Archive for March, 2012

March 24, 2012

Album 0025: Oingo Boingo – Nothing To Fear

Release Date: 1982
Genre: New Wave/Rock

Tracklisting:

1. Grey Matter (05:52)
2. Insects (03:04)
3. Private Life (03:18)
4. Wild Sex (In The Working Class) (04:07)
5. Running On A Treadmill (03:21)
6. Whole Day Off (03:58)
7. Nothing To Fear (But Fear Itself) (03:54)
8. Why’d We Come (03:58)
9. Islands (04:41)
10. Reptiles And Samurai (05:19)

Total Length: 41:33

Grey Matter is one of the best songs ever written, bar none. The instrumentation and arrangement is so perfect it boggles my mind, the lyrics are catchy and thoughtful, the vocals are fantastic, everything just shines about this song. It’s also a song where it really doesn’t feel as long as it is. Those six minutes go by so fast it’s unbelievable. I have probably listened to this song too many times to count, I’ll never stop loving it. It was also the first use of the band’s own invented percussion instrument, the rumbaphone.

Insects is a weird mix of some heavy rock and dance music. Surprisingly the combination works perfectly. The transition from heavy bass to funky bass is always awesome. There is also awesome little samples and keyboard parts, along with a cool horn riff. The lyrics don’t necessarily matter too much in this one, but they are fun. Private Life is another one of the greatest songs ever written. We are back to really poignant lyrics this time, along with some rumbaphone goodness and the whole band is on point. Just a fantastic track.

Wild Sex (In The Working Class) has a great driving beat, and the vocals are infectious. Once again the percussion shines here, and there is just so many little things to love about this song. They do embellish this song a little bit on later recordings as well which I loved. Running On A Treadmill has gotten pretty much ignored since it’s release, but for being the most ‘poppy’ song on the album, I just love it. It’s fantastic to sing along to and the arrangement is really fun.

Whole Day Off has some of the weirdest lyrics, with its main competition being on this very same album. The arrangement is equally odd. It’s just a weird song overall, but I can’t help but love it. Nothing To Fear (But Fear Itself) is a somewhat darker track than the rest of the album up to this point, but retains the flair the band has. The lyrics pretty much make the song. Why’d We Come is a fantastic song. The intro is creepy and haunting, and the main chunk of the song is just rocking, and I really don’t like that the band never played this live. It’s such a cool song.

Islands is actually the darkest song on here. Introspective, depressive lyrics and a sense of foreboding creep over the whole song. Steve Bartek’s guitar work is also pretty haunting. I really do like the song, even though it’s not an ‘active listening’ song for me. Reptiles And Samurai has again some impenetrably odd lyrics, but it works in the song’s favor. This song is pretty much the best representation of Boingo’s ‘quirkiness’.

This remains probably my overall ‘favorite’ Boingo album, though it’s hard to pick. There is a lot of variety here, and I love the production. The songs are fantastic, and fun to sing along to. Just a brilliant album overall.

Final Rating: 10/10

March 23, 2012

Album 0024: Ayreon – Day Eleven: Love

Release Date: 2004
Genre: Progressive Metal

Tracklisting:

1. Day Eleven: Love (radio edit) (03:41)
2. No Quarter (03:41)
3. Space Oddity (04:57)

Total Length: 12:19

Day Eleven: Love is a pretty great song with a fantastic chorus. The bridge is by far the best part though. This edit is about 30 seconds shorter than the album version, so there’s really no need to listen to it in comparison. I really just keep it for posterity. No Quarter is a Led Zeppelin cover, and this is definitely not my favorite version of this song. It has some cool ideas with the acoustic guitar usage, but I just can’t shake the feeling that this version misses what made the original so great.

