The Fire Note Writer Picks 2013 3 545

The Fire Note Writer Picks 2013 3 546

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The Fire Note wouldn’t be possible without the talented writers that have signed on here to share their educated thoughts and true enjoyment of music with our readers.

Our year end Top 50 is coming later this week but clearly everyone has different tastes and ideas when naming the best album released in 2013.

So without any other delay I give you The Fire Note Writer Picks of 2013. Thanks again to all the contributors!

Kevin Poindexter

1. Robert Pollard: Blazing Gentlemen
2. Mikal Cronin: MCII
3. Roomrunner: Ideal Cities
4. Guided by Voices: English Little League
5. Jason Isbell: Southeastern
6. David Bowie: The Next Day
7. Connections: Body Language
8. Robert Pollard: Honey Locust Honky Tonk
9. White Fence: Live in San Francisco
10. Waxahatchee: Cerulean Salt
11. T. Hardy Morris: Audition Tapes
12. Oblivians: Desperation
13. Suede: Bloodsports
14. Deerhunter: Monomania
15. Jackson Scott: Melborne

Christopher Tahy

15. Charles Bradley: Victim of Love
I’ve always had a general interest in soul music, but Charles Bradley pushed that into a slight obsession. Being backed by Menahan Street Band, “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” is able to think out side the box while pushing for the classic gospel and soul tones of the 50’s and 60’s.

14. Unknown Mortal Orchestra: II
Ruban Nielson has always been an impressive musician. So the fact that I look at other end of year lists and see II absent is quite surprising. Keeping the flow constant and writing one of the strongest album openings of the year with “From the Sun” and “Swim and Sleep (Like A Shark)” easily makes this one of my top 15.

13. Hooded Fang: Gravez
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again these guys and gal need to be heard. Releasing one of the most abstract garage/pop albums this year Hooded Fang shows no signs of slowing. With tracks that have stuck with me all year like the ever intense “Graves” and the psycho, sunny “Wasteland” it’s instant happiness with each listen.

12. Ty Segall: Sleeper
I’m a huge Ty Segall fan so the fact that he can release an album as emotionally impactful as Sleeper was a win for everyone. While battling the weary throws of loss and disregard Ty focuses that into infectious melodies that just burrow into your brain for days. This “uncrowned king of rock” can write more that just a stoney riff, showing his reflective side works too.

11. Thee Oh Sees: Floating Coffin
Thee Oh Sees have never let me down and 2013 continues to be a strong year for them. Not even a year after releasing 2012’s Putrifiers II they come back with the equally impressive Floating Coffin. The whole album keeps the freaky fun coming, and “Minotaur” is one of my favorite Sees tracks – and one of my favorite tracks of the year. That is no small feat.

10. Neko Case: The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight
Neko is never a let down, her last album Middle Cyclone was just the tip of the iceberg and only left us wanting more. Also, sadly absent from a lot of end of the year lists The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight is exactly the more that we’d been looking for. One of the most lush and well produced albums I’ve heard all year. Neko’s vocals just melt into your ears, but when the time calls for it Case isn’t afraid to show her dominant side.

9. The National: Trouble Will Find Me
For me it’s always easy to look forward to a new National release, especially when their back catalogue is so good. Trouble Will Find Me-in my opinion-has its’ troubles getting started. But with strong songs like “Sea of Love,” “Heavenfaced,” and “Humiliation” among others it’s easily a top 10 for me.

8. FUZZ: FUZZ
If there was ever a thing such a spiritual music guides, In The Red Recordings would have to be mine. With many of their reissues and release they seem to know me almost perfectly. Ty Segall’s trio FUZZ is no exception. Providing some of the burliest riffs all year FUZZ is perfect for anyone that just wants to rock out.

7. Speedy Ortiz: Major Arcana
Anyone who can pull off poetry mixed with Pavement has my vote for the 7th spot. Speedy Ortiz’s debut Major Arcana set the critics on fire with its’ refusal to hide away from a druggy 90’s. It’s a good thing they didn’t because they sure found their sweet spot.

