So aside from president-elect Jesus an’ the thunderous sound of the American economy going “ploop”, what ELSE is there to look forward to in 2009?
Music. The good kind. And since a recent post by some asshole in France reminded me of my intention to talk more about such things (and who I am SHAMELESSLY theiving the idea of throwing up Youtube videos as a reference for you lot too lazy to search for yourself), here’s what’s coming up, some reflection on why I care, and with any luck, why you should give a shit too.
Note: The music provided is largely from older albums, mostly intended for those unfamiliar with the band, though if there’s a video it comes with my highest recommendation.
God Is An Astronaut. Post-rock has this problem: Most of the time, everything sounds like either Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, or Mogwai. Which isn’t a huge deal if you love that kinda thing (as I do), but some variety is always nice. And that’s where GIAA comes in. I can’t honestly say they’re like any other post-whatever band out there. In terms of tempo, it’s Russian Circles. In terms of sound… It’s electronically gorgeous and quite often heavy. Technically their S/T newest release has been out since November, but the wide release took place earlier this month.
Dredg. I still recall the exact moment I first heard them, two years ago on the way to work at four in the goddamned morning. Leitmotif. An outstanding album from start to finish. Over the course of the summer and the following few years I plunged into their three albums (as well as acquired all the b-sides that I know to exist, including their first EP, the bizarrely rap-metal “Conscious”) and without fail, every release has become a favorite album of mine. Not even Tool holds that distinction.
Listen an’ watch (penguins and down syndrome, yaay!):
The Decemberists. Here’s how it typically went in high school: I steal music from my brothers computer, I listen the shit out of it, then I’d tell my friends, and occasionally it’d catch on. Such is the case with The Decemberists, who on at least one occasion Jed and I made half a dozen people sit down and listen to (particuarly Mariner’s Revenge- an epic in the truest sense of the word). It’s music that I can only describe as a cross between low-fi prog rock and… Pirates.
Listen and watch (one of my favorite music videos in recent years):
Mastodon. Ages ago, when I first heard Blood and Thunder, it struck me as “eh”. And while I’ve since learned the errors of my ways (two words: Neil Fallon), I still only occasionally listen to the band. Don’t get me wrong, they’re incredible: The lyrical themes of Leviathan, the guitar riffs on every song being an absolute journey, Dailor’s mind-blowing drumming, etc. But personally, the more technically oriented a band is, the less compelled I feel to listen to them on a regular basis. On the other hand, it’s a great band throwing out another album, and with a vocalist who says stuff like this, how can you go wrong: “[the new album] is a departure from everything we’ve previously recorded in the sense that we kinda strapped on our aeroshells and departed from Earth for a while, and then captained to the ethereal element of the universe and kind of slept on the roof of the world for a while to get a perspective on this record.”
Listen (because Youtube says the video doesn’t exist anymore):
Killswitch Engage. As a freshman in high school just starting to get past the nu-metal scene (shudder), Alive or Just Breathing fast became one of my favorite “metal” albums (and remains so 8 years later). I was sorely disappointed to see Jesse Leach’s outstanding vocals go, but I’ve come to enjoy Howard just as much (and in all honesty, he’s far more talented). And it’s taken the better part of two years for “As Daylight Dies” to grow on me, but I now consider it to be, on the whole, a much better album than End of Heartache (though neither come close to the masterpiece that is Alive or Just Breathing). Seriously though, if you’re reading this and you haven’t heard Killswitch Engage, I’m not entirely sure how you got here. I’ll let Adam describe what they sound like. He’s the one in the viking helmet, bright blue tank-top, and jeans cut off at mid-thigh:
Lacuna Coil. As with Killswitch, Lacuna Coil came along to me just as I was discovering the fascinating world outside of Limp Bizkit and Korn (you know, Europe). So Unleashed Memories occupies a very special place for me in that regard, and while I think it’s a great album (particularly with the Half-Life EP attached), the memories I’ve connected with it probably elevate it higher than it’s actually worth. That said, nobody does goth metal like Lacuna did on UM and Comalies, so here’s to hoping the next effort isn’t nearly as dull and uninspired as Karmacode.
