Tag Archives: Days Between Stations

The Giant Achievement of Days Between Stations

Giants cover

It’s been 7 long years since we have heard from Oscar Fuentes Bills (keyboards) and Sepand Samzadeh (guitar), the duo who go by the moniker Days Between Stations. They have a new album out, Giants, and it is a contender for best of 2020. I love this album. It is produced by Billy Sherwood of Yes fame, who also plays bass, drums, and handles lead vocals on most of the songs. Colin Moulding, who sang The Man Who Died Two Times on their last album, returns to sing on Goes By Gravity, while Durga McBroom, who sang on several Pink Floyd songs sings lead on Witness the End of the World.

While their second album, In Extremis, was very good, Giants is a huge step forward for DBS. Did I mention I love this album? It kicks off with a clanging guitar chord reverberating from one speaker to another, and before you know it,  we’re on a rollercoaster of an epic named Spark

Spark of life
Soul expansion
Coming in waves
Point of view
Taking chances
You’re an act of God

Even though Spark lasts nearly 17:00 and is nonstop high energy, it never seems too long or forced. Samzadeh unleashes some terrific guitar solos worthy of David Gilmour, while Bills answers with vigorous organ fills.

Things calm down a bit for Witness the End of the World. Over an acoustic piano, guitar, and violin, McBroom delivers a sensitive vocal performance. This is a beautiful and tender waltz that mourns the inevitable loss all humans suffer.

Everything we once knew
Winding down
Witness the end of the world

Another Day begins with a slow tempo that gradually adds layers of instruments and vocal harmonies until it is a juggernaut of sound. It features an incredibly catchy chorus that gets in your head and won’t leave.

Goes By Gravity, sung by Moulding with his trademark wry vocals, is the poppiest song on the album, and is another earworm.

The title track is another epic, clocking in at 13:00, and is Bills’ tribute to his deceased father, the “giant” of his childhood, and a man he deeply admires. This is a tremendous song, with lots of space for Sherwood, Samzadeh, and Bills to stretch out and play off each other. Sherwood’s massed vocals are spine-tingling as he sings, 

Shaking the sky
Holding on to the reins
The Great Divide
Between memories and 
What remains

After the emotional experience of Giant, we are treated to an instrumental interlude that begins with a Bill Evans-like jazz passage on piano, transitions to a Bach-like fugue on acoustic guitar, and ends up with a guitar/synthesizer duet that reminds me of classic Genesis. (Side note: the cover art is by Paul Whitehead, who painted several classic covers for Genesis.)

The album wraps up with the magnificent The Common Thread. This is, hands down, the best song I’ve heard this year. Full of tricky time changes but always staying accessible and engaging, it progresses upward inexorably, gaining power with every bar. By the time we get to the final minute and the triumphant conclusion, I feel like I’ve reached the top of a mountain. This song is as good as anything Yes recorded in their classic incarnation.

Days Between Stations have only released three albums, but I’ve never seen such growth in group like they’ve accomplished with Giant. Billy Sherwood definitely deserves a lot of the credit, with his production, bass and drum work, and vocals. Their debut was all instrumental, their second was about half instrumental, whereas Giants is a full-bore progrock vocal tour de force. Album of the year? There are some strong contenders from Glass Hammer, Bardic Depths, Pendragon, Katatonia, Pain of Salvation, and Pineapple Thief, but right now Days Between Stations’ Giants is at the top of my list.

I ordered a CD from their website for my collection, and they included some DBS pencils and guitar picks. How’s that for customer service!

DBS picks

The video below is a nice sampler of the album:

Those Awkward Teenage Years – The 2010’s, pt. 4: 2013

We’re continuing our look back at the decade that is ending in a few weeks with a fond recall of 2013. It was another exceptional year in terms of high quality music, and I have selected fifteen albums that represent just how good that year was for lovers of prog and rock. Once again, my choices are in alphabetical order.

The Beatles: Bootleg 1963

Okay, this is certainly not prog, but the Beatles were the greatest rock group of all time. This is a huge collection of studio outtakes from 1963 that was initially available for purchase for only a few hours on iTunes. Why only a few hours? Because the 50 year copyright on them was set to expire if they weren’t made commercially available. Once they were put on the marketplace, their copyright was safe, and the music label could continue to make money off of them.

That said, these tracks are a fascinating glimpse into how good John, Paul, George, and Ringo were from the beginning of their recorded career. They hit their harmonies effortlessly, and their musicianship is excellent. This collection is now available on Apple Music, and it is worth checking out if you are a even a casual Beatles fan.

Big Big Train: English Electric Part 2; Full Power

Big Big Train followed up 2012’s English Electric Part 1 with English Electric Part 2, which was, in some fan’s eyes, even better. It opens with the propulsive “East Coast Racer” and includes the tender “Curator of Butterflies”. “The Permanent Way” pulls together several themes from the two parts beautifully.

Later in 2013, BBT released a deluxe 2-disc edition of Parts 1 and 2 with a changed running order and extra tracks entitled Full Power. I suppose it is the definitive edition, but I prefer the original separate albums.

