• Dec. 17-Dec. 24: I Live!

    27. Dez. 2006, 6:06

    it's been quite some time since I've done one of these. As a matter of fact, it's been somewhere in the realm of six and a half months, really. Go figure. And no, I make no reservations about being back next week. But, hey, it's been almost seven months since I've done a weekly chart summary, so what makes me think anyone is left to read this anyhow? On with the reflection, even if it's to an emtpy cyberspace.

    1. Pain of Salvation - 28 Plays
    One thing that may be fun about this particular summary is that I have much more to reflect on than merely one week's worth of listening. Allow me to demonstrate. Rather than pointlessly telling everyone what I arbitrarily listened to from Pain of Salvation this week, I can point out that my appreciation for them has been more or less in conjunction with the passage of 2006. I'd heard one song, "Beyond the Pale" at the beginning of the year. I steadily grew to warm up to "Remedy Lane" and "One Hour By the Concrete Lake" somewhere in late spring. Now, here I am, PoS firmly planted at the #3 spot on my overall charts behind only Dave Matthews Band and Dream Theater, and catching them would require an act of God himself. Oh, and what I arbitrarily listened to this week was primarily Entropia. I make no assertions of it being anywhere near their best work, but it is something else to listened to after I've played The Perfect Element, Part I into the ground. And a damn good substitute at that. Part of me wishes they'd show flashes of this type of metal in their newer stuff.
    Track of the Week: "Winning a War"

    2. Tool - 27 Plays
    Staying with the heavy proggy theme of the week, Tool comes in at #2. 10,000 Days has established itself as a very respectable effort but on a tier below that of Tool's previous two studio offerings. So those previous studio offerings were what was played. Danny's drumming on "Ticks & Leeches" is still absolutely amazing. Every time I play Tool though I have to play "The Pot" at least once. Not because it's my favorite song, but because I still haven't quite gotten over the vocals going on there.
    Track of the Week: "Ticks & Leeches"

    3. Dave Matthews Band - 25 Plays
    C'mon, you didn't think they'd gone anywhere, did you? Since the last time I've written, one of these two more entries in the DMB Live Tracks series have been released along with The Best of What's Around, Vol. 1. The latest DMB Live Tracks offering is the New Year's Eve show from '96. I like it quite well. If I can register a minor complaint though, can we get a bit more variety in the time period that the Live Tracks releases are coming from? Three of the seven have come from the period between August '95 and December '96, all focusing mostly on Crash. I really would like to see something from more in the 99/2000 era, when the Busted Stuff material was under its rightful monicker of The Lillywhite Sessions. it's DMB though, so these are all petty complaints. And in any event, the versions of "#41" and "Seek Up" on the new DMB Live Tracks Vol. 7 are impressive.
    Track of the Week: "#41"

    4. Medeski Martin & Wood - 24 Plays
    After consulting a good friend of mine, on where to go after my general appreciation of End of the World Party Just In Case I essentially blitzkrieged all available material of MM&W. Most of it really hasn't had time to truly sink in, although I haven't heard anything I don't like. When you get so much of one artist at once though, there's so much of it that you really don't know where to start a real appreciation of it. At least, that's my experience with it, and this seems to be the case here. So while I've spun most of their other stuff a time or two, I find myself still coming back to tunes from End of the World Party constantly. Not that I'm implying this is a bad thing...
    Track of the Week "Bloody Oil"

    5. The Flower Kings
    Every time I tell someone about this band, they chuckle. A name like The Flower Kings, I suppose I can understand why. But the skill on display in Paradox Hotel is no laughing matter. So well put together, and unlike most instrumentally impressive progressive rock, this doesn't come off sounding like months were spent in the studio putting the entire project together with painstaking precision. There's a jazzy element to the lush orchestration of the music, and it's flat out brilliant. I'm definitely interested in tracking down more of this, particularly after finding out that Daniel Gildenlow has collaborated with them in the past (see my above gushing over Pain of Salvation). I'm not sure how that coupling would work out, but I'm eager to find out. Daniel is admittedly a lot darker and more ominous in just about every way than the general warmth of The Flower Kings. One of TFK's vocalists still doesn't quite set well with me, but it's a minor quibble.
    Track of the Week: "Monsters & Men"

    5. Dream Theater - 23 Plays
    The other typical mainstay of the charts on just about a weekly basis. The funny thing about Dream Theater is that I find myself appreciating them only one era at a time. For example, there will be weeks where I it'll have to be Something from the Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence and Train of Thought era. Then that will fade out and be replaced by lots of Images & Words and Awake. This particular week was more of the early 90's era, although a few plays came from the new three disc live release they put out in August.
    Track of the Week: "Innocence Faded"

    7. Rush - 20 Plays
    The heavily progressive albums Rush released in the latter half of the 70's are for my money their best work. But as good as they all are, it should be noted that 2112 is something special. I am prone to falling in love with the first album I hear of a band and never allowing any further work to quite reach that, but I was waist deep in Rush before I snagged 2112 and still find it to be head and shoulders above all of Rush's other work. And, yes, that is a glowing endorsement of 2112 and not meant as a diss on A Farewell To Kings or Hemispheres. It is also a glowing endorsement of Different Stages, namely the performance of 2112's namesake beginning to end.
    Track of the Week: "2112"

    7. DJ Shadow - 20 Plays
    A fellow Last.FM user from all those months ago when I was a frequent contributor to the Last.FM community was a big DJ Shadow fan. His praise definitely sped up my tracking down and consequential appreciation of Shadow's work. One release he gushed over endlessly that I didn't get was In Tune And On Time. That is, until now. My only regret is that I waited this long to find this one. There's still a few pieces of Shadow's material I don't have, so I'm sure getting those would further enhance my enjoyment of the places he takes the originals on this live offering, but that will come in time. And I do wish the whole performance was on the CD. It would have been worth expanding to a double album to see what he did with "Midnight In a Perfect World" amongst others.
    Track of the Week: "Fixed Income"

    9. Cee-Lo - 16 Plays
    I'm still a bit unsure about the staying power of Gnarls Barkley, but one thing's for sure. Both albums of Cee-Lo's solo material are worth having. And playing often. Now that Gnarls has done so well, I'm hoping Cee-Lo can revisit that aspect of his music without too many restrictions from a label. I must say I am quite a big fan of Lo when he's rapping. His singing is pretty good in its own right, but his rhythmic delivery and oftentimes cutting diction is a winner in my book time after time.
    Track of the Week: "Big Ole Words (Damn)"

    10. Led Zeppelin - 15 Plays
    Zeppelin is the official recipient of the "made it into the top ten even though I have little to no recollection of playing them" award. It was just a little here, a little there. A few times popping up when Winamp was hitting me with shuffle goodness, a few times playing some song or other on a whim. Nothing spectacular; the unsung hero of this week's list. And no, that's not just me being lazy and rushing this to completion now that I'm on the tenth slot.
    Track of the Week: "Dazed and Confused"

    New Find of the Week: Usually I reserve this for someone who didn't make it into the top ten, but exceptions aren't uncommon. And I can't not give this to In Tune and On Time this week. I still want that full performance though, dammat.

