johnny of the Well

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Last Active 12-24-15 9:05 pm
Joined 05-29-11

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01.01.16 Johnny's 2015 Extravaganza 12.25.15 Rank My Christmas
11.22.15 Top 10 Cloudkicker songs09.14.15 Albums on which the t/t is the best tra
09.14.15 My top 10 trip-hop songs07.18.15 A nice overrated albums list
05.19.15 Johnny's New Album (Film Score)04.26.15 Rank this list
04.26.15 Johnny Turns 10000 Part II - Top 100 Al04.21.15 Johnny Turns 10000 - Top 100 Albums (10
04.17.15 Prelude to Johnny's Top 100: 113-10104.07.15 Meaning of life?
02.21.15 Johnny reviews the new list interface.01.22.15 Who are you listening to?
01.20.15 UK Politics12.15.14 Johnny's New Free EP
12.12.14 201312.07.14 Going To Make A Christmas EP
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Johnny's 2015 Extravaganza

This isn't really an extravaganza; as is probably obvious from this list, I wasn't particularly focused on 2015 - I spent most of it checking out older music and wasn't particularly seized by descriptions I saw of most popular records. There is a lot of stuff I no doubt missed out on, but here's most of what I took the time to check:
25Coheed and Cambria
The Color Before The Sun

A major letdown from one of my favourite bands, just had to fill the #25 slot somehow. They’ve ditched the most appealing parts of their sound for boring pop punk – no more freaky narrative, no more twisted pseudo-prog, just nice straightforward personal tracks that are infinitely less interesting.

Fave tracks: Island, Peace to the Mountain
Peripheral Vision

This would have been the sleeper hit of 2015...until it got too popular and became a straight success. It's alright, somewhat enjoyable but irritating bland and lacking in variation; all the songs after the first two sound the same, and the lyrics (whilst no doubt inspired and hugely personal) don’t grab me. Nice, but very tame.

Fave tracks: New Scream (and then the rest are one big blur)
23Between the Buried and Me
Coma Ecliptic

BTBAM's latest is basically their archetypal album with...fewer of the good bits and more blandness? From what I can remember, it's a solid 3.9, but the fact that I have absolutely zero recollection of about 18 minutes of this (most of which are consecutive) amounts to major minus points. The best tracks are all killer, but the album is bloated, stagnant and needed a lot more kick.

Fave tracks: Famine Wolf, King Redeem/Queen Serene, Memory Palace
22Save Us From The Archon
Fear Eats the Soul

I'm still waiting for these kids to top their debut, but this new EP is a step in the right direction. Fewer reversal effects and atmospheric wankery and more crunchy shredding and they'll be back at their best; they have the potential to shine as one of the best and most talented guitar bands in the instrumental game.

Fave tracks: Bedroom, Epigram
21Enter Shikari
The Mindsweep

I didn't really want to like this, given how much I hate their debut and pseudo-political trash. However, The Mindsweep is a pretty tight album; it's well paced, diverse, well composed and pretty hooky. Enter Shikari's style still sounds pretty cheap, but they give it a damn fine shot on their latest.

Fave tracks: Never Let Go Of the Microscope, Torn Apart
20Royal Thunder
Crooked Doors

Awesome ballsy hard rock yay! These guys have a fabulous frontwoman and a pretty cool sound; if they could just sharpen up their arrangements a little and trim the fat, they would be way up my playlist. Some tracks are tedious and overly repetitive, some are absolutely killer. Cool stuff.

Fave tracks: Time Machine (!!!), One Day, Wake Up, Forgive Me Karma
19Dance Gavin Dance
Instant Gratification

A while back I saw someone describe Dance Gavin Dance as "fast food hardcore", and you know what? That description is absolutely spot on. Thing is, I like fast food and I also like their tongue-in-cheek brand of poppy post-hardcore, so unsurprisingly I enjoyed Instant Gratification considerably. A lot of these tracks are quite disappointing, mainly thanks to Tillian (particularly Awkward, On the Run and Legend). However, he is also fantastic on We Own the Night, Variation and Death of a Strawberry, so I guess I don't mind him sticking around a while longer.

Fave tracks: Variation, Lost, We Own the Night
Quintessential Ephemera

A nice step up from these post-metal giants; I love how punchy and tightly composed this is. Quintessential Ephemera is assured and powerful from start to finish and mixes up their formula nicely. Solid post-metal describes it perfectly; they display mastery of the genre rather than mixing it up. Now here's to stronger titles next time...

