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Robert Devereux
Posted on Thursday, November 13, 2003 - 09:12 am:   

I know it's not the end of the year yet, but I'm wondering what people think are the best CDs of 2003 so far. I know there must be some great music released this year that I'm just not aware of. With the diverse tastes here, I figure I can get pointed to some of this good music, and maybe some people can get pointed to other music too.

My list would be

Lou Reed - The Raven: Very diverse, from rock to lounge to soul, but still seeming like a coherent whole. Lyrics taken from Edgar Allen Poe, sometimes sung, sometimes spoken word.

Star of Ash - Iter.Viator: Electronic neoclassical mixed with dark rock and Jarboe-esque vocals. I find it the perfect soundtrack to reading decadent writing.

Ulver - Various Releases: Ulver had 4 releases this year. Lyckantropen Themes was a dark ambient film score. Svidd Neger was an electro/acoustic film score. A Quick Fix of Melancholy was an EP of electronic neoclassical (complete with operatic vocals). 1st Decade in the Machine was a collection of experimental noise remixes.

Cave In - Antenna: Great modern rock, very catchy, with hints of psychedelic rock.

The Gathering - Souvenirs: The swirling guitars and ambient keyboards of post-rock, but wrapped up into catchy songs with female vocals. Kind of a mix of 4AD's ethereal bands and Poe (the singer).

The Mars Volta - De-Loused in the Comatorium: Indie rock gone progressive? Hard to describe, but great stuff.

Virgin Black - Elegant...and Dying: Classical metal, doomy guitars, classical piano and strings, operatic tenor singing. Depressing but beautiful.
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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, November 13, 2003 - 05:53 pm:   

Hmmm, I'll have to check for sure what I bought new this year (and not include stuff like BAT OF HELL that I finally picked up for camp value at parties...) but here's a short list so far:

White Stripes--Elephant: this album blew me away. I always thought of them as sort of a one-trick pony band, but this album shows a depth and breadth that I did not expect.

Garage a Trois--Emphasizer: collaboration disc of Charlie Hunter, Stanton Moore, Mike Dillon, and Skerik just jamming on fusion/rockabilly jazz.

Maroon 5--Songs About Jane: don't know what it is, but this disc is just kickin'! I love the groovy/funky bass lines.

That's all I have for now.

JK
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William Smith
Posted on Thursday, November 13, 2003 - 06:54 pm:   

By the time I get around to buying them my best of the albums of the year are usually 3 years old.

These ones are honest 2003 releases:

The Kills: Keep on Your Mean Side--Bluesy/Punk Duo that matches the sexual tension in a lot of the boy/girl Pixies and Sonic Youth songs. Really, really catchy.

Willie Nelson: Crazy The Demo Sessions--I've always heard Willie Nelson was an enormous talent but I could never connect with his sad sack delivery and 70s stoner production. This album won me over. I think these are the demos he used to sell performers on his early songs. Simply delivered, grim, floating-in-space country.

New Pornographers: Electric Version--Not as lovable as their first album but it's growing on me. Cheeky po-mo blend of Cheap Trick style Power-pop, intellectually-rousing choruses and tricky song stuctures. The only real misstep was leaving Dan Bejar's voice alone and unlayered in 3 songs. He's a great song-writer but...

and here's some good ones from the last 3 or 4 years:

Alloy Orchestra: Silents
Wicker Man Soundtrack
CQ Soundtrack: Mellow
Dirtbombs: Ultraglide in Black
Black Heart Procession: Amore Del Tropico
The Roots: Phrenology
My Morning Jacket: The Tennessee Fire
NERD: In Search of

Checking out some of the titles you both recommended....Except for Bat Out of Hell (sorry, John)
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Thursday, November 13, 2003 - 07:32 pm:   

By the time I get around to buying them my best of the albums of the year are usually 3 years old.

I know that feeling - the absolute best CDs I've bought this year range from being a year or two old, to being much older. Laughing Stock and Spirit of Eden by Talk Talk, and Mark Hollis's solo album are by far the best CDs I bought this year.