Cosmograf: The Man Left In Space

One of my favorite albums of the decade is Cosmograf’s The Man Left In Space. It is a concept album about the anguish an astronaut goes through as he realizes he will not be returning home from his space voyage. Great music, sensitive lyrics, and snippets of audio conversations create a claustrophobic soundscape that is redeemed by the uplifting finale, “When the Air Runs Out”.

David Bowie: The Next Day

After he released Reality in 2003, Bowie announced he was retiring from music. Ten years later, The Next Day appeared. Reality was a career high point, but The Next Day is a worthy successor. In it, Bowie explores all of his eclectic musical interests, and delivers a terrific set of songs. The album cover is simply a vandalized version of his 1978 classic, “Heroes”, as if to say, “What’s past is past. Listen to me now.”

Days Between Stations: In Extremis

Los Angeles-based Days Between Stations released their excellent second album, In Extremis in 2013. It features Colin Moulding of XTC fame on the catchy “The Man Who Died Two Times”, and “Eggshell Man” is one of the best epics of the decade.

Ludovico Einaudi: In A Time Lapse

Einaudi is a classical composer and pianist, and In A Time Lapse is a superb collection of his minimalist-tinged compositions. Unabashedly melodic and romantic, this album is a beautiful listening experience.

Flower Kings: Desolation Rose

One of the strongest sets of songs Roine Stolt and the Kings ever recorded. Here’s what I wrote about it in my 2013 review: Desolation Rose is a dark and brooding jeremiad on the dangers of corrupt media and government, perpetual war and violence, and religious fanaticism. Freedom is not a given, and Desolation Rose is a dire warning to those who would trade it for “security”, whether by indiscriminately believing what governments and mainstream media tell us, or by neglecting critical thinking when it comes to the claims of deceptive religious figures. Each song segues seamlessly into the next, reinforcing the overall impact of the lyrics. It may take a few listens for them to take hold, but once they do, they are very powerful.

Haken: The Mountain

The Mountain was Haken’s third album, and it was a breakthrough. Every song is excellent, and “Paraidolia” is one of the best in their entire catalog. This album was my favorite of 2013 (yes, I liked it even more than BBT’s Full Power). Today, Haken is one of the top bands in progworld. This album shows why they deserve all the accolades.

KingBathmat: Overcoming The Monster

KingBathmat is the brainchild of John Bassett, and for a while in the mid-’10s it looked like they were going to conquer the world. Overcoming The Monster is their best album, and it is a hard-driving metal/psychedelic/progressive melodic masterpiece. “Kubrick Moon” is one of the weirdest yet satisfying songs I’ve ever heard.

Gary Numan: Splinter – Songs From A Broken Mind

Most people in America think Gary Numan is that one-hit wonder guy with the song about cars. He’s actually had a long career, with many ups and downs, and Splinter is an incredible return to form. Trent Reznor owes a lot to Numan, as Splinter illustrates. A very strong album, performed very well. The bass is absolutely thunderous, and the hooks Numan sets up sink in and won’t let go.

Rush: Vapor Trails, remixed

Not a 2013 album, but a welcome rerelease. The original 2002 album was greeted rapturously, because no one knew if Rush would ever perform together after Neil Peart’s personal losses. Once the initial excitement subsided, it was clear that the mix on Vapor Trails was a disaster. With this version, these fantastic songs can be heard as the band intended.

Sand

Matt Healey (North Atlantic Oscillation) released this solo album that could be another NAO set. It is a wonderful album, including an ode to Halley’s telescope (“Elegy For The Old Forty-Foot”). I’m a fan of anything NAO does, and SAND is an essential part of their catalog.

Sanguine Hum: The Weight Of The World

Sanguine Hum’s second album is even better than their excellent debut. The title track is 15 minutes of endlessly delightful pop that flies by in no time. The Weight Of The World is a career high that they have yet to surpass.

Sound Of Contact: Dimensionaut

One of the best albums of the decade. Simon Collins (son of Phil, with his father’s vocal and drum chops) and Dave Kerzner formed the creative nucleus of this band and released a terrific concept album about a being who can travel through different dimensions. “Mobius Slip” is one of the most exhilarating 20 minutes in rock. Too bad Collins and Kerzner couldn’t patch up their differences to work together again. We’re all poorer for it.

Steven Wilson: The Raven That Refused To Sing

When I first heard Steven Wilson’s opening track to The Raven That Refused To Sing, I thought, “Hmm… Early ’70s Herbie Hancock fusion with Yes.” I’m not a fan of that particular mixture, but fortunately, track 2 is one of Wilson’s finest ever: “Drive Home”. I admire him for trying new things and never sitting still musically – that’s what keeps me interested in his work.

Other significant releases in 2013: Anathema’s concert set Universal, Blackfield’s IV, The Dear Hunter’s Migrant, Nosound’s Afterthoughts, and Tesseract’s Altered State. Let us know your favorites that we missed in the comments!