Category Archives: Music

Friday Random Ten, 10/2

  1. Dead Soul Tribe, “Goodbye City Life”: mediocre prog metal. Not bad,
    but nothing special either.
  2. Dave Matthews Band, “Lying in the Hands of God”: I know, lots of people think
    I’m crazy to like DMB. But I do. And I find this song terribly depressing. One of the
    members of the DMB was an amazing saxaphone player named LeRoi Moore. Moore’s
    saxaphone play was absolutely fantastic – incredibly skillfull, tasteful, with a huge
    range. Moore was killed in an auto accident, and his place was taken in live shows
    by Jeff Coffin from the Flecktones. Coffin is, in my opinion, a godawful
    gimmicky player with no taste, no style, and who knows one volume setting: way too
    loud. This track uses old samples of Moore from before he died – the last time we’ll
    get to hear his beautiful playing.
  3. Marillion, “The Space” (electric): this one is actually a double. I just got
    the digital version of Marillions new album, which consists of acoustic rewrites
    of a selection of their old songs. This is one of the tracks that they chose.
    The original version is from “Season’s End”, the band’s first recording with Steve
    Hogarth as the lead singer. It’s a great song – one of the best from that album. The
    original version is very interesting – because it’s recognizably Marillion, and yet
    there’s a huge difference to the sound of the song compared to the stuff they’d been
    performing with Fish on vocals – and that basic difference emerged all at once on
    this album, and stayed with them through the dozen albums since. Like I said,
    it’s classic Marillion, with beautiful transitions, elegant instrumental
    breaks, intricate structure. A lovely song, which is carried by Hogarths vocals,
    Kelly’s keyboards, and Rothery’s electric guitar.
  4. Marillion, “The Space” (acoustic rewrite): An amazing difference. From an
    incredibly dense electric song, to a sparse, intimate acoustic. It’s not just an
    acoustic remix, but a really deep rewrite of the song. The rhythm of the vocals has
    changed. The main vocals are now sung mainly against acoustic bass guitar and
    a but of rythmic chunking on the guitar. Everything is much more syncopated. It’s
    hard to believe it’s the same song. I need a few more listens – but I think I actually
    prefer this newer version – the rhythmic changes and the sparse arrangement just
    increase the emotional impact of the song. It’s really quite impressive.
  5. IQ, “Breathtaker”: Bit of a jarring change after the acoustic version of
    “The Space”. But IQ is one of the very best neo-progressive bands out there. Like
    Marillion, they started off as a Genesis sound-alike, but grew into their own sound.
    Great song, from “Subterranea”, the IQ album to buy if you’ve never heard
    them before.
  6. Isis, “From Sinking”: Post-rock, from one of the harder/louder post-rock
    bands. Isis is a bit of a harder listen for many people, because they include
    death-metal-style screeched vocals, which can really grate. But their overall
    sound is brilliant – it’s worth getting over the vocals to enjoy them.
  7. Dirty Three, “Feral”: Another big transition, but still post-rock. Dirty
    three is a mostly-acoustic post-rock ensemble from the more classical end of the
    spectrum. Their compositional style is much more minimalistic than a lot of others.
    But it’s beautiful stuff. Highly recommended.
  8. The Flower Kings, “Flight 999 Brinstone Air”: What can I say about the
    Flower Kings that I haven’t said before? THey’re a neo-progressive band that’s
    fit to drop the neo – they could stand up well next to pretty much any of the
    original wave of prog in both quality and creativity. This is a typical
    instrumental track from them. If you’ve never listened to the Flower Kings,
    give them a try. It’s pure brilliance.
  9. Isotope 217, “New Beyond”: This is hard to classify. It might be sort-of
    progressive rock. It might be sort-of odd Jazz fusion. I just don’t even know where
    to put it. It’s a recent acquisition, and to be honest, I haven’t formed a firm opinion
    of it yet. (That could be good or bad. Much of my favorite music is stuff that I wasn’t
    sure about at first. I tend to like things that challenge me as a listener, and so
    that sometimes means listening a few times to absorb it.)
  10. Abigail’s Ghost, “d_letion”: Abigail’s Ghost was recommended to me by
    a reader as an American neo-prog band that I’d probably like. Unfortunately, I’m really
    not wild about it. I don’t know if this album is typical of their sound. But I really
    don’t like this one.

