Tuesday, December 17, 2013

#8 of my Top 12 Albums of 2013: Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep

Spock's Beard's Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep

Release Date: April 2nd, 2013
Label: InsideOut Music
Genre: Progressive Rock

     I got really into Progressive Rock and Metal this year, something about the complex arrangements of instruments and lyrics tied with extremely long periods of time given to each song to develop just fascinated me this year.  I mean, this album technically only has 7 tracks on it but still hits 55 minutes, but I will be talking about the Special Edition here, which includes a second disc with four more songs and a remix to tack on another 25 minutes on to the total running time.  With so few songs to be talking about and to include in the cd, you better hope every single one of them is good and engages you for the length they take, one of the songs, "Waiting For Me", clocking in at 12:36.  Thankfully, Spock's Beard delivers by making every song a journey, a musical dreamscape experience as each song ebbs and flows more like a story being unraveled rather than a simple song being played.  I could gush about this album for a while but I will hold myself back as much as I can.

     Spock's Beard is a Progressive Rock band from L.A. that has been around for a very long time, being one of the Progressive Rock bands to crop up in the early 1990's, along with The Flower Kings and Enchant.  They are well versed in what they do and after almost 22 years, they have released 11 studio albums, Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep being the 11th.  With such a pretentious progressive-style title as that, I was drawn to check out this album one night when I needed music to play as I did some work.  Older Spock's Beard fans may not like this album as much, considering it is the first album without founding drummer and singer Neal Morse and with new singer Ted Leonard, of the aforementioned Enchant.  However, myself never having listened to Spock's Beard prior to this year, I came at this album with fresh ears and I came out wanting more and sad that after nearly 80 minutes of music, there wasn't more to the album.  The entire album has a retro 70's/80's prog feel to it, similar to Kansas, but with a more modern and polished sound to it, parts of it I could compare to a good chunk of Steven Wilson's work in his various bands.

"I Know Your Secret"

"I Know Your Secret", the second track on the album, is a good test to see if you'd be interested in this album, I know this is the song where I myself figured out I wanted to listen to every song that follows it.  Like a lot of their songs, they do not discriminate on any element in their ensemble, Leonard's very solid vocals sound perfect for the music and flows naturally over the notes, there is a lot of bass and it is easy to pick out rather than being shoved in the background, the keys give the entire album the progressive space-y feel to it, the drummer gets a lot of moments to pound out some awesome breaks and the guitar gets a sweet solo around 3:24.  Fast forward a couple minutes later and the song has completely changed pace but unless you actually fast-forward and skip the section between the solo and the key change, you will not be jarred by this juxtaposition of speeds within the song, it just flows very naturally.  Many songs on this album does this, it will drastically change the pace of the song at different points but that adds to the overall feeling of the entire track and makes it more than just an almost eight minute song of the same thing over and over again.  Hell, you hear the chorus of the song only three times in the entire span of the song, with some other bands you'd hear the chorus twice within the span of a minute.  Some other suggestions on the album include "Something Very Strange," "A Treasure Abandoned," "Afterthoughts," and "Down a Burning Road," which are all very solid tracks that are great songs to listen to.

"Something Very Strange"

     There is also a music video for one of the tracks on the album, "Submerged," but that is actually one of my least favorite songs on the tracks, and its not because of the writing because the writing is probably the best part of the song and what keeps me from skipping it.  The writing is solid throughout the entire album though, with very memorable choruses and quotable passages littered within every song.  What I don't really like is the toned-down nature of the track, its very slow and nothing is done that special with the instruments like there is with every other track on the album, its probably the song most suitable for wide-audiences looking for something different but not too different.  Also, that song is the only instance where I have a problem with Leonard's singing, which is still above average, but the parts leading up to the chorus just grate on me and feel as if he himself is uncomfortable just singing like that, he seems much more suitable singing like he does with the chorus, which is one of the best on the album.  So, obviously, i'm a little torn.

     Thankfully, we have "Waiting For Me" to pick up the slack of "Submerged."  One of the songs that previous member, Neal Morse, helped write, this song clocks in at an astounding 12:37 seconds and every second of the song is fantastic.  It is another toned down track, but it is more upbeat.  The bass and the drums after the intro of the song help set up the song perfectly, giving it a solid beat that will stay in your head for weeks.  Then, Leonard and the piano take over the song until the chorus arrives, which is so glorious and uplifting, it will make you want to go outside, look up into the sunny sky and just smile that you are just alive.  
I can dance on the rain
If someone's out there waiting for me
Laugh through the pain
If someone's out there waiting for me
Dancing on the rain
Is someone somewhere waiting for me
Slowly going sane
If someone's out there waiting for me
Waiting for me there

Man, I love that chorus. And after the second chorus, the bass gets a chance to lead the song and get a solo which is fantastic because it is usually guitar solos that take over there and the bassist does a damn good job. The song calms back down and becomes very slow with a jazz-y somber type of feel and it feels much more genuine than "Submerged".  Oh and did I mention the guitar solo that really makes it seem like an older 70's type of song and gives it a retro feel? Then the keyboardist and the guitarist get in a sort of battle, trading off solos and the drummer is keeping a solid fun beat behind it all OH its too much to talk about.  Seriously just go listen to the song, it's incredible. 

"Waiting For Me"

    If it weren't for one or two songs that I tend to skip sometimes, "Submerged" being the main one, I would give this album a higher spot on this list.  Also, after initial obsession, i've begun to move past this album but I will still say that this is an album definitely worth checking out for all that it has to offer, from the odd compositions in "Afterthoughts" and "Wish I Were Here", to the great lyrics, such as in "Hiding Out" and "Waiting For Me", to the overall great musicianship in songs like "A Treasure Abandoned" and "Something Very Strange."  Great album that has easily converted me into a fan of Spock's Beard.

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