    So, until next week. Or whenever I feel the urge to write again, whichever comes second.
  • CD Review: Dave Matthews Band - The Best of What's Around, Vol. 1

    9. Nov. 2006, 19:38

    Putting together a greatest hits package for Dave Matthews Band is no job to scoff at. Three innate problems come bundled with the task. Firstly, the band’s discography is downright massive. The second problem comes with the fact that this huge discography features the same material over and over again, at least in name. The band’s six studio albums are respectable bodies of work, to be sure, but they don’t hold a candle to the goods brought by live release after live release. Not only must the right songs be chosen, but the right versions of the right songs have to be included. The third problem is that just throwing on the band’s handful of radio singles will do nothing but alienate the avid DMB fan base, which in DMB’s case is a pretty big chunk of their overall support. Even still, RCA, Dave and Co.’s label, wants to introduce some newcomers into the fold, and this package was the best way they thought to do it.

    And really, the final product isn’t horrendous. In fact, it’s quite impressive. The offering is a double disc compilation, with one disc featuring twelve studio cuts. Two tunes each come from the group’s six studio albums, from 1994’s <i>Under the Table and Dreaming</i> to last year’s inventive and somewhat debated <i>Stand Up</i>. Thankfully, the most radio friendly songs weren’t necessarily the songs that made the cut. Oh, sure, “What Would You Say’, “Gray Street”, and last year’s hit “American Baby” are here in full force, but so are “So Right”, “Crush”, and the compilation’s namesake, “The Best of What’s Around”. These songs are certainly fan favorites, but they became that way through their continuous stunning live renditions and not through extensive radio play. The real cult classics such as “Dreaming Tree” aren’t present, of course, but this is, after all, a greatest hits collection. At least they didn’t by default include “Stay” or “I Did It”, which both received significant radio play but have never quite been the peak of the mountain in the hearts of most devoted Dave Matthews Band fans.

    The reason for DMB devotees to pick up this package is the second disc, which is comprised of eight live samplings selecting by the Dave Matthews Band fan association. The choices seem to come more from recent concerts rather than the material from the mid to late 90’s, but as this information is fresh in the minds of people, (I certainly remember this past year’s tour a little more vividly than 2000’s), this is understandable. The only complaint is that the selected songs are songs which have already frequently been placed on other live releases. Sure, these versions of “Ants Marching”, “Don’t Drink the Water”, and “Stay” are as brilliant as ever, and like all live DMB, they do bring a little something new that hasn’t been demonstrated before. Nonetheless, there are rarities in the Dave Matthews Band setlists that only come out to play on special nights, and a few more of these wouldn’t have been unwelcome. Perhaps a performance of the aforementioned “The Dreaming Tree”? Or maybe the superb “You Never Know?” or one of the truly hair-raising performances of “The Stone”?

    The great thing though about Dave Matthews and his companions is that they can make the same songs sound fresh over and over. So don’t be misled into thinking that just because “Two Step”, “Warehouse”, or “Ants Marching” are yet again included on this release that it’s not worth hearing. This “Two Step”, in fact, was the closer from a 2001 show at Giants Stadium, one that occurred in the middle of a downpour that could be described as torrential if any downpour can. Dave even references the rain within his improvised lyrics close to the song’s beginning, and even someone who hasn’t read numerous accounts of this landmark performance will get the impression they’ve heard something special as the ten minute masterpiece reaches its conclusion.

    It’s a fair assumption to think that most of DMB’s loyalist would have just preferred another three disc live show from some fantastic tour or other. Even better if it was one they attended. But if you really haven’t heard Dave at some point, the twelve studio samplings will give you an idea of what you’re in for, and the live cuts should illustrate just why this group’s live show is so widely respected. <i>The Best of What’s Around, Vol. 1</i> should by no means be considered a definitive compilation, but as an introduction for the newbie and just another adddition for the veteran it will serve nicely. I will offer my sympathy, however, to those who didn’t preorder the collection, since preorders shipped with an additional disc of live material which surpasses the official second disc by quite a significant margin, thanks mostly to jaw dropping versions of “#41” and “The Last Stop”. Hey, there’s always eBay, right?

    Similar Artists:
    John Mayer
    Counting Crows
    Jack Johnson
    Third Eye Blind
    Bela Flec
  • Don't Panic. We Are At No Damned Discos

    26. Sep. 2006, 1:42

    I don’t do memes very often, so cherish this one. It doesn’t completely reek of idiocy.
    If you could make an album containing songs from your favourite albums of all time,
    how would it look?
    You have to pick songs according to the following rules:
    - Song No. 1 must be No. 1 on the original album, song No. 2 must be No. 2 on the
    original album etc.
    - Max 1 song per original album.
    - 8 to 15 tracks.
    1. Lamb of God – “Ruin”
    2. Opeth – “Deliverance”
    3. Clutch – “The Mob Goes Wild”
    4. Dave Matthews Band – “You Never Know”
    5. Dream Theater – “A Change of Seasons”
    6. Thompson Dearth – “Harmony”
    7. Our Lady Peace - “Thief”
    8. Dream Theater – “Learning to Live”
    9. Pantera – “Floods”
    10. Shadows Fall – “A Fire In Babylon”
    11. K’s Choice – “Dad”
    12. Pain of Salvation – The Perfect Element
    13. Tool – “Aenima”
    14. Pain of Salvation – Beyond the Pale
    15. Cee-Lo – “Under Tha Influence (Follow Me)
  • CD Review: Strapping Young Lad - The New Black

    11. Jul. 2006, 22:58

    It is fitting, albeit in a disturbing way, that musical mastermind Devin Townsend has so many different projects, each neatly separated from the others. After all, the man does suffer from bipolar disorder, and he has more than once suggested that his various projects are ways of channeling his contrasting attitudes. When his more chaotic side comes out, the result is Strapping Young Lad, a group that has gained a reputation over their 12 years of existence as one of the most brutal, intense, and energetic metal bands around. Townsend’s other material lends itself to more progressive and less aggressive elements, but Strapping Young Lad constantly waits in the wings to unleash another album of fully charged compositions incorporating a number of different metal subgenres. The only requirement? The final product needs to be an unyielding blend of amplified guitars, machine gun double bass, and anything else necessary to start a mosh pit in the most docile of locations.