Fave tracks: Untitled III, Untitled V

Beyond Frengers, I've always found Mew incredibly inconsistent and +- is no exception. The only reason it's made it this far up the list is its two exceptional standouts - Rows is quite possibly my song of the year and is absolutely breathtaking from start to finish, whereas Water Slides is a very cool lean towards their poppy side. The rest is a nice mix of charmingly inoffensive and mildly hooky that makes for smooth listening.

Fave tracks: Rows, Water Slides

Aaaaand another tally in the Badass Riff Album category - Purple is full of solid guitar work, and solid guitar work makes me happy. The pacing is nice and the songs are arranged pretty tightly so that all those riffs don't get dull. I'm iffy about the vocals and production, but have never seen the point about getting fussy about guitar albums when the riffs are on point. Also, Kerosene features probably the laziest 7/8 rhythm I've ever encountered but is awesome nevertheless.

Fave tracks: Kerosene, Morning Star, The Iron Bell
15August Burns Red
Found in Far Away Places

At this point, August Burns Red have perfected their sound to such an extent that there is very little they can do to impress fans or disappoint critics. Found In Far Away Places is a solid outing that epitomises everything they do well whilst minimising their flaws; I’m not exactly an avid fan, but I still can’t help but be impressed by these gentlemen and their craft.

Fave tracks: Majoring in the Minors, Everlasting Ending, Twenty One Grams
14John Zorn

Zorn's Dreamers project has FINALLY released a new album and it's great! Some of these tracks are a little too easy listening (i.e. elevator music) for my liking, but there are some interesting atmospheres here and the musicianship is predictably stellar.

Fave tracks: Gormenghast, Pellucidar, Jewels of Opar

This British jazz fusion trio’s latest offering rocks, stumbles and baffles its way through weirdo jazz grooves and adventurous atmospheres. On paper it looks like music for musicians - the melodies, structures and rhythms are pretty wayward, particularly in the first half – but it’s fun and enticingly creative enough to retain larger appeal. Although it came out fairly early in the year, I still feel like I should jam Ornithophobia more often – and that’s always a good sign.

Fave tracks: Arcades, Magpies, Seahouses
The Demon Joke

Oceansize are one of my favourite bands of all time, and since their frontman’s solo debut seemed like the closest I’d get to another album from them, I was vastly excited for this. The Demon Joke is pretty crunchy and concise; Vennart refines his distinctive take on prog into a shorter, more accessible format that works pretty nicely. The range of ideas and oddball feel are still very much there, even if the tracks don’t quite have the scope to reach the same highs the ‘Size did; I’m impressed and can’t wait to hear more from him

Fave tracks: Operate, A Weight In The Hollow, Retaliate
11Godspeed You! Black Emperor
'Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress'

Godspeed’s new album is a weird outing – on the one hand it lacks the staying power of their past albums and doesn’t beg to be replayed in the way I would have liked, on the other hand it’s quintessentially them and is an undeniably rewarding trip whenever I take the time to play through it. In many ways I like the idea of the album more than the sound itself (particularly the ambient middle segment), but the dirty majesty of Peasantry and soaring heights of Piss Crowns are worth the price of admission on their own.

Fave tracks: Piss Crowns Are Trebled
New Bermuda

I didn’t really expect to like this; I was never particularly impressed by the snippets of Sunbather I’d heard, and I expected Deafheaven’s follow-up to be an inauthentic blur of uninteresting atmospheres. Ha. These tracks are well written and masterfully produced, and they hook me far more than I expected them to. Brought to the Water is the most compelling experimental black metal since Agalloch’s Into the Painted Gray, and Gifts For the Earth blends intensities and dynamics brilliantly. Some patches (the second half of Luna, Baby Blue) wear a little thin, but New Bermuda is generally successful shot at an atmospheric album presented by the means of black metal.

Fave tracks: Brought to the Water, Gifts for the Earth

This spot is shared with Sikth’s Opacities, which I haven’t heard enough to ascribe a firm verdict to but would probably place around here.
9John Zorn
True Discoveries of Witches & Demons

Zorn’s newest project, Simulacrum, is a really refreshing break from much of his recent output, which I felt as been feeling increasingly stagnant and recycled (prime culprit: 2014’s The Last Judgement). The True Discoveries Of Witches And Demons is full of heavy jams that sound balliser and more fun than anything he’s done in years. The last two tracks comprise a 15 minute break from the chaos that precedes them and indulge in some fascinatingly immersive atmospheres. I look forward to hearing what comes next from this project.

Fave tracks: The Gordian Knot, Mirrors of Being, Dark Sacrifice
Two Years

A little-known instrumental post-hardcore band that brings much zazz and slick arrangements, Cotillion deserve a much wider audience. The production and composition on this are both tight, but Two Years’ main strength is its HOOKS! This album is gloriously catchy; the guitar work is some of the best the genre has offered recently and is a massive highlight. Check these guys out on Bandcamp; their discography so far is stellar and great fun.

