Tue Aug 23 2022
Nirvana – Nevermind
The defining album of grunge rock, 90s rock, and perhaps 90s music in general. Does it hold up to scrutiny? Post-listen, the verdict is a resounding yes.
- Smells Like Teen Spirit - A song that launched a genre and permanently changed rock music. Dave Grohls drums, Kurt Cobain’s pained voice and guitar, the subtle but constant pulse of Krist Novocelin’s bass, and the explosions in the chorus all are absolutely iconic. A perfect encapsulation of their fusion of punk aesthetic, pop melodies, and noise rock aggression. Has a rawness that conveys emotion eloquently despite the nonsensical lyrics.
- In Bloom – Slower and heavier than Teen Spirit, the bass stands out on the verses giving an ominous tone. Lyrics in the chorus amusingly criticize fans who sing along without having a clue what songs mean. Rest of the song can be read as a loss of innocence, characterized with abuse of nature and of people. Screaming guitar solo is an interesting effect too. Not as a raw as Teen Spirit but a solid song.
- Come As You Are – Melody and straightforward drum in the verses could be a modern pop song if not for Cobain’s anguished singing. It’s the poppiest of the singles on the song. Lyrics are intentionally contradictory, each line a rebuttal of the last, showing contradictory expectations of how people are “supposed to” act. Pretty nice one.
- Breed – Opens up like a more traditional 80s rock song (kinda sounds like Deep Purple to me, I guess). Mix of 80s rock and hardcore punk. “I don’t care” is the most repeated line, both taken as a partner giving in to their other’s wishes, a statement of apathy, and a statement of disatisfaction. Basically, it’s a rejection of the mundanity of late 80s/early 90s Middle American Dream – marriage, house, baby, career as quick as possible. I like this one, even though I’d forgotten it completely.
- Lithium – A song about manic depression, showing both highs and lows as well as various strategies to cope, including religion, isolation, self-blame, drums/medication, hypersexuality, etc. Interestingly, the coping mechanisms are mostly portrayed positively, as necessary ways to handle depression. The “Yeahs” are kinda annoying, but it fits the “mania” part of manic-depressive episodes. The “I’m not gonna crack” bridge is good. Solid song overall.
- Polly – A very disturbing song in context (it’s about a kidnapper and rapist talking his victim). I applaud Cobain et al for doing concerts to raise money for rape victims, and calling attention to the issue through song is a good thing, but can’t enjoy it.
- Territorial Pissings – More of a hardcore punk song, which isn’t my favorite genre. Some raw aggression despairing over the idiocy of society with some feminist lines. Basically, it’s mocking “macho men” fighting over power and women being like animals pissing on their territory.
- Drain You – About Cobain’s previous relationship with Tobi Vail (of the band Bikini Kill), describing the unhealthy dependency young love develops while also being fairly positive in general about the relationship. The extended instrumental break has an odd darkness to it. A real grunge-style love song, simultaneously mocking and sincere, dark and positive, gross and sweet.
- Lounge Act – Another song about Tobi Vail. Named because Cobain thought the bass sounded like lounge music. Not my favorite as it’s mostly redundant thematically and doesn’t have the best music.
- Stay Away – A song about everything Cobain hates. The guitar shrieks during the “I don’t Why” parts are a really nice effect. Among the many things criticized are “macho” men, commercialization of music, unhealthy relationships etc. Nice bass on this one.
- On a Plain – Probably about drugs, numbness and trying to cope with pain. It’s probably the most forgettable track on the album tbh.
- Something in the Way – Title is reference to graffiti under the Young Street Bridge where Cobain supposedly lived under (he didn’t; he just hung out there as a kid). The most low key song on the track. It’s a mellower track with the verses almost whispered. Essentially a story of despair after an album of anger and confusion. Last main track.
- Endless, Nameless – The hidden track. Started as a frustrated jam when “Lithium” wasn’t coming together. Lyrics are screamed, moaned, or otherwise incoherent. An expression of pure rage and frustration. Takes the harshness of the album to a horrifying new level. Kinda nightmarish, but like, in a good way???
Throughout this entire album, I’m most impressed with Krist Novocelic’s basswork, providing the background pulse that ties the music together, and the tone for most of the verses. Cobain himself is of course great, and Dave Grohl brings a suitable level of aggression.
It’s a classic album for a reason, and it’s actually much better than I expected. It holds up as a masterpiece of rock, in part due to Novocelic’s underrated basswork, the genuinely innovative fusions of genres, and strong thematic/aesthetic mixing.
I’d definitely give this one a 5/5. It’s not perfect (there’s some parts I really dislike), but deifintely in the upper echelon of rock ablujms.
Wed Aug 24 2022
The College Dropout
Kanye West – The College Dropout
Kanye’s debut album, often considered one of his best.
- We Don’t Care (Intro -> Graduation Day -> Grduation Day) – It’s a song about the necessity of dealing drugs to get by. In a celebratory tone. It’s basically a big middle finger to people who moralize about how evil drugs by while making it necessary with poor socioeconomic conditions. The beat is hella smooth. I don’t really like the inclusion of the children’s voices in here, though. Ties in with Intro being a request from school faculty to sing a song for the kids and the following intermission “Graudation Day” having the same faculty member berating Kanye for singing about drugs. The sung part of Graduation Day by Jon Legend signals Kanye’s realization that he isn’t going to follow a traditional path in life.
- All Falls Down – Examines the pursuit of materialistic wealth and the insecurity that drives it. What will you do if you lose it all? Sylveena Johnson’s background vocals on this are great. Beat is smooth and message is solid. Followed by the intermission “I’ll Fly Away”, an adaption of the gospel song, that represents separating from the material world, which also transitions in the next song Spaceship.
- Spaceship – Shows Kanye’s discontent with mundane life and a decision to separate from it all. It’s bragging about stealing from Gap too lol. It’s not my favorite track since the background “Whoos” and repetitive beat kinda turn me off along with the lyrics I don’t like. I also don’t quite resonate with the expression of frustration from working shitty jobs, even though I have worked shitty jobs. My least favorite main track so far, but not bad.
- Jesus Walks – A track actually endorsing Christianity?!?!?! It’s mostly about his decidedly un-religious lifestyle and the broken world and that God is the only one who can redeem both. “I wanna talk to God but I’m afraid because we ain’t spoke in so long” is a great line. This is actually a really incredible song.
- Never Let Me Down – An interesting track that presents three different interpretations of the message of hope. Jay Z talks about how he’ll never let the rap world down with his talent. Kanye thanks his grandparents for never letting him down. J. Ivy believes God will never let him down. It’s a strong concept with a very uplifting message from everyone except Jay Z. A really incredible collaboration, though Jay Z’s verses are needlessly self-aggrandizing. So yeah, it’s two thirds of an amazing song.
- Get Em High – Following up two spiritual and uplifting songs with a drug song lol. That’s Kanye. It’s got a nice beat, but it’s about a subject I’m not interested in. I don’t like Common’s verse. It’s out of place.
- The New Workout Plan – The intro Workout Plan and this song mock the pressures people put on themselves with diets and working out to be perfect and attract those of the opposite sex. It’s a very upbeat track with a frantic beat reminiscent of workout tunes. The fake testimonials from women who tried out Kanye’s “workout plan” are hilarious. This is a fun one.
- Slow Jamz – Fittingly due to the name, a lower-key, smooth track that nonetheless has some fast parts. Not really any particuarl meaning in here, but it sounds real nice. Guests artists on this one are all really great. I like the hand drums in this as well. I guess it’s a tribute to slow jazz and R&B given the number of artists name-dropped in it. Is good.
- Breathe In, Breathe Out – A self-deprecating song about his own superficiality. Features Ludacris. Ludacris’ chorus isn’t my favorite, but it’s a decent, fun song.
