Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ride: Band of Horses on KEXP

Let's close out the rather eventful month with a little set from Band of Horses. Again, I'm not really familiar with this group, aside from the buzz-generating track, "The Funeral." Nonetheless, this short but sweet KEXP set is some pretty good indie rockin'. It was recorded on April 13th, 2006.


1. The Great Salt Lake
2. Part One
3. Wicked Gil
4. The Funeral

Part Two: Here

In other news (monthly retrospective edition)...

Pitchfork reports that Ladytron will be paired with Nine Inch Nails during their European tour, while also providing an mp3 of "Sugar." According to the 'tron official site, the show at New York's Capitale will be free, but obtained tickets looks to be a hassle (smoking kills, kids).

Good Weather for Airstrikes has a monstrous end-of-year video retrospective. Look out for a songs list soon.

rbally is over. Jennings, thanks for everything; you'll be sorely missed!

Pretentious Prattle gets a facelift.

The Rangers' short-lived two game winning streak comes to an end in Toronto, much to PB&J's dismay. Incidentally, "Wicked Gil" is on NHL2K7 (thanks, Wikipedia).

Happy February, folks!

Interlude: Discovery

While it remains uncertain if Pitchfork's role as a tastemaker is for better or worse, my completely arbitrary belief is that they've found a gem in Sally Shapiro. Much like fellow Swedish (and Pitchfork-endorsed) group The Knife, Sally's identity remains a mystery. Although she appears unmasked, her actual name has not been revealed. While this creates a sense of anonymity, the strength of the songs make her extremely appealing, although I'm predisposed to like this sort of stuff. Here are some samples, generously provided via the official site.


MP3: Sally Shapiro - I'll Be By Your Side
MP3: Sally Shapiro - I Know
MP3: Sally Shapiro - Anorak Christmas

Buy: Here

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Honey Power: The Jesus and Mary Chain Live

A lot of the buzz surrounding this year's Coachella concerns the reunion of the Jesus and Mary Chain. Despite having a fondness for shoegaze and Scotland alike, I'm not really familiar with the group, so this set represented a fresh listen. I'm not quite convinced that JAMC are really shoegaze, although they seem to be lumped into that group. They're definitely more rock-oriented and less "dreamy" than some of the latter 'gazers, so it isn't quite the love-at-first-listen a la, say, Slowdive. Nonetheless, I'll give their studio recordings a chance and get back to you on them at some point.

Here's the set, recorded on October 14th, 1994. It's tagged as "Jackseon The Edge" for album, but I haven't any notion where that is. If anyone could shed some light on the locale, that would be appreciated.


1. Intro
2. Blues From A Gun
3. Taste The Floor
4. Hole
5. Everybody I Know
6. Dirty Water
7. Far Gone and Out
8. Save Me
9. Girlfriend
10. Catchfire
11. Happy When It Rains
12. Come On
13. Snakedriver
14. Nine Million Rainy Days
15. Sugar Ray
16. Gold Help Me
17. Sidewalking

Destroy Rock & Roll: Here

Dust Galaxy: Stars Demos

Hm, another band that needs to release something immediately. I heart Stars. That's not a clunky pun, that's an understatement. I mean, I was just comparing them last week to the Dears, whom I've grown to appreciate, but Stars are on a different orbit altogether. But it really has been too long; the great Set Yourself On Fire was released almost two years ago (three in Canada). Now, I can't really fault them - between Broken Social Scene, Amy Millan's forays into country and Torq's work with Memphis, they've been quite busy in the last few months.

So does anyone remember this Pitchfork blurb concerning their remix album? We were chatting about it over at the Torture Garden, before Arcade Fire madness set it (Go Montreal!), and I guess there's a chance of it coming out soon, at least in some limited distribution. They've posted a remix of "The First Five Times" over at their MySpace, and what looks like a the album cover, so I guess the signs are somewhat positive.