I did pick up BHP - Amore Del Tropico this year and enjoy it. The Alloy Orchestra is also cool. I saw them perform a soundtrack for The Black Pirate last year. I like seeing live music with silent films.

I'll check into the others mentioned by both you & John.
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Wiliam Smith
Posted on Friday, November 14, 2003 - 07:32 am:   

I've heard Alloy a number of times (missed Black Pirate though). They play in Prospect Park just about every summer and I live around the corner. I think they do best with German Expressionist film. I saw them do Steamboat Bill and I thought it fell really flat. With all the clanging metal and ominous electronics they can't do "light." Their Metropolis is a revalation though. The night club scene is incredibly kinetic and rousing.

I've heard Reed's Raven record and I think it's on of his strongest albums in years. He really manages to blend Poe's obsessions with the anxieties of turning middle age. Wish I'd seen it at BAM.
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GabrielM
Posted on Friday, November 14, 2003 - 08:37 am:   

I saw it at BAM and I thought it was certainly one of the stronger of all the Wilson collaborations.
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William Smith
Posted on Friday, November 14, 2003 - 10:51 am:   

Did you see Black Rider or Alice (both w/Tom Waits)?

So far Black Rider has been my favorite musically but I haven't seen any of them.
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GabrielM
Posted on Friday, November 14, 2003 - 11:46 am:   

I missed BLACK RIDER, unfortunately. I've seen ALICE, TIME ROCKER, POETRY and WOYZECK at BAM, and WHITE RAVEN (w/ Philip Glass) at Lincoln Center. I liked ALICE best, followed by POETRY. The fact that I'm an Alice and a Poe fan likely has something to do with it.
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Daniel Read
Posted on Sunday, November 16, 2003 - 12:28 pm:   

I'm having trouble coming up with a list, which is probably due to the fact that I was blown away by very few new CDs this year, but I know that Radiohead's Hail to the Thief would be near the top of my list.

Dan
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Neddal Ayad
Posted on Sunday, November 16, 2003 - 02:17 pm:   

Hmmm... Some of the better stuff I've heard this year:

Nina Nastasia - Run to Ruin
Dark and mournful in the best possible way.
http://www.southern.net/southern/band/NASTA/

Totimoshi - Monoli
Throw together Black Flag, The Melvins, and The Jesus Lizard and you'd be close.
http://www.totimoshi.com

Federation X - X-Patroit
The best American rock band going.
http://www.geocities.com/federationxonline/

The Stab City Slit Wrists - Forget Hollywood
Terrible name. Great band. The music is similar to eyehategod, but less swampy.

I like the Kills' record a lot, but I thought that they lifted a bit too much from PJ Harvey.

Robert - Have you heard the Neurosis/Jarboe disc that just came out on Neurot recs.?

-N
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William Smith
Posted on Sunday, November 16, 2003 - 07:26 pm:   

"I like the Kills' record a lot, but I thought that they lifted a bit too much from PJ Harvey."

Yeah but who better to steal from? I've seen the Kills live a couple of times and it was clear that they are really into each other. The lifespan of the band is the lifespan of the relationship.

I'll check out your suggestions
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R.Wilder
Posted on Monday, November 17, 2003 - 09:16 am:   

"Hardcore UFOs" Guided By Voices. 5 CD/1 DVD boxset...Best of GBV, B-Sides and out of print tracks, live disc, unreleased material and "Forever Since Breakfast," first recording, never on CD. Plus "Watch Me Jumpstart" documentary and live footage. Released just two months after latest Matador recording "Earthquake Glue." Guided By Voices celebrating 20th anniversary, on-tour now! Will witness in concert this Saturday in Chicago at Abbey Pub. Tremendous power-pop-psych-punk mastery!!!!!!!!
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Monday, November 17, 2003 - 11:59 am:   

Neddal: I've found the output of Neurosis and Jarboe a bit mixed - I really like some songs, but dislike others. I've heard one track from their collaboration and enjoy it. I'll probably pick up the CD.
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Neddal
Posted on Friday, November 21, 2003 - 04:09 am:   

William - A friend of mine plays in a band called Gin Palace <http://www.ginpalace.net> He's met VV and Hotel and speaks very highly of them. I've heard that they're really good live. And yeah, if you're going to lift from anyone then you could do worse than PJ Harvey. I think they have a lot of potential. The songs like "Hitched" and "Black Rooster" where they're doing their own thing really stand out.