Friday Random Ten, August 14

  1. Peter Hamill, “The Unconscious Life”: A track from an amazing live
    performance. In general, I’m not a big fan of live recordings – you really need
    to be there for a live performance. There’s a dynamic between the performer
    and the audience in live music, and in a recording, you’re listening to it from
    the outside – so you can feel that there’s something missing. This recording has an
    intensity, an intimacy, which is extraordinary. And it’s a great song, too.
  2. Valley of the Giants, “Whaling Tale”: Valley of the Giants has taken its
    place as my favorite post-rock band – surpassing even “Godspeed You Black Emperor!”.
    This track is very godspeed-like, but it manages to carry it out better than
    even Godspeed would have.
  3. Black Math Horseman, “Deerslayer”: This is a hard group to describe.
    It’s sort of like a cross between Mogwai, Sonic Youth, and King Crimson. They’re not really post-rock, and they’re not really prog rock, but they’ve got elements of both. They’ve got a really great sound. I haven’t listened to them enough to get a really
    good feel, but they’re definitely worth a listen.
  4. The Flower Kings, “The Rainmaker”: What can I say about the Flower Kings
    that I haven’t said before?
  5. Marillion, “The Only Unforgivable Thing”: a vaguely poppy track from
    Marillion’s second-best album. It’s slow, with the feel and structure
    of a pop ballad, but the lyrics are very un-ballad-like, and it’s got a ton
    of subtle complexity. Classic Marillion.
  6. Riverside, “Cybernetic Pillow”: I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned
    Riverside before. They’re a really fantastic neo-progressive band from
    Poland that I discovered lately. They’re really remarkable – they’ve got
    an amazing sound, which is very distinct from anything else. Most neo-prog
    bands, you can listen to, and say their main inspiration is Genesis, or Yes,
    or Pink Floyd, or whatever. With Riverside, I can’t do that. They sound like
    themselves, and nothing else. I’ve embedded a Youtube live video of this
    song below.
  7. Gong, “Damaged Man”: A very typical Gong track, if there is such a thing.
  8. Porcupine Tree, “Sentimental”
  9. Rush, “Red Lenses”: a nice old classic Rush track.
  10. The Reasoning, “Shadows of the Mind”: another recent discovery for me;
    The Reasoning is a decent neo-prog band. They’re not great, but they’re good,
    and they do some terrific multipart vocal harmony.

The Pentatonic is Fundamental: a Video Demo

As long-time readers know, I’m an amateur musician, from a very musical family. My sister is a music teacher, and my brother used to be a professional french horn player and composer. I personally play classical clarinet, a very wide range of folk-flutes, and some bluegrass banjo.

As long as I’ve studied music, my teachers have always talked about how fundamental the pentatonic scale is. For those who don’t know, the pentatonic
scale is a basic scale which has five distinct notes per octave, instead of the 7 of the traditional diatonic scale, or the 12 of the chromatic scale. For example, the
pentatonic scale starting at C is the notes C, D, E, G, A, and back to C.

I’ve never really grasped what’s so fundamental about it. It’s
got a beautiful sound – but just looking at it, it’s hard to see what makes it more
fundamental than any other scale. It’s not an evenly distributed scale – the
steps are second, second, minor third, second, minor third. But there’s something
about it.

This video shows just how fundamental it is. Without being told to, people will
naturally sing the steps of the pentatonic scale. The pentatonic scale is wired into our brains. Watch and be amazed!

