Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Avett Brothers: I and Love and You (4/5)

Jonathan's #20 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Columbia
Genre: Americana Folk
TRT: 50:42

This is a down-home harmonized folk album we have here. It's very intimate and has a lot of thoughtful lyrics to ponder. A good amount of tracks on the album have an old-timey feeling that's pretty cool, although I will say it may keep me from listening to this album too much. Also, I don't quite understand what it is I'm looking at on the cover but it's kind of disturbing in a way...maybe that's the point

"Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise" is by far my favorite song on this album...It has a great organ sound....and the way the song is written just pulls you into the parts they're about to go into really well. This is a pretty solid album overall...with an exception of a couple songs.

01 I and Love and You
02 January Wedding
03 Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise
04 And It Spread
05 Perfect Space
06 Ten Thousand Words
07 Kick Drum Heart
08 Laundry Room
09 I'll With Want
10 Tin Man
11 Slight Figure of Speech
12 It Goes On and On
13 Incomplete and Insecure

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Secret Powers: Secret Powers And The Electric Family Choir (4/5)

Jonathan's #19 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Psychedelic Sunshine Pop
TRT: 52:37

This album has a lot of interesting bits to it...first throughout the entire recording there are short pod casts that sound like they were recorded from the microphone of the recording engineer (which may have been a guy in the band). Each pod cast is a comedic approach of showing interactions between the band's personnel...along with Schmed Maynes (song-writer & musician for Secret Powers) self-proclaiming and being called the 'Messiah'.

The most interesting thing about the song writing is that it echoes a lot of the 60s-70s pop hits and their song writing formulas that have become so big over the years. Although you should expect to hear the effects of a psychedelic tidal wave having crashed all over this album. You may experience some secret powers along the way.

01 Introduction
02 Pod Cast #1
03 Orange Trees
04 Pod Cast #2
05 Maryanne
06 Pod Cast #3
07 By the Sea
08 Heavy
09 Lazy Men
10 Pod Cast #4
11 Misery
12 Ghost Town
13 Treat Your Mother Nice
14 Smoething About that Girl
15 Pod Cast #5
16 One Less Star
17 Pod Cast #6
18 You Know It's Time
19 Pod Cast #7
20 Both Sides of the Candle

Kool Kat Music - Secret Powers

Wilco: Wilco (The Album) (4/5)

Jonathan's #18 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Nonesuch
Genre: Alternative Country Rock
TRT: 42:46

First off....personally I prefer "Sky Blue Sky" to this album, but that doesn't mean this album isn't worth exploring. Wilco has come to the point in their career where they are really meshing in the studio. All the sounds are so clear and of the highest quality. I love the organ sounds and the guitar tone is pretty when you got both going it's a real treat.

The songs are obviously well written, but some of them seem to be sitting more in the background of this album rather than taking their perspective spot on the recording. Every time I listen to this, I get things that I like a lot and I get things that I don't like so much. I'll keep listening to this album and see how it sits in the future.

01 Wilco (The Song)
02 Deeper Down
03 One Wing
04 Bull Black Nova
05 You and I
06 You Never Know
07 Country Disappeared
08 Solitaire
09 I'll Fight
10 Sunny Feeling
11 Everlasting Everything

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Them Crooked Vultures: Them Crooked Vultures (4/5)

Jonathan's #17 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: RCA
Genre: Psychedelic Hard Rock
TRT: 52:04

As it has been said everywhere I look: 'This isn't as good as Led Zeppelin or Queens of the Stone Age'.....but it should be something different and I think it's at least as good as Queens of the Stone Age. I like the different styles of hard rock that this recording covers. On "Scumbag Blues", I especially like the Cream-esque vocal style. There are certainty parts on this album that aren't so solid though...including a couple songs. I guess the guys think that some of the effects used in these parts can help interest the listener. For these guys just getting together and writing songs, it is good. I'm sure if they had spent a little more time and excluded a few hiccups this would be a really solid release. Check out the song "Reptiles" is an especially good one.

01 No One Loves Me & Neither Do I
02 Mind Eraser, No Chaser
03 New Fang
04 Dead End Friends
05 Elephants
06 Scumbag Blues
07 Bandoliers
08 Reptiles
09 Interlude with Ludes
10 Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up
11 Caligulove
12 Gunman
13 Spinning in Daffodils

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Sin Fang Bous: Clangour (4/5)

Jonathan's #16 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Morr
Genre: Psychedelic Indie Pop
TRT: 43:31

I heard this album really early in the year and I really liked it then...but as the year went on it started slipping back behind other recordings. I still really like it as it has made my list, but I've also heard it enough to form a solid opinion. For a one-man operation it is definitely well executed and there are a lot of interesting sounds going on. I like his tasteful use of heavy reverb in certain areas....also his smooth voice gives the entire recording a reserved mellow feel. I personally would have liked a little more variation in the beats made for this record and his vocal runs sound very similar to each other....but I can imagine that this was all part of the vibe he was going for. It's a good listen to come back to every now and again.