- School Spirit – Includes multiple skits as intros and outros. The whole cycle mocks school as the only path and place to learn. It mostly talks about it as a place to do drugs and have sex. I don’t really like this one. While the point that college isn’t the only path is valid, most of the reasoning and the alternative paths suggested really sucks. Considering the alternative painted is “don’t get an education, get money”, as if money is inherently valuable.
- Two Words – A song where each beat is tied to two words, the pairs of words broadly painting a picture of racial injustice and broken America. It’s a solid concept and execution. Bass at the end is really nice though, along with the violin.
- Through the Wire – Title refers to the fact that when Kanye recorded the original version, his jaw was wired shut after a car crash. I like the bongos and other percussion. I don’t like the super high pitched background chorus. Kinda grating. Concept is decent though, talking about him overcoming his car crash to carry on with his career.
- Family Business – Inspired by Tarrey Torae’s (who sings on the song) family. Tarrey was a member 48 grandkids on one side and 36 on the other, so there’s a lot of family stories. It’s a nice concept, but a pretty middling track.
- Last Call – Tells Kanye’s story from going from producer to famous musician, thanking Roc-a-Fella Records for signing him. It’s a mega track at 12 minutes, but the main track ends at about 4 minutes. It’s a good one. The outro is an interesting monologue about his process of creating beats and his story of using those beats to meet other famous artists such as Jay Z.
It’s not as artistic or introspective as a lot of my favorite rap albums, but it’s really, really good. Jesus Walks and the good parts of Never Let Me Down are my favorite, but there’s a lot of good to great stuff in here. The beats are insane, and there’s some cool alternative instruments in here. It’s not the most consistent, and it’s a bit too long and stretched out, but it’s very good. Solid 4, maybe 4.5 out of 5.
Thu Aug 25 2022
CHIC – C’est Chic
I know nothing about this, lol. It’s 70s Disco/R& B, which is not my music.
- Chic Cheer – Nice funky bass and syncopated guitar. Minimalist vocals (just repetitions of “Chic, Chic!” and a few other phrases). It’s got tons of groove. It’s not trying to be meaningful, just a confident and groovy dance song. A bit too repetitive for my taste, though. I’d have been happy with a, lik, 3:30-4:00 version instead.
- Le Freak – Oh, this is the “freak out!” song. I had no idea what the name or artist was before now. Like the previous, it’s just a dance tune, designed for happy, stylish vibes, not deep meaning. Apparently, it originally was an anger song after they were denied entry into a club where their own music was being played. The “freak out” was originally “fuck off”. That’s hilarious. Again, longer and more repetitive than I’d like, this one actually being a full 5:30. The full repetition of the 2nd verse and chorus after the extended bass solo is a bit much. I’d have preferred going straight from V2 to the bass solo, then the last chorus (cutting out 1 chorus and 1 verse repetition.
- Savoir Faire – A 5:04 instrumental. Bass, mellow guitar and background keys get the focus. I like the cross-stick drums for the mellow mood. Great tone on the guitar solos. A strong R&B instrumental. Despite being one of the longer tracks, this is probably the one I felt was the least dragged out.
- Happy Man – A pure feel-good song about being happy and spreading love. Again, repetitive and too long, but a nice vibe. A 3 minute version would have been my preference.
- I Want Your Love – On its face, a pretty basic disco love song. Apparently, Nile Rodgers was trying to imitate the grooves of German producer Giorgio Moroder – who used a sequencer for all his parts. Rodgers did not use a sequencer lol. A great “Achievements in Ignorance” story. Yet again, too repetitive and drawn out for my tastes. The remastered version I’m listening too is also way longer than the original version apparently (6:53 vs. 4:57). The extended solo/instrumental section is actually quite nice. I like the trumpets. That said, it could all still be about 2 minutes shorter.
- At Last I am Free – The longest song at over 7 minutes. Also the slowest so far. The verses are about broken love and the pain felt inside. The most repeated line is “At last I am free, I can hardly see in front of me.” I don’t get it. I also don’t like it.
- Sometimes You Win – Reminds of Roll the Bones, except less nihilistic. Similar theme of life being down to chance, so taking a chance on good things. Other than that, pretty basic disco. The trumpets are kinda nice at the end, it’s a ten second burst surrounded by otherwise repetitiveness.
- (Funny) Bone – A (mostly) instrumental track with the only words being: “Just one more thing.
Remember the whole world's a circus. Don't you be the clown” Clearly a closing track to an album instead of a song in its own right. Which doesn’t quite work because this album isn’t cohesive enough to justify that.
So, as my first real deep dive into Disco, it’s better than I expected. That said, I dislike some things that seem to be part of the stylistic core: lots of repetition, very stretched out songs, and simplistic lyrics. The instrumental sections tend to be my favorite, and so Savoir Faire and I Want Your Love get my vote as the best on this. With most of these songs, I’d have liked a minute or more of the repetition cut out.
Still, I get why some of their songs were megahits; they’ve got groove. Ovearll, as an album I’d give it a middling rank. It’s competent and groovy, but not my taste.
Fri Aug 26 2022
From 70s Disco to 50s Afro-Cuban Jazz. Yeppers.
- Wild Jungle – About what I’d expect from Afro-Cuban Jazz. Lots of hand-drums percussion. The original trumpet solo is fine. Tone is not my favorite. The first percussion solo is nifty, but not varied enough to be particularly notable. Kinda blends together. Second percussion solo is a bit better. Then it ends. Kinda without a climax.
- Congo Mulence – A slower track. Smoother too. I like the trumpet solos in this one.
- Kenya - Another lower mid-tempo track, though not as smooth as Congo. Feels like the opening to a 50s sitcom or cartoon, lol. The longest track on the album. The transition to faster percussion and more aggressive brass doesn’t really work for me.
- Oyeme – Defining sound here is the da-da-DA! trumpet riff. Lots of trumpet soloing, but no real climax.
- Holiday – This one is more distinctive, which I appreciate. The sassy/cocky trumpet riff is fun.
- Cannonology – A more dancy track with stronger bass. Kinda forgettable though.
- Frenzy - another one where the bass takes an active role, giving this one a stronger feel. The frantic percussion lets an energy to this lacking in some of the others. This one is probably the best percussion of the bunch, with the trumpets often serving as accents instead of being the driving force. The extended percussion solo is quite nice. Like a lot of the songs, though, the climax either isn’t there, or comes too abruptly and ends.
- Blues a La Machito – A slower track with a fair bit of swagger. Smooth like Congo Mulence, but not quite as memorable. The chorus of brass is kind of a grating sound too. Not sure if it’s the mastering or what, but I really don’t like that. This one does at least have a proper climax.
- Conversation – Good balance with the percussion and brass. The different brass sounds do sound like they’re having a conversation, hence the name. It mostly works as a concept. A pretty good song.
- Tin Tin Deo – Sounds a lot like the other songs on this album tbh. Not sure if there’s anything new here.
- Minor Rama – Lots of trumpet work, and it’s hit or miss. A lot of the tones, I’m not a fan of, but the groove is really nice, as is the solo.
- Turuato – The rhythm of the brass is kinda jarring. I don’t really like it.
A lot of short songs on this one. Most under 3 minutes and longest is 3:28. That’s different from what I’ve come to expect from jazz, but brevity is nice for easy listening.
There’s not a lot of variety on this record. It’s all trumpet and percussion music, and not much to distinguish each track, outside of Congo Mulence’s super smooth solos and Holiday’s cocky trumpet riff. The trumpet playing is nice, but I’m not the biggest trumpet fan, so a number of the tracks fall flat. This is more of an every-other-track album than a consistently good one.
From reading about Machito, it sounds like he’s genuinely insanely innovative in terms of music, so it’s a bit surprising that so many of the songs here come off sounding so similar. Then again, about half the songs are really good, so…
Overall, this was an enjoyable experience to listen too, though nothing just is rushing up as my favorite. It’s in a weird spot where it’s probably too good to be a 3/5 but not good enough to be a 4/5. I can’t do half stars, though, so I guess it’s a 3? To be a 4 it’d need a bit more variety or WOW moments, I think.
