Friday, January 13, 2012

The Best Albums of 2010 (Dec. 2010)

A Subjective Critique of This Year's Best Music

Originally published for the Bismarck State College Mystician back in December, 2010.
Top ten lists. For some reason, top cultural and media commentators have decided the best way to critique our media is by listing them from best to worse.
This time of year is even worse. As the year closes, the media shoves in our faces so many "best of the year" lists its ridiculous. Its even worse, seeing how we're at the end of a decade.
So I refuse to be a part of it. I know that I spend every month talking about music, but I won't resort to something so gimmicky as a "top ten list."
I will, however, present an intelligent critique of my favorite artists to release material this year. And I'll do it by evaluating them from best to worst. <Sighs>

This was a weird year for music.
For indie fans it was a fairly good year, though some might say 2009 was much stronger.  Honestly, how could anyone outdo The Decemberists’ “Hazards of Love” or Muse’s “The Resistance?”
In terms of mainstream music, there’s not much to say. Just another year of shallow, electropop acts such as Kei$ha and Lady Gaga (as reflected in this year’s grammy nominations).
I, myself, found it to be a weaker year. Mostly because many of my favorite artists had either released material in 2009 or are releasing material in 2011. That being the case, let’s take a look at the albums I’ve found to be the “Best of 2010.”

Honorable Mentions:

Sara Bareilles - Kaleidoscope Heart
Genre: Pop Rock/Soul
Singer-Songwriter Sara Bareilles releases her second major release Kaleidoscope Heart, trying to pick up steam after her last album Little Voices grew recognition for the track "Love Song." Sadly, that was the only track to really gain widespread recognition. Thankfully, for fans, the album itself was anything but a one-hit wonder. Same could be said for Kaleidoscope Heart, as her soulful voice delivers some powerful and diverse tracks, ranging from upbeat, catchy Indie Pop to heavy, heartfelt R&B – all of which are fueled by Bareilles' signature piano playing.

Notable Tracks: Uncharted, Hold My Heart, King of Anything, Bluebird
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Genre: Indie Rock
Indie rockers Arcade Fire return with their notable mix of 60s inspired minimalistic garage rock, classical-infused melodies (often dubbed "baroque pop") and emotive, falsetto vocals. The Suburbs has quickly gained recognition among critics and even earned themselves a Grammy Nomination for "Album of the Year"(which they later won). I will say that for minimalistic Indie-Rock (which usually isn't my thing) the album has its catchy moments and some surprisingly eclectic ones (check out "Ready To Start").

Notable Tracks: Ready To Start, City With No Children, Half Light I & II, We Used To Wait

Vampire Weekend - Contra
Genre: Indie Rock
Talk about a complete 180 for a band that could also simply be classified as "Indie Rock." Vampire Weekend follows its eponymous debut album with Contra, an experimental, catchy romp full of ethnic beats and unique, bizarre instrumentation. Any album that can jump from marimbas (Guatemalan xylophone) and zabumba (Brazilian bass drum) to orchestral strings in one song is okay in my book.

Notable Tracks: Horchata, White Sky, Giving Up The Gun, Run

Angels & Airwaves - LOVE
Genre: Pop Punk/Dream Pop/Experimental-Progressive
Since their debut with We Don't Need To Whisper, Tom DeLonge's (of Blink 182) Dream Pop side-project has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. That is, until their most recent release - which I have no shame in admitting my love for. All their Floyd-esque Space Rock experimentation from their last two albums culminates into pure Prog Rock brilliance with LOVE: a catchy, but complex concept album filled with Experimental/Ambient melodies and Pop-Punk hooks inspired by – as the album title implies – love.

Notable Tracks:  The Flight of Apollo, Shove, The Moon-Atomic (...Fragments and Fictions), Soul Survivor (...2012)
Coheed and Cambria - Year of the Black Rainbow
Genre: Progressive Metal/Emo
As a huge fan of Coheed, this ought to be  much higher on the list. Sadly, there's a reason it's so low. It was a huge disappointment. I don't know why, but they took a huge backstep with this album. C&C had slowly been moving away from their emo roots, continuing to evolve into Progressive Metal – which culminated in their epic opus No World Tomorrow. Unfortunately, YotBR does not have the same epic feel. It's slow moving and contains more poppy, melodic moments reminiscent of their earlier work. The one good thing I have to point out is the drum work. Their new drummer Chris Pennie did an amazing job, adding some bad-ass drum work to a band that's mostly known for their guitars.

Notable Tracks: The Broken, Guns of Summer, Here We Are Juggernaut, The Shattered Symphony
Deftones - Diamond Eyes
Genre: Alternative Metal/Experimental
The cult favorite Alternative Metal band Deftones returns with a new album wrought with a tragic history. While in the middle of recording Euros, a follow-up to 2006's Saturday Night Wrist, the band suffered the loss of their bass player Chi Cheng who was left in a coma after being inured in a car accident. The band put Euros on hold and after four years went on to record Diamond Eyes with bassist Sergio Vegas. Diamond Eyes is a very different album, implementing some of the experimentation seen on their last few albums while also retaining a rawer feel similar to their earlier work. What results is probably one of their most notable albums since White Pony.

Notable Tracks: Diamond Eyes, You've Seen The Butcher, Beauty School, Sextape
Serj Tankian - Imperfect Harmonies
Genre:  Alternative Metal/Symphonic Prog
Serj Tankian of System of a Down fame follows-up his SoaD extension Elect The Dead with something far more epic. While Elect The Dead contains work similar to SoaD and most likely served for Tankian to release additional material on his own terms, Imperfect Harmonies moves away into its own unique style experimenting with more complex, progressive compositions paired with his use of orchestral music as well as Jazz and Electronica. This unique opus is also complimented by Tankian steering away from his typical political infused lyrics for those of a more abstract and philosophical nature. Overall, the album is quite the fun treat and a must for System of a Down fans.

Notable Tracks: Disowned Inc, Deserving, Reconstructive Demonstration, Left of Center
Ozzy Osbourne - Scream
Genre: Heavy Metal
The 80s' favorite shock rocker is back to prove that he's never too old to kick ass. The former Black Sabbath singer's new record is, by far, one his strongest in years. After 2001's unbalanced Down To Earth and 2007's shallow, but "pop friendly" Black Rain, many Ozzy fans felt he needed to return to his roots. And thus we have Scream – a very heavy, old school romp opening with the badass, 6 minute "Let It Die." From their we get some radio friendly tracks like "Let Me Hear You Scream" which are thankfully balanced by more epic, album-oriented tracks like "Diggin' Me Down" and "I Want It More" proving Ozzy is still both a juggernaut of marketing and heavy metal.