    This, of course, is what anyone picking up Strapping Young Lad’s new offering, The New Black, would be expecting. I’m very hesitant to say this record does not sound like Strapping Young Lad. It does. It’s certainly the work of Devin Townsend, if nothing else. But the line of separation between Strapping Young Lad and Devin’s more grounded work seems to have been blurred, and The New Black is the result. Evidence of this is offered up right away on the opening track “Decimator”. Where one would expect a blinding fast blast beat, they find a more tempered but not unpleasing drive, anchored by drummer Gene Hoglan. The first real shock comes in with Devin’s first vocals on the album being not of the throat-tearing variety, but a more melodic, less gravelly brand that one would be more likely to find on one of Devin’s solo albums. At the end of the song, my reaction was primarily positive, but this didn’t seem to be completely in line with the Strapping Young Lad material I’d heard before.

    That reaction, the feeling of having heard something definitely different but not altogether unwelcome, remained prevalent throughout most of the album. Sure, some songs are the unmitigated ferocity I’d expected going in, such as the very bluntly titled “You Suck”, but more of the 11 tracks found on The New Black have passages that are just not the chaos Strapping Young Lad has grown to represent. The important thing to keep in mind is that this is not entirely a bad thing. “Almost Again” alternates between Devin’s soaring, rich vocals one minute and wild anarchy in music form the next. “Wrong Side” hosts a very impressive bit of call and response between Devin and second guitarist Jed Simon, layered on top of some subtle, cavernous synthesizers. The frantic thrashiness of Strapping Young Lad’s work is still there and not completely taking any back seats, but as a change of pace The New Black is sprinkled with many facets of music that had been left out of Strapping Young Lad before. The final result is something that can’t be classified as thrash or industrial metal nor progressive rock but takes many fantastic cues from both.

    The best example of these new ideas leading to great tunes is found as the album reaches its close. The last two tracks, “Polyphony” and the title track come together to form one powerful musical experience that I, for one, will keep playing for some time. The first of the two songs is an intro itself, featuring the most drastic departure from Strapping Young Lad’s typical material on the entire album. Softer guitars and Devin’s crooning vocals eventually give way to some cymbals and infrequent toms and an increased ambient soundscape. When the track changes, the crescendo continues, resulting in Devin’s best metallic growling placed over numerous dubs of Devin’s voice singing counterpoint lyrics, giving the impression that Mr. Townsend is bringing this calculated intensity complete with an army. This song and album close with one of the most pointed returns to traditional Strapping Young Lad found throughout the CD’s 55 minutes, reminding us that Strapping Young Lad will never completely change their stripes.

    There is a distinct possibility that this will be the conclusion of Strapping Young Lad’s work. Their record deal has reached its end, and there’ve been conflicting reports on whether or not Strapping Young Lad has ended alongside it. If this turns out to be the closing of the book on this band, The New Black will be an interesting final chapter. On one hand, it’s not in all respects the Strapping Young Lad that has mercilessly exploded through the last 12 years of metal. On the other, it may be one of their finer offerings. Old fans will have to adapt to hearing amore melodic, restrained element fused with the usually frenzied hallmarks of Strapping Young lad, but should they be willing to do so, a very fine album awaits. For those unfamiliar with the quartet, this is an excellent, if not truly indicative, place to start. And for those who may have found Strapping Young Lad too disordered for their taste in the past, you just might find that The new Black is a bit closer to what you’d like to hear. The new Black is one of those albums that many people should say is great, but will most likely never be called legendary.

    Related Artists
    The Devin Townsend Band
    Fear Factory
  • The Diary of Jane

    7. Jun. 2006, 2:30

    I’ve heard the new Breaking Benjamin song three or four times now. Called “Diary of Jane”, it is the first taste of the upcoming album, Phobia, which will be released on August 8. I’ll start checking for leaks on Independence Day.

    So how is the tune? Well, when I first heard it, I thought, “Is this Breaking Benjamin?” That is to say, it definitely carries some of their distinctive sound, but there’s a slight change in the atmosphere of the music that made me second guess myself when it came on. Ben frequently uses a tactic I’ve associated with Three Days Grace, that being overdubbing his voice an octave below the actual melody. Once in a while this can be a good effect, but the aforementioned Three Days Grace does it to death, and I hope Breaking Benjamin’s new material doesn’t fall back on this bit of studio trickery too often. In all fairness, it’s not like Breaking Benjamin didn’t use it all in earlier albums, and they knew how to moderate its use then.

    I definitely like the song, but I hope the rest of the album is better rather than worse than the radio single. Were “Diary of Jane” on We Are Not Alone, I’d probably consider it one of the weaker tracks. There’s still the crunchy guitar and melodic vocals that I’ really like about the band, but there’s nothing about this song that jumps out and grabs me. I’m not dreading the release of the album by any means, but if “Diary of Jane’ ends up one of the better tracks on Phobia, there might be some cause for concern.