Robert: I like almost everything I've heard that Jarboe's done with Swans, but haven't heard any of her solo material.

I'm kind of the same way w/Neurosis. Some of their stuff is amazing, some of it gets old real fast.

I really liked that one song on the Neurot site enough to put it on my "to get" list.

-N
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William Smith
Posted on Friday, November 21, 2003 - 08:08 pm:   

"a band called Gin Palace"

Wow, they are definitely photogenic. The singer looks like she raided Emma Peel's closet.

Just downloaded the live tracks from their site. I'll check them out.

Thanks for the suggestion and it's reassuring to know that the Kills are good people.
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Luke Brown
Posted on Sunday, November 30, 2003 - 09:26 pm:   

A part from the more well known albums from Radiohead and the White Stripes a couple of great albums I've been listening to are:

Explosions in the Sky - The Earth Is Not a Cold, Dead Place
http://www.temporaryresidence.com/www/trl_html/descriptions/TRR61.htm

The Panics - A House On a Street, In a Town I'm From
http://www.thepanics.com.au/cd4.html

Certainly rank among the best releases of the year.
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Mastadge
Posted on Monday, December 01, 2003 - 07:49 am:   

I'm rather enjoying Lalo Schifrin's Symphonic Impressions of Oman.
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Monday, December 01, 2003 - 08:24 am:   

One of my favorite review sites (http://www.adequacy.net) just reviewed Explosion in the Sky Today. They definitely sound interesting.
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Luke Brown
Posted on Tuesday, December 02, 2003 - 09:58 pm:   

Robert - It is an interesting review (that site looks like a good one too). I'm afraid however that it makes the album sound less accessible than it actually is. It's a much warmer and more hopeful sound than GYBE!
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JV
Posted on Monday, December 08, 2003 - 02:41 pm:   

You folks might lynch me for this, but I picked up Travis' second CD, 12 Memories, on a whim...and it's great! I really didn't care too much for their first CD, but this is stunning stuff. A kind of world-weary edge and a pared down sound. Very emotive yet not sentimental. It's currently on my best of the year list.

JeffV
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Sim
Posted on Monday, December 08, 2003 - 03:15 pm:   

It's actually their fourth--the first was the fun, poppy "Good Feeling," the second was "The Man Who," which was depressing, and the third was "The Invisible Band," which was more of the same. The band's OK but doens't have much range.
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Luke Brown
Posted on Monday, December 08, 2003 - 06:42 pm:   

Jeff, did you ever pick up Augie March's Strange Bird? You know you want to...
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 06:30 am:   

I got it. It's okay.
JeffV
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - 08:04 am:   

JK, you mentioned redneck jazz. If you haven't heard Danny Gatton, who basically invented the form, I encourage you to investigate his work. Gatton was a guitar monster who played around DC a lot and eventually committed suicide -- he never got the attention he deserved, but he was something else,
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John Klima
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - 08:23 am:   

Lucius:

Yeah I have his 88 ELMIRA STREET and THE HUMBLER. I also saw him on 'Austin City Limits' and he gave an amazing performance. Great stuff. No one like him.

My favorite part of the live performance was when he played slide guitar with a full beer bottle. The beer foamed all over the neck and made a mess. He then picked up a towel wiped the neck down, without stopping playing. It was mind-blowing to see someone play with a towel on their strings and have the instrument not sound muffled at all.

I remember back when I was in bands and reading guitar magazines (late 80s early 90s) that everyone was talking talking talking about this Gatton guy. One of the mags did an interview with him (this was before 88 ELMIRA STREET) and he said he was happier restoring old cars than playing music.

