Saturday, December 15, 2012

Snow Patrol-Fallen Empires (2011)

It is that time of year again, readers.  Tis the season when we sit drinking hot cocoa by the fire waiting for a mythical jolly man in a red suit to come and hope for something Jesus Christ never intended to on his birthday.  Oh, how life would be different if Christmas was still in April. 

It is no secret that I hate snow.  In that light, it is a good thing I live in a climate where it doesn't snow often and usually melts with a day or two.  I detest snow, but there is a band I enjoy called Snow Patrol.  I have just recently gotten a chance to listen to this Scottish band's latest album, released in 2011.  In short, this was a gem I wish I'd discovered a long time ago.

"Fallen Empires" signals a slight change in sound for the band, but they retain their alternative and indie rock roots while reaching toward a more radio-friendly style of sound by incorporating pop hooks with their exceptional melodies. 

The performance on the first half of this album is simply stunning.  The songs are catchy, hooky, and easy to sing to, repeating standard rock melodies through different lyrical lines.  Along with the pop rock choruses, the band also uses alternative instrumentation that involves the use of strings and looped electronic melodies.  Few bands can pull this off as easily as Snow Patrol can which makes "Fallen Empires" a very enjoyable listen. 

Though the second half of the 14-track disc lags with melodies that repeat way too often, there are a few notable ballad-styled gems, such as New York and Symphony. The real standout tracks, however I feel are the title track and a catchy little number entitled This isn't Everything You Are. 

If you like mainstream modern rock with alternative and indie vibes, you will enjoy this disc.  It is a great listen, even for someone like me (who normally steers decidedly away from mainstream musical genres).  Those standout tracks I noted above are embedded below.  Enjoy them and thanks so much for reading.  No go make some flowsnake snowflake doilies.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rising Shadows-Finis Gloriae Mundi (2010)

Today we are reaching all the way back to 2010.  That was a particularly good year for music as numerous bands put out great new albums.  Somehow lost in the shuffle was an obscure Swedish band called Rising Shadows.

I was fond of this band's previous release, "Found in the Cold".  That was a surprising discovery for me, as I wasn't certain what the genre had in store, let alone the band.  I had been toying around some with this genre before discovering Rising Shadows, but with the genre in question, you really do have to listen to a few songs to get a feel for whether or not you will like it. 

What kind of music exactly does Rising Shadows record?  The easy answer would be neoclassical darkwave, but of course it is never that easy to describe a band.  Rising Shadows performs contemporary music that successfully blends the use of classical instrumentation with more modern approaches to Western classical music.

In addition to the varied instruments, vocals are a minimal mesh of Enya-like singing and alto arias.  This is a welcome addition to the music of Rising Shadows, but one that causes some concern.  These vocals are good, but not great.  When overused, they can become repetitive and boring.  Luckily, these vocals are minimal and less-pronounced. 

It is notable that Rising Shadows, as well as many other bands from this genre, employ the use of archaic percussion, which presents a medieval quality of sound when used in conjunction with the vocals.  This is where the music gets really interesting.  It is very understated and very different than most film scores, not to mention conventional neoclassical music. 

The result of all this innovation and rehashing of ancient techniques is an enjoyable listen that can also serve as a reprieve between listening to classical and more popular styles of music.  Neoclassical darkwave is a genre few bands dare to delve into because it is so risky.  To pull this off, a band has to have a love for music that goes far deeper than simply scanning the radio dial to discover new sounds. 

Rising Shadows is, in my opinion, one of the best neoclassical darkwave bands in existence.  Their melodies are easy to listen to but not so catchy that you find yourself humming it while working.  Indeed it is music you really have to listen to.  In that regard, you are in luck because we have the full stream via Rising Shadows' bandcampe page below.  This is a free download, so if you like it you have nothing to lose.  Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Insomnium-One for Sorrow review

Having a diverse collection of metal music in one's collection allows for differing moods and differing tastes.  By its nature, metal music is a diverse genre and is growing ever more diversified.  New bands toy with new sounds, sometimes to varying effects.  Some bands find their niche sound and stick with it.

Finnish band Insomnium are of the latter category.  This band has been around for a long time and have released many good albums.  "Across the Dark" was an eye-opener, and "One for Sorrow" continues in this vein. 

Stylistically, this album is doom metal at heart, using many different keyboard and guitar based melodies to create a sorrowful, melancholic sound that is just as angry as it is sad.  The band overlays this tendency with vicious growling vocals almost continuously, leaving little room for clean vocals.  When these clean vocals appear, they are incredibly tasteful while retaining their metal edge. 