01 Advent in Ives Garden
02 The Jubilee Courses
03 Catch the Light
04 Sinker Ships
05 Melt Down the Knives
06 Clangour and Flutes
07 We Belong
08 Carry Me Up to Smell Pine
09 A Fire to Sleep In
10 Fafafa
11 Poirot
12 Lies

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The Pines: Tremolo (4/5)

Jonathan's #15 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Red House
Genre: Folk Rock
TRT: 45:22

I don't think many people know about this release and I don't know if they ever will, but fans of Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band should definitely give this a listen. The vocalist sounds a lot like Oberst...but I'll give it to him he definitely has his own flavor of the tremolo quiver. The title of the album comes into play here obviously...but his voice isn't the only thing with the tremolo effect. The slide guitar is effectively used throughout the recording...especially when you think a song is about to drag it slides in and gives proper support.

The main thing that I commend about this album is the song writing. It is equivalent to last year's Dr. Dog album but with a more laid back folk vibe. The lyrics are pretty interesting also...I like how musicians are starting to become a little more creative in the ways they can translate their different ideas.

01 Pray Tell
02 Heart and Bones
03 Shine on Moon
04 Lonesome Tremolo Blues
05 Meadows of Dawn
06 Skipper And His Wife
07 Spike Driver Blues
08 Behind the Time
09 Avenue Of The Saints
10 Shiny Shoes

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Band of Skulls: Baby Darling Doll Face Honey (4/5)

Jonathan's #14 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Shangri-La
Genre: Psychedelic Garage Rock
TRT: 42:24

Trendy...yes maybe. Groovy...for sure. Creatively showing off...probably. This recording at the beginning is letting you know that you're supposed to be having fun while you're listening. It will also give you subliminal truth for the future...[whatever that means]. By the time you reached the end of the song "I Know What I Am"'ve reached a certain peak. The next two songs slip you below the landslide as "Honest" ends with something that sounds familiar to Stevie Nicks. The rest of the album twists in and out of interesting transitions and wild comparisons that continue to come about.

There's something deep going on in that cover.

01 Light of the Morning
02 Death by Diamonds and Pearls
03 I Know What I Am
04 Fires
05 Honest
06 Patterns
07 Bomb
08 Impossible
09 Hold Still
10 Blood
11 Dull Gold Heart
12 Cold Fame

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Ancestors: Of Sound Mind (4/5)

Jonathan's #13 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Tee Pee
Genre: Progressive Doom Rock
TRT: 1:11:29

Originally I saw this album tagged as doom metal and personally I'm not a fan of that genre because I can't get into growling & screaming....but I read a review that said these guys incorporate an organ which caught my attention. On the first listen I already had begun to like me it sounds more like progressive doom rock. I like the progressive aspect and also that the organ's presence is a staple within the band. The guitar solos are also remarkably distinguished. Sometimes the feeling in a riff needs to have a slight bend in pitch which these guys utilize at the right moments.

As for the vocals they are practically non-existent throughout the entirety of the album...but when they turn-up it is more singing than screaming. In fact, there is a good amount of harmony in the majority of the vocal runs. I found myself a few times getting lost in the middle of their compositions...which a lot of people take for granted and turn away from these types of songs....but for me I see it as a chance to come back to a song and continue to get more familiar with it. This recording has a nice cohesive flow that changes enough with the solos and bridge parts to really hook a listener. I could deal with out the part at the end of "Bounty of Age" where the vocalist sounds like he's choking himself but still trying to hit melodies...but I think that is my only objection to the whole recording. If the vocalist could have just stuck with the raspy King Crimson-esque style it would have worked better in my opinion.

01 From Nothing
02 Mother Animal
03 Not the Last Return
04 Bounty of Age
05 A Friend
06 The Trial
07 Chellenging
08 The Ambrose Law

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Sleepy Sun: Embrace (4/5)

Jonathan's #12 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: ATP/R
Genre: Psychedelic Garage Rock
TRT: 54:43

Sleepy Sun can say a lot about their sound just by reading the name. To me, they seem to give the perfect soundscape to that mental image. The band takes garage rock and adds a psychedelic down-tempo whirlwind. The vocals remind me a lot of BrightBlack Morning Light....but with enough of an original flavor to not rip them off. The band still brings a lot of surprises to the well-rounded listen. They really mix it up sometimes with organs, harmonica, swirling guitars and some great reverb laid over the whole recording.

Overall this is a great album with a lot of great sounds to offer.

01 New Age
02 Lorg
03 Red Black
04 Sleepy Son
05 Golden Artifact
06 White Dove
07 Snow Goddess
08 Duet With the Northern Sky

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The Mars Volta: Octahedron (4/5)

Jonathan's #11 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Mercury
Genre: Psychedelic Progressive Rock
TRT: 50:03

This is definitely different for The Mars Volta, but the melodies are interesting and segments of songs flow in and out of each other in awesome ways. The lyrics are the usual creepy/trippy descriptive explanations that we've come to love...the guitars sound pretty much the same but with a floating elevated sound that feels like the confusion of a mind above the solid body of well written songs.

I feel that "Octahedron" is The Mars Volta's more concise attempt at slowing their music down to a point that is more that people can finally understand their music for the different aspects that create it. So many people have become lost in the progressiveness of the band and so many other people have liked that part of it even though they may not have really 'gotten it' either. Well now you should be able to 'get it'.

01 Since We've Been Wrong
02 Teflon
03 Halo Of Nembutals
04 With Twilight As My Guide
05 Cotopaxi
06 Desperate Graves
07 Copernicus
08 Luciforms

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Nurses: Apple's Acre (4/5)

Jonathan's #10 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Dead Oceans
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia Indie Folk
TRT: 35:33

I'm actually surprised that this is rated as my 10th favorite album of the year....because I really like this. It seems this year has been exceptional and there's more that I prefer than the last few years had to offer.

I like the atmosphere this album gives. It sounds like your in the room with the guys recording. This album may have some of the most unique vocal runs I've heard in a long time although I can imagine that some may not like the vocals here because it is different in many ways...but I think they really sit well in this atmosphere. The drum sound has that acoustic set in a room with natural reverb sound...and there's some nice piano runs sprinkled throughout....but the main vocal part and harmonies take the forefront in this record.

01 Technicolor
02 Mile After Mile
03 Caterpillar Playground
04 Manatarms
05 Apple's Acre
06 Bright Ideas
07 What Then
08 Winter
09 Lita
10 Orange Cymbals

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The Young Sinclairs: Songs of The Young Sinclairs (4/5)

Jonathan's #9 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Kindercore
Genre: Psychedelic Folk Rock
TRT: 59:55

I have to say that I was really excited to see this record pressed. My brother lives in Roanoke, VA and is friends with a lot of the guys in "The Magic Twig Community" and about two years ago he introduced me to some of them. These guys are doing music the way they want in a large group of friends with about 5-6 different bands....and The Young Sinclairs happen to be signed to Kindercore Records.

I actually emailed Kindercore once asking them to press The Young Sinclairs to vinyl, and one day my brother comes to my house with I gave him money to get me one of these limited copies. I'm glad to hear the great mixing/mastering job that John Thompson (drums and lap steel for The Young Sinclairs) did for all these different tracks from their past recordings. They all come together really nice.

I'd describe the sound as being a mix of The Byrds and The Who with a heavy dose of the modern reverb sound. Sam Lunsford has some great melodies that float over the guitar riffs that show the songs are well written...and I love that the lyrics are on their myspace.

01 Darling
02 Cancelled Flight
03 Engineer Man
04 Thanks Paul Horn
05 Blessed Blackness
06 Tough Face
07 It's Real and It's the End
08 Keep Them Down
09 Tribe
10 The Most Impressive
11 Up Against the Wall
12 They're Not Writing
13 Honeysuckle, Rose and Pumpkin
14 Talisman
15 Don't Be Scared
16 Llama Farm
17 Everything I Do is Wrong
18 Help You Decide

Myspace for The Young Sinclairs

The Yellow Moon Band: Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World (4.5/5)

Jonathan's #8 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Static Caravan
Genre: Psychedelic Space Rock
TRT: 52:04

The album has only one song with a vocal part in it...even though it could use more, I really enjoy the feelings I get throughout this album. On the song "Entangled" I get this feeling that I only ever get when listening to "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" by the Byrds.

The musicianship on this recording is similar to the 70's progressive movement, which personally I'm a big fan. The melodies sit well and transition that at the end of the album you feel as if you had gone on a psychedelic space journey.

01 Polaris
02 Chimney
03 Entangled
04 Maybach
05 Focussed
06 Domini
07 Window
08 Lunadelica

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Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion (4.5/5)

Jonathan's #7 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Domino
Genre: Psychedelic Electronic Pop
TRT: 54:05

I'm not a big fan of electronic music so for this to make my top 10 this is a huge exception. Textures should be the title of this album. The cover itself has some pink/purple photo or something under the neon green moving (optical illusion) pattern. The music has so many great layers of sounds from tamborines > stick clicks > claps > bells > and other random noises tweaked with echo or delay. This recording has some flourishing harmonies that I wish the guys could pull off live [from most of the videos I've seen they're always off key]. But, no matter how they sound live...this recording is pristine and perfect in structure and the moods created.

My favorite thing about this album is that I can put it on and without taking any substances...I kind of feel like I'm tripping. So go dream (day-dream or otherwise) to this recording.

01 In the Flowers
02 My Girls
03 Also Frightened
04 Summertime Clothes
05 Daily Routine
06 Bluish
07 Guys Eyes
08 Taste
09 Lion in a Coma
10 No More Runnin
11 Brother Sport

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Shapiro: Shapiro (4.5/5)

Jonathan's #6 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Dweeb Records
Genre: Indie Rock/Pop
TRT: 41:35

I went to the release show for this vinyl LP in Harrisonburg, VA on my birthday...and all the guys in the band are really fun people to hang out I knew this album was going to make my top 10 back in April. Also, interestingly enough; I used to be in a band with Chris (guitar) back when we played metal.

I love that every gatefold cover has a different unique stamp as Nathan (guitar and background vocals) inked up his foot and started stomping....mine is smeared crazy off to the right, not like the one above. Also, they only pressed 100 of these and they numbered them so I now own 36/100.

The music on this recording is really great and original. Jeremy's (vocals and piano) voice is really well recorded and has such a great depth to it. I feel like every song is an elegant pop hit with hints of some rock in the vein of Queen but definitely with a way more modern feeling.

01 Right and Wrong
02 All Things Around the Sun
03 I'm Not There (You Can't Talk to Me)
04 When I'm With You (Soporific)
05 L-E-A-V-I-N-G
06 One Hit Pitch Pipe
07 Emily
08 You Had It Coming
09 Battle of Beatrix
10 For Something to Do
11 Prelude

Big Cartel for Shapiro

Volcano Choir: Unmap (4.5/5)

Jonathan's #5 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Jagjaguwar
Genre: Psychedelic Ambient Avant-Folk
TRT: 35:12

The album art is really interesting...and definitely fits well with the sounds inside.

The recording starts off ambient with some nice textured sounds and melodies. I like Justin Vernon's vocal runs here because it really starts giving the vibes of this record....sometimes hitting an off key note in the run similar to TV on the Radio. When the song "Island, IS" begins, you can instantly feel a slight shift in the tempo and this really starts the album...this is an amazing track. The album then slows down a bit again to an ominous meditation sound with waves in the background. At this point it's obvious what to expect from here-on-out. Sit back and enjoy the tranquility in accord.

01 Husks and Shells
02 Seeplymouth
03 Island, IS
04 Dote
05 And Gather
06 Mbira in the Morass
07 Cool Knowledge
08 Still
09 Youlogy

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The Future Kings of England: The Viewing Point (5/5)

Jonathan's #4 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Backwater Records
Genre: Progressive Space Rock
TRT: 44:49

This year I really got into 1970's progressive rock so this finding this album made me really happy. It's a little strange though because I wanted to add this to my vinyl collection and it's not available in that format. Either way the material here is definitely up to par with some of the greatest progressive rock minus there aren't any vocals except some areas have distant choir voices just singing notes.

I would definitely classify this as progressive space rock with great guitar solos and awesome organ riffs. The bassist has the task of tying it all together and keeping everything consistent...and his bass lines are just perfect. These guys have a great sound and this recording takes you on a wild ride to anywhere you want and back. It's truly a beautiful experience.

01 Go...
02 Sea Saw
03 The Cold Hard Truth
04 Time Flies Like an Arrow
05 Rain Later, Good
06 The Viewing Point

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DM Stith: Heavy Ghost (5/5)

Jonathan's #3 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Asthmatic Kitty
Genre: Psychedelic Baroque Folk
TRT: 43:46

I instantly loved this album...there's so much to take from this. Stith makes simple minor notes something new by bending them slightly to the perfect psychedelic melodies. Also, there is this haunting feeling throughout the recording because there are so many parts that have distant eerie harmonies. There's guitar, other strings, horns, lap steel, effects, piano, and probably instruments I can't pronounce....but they are all used in the most profound ways. The drums are almost tribal sometimes and really help build his climaxes to a spiritual place.

Each song has a similar feeling but they are also so different. Stith really takes himself to places and then somehow brings it back into a uniform translation of those feelings. The artwork that came with this package really helps translate each piece looks similar to the others but has a very definite uniqueness.

Overall, even with the eerie feelings at times; Stith pulls everything into a beautiful swirl as his freedom of expression is painted on each song.

01 Isaac's Song
02 Pity Dance
03 Creeksong
04 Pigs
05 Spirit Parade
06 BMB
07 Thanksgiving Moon
08 Fire of Birds
09 Morning Glory Cloud
10 GMS
11 Braid of Voices
12 Wig

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Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest (5/5)

Jonathan's #2 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Warp
Genre: Psychedelic Baroque Folk
TRT: 52:04

I pre-ordered this as soon as I saw it was available...because I just knew after "Yellow House" this had to be amazing. Well, it actually surprised me more than I had initially thought.

The first thing I noticed was that it wasn't a gatefold but when I looked inside, it had a really nice booklet with big beautiful pictures of natural landscapes and unique shots of their instruments. After my first listen of the album...I thought it wasn't as good as "Yellow House", but after the next listen I was thinking it might be better. Grizzly Bear is just extraordinary with unimaginable sounds that give me feelings that I've never experienced with any other recordings.

The music here is dynamic psychedelic folk with beautiful melodies and graceful's great to listen to at almost any moment. My favorite part of the band is how progressive the drummer can be as it really adds to all the other textures the band has. After thoroughly listening to this recording, I can easily see how Grizzly Bear has stretched themselves far beyond what they were doing on "Yellow House", even though I still love that one. I believe this will definitely be a timeless album for all the future to come.

01 Southern Point
02 Two Weeks
03 All We Ask
04 Fine For Now
05 Cheerleader
06 Dory
07 Ready, Able
08 About Face
09 Hold Still
10 While You Wait for the Others
11 I Live With You
12 Foreground

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Steal the Prize: I Want to Talk to God (5/5)

Jonathan's #1 out of 20 Album of 2009

Year: 2009
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
TRT: 58:13

I will first say that I live with these guys and it obviously makes me biased...but I think because I live with them, I've connected to these songs and the album as a whole.

I believe "I Want to Talk to God" epitomizes my description of this list so well that it has to be my number one album of the year. To me music is the creative expression of the deepest point in the core of an artist/band. Steal the Prize is a very versatile band that can rock a song as hard as Led Zeppelin then on another song write a perfect pop hit with the lyrics taking the forefront. The lyrics are non-stop in provoking thought on ideas that sometimes get lost in the everyday routine....while the music is eclectic and beautiful.

It seems that every song has been crafted to stand the test of time as the band looks for the big picture when writing a song...and I think it comes across nicely especially with the lyrics complementing the vibes sent out through the songs.

This recording proves that Steal the Prize isn't trying to fit into any specific genre as much as they are being themselves musically....which I respect and admire a lot. Pick this up at a show and experience the art that is within the package.

This is an album about doing and being......

01 Some Things Don't Translate
02 The Opposite of Space
03 You're My Moment
04 You Go Left, I Go Righteous
05 If These Walls Could Talk
06 Us or Me
07 All the Pretty Ladies
08 Outrun the Sun
09 Let Me Know
10 Pledge Allegiance to Planet Earth
11 The Skeptics Were Right
12 Born Again, Again

Myspace for Steal the Prize

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cloudkicker: The Discovery (5/5)

Year: 2008
Genre: Progressive Polyrhythmic Metal
Label: Self Released
TRT: 39:48

Writing extremely complex music that is as intricate as it is interesting is no small feat, yet Cloudkicker seems to achieve this effortlessly. Ben Sharp, the sole entity behind the moniker, seems to have a firm grasp on what he wants to accomplish, and executes his ideas flawlessly.

Fans of Meshuggah, Periphery, Animals as Leaders and simlar progressive poly-rhythmic acts will eat this up.

This is the sort of album that makes me sad most of my friends refuse to listen to metal.

So after I'd had the album on repeat for 3 days straight, I figured it was time to take the next step in our relationship. but after several minutes of frantic searching, I came to the realization that nothing Sharp has ever released has been anything but a download link from his myspace page.

This is exceedingly admirable as far as motives and intentions go, but for the hardened collector like myself, this is a travesty! So I would implore you...if you enjoy this album as much as I do, drop a note at his myspace page and ask him to go through with a physical release. Maybe if enough of us request it, our wish will be granted.

01 The Genesis Device
02 Dysphoria
03 Avalanche
04 Everything's Mirror
05 Viceroy
06 Segue
07 The Discovery
08 Covington
09 Triumverate!
10 States

Visit Cloudkicker on Myspace