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  • My Top 10 Musical Artists for 2012

    7. Jan. 2013, 17:11

    This post also appears on my blog here.

    Rank/Artist & tags

    1 Ulrich Schnauss - ambient chillout electronic
    2 Qntal - electronic medieval fusion
    3 Armin van Buuren - electronic, progressive trance
    4 Above & Beyond - electronic, vocal trance
    5 Ladytron - synthpop electronic
    6 Falling You - ethereal ambient, female vocals
    7 (tie) Dean & Britta - dream pop
    7 (tie) Sey Hollo - post-rock instrumental
    9 Dash Berlin - electronic, vocal trance
    10 Delerium - chillout electronic, female vocals

    (source: http://www.last.fm/user/jkwood/charts)

    I listen to music a lot. Almost always I listen from my computer or phone, and since I have their client installed on these devices, the tracks are noted in the Last.fm database. So, I am able to see what kind of music I am listening to over time. For an OCD person like myself, this is great.

    Last year, three things happened that had a big impact on in the ways I listen to music, and allowed my access to music as never before. Prior to then, most of the music I listened to was from my personally owned MP3 library of about 50 gb of music. The effect of these things listed below is that my exposure to new artists and music, as well as old favorites, has been dramatically increased, and so the top 10 for 2012 is full of a lot of newcomers to my annual lists.

    First, I expanded my use of Spotify which, conveniently, has the last.fm client built-in. (Spotify users: listen to the songs mentioned below in this playlist.) For me, Spotify is the greatest thing since sliced bread: most any song and album I can think of available on demand with no cost, other than being ad-supported (ad-free available with subscription). In addition, Spotify has the ability to generate a radio station based on artist, song, or playlist. I have used this quite a lot.

    Second, late in 2011, I got a smartphone (Motorola's Droid Bionic, to be specific). Spotify has a client for Android (with last.fm built-in as well) which, while not allowing track-on-demand play unless subscribed, does allow radio for free users. I have used this phone as my portable music player while away from my computer and in need of a music buzz.

    Third, my use of Turntable.fm continued from 2011. Turntable is a social music site which allows on-the-fly creation of rooms in which people can play music tracks for others in the room. This site also allows connection with last.fm to track the songs you listen to. These rooms often are genre-based, but can also be free-for-all, depending on what rules the room moderator (the room creator or designee) has established. When using this site, I am most often in the Trance Out room, and #3, #4, and #9 in my top ten are a result of hanging around in this room. A sense of how much I listened to Trance electronic music last year can be gained by considering that I mostly listened to trance in a radio-station format, rather than listening to albums, and even so, three of the top ten artists last year were trance. Indeed, if my last.fm charts are sorted by tracks instead of artists, the top 14 songs I listened to the most in 2012 were all electronic trance. If you are interested in hearing more great trance music, check out my Spotify Trance playlist.

    So let's talk about my top ten from 2012...

    1. Ulrich Schnauss - Emerging at the top of my list last year is a German composer whom I had recommended to me in the late part of 2011 (thanks, Ben!), Ulrich Schnauss. If I recall correctly, the first song I heard by him, "...Passing By" (video below), became an instant favorite. Schnauss blends the feel of atmospheric ambient with harder-edged electronica, somewhat akin in feel to Vangelis' "Blade Runner" to my ear. Other standout tracks include "A Letter From Home," "Coming Up For Air," and "Clear Day."

    2. Qntal - My second most listened to last year was a longtime favorite German band. Qntal blends electronic synth perfomed by Fil, classic medieval instruments played by Michael Popp, and the haunting vocals of Syrah to create music based on historical works such as Carmina Burana ("Ecce Gratum" and "Flamma") The songs are mostly in Latin, medieval German, and other European languages, but I enjoy the music all the same (or perhaps because of this), as for me the vocals become one of the instruments of music and further draw the two seemingly incompatible styles of electronica and ancient music together into an entrancing, beautiful mix. For more great tracks, try "Vedes Amigo Illuminate," "Am Morgen Fruo," and "Entre Moi Et Mon Amin."