Other albums I bought this last year that I really enjoyed:

COLDPLAY - A Rush of Blood to the Head
BARENAKED LADIES - Everything to Everyone
STEREOMUD - Every Given Moment

I really want to get VOIVOD's latest album (titled Voivod). I know Robert D will know who they are if no one else does. As I go back and listen to their stuff on vinyl, I realize I really need to get it on a format that's easier for me to play. I saw them live several times, and their live shows were as good as their albums.

JK
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - 08:29 am:   

JK, there's an earlier self-financed album by Gatton that contains his best work, including ubelievable versions of "Sleepwalk" and "Cherokee" I'll see if I can dig it up.

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Robert Devereux
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - 09:15 am:   

John - I wasn't too thrilled with the new Voivod. It's OK, kind of like going back to their older (Nothingface) sound, but missing something of their older music. Going through the motions but without the same inspiration?

I was more impressed with Virus - Carheart. It's a bit like Voivod, but obsessed with cars and dogs. And definitely odd.
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John Klima
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - 09:58 am:   

RD: I would bet that the addition of Jason Newsted is what the difference is. They haven't been the same since members starting leaving and coming back.

LS: Sounds good.

JK
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Neddal
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - 12:10 pm:   

There's this band from Rhode Island called Necronomitron that cops a bit from older Voivod <http://www.loadrecords.com/bands/necronomitron.html>


-N
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JV
Posted on Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - 07:07 am:   

I've recently heard two absolutely kick-ass CDs.

The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
The National - Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers

The National--wow! The lead singer has a voice like the guy from the Tindersticks, and their music has some of that moodiness. But it also has a lot more energy. Some stunning stuff.

And the Shins are just wonderful pop, with, in some songs, a kind of weirdly delicious vein of melancholy showing through.

JeffV
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R.Wilder
Posted on Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - 07:45 am:   

Just picked up The Shins myself, and it gets better with every listen. Also, The Wrens "The Meadowlands," Sufjan Stevens "Greetings from Michigan" and Broken Social Society "You Forgot It In People" all fell into my lap at the same time. Great independent pop/rock from 2003.
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - 08:12 am:   

Here's my two cents...

I agree with some of the other recommendations above, such as THE MARS VOLTA's DE-LOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM and THE WHITE STRIPES' ELEPHANT. I wanted to point out though that anyone who likes THE MARS VOLTA who hasn't already checked out AT THE DRIVE-IN, should do so immediately. THE MARS VOLTA formed after ATDI broke up (another band, SPARTA was also formed from the ashes). ATDI's RELATIONSHIP OF COMMAND didn't come out this year, but it's worth noting that it's one of the best albums of all time.

Other noteworthy albums of 2003:

IN FLAMES - TRIGGER (EP)
SOILWORK - FIGURE NUMBER FIVE
STATIC-X - SHADOW ZONE
SPINESHANK - SELF-DESTRUCTIVE PATTERN
METALLICA - ST. ANGER (much better than their previous few releases -- sort of a return to form for them)
GODHEAD - EVOLVER
LINKIN PARK - METEORA

There were also three good compliation CDs I came across (perhaps not coincidentally, they contain contributions from many of the same artists):

THE HEART OF ROADRUNNER RECORDS
FREDDY VS. JASON SOUNDTRACK
MTV 2: HEADBANGER'S BALL (and I was surprised as anyone that something branded with MTV's logo turned out to be good.)