6. Deafheaven: Sunbather
Guys, I finally get it. Sunbather is an impressive album. It might take a few listens but this strong brew is defiantly ready to intoxicate. Taking cues from black metal, shoegaze, noise, and many others. Deafheaven have a right to be proud by creating one of the years most enveloping works.

5. My Bloody Valentine: m b v
If Deafheaven take part in being the disciples then My Bloody Valentine are the master. Like my friend Steve said, “This isn’t Loveless, the guy who recorded that is long gone.” That being said My Bloody Valentine’s mellow affair is something to appreciate-especially after 22 years in the making. Love it or hate it it’s still My Bloody Valentine and that’s all that matters.

4. Queens of the Stone Age: Like Clockwork…
Just as everything changes so do opinions, QOTSA’s Like Clockwork… is quite the knock out. Not only does it posses the best riff of the year with “My God Is the Sun,” but its’ mix of rock n roll, sex appeal, and even beauty make it an easy shoe in for the #4 spot.

3. Grouper: The Man Who Died In His Boat
If you want to talk atmospheric minimalism then look no further than Liz Harris’ Grouper. An album packed with weird depth The Man Who Died In His Boat showcases a sultry, arty, and druggy affair that’s sure to lure anyone who dares to listen.

2. Rose Windows: The Sun Dogs
Shame on you Pitchfork for skipping out on this one. Sub Pop’s Rose Windows released one of the best debuts all year. Taking a classic formula and injecting it with their own collective brands and mantras. The Sun Dogs is easy to listen to again and again and again. A shoe in for number 2.

1. Morningbell: Bôa Noite
Why any album with theatric grandiosities overtook me this year I have no idea. But, with Bôa Noite Morningbell seemed to map my archetype. It’s confidence without pretension and theatrics that don’t overwhelm. Taking on so many styles and references, then fitting them together like a puzzle is an impressive feat which makes this my #1.

Matthew Heiner

1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
2. Pity Sex – Feast of Love
3. Mikal Cronin – MCII
4. Kanye West – Yeezus
5. City and Colour – The Hurry and The Harm
6. Thundercat – Apocalypse
7. Casey Black – Lay You In The Loam
8. Atlas Genius – When It Was Now
9. Diane Coffee – My Friend Fish
10. MiniBoone – MiniBoone
11. Kings of Leon – Mechanical Bull
12. No Age – An Object
13. Boxer Rebellion – Promises
14. Ski Lodge – Big Heart
15. Wavves – Afraid of Heights

Matt also sent his 16th which was Queens of the Stone Age: Like Clockwork…

Simon Workman

1. Bob Dylan: Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) — The Bootleg Series Vol. 10
Every Bootleg Series release is a treat, but this one is extra-special. Two discs of amazing material from one of Dylan’s most underrated periods.

2. (TIE) Robert Pollard: Honey Locust Honky Tonk & Blazing Gentlemen
I honestly can’t decide between these two—some days I’m in the mood for the more introspective, quirky Honey Locust, others the chunky riffs of Blazing Gentlemen. Luckily, I don’t have to choose, because as soon as I’m finished with one, I can put on the other.

4. Grateful Dead: Sunshine Daydream (Veneta, OR 8/27/1972)
One of the Dead’s most-requested shows finally released, and with good reason. Fresh off their Europe ’72 tour, the band blazes through a nearly 3-hour set list that includes a half-hour long “Dark Star.” If you don’t like the Grateful Dead then this won’t convince you, but if you’re already on the bus, you NEED this set (which includes the concert film).

5. Surrogate: Post Heroic
One of this year’s strongest albums front to back, each song a perfect blend of earworm melodies, diverse textures, and thoughtful lyrics. Don’t miss out on this one.

6. Iron & Wine: Ghost On Ghost
Sam Beam has been a favorite of mine for a long time, and Ghost on Ghost’s jazzier feel had me hooked from the first few tracks. He may no longer be whispering homespun bedroom folk into a hissy tape recorder, but he still knows how to write a great song.