Sat Aug 27 2022
The Gershwin Songbook
Ella Fitzgerald – The Very Best of the Gershwin Songbook
Another 50s album! This time the “Queen of Jazz”
- I Got Rhythm – Yes, Ella, you do. You also have a really nice voice. The swing drums are good. Brass section is nice. The lyrics are uplifting. I’m not a fan of the scat portion, though. On the whole, it’s a bop.
- Oh, Lady Be Good – A real downer after I Got Rhythm was so peppy. Not really a fan of this one. The slow pace and drawn out quavers aren’t my thing.
- Nice Work If You Can Get It – It’s meh.
- The Man I Love – It’s a love song. Shocker. It’s sweet, but not my thing.
- Love is Here to Stay – Another love song. It’s also sweet. Sounds like a tune from the romantic scene in a 50s movie.
- But Not For Me – A sadder love song. Strings and keys get more focus on this one. It’s a nice instrumental section, albeit pretty simple. There’s some parts I’m not a fan of, the lyric “Hi-Ho, alas, and also lackaday” in particular.
- A Foggy Day – Sadness. It’s also an American singing about London, so it just doesn’t quite feel right.
- Someone to Watch Over Me – Searching for a lost love.
- Fascinating Rhythm – Begins with a nifty shuffle rhythm and some sick bass. I don’t like the chorus though. So yeah, this one gets bonus for a different tone and dynamics than the others, but ’t's still pretty mixed.
- Embraceable You – The longest song on here and another low tempo love song.
- They Can’t Take That Away from Me – Another low tempo love song. Yep.
- ‘S Wonderful – Annnnnd we finish on with another low tempo love song. The gimmick here is cutting a bunch of words short (devotion becomes “devosh” for instance). I don’t really like it.
The concept of just re-interpreting older “Great American” songs isn’t something we really see today outside of Christmas music. Not all of the songs appeal to me. In fact, most don’t. The original songbook was apparently 72 songs. If these are the best, then I probably wouldn’t like most of the others.
In particular, the fact that the musicianship is mostly on the low-key side to let the vocals shine means that there’s really only one thing to latch on to: the singing. While she is undoubtedly an excellent singer, it’s a style of singing that gets a bit old when most of the songs are so similar (low tempo, sad or sentimental, with lots of drawn out words and quavers).
Rather than a cohesive album, this is really a set of tracks that Ella interpreted. It’s hard to evaluate as an album compared to, for example, Nevermind which is a cohesive body of work written by the band. She’s a great singer, and oftentimes, the musicianship is quite good, but many of the songs just don’t appeal to me.
This is one where I get why it would be significant since it’s a Black woman bringing songs written by urban Jewish writers to a White Protestant audience. However, it’s just not one I like to listen to.
2/5. It’s not truly bad, but I can’t imagine there’s more than 1 song on here that I’d ever seek out to listen to again. It’s simply a style that I’m not into. More variety in tone and concepts would have helped.
- I Got Rhythm – The most fun track and the only one I’ll probably go back and listen to.
- Love is Here to Stay – Of all the samey low-tempo love songs, this is the best.
Sun Aug 28 2022
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Not a band I’ve listened to much.
- Green River – a very country song, with twang for days. The main draw is the guitar work, which is decent, but not spectacular. Not my kinda song.
- Commotion – I like the opening riff on this one quite a bit. Bouncy bass is pretty neat too. Lyrics are a beratement against the commotion and hectic nature of city life, with people rushing everywhere, frowning all the time, and making meaningless small talk. I appreciate the sentiment here. Definitely a step up, but not ultimately a track I’d come back to listen to.
- Tombstone Shadow – Typical “bad luck” blues type song, in this case talking about a “gypsy man” who told his fortune and foresaw thirteen months of bad luck. It’s a decent track, but not my kinda music. I really dislike the twang overdoes in the guitar solo.
- Wrote a Song For Everyone – Feels a like a bar ballad. It’s aight, but again, not my jam. Lyrics are generally being down about the world. The chorus is about difficulties in his married relationship, the verses are about civil rights, government lies/failures etc. The irony about wangsting over his inability to talk to his family when he can easily write songs is rather bitter when he later divorced his wife and was estranged from the rest of the family. Tough darts.
- Bad Moon Rising – The signature song off the album, a trouble song. Not my jam. The weirdly peppy instrumentation feels jarring comparing to the dire lyrics.
- Lodi – About seeking fortune but being stuck in a small town (the eponymous Lodi). The tone on this one matches the track, with more of the regretful/wistful tone on the guitar working better with the lyrics. One of the better off this ablum, but still not anything great.
- Cross-Tie Walker – Contrasts the reception of a drifter with those of Vietnam soldiers going off to war (no brass band, no one waving farewell, no tears of regret). Feels very similar in theme to Allman Brothers’ Ramblin’ Man, which I think is a better song. I don’t really get the sentiment of being a drifter, so I odn’t connect to this song.
- Sinister Purpose – Feels like Creedence writes “Sympathy For the Devil”, which actually came out just a year before. It’s one of the better songs off the album though, again due to the musical tone actually fitting the lyrics. Probably my favorite track, actually.
- The Night Time is the Right Time – I don’t like the chorus of “WHY DO THEY?”s. I don’t get it, and it gets annoying. It’s a love song, but I can’t really imagine anyone loving Fogarty for this particular song lol.
- Broken Spoke Shuffle – The instrumental track, which mainly just means they turned the drums up in the mix and played a normal song without singing. The mix presents the drums as the key part, with the guitar maybe actually a little quieter than normal, but the drum work isn’t anything special. Not a very good instrumental imo.
- Glory Be – Another instrumental. Weird choice to end with two instrumental tracks. Turns out, neither was on the original version, which kinda makes sense. So I’ll ignore them. Neither is very good anyway.
All in all, I’m not very impressed. The lyrical themes are mediocre, nothing I haven’t seen done better elsewhere. The guitar work is decent, but not really enough to carry things on their own (and often annoyingly twangy). The signature song here is Bad Moon Rising, and I really don’t get the appeal. A lot of songs have instrumentation that either doesn’t follow or straight up clashes with the tone of the lyrics (and not in a way that was clearly done for contrast/artistic effect). The album isn’t really cohesive either.
Creedence was very influential, of course, but their influence is primarily on Southern Rock and country, two genres I also don’t like. Even the best songs aren’t really a kind of music I like.
All in all, it’s a 2/5 at best for me.
- Sinister Purpose – A marginally worse version of Sympathy For the Devil is still the best song on the album.
- Lodi – The tone at least works here.
- Commotion – I almost like this one enough to add it to my playlists.
Mon Aug 29 2022
A 21st century singer-songwriter! Wow, so recent.
- Concerning the UFO Sightings Near Highland, Illinois – It’s got a nice lo-fi feel, and he’s not singing as off-key as many indie singers, so I’d digging this so far. Piano and flute is a unique combo. This doesn’t overstay its welcome either. Is nice.
- The Black Hawk War – An instrumental representation of the wars between US and Native Americans, and the atrocities therein. It’s not a pleasant listen with the dissonance and weird instrumental combos. Later parts of the song once the brass and drums come in are better, but still not my fave.
- Come On, Feel the Illinoise – A 6:45 track in two parts. Piano and drums make this a peppier song. First part is about the World Fair in Chicago, and the tension between art and commerce. A decent concept, but not really something I’d go back and listen to. Part II (“Carl Sandburg Visits Me in a Dream) is a reflection on his own art and commercialization. Overall, it’s a conceptually interesting track, that isn’t quite to my taste.
- John Wayne Gacy Jr. – The story of a Chicago born serial killer and rapist. Messed up, but interesting. In particular, the attitude is very much “but for the grace of God, there go I”, showing the banality of his childhood and the contrast between the upstanding image he had in the community and the horrific nature of their crimes. Another interesting track, though there are parts of the writing I don’t like, and much like Nirvana’s Polly, it’s not at all a pleasant listen.
