To manage my music library, I proudly use Roon as a lifetime subscriber.
I run my Roon Core on a Lenovo M715q Tiny PC, with all my digital music on an internal TeamGroup QX 4TB SSD. One of my endpoints is a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B running RoPieee.
Upcoming releases I'm excited about:
September 22 Kylie Minogue, Tension
September 29 Steven Wilson, The Harmony Codex
October 27 Prince and the New Power Generation, Diamonds and Pearls (remaster/reissue)
Top 10 albums that have had an impact on my life:
In approximate order of discovery...
Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair
Thompson Twins, Here's to Future Days
Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
Rush, Permanent Waves
U2, Achtung Baby
Echolyn, As the World
Jethro Tull, The Broadsword and the Beast
Porcupine Tree, Deadwing
Dream Theater, A Dramatic Turn of Events
R E V I E W S
Dream Theater, When Dream and Day Unite (1989)
Being the debut album by now prog-metal legends Dream Theater, this is unfortunately not very compelling material that also wasn't recorded very well. However, all the instrumental virtuosity they would become famous for is on display here. This is also the only Dream Theater album fronted by lead singer Charlie Dominici, before they hired the much more capable James LaBrie.
Dream Theater, Images and Words (1992)
Dream Theater's sophomore album, their major-label debut, seems to be the one that all Dream Theater fans can agree on. Not only did it break the band to a wider audience via its biggest single and video, "Pull Me Under," but it continues to be one of their universally loved albums. Even if his diction suffers in his highest register, new lead singer James LaBrie hits it out of the park. The writing is great and the band sounds exactly as they should, a massive improvement on all fronts from the previous album. The prog virtuosity never distracts from the emotional content of these melodic, passionate, and hopeful songs. This is prog-rock at its most elegant. One point of note is that it contains "Metropolis -- Part I," a song that would be completed with an entire later album. Recommended as an ideal starting point: if you get only one Dream Theater album, make it this one.
Dream Theater, Awake (1994)
If the luscious Images and Words was yin, its follow-up Awake is yang: instantly heavier, more metal, more complex and discordant. The album seethes with darker lyrics about mental illness, alcoholism, depression, and relationship turmoil. Musically it's also a more varied album than its predecessor. Original keyboardist Kevin Moore would leave the band after this album, to be replaced by Derek Sherinian and ultimately Jordan Rudess.
Dream Theater, Octavarium (2005)
By the time Dream Theater recorded their eighth studio album, they had built a cult following from the ground up, recorded their concept album masterwork, then a well-received, sprawling experimental double album, and then a balls-to-the-wall, uncompromising metal album. What was left to do?
Built on the concept of eight notes being an octave in music, and scaling back to an emphasis on shorter songs, Octavarium is a puzzle: each song is based on ascending key signatures; and the final epic, which returns us back to the first note in the octave, is about inevitably repeating oneself. Though the concept is tantalizing, unfortunately the songs are half-baked, as if more thought was put into the concept than the execution.
Frost*, Falling Satellites (2016)
Frost*'s debut album was an instant classic, but its sophomore album ran far into the weeds, taking founding keyboardist Jem Godfrey's penchant for turning things up to 11 to the extreme, and in shorter forms. For their third studio album, they came up with an unexpected masterpiece in which everything works: an overarching musical concept, deeply emotional lyrics, and quite a few demonstrations of prog virtuosity by all concerned, all at the right balance of softness and bombast. The sonically innovative "Towerblock" has to be heard to be believed. The only misfire here might be "Hypoventilate" not getting to its point quickly enough. That's easily overlooked, though, in favor of appreciating the album as a harmonious whole in which even the two final, unrelated tracks nevertheless fit in with the vibe as a fitting coda. These first three Frost* albums would later be remixed and remastered, with bonus and live material, for the box set 13 Winters (2020).
Circus Maximus, Nine (2012)
Up and coming Norwegian prog-metallers Circus Maximus's stellar third studio album, Nine, builds on the concise song structures of its predecessor, Isolate, but adds expanded lyrical topics and prog instrumental flourishes that always seem integral to the songs, not ostentatious, though a few of the songs are around ten minutes' length. This is easily the best of Circus Maximus's output so far, and it was showcased in its entirely by their live album Nine Live.
Steven Wilson, The Harmony Codex (2023)
Steven Wilson's highly anticipated seventh solo album is easily his most cinematic and expansive since his second, Grace for Drowning, but this time it's informed by the largely electronic sound he's cultivated since To the Bone. The mixed reviews for his previous effort, The Future Bites, largely chided him for making basically an electronic pop album, but with this new album he embraces the same basic sound but while incorporating more traditional prog elements, venturing into the territory of music soundtracks and Tangerine Dream.