Bryan Beller  ::  Los Angeles, CA


The BellerBytes "Recommended Holiday Listening" List

I'd like to continue a hoilday tradition I started last year, in which I write an e-mail to my faithful (and incredibly understanding) BellerBytes subscribers that is, for a change, completely not about me.

This year I'd like to tell you about some music that others have shared with me. I get a lot of music sent my way these days, partially because I'm a CD reviewer for Bass Player Magazine, but also just because people want me to hear what they're up to, which I really appreciate. Some of it's really good, and I thought it would be cool to tell you about a few discs you may want to check out for yourselves. Genre-wise, the list doesn't lack for variety. Hopefully there's something in here you'll dig.

Remember, this isn't a "Top 10" list or anything like that. It doesn't even focus on actual commercial releases. It's just cool stuff made by folks I know, and I'd like to help spread the word about them.

So, in the holiday spirit, here's the BellerBytes "Recommended Holiday Listening" list for 2010:

Dave Weiner, On Revolute - Steve Vai's longtime rhythm/harmony guitarist (who was in the band when I toured with Vai in 2007) wrote 11 epic tunes for his new album, totaling 76 minutes of multi-layered guitar goodness. Vai and other guitar-hero fans certainly won't be disappointed in the playing, which is great and *sounds* great as well. But Weiner has a compositional sound all his own that's worth checking out - and not just because I'm playing fretless on one tune.

Andrew Vait, The Pros And Cons Of Drowning - Kira and I did a house concert at his house in Seattle, and he opened up the show with an unexpected jolt. A classic singer/songwriter/guitarist, Vait fills the six pop/rock tunes on this CD with considerable urgency, great singing, and killer songwriting. Totally worth checking out.

Buttafuko, The Black Album - the first track is called "The Revenge Of The Illegitimate Buttafuko Child," and it goes downhill from a good, delightfully obscene way. The 20 tunes on this disc sound like what Stormtroopers Of Death might have been if they took themselves even less seriously. It's power trio metal, but somehow it comes off as slightly punk as well. Led by a Seattle-area metal enthusiast and proud ne'er-do-well named Hodgy, Buttafuko is for anyone who digs Zappa-style humor wrapped in a rough metal shell.

Chris Opperman, The Lionheart - this is no-excuses, progressive/fusion, mad-genius-style material with a heavy emphasis on Opperman's frenetic piano. For anyone who's into the Steve Vai/Mike Keneally branch of Zappa-influenced instrumental music and doesn't know about Chris Opperman already: you really should.

Cosyns - North Carolina is home to one of the best extreme metal guitarist/composers you've probably never heard of. I met Derek Corzine while working on a metal album for a project called Quester, which hopefully will come out one day. Until then, Meshuggah  fans must check out what he's up to on his own. The tunes are actually Christian based, but believe me, "Ominous Redemption" and "Satan In Flames" are still musically brutal beyond description. I'm pretty sure they have an EP out.

Paul Gilbert, Fuzz Universe - the honorable Mr. Gilbert certainly doesn't need me to spread the word about his better-than-ever shredding, but I come to praise the bassist on this CD, Craig Martini, who infuses the whole disc with some seriously ballsy rock tone, and supports Gilbert perfectly while he defies guitar gravity. Sure, it's a throwback album, but it's a quality vintage that any instrumental rock fan will appreciate.

Black Cherry Crush - the '80s are still hot, and this Seattle-based band is reaching waaaaay back to the early '80s, as in Donna Summer "On The Radio" super-early '80s. Bassist Harry Wirth keeps the groove hot and sweaty while lead vocalist Fysah Thomas brings the sexy stuff. If you dig the Brand New Heavies, or Scissor Sisters, this stuff is for you. Not sure they even have an album out yet, but go here to check them out anyway.

Emily Zuzik & Tim Lefebvre
, Domestic Blitz - is there anything that superhipster bassist Tim Lefebvre does that isn't cool? I haven't found it yet. The NYC-based Lefebvre has been on a muzo tear lately, with the Rudder and Krantz-Carlock-Lefebvre discs in the past couple of years. But on this disc he's sharing songwriting and producing duties, so it's really his musical imprint on this techno-retro/throwback/pop/rock stew of tunes.

Shawn Farley, 5240 - this is more 2009 than 2010, but it's my list and I'll do what I want to. Shawn Farley, a guitarist/singer/songwriter from Seattle who's into a lot of the same music I am (and whose records I've played on in the past), decided to challenge himself to write, record and publish online one song a week for an entire year. He did it, and the results are pretty amazing. Call it muzo/rock/techno/pop/whatever - it's all up on Bandcamp for your listening pleasure, and I highly recommend you do so.

Mike Keneally, Evidence Of Humanity
and Marco Minnemann, Normalizer 2 - if you haven't heard about drummer/genius Marco Minnemann's Normalizer 2 project, here's the deal: He tracked a 51-minute uninterrupted drum solo, and then gave the tracks to a bunch of fellow-traveler mad-scientist composer/musicians to put their music on top of his drums. "Evidence Of Humanity" is Keneally's version, and trust me when I say it doesn't disappoint in the musical adventurousness department; Marco's own Normalizer 2 composition-over-drums is a stream of consciousness only he could create. Content warning: Marco's "Tourette Tabla" is one of the most sexually obscene lyrics ever recorded, which is saying something.

That's it! Have a wonderful holiday season, and an even better Happy New Year, and hopefully I'll see you in 2011...

Best wishes to all,
Bryan Beller

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