- Jacksonville – An ode to Jacksonville, Illinois, a major stop on the Underground Railroad, location of a school for the deaf and blind, and somewhat ironically named after Andrew Jackson, who himself was simultaneously a figure of generosity (providing cheese and alcohol to the public) and oppression (with the Trail of Tears). It’s kinda boring to listen to, though.
- A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, but for Very Good Reason – An instrumental track, dedicated to First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.
- Decatur, or a Round of Applause for Your Stepmother! – An ode to both Decatur (where Lincoln lived) and his stepmom, who he hated as a child, for no particularly good reason. The connection is that she took them to Decatur on a trip one time. It’s decent.
- One Last “Whoo-hoo” For the Pullman – It’s 7 seconds of clapping and a woohoo for planned community Pullman
- Chicago – A somewhat autobiographical song about hard times he experienced in Chicago and New York seeking freedom. It’s a pretty good song. Too long though by a bit.
- Casimir Pulaski Day – Depiction of the death of a close female friend and the crisis of faith it caused in him. It’s an interesting track that is both a celebration of a loved ones life as well as touching on doubt and belief. This is an odd one to place, because I think objectively it’s the best song on the album, but it’s not one I think I’d casualliy listen to?
- To the Workers of Rock River Valley Region, I have an idea concerning your predicament, and it involves an inner tube, bath mats, and 21 able bodied men – Yes, that is the title. It’s a decent instrumental.
- The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts – It’s about Superman…or something??? The contrast between the intro/chorus and verses is jarring. I don’t get it. Some people apparently take it as a gay song, btu I don’t see that at all.
- Prairie Fire that Wanders About – It’s an ode to Peoria Illinois. No lead vocals, just choir. Not my fave.
- A Conjunction of Drones… - Ok, no way am I writing that title out. The title says it is simulating an existential crisis. Sure, why not.
- The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us – Depicts painful childhood memories of a close “best friend” (probably a lover from the rest of the song) who he lost. It’s a really nice song. Really complex juxtaposition of the romantic attraction to a male friend and the religious experience of a Methodist camp. Probably the best crafted song, though not quite my favorite.
- They are Night Zombies… - What are these song titles, man?!?!?! I don’t get this one. It seems to be about Illinois’ past, but I don’t get the tone or message or whatever it’s conveying.
- Let’s Hear That Strong Part Again – Short instrumental
- In this Temple As in the Hearts of Man For Whom He Saved the Earth – Short instrumental
- The Seer’s Tower – Seems to be talking about the Apocalypse. Whether it’s literal or literary isn’t quite clear. Very artistic. Too artsy for me in fact.
- The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders – Another two-part track. Part 1 is “The Great Frontier”. It’s a much more lighthearted piece than much of the album. Almost has a Peanuts feel. Mostly seems to be about the attitude of the frontier that drove early America, and the subsequent settling and commercialization of American life. Part II is “Come to Me Only With Playthings Now” and seems to be an ode to all the great events and figures of Illinois. It’s overall a pretty good track. I like the build up in Part II quite a bit, though I’m less fond of Part 1.
- Riffs and Variations on a single note… - Short instrumental. Not my favorite.
- Out of Egypt… - Another instrumental to finish things off. Not really my thing.
An interesting and artistic album from a singer-songwriter I’d never heard before. Explores a variety of interesting themes from faith and doubt, to lost loved ones, to romantic attraction, to seeking personal freedom, family, and more.
I like the more personal/autobiographical songs a lot better than the ones that are just generally an ode to Illinois, cause it ain’t my state and I don’t really care about it lol. Many of the instrumentals aren’t particularly good either. This feels like an album that could have used a really good haircut and shave to trim down the fluff and scraggle. Still, there’s some good stuff on it, and even much of what I don’t like that much, I can see what he’s trying to do. Lots of it isn’t my thing, and there’s some worse parts, but I’d give it a solid 3/5.
- Concerning the UFO Sightings – neat lo-fi track
- Chicago – Centerpeice of the album and nice autobiographical/personal lyrics.
- Casimir Pulaski Day – It’s a bit drawn out, especially the end, but it’s a very beautiful and personal song.
- Predatory Wasp… - Really interesting exploration of young love.
Tue Aug 30 2022
Blonde – Parallel Lines
Blondie isn’t a band I’ve listened to that much. Let’s se ehow good they are.
- Don’t Leave Me Hangin’ on the Telephone – Straightforward rock with some surprisingly good guitar. I especially like the background trills in the choruses. Pretty good track.
- One Way or Another – A poppier track, and not one I particularly like. It lacks the aggression and sinister vibes of better yandere songs. It predates “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, but it’s definitely a worse song. Apparently singer Debbie Harry was almost kidnapped by Ted Bundy, and this was her way of dealing with that event. It’s not a pleasnant listen though. Way too repetitive.
- Picture This – It’s a song about longing for various things (a street with a view, a guy etc.) Not really a fan.
- Fade Away and Radiate – Much more low key song, with muted instruments and softer singing. Describes how dreams and people can die so quickly (the lines “dusty grames that still arrive die in 1955” references James Dean’s untimely death, for instance), but television causes them to live on. IT’s conceptually kinda interesting, but not one I like that much. Parts of the outro are kinda good I guess.
- Pretty Baby – A song about child star Brooke Shields who played the role of child prostitute in the film Pretty Baby at only 12 years old. ICK. I don’t like the song that much, either.
- I Know But I Don’t Know – I don’t like it. The backing vocals from Frank Infante are kinda bad. The end solo is nice though.
- 11:59 – I don’t like the keyboard playing. The parts don’t really fit together for me.
- Will Anything Happen? – Stuff happens, but it’s not particuarlly good. Rockier than most, but has enough awkward parts and goes on for too long that it fails to make the cut.
- Sunday Girl – Don’t like.
- Heart of Glass – The pure disco track of the album and one of the two lead singles. The quavering keys are nice, and the bass has a nice beat on this one. The “mucho mistrust” lyric is dumb though, lol. Are those enough to carry a song I otherwise don’t like much? Not quite.
- I’m Gonna Love You Too – Generic 80s pop rock love song. I don’t like. The guitar solo is decent, but that’s it.
- Just Go Away – Please do.
Of all the albums I’ve listened to, this is probably my least favorite so far. The only track I’d save for later is the first one. The rest are either annoying, boring, or vapid. I like some Blondie songs, but very few from this album.
- Don’t Leave Me Hanging On the Telephone – Rockiest track and only one that didn’t kind of annoy me. It’s also a cover, lol.
- Fade Away and Radiate – the most unique and conceptually interesting, though it doesn’t quite live up to that potential.
Wed Aug 31 2022
The Soft Boys
A 1980 neo-psychedelic album.
- I Wanna Destroy You – I don’t like it. Kinda repetitive. It’s a rage song that doesn’t have the teeth and venom to really hit. It’s also unclear why the want to destroy whoever it is they do. They give reasons like war, media, etc, but without clarity it seems to be raging against the generic mainstream, and that’s lame and dumb.
- Kingdom of Love – Nice bass intro. Imagery is gross and weird. I don’t like this one.
- Positive Vibrations – I really hate the brief solo here. Not my jam.
- I Got the Hots – I really dislike the lyrics here. Ok, riff, but not anything I haven’t heard done better. The vocals are also bad.
- Insanely Jealous of You – Certainly a unique song. But also not good. The line “I just can’t let it OUT” is absolutely atrocious to hear.
- Tonight – Utterly forgettable.
- You’ll Have to Go Sideways – Mediocre instrumental. Main riff is fine (albeit extremely repetitive, but the synths get annoying.)
- Old Pervert – Gross. Even if it’s mocking the subject matter, it’s still gross. I don’t like the music much either.
- Queen of Eyes – Weird but inoffensive. The song that at first blush I like best since it’s just weird and has decent guitar. Still don’t like it enough to add to a playlist, but it’s not awful.
- Underwater Moonlight – Bass intro is decent. Weird psychedelic song, but decent.