7. The Flaming Lips: The Terror
I know a lot of the guys here at Fire Note HQ weren’t feeling this one, but for me the cold, abrasive sound of The Terror is what makes it great—the Lips finally made that Halloween space alien krautrock record we always knew they wanted to.

8. Eisley: Currents
After a tough few years, Eisley triumphantly returned this year with Currents, their best record in years. It’s everything we ever loved about Eisley—the harmonies, moody atmosphere, odd-yet-charming lyrics—all wrapped into some of the most affecting songs the Dupree sisters have ever written.

9. Guided By Voices: English Little League
2013 was the year I finally got on board the GBV wagon, so this is almost here by default… almost. While English Little League isn’t quite as consistent as Class Clown Spots a UFO or The Bears for Lunch, there are plenty of high points that more than make up for it (Xeno Pariah, Islands, Send to Celeste, Noble Insect, Flunky Minnows, W/Glass In Foot… need I go on?).

10. My Bloody Valentine: m b v
One of the surprises of 2013 for me, since – like GBV – I came rather late to the party with My Bloody Valentine. But m b v is a great listen from start to finish, full of subtleties that keep you coming back for more.

11. The National: Trouble Will Find Me
Proving once again (as if they needed to) that they’re one of the most consistent bands around, The National keep the ball rolling with Trouble Will Find Me. Another winner to add to their already impressive back catalog.

12. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
This one takes a little longer to sink in than the last two albums, but it’s worth the effort. The slightly calmer, less frenetic pace lets the songs breathe a bit, and there are still enough curveballs to keep you guessing what they’ll do next.

13. Wiretree: Get Up
Another huge surprise for me, Get Up’s ten tracks are full of classic rock hooks and the band’s talent for intricate arrangements shines through. One of the year’s best.

14. Subways on the Sun: The Honeymoon Stagecoach
High-energy alt-rock from the Pacific Northwest, Subways on the Sun’s debut shows what happens when a bunch of like minded first-class musicians come together to do what they love.

15. Mystic Braves (formerly known as Blackfeet Braves): Blackfeet Braves
2013 started off with a bang—this was my second or third review for The Fire Note, and it’s still one of my favorites from this year. Dusty southwest riffs meet Nuggets-style psych rock stompers on this impressive debut.

Scot Lade

1. Biffy Clyro: Opposites
2. Waxahatchee: Cerulean Salt
3. Robert Pollard: Honey Locust Honky Tonk
4. Blood Ceremony: The Eldritch Dark
5. Of Montreal: Lousy With Sylvianbriar
6. Purson: The Circle And The Blue Door
7. The Dear Hunter: Migrant
8. Speedy Ortiz: Major Arcana
9. Arcade Fire: Reflektor
10. Yo La Tengo: Fade
11. David Bowie: The Next Day
12. Unknown Mortal Orchestra: II
13. Anna Calvi: One Breath
14. Local Natives: Hummingbird
15. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires Of The City

Scot couldn’t just stop there! Check out his next 10 below.

16. Deerhunter: Monomania
17. Medicine: To The Happy Few
18. Adam Franklin And Bolts Of Melody: Black Horses
19. Hospital Ships: Destruction In Yr Soul
20. Baths: Obsidian
21. Chelsea Wolfe: Pain Is Beauty
22. Sebadoh: Defend Yourself
23. White Denim: Corsicana Lemonade
24. Beach Fossils: Clash The Truth
25. Wavves: Afraid Of Heights

Michelle Morgan

1. Jake Bugg: Jake Bugg
2. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires Of The City
3. Jus Post Bellum: Oh July
4. WE ARE TWIN: We Are Twin EP
5. The Civil Wars: The Civil Wars
6. Wake Owl: Wild Country EP
7. The Lone Bellow: The Lone Bellow
8. The Head and the Heart: Let’s Be Still
9. The National: Trouble Will Find Me
10. The Avett Brothers: Magpie and the Dandelion
11. Kingsley: Flood Battles
12. The Love Language: Ruby Red
13. MGMT: MGMT
14. Jake Bugg: Shangri La
15. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

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3 Comments

  1. Very interesting. Seems like everyone’s on board with Pollard, The National and Vampire Weekend. Can’t wait to see The Fire Note’s Top 50.

