So over the end of July and beginning of August Phish played the most epic series of shows of their entire career. 13 full shows each themed after donut flavors. People have been going on about how the band played this entire series of shows without repeating a single song, and yeah that *is* pretty damn impressive on its own. but what really impresses me is that they did it without even breaking a sweat, they could have *easily* played another whole show (maybe even two), without running out of songs. These shows aren't just a gimmick though. almost every show features at least a couple all-time great performances of various songs, a few memorable surprises, and some absolutely tremendous jams. several shows are worthy candidates for the band's best performances ever, so much so that it's launched new memes among fans (Is this still "Lawn Boy"?), and while some people might want to debate whether or not it's better than the band's 90s peaks it pretty much goes without saying that it's the band's best work since their last hiatus ended in 2009. I watched about half of the shows live via webstream and had a blast doing so.
None of these shows were even close to average, but if I had to make a top 5 shows from this run I'd probably go 1) Night 4 - Jam Filled, 2) Night 8 - Jimmies, 3) Night 10 - Holes, 4) Night 13 - Glazed, 5) Night 5 - Powdered
Phish - Live Phish 4, June 14 2000 Fukuoka Japan
Inspired by the above I've started to pull out some older shows again. I listened to most of the Live Phish series when I was just starting to get into them, but I haven't returned to any of them in years so don't really remember much about them. back then I had far less context for their music than I do now anyway, so it's basically like I'm hearing these for the first time again. This show is played for a Japanese audience that's super polite and so quiet that there's almost no crowd noise at all which makes the show feel super intimate, almost like studio recordings. This gives the show a really unique vibe and the band goes super deep into the zone with some really tight playing and deep atmosphere-oriented jam sections.
Lissie - My Wild West
I've been enjoying the music that's appeared in the new Twin Peaks episodes but this is the first one where I felt like I wanted to hear the album. I don't know anything about this girl but she has an absolutely killer voice. The album falters a bit by falling into a few singer-songwriter genericisms, but it's still quite enjoyable with a number of strong tracks. She seems to be almost completely unknown before appearing in the show (I'd certainly never heard of her before) but I think she's going places.
Everything Everything - A Fever Dream
I absolutely loved their 2015 album Get To Heaven, on first impression this one isn't quite as good cus it's not as catchy. But I've only played it once so I can't really judge catchiness yet. the rest of the band's style is still basically the same as the last album so I'm still enjoying this album quite a bit. The song "Ivory Tower" rules pretty hard.
Steven Wilson - To the Bone
Steven Wilson has given up on his bland prog kick, and he's replaced it with..... Dad Rock! When Wilson ended Porcupine Tree I originally didn't see the point since he was 100% in charge of the band so why would his solo albums differ enough from the band to not use the band name? But I think I've settled on the answer to that question being: Because his solo albums are lame. It's nice that we can now delineate Steven Wilson's good and bad periods by whether it's under the name Porcupine Tree or not.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - Sketches of Brunswick East
Their 3rd (of 5!) album of the year. I think this might be my fav so far but I've only spun it once so I'll have to see how it sinks in. They return to the more acoustic and folky side of their psychedelic sound. They already explored this territory a bit on their album Paper Mache Dream Balloon from 2015 and that's one of my favourite albums of theirs so I'm glad to see them taking this approach further. I kinda get a Mothers Of Invention vibe from this one. Great stuff.
Arcade Fire - Everything Now
More like EVERYTHING SUCKS amirite? Yeah this blows, and blows hard. It's all the band's worst qualities crossed with a sudden desire for bad synth-pop. the sounds they're playing with are ugly, so much so that several of these songs are outright annoying, some songs sound downright unfinished. The lyrics are cringe-worthy, the vocals are awful and don't fit the music. There are still some highlights but even those aren't really anything all that special. It's an album that will make the band's haters say "We told you so!" and the band's fans say "Maybe the haters were right..."
Ayreon - The Human Equation
I don't know why I decided to try this out. Saw some people praising it as a classic, which I severely doubted, but I thought I'd give it a shot. It's certainly better than most stuff of its ilk (modern symphonic prog metal), but I don't think I'd go so far to call it great. It's just OK. The overblown theatricality of it reminds me a lot of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds album. James LaBrie sings on some of this and since he's playing a character his voice suits the material much better than it typically does with Dream Theater. The other singers are good too (The guy from Opeth is on here too, I've always generally liked his vocals). I kind of get the impression that I'd get more out of this if I had even the slightest level of investment in the story, but I had no fukcing clue what the story was and this thing was so dang long (100+ minutes) that nothing about it has really stuck with me. Maybe I'll give it a few more chances out of curiosity to see if any of it actually sticks with me.
Guerilla Toss - GT Ultra
Don't know much about this band, they were just recommended to me and I checked them out. I like it quite a bit. They remind me a lot of The B-25s (especially the vocals) but with more of a arty bent to them. The songs have lots of tricky little bits, odd time signatures and tight little sections. Some good grooves on here too, reminding me of The Talking Heads quite a bit as well. Neat record, will have my eye on this band in the future.
Guided By Voices - How Do You Spell Heaven
I only listened to their previous album a bit and it was fine but didn't impress me too much. This album strikes me as a big standout though. This album majorly reminds me of their Mag Earwig/Isolation Drills era which makes total sense because I just checked and yep, it looks like Doug Gillard is back in the band. I don't think "quality control" is something that can be easily applied to anything Robert Pollard makes but this album comes pretty close! There are plenty of highlights and it's pretty consistent. If it's been a while since you last checked out a new GBV album this is one of the best ones in a long time.
Avey Tare - Eucalyptus
Dang, Avey Tare has really been embracing that early Animal Collective vibe lately. First that Meeting Of The Waters EP (which was excellent, if you're into AnCo and haven't heard it go check it out), and now this. That EP was in collaboration with Geologist, but on this album Avey's working with Deakin. It's not close to being a band project though. It's all acoustic, most of the songs are just Avey singing and playing guitar accompanied by a few overdubs. Of course it's all fed though lots of effects and there are weird sound effects and field recordings all over the record, that's to be expected from an Animal Collective member. But not so much that you have to bend your brain to make out the song, it's still a pretty unadorned album (the weird effects are mostly limited to the overdubs, the vocals and guitar are mostly plain and unaltered). The biggest downside is that this album is quite long, nearly full CD length. And since he's exploring what amounts to basically the same exact mood on every track the whole album completly blurs together. Still, I do enjoy this atmosphere quite a bit.