• Even more electronic jazz, JDB’s solo album and Blue States’ debut...

    11. Aug. 2006, 11:01

    I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to buy some really good albums during the last couple of weeks. To start with, my journey in the world of electronic jazz continues. This time I stumbled across two artists that have been on my shopping list for some time: Metropolitan Jazz Affair and The Cinematic Orchestra.

    I can’t remember how I got to know about Metropolitan Jazz Affair, but their debut album (album link: Mja have been on my shopping list for few months. The album is a really nice and clever fusion of electronic jazz and soul that leans more towards jazz than soul. The album has clearly gotten it’s inspirations from 60’s-70’s Soul Jazz. The sound is contemporary, the production is excellent and the material is strong. Feel that the album has quite a lot common with Chasin' the Jazz Gone By, although the sound of MJA is definitely more contemporary. A Great album that you really should give a try if like electronic jazz and especially if you happen to like Five Corners Quintet and are not afraid to try something similar with slightly more modern and electric sound.

    The Cinematic Orchestra has been on my recommendations list for ages. I’ve only been able to hear some random tracks from them on radio or some of those stupid 30 second samples that are available in online stores, so it has been hard to form an opinion on them. I finally decided to buy Motion, which (according to fellow users) seemed to be the most popular album from the group. And what a great album it is! Dark, smoky, cinematic jazz with great bass lines and horns. A really great album, which suffers from only one minor flaw; as good track as Channel 1 Suite is, it does not fit very well on the album. I will definitely look for other albums by The Cinematic Orchestra, but this debut is so good that I’m already prepared to be disappointed by them. I hope this will not be the case...

    Other great purchases during the last couple of weeks include:

    The Great Western. I must say that my expectations were not high when I originally heard that James Dean Bradfield was doing a solo album. (Nothing against JDB and I do like the Manics, but solo albums of lead singers typically seem to be… well, crappy.) I was somewhat surprised when the album seemed to get very good reviews everywhere and decided to buy it. Vocals sound like JDB, the songs are big, strong, smooth, melodic and ready to be performed live on big stadium in front of thousands of fans. Verdict: It is a really good album! Really good! Really!

    Nothing Changes Under the Sun. Blue States has popped up in my recommendations radio a couple of times and each time they have gotten my attention and made me to take a look at the player and check who the artist is. So finally I decided to look them up and bought the album that happened to be the most popular among users. That’s how I ended up buying the album. Smooth, calm, ambient and uplifting. Some of the tracks are frighteningly mediocre and not that memorable, but then some of the tracks are simply amazing and could be considered to be masterpieces of the genre (e.g. Your Girl, Diamente, Walkabout. Other albums by the band will definitely be on my shopping list. Verdict: Quite a good chillout album that might take a little time to grow on you.

    BTW, my initial impression on Jazzanova’s latest Blue Note Trip was that I was slightly disappointed. After couple of more times listening through the album, I must revise my opinion on it. Sure, Blue Note Trip – Scrambled/Mashed is much more versatile than the first Blue Note Trip by Jazzanova, which means that it probably takes a little more time to get into (at least that was the case for me). But in the end, despite of what I wrote in the previous journal entry, it’s a really good album and definitely worth the purchase.
  • Jazzanova: Blue Note Trip continues, Kyoto Jazz Massive's disappointing 10th…

    28. Jul. 2006, 13:43

    I discovered that Jazzanova has made another release under the Blue Note Trip series. I liked the first one (Blue Note Trip – Lookin’ Back/Movin’ On) so when I noticed this second one (Blue Note Trip – Scrambled/Mashed) I decided to buy this one too. The tracks are from a wider time span than on the first album and so there’s little more variation between the tracks. Initial impression after couple of listenings is that it’s perhaps not quite as good as Lookin’ Back/Movin’ On. Reason for this goes to more variation between the tracks which means that Scrambled/Mashed does not work quite as Lookin’ Back/Movin’ On does. Final verdict: Slight disappointment, but mainly because the first album set the expectations so high. Buy Scrambled/Mashed if you liked Lookin’ Back/Movin’ On and would like to have a little bit more daring and surprising version of it. If you do not have Lookin’ Back/Movin’ On yet buy it instead.

