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02.01.14 2012: A Music Odyssey01.06.12 2011: A Music Odyssey
11.03.11 Got Into Med School Today!03.18.11 Top 5 Kubrick Films

2012: A Music Odyssey
15The Nikki Grace Experience

An enthralling combination of classical, ambient, progressive and post rock sounds organized into four truly diverse
compositions. It's really
a shame that so many talented artists like this are doomed to linger in the darkest depths of the underground music scene
releasing free
music that only a few hundred people ever will hear. This release treks through so many different atmospheres from subdued
piano wrapped
in sighing electronic bass lines, to gloomy drones and samples, to swooning strings and triumphant electric guitar swells. The
real strength
of the album though is the songwriting that ties everything together. The flow of the compositions both within and between
one another is
top notch and manages to keep every moment fresh. A journey definitely worth taking.
14Sigur Ros

This is the album that finally got me into Sigur Ros... and I have no idea why it took so long. I mean the lush post-rock
atmosphere and
shimmering, layered ambience mixed with Jonsi's beautifully ethereal vocals should've been right up my alley. And they are.
Somehow it
just took this album to really make me realize it. Perfect for putting on a pair of headphones, cranking it up, and dissolving in
a sea of
13Max Richter
Recomposed: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons

A really interesting take on The Four Seasons by one of my favorite contemporary composers. The success of this album is
due to Richter's ability
to preserve the heart and soul of each original piece while adding a heavy dose of his own flare to the music. The sterility
that can often come
associated with classical music is traded for grit, with a greatly increased focus on atmosphere. Richter also allows some of
his post-rock
tendencies to manifest themselves in the form of slow-building layers that culminate in an eventual climax. Autumn III is a
great example of this,
and is quite possibly the most beautiful track to come out of 2012. Richter drastically restructures the piece into a few
repeating motifs from the
original that build on one another and quickly culminate in a moment of stunning beauty. When that first swell of cello/bass
rushes in over the
chattering violins, it's just a wave of absolute euphoria that never fails to send shivers down my spine. Seriously, someone
please score a movie
with this track ASAP. The sense of strength, majesty, and grandeur conveyed in the original is completely maintained, but is
distilled down and
delivered in an efficient and effortless modern package. Overall just really great work that manages to breathe new life into a
timeless classic.
Noir Tone

Extremely smooth, infectious jazz/alt/soul/pop/progressive/whatever. It definitely wasn't love at first listen for me with this
EP, but the
strength of the melodies and compositions here are that they gradually sink in until you're humming them without even
realizing it. The guitar
playing is really tasteful and restrained, but the main attraction here is definitely the fantastic vocals. Elliot Coleman may not
be everyone's
cup of tea as he has a pretty unique timbre, but it's undeniable that he's got serious chops and is able to concoct an
impressive number of
little hooks. I do wish that the actual words he was singing on this album were a little more appealing though. There are
definitely a fair
number of cringe-worthy lyrics here. I mean, there's nothing wrong with romantic/love-centered lyrics but damn, a little
subtlety goes a
looong way. Regardless, the strength of the melodies and vocal performance here are easily able to overcome this minor
annoyance. His
voice is just straight-up addictive. Excited so see what they guys can do with a full length release.
11 Xanthocroid
Blessed He With Boils

I've never been huge on black metal. I've dabbled yeah, but nothing has ever really stuck with me beyond that initial couple
of listens. Still,
there's something about the shrill, low-fi, intentionally alienating style that has always intrigued me. Yet when all is said and
done I somehow
always end up feeling, well, alienated. That's why this album came as such a pleasant surprise to me. I sat down expecting
to turn it off
after the first song or two, but ended up fully entertained for all 60 minutes. Now, admittedly, this album doesn't really
represent the typical
black metal sound. The production is pristine, folky interludes abound, and classical piano passages crop up more than once.
So, the
progressive style definitely caters more to my taste, but the album is still unquestionably rooted in the black metal style with
its shrieking
vocals and snow-covered riffs. All in all, a really eclectic, mystical take on the genre that I'm glad I didn't pass up based on
the tag.

