This week I had the opportunity to listen to Branford Marsalis’ newest release, Four Mfs Playin’ Tunes. This album is the first of his to feature 21 year old drummer Justin Faulkner who in the last 5 years has replaced the seemingly irreplaceable Jeff “Tain” Watts. Tain is one of the most powerfully aggressive modern drummers out there who helped change the face of modern jazz in the 1980’s, but now is busy with his own projects which is why Faulkner has taken over since 2009 (when he was 18). Branford Marsalis’ quartet has a very nostalgic sound to it, as it really hasn’t changed much since 1984. The same hard driving swing that characterized the young lions from the late 80s/early 90s is still there, but so is the more relaxed and fluid songs that seem to lack time whatsoever: another Branford specialty. All in all, the album is what I expected, which doesn’t mean it’s bad at all, it’s your classic Branford, none of the guitar and drums heavy pretentious stuff you might hear at a Berkelee College of Music jazz senior recital, this is just four MFs playin’ tunes.
I’m embarrassed to say it, but my time with Cult of Luna has been a relatively short one. I only discovered them about a year ago through a friend, and even then their music didn’t engage me to the extreme that it did for most others. That all changed about 4 months ago, when I entered this bizarre post metal funk that I still, admittedly, am in. I quickly blew the dust off of Salvation, Somewhere Along the Highway and Eternal Kingdom, which only furthered the extent of my moody dwelling. Therefore, it almost seemed like fate when, after fully engorging myself on their previous efforts, Cult of Luna announced the coming of Vertikal, their first album in 5 years.
1. The One
2. I: The Weapon
3. Vicarious Redemption
4. The Sweep
6. Mute Departure
8. In Awe Of
9. Passing Through
Vertikal sees Cult of Luna return to their thematic roots of overarching authority and corruption in high places. Based off of the 1927 movie Metropolis, Vertikal is Cult of Luna’s take on a dystopian universe, and while the movie was made over 80 years ago, it’s message is still just as relevant today. With the recent scares from SOPA, PIPA, and the Patriot Act, it’s not hard to see why the band chose the material that they did. However, it can be difficult to convey a message through a different media while still successfully conveying the same intended meaning. Cult of Luna seem to be aware of this, though, for they have created a work of art that not only keeps itself true to its origin’s content, but transcends it as well. From the album cover’s abstract illustration of desolate skyscrapers to the raw emotion that is employed dexterously, Cult of Luna can consider Vertikal a remarkable achievement regarding the communication between the listener and it’s social commentary.
An album with a clear and engaging concept behind it accounts for nothing if it’s not supported by a strong musical force. Fortunately, Vertikal sees Cult of Luna further their trademark sound even more, letting songs naturally evolve as opposed to rushing head first into a melody or theme. This time around, though, the band utilizes much more atmospheric and electronic sounds, contrasting some of the immediacy apparent in their last album, Eternal Kingdom. While Cult of Luna has always exercised some electronic influences into their sound, it’s never been as prominent before as it is in Vertikal. Dubstep comparisons aside, the new style gives the album a mechanical air to it, as if the audience itself was placed in an industrial environment. This dark manufactured sound meshes incredibly well with the concept of the record, thus creating an enthralling experience that delivers one dismal blow after another.
It’s worth noting just how remarkable each and every track is, and the important role each one plays. While “I: The Weapon” lays the groundwork for the rest of the record, “Vicarious Redemption” builds upon that infrastructure, which in turn helps to elevate the following two tracks to an experience greater than the sum of their parts. However, “Mute Departure” utterly ravages the metropolitan that had been carefully and painstakingly constructed and compounded upon, while the last three tracks allow the listener to traverse through the wasteland that once contained this thriving city. Overall, Vertikal is one of the best structured albums in recent memory, not just in song arrangement, but in concept as well.
Have you ever listened to music for the sole purpose of deconstructing your very being? Do you curl up all alone on your disheveled bed whilst concentrating on instrumentals that entrap your psyche? If not, Vertikal may not quite be your brew of choice. However, if through discomfort and adversity you can truly find yourself, this record will reverberate and ripple throughout your anatomy, your constitution, your mortality. With Vertikal, Cult of Luna realize their full potential, and in doing so help us all realize our own. It is made to thrash our true essences, for the betterment of mankind. It is made to challenge our individuality, to broaden our freedom. It is made to teach a lesson, one that we will never forget in our meager lifetimes.