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Prog 2017: The Year In Review 5 917


Progressive Rock is not dead. It’s been relegated to the back of the line but it refuses to go away. And this is the time of year I get to reflect on all of the previous twelve month’s worth of proggy goodness that my ears have received. Yeah, it’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it.

There’s an endless supply of records and bands from around the globe – more so each year, it seems. This is curious as Prog has not had anything like a renaissance. If anything, its outsider status is more deeply entrenched than ever. Despite the attention Yes got for being inducted into the Rock ‘N Roll Hall Of Fame (and for their being two bands out there calling themselves “Yes”); despite Steven Wilson’s latest album debuting at #3 in the UK; despite Washington Post political writer Dave Weigel’s book, The Show That Never Ends, on the subject (which opened some mainstream eyes to the genre); despite it all Prog is still a niche category. It’s still the object of scorn and endless misinformation. I think Weigel put it best though: most Rock is simple and stupid; Prog is complex and stupid. That statement sums it all up for me.

More than just a relic of a by-gone era, progressive rock is an underground cottage industry today. Self-released albums, independent labels, small venues, themed Caribbean cruises, but no radio play – it’s all about the music, all about the art. Very few of the artists on this list can “do” music full-time. There’s just not enough money in it. Although this is a travesty, it is also a blessing. These bands have not sold their souls for fame or fortune. Why bother? It wouldn’t do any good. Might as well write and record the best, most interesting music you can. That is reward enough. At least for some of us. So with that in mind – here are my top picks for the year.

#20

Deluge Grander
Oceanarium
Emkog Records [2017]

I’m sure this would have landed higher had it come out earlier in the year and thus giving me more time to let it sink in. This is their fourth LP (and second in a planned seven album series). The basic template is symphonic but not in the traditional Yes/ELP/Genesis sense. The songs are intricately composed with a wide array of creative instrumentation. Textured and highly nuanced, this is adventurous music for those not afraid to go on a sonic journey.

#19

Gentle Knife
Clock Unwound
BAJKA [2017]

Ten piece act out of Norway (of course) brings to mind King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Van Der Graaf Generator but have the writing chops to keep those comparisons at bay. Distorted guitars make room for flutes and saxophones. There are some really nice boy-girl vocals pulling it all together. The songs take time to develop and build organically at their own pace. With so many members it is a testament to their cohesion as a band that things never get messy. Nobody wants that.

#18

Maxophone
La Fabbrica Delle Nuvole
AMS Records [2017]

Back in 1970’s an Italian band called Maxophone released their one and only album. Now, forty-two years later, comes the follow-up. Same singer and keyboard players, same impeccable ear for melody but in a slightly updated version. Modern recording techniques help bring this into the here and now as the debut sounded a bit dated even back in ’75. A beautiful reminder of how great the Italian scene was (and is). Comebacks aren’t supposed to be this good.

#17

Motorpsycho
The Tower
Stickman Records [2017]

Absurdly prolific band from Norway continue to defy the odds and all expectations with their twenty-second album. From classic rock touchstones like Zeppelin and Floyd to krautrock-influenced stompers, The Tower plays like a geologist’s core sample: it’s all in there somewhere. They’re at their best when streamlining the jam band aspects of their sound and concentrate on songwriting. This release does that and then some. An excellent entry point into an important artist’s discography.

#16

Pain Of Salvation
In The Passing Light Of Day
Inside Out Music [2017]

Another Swedish act makes the list. Much like Opeth, Anathema and Riverside (all bands that turned down the volume), POS gets better the less metallic their songs are. Daniel Gildenlow is one of the most talented vocalists in the genre today and his health issues are dealt with throughout this terrific album. He was very close to death with a flesh eating bacteria and maybe that focused his mind towards the creative process. There’s a special magic that happens when you know the lyrics are more than mere words. And this is a special album.