The general vocal style on this isn’t appealing to me. It’s like y they’re going for Beetles style harmonies, but lacking the skill to do it in a pleasant sounding way. The bizarre inflections are obviously intentional, but the effect is really unpleasant. The tone on the guitar is also not really my thing. The musicianship is competent but not really appealing to me.
In general, nonsensical lyrics and oftentimes off-putting imagery is also not my thing. So much of this band is doing mildly interesting things that run very contrary to my preferences. At its best, its inoffensive but bland English rock. At its worst, its incoherent nonsense delivered in the most jarring and offputting way possible.
Not a single song on this that I’d add to my playlists. The last two songs are the best of the bunch and save it from being bottom tier, but even they’re not that good. Maybe I need more drugs to appreciate it.
Thu Sep 01 2022
I’m vaguely familiar with Lorde, but never listened to a full album.
- Green Light – Starts out as a bitter breakup song with “girl and her piano” instrumentation. Percussion and poppier sound comes in later. She’s got a nice voice. This is a very up-and-down song, both in tone and my opinions. I like the Chorus and the Refrain, the verses are mixed, and I don’t like the tone change on the pre-chorus. On the whole, despite the parts I don’t like, ti’s high tier pop with good production.
- Sober – This one starts a little more active and drops down for the first chorus. The horns and varied, stripped back instrumentation is really nice. I don’t like the bridge though. The rest of the song is great. So, this one is two thirds great, and one third bad.
- Homemade Dynamite – Don’t like the chorus here. The verses are quite good though.
- The Louvre – Continues the obsessive relationship documented in the rest. This one treats the relationship like an art museum: beautiful, but now just history. The beat and build in the chorus is solid, though the end of the chorus really is a letdown. The post-chorus is also not good. Second verse is great. Another very mixed song with some fantastic parts and some parts I really don’t like. Outro is a nice little instrumental.
- Liability – the one song that I previously had saved. The most stripped down and saddest song. Also the most melodramatic track on an album called Melodrama, lol. Doesn’t have the highest highs, but is the one tafck so far that doesn’t have any parts I straight up dislike (except maybe the weird e-eh-a-na-na-everyone thing).
- Hard Feelings/Loveless – A two part song. Part 1: Hard Feelings is essentially a flashback to the breakup discussed in Green Light. A decent part, though I don’t like the weird dissonant sounds before the outro. Like, I actually hate them. Part 2: Loveless, is a much darker and more intense take on things, with a driving beat and lyrics that are both sincerely promising to mess up her lover’s life and mockingly calling her generation loveless. It’s artistic, but I don’t’ like it. I get what it’s going, but the bad parts really drag it down for me.
- Sober II (Melodrama) – A clear continuation of Sober. Basically, Sober is the party, Melodrama is the feeligna fter the party ends and you’re loading the dishwasher with dishes that reek of alcohol. It’s a decent effect to go for, but as a track it’s not great to listen to.
- Writer in the Dark – A decent track, but not one I’d listen to again. Some of the vocalization is weird and offputting.
- Supercut – A reflection of the fact that the idealized view of her relationship only recalls the highlights (like a supercut), not all the nitty-gritty details. It’s bouncier song and both positive and soberly introspective. I like this one quite a bit. Some sick bass in the last refrain series. Great both as a singel and in context.
- Liability (reprise) – A general realization of the lessons learned from the previous tracks.
- Perfect Places – Essentially a bonus track as the narrative finishes with the previous track. It’s about using drugs, partying, alcohol, and sex as an escape from the harships of reality. Doesn’t further the album, but it’s a solid standalone song.
In general, the pacing and production on these is great. I like the stripped back instrumentation. The beats are nice too. However, there’s parts of most songs that I don’t like. Mostly, it’s jarring tone shifts or setup that doesn’t lead to payoff.
The record is called Melodrama, so clearly the overdramatic moments are being used for effect, but some of them are still a bit much. On the whole, the buildup of themes is well done, and it’s a pretty good exploration of the obsessive nature of love and the pain of breakups, highlighting the excessive drama of them for artistic effect.
There’s enough lower moments, that I’m not quite comfortable giving it a 4, I don’t think. It’s really a 3.5 but I can’t give half stars, so it’s a 3.
- Green Light – Some small parts I dislike, but a solid pop tune.
- Sober – Everything prior to the bridge is great.
- Liability – Great introspective melodrama track.
- Supercut – Got bounce. Great bass in outro.
- Perfect Places – Solid standalone track that’s a bit separate from the rest of the album.
Fri Sep 02 2022
Never heard of ‘em before now. Let’s enjoy.
- La femme d’argent – Nice space rock/electronic instrumental track. Cool bass and percussion groove. Nice airy key and guitar sounds. Didn’t need to be 7 minutes though. The second part is a bit worse than the first. Ending synth solo isn’t my thing. Really a 3:50 great song and 3:10 decent song. The whole effect is definitely a positive one though.
- Sexy Boy – More robotic vibes on the intro. Some distorted vocals on this one. Good bass. More repetitive than I like. Synth solo in this one is quite nice though. Also too long.
- All I Need – One of a couple tracks featuring Beth Hirsch on vocals. I don’t know who she is, but she has a nice voice. This is nice one. Very chill, doesn’t overstay its welcome, nice vocals, and nice tone.
- Kelly Watch the Stars – Bouncier electronic track. Distorted vocals and repetitive beat. Not my favorite. Not bad, but just a throwaway electronica track.
- Talisman – Slower track with a dronier sound. I like the violin in this one. Another decent track that I doubt I’ll come back to.
- Remember – Don’t like the vocals here but the “remember” refrain is alright.
- You Make it Easy – I like this one. The click beat is nice, and the vocals are good. The other Beth Hirsch track, and so far those are my two favorite. No true climax, but a decent vibe.
- Ce matin-la – Nice echoey part to open along with chill guitar. Cool trumpet. One of the more restrained and shorter tracks, that’s also among the least repetitive. I like it. Ending solo isn’t may fave though.
- New Star in the Sky – Not a fan of the intro on this one. Not sure what instrument that is at the beginning, but I dislike the sound. Bass is nice though. Rest of the song is quite good, actually.. Just the beginning that drags it down.
- Le voyage de Penelope – More of a jazz vibe on this one. I dig it. Probably my favorite track on the album, actually. It’s a good instrumental that is concise and has some neat solos.
Decent low-key electronic vibes. Nothing that just blows my mind, but it’s cool for chill listening. I doubt I’ll remember it much in the future.
Pretty much the definition of a 3/5 for me. Even though there’s not many tracks I’d add for listening later, there’s lots of decent stuff on here, and the album as a whole is definitely a good experience to listen to. A little bit more memorable tracks or fewer weaker sections would bump this up to a 4 easily.
- La femme d’argent – Good instrumental, especially the first half.
- All I Need & You Make it Easy – Beth Hirsch’s vocals are great on these!
- Le voyage de Penelope – Nice instrumental to finish off.
Sat Sep 03 2022
Never heard of ‘em. Apparently, they’re late 70s British punk.
- Sometimes – Opens right into it with a rocking bass and guitar riff plus cool synths and the golden tier lyric “Someday I’m going to smack your face.” It’s a fun rock tune albeit really uncomfortably angry and violet. More synth than I’d expect from a punk band. Frankly, more musicality as well. I like this one as an album opener, though in the context of an argument with a girlfriend, it gets really uncomfortable. Domestic abuse has become decidedly less kosher in the past five decades.
- Goodbye Toulouse – A bit of a step down. I don’t care about Toulouse, so this song just doesn’t really resonate with me. It’s not a bad track, just less to my taste. More repetitive and bland than the preceding.
- London Lady – Nice guitar in the intro. Upbeat but with a slightly wistful edge. Good bass and drum breaks. I like this one a lot.