Fave tracks: MetalBassMan, Song 11: 57% Intro, 43% Outro, Optimistic Things'll Get Worse

Vulnicura is essentially a fusion of the fragility of Vespertine with the epic scope of Homogenic that doesn’t quite approach the towering brilliance of either, but it comes close enough. Björk, who has never been anything less than entirely genuine, is at her most personal here, and her vulnerability shines. The measured, reflective sorrow of Black Lake and the more overt anguish of Lionsong are both moving, but it’s the fractured urgency of Notget that steals the show. The experimentation of the second half doesn’t hold my attention as much as it should, but Vulnicura is a step up from Björk’s recent work.

Fave tracks: Notget, Stonemilker, Black Lake
The Direction of Last Things

I’ve gone off progressive metal increasingly over the last few years; there are more fun, concise styles of technical music and extended jams. However, The Direction Of Last Things is a refreshing take on a familiar formula and makes for very engaging listening. Slick and crushing at the same time, the melodies are on point and the structuring is fantastic.

Fave tracks: Sul Ponticello, The Unlikely Event Of A Water Landing, Fast Worms

After the spellbinding cohesive wonder of their 2013 opus, Demon, Gazpacho’s next step is more an eclectic mix of styles than a unified whole, but the style suits them; Molok’s songs often tread the line between being cohesive and being jumbled, but the result is generally a sense of suspense and intrigue, particularly in opener Park Bench. The album’s pacing is somewhat confusing, but the high standard and boldness of its songs is a joy.

Fave tracks: Park Bench, Algorithm, Choir of Ancestors, Know Your Time
In Times

When I first heard In Times, I would never have imagined placing it in my top five albums of my year, but the formidable standard of songwriting has gradually rubbed off on me. It’s an album of highlights as much as a consistent experience. The dense, volatile atmosphere creates the sense of a natural disaster of vast proportions, and it only gets better with repeated listens. In Times is one of those albums that isn’t exactly perfect or revolutionary, but is so well constructed that it holds its own over time.

Fave tracks: Nauthir Bleeding, Thurisaz Dreaming
3Steven Wilson
Hand. Cannot. Erase.

At this stage, Steven Wilson is one of the most professional, reliable musicians in the game. I don’t particularly like him as a person, or his ridiculous lyrics, or his pretentious concepts, but he’s such a strong composer that none of these factors really bother me. Hand. Cannot. Erase. is a decisively modern outing that is slick, well-paced and surprisingly moving at time. Arrangements like those on 3 Years Older and Ancestral are catchy and mature, while Regret #9 offers some excellent jams. The musicianship is fantastic and having seen him perform this live twice, I can assure you that it sounds just as strong out of the studio. As a producer, a sound engineer, a composer and a musician, Wilson is in an enviable groove right now.

Fave tracks: Routine, Ancestral, Regret #9
Pale Horses

Of all the many apocalypse-themed albums I’ve heard, Pale Horses is by far the most personal and engaging - not necessarily the best, but a sure contender. The songwriting here is ridiculously tight; every track is paced perfectly and no idea is used any more than is absolutely necessary. The result is an album with staying power far beyond its 40 minutes; the bleakness of tracks like D-Minor, Lilac Queen and Rainbow Signs are haunting and convincing, whilst the furious clamour of Mexican Streets and Red Cow give the album a very infectious kick. If it weren’t for a couple of slightly weaker tracks (Blue Hen, Birnam Wood), Pale Horses would soar to the top of this list and stand out as an all-time favourite.

Fave tracks: Mexican Streets, Dorothy, Red Cow, Rainbow Signs
1The Dear Hunter
Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise

We all knew what to expect from The Dear Hunter – the bombast, orchestral scope and massive emotional power are all there, and it’s telling that the more surprising moments (King of Swords, Wait) were my least favourite. Act IV is much poppier than the intensity of Act III, which serves it well – the chorus of Waves and The Line’s take on indie folk are wonderful. A Night On The Town throws all Casey Crescenzo’s accessible tendencies against a backdrop of extravagance, whilst the darker Is There Anybody Here masterfully handles the suspense and intrigue that underpin the saga. Abandon is a moodier track that brings TDH’s orchestral sensibilities to the forefront, with marvellous results.
Act IV was always going to be the make-or-break album for the series, and it has proved that Casey Crescenzo’s epic vision sounds as fantastic as ever. The final stretch may be fairly weak, but Act IV is otherwise a highlight in a strong legacy.

Fave tracks: Is There Anybody Here, Waves, Abandon
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