Tag Archives: AFI

My Life in Music: Datastacks 0.2

Datastacks2

About sixteen months ago, I opened this series of blogs with an uncomfortably-geeky look at my music collection and extraction of a whole bunch of statistics on a whole bunch of inconsequential data.

It’s been long enough now that it’s time for an update, so let’s begin with a brief breakdown of what my music collection currently consists of:

Datastacks-2_Type.png

Unsurprisingly, standard long-play albums make up the vast majority of my collection (93.7%); not a shock. Of the remaining 6.3%, though, two-thirds are EPs or collections of B-sides and rarities, while the remaining third consists of ‘Greatest Hits’ collections or live-recorded albums. In many ways, and in this age of digital interfaces and the ability to release small collections of new material online or through mechanisms like Bandcamp, it’s arguable that the humble EP is going extinct; though the meteoric rise of vinyl in the last few years might be its saving grace.

Still, I’m minorly proud of my collection of 576 long-play albums, so let’s investigate what’s changed in my collection since my last blog. The most interesting findings lie in the genre breakdown of my CD collection since March of last year:

Datastacks-2_Genre.png

In general, the proportions remain fairly the same: my most favourite genres grow whilst the lesser ones continue to trickle on. There’s been a slow expansion in both my flavour for “Steampunk” (mainly due to finally acquiring the entire Steam Powered Giraffe back-catalogue as well as the smashing new record by The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing last year) and, more recently, black metal coming with growing respect for the genre. Equally, I’ve seen my interests decline in the likes of thrash metal, power metal and metalcore but become no less intense; it seems that my taste continue to evolve rather than undergo full-scale revolution.

Plotting these growths on a logarithmic scale (comparing the new additions to my collection with the genre counts as of 19/03/2015), one can see the fourfold increase in “Steampunk” records on my shelf but also observe the fairly consistent growth in genres across the board. I’ve always been aware that my musical taste is eccentrically-broad (who else can boast a music collection that features both Cradle of Filth and Ke$ha; Fleetwood Mac and Mr. Bungle?), but it’s reassuring that the trend continues.

Datastacks-2_Genre-2.png

The notable gains on the swing-o-meter come under the category labelled “Indie”, and there’s a fine reason why: “Indie”, at least in this little project, has come to classify anything that can’t – for particular reasons – be described as full-on “Rock”, but is something lighter; more atmospheric; or ‘different’. In the last couple of years, I’ve absorbed more and more interest in the genre of post-rock (c.f. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sigur Ros, 65daysofstatic, God is an Astronaut et al.) and fuelled by a rampant voyage of discovery at festivals like ArcTanGent.

On this second iteration of Datastacks, it’s high time to devolve the “Indie” category a little further and delve into the numbers. Whilst ‘indie’ might, these days, have only grazing reference to the truly “independent” music scene, it’s come to mean catchment to a lot more than simply one musical style; much in the way that “rock” encompasses a thousand sub-genres. So, let’s have a look to see what that means in terms of my collection:

Datastacks-2_Indie.png

Unsurprisingly, my ever-expanding collection of post-rock makes up most of the category; particularly emphasised with a raft of spectacular albums released in 2015 and 2016 by the likes of Explosions in the Sky (The Wilderness), Three Trapped Tigers (Silent Earthling), God is an Astronaut (Helios/Erebus) and Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress).

Of the remains, post-punk (in this study, meaning the likes of Killing Joke, Hüsker Dü and The Cure) hoovers up what isn’t what I’d call the more ‘traditional’ indie fayre (Death Cab for Cutie, Chairlift, KT Tunstall, Snow Patrol), whilst the couple of entries tentatively labelled “swing” are delivered by the mighty Dresden Dolls.

So, there you go. Naturally, I’ll retroactively modify the genre split for the next Datastacks, so I can properly track how my tastes are evolving. I’d apologise for being such a massive maths/music nerd, but we both know that I’m by no means ashamed at all. So, nyer.