Anyways, today's (yet another) time for retrospection. Stars actually started out as a duo in NYC, and their first album Nightsongs substitutes much of the subsequent orchestral elements for electronics. These demos date from that earlier time, and while the arrangements may be simpler, they're just as pretty. Thanks to Katherine from Counting Stars on the Ceiling for the request. Again, feel free to submit your own.


1. Counting Stars on the Ceiling
2. My Radio
3. International Rock Star
4. Tru
5. The Very Thing
6. On Peak Hill (ft. Emily Haines)
7. Going, Going, Gone (ft. Emily Haines)
8. Write What You Know
9. Tonight
10. Better Be Heaven
11. When?
12. This Charming Man (The Smiths Cover)
13. Liar
14. The Woods
15. Your Love
16. Better Be Heaven (Reprise)
17. Moonlight
18. London Fields
19. Gangster's Apprentice
20. A New Year

Friend of the Night: Here

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Week That Was #4: January Is Endless

Wow, I didn't know I liked the Dears that much. I guess seeing a band live really does make a difference; Camera Obscura's up there, too. The rest of the week is kind of skewed to what was posted on the blog, but I heard some of the artists - #2, #6 and #10 - for the first time last week. It's always tricky finding that balance between old and new, but I'm pretty happy with last week's distribution. Enjoy the picks:

This song is a big reason why the Dears have been atop the charts over the last two weeks. It starts out sparsely, with Murray's characteristic delivery, but eventually turns into a huge, harmonious crescendo, probably the best build this side of "The Bleeding Heart Show." After a little synth interlude, and it gets even bigger, with Murray's "You and I" partnered with Natalia's "We've got the same heart." While there's clearly a romantic element - particularly in light of their marriage - there's a universality here that speaks to anyone who's ever been an outsider.

MP3: The Dears - You and I Are A Gang of Losers
Buy: Here

Bowery Electric, as their name suggests, hail from the isle of Manhattan, and they really show off the nocturnal side of the city. Ethereal, understated vocals and enrapturing instrumental give birth to a sound that is as desolate as it is seductive. Admittedly, this combination has been utilized frequently, but originality sometimes has to take a backseat to sheer proficiency. In a landscape saturated with downtempo, Bowery Electric sticks out.

MP3: Bowery Electric - Saved
Buy: Here

It's appropriate that this song's title translates into "the world" (thanks, Babelfish), as Thievery Corporation incorporates a cosmopolitan blend of influences, ranging from Brazilian, Middle Eastern and, of course, French. I've quite a weakness for the latter, and I think this track is exquisite.

MP3: Thievery Corporation - Le Monde
Buy: Here

Rachel Goswell is, esoterically, a musical goddess on par with Liz Fraser and Emma Pollock (who has finished an album). While Rachel provides the heights of Souvlaki, as well as contributing later to Mojave 3, she's often overshadowed by Neil Halstead. Perhaps in an effort to differentiate, she had a solo release a couple years ago, Waves Are Universal. Although it didn't resonate critically or commercially, perhaps because it doesn't deviate much from her past, I've found the strength of her voice to be more than enough. This track is the clear highlight, marrying atmosphere churn with her dreamy delivery.

MP3: Rachel Goswell - Coastline
Buy: Here

One notable absence from that Aphex Twin set is "4," the opener to the Richard D. James Album. While the presence of a lively drum machine makes the song danceable, this track is more of an example of his ambient learnings. A downright pretty synth provides some gentle hooks, and some vague vocal samples add up to a weird, but soothing listen. He's really not that scary after all! Oh, and check out the video.

MP3: Aphex Twin - 4
Buy: Here

I think we can give Bloc Party the "band with the best taste" award (Snow Patrol isn't bad, either). Not only is Silent Alarm Remixed a fine work in its own right, but every single remixer is fantastic. I finally gave M83's Before The Dawn Heals Us my full attention last week, and it's gorgeous. Ethereal vocals reminiscent of Sigur Rós blend seamlessly with a multitude of synths, creating something as melodic as it is melodramatic. I might be posting a live set from these guys later in the week, so stay tuned.

MP3: M83 - Teen Angst
Buy: Here

The great opener to Mogwai's Mr. Beast gets a glitchy makeover in this companion to the "Travel Is Dangerous" single, and no, I don't get the artwork either. While the guitar-fueled crash (or piano, in this case) that characterizes Mogwai's usual sound is pretty disparate from electronic noodling, it's an effective unity in this case.

MP3: Mogwai - Auto Rock (Errors Remix)
Buy: Here

Sophie Ellis-Bextor caught my eye on the new Forkcast feature in a wicked display of synth-pop. (Merry Swankster has the mp3.) I'll definitely be keeping an eye on her upcoming album, but ever the fan of connections, I investigated her history a bit. Not only did she collaborate with the Manic Street Preachers and Spiller, but she was also in a band called theaudience. While it's a bit of a departure from her glammy future endeavors, there's a definite upside here.

MP3: theaudience - I Know Enough (I Don't Get Enough)
Buy: Here

I Have Sixteen Knives: Interpol Black Session

The signs look more auspicious every day: a new, if undeveloped, official page, high profile appearances at SXSW and Coachella, and for better or ill, signing with Capitol Records. It's been a while, but seems that Interpol is finally coming back. I guess the length of this hiatus really sinks in when I realize that my last memories of them are tied to, well, mainstream sources. Yet, my appreciation for them has really grown, even as I've delved into a wide range of music. For once, I can say that mainstream success is not only well deserved, but pretty darn understandable, can't wait for the third album.

Here's their second Black Session, recorded on September 21st, 2004, as requested by Matt. Incidentally, their Black EP contains selections from the first session, recorded in 2002. If you have any requests, feel free to drop me a line, and I'll see what I can do.


1. Obstacle 1
2. Evil
3. Say Hello to the Angels
4. Slow Hands
5. Not Even Jail
6. NYC
7. Length of Love
8. Narc
9. Leif Erikson
10. PDA
11. Stella Was A Diver and She Was Always Down
12. Roland

Fight Crime: Here

Superconnected: Broken Social Scene in Chicago

It's been a while since I last posted anything on Broken Social Scene, but I figure that the quantity of live stuff I've acquired since then prompts this post, although the band is unfortunately on what looks to be an extended hiatus. Of course, that's not to say that the many members of BSS will be dormant, as frontman Kevin Drew preps a solo album and various satellite bands tour and release new material. According to Arts & Crafts, BSS provides the soundtrack to the film The Tracey Fragments, although it's unclear if that will feature any new music. In any case, their past material continues to be consistently interesting and eclectic, although I haven't quite warmed to the minimal Feel Good Lost.

Then again, that earlier material represents a pretty different band, essentially the duo of Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, which is a far cry from the crowded contemporary lineup. One of the lingering questions is what form the band will take post-hiatus, but I'm confident that they'll remain one of the premier indie rock groups. This is definitely a set, recorded at Pitchfork's Intonation Festival in Chicago on July 16th, 2005, has a definite emphasis on the rocking. It features most of the band's prominent uptempo tracks, not to mention a generous amount of banter. "Anthems" is the only time things really slow down, and it remains one of the weirdest and most sublime pop songs I've heard.


1. Intro
2. 7/4 (Shoreline)
3. Cause = Time
4. Ibi Dream of Pavement (A Better Day)
5. Fire Eye'd Boy
6. Stars and Sons
7. Almost Crimes
8. Major Label Debut
9. Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl
10. Superconnected
11. KC Accidental

Market Fresh: Here

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Grin and Bear: Aphex Twin at Roskilde

Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin, is one of the fascinating electronic artists around. While the somewhat anonymous style inherent to this sort of music is not for everyone, James has amassed a staggering amount of material and acclaim, including releases under monikers such as AFX and Polygon Window. Admittedly, these two factors mean that my experience with him are rather limited, mainly to the recent Chosen Lords, the acclaimed Selected Ambient Works 85-92, and the Richard D. James Album, but it's clear from the relatively small sample size that his creativity and skill is unparalleled.

In other words, if you're into this sort of stuff, there's no one better. This set provides a pretty good overview of his sound, progressing from the tranquil "Lichen" to the frenetic "Digeridoo" to the ear-shredding collapse of "Come To Daddy." It was recorded at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark on June 27th, 1997.


1. Laughable Butane Bob
2. Heliosphan
3. Lichen
4. Inkey$
5. Girl/Boy Song
6. Crappy
7. Digeridoo
8. Come To Daddy

Will Mix For Cash: Here

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Interlude: This Charming Band

Camera Obscura, The Essex Green - Jan 24th, 2007
Warsaw, Brooklyn

My previous concert-going experience in the lovely borough of Brooklyn was great, and it was very nice to revisit the area. A pretty brisk trip from the L and G trains brought us to Warsaw, located at the Polish National House, another conquest in the name of indie rock. There's a really nice vibe throughout the area, as the foreboding skyscrapers and crazed taxi drivers are absent, making Brooklyn appear as a far more traditional town. This welcoming aura extended to the venue, a down-to-earth, cozy place, and I really think the atmosphere really enhanced the experience. The actual stage was located in a space reminiscent of a high school dance, complete with disco ball and blasting Beatles hits. The crowd was also great and passionate throughout the night, topping off a great show.

The Essex Green

Merge labelmates and Brooklynites the Essex Green opened things up. It was really apparent how much fun they were having onstage, exchanging smiles and rocking out with conviction. The group is anchored by the dual harmonies of guitarist Chris Ziter and keyboardist Sasha Bell, who traded off lead throughout the set. Sasha has a somewhat quirky, but distinctive voice, and Chris was also quite adept at contributing a soaring backup vocal. They played tight and tuneful songs, and while nothing really blew me over during the set, I'll be sure to check out their studio material. I recommend you do the same:

MP3: The Essex Green - Don't Know Why (You Stay)

Camera Obscura

While the openers split singing duties, Camera Obscura was all about one lady: lead singer and guitarist Tracyanne Campbell. With the departure of fellow singer John Henderson in the interim between Underachievers Please Try Harder and Let's Get Out of This Country, Tracy has become the voice of the band, and her stellar vocals made the set. The lineup reduction has had further effects, in many ways reinvigorating the band's sound, shifting the lo-fi, producer-less earlier works into shimmering, earnest pop. Despite this development, the band retains a sense of restraint, and some of the best moments of the set were simple, with Traceyanne's singing accompanied by a gently strummed guitar. Still, the highlights were undoubtedly the triumphant triumvirate of recent singles - "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken," "Let's Get Out of This Country," and "If Looks Could Kill" - and the best moments where when the band embraced the confidence of new material.

Again, there was more to this show than just the music, as all the members of Camera Obscura were as charming as their songs, with Tracy making some pretty entertaining comments about Polish vodka and Manhattanites grumbling about the location of the show (guilty as charged). While this group hasn't quite reached the personal heights of, say, fellow Scots the Delgados, they're quickly becoming one of the most endearing bands out there. If you get the chance to see them on this or future tours, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Seeing as how they just played at the Cat's Cradle last Saturday, I think it's fitting that I post this set. It was recorded in North Carolina during Merge Fest July 30th, 2004. I've also included their more recent KCRW appearance, recorded on July 19th, 2006.


1. Teenager
2. Anti-Western
3. Keep It Clean
4. A Sister's Social Agony
5. Before You Cry
6. Lunar Sea
7. Sugar Town & Blue Moon
8. Quiet One
9. Eighties Fan
10. Suspended From Class
11. Let Me Go Home

MP3: Camera Obscura - KCRW Set

Official Site: Here
Blog (!): Here
Buy: Here

Apparently, brooklynvegan caught me in the crossfire:

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Kill The Moonlight: DJ Shadow in Austin

In all of my frequent trip-hop musings, I've only mentioned DJ Shadow in passing. While I haven't explored much of his later material, the brilliance of his debut album, more than warrants a post. The work in question, Endtroducing..., has the distinction of being the first album constructed completely from samples, and while the material is broad in sources, it maintains a singularly moody atmosphere that's overwhelming. It's a bit of a burden to debut with such a stellar piece of work, as it would be virtually impossible to even replicate it, never mind top it.

So perhaps for that reason, I haven't really given his recent album, The Outsider, much consideration (I guess I can get my crunk with Night Ripper). But as I've been listening to predominantly downtempo work lately - library dwelling will induce that - I'm sure it'll be a matter of time before I give Endtroducing... another spin.

This is a bit of an eclectic set. As Shadow says towards the beginning, it's an attempted overview of his work up to that point, thereby incorporating turntablism, samples, and the occasional guest MC. For me, the highlight remains the Endtroducing... cuts: the modus operandi-turned drum clinic "Building Steam With A Grain of Salt," and the upbeat composition of "The Number Song." I'm not sure when exactly this was recorded, just that it's somewhere in Austin.


1. Intro
2. Practice
3. The Number Song
4. Handsome Boy Modeling School - Holy Calamity
5. Funky Turntable Freestylin'
6. Lesson 4
7. Scratchin'
8. Building Steam With A Grain of Salt
9. Jurassic 5 - Improvise
10. Intermission / Rock The Funky Beat
11. Make Way For The MC's
12. Lyrics Born & Lateef
13. U.N.K.L.E. - Lonely Soul
14. High Noon

Fixed Income: Here

In other news...

It's all Camera Obscura, all the time. Chromewaves is giving away a many tickets to their show at the Opera House on January 31st, and Washington Square News has a feature on the band. I'll be seeing them tonight at Warsaw, and post-concert exposition will inevitably follow sometime tomorrow.

MP3: Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of the Country
MP3: Camera Obscura - If Looks Could Kill

If you're in the area and not partaking in that show, Brooklynites Cricket Spin are playing at Pianos at 8:30.

MP3: Cricket Spin - Our One Day Lives
MP3: Cricket Spin - Vanishing Point
MP3: Cricket Spin - Love It When You Call

Also, the NHL All Star game takes place at 8, unfortunately only on Versus around here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Week That Was #3: The Ties That Bind

I felt the need to expand the above chart to twelve, simply because I wanted to feature the two bottom artists tied for 8th. I'm tricky that way. A couple thoughts on the week: I finally took the initiative and heard The Greatest and The Crane Wife, as well as another go-around of Carnavas. You've inevitably heard enough about that trio here or elsewhere, so I'll leave it at that. The high charting of the Dears and Annuals is definitely a product of that show, and songs abound in that post. I'm starting to suspect that hearing a band live before diving into studio material might be the most effective method, as Gang of Losers has really grown on me. You can also hear an Ivy and Delgados track in previous weeks. For some reason or another, much of the rest of the week's listens seem to gravitate toward pairs, and the first bit of the list will be organized as such. Enjoy!

While I've finally begun exploring Slowdive's full catalogue through Just For A Day, the spectacular Souvlaki remains a fixture in my listening. Someone posed an interesting question on the band's page, whether they're better than My Bloody Valentine. In my own experience, I have found the comparably tranquil Souvlaki to be more accessible, and far less abrasive than the dense Loveless, but I suppose we can just say that both bands are great and leave the rest to personal preference. These tracks come off of the expanded reissue of Souvlaki, and really begin to bridge the gap between shoegazing and electronica, a transition that is fully explored in the next pick. Also, there's a link to the perfect opener, "Alison," which provides a great intro for newcomers to the group.