Oh hi! Didn’t see you there. I’d like to talk to you about a wonderful little record by a guy who goes by the name of Mac DeMarco. DeMarco – a Canadian singer-songwriter, formerly of the band Makeout Videotape – released his second album, fittingly titled “2”, in October, and I finally got around to checking it out a couple weeks ago. I’m gonna be honest with you – I was pretty positive I would hate this album before I listened to it. The cover and Pitchfork hype made for a lethal combination in my mind, acting as some kind of harbinger of “ironic slacker” doom. The album’s first track (“Cooking Up Something Good”) even starts with a kinda chunkity-chunk Jack Johnson guitar part. Luckily, by the time the song’s chorus hit, things started to turn around. By the third track – The “Sultans of Swing”-esque “Freaking Out the Neighborhood” – I was hooked. Every song on the album is a catchy, hook-filled fun-time bonanza, full of jangly, shambolic grooves (think Pavement at their most singer-songwritery, laid back moments). These are songs you’ll be humming all day, then you’ll catch yourself humming them and be all “man, I ain’t even mad.” It’s the feelgood album of the summer, except, like, you know, in the winter. Let DeMarco and his band of merry men transport you to sunny days where the drinks are free and Jimmy Buffett is nowhere in sight. Swimming pools and barbecues are there too. Seriously, it’ll be cool. You just gotta listen.
Here is this week’s edition of the KZSC Jazz Charts. Topping them this week comes an independent/self release from vocalist Lauren Desberg with her EP “Sideways.” This album features many up and coming young jazz stars on the scene today including bassist Joshua Crumbly (Terence Blanchard, Taylor Eigsti), drummer Corey Fonville (Nicholas Payton, Christian Scott), and arrangements by recent Thelonious Monk competition winner in piano, Kris Bowers. The album is produced by all-star vocalist Gretchen Parlato and also features the unique musical expressions of Dayna Stephens and his tenor saxophone. More information and tunes can be heard at her website www.laurendesberg.com.
Other than that I got a TON of jazz incoming this week, thanks for the support!
KZSC Top 10 Charts
1 LAUREN DESBERG Sideways Self Released
2 BRANFORD MARSALIS QUARTET Four MFs Playin Tunes
3 AMBROSE AKINMUSIRE When The Heart Emerges Glistening Blue Note
4 DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER Live At Yoshi’s Verve
5 AMIKAEYLA Being In Love RootsJazz
6 MARC JOHNSON AND ELIANE ELIAS Swept Away ECM
7 PAUL HEMMINGS UKETET Introducing – The Paul Hemmings Uketet Leading Tone
8 ALFREDO RODRIGUEZ Sounds Of Space QWEST
9 ANDREA BRACHFELD Lady Of The Island Zoho
10 BRAD MEHLDAU TRIO Where Do You Start Nonesuch
KZSC Jazz Adds
Jackie Ryan Listen Here Open Art
Organissimo Dedicated MFA Jazz
Patricia Barber Smash Concord
Erik Deutsch Demonio Leclado Kuumbwa
Davina and the Vagabonds Black Cloud Kuumbwa
Wasabi Wide Open Kuumbwa
Daniel Lantz Trio Daniel Lantz Trio Plays Bond Kari-On
The Summarily Dismissed To Each Kari-On
Didi Favreau Vague Recollections Pt. 1 Self
Shake it Like a Caveman Digital Football Self
Hashem Assadullahi Pieces Origin Records
Mimi Fox Standards Old and New Origin Records
Inbar Fridman Time Quartet Project Origin Records
Lary Barilleau & The Latin Jazz Collective Carmen’s Mambo Origin Records
Rob Ryndak A Wonderful Thing New World n Jazz
James Sanders Blue Violin MFA Jazz
Nate Najar Blues for Night People Lisa Reedy
Jerry Leake Cubist Prominence Self Released
Pamela Hines 3. 2. 1. Kari-On
Lisa Forkish Bridges Kari-On
How does one attempt to define a year that has experienced a continually expanding range of sensations through the means of musical endeavors? Is it even possible to describe the feelings that 2012 has displayed, whether they be sadness, contentment, pain, or exuberance? The answer is no. It is practically impossible to express the emotions that one has been subjected to because no one but one’s ownself can truly know what it felt like when one soared to new heights and reached the crescendo of a particular song, or traveled through the murky depths of a record to reach the climax and leave utterly exhausted yet entirely fulfilled. However, with all that said, it is still a worthy undertaking to recommend, and by doing so acclaim, works of art that have been known to emit a certain uniqueness about themselves, and will relinquish the audience with a sense of admiration. The following 25 albums are, in this humble writer’s opinion, some of the greatest artworks in the musical scene that our generation has been lucky enough to witness and experience first hand.