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

Friday Random Ten, July 31

  1. Russian Circles, “Youngblood”: post rock, in the Mogwai style. Very nice stuff. Not the
    most exciting PR band around, but good.
  2. The Flower Kings, “World Without a Heart”: typical FK. Since I pretty much worship the ground
    that Roine Stolte walks on, you can guess what I think of this.
  3. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, “Transit”: would you believe sort-of progressive
    big-band jazz? That’s pretty much how I’d describe this. Big band jazz is not my usual cup of tea, but
    this is damned impressive, and a good solid listen. Definitely very cool stuff.
  4. Naftule’s Dream, “Yid in Seattle”: Naftule’s Dream is an alternate name for a wonderful
    Klezmer group called Shirim. When they’re doing weird stuff, they record as ND; when they’re doing
    traditional, they record as Shirim. ND is klezmer the way that John Zorn and his radical jewish
    culture guys play it. Wild stuff. Brilliant.
  5. Sonic Youth, “Leaky Lifeboat (for Gregory Corso)”: a track from the newest Sonic Youth
    album. This actually sounds more like older SY. In general, they’ve mellowed a bit over
    time; in particular, they’re last album had fewer rough edges. This one keeps the smooth
    production, but brings the edge back to the sound. SY just keeps getting better.
  6. The Tangent, “The Ethernet”: the Tangent started out as a collaboration between
    Roine Stolte of the Flower Kings, and Andy Tillison of Parallel or 90 Degrees. Stolte eventually
    quit, leaving Tillison running the band. It’s completely replaced Po90D as Tillison’s main band.
    It’s not quite up there with tFK, but it’s damned good.
  7. Keith Emerson Band, “Prelude to Hope”: This is an astonishing track. It’s Keith Emerson
    playing something beautiful and subtle. I’m a big Emerson fan. He’s a brilliant pianist.
    I love his style, and I usually love his compositions. But my opinion of him in the past was that
    if anyone were to suggest that perhaps he should try being a bit more subtle, he’d
    be likely to bash their head in with a sledgehammer, put the body through a wood chipper,
    collect up the bits and burn them to ashes, and then piss on the ashes – just to make sure
    that he made his point clear. And yet… This is a beautiful, subtle piece of playing, from
    a frankly terrific album.
  8. Echolyn, “Lovesick Morning”: Echolyn is one of my favorite recent discoveries. They’re
    not exactly a new band – they formed in the early 90s, broke up in 95, and then reformed
    a couple of years later. But they’re a thoroughly excellent neo-progressive band, with a very
    distinct sound. They don’t sound like they’re trying to be Genesis, or the Flower Kings, or Yes… They
    sound like nothing but themselves.
  9. Frank Zappa, “Drowning Witch”: Typical Zappa. Very strange, wonderfully erratic
    but great music, and incredibly silly lyrics delivered in that strange Zappa style.
  10. Dream Theater, “Wither”: Dream Theater’s newest. DT is a great progressive
    metal band. Their last few albums were a bit uninspired in my opinion. This one is really
    quite good. Unfortunately, this is one of the weaker songs on the album. Not bad, but not
    exactly what I’d choose to try to turn someone on to Dream Theater.

Friday Random Ten, July 17

  1. John Corigliano, “Fantasia on an Ostinato”: Corigliano is absolutely my
    favorite modern composer. He writes stunningly beautiful music. This is a wonderfully
    subtle piece: unaccompanied solo piano. Just incredible.
  2. Isis, “Not in Rivers, But in Drops”: The transition between the last one
    and this just about scared me out of my seat. From solo piano to loud, heavy
    post-rock. Once the shock of the volume change was past, I love this track. Isis
    is a really fantastic group.
  3. Dirty Three, “Amy”: Dirty Three is another interesting transition. DT is another
    post-rock, but from the opposite end of the post-rock spectrum from Isis. DT is mostly
    accoustic, heavily classically influenced post-rock. Most of their studio work doesn’t have
    the energy or the focus of a band like Isis, but it’s still very good stuff.
  4. Trans Am, “(Interlude)”: from post-rock to math rock. Trans Am is a pretty neat
    little band. Not nearly as good as some of the others in my collection, but definitely fun.
  5. Jadis, “Need to Breathe”: Finally, some neo-prog. Jadis is a new neo-progressive
    group that’s heavily influenced by Marillion. They’re pretty good. Not great, but good.
  6. Broken Social Scene, “Our Faces Split the Coast in Half”: a big disappointment. I heard Broken Social Scene being interviewed on NPR. They’re a Canadian collective, which has
    some overlap with the deities of postrock, “Godspeed you Black Emperor”. The bits they played
    live sounded great. But when I got one of their albums, it’s profoundly dull. Pretty much
    the only time I ever listen to it is when it comes up in a random playlist, and then
    I usually wind up skipping past.
  7. Echolyn, “The End is Beautiful”: very good neo-progressive rock. Maybe a tad on the emo side,
    but the quality of the musicians more than makes up for that. Seriously good stuff,
    very highly recommended. Includes a really beautiful fugue section.
  8. Gong, “Magdalene”: Brilliant prog-rock, with nothing neo about it. Gong has been
    together since the 70s (although I just recently found out about them). They’re one of the
    most amazing bands I’ve ever heard. Very strange, very silly at times, but always
    musically brilliant. They’ve got unusual instrumentation – very woodwind heavy for a rock
    band. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
  9. Alan Holdsworth, “The Sixteen Men of Tain”: Alan Holdsworth is someone who’s music
    I simultaneously love and hate. The guy is, without a doubt, one of the most skillful
    and artistic guitar players ever. He can play fast or slow with every note being crisp
    and perfect. He can play rock, jazz, and classical guitar with equal skill. And yet,
    most of the time, he leaves me cold. He’s like a guitar playing machine – perfect in every
    mechanical way, but somehow, his playing just totally lacks humanity.
  10. The Flower Kings, “The Blade of Cain”: The perfect ending for a FRT: my
    favorite band, the Flower Kings. These guys are the neo-progressive band
    to watch. Brilliant composition, brilliant performances. They come closer to musical
    perfection than any other rock band I’ve ever seen or heard. I found a youtube clip
    of them performing this track live, so you can get a sense of what I mean, which is below.

Friday Random Ten, May 29th

  1. The Flower Kings, “The Truth Will Set you Free”: One of the superlong Flower Kings opuses – in fact, the first thing by the Flower Kings that I ever heard.
  2. Solas, “Pastures of Plenty”: a stunning version of the old Guthrie song, played by one of my favorite Irish bands. It’s a brilliant cover – the original song is clearly there, and yet its embedded in a reel.
  3. Valley of the Giants, “Cantara Sin Guitara”: truly fantastic post-rock. Valley of the Giants is the first PR ensemble that I think really
    stacks up to Godspeed.
  4. Jadis, “Standing Still”: neo-progressive rock, produced by
    Marillion’s guitarist. It’s a bit on the poppy side, but after listening
    to it a bunch of times, it’s really grown on me. Jadis’s songs tend to have
    decent poppy hooks, but they’ve also got a lot of complexity, and they
    have the ability to keep surprising you with their changes even after
    multiple listenings.
  5. Riverside, “Volte-Face”: more neo-prog. But this time, it’s a band that I love without reservations. Riverside is the greatest new band that
    I’ve heard in a very long time. Highly recommended.
  6. Keith Emerson Band, “The Art of Falling Down”: the great Keith Emerson is back. Emerson is a really brilliant keyboardist, and I used
    to love his stuff with ELP. But then ELP fell apart; he tried to bring it back a couple of times, with results ranging from mediocre (Emerson, Lake and Powell) to piss-poor (Three). Then he went off to do mediocre movie soundtracks. And now, he’s back with a new prog-rock band. And they’re good. They’re not ELP, but they’re better than any other post-ELP work that he’s done.
  7. Cynic, “Evolutionary Sleeper”: What do you get when you mix up
    death metal, neo-progressive rock, and jazz fusion? That’s the best
    description I can come up with for Cynic. I gave Cynic a listen based on
    a suggestion from a reader after I raved about Gordian Knot; Cynic includes
    Sean Malone, the genius behind GK. They’re really excellent.
  8. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, “Transit”: another hard to describe group. Modern big-band jazz, with influences from classical
    music. Very interesting stuff. Not my favorite, but definitely very cool and well worth a listen. I suspect it will grow on me with time.
  9. Van Der Graaf Generator, “The Sleepwalkers (live)”: Wow.
  10. John Corigliano, “Fantasia on an Ostinato”: Corigliano is one of my favorite modern classical composers. This is an intimate little piece for solo piano. Very beautiful, very stirring, and yet very delicate.

And as a special bonus, this irresistible video of two dancers playing Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue on the giant piano at FAO Schwartz.

Friday Random Ten, May 8th

  1. Gordian Knot, “Singing Deep Mountain”: As frequent readers of my FRTs may have figured out, I’m not typically a big fan of instrumental progrock. Most of the time, I find it to be
    cold, sterile stuff – technically impressive, even amazing – but utterly devoid of meaning,
    emotion, or feeling. Gordian Knot is one of my favorite counter-examples to show that it’s not
    the vocals that I’m missing; GK manages to create instrumental music that’s got
    both incredible technical virtuosity and real feeling.
  2. Jason Ricci and New Blood, “I Turned Into a Martian”: a few weeks back,
    a commenter on my last FRT suggested that I might like Jason Ricci and New Blood. He
    was absolutely right. One YouTube video I found describes Ricci as “a cross between
    Muddy Waters and Frank Zappa”. That’s a pretty dead-on description. Ricci and New Blood
    play incredible blues, with a mixture of other influences, which would be pretty
    decent stuff just by itself. But then Ricci is a nearly supernatural harmonica player.
    The things that the guy can do with a harmonica are just astonishing. And the rest of the band aren’t exactly slouches. Highly recommended. (YouTube clip at the end of the post.)
  3. Spock’s Beard, “The Slow Crash Landing Man”: Decent neo-prog. Not a particularly
    special track, but not bad.
  4. Riverside, “Before”: Riverside is a band I recently discovered via E-music. They’re
    a phenomenal neo-progressive band. Their sound is hard to describe; somewhere between
    Marillion, King Crimson, and Porcupine Tree.
  5. Mono, “mere your pathetic light”: another really fantastic post-rock ensemble,
    very much in the “godspeed” vein. Really excellent stuff.
  6. Frost, “Welcome to Nowhere”: Yet another new neo-progressive band for me. I was
    ordering some CDs, and threw this in on a whim. They’re quite good – a bit on towards the
    poppy-end of neo-progressive. If you like Marillion, there’s a good chance you’ll like these guys. In particular, they’re good at the same kind of wonderful transition that Marillion is known for.
  7. Steve Hackett, “Omega Metallicus”: Hackett is always terrific.
  8. Marillion, “80 Days”: speak of the devil, Marillion pops up. As much as I like some
    of the new, Marillion influenced neo-progressive bands, when Marillion comes through the headphones, it’s just different. There’s just a depth to them that not many bands can
    match. Spock’s Beard, Frost, Jadis – they’re good. But they’re not in the same league as
  9. Tony Trischka Band, “Haunted Hand”: Tony Trischka’s first album with his jazz band. I’m a bit biased here, because I know Tony personally, and he’s one of the most genuinely
    nice people I know. I love his band, and Tony playing jazz on the Banjo is even
    better than Bela Fleck.
  10. The Flower Kings, “The Melting Pot”: and if you want to make even Marillion sound
    like a bunch of pikers, just put on the Flower Kings.

Friday Random Ten

  1. Explosions in the Sky, “Yasmin the Light”: beautiful post-rock.
  2. Kansas, “Miracles Out of Nowhere”: Old Kansas – great stuff.
  3. The Flower Kings, “Starlight Man”: People who’ve read my FRTs know
    that I pretty much worship the ground Roine Stolte walks on. Even a short,
    simple ballad like this, Stolte manages to turn into something amazing.
  4. Metaphor, “Don’t Sleep”: Metaphor is one of my favorite discoveries. They’re
    very obscure; most proggies that I talk to haven’t heard of them. But they’re
    really excellent. Definitely Flower-Kings inspired, but with a very distinctive
    sound, and a great sense of humor.
  5. Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, “Dig”: Progressive Klezmer! FBKB does
    a fantastic job of mixing very traditional Klezmer with all sorts of other
  6. Tan Dun, “Water Passion after St. Matthew”: This is a masterpiece. Tan Dun
    is a really brilliant composer; this composition is inspired by Bach’s
    “St. Matthew’s Passion”, which is one of my favorite pieces of music of all time.
    It’s frequently difficult to hear the connection between Tan Dun’s work,
    and what inspired it, but the connection is there.
  7. Jerry Douglas, “Takarasaka”: a duet between the world’s best
    Dobro player, and the world’s best Bass player.
  8. Spock’s Beard, “All That’s Left”: SB is a Genesis inspired
    neo-progressive band. They almost dissolved a few years back when their
    original leader quit the band, but since then they’ve developed in
    wonderful directions – they sound much less like they’re trying to just
    be Genesis. This is one of my favorite songs off their most recent album.
  9. Jadis, “What Goes Around?”: Something different: a Marillion inspired
    neo-prog band. They’re on a label run by Steve Rothery from Marillion. They’ve
    got a very Marillion-like sound, but a bit more pop-ish. I still haven’t
    quite decided how I feel about this album.
  10. Genesis, “Fly on a Windshield”: a wonderful bit from Peter Gabriel’s
    masterpiece album with Genesis.

Friday Random 10, 3/27/2009

  1. The Flower Kings, “Retropolis By Night”: Not one of the best things ever by
    the Flower Kings, but Roine Stolt’s mediocre is other peoples’ brilliant.
  2. Porcupine Tree, “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here”: very typical longish PT. Very good.
  3. Moxy Fruvous, “The King of Spain”: incredibly silliness. Moxy is a Toronto-based group that does mostly comic songs, frequently a capella. It’s extremely funny and very fun – particularly if you see it live. Alas, Moxy went on what seems to be
    permanent hiatus a few years ago, after releasing an amazingly lackluster final album.
  4. Genesis, “Mad Man Moon”: Going back and listening to old Genesis is always amazing. Even a relatively mediocre old Genesis album is enough to remind me of just why
    Genesis is one of the major influences of pretty much all modern prog.
  5. Pallas, “The Last Angel”: Pallas is a neo-progressive group that got started
    around the same time as Marillion. They’re OK, and they deserve more attention than
    they got, but they’ve got nothing on Marillion.
  6. Naftule’s Dream, “Black Wedding”: progressive Klezmer, featuring an intro by
    an absolutely astonishingly great trombone player. Very cool stuff.
  7. Yes, “Going for the One”: the leadoff track from one of my favorite Yes albums. Why don’t more prog bands use pedal steel? It’s got such a great sound!
  8. The Wishing Tree, “Fly”: I wrote a longish opinion of the Wishing Tree last week. More listens haven’t changed my mind.
  9. Sonic Youth, “Candle”: This is classic Sonic Youth. If you like their sound and
    style, you’ll love it. If you don’t, you won’t.
  10. Happy the Man, “Il Quinto Mare”: Sometimes, a great band should just stay dead. Happy the Man was a brilliant act when they were originally together. Last year, they got
    back together and recorded a new album. I wish they hadn’t. It’s terribly dull. There’s
    nothing technically wrong with it – it’s got the same kinds of complex time/chord
    structures as old Happy the Man, but somehow it’s all just flat. There’s no emotion,
    no spirit, no energy.