In contrast, Space Oddity feels to me like a great updated cover. It keeps the idea of the original, making the introspective parts even more atmospheric and downtrodden, while the rock parts are heavier. The vocals are also really cool on this, especially when the harmonies start. This cover is the only reason to listen to this single.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

March 22, 2012

Album 0023: Dream Theater – Wither

Release Date: 2009
Genre: Progressive Metal

Tracklisting:

1. Wither (piano version) (05:09)
2. Wither (John Petrucci vocal demo) (05:25)
3. The Best Of Times (Mike Portnoy vocal demo) (13:06)

Total Length: 23:40

I’d imagine this release began life as just a single, but upon realizing the total running time was nearly 30 minutes (the full release has the album version of Wither as well, which I removed because I have the album as well), they decided to call it an EP. Either way, this is a neat little release. The piano version of Wither is a really neat version of the song. It of course focuses on the melody much more than the full version, and it’s powerful. I do however think that the vocal reverb is a bit too long, and some of the patches for the strings are kind of cheesy and not up to the level I would expect from Jordan Rudess.

John Petrucci fully wrote Wither on his own time, so it’s only fitting they include the demo of Wither with him singing it. Petrucci is actually a decent singer. He can’t quite sing the pre-chorus, and there are some bad clips at points, but it’s a nice little version included here for posterity. It’s a similar idea for Mike Portnoy singing The Best Of Times. The lyrics are really personal to him, and so it makes sense he would record a version. He’s not as good a singer as even Petrucci, but it’s decent. This song is still great, and remains great as is. These are the best vocals he’s done though, compared to other songs where he tried to have more ‘balls’.

This isn’t a release I will really listen to much, if at all. Again, it’s nice for posterity but not much else.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

March 20, 2012

Album 0022: Less Than Jake – Greetings From Less Than Jake

Release Date: 2011
Genre: Ska/Punk

Tracklisting:

1. Can’t Yell Any Louder (01:41)
2. Goodbye Mr. Personality (03:30)
3. Harvey Wallbanger (03:06)
4. Oldest Trick In The Book (03:10)
5. Life Led Out Loud (02:40)

Total Length: 14:06

Can’t Yell Any Louder has a great intro horn riff, and the song itself is just fun to sing along to. Just a perfect offering of what I’ve always loved about this band. Goodbye Mr. Personality has one of the most infectious bass lines, and the chorus is honestly one of the best things the band has ever written. How good this track is still astounds me. Harvey Wallbanger is a really cool track, I especially love the bridge. It’s weird when I like the bridge more than the rest of the song, because then I wonder why the entire song wasn’t the bridge.

Oldest Trick In The Book has a very neat, catchy rhythm, it’s just a fantastic song. They haven’t done something quite like it before. Life Led Out Loud is more of a punk song, but this is another song showing what I love about the band. Having essentially two lead singers works really well in this song, the tradeoff really helps. This EP is of course short and very sweet. Those seem to be the perfect length sometimes. They can have much more focused ideas and leave you wanting more.

Final Rating: 10/10

March 5, 2012

Album 0021: Less Than Jake – TV/EP

Release Date: 2010
Genre: Ska/Punk

1. Channel 1 (“Leave It All to Me”, the theme song to iCarly) (01:12)
2. Channel 2 (Hungry Hungry Hippos jingle) (00:30)
3. Channel 3 (Theme song to Animaniacs) (01:05)
4. Channel 4 (McDonalds’ jingle for the Big Mac) (00:23)
5. Channel 5 (Theme song to Diff’rent Strokes) (00:54)
6. Channel 6 (“Boss of Me”, the theme song to Malcolm in the Middle) (00:40)
7. Channel 7 (General Mills’ Pac-Man breakfast cereal jingle) (00:33)
8. Channel 8 (Theme song to Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!) (00:55)
9. Channel 9 (Kit Kat jingle) (00:11)
10. Channel 10 (Theme song to SpongeBob SquarePants) (00:43)
11. Channel 11 (“In The Street”, the theme song to That ’70s Show) (00:53)
12. Channel 12 (Oscar Mayer Weiners jingle) (00:30)
13. Channel 13 (“Love and Marriage”, the theme of Married… with Children) (00:46)
14. Channel 14 (Toys “R” Us jingle) (00:28)
15. Channel 15 (“Making Our Dreams Come True”, the theme from Laverne & Shirley) (01:15)
16. Channel 16 (FreeCreditScore.com Pirate-themed restaurant jingle) (00:33)

