invisible Converts" (7:30) stars with some pretty straightforward rock'n'roll descending electric guitar chords--which then transform into the same chords being arpeggios with 'flute' accompaniment. Until 1:40 when a new set of three chords are again ominously strummed as bass and cymbols keep exact time (almost Who-like!) The tempo picks up, slowly building, faster and faster, until some very crazed space guitar effects and "ahh's" join and accompany the band to about 5:40 when most instruments cut out leaving only the screaming space guitar and rolling bass--then for a minute just bass before some U2/EDGE-like guitar chords scream out over an old organ--to a Who ending! (8/10)

5. "October Moth" (3:49) is a much more laid-back floating-type of song--acoustic guitars picking in both the left and right channels while distorted and space guitars also play. Very unusual and cool song. (9/10)

6. "Lilly Lockwood" (8:18) is an eery song that reminds me of a melange between THE BEATLES at their most eery and U2's first two album guitar sounds and GENESIS' "The Waiting Room." (What a combo!) (8/10)

7. "The March of the Mad Clowns" (3:36) is a steady bass with military snare drumming with some weird-ass psychedelic "Tomorrow Never Knows" synths and guitars playing a melody over and within. (8/10)

8. "Pigwhistle" (14:00) lots of mellotron and weird/distorted guitar playing over a 'normal' bass and drum rhythm section. Eventually the bass is isolated while eerie samples, synths, cymbols, and guitar notes pass in and out of the background and foreground. Then echo-guitar takes over the center stage. for some reason this reminds me of prime TANGERINE DREAM stuff. Halfway through the song and we're left in a kind of 2001: A Space Odyssey field. Then a biplane flies overhead and a FLOYDian acoustic guitar blues jam ensues. Electric guitar and electric tuned percussion join in, bringing their own melodies to the mix, before a kind of "House of the Rising Sun/My Guitar Gently Weeps" section begins. The song plays out in this very cool BEATLES Abbey Road mode. (8/10)

9. "God Save the King" (0:48) is the old recording of a male speech (King Edward VIII?) played over some psychedelic sounds.

This is also my favorite album overall from TFKoE--though I very much enjoy their 2011 release, Who Is This Who Is Coming? 

80.0 on the Fish scales = a four star album; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.



MY EDUCATION Italian

A stylish, downbeat Post Rock/Math Rock band from Austin, Texas, MY EDUCATION performs music that could easily pass as film soundtracks. Use of viola, tuned percussion, and piano/keyboards makes this music interesting, taking it a bit out of the typical PR/MR sound frame. The whole album makes for nice wind-down background music, all of it is interesting if you can keep focused (and not fall asleep), but by the time I'm into the fourth or fifth song I've usually tuned out.   

1. Snake In The Grass (7:23) (8/10)
2. Plans A Through B (7:39) (8/10)
3. Thanksgiving (6:19) (8/10)
4. (Polyphonic Walnuts) (3:52) Ambient. (8/10)
5. Puppy Love (8:01) (8/10)
6. Texas Style (7:21) Definitely. (8/10)
7. Dirty Hands (7:01) Frippy. (9/10)
8. ( ) (4:35) Eno-esque electronic ambience. (7/10)
9. Green Arrow (12:25) (8/10)

There  really isn't a bad song on the album, every song has interesting aspects to it, it is just a bit too consistently mellow for masterpiece consideration.







INDUKTI S.U.S.A.R. 

A beautifully recorded album of powerful songs from the realms of heavier prog yet there is often an atmospheric and even sensitive feel to the music's sound--which is what keeps me interested and engaged. I attribute a lot of my interest and satisfaction to the work of the violin. There are a lot of times that I'm reminded of RIVERSIDE while listening to this album--especially when there are vocals going on. The major detractor from my overall enjoyment of this album is that every song has too much similarity in sound, pace, and style.

Album highlights: "Freder" (7:30) (8/10); "No. 11812" (7:59) (9/10); "...and weak II" (9:36) (9/10).


SIGUR RÓS Takk . . .

Another very good Post Rock/Math Rock album from Iceland's own. I like the overall feel of the album, a little more upbeat/positive feeling than ( ), though with a lot of quiet space. In my mind, Takk..., ( ), and Ágaetis Byrjun are all pretty equal as overall albums. The first one I heard will probably always be my favorite (it's feel, it's music, was so new and unusual to me). Album highlights: the delicate, "Sé Lest" (8:40) (8/10); the unusually heavy, "Saeglópur" (7:39) (8/10); the beautifully orchestrated and mostly ambient, "Svo Hljótt" (7:25) (9/10); the dirge-like, "Heysátan" (4:10) (8/10), and; one of my favorite Sigur Rós songs, "Milanó" (10:27) (10/10).



