Despite the awesomeness of so much of the music I've been trying out recently (such as these and this), I've moved ahead through the queue a little. Here's what I've been listening to recently.
The short version:
Thievery Corporation—Versions: 5/10
Lisa Gerrard and Patrick Cassidy—Immortal Memory: 7/10
David Arkenstone—Spirit Wind: 6/10
Jurassic 5—Feedback: 8/10
After Lunático I moved on to the new Thievery Corporation compilation, Versions. These guys release more compilations of remixes of other peoples' music more than they do albums, and I'm not as big of a fan of the compilation CDs. But, they're still nice background music... it's just unfortunate that they sound so similar. I'm beginning to ask myself if there's really any reason for a person to have more than a couple Thievery Corporation CDs. I already can only recognize and name a couple of their tracks, and going through this CD I'm getting a strong feeling of déjà vu. So, while it's a perfectly decent CD, it's definitely no great CD. It's exactly like all of their others.
One thing really did hit me this time. The tracks that they remix tend to be jazz, lounge, or chillout. I've never heard of any of them. But I knew one of the tracks being remixed on Versions: Ben Folds (Fear of Pop) and William Shatner—In Love. And holy crap! The lovely original version is a hundred times better than the butchered remix. Is this really what they're doing to the other tracks? Are they simply turning great music that I'd like into more generic versions of the originals? I sure hope not.
I normally like to link to the standout tracks of albums that I try out. It's almost futile here; they all sound so similar. But, I suppose my favorites are the remixes of Ustad Sultan Khan—Tarana, The Januaries—The Girl's Insane, and Sarah McLachlan—Dirty Little Secret. You can pick up clips on the Thievery Corporation website.
Immortal Memory by Lisa Gerrard and Patrick Cassidy is the album for anyone who bought the exquisite Gladiator soundtrack, and thought to themselves, "hey, it would be great if there was a whole album of that woman moaning." Just replace the usual Hans Zimmerism of Gladiator with the more ambient stylings of Patrick Cassidy and you've got this album. That's not to knock it; it's actually pretty decent. From another angle, it's probably what Enya's music would sound with if Enya were clinically depressed and had a hermaphroditic voice. Parts of it also remind me of the Diablo II soundtrack (which I love) a little bit. If those depictions of the music haven't totally turned you off yet, you should definitely give it a chance.
Check out Sailing to Byzantium, which absolutely could have been on the Gladiator soundtrack if one of the characters had needed to sail to Byzantium. Also try The Song of Amergin. Not all of the other tracks are quite so instrumented as those two.
David Arkenstone's Spirit Wind is another new age-ish album. It's not bad, not great. Actually, you could probably tell pretty much exactly what it would sound like just based on the name "Spirit Wind," and you'd probably be right. I wasn't terribly familiar with his music, but I had heard it before in a few games. He worked with Frank Klepacki (Command and Conquer, Nox, and other Westwood games) to make the soundtrack for Lands of Lore II: Guardians of Destiny, which I never played, but I bought the soundtrack because Klepacki was involved. It's good fantasy RPG music. He also did all of the Darkmoon Faire music for World of Warcraft. Finally, he also composed all of the music you hear when playing the Harkonnen in the woefully underrated but very tasty Emperor: Battle for Dune. The Harkonnen themes are not really like the rest of his music; they're dark, electronic, and full of electric guitars. It's kind of neat that he's at least versatile. It's hard to imagine too many composers that have like a dozen albums full of new age-y meditation music and one full of hard-rocking electric guitars and electronic beats.
Anyway, it's fine; it's not something that I'm going to reach for when I need anything besides background music. Perhaps for board games. It's the kind of CD that makes you want to light scented candles, go decorate the living room, and then take a bubble bath. Check out Wind in the Trees for an example. It's got rain sticks!
Finally, the best thing I've listened to in the past month or so is the new Jurassic 5 album Feedback. They've lost member Cut Chemist (bringing them down to five members, oddly), but they still sound great. If you don't know J5, it's clever, light, friendly, melodic, laid-back rap.
Now, this CD is great. It's the same formula as their previous albums, and that's a good thing. I can't really think of any rap group in the same vein as these guys, and there's talent to spare. In fact, I guess I can't think of too many other rap groups at all besides The Roots; the genre seems to be mostly solo artists. Jurassic 5 was one of the groups that turned me into a rap fan from someone who wasn't really impressed with it previously. It's probably worth your while to give them a try even if you don't normally listen to any rap. I recommend Back 4 U, Work it Out featuring Dave Matthews Band, and Get It Together.
I'm going to spend more time with the new Jurassic 5 CD, and then I'll probably try out the two I've got on order, one from Bubba Sparxxx and one from Sheá Seger.
Update (August 9): After further consideration, I've decided that a 9 is too high for Feedback. An 8 is still a great album, and more what Feedback deserves.