Axver (axver) wrote,

  • Music:
I was going to write a continuation of my previous entry. I did say that I would post more yesterday, but as it was, time ran away from me. Today, despite the fact the first portion of the continuation is written and the bare bones of the rest is already well established in my mind, I just don't feel like completing it. I really need to write an essay anyway; my time would be better invested there this evening.

However, I still feel like updating LiveJournal. I feel like talking about music, and so I shall.

Over the last year or so, I, like a few others on my friends list, have grown away from U2's music. It really became apparent around December last year that I was simply much more interested in other bands and genres, and by early 2006, I was openly condemning many facets of U2 in rather strong terms. However, although some of you have come to quite dislike U2, I have not gone to such extremes; I honestly felt it was reactionary and excessive. Sure, I think Larry Mullen is a completely pathetic drummer; I wish Bono would learn to stop rambling and get to the point in a concise and effective manner; I think most of U2's output since the end of the 1980s has been dreadful (especially Achtung Baby and All That You Can't Leave Behind); U2's work ethos is downright lazy compared to many other bands; the quality of the production is dreadful; etc., etc. But I still like the band. I still consider them to be one of my three favourite bands and I still love working on as much as I did when I first started, if not more. I particularly enjoy the band's eighties output, when they had real passion and enthusiasm to get somewhere, and weren't so commercially focused (I'm particularly thinking of The Unforgettable Fire and its b-sides). The Unforgettable Fire is still my favourite album of all time, and moreover, I still feel it is the best; I still think Lovetown is the best damn tour any band has ever done and One Tree Hill from the 26 December 1989 show is simply incomparable and untouchable.

So I thought that maybe it was time to revise my ranking of U2 songs. I've had a fairly rock solid top 12 for a while now. It was:

1. Where The Streets Have No Name
2. Bad
3. The Unforgettable Fire
4. One Tree Hill
5. City Of Blinding Lights
6. Heartland
7. New Year's Day
8. Acrobat
9. Gone
10. Wild Irish Rose
11. Spanish Eyes
12. Luminous Times (Hold On To Love)

That has now seen some changes. Here is a tentative revised list, somewhat expanded:

1. One Tree Hill
2. The Unforgettable Fire
3. Bad
4. Where The Streets Have No Name
5. Heartland
6. New Year's Day
7. Acrobat
8. Gone
9. A Sort Of Homecoming
10. Wild Irish Rose
11. Treasure (Whatever Happened To Pete The Chop?)
12. Spanish Eyes
13. God Part II
14. Promenade
15. The Fly
16. Bass Trap
17. City Of Blinding Lights
18. Luminous Times (Hold On To Love)
19. The Electric Co.
20. Slug
21. Gloria

I also feel Lost On A Silent Planet and The Dream Is Over should be in there. Yes, I know they're pre-Boy demos, but damn, I still really enjoy them! The energy and enthusiasm of the band really shines through, and Lost On A Silent Planet has to be one of Adam's better songs.

Thinking more broadly, I've also had a couple of conversations recently regarding good singers, and I thought I would compile a quick list of my favourite singers and an explanation of why they are there. So, here's the list. It's not meant to be any kind of set-in-stone list, just some current favourites. In brackets are the bands I'm judging the singers by; they have all been involved in more external projects but these are the ones that get my focus. All vocalists are included on the basis of their entire career, not just particularly exceptional eras.

1. Neil Finn (Split Enz, Crowded House, Finn Brothers, solo)
No, this isn't just some kind of "woo, he's a Kiwi, Kiwis ROCK, he must be #1" silliness. Neil Finn has the voice of an angel; it is so pure, soaring, and beautiful. Crowded House in particular made some of the best melodic rock ever in terms of how well crafted it was, and Neil's voice took it to another level entirely. The man is a genius, and the quality of his voice today seems to have barely deteriorated from his prime despite the length of his career.

2. Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Blackfield)
I very, very nearly put Steven Wilson first. I very nearly even gave him the status of equal first with Neil. However, my incredibly high opinion of him comes from more than just his vocals, and considering vocals alone, I thought it fairer to place him second. I'm waiting for Steven Wilson to mess up but he hasn't yet; he pumps out so much music that he does not seem to rest, and yet everything he touches turns to gold. The man has a wonderful voice suited to a variety of music, from metal-influenced numbers such as Shallow and Strip The Soul through to delicate, soft numbers like Lazarus and Stop Swimming.