    As a drummer, I was curious about how Chad Szeliga would effect the band’s sound. I’ve made it no secret that their former drummer, Jeremy Hummel, was able to subtley be one of the more accomplished drummers getting lots of radio play. It’s not really fair to judge Cha’ds contribution based on “Diary of Jane”, but I will say that, like the song itself, nothing he did jumped out at me. That said, Jeremy had some docile songs (“Medicate and “Away”) and then could really bring his A game on other tracks (“Natural Life” and “Blow Me Away”). This will be something for at least me to keep an ear on as I get to hear more tracks. Now I just have to wait for it to leak. I’ve been waiting for their new release for quite some time, and I hope it doesn’t disappoint. You can listen to “Diary of Jane” at http://acw.loudeye.com/buenavista/bvmg/hollywoodrecords/breakingbenjamin/breaking_benjamin_the_diary_of_jane_wma_hi.asx
    Windows Media stream.
  • May 28-June 4: I Died... And Then Was Brought Back to Life

    5. Jun. 2006, 0:02

    I’d like to apologize to the both of you that were heartbroken over the fact that me and my Last.FM self were completely out of commission for a couple weeks there. My PC situation was gnarly, and for a while I had little music on my PC. No doubt that would have skewed my charts, so when I did have Winamp playing, I left Audioscrobbler turned off. Last Sunday it came back to life though. And here I am with the first week of my resurrected music library. If you care to, note the shift in some listening habits over the next couple months. You may notice that having to rebuild my music library has done a small thing or two to its contents. On with the recap.

    1.Dream Theater – 51 plays
    Dream Theater takes the first top spot back. It’s mostly having to do with me stumbling across copies of most of their rarer offerings. International Fanclub CD’s and the like. I also took the time to personally investigate each nugget found in Octavarium, which according to drummer Mike Portnoy is essentially one big nugget. That project definitely played a role in why they took numero uno.

    2A. Fear Factory – 19 plays
    Coming in a distant second ratio wise is Fear Factory. Just a bit of this, bit of that from them. I don’t even remember listening to them that much. Which is the real oddity in the whole thing. They’re fourth in my overall charts (125 plays), and yet I’d not even consider them in my top tier of favorite bands. Good? Certainly. I’m starting to think they’ve got an under the table deal going on with WinAmp’s shuffle though. I’ve had Remanufacture and [album artist=Fear Factory]Soul of a New Machine-/album] sitting on the drive for a couple weeks and haven’t given either much attention yet. Maybe that’ll come this week. Then again, maybe it won’t.

    2B. 50 Cent
    Again, an artist that places high for a reason other than that I really, really like them. A lot of rap has a leg up in any system like Audioscrobbler because of those damn skits and having 17-22 tracks or so on each album. So spinning Fi’ty’s debut once puts him where he is. Not that I’m ashamed of spinning either of these discs. Quite the contrary. Sometimes I don’t want to have to pay attention to my music to enjoy it. In times like these, I usually turn to rap, some less diverse metal artists, and lately ambient, Brian Eno esc. stuff. During finals’ weeks next school year you’ll probably see a lot of that populating the charts rather than these mind-grabbing acts like Dream Theater. Let’s move along, shall we?

    4A. Dave Matthews Band – 18 plays
    Ah, there they are. Can’t keep Dave and the boys out of the charts for too terribly long. For my own mental well being, I kept DMB out of the charts a bit. See, I had tickets to the two night stand at Deer Creek in Noblesville this weekend. I had no way of getting to the shows, so I was forced to eventually sell them so as to not take the hit on the cost of the tickets. Had I gone to the show, DMB would probably have spanked Dream Theater quite handily. And for the next two weeks you could probably bet on my charts being topped by DMB by at least 100 tracks. But I didn’t see them. So normalcy will prevail.

    4B. Pain of Salvation – 18 plays
    I’m still absolutely obsessed with PoS. So diverse. I still think [album artist=Pain of Salvation]One Hour By the Concrete Lake[/album] is absolutely beautiful. Start to finish. I’m so in love with this album that I haven’t even properly listened to the rest of their discography. I haven’t even touched [album artist=Pain of Salvation]12:5[/album] or [album artist=Pain of Salvation]Be[/album] once. Should do that. It’ll be amazingly hard to pull myself away from songs like “New Year’s Eve” and “Water” though.

    6. Joe Satriani – 16 plays
    I gotSteve Vai’s [album artist=Steve Vai]Sex & Religion[/album] very recently. So recently that I haven’t listened to it yet. I’m sure listening to a bit of Satch this week will be a good prelude to that though. As always, it was [album artist=Joe Satriani]Flying In a Blue Dream[/album], as I have nothing else. Which leads me to an inquiry of sorts. Where next should I go if I want to get another Satch album? I, like most, don’t care for his vocals, and I really like some of his cleaner sounding, mellowed stuff. Things like “The Forgotten” or “Day At the Beach”, although I have no problem with turning the distortion up. I just find his compositions to be of a higher quality when he’s NOT shredding as fast as possible.

    7. Sufjan Stevens – 15 plays
    Gave [album artist=Sufjan Stevens]Greetings From Michigan the Great Lake State[/album] a listen this week. Good, as usual. While it doesn’t have as many positively brilliant tracks like its followup, [album artist=Sufjan Stevens]Illinois[/album], I could argue that it’s a more complete package as a CD. I really like the fluid transitions from song to song, making the entire album feel like an experience in and of itself. On a related note, [album artist=Sufjan Stevens]The Avalanch[/album] leaked, but I haven’t listened to it yet. For those that have, does it live up to its description of Illinois B sides and outtakes? I know that’s what it is in theory, but I could see Sufjan’s rambling self deviate from Illinoi’s sound, even during the recording of Illinois itself. I don’t know what to think about getting the album. I will, of course, but I always get nervous with releases like these, since they tend to have been B sides and outtakes for a reason. So any impressions of The Avalanch would be welcome.

    8A. Our Lady Peace – 14 plays
    I listened to [album artist=Our Lady Peace]Healthy In Paranoid Times[/album] this week. It may never be on a level with some of the OLP releases of old, but the disc is starting to grow on me a bit. It’s good in the sense that it’s decent rock, but it lacks a lot of what made older OLP great. Less of the distinctive vocals, fewer superb lyrics ranging from the cutting to the quirky, and a seemingly more formulaic sound as opposed to the slightly random aura they gave off before. You’d never hear anything like “Car Crash” from [album artist=Our Lady Peace]Clumsy[/album], and that is a bad thing. But if I toss out my idea of what I’d like to hear and just take their sixth album for what it is, I find it still pleasing to some extent.