And my biggest disappointment from 2003 is:

LO-PRO - LO-PRO (I expected so much more from this band that was formed from the core of ULTRASPANK. This new sound is too much like STAIND -- perhaps not surprising that the band was signed by STAIND's Aaron Lewis's record label).
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des
Posted on Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - 09:28 am:   

Here's my two pennies..
a lot of great modern music is missed because it's classed as 'classical music'. des
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Sunday, December 28, 2003 - 04:16 pm:   

Des - could you share some of the music that is missed because it's called "classical?" That is one of the things I hoped for out of this thread - not just rock music, but people bringing up stuff from any genre.
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des
Posted on Monday, December 29, 2003 - 08:04 am:   

Hi, Robert - this thread is headed best music of 2003. It is difficult with socalled 'classical' to specify that precisely. I have heard some new music in 2003 but it was recorded in 2002, or I've heard some old music composed the nineteen sixties but it's never been heard/recorded before.
I have a long list of 'classical' music that, I feel, would appeal to most people visiting this thread, but it would range throughout the 20th century in various permutaions of recordeing/compsoing/performing...
Two items of 21st century music I bought and heard in 2003 are;
Uri Caine's own variations on Beethoven's Diabelli Variations - dabbling with Diabelli in a classical and jazz and absurdist style.
Per Norgard's Terrains Vagues - very exciting dincopations (my word) akin to oblique heavy metal but by an orchestra.
des
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jonathan briggs
Posted on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 - 03:41 pm:   

10. Arab Strap - "Monday at the Hug & Pint": This sounds more like Tuesday morning coming down. Droning Scottish tales of drunken excess, questionable sleeping arrangements and morning-after regret and self-recrimination. Hey, I know this bar. All this and bagpipes, too.

9. Annie Lennox - "Bare": This disc makes a good "he said/she said" flipside to Beck's "Sea Change." Songs of loss and heartbreak performed with more class, passion and soul than any 10 prefab poptart "divas." A voice that gives me chills.

8. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - "Nocturama": If there's a better lyricist in rock than Nick Cave, don't tell me, I hate being wrong. The band really kicks out the jams in a 15-minute album capper that's absolutely deranged in word and music. The bonus DVD of the same song is equally unhinged.

7. Placebo - "Sleeping with Ghosts": Some of the band's most aggressive guitar work to date. It's still mostly Bowie-influenced, but the inevitable shades of Radiohead are beginning to creep in under the layers of slick gothic glitter.

6. David Bowie - "Reality": Bowie's best in years, sounding like a forward-looking followup to "Scary Monsters."

5. Mars Volta - "De-Loused in the Comatorium": I was all set to pounce on the perceived villains of the ATDI breakup, but surprise, this album is superb. Pink Floyd spaciness mixes with Santana-style grooves. It's got plenty of emo aggression, but here's another surprise, Cedric can actually sing.

4. Radiohead - "Hail to the Thief": This would have rated higher if it didn't have to live up to expectations set by Radiohead's two previous records. Yes, there's some extraordinary music here, but too often, it sounds like Radiohead is holding back to let the slower kids catch up.

3. A Perfect Circle - "Thirteenth Step": Maynard's other project works harder on its second album to distinguish itself from the mighty Tool. It's a slower, more brooding, more gothic sound.

2. Deftones - Self-titled: While "nu"metal withered in its own angsty excesses, Deftones continued to evolve, integrating haunting melodies and more sophisticated lyrics with its sonic crunch. But then, after its first album, Deftones never really did belong with the "Break Stuff" bunch. And it was a hoot to hear frontman Chino Moreno try to assert this in interviews and onstage by slagging off metalhead morons and his Korny brethren.

1. The Twilight Singers - "Blackberry Belle": More cheap sex, controlled substances and a pinch of guilt to bookend this list. This sleazy, slinky set of whiteboy alternasoul is only three Afghan Whigs short of being a classic. Features a goosebumpy "wanna-crawl-off-and-die" duet with sepulchral-voiced Mark Lanegan, rock 'n' roll's own Lurch.

And a special mention to the best compilation of the year, "Rough Trade Shops: Post Punk 01," an amazing 2 discs of old and new material that's remarkably consistent and fresh. It's like getting a mix tape from the snotty "High Fidelity" record store clerks who know more than you.

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Andrew Hook
Posted on Wednesday, December 31, 2003 - 04:33 am:   

I'd take items 8, 5 & 4 from the above list and add "Elephant" - White Stripes; "Absolution" - Muse; "The Curse of Blondie" - Blondie (some seriously good songs on here); "Dear Catastrophe Waitress" - Belle & Sebastian; and sneak in "Lil' Beethoven" by Sparks although it was probably late 2002.

