• Top Albums Of 2012

    8 jan. 2013, 3h04m

    The amount of time that has passed since the last time I did one of these is now a year! So let's do it again! Introductory words!

    10th Place: Full Of Keys - Traces Of A Human
    electronic, pop, alternative

    About a year ago a friend of mine linked me to 'Desolate', a song by a Swedish singer. She's relatively unknown, but she's a tremendous vocalist and clearly knows how to write a catchy track. The problem I find with a lot of solo singers is that the music behind them is often pretty simple or boring, so as to avoid 'getting in the way' of their ability. Not here, though. The album has strong pop overtones but it's not simple, it's very much a partner to Anni Bernhard's skills. Great album.
    Best Tracks: Desolate, My Little Ghost

    9th Place: Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pandora's Piñata
    rock, metal, swing, orchestral

    Ah, Diablo Swing Orchestra. The only band I know of who combined metal with swing music. This is their 3rd album, and I'd argue it's the most consistent. The balance between big crunchy guitars, classical vocal lines and strings and other orchestrations is always tricky, and a lot of bands tend to favour one too much (Nightwish!) but here it's solid balance. It's a great album that doesn't take itself too seriously. Good stuff.
    Best Tracks: Exit Strategy Of A Wrecking Ball, Kevlar Sweethearts

    8th Place: Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud
    progressive rock

    Devin is really really good at making really really 'massive' sounding music. Over the last four years he released four distinctly different albums, all four of which really could have come from four different bands. This album takes all four of these styles and mixes them all together, resulting in a very diverse listen. It's both noisy and beautiful, features both complex progressive tracks and more straightforward rock tracks, and also uses the vocals of my still number one favourite female voice Anneke Van Giersbergen. It's a huge album that deserves and rewards multiple listens.
    Best Tracks: Kingdom, More!

    7th Place: The Gathering - Disclosure
    progressive rock, atmospheric, alt rock

    The Gathering went through a huge change a few years ago when Anneke (who I totally just mentioned!) left to follow a solo career. The album they released after that (The West Pole) had some great stuff but had evidence the band hadn't found new vocalist Silje's groove yet. This album does not suffer from that. It's not as catchy as their other stuff, it's more... 'spacious' if that's a word. Atmospheric. It's really relaxing to listen to.
    Best Tracks: Paper Waves, Missing Seasons

    6th Place: Arjen Anthony Lucassen - Lost in the New Real
    progressive rock

    Arjen's ongoing progressive rock opera thing Aryeon is decent, but it's so overblown and he really loves long drawn out complicated passages all over the place. This album does not bother with them. This album is straight up rock songs with lots of odd flutes and keyboard sounds. It's catchy and fun, instead of complex. That doesn't mean it's overly simple, nor does it mean Ayreon doesn't deserve listening to, but this album is great. It's also pretty funny lyrics wise. The second CD is pretty great too, especially the Pink Floyd cover.
    Best Tracks: E-Police, Welcome To The Machine

    5th Place: All Will Be Quiet - On The First Day
    post-rock, indie, ambient

    This is my underground hipster indie find of the year that you've never heard of. Finnish band All Will Be Quiet aren't really indie, they're more 'post-rock with vocals'. The music itself is kind of minimal, not a huge amount going on, but there's lots of spacy choirs and bells. It's mysterious music. I am aware how stupid that sounds but whatever it's my top 10 list not yours. Give them a go.
    Best Tracks: Writing History, The First Day Pt. 1

    4th Place: Anneke van Giersbergen - Everything Is Changing
    pop, rock

    You guys must be getting pretty sick of her but whatever. She's great, and this album is great. After she left The Gathering she released an album in a similar, slightly depressing lots of piano style (Air) which was great, and a straight up pop album (In Your Room) which wasn't so hot. This album is a mix of the two and it's fantastic. Her rock elements are back and they work. I've said it like a hundred times this list but the catchiness is what makes it work. I dunno maybe I am more simple these days.
    Best Tracks: You Want To Be Free, Stay

    3rd Place: The Chant - A Healing Place
    rock, atmospheric, post-rock

    Just like All Will Be Quiet this year, a few years ago The Chant's 'Ghostlines' was my 'awesome album out of nowhere', and just like The Gathering, they've gone all post rock atmospheric on us this time. It's a fantastic album with a bunch of really lovely guitar-and-strings combinations and really great soundscapes. Man this is pretty much the The Gathering review again. Just listen to it already jeez. It even has a saxophone in it!
    Best Tracks: My Kin, Outlines