"One for Sorrow" begins and ends with complex melodies and mid-tempo rhythms.  These tempos vary throughout the album without the usual associated extreme highs and lows, that dominate so much doom metal.  Even through the sorrow, Insomnium manage to create catchy grooves and beautiful melodies often enough to capture interest throughout the disc.  As expected, keyboards are a large part of the Insomnium sound, as are the low, growling vocals.  This music is easy to listen to for fans of metal.  It should appeal to fans of doom, melodic death metal, and progressive metal. 

Many bands compare to Insomnium, but Insomnium pioneered the perfect blend between chunky melodeath and over-the-top doom.  This record is very balanced and instantly catchy.  Give it a listen and you may be impressed.  If you are a fan of Insomnium or Be'lakor, pick this album up.  Having somewhat outgrown the melodeath genre, I was at first skeptical regarding whether I would like this new disc.  Now that I have listened to it in its entirety, I feel that it is very much worth recommending.  Thanks for listening and, as always, enjoy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Free Downloads from Endless Melancholy and Blue Stahli

Here at ThinkMuzik, we love sharing brand new free music with our readers.  Call it a gift to our loyal fans, but there is little music better than free music. 

Today's first item is from Endless Melancholy, a solo musical project from the Ukraine.  This beautiful music is from the exceptionally talented fingers of Oleksii Sakevych.  Sakevych is not only talented, but is also self-taught.  This is incredibly impressive for an artist with no formal musical training.  Endless Melancholy, as the name implies, is a down tempo instrumental ambient project, from which the music is played mostly on keyboards with some slight atmospheric ambient nuances to add just the right amount of taste.  Drawing the line between instrumental post-rock and down tempo ambient music is a feat many artists have attempted, but where few have succeeded with such masterful results.  This music is sad and dreary, but oddly uplifting the way a single ray of light in a dark room can lift spirits and enrich outlooks.  For ambient music, this album is surprisingly not all that challenging a listen.  All it takes to enjoy it is an open mind and a willingness to take chances.  The last part of that statement is an easy undertaking, because Sakevych is offering his new album, "Before, After" as a name-your-price download from the Endless Melancholy bandcamp page, which is also where we are getting our full album stream from.  Check it out below.  If you feel inclined and don't hate PayPal, please donate a few bucks.  It will be worth it.

Our second item is a brilliant new single from Blue Stahli.  It is called Atom Smasher, and is downloadable from Soundcloud for absolutely free.  This single is classic Blue Stahli, as electronically distorted guitars clash with punchy samples at an alarming rate.  Blue Stahli is also affiliated the electronic rock project Celldweller.  Contrary to most Blue Stahli tunes, this new track is entirely free of vocals.  Sadly, it is criminally short, clocking in a just over two minutes.  Call it a teaser for a new album, which it sounds like will be entitled "Antisleep Vol. 3".  Check out the new track below!  Thanks for listening and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pulsar Wind Nebula-Sewn Dystopias (2011)

It takes a special kind of musical taste to enjoy ambient music.  It is a style of music that is varied and often misunderstood.  Ambient music splits into two major sub genres called electronic and drone.  It can be a difficult genre to get into due to the almost exclusive down-tempo nature of the music. 

Without giving you the lecture on the ins and outs of ambient music (I am certainly no expert), let me briefly talk about the music of Pulsar Wind Nebula.  This artists has perhaps the coolest name in all of ambient electronica.  I'm a huge space nut, so I geek out when a band or artist chooses to name themselves after something spacey.  Now I need to go read up on exactly what a Pulsar Wind Nebula is. 

This artist does not stray much from what the name implies.  The music is slow, spaced-out and introspective.  It incorporates lush instrumentals along with beautiful melodies and atmospheres.  This album uses odd time signatures with some super funky electronic beats and samples to create an out-of-this-world aura.  The melodies are surprisingly simple and easy to indulge, bringing to mind some post-rock qualities.

Somewhere lost in the mix are sparse, low register spoken-word vocals and understated strings that at times remind one of film music.  Upon Listening to "Sewn Dystopias" for the first time, I was reminded of some of the spooky undertones present in Mist Glider's latest effort. 