Friday Random 10, 3/20

  1. Valley of the Giants, “Back to God’s Country”: I mentioned Valley of the Giants a few weeks ago, as one of my favorite post-rock bands. A few weeks of listening to them incessantly hasn’t changed that. They’re absolutely brilliant. This track is very typical
    of them; it’s got a slow start, with an almost droning main melody. And they take that,
    and develop it, through rhythm and harmony, until it’s almost unrecognizable. And then
    everything changes.
  2. Hawkwind, “World of Tiers”: typical Hawkwind. If you like them, you’ll like
    this. If you don’t, you won’t.
  3. The Flower Kings, “Rumble Fish Twist”: a live track by the Flower Kings. Every time I go for a while without listening to tFK, I’m amazed when I turn them on. Roine Stolt and company are just so incredible. To me, there’s a kind of near perfection about the Flower Kings work that no one else comes close to.
  4. Kruzenshtern and Parahod, “Focus Pocus”: Some of the strangest stuff I’ve ever
    listened to. K&P are somewhere between progressive Klezmer, Jazz, and noise… They’re really amazing, but hard to describe or classify. If you can find a copy of one of their CDs, I highly recommend it, but they’re very hard to find.
  5. Gong, “Infinitea”: This band is yet another example of the “How did I not know about these guys?” phenomenon. They’ve been around for quite a while, coming out of
    the Manchester scene. They’re basically a spinoff of sorts from Soft Machine. They are
    a really amazing progressive band, from the Jazzy side of things. They’ve been doing stuff
    since the 70s, and are still making new albums now.
  6. The Reasoning, “Dark Angel”: This is a band that I can’t make up my mind about. They’re neo-prog. They’ve got brilliant moments, and they’ve got a lot of moments that are rather dull. I can’t quite decide what I think on balance; I need to listen to them a bit more. On the good side, they’ve got three members with good (but very different) voices, and do a lot of really nice vocal harmony work, which is unusual.
  7. Uriah Heep, “What Kind of God?”: A great disappointment. I’ve heard about
    Uriah Heep for the longest time, and I finally got around to buying one of their albums. I find it just intolerably dull. Really profoundly mediocre music.
  8. Sonic Youth, “Silver Rocker (live)”: old Sonic Youth. I really love SY, and I
    think that their songwriter has gotten stronger over the years. But there’s still a raw
    energy to their early stuff which the new can’t match. It’s still the same sound, and the
    older songs can sometimes tend towards being a bit on the simple side, but there’s still
    something really special in their older material.
  9. Sylvan, “Strange Emotion”: And another mixed bag. I was looking at other reviews of Sylvan, and someone described them as “Emo Prog”. Not a bad description. It’s definitely neo-prog, with the kinds of sound and structure that you’d expect; but it’s got that mopey, self-absorbed feeling of emo-dreck.
  10. The Wishing Tree, “Ostara”: And still another mixed one. This is Steve Rothery’s band. (Rothery is the guitarist from Marillion.) I’m a huge Rothery fan – he’s got both
    fantastic technical chops, and also fantastic musical taste. He’s not just a loud fancy
    guitarist; he’s a very musical guitarist. He’s got an extremely distinctive style,
    and yet also manages to fit himself into whatever’s going on around him. This album has
    some absolutely wonderful material; but it’s also got a lot of really dull
    derivative stuff. The singer (Hannah Stobart) has a really beautiful voice, but she
    doesn’t have her own style. She always sounds like she’s trying to be someone else. Mostly that’s Kate Bush, but at times, she sounds like she’s trying to be Tori Amos, or
    Melissa Etheridge. But you can almost always listen to her and say “She’s trying to
    sound like X”. On the whole, I like them, but think they’d be much better if Ms. Stobart
    just figured out how to sound like herself.