Saturday, January 14, 2017

Count Robot’s Top 3 Albums of 2016

            2016 was filled with amazing gifts of recorded music. Far, far too many to
list in detail. Yes, 2016 had it share of tragedy, but it as an abundant giver of great albums.
            So here we go good readers, here’s the ones that Count Robot digs the most from 2016.

Number 3
 Opeth: Sorceress
            This is their statement of awesome. There is a lot of grandiose wild guitar metal and classical playing that speaks to my love of Queen. The title track Sorceress starts with a great funky jam before turning into an epic heavy jam with Mikael Akerfeldt’s operatic soaring voice steering the song in every direction it needs to go. This song is a pure classic and it could carry an entire bland album but the rest of the tunes on this album are far, far, from that at all.
Another wonderful standout track is Will o the wisp. Blending acoustic guitars with keys and twistingly wistful lyrics, this tune brings out some of the best of Opeth. This song has a burning sense of yearning. Another great track, Strange Brew has inspiringly macabre lyrics to match its deft time changes. Yes, this is going to be a hard album for them to top.
Here’s the title track for you.

Number 2
Trance to the Sun: Via Subterranea
            Many of us waited at least three years for this crowd-funded release to come to fruition. Was it worth it? Yes. This is a stunner of sound art. Is this the best Trance to the Sun recording ever made? Perhaps. A little more time will tell because that is a big feat. It’s tough to judge yet as it only came out in December of 2016, but it climbed to the number three spot of the best cds of the year after only one listen. A third spin brought it to number two. Further listens didn’t get it to the number one spot of 2016. Sorry Trance to the Sun.
            This isn’t just a collection of unique songs, this is an addiction. I want to do nothing but listen to this record for months.
            Max Mystic opens the set and takes us to a hazy dreamland between pop, psychedelia, goth, and the indescribable. It has beautiful alluring sonic spaces, guitar wizardry and freaking finger snaps! The drumming (not a machine!) is tasteful and not overwrought. Yes a real drummer by the name of Daniel Henderson is now in the band and what a great addition he makes. Off and through the wall lyrics zigzag around this tune. Wow. If I could eat this song I would be sated for years.
            Another amazing track that must be singled out is Lost Garden Gnome Hotline. Yes, that is really the name of an incredible song that you should listen to right away. The words are so insane they would make Syd Barrett’s ghost jealous. This ditty booms, blasts, lulls, soars, crawls, and messes with your headspace in a delirious manner.
            Ashkelon Sain’s production and guitar playing are all delivered with a masterful stroke. What also is amazing about Ash here, is his bass playing. Sure there’s been tasty bits of bass playing on prior Trance to the Sun releases but nothing that sounds as deep and bouncy as on this audio tome.
            Before moving on, it is necessary to mention the force known as singer Ingrid Luna Blue. This record would not work if she didn’t deliver such a haunted nuanced, childlike, torch burning, wailing, rocking, monument to the power of the human voice. It’s all there in each breath and note.
Here’s Max Mystic

Number 1
The Claypool Lennon Delirium: Monoliths of Phobos
            The two masterful musicians involved in this project are Sean Lennon and Les Claypool. They play every note on this stunning gem of a recording. I had no idea Lennon was such a great drummer until I heard his attack on the skins contained herein.
This album has some of the best of the best of Les Claypool’s bass wizardry on it. Check out his playing on Bubbles Burst. It’s solid groove oriented and unlike his usual self in a perfect way. Yes, he also gets showy but not in an obnoxious way at all. His interplay with Lennon’s spacious psych guitar soundscapes conjures up the best of the acid/prog rock vibe. There’s perfectly balanced grit and perfection on this album. Raw where it should be and smooth as silk when required. Discordant key fills here and there but just when needed.
The lyrics to all the songs are fried in a great way; stories of chimps, pills, fairies, perverts, and more pills. Oxycontin Girl is a damning railing chilling story song about a woman getting sucked down into an opioid world. “Who’s going to be the one to drive her to the ER?” That line hits me every time I hear it.
Let’s discuss the standout track a bit more. Bubbles Burst is a psychedelic classic. This song could have been written last year, next year, or 1960-70 whenever. It has deep roots of space rock. There’s reverb swarming through the core of this slow burning track. Lennon’s guitar playing on this track is monstrous. He rips through a powerhouse of an acid drenched stretch of wails, notes, distortion and sonic booms. A tie-dyed blast of magic.
            This disc came out early in 2016. On the first listen I had no doubt it would make the top of 2016. It has held that spot despite so many amazing cds being born that year.
Hopefully this will be an ongoing collaboration. More please!
Here’s Bubbles Burst.

There were so many great songs and albums in 2016 that I could go on and on about. Maybe some other time I’ll rant about them.

Yours in the amazing world of sounds,
Count Robot

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