This was an impressive listening experience, but I feel a word of warning has to accompany this review.  This, like most ambient music, can be physically tiring on the senses due to the relaxing calm the music induces.  It is also quiet, so it doesn't make good driving music.  I found it to be really good, but ease in and out of it and listen in moderation.  This album helps in that it is quite short for a down tempo album.  Information on this band's origins are sparse, but going off the artist's bandcamp page (which provides us with our stream below) you will see that this artists is from Izmir, Turkey.  This makes the first artists in my library from Turkey. 

Another good thing about this album: It is available as a name-your-price download from bandcamp.  Just enter any dollar amount (including 0 if you so choose) and you can download it instantly.  Pulsar Wind Nebula also has another album there entitled "2", which is also available via the 'name your price' option. 

I recommend June, Miss You, and Wind Chill Factor as standout tracks on this disc.  You can check out the entire album stream below.  Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Top 12 albums of 2012 Numbers 3-1

The best three albums of the year.  We have made it, ladies and gentlemen.  The year 2012 in music has been a good one, jammed with great release after great release.  The last thing I want to do by picking favorites is to make some artists we have talked about here feel left out or inadequate.  It has been a difficult task to pick just 12 albums, so after the music, I'm going to write a special 'honorable mention' section to note all the artists who have crafted brilliant music that didn't quite make our top 12 list.  At any rate, these bands should feel honored.  So, without further ado, the top three albums released in 2012 are as follows:

3. Lacuna Coil-Dark Adrenaline.  We have raved about this band more than once here in the past.  This was a strong inclusion due to the impeccable vocal nature of this band.  Switching back and forth from male to female vocals like a duet can be difficult and most bands do not attempt this.  Lacuna Coil not only attempt, but deliver in spades.  The music is dark, but uplifting.  Most term them as a gothic metal group, but this band continuously pumps out high-voltage hard rock tunes that are remarkably well-produced.  Not many music embeds are available for this release, so we have included the band's official music video for Trip the Darkness.  It is incredibly catchy and has excellent riffs and keys that should make many metal fans feel right at home.  Even if you are not a metal lover, you might enjoy "Dark Adrenaline"

2. Hammock-Departure Songs.  Double albums for some reason rarely make end of year lists in general.  Hammock is a delightful exception to this unwritten rule.  This Nashville post-rock band has released several good albums, but "Departure Songs" is their best effort yet.  Stretched out melodies intertwine with atmospheric ambiance and warm textures of dreamy pop.  If you listen to only one post-rock album all year, make it "Departure Songs".  This album delivers tons of amazing melodies and even insert gorgeous pop-like vocals on some songs. Below is one such track.  If you like post-rock, you will certainly enjoy Hammock's best release to date.

1. [Insert drummroll here] Syqem-Reflections of Elephants.  No one saw this coming.  This album came as a surprise.  Progressive Metal may be hit-or-miss with many fans, but for me, this was a huge hit.  A blog I read posted about this amazing album, and from the first couple riffs and vocal lines I was hooked.  Mostly clean vocals are the highlight of this disc, but it includes so much more than good vocals.  Atmospheric harmonies sneak around behind a tapestry of humongous metal riffs and flourishes of electronic sounds that are not based on samples.  This band may be somewhat similar to Deadlock, but without the typical metal screaming.  "Reflections of Elephants" is an exceedingly fun listen and is definitely worthy of its number one ranking.  Check out the track below, which provides just a glimpse of the jaw-dropping music on display.

The year 2012 also marked plenty of other excellent albums and EPs by various artists.  In no particular order, here they are:
Be'lakor, Epica, Tamaryn, The Luna Sequence, I Will Never be the Same, Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters, Delain, 2:54, Monochromie, Bloody Knives, Barren Earth, Drowner, The Agonist, Devin Townsend Project, Joy Wants Eternity, Craft Spells, Inner Trip, Airiel, Gojira, Xandria, Abigail, Causemos, Arundel, Asidefromaday, Beliefs, Cloud, Decortica, Dysrhytmia, Endless Melancholy, FPRF, Glass Vaults, Handlingnoise, Hans Zimmer, Hazy Mountains, Helios, Insomnium, Jack Trammell, Kevin Hufnagel, the Mark Lanegan Band, Mile End, Black Marble, Matchbox Twenty, Mist Glider, Moonshine Blues, Nick Efremov, A Place of Owls, Pulsar Wind Nebula, SkyPilot, Spc-Eco, Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, & Reinhold Heil, the Townhouses.

Thank you so much for reading and enjoy these wonderful selections!