Thursday, January 26, 2012

Let's Kick it Off! January Listening Roundup...

Photo Credit: Kate Wurtzel
January reboot......most of what went through the player in this month was new, coming from under the tree or from gift certificates.  2011 year-end lists have been steering some of my music choices recently, so don't be surprised if a lot of really great releases from last year come bubbling to the surface this spring.  Perhaps that puts me too far behind to be really hip.  Whatever.  In any case, this approach has already set the standards for 2012 incredibly high.

A new Rush album is scheduled to come out this year, so to celebrate, I am considering doing "The Year in Rush" as a background project. Once a month, I'll cover two or three Rush albums.  At that rate, It'll take me most of the year to finish, but after all the attention that Yes got last year, it seems only fair.

Not to wax too nostalgic, but last year's January roundup was the very first post.  Even though its only been a year, it truly seems like a lifetime ago.  The blog has evolved a little since then in several ways, not the least of which was the emergence of playlist widgets based on the monthly roundup selections.  You'll find one below.

Dungen - Tio Bitar: Yes, they sing in Swedish - you owe it to yourself to get over it. Dungen distills the best parts of prog, psychedelia, and riff-based stoner rock into a concoction that is entirely their own.

Syd Barrett - The Madcap Laughs:  Independent labels played a different role in the late 60s, but ideologically, Barrett might have the first "indie" artist.  His peers hoped that he would snap out of his psychosis and fulfill his potential, so he was given the leeway to explore outside of the mainstream.

Gentle Giant - Power and the Glory: When my initial Gentle Giant run lost steam, I saved this gem for my future self. Now that it is in rotation, it may unseat Free Hands as my favorite album by the group.

Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, and Geri Taylor - EtudesEtudes is perhaps not happy, good-time jazz to be played at your next dinner party.  It sets a contemplative mood that deserves to be appreciated in a focused listening environment. 

Those Shaking, Shocking Days: This is an interesting compilation of Indonesian prog, psych, and funk from the 70s. Many of these tracks are musically very strong, although their "Indonesian-ness" may take a little prodding to hear.

The Globes - Future Self: There was a time before Radiohead became experimental studio monoliths when they were just a mindblowing band. The Globes remind me of that Radiohead, and although are somewhat vocally average, they make up for it in spades on their instrumental side.

Wobbler - Rites at Dawn: I admit that Wobbler is a bit of an indulgence. As much as I support Yes' most recent work, though, nobody, including Yes themselves, captures the swirling and often noisy grandeur of their classic sound with as much sincerity as Wobbler.

Bear McGreary - Battlestar Galactica Season 3 Soundtrack: Aside from the Perfect Circle-esque "All Along the Watchtower" cover, in which Battlestar Galactica came dangerously close to jumping the shark, this is an engaging, if largely atmospheric, soundtrack. Ominous taiko-style drumming provides a tense backdrop for a surprisingly wide variety of ethnic timbres.

Mastodon - The Hunter: I still dig this album, but I think that my other big November entry from M83 probably should have beat this one out in last year's top 20. Oh well, one can't undo what has been done.

Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica:  Lopatin is either a total genius or incredibly lucky: usual musical constructions like bass lines and melodies are meaningless on Replica, where vertical swatches of sound are tightly looped to create the illusion of these constructions.  In fact, it seems to become more intricate as it is more closely examined.

The Gorillaz - The Singles Collection 2001-2011: My theory has been proven correct. Without all of the extra filler, this compilation is a great, comprehensive listen for the casual Gorillaz fan. 

Bon Iver: From the plaintive opening guitar theme of Perth, it is clear that Bon Iver has something special going on. Its an album in the truest sense of the word that recalls the finest work of top-notch musicians like Peter Gabriel and Joni Mitchell.

Nissenenmondai - Destination Tokyo: In theory, Nissenenmondai seemed to have it all: an all-girl Japanese rock trio that opened for Battles on their tour last year, garnering rave reviews. On album, however, they fall into the looper's trap: highly repetitive and overlong tracks with very little follow-through.

Pink Floyd - Piper at the Gates of Dawn: The Flaming Lips have made no secret of their Pink Floyd influence. Returning to Piper at the Gates of Dawn with new ears, however, sent me scrambling for 2009 fave Embryonic - there is a palpable conceptual connection between these albums.

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