Wozy, reverb-soaked electro-pop from Sweden (where else?). And for a pop album, this manages to traverse a pretty wide
array of sounds and moods from delicate to bubbly to dark and rhythmic to intoxicatingly dreamy, the latter of which being
my personal favorite. The adventurousness of the music here is what adds up to the album's greatest strength- track
individuality. None of the songs here step on each other's toes and despite this diversity, they are all unified by an
infectiousness that stems from great melodic sensibility. There's also a quirky, off-kilter quality to the music here that really
sets it apart from the others that populate the crowded genre. This is immediately apparent in the videos that accompany
each of the tracks on the album, but is also certainly present within the music itself in the form of unique vocal delivery and
unorthodox textures. The outlandishness of the music unquestionably contributes to the draw, but ultimately the strength of
the melodies is what keeps me coming back.
9The Devin Townsend Project

Oh Devin. Where else can I get new age, alt-rock, gospel, and death metal on the same album? Some things really
don't need further explanation.
8Tigers on Trains

Tuneful indie folk with rich, resonant acoustics and achingly beautiful melodies. Really love the mellow atmosphere and lush
production on this. It's a shame these guys are so unknown- they have a gift for melody that could (and should) take them
7Sithu Aye

Sithu has quickly become one of my favorite solo instrumental guitarists. Really tasteful playing here where the focus is on
creating songs with grooving, syncopated riffs alongside very melodic leads. While the music definitely has a technical edge, the
technicality is always used as a vehicle to enhance the music rather than acting as a focal point. I think what I really love most
about the music here is the pervasive sense of optimism. Sithu is definitely having fun playing this stuff, and I'm having fun
listening to it.
6 Periphery
Periphery II: This Time It's Personal

Periphery has been and probably always will be a love 'em or hate 'em type band. The main point of contention is usually the
vocals, but I also believe it also has something to do with their lighthearted, carefree attitude towards music. This isn't
exactly an attractive feature to many fans of the metal genre, but I definitely see it as an attribute. These guys make the
music they want to make regardless of how it may be perceived, and it just so happens that the music they want to make is
music that I enjoy hearing. The riffs are as catchy as they are intricate and crushing, the choruses are sing-along worthy
almost across the board, and the rhythms are complex yet extremely infectious. But regardless of whether your taste
coincides with their style, this band will always have that endearing quality of never taking themselves too seriously. They're
willing to throw caution to the wind in the name of having a little fun, and that's definitely something I respect.
5Austin Wintory
Journey Original Soundtrack

A soundtrack that truly takes you on a...... no... must... resist... the urge. In all seriousness though the soundtrack
to Journey is everything that a great soundtrack should be (and the game isn't too shabby either). In the past few
years I've really started to gravitate towards a lot of soundtrack music. I just really enjoy music with a cinematic
quality that has the ability to paint vivid pictures through sound, and that's something that this soundtrack
achieves in spades. The meandering harp, fluttering flutes, delicate ambiance and shimmering strings just perfectly
capture the swirling yellow sands and the streaming red fabrics of the game. And although there's an ascending
motif that runs throughout, it's entirely through-composed from beginning to end which is extremely fitting for the
theme of the game. It's as though the motif slowly drifts through the rich soundscapes here, subtly morphing along
with the scenery while still remaining ultimately familiar and recognizable. It's a wonderfully-crafted analog to the
travels of your character on screen as you guide him/her through the gradually shifting moods and environments of
the game. All in all, whether you've played the game, enjoy soundtrack music, or are just interested in hearing a
beautifully-produced contemporary classical work, this is a journey worth taking. ..ah, shit. I promised myself I
wouldn't do that.
4Beach House

Complex and challenging music definitely has its appeal, but there's also nothing quite like the tried-and-true
harmonies, syrupy melodies, and infectiously simple rhythms of pop music. It's what I grew up listening to; I'll
always have a soft spot for it. And Beach House is pop music at its best. It's pop music that exists outside
the realm of the derivative, manufactured, dime-a-dozen tunes that the music industry churns out like
clockwork for sales. It's pop music made by independent musicians whose only focus is the music, not the
image attached to it. And the music on display here is absolutely lovely. This is some of the dreamiest,
velvety, supple, and (most importantly) catchy pop music I've heard in awhile. The entire album is just so
rock-solid. Every track has its own clear identity and personality but they all speak the same ethereal
language, making for a simultaneously diverse and cohesive listening experience. Overall just a really fun,
inviting, and infectious dream pop album with consistently excellent songwriting.
3Sufjan Stevens
Silver & Gold