    8B. Gin Blossoms – 14 plays
    Gin Blossoms are a band I will always pair with my younger days. Yes, I sound like your grandfather now. I have their greatest hits album purely for nostalgia, since it has all the songs I remember singing to in the car back in the mid 90’s, going to school or the pool. One of their CD’s was one of the first CD’s my brother bought, and his was the first CD player in the house back in 1995, so I’d always go into his room to listen to the magical device that plays little circles rather than clunky cassettes. Anyway, I was feeling like a trip down memory lane. So, they got 14 songs. Simple as that.

    10. Lifehouse – 13 plays
    For those not aware, Jason Wade is a superb lyricist. Even on Lifehouse’s second and least satisfying album, he ties words together in such a way that makes up for the unspectacular instrumental delivery. It’s not about technicality with Lifehouse, as with many excellent bands. Jason’s slightly mumbled vocals combined with his beautiful poems put to music are more than enough to give Lifehouse a consistent spot in my playlist. Pay attention, Scott Stapp. This is what you wish you were.

    I must give honorable mention to System of a Down, Porcupine Tree, Neal Morse, Shinedown, and The One AM Radio, as all also had 13 plays. Sadly for them, Last.FM saw fit to give Lifehouse the last spot in this week’s chart. Maybe next week. I’ve already listened to [album artist=The One AM Radio]A Name Writ In Water[/album] once, so it’s not out of the question.

    My new find of this week is Pantera’s [album artist=Pantera]Reinventing the Steel[/album]. I’d shunned it for a long time, since it had received some less than favorable reviews from some fellow Pantera fans. Not that I’m so easily swayed by others. I’d just heard from nearly everyone it’s a weak offering by Pantera’s standards, so I kept putting it on the back burner. What I failed to remember is that Pantera’s usual standards are, well, quite high. Reinventing the Steel is no [album artist=Pantera]Vulgar Display of Power[/album] or what might be my personal favorite, [album artist=Pantera]The Great Southern Trendkill[/album], but it is full of chugging riffs, cool guitar effects, a few nifty solos, and Phil Anselmo’s usual biting commentary on any number of topics. Standout tracks for me mostly come in the middle of the album. “Revolution Is My Name”, “You’ve Got to Belong To It”, and “Death Rattle” are all worth many listens.

    Until next week, or something else that comes up that warrants writing about…
  • My Answered Plea

    29. Mai. 2006, 5:21

    I just quickly wanted to drop a thanks to all of you who helped me with the recovery of my music library. The endeavor is not complete. Chances are it never will be. Tonight I reached the conclusion that enough was recovered to turn Audioscrobbler back on though, and that is, for me, a pretty big milestone. There’s still certainly some of it I’ll never get back. Some of it I don’t really want to. And there’s plenty of new musical exploration I’ve been able to do on account of people not only sending me what I had, but using that as an avenue to point me at some new bands I’d not really gotten a chance to investigate yet.

    The wishlist is moved, and I’m doing a lot better job of updating it now that it’s off LAST.FM. Sorry, it’s a great site, but it’s just not as easy to maintain entries as it is on LiveJournal with a client like Semagic. The entries are public, however, and I won’t deceive you by saying the wishlist is exclusively lost treasures anymore. I’ve started to incorporate unheard music into it again.

    The wishlist can be found at http://silverstarhawk.livejournal.com/248309.html?mode=reply
    And now that I have some music back, I’m more than open to the idea of returning the favor. Here’s my playlist, which I will also make every effort to keep updated.
    Obviously, I like to at least investigate the possibility of trades, but I don’t keep score, uploading one album for each album uploaded for me. If you really want something and catch me on a good day, I’ll probably upload it anyway. And, for those of you who rose to the occasion in my hour of need, feel free to take your pick for an indefinite amount of time.

    P.S. My music directory stands at 13GB now. You all can be proud of that. And, no, I haven’t bought a USB drive yet to start backing it all up on. That’s soon though, I promise.
  • I'm Beggin'...

    11. Mai. 2006, 1:19

    Gone. All of it. All 5,000 or so songs. All 42.3 gigs of music. All wiped out because Windows cannot read its own dynamic storage when running the setup utility. It claimed my media partition was "unpartitioned space". I thought it would be safe to install Windows on supposedly unpartitioned space. When Windows was installed, my music was gone.

    Oh, but that's not the worst of it. I have a data recovery tool sitting around here, called Recover My Files. Damn good application. It even claims to be able to recover formatted drives. So, I figured I'd put its greatest boast to the test.

    It found all of the mp3's...That is to say, it found about 15,000 or so mp3 files. All various chunks of songs. it's almost like having your music ripped away from you and shattered, then thrown back at you. "Here you are, kid. Enjoy listening to this fifteen second clip of The Devin Townsend Band."

    Not all of it is truly lost. Only recently did I stop burning most of my music to CD's, so I have a large percentage of it still sitting around in CD booklets. I'll get on the task of ripping that tonight.

    The point of this post, aside from lamenting this tragedy to those who might be able to understand how bad losing 42 gigs of music is, is to ask for help. Below I've listed the albums, by band, that I do not have backed up. If you could possibly find it in your heart to send me these albums, well, I would forever be grateful. I'm on a college network for another five days or so, so YouSendIt and similar services will have to do until then. Once I'm home we can do IM, IRC, whatever suits your fancy. I know most requests for filesharing go under the radar and aren't this blatant. But most requests for it aren't in the hopes of rebuilding a 42.3 gig music library that was lost by a combination of my admitted carelessness and Windows' tricky ways. If you have some moral issue with it, well, I understand. If you can contribute to my cause though, well...You'd rock hardcore. I will be editing the entry to reflect the albums I still haven't found a way to regain. So if you see it on this list, i could still use it. Without further adue....

