While music this year hasn’t been nearly as good as last year as a whole, there have certainly been plenty of solid albums released. Here are my five favorites!
I also included a link to a song from each album, so enjoy! Or don’t.
#5: Devin Townsend – Z² – Dark Matters
Genre – Progressive metal, industrial metal, experimental rock
Released as a double album (collectively titled Z²) paired with the Devin Townsend Project album Sky Blue, Dark Matters is the continuation of 2007’s Ziltoid the Omniscient, the story of an alien in search of the earth’s greatest cup of coffee. Story-wise, it’s just as ridiculous as expected – which is definitely a good thing. Musically, Dark Matters is quite different from ZTO. Rather than a prog metal album, Dark Matters is more of a musical soundtrack than its predecessor. Instead of being loud and fast, the music leaves more room for the dialogue and commonly takes a more subdued approach. While sort of inferior to ZTO in this regard, it’s still a solid album with some great standouts.
And as a cool bonus, there are two versions of the album – with and without dialogue. While the original version is obviously better for taking in the story, the dialogue-less version feels a bit empty at points where the dialogue would normally be. It’s nice to have the music-only version, but it’s certainly inferior to the full product.
Recommendation – From Sleep Awake, War Princess, and March of the Poozers, but you should listen to the first album, Ziltoid the Omniscient, before jumping into the entirety of Dark Matters.
#4: Ne Obliviscaris – Citadel
Genre – Extreme progressive metal
From one point of view, Ne Obliviscaris is a fairly standard metal band – they have two singers (one clean, one growled), two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer. From another, they’re fairly unusual – their clean singer also plays the violin. The incorporation of the violin is integral to their sound, adding a melodic instrument to fill in the spaces left by vocals and guitars. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s only present to take up the slack, as the violin commonly carries the song with nifty solos or lines that support the rest of the band.
As an “extreme progressive metal” band, there’s a lot of focus on the instrumentation and composition compared to more “normal” groups. The members are all excellent with their respective instruments, delivering interesting music from beginning to end. While I could live without the growled vocals, they’re at least utilized well in the album. Altogether, this is a great album that combines a fairly unique sound with great music for a very cool experience.
Recommendation – Painters of the Tempest (Part II): Triptych Lux
#3: ††† (Crosses)
Genre – Electronic rock, dream pop, electronica
Crosses is a project from Deftones singer Chino Moreno, Far guitarist Shaun Lopez, and Chuck Doom, and is generally considered “witch house,” a variation of house music that focuses on dark tones and themes (I honestly couldn’t explain what “house” is though). Extremely atmospheric yet never desolate, the music’s somewhat unusual vibe works surprisingly well in fairly accessible songs – the best example is Bitches Brew, which takes the gloomy sound of the genre and combines it neatly with a song that will get stuck in your head.
Compared to Moreno’s other groups – Deftones, Palms, etc. – Crosses is certainly different, but also has plenty of untapped potential. Only one album in, they’ve set themselves up for the future, so let’s hope they can deliver yet again down the line.
Recommendation – Bitches Brew, The Epilogue, and Telepathy
#2: Casualties of Cool
Genre – Country rock, blues rock, ambient, alternative country
Another project from Devin Townsend and vocalist Ché Aimee Dorval, Casualties of Cool is a completely different entity from Dark Matters. While labelled as country rock, the album is actually a bit harder to describe – more than anything it could best be described as “progressive country,” combining the nuance of art/prog rock with the instrumentation of country music.
To some extent, the music is along the lines of Townsend’s past albums Ki and Ghost, as he successfully steps outside his comfort zone and creates a successful blend of his signature sound and an unexpected genre. And to top it all off, the combination of Dorval and Townsend’s vocals fit in excellently, adding a dreamy layer to an already ambient album. This is the perfect album to sit back and listen to in the dark.
Recommendation – Flight, Mountaintop, and Bones
#1: GigaP and reol – No title-
Genre – Electronic, J-pop
Looking at my general taste in music, this collaboration between GigaP and reol is definitely an outlier. Straight-up electronic music has never been my cup of tea, yet this album hit me like a brick wall in the absolute best way possible. The majority of the music is synth-based, with overwhelming sonic depth paired with great vocals. This is the kind of music that takes full advantage of a good sound system or headphones.
There is another version of this album (No title+) that has various vocaloids on vocal duties, but it is far inferior when taking reol’s addicting voice into account. Also, one of the standout tracks on the album, Ooedoranv, features some nifty rapping from nqrse (no, that’s not a typo), another “utaite” who posts cover songs on Nico Nico Douga and YouTube. The vocals are definitely one of the main draws of the album. Well, that and a song about an abnormally large male reproductive organ. This album is short, sweet, and painfully addicting. ;)
Recommendation – Hibikase (ヒビカセ), Ooedoranv (オオエドランヴ), Asymmetry (アシンメトリー), and Gigantic O.T.N. -Big Death Edition- (ギガンティック O.T.N -Big Death Edition-)
- Persona Q soundtrack
- Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
- Aldnoah.Zero soundtrack
- Yanagi Nagi – Polyomino
- Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun
- Zankyou no Terror soundtrack
- Coldrain – Until the End
- Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Rebellion soundtrack – this would have been number one on the list, but I figured you’re all sick of hearing me rant and rave about it.
You can see my list from last year here – please excuse the poopy writing.