#15

Steven Wilson
To The Bone
Caroline International [2017]

There was much hand-wringing about Wilson’s supposed descent into Tears For Fears territory. Some fans were upset that he turned his back on Prog but Wilson never hid his love of Kate Bush, XTC and the prog-lite that came out of the 80’s. This is just a very good album with very good songs on it. But to all the haters out there: Prog comes in many forms. All the above-mentioned acts were progressive. Just in a different way. And as an added bonus: the title track was co-written by Andy Partridge.

#14

Sons Of Apollo
Psychotic Symphony
Inside Out Music [2017]

Progressive metal supergroup reunites Mike Portnoy with his former Dream Theater mate Derek Sherinian and makes a strong case for best metal album of 2017. Also in tow are: Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big), Bumblefoot (Guns ‘n Roses) and Jeff Scott Soto (Journey). Yeah, it sounds similar to Dream Theater but without that band’s newfound fondness for Disney-like story lines. Like most bands in this category I only wish there was more Prog and less Metal but really anything with Mike Portnoy on it is likely worth owning.

#13

Thinking Plague
Hoping Against Hope
Cuneiform Records [2017]

Colorado might be the last place on earth music this complex should originate from. Really. Definitely the most challenging record on this list, Thinking Plague grab hold of your brain and don’t let go. Frank Zappa, Henry Cow, Art Bears and Univers Zero are easy identifiers but that doesn’t comment on their unique ability to make the strange sound gorgeous. Dark horns, odd scales and time signatures, this is their best effort since 1998’s high water mark In Extremis. Play this late at night with the lights down low.

#12

Nad Sylvan
The Bride Said No
Inside Out Music [2017]

This guy first came to my attention while performing in a Genesis wannabe band (Unifaun) where he gave the best Gabriel impersonation around. Later he teamed up with Roine Stolt for three great LP’s as Agents Of Mercy. All this led to his touring with Steve Hackett for his Genesis revisited dates. Now on his second solo album, Sylvan has matured into so much more than a sound-alike vocalist. One thing he does indeed share with Peter Gabriel: an innate ability to create interesting characters in his songs.

#11

Magenta
We Are Legend
Plane Groovy Records [2017]

I was really looking forward to this one and Robert Reed, Christina Booth and company did not disappoint. Booth has one of the finest female voices in Prog today and Reed’s compositional skills are unquestioned. Three long tracks make up this album’s entire length and they are all solid but the twenty-six minute “Trojan” serves as an excellent primer to the world of Magenta – a world where Reed can play guitar like Howe, Hackett and Gilmour all wrapped into one dude. And the rest of the band ain’t bad either.

#10

Barock Project
Detachment
Artalia [2017]

With refined hunger for detail these Italian lads (who mercifully sing in English) are at the cusp of greatness. Blending contemporary sounds with 70’s sensibilities may not be a new idea – merely one that no one (besides Haken perhaps) has really done satisfactorily. They are a rock band first but the proggy flourishes aren’t tacked on afterthoughts; they are integral parts of each song’s structural framework. Nothing feels forced. The result is an album that is very easy on the ears but has surprising depth.

#9

The Tangent
The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery
Inside Out Music [2017]

I like pretty much everything Tangent front man Andy Tillison has ever done so it comes as no surprise that the band’s ninth album lands on this list. On their previous record Tillison was complaining about the state of Prog in the 21st Century. This time out he’s back on a political soap box as Immigration, Brexit and Trump are never far from view. Subtle he is not but the arguments are delivered with conviction of a man who just survived a heart attack – which he did last year. Modern Prog done right – as per usual.