    Pain of Salvation One Hour By the Concrete Lake, Remedy Lane, Entropia, The Perfect Element Part I, Be
    K's Choice Almost Happy, Cocoon Crash
    Counting Crows This Desert Life
    Terence Blanchard Flow, Bounce
    Placebo Meds
    Sarah Bettens Scream
    Clutch The Elephant Riders, Clutch, Slow Hole to China, Transnational Speedway League
    Opeth Damnation, Deliverance, Ghost Reveries, Blackwater Park, Still Life, Orchid, Morningrise
    Guster Guster On Ice
    Mae The Everglow
    Pantera Reinventing the Steel
    Chick Corea Three Quartets
    Sevendust Next
    Robin Trower Bridge of Sighs
    Fear Factory Obsolete
    Sufjan Stevens Illinois, Michigan, Seven Swans, Enjoy Your Rabbit
    Sepultura Roots
    Rush A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres, Permanent Waves, Vapor Trails
    Nightwish Once, Angels Fall First
    Yellowjackets Time Squared
    SoilworkA Predator's Portrait, Natural Born Chaos
    Porcupine TreeDeadwing, In Absentia
    OSI Office of Strategic Influence
    Neal Morse One, ?
    Alien Ant Farm Truant
    Sonata Arctica Silence
    Kaki King Legs To Make Us Longer, Everybody Loves You
    Meshuggah Destroy Erase Improve, Chaosphere
    Vanden Plas Beyond Daylight, Far Off Grace
    Mahavishnu Orchestra Birds of Fire
    Demons & Wizards Touched By the Crimson King
    Devin Townsend Terrea, Ocean Machine, Accelerated Evolution, Synchestra, City, Alien (Yes, those include "The Devine Townsend Band" and "Strapping Young Lad")
    Farmakon A Warm Glimpse
    Evergrey In Search of Truth, Solitude Dominance Tragedy
    Better Than Ezra Delux
    Metallica Kill 'em All
    Gonzalo Rubalcaba Rhapsodia, The Blessing, Supernova, Imagine, The Trio
    DJ Shadow Endtroducing, The Private Press, The Private Repress
    m-83 Before the Dawn Heals Us
    T.I. I'm Serious
    Eminem Curtain Call
    Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers Free For All, Indestructible, Moanin', A Night In Tunisia
    Lee Morgan Cornbread, Search For the New Land
    Miles Davis Bitch's Brew
    Bill Evans Live at Town Hall
    Asylum Street Spankers Spanker Madness
    Trapt Someone In Control
    Herbie Hancock Headhunters
    Machine Head Hellalive
    Between the Buried and Me Alaska
    Spirit Caravan The Last Embrace
    Blues Traveler Four
    Oceansize Everyone Into Position
    Pure Reason Revolution The Dark Third
    Superior Unique
    Dave Matthews Band Complete Weekend On the Rocsk (Disc 6 only!)
    Corrosion of ConformityDeliverance

    There's quite a bit more, but I want to see if this outlet for reacquiring music proves as beneficial as I'm hoping it will be. If you do upload anything, man, I can't thank you enough.

    Edit Is Accurate as of 8:50 AM EDT, may 12
  • A Glimpse of the Search to Make Yourself

    29. Apr. 2006, 7:27

    OK. I’m sounding off on some new discoveries, old favorites, and revitalized appreciation. I just like writing about music. Sue me.

    Were it not for another member of last.FM, K'Hash to be specific, I'd have no idea who Farmakon was. He threw out the recommendation in a brief journal post about a week and a half ago, and I put it in the always expanding line of music recommendations. I finally got a chance to listen to A Warm Glimpse, and I will admit I was impressed.

    The first thing I was listening for was the comparisons to Opeth, since that's what I hear most about the band in perusing the world wide web. Yes, fans of Opeth may count on getting at least something out of Farmakon. There're some things that Farmakon does differently than Opeth though. The influence is there, but they definitley make an attempt to lay their own groundwork..

    The reason why the opeth comparison seems only too obvious is most likely the vocalist's most frequently used death growl. It does bare a striking resemblance to Mr. Akerfeldt. Further exploration will show listeners a number of various screams, shrieks, and growls throughout the album. I was reminded a couple of times of Lamb of God's Randy Blithe. On two particular tracks, Same and Flavored Numerology, the vocals really are the closest you can get to the metal version of scatting, sounding like the bastard child of Korn's Jonathan Davis (please, don't let that be a turnoff) and the aforementioned Randy Blithe on his earlier, more experimental vocals such as those in Resurrection when the band was still under the name of Burn the Priest. The fact that "Flavored Numerology"'s particular segment comes over a trippy, blues guitar solo only enhances the effect.

    Whoever this drummer is has some serious chops. Let's just clear that up right now. At times he reminds me of Dream Theater's Mike Portnoy with how he structures his fills, although the rhythms he lays down are much more thrashy than just about anything the boys in DT would do. The bassist is also pretty good, and thankfully, whoever mixed this album put the bass up in the front where it can really be appreciated. No Jason Newsted treatment from these guys. The guitar work, (I think there's two different guitarists), is decent. I got a Soilwork impression a few times, but really neither the riffs or solos are going to be things to write home to Mother about. That said, they're serviceable. And I doubt too many people write to Mom about their new finding in metal anyway.

    Associations to Opeth can still be drawn in Farmakon's songwriting, but I don't know. I didn't really get an Opeth vibe at many parts where the death metal growl wasn't in play. The songs are usually at a higher tempo, and while they do fluctuate from aggressive riffs to quiet, acoustic passages, these tend to have less of a transition and are much more sporadic than Opeth. I suppose it'd be fair to say their songs are somewhat like Opeth with a heavy dosage of ADD thrown in, but even that is simply for the sake of making a comparison that will be familiar to more people. Melodically, the vocals are much lower in pitch and, really, are more quirky. There's more of a warbly vibrado carried through certain parts of the album. And I'd say there are vocal lines that are about an octave under most of what I've heard Mikael sing. The trend for Farmakon is also more ascending and powerful rather than Mikael's introspective, crooning melodies.

    I know I've spent most of this space trying to create separation between Opeth and Farmakon. There is a distinct familiarity to be sure, and the music needs to be closely attended to for the differences to make themselves prevalent. I only try to bring these out, because I don't think Opeth fans will necessarily like Farmakon. Alternatively, I don't think you need to necessarily tear yourself away from Blackwater Park to get into Farmakon. Whichever angle you approach it from, A Warm Glimpse is definitley worth more than just a passing investigation.

    Fans of the 60’s era of jazz and probably most fans of any form of jazz will no doubt be familiar with Lee Morgan. Chances are they will be most familiar with The Sidewinder which was, well, a damn fine release. Just a few months after, its overlooked follow up, Search For The New Land was put out. I could argue that the lineup on Search for the new Land is superior to that of The Sidewinder, with Herbie Hancock taking piano and Reggie Workman taking bass. Joe Henderson is replaced on sax by Wayne Shorter, who was just beginning to get a hold of his unique brand of soloing, and Grant Green adds a sprinkling of guitar to round out the sextet.