- Princess of the Streets – Brings things down a bit. Feels more like a Styx track. I like the vibe though. Don’t like the vocals or the really misogynist attitudes displayed in this one. Actually uses the phrase “what a piece of meat” to describe the woman… Absent that gross lyric, it’s a pretty good “femme fatale” song. Definitely gives the album variety.
- Hanging Around – That bass riff though! Nice synth opener too. Don’t get all the imagery on this one. The chorus isn’t my favorite. ON the whole, a pretty good track though. Nice solo with great interplay between guitar and keys. A mixed track with some meh and some really great elements.
- Peaches – The lead track of the song. Nice riff to open. A pretty sexually aggressive song for the time. The “peaches” in question are pretty obviously lady parts. Salacious but nice.
- (Get a) Grip (on Yourself) – Opening riff is good. Nice solos in here. My favorite so far.
- Ugly – Sounds nice, but I hate the lyrics. Quite repetitive too.
- Down in the Sewer – A 7:53 medley of songs. Part a) is titled “Falling” and is a solid instrumental. Part b) “Down in the Sewer” adss in vocals. Another weird one, but decent. Part c) “Trying to Get Out Again” is a more upbeat instrumental. Part d) “Rats Ralley” begins with a driving bass riff and closes out the song with strong solos and build up to a big rock ending. Good stuff.
Whole thing reminds me a bit of The Who with a slightly sharper edge. It’s good English rock. More to my taste than the Soft Boys album I listened to a few days ago.
Great album! Definitely in my top few of this project. It’s got great bass and synths throughout, while the guitar and drums each have solid moments to shine. The snarling attitude and dark subject matter is fitting for punk.
Outside of weird misogyny and other things that haven’t aged well, it’s a great early punk album. Easy 4/5 at least.
- London Lady has some great moments.
- Princess of the Streets is an awesome femme fatale track outside the “meat” lyric.
- Peaces is as salacious you get on 70s radio rock.
- (Get a) Grip (on Yourself) is an awesome “being a rock star kinda sucks” track.
Sun Sep 04 2022
The Band – The Band
The Band? The Band.
- The Great Divide – A song about the divide between men and women. Mixes rock and roll, jazz, country sensibilities etc. Not a style I’m a huge fan of, but it’s well done.
- Rag Mama Rag – Some ragtime influences on this one. Another example of a track that is very well doen but that I fundamentally dislike. Lyrically, it’s a bunch of folksy-isms that just annoy me, and musically it’s a ragtime/country bounce that I just don’t like.
- The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down – Discusses the last days of the Civil War and the hardships faced by white Southerners. Good song, but it just feels too much from the Confederacy’s view for me to be comfortable. I don’t think it’s intended to be a “Lost Cause” perspective or anything, just hard for me to connect with the white Southerners being victims.
- When You Awake – Lyrics are better on this one, but the instrumentation isn’t one I care for.
- Up On Cripple Creek - Nice bass in intro. Describes the narrator’s (a truck driver) escapades with “Bessie” including betting on horse races and drinking. Doing a deep dive into a single character is a solid idea for a country type song, so this works well. Don’t like the weird yodelling thing they do at the end, though.
- Whispering Pines – A lonelier track led by the keyboard and soft drums. I like this one a lot. It’s sung by Richard Manuel (their keyboardist) at lead, and I like his voice way better than the others. My favorite track so far. The line “for if I live again, these hopes will never die” is especially chilling in light of the fact that Manuel committed suicide many years later.
- Jemima Surrender – A sex song for the eponymous Jemima. Don’t like Helm’s voice. That plus the rather gross lyrics makes me dislike this song. “You can jump and shout, but can’t you see girl, that I’m bound to win.” Um, that’s not ok.
- Rockin’ Chair – Song about an old retired sailor longing for the good times on his rockin’ chair with his best friend Ragtime Willie. Concept is good. Music isn’t to my taste.
- Look Out Cleveland – A bit more of a blues track than their usual country folk. I like blues more than folk, so I like this more than much of their output.
- Jawbone – Not my favorite. Pretty repetitive and forgettable track.
- The Unfaithful Servant – Sings about an unfaithful servant being sent away by the lady of the house. Odd subject matter for a band in the 20th century, long after servitude was abolished in developed countries. Descending chord progression makes this unique, but I don’t really like it.
- King Harvest (Has Surely Come) – A song about sharecroppers being exploited, first by the landowner, then by the union boss who claimed to help. He suffers misfortunes during the Dust Bowl, and the union offers no true relief. It’s a decent story song.
Overall, way too country for my taste. The exaggerated Southern accents make me cringe. The whole aesthetic of southern/country music doesn’t appeal to me, and some of the problematic attitudes (e.g. in Jemima Surrender and Dixie) reinforce my dislike of the entire Southern genre.
That said, some of the stories on this are quite good, especially in Cripple Creek and Rockin’ Chair. The songs with more personal lyrics are also great, Whispering Pines most notably.
Overall, the Band tells interesting stories and has some notable musical innovations, but there’s very little that I actually like listening to. I’ll chalk them up as a band I’ll respect and probably not listen to much at all. The quality is enough to get them a 3/5, but I’m reserving 4s and 5s for albums I’d actually listen to again.
- Whispering Pines – Most personal lyrics and most emotional music. Good stuff.
- Look Out Cleveland – Nice blues-inspired track.
Mon Sep 05 2022
Sigur Ros – Agaetis byrjun
Icelandic 90’s “post rock”. No idea what to expect.
- Intro – More a contemplative soundscape than a full song. A solid intro to the rest. Best word I’ve found to describe the sound is ethereal.
- Svefn-g-englar – The title translates to “sleep angels” or “sleepwalkers”. Calm instrumentation with an echoing key tone. Apparently, the main sound comes from a cello bow against guitar strings. The album title translates to “a good start” and this track is apparently about an infant being born (from the infant’s perspective). It’s a ten minute track with a slow pace, almost inaudible vocals, and gentle soundscape. The shift with drums coming in coincides with the “explosion” of birth . Interesting concept and strong execution in creating a soothing, almost hypnotic soundscape. Color me impressed. Only part I don’t like is the rapid heartbeats at the end.
- Staralfur – “A staring elf”. Tells the story of a child meeting an elf in their bedroom. Keeps the beautiful instrumentation but has a bit of a brighter tone and more prominent vocals. The pulsing beat at 3:14 gives the song a second phase, keeping interest even with the otherwise somewhat monotonous (albeit beautiful) sounds. It’s pretty, but I don’t think it’s one I’d casually listen to. I like it, though. The last 50 sec are kinda wasted though.
- Flugufrelsarinn – It’s about…a shipwreck? Or something? Lots of water imagery. Some of the vocal parts are a bit dodgy, but overall still a beauitiful soundscape.
- Ny Batteri – I like this one a lot. Lyrics are pretty dark depiction of loneliness. Sound is mournful but expressive, and a bit more intense than prior tracks. Didn’t need to be 8:10, but it’s overall solid.
- Hjartath hamast – Backing vocals give this one a bit of a different air. It’s not my favorite track, but I like the keys. It’s still quite good.
- Vithar vel til loftarasa – Piano led track. The other 10+ minute track. The outro is absolutely gorgeous.
- Olsen Olsen – vocals take abackground role again. This one is pretty one not for the first 5 minutes, then the last three do something completely different. Not my fave.
- Agaetis byrjun – The title track. Begins with snare drags and piano intro. It’s much the same as their other stuff. It’s good, but by this point it’s kind of getting old. This album is really long. It’s actually grown on me just by listening though. It’s about the band’s feelings going into writing this ablum and their experience in making it. Nice and self-reflective. Like most of the album, very chill.
- Avalon – Slow, dragged out instrumental track. It’s a decent ending to the album.
Biggest criticism is that they just need to know when to end their songs lol. What they really excel at is creating a soundscape. The lyrics oftentimes are very poetic, sometimes to the point of defying all meaning. In that sense, being in a different language isn’t really a problem since it allows the listener even more to assign their own emotions and meaning to the sound. It’s a sound that I can’t really take a full hour fifteen of, though. In small doses, it’s beautiful. Over the full thing, it gets a tad old. Still great on the whole.