Dethklok has always been about satirizing the metal genre, and while Dethalbum III still accomplishes the feat, it’s also a great example of the kind of talent Brendon Small possesses. From the song writing to the instrumentation, Dethalbum III shows just why Dethklok is the most brutal force in the universe.
While more post-rock/shoegazey than black metal, Les Voyages De L’Âme is nonetheless a powerful album, and while it doesn’t quite reach the heights that made Écailles De Lune a force to be reckoned with, it is still a great example of frontman Neige’s sheer talent and the near endless possibilities when combining two seemingly different genres into one massive soundscape.
If you come into The Parallax II: Future Sequence knowing what to expect, you will leave sorely confused and perhaps a bit bewildered. Don’t overhype the album (like one Loud Rock Director might have done), and instead let the music naturally flow into you. You’ll enjoy the record much more that way.
Sometimes it takes a band longer than others to fully mature and ripen into a full fledged dynamic force of nature, but in Daylight Dies’ case, it is well worth the wait. A Frail Becoming is Daylight Dies best record yet, and showcases their confident but not overly eager sound and style.
#21: Monuments – Gnosis
Gnosis isn’t the most well put together album, nor is it the most heartfelt, but what it lacks in emotion it more than makes up for in sheer technicality and entertainment. It’s not something you listen to when you want to go on an aural escapade through your mind, but rather a guilty pleasure that’s easy to get into but complex enough to keep you coming back for more.
Best Loud Rock EPs
After leaving Tesseract, Daniel Tompkins has been creating his own musical path, with experiments such as In Colour and Absent Hearts, but by far his most successful work has been in Skyharbor and their debut Blinding White Noise: Illusion and Chaos. However, while Dan’s vocals are some of the best in the genre, it’s Keshav Dhar’s songwriting, and the awesome guest appearances, that truly make this album a must listen.
Arguably the most progressive record to come out of The Sword, Apocryphon sees the Hard Rock outfit stay true to their unique brand and style, yet move in the logical next step after the sci-fi goodness that was their 2010 release, Warp Riders.
#18: Sylosis – Monolith
Thrash has had some trouble staying relevant in the metal realm in recent years, but Sylosis has made their contribution and imprint on the genre with Monolith, a “monolithic” record that should have no trouble reaching out to fans who have already left the genre.
#17: Wintersun – Time I
When a musician takes 8 years to forge a highly anticipated album, it will almost always disappoint fans, no matter the quality of the record, and Time I is no exception. However, don’t allow the voracious and unappeasable fans scare you away from the record. Though not quite on par with Wintersun’s debut, it is still just as epic and grandiose.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of a Deftones release and to instantly think that every single record is a masterpiece. While the reality is much more dull, this record certainly is not, being full of romantic charge and fleeting commotion. Koi No Yokan is no masterpiece, but it is still an exception work of art that is just as Deftones as any of their other releases.
#15: Cloudkicker – Fade
Ben Sharp, mastermind behind Cloudkicker, is something of a Do-It-Yourself musician. All his music, free on his bandcamp, is entirely made by himself and self released. Don’t let that fool you though; Fade is one of the most moving albums on this list. It’s greatness is subtle, but once found you will be able to explore the plethora of impressive musical talent at work here.
Characteristically weird and bizarre, Tree of Tongues is, in a way, akin to watching something frightening but remarkably interesting in such a way that you simply can’t look away. There’s nothing about this album that should scare you off though; it’s crazy in all the right ways, yet accessible enough to keep you coming back for seconds and thirds.
#13: Meshuggah – Koloss
With everyone trying to copy the sound that has made Meshuggah a household name, Koloss shows the little kids how it’s done. The album is Meshuggah as Meshuggah does. Heavy, distorted riffs, and insanely brutal breakdowns, there is almost nothing not to immediately love about this album.
Without the rind mindset, Converge can be incredibly hard to incorporate into your musical tastes. Their goal is simple: pummel you into the ground until you can stand upright no more. All We Love We Leave Behind may not change your opinion on the band, but there’s a definite subtlety about it that implies something a bit more harmonious but just as destructive, a refreshing take on the trademark sound Converge has utilized throughout the years.
Some may call it pretentious, others may call it boring, but to many more, Intrinsic is an incredibly engaging and worthwhile listen that garners praise where it received criticism. If one gives it a chance, instead of writing it off as a bombastic piece of work, it can reveal an entirely fascinating auditory experience, straight from the heart of one of the premier progressive metal acts today.
