My Favourite Albums of 2013

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The end of the year is approaching, which means it’s list-making time! Huzzah!

2013 was a great year for music. I listened to a lot albums, and while I didn’t hear any stone-cold classics, I heard a lot of great ones. So many, in fact, that instead of doing a top 5, which I did last year, I’m doing a top 20. More

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Releasing Songs Before an Album Drops

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It’s time for my irregularly scheduled weekly blog post. I don’t know when I became a guy who blogged only weekly (not counting What I’ve Been Reading), but this schedule – if you want to call it that – is what fits into my life at the moment. Ideally, I’d let the ideas I’m writing about in this entry stew for a little while longer in my brain, but I wanted to post something this week, and I’m not confident that further cogitation would allow me to synthesize these ideas into a coherent thesis.

Earlier this week, pop-punk band The Wonder Years released a song, “Passing Through a Screen Door,” from their upcoming album, The Greatest Generation. It’s a catchy, fun song, dealing with topics that have come to be known as the band’s bread and butter: existential angst and the pains of growing up. It wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the band’s previous effort, Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, which I named one of my favourite albums of 2011. In fact, it sounded like it could have been a Suburbia outtake. It seemed odd to me that The Wonder Years would choose to preview their album with a song that could have easily been mistaken for a lost b-side. Perhaps the band doesn’t want to scare off its fans with anything too out there, but don’t they want to signal that they’re moving forward even a little bit?

That got me thinking: album previews can have a significant influence on listeners’ pre-release impressions of upcoming albums. Artists and record company execs aren’t stupid. I think they recognize this influence. With that in mind, I can identify some of the ways in which they used the tracks they chose to release to promote then-upcoming records in order to influence the pre-release conversation. More

Album Review: Coheed and Cambria – The Afterman: Descension

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Coming off the heels of the stellar Ascension, The Afterman: Descension has a lot to live up to. Ascension was a comeback album of sorts after the somewhat-maligned Year of the Black Rainbow and the departure of two band members. For a lot of people who had written off Coheed and Cambria, there were no expectations that the album would be any good. Yet, the first half of the prog-rock quartet’s double-album turned out great, leaving big shoes to fill for the second half. Can Descension live up to those expectations? Well…sort of. More

Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2013

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2012 is now well behind us (and the world didn’t end, yay!) so it’s time to look forward to remainder of 2013 and the various entertainments it will bring. There’s a lot to look forward to this year, from new music from well-loved bands to video games with spectacular trailers. (Whether those video games will manage to live up to their trailers is another matter entirely.) Here are the 10 things I’m looking forward to most in 2013:
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Music I Liked in 2012

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2012 was an odd year for me. The music I liked in 2012 wasn’t necessarily music that was released in 2012. This past year, I dug back into a few artist’s back catalogues and discovered albums that I had missed. So I’m going to divide this entry into two sections: albums from previous years and albums from 2012. More

Album Review: Coheed and Cambria – The Afterman: Ascension

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I’ve never been into The Amory Wars, the epic sci-fi saga told through Coheed and Cambria’s records. I know some vague details, like what the Keywork is and that the protagonist’s parents were tricked into killing his brothers and sisters, but other than that, I’ve left it up to obsessive fans of the band to decipher the story from the meager clues contained in lead singer Claudio Sanchez’s lyrics.

What I have been into, however, is the band’s music – a fascinating cocktail of prog, pop, post-hardcore, and straight-up rock ‘n roll. Coheed and Cambria has always been a little smarter than their peers, reluctant to pigeonhole themselves as an “emo” band. That reluctance has led them to create some incredibly ambitious music, such as the “Willing Well” suite from Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness, but it has also occasionally led them astray, like on previous effort Year of the Black Rainbow, when the band gave themselves over to producers Atticus Ross and Joe Barresi to remake themselves as a quasi-industrial metal outfit. (It didn’t work.)

Now, Coheed and Cambria is back with original producers Michael Birnbaum and Chris Bitter and original drummer Josh Eppard for The Afterman, a double album, the first half of which is called Ascension. (The second half, Descension, will be released next year.) This is likely good news for fans of the band’s older albums, but it’s also good news for those who enjoy their more recent work. Coheed hasn’t indulged in atavism here. This is, in many ways, a logical progression of their sound, even as they shed the gloomy electronic trappings that hobbled their last album. The result is the band’s most eclectic record yet, despite also being their shortest. More

5 Awesome Songs, Vol. 9: Love the Drum Machine

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A couple of years ago, I read an article that pissed me off. (Scroll down to the piece entitled “Ghost in the Drum Machine.”) Apparently, drum machines have no soul. Duh. They’re machines, you idiot! As a very belated “fuck you” to John Wood, I’ve compiled this list of 5 awesome songs that use drum machines. Trust me; they’re anything but soulless. More

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