It's a little ironic that my third favorite album of 2012 is a 3-hour-long Christmas extravaganza. I mean, I'm not
exactly a beacon of Christmas cheer. The fact that I derive so much pleasure from listening to this album is
really just a testament to the absurd musical talent that is Sufjan Stevens. Containing a whopping 5 discs of
material spanning from 2006-2010, the sheer amount of quality material on this release is almost overwhelming.
Now, I'd be lying if I said the entire 3 hours of material on here was gold. There's definitely a bit of silver... well...
maybe bronze... in the mix as well. Honestly almost the entire second disc is pretty disposable and just consists
of tongue-in-cheek sing-along tunes. But for the tracks where Sufjan really spreads his wings and flexes his
creative muscle (which is at least a solid 2 hours of the 3), the results are truly magical. And the diversity of
the music on display here too is pretty staggering. Since the material spans so many years, listening through
the album is basically like listening to an audio timeline of Sufjan's stylistic progression as a musician. You start
off with the earnest, heart-felt chamber folk arrangements that he's famous for and slowly progress into the
bombastic electronics of his more recent material. So although not every moment on the album shines, the
amount that does is still enough to fill a double album and the novelty of experiencing the many flavors of Sufjan
all in one release is just the bow on top of the present.
Departure Songs

Ah, Hammock. There's just something special about this band. There are so many ambient/post-rock groups out
there that work with a similar aesthetic- shimmering guitar, glacial melodies, occasional ethereal vocals, and of
course reverb that echoes to infinity. The style is so prevalent that it's hard to imagine any band standing apart
playing it. So it really is quite a feat that time and time again Hammock manage to not only stand apart, but
tower over their contemporaries. Somewhat paradoxically though, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what
differentiates Hammock so much in this crowded genre. It's not really any one easily identifiable characteristic
that puts them ahead of the pack, but rather the summation of many smaller talents- their uncanny ability to
write unique and poignant melodies, subtle ambient flourishes and washes of sound, and carefully-measured, well-
paced song structures to name a few. But it's the intense and often overwhelming emotion which saturates
Hammock's music that is its greatest attribute. And I'm not just talking happy, sad, or some variation of the two
here. The emotion woven into Hammock's music is frequently enigmatic and ambiguous. It's music that can be
heard and interpreted differently depending on your mood, which gives it a great deal of depth replay value.
Departure Songs is just the next installment of Hammock doing what Hammock does. It's a two-hour tour de force
of beautiful, consistently moving ambient post-rock. Business as usual.

There's a reason why Meshuggah is part of the curriculum at Berklee College of Music. There's a reason why
they're the topic of published articles in music theory journals. And there's a reason why their influence has
permeated through hundreds of bands who continually try to emulate their style. Meshuggah aren't just a
fantastic band, they're a band that has simultaneously pioneered and mastered an entirely unique approach
to rhythm and heavy music. They've been releasing consistently excellent and innovative material since 1995,
and Koloss is yet another superb addition to their truly impressive discography. This is definitely a comfortable
and confident release from the band. At this point, they are well aware of the impact they have made on the
metal community and rather than push their sound in any new direction, they have elected to deliver an
album which essentially celebrates the sound that they invented. All of the beloved qualities of the band are
here in full force- the thunderous, shuddering 8-string guitar tones, the dizzyingly complex and mechanical
drums, the oddly-cycling riffs that seems to lack beginnings or ends, and of course the supremely nuanced
and unbelievably groovy rhythms. Koloss is definitely an ode to the trademark Meshuggah groove and is yet
another convincing argument for their rhythmic prowess and virtuosity. But what's always been most
impressive to me about the band isn't their virtuosity. Their music definitely does succeed on an intellectual
level with the all of the polyrhythms and odd, off-time riff cycling. The true success of the band though is
their ability to turn all of that complexity into something visceral that can be enjoyed regardless of your
understanding of what's going on under the hood. And on no album is that more true than Koloss. Rather than
trying to top their last release and greatest technical achievement, ObZen, the band has dialed things back
and focused on making an album that is just as fun to listen to as it is to think about. The nuance and
intricacy of the music is all there, but it's executed with an increased focus on immediacy that has ultimately
delivered the most approachable and accessible release in their catalogue. It's 2014 and I'm still listening.
What else can I say?
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