    Another recently bought compilation was Kyoto Jazz Massive’s 10th Anniversary release. (Album link 10th Anniversary). This 2CD Compilation contains just four tracks from Kyoto Jazz Massive and three of those are remixes (e.g. by Quantic). Other tracks contain remixes by Kyoto Jazz Massive, cover versions of Kyoto Jazz Massive tracks by other artists (e.g. Jazztronik) or tracks that simply have a similar style with KJM. Album is housy and jazzy. I personally would have liked it to be a little more jazzy and little less housy. An OK purchase for anyone who knows that they like Kyoto Jazz Massive, although beware of the fact that there are very little tracks by them on the album. If you’re not familiar with them and would like to buy something from them, this is not an album for you. I would suggest that you would go and buy Spirit of the Sun instead.

    I also managed to by a great progressive rock album: Approach. (Artist link: Von Hertzen Brothers.) Great melodies, brilliant harmonies, clever arrangements, plenty surprising of time and key changes, and managing to stay away from the typical sins of progressive rock. A Great guitar lead progressive rock album, that probably could be considered to be closely related to 70’s Canterbury progressive rock scene. Influences from Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and even The Beatles are easily identifiable. Highly recommended and definitely a milestone in progressive rock released during the ongoing millennium!
  • Some great electronic jazz discovered

    12. Jul. 2006, 17:19

    I bought Amateur Girlfriends Go Proskirt Agents couple of weeks ago and dispite the positive things I had read about it, I was still positively surprised. An excellent album full of funky electronic jazz with quite a unique sound. Apparently, the album has been recorded live, which is really hard to believe since all of the elements are so precisely timed together. (Well, after seeing Kraftwerk 'live' I've learned that everything is possible in the area of live performances.) Although the material could be considered slightly challenging, when I’ve been playing the album to friends everyone has liked it. Highly recommended. At least really give it a chance, even if you would not have listened to electronic jazz before.

    Xploding Plastix remainds me of another electronic jazz discovery I've made during last couple of months; Skalpel. Skalpel contains some of the most intriguing electronic jazz I've come across. Album opens with some funky vibes, but the prevailing impressions of the album are that it contains cleverly orchestrated, surprising and stylish electronic jazz. Quite a lot of variation across the tracks, but the album is really excellent. Highly recommended!
  • New albums from some old favorites

    27. Jun. 2006, 7:24

    I have been really busy with work and have not had time to update my journal with the new music and artists I have come across during the last couple of months. I have discovered quite a lot of artists that have been new to me. But hopefully I have time to write more about those later; I'll start with some new releases from some of my old favorites:

    - Superbi. I used to listen quite a lot of The Beautiful South them in the past, so I knew I had to buy their latest when it was released. Their previous album (Gaze) contained some country & western influences (e.g. the opening track Pretty) and the new album seems to continue on the same path. Based on couple of listenings, I would not rate the album among their best work. The material is as good as always (It's just amazing how good Paul Heaton is in writing catchy, yet clever pop songs), but somehow the album ends up sounding bland and tired. This might be the kind of album that takes some time to grow on you, but I'll have to see if this is the case. It's just that I have never learned to appreciated country music that much, and it might be that the country & western influences on this album mean that I might decide rather to listen to their previous releases when I get a craving for some The Beautiful South.

    - Lunatico is surprisingly more organic and diverse than their La Revancha Del Tango. As a result, it's a lot warmer, deeper and definitely more grown up. The production is still sublime, but the use of the equipment is much more subtle. A great album, although I suspect some of the fans might not appreciate the much more organic sound on this new album. My main complain is the same one I had with their first album; considering how great the album otherwise is, it's a shame that the vocals are so mediocre. (It might of course be that this is intentional, but it's still a shame since they are not quite up to par with the material and production.) Still, a good album and a worthy purchase.

    -Under the Iron Sea. The new Keane album is perhaps slightly less positive and upbeat than their debut, but I don't think that anyone who liked their previous album will be hugely disappointed. The band has given interviews claiming that it was really hard album for them to make and thus it's darker than Hopes and Fears, but in fact it's not that dark. There's much more synth than before and the piano is a bit more on the background, but I think that the main difference is that after all this time their sound is not as fresh, surprising and different that what it used be around the time that their first album was released. The material is perhaps not quite as good, but it's still a really good second album from a band that had a huge success with their first one and the pressures and expectations for their second album are/have been huge. Overall I feel that the album is pretty much what I and most Keane[artist] fans have expected...