    3. Armin van Buuren - And now, we start seeing the effects of my trance binging last year, as the number three spot goes to Armin van Buuren. This Dutch-born progressive trance producer is a well-known and loved name in electronic music, having been experimenting with the genre for over two decades. Armin enjoys much fame from remixing other artists, but also has won awards for his original work on albums "Shiver" and "Imagine." He also broadcasts a radio show "A State of Trance" with over 26 million listeners a week. Standout tracks include "Birth of an Angel" (video below), and "J'ai Envie De Toi."

    4. Above & Beyond - Number four on my list is the British uplifting trance artist Above & Beyond. Much of A&B's music is light vocal trance with guest female vocalists, my favorite of whom is Zoë Johnston. Above & Beyond also has a popular weekly radio show called "Trance Around the World." Great tracks by this artist and Johnston include "Good For Me" (video below), "Alchemy," and "You Got To Go."

    5. Ladytron - Moving up from number 9 in 2011, the British band Ladytron continued to impress and entertain me this year as I leveraged Spotify to listen to more of their tracks and further discover their sound. Perhaps best described as new wave synthpop meets modern electronica, Ladytron delivers an appealing indie/80's music feel without being too lo-fi gimmicky or kitschy. Favorites of mine are the tracks "Tomorrow," "Destroy Everything You Touch," and "Ghosts."

    6. Falling You - If you have read my previous years' top ten lists, you get no points for guessing that this artist made my list this year. Always on my top ten, Falling You continues year after year to be a source of soothing, inspiring music. Featuring a varied cast of female guest vocalists and dark ambient-pop accompaniment, Falling You is my "comfort food" of music, being often what I fall back to when I am looking to relax and de-stress, and it does its job well. As with 2011, their newest album "Adore" received the most of my attention (see my review of this album here). My favorite tracks last year by them include "Firestorm," "Song of Summer," and "Moving One."

    7. Dean & Britta - Tied for number seven is Dean & Britta, a band which I discovered through Turntable.fm, and was glad I did. This group was another instant favorite, evoking dream pop acts such as Mazzy Star, Tearwave, and Cocteau Twins. Favorite tracks include "Night Nurse," "Moonshot," and "I Deserve It."

    8. Sey Hollo - Sharing the number seven spot is Sey Hollo, a one-man project by the Swedish artist Sebastian Larsson. Sporting a rich, heavy, post-rock grunge reminiscent of early Starflyer 59, Sey Hollo is an instrumental act that achieves both beauty and power. My least favorite part of my favorite tracks, are the last half minute or so of political sound bytes. All the same, the music itself is so good that I don't mind skipping the last bit of the song to go to the next. Best tracks: "Growth," "World Trade Center," and "Eighty Five Percent" (warning, brief explicit language).

    9. Dash Berlin - The number nine spot belongs to Dash Berlin, of the Netherlands. I first discovered this artist in the Trance Out room of Turntable.fm and have been consistently impressed with the clean melodic style of this uplifting/progressive trance artist. Recommended songs: "Till The Sky Falls Down" (video below), "Never Cry Again," and "Waiting."

    10. Delerium - Wrapping up the top ten is Delerium, consisting (presently) of Bill Leeb from Skinny Puppy and Rhys Fulber of Conjure One (both also of Front Line Assembly fame). Over time, the sound of Delerium has changed somewhat from a dark ambient to a mellow electronica. Their newest album, "Music Box Opera" refines this style even more with some trip-hop influence, reminding me of Morcheeba and Massive Attack, especially in these suggested tracks, "Hammer" and "Sky."

    (view last year's top 10 here: My Top 10 Musical Artists 2011)
  • My Top 10 (+1) Musical Artists: 2011

    3. Jan. 2012, 21:22

    1 Falling You – ethereal ambient, female vocals
    2 Within Temptation – symphonic metal, female vocals
    3 Shiva in Exile – ethnic electronic, female vocals
    4 Burial – ambient dubstep electronic
    5 Irfan – ethereal ethnic, female vocals
    6 Conjure One – chillout electronic, female vocals
    7 Solace – ethnic/world rhythms
    8 Amethystium – ambient ethereal electronic
    9 Ladytron – synthpop electronic
    10 Lycia – ethereal darkwave, female vocals
    11 Shiny Toy Guns – alternative electronic

    (source: My Last.fm charts) (compare with last year: My Top 10 Musical Artists 2010)

    1. Falling You– always a favorite, been in my overall top 10 for years. This music is great for relaxing, and I use it often for that purpose. Most of 2011’s plays came from the new album, Adore (review). (Falling You's Magnatune page)

    2. Within Temptation– While I’ve been a mostly casual fan of Within Temptation for a few years, the release of their album The Unforgiving in March 2011 excited me about this band, as I think this is their best album yet. The symphonic metal style is a little out of place within this top 10, but this album is really more rock and symphony than metal, in my opinion.

