i'll start off.
i'm doing mine in groups of 5 up to 50 and i just started today.
i take mine from my livejournal..the formatting is a bitch.
Strapping Young Lad - Alien
Label: Century Media
Fucking heavy. Those two words sum up Alien just fine. If I had to add another short description to it, I would say "1999" because if I had heard this album during that year, it would have absolutely topped my personal charts without compare. This is a relic of a bygone era where muscle, industrial leanings, and harmony combined themselves into one to shake the foundations of popular music. This is something Nine Inch Nails and Skinny Puppy would have gladly recommended to their hordes of fist-pumping fans. You don't so much listen to this album as survive it.
As much as I may have hyped up this release, I had to make it through the first track, 'Imperial,' before I got a true feel for the music. It started off sounding like an awful hybrid of Iron Maiden and Saliva (remember them?). However, once I became bored with the first track, 'Skeksis' kicked my ass all over the place. Devin Townsend screamed with harmonious fury while the ebbs and flows of shredded guitar and AK-47 bass drum licks took things to a new level of heavy. From that point on, the power and the fury of the album showed itself with rabid intensity, stirring up a froth at every available opportunity and multitracking the maddening shouts of Mr. Townsend.
The lyrics aren't the strong point of this album, but they are certainly a kick to listen to. Devin makes it lovely to hear someone say "Do you want fucking crazy?/I'll show you how to be crazy/FUCK YOU!" ('Shitstorm'). You can even hear the band's soft side in the drowned out shouts of "All in the name of love!" ('Love?') through a melodic song that harkens back to Adrenaline-era Deftones. When the ride has come to a complete stop and you undo your seatbelt, the sensation can be summed up by a schizophrenic Devin from 'Ride:' "What the fuck was that?"
Throughout the storms, though, you discover something sorely lacking from a lot of "black metal:" harmony and pop in the dissonance. You can hear echoes of White Zombie and (the best parts of) Iron Maiden in the storm and...xylophones? Acoustic interludes about going to the beach? What is that, the Vienna Boys Choir? Choral accompaniment in metal..I didn't expect that from anyone without a leotard (or, at least, anyone named Justin Hawkins).
Would I call them The Darkness of Scandanavian-type black metal/industrial music? They sure do sound like it to me. And, you know, pop ability is something sorely underrated these days. I say throw up the horns in salute. I'll see you in the pit.
13 & God - 13 & God
Label: Anticon/Alien Transistor
Genre crossovers are often ridiculed and disposed of with great rapidity. Run DMC and Aerosmith walked pretty well together, but now we're overrun with so many rap-rockers that a restraining order should be filed keeping rap and rock from getting even "One Step Closer" to one another. But in the era of Danger Mouse's "Grey Album" and the many mashups after the fact, it isn't surprising that genres keep trying to buddy up. But..what do we have here? Glitch electronica and hip-hop? How will the people dance AND indulge themselves in mind-altering substances at the same time? Yes, I do enjoy both genres. Yes, I was an asshole for insinuating that electronica listeners are drug addicts. In the same breath...yes, 13 & God is a combination of glitch electronica and underground hip-hop from Germany's finest IDM (intelligent dance music) purveyors of late, the Notwist, and left-field hip-hoppers Themselves. You could see many ways that these genres could entirely destroy one another, but this album works a strange magic by letting both genres share the spotlight and shine through as individuals.
Like burgeoning lovers trying to feel each other out, it takes a little time for the two groups to settle into a groove. The openers 'Low Heaven' and 'Men of Station' are expectedly experimental and organic, with Doseone and crew rapping through a misty preciptate of saxophones, harmonics, and drops of electronics. In no time flat, though, the strummed acoustics and soothing vocals of the Notwist trade jabs with Themselves, two left-field groups melding front and center. The rapped cadences of Themselves may take some getting used to for those unfamiliar with their style, but the patience is well worth the wait. The groups combine to make gorgeous soundscapes at one moment and dope beats the next.
Of course, as with any combination of two experimental and avant-garde groups, there are moments here of indulgent noodling (see beginnings of 'Afterclap' and 'Tin Strong', nearly the entire closing song, 'Walk'). However, everything leads up to the discovery that these two genres can get along incredibly well. The shortcomings should just be taken as signs of a surprisingly verdent future of genre crossovers for bands who are willing to bring their best to the table and compromise. 13 & God has the capacity to allow you to chill out, lose yourself, and nod your head.
Linkin Park, we're setting up your court date.
Death Cab for Cutie - Plans
How does someone go from hating an album to having the utmost respect for it over the course of two months? That is the question to consider over these next couple paragraphs. Ben Gibbard has had the propensity for lyrics that seem to have been taken from various Livejournal communities about heartbreak, so I was not looking forward to hearing his new album with DCFC. I could see the lyrics for a hypothetical lead single, "My Frozen Heart," months in advance: "The moment she left me/My winter rolled in/My tears froze to icicles/And stuck to my chin." I downloaded it anyway on a whim and took it down to Louisiana on a mix mp3 CD with me for the relief effort. While I was down there, my down time was taken up by resting up and just..thinking. After all was said and done, I realized something: Plans reminds me of myself.
Surely, this leads to a couple questions: Why would you hate yourself at first? Well, if you've really experienced life at all, you should be able to realize that things like that happen. Why would I be rating an album that reminds me of myself at #48? Well...this was a great year for music. The opening song/salvo of this release, 'Marching Bands of Manhattan,' does not do much to alleviate my fears that would be perfectly recited at a Dashboard Confessional ("Sorrow drips into your heart through a pinhole/Just like a faucet that leaks/And there is comfort in the sound"). The typical Gibbard feelings are approached, ranging from people you love to people you used to love to people you'd die alongside while still loving them.
Then, something mysterious happens: after subsequent listens, the realizations start to come forth that he is not trying to be eloquent with this one. With previous releases from this band, he tried to be particular and far-reaching at the same time. Aspirations like that in music tend to fall flat. Plans just wants to convey the emotions in terms to which we can all relate. The prose may be sophomoric at times, but the emotions we all delve into while considering the metaphors effect us much more than anything Mr. Carabba could ever say. Frolicking about without care ('Summer Skin'), feeling like your heart is an empty room (poignantly titled 'Your Heart is an Empty Room'), and telling yourself or a downtrodden friend that love will come someday (again...'Someday You Will Be Loved') are universal experiences. The production/guitar work of Chris Walla builds and dances about while the delicate synth work accentuates these pages torn straight from our past, present, and future.
Many people will still hate this band for their lyrics, for Ben Gibbard's voice, for the simplicity of the music. Until this was released, I was in that very group. This is Death Cab for Cutie's pop masterpiece to this point. It cannot yet be certain whether or not they can do any better, but at least this document could drive home how a penchant for absurd romantic metaphors, when correctly arranged, can unite us all...in a lonely room.
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band - Horses in the Sky
Can music REALLY change the world? This question has underscored many discussions as far back as recorded history can look. In more recent times, blues musicians spoke of racial and socioeconomic injustice, the Beatles were involved in political causes during (and, as solo members, after) their run, and even Kanye West noted that he believes our current president does not care about the plights of African Americans. Now, songs come and songs go, but it can hardly be denied that many musicians do attempt to alter the collective consciousness of their listeners. The aforementioned question is what has driven Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and if you listen closely, Horses in the Sky might just open your eyes.
It should be noted that this band is an offshoot of Godspeed You Black Emperor!, a post-rock instrumental band fronted by guitarist Efrim. The albums from GYBE! have been described as everything from genius to a pretentious pile of shit. Their liner notes are often filled with ramblings about the downfalls of capitalism and the negative effects of corporations on society. While their instrumental landscapes of guitar feedback and stringed accompaniment are nothing short of awe-inspiring and desolate, their politics have been polarizing.
With this incarnation, Efrim and friends focus their efforts into their most pop-oriented album to date by far. 'God Bless You Dead Marines' is over 11 minutes long but even though the length may not be radio-friendly, there are moments during the song that are easy to sing along with (if you care to sing about how "We are not sweet mistakes" and how we're "Striving on this spinning rock/Tumbling past the sun"). The sound they have created with this album uses similar instruments to previous releases, but the results are not nearly as mammoth in aural scope. The results convey an intimate atmosphere of sorrow and introspection at a very personal level. Sophie's work on violin and Aidan's drumming (going by one name is chic) are as skillful and cathartic as ever. Since there are only five songs on the entire album, going any more into the songs would give away the mystery unravelled only by listening. It can be noted, though, that the title track and 'Hang On To Each Other' are campfire-esque sing along with a similar doctrinal vein to GYBE! ("Our schools look like prisons/And our prisons look like malls" from the title track) and the sounds of 'Mountains Made of Steam' are among the most disconcerting the band has ever crafted.
Back to our first question...it is uncertain as to whether or not this band from Canada will ever change the world. It is certain that they will keep putting their tenets and doctrines out there for us and if Horses in the Sky is any indication of their future paths, they will at least be engrossing to encounter.
Jens Lekman - Oh, You're So Silent Jens
Label: Secretly Canadian
It's about time I throw in someone out of nowhere onto this countdown...someone probably few, if any, of you have heard of. Pleasantly, the man fits into the countdown right in this spot! There isn't much to say as an introduction...other than what we have on our hands right here is a smooth-voiced indie pop artisan.
Jens Lekman has been making albums for the past few years (who knew?) and this is a compilation of b-sides and songs from 7 inchers that have yet to be released on a full length album. Once you get into it and start listening, it is a remarkably cohesive bunch of songs. The songs bounce back and forth from uptempo grin-inducing ditties to slowed piano numbers crooned with precision by Jens (whose voice reminds me of anyone from Morrissey to Chris Isaac). The musical stylings contained remind you of a more sincere Beck. 'Maple Leaves' is a rollicking springtimey number about confused love (make believe ~ maple leaves, get it?) and 'Black Cab' is one of the catchiest songs of the year by far. Meanwhile, 'Pocketful of Money' features Jens sounding like he is singing in a large abandoned room with a scant piano line right before Calvin Johnson (!) kicks in during the chorus with one of the most ingenius backing vocals I have ever heard. 'Julie' is a wonderful pop number with acoustic guitar plucking and sleighbells. I could go on and on about each song. Each and every part of this album combine themselves together to make one of the catchiest releases you would not have heard of this year.
If this album is an adequate summation of his career to this point, it would be musical malpractice to not delve into everything he has crafted so far. The best of radio pop and the best of the ever-diversifying world of indie pop meet each other halfway in this brilliantly constructed album. When he sounds like a gospel singer, you - the choir - should listen attentively. When he cracks a joke (which he frequently does), you will laugh. When his fingers tickle the ivories, you will know that you're listening to an up-and-comer. Jens Lekman should not be silent any longer. In a world full of prefabricated corporate pop waste, Oh, You're So Silent Jens is a breath of fresh air.
Edited by Limits are Lies, 10 December 2005 - 04:37 AM.