Totally disagree with Placebo though. I thought this was their worst CD to date. Just seemed a total rehash of their previous three with nothing new to say.
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Wednesday, December 31, 2003 - 01:48 pm:   

Absolution was a good album. I still can't understand why Muse doesn't have a US label.

I haven't been able to get Explosions in the Sky's new album, but I did find a copy of "Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die" and I rather enjoy that. I also did pick up Neurosis & Jarboe, but haven't had time to listen to much of it.

Des - I'll try to find those contemporary "classical" pieces you mention. One of my Christmas presents this year was NPR's guide to starting a classical music collection. It seems good for baroque, classical and romantic, but is lacking in contemporary stuff.
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WS
Posted on Saturday, January 03, 2004 - 02:01 pm:   

Try looking on the WNYC archive (wnyc.org) for SOUNDCHECK shows. If they aren't archived as audio files they may have playlists. Lots of contemporary classical stuff discussed every day.

I definitely recommend Lou Harrison who fused gamelon and western classical orchestration (sadly he just died this past year), and The Alloy Orchestra who performs live experimental accompaniment to silent films.
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 09:59 am:   

I came up with my somewhat finalized list of music I liked in 2003:

http://robertdevereux.com/2003.php

There are still a few CDs I want to catch up on (Anathema, Explosions in the Sky, and maybe some others).
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Dave G.
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 12:56 pm:   

The Buckley is a gem, although I haven't heard the extended re-issue.

I bought an amazing Ulver re-mix record in Austin called "Ten Years in the Machine" of something like that. Sound familiar?
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 02:36 pm:   

First Decade in the Machine is an interesting remix album. I like that most of the remixes don't resemble the original songs at all. I do prefer their non-remix CDs (except for Nattens Madrigal, which is horrible).

Something similar is the remix album of Arcturus. The singer from Ulver used to be in that band too. They did an album of bizarre cabaret metal, and then the remix album makes the songs unrecognizable - ambient remixes, jungle remixes, even a gangsta rap remix.
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Tuesday, January 20, 2004 - 10:08 am:   

Unsurprisingly, shortly after making my best of list, I came across another CD that's great: Ephel Duath - The Painter's Palette.

It's a weird mix of jazz and hardcore metal. Take a jazz drummer and bass player, throw in a guitar player who can switch between metal and clean jazz, two vocalists (one who sings, the other who screams) and then add a guest trumpet player. It's weird, often disjointed, and the screamed vocals are tough to get into, but it's one of the more exciting metal CDs I've heard in a long time.
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James
Posted on Thursday, March 04, 2004 - 02:05 pm:   

A chance to inflict my musical taste on people! The best albums I bought where probably Justin Sullivan's (the lead singer of New Model Army) solo album, Thea Gilmore's Avalanche, The White Stripes's Elephant, The Black Eyed Peas Elephunk, and (although its a mix of muxic from the last eleven years, it does make on excellent album) No Doubt's Best of The Singles collection.

I also have to add an honourary mention to Juno Reactor - a friend gave me a CD of their back catalog burnt onto MP3 format, and it just blew me away. Especially the bits that hadn't been used as a soundtrack to the Matrix movies.

James
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Chris Dodson
Posted on Thursday, March 04, 2004 - 07:48 pm:   

My top ten (some of these are actually 2002 releases, but I bought 'em in '03):

Authority Zero, A Passage in Time
Johnny Cash, Unearthed (box set)
Evanescence, Fallen (I know, I know, please don't laugh)
Kings of Leon, Youth and Young Manhood
Mark Lanegan, Here Comes That Weird Chill (EP)
Pearl Jam, Lost Dogs
Sparta, Wiretap Scars
Thrice, The Artist and the Ambulance
The White Stripes, Elephant
Pete Yorn, The Day I Forgot

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