Wednesday, January 24, 2007

top50 - #15 to #11

The last batch before the top 10, which will include a song from each album in .mp3 format.

11. amorphis - 'eclipse'
Also given the too.many.records. treatment several months ago when it came out, 'Eclipse' has been a huge grower, especially after seeing these songs played live and managing to sound even more engaging than the older classics. An astonishing interpretation of a Finnish traditional tale, 'Eclipse' is a rainbow of moods, expertly coloured by terrific keyboard work, traditional instrumentation and memorable guitar leads in that typical Amorphis tone. And the voice. Tomi Joutsen was an unbelievable find and it feels as if he's been in the band for years. Amorphis are currently in the studio recording the follow-up to 'Eclipse', and it they manage to top it, you can bet they'll be on this list next year again, but a few positions higher even.

12. jesu - 'silver'
As you might have noticed from my desperate attempts to convey what Jesu sound like, this isn't a band whose sound you can describe easily. To make matters harder (but so exciting, too) for the reviewer, Justin Broadrick's writing takes an almost caleidoscopic quality, with songs shapeshifting and twisting withing their grey-mood framework. This time the variation is more evident, with a song like 'Star' almost sounding like a shoegazing, depressed pop song, and 'Dead Eyes' going all electronic in a way that Trent Reznor must have often dreamed about. This is 'only' an EP, but who cares - 'Silver' is a staggering and entirely out-there work. Unmissable.

13. samiam - 'whatever's got you down'
It's so good to see this vastly underrated band return. One of the best indie rock/punk bands of the 90s, they never got one fraction of the recognition they deserve, putting out brilliant album after brilliant album, with the 'You Are Freaking Me Out' 1997 release their top highlight. If you don't know them, hunt back for those albums and you'll know where the Alkaline Trio, Hot Water Music and other similar bands came from. After 2000's 'Astray', they took a rest for a couple of years, during which their loyal fans feared the worst, but 6 years later here they are, and seem ready to get the ball rolling again, in style. They have intelligently avoided to directly continue their old style, opting instead for a more direct, rawer approach (check out Jason's vocals on 'When We're Together'!), which actually suits them very well. With no hint of the sugary, sickly emo-ness that ruins other melodic punk bands, Samiam come across as very real - a few likeable real guys singing about real things. Welcome back.

14. the black heart procession - 'the spell'
Looking back on my review of it a few months ago, all I can say is that 'The Spell' has gotten even better in these five months that have passed since. The eerie creepiness is counterpointed by beautiful, lush, slowly-developing melodies and makes this a very replayable album, even more so when you begin knowing all its twists and turns by heart. You'll feel either in a haunted cabaret or a melancholic graveyard, often in the same song, and you'll love every minute of it.

15. transmission0 - 'memory of a dream'
One of the biggest surprises of the year. A rather unknown Dutch band, with only a rather straightforward hardcore-ish album to their name, on a small New York punk label, wouldn't be your first bet to put out a sprawling Neurosis-like opus, but that's exactly what Dave Van Beek and friends did with 'Memory Of A Dream'. It sounds just like its artwork suggests - a night out in dark and choppy seas, frightening and intense, but as the artwork also suggests, otherwordly and strangely welcoming. Transmission0 are the latest competitor in the ever-growing Neurosis/Isis arena, but they're much better and much more innovative than most. Unusually mature and distinctive for such a young band, Transmission0 are more than a promise already, and their potential is huge.

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