As a whole, it’s very good quality, but due to the length of the songs and the rather low-key tone, I’m not sure I’d just casually listen to most of this.
- Svefn-g-englar – Beautiful and intriguing 10 minute eipc
- Ny Batteri – Mega depressing but really nice to listen to.
- Vithar vel til loftarasa – Another ten minute epic with some absolutely goregeous parts
- Agaetis bryjun – Nice reflection on the band’s writing of this album.
Tue Sep 06 2022
Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
Only heard very little from them before this.
- To All the Girls – Short opener with smooth beats.
- Shake Your Rump – Aggressive rapping that isn’t something I enjoy. Often described as “frat hip hop”, which I think is accurate. Bass is pretty crazy though. The lyrics though are not appealing to me at all.
- Johnny Ryall – Beat sounds really similar to the previous track. The eponymous Johnny Ryall is a homeless man who drinks instead of doing crack and used to be a rockabilly star. I really hate the interplay of their voices on this one.
- Egg Man – I like the precussion opening this one. But I don’t like their voices still. It’s a song about throwing eggs at people. It’s dumb and juvenile.
- High Plains Drifter – Ugh.
- The Sounds of Science – Not good.
- 3-minute Rule – Nice bass and rhythm on this one. The lyrics are still dumb and their voices are annoying.
- Hey Ladies – Beat is really nice on this one, but I don’t like the constant changes, and most of the song is still annoying.
- 5-Piece Chicken Dinner – What the hell? Is this mocking southerners? Is it just being weird? Is it being racist? I generally have no idea what it is.
- Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun – From crappy hip-hop to heavy industrial crappy hip-hop. Their voices are still awful. It’s different, but it’s still bad.
- Car Thief – Intro is interesting and actually sounds good. Then their voices come in and they sound awful again.
- What Comes Around – Part of it has a smooth that is totally wasted in this terrible song.
- Shadrach – It’s an absolutely terrible pseudo reference to a Biblical story.
- Ask for Janice – Ending track that adds no value.
I’m going to try to find something good to say despite my initial reflexive utter distaste for basically every song. They have some nice beats. The bass occasionally is great. Much of what they do is unique and offbeat. That’s the positives.
The negatives are dang near everything else. Their voices are incredibly annoying, both in sound and in attitude. The lyrics are incredibly juvenile, and the “clever” parts are often just a bunch of pop-culture references thrown out at lightning speed without any sort of connection or actual meaning to them. Almost every song is straight obnoxious.
I understand this was influential, and apparently it was innovative, but I can’t imagine ever wanting to listen to anything on this again. If it influenced actual good hip-hop, then great, I’ll just listen to them.
I usually do a “top tracks” section in my reviews, but there isn’t a single one I’d want to hear again.
Wed Sep 07 2022
You Want It Darker
Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker
Last album written before Leonard Cohen’s death two months later.
- You Want it Darker – That bass beat is so smoooooth! Yes! Dark voice is cool vibe. The “Hineni” in the chorus is a Hebrew phrase meaning “Here I am”, used by Abraham, Moses, and Isaiah among others when God calls them. The whole song seems to be Cohen trying to come to terms with his imminent death and God. Cohen is Jewish and often uses Christian imagery. This combines both. It’s really good.
- Treaty – Sadder track about how the narrator is angry and tired and just wishes to end conflicts. The raw vocals mostly work, and he does get a bit more melodic at times. It’s unclear if he’s singing to a woman or God or something else entirely.
- On the Level – Guitar has some prominence in this one, while still being background. Backing vocals in the chorus are an interesting effect, but not my favorite. Does give this one some variety. Seems to be about leaving a lover who was both a “devil” and an “angel”. Also speaks about his time in a Buddhist monastery in the 90s. Another good track, but not one I think I’d go back and revisit much.
- Leaving the Table – Even more prominence to the guitar in the intro. Like most of the songs, it seems to deal with letting love go, reconciliation, and end to struggles. I like the brass in the background. Ok, this one is amazing. The emotion in the music hits harder than basically any of the others. This one leaves the religious imagery and is completely raw autobiography. It might be my favorite track so far.
- If I Didn’t Have Your Love – A reflection on past love. It’s a sweet love song, and a good song overall, but it’s less to my taste than many of the songs on this album. These kinds of personal love songs don’t resonate with me since it’s out of my experience.
- Traveling Light – A Greek flavored track that’s a goodbye to Marianne Ihlen, a partner, lover, and muse of his who died a few months before he did. It’s another amazing one.
- It Seemed the Better Way – Even more stripped back track, going to humming vocals, sparse bass and shaker keeping the time. Deals with his relationship with Zen Master Roshi whom he spent years with in a monastery. He felt the teachings rang true, but later stories came out about Roshi sexually abusing female students. Also may be a rejection, or an acceptance, or a resignation to Christianity. It’s unclear. It’s high quality, but not to my taste.
- Steer Your Way – Not my favorite, but a very well written track. The violins are good.
- String Reprise / Treaty – Closing track to the album. An instrumental, followed by a reprise of Treaty to close out the album and close out Cohen’s life.
Wow. The songwriting on this is freaking amazing. Very interesting and personal themes explored as well. The instruments are tasteful and sound amazing throughout, achieving a wide variety of different tones. In context with Cohen confronting his own imminent death (and reflecting on his life) it becomes even more poignant. Even the songs that I personally dislike are still extremely well-written.
What an amazing album. This is exactly the kind of thing I wanted to find when I started this project.
- You Want it Darker – Lead track coming to terms with God and death. Smooooth bass.
- Treaty – Good summation of the themes of reconciliation/surrender of the whole album.
- Leaving the Table – Most raw track on the album.
- Traveling Light – Love the Greek instrumentation. A beautiful farewell to a past love and friend.
Thu Sep 08 2022
The Modern Lovers
The Modern Lovers
The biggest problems are that the lead singer’s voice and the organ tones aren’t at all to my taste. Singer constantly sounds like he's drunk and organ tone is just grating to the ears. Other than that, it’s decent quality 70’s rock with a bit of variety. I didn’t actually wind up making it all the way through, just because I really wasn't feeling it. Nothing was truly appalling, it's just that the downsides consistently outweighed the upsides. There’s bits and pieces of real quality, even excellence, sprinkled in a few of the tracks but it never comes together in a way that’s satisfying.
Fri Sep 09 2022
Never heard of them. Early 90s Britpop apparently.
- So Young – Find the vocals a bit offputting. The jarring jumps to falsetto and back down to a lower tone aren’t appealing. The bridge is quite nice though, and the transition back to the chorus is great. The core song though is just middling rock without much to distinguish it besides the caterwauled vocals.
- Animal Nitrate – The intro is a solid guitar riff. It’s about drug use, sexual encounters, and domestic abuse. Not my thing.
- She’s Not Dead – Details the speaker’s aunt committing suicide with her lover by carbon monoxide inhalation. The verses are good, but the chorus returns to the off-key, cracking voice vocals that are just really off-putting.
- Moving – Driving drum and guitar intro creates the best instrumentation moments so far. The vocals are still annoying but this one gets my blood pumping. Unfortunately, the chorus is just awful. The edge and frenetic nature are the only place so far where the yowling singing works. The effects in the chorus are, in contrast, probably the worst point of the album so far. A shame that this includes both the highlights and lowlights of the album for me.
- Pantomime Horse – A decent power ballad, curving for my distaste for the vocals. The ending does communicate sincere emotion, though it’s too repetitive for me.
- The Drowners – Nice drum intro. A solid tune, though weirdly the way the singer delivers the line “you’re taking me over” just really gives me a negative reaction. Probably the most complete song of the record, though not one I’ll save still.
- Sleeping Pills – Another ballad that gives a prominent focus to the vocals, which it’s already been well established that I dislike.