    3. Shiva in Exile– Another Magnatune artist (as is Falling You), this is a new band for me this year. I have been growing in recent years in my appreciation for ethnic music, particularly middle eastern influences. SIE has heavy influences of middle east fused with modern electronic music, creating a very catchy and unusual sound.

    4. Burial – another new artist for me. I discovered the music of Burial through the social music site Turntable.fm (as I did #9 Ladytron, #11 Shiny Toy Guns, and many others), after which I purchased their two albums, Burial and Untrue. With a dark ambient sound, heavy electronic processing and vocal sampling, I found myself attracted to this music, listening to the albums on repeat several days in a row.

    5. Irfan – This is one of the original sources of interest to me of middle-eastern/Arabic-influenced music. I finally bought their albums IRFAN and Seraphim. I have not been disappointed!

    6. Conjure One – Continuing an apparent trend in this year’s top music, I have also discovered this mellow electronic side project of Rhys Fulber (of Delirium and Front Line Assembly fame). Also of no surprise to those that know my music taste (or who glanced at the tags in the list above), most of my favorite music features female vocalists, and while there is no permanent vocalist, Conjure One has many featured female singers (Falling You has a similar rotation of guest vocals.). These singers have a variety of styles and sounds that compliment the accompaniment well.

    7. Solace – Still on my new music search this year, Solace popped up on my radar during my subscription to Magnatune, (home also of Falling You and Shiva in Exile from this list) as an artist similar to Shiva in Exile that I might like. As I would consider this a less “westernized” Arab/Middle-eastern style, it may appeal less to some than does Shiva or Irfan. Indeed, even though it is in my top artists, I must admit that there are no real standout tracks for me to recommend.

    8. Amethystium – Another longtime favorite, Amethystium is one of those artists I default to when I need something light in the background for reading, studying, or working. Not that this is elevator music, by any means. A variety of world music sounds combine with electronica and New Age styles to make many interesting and different-sounding tracks.

    9. Ladytron – Having been exposed to Ladytron through www.turntable.fm, my appreciation grew over time as I recognized that my foot tapped to this female-fronted electronic (another trend for me this year) music each time it came up. Spotify and Turntable account for the many plays on this list in 2011.

    10. Lycia – A steady favorite throughout the years, Lycia has throughout their albums kept my eager interest as the sound morphed from droning guitars and low-key vocals to female-fronted ethereal and experimental when Tara Vanflower came on board. This group steadily stays in top rotation.

    11. Shiny Toy Guns – Yet another Turntable.fm discovery for me, I’ve grown to appreciate the style of this group which I was initially inclined to dismiss as another pretentious indie garage band. I’m glad to be wrong; I find that this band has a catchy pop appeal with strong electronica/dance values underneath. A quick favorite (once I gave them a chance!) My expectation of further growth in my esteem earns them an honorary place in the top 10.
  • My Top 10 (+1) Musical Artists: 2011

    3. Jan. 2012, 21:21

    1 Falling You – ethereal ambient, female vocals
    2 Within Temptation – symphonic metal, female vocals
    3 Shiva in Exile – ethnic electronic, female vocals
    4 Burial – ambient dubstep electronic
    5 Irfan – ethereal ethnic, female vocals
    6 Conjure One – chillout electronic, female vocals
    7 Solace – ethnic/world rhythms
    8 Amethystium – ambient ethereal electronic
    9 Ladytron – synthpop electronic
    10 Lycia – ethereal darkwave, female vocals
    11 Shiny Toy Guns – alternative electronic

    (source: My Last.fm charts) (compare with last year: My Top 10 Musical Artists 2010)

    1. Falling You– always a favorite, been in my overall top 10 for years. This music is great for relaxing, and I use it often for that purpose. Most of 2011’s plays came from the new album, Adore. (Falling You’s Magnatune page) [youtube]http://youtu.be/61fFp6vFBdw[/youtube]