    Pearl Jam. Another artist that was on my favourites list for a long time, but whom I have not listened that much lately. Still, when they published a new studio album after all this time, I duly went and bought it. Album has a lot of energy and the vocals are strong, but I was surprised that the material and production is so close to 'mainstream American classic rock'. Biggest complain I have is the same issue I feel has been plaguing almost all of the Pearl Jam albums; the album and material are extremely uneven. There are some really great tracks, but these are followed by some equally poor tracks. This is of course something most of the people who have listened to the band in the past have learned to expect, so in a way it's not a huge problem. No huge suprises here; probably one of their best albums. If you have liked them before, you will probably like this album a lot and if you haven't liked their stuff in the past, you probably won't like this album either.

    - Fundamental. Pet Shop Boys used to be one of my teenage favourites. Please was among the very first albums I have bought with my own money that was earned by working as a summer temp in some retail warehouse. I still have the vinyl somewhere. I came aware of their latest album when Fidgital gave it 4.5 stars on his review. I must admit being a little skeptical about his rating, but after couple of listening the album is in fact deserving it. This must be be the best PSB album in ages; Great songs and lyrics, together with classic PSB and Trevor Horn production. The first half of the album is especially strong and the closing takes me straight back to the late 80's-early 90's when PSB did their classic hits. Really good album and highly recommended purchase.

    - The Garden. I must admit that I was lightly disappointed after my first listen of this latest album form Zero 7. It felt to be more popish and mainstream than their previous albums. But now, after more listening, I'm obliged to say that it's really good album. Sure, the material is quite different form their previous work and I can understand why some people have been disappointed, but the material is great and their trademark sound is still clearly identifiable. Definitely worth the purchase, although there are couple of moments when I begin to feel slightly unconfortable because the album starts to sound a little bit to much like Moon Safari...
  • Latest purchases

    3. Mai. 2006, 6:40

    Another couple of weeks have gone by and somehow I again ended up buying much more music than I originally intended to. It seems that I'm moving from one-to-two albums a week to completely new levels.

    - Toujours le même film.... What an album! This release from Urbs is a superb example of an album that is much better than sum of the songs it contains. And an excellently thought out as a complete experience including not only the music, but also the covers. You know exactly what to expect when you see the album cover: melancholic, jazzy, mostly instrumental pop that could well be a soundtrack of some Film Noir movie from 50s or sixties. The amazing trick is that despite what I just said the, album sounds fresh and unlike anything I have heard before. It's just amazing how the album has managed to achieve such a warm and smooth analog sound, while utilizing modern techniques and sounding contemporary at the same time. (One way describing the album might be to say it's Air gone analog.) The material is also just simply amazing. For example, the album opens with So Weit which contains one of the most addictive piano loops I have heard in a long while. Other great tracks on the album include Tu moi aussi? and The Incident. One thing though; they definitely should have printed the covers claiming that the album has been released in the sixties! That together with packaging the CD in vinyl covers would have made the experience perfect. Highly recommended. Now go and buy it!

    - 11th Pill. (Artist link: Mop Mop) A really nice 60-70 influenced groovy jazz that was recommended by mrhands. The album is a bit uneven at times sounding a bit like something you could find playing on the background of grandmother's afternoon ballroom dance, but the high points of the album are really good. One of the highlights for me is an awesome jazzy cover version of Playground Love. Recommended purchase, but because album is slightly uneven I recommend you give it a try before making your buying decision. The album is currently available in iTMS, so getting your hands on the previews is pretty easy...