Anyway, let’s take a look at how the geographical split has divvied up in the last sixteen months:

Datastacks-2_Country

No spectacular changes, but there’s some interesting mini-growths: Canada and Sweden showing particular, short spurts for no pre-arranged reason; and new entries coming from Luxembourg and Ireland thanks to my interests in post-/math-rock stalwarts Mutiny on the Bounty and And So I Watch You From Afar. I’d expected Norway to be surging ahead, given the sheer amount of Norwegian black metal I’ve been getting down my ears in the last few months, but maybe the charts haven’t fully caught up with things quite yet. Hopefully the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union won’t affect (too much) the trickle of European rock/metal into the United Kingdom; even if it will negatively influence my access to cheap metal records from the continent. *grumble grumble*

That being said, it’s minorly interesting that the advances of homegrown artists in my collection almost matches the progress of US bands; again, through no particular alignment but reflecting, perhaps, efforts to fill back-catalogue gaps in my collection for the likes of Bowie, Muse, [spunge], Cradle of Filth and Funeral For A Friend. Not surprisingly, the NATO countries still dominate my collection, as evidenced by PIE CHARTS: clearly, were NATO to deploy heavy metal-based warfighters towards invasion of the rest of the world, then it’s likely that they would annihilate the opposition.

[FYI, the non-NATO countries reflected here are Finland, Japan, Australia, Ireland and Sweden, who I’m sure would all put up a good fight.]

Datastacks-2_Country-4

Upon moving flat, I recently took the opportunity to bolster my music shelving with a few more bookcases and fully alphabeticised my collection by artist name; something I’d been meaning to do for a long time but had never gotten around to. Anyway, beyond the satisfaction of filing everything neatly onto the shelves, the exercise also highlighted some interesting facts about the alphabet.

For clarity, bands are sorted by name (any “The” bands, e.g. The Birthday Massacare, are sorted by the next word in their time) and solo artists are sorted by surname. Let’s take a look:

Datastacks-2_Initial

Clearly, I own a buttload of ‘A’ artists, which owes a lot to AFI but also to the likes of Alkaline Trio, Alice in Chains, Amen, American Hi-Fi, Akercocke, Avenged Sevenfold, Audioslave, Alestorm, yada yada yada. I do wonder whether bands are inherently more likely to choose monickers which are closer to the head of the alphabet for the sakes of prominence in record stores; something that’s far more a study in sociology than I’ll attempt to address here.

Curiously, I haven’t bought a single record by any artist beginning with ‘J’ in the last sixteen months; and only a single album each to the ‘E’ and ‘Q’ categories. In the positive side, though, there’s finally a tally in the ‘Z’ column thanks to the wonderful new self-titled album by Zoax, so let’s continue to watch the progress with interest.

And on that bombshell, I’ll leave things until the next time. Boo-yah.

P1060619

[Zinar7]

 

 

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

My Life in Music: Datastacks 0.1

Datastacks1

You may not know it, but we’re currently living in exciting times.

The major news media may be ignoring all discussion of such world-changing events, but monumental waves of excitement are currently rippling away from my general area.

I’ve been re-organising my music collection. Oh yeah.

Datastacks-1

A few years ago, a catalogued all of my favourite albums from all of the years that I’ve been alive. You can find them here:

Part 1: From Out of Nowhere (1985-1991)
Part 2: Where Boys Fear to Tread (1992-1998)
Part 3: Dancing Through Sunday (1999-2005)
Part 4: Set Fire to the Hive (2006-2012)

But yes, while re-organising all of my various musics, I’ve taken the opportunity whilst doing so to properly catalogue everything I have and to generate some tedious statistics about all of it. For example: as of 19th March, I own 466 full albums and EPs (after having a bit of a prune of those records I’m not likely to listen to again). Furthermore, 4.07% of those albums/EPs are AFI albums or EPs. That’s quite interesting, right?

So yeah, because I’m a nerdy engineer and I like looking at pages and pages of data, I’ve made a spreadsheet listing every CD; the year it was released, the country that the band is from and what genre it inhabits. You may say that that’s a colossal waste of time, but I say “nyer” :P. Thus, on that immature little note, let’s probe into the stats and see what we can uncover.