Notable Tracks: Let It Die, Soul Sucker, Diggin' Me Down, Life Won't Wait

Gorillaz - Plastic Eyes
Genre: Trip-Hop/Dream Pop
Producer and singer-songwriter Damon Albarn's virtual band and supergroup returns to world of hip-hop with a new  record, continuing with its genre-breaking experimentation. This time, the Gorillaz jump into the world of 80s influenced synth-pop with tracks like "Rhinstone Eyes," "Stylo," "Empire Ants" and "On Melancholy Hill." Backed up by a huge arsenal of hip-hop all-stars (including Mos Def, De La Soul and Snoop Dogg) this record's experimentation launches the band way beyond its undeserved reputation of being a "novelty act." Rather it is an ever evolving act that transcends both genres and musical conventions.

Notable Tracks: Rhinestone Eyes, Superfast Jellyfish, Empire Ants, Cloud of Unknowing

Arsis - Starve For The Devil
Genre: Technical Death Metal/Thrash Metal
What do you do after you've released an album that epitomizes your chosen genre to the infinite degree – forever being known as a quintessential record of that said genre? You release something completely different.
Arsis' 2008 release We Are The Nightmare was seen by critics as being one of the quintessential albums of Technical Death Metal and the very peak of what Arsis was growing to be. Not being able to top that, Arsis' Starve For The Devil strives to be something very different – and very fun. Leaning away from pure Technical Death Metal, Starve For The Devil plays around with Thrash Metal and thankfully doesn't take itself to seriously with campy, tongue-in-cheek tracks like "Forced To Rock."

Notable Tracks: Force To Rock, The Ten of Swords, Sick Perfection, Half Past Corpse O'Clock

Now that we're done humoring the bands that didn't make the list, let's move on to the true top ten of 2010:

10. Demians - Mute
Genre: Progressive Metal/Post-Grunge
The French Progressive Rock group Demians debuted back in 2008 with Building an Empire, an album drenched in Post-Grunge and Alternative Metal influence. With their dynamic and multi-layered sound, they proved the Post-Grunge genre actually has potential if creative and talented artisans are given the reigns.
Their newest album, Mute, pushes the boundaries further experimenting with classical piano and strings and multi-ethnic guitar. The album is a strong transition for the band, brimming with mellow and emotional elements that sometimes steer away from the heavy, grungy feel of their first album.

Notable Tracks: Swing of the Airwaves, Feel Alive, Porcelain, Overhead

9. The Black Keys - Brothers
Genre: Hard Rock/Blues
The Akron, Ohio based act The Black Keys has been around for less than 10 years, but they sound like they’ve been creating acid fueled Blues since the days of Woodstock.
Their newest album, Brothers, is mind blowing to say the least. While they churn out those hard, funky hits the fans love, they still evolve and experiment. The albums is nearly an hour long and is filled with 15 songs that experiment and take risks that other bands wouldn’t dare to make 10 years into their career, yet there still remains very little filler. Fans of the band will enjoy every last second of this wonderful album.

Notable Tracks: Everlasting Light, Next Girl, Too Afraid To Love, Sinister Kid

8. Gogol Bordello - Trans-Continental Hustle
Genre: Gypsy Punk
This New York group is a beautiful mess of mangled Ukrainian folk, pseudo-Gypsy music and Punk Rock. The very premise should make most cringe, but the band’s pure energy and charisma win over fans. They’re one of those groups that are all about the live shows. That being the case, their albums tend to be raw and rough around the ages.
So fans were skeptical when they made their major label debut with the help of super producer Rick Rubin. What results is a more refined, mature album. Some fans may complain about a small drop in energy, but it makes up for it an increase in artistic and lyrical viability. Some may disagree, but the album’s more refined production allowed for more emotion to filter through, rather than just being about energetic, live shows.

Notable Tracks: My Companjera, Rebellious Love, When Universes Collide, Break The Spell

7. Nellie McKay - Home Sweet Mobile Home
Genre: Indie Pop/Jazz/Reggae
Nellie McKay is best described as a sassy, Indie-tinged singer-songwriter obsessed with Cabaret and Doris Day. The core of her material tends to be influenced by 20s – 40s Jazz/Swing, but has the penchant to experiment with everything including Hip-Hop, Funk and Disco. Even more mind-boggling is her sassy lyrical sensibilities, varying from down-to-earth to ironically profane.
McKay’s new album, Home Sweet Mobile Home, dives deeper into her large bag of rotating genres. The main musical motif focuses around tropical sensibilities, experimenting with Reggae/Hip-Hop and Tropical, Acoustic Rock (a la Jack Johnson). With Mckay straying away from politically charged lyrics this time around, her focus on more mellow and emotional themes pairs off with the atmospheric feel of the album creating something more relaxing in comparison to her typical spunky, energy charged material.

Notable Tracks: Bruise on the Sky, Please, Dispossessed, Bodega

6. Hank Williams III - Rebel Within
Genre: Country/Punk Rock/Metal
Hank Williams III’s mix of Outlaw Country and Punk Rock has always sought to stir up trouble and show the darker side of southern culture, but his newest has taken an interesting turn. While there are still many insanity charged Psychobilly songs, Rebel Within is tinged with some dark, confessional and emotionally charged themes. Tracks like "#5" confess Williams’ struggles with addiction and his fear of death, having seen several of his friends die from similar habits. Rebel Within's emotional and mellow leanings is almost reminiscent of his grandfather’s material and appears to suggest a new turn in Williams' career.

Notable Tracks: Rebel Within, Lost in Oklahoma, Moonshiner's Life, #5

5. Kamelot - Poetry for the Poisoned
Genre: Power Metal/Progessive Metal
This Florida-based Symphonic Power Metal band’s ninth album, Poetry for the Poisoned, fully realizes a transition the band started back with their sixth album, Epica. Kamelot first started as an a-typical nerdtastic, cheesy power metal group. But Epica saw the band transition to a darker, more progressive sound.
Poetry for the Poisoned is a brilliant opus, filled with both emotion and complexity. The album takes some big risks, playing with more conceptual and complex tracks such as the two-part "Dear Editor/The Zodiac" or the four-part titular suite "Poetry for the Poisoned." But these risks pay off, especially with the help of guest vocalist Simmone Simon, the female vocalist for the band Epica. Overall, Poetry for the Poisoned is a dark, but endearing album that grows with every listen.

Notable Tracks: The Great Pandemonium, The Zodiac, House on a Hill, Seal of Woven Years

4. Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
Genre: Power Metal/Progressive Metal
It’s been a long time coming, but a true Iron Maiden comeback is finally here! Iron Maiden sadly has been going through transition after transition, and it never left the band as it good as it once was. Between their shift in style in the 90s and vocalist Bruce Dickinson’ departure and return, the bands has never felt like the same group that created gems such as "Hallowed Be Thy Name."
The Final Frontier sees Iron Maiden return to form. Not only is Bruce Dickinson back, but he is showcasing great vocals compared to the horrendous vocal work on 2007’s A Matter of Life and Death. But what really shines is the musical and lyrical composition. The songs are complex and inventive and the lyrical themes are reminiscent of their older gems. The Final Frontier is easily the band’s most progressive album and one of the best since Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.

Notable Tracks: Satellite 15...The Final Frontier, The Alchemist, Isle of Avalon, The Man Who Would Be King

3. Pain of Salvation - Road Salt One
Genre: Progressive Metal/Acid Rock
The unique and twisted Swedish Prog Metal group, Pain of Salvation, seems to reinvent themselves every album. And after their last album, Scarsick, they really needed it. Their 2007 album saw a drastic shift in sound that was universally panned for its utter lack of emotion and its extreme political views.
Their newest album, Road Salt One, saw another drastic change, one that the band describes as "jam oriented," sounding like it was "recorded live in the recording room." Essentially the band simplified its sound and began experimenting with psychedelic-blues. What results is a dark, distorted acidfest that sounds like someone traveled back 40 years in time and introduced Jim Morrison to Goth Metal.

Notable Tracks: No Way, Sisters, Sleeping Under The Stairs, Linoleum

2. Oceansize - Self Preserved While the Bodies Float Up
Genre: Progressive Rock/Post-Rock
The British Experimental/Progressive band Oceansize made some interesting directional changes with their newest album, Self Preserved While the Bodies Float Up. Many have described the album as their heaviest yet – sparking fierce debates in comparison to their 2007 release Frames. Heaviness aside, the album could instead be described as darker and more emotionally driven.
The album seems to border on two extremes, containing some of the softest and most emotional songs such as "Oscar Acceptance Speech" and "Silent/Transparent" while "Build Us A Rocket Then . . ." is definitely one of their heaviest songs yet. Interestingly, the band's signature Post-Rock elements are far more subtle this time around, usually buried in some of their softer tracks. Overall, this is another risky album that pays off and proves Oceansize is one of the most unique bands out there right now.

Notable Tracks: SuperImposer, Build Us a Rocket Then . . ., Ransoms, Silent/Transparent

1. Pure Reason Revolution - Hammer & Anvil
Genre: Experimental-Progressive/Electronica
After the drastic changes Pure Reason Revolution made with their last album one had to wonder just how they were going to top themselves. Well, they cleaned up their sound and created a much more balanced album that push their new Electronica influences to the limit.
Hammer & Anvil takes everything that made Amor Vinci Omni amazing and fixed nearly all its faults. Never has their been an Electronica album with such an epic and progressive feel to it.  With steady, multilayered tracks such as "Black Mourning" and powerful, aggressive tracks such as "Blitzkrieg" and "Patriarch" the album is already addictive. But the hypnotically beautiful “Armistice” really pushes this album over the edge. And then "Over The Top" is just a fun, incredibly random rave track that comes right out of left field. Needless to say, this album is brilliant and destroys any skepticism over Pure Reason Revolution’s new sound.

Notable Tracks: Black Mourning, Patriarch, Open Insurrection, Armistice

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Protomen Compose Epic Opus From Nerdy Premise (Dec. 2010)

Under The Radar
The Protomen

Originally published for the Bismarck State College Mystician back in December, 2010.

Genre: Glam Rock/Experimental/Elecrtonica

For most, video game music has never been seen as an established genre. But many avid gamers enjoy the music composed for their favorite video games. Some even purchase their official soundtracks. This trend has grown into a community of musicians creating elaborate renditions and remixes of their favorite songs. The Tennessee-based act, The Protomen, have taken the trend further, creating an elaborate rock opera based off the classic Nintendo game Megaman.
The Protomen are a concept band that combine Glam Rock, Electronica, Experimental/Progressive and various other genres. The bulk of their material is part of a multi-album rock opera loosely based on the characters and storyline of the Megaman series. The band reinterprets the game's canon, telling a dark dystopian tale with strong George Orwell and Ayn Rand influences.
The group is composed of a large, rotating line-up of friends who met while attending MTSU in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Many were involved in the local music scene before graduating and moving to Nashville. Little is known about the group as they rarely do interviews out of character. The group performs all their shows as characters from the universe they've constructed, claiming to retell the stories they've "witnessed."
The group follows the basic rock opera formula. The lyrics serve as the lines spoken by either the narrator or characters from the story. All the instrumental interludes indicate an action scene, which is usually described in the linear notes of the album.
The story is a dark representation of Megaman's storyline. Dr. Wily isn't just a blundering mad scientist, repeatedly failing to takeover the world. Has has taken over the world and is now a Stalin like dictator in an Orwellian society. The story plays out with the protagonist Dr. Light building the robot Protoman to attack Wily's stronghold and save mankind. Unfortunately, Protoman becomes mortally wounded and the people watch from a distance as he is killed, refusing to help out of fear.
Dr. Light builds Megaman to fill the void left in his heart, creating him to be his younger "son." Upon learning of his brother's fate, Megaman vows to avenge his death and save mankind. Light protests, "They can't be saved by just one man." Meganman then runs away to assemble the troops and overthrow Wily.
The first album, The Protomen, builds off this backstory and tells the tale of Megaman attempting to free society from Wily's reign. The album's sound is very raw, being recorded using analog instead of digital equipment. The overall sound of the album is a mix of abrasive, uneven hard rock and electronica using synthesizers to emulate NES style chiptunes. The band has described the sound as "the sound of the end of the world."
Their second album, Act II: The Father of Death, was much more refined – meant to reflect the age "before the bomb dropped." The album's storyline acts as a prequel and is divided into two parts. The first tells the backstory of Thomas Light and Albert Wily and the events that led to Wily overthrowing the government. The second half observes the first years of Wily's "utopia" and the rise of Light's first progeny, a young man named Joe (a reference to Sniper Joe).
The album's style is divided between these two halves. The story of Light and Wily is told through Country and Classical Opera, with some Psychobilly thrown in. However, the track "How The World Fell Under Darkness" transitions the two, building off the classical opera motifs of the first half and into an ode to 80s Glam Metal. Reflecting the robotic utopia Wily created, the music mocks the cheesy sci-fi concept albums of the 80s, particularly Styx's "Kilroy Was here."
The band's opera is set to be in three acts. The band has announced their album to be released sometime in 2012. For now, they are on a constant touring regimen.
The group has gained a reputation for its energetic concerts. The band is known for elaborate stage decor, costumes and a variety of theatrical antics reminiscent of 70s Glam Rock acts such as David Bowie and Queen. The band is also known for doing a variety of covers, ranging from 80s acts such as Styx, Kenny Loggins and Journey to unexpected artists like Alabama.
The Protomen, sadly, tend to be seen as a novelty act. Due to this reputation and their philosophy of doing interviews in character, they're only known to a small niche of listeners. But despite how nerdy their premise may be, The Protomen prove how artistic and original video game musicians can be with a little extra effort.