MEW And the Glass-Handed Kites

Another pleasant, upbeat, more-complex-than-your-average-run-of-the-mill-indie-rock-band album from Mew, if I do not rate this one as highly as Frengers this is mostly due to the latter being the first Mew album I heard and thus the Mew sound was fresh then. And the Glass-Handed Kites is not quite so fresh though there are plenty of odd, idiosynchratic, "proggy" nuances to the music and vocals. I concur with the comparisons to THE CURE and MY BLOODY VALENTINE and RADIOHEAD
though Mew's synthesis is different, lighter, more danceable.

Album highlights: "Apocalypso" (4:46) (8/10); "A Dark Design" (3:29) (8/10); "Saviours of Jazz Ballet (Fear Me, December)" (3:19) (8/10), and; "The Seething Rain Weeps for You (Uda Pruda)"
 (4:19) (8/10).


RED SPAROWES At the Soundless Dawn

Red Sparowes are as interesting for their song titles as they are for their instrumental Post Rock/Math Rock music. Though I heard Every Red Heart Beats... first, I have enjoyed all of the Sparowes output. This one still sounded fresh to me, even after hearing ...Red Heart... Though this is pretty straightforward Post/Math Rock, it is, for me, like the rock, the center, the epitome of all that defines the sub-genre. It'd be difficult to pick out song favorites or album highlights. I like the power and urgency of much of the music here. Even the droning beginning portion of the eleven-minute "Mechanical Sounds Cascaded through the City Walls..." has this awesome power to it.

I guess the first four songs are my favorites--because of their power. Songs five and six are pretty but almost like a peaceful respite. The nineteen minute finale is another great one, though not quite as powerful as the first four. Overall, this is a solid four star album.



WOBBLER Hinterland

Norwegian Neo-prog artists Wobbler have put together an album of three instrumental symphonic epics, none of which are less than 12 minutes long, all of it in the vein of Swedish prog revivalist legends, Anglagard. Nice work if, also like Anglagard, lacking the hooks and pulls that draw the listener in and holds them there. "Clair Obscur" (15:37) (8/10) is probably my favorite due to its broad dynamics.  



Albums from Y2K that Are, IMHO, Over-rated



NEAL MORSE ?

Good rock a la the bubble gum/stadium rockers of the late 1970s and early 1980s: REO SPEED-WAGON, STYX, KANSAS, FOREIGNER, BOSTON--maybe even THE EAGLES and PINK FLOYD. But really there is nothing here without a pop/commercial feel to it, nothing new or innovative. Just nice, somewhat memorable songs that at times sound like they're meant to be proggy or sophisticated but usually end up tripping over their own cliché-ness. I guess it doesn't help that I really find Neal's voice rather annoying and twangy. The overtly religious lyrics and intentions of this album have little bearing on my enjoyment of this album as I don't really tune in to lyrics and there are a lot of Christian and religious music that I adore. (No pun intended.) Like SPOCK'S BEARD, TRANSAT-LANTIC, THE TANGENT and a lot of THE FLOWER KINGS, I just find nothing new--or rather, I find too much repetition of old themes, sounds, and constructs in this music. It's not even 'neo-'prog to me; it's pseudo-prog. I do like the send off of "The Temple of the Living God" (4:27) (9/10), though. Very YES/TFK.




PHIDEAUX Chupacabras

This is an album sampler: diverse musical styles and sounds collected together around the excellent epic title song. In my opinion, it is this title song that is the only thing making this album worth owning or listening to. "Party" (7/10) and "Return of the Ruffian" (7/10) are okay. Some of it sounds like stuff that might have made Top 40 in the 80s.

"Chupacabras" (20:42) actually sounds to me like a Broadway soundtrack--with opening overture, bouncy 'opening' song with vocals, emotional second 'travel' or 'montage' instrumental song (all with a particular guitar riff [lifted from a classic rock song from the 70s or 80s--one that I can't put my finger on . . . maybe AL STEWART] stringing them together). The fourth part slows it down to introduce the female voice (narrating?). Part five is a brief  percussion-with-piano-arpeggio interlude, followed immediately by the protagonist singing again (about his impending Phoenix-like rise) but then becomes a duet with the female (narrator?). Nice female vocal harmonies. He is Adonis; he is "Beauty." At 10:45 Part eight has PINK FLOYD Animals effects before turning to some country/Lousiana blues guitar and dobro sounds to carry the story further. This evolves with some synth strings and Celtic flutes and pipes into something . . . unusual. At 16:08 some crashing drums and guitars announce a shift--like a revitalization or rebirth. A mellotron and heavier guitar part ensues, finally opening into a brief announcement by the effected female voice, then bouncy piano preparing us for the reentry of the protagonist. The problem here is that the new guy, "Freedom," sounds less free, less confident, and less powerful than his previous incarnation, "Beauty."! (8/10)

Overall this is an okay album with a pretty good epic. 3 stars.

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