    2. Within Temptation– While I’ve been a mostly casual fan of Within Temptation for a few years, the release of their album The Unforgiving in March 2011 excited me about this band, as I think this is their best album yet. The symphonic metal style is a little out of place within this top 10, but this album is really more rock and symphony than metal, in my opinion.[youtube]http://youtu.be/caENELmIXvE[/youtube]

    3. Shiva in Exile– Another Magnatune artist (as is Falling You), this is a new band for me this year. I have been growing in recent years in my appreciation for ethnic music, particularly middle eastern influences. SIE has heavy influences of middle east fused with modern electronic music, creating a very catchy and unusual sound.

    4. Burial – another new artist for me. I discovered the music of Burial through the social music site Turntable.fm (as I did #9 Ladytron, #11 Shiny Toy Guns, and many others), after which I purchased their two albums. With a dark ambient sound, heavy electronic processing and vocal sampling, I found myself attracted to this music, listening to the albums on repeat several days in a row.

    5. Irfan – This is one of the original sources of interest to me of middle-eastern/Arabic-influenced music. I finally bought their albums IRFAN and Seraphim. I have not been disappointed!

    6. Conjure One – Continuing an apparent trend in this year’s top music, I have also discovered this mellow electronic side project of Rhys Fulber (of Delirium and Front Line Assembly fame). Also of no surprise to those that know my music taste (or who glanced at the tags in the list above), most of my favorite music features female vocalists, and while there is no permanent vocalist, Conjure One has many featured female singers (Falling You has a similar rotation of guest vocals.). These singers have a variety of styles and sounds that compliment the accompaniment well.

    7. Solace – Still on my new music search this year, Solace popped up on my radar during my subscription to Magnatune, (home also of Falling You and Shiva in Exile from this list) as an artist similar to Shiva in Exile that I might like. As I would consider this a less “westernized” Arab/Middle-eastern style, it may appeal less to some than does Shiva or Irfan. Indeed, even though it is in my top artists, I must admit that there are no real standout tracks for me to recommend.

    8. Amethystium – Another longtime favorite, Amethystium is one of those artists I default to when I need something light in the background for reading, studying, or working. Not that this is elevator music, by any means. A variety of world music sounds combine with electronica and New Age styles to make many interesting and different-sounding tracks.

    9. Ladytron – Having been exposed to Ladytron through www.turntable.fm, my appreciation grew over time as I recognized that my foot tapped to this female-fronted electronic (another trend for me this year) music each time it came up. Spotify and Turntable account for the many plays on this list in 2011.

    10. Lycia – A steady favorite throughout the years, Lycia has throughout their albums kept my eager interest as the sound morphed from droning guitars and low-key vocals to female-fronted ethereal and experimental when Tara Vanflower came on board. This group steadily stays in top rotation.

    11. Shiny Toy Guns – Yet another Turntable.fm discovery for me, I’ve grown to appreciate the style of this group which I was initially inclined to dismiss as another pretentious indie garage band. I’m glad to be wrong; I find that this band has a catchy pop appeal with strong electronica/dance values underneath. A quick favorite (once I gave them a chance!) My expectation of further growth in my esteem earns them an honorary place in the top 10.
  • Falling You - New Album

    31. Jul. 2011, 18:23

    Falling You has a new album out, called "Adore"! Don't miss it. I've reviewed it on my blog, if you care to view it: http://wp.me/p19ZfX-2W
  • My Top 20

    23. Feb. 2009, 17:17

    Think of 20 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world.

    These are my musical influences and history, but not necessarily the albums that would comprise my current top 20 favorites of all time. Some I still listen to, and others I don't, yet they are a part of who I am.

    (Not in order of preference)

    1. The Phantom of the Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber)
    2. Wish (The Cure)
    3. The Best of The Doors (The Doors)
    4. Fallen ( Evanescence)
    5. Live Through This (Hole)
    6. Man Of Colours (Icehouse)
    7. The Grape Prophet (L.S.U.)
    8. Estrella (Lycia)
    9. So Tonight That I Might See (Mazzy Star)
    10. Black Album (Metallica)
    11. Another World (Paul Oakenfold)
    12. Beat The System (Petra)
    13. The Wall (Pink Floyd)
    14. Mercury (The Prayer Chain)
    15. Saviour Machine (Saviour Machine)
    16. Silver (Starflyer 59)
    17. Meltdown (Steve Taylor)
    18. To Hell With The Devil (Stryper)
    19. Achtung Baby (U2)
    20. War (U2)
  • My Music Buzz

    24. Jan. 2009, 3:30

    No, I don't mean "buzz" as in "what everyone is talking about", but that natural high, the euphoric, blissful trance that the perfect mellow song invokes in a receptive, chilled mood. I'm sure you know what I mean.

    Tonight, it was Space Weaver by Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance.

    Lisa has a haunting alto vocal style and sings frequently in different languages. She has a voice that makes the lyrics unimportant, as the vocals are an instrument, and the most beautiful one.
  • Thoughts on my Weekly Top Artists: 11 Mar 07 - 18 Mar 07

    21. Mär. 2007, 14:18

    1 Tara Vanflower - 18 plays
    2 Within Temptation - 11 plays
    3 Lycia - 6 plays
    4 Dark Muse - 6 plays
    5 Not Applicable - 3 plays
    6 Evanescence - 2 plays
    7 Falling You - 2 plays
    8 Blutengel - 2 plays
    9 Poe - 1 play
    10 Fluffy - 1 play

    So it wasn't exactly a very busy week for me musically, at least what got scrobbled. I listened to quite a bit more on my Zune, but can't seem to scrobble that. Most of what I listened to in that last week on the Zune was Lycia and Dark Muse, so at least it got representation here.

    1. Tara Vanflower - My appreciation for Tara as an artist just keeps growing as I listen to her style grow and evolve. Her style, from Lycia in the 90's through solo work in the new century is outstanding, and I'm especially enjoying delving into the intricacies of her latest work. A new released song on Tara's MySpace page, The Soil Is Dead, is simply amazing and I've been listening to it quite a lot lately.

    I also put in her album This Womb Like Liquid Honey when I realized, after reading the Amazon.com article about it, that it was a concept album, not just 12 unrelated songs. When I listen to music, I almost *always* listen for the music, and not the lyrics. Generally, if the lyrics are good, I'll pick up on it later, when I've got them in my head from sheer repetition, and to help remember the tune. I've always enjoyed when an artist I like makes a concept album, telling a story from song to song. It gives the album added depth and meaning, and this one doesn't disappoint.

    2. Within Temptation - I really enjoy symphonic and female-fronted metal bands, and WT is definitely no slouch among these genres. Last week I heard their new album The Heart of Everything and listened through it, and a few other songs. At first listen, I'm not all that impressed with The Heart Of Everything, but I'm sure I'll give it another listen and see if my opinion changes.

    3. Lycia - Always a favorite, I've grown especially to like the material on Cold and Estrella. These are, of course, albums that Tara Vanflower contributed to :D

    4. Dark Muse - Another fascinating experimental artist, Dark Muse has a top slot in my top 10 most weeks. I particularly listen to her music at night - it feels like such a dream anyway that it is really great for falling asleep to.

    5. Not Applicable - Courtnee's ambient and ethereal vocals and music can always soothe and transport me to a calm place, like resting on clouds in a rainstorm, or floating on the surface of a dark ocean.

    6. Evanescence - I just love her voice and the emotion in the songs. Solitude and Understanding are the top songs in my mind currently, and the ones that scrobbled for me last week.

    7. Falling You - I know I'm going to over-use my genre adjectives here, but "ambient" and "ethereal" apply here just as well. Solace is a great representative of the beautiful music by this artist.

    8. Blutengel - Ah, the gothy goodness of this vampire-wanabe band. I mock, but they are my overall top artist played right now, because I'm a vampire-wannabe too, I guess. Anyway, I do love their music.

    9. Poe - I pulled out my Poe cd from the dusty cd bin and played Fly Away, a very beautiful and sad song, one that I remember as my favorite from the album Hello back when I got it in the 90's. Still a very good song.

    10. Fluffy - Not the British girl band, but the Christian band from the early 90's. How to classify the music? Hardcore, punk, arty, metal? Ah well, gave the song White Trash a listen last week for nostalgia sake. Still a fun song. :)
  • Genre tags - hate 'em, can't get away from 'em

    27. Sep. 2006, 17:33

    If all I listened to was country/western, or punk, or metal, this wouldn't be an issue. As it is, I have pretty varied music tastes, as probably most folks do, and I'm an organization freak.

    I have about 4500 tracks in my music library, including some for my kids, like The Wiggles, and some for my wife's excercise classes, and even a few lectures or books in audio format. For this reason, when I'm listening to music while doing something else, I have to pick an artist or album and listen to it through. If I put my player on shuffle, the variety is jarring.

    Example, I'm going to put my music library on shuffle and list the next 10 songs, no cheating, I promise:

    Never Understand - (shoegaze-dream pop?)
    Sleepwalker - (symphonic/operatic metal?)
    Christine - (gothic rock?)
    May All Saints - (electronica/synthpop?)
    Bleed - (gothic rock?)
    Zero - (ethereal, ..um pagan?)
    Playboy Mommy - (alternative pop?)
    Halo (Sensory Gate Aura Mix) - (gothic industrial?)
    Tattoo - (alternative rock)
    October Winds - (children's)

    Excellent, I'm not disappointed (for the purposes of this journal) by the 10 songs here, although the mix could have been even more jarring. This is, of course where genre tagging comes in handy. If I were to apply tags to these artists, songs in a a random play would flow much better.

    Of course then the problem becomes how to pigeonhole a group into a particular genre. With some, it's not so hard, especially if it isn't a type of music you like much - the more you listen to a particular type of music, the more sub-genres seem to emerge. Of course, if you don't care much for a particular type of music, then it begs the question, why do you have it in your library to begin with?

    The problem is compounded by artists whose music won't conveniently pigeonhole themselves into the genre titles that are prevalent, forcing one to either making up new genre titles or assigning one that doesn't really fit. And what about artists whose music style isn't even consistent across their discography, maybe even across a single album?

    I'm referring mostly to my own music library, but since we're a music community here, there is also the issue of conflicting opinions about what genre to classify a group as, anyway. Some folks compare Within Temptation to Evanescence, and others will have a twitching fit because I mentioned them in the same sentence without a negative modifier.

    So basically, it seems that to use genre tags meaningfully, I either have to label them broadly to get types together, and the tags are nearly meaningless, or else label them so specifically that if I have (say) 100 different bands, I'll probably have 75-100 different genre tags if my anally-retentive accuracy impulse is active. At that point, it's not really any more useful than having no tags at all. I'm sure there's a medium position there that I could live with, but the other issues remain frustrating anyway.

    Blah!
  • A-Z, my library's favorites

    21. Sep. 2006, 19:29

    A: Adam Sandler - Kind of a guilty pleasure. I can't help myself, I think it's hilarious to listen to this man curse.

    B: Basque - Very chill mellow music for relaxing. Honorable mention goes to Bjork, a very close second for the B spot.

    C: Collide - Female-fronted industrial/electronic. It's sooo good.

    D: The Doors - Great music, great lyrics, great movie. Second choice would be Dark Muse, an ethereal/experimental/minimalist artist really good to chill too.

    E: Evanescence - Her vocals are powerful, but not overpowering, and the music is heavy, but not quite metal. Great combination, and I just can't help but really like them.

    F: Falling You - Another ethereal, relaxing band, Falling You is a little more melodic and ambient than Basque and Dark Muse, but in the same vein.

    G: Grant Lee Buffalo - I don't have many "G" artists in my music library, but Grant Lee Buffalo remains a good choice of music even after 10 or so years since release. With a rootsy alternative rock/alt-country sound, this is good music for feeling a slight melancholy without going to sleep.

    H: Hope Sandoval - The post-Mazzy Star work of the lead vocalist Hope Sandoval proves as dreamy and smooth as her work with Mazzy Star.

    I: Irfan - Ok, I only have a couple of "I" artists, but I like the sound that Irfan produces. A medieval-fusion band, Irfan's chants and lilting vocals glide atop bells, strings, and drums that evoke a feeling of music derived from antiquity.

    J: The Jesus and Mary Chain - The noisy psychadelic rock sounds of The Jesus and Mary Chain always make me like them when my media player comes to them on random shuffle, even though for some reason that I can't really identify, I don't ever seem to want to intentionally play them. I wonder why that is. They still get my top J spot, partially because I don't have many J artists. (Of course, gotta love Johnny Cash!)

    K: Kim Carnes - Go 80's music!

    L: Lifesavers Underground - Oh man, what a HARD choice, I think all my best music starts with "L". Good old LSU wins it by a hair for nostalgia reasons, even though in its own rights it has great quality rock and roll, with the personality and perspective of lead man Michael Knott. Other close runners up: Lacuna Coil, Leaves' Eyes, L'Ame Immortelle, Linkin Park, Lycia, and Loreena McKennitt.

    M: Mira - Mira's clean female dreamy vocals in Even Now hooked me in to their music and kept me a fan from their demo days. Other close M artists: Mazzy Star, Michael Knott, and Morcheeba.

    N: Not Applicable - What a great sound, if you enjoy the other artist in this journal. A truly heavenly voice put to good use on original work and cover songs. Very ethereal and moving. Also like: Neko Case and Nightwish.

    O: Somehow I haven't got a single artist that starts with "O"....

    P: Paul Oakenfold - Dancey trancey pantsy!

    Q: Qntal - Easy choice (ok so there aren't any other Q bands in my library, but still...) Qntal has a great medeival fusion sound, mixing traditional medeival instruments with modern electronics producing a very accessible world-music sound that I really like.

    R: Rednex - Haha another guilty pleasure. Their mix of country and techno just really appeals to me. =D

    S: Sneaker Pimps - I've loved this band through the changes in lead vocals between female and male and they still remain a favorite. Splinter is just an excellent, excellent album.

    T: Tara Vanflower - Former lead vocalist for some of Lycia's albums, her solo offerings have appealed to me in the demonstration of Tara's vocal experimentation and instrumental electronics.

    U: U2 - The band that needs no introduction. I've liked U2 since I discovered them in '92 and think they've done a great job in maintaining their identity even though they've changed their music styles somewhat through the years.

    V: The Verve - This British alternative-rock band from the '90s still sounds good to me today.

    W: Within Temptation - I still remember the "WOW" moments when I discovered this band and started listening to their music. I've always liked female-fronted bands, but was fairly new to symphonic metal. I love her clean vocals atop the heavy metal and the dramatic feel of the music. Very moving!

    X: Xandria - I've loved the demo tracks I downloaded from the old styled MP3.com site, and think I like the studio albums too, although I haven't really listened to them enough. I expect great things though just based on their demos!
  • Thoughts on my Weekly Top 10

    19. Sep. 2006, 18:58

    Well, I can't calculate my Mainstream Percentage this week, due to website problems displaying number of listeners on each artist, so I'll just give a few thoughts about my top 10 for the week.

    1 Leaves' Eyes - 97 plays
    2 Nightwish - 64
    3 Not Applicable - 59
    4 Evanescence - 55
    5 L`Ame Immortelle - 36
    6 Lacuna Coil - 21
    7 Estampie - 19
    8 Xandria - 19
    9 Lycia - 15
    10 Grant Lee Buffalo - 13

    1. Leaves' Eyes
    As somewhat of a preface to the rest of this journal, I've always had an affinity for female vocals, and so probably most of my favorite musicians are female-fronted bands. Starting this week's top ten is Leaves' Eyes. I have recently gotten a hold of several gothic compilation albums and have been listening to a lot of new (to me) bands, and this is one of them.

    Over the last several months, I've been drawn especially towards symphonic/operatic metal with female lead vocals, and this group blew me away. Norwegian Lovesong was the first song I heard, and I enjoyed it, but it wasn't until I got Vinland Saga and listened through it that I really fell in love with Leaves' Eyes. Krull's beautiful soprano vocals and harmonies atop the powerful metal combine into compelling mix. Concept albums are also interesting to me, and Vinland Saga is a good one.

    Number 1 this week because I've been listening to Vinland Saga over and over.

    My current favorite tracks:
    Twilight Sun
    Solemn Sea

    2. Nightwish
    Another female-fronted symphonic/operatic metal that I've recently discovered, Nightwish's female vocal lead is more of a classical operatic trained style that gives their music a more epic and dramatic quality than other similar bands.

