Saturday, February 26, 2011

Favourites of 2010 - #3: The List part 2 (A Musical Threesome)

This is the third and last installment in the 3 part series summarizing 2010 My Year In Music.
This post focuses on the my very top favourite albums released in 2010.

Top favourites:

Here are the three albums that made this year a whole lot better for me.

Frogg Café - Bateless Edge

Frogg Cage present here their crowning achievement for me. Their previous releases were very good, ambitious, experimental, forward thinking. I didn't know where else they could take it, but this album has surprised and delighted me. They've gone and re-designed their style, retaining their basic sound, but in a whole new entourage with new ideas. They still retain that jazzy progressive rock, though now with what sounds to me like some zeuhl-ish embellishments. They produced here epic songs (though there's not too many lyrics in the album) and are not shying away from investigating each one, developing it, improvising a bit (at least it sounds like it, or maybe it started out as such and then was retained) and forming a mammoth of an album. 

This is a heavy duty album, with a lot to absorb. It is dense and rich and requires your full attention as a lot is going on. Miss a beat and you won't understand how it developed into a new section in the song. 

Equilibrium - Rekreatur

Yes, I like this. I like epic folk/viking metal with some cheese elements to it, what of it?
German band Equilibrium does it very well. I find their three albums to be of high quality, but they truly started shining with Sagas, their previous release. In this album, they perfect the trend started with Sagas; extreme metal epic songs with a folk basis. They write efficiently, melodic songs with hooks. Those can be very addictive, as I've learned. 

To top it all, they end this album, much like Sagas, with a long instrumental piece that shows their progressive and folk tendencies even more. Wonderfully composed and arranged and very well executed, this is the metal type I like. Equilibrium along with Moonsorrow are the two bands of this style that I love most and are among my top favourite bands. 

Orbs - Asleep Next to Science

This album came out of nowhere for me. I don't even remember where and when I was made aware of it initially. This is an American "supergroup" of sorts. Consisting of Dan Briggs (guitars, Between the Buried and Me), Adam Fisher (vocals) and Clayton Holyoak (drums) (both from Fear Before the March of Flames), Ashley Ellyllon (keyboards, formerly from Abigail Williams and now Cradle of Filth) and Chuck Johnson (Torch Runner)

NOTE - Why is it that whenever a few established musicians from other groups form a new band, it's called Supergroup? Does it mean they essentially better than other groups with no "celeb" musicians? Does it mean that their music will be great no matter what? Does it ensure a stellar piece of art being created? It's a group of musicians doing something together. It may very well suck. End of rant.

Upon my first listen to it, I went "wow". 

How astute, ha?

But before that I need to mention that I was also drawn to it due to the name of the album.

Asleep Next To Science.

In a way it relates to me.

I'm a graduate student in a molecular & cellular biology and genetics program, doing my Ph.D. research on the role a certain protein in neurons. So I pretty much live science (to my detriment it must be said, as I've grown weary and sick of it in the last 2-3 years, to the point I want to get away from this academic type research when I'm done with it). 

Anyway... I was intrigued with this title and looked over the lyrics when I got the album, but, while there are many references to science in the songs, I didn't really understand what they meant (I'm not very smart, you see, hence my glowing career in science). 

Regardless, the music has a great appeal. It is brutal and savage sounding, very aggressive, though it does tame down at times. It is a crude sounding for of progressive rock, mainly due to the guitar tone and the vocals. And here we get to a point which I think will divide people; the vocals by Adam Fisher. He has a high pitched voice when singing. It can be grating; I've read several reviews and comments to that effect. I have to say it doesn't bother me much and his voice does fit a lot of the sections here. But at some points in several songs I wished another voice would take charge. A deeper and lower voice that would contrast and strengthen the high pitch of the music. Nevertheless, this doesn't take away much from the enjoyment of the album for me. It has several very catchy songs (the first five in fact) and a few more lengthy ones towards the end, showing the band's versatility and talent. I wonder if this project will go on, as I sense they can provide much more from where this came from.
I do have one more bone to chew with this release - the production. It is not good. The mix is just bad at some points. The vocals get overpowered by the rest of the band. At times it can sound like a real mess as well, though with repeated listening, you get by it. In many instances I can't make out the individual instruments and it's a shame. The guitar at times just covers everything else along with the drums. Too bad, as it shadows great music.
You'd think that with an album with two apparent flaws, I'd have better sense to not have been so enthusiastic with. You'd say, then, why would you choose that as your favourite album?
Well, I have no sense and I do love the music on this album in a way that surpasses those flaws, but I wish they'd had done a better production. It really requires a good system/headphones to capture clearly some of the songs (including my favourite song on the album, Kid Cancer). And despite all of these, I love the music; it makes me feel good, elated, excited. Which is what I want music to do. And if an album with bad production can do that, it speaks volumes about the music.

What are your favourite albums released in 2010?
Disappointments? Surprises?
Post your comments.


  1. A quickly made list but I suppose it'll suffice! (:

    1. Anathema - We're Here Because We're Here
    2. Periphery - Periphery
    3. In Mourning - Monolith
    4. 65daysofstatic - We Were Exploding Anyway
    5. Ihsahn – After
    6. Triptykon - Eparistera Daimones
    7. Pendulum – Immersion
    8. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
    9. Shad – TSOL
    10. God Is An Astronaut – Age Of The Fifth Sun

    Haven't browsed through enough 2010 releases yet though, so I can't really say this would be even remotely close to the actual list I could have here. 2011 is pushing through musically so strongly that I just don't have time anymore for exploring the past year's albums that much.

    The album by 65daysofstatic was the biggest surprise here. They completely shifted their style for math/post-rock to something closer to IDM and the change was fresh and definitely positive in my opinion. (:

  2. With regards to shifting from post-rock to something else, there are several bands that have done this that I'm hooked on lately, namely Maserati, God Is An Astronaut and 65daysofstatic (and to an extent, the latest Mogwai, though not the entire album).

    Thanks for posting the list, great albums there. I'll have to look into no. 7-9, as I don't know these.

  3. Pendulum is worth checking out, even though their earlier work is justly praised more than the release of last year. Big Boi is pop rap but strangely addictive, even to a pop-despiser such as me and Shad is excellent Canadian rap. (:

    I'm not sure how GIAA has been shifting from post-rock to something else. In my opinion they've maintained a steady post-rock style - original, yet post-rock. I think they should go with a fully ambient album next time though. Age Of The Fifth Sun really demonstrated with the track, Dark Rift, that they are capable of making extremely good ambient music. To me it seems like they can't break out of their comfort zone. :/

  4. I shouldn't have included GIAA in there, yeah, they're not really, to my ears, are playing post rock. So they already started from the outside, incorporating the mood and ambiance of the "genre" but not playing it "for real". But what I meant with them, is that they have a different take on the style, than the usual deal. But yes, they do seem in the comfort zone, much like Explosions In The Sky in a way, bands who don't shift much and at times it feels like they're recording the same album (though I know bands who are far worse "offenders" in this matter than these two).
    But with GIAA, I don't mind if they stay in their comfort zone and in this style, which is more interesting to me than the other post-rock bands.


Any comments?