Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Advent Spectacular 2015!

Hello everyone! Over at my You Tube channel I did a little series of videos on each Advent Sunday this year talking about different Christmas related things. I thought I'd share that playlist here too as my last post for the year. Merry Christmas everyone! God bless us, everyone!

Episode One: Christmas Memories and Greetings
Episode Two: Christmas Music
Episode Three: Christmas Movies
Episode Four: Faith

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Favorite Albums of 2015 (Video Edition)

Yes, sir, it’s that time again – recapping my favorite albums from the past year. It was a pretty good year with a lot of cool stuff. Some cool stuff didn’t even make it onto the list (which makes me a bit sad), but I limited myself to five picks, so that’s what I stuck with. As always, this isn’t necessarily stuff that came out this year, just stuff I discovered though some may be new releases.

Marmozets, “The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets” – This was a Christmas present last year and it pretty much dominated the first part of the year. One part Paramore, one part fierce, technical musicianship. All parts awesome. Can’t wait to see what this band does in the future!

White Lighter, “White Lighter” – A project from former Stavesacre/Crucified frontman Mark Solomon, White Lighter is a sort of laid back, Black Sabbath-esque rock band. Their debut album came out late in 2014 but I’d only heard about it later through Solomon’s podcast. It’s a fantastic album that I listened to over and over.

Symphony X, “Underworld” – Symphony X continues to impress with another stellar release. Not quite as heavy as “Iconoclast” but it makes up for it with melodic hooks and catchy tunes. It’s even got a little bit of a commercial vibe which, surprisingly, actually helps the album rather than hurt it.

I Fight Dragons, “The Near Future” – I like catchy tunes and I like the original Nintendo, so… I pretty much have to love this album.

Queensryche, “Condition Human” – Welcome back, guys. Welcome back. Queensryche is energized and full of life once again. While I do think it might fall just short of true classic status, I have no doubt they are going to create the next “Mindcrime” or “Empire” of their careers with Todd LaTorre. I cannot wait to see what they do next.

Honorable Mentions

Jerry Gaskill, “Love & Scars”
Pentatonix, “Pentatonix”
Coheed & Cambria, “The Color Before the Sun”


Tourniquet/Ted Kirkpatrick, “Onward to Freedom” – Well, there’s certainly enough talent on this disc that, mathematically speaking, it should be good. Right? Unfortunately the songs are largely forgettable and the preachy PETA lyrics don’t help matters any.

Meghan Trainor, “Title” – It’s unfortunate that the subject matter on Trainor’s debut album is so annoying. We get it… you’re an independent woman who don’t need no man – except when you do. They you’re mad because that idiot you’re messing around with treats you bad. I really hope this is a persona instead of Trainor’s real life.

The Gentle Storm, “The Diary” – Here’s another album that should be one of my picks. Arjen Lucassen and Anneke Van Giersbergen team up for a Celtic-influenced heavy/pop album. It should work! For some it does. Me, however, it just didn’t seem to do anything for me. I never really found myself going back to it. Oh well… we are due for another Star One record soon…

Atomic Opera, “Gospel Cola” – No surprise here. I loved “For Madmen Only” but heard “Gospel Cola” had fallen short. I held out hope that maybe I would really latch onto it but, nope, I didn’t. It’s as mediocre as everyone has said. Sad face.

I’m going to so something a little different next year. Not too much different as there will still be my regular reviews. However, I will be spending one review each month to a specific thing. Get ready for…. THE GENESIS PROJECT! Want to find out more? Watch the video edition!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Connick Jr., Harry - "What a Night! A Christmas Album"

Connick Jr., Harry - What a Night! A Christmas Album
2008, Sony

1. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
2. What a Night!
3. Christmas Day
4. Holly Jolly Christmas
5. Please Come Home For Christmas
6. O Come All Ye Faithful
7. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies
8. Let There Be Peace On Earth
9. Winter Wonderland
10. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
11. Santariffic
12. Jingle Bells
13. Zat You Santa Claus?
14. We Three Kings
15. Song for the Hopeful

I think my Harry Connick, Jr. Christmas collection is complete. Though honestly I didn't like this one as much at first. It took some growing time. The traditional songs are as great as they always are. I really enjoyed the jazzy version of "We Three Kings" even though, like I said, I had to warm up to it at first. I also love this version of "Winter Wonderland" with Harry's daughter singing with him. I think it's probably one of my favorite versions. I don't know how I feel about "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" as I don't think jazz is quite the style that fits with that version. Also, it doesn't seem like the originals are as good as the ones on the previous albums (except the title track, which I love). Still worth getting, though. I just don't think it's as strong as the other two.

Useless Fact: I don't really have any facts left about ol' HCJ.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gaskill, Jerry - "Love & Scars"

Gaskill, Jerry - Love & Scars
2015, Rat Pak

1. Far Away
2. This Picture
3. No More Yesterday
4. Hypothetical
5. Waking Up
6. Never Ever Know
7. Sandy
8. Patty's Song
9. Paradise
10. Sad
11. Girl In the Warehouse
12. Goodbye Song

While I count King's X as one of my favorite bands of all time, I've never really cared much for any of the members solo material. Neither Ty Tabor nor Dug Pinnick have been able to captivate me with a solo record. Now I'd heard for a long time that Jerry Gaskill's solo debut, Come Somewhere was the best solo out of them but I'd never checked it out. I heard about Love & Scars a month or so before it's release and got to hear some samples. I was hooked immediately. One Amazon reviewer said that, "This is what the last fifteen years of King's X should have sounded like." And well... yeah, kinda. It's got that deep low end and harmonies - glorious harmonies. The songs are catchy to boot and really dug their claws in deep. Especially songs like the opener, "Far Away" which really does sound like a lost King's X track and "Paradise" with those wonderful harmonies. Then there's the beautiful and epic, "Sad" which, again, sounds an awful lot like a King's X tune. I've always thought that Ty and Dug are what made most of King's X sound like King's X but it appears I was happily mistaken. Congratulations to Jerry who's the only member of the band whose solo album I loved! I guess I have to check out Come Somewhere now...

Useless Fact: There are a slew of guest musicians on this album like Billy Sheehan and Phil Keaggy.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - "Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)"

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)
2012, Lava

1. Winter Palace
2. Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)
3. I Had a Memory
4. Someday
5. Time You Should Be Sleeping

Dreams of Fireflies serves as sort of a postlude to the TSO Christmas trilogy. There's no surprises here - if you like TSO, you'll like this little EP. Though there isn't much to be had. There's only five songs and no song is over four minutes long. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but depending on how much you pay for it, you might not feel like you're getting your money's worth. However, the music is awesome as usual. The first two tracks are nice heavy, progressive instrumentals. "Someday" and "Time You Should Be Sleeping" are both good ballads. I say if you liked the trilogy, you probably won't regret picking this up. Love that cover art!

Useless Fact: As far as I know there's no actual story for this album.