Notable Albums:
The Protomen (2005)
Act II: The Father of Death (2009)

Notable Tracks:
"The Will of One"
"The Stand (Man or Machine)"
"The Good Doctor"
"Keep Quiet"

Hank III's Outlaw Sound Stirs Trouble With Pop-Country Radio (Nov. 2010)

Under The Radar
Hank Williams III

Originally published for the Bismarck State College Mystician back in November, 2010.

Genre: Country/Punk/Metal

Country music has always garnered undeserved scrutiny. Is has been criticized for its association to the sub-cultures of the South and the stereotypes that typically follow. But despite criticism, country music has always been valued for its genuine earthiness. With its roots in traditional American Folk and Bluegrass, it has the power to remind us of a younger America and explore the emotional and cultural struggles of rural life.
But country music has seen a drop in authenticity lately. The 70s and 80s saw a deviation from Tradition Country music, with artists such as Billy Ray Cyrus churning out catchy pop hits like "Achey Breaky Heart." This deviation, known as Pop-Country, soon became the standard with artist like Taylor Swift littering the airwaves. Artists like George Straight try to hold onto traditional values while still appealing to mainstream audiences, but many purists see this trend as "too little, too late." On the other hand, a few new artists are flocking the underground inspired by the grandson of the forefather of outlaw country, Hank Williams III.
Shelton Hank Williams III, referred to by fans as Hank the Third, is the grandson of Country legend Hank Williams and son of Contemporary Country star, Hank Jr. Hank Williams III plays a fusion of Tradition Outlaw Country, Heavy Metal and Punk Rock.
Williams started in the mid 90s as a drummer for several heavy metal and punk bands, including former Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo's band Super Joint Ritual. Williams eventually signed Curb Records to produce a country record after a judge ordered him to pay off overdue child support. In 1996 Williams produced Three Hanks: Men With Broken Hearts, an album where he spliced material from his grandfather with vocals from himself and his dad to appear as if the three were recording a family album together. Despite its lackluster reviews and somewhat hackneyed premise, the record was a marginal success and inspired Williams to follow in his family's footsteps.
Williams began his career as a country artist but soon found himself at the mercy of Curb Records' strict policies. The first signs of tension showed when Curb refused to produce his This Ain't Country LP and instead made him produce the more pop friendly record Risin' Outlaw, an album which Williams has expressed disdain for. In response, Williams sold T-shirts at his live shows with the words "Fuck Curb" across the front. This became one of the many controversies surrounding his live shows.
Williams' live shows are known for their "Jekyll and Hyde" format, where he plays a Traditional Country set, followed by a Hellbilly (Country and Metal) and Psychobilly (Country and Punk) set and ends with a set from his band Assjack, which combines Metalcore and Psychobilly. Controversy surfaced when Curb refused to produce any of Assjack's material. Contractual agreements also prevented Williams from producing their material with another record company. Williams eventually resorted to selling bootlegs at his live shows.
Williams eventually settled some of his differences with Curb and produced his sophomore record Lovesick, Broke and Driftin'. Despite settling disputes with Curb and discarding his T-shirt campaign, he continued to release Assjack bootlegs at his shows. His third record, Straight To Hell saw more controversy as Curb Records had to negotiate with Wal-Mart to sell an edited version of the record. Straight To Hell became one of the first major label country records to carry a parental advisory label.
Since then, Williams has produced two more records, including one within the last year titled Rebel Within. Williams is already slated to produce another record in 2011. Since Williams' underground success, other artists have followed including the Milwaukee based .357 String Band and the Madison based Goth-Country act, Those Poor Bastards.

Notable Albums:
Lovesick, Broke and Driftin' (2002)
Straight To Hell (2006)
Rebel Within (2010)

Notable Tracks:
"Straight To Hell"
"3 Shades of Black"
"Dick in Dixie"

Dead Can Dance Gives New Ethnic Twist To A Forgotten Genre (Oct. 2010)

Under The Radar
Dead Can Dance

Originally published for the Bismarck State College Mystician back in October, 2010.

Genre: Post-Punk/Goth/Neo-Classical

The punk rock movement of the 70s left its mark on the musical community, creating a widespread of differing influences. Though the nihilistic attitude and DIY ("do-it-yourself") mentality of the the scene remained intact, the artists went on to create a much more experimental and versatile genre: Post-Punk.
Early Post-Punk groups such as Siouxsie & the Banshees and Joy Division stayed closer to the source material but emphasized complexity and melancholy melodies. The 80s, however, witnessed an evolution in the genre that split into different directions. Some artists took the sound and made it catchier and more commercially viable, creating New Wave groups such as Blondie, Talking Heads and Devo. A few groups, such as The Pixies and Sonic Youth, took a more experimental approach, branching off to the point of being nearly unclassifiable. Groups such as Bauhaus and The Cure, however, took the meloncholy tone introduced by early Post-Punk bands to extreme measures, producing either minimalistic material of a macabre nature or synth-heavy melodies of gloom and doom, creating Goth.
It's worth noting that this is the only genre to be officially classified as Goth by music analysists and commentators, despite its use by broad audiences to describe a cadre of musical artists – usually with intended negative connotations. As the genre grew and the niche among 80s culture started to bloom, one band took the style and created something unique: Dead Can Dance.
Dead Can Dance was a Post-Punk/Goth group that originated from Australia. Their first album, a self-titiled record, was already noteworthy for tis more ambient and ethereal sounds as well as their contrasting vocalists, Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard. Perry was noted for his distinctively haunting baritone vocals while Gerrard had showcased an expansive range from contralto to mezzo-soprano and experimented with traditional Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Oriental vocals.
It was the band's later work that made them stand out. They slowly started experimenting with multi-ethnic folk and Neo-Classical. By the time they produced their fifth album, The Serpent's Egg, they were unclassifiable. Dead Can Dance's signature had become a mixture of Dark Etheral and ethnic folk deriving from ancient and traditional styles of various eastern ethnicities, notably the Romani and other ancient Mediterranean cultures. The influences have often been attributed to Gerrard growing up in the Greek-Turkish suburb Prahran, Australia.
Over time, the group put less emphasis on lyrics and more on instruments. Eventually, even the vocals were used more instrumentally where Gerrard often sang in idioglossia: languages Gerrard invented.
By the nineties, the group had become a duo featuring solely Perry and Gerrard. The two became so diverse in their talents they were able to produce their elaborate music without the help of the guests and collaborators who had contributed to the production of their earlier material. Unfortunately, the two drifted apart due to creative differences and split up after producing their final album, Spiritchaser, in 1996. Since their break-up, the group only reunited in 2005 and has shown no intention of reuniting again.
Although not known in the mainstream musical community, their legacy followed a similar path as New Age/Trance legends Tangerine Dream, with their music featured in musical scores of countless film and television projects. Some of the notable uses include "Sanvean" on The West Wing and "The Host of the Seraphim" for Terminator 3, The Mist and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole.

Notable Albums:
The Serpent's Egg (1988)
Into The Labyrinth (1993)
Spiritchaser (1996)

Notable Tracks:
"The Host of the Seraphim"
"The Writing On My Father's Hand"

Pure Reason Revolution's Electronica Is Anti-Gaga (Sept. 2010)

Under The Radar
Pure Reason Revolution

Originally published for the Bismarck State College Mystician back in September, 2010.

Genre: Experimental/Progressive/Electronica

Pop music has always stirred negative feelings with some. Many have described the genre as shallow, uninventive and unintelligent. Recently, pop music has begun a transformation, albeit in a rather formulaic and trendy way. Many artists such as Rhianna and Keisha have jumped on a bandwagon started by Lady Gaga, experimenting with sounds similar to 90s Europop and Electronica.
Electronica has become something of a buzzword, used to describe a variety of styles, including the generic (but danceable) House, Techno and Industrial genres usually associated with raves. It also has been used to describe Experimental/Ambient and Trance acts such as Tangerine Dream and Enigma. But lately, the synth-oriented melodies and digitalized, bass-heavy drum-beats associated with the term have slowly crept its way into much of the instrumentation used in pop music. On the other end of the musical spectrum, the unknown Progressive Rock group Pure Reason Revolution  has emerged utilizing the same Electronica experimentation that has made these pop acts so popular.
Pure Reason Revolution is a relatively obscure British group, whose origins date back to 1997. Originally known as The Sunset Sound, the band encountered a number of line-up and name changes until they solidified somewhere between 2000 and 2003. The group started out as Progressive/Space Rock with strong Pink Floyd influences. The name of the band's first single, "Bright Ambassadors of Morning," is a line off the Pink Floyd song "Echoes."
After releasing their first full-length album, The Dark Third, the group went on tour with British and Israeli group Blackfield (a side project of Aviv Geffen and Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson), which caused the group to gain attention in the UK. After their first major tour, they returned to the studio to record their second album and decided to make a major musical departure just as their career began to blossom.
What resulted was Amor Vincit Omnia. Lyrically and structurally, the sound was still very progressive and complex, but the overall sound had vastly changed. The subtle use of synthesizers and mellotrons – which created their signature space rock sound – was traded in for more elaborate synth-lines and bass-heavy rhythms. Their sound became less comparable to Pink Floyd and more so to Daft Punk.
Despite its shocking change in sound, the band garnered much acclaim. Though blasted by prog purists, many critics saw the sound as highly original, charming and slightly ironic given the current trend among pop artists. Unlike the pop scene which has showed similar influences, Amor Vincit Omnia showed a great deal of depth in its lyrics and overall concept.
The album name is believed to be a reference to the Caravaggio panting of the same name. Although the band has never officially confirmed whether or not the album was conceptual, the lyrics and overall structure shows a strong, cohesive conceptual base. Several of the songs bleed into each other and contain recurring melodies and lyrical passages and share a theme reinforced by the album, which is Latin for "love Conquers All."
Though their style tends to be very polarizing, pure Reason revolution's sound needs to be experienced by the musical community. Although the group hasn't attracted as much popularity as it should, the band continues to create music and expand its fan base. The group has been working on their next album "Hammer and Anvil" which is set to release Oct. 18 this year.

Notable Albums:
The Dark Third (2006)
Amor Vincit Omnia (2009)

Notable Tracks:
"The Gloaming"
"Deus Ex Machina"
"Les Malheurs"
"Goshen's Remains"
"The Bright Ambassadors of Morning"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Best Albums of 2009 (Dec. 2009)

Originally written as personal blog back in Decmeber, 2009.

Well 2009 is coming to a close and I felt it was necessary to make a blog of sorts discussing 2009's music. I'm going to start out by saying 2009 was a GOOD year for music. That is if you know where to look.
Sadly Top 40 and your Mainstream Modern Rock radio stations won't be playing most of the music that rocked the house this year. So I've decided to talk about my favorites that have come out this year.
I'm going to note that this list is not concrete. There was probably a lot of stuffed I've missed, either not getting around to purchasing and/or downloading or haven't given an extensive listen to yet. This is just going over the stuff I've come across this year and have given an extensive listen to. So without further ado, onto the honorable mentions . . .

Claire Tchaikowski - Those Thousand Seas
Genre: Celtic/New Age
This one is so different from everything else I'll be listing but I've listened to it so much lately that I have to mention it.
I'll admit right now that this is a guilty pleasure. Claire Tchaikowski's sound is best described as somber, peaceful and occasionally catchy Celtic Pop.
As you can guess, she isn't for everyone, but if you like ethereal/eclectic music and have room in your heart for something New Age-ey, give her a listen.

Notable Tracks: Dance Around, Something Blue, In Your Arms

Bat For Lashes - Two Suns
Genre: Indie/Experimental

The only reason this is only a honorable mention and not on the top ten where it probably deserves to be is that I haven't given this enough of a listen to completely appreciate it.
I will say that Natasha Khan's vocals are very haunting and hypnotic and that the concept of the album is quite intriguing. It's concept explores duality (polar opposites, yin and yang and the like) and is pretty experimental instrumentally.

Notable Tracks: Daniel, Siren Song, Pearl's Song

Riverside - Anno Domini High Definition
Genre: Progressive Metal

This is another one that I haven't given a good listen to yet, but I already know that it's not as good as their last record. It's not their fault, though. These guys are a Swedish Progressive Metal band and their last three albums were amazing. The best part was that they were all part of a concept album known as "The Reality Dream Trilogy".
Needless to say, it's really hard to surpass the epic-ness their last three albums had encompassed. I guess my biggest complaints is that their new album is a little short and lacks the cohesion of their last three.
Overall, though, this album still deserves an honorable mention and any fans of Progressive Metal need to check out this album as well as all their older stuff.

Notable Tracks: Hyperactive, Egoist Hedonist

3 - Revisions
Genre: Progressive Metal/Post-Hardcore

God, I love these guys. The only reason they aren't on my top ten is that this isn't a full album so much as a "B-Sides/Unreleased Tracks" collection and it has its hits and misses.
If you don't know who these guys are, picture Coheed and Cambria – minus all their unlikeable traits (i.e. Claudio's vocal and their occasionally emo-esque sound) – fused with the dark ethereal sound of Tool or A Perfect Circle.

Notable Tracks: Anyone Human, Automobile, Halloween

Dethklok - The Dethalbum II

Genre: Melodic Death Metal

Yes, Death Metal's favorite parody/"fake" band (as made famous by the Brendan Small's Metalocalypse) makes the list.
Essentially, the album is the soundtrack for Season 2 - containing most, if not all the songs used throughout the season.
For some reason, lyrically, the album seems to take itself too seriously in comparison to the first album. Maybe it was the because of the overall tone of season 2 or just the music choices made on Brendan Small's part but more blatant "tongue-in-cheek" tracks such as "Fansong," "Murmaider" and "Hatredcopter" were replaced with more "straight-faced" material, with the humor subtly hidden in its parody of the genre.
Musically, the band is still very much Death/Black Metal, but songs like "I Tamper With The Evidence At The Murder Site Of Odin" lyrically lean towards the over-the-top, borderline cheesy style of Power Metal. Overall, the album is still hilarious and as epic as the first one, perfect for the head banger in all of us.

Notable Tracks: Black Fire Upon Us, I Tamper With The Evidence At The Murder Site Of Odin, Bloodline

Assjack - Assjack
Genre: Metalcore/Country-Punk

I'm guessing not many have heard of Hank III. He's the grandson of country legend Hank Williams. He's begun to make a name of himself for reviving TRUE Outlaw Country in the midst of the poppy white trash nonsense that pollutes country radio nowadays, combining traditional country-blues with some punk rock elements. Think of what Flogging Molly does for Irish music; that's what Hank Williams III is in terms of the country music scene.
Now, Hank Williams III is mostly known for his live shows and every show consists of two segments. One segment consists of his country act known as simply Hank Williams III. But then he continues with his Punk/Metal band, Assjack. Up until this year, Hank was unable to release any legitimate records from his band due to contractual limitations with his record company (essentially, his record company was refusing to release his records for a number of reasons). So he's been limited to releasing bootlegs at his shows.
Well, as of 2009, he's no longer restricted from releasing his albums and has released Assjack's first official record, simple titled "Assjack." The album is as insane as you'd expect: loud crushing guitars, intensely insane punk riffs, brutal vocals, and the lyrical stylings of classic outlaw country. This is truly a unique record and definitely worth checking out.

Notable Tracks: Tennessee Driver, Cut Throat, Cocaine the White Devil

The Decemberists - The Hazards Of Love
Genre: Indie Folk/Experimental-Progressive

I just recently got into The Decemberists, with this record being their only one I currently own. But, wow, is it amazing. This really ought to be on my top ten (I just don't have room). The Decemberists have always been more of an Indie/Folk Rock group and that sound still remains, but the experimentation on this record borders on being considered progressive rock.
The record is a rock opera that essentially tells of a love story filled with conflict and tragedy. It focuses on a woman named Margaret, who has fallen in love with a shape-shifting forest dweller named William. The story's arc focuses on a conflict that is brought on by the jealous forest queen (who is also William's mother) and a villainous Rake. The story has a very Shakespearean air to it and is somewhat reminiscent of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (which is one of my favorite Shakespearean comedies, btw).
The whole album is rather unique, but also nostalgic as it shows some obvious influences from The Beatles. But unlike some other indie rock groups that just exploit their Beatle-esque sound, they continue to develop into something unique by combining a menagerie of genres including Country/Bluegrass and Celtic Folk.

Notable Tracks: The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone), Isn't It a Lovely Night, The Wanting Comes in Waves, The Rake's Song

Now onto the main event, The Top Ten Best Albums of 2009

10. Rising Gael - One More DayGenre: Irish Folk/Pop Rock

If you haven't heard of these guys, you're not alone. They are a virtually unknown Irish band that release all their albums independently. The band takes the best aspects of traditional Irish folk and add in some Pop Rock sensibilities, resulting in some really catchy tunes.
The best part is that they counter all their poppy songs with some amazing folksy instrumentals and interludes. Anyone who likes Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy's and wants to expand their tastes to something that's a little more traditional but still catchy ought to give these guys and gals a listen.

Notable Tracks: Stretched Out On Your Grave, Nova Scotia Farewell, Tam Lin, He Moved Through The Fair

9. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
Genre: Indie/Country

Any dissenter of country needs to give this a listen before they continue in their blasting of a genre that is truly under-appreciated due to the nonsense that pollutes country radio stations nowadays. Neko Case is a singer/songwriter described as "Alternative Country", whatever that means.
What she really is a Country/Folk artist that adds the lyrical notions and style of acoustic guitar-based Indie Rock, whose voice and lyrics add some much needed sophistication to a dying genre.

Notable Tracks: This Tornado Loves You, Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth, Red Tide

8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz
Genre: Post-Punk

I have to admit that when I heard that British musicians were reviving New Wave a few years back, I was skeptical. And I remain so. I mean, I like The Killers and Franz Ferdinand as much as the next Indie Rocker, but something was missing and that was the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
This goes above and beyond "New Wave" and "Indie Rock". This is post-punk revival. And, oh yeah, it's catchy too and just downright fun.
Overall, I would say it's sound both appeals to all the old-school fans of Joy Division and The Pixies while it's danceablely catchy songs will make all you indie rockers happy as well.

Notable Tracks: Heads Will Roll, Dragon Queen, Hysteric, Zero

7. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
Genre: Folk/Classical

Oh, where do I start? Essentially, mix Indie Rock, Modern Folk and Classical and you get the genius that is Andrew Bird. And let's not stop there. This modern day Bob Dylan has also been known to experiment with jazz and even gypsy music. And did I mention that he's a brilliant lyricist as well?
His newest album, "Noble Beast", dives even deeper into this blackhole of skewing genres, exploring classical music even more than before.

Notable Tracks: Anonanimal, Oh No, The Privateers, Fitz & Dizzyspells

6. Muse - The Resistance
Genre: Experimental-Progressive

I only recently discovered these guys sadly. Unfortunately for the longest time I thought these guys were emo. Not even close. These guys take what Radiohead started and dive deeper into experimental and progressive rock while occasionally jumping back and throwing out something unexpectedly catchy and fun.
The Uprising is so fun and bizarre and unexpectedly complex at times, especially with their closing three track suite "Exogenesis: Symphony" which can only be described as "15 minutes of psychedelic space-rock".

Notable Tracks: Uprising, Resistance, Exogenesis: Symphony

5. Porcupine Tree - The Incident
Genre: Progressive Metal

At this point we've reached this list's core, starting with an amazing album that should have been even better: Porcupine Tree's "The Incident." These guys have been around forever and are one the biggest bands in the UK next to Radiohead, yet are virtually unknown in the states except to Prog Rock fans such as myself.
These guys started out in the mid 80s as a fake/joke band (sort of the Spin Tap of prog rock). But at the start of 90s, singer/guitarist Steve Wilson turned the joke into the real deal, combining Pink Floyd-ish Psychedelic Prog with certain elements of early Electronica and "Krautrock" acts such as Tangerine Dream and Can. But as time went on, they slowly evolved with the coming trends, blending in British Alternative at the end of the 90s and more recently turned towards Heavy Metal. Their last album "Fear of a Blank Planet" was the pinnacle of their new sound, containing 6 tracks of pure conceptual brilliance exploring themes from the Brett Eastin Ellis book "Lunar Park."
So how do you top that? It was kind of difficult, and you can tell. The Incident is a 2 disc album, with their first disc only being one track, albeit 55 minutes long divided into a 14 movement suite. The entire suite explores the concept of witnessing various tragedies from the outsider's point of view and how cold, yet curious people can be when passing by various accidents/tragedies or "Incidents." Overall, a brilliant piece. The second disc is where it's a little disappointing and why it's not higher on this list. I expected even more brilliance continued off the concept of the first disc. Nope. Just four unrelated, short standalone tracks having nothing to do with the initial concept. Overall, however, it is a great album that's still worth a listen.

Notable Tracks: Time Flies, The Blind House, The Incident

4. The Protomen - Act II: The Father Of Death
Genre: Experimental-Progressive/Glam Metal/Nintendocore

Alright, just to warn you all: what will follow is a very long explanation of who these guys are. The Protomen are a concept band who essentially write Rock Operas based on Megaman. Yes, a Megaman Rock Opera. And I'm not talking just some campy chiptune, electronica tribute or some elaborate symphonic remix tribute – a la Overclocked Remix (
These guys combine 80s Glam Metal and Experimental/Progressive and perform a rather dark interpretation of the Megaman story. Dr. Wily isn't just some blundering mad scientist who repeatedly tries to takeover the world and fails. He is a Stalin like dictator who has succeeded in taking over the world and has created an Orwellian dystopia.
Here's a relapse of the intro to the first album (Without The Spoilers): Dr. Light had been hiding out in the slums of the Wily's central city building the man/machine Protoman who would lead the people in overthrowing Wily's regime. Unfortunately, Protoman is wounded in battle. As Protoman struggles to stay alive, his army of rebels abandons him and watches as he is torn apart by Wily's robots. Dr. Light then forsake the people and returned home and built another robotic man to fill the void left in his left heart after the death of his "son." Years later, Megaman has come of age and hears the truth behind the story of his "brother." He swears to avenge Protoman's death and to free the people of Wily's society.
Yeah, so the story is pretty epic but it doesn't stop there. The new album explores the backstory of Dr. Light and Dr. Wily and how the world came to be. The new album lacks many of the campy game references the first album had but it's story is so engrossing that it should still entertain classic Megaman and Nintendo fans.
The band also continues to experiment, mixing genres such as country and punk while also referencing and glorifying the cheesiness of prog-ish glam rock bands such as Styx and ELO and the cheesy sci-fi concept albums they've produced. Even the album cover looks like something out of a cheesy 80s sci-fi flick. Anyone who is a fan of classic Nintendo needs to check out this album and the preceding one, simply titled "The Protomen."

Notable Tracks: The Good Doctor, The Hounds, The State Vs.Thomas Light, Breaking Out, Keep Quiet

And now we've reached the big three. I have to say that I had to make a difficult decision on which of the following deserves the number one slot, but without further ado . . .

3. Between The Buried and Me - The Great Misdirect
Genre: Metalcore/Melodic Death Metal/Experimental-Progressive

These guys are insane. Since they started, they broke down the barriers of what defines Metalcore, and with each album continued to combined more and more genres to the point where they were impossible to classify. This album continues that trend, combining their unique brand of Progressive Death Metal and Metalcore with genres such as Post-Rock, Country and even Vaudeville (that's right, Vaudeville). This album is just so utterly bizarre and epic it's funny. There are times you'll be banging your head intensely and suddenly find yourself smiling and grinning, possibly even laughing. Even greater is how fluid it is. The album is only 6 tracks, but you'd never notice. This album is so enveloping that once the album is over, you would never guess a whole hour just passed you by.

Notable Tracks: Obfuscation, Fossil Genera – A Feed from Cloud Mountain, Desert of Song

2. Dream Theater - Black Clouds & Silver Linings
Genre: Progressive Metal

It's been a long time since Dream Theater was able to impress me this much. I've always thought of Dream Theater as a guilty pleasure. Their progressiveness and complexity borders on the nerdy and their fascination with long guitar solos borders on the type of wankery that's usually associated with pretentious "Guitar Instrumentalists" such as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Yngwie Malmsteen.
However, this album is just too good to diss as a "guilty pleasure". This is probably their best work since their masterpiece and my personal favorite "Metropolis 2: Scenes From A Memory."
It's just so balanced and so personal. It's also one of their heaviest albums to date, sometimes bordering on Gothic Symphonic Metal.
This is a very personal album, with several tracks touching on the experiences of guitarist John Pretrucci while the track "The Shattered Fortress" completes the Twelve Step Suite, a suite that explores drummer Mike Portnoy's struggles with alcoholism.
Overall, this 6 track symphonic masterpiece is a must need for any prog metal fan. And to make things better, the special edition includes an extra disc full of covers of great artists such as Queen, Iron Maiden, King Crimson and Rainbow.

Notable Tracks: A Nightmare To Remember, The Shattered Fortress, The Count Of Tuscany

1. Dredg - The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion
Genre: Progressive Metal

This was a difficult decision, but given how long I was anticipating this album before it finally came out, it was quite obvious to me that this would be my number one album of 2009.
Dredg is certainly a unique, one of a kind band. Starting out as a Deftones-esque Alternative Metal band in the early 90s, they slowly starting mixing in elements of progressive metal and post-rock until they transformed into what can only be described as a unique mix of Alternative Metal, Progressive Metal and Post-Rock/Shoegazer. Think Tool meets Sigur Ros, with small amounts of The Mars Volta added in. The pinnacle of their brilliance is their 2001 album "El Cielo," a concept album that originally was just based on Salvador Dalí's painting "Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bumblebee around a Pomegranate One Second Before Awakening" but eventually took the concept even further, exploring the themes behind the painting, particularly Sleep Paralysis.
It was difficult to top this masterpiece but they tried with "Catch Without Arms." It was a slightly disappointing album, with song structures simplified, disregarding complexity in exchange for catchiness.
Afterwards, they started on another album, one that would take four years to make, "The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion".
Needless to say, they succeeded where CWA failed, and then some. They combined the complexity of "El Cielo" and the catchiness and emotion of "Catch Without Arms" to create something truly unique. And it was utterly breathtaking and rather poignant. The album is once again conceptual, exploring the themes of the essay "A Letter to the Six Billionth Citizen" by Salman Rushdie, exploring religion and evolution, science and politics, death and acceptance, and the emotional implications all these topics have on the human mind. Overall, this album is something unique which should be experienced by anyone who appreciates music in its many unique forms and is my all-time favorite album of 2009.

Notable Tracks: The Pariah, Gathering Stones, Information, Mourning This Morning

Well, there you have it: my favorite albums of 2009. Like I said before, 2009 was a good year for music. Also remember, this list it just my opinion and is not written in stone. There was a lot of stuff I missed this year. If you want, please tell me your favorite albums of 2009 and don't be afraid to comment on my choices. Please, however, be open to different kinds of music and if you have a moment, to take a listen to some of the the artists and albums I have mentioned.

Why Are Sappy Farewells Always So Sappy? (May 2008)

Originally published for the Bismarck State College Mystician back in May, 2008.

These final days of school have me becoming increasingly frustrated. It's not because of finals or catching up on makeup work, but because I can't get "Here's to the Night" by Eve 6 out of my head. Oh well, it's better than Vitamin C's "Graduation."
I never understood the need for cheesy musical sentiment over this subject of "fond farewells" until now. As the last weeks come to pass I have finally awoken from the daze of studying and realize, "Oh, my god, I'm going to graduate."
For three years I have dedicated myself to this school and many of its extra-curriculars - perhaps too many as my grades would. I have come to learn to love this school for all it has given me, despite my early frustration of BSC being my "back-up" school. And despite my bitterness and unfair referral to this place as "burger-flipping college" have come to respect this institution and would be willing to defend its honor from critics.
As school comes to an end, so does a legacy. I have begun to acknowledge the achievements and experiences I have accumulated here, particularly from the Mystician. This year was a long time in coming as I finally reached editor status. And after it all this time and work, I find that I must start all over again in a whole new university.
I suppose it's for the best. It's best not to get too comfortable in one place. Life is about change and progression. Staying in one place too long stunts growth and life becomes dull. I'm about ready for a change. However, the idea of change is pretty crazy.
I'm going to be heading to Moorhead next year, and it feels insane leaving this city and school. Going from living at home to living on my own in a a strange new city seems scary.
It may seem corny, but I am becoming really sentimental over this place. There are so many great teachers and friends here that it's really hard to leave. Now comes the really cheesy part where I tell everyone to cherish their memories and such. All clichés aside, people don't realize how emotional one can get when they're about ready to leave somewhere and begin saying their goodbyes.
It's only natural for us to cling to the familiar as long as we can. As long as it doesn't become a hindrance in our progress, there's nothing wrong with being sentimental. But we can't always cling to the past. Eventually, we need to learn to let go and let life lead us forward.
I, too, must be ready to make these changes and become prepared to endure the upcoming trials. So I say my farewells and ask that everyone wish me the best of luck - I'm probably going to need it. For those who are also heading to new places this coming year, I wish you luck as well. Just remember these words, "As we go on, we remember, all the times we've spent together." Damn it, now I have Vitamin C stuck in my head.