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Jordan Blum: July 20, 2014

Here’s what I’m digging this week…

  1. Steve HackettGenesis Revisited: Live at the Royal Albert Hall (Inside Out U.S.)

    Genesis has always been one of the most polarizing progressive rock bands, as their discography is conclusively broken into two sections: The Peter Gabriel Years (during which they were proggy) and The Phil Collins Years (during which they were poppy). However, the group’s sound truly changed once guitarist Steve Hackett (who performed on everything from Nursery Cryme to Wind & Wuthering) departed. Fortunately, he’s still very fond of the material he helped create, as is made evident by this collection. Aided by an exceptional group of musicians, Hackett recreates gem after gem with incredible accuracy, making this set a must own for fans of the band’s trickier stuff. It also serves as a great modern introduction to some of the best music in the field.

  2. Jethro TullA Passion Play: An Extended Performance (Rhino)

    Few progressive rock albums have divided audiences as much as A Passion Play. Released in 1973, following the release of the hugely popular Thick as a Brick, the record shared the same format as its predecessor (it’s one 40+ minute song) yet it was undoubtedly a denser, more ambitious and complex beast. Unfortunately, fans and critics alike dismissed it as too pretentious and convoluted, but over the years many people have come to appreciate it as a work of genius. This special edition (remastered by Steven Wilson) brings out timbres never before heard, as well as a few moments that were removed from the original recording. All in all, it remains Jethro Tull’s truest masterpiece, and it’s never sounded better.

  3. Green DayAmerican Idiot (Reprise)

    Judging by the sort of music I usually listen to, as well as the fact that I’ve never been a proper Green Day fan, you’d be surprised by how much I love this album. Released a decade ago, this punk rock concept marked an incredibly profound evolution in the band’s scope, ambition, and musicianship. A politically charged tale of romance, rebellion, and suburban teenage angst, American Idiot flows seamlessly thanks to its catchy-as-hell melodies and kickass arrangements. In fact, its structures, storytelling, and emotional prowess are so successful that I often refer to it as my generation’s Quadrophenia. As bold a statement as that may be, I still stand by it after all these years.

  4. It BitesMap of the Past (Inside Out)

    Things were already going well for the English quartet by the time their fifth album, Map of the Past, was released in 2012, but this latest effort propelled them even further into the favor of genre fans. There’s nothing especially unique or surprising about this LP, but that’s okay because it’s such a consistently great listen. Its melodies are hypnotic, its timbres are colorful, and its musicianship is intricate without being virtuosic (which is what a lot of prog amounts to, let’s be honest). Combined, these elements create a wonderfully confident affair that any fan of elaborate rock music should enjoy.

  5. Greg LaswellLandline (Vanguard)

    Singer/songwriter Greg Laswell is far more talented and distinctive than his relatively modest fame would lead you to believe. Every song on his fourth LP, Landline, is exceptional. For example, opener “Come Back Down” is a catchy and heartfelt anthem complemented by the vocal talents of Sara Bareilles, while the central piano arpeggio in “Another Life to Lose” is nothing short of entrancing. There’s also a nice balance between modesty and professionalism in the record’s production.

  6. KnifeworldThe Unravelling (Inside Out)

    Knifeworld is a band I’ve been hearing about for years but never actually checked out—until now. Led by Kavus Torabi, the group displays incredible dexterity, originality, and diversity on this, their second effort. Elements of Gentle Giant, Phideaux, and Frank Zappa spring up all over the place, as do touches of jazz fusion and folk. Frankly, I can’t remember the last time I was so instantly blown away by a record before; in fact, I’ve only listened to it a few times, but it may already be one of my favorite records of 2014.

  7. Simon and GarfunkelBookends (Sony)

    This is a record that probably needs no introduction, but here we go away. Bookends was the fourth LP by the duo, and it’s easily my favorite due to its conceptual focus and continuity. While tracks like “American,” “A Hazy Shade of Winter” and “Mrs. Robinson” gave them even more popularity (deservedly so, of course), it’s the exceedingly poignant, beautiful, and simplistic nature of the “Old Friends”/”Bookends Theme” sequence that cements Paul Simon’s place as one of greatest American songwriters of all time. Seriously, I get chills every time the former transitions into the latter.

  8. The Pretty ThingsS.F. Sorrow (Repertoire)

    Most people would credit 1967 classics like Sgt. Pepper and Days of Future Past as being the first concept albums, and while they were in a way, it’s hard to discredit The Pretty Things’ ’68 opus S.F. Sorrow as being one of the pioneering works of narrative popular music. Actually, Pete Townsend has said that without it, Tommy may have never been written. A relatively stripped down production doesn’t tarnish the impact of this tale about the central character, whom we follow as he experiences love, war, and tragedy. The closing song, “Loneliest Person,” is stunningly affective.

  9. Adventure Time (Netflix)

    Honestly, I’m not even sure how to describe this show, but I’ll give it a shot. Created in 2010, Adventure Time follows the adventures of Finn (a human boy) and his best friend, Jake (a shape shifting, magical dog). Each episode finds them acting as heroes to delightfully odd yet inventive characters in bizarre situations. And when I say bizarre, I mean bizarre; this is likely the strangest cartoon I’ve ever seen, which means that its humor and style will appeal to only a select group of people (fortunately, I’m one of them). Fans of other Adult Swim shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Robot Chicken will probably dig this one too.

  10. Michael J. SeidlingerThe Laughter of Strangers (Lazy Fascist, 2013)

    Indie novelist Michael J. Seidlinger loves to bring the spirit of metal music to his writing, and this book is a clear example of that. It follows the struggles of boxer Sugar Wilem Floures, a man who’s pride and history refute the idea that his best years are behind him. Admittedly, I’m not very far into it, but I can already tell how special it is due to its unconventional narrative structure and gripping descriptions. It’s a book that negates any presumptions about how you’re “supposed” to write, and as a fiction writer I find that notion very inspiring and encouraging. In fact, Seidlinger and I talk a lot via Facebook, so he knows how impressed I am.


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