#8

Cheer-Accident
Putting Off Death
Cuniform Records [2017]

There’s a special place in the pantheon of American rock bands for Chicago-based act Cheer-Accident. Led by drummer Thymme Jones, they trade in the kind of eclectic, avant garde Prog that is impossible to pin down. Every album is different in spirit but never lost is the sense of experimentation. At times their work can be difficult but they always bring to it something memorable. There are actual melodies here, sure, but so much more lurks beneath.

#7

Kotebel
Cosmology
Musea Records [2017]

This Spanish band has been making some great records for a while now but they’ve finally captured everything they’re good at in one, achingly beautiful album. Purely instrumental (which is often enough for me to steer clear) Kotebel’s music effortlessly morphs throughout each piece without ever feeling cluttered or unnecessary. All the pieces fit together with an emphasis on piano and flute with both acoustic and electric guitars providing texture and counter-point. This is a record worth tracking down.

#6

Jordsjø
Jord
Self-Released [2017]

Oh boy. Two bands from Norway in the Top Ten? Why not! This cassette-only release (well, it’s available on their bandcamp page too) has been turning more than a few heads. The duo’s brand of “forest prog” incorporates Scandinavian folk into a symphonic rock template that emphasizes melody over technique to brilliant effect. Too often I discount any band that doesn’t sing in English but this is an exception. This is the type of album that made me fall in love with Prog in the first place. One complaint: it’s too damned short!

#5

Comedy Of Errors
House Of The Mind
Plane Groovy Records [2017]

Not usually my cup of tea, the Neo-Prog sub-genre wets its collective beak into the waters of mid 70’s Genesis a bit too often but every now and then a record like this arrives. These guys have been getting better and better with each record and have finally hit their stride. Singer Joe Cairney has just enough versatility to his voice to carry these songs. I only wish he sang with a Scottish accent! I always enjoy that. But the star of this show is Jim Johnston who gets the keyboard sounds just right – even if they’re Tony Banks-influenced. Who cares? It’s brilliant.

Karmakanic: Dot [Fire Note Review 10/31/16]

#4

Kaipa
Children Of The Sounds
Inside Out Music [2017]

Sweden has been at the forefront of the nascent Prog revival. This band, however, began in the 70’s and was reborn after a 21 year hiatus in 2002. Now on album number eight of this incarnation, Kaipa is the musical equivalent of a unicorn pissing rainbows on the vernal equinox – all sunshine and positive vibes, man. Yeah, it’s indebted to Jon Anderson’s mystical ruminations but they somehow make it all feel new. Unlike recent Kaipa albums, this one is a true grower – it gets better with each listen as themes reappear in varied forms without a hint of darkness. Or irony.

#3

Big Big Train
Grimspound
Giant Electric Pea [2017]

It’s been an eventful year for this quintessentially British act. After last year’s stunning Folklore they had so much material left over that they released not one but two new albums – the first (and superior) of them is this life-affirming set. Once again BBT prove that they are storytellers of the highest order. The musicianship is top notch as well. The songs here reach for the heart of Englishness and exactly what that means in the twenty-first century. If one married Genesis to XTC it would sound a lot like Big Big Train. And if you’re like me then you know that’s a very good thing.

#2

Discipline
Captives Of The Wine Dark Sea
The Lasers Edge [2017]

Detroit band known for taking forever between albums delivers a near masterpiece. A perfect album to play for a newcomer to progressive rock as it never goes too prog-freaky. The band has been together for 30 years and this is only their fourth proper release. The Van Der Graaf Generator comparisons are still valid but Matthew Parmenter and company try their hand at a variety of styles. Some purists don’t like that – there’s only one song over ten minutes?! But ultimately it’s about the songs and once again Discipline prove they’re one of the best bands in America today.