Total Length: 11:29

Channel 1 is okay, I guess they needed something newer but it’s not too great of a song. Channel 2 is a fun little jaunt. Channel 3 is brilliant. It’s a great song in its own right, and is an awesome rendition. Channel 4 is eh, this version isn’t too interesting. Channel 5 is pretty fun, I like this rendition. Channel 6 is fun but I actually prefer the original version. Channel 7 is one of the few things on here I was unfamiliar with, but it’s kind of cool.

Channel 8 is an awesome rendition of an already great song. Channel 9 is short and sweet. Channel 10 is pretty fun, and I like the use of the flute. Channel 11 has a very cool version of a song that has already been done twice on the original show. Channel 12 is just funny, and has a sample from Seinfeld. Channel 13 is pretty neat, it’s an interesting change for the song. Channel 14 is a fun throwback. Channel 15 is the only one of these the band has done before, so this is just a better recording of it essentially. Channel 16 is probably the oddest choice on here but it works perfectly.

Despite my misgivings about a few tracks, this is such a short and fun little work that I just love listening through it and having 12 minutes just fly by.

Final Rating: 10/10

March 4, 2012

Album 0020: Drudkh – Autumn Aurora

Release Date: 2004
Genre: Black Metal

Tracklisting:

1. Fading (01:31)
2. Summoning The Rain (05:41)
3. Glare Of Autumn (05:10)
4. Sunwheel (08:48)
5. Wind Of The Night Forests (09:59)
6. The First Snow (09:11)

Total Length: 40:19

Fading is a nice, calm intro. The sounds of birds and the acoustic guitar really help set the mood. Summoning The Rain kicks off the black metal very well, and is a type of black metal I really love when I get the chance to just sit back and listen. Sure, it’s kind of repetitive, but in a hypnotizing way. The song draws me in with its great lead melody, and it just never lets up. Glare Of Autumn is pretty similar, but doesn’t have that cool lead to come back to.

Sunwheel starts off with one of those melodies, and is just a great song. The vocals aren’t my favorite, but they work in context of the song. Just cool to zone out to. Wind Of The Night Forests has a cool intro before going into the song proper, and is a pretty good track. Not my favorite on the album though. It seems to go on a bit too long, but there are some good points in it. The First Snow is probably the coolest song on here. It’s just a meandering 9 minutes of some guitars and keyboards. Again, it’s repetitive, but I love drifting in and out of the song, and the atmosphere works really well.

It’s releases like this that do make me love black metal, and it shouldn’t get nearly the bad reputation that it does. However, I wouldn’t quite rank this album as one of my favorites, but it is fairly excellent.

Final Rating: 8/10

March 2, 2012

Album 0019: Devin Townsend – Ziltoid The Omniscient

Release Date: 2007
Genre: Progressive Metal

Tracklisting:

1. ZTO (01:17)
2. By Your Command (08:10)
3. Ziltoidia Attaxx!!! (03:43)
4. Solar Winds (09:47)
5. Hyperdrive (03:48)
6. N9 (05:31)
7. Planet Smasher (05:45)
8. Omnidimensional Creator (00:48)
9. Color Your World (09:45)
10. The Greys (04:15)
11. Tall Latte (01:03)
12. Messages From Ziltoid (07:35)
13. Travelling Salesman (02:14)
14. Another Road (04:31)

Total Length: 01:08:10

ZTO is just a nice little intro, completely sets the tone of the album. By Your Command is the first real song on the album and it’s big. There is fast and heavy parts, some calm parts, just basically everything I love about Devin Townsend. The production on this album is just really velvety and fun, it just kind of invites you in. Ziltoidia Attaxx!!! is an overall heavier song, and showcases all the different ‘voices’ Devin uses throughout the album, which is another huge point in this album’s favor. Whether Devin is calmly singing or screaming his brains out, it’s all fantastic.