3. Freddie Mercury (Queen)
If this were a "best singers" rather than a "favourite singers" list, Freddie would HAVE to be #1. I don't know if there are any grounds to dispute that Freddie was quite simply the greatest rock frontman of all time. The man's range and control of his voice is impressive as hell, and he put so much emotion and passion into his work. I truly admire Freddie and his death was such a tragic loss not only to music, but to the world in general.

4. James LaBrie (Dream Theater, solo/Mullmuzzler)
It seems some people love LaBrie and some people hate him. I happen to fall firmly into the former camp. Charlie Dominici was a good singer, and When Dream And Day Unite's material sounds much better when sung by Dominici, but the change to LaBrie was certainly a wise decision. He sure can sing! I just love his soaring vocals; it adds an extra epic sense to some of Dream Theater's compositions.

5. Ian Curtis (Joy Division)
What a voice! Ian Curtis possessed an incredible baritone and he used it to full effect. Sure, Joy Division was very much bass-driven rock, but Mr Curtis's vocals are what made the band so especially memorable and incredible. Look no further than New Dawn Fades for a perfect example of his skills: the booming, powerful way he sings "I've walked on water, run through fire/Can't seem to feel it any more" and "we were strangers" is enough to send chills up your spine.

6. Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth)
Akerfeldt was essentially my gateway to death metal; listening to his singing knocked down my previous dislike of death vocals. And I find myself returning to him as a benchmark of what it means to do a death growl. His growls are not just powerful, they are also clear and comprehensible. Then, as if that isn't enough, he has a beautiful clean singing voice that is on the level of Steven Wilson's (and the two sound fantastic together in Opeth's Bleak).

7. Bono (U2)
If I had permitted myself to list singers based solely on one era, Lovetown-era Bono would have easily been #1. Bono's vocals in 1989 are quite simply my favourite of all time; when he was not ill, he had a commanding, powerful voice and he sung with such force. He had the high range and could perform ballads with the perfect tenderness (and could also do an awesome falsetto, as per the end of Streets, 1989-12-26), and when it came to the rocking numbers, his voice was powerful enough to knock you over. God Part II sounded scorching! But, alas, Bono's voice has been hugely up and down. His passion of the early years occasionally suffered from a lack of technical skill and control; his voice from about 1993 through to 2003 was rough, scratchy, and entirely unappealling. Things have somewhat improved lately - his operatic vocals on Miss Sarajevo live sound brilliant - but he certainly isn't close to the glory days of Lovetown.

8. Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus)
I've been really hooked on this guy's vocals; to tell the truth, I've been hooked on Circus Maximus in a big way ever since I discovered them. They make exceptional progressive metal, and Eriksen's vocals really top it off. Some more diversity would be nice, but just the sheer sound of his voice appeals to me and it suits the music really well.

9. Kobi Farhi (Orphaned Land)
Another death growler who sounds pretty distinct! I appreciate that a lot, though he isn't on Akerfeldt's level. But, like Akerfeldt, Farhi has a very nice clean singing voice, and it has an added element of character due to the fact his Israeli accent is noticeable. I quite like it when he sings in Hebrew; it sounds really nice, though I'm biased because I find the Hebrew language fascinating.

10. John Haughm (Agalloch)
I've seen some people criticise Haughm, but personally, I really enjoy his vocals. I just wish he would do more clean singing, because he sounds rather good. His death vocals - which are more rasps than growls to my ears - are often nicely comprehensible, and whether he is singing clean or death, Haughm really adds to the strong atmosphere of Agalloch's music. Everyone should get into Agalloch; if you like vivid, rich soundscapes, they don't come much more vivid or rich than Agalloch.

And, just like a couple of days ago, I was going to write more but I really need to get on with other stuff, so I'll end my entry with just a brief note. It's no secret that I've become very interested in most things prog and metal, but I have also lately found myself becoming increasingly intrigued by post-rock. My initial entry to the genre came via various types of instrumental metal, from instrumental prog to sludge and drone doom, and post-rock has really captivated the side of me that appreciates atmosphere and soundscapes, the side of me that makes U2's The Unforgettable Fire my favourite album of all time due to the strong and cohesive atmosphere that flows throughout the entire record (bizarre to compare a U2 album to post-rock, but it works in my mind). I particularly find instrumentals very conducive to creativity and focus when writing.

Have a good one, folks.
Tags: agalloch, bono, circus maximus, crowded house, dream theater, freddie mercury, metal, music, neil finn, opeth, orphaned land, porcupine tree, post-rock, prog, singers, steven wilson, u2

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