#1

Wobbler
From Silence To Somewhere
Karisma Records [2017]

These Norwegians have been putting out some of the best Prog around for a while now but they’ve always felt slightly derivative. Their first two albums sounded like Anglagard meets Gentle Giant while 2011’s Rites At Dawn had a distinct Yes vibe to it. Not only have they found their true authentic voice but they’ve just gone and released the best album of 2017. The hooks are bigger and more visible. The format is familiar – a side-long track and two other songs over ten minutes (with a short interlude tune thrown in). Kinda like Close To The Edge or Relayer. From this time-tested format they mount an impressive assault on the listener’s expectations. Keyboard player Lars Fredrik Froilie (who also plays in the band White Willow) rocks the Mellotron, Moog and Hammond like it’s 1972. His tones are spot on but this is no mere retro act. Wobbler is not attempting to recreate the music from that era but rather they use it as a point of departure. One can hear the influences but they enhance the songs, they don’t rule them. Most Prog LP’s take time to sink in. Not so here. Immediately entertaining and thoroughly inventive, From Silence To Somewhere is our clear winner.

Among the artists considered but did not ultimately make the cut, here are a few that deserve a mention as they all released quality recordings this year: PFM, Tusmorke, Von Hertzen Brothers, Mike Oldfield, Once & Future Band, Cast, White Willow, Ayreon, This Winter Machine, Hidden Lands, Magic Bus, Anathema, The Watch, Samurai Of Prog, Mostly Autumn, Bubblemath, Soup, Bent Knee, Unreal City, Gungfly, Drifting Sun, Schooltree, Threshold, Lifesigns, Soul Enema, Agusa, Sky Architect, Mogador, Machines Dream, Siiilk, Lunatic Soul, Brother Ape, Siena Root, Hadal Sherpa and Steve Hackett.

-Recap by Scot Lade

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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: Polygonwanaland [Album Review] 0 375

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Polygondwanaland
No Label [2017]







Fire Note Says: This King Gizzard is free for everyone!

Album Review: I have no problem calling King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard the most ambitious band of 2017. The band seems to be on track to keep their promise, a year with 5 releases. So far, we’ve received Flying Microtonal Banana, Murder of the Universe, Sketches of Brunswick East, and now, believe it or not, the strongest release so far, Polygondwanaland. What makes this release unique aside from being the 4th launched this year? You own it, i own it, everybody owns it. The album was released for free in to the creative commons for anybody to do as they wish. Download it for free, start your own record label and make a vinyl pressing, heck, make a cassette tape if that’s your thing.

Polygondwanaland, for me, is the tightest Gizzard release this year. Yes, Murder of the Universe was a RUSH inspired fever dream that was broken down into 3 chapters with excellent cohesion. But, Polygondwanaland has the most exhilaration out of any of their releases this year. “Crumbling Castles” is an absolutely one of my favorite tracks this year. Stu and co. form a sort of hypnotic urgency that permeates the song at every turn. It feels both Nonagon Infinity and Quarters all in one song. The best qualities of Polygondwanaland are it tendencies to stray farther from their garage/psych sound. Tracks end begin and seep into each other depending on the thread King Gizzard wants to continue. The title track tip toes through whispered lyrics into a flute based outro. That then bleeds into the narrated, cool, synthy, renaissance groove of “The Castles In The Air.” To finish the 3-song movement, heightened, jagged guitars rip to and from between space bound synths.

For Polygondwanaland there really are a lot of flourishes here that make the music feel just as experimental as the release method. “The Fourth Colour” trills its’ way into your ears along with pitch shifting kaleidoscopic voices that bounce from ear to ear.

Polygondwanaland is the strongest Gizzard release this year. Its’ construction shows a focus towards overlapping prog grooves, thematic illustrations, and acute brand of storytelling. While it lacks a form of tightness presented by albums such as I’m In Your Mind Fuzz and the prog, psych doom and gloom classic Nonagon Infinity. Polygondwanaland has to be one of the best free albums you can download all year. Now I can only imagine what Stu and the boys have in mind for this year’s final LP. Whatever it is, it goes without saying this year has been huge for Gizzard fans.

Key Tracks: “Crumbling Castle” / “Inner Cell” / “The Fourth Colour”

Artists With Similar Fire: Oh Sees / The Babe Rainbow / Ariel Pink

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard Website
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard Facebook

-Reviewed by Christopher Tahy

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