- Breakdown – Oh hey, another power ballad. This album didn’t really need a 6 minute power ballad, but the lyrics are more constrained on this one, and it’s a better song for it than many of their earlier ones. Still don’t really like it, but it’s merely mediocre, not unpleasant. Definitely wears out its welcome though.
- Metal Mickey – Another of the less annoying vocal performances, but similar to Breakdown, even with more listenable vocals, it’s just mediocre. Decent guitar work, but falls just short of making me want to save it. Also, it’s apparently about a strip club, which makes me like it even less.
- Animal Lover – Another “animal” song lol. Way too repetitive. It’s an ok song on the whole though.
- The Next Life – Final ballad to finish things off. A better band would have made this song great, because the lyrics and tone are solid, but they just don’t have the gravitas and power to pull it off.
I stand by “caterwauling” as the best description of much of the vocals. Definitely not to my taste, and it makes the whole album difficult for me to listen to. The instrumentation has some good parts, but nothing that blows me away. Lyrical themes similarly have some interesting ideas but it never really wows or connects with me. The album is (according to the band) about “sex and depression in equal measure”. Not the kind of thing that appeals to me.
Other than that, it’s just decent straightforward rock. Not offensive or technically bad, just forgettable. There’s enough good that it’s well above one star, but I’m waffling between 2 & 3, and that’s not a great sign. The fact that I didn’t find a single song I wanted to save leaves me with it as a 2.
Sat Sep 10 2022
The Queen Is Dead
Ok, getting this album the day after Queen Elizabeth died cannot be a coincidence.
- The Queen is Dead – Drum intro is fire! The song is a parody of media’s fascination with the Royal Family, when they’re irrelevant at best and relics of colonial imperialism at worst. Bass line is really good. Really didn’t need to be nearly 6:30 (at least the last 1:30 is entirely unnecessary), but it’s a very good song.
- Frankly, Mr. Shankley – Title and tone immediately indicate it’s a joke song in a very British style of humor, filled with self-deprecation and cheerful jibes. It’s essentially a public request to their record label head asking for more money. It made me chuckle.
- I Know it’s Over – Softer sound led by slow bass and cross-stick drum patterns. It’s a desperate loneliness ballad, drawing special attention to the speaker’s ego and self-destruction. Effective deconstruction of a mindset represented still today by incels and everyone else who blames the world instead of themselves for inability to find a romantic partner. Not a fan of the outro, though. The vocals get a bit overdone and aimless at that point. Still a good song, though probably not one I’ll save.
- Never Had No One Ever – Very bleak lyrics over a melancholy song. Also kinda stalkerish. My least liked song so far from this album. Gets repetive and very whingy. I actually like the outro from 2:10 on more than I like the song itself (and it’s still only decent).
- Cemetery Gates – Chock full of references to other poets, specifically a take on Oscar Wilde’s quote “talent borrows, genius steals” as a refutation to allegations of plagiarism. It’s a pretty cleverly written one, though not one I’ll save.
- Bigmouth Strikes Again – Love the acoustic riff in the intro into the drum lead. Some great guitar work in here. Great track! Only part I don’t like are the weird occasional pitch shifted squeaks saying “Bigmouth”. It deals with Morrissey’s reputation as a Bigmouth and the consequences thereof, half-sarcastically comparing himself to Joan of Arc.
- The Boy with the Thorn in His Side – Morrissey is the boy and the thorn is the music industry and everything else that held him back. This one is less self-aware/more egoistic than the others, so it gets a down for me. The end is especially repetitive.
- Vicar in a Tutu – A weird song supporting nonconformity and taking jabs at the institutions of organized religion. No my thing, but it’s kinda fun. Ending is weird.
- There is a Light That Never Goes Out – A song longing for social interactions and connection. Also expresses some casual suicidal ideation. It’s a good song. I like the alternative instrumentation. It’s in general a cry for help for rescue from adolescent loneliness and despression, a sentimenta s relevant as ever today.
- Some Girls are Bigger than Others – Interesting effect at beginning with the music opening, fading out, then fading back in. The song as a whole is a mockery of people’s fascination with breast size, as if that concern is somehow central to the human experience. It’s a silly track but a decent one. The outro is really good!
Listening to Suede and this back to back, it’s even more stark how much of a ripoff of the Smith’s Suede was. This is better in literally every way, from the vocals being tolerable to the better instrumentation, songwriting, and lyrical content.
There’s a few tracks I’m not fond of, which is why it doesn’t quite get a 5, but on the whole it’s got a lot of great songs and creates a great listening experience individually or all together.
- The Queen is Dead – Great drum intro and solid concept.
- Frankly, Mr. Shankly – Funniest track on the album.
- Bigmouth Strikes Again – Rockiest tune on the album.
- There is a Light That Never Goes Out – Great loneliness anthem.
Sun Sep 11 2022
- The Thrill of It All – Good lead up to the vocals. Strong guitar work throughout. Like the violins too. Good song! Perhaps a bit long, but a good experience throughout.
- Three and Nine – A nostalgia tune for the days when three shillings and nine pence could get you a ticket to a movie – and an escape from the hardships of life into fantasy. Not a fan of the opening instrumentation. The harmonica and synths aren’t my thing. Bass is cool though. Sax is nice too. The main melody just doesn’t click with me.
- All I Want is You – This one opens loud. Not necessarily big, just loud. It’s a whiny love song, so not my thing. Some of the music is good. Even adjusting my volume, it still feels weirdly loud at times. It’s only really this one track that hits like a freaking sledgehammer (and not in a good way).
- Out of the Blue – Intro is good, though a tad long. Weird, almost space rock style bass and synth intermissions for a couple bars don’t really quite fit. Most of the individual parts of this song are good, but the total effect is really jarring and unpleasant. A shame that this could have been legitimately a top tier track if it wasn’t so schizophrenic.
- If it Takes All Night – A peppy “cheer up” love song that may be ironic (it’s British and sounds happy, so yeah, it’s probably ironic). Not my kinda track (that harmonica…ick).
- Bitter Sweet – The ballad. It’s darker and slower, truly taking a somber note. Interestingly, where theyir love songs used gratuitous French, this one uses gratuitous German. Fitting, I guess. Not a fan at all of the weird…dark polka(???) at a few parts. It really doesn’t work for me.
- Triptych – Artsier tune. Another ballad. Some more anthemic, almost hymnlike moments. It’s not one I’ll listen to again, but it’s a more realized execution of their ideas compared to the previous track.
- Casanova – Seems to be Bryan Ferry mocking his own glam-rock persona. This is another weirdly loud one. It’s a solid track (though not one I’ll add).
- A Really Good Time – Don’t like the tone in the intro. Ultimately boring.
- Prairie Rose – Nice guitar in intro. An anthem to Texas from a English band isn’t something I expected. Not my thing, but a competent track.
On a roll of English rock albums, and this one certainly has it’s own identity, but ultimately it’s not quite as high as The Stranglers or The Smiths in quality. Some tracks almost get there (Out of the Blue in particular would be fantastic if the good parts actually fit together into a pleasant listening experience).
I can see the ambition, and some of it really does work, so I can’t put it too low, but the fact that the ambition often exceeds the actually quality is a notable flaw.
I wonder if I’m just in a weird mood or if the mastering was really as bad as my ear suggested on a few songs. I’m far from an audiophile, but Casanova and and Alli I Want Is You legimitely sounded like they just cranked the volume up to unreasonable levels and called it a day.
Varied instrumentation and decent singing at least makes it listenable, so it gets a 3 for me. More like a 4 in ideas and a 2 in execution.
- The Thrill of it All – Solid rock anthem.
- Prairie Rose – The guitar solo is probably the best musical moment of the album.
Mon Sep 12 2022
Let It Be
The Replacements – Let It Be
Nice guitar in parts. Don’t really like vocals. Many tracks are repetitive. Some tracks e.g. Black Diamond have some genuine emotion and cool riffs. The softer/acoustic parts have some solid artistry. Also, Androgynous is non-binary love song from 1984, so that’s interesting, I guess. