I am taking a break from my rants on life and philosophy for a more usual Tsikitas post. Since the year is a little over halfway done, I want to look back on the goods of the media this year. There were a lot of cool things that came out in the music biz this year. Also, there were some sweet flicks. So here is a quicky half-year top 10 albums and top 5 movies.
10. Muse- Black Holes and Revelations - These guys know how to make awesome rock music with the useage of heavy guitars, sweet synths and epic soaring vocals. The thing with this album is Muse decided to tinker with some new sounds. On the ridiculously epic track "Knights of Cydonia" (with an equally amazingly epic music video) mixes surf rock guitar, a catchy rock riff and horns a la Ennio Morricone Western scores and a Queenesque breakdown vocal harmony. The first single, which was "Supermassive Black Hole" has trippy robotronic vocals and another catchy hook that makes Muse a hit maker deluxe. It's pretty much standard Muse fair as their last album Absolution was also epic in nature. This album has some not as awesome tracks, but it is definitely worth it if you enjoyed any previous Muse stuff.
9. Adrian Belew- Side Three- One of the two guitar virtuoso's of King Crimson has released a few albums in the past two years. This album is filled with great catchy prog songs. Yes, catchy prog songs. Rather than the usual sweeping epic Crimsonesque songs, we get short, synthed out and quick songs filled with catchy hooks and sick rhythm. The sick rhythm is care of none other than Les Claypool (Primus king) and Danny Carey of Tool (who also has an album out this year, but didn't make the cut.) The song "And" is a different take on the grungey song off of Side One entitled "Ampersand." Although the guitar work is a bit cleaner, it still has your flares of Belew wailing. This album definitely shows a guitarist tinkering with things like synth and drum machines (espically on the song "Beat Box Car") for some great experimental pop songs.
8. Loose Fur- Born Again in the USA- Yet another supergroup of sorts. When Tweedy of Wilco and former Sonic Youth member Jim O'Rourke, you are bound for some great songwriting. The songs off of this disc echo the good old days of Wilco from their AM era. They are great moody alt-country songs. Damned if I don't get "The Ruling Class" stuck in my head with its catchy whistling in the background. Tweedy's songwriting is at it's usual high quality and the music is tight. Definitely worth a listen.
7. Pearl Jam- Many people have ragged on this album as either being "not like Pearl Jam" or just plain crap. Well, I must disagree. Their last album Riot Act was overall a dissapointment for me. So when getting this I was skeptical. And I truly like this album. Songs like "World Wide Suicide" and "Severed Hand", although not great Pearl Jam songs in the grand scheme of things, are excellent driving rock songs. The second half of the album is where it shines. "Inside Job", "Army Reserve", "Wasted Reprise" and "Come Back" are excellent tunes. It's a solid effort with some simple production that doesn't bog it down too much.
6. Thom Yorke- The Eraser- This album is pretty great, but it is a mood peice. You can't really listen to this at any time. For this reason, it looses something for me. It isn't versatile like other Radiohead albums, but this isn't a Radiohead album. It is in the vein of Kid A and Amnesiac but the songwriting isn't as great. However, that doesn't mean there are some awesome tracks on it. Quite on the contrary. The track "Analyse" is one of my fav songs that has come out this year. It has an interesting tempo that pulsates with different sounds. "And It Rained All Night" is also a sweet mood peice. I just hope when he rejoins the forces of Radiohead, there are more guitars involoved.
5. Paul Simon- Surprise- This was a surprise as I foudn out Simon was releasing an album produced by none other than Brian Eno. Now That is an interesting combo. And it works. A little too well. Paul Simon writes amazing lyrics and loves doing new things. Imagine your usual Paul Simon songs but with that great Eno flare. It's great. Songs like "How Can You Live in the Northeast" and "Everything About it is a Love Song" are touching songs with excellent ethereal sounds that you won't expect to come from it. It is as different from Graceland as Bowie's glam stuff is to his late 70's avante garde stuff. It's a welcome sound.
4. Built to Spill- You In Reverse- Doug Martsch and crew are back in full force. After a few years of touring and writing, we finally have a new BTS album. And in grand fashion, you get what you are expecting. Sweeping epic indie songs. That is my best description of BTS albums in general. Epic Indie. For proof of this, check out the lead track "Goin' Against Your Mind" or the track to follow "Traces." Both are lengthy with decent guitar workouts. Never do the songs lose their path from the main core melody. Catchy as hell with enriching lyrics to boot. "Conventional Wisdom" is definitely one of their best tunes to date.
3. The Secret Machines- Ten Silver Drops- This album, although not as good as the predocessor, has some of the finest tunes written by the Secret Machines. The thing this album has to offer is the potential of making the Machines show even more intense. Although their recordings rule, a pumping epic song like "Daddy's in the Doldrums" will get exponentially better in their jam session style live show. "Lightning Blue Eyes" is probably the best pop song written in ages that will never get radio play. The usual fair. Great songs, sweeping epic riffs and hooks with meaningful lyrics. These guys are definitely one of the best bands of the decade.
2. The Fever- In The City of Sleep- Halloweencore at it's finest. Compared to Red Bedroom, this album takes The Fever into further depths of weird and catchy. It is a huge step forward as the songwriting has increased 10-fold. "Redhead" is probably the easiest to compare to the last album, but most of the other songs take on new sounds and different styles. "Little Lamb and the Shiny Silver Bullets" is a definite stand out with a much tamer and mellower feel than usual. It's just overall funtimes. It's a circus in your ears.
1. The Flaming Lips- At War With The Mystics-Yes, they did it again. Only this time, no concept. Yoshimi is superior to this album, however, that doesn't mean this album is bad. in fact, it's awesome. Unless Beck pulls out all the stops (which the first single "Cell Phone's Dead" might dethrone), this is the best album of the year. I am pretty much in love with every song on this album, but three standouts come to mind. "Vein of Stars" is a beautiful song about existentialism of sorts. It's the perfect song for staring into the sky at night and questioning everything. "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion" fills me with hope when nothingness comes along and "It Overtakes Me/ The Stars are so Big...I am So Small... Do I Stand A Chance?" starts off as a fun jam and ends as a beautiful reflection peice. The singles are super fun and politically charged and the album flows great with each song being a great entity in itself. A good change from the last two albums being cohesive concepts.
Albums to come: Beck's The Informer (or Informant... I forget what it said on his website.) Electric Six- Switzerland, and I'm sure some nice surprises from The Rapture and hopefully The Shins.
So I haven't seen really that many movies that are worthy of me telling you about, but here is a quicky top 5 of some of the films I thought were great this year.
2. A Scanner Darkly
3. Inside Man
5. The Three Burials of Malquidas Estrada
The only other movies I've seen have been some sub-par blockbusters that aimed to please to a certain extent and some sub-par, but surprisingly better than I thought comedies. Let's hope things like Snakes, Science of Sleep and The Oh in Ohio can save this year. Plus we are slowly approaching Oscar months. So who knows whats gonna come crawlin' out.