    2nd Place: Coheed and Cambria - The Afterman: Ascention
    progressive rock, metal

    Coheed are one of those bands you like without ever realizing you're a fan of. At least for me. I never actually ever said to myself 'oh wow this is awesome' and yet a bunch of their albums get continuous play on my iPod. This is not the case for this album which has taken their previous works (except for Year Of The Black Rainbow which, whilst I enjoyed, doesn't really fit with their other stuff) and solved all the problems. The whining is gone. The Dream Theater style needlessly complicated solos are gone. Instead this is guitar led rock and it's brilliant. All of it. Oh god I can't wait for part 2.
    Best Tracks: Vic The Butcher, Holly Wood The Cracked

    1st Place: Anathema - Weather Systems
    progressive rock, post-rock, atmospheric

    Much like In Flames, Anathema are a band dogged by fans who demand they go back to their old style. They're famous for being one of the big British Doom bands that brought the genre to life, along with My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost. But now they're miles away from that. Their last album 'We're Here Because We're Here' had it's moments, but overall it lacked the intensity they're known for. This album does not. Every single track has huge flourishes of energy in it. It's a long winding journey and it's so worth every moment. This band have had some issues finding where they were going, but if this is what's to come next, I've never been more excited. A fantastic album, and the best of the year.
    Best Tracks: Untouchable Pt. 1, The Storm Before The Calm, The Beginning And The End

    Huge Letdown Of The Year
    Delain - We Are The Others

    I like Delain. Their first album was gothic rock that didn't follow the same chug-chug sellout nonsense that Within Temptation and Nightwish have been putting out for the last five years. Their second album WAS more radio friendly but the vocal abilities and songwriting talent on show made up for it. This album is total shit. The song writing was so obviously rushed. Every song's chorus could easily be swapped with every other tracks'. I hate what the female fronted metal genre has become and this album is just the cumulation of the last 7-8 years laziness. I really hope the band disappear for a few years and get on with repairing their work because this is a tragic way for them to go.
  • Top Albums Of 2011

    3 jan. 2012, 9h13m

    Back once again with a top 10 list. If you're interested what did well and what didn't last year, the list is available here - - so go check it out!
    But enough of the past, let's talk about 2011!

    10th Place: Autumn - Cold Comfort
    progressive rock, atmospheric rock

    Autumn's last album, Altitude, featured a new vocalist and a more melodic approach. It was incredibly catchy. This album is not. This album takes a lot of listens to get into, and it is yet another showcase for Marjan's vocal talents. Which isn't at all a complaint considering she has a really lovely voice.
    Best Track: Cold Comfort

    9th Place: Illuminatus - Glasnost
    post metal, progressive metal

    I saw this band at Bloodstock festival in the UK in about 2005, and I remember really enjoying their music but also totally forgetting to look them up. So imagine my surprise when, just a few short years later, their album appears in my recommendations list, and turns out to be great, too. Really nice chunky guitars, catchy vocal lines, and excellent production. It's post metal without all the of the waiting around for something interesting to happen. Good work!
    Best Track: Division

    8th Place: The Chemical Brothers - Hanna
    soundtrack, electronic

    We made it all the way to number 7 before I put a soundtrack in. I think we did pretty well. This is an electronic masterpiece, oddly soothing and down tempo considering how violent (and brilliant) the film was. It enhanced the film and it totally stands up on it's own, too. Great work.
    Best Track: The Devil is in the Details

    7th Place: Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events
    progressive rock, progressive metal

    They're back and they've lost their most irritating member! This album swapped Mike Portnoy's "We have to be ANGRY to be current" approach for the "Let's just make really good music" theory and it worked just wonderfully. A fantastic return to form, and if the next album is anything like this one, maybe we can forgive them for Systematic Chaos. Maybe.
    Best Track: On The Backs Of Angels

    6th Place: Mastodon - The Hunter
    progressive metal

    Confession time. I don't like Leviathan, but I do like Crack The Skye. This album even more so. It's funky metal. Upbeat rock. I dunno what you would call it. 'Curl Of The Burl' is so catchy I had my entire office singing along to it.
    Best Track: Curl Of The Burl