Listen (a cover, but far and away my favorite song of theirs):
The Crystal Method. Why, you say? Because it’s ear candy. Infectious hooks, overwhelming crescendos, melody… I get stoked everytime I hear ‘em in a car commerical (especially when it was in the theater, man). Most people I know will dismiss electronica outright, which is a little irritating; sure, a lot of it’s repetitive and made for the sole purpose of throwing glowsticks around on E, but Crystal Method’s song structure is more akin to rock than generic electronica. This will also be their first new album in over five years (and their fourth full-length in their sixteen year career), so rest assured, action trailers and Lincoln commercials will have a whole new soundtrack for the next decade.
Rammstein. I think 90% of the world went through the “omg I luf Du Hast” phase, and I’m no exception. And like most people, I discarded Rammstein about a year after that single. But years later, I rediscovered them and found ‘em doing something much, MUCH more interesting with their sound: bombastic synth, driving riffs, choral arrangements, and more restrain and maturity in Till’s excellent vocals. It’s also worth noting that the forth-coming album is rumored to be their last, so hopefully it continues the streak of awesome they’ve been on since Mutter.
Listen & watch (Rammstein’s videos are some of the most entertaining out there):
OSI. If you’re a fan of Porcupine Tree, you’re probably aware of O.S.I, a side-project led by Jim Matheos (Fates Warning) and Kevin Moore (Chroma Key, ex-Dream Theater). Their debut plays out like something of an homage to PT’s In Absentia (even featuring Steven Wilson on one track)- prog-rock mingling with metal riffs, acoustic passages, and spacey synth lines, but also adds a touch of electronic that makes OSI very much their own band. And then there’s Free, their second album, which did away almost entirely with the metal influence in favor of the electronic aspects, giving the album a wonderfully mellow atmosphere. Mike Portnoy also contributed drums for the debut, but was apparently disappointed with the project and has since distanced himself from it. Gogo music snobs.
Matheos announced earlier this year that Gavin freakin’ Harrison (Porcupine Tree’s mindfuckingly awesome drummer) will be joining in on the upcoming album, as will Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) for a track. That alone makes it something that any self-respecting music fan will not want to miss. The drums were tracked months ago, so… It could really be any day now that we’ll see a release.
Listen (electronic-oriented side):
Porcupine Tree. I could spend an entire post detailing why I love Porcupine Tree and nearly every one of their releases, but this is long enough as it is. Suffice it to say, there isn’t a single aspect of Porcupine Tree that’s weak- these are some of the most talented musicians playing today. I honestly wasn’t a huge fan of Fear of A Blank Planet and I’m hoping they’ll decide to step back from the metal influence for awhile with the next release, but that’s all very nitpicky. It’s new PT. Writing began a month ago, so there should be something this fall.
Awesomeness (watch all of it; trust me, you’ve nothing better to do for the next nine minutes):
Agalloch. Winter music. Doomy and beautiful all at once. My initial draft of Dead Winter Day was largely inspired by The Mantle (and stole it’s name from a track off Pale Folklore), and with every snowfall comes a season of my being mostly obsessed with Agalloch. A live DVD and a new full-length have been in the works since August, so one or the other (or both) should be out sometime this year.
Isis. Isis was hard to digest at first (being one of my earliest introductions to post-metal/sludge) and quite frankly, their earlier metal/distortion aspects have never sat that well with me (Celestial, Oceanic to some degree). But I feel they’ve matured over the years, refining the overwhelming distortion to a more calculated balance with their wonderful melodies. And it’s been over two years since In The Absence of Truth, so it’s good to hear they’re finally back in the studio.
Seriously: Dredg, Isis, OSI, Porcupine Tree, Agalloch, and Rammstein to name a few. You have every reason to be excited for the coming year.