MP3: Slowdive - In Mind (Bandulu Mix)
MP3: Slowdive - In Mind (Reload Mix)
YouTube: Slowdive - Alison
Buy: Here

Lali Puna contributed this fantastic Slowdive cover to Morr Music's Blue Skied an' Clear tribute album, and it was later included in the I Thought I Was Over That rarity compilation. I couldn't resist the vintage Lali bunny, so I included the latter cover. While the huge guitars have been substituted for something a little glitchier, the essence of this song, namely the lovely, languid vocals, are replicated to incredible effect. Hopefully, we'll hear more from Lali some time this year. You can read a whole lot more about the intersection between Morr and 'gaze here.

MP3: Lali Puna - 40 Days
Buy: Here

While Daylight's For The Birds has some shoegazing influence within their sound as well, this particularly track is foremost an exercise is prettiness. You've probably noticed that I have a weakness for female fronted indie pop, but I've found that there's enough variety in the genre - everything from this sparkling churner to more restrained, lo-fi meanders - that things stay interesting. You can head over to Chromewaves for a few more tracks, and band plays live at Union Hall on Friday.

MP3: Daylight's For The Birds - For Now
Buy: Here

On!Air!Library! is the previous musical endeavor of Daylight's Phillip Wann and Claudia Deheza, along with Claudia's twin sister Alley. As perhaps alluded to in the contrast of album covers, O!A!L! is a bit more more avant garde, but probably just as dreamy. Sam Fogarino of the Coachella-fied Interpol contributes drumming later in the album, but this is the track that really stands out for me. I'm not sure if it's multitracking or both of the girls singing in unison here, but the entwining harmonies of this track represent a high point.

MP3: On!Air!Library! - Bread
Buy: Here

Bitter:Sweet is finally playing a few shows, including an appearance on February 15th at the ever stylish Joe's Pub. I'm curious to see how extensive their live setup is, particularly in light of that KCRW performance. They really seem to be making it these days, with a dizzying number of commercial appearances, which should hopefully lead to more exposure and more touring. Here's the title track from their yummy debut album.

MP3: Bitter:Sweet - The Mating Game
Buy: Here

Supreme Beings of Leisure is B:S production wizard Kiran Shahani's former band, although it's unclear who currently makes up the entity. A lot of the same elements that make the latter so good are on display here, although some of the elements are a bit reminiscent of Herbert, particularly in vocal style. It's also probably a little more lively, and a little more soulful than B:S.

MP3: Supreme Beings of Leisure - Divine
Buy: Here

GWFA pick Johnny Boy really encapsulate city livin' in the frantic cacophony that is this track. In another example of a small, small world, James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers co-produced their self-titled album. Unfortunately, while this song caps up what's a really fun first half, the second half makes for an uneven listen, and prevents the album from achieving the potential that's hinted at here. Nonetheless, valleys and peaks are far more interesting than being "merely okay," and you definitely can't fault their adventurism.

MP3: Johnny Boy - Livin' In The City
Buy: Here

I've admittedly had very little experience with Faith and the Muse, but I guess I'm basically obliged to post this one. To me, this song is all about contrast, between the ethereal vocals and the charging guitar. To put it differently, it sounds like a fantastic jam session between Elizabeth Fraser and TV on the Radio; I, for one, can definitely hear some "Wolf Like Me" in there.

MP3: Faith and the Muse - Scars Flown Proud
Buy: Here

Frengers is Mew-speak for "not quite a friend but not quite a stranger." That's probably how many people relate to the band in the wake of their staggeringly popular And The Glass Handed Kites. While that album seems to categorize them as a proggy, arty sort of rock band, tomorrow's U.S. reissue of Frengers should reveal the sheer hookiness of the band's earlier work. Jonas Bjerre's incredible voice is at the forefront of this track, but it's the gorgeous instrumental that really puts it over the top. This song has personal significance, as it's the first Mew song I heard, and it's remained a favorite. The only thing that really remains now is seeing them live.

MP3: Mew - Am I Wry? No
Buy: Here

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Period #1: On The Wagon

So, somewhere around here, Roland promised that we'd both be doing these posts in the future, and here's my jump onto the wagon. For those of you not aware, is a music-based networking site that keeps statistics of what you listen to, including a top-artists-listened-to chart I spend half of Sunday eagerly awaiting. In each of these posts, we dissect our top ten artists of the week, and provide a sample mp3.

Tangerine Dream are ancient. (For example, the band's current lineup includes the founder and his adult son.) By now, they have amassed a staggeringly large discography of various quality and thematic focus. But what do they sound like, you ask? Remember all those bad synth-laced 80s soundtracks? Well, Tangerine Dream either made that soundtrack (Sorcerer, The Keep) or were the direct stylistic inspiration for it.

Luckily, as they were the progenitors, they actually have talent. Most critics think their 70s efforts were their best (Phaedra, Stratosfear), but there's really good stuff spread across their other eras, too. The album picture to the left --- Tyranny Of Beauty --- is my individual favorite, because it encapsulates all their various sounds with mostly new compositions of very high quality in both sound and songwriting. "Bride In Cold Tears" is from this album, and is one of the standouts from their entire body of work. It begins with an echoing aerial section, then drops to the ground for a race shot through with woodwinds, native drumming, and a wonderful set of recurring keyboard motifs. Does it sound dated? Sure. Is it still an excellent piece? Definitely.

MP3: Tangerine Dream - Bride In Cold Tears
Buy: Here

Had I thought about the riches of the year for a while longer, Slayer's Christ Illusion would have likely ended up on my best of 2006 list. As it stands, it's a wonderful collection of malevolent riffs backed up by a stellar performance from Dave Lombardo; even Tom Araya's lackluster vocal delivery grows on you with time. The lyrics themselves are a return to form, with songs like "Eyes of the Insane" going back into the dissection of sick and evil minds not seen on 2001's God Hates Us All; "Supremist" and similar hearken back to gore solely missed since 1998's "Love To Hate". "Catatonic" is a particular highlight for me, a mid-paced sledgehammer patterned after "Piece By Piece", that collapses into a repeating groove that just cries for accompanying perverse visuals.

MP3: Slayer - Catatonic
Buy: Here

(For those of you not aware, Slayer are one of thrash metal's great bands, easily the fastest, harshest, and most blaspheming. Their reign of best albums went from 1985 to 1990, consisting of Hell Awaits, the landmark Reign In Blood, South Of Heaven, and Seasons In The Abyss. All are highly recommended.)

I think we've mentioned Dead Can Dance before, but if we haven't, here goes: one of 4AD's wonderful roster, they were responsible for really setting off the tendency to do classical/world tracks. Starting with 1985's Spleen And Ideal, they mixed folk and world elements with slight amounts of shoegaze and ambient pop, making them direct precursors to other favorites like Delerium, Enigma, Deep Forest, and Single Gun Theory. Unlike those that followed, Dead Can Dance's emphasis was always on the older elements, and just making them work in modern songwriting. From 1987's Realm Of A Dying Sun, "Summoning Of The Muse" is a perfect example of this: ninety-plus minutes of triumphant symphonic majesty compressed and carefully tweaked into a svelte five-minute dress.

MP3: Dead Can Dance - Summoning Of The Muse
Buy: Here

Again, had I thought more, Disillusion's Gloria would likely have ended up on my best of 2006. (Man, last year was really really good.) The band struck out with the metal press: renowned for the progressive Opethian-leanings of debut Back To Times Of Splendor, Gloria's turn away from Opeth to industrial and electronica resulted in many a bad score. In all honesty, Gloria is a great album, but it's not metal. It's like sending an Arcana album to a metal site: sort of the same circle, way different tastes. Gloria itself is a wonderful vortex of metal and electronica, riffs trading off with echoing keyboards cut off from a Ministry Of Sound hit's bridge. The end effect exists in that uneasy valley between metal and industrial, along with Mortiis, Ulver, and Samael. (And, to some degree, The Project Hate MCMXCIX.) If you've an interest in darker electronica, give the opening track, "The Black Sea", a spin. (No death metal vocals to be found, I swear.)

MP3: Disillusion - The Black Sea
Buy: Here

I spoke about Yuki Kajiura at length here, so I'm just going to provide you with "The Battle Of Your Soul", also known as "heart-breaking triumph in audio form".

MP3: Yuki Kajiura - The Battle Of Your Soul
Buy: Here

Again, I've discussed Delerium previously, too. For cross-pollination's sake, here's "Stopwatch Hearts", a bonus track from 2003's Chimera, featuring none other than Emily Haines of Metric.

MP3: Delerium - Stopwatch Hearts (ft. Emily Haines)
Buy: Here

I could write pages and pages about Dark Tranquillity. One of the original Gothenburg, Sweden melodic death metal acts (along with In Flames and At The Gates), the Baroque leanings of 1995's The Gallery put them firmly on the map. While their movement fell to pieces around them, Dark Tranquillity soldiered on, dropping strings and complexity after 1997's The Mind's I, replacing them with maturity, liberal application of emotion and Depeche Mode, and electronics on 1999's Projector and 2000's Haven. 2002's Damage Done and 2006's Character were a return to form of sorts, restoring a sense of anger and destructive power that had mellowed out in the years since The Gallery. They have a new album slated for release in April, and I'm counting the days.

"The Wonders At Your Feet" is the first song of theirs I ever heard, their customary concert opener, and the first track off Haven, and I see no reason not to introduce you to them through it. It was the introduction to keyboardist/electronics man Martin Brändström; he is wonderfully pre-eminent throughout it all. Pay special attention to the section at 1:25; progressions and the focus on melody shown are why Dark Tranquillity deserve your time far more than nearly any other death metal band: they make actual music. (Finally, there are death metal vocals within, but very good ones at that.)

MP3: Dark Tranquillity - The Wonders At Your Feet
Buy: Here

Why Judas Priest? Why a heavy metal band far more appropriate to biker dads? Because 1984's Defenders Of The Faith is regularly dismissed as one of their worst, and still manages to unleash something as wonderful as "The Sentinel". (I'd be remiss if I didn't note that it's usually dismissed because it's so inconsistant: it would make a great five-song EP, but exactly half of the album is forgettable.) Why? Because they're great.

MP3: Judas Priest - The Sentinel
Buy: Here

Throwing Muses are a college-rock staple, a female-centered gangly often unnerving rock band that leaves nothing undone. They're frank, tough, and enchanting. The high place this week is because I'm finally diving into their back catalogue; without having heard the usual critics' highlights, all I can offer you is "Pandora's Box", off the second self-titled album, the 2003 reunion effort. It does the job, though: very well, in fact, being at parts haunting, amazing, and showing wonderfully unusual progressions. (Frontwoman Kristin Hersh's Learn To Sing Like A Star comes out Tuesday - Roland)

MP3: Throwing Muses - Pandora's Box
Buy: Here

So, in case you can't tell, yes I like muse imagery. Faith and the Muse are another crown in that cap. Notionally, they're a goth rock band, yet they share a lot more in total sound with Dead Can Dance than Christian Death. The really nice thing is that they concentrate on making atmospheric rock out of their influences: if Dead Can Dance came upon a wonderful old hymn, they'd record it as is; Faith and the Muse would chop it up and reconstruct it into something far more memorable and haunting. While Roland's developed a taste for the soaring "Scars Flown Proud", I'm instead giving you career highlight "The Silver Circle" from 1996's Annwyn, Beneath The Waves, for it's more immediate, encapsulates their sound far better, and simply rocks harder.

MP3: Faith and the Muse - The Silver Circle
Buy: Here
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