Best Non-Loud Rock Albums
#2: Swans – The Seer
High On Fire has always been a good band, but they never dropped an album that could make them a truly great band. That is, until they released De Vermis Mysteriis. Channeling the sludginess Electric Wizard and the menace of Converge, De Vermis Mysteriis is a fantastic combination of different methods and styles while still being wholly High On Fire.
#9: Neurosis – Honor Found in Decay
An amalgamation of everything Neurosis has accomplished, Honor Found in Decay shows why Neurosis is considered one of the finest post metal acts in history. Although there are some very slight missteps present in the record, they don’t hinder in the slightest what the album represents: a celebration of all that has come to past, and a shimmer of hope for what the future holds.
Progressive and completely avant-garde, Acid Mist Tomorrow makes use of numerous tricks, some old some new, to create an atmospheric yet ferocious sophomoric effort. Although there are very unnecessary moments, such as the numerous employments of voice overs, but these are overshadowed by the air of breathtaking brutality that exudes from each and every song.
It’s hard to be avant-garde while still being aaccessible, even more important, coherent. Yet, Diablo Swing Orchestra somehow manage to release one of the weirdest yet most intelligible albums 2012 saw. Full of skillful violin work and operatic singing, Pandora’s Pinata is arguably the zaniest-yet-strongest progressive metal work to come out this year.
#6: Amenra – Mass V
The second most soul crushing album on this list (see: #1), Mass V isn’t just an escapade into doom gloom, it’s created for the sole purpose of crushing your spirits with any means Amenra sees fit, and don’t doubt them for a second, no matter how optimistic your outlook on life is. If you’re not at the very least melancholy after listening to the album, you need to plug your speakers in and actually listen.
It can be hard comparing an instrumental record to albums with vocals of any kind. They’re an easy way to add depth to a song. However, Soul Cycle doesn’t take the easy way out, and with Soul Cycle II, vocals would have only taken away from the excrutiatingly precise instrumentation present on the album. This is arguably the finest instrumental album since Animals as Leader’s self titled debut.
What can one say about L’Enfant Sauvage that has yet to be said? It’s not just Gojira’s finest work yet; it’s one of the single greatest albums to come out of 2012, and will most likely be considered a classic 5 years from now. When some reflect on what made 2012 the best year for metal in recent history, this is what many will point to with eager faces and banging heads.
Equal parts alluring and downright breathtaking, RIITIIR doesn’t skimp any of the radiant beauty that has made them the reigning champion of black metal for two straight releases. Also, it’s most definitely worth mentioning that this record has the most powerful ending of 2012, and it is entirely indicative of the rest of the monumental album that is RIITIIR.
Seeing the crown up for grabs in the progressive metal dominion, Ne Obliviscaris didn’t waste any time in forging one of the most original and creative pieces of art of not just the year, but the entire decade. Portal of I takes the listener on a climactic journey in which one will experience some of the highest highs and lowest lows ever conceived. This isn’t just an album, it is the birth of a new band, one that is sure to release instant classics and garner unbelievable praise. Consider yourself lucky to experience a consummate band in their very beginnings.
It’s hard to describe something that has made you feel so many emotions simultaneously without ever being overbearing. Never before has an album had this kind of affect, destroying your very inner soul during the record’s second song, but slowly building you back into something so much greater and more understanding of the world around you. It’s grotesque, beautiful, disconcerting, and exhilarating all at the same time. But, don’t let the Downfall of Gaia’s obscurity scare you from listening to this masterpiece. Let Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes’ musical content scare you away. Believe me, though, when I say this: you will, most willingly, come back for more perfect mind-bending cruelty and thoroughly enjoy every second of it.
It’s been one helluva year for San Francisco garage rock wonderkid Ty Segall. Ty’s been rockin’ all over the free world spreading his gospel of scuzzy psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll. This year Ty recorded and released three records of his own in addition to producing a killer LP for Nashville punks Heavy Cream and a single for Memphis up and comers Ex Cult. After hitting the road with fellow Bay Area residents Thee Oh Sees, Ty and his band have been making the late night TV rounds with performances on Conan and Letterman. To put it lightly Ty’s been killing it.
Here’s a sampling from each of Ty Segall’s releases from this year
For his first full length of the year Ty teamed up with San Francisco cohort White Fence
Next up he hit the studio with his touring band for his fastest, heaviest album yet
For his third and final album of the year Ty played every instrument himself. Here he is on Letterman with his band ripping the place to shreds
So go check out Hair, Slaughterhouse, and Twins to get as stoked on Ty Segall as we are here at the Great 88.
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