    5th Place: Thomas Bergersen - Illusions
    soundtrack, symphonic

    OH MY WHERE DID THIS COME FROM. I literally found this on someone else's list, listened to it, and nearly collapsed. It's huge, epic, vast choirs and orchestras without being hugely over produced or overly pompous. I have no clue if it's a soundtrack to something or if this dude just went 'screw it, I'm making awesome music' but it works. Oh, it works. Get on Youtube and listen.
    Best Track: Ocean Princess

    4th Place: *shels - Plains of the Purple Buffalo
    post-rock, progressive rock

    Over the last two years I went on a huge post-rock stint, loving bands like Mono, maybeshewill and so on. Now I'm finding myself less drawn into the genre. Or I was, until this absolute stomper of an album came out. It's got the quiet/loud changes of post rock, but with vocals that compliment the music rather than simplifying it, and excellent production from start to finish. 'Butterflies (On Luci's Way)' is my song of the year. Trust me, listen to it.
    Best Track: Butterflies (On Luci's Way)

    3rd Place: Darren Korb - Bastion Soundtrack
    soundtrack, folk, trip-hop

    The only trip-hop orchestral soundtrack I know of. God damn it's just brilliant. The game was great (and it's super cheap and on Steam get it now already) but the soundtrack somehow managed to outshine it. The occasional stabs of violins, the acoustic guitar, and the electronic beats work in a way that totally shouldn't. Also the vocal tracks are phenomenal. Seriously get it now. SERIOUSLY. Also you can listen to the whole thing on Bandcamp. Do that too. - -
    Best Track: Bynn The Breaker (for the orchestrations!)

    2nd Place: Matthew Good - Lights of Endangered Species
    alternative rock, singer songwriter

    Man this album is hard to place. It's primarily guitar driven but it has a huge swing jazz track, a stomping anthem, a handful of beautiful acoustic-y songs and all sorts of other stuff going on. I think I may be a little biased because this is the album I listened to on my flight over to Japan so it's kind of linked to a very memorable time for me. Whatever, it's brilliant. Just brilliant.
    Best Track: Zero Orchestra

    1st Place: Fair to Midland - Arrows & Anchors
    progressive rock, southern rock

    This album defines 2011 for me. I had been looking forward to this release for half a year already, and when it came it blew my socks off. At it's core it's alternative rock - there's guitars everywhere and driving drum patterns. But for the most part it doesn't get 'heavy', relying on clever melodies and vocal trickery to drive the music rather than distortion or angry vocals. (Although that isn't true for 'Riki Tiki Taavi' which is loud as hell). It's a fantastic follow up to the previous 'Fables From A Mayfly' but with far better production and every so slightly less weird lyrics. It's just a shame the lead single they picked ('Musical Chairs') doesn't do any justice to the album. Oh well.
    Best Track: Coppertank Island


    Now for a new award: Terrible letdown of the Year! We had some real competition this year from Opeth, but the winner has to be:

    Nightwish - Imaginaerum
    Remember when Nightwish wrote clever rock songs with orchestral stuff over the top to make a sound that gripped you? If you do you're thinking at least as far back as 2004's Once. Dark Passion Play (2007) had it's moments but suffered from the awful CHUGGA CHUGGA simple guitar work. This album is that times one hundred. A rock album entirely devoid of any guitar work does not make much headway. Especially when the orchestras are far too loud and the vocalists are singing music entirely wrong for their style. Oh dear me.
    Best Track: Last Ride Of The Day
    Worst Track: Scaretale. Oh god it's AWFUL.

