So, the first quarter of 2011 is over, and I thought I would give my general impressions about new music I discovered over the course of the last three months. The best album by far of the first quarter for me is "Snowtorch" by Phideaux. Fresh off the heals of two incredible albums ("Doomsday Afternoon" and "Number Seven"), Phideaux has managed to release his third masterpiece in a row. I love everything about "Snowtorch" and am forever grateful to Phideaux for allowing me to hear it early. It hearkens back to the classic prog days with some vintage sounds, influences and even the album length. But, Phideaux put their unique stamp on it and create a piece of music that is both fun and heartfelt.
Another big album to be released this quarter is "Mammoth" by Beardfish. I feel that "Mammoth" is a return to form from one of my favorite bands. "Destined Solitaire" definitely has its moments, but as an album, I felt it was a little disjointed. Some moments just didn't work for me. "Mammoth" on the other hand is a complete beast of a record and is full of highlights. The epic "And The Stone Said: If I Could Speak" is worth purchasing the album. The band at times takes a harder edge, but never looses that special eclectic proginess that I love from them. A full review of "Mammoth" should be coming soon (hopefully this weekend).
The biggest surprise of the first quarter is by far "Voice" by Hiromi. I usually stick to prog, but "Voice" is a full on Jazz album and I just love it. It is completely instrumental, sticking to the trio of piano, bass and drums. Hiromi is an incredible jazz pianist who just blows me away whenever I hear her playing. She has to be one of the best piano players in the world. I love all the various moods that can be felt throughout this album. A review should come shortly for this album as well. Another album I thoroughly enjoyed was "The Suffering Joy" by Magic Pie. I will admit that I'm not as excited about it now as when it first came out, but it is still a satisfying slice of symphonic prog and definitely the best album the band has released this far in their career.
Beyond those albums, I've fallen for the beautiful simplicity of "The King Is Dead" by The Decemberists. By no means a prog album, I would actually place it somewhere between country and folk. I haven't listened to it much, but I've really been digging "The Perils of Time Travel" by Thank You Scientist. It is only a 30 minute EP, but it showcases a very modern sounding band with some unique flavors. I especially love the saxophone they use in their music. They sound like some crazy mix between the band 3 and Dave Matthews Band.
Other albums that are good, but haven't really grabbed me the same way as the others are "XXV" by Pallas. It has moments of greatness, but there are moments where the music drags, making it a little difficult to get through. "Welcome To My DNA" by Blackfield is pleasant enough, but lacks the specialness of the first two albums. Maybe I'll find more to love as I listen more.
So, to summarize, here is my top ten releases of the first quarter of 2011:
10. The Collective- Scale The Summit
9. Invisible Places- Presto Ballet
8. Welcome To My DNA- Blackfield
7. XXV- Pallas
6. The Perils of Time Travel- Thank You Scientist
5. The Suffering Joy- Magic Pie
4. The King Is Dead- The Decemberists
3. Voice- Hiromi
2. Mammoth- Beardfish
1. Snowtorch- Phideaux
There is a lot to look forward to in the second quarter. There should be releases from Pendragon, Mars Hollow, Neal Morse, The Dear Hunter, Symphony X and Karmakanic, among others. It should be good!