Solar Winds is a song that builds up from a laid back beginning to one of the high points of this album. The thing about songwriting is that a song can be a minute long or thirty minutes long, if it’s written well you can enjoy every minute of it. Devin’s voice is still a highlight on this song. Hyperdrive is brilliant, the melody is just oozing out of the song, and the vocals are set back more than the other songs to accomplish this. It’s just haunting. N9 is probably my least favorite on the album. It has some cool vocal moments and a neat bridge, but tends to go on a bit too long.

Planet Smasher is one of the coolest songs on here. The beginning build up is cool as hell, and the ‘voice’ of the Planet Smasher is one of the heaviest things I’ve heard Devin sing and it works perfectly. I was obsessed with this song when I first heard this album. Omnidimensional Creator is just a little story piece, it’s kind of funny. Color Your World is really the centerpiece of the album, what everything has been building up to. It starts off fast and heavy, but eventually slows down to the softest part of the album, before getting right back into it to wrap things up. Just a cool song. The ending is especially great with the repeated line.

The Greys
starts off with one of the coolest riffs ever, and I just love the vocal line in the song. Tall Latte ends the story of the album, and isn’t that interesting upon relistens. Messages From Ziltoid is a bonus track with a faux interview with Ziltoid. It’s really long winded and was good for about one listen to tell the truth. Travelling Salesman is a rough demo of a song that could have been fun if interested. As it is it’s just more like a one note idea expanded into a song. Another Road is really the only worthwhile bonus track on here. It sounds like some cool ideas played to a click track and could have been really neat if made into a song or incorporated into some of the other songs.

This is just one of my favorite albums. I tend to skip the bonus tracks upon listens, so I don’t really factor them into the score. The album just hits so many good points, has so many memorable parts, and I don’t see how anyone couldn’t love it.

Final Rating: 9.5/10

March 1, 2012

Album 0018: The Dear Hunter – Act I: The Lake South, The River North

Release Date: 2006
Genre: Progressive Rock

Tracklisting:

1. Battesimo Del Fuoco (01:56)
2. The Lake South (01:44)
3. City Escape (05:56)
4. The Inquiry Of Ms. Terri (05:56)
5. 1878 (07:03)
6. The Pimp And The Priest (06:00)
7. His Hands Matched His Tongue (06:00)
8. The River North (04:03)

Total Length: 38:38

Battesimo Del Fuoco is a beautiful vocal intro to the album, it’s just a joy to listen to. The Lake South is equally a good intro, this time more symphonic in nature. It sets up some of the themes for the album. City Escape gets us into the first rock song, and it’s just brilliant. The instrumentation, the arrangement, the vocals, it’s all so good. I just love the atmosphere and the mix of styles here. The Inquiry Of Ms. Terri is an all around more dynamic track. The verses are laid back in a sense, very low key playing and singing. The chorus on the other hand is bombastic and in your face. It works really well for this song and I love it.

1878 might be my favorite song on here for the chorus. The addition of female vocals, and the entrancing melody, it just adds up to an amazing song. The production is still wonderful on here as well. The Pimp And The Priest has some really cool moments in it, I just love this band’s use of vocals. It makes everything just so mesmerizing. His Hands Matched His Tongue doesn’t quite match the level of the past few songs, but it’s still fantastic. I especially love the vocal ending. The River North is a nice outro song, with a piano playing for half of it, and then some kerfuffle with an orchestra warming up and audience noise.

This album is just fantastic, and about as good a start for any band that you could hope for. It’s invigorating and fresh, and shows lots of promise. I love pretty much every minute of this album. I have no real complaints to offer, other than its brevity, but that is solved by all the other albums the band has.

Final Rating: 9.5/10