    Thanks for reading :) I'd love to hear your comments and recommendations for stuff I missed this year! Hope everyone has a great 2012!
  • Top Albums Of 2010

    28 déc. 2010, 16h28m

    I've decided I want to start writing journals on Last.FM again. IT was a few years ago when I deleted my old ones because they were rubbish, but now I'm all grown up it's time! Here we go! My top albums of 2010 are;

    10th Place: Anathema - We're Here Because We're Here
    progressive rock, progressive metal
    We've been waiting for the follow up to 2003's amazing A Natural Disaster for 7 years now. What we got wasn't really that similar - instead of another progressive metal masterpiece we got a more relaxed progressive rock album with tinges of indie and even some ambient sounds. But change is good, and so is this album.
    Best Track: Everything

    9th Place: Solution .45 - For Aeons Past
    melodic death metal, progressive metal, progressive death metal
    I'm not really into death metal as much as I was when I was 18, but this album is great. The majority of the focus is on clever guitar work and clean vocals, with the harsh vocals taking more of a back seat.
    Best Track: Gravitational Lensing

    8th Place: Cécile Corbel - Kari-gurashi ~借りぐらし~
    celtic, folk, medieval, harp
    The tags are kind of different to the album in 9th place, huh! Really beautiful harp music and a voice that will send chills through you. It was the soundtrack to Miyazaki's The Borrow Arrietty, and it was the best part of the film.
    Best Track: Arrietty's Song

    7th Place: Pure Reason Revolution - Hammer And Anvil
    progressive rock, art rock, progressive, british, rock
    One of my favourite bands. Their first album was awesome melodic progressive rock, the second was more electronic, and this one is just an awesome wall of electronic rock.
    Best Track: Valour

    6th Place: Jónsi - Go
    icelandic, ambient, experimental, indie, orchestral
    Vocalist of the mighty Sigur Rós, Iceland's Jónsi went solo this year with an album brimming with happiness. It's got the Sigur Rs patented ambient feel to it and is really fun and upbeat. You can't feel sad and listen to this album at the same time.
    Best Track: Boy Lilikoi

    5th Place: Pendulum - Immersion
    drum and bass, electronic
    Well nobody can say my music taste isn't varied. Celtic, death metal and drum and bass in the same list. I never really 'got' this band until this album. The thing I love is the genre-bending element - the rock elements that run through the album work perfectly with their classic DnB sound. Still not a fan of their older albums, or of DnB in general really, but this album is great.
    Best Track: Immunize

    4th Place: The Pineapple Thief - Someone Here Is Missing
    progressive rock, art rock, british
    A masterclass in how to write progressive rock that doesn't lose pace. Honestly this is what Porcupine Tree's The Incident should have been. One of fans of rock music that doesn't rely on noise but won't send you to sleep.
    Best Track: Wake Up The Dead

    3rd Place: Coheed and Cambria - Year of the Black Rainbow
    progressive rock, rock, alternative
    Ever since Welcome Home appeared on Rock Band, I've 'kind of' liked this band. Yes the vocalist is a little whiny and sometimes song structure gets a little muddled in favor of guitar work, but that's probably why this album is my favourite of theirs. Yes it's more simple than the others, but that's not always a bad thing. So many songs will get you pumped up. Just skip the first three, they're kind of directionless.
    Best Track: World Of Lines

    2nd Place: Machinae Supremacy - A View from the End of the World
    sid metal, metal, power metal, electronic
    YES! The band that add more bleep-bloop to rock than anyone else are back! This album is more complex, more developed and more memorable than the last. It's such a tight piece of work. The electronic element is right up in the front of the mix, and even the vocals which have always been somewhat of a problem were improved. Awesome album.
    Best Track: Rocket Dragon

    1st Place: Keiichi Okabe, Kakeru Ishihama, Keigo Hoashi, Takafumi Nishimura - NieR Gestalt & Replicant Original Soundtrack
    soundtrack, instrumental, game music, female vocals
    My 'hidden gem' of the year. This is the soundtrack to NieR, a video game I've never played. If it's anything like this soundtrack though it's great. I've always liked symphonic stuff, and also had a soft spot for female vocalists with a distinctive voice, and this album had both. Great, great stuff.
    Best Track:Hills Of Radiant Wind


    So I think that's my album of the year list. If I did it again I'd probably change it, but I'm going to stick with it for now. Finally here's a list of runner up albums that didn't quite make it;

    65daysofstatic - We Were Exploding Anyway
    Demains - Mute
    God Is An Astronaut - Age Of The Fifth Sun
    Hans Zimmer - Inception OST
    How to Destroy Angels - How To Destroy Angels
    James LaBrie - Static Impulse
    John Powell - How To Train Your Dragon
    Tarja Turunen - What Lies Beneath
    Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network OST

    Thanks for reading :) I'd love to hear your comments and recommendations for stuff I missed this year! Hope everyone has a great 2011!