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Here’s what I’m digging this week…
Anathema – distant satellites (Kscope)
This Liverpool sextet has long stood as theexample of how to combine gorgeous melodies, poignant lyrics, powerful harmonies, and inventive production into beautiful yet devastating commentaries on love, loss, and life. ‘distant satellites’ is yet another such benchmark, proving that Anathema is as important, passionate, and poetic as ever. It’s easily one of the best releases so far this year.
Casualties of Cool – Casualties of Cool (HevyDevy)
An official side project of eccentric musical genius Devin Townsend and female vocalist Ché Aimee Dorval, Casualties of Cool is billed as a spacey concept album dominated by a country/blues rock aesthetic. Really, though, it feels like classic mellow Townsend, with his trademark “wall-of-sound” production techniques and penchant for charming and catchy melodies bursting through on just about every track. It’s definitely a sonic sibling to Ki, Ocean Machine, and Ghost.
Cosmograf – Capacitor (Cosmograf Music)
The newest release from progressive rock titan Cosmograf (led by multi-instrumentalist Robin Armstrong), Capacitor is a concept album that explores “[the] storage of the human spirit, and how the imprint of our lives is left behind both in a spiritual and technological sense.” Featuring guest appearances from Nck D’Virgilio, Colin Edwin, Nick Beggs, and Andy Tillison (among others), the record is a wonderful journey that evokes elements of classic IQ, Marillion, Porcupine Tree, Muse, and Pink Floyd.
Diablo Swing Orchestra – Pandora’s Piñata (Candlelight Records)
Arguably the most dynamic feature on this list, Pandora’s Piñata is an incredibly diverse, dynamic, and peculiar collection of songs. As the name may suggest, Diablo Swing Orchestra combines big band instrumentation with progressive metal foundations, all the while offering operatic male/female vocals and colorful effects. Fans of Devin Townsend, Oingo Boingo, and even Renaissance will find plenty to enjoy.
Kate Bush – Aerial (Columbia)
Ever since she was discovered by David Gilmour in the late 70s, English singer/pianist Kate Bush has demonstrated unparalleled innovation, uniqueness, and influence in the music industry. No one composes and performs quite like her (although Tori Amos is a clear protégé), and her eighth studio LP, Aerial, is a fantastic example of this. Broken into two discs (“A Sea of Honey” and “A Sky of Honey”), the album includes several idiosyncratic gems, including “King of the Mountain,” “Pi,” and “How to Be Invisible,” as well as the 42 minute suite, “An Endless Sky of Honey.” Bush easily has one of the most interesting discographies in pop music, and Aerial is simply my favorite one.
Tesseract – Altered State (Century Media)
This sophomore effort from the British progressive metal troupe is most notable for its two main changes: it features a new vocalist, Ashe O’Hara, and it’s the first to contain only clean vocals. Aside from that, the album (which is broken into several suites) is more melodic and sparse than your average genre recording; it even incorporates trumpets near the end, which is awesome. If you’re looking for an emphasis on melody over virtuosity, definitely check it out.
Feliz Lucia Monlina, Ben Segal, and Brett Zehner – The Wes Letters (Outpost19, 2014)
Few modern filmmakers have a style as unique and meticulously crafted as Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel). Naturally, such an auteur can spark a fanatically inquisitive and dedicated following, which is where The Wes Letters comes in. Essentially it’s a collection of messages from three friends to Anderson, and it’s most fascinating because it simultaneously feels like a series of harmless, real letters to Anderson and like a fictional narrative about obsession, delusion, and zany competition. Either way, it’s easy to get lost in it.
Louie (Wednesday, FX)
Louis C.K. is easily one of the most irreverent, witty, and bold comedians of our generation; however, his most popular creation yet, Louie, proves that he’s so much more than that. As the writer, director, and star of the show, C.K. provides audiences with a hilarious yet poignant and revealing series in which he portrays a skewed version of his real life. What makes it so unique and great is its fearless approach to social commentary, artistic cinematography, and occasional disregard for continuity and logic. Really, Louie feels very much like a highly earnest and imaginative synthesis of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Annie Hall.
Peep Show (Netflix)
Many people find that British humor is second to none, and with innovative modern classics like Peep Show, it’s hard to disagree. Created, written, and starring comedy duo David Mitchell (Mark) and Robert Webb (Jeremy), the show takes the Odd Couple dynamic of juxtaposing two roommates to its limit. Mark is a neurotic office worker who’s obsessed with history and self-loathing, while Jeremy is a carefree “musician” whose narcissism often gets him in trouble. As formulaic as it may sound, Peep Show stands out due to its acting, complex writing, and P.O.V. gimmick (every shot is shown through the eyes of a character). Trust me, it’s mature, clever, and very funny.
Game of Thrones (Sunday, HBO)
I suppose this one needs no explanation, but just in case you’ve been living under a rock (ha-ha, I kid), Game of Thrones is a lot like an R rated take on the Lord of the Rings films. Its phenomenal writing and direction allow its characters, drama, twists, and bleak humor to shine, and the way it balances its multiple storylines is commendable. Every element of the show is top quality; just be prepared for rampant adult content, including profanity, violence, nudity, sex, incest, and even infanticide.
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