MomL_1

Interestingly, my music collection seems to be predominantly ‘punk’. There’s a significant chunk of it already taking up my shelf-space it seems; especially when you add the ska-punk total to the mix as well. I was well aware that punk is one of my primary musical outlets, but I’m not sure I would’ve predicted that it occupy quite such a large proportion of it. [Of course, this fact is perhaps a little skewed by the fact that I’ve divided ‘metal’ up into more sub-genres than I have done for punk – the whole range of punk stuff from Green Day to Turbonegro to Amen to Sum 41 is all under one umbrella whilst I’ve split metal more into its established sub-genres]. Broadly, AFI would probably come under ‘punk’ as well if I didn’t separate them into their own genre, so there’s that to add up, too.

On that note, here’s a little chart of how many records I own from the top ten bands in my collection:

MomL_7

AFI obviously take up a significant proportion of my collection, and I own literally every LP and EP they’ve ever put out on compact disc (and, in most cases, own multiple copies of them to reflect different versions or covers or international editions); even the super-rare stuff like The Days of the Phoenix EP, which only ever had 500 copies. [For further AFI geekery, I own both a legit copy of it as well as a fake/bootleg version].

But yeah, it’s satisfying that my collection is (broadly) even across the many sub-genres of rock ‘n’ roll: to establish this, let’s have a look at the pie chart because PIE CHARTS.

MomL_5

For clarity, “Popular Rock” encompasses stuff like Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age; pure pop (Ke$ha, Bowie, Prince) is lumped in with “Dance/Electronic”; all types of rap/metal crossovers and stuff like RHCP and RATM all slip into “Nu-Metal”; and heavy metal stuff like Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Black Sabbath were immersed in with “Thrash/etc.”.

I’m a little sad that my “Steampunk” section still rounds down to 0% of my collection. Granted, it currently consists of just The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing Cannot Be Killed by Conventional Weapons and Professor Elemental’s The Giddy Limit, but I’m working on it: hopefully I’ll import the whole Steam Powered Giraffe back catalogue sooner rather than later, and TMTWNBBFN will soon have album #3 under their belts. Boom.

Okay, so where are my albums from? Let’s have a look.

MomL_2

No big surprise; most of my music hails from across the pond. The US dominates so much of rock ‘n’ roll music that you can tell how much of an influence it wreaks upon my own listening. It’s still good to see that around a quarter of my music comes from our own shores; although mildly strange that nothing hails from the Republic of Ireland. Naturally, there’s a strong Scandinavian contingent given my predilection for power metal and Finnish folk-metal. Canada has a strong showing, but it’s worth noting that most of those are Rush albums (15 in total). Furthermore, all of my records from Italy are associated with Rhapsody or Rhapsody of Fire (or Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody). Aw yeah.

MomL_3

Proportionally, of course the US absorbs more than half of my shelf-space. Interestingly, though, the entirety of the rest of my collection comes either from Europe, Australia or Japan. Before the 2015 cull, I did at least have a few things from Brazil (mainly Sepultura), but it’s curious to know that there are vast swathes and surface areas of the globe (the whole of Africa!) that have never even come close to seeing a position on my CD shelf.

Another question that my CD re-shuffling was aiming to answer was: “When Was My Collection Released?”. Naturally, I expected that a sizable chunk of my collection would have come from around 2001-2005, where my main musical addictions were formed (and I’ll talk about these in a little more depth in my next blog). While this is certainly not untrue, I was a little surprised to find that the most prolific years were actually 2012 and 2013 (with 28 and 27 albums from them, respectably); probably arising because, at the time, I was deep in the wrangles of trying to finish my PhD and research stuff and hence likely to want to hear nice, new and noisy things in my ears to take away some of the pain.

MomL_4

I also anticipated that 1994 would be a bumper year, given that some of my very, very favourite albums were released in (or around) that year: [1993 // In Utero, Siamese Dream; 1994 // Punk in Drublic, Superunknown, Smash, Weezer (The Blue Album), Stranger than Fiction, Dookie, Welcome to Sky Valley, Burn My Eyes, The Downward Spiral; 1995 // Mellon Collie…, Foo Fighters, King for a Day/Fool for a Lifetime]. But yeah, whilst the hit rate of what albums were released in 1994ish and those which are cemented as some of my favourites is incredibly high, it turns out that I don’t own as much from that period as I thought I did. Huh.

I know I probably seem a little like a bit of a dinosaur for continuing to rely on (and thrive upon) little shiny, plastic discs containing lovely things destined for my ears. But yeah, I have 466 CDs in my collection. That’s pretty cool.

Please don’t burgle me.

[Zinar7]

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

My Life in Music III: Dancing Through Sunday

Music_3

Continuing from yesterday’s post (link), here’s the third part of my quest to examine and document my favourite full-length records from each year that I have been alive. This post covers my third seven years: 1999-2005, in which I flip-flop between goth-punk, post-hardcore, epic symphonic power metal and electro-house. Tomorrow will mark my final post of this series, checking off the last seven years to date, and covering everything up to 2012.

But without me waffling on for even longer, let’s get this done:

2005: Thrice – Vheissu

Vheissu

Thrice have always been a mighty band, but none more so than on Vheissu: where 2003’s The Artist in the Ambulance hit the post-hardcore chord square in the face, the follow-up attempts something far more ambitious. There’s a far more melodic tack on Vheissu than Thrice display previously, but that’s not to say that there’s any lack of power on show: ‘Between the End and Where We Lie’ is just as hard-hitting as anything else the band have delivered.  The band draw inspiration from other sounds, and sciences, that diversify the soundscape; embracing touches of electronic and instrumental sounds to accent Thrice’s raw, honed, sludgy post-hardcore. There are more progressive elements as well, and sounds that only permeate into the brain upon numerous listens before they really take hold. Where The Artist in the Ambulance felt like the work of a band of supreme competence but perhaps not confidence, Vheissu is the product of a group who’re confident to branch out and hollow out a niche of individuality in a sea of imitators and luminaries. It pays off supremely, conluding with the authoritative ‘Stand and Feel Your Worth’ and the haunting ‘Red Sky’, drawing the curtain on a true classic.

Song Choice: [Image of the Invisible]

2004: Rhapsody – Symphony of Enchanted Lands, Part II

Rhapsody - Symphony of Enchanted Lands II

Symphonic/power metal hasn’t had a strong showing on this list, despite the significant amount of it that I seem to funnel into my ears; well, here’s changing that. The mighty Italians’ 2004 opus delivers another slab of their Tolkien-flavoured fantasy ‘Hollywood’ metal; once again expertly mixing their trademark bombastic, symphonic landscape of orchestral metal with Fabio Lione’s soaring vocals. Aside from the gripping musical backdrop, the real innovation is the pitch-perfect narration from Christopher Lee; now a knight of the realm and a firm fixture in the Rhapsody/Rhapsody of Fire/Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody canon. Rhapsody’s brand of epic, orchestral, symphonic metal sure as hell ain’t subtle (there’s genre-standard songs about dragons, mages and orc-slayers a-plenty), but it’s performed with a superlative level of bombast that must rival some of the best contemporary songwriting and mucisianship which are present in the field. Alongide its 1998 predecessor, Symphonic of Enchanted Lands II remains a peak in the elegant Rhapsody back-catalogue, and (undoubtedly) the background noise for a million D20 rolls.

Song Choice: [Unholy Warcry]

2003: AFI – Sing the Sorrow

2001

First things first, let’s get some things straight: Sing the Sorrow is my favourite album ever ever ever. It’s unlikely that any other record will have such a special place in my heart nor surpass it from my thinking that it is utterly, unashamedly perfect in every single way. I don’t think it’s the greatest album ever made (Discovery, discussed below, must surely take that accolade), but its extraordinary connection with both my ears and my heart mean that, to me, it is the greatest musical achievement in mankind’s history. It’s also proof of the ever-evolving AFI sound; ditching the goth-hardcore-punk from The Art of Drowning and encompassing a whole raft of new musical ideas and themes. The fact that it’s also a well-veiled concept album about life, death and rebirth (complete with the still-unsolved Clandestine/337 mystery) mean that there’s a remarkable depth to this record that, a decade on, still has only scratched the surface. I will never tired of this album; radiate, recognise one silent call as well all form one dark flame.

Song Choice: [Girl’s Not Grey]

2002: Finch – What It Is To Burn

WhatBurn

Sadly, Finch’s lifetime as band was too short-lived; disbanding in 2006 before they really had time to get into their stride. What it is to Burn remains a prime slab of the early-noughties explosion of top-score post-hardcore (rhyming semi-intentional) that hasn’t withered an inch in time. It remains true to its hardcore roots, with plenty of crushing guitars, slamming drums and melodically-screamed lyrics pouring out emotion before the scene was diluted and curtained by aesthetic and hairstyles. ‘Letters to You’ sticks out as a classic, but the true glories lie in the more experimental excursions from the genre stock: the aptly-titled ‘Project Mayhem’ is a vision of organised chaos featuring Daryl Palumbo of Glassjaw, whilst the progressive, swirling ‘Ender’ and ‘What It Is to Burn’ conclude a record that draws inspiration from many sources but which is adapted into a definitive Finch noise-scape. The follow-up, 2005’s Say Hello to Sunshine would dilute the composition, but What It Is to Burn remains a staunch reminder of the band’s post-hardcore talents.

Song Choice: [Letters to You]

2001: Daft Punk – Discovery

Discovery++PNG

As I alluded to in the mini-review of Sing the Sorrow, I genuinely think that Daft Punk’s masterpiece, Discovery, is the greatest musical achievement of this century, if not ever. Of course, being a super-nerd for everything The Robots put out makes me more than a little biased, but from the opening notes of ‘One More Time’, there’s no denying the album’s influence on the whole genre of Electronic Dance Music; repercussions can be felt further afield, too. With the rise of The Robots reaching higher peaks with the glorious Random Access Memories in 2013, there’s been a resurgence in disco-tinged electro/pop, the roots of which can be found here. Discovery‘s first few tracks are a lesson in how to put together a genuinely-staggering streak of  brilliance: from the sublime opening of ‘One More Time’, through ‘Aerodynamic’, ‘Digital Love’ and ‘Harder Better Faster Stronger’, that’s almost a ‘Best Of’ Daft Punk right there. The rest of the record doesn’t disappoint, and concludes with the ten-minute epic ‘Too Long’ which recalls much of their 1996 debut, Homework, reminding just about everyone why Daft Punk are the best people in the business.

Song Choice: [Digital Love]

2000: AFI – The Art of Drowning

ArtDrowning

To their credit, AFI have always pushed the boundaries and their musical talents; aside from their early hardcore/punk releases, no two AFI albums sound the same. Where its predecessor Black Sails in the Sunset added increasingly dark & gothic influences to their punk stylings, The Art of Drowning relinquishes yet more hardcore tones and adds a Tim Burton-esque atmosphere to proceedings. In addition to those presented on Alan Forbes’ exquisite cover art, dark themes permeate through waspish tracks like ‘Sacrifice Theory’, ‘A Story at Three’ and well-chosen single ‘The Days of the Phoenix’, and AFI finally tame the goth-punk, Misfits-esque beast that they’d been wrestling  with for the past two albums. The band also reached a career-peak in the wolfish howls and “wo-oah”s that ventilate the band’s fast-paced backing and the result is a perfectly-refined and well-honed goth-punk record; streamlined, crafted and perfected to the delight of the band’s older fans. As ever, we remain, in shadows; growing wings.

Song Choice: [Days of the Phoenix]

1999: The Ataris – Blue Skies, Broken Hearts…Next 12 Exits

The_Ataris_-_Blue_Skies,_Broken_Hearts...Next_12_Exits

If there was ever to be a punk soundtrack to break-ups and heartache, then there’s a fair chance that it would be entirely filled with songs by The Ataris. Kris Roe is the undoubted God of heartbreak, weaving his emotive lyrics delightfully into catchy, three-minute pop-punk songs, and Blue Skies… typifies the best cuts from the Ataris canon. To me, The Ataris were always the most heartfelt of bands that rose to glory during the punk rock/emo ascendancy of the late 90s/early 00s: they pitch-perfect straddled the two genres, welcoming both the skatepunks, the indie kids and everything in between. Each song a window into Kris Roe’s relationships and life, it felt like Dawson’s Creek to the tune of pop-punk, and delightfully so. ‘San Dimas High School Football Rules’ remains the crowning glory, but in actuality this is a flawless compendium of punk rock with a ferocity that would be tamed in later releases. Still wild, still relevant; never forgotten.

Song Choice: [San Dimas High School Football Rules]

[Zinar7]

Tagged , , , , , , ,
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: