Entertainment & Media

We're gonna need a bigger boat.
Posted: Posted July 9th by Party Smasher
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I've always wondered if I actually do understand what I like and the qualities that lead me to like it. My latest foray into investigating this subject has been fruitful.

I have compiled a list of more than sixty of my most-listened albums, with a limit of one album per band. I then went on Rate Your Music and collected all of the descriptor tags for those albums, collated them and organized them by frequency. Here are my ten most common descriptors for favorite albums:

1. male vocals
2. heavy
3. aggressive
4. dense
5. technical
6. progressive
7. dark
8. complex
9. atmospheric
10. uncommon time signatures

This does, in fact, ably describe my music taste from Haken to Ulcerate, despite being two very different styles, and even covers non-rock music that I enjoy, such as Rossz csillag alatt szuletett by Venetian Snares.

I've also finally received a pair of massive 3-way Yamaha "bookshelf" speakers to fill out my stereo system alongside my smaller but still decent Polk speakers. I now have a massive, rich, enveloping way to listen to music.

In addition, I've changed streaming services from Pandora to Deezer, as Deezer offers lossless streaming.

The combination of these things means that I am listening to music in higher quality than I ever have in my life. This allows me to hear a lot more of the beauty that lies in little details and mixing, etc. However, it similarly outlines the lack thereof in other music that I listen to.

It's curious, because I'm gaining a lot of perspective on mixing; some people will complain about the mixing of, for instance, Sorceress by Opeth, saying that the bass is way to huge and it muddles the higher details. I definitely understand that, and it doesn't sound the best through headphones or shitty speakers, but I was able to hear a lot more detail through a system with multiple drivers for mid and high ranges without lowering the bass in the EQ.

Similarly, I'm finding that some of the albums that sound really fucking amazing through earbuds and shitty speakers don't have a lot of the richness and detail come out through an expensive system, apparently because these albums were designed to be listened to casually.

As always, King Gizzard surprises with their utter dedication to quality rock. Polygondwanaland is a magical experience through a beefy stereo system.

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Where are the descriptor tags on Rate your Music? I'm not seeing them anywhere. I'm curious in what my own preferences are, since they seem to also be all over the place.

Posted July 9th by Xhin
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Posted July 10th by Party Smasher
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Male Vocals

Are there any female vocalist favorites?

Edited July 12th by I killed Mufasa
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No. If female vocalists make the kind of music that I want to listen to, I have not found it.

I can count on one hand the number of female vocalists that make something close to what I like and which don't immediately irritate me.

1. Zofia Fras of Obscure Sphinx.

2. Kristin Hayter of Lingua Ignota.

3. Courtney LaPlante of iwrestledabearonce, but really specifically from the unusually heavy album Hail Mary.

iwrestledabearonce is now defunct, as LaPlante and her guitarist husband left the band to form their own musical project. As such, their moderate investigation of mathcore on the album Hail Mary will never develop into a product that I would consider seriously.

Lingua Ignota, while interesting for its various avant-garde elements and for the extremely talented vocal performance of Hayter, is simply not something that I connect with.

Fras with Obscure Sphinx does what I am most likely to listen to of these three, but does so in a much more over-saturated style. In other words, if I want to listen to atmospheric sludge metal, I'm more likely to put on Inter Arma or Yob or Sumac or Rosetta - or even Oathbreaker, whose female vocalist Caro Tanghe has delivered some of the most violent screams I've heard recently. I have not had the opportunity to look into their discography, though.

So no, I have no female vocalists in my favorites, though I am aware of a few that are OK.

Posted July 12th by Party Smasher
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I appreciate the in-depth analysis.

Posted July 12th by I killed Mufasa
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Not really anything to do with anything, but something that I appreciate:

The discussion of what metal album is the heaviest is mostly academic, but I think that one would be hard-pressed to find something heavier than these three albums.

The scene (and my understanding of it) has made a lot of strides forward since my days of searching "most brutal deathcore breakdowns 2009" on YouTube.

Edited July 13th by Party Smasher
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If I were to describe my preferences in this manner, it'd be pretty tough. It's impossible to make a song that accomplishes all of these at the same time.

- Continual progression throughout
- Clear structure and segments
- Fast, interesting arpeggios
- Rich timbre
- Strong, memorable melodies and leitmotifs
- Atmosphere
- Story and drama
- Grandiose and epic
- Fun and exhilarating
- "Quality" sound

An ideal song for me has a core melody and clear structure that constantly progresses and evolves throughout the song. It goes through the rises and falls of a story. I don't like stagnation or atmosphere on its own, but when you have those things supporting the structure, that takes it to another level. Explains my love of ballads and indie songs, as well as the clear structuring of pop songs. But I also love rich timbre/texture and more dramatic, epic, grandiose sounds, which explains why there are very few country songs that I like but plenty of jazz/big band and classical. And quality is pretty make-or-break for me. I never listen through earbuds: I have an awesome theatrical sound system, awesome PC speakers, good headphones, and when I'm out and about, impressive dual portable bluetooth speakers and my car speakers. If it doesn't sound good on any of those, I'm out.

But quality for me is also more about the nature of the sound itself. The 8-Bit Big Band and US Army Band "Pershing's Own" have some of the best sounds for jazz: high timbre and fast playing, but still very precise and very smooth. AJR has very good production quality and really tweaks the sound to different parts of each song. ABBA struck a good formula and sticks to it, mixing group vocals with very Eurovision-esque upbeat synths. There's a real intention to it. And even simple songs like Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole have a very pure and clean sound, but also very clear structure that progresses throughout.

Posted July 14th by mariomguy
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Is it impossible to make a song with all of those? Or are you referring to other elements that you didn't mention?

Posted July 14th by Party Smasher
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To have a song that is atmospheric, dramatic, AND fun/exhilerating with a quality sound and a strong core melody? That's not a song, that's a journey through the world of music. Maybe Bohemian Rhapsody comes close, as well as Stairway to Heaven, and some very long songs with multiple distinct parts, but those songs don't come quite close to hitting and maintaining those strengths as well as shorter songs ("Don't Stop Me Now" is much more exhilarating, "Breakthru" has richer timbre, I quite like the motifs of "It's a Kind of Magic").

In the end, a song has to BE something. And anything it chooses to be is something less than something else it could be. You can't have a song be everything, at that point you're making a collage, or an album, or a journey - not a song. And so many songs fall short for that reason.

So, really, whatever a song decides to accomplish, if it accomplishes that and the result is pleasant to listen to, I'll probably like it. And if it hits most of those marks and ticks off like 7 of the 10 check boxes, I'll really like it. But I don't think there's a magical formula to a perfect song. I like Destiny's Child Say My Name, even though it doesn't really bother with much of the boxes.

Posted July 14th by mariomguy
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To have a song that is atmospheric, dramatic, AND fun/exhilerating with a quality sound and a strong core melody? That's not a song, that's a journey through the world of music.

Perhaps my efforts to cultivate a stronger library than most are finally paying off, because that's how I think of most of my favorite music.

You can't have a song be everything

This is true, but for the practical reason that making an arbitrarily large amount of styles fit into one track is beyond the ability of any recording artist in existence today, not for the reason that you outline. However, there are recording artists that make bizarre combinations like Mr. Bungle combining funk, film score, circus music, thrash metal and a dozen other styles on the album California, or who make very specific leaps like Opeth moving back and forth between huge, crushing death metal and delicate, poignant acoustic rock on the album Blackwater Park.

Posted July 14th by Party Smasher
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