    The first tracks I heard by Nightwish remain my favorites:
    Nemo
    Bless the Child
    Creek Mary's Blood

    3. Not Applicable
    I first discovered Not Applicable on MP3.com (in their old format) through a Heavenly Voices user created playlist and have been a big fan ever since. Not Applicable is a music project of one woman, Courtnee Fallon Papastathis. Her music is haunting, mournful, and deeply relaxing, and is available for free download on her website http://notapplicable.info.

    This music is great to go to sleep to, and I've done just that a couple of nights last week, which is why she is number 2 on this week's top 10.

    Favorite tracks currently:
    Sepulture
    SugarComa
    Convergence

    4. Evanescence
    Strong female vocals over metal melodies. I'm usually much more attuned to vocals as an instrument in the band and lyrics as a device to help remember the tune, but I really like the lyrics of the album Fallen especially.

    I got a hold of some of their older stuff and a preview of their new album, and so these have been playing a good bit on my media player, earning Evanescence the number 4 spot for this week's charts.

    Favorite tracks:
    Imaginary
    My Last Breath

    5. L`Ame Immortelle
    Continuing the trend, L`Ame Immortelle is a female-fronted band with melancholy, dark music and lyrics. The music features many types of instruments, including acoustic and synthesized, producing an almost ambient style.

    They were also a recent discovery for me from listening to some compilations, and their number 5 spot was almost exclusively a single track, Fallen Angel.

    Favorite tracks:
    Fallen Angel
    Letting Go

    6. Lacuna Coil
    Lacuna Coil is another metal band with a female lead singer. Unlike some of the others, the vocalist isn't a soprano, and the vocals are able to alternate between a more guttural sound and a lighter contrasting style.

    LC's number 6 spot this week is mainly due to their alphabetical position between L`Ame Immortelle and Leaves' Eyes, but I am glad to have had the exposure. Another quality band that I think will grow on me even more as my exposure to them increases.

    Favorite tracks:
    Swamped

    7. Estampie
    I've become a fan of Estampie as a result of samples I'd heard on yet another compilation album after having bought a Qntal CD. Between these two bands and Corvus Corax, I've started really enjoying these types of medieval fusion styles. Estampie is a precursor band to Qntal, featuring some of the same artists, including the lead vocalist, but seeming to be more dedicated to recreating the medieval music in its original form, as opposed to the more synthesized versions presented by Qntal.

    I had been listening to a lot of Qntal at the end of the previous week, and so got in the mood for Estampie as well towards the beginning of last week, securing it the number 7 in played tracks.

    Favorite tracks:
    A Voi Gente
    Al Jorn Triana

    8. Xandria
    Xandria is another band which I discovered through a stream-of-consciousness/artist association search on MP3.com back in the day. I had downloaded all the music they had up available, mostly demos, but really fell in love with it. You guessed it, another female lead singer over gothy metal in the vein of Leaves' Eyes and Within Temptation. I really like the sound and style of So You Disappear from their demo, even though it actually has male lead vocals. On the release album of Kill the Sun (which I don't have yet), it seems that the song is sung with a female lead. I heard a sample of it on their website, and it is interesting. I'll have to hear it in its entirety and a few more times before I can decide if it's better with female vocals.

    I got their new album India this week, and so listened to it and the other tracks I had by them, which is why they come in at number 8 this week.

    Favorite tracks:
    So You Disappear (demo version)
    Kill the Sun

    9. Lycia
    The musicians that are Lycia produce a dark, ethereal, ambient soundscape that lulls the receptive listener into a mellow, relaxed trance. On the albums after Tara Vanflower joined as a vocalist, the mood shifts to a dreamy, floating state.

    I played through the album Estrella and a few other tracks as I did some drawing last week. Ambient music is good for opening the right brain and being creative.

    Favorite tracks:
    Estrella
    The Canal
    Orion

    10. Grant Lee Buffalo
    From the 90's come the alternative-rock band Grant Lee Buffalo, featuring male vocals and an almost-country sound similar to but a little more edgy than Chris Isaak, and similar to but not as mainstream as Counting Crows (his vocals are also a lot more mellow than CCs too).

    I'm not quite sure I remember why I was listening to GLB last week, but they're always a good choice for a mellow mood.

    Favorite tracks:
    Mockingbirds
    Happiness