    - Remixed. Although I have heard Bebel Gilberto and have liked what I have heard, I have not bought her albums. That together with the the fact that I happened to like another remix album I bought awhile ago (Virgin Ubiquity: Remixed) meant that I had buy this album. (And it did not hurt that two of the remixes were credited to Nuspririt Helsinki...) Stylewise, the album is quite different to what I have heard from Gilberto, but it's still a really good remix of her latest album. Overall the album leans towards smooth, nu-jazz and breakbeat. As always with remix albums, some of remixes are a bit dull, predictable and uninspired but the overall impression is positive. IMO, a recommendable purchase, assuming one does not have anything against remix albums as such... Favourite tracks so far: Céu Distante (DJ Spina Mix), Simplesmente (The Middleton Cosmos Mix), Aganjú (Latin Projekt Mix) and Winter (Nuspirit Helsinki Reinterpretation)

    - The Peter Kruder Richard Dorfmeister Remixes. Impulse purchase and bought mainly because of the K&D mentioned in the covers. It was not until I got home and looked at it more carefully that I noticed that I already have most of the tracks since they have been previously released on other K&D remix albums (e.g. Conversions and DJ-Kicks). An OK K&D remix album, but do not buy it until you have double checked that you do not already have most of the tracks. Waste of money for me since I already had most of tracks...

    - VA: Palace Lounge Presents Cafe d'Afrique. A slightly disappointing purchase. I bought this from iTMS in a hurry, just before going on a business trip. I previewed couple of the first tracks (Hip Hip Chin Chin, Vuna), liked them both and decided to buy it since I was in a hurry. I didn't even notice that it was a compilation, since iTMS listed Palace Lounge as the artist. Then in the plane I started to notice that the style and quality of tracks seemed to vary quite a lot. Back home I looked the album up with a little help from Google and noticed it was a compilation! Anyway, couple of good tracks but way to many poor ones (e.g. How Do You?, Count Me Out, Why Do You Love Me?,...) to justify the purchase...

    - Eclectica. What a huge disappointment! I have really liked Minuit, so when I finally came across with his latest album I bought it. Quick verdict: it's nowhere as good as Minuit. As the name of the album suggests, the album is aiming to be eclectic but imho ends up being confusing. Minuit made similar kind of combination of several styles into one album much better by subtly moving from genre to another during the course of the album. And what's even worse, the material and production isn't that great either. I get a feeling that the album is made in haste without a well thought idea to tie all the different styles together or proper time to finalize the material. If you already have Minuit and everything else by Minus 8 then buy it with caution, otherwise buy Minuit instead.

    - Beauty. The biggest problem with the album is that the quality of the material varies way too much. Album contains couple of really good tracks, but most of the songs are just plain boring and uninspired. Perhaps it was a bit too early for them to work on an album and they should have been working on EP instead. Verdict: unless you really are into Ibiza-style chillout and you prefer style over content, do not buy this album. You can find the good tracks of the album on "Cafe de Mar" collections...
  • Recent acquisitions

    24. Apr. 2006, 8:01

    Here's what I have so far bought during April. There's some new stuff in the post, I hope to receive them this week:

    -What We Must. Album that I completely missed last year. I remember reading all the raving reviews, but for whatever reason I did not by the album. Now that I have, I must say that I was fool for not buying it before. Excellent stuff and by far the best album that I have bought in a while. (Come to think of it, I think Universal Four was probably the last album that has made similar kind of impact on me.) Had I bought it before, It would have easily made it's way into my 'top of 2005' list. Album is just amazing and works on so unbelievably many levels. I can listen it as a ambient or electronic or jazzy or progressive, and I always find my self discovering something new that I have not noticed before. The album is even better than all the raving reviews I had read. If you don't already have it go ahead and buy it!

    -Speak for Yourself. Another album that has gotten good reviews everywhere. I would describe the album as a cross between Depeche Mode and Tori Amos. Excellent material and production, but the thing that for me raises above everything else are the vocals. Warm, soulful, powerful and most of all personal vocals of Imogen are really the thing that distinguishes the album from so many other electronica albums published every year. Highly recommended, although I would suspect that some people might not like the vocal style that owes quite a lot to Björk...

    -I have also bought two albums from Thievery Corporation]. I've had Sounds From the Thievery Hi-Fi, but for some reason I hadn't listened to it in a really long while. I also have never bought anything else from them. I came across The Mirror Conspiracy and The Richest Man in Babylon and bought both of them. I have had mixed feelings about Thievery and it seems to continue. I really like a lot of their material, especially the jazzier stuff. On the other hand they do quite a lot of dub, which I never really have learned to appreciate. Overall, bot of the albums are what I expected from Thievery. Albums are quite good, but perhaps a bit uneven. I personally would rank Mirror Conspiracy over Richest Man, partly because of the better production and also because it simply works better as an album. However, I've decided to give Thivery a new go and I'm anyway likely to listen to them more often now that I have more albums from them...