    The title track clocks in at just under 16 minutes, but it really doesn’t seem this long. The first half or so of the head is a very loosely metered set of chords, and from this you can tell that Morgan was continuing to experiment and not just rehashing The Sidewinder and expecting Search For the New Land to live off its successes. Both Morgan and Hancock deliver their best solos on the record within this title track, although they both have a few more that are worth mentioning on the other four tunes.

    Green’s role on the album was very tame yet very tasteful. His comping was very subtle, and his solos, while good, never strayed far outside of the box. I did like the added flavor he brought to the session, but he must have been bored during some parts of it. I can just imagine Grant there sipping a beer or lighting a cigar while Lee’s red in the face from having to play those screaming notes at the top of a trumpet’s range.

    Now… Shorter, he was probably never bored. Especially after ripping off a solo as good as the one in Morgan The Pirate. He only takes a few measures to get his footing, then goes running all over the chord progression laid down by Hancock and Workman. The thing I liked most about the solo was how he managed to enunciate each note clearly, even during the fastest parts, avoiding the almost atonal, saxophone mush that some more ambitious musicians will encounter.

    I won’t take anything away from The Sidewinder. The song is a jazz classic, and the album is a must-have for any jazz fan. It is criminal, however, that Search For the New Land gets passed over so very often. From what I’ve heard, Morgan took the lack of success with the more experimental Search For the New Land to heart. Future efforts, such as Cornbread reportedly found themselves trying to make lightning strike twice. Cornbread is something I’ve got but haven’t been able to really listen to yet, so I’ll get back with you on that one. In the meantime, go hunt this release down if you like jazz, instrumental goodness, etc. Even check it out if you don’t. It’s not the most accessible jazz album I’ve ever heard, but if you can get into it there’s a lot to be loved.

    My last dissection for now comes from Incubus. Namely Make Yourself. I somehow got this CD back in eighth grade. I don’t know how, exactly. Either way, it was a sign of my blossoming but still unpolished appreciation for music. I liked it. I found it interesting. But for me, the novelty wore off kind of quickly. I think I gave it to a friend of mine the next year, preferring to again rattle the dorm I was living in with Chaos A.D., some old school Green Day, or any of my other current musical obsessions at the time. Not that they were bad, but I do wish they’d have moved over sooner to let Incubus in. I needed to hear S.C.I.E.N.C.E before I would finally give Incubus their fair chunk of playtime. Now I’m glad I did though.

    The decline in Incubus’s work over the last few years is definitely there. I don’t think it really started until after Make Yourself though. This disc definitely has a slightly more commercial appeal to it than S.C.I.N.C.E does, but I still find it just as energetic and fun to listen to. That said, the lyrical content on here is extraordinary. The recurring theme of making your own way, even if it means clashing with the traditional or the conformist, finds ways to slither in without banging you over the head each time. Unless, of course, that’s what Brandon wanted to happen, as in the rebellious Out From Under. That, by the way, is one of if not the best song on the album. Funny how it’s tucked in right behind the first huge single off the album, Pardon Me and at the very end to boot.

    Musically, I don’t think Incubus really gets all the credit they might be deserving of. Jose Pasillas is one of the funkiest drummers today to actually get some widespread attention. I really like Dirk’s bass work too. The grooves those two lay down for Brandon, Mike, and DJ Kilmore are fucking awesome. Just check out The Warmth if you don’t feel like taking my word for it.

    I could go back and forth over this and S.C.I.E.N.C.E for quite some time. Both are amazing. I’ll just leave it be with that they’re both amazing albums. If you have one, go and get the other. If you have neither, I pity you. And if you can, snag the Make Yourself Bonus Disc. I think Pardon Me (acoustic), Stellar (acoustic) and Make Yourself (acoustic) are the same ones that are found on When Incubus Attacks, Volume 1, but if you don’t have that, know that all three are amazing. The acoustic version of Stellar kicks the studio version in the nuts and makes fun of its mom. There’s also Drive (Orchestral Live Version) on the bonus disc, and that’s pretty good too.

    Until I find more music to ramble on about…Ta ta.
  • A Copycat Am I--Charts for April 16 to April 23

    26. Apr. 2006, 17:53

    I’m blatantly ripping off a new facet of my weekly summary from another Last.FM user. I’m not going to give him credit until the end of the post though, because in his infinite lack of wisdom, he ripped on Dream Theater in the same entry. He might as well have ripped on Dave Matthews Band, the fool! Anyway, on with my plagiarism.

    “ I'm back. This week, I want to take a slightly different spin on the weekly artist shtick. See, I'm noticing something about last.fm. It's uncannily telling about me and my taste in a lot of ways. Maybe not in terms of the overall charts, but from week to week, I look at the artists that sit on the cusp of recognition (i.e. 11 or lower on the weekly chart) and I just go, "Wow... that's pretty damn true. I did listen to them a lot." It's the line bebween listening to an artist a lot, and just under a lot. It's those artists that you listen to enough to apreciate them because they're new, but not so much that they make the top ten. This is totally unbelievably scary when it comes to predicting my habits. So, instead of a top ten, I'll do a top fifteen, because I think the little guys deserve some recognition. Plus, my weekly listening habits are stagnant right now for the most part, as I'm seriously into
    them at present. So, into the fray, comrades!”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. So, while the originator of that post is forced to listen to James LaBrie sing ABBA songs, I’ll commence with my own top fifteen for the week. Which is ironic, since this week there’s a six-way tie at #10.

    I’d say I’ve reached the point where I’m obsessed with Clutch, as indicated by their taking the top spot for a second straight week with 46 tracks played. Anyone can look at my overall charts and tell that I really have a special appreciation for Dream Theater and Dave Matthews Band, since they have at least twice more on their own than anyone else in the list. Clutch might just close that distance at this pace. I’m sure I’ll slow down with them eventually, but I’ve just acquired so much new stuff lately. I explore the new stuff and continue to come back to the old stuff, namely Live in Flint and Robot Hive/Exodus. The new material this week was Transnational Speedway League. I thought after the first track that I’d finally found a Clutch album I didn’t like, since it was so different from the addictive grooves of newer Clutch and just seemed to lack a lot of my favorite things about the band. By the time 12 Ounce Epilogue was over though, I knew there was an animalistic, instinctive liking I have towards this album without being able to say I liked any particular thing about it. It’s no Blast Tyrant, but it is Clutch and holds serve in its own way.

    Dave Matthews Band, speak of the devil, spends its first week outside of the top spot with 33 plays. On one hand, DMB dropped. On the other hand, it’s a testament to how much I like DMB when they can offer me no new material and still consistently pull in 30 plays every week. I guess you could say I’m a DMB fanatic. I suppose they do have an advantage with the pure quantity of material I have of them, (3.3 gigs, not counting bootlegs, which I only listen to rarely). They’re great. That’s all I can say. No real consistency from any given album that got played, it was just a track to wake me up or reenergize the day a bit. I guess Under The Table And Dreaming got most of the attention, but most of the plays came from live cd’s just playing that album’s given songs.

    For such an instrumentalist snob as I can be sometimes, it’s funny how Evanescence has found a home high both in my overall charts and in this week’s charts. To be specific, they come in third with 23 plays. The answer to that anomaly, of course, is Amy Lee, whose voice for me is just damned addictive. I can’t help it, really. This week was primarily the older, grittier Origin, which I don’t know if I like as much as Fallen, but it is a handful of different tracks to keep things fresh.

    Dream Theater of course made its appearance with 20 plays in the fourth slot. I snagged a copy of Acoustic Dreams, but the quality is wretched. I know this recording is niche and don’t know if it’s even official, but if it is…wow, that’s horrid quality. It sounds like 32 KBPS MP3’s, only at 256 KBPS. And then some. This is the second time I’ve gotten the album; the first time the archive was corrupted. Maybe I’m just destined to not have it. Or at least not have the right version. or maybe I do, and that would be sad in its own right. But DT still rocks.

    50 Cent is in the #5 position. Felt an urge one night for Get Rich Or Die Tryin. Played it. That’s 18 right there, and I must’ve played one track of his somewhere else throughout the week. I have to satisfy my hip hop/rap indulgence at least once a week, after all.

    Joe Satriani also pulled in 19 plays this week. Most of it came off Flying In A Blue Dream. Good little album when looking for some quick guitar virtuosity. I have yet to check out anything else of his or related artists, I.E. Steve Vai and am in no hurry too. A guitar album that is just good ol’ shredding does the musical mind good now and then.

    Mae will be one of those unspectacular rock groups that I love for no reason other than I just like their sound. They got 19 plays this week also. I will say that We’re So Far Away is simply beautiful. I imagine it’ll be one of the songs I learn for myself on piano before too long. It will actually be a bit of a challenge for me too. I am a drummer first and foremost, after all, so my piano playing could use some work. This journal is about other’s music though, so I’ll move along.

    I don’t listen to enough Sublime for them to really have an accurate spot on these charts. Sadly, they end up behind artists of whom I have a lot more material. I’ve heard all three of Sublime’s albums at some point, but the only one I really continually come back to is Sublime. So it gets played on occasion, and then they go back on the shelf. When I do play those fantastic 17 tracks though, I’m very glad that I do.

    David Gray’s 16 tracks, coming in at ninth, came almost primarily from his two more recent albums, White Ladder and A New Day At Midnight. I have Life In Slow Motion, but it’s just not doing it for me. I think it’s too orchestrated. White Ladder and A New Day at Midnight do an excellent job of falling between the living room atmosphere of earlier work and the overly produced Life In Slow Motion. If I needed to pick one side of the spectrum though, I’ll take the raw Flesh before the new album.

    Of course, Tool got into the top ten this week, and they and five other groups are all clumped together with 15 plays. yes, I like 10,000 Days. I’m not to the point where I can compare it with previous Tool releases, but I do like it, will continue to listen to it, and might find it growing on me the more and more I listen to it. I will admit that Danny Carey is a bit less inventive this time out, which is a pity. I always liked the new, unexpected touches he brought to the table. The beginning of the album definitely seems to be a bit stronger, with 10,000 Days (Wings For Marie Part 2), Jambi and Vicarious being very good. Listening to later songs might make me appreciate them more, but I found that when trying to listen to all of the album straight through, my attention wandered a bit, probably detracting from songs like Right in Two.

    I spun Rubber Soul this week, and that’s the vast majority of where their 15 tracks come from. I don’t have as big a The Beatles obsession as it seems Last.FM on the whole does, but the boys from Liverpool definitely have their place in any self-respecting music fan’s collection, or so I believe. At least everyone, I hope, has an appreciation for them in some form or fashion. No more need be said on them really. I don’t get ecstatic over each new release from the Beatles vault that comes out, but I definitely do like spinning a Beatles disc every few weeks.

    Another solution to my frequent need for classic prog this week was Rush. I also gave a few songs off one little victory another listen. Still inferior to older work, (I contend they never did anything better than their three concept albums in the late 70’s) I find it worth putting on as background music sometimes. Still amazed at Peart’s restraint on there. I don’t know if he’s getting old, uninspired, or both.

    Jack Johnson also had 15 plays this week. Credit Brushfire Fairy Tales for all of it. Since it’s, uh, the only Jack Johnson I have. I think I had a few songs off his new album at one point, but I don’t know where they got off to. I might have lost them when my hard drive went tits up last December.

    I’m still very happy with my recent exploration of Pain of Salvation. Happy enough to play another 15 tracks by them. I love One Hour By The Concrete Lake more every time I put it on. I have The Perfect Element Part I but haven’t gotten a chance to listen to it yet. I’ve learned that with PoS, it’s best to listen to an album for the first time beginning to end, so I’m waiting for a good chunk of time to make sure I don’t deprive myself of that when I do listen to it.

    Rounding out my first top 15 is Poets of the Fall. Most of this comes from their new album, Carnival of Rust, which I didn’t even know came out until a week ago today. But I did get it and am satisfied. Not impressed, or at least not yet. There’s some songs that have the magic found on Signs of Life, but I know a sophomore slump when I hear one. The title track is one of their best songs on either album though.

    I’m sure a byproduct of this expanded weekly summary will be the longer entries. So I hope I didn’t put too many of you to sleep. Thoughts, and especially recommendations, are always welcome. Unless they rip on Dream Theater that is, in which case I will have to gut you alive with my roommate’s razor blades. OK, not really. I save those punishments for orenigma. now you know who I stole the idea from.