Saturday, December 20, 2014

D'Angelo and the Vanguard - Black Messiah

What's the saying? If at first you ignore your blog, blog blog again? I decided I'd come back and give this another shot, but I wanted to wait until the right album came along. 

Meet Black Messiah.

Before today, my knowledge of D'Angelo was limited solely to a music video in which he sings to the camera, ripped and naked, and subsequently caused every lady in America to lose their pants.

When I heard the hype that he released an album after a long absence, I just figured ladies had finally found their pants and were excited to lose them again. 

Watching SNL, there was an ad about the new album featuring the song "The Charade" and I was immediately intrigued. It sounded like a psychedelic R&B mish-mash of voices, a sound which I was not expecting at all from this record.

I immediately checked it out, and the entire thing is really excellent. It's smooth, funky, trippy, heart-ripping, head-bobbing music. My favorite part is I have no idea what D'Angelo's voice sounds like. Every track sounds like it has multiple singers on it, and none of them are your prototypical "lead vocalist" who sings above the others. 

Also, and I am no sound expert, but it sounds excellent. Everything is well-balanced and where it should be; both muddy and crisp all the same.

This album is well worth the hype. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top 20 of 2014: 10-1

Here we go dudes. The meat and potatoes. The grand poobah. The cream of the crop. The pussy on the chainwax.

(aka 10 through 1)

Before this album, I always thought of Winterfylleth as that not-so-great black metal band whose acoustic interludes make for excellent D&D music. But here we are, in a post-Sunbather world where post-black-feels-metal is a thing, and we are the benefactors. The Divination of Antiquity is one of the ore accessible black metal albums I've heard, and is infectious in its powerfully emotional riffs. If you heard Sunbather and wanted more, this is a great next step.

(read in the ESPN 30-for-30 voice): What if I told you a young artist released one of the most exciting EPs I've ever heard, garnered massive hype for her debut album, postponed the album endlessly, picked a bunch of fights with people on twitter, released the awful "ATM Jam", and then finally released the long-forgotten debut album. Would you think that album would be any good? What if I told you it was? Would you listen?

This album hates you soooo much.

7. Mutilation Rites - Harbinger

This album has just about everything: heavy ass riffs, emotional chord progressions, disgusting vocals you are not sure you like or not... Above all, it has what seems like hundreds of unique riffs. I once thought it might be a fun game to count the number of distinct riffs in one of the songs off of Harbinger, but after the 10th riff or so, I got too caught up in air guitaring until my fingers air bled.

Every album from here on out was at my #1 spot at some point throughout the year. It is both a testament to how good this year was, how good these albums are, and the necessity that you hear them all. You have your work cut out for you.

6. Behemoth - The Satanist

Easily the least subtle of album on this list, this one absolutely crushes. The riffs are heavy, the vocals are menacing, and it is catchy as hell. You wouldn't think an album as evil sounding as this could be as fun as it is, but you would be wrong.

5. Ava Luna - Electric Balloon

Right after my obsession with Talking Heads died to a low roar, I stumbled upon this record. It has all the punk energy of Talking Heads with the pop vocal stylings of Dirty Projectors. I don't think we've hit this band's ceiling either. Very excited to hear what's next.

4. Jenny Hval & Susanna - Meshes of Voice

The first time I heard this record I thought it was interesting. Nice folky music with ambient elements for a cold day. But then the last song came on and I was floored. On repeat, the album revealed itself to me in a whole new light. This is folk music for those of you who believe there is something else about a misty fog over a still lake at night. #woah #poetic #2deep4u

3. Alraune - The Process of Self-Immolation

There are only four tracks on this album, but each one is a damn composition. And when (spoiler alert) a young girl sings "O Willow Waly" in between the third and fourth tracks, the tone is set for the most amazing metal song I heard all year. The title track will leave you breathless, but I almost feel bad linking it above. This album, perhaps more than any other metal album I heard all year, demands that you listen from start to finish.

2. Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

Ladies and gentlemen, Flying Lotus is back. This album is filled with the same sensory-overload I experienced the first time I heard Cosmogramma, and is just as addictive too. The best summation of this album is the video for "Never Catch Me", linked above. The song is a knock out, but the message in the video, that death just might be a jubilation, is felt on many of the tracks on this album. The album is a statement for life in the face of death, and I love it.

1. Thou - Heathen

I spoke earlier about Alraune's "The Process of Self-Immolation" being the most powerful metal song I'd heard all year. Take the sheer power of that song, add in more gravitas, both sonically and in philosophical lyricism, and extend it over an album length. There you have Heathen. This record will crush you in every sense of the word. It is undeniably powerful, yet astonishingly beautiful. One thing it is not is an easy listen. It took me a few listens to have the patience to pick out each riff in these drawn out songs. But once you hear them, you'll wonder what you were so preoccupied with before that you couldn't devote one well-spent hour focusing on them. I am not known to be someone who cares about lyrics (not that you'd be able to decipher them just by listening), but sitting down to read the lyrics as I listened was an awesome experience and really increased my appreciation for this album. If, while contemplating the state of the world, you ever wished people would remember what was truly important in life, give this album a listen. We could all use a reminder.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top 20 of 2014: 20-11

Hello blogosphere. I'm back, out of nowhere, like the Millennium Falcon at the end of A New Hope, to rescue you from your year of listening to the wrong music.

I realize it seems a bit disingenuous to abandon my blog and still post a top 20 list... but let's be real. I have been making these stupid lists before the blog, and this year was no different. I may as well put it up here for my 2 readers to see and benefit from.

2014 was an excellent year for music as far as I am concerned. Any one of these albums is definitely worth your time.

Here we go.

It looks like I am tagging this one at the end of my list to make it seem like I'm a "man of the people", but half of the songs on here dominated a solid month of my life this year. The reason this is not higher is the other half of the tracks. However, my AriG playlist that includes the good half from here and the better half from Yours Truly is top 5 material.

With the acoustic interludes by Musk Ox, this album is an excellent chill out album with excellent balance. I wouldn't be surprised if this one sticks with me longer than some of the others on this list because of how easy it is to listen to.

I thought this album would be much higher on my list come the end of year, but my judgement had been clouded by the song "Liminality". That song alone is absolutely worth your time.

This is perhaps the surprise of the year, largely due to my own unfair labels I attached to this album without hearing it. Angel is a perfect mix of Chad VanGaalen and Hank Williams that is perfect for a long drive on a country road.

I knew nothing about this movie right up until a second ago when I google searched for the album's cover art. Apparently it's a movie about vampires. It looks awesome. If it's anything as good as this soundtrack, I'll probably love it.

YVETTE takes all the right pieces from Liars' Drum's Not Dead and HEALTH's self-titled to make the most fun noise rock I've ever heard.

This might have some of the best "album flow" I've ever heard from a rap album. I first listened to this album in London, and it made me feel like a real American Gangster

Look who's back! It's Twin Sister! But with a new name! A name I like a lot better! When I was surprised to find out Twin Sister was back, I queued up the album and whispered to myself "pleasedontsuckpleasedontsuck". In Heaven was just too damn good in my opinion, and I always figured there would be no way they could follow that up. I was thankfully proven wrong with this album. Their sound has changed, but their song writing is still top notch. A few slight missteps with The Knife knock offs, but the pros far outweigh the cons. Beyond excited to hear what they have in store.

A truly heartfelt and uplifting record in the Metal subgenre labeled as "Doom". The feels are palpable on this one.

11. Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers

This album is here almost solely on the strength of the song "Violence". The whole album is an excellent mix of ambient and head-bobbing dance music, but when "Violence" comes on...