    For some strange reason I've been lately buying relatively lot of 'best of' albums. I have never had anything else besides Mezzanine from Massive Attack, so when Collected was released I decided to buy it. Another 'best of' I have bought is Piano Man: The Very Best Of Billy Joel. It was bought mainly to fill out a gap on the 'classic rock' section of my collection, but I have to admit I have always secretly liked lot of his material and even own some of his albums.
  • Plugging the holes in my collection. Broke 10000.

    3. Apr. 2006, 7:04

    Four purchases during the last two weeks. Three out of four are best of collections from the artists that no-one ever admits to be listening to but whose yearly 'best of' (typically released for the holiday season) sells like hot cakes. So just to fix some gaps in my collections I decided to buy Complete Greatest Hits,
    Barry White - Gold: The Very Best Of Barry White (link Gold: The Very Best Of (disc 1)) and The Best of Funkadelic.

    The fourth album I have bought is Teleport, which is the bands fourth and latest album. Kemopetrol is similar to The Cardigans in a sense that both bands seem to change their style from album to album while still remaining recognizable and sounding like the same band. This time the album is heavily influenced by 80s synthpop. Material is good, but some of the songs (e.g. Any day´s OK) might benefited from little more production time or more imaginative arraignments. Overall a really good album and recommended to everyone who like synthpop. High points: Planet, Overweight & Underage, Turn Immortal, Am I Going To Heaven. Low point: synth solo on Facing Yourself, which otherwise is a great mellow pop song...

    As predicted I did break 10000 songs on week of Mar 19 to Mar 26. Some totally irrelevant statistics on the subject follows: Song count at March 26 was 10082. Most played artist was Quintessence with 279 and most played track was Dig Deeper with 20. This means that my most popular artist counted for only 2.8% of all the tracks listened to and most popular track counted for slightly under 0.2% of the tracks. My 50 most listened artists cover slightly over 56% of all the tracks listened. Point of all these statistics? There isn't any...
  • More Tosca. About to break 10000...

    21. Mär. 2006, 7:10

    I bought my first Tosca album (J.A.C.) just couple of weeks ago. I liked what I heard so I went and bought Suzuki and Dehli9, which is a 2CD experience. Both albums are pretty much what I expected; downtempo electro jazz with some dub elements. For some reason that I've not been able identify Dehli9 sounds more 'live', while Suzuki seems to be more produced / engineered. Dehli9 (disc 1) is pretty much what I would suspect that people expect from Tosca and a great album as such. I personally would rank it over both the Suzuki and J.A.C.. Dehli9 (disc 2) contains series of relatively short piano pieces that at least to me sound like they could have been improvisation sessions that ended up being recorded and then published. A Brian Eno tribute?

    It seems I'm about to break 10000 mark this week. Assuming that I will break it by next Sunday, that would mean that since I registered to last October I have, on average, listened to 58 tracks a day. That's probably something like 5 albums a day and probably around 5 hours a day. I also seem to have bought 37 albums during the same time. That's about 1.6 albums a week. On average! I know that I listen music a lot, having music playing all the time at the office, at home and in the car, but the numbers are still slightly disturbing...

    BTW, forgot to mention on my last entry that I had also bought Piece by Piece during February.
  • Some recent album purchases.

    15. Mär. 2006, 6:57

    Haven't done this in a while, so here is a list of albums I have bought in the last month or so:

    J.A.C.. Tosca has been on my to-be-bought list for ages but I did not get a round to buy anything from them until last week. After one session listening to the album I was already sold. I will most definitely buy more of their albums. One of those artists that I should have become aware of much much earlier.

    The Life Pursuit. This one was bought on impulse and is my very first Belle and Sebastian album. I saw the album getting really good reviews all over the place. Several reviews compared the band and the album to The Smiths and I've always liked them. The album really is just as good as all the reviews I have read have said.

    The Campfire Headphase. Another one that has been popping up on my recommendations lists for ages so I finally decided to buy their latest album. After listening to it for a couple of times, I'd say that it's an ok album but perhaps slightly too experimental for my current taste. The material itself is good in it's genre, but there are so little hooks in the songs that the album hard to get into. An album that at this phase will probably get buried into depths of my music collection until I (hopefully) discover it at later stage wondering why I haven't been listening to it.

    Future Flashback. Hmmm... Album could probably be described as somewhat housy nu-jazz with lot's of latin, acid and fusion elements. Excellent stuff and highly recommendable. His other work will definitely be on my to-be-bought list.

    Virgin Ubiquity Remixed. Another twisted remix album concept. Album contains remixes of some old Ayers tracks. As I anticipated, in a somewhat predictable remix album tradition, the quality of the remixes varies a lot. Some are just plain awful and have completely lost the original Ayers grooves, while others are really great and true to the original song while still bringing their own approach to the songs. The album has no fewer and 21 tracks and luckily most of them are positive experiences. Recommended. (BTW, did you know Roy Ayers is claimed to be the second most sampled artist in the world?)

    Remember Tomorrow. This one was found with a little help from the recommendations engine. Really nice chill out album with plenty of latin, afro, jazz, funk, etc. Highly recommendable, as long as you remember to press skip every time Hit The Road Jack (Pena Estrada) starts. What an awful version of the old classic...

    And the Glass Handed Kites. Yet another impulse purchase. Granted, [track artist=Mew]Special[track] is a really great indie pop song. Unfortunately, there just are not enough moments like it on the album.Despite all the raving reviews, I thought the album was a disappointment. I do like the progressive elements the album contains, but unfortunately the album sounds somehow superficial.

    Vielä koittaa uusi aika. Local act singing in Finnish so don't wonder if you have not heard of them before..... Mainio albumi vaikka itse ehkä pidänkin Egotripin vanhemmasta voima-pop tuotannosta enemmän. Materiaali on jälleen kerran suomi rock/pop -akselilla vertaansa vailla. Sanoitukset tosin ontuvat jälleen paikoin.
  • Some bargain bin discoveries

    7. Feb. 2006, 6:23

    Nothing really new, but I did make some findings on the bargain bin at the local what-used-to-be-a-record store (in alphabetical order) last week:

    Talkie Walkie. Although I like Air, I did not by this when it was published but decided to wait until it’s on Mid/Nice price selection. Decision was made on principle that I try to avoid buying copy protected disks and just refuse to buy them at full price. However, now that I found the album on bargain bin at 8 euros, I decided to buy it. It’s not like would have been buying it blindfolded. I already had couple of ‘previews’ on my hard drive ;) Excellent stuff.
    Death By Chocolate and Detunized Gravity. De-Phazz is relatively new find for me, since I discovered them just last autumn. Having liked pretty much everything that I accidentally have heard from De-Phazz and considering I did like Natural Fake which I have bought previously, I decided to buy these at 9 euros a piece. Haven’t really had a change to really properly listen to them but I have been playing them as a background music in the office and they seem to be pretty much what I expected them to be. Hopefully I will get a chance to really listen to the albums in near future. I probably will buy more their albums whenever I come across them.
    XL – The best of.... This one was bought on a whim. It was only 5 euros and contained Theme from Shaft, Walk on By, The Look of Love, etc so I decided to give it a go. Good grief, I had no idea that Isaac Hayes is this good! I admit that double CD of this stuff might be a bit too much at one go, but it’s great stuff e.g. for Saturday evening or Sunday morning ;)
    Waiting For Cousteau. Re-purchase. I loaned the album to someone when I was in studying in University in mid-90s. Needless to say, I never got it back and could not remember whom I loaned it to. I just hate when that happens.
    Waiting for the Sirens' Call. Album did not get very good reviews when it was published, and I decided to be cheap and postpone buying it until I can get it on sale or it’s re-released in mid-price selection. My expectations were not high, so it has worked above my expectations. Especially the beginning of the album works very well. Still, I must say that I agree with the reviews in that the material is not as good as on their classic albums. Still, it’s THE New Order and pretty true to the sound they have invented.