Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: My Year in Music

With this being the last day of 2015, I figure now would be a good time to reflect on this year in music. I know I am repeating myself but 2015 for me wasn't that great of a year when the past 3-4 years have been particularly awesome for music. I was rather stunned to see how dull this year have been.

The first three months of 2015 was surprisingly quiet. The only new releases I truly enjoyed was Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Nightwish, The Fog by Pegasus Asteroid, Re/Vision: The SkyQode Tribute Album to De/Vision and Another Eternity by Purity Ring. Sorry to say this but Monument by Angels and Agony and A Sign of Life by Neuroticfish left me a bit disappointed. I just didn't find the music interesting at all. This year was the first time when I did not buy a Blutengel album (usually I do). I'm sorry to say this but Omen was the first album by the band that I did not want to buy. I did not care for any of the singles. Usually the first single or two is a good indicator if I should buy the album or not. Not this time. Another album I thought was downright terrible was Delirium by Ellie Goulding. Grimes put out a much better pop album hands down.

April wasn't much better save for the debut album by Invocation Array A Color For Fiction. May was a bit better with new releases by SPC ECO, VNV Nation, and Camouflage. June was absolutely dead. I did not buy any music that month and that has never happened to me before. I did end up buying the new albums by Ashbury Heights and Frozen Plasma which were in my top 10 of my best of list.

It was not until fall/winter did I start hearing music that grabbed my undivided attention. Every Open Eye by Chvrches, Honeymoon by Lana Del Rey, Ave Maria-En Plein Air by Tarja Turunen, Angels and Ghosts by Dave Gahan and Soulsavers, Drei by Emika, Back to the Woods by Angel Haze, Holoscenic by Conjure One, and finally Art Angels by Grimes. November and December proved to be two very good months for music to this music fan. Nevertheless it does not make up for the fact that this year has been awfully uneven music-wise for me.

As far as concerts goes, I didn't go out to many shows this year because of my two trips to Chicago, a new tattoo, and finally to be honest I was rather burned out and has started getting into photographing non-music related subject matters as another creative outlet. The shows I did go to this year I say seeing the reunited Babes in Toyland (before Maureen got ousted out of the band) at Rock the Garden, seeing Nightwish in Chicago with their new singer Floor Jansen, Covenant at Amsterdam Bar and Hall, and Purity Ring at First Avenue were my faves. I also really enjoyed hip hop Angel Haze's show at The Netherbar although I felt the venue was not right for her. Just too tiny.

With 2016 right around the corner, I am hoping that L7 who has started playing live shows this year will come around the Twin Cities I have only seen them live once as a teenager in 1994 at Lollapalooza. I am also hoping that the recently reunited Lush will tour the midwest, if Minneapolis isn't on their list at least Chicago I hope. I love that this year I have seen some of my favorite bands from the '90s reunite like L7, Babes in Toyland, Sleater-Kinney, 7 Year Bitch (or at least for a new live album), and now Lush. In the new year I would absolutely love to see Curve reunite but I don't think that will be happening any time soon, maybe Cocteau Twins and The Sundays ;).

I don't know what 2016 has in store for me (other than the upcoming Babes in Toyland show at First Avenue), I can only hope for the best. Hopefully less passings like that of Lemmy and Scott Weiland and acrimonious splits like what happened with Babes in Toyland. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Best of 2015: A Worthy Compensation by Beborn Beton

The problem with coming up with my annual best of list every year is that there is always an album I could not include on my list. This is the case with the new Beborn Beton album A Worthy Compensation. After a lengthy absence, the German synthpop band returned to the scene this year with A Worthy Compensation. Unfortunately the album had some serious competition this year with the new albums by Ashbury Heights (which I had been waiting for a long time) and Chvrches. I just couldn't find room to include it on my list, nevertheless I love this album and definitely recommend checking it out if you haven't already.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Top 20 Favorite Albums of 2015

I am probably going to be one of the few people on this planet that did not think 2015 was a great year for music. It wasn't bad per say, more like mediocre and most of the mediocrity coming from the EBM scene (sorry but I have never had to snooze so much through so much dull music in one year). In the past three years, the music output has been incredible, this year not so much. Much of the year was rather so-so but it wasn't until fall did I hear some excellent music. I am hoping for a better year in 2016. Despite the uninteresting and uninspiring year in music, I was fortunate to find some gems in a sea of mediocre music and here is my top 15 picks of 2015.

01. SPC ECO: Dark Matter

02. Tarja Turunen: Ave Maria En Plein Air

03. Grimes: Art Angels

04. Conjure One: Holoscenic

05. Lana Del Rey: Honeymoon

06. Ashbury Heights: The Looking Glass Society

07. Invocation Array: A Color For Fiction

08. A-HA: Cast in Steel

09. Chvrches: Every Open Eye

10. Chandeen: Winter Reverbs

11. Angel Haze: Back to the Woods

12. Frozen Plasma: Dekadenz

13. Black Violin: Stereotypes

14. Dave Gahan and Soulsavers: Angels and Ghosts

15. Emika: Drei

16. Nightwish: Endless Forms Most Beautiful

17. Delta Rae: After It All

18. Pegasus Asteroid: The Fog

19. Re/Vision: The SkyQode Tribute to De/Vision

20. Keep Shelly in Athens: Now I'm Ready

Honorable Mentions:
Beborn Beton: A Worthy Compensation

Zhala: Zhala

Purity Ring: Another Eternity

Joy Williams: Venus

VNV Nation: Resonance

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Concerts of 2015

I didn't go out to shows this much this year as I have in previous years because I had made trips to Chicago and because I was just getting rather burned out on going to shows. What shows I did see this year were pretty great. Here are highlights of 2015 for me.

2:54 with Honeyblood at 7th St Entry

Girl Germs Live Tribute Show (January/December 2015)
goth_maven's Girl Germs Live Tribute Concert Series album on Photobucket

Seabound with Architect and Endless Blue at Amsterdam Bar and Hall
goth_maven's Seabound with Architect  at Amsterdam Bar and Hall album on Photobucket

Freezepop at The Nether Bar
goth_maven's Freezepop at The Nether Bar album on Photobucket

Angel Haze at The Nether Bar

Rock the Garden 2015 (for the reunited Babes in Toyland)

Covenant with The Labrynth
goth_maven's Covenant with The Labrynth album on Photobucket

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My Favorite Songs of 2015

I am going out of town for the next few days so it will be quiet here on my blog. Until then here is a playlist of my favorite songs from 2015.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My favorite non-2015 albums

I think this year I bought more music that was released in the past 1-20 years than I did with 2015 releases. Like I mentioned in a previous blog entry, I just wasn't impressed with a lot of the music that was released this year. For tonight's blog, I thought I would share my favorite albums that I bought this year but are definitely not new releases.

01. Chandeen: Forever and Ever

02. FKA Twigs: EP2

03. Sabaton: Heroes

04. Amy Winehouse: Back to Black

05. Massive Attack: Mezzanine

06. The Last of the Mohicans

07. Covenant: Leaving Babylon

08. Zola Jesus: Taiga

09. Janet Jackson: The Velvet Rope

10. Namnambulu: Distances

Monday, December 21, 2015

Best of 2015: Every Open Eye by Chvrches

To be honest with my readers, there hasn't really been a lot of releases this year that has stood out with me. When I say stand out, I mean gets constant playtime at home and at work for weeks/months on end. For me, Every Open Eye by Chvrches is one of the few albums I have heard this year that really resonated with me with its retro-'80s vibe. The pop hooks on the album is the best I have heard this year. Overall just a strong album, no sophomore slump with me.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Best of 2015: Venus by Joy Williams

Venus by former Civil Wars member Joy Williams that I didn't take to right away. I had to listen to the album several times for the music to grow on me. I really wasn't expecting an album heavily electronic based but from what I have read online Joy didn't want to be pigeonholed for just her work with The Civil Wars. I have to admit the ballads on the album are my favorite tracks especially "You Loved Me" and "Welcome Home" which sounds like songs Joy's former band would have put out. Not really crazy about "Woman (Oh Mama)". I find the song really obnoxious to listen to thankfully that is the only song on the entire album I don't like.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Favorite Artists of 2015

With the year coming to an end, I thought I would start sharing some of my favorite things from this year. Tonight my favorite artistsof 2015.


02. Invocation Array

03. Pegasus Asteroid

04. Chandeen

05. Psalm One

06. Grimes

07. Angel Haze

08. Sabaton

09. Tarja Turunen

10. Chvrches

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Best of 2015: After It All by Delta Rae

There aren't a lot of rock/pop bands (if any at all) that I like but I totally dig the North Carolina band Delta Rae. Their first album Carry the Fire is a classic and gets regular play at home and at work. Their song "Bottom of the River" was the song that introduced me to the band but it was "Dance in the Graveyards" that made me love them. I knew when it was time for the band to put out a new album, it would be hard to match the beauty of the first album.

Initially I was right when After It All first came out. The first time I listened to After It All, I really wasn't sure what to make of it. None of the songs were like "Dance in the Graveyards" or "Holding On to Good". Regardless of my initial reaction, I continued to listen to the album and over time I grew to love the album especially tracks such as "Run" and "You're the one For Me". The harmonies on this album is as consistent and good as they were on Carry the Fire which is really the band's greatest strengths. While there is nothing shocking or provocative about this band, their music is excellent and well executed. Why they are not more well known is beyond me. Delta Rae is definitely an overlooked band in my book.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Best of 2015: Stereotypes by Black Violin

It seems like for me 2015 some of my favorite music was outside the EBM scene (since a lot of it this year didn't impress me much). This year I even started to like some hip hop music. One of my favorite oddball favorite albums is Stereotypes by the hip hop/classical duo Black Violin. Thanks to exposure from NPR on Facebook, I started listening to the duo of Kev Marcus and Wil Baptiste. The concept of combing classical music and hip hop music might sound odd but it works on the group's latest album Stereotypes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Best of 2015: Resonance by VNV Nation

As a longtime VNV Nation fan, I have been waiting for an album with classical versions of their songs for a long time (been a long rumored project until last year). I was thrilled when the album became a reality. I was not disappointed. Personally though I would have kept the Largo version of "Nova" and ditched the "Maestoso" version. I didn't think two versions of "Nova" was absolutely necessary. I would have loved hearing a classical version of "Saviour" (the vox version of course) instead but that wasn't the case. Otherwise I enjoyed the song selections on the album. Considering this is just volume one, I suspect there will be another volume and with a more upbeat tempo with tracks such as "Chrome" and "Genesis".

Monday, December 14, 2015

Best of 2015: Another Eternity by Purity Ring

Earlier this year I got into the Canadian duo Purity Ring after hearing one of their songs on youtube. I thought they reminded me of Tegan and Sara's last studio album Heartthrob which I absolutely love. I was not disappointed when I heard the album in its entirety when it arrived in my mailbox shortly after its release. Now this is the sort of pop music that I can seriously get into (along with the new Grimes album). I even got to see the band live this past spring and I thought the songs from the album sounded even better live, not to mention the band put on one heck of a live show.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Best of 2015: Cast in Steel by A-Ha

A good friend of mine recently recommended me to check out the new A-Ha album Cast in Steel because he thought the music was a bit reminiscent of Blume (one of my favorite synthpop bands of all time). Fortunately I was able to find the album on Spotify. Cast in Steel is a fantastic synthpop album. I have to admit I haven't listened to A-Ha since the '80s so I really can't compare their latest album to their previous albums in recent years. I do know I love this album. Whenever I listen to this album, I completely forget this is the same band that gave me "Take On Me". Forget everything you remember about the A-Ha of the '80s and check out their latest album. Cast In Steel is certainly one of the best releases of 2015.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Best of 2015: Dekadenz by Frozen Plasma

2015 has been rather a unpredictable, if not shaky year in music for me. The year started off rather unimpressive. There was not a lot I heard that impressed me in the first half of the year. One of those rare releases that has really resonated me was Frozen Plasma's latest album Dekadenz. With fellow futurepop acts Angels and Agony and Neuroticfish releasing new albums in the first three months into the new year, Frozen Plasma put out the strongest and most compelling effort of the three bands, not to mention the futurepop/EBM scene (sorry but this year was just not very interesting for the scene to me). The melodies on Dekadenz is nothing short of infectious which was the selling point of the album for me. When I first heard a few tracks from the album not long after the album's release, it was pretty obvious that I was going to buy the album. Through out the rest the spring, summer, and fall, I always found myself going back to this album which I can't say the same for a lot of albums I heard this year. As far as the first half of 2015, Dekadenz is by far the best release I have heard in an otherwise dull beginning for the year. It certainly is a serious contender for a top 10/20 spot in my annual best of list.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Best of 2015: A Color For Fiction by Invocation Array

If you haven't heard of Invocation Array, you have now. To get an idea who IA is, this is from their Facebook page:

"Invocation Array is an epic story-driven electronic music duo consisting of extraterrestrial musicians, Cerys and Kailani. After studying Earth from afar and developing an interest, they dived into what would be the most progressive medium in order to assist and learn from the species they’re passionate about. Combining elements of fantasy and technology, reflecting on human endeavors, Invocation Array uses curiosity and fearlessness to discover and present truths, inspiring and evoking progressive action, evolving through communication and diversity."

The band consists of two members: Adrianne Grady and Kaia Young. I became aware of this new project from Kaia because I am big fan of her other project The Luna Sequence.  Earlier this year Invocation released their debut album A Color For Fiction. The music is quite similar to The Luna Sequence, the only difference is there are vocals. Another release I recommend my readers to check out.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Best of 2015: Re/Vision: The SkyQode Tribute Album to De/Vision

I am not much of a fan of tribute albums. Most tribute albums just comes off as being cheesy and awful. Of course there are always the rare exceptions like the Madonna Tribute albums Virgin Voices volumes 1 and 2, Alfa Matrix Records tribute albums to Depeche Mode (the first, the second stunk to high heavens) and The Cure, and finally SkyQode's tribute album to De/Vision. I enjoyed all the artists' interpretations on various classic De/Vision tracks. Also it was a good introduction to some new artists so check this album out for both the tunes and the artists.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Best of 2015: Angels and Ghosts by Dave Gahan and Soulsavers

Angels and Ghosts is one of those albums that took me by surprise. I bought the album on a whim at my local record store because I was looking for some new music to listen to and being a fan of Dave Gahan, I was sold. It turned out to be a fantastic purchase. Unlike Depeche Mode and its use of synthesizers, Angels and Ghosts opts for more of an organic, blues, gospel, rock sound. I love that this collaboration with Soulsavers is not a Depeche Mode clone and sounds totally different from Dave's band. My favorite tracks: "All of This and Nothing", "Lately", and "The Last Time". Angels and Ghosts is without a doubt one of the best releases of 2015 at least to this music fanatic.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Best of 2015: The Looking Glass Society

2015 has been a relatively quiet year in music for me. There weren't a lot of releases this year that I was really excited about but one of the few was the long awaited album by my favorite synthpop band Ashbury Heights. After a 4-5 year absence, Ashbury Heights returns with the excellent The Looking Glass Society. New member Tea F. Thime fits in real nicely with Anders Hagstrom's vocals. All of the songs are super catchy, more so than on previous albums. It would be super difficult to not love this album. The Looking Glass Society is Ashbury Height's strongest effort since Three Cheers For the Newlydead.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Best of 2015: The Fog by Pegasus Asteroid

One of my favorite new finds of 2015 is the Russian synthpop duo Pegasus Asteroid. I discovered this excellent trio through social media (i.e Facebook). The Fog is a five song EP that definitely has gotten overlooked in our little scene. Check this EP out as well as other releases on their label SkyQode which has a ton of excellent bands.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Girl Germs Live Tribute at The Turf Club on 12.05.15

Last night I attended the third annual Girl Germs Live Tribute concert at The Turf Club in Saint Paul, MN. I have been a fan of the concept since its inception last year when it debuted at First Avenue. To know what Girl Germs is about, you can it about their backstory at I like to consider myself as a feminist as well as a music fanatic/junkie/geek/nerd/addict. I really liked the premise of what the organization is about which is about celebrating and empowering women in music.

The first show Girl Germs threw was in 2014 at First Avenue mainroom featuring The Fury Things, Lydia Liza, Crystal (featuring members of Brute Heart), L'Assassins, and Pink Mink. The second show  happened at the beginning of this year in January at The Turf Club with Aby Wolf, Alpha Consumer with Debbie Duncan, Kitten Forever, K.Raydio, and Yoni Yum. Last night's show featured Suzie, Bruise Violet, Bad Bad Hats, Mina Moore, and Nona Marie.

For the most part, I do love what Sally and Dana are trying to accomplish with Girl Germs. The music industry is pretty much still a male dominated field, just ask rapper Psalm One (my new favorite rapper) with her experiences with local record label Rhymesayers. You can read about her story here.The fact that the last two shows at The Turf Club has been sell outs so kudos to Sally and Dana for getting the word out about their shows and some credit does go to outside parties involved in the shows like The Current. Now here comes the huge BUT...what I have noticed is the slow move towards diversity in these shows.

The first Girl Germs was straight up lily white with no hip hop or r and b artists included, not to mention the show was not really female centric and there was more guys than I would have liked it to have had but you know that was the inaugural show for Girl Germs so I can forgive Girl Germs for that generic line up. There were some improvements made with the inclusion of Debbie Duncan and K.Raydio in the second show which was the strongest line up of the three shows. I must say Kitten Forever really rocked the house that night with the way the three women switched instruments and took turns singing lead which was pretty fucking awesome in my book. Aby Wolf nailed it when she covered Kate Bush's music.

Of the three shows, the second is my personal favorite. Last night's show was totally weak except for the youthful Bruise Violet and Mina Moore's sets.  Those two acts put on the most energetic sets of the evening. Both Bruise Violet and Mina Moore had so much spunk and energy in their set. I will be brutally honest, Suzie was awful. There I said it and I will not apologize for it. For the most part, I try to avoid being too harsh on bands I don't like but this is that rare occasion where I will be brutally honest. I opted to skip Nona Marie's set due to exhaustion and was simply ready to go home. I still wish the show included some hip hop music to really make Girl Germs as diverse as it should be as well as female centric. I would love to see one or all of the women in Grrrl Prty lend their voices to the show. Oh heck! Get DJ Shannon Blowtorch to dj the music in between bands. If the lack of hip hop in the concert series isn't bad enough, I feel like there should be some representation of the LGBT community too. The next issue is the role of men in the concert series. Unlike what a few critics of Girl Germs have said on their Facebook page I think excluding members of a privilege class (white, cis, heterosexual men) who consider themselves allies of the feminist movement is wrong. I think it is detrimental to the feminist movement to exclude our male allies from the show. By excluding men would feed into the preconception that feminists hates men which is something the movement still gets stereotyped by the MRA movement and other folks who hate feminists.

Despite my criticism, I will admit Girl Germs is still a work in progress and relatively new to the local music scene. The organizers certainly has learned a lot from the first Girl Germs show and has showed great progress in diversifying the musical line up with each show. I truly feel these shows are worth attending. The Twin Cities really does have a rich, diverse music scene and Girl Germs is one great way to get a taste of our music scene,

P.S...I have included a slide show of photos from all three shows I have attended.

goth_maven's Girl Germs Live Tribute Concert Series album on Photobucket

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Best of 2015: Winter Reverbs by Chandeen

Christmas albums are a love 'em or hate 'em sort of thing for me. I rarely buy Christmas albums. Most Christmas albums comes off as an obvious cash cow and few comes off as an artistic success. Every now and then there will be a Christmas album that comes along and gets my undivided attention. Winter Reverbs by Chandeen is that one Christmas album that has gotten my attention. I love that the album doesn't have all the standards one would expect for a Christmas album. Hearing some new, unfamiliar tracks is refreshing fort his listener. Winter Reverbs is a beautiful album that truly captures the essence of the holiday season and worth listening to over and over again.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Best of 2015: Holoscenic by Conjure One

I will be brutally frank here, I was a bit concerned with the new album Holoscenic by Conjure One prior to its release a couple of weeks ago because at the time I wasn't particularly keen of the track "Under the Gun". After giving the album a listen on Spotify, whatever worries I had quickly melted away. Holoscenic is the first Conjure One since the self-titled album that I love from start to finish. The last two Conjure One albums had their moments but they definitely could not live up to the greatness of the self-titled album. While I do love all the songs with vocals (including "Under the Gun" which has grown on me quite a bit), the instrumental tracks really stood out for me on this album especially the hauntingly beautiful track "The Garden". If you haven't listened to Holoscenic, do it now. It is one of my favorite releases of 2015.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Best of 2015: Now I Am Ready by Keep Shelly in Athens

If you haven't heard of Keep Shelly In Athens before, you should now. I was first introduced to this electropop act from Athens, Greece a couple of years ago and had the pleasure of seeing the band perform live. Unfortunately I could not make it to their show earlier this week because of work but they do have an excellent new album out called Now I'm Ready. I have been streaming it quite a bit on Spotify. I so recommend checking out Now I Am Ready.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Best of 2015: Zhala by Zhala

Lately I have been listening to some fantastic pop music this year. When I say fantastic, I mean the new albums by Grimes and Swedish pop artist Zhala. Earlier this year, Zhala released her self-titled album courtesy of Konichiwa Records (owned by fellow Swedish pop star Robyn). Zhala's music is so nothing like you would hear on the radio. Her brand of pop music has such a unique vibe and doesn't sound like any pop album out there. Zhala has definitely put out one of the most grossly underrated albums of 2015. I wish pop music today sounded a lot less like Justin Bieber and more like Zhala.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Best of 2015: Dark Matter by SPC ECO

December is here once again! Like for the past two years, for the entire month of December I will be talking about most, if not all of my favorite albums that came out in 2015 just before I post my official best of list. Tonight I will start off with the album Dark matter by SPC ECO.

SPC ECO features ex-Curve guitarist Dean Garcia and his wife Rose Berlin along with various other artists/friends who have collaborated with them on their music. I discovered SPC ECO via Facebook over the summer and when I saw that Dean Garcia was involved in the project I knew right away I had to check out this project. I went into listening to SPC ECO's music to not expect another Curve which was a smart move. The results was pure bliss. The music is a mix of dreampop, electronica, and trip hop. Excellent album which I definitely  recommend checking out. Right now you can get the album on vinyl or CD at Saint Marie Records. This is just a limited offer to if you are like me and like to own a physical copy of music, get it now!