Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just wanted to pop in to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving!

We have a lot to be thankful for this year. Lexi continues to delight and astonish us with how cute she is. There was some awesome music this year. Even in our tough financial spot some friends are helping us out which is wonderful and humbling.

God bless you and yours!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Favorite Albums of 2012

It’s that time of year! I've decided to revamp my process a little bit. After reviewing my past lists, I've discovered that they’d slowly become a recap of what I bought that year instead of a celebration of the best of the best. So this year I’m only picking five albums (with three honorable mentions) that I felt were the absolute cream of the crop. I’m also going to do this later in the year so as to include more.  

Top Five Picks

3, Wake Pig – I got Wake Pig for Christmas last year and all of a sudden 3 became one of my favorite bands. All of their albums are fantastic (except Revisions) but Wake Pig remains my favorite. Imagine combining Coheed & Cambria with PFR and add in some insanely good (and unique) guitar playing and you’ll have an idea of what this band is about.

Tourniquet, Antiseptic Bloodbath – I honestly didn't think we’d ever get another Tourniquet album. Happily, this year proved me wrong! While I still think the songs are more an assemblage of cool riffs and parts than they are songs, I don’t hesitate to listen to it again as there’s so much to like.

Alice Cooper, Welcome to My Nightmare – Now I know why this is a classic. A truly superb album. From the crazy Vincent Price monologue, to the despicable “Cold Ethyl” to the mournful cries of “Steven!”, Welcome To My Nightmare is a one of a kind album. Before Silent Hill and Rob Zombie movies, there was Alice Cooper.

Sixpence None The Richer, Lost in Transition – I had this in the “honorable mentions” category but switched it because after complaining about not having it for two years I couldn't put in on my list and say nothing about it. I’m so glad Sixpence is back. The new album is a favorite in the house. Even my two year old likes it (and sings along – it’s so cute)! I still wish the songs themselves would have been explored a bit more, but that’s kind of a back-handed complaint. “Hey! The songs are great! I wish they would've stuck around longer!” Yeah… anyway, welcome back Sixpence!

Frost*, Milliontown – I seriously cannot believe how awesome this disc is. It came in my mailbox along with a few other freebies from a friend. Even after the first listen it shot to the top of my list. Amazing, evocative melodies. Great atmosphere. Epic songs. A great way to end the year, for sure!

Honorable Mentions

Vanden Plas, Christ 0
Dream Theater, Train of Thought
Devin Townsend Project, Epicloud/Epiclouder


The Choir, The Loudest Sound Ever Heard – Wait, what?! Yep, sadly, I must include The Choir’s latest on my disappointments list. Let me be clear though, this isn't a bad album. The problem is that I’m used to Choir albums pretty much dominating the Ipod for months. Unfortunately, after the honeymoon period I didn't find myself wanting to go back to it. As much as I loved it when it first came out, there didn't seem to be much to really dig into after awhile.

Arjen Anthony Lucassen, Lost in the New Real – My problem with this one is pretty much the same as The Choir. I expected to be listening to this throughout the summer and into the fall. Again, it’s not a bad album. I just never wanted to go back to it as much as an Ayreon or Star One release. Also, it didn't help that I didn't really care for the second disc.

Flyleaf, New Horizons – Oh gosh. Yawn! The band put all their energy into the first three tracks then ran on autopilot for the rest. It’s too bad that this is the last album with Lacey because it’s not the best closing act.

Cornerstone dying – I was very sad to learn that this year was the last for the Cornerstone music festival. Cornerstone was always the Holy Grail of festivals to me as a youth. While I was fortunate enough to go to Kingdom Bound on a regular basis, there were only ever one or two bands I really wanted to see. At Cornerstone, everyone that played there was someone I liked. I had always hoped I’d get to go one year but it looks like I never will. Le sigh.

Ray Perra leaves Sacred Warrior – Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news? The bad news is that longtime vocalist Ray Perra left Sacred Warrior this year! The good news is that the new album in due sometime at the end of the year with a new vocalist who sounds great. Can’t complain about the replacement because he’s excellent, but it’s still sad that Ray won’t be joining the band for Waiting in Darkness.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Suicidal Tendencies - "Lights...Camera...Revolution"

Suicidal Tendencies - Lights...Camera...Revolution
1990, Sony

1. You Can't Bring Me Down
2. Lost Again
3. Alone
4. Lovely
5. Give It Revolution
6. Get Whacked
7. Send Me Your Money
8. Emotion No. 13
9. Disco's Out, Murder's In
10. Go'n Breakdown

Suicidal Tendencies was a band I never touched with a ten-foot pole. Nay, even in my Metallica loving youth. As relaxed and groovy as my mom was I don't think she would have ever responded well to me asking, "Hey mom, can I have some Suicidal Tendencies?" Also, they are called Suicidal Tendencies. One day I was just window shopping for some new music and I decided to check them out. They're actually not as bad as their name might imply. This particular album is a bay area thrash/punk fusion similar to D.R.I. or The Crucified. I think it's their third or forth album and they've got their sound nailed down, resulting in some high quality thrash. They've got a healthy dose of humor as well ("You wouldn't know crazy if Charles Manson was eating Fruit Loops on your front porch!"). "Send Me Your Money" is the obligatory anti-80's televangelist song. I think it was a law back then to have at least one of these types of songs on your album. Anyway, I don't think I'm gonna rush right out and collect all the band's back catalog, but I'm glad I added Lights...Camera...Revolution to my collection.

Useless Fact: The band is most famous for "Institutionalized" from their self-titled debut. If you ever hear someone yell, "I JUST WANTED A PEPSI! ALL I WANTED WAS A PEPSI!" they're probably referencing that song. Also, Suicidal main man "Cyco" Mike Muir has worked with P.O.D.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Frost* - "Milliontown"

Frost* - Milliontown
2006, Inside Out

1. Hyperventilate
2. No Me No You
3. Snowman
4. The Other Me
5. Black Light Machine
6. Milliontown

Frost*'s debut, Milliontown, was sent to me by my good buddy Uvulapie. I didn't know anything about the band other than they were on Inside Out so I knew they would be "progressive." Upon first listen I heard a pleasant piano intro. Then the real song dropped in and I said, "Holy s***t!" It was so amazing I used profanity - AND I WASN'T EVEN AT WORK! This is, quite possibly  the most wonderful disc I've heard in quite a while. It is fully progressive with time changes and epic song lengths. It barrows from just many different genres from pop to rock to electronica - even a little R & B in the melodies. Speaking of which the album boasts some pretty evocative, lush soundscapes. As I've said before it's very rare that I form an opinion of a new CD so quickly but this was a no-brainer. Not only is Milliontown one of the best CDs I've heard this year, it is probably one of the best I've heard ever. For reals.

Useless Fact: I don't know anything about this band at all so I don't really have any facts. Oh! They do have another album out called Experiments in Mass Appeal. I have not heard it - but I will.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Flyleaf - "New Horizons"

Flyleaf - New Horizons
2012, Octone

1. Fire Fire
2. New Horizons
3. Call You Out
4. Cage on the Ground
5. Great Love
6. Bury Your Heart
7. Freedom
8. Saving Grace
9. Stand
10. Green Heart
11. Broken Wings

It's very rare that I'm able to form an opinion about a new release so quickly. However, upon listening to New Horizons for the first time I thought to myself, "Um... what happened here?" The album starts off really well. The three opening tracks are unique and full of passion. "Call You Out" reminds me a bit of "Breathe Today" from the debut. Unfortunately, after a strong start the album falls apart. It reverts to this standard Christian modern rock sound that feels tired and uninspired. Subsequent listens have not changed my mind any. My wife says I'm being too hard on them but I disagree. Both the debut and Memento Mori were both really good. They had a nice intensity about them that New Horizons lacks. If this is the "new horizon" to which the band is headed then I may have to get off at this stop because it's not very interesting.

Useless Fact: This will be founding vocalist Lacey Sturm's last album with the band. The story goes that after the band's former producer was killed in a car crash, Lacey had a "Memento Mori" moment. Realizing she wanted to spend more time with her new baby and husband, she decided to leave the band. They've got a replacement but she sounds kind of generic in the samples I've heard. Though, to be fair, it's a little too early to judge.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Devin Townsend Project - "Epicloud"

The Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud
2012, Inside Out

Disc One:
1. Effervescent!
2. True North
3. Lucky Animals
4. Liberation
5. Where We Belong
6. Save Our Now
7. Kingdom
8. Divine
9. Grace
10. More!
11. Lessons
12. Hold On
13. Angel

Disc Two:
1. Believe
2. Happy Birthday
3. Quietus
4. Heatwave
5. Love Tonight
6. The Mind Wasp
7. Woah No!
8. Love & Marriage
9. Socialization
10. Little Pig

It's always nice to have some new Devin. After finishing his four album cycle, Devin regrouped and released Epicloud. Rumor has it he was trying to write for the next Ziltoid album but all these pop songs kept coming out, and so we have Epicloud. Or perhaps you could call it Addicted! 2 as it sounds similar in that it retains Devin's trademark styles but is also very accessible. It's a pretty decent mix of all his moods. You've got some more progressive tunes like "True North" and "Grace." There are some sort of Enya-core songs like "Where We Belong" and "Save Us Now" as well as some straight-forward rockers like "Lucky Animals" and "More!." Epicloud is exactly the right word to describe this album. There's a gospel choir to go with the huge production making everything sound... well... EPIC. And LOUD. While I do enjoy it, I'm not quite as over-the-moon with it as I was with Addicted! I think part of the reason is that Addicted! hit its groove pretty early and never let up until the closing notes, which made for a supremely enjoying album. I don't think this one quite hits its mark. The songs are great, for sure, but I don't think the whole thing comes together as quite the package of the previous releases. As a result it almost feels like something's missing. That's not to say it's bad, not at all. I think the songs themselves are great except "Liberation" which kind of annoys me for some reason. Also, I like "Grace" but I think it's plodding pace and more progressive nature goes against the accessible pop nature of the rest of the tracks. In other words, it breaks the groove.

The special edition of Epicloud comes with a bonus disc with ten demos. Some were supposed to appear on the album proper, while others were bits and pieces of other ideas. The songs are unfinished but, honestly, you'd probably never know as most seem pretty complete to me. In fact, if it were my record, I think I might have switched out some of the main tracks for some of these. It might have improved the unity of the disc.

Useless Fact: Devin did a "video" for "Lucky Animals" in which he danced, poorly, I might add. However, that was just to prompt fans to film their own video for the song. The fan-shot footage will be used in the official video.