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Jon Longhi's Best of 2018

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, December 18, 2018 04:07pm | Post a Comment

Brian EnoBy Jon Longhi

Brian EnoMusic For Installations (CD & LP Box Set):
One of the things I've always loved about Brian Eno is that he seems to have an almost limitless output of new music. His body of work is gigantic. I've been buying his cds for decades and it's nice to know that he'll always come up with something new to charm, beguile, or soothe me. His ambient pieces tend to be my favorite ones. In these works, he tries to create a kind of music that sounds like it is going on forever and you are just hearing a tiny excerpt of it. In the book that accompanies this new box set, Eno reveals that he has been obsessed with creating music that doesn't just sound like it goes on forever but actually DOES go on forever. To aid him in this quest, he created what he refers to as "generative systems." These are either tape loops or computer programs that take simple harmonious tones and fragments of melody, and then randomly recombines them in patterns of music that will not repeat themselves for sometimes years or even decades. He even developed a computer program called 77 Million Paintings that creates an endless output of ambient music that NEVER repeats itself and is a truly infinite piece of music. This box set is a retrospective of some of the best of these sonic experiments. The title Music For Installations is quite literal because most of these works were composed to accompany art installations and Eno went to great lengths to make sure that every person who visited the art exhibits heard a different and unique piece of music. Some of these art installations were open for six months but had soundtracks that could play for over two centuries! This is a transcendentally beautiful set of music and it goes on for hours and hours. Like the best ambient music, it can either be in the background or the foreground of your life. The soothing sonic textures are guaranteed to heal your soul and move your troubled mind to tranquil peaceful places. The set is a little expensive, but since you get six CDs and roughly as many hours of music, you're only paying about ten bucks per CD/hour, which in the long run is a real bargain.

The Aints!: The Church of Simultaneous Existence, (LP & CD):
This album has been making it onto many critics "Best of 2018" lists and with good reason. It's an The Saintsincredibly solid set of original guitar-based rock songs that have been given huge production till each track is a lush listening experience. Almost every song has a full horn section playing on it along with pianos, organs, and all kinds of other sonic goodies. The songs themselves are like an amalgamation of every music trend from the past seventy years of rock music. You can hear elements of seventies and classic rock, eighties new wave, and even jazz in these songs, but none of them sound derivative. Each track takes all its influences and reshuffles them into something new. The last track, "The Rise and Fall of James Hoopnoch Eefil," sounds almost like The Beatles with its jaunty piano line, but the melody doesn't sound like any specific Fab Four tune. This is true of many of the songs on the album; you hear a nod to The Velvet Underground or The Rolling Stones here and there but none of these elements ever rise to the point where anything sounds swiped. This album can be listened to over and over again just to slowly dissect the incredible musicianship on it. Every song has amazing guitar work with incredible leads throughout. The horn section is especially spectacular. "Demo Girl Part 2" features beautiful lead work. Ed Kuepper is an Australian guitarist and songwriter who has been active since he formed The Saints in the early seventies. He's had a long successful career and this may be the best thing he's ever done. This album is the kind of mature sophisticated piece of work that can only be created by a very talented musician at the top of his game. After one or two listens you won't be able to get these songs out of your head.

The Outer Limits: Season Two (Blu-ray):
While it is not as good as the first season of The Outer Limits, the second season is still pretty fantastic The Outer Limitsand better than most of the science fiction television that's ever been created. This season was half the size of the first, a mere 17 episodes compared to season one's 32. This was because they were halfway through the production of the second season when they realized the show was going to be cancelled. This is the kind of thing that happened before we lived in the world of computers, the internet, and instantaneous communication. It just took a lot longer for ratings be compiled and collected, and by the time they were it turned out that The Outer Limits was a bust. The second season starts out strong, but eventually the show goes down in the flames of axed budgets and cut corners. I didn't realize this until I read the booklet that comes with this set because the episodes themselves are still pretty awesome despite the increasing challenges the production crews faced. The shows are still filled with great atmosphere and scripts, big name stars, and cool special effects and monsters. One thing you notice is that the music is different, but even this new music is quite effective and atmospheric even if it isn't quite as orchestral. Once again we are treated to a who's who of contemporary stars. William Shatner, Adam West, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Duvall, and Eddie Albert are just some of the actors who star in the episodes. A number of the scripts are written by science fiction heavyweights like Harlan Ellison and Isaac Asimov. The special effects people at Project Unlimited still do a great job despite the axed budgets. In the booklet they say that you should think of the second season as kind of the last third of the whole series instead of a second season proper, and watching the set this is exactly what it feels like. A couple of my favorite episodes of the entire series appear in the second season. "Demon With A Glass Hand," written by Harlan Ellison, has one of the best scripts of both seasons. The dark noir-ish cinematography of the episode embellishes the nihilistic script until the end result is as good as anything sci-fi television ever created. "The Invisible Enemy," starring William Shatner, has possibly my favorite monster of the entire series. Each episode is like a short black and white movie, and many of them are better than the full-length movies of the era. This set is one of the high water marks in the history of television and belongs on the shelf of any fan.

The Dean Ween Group: Rock 2 (CD & LP):
Right out of the gate I need to state that this is as good as any Ween album. It is an incredibly strong set Dean Ween Groupof songs that cover the bases of multiple genres. You get heavy metal, classic rock, country, pop songs, and some wonderful psychedelic tracks. Stylistically it's all over the map, which has always been Ween's specialty. The album roars out of the gate with a hard rocker that sounds like it was written by Jimi Hendrix. By track three, the gears shift to pure pop with the infectious "Don't Let The Moon Catch You Cryin’." This is the best Fleetwood Mac song that Fleetwood Mac never wrote. It's my favorite pop song I heard this year and every time I hear it, I can't get it out of my head for days. And the hits just keep on coming. "Waste Station 9" combines searing mind-melting guitar with Monkees-style harmonies to create a perfect piece of psychedelia. The guitar work on this album is just spectacular, which is no surprise since Dean Ween (Mickey Melchiondo) is arguably the best contemporary guitarist in the world. I've seen him perform jaw dropping shows for the past three decades and on this album he is at the top of his game. On songs like "Love Theme From Skinheads Kicking Your Ass," he's literally kicking ass and taking names. There are a number of psychedelic instrumentals on the disc that are some of the best in the entire history of psychedelia. But you get even more than that on this album. There's a scum-rock tune that sounds like a track from the next Moistboyz album, a country song that’s a laugh-out-loud riff on "Sunday Morning Coming Down," and some other treats that are sure to keep you humming or air guitaring along. If you're a long term fan there's more than enough here to give you your Ween fix for 2018, and if you've never heard the band's music before, this is as good a place as any to start checking them out.

Relevant Tags

Jon Longhi (23), Best Of 2018 (11), Brian Eno (20), The Aints! (1), The Saints (1), Ed Kuepper (1), William Shatner (5), Adam West (1), Leonard Nimoy (6), Robert Duvall (1), The Outer Limits (3), Harlan Ellison (2), Isaac Asimov (4), Ween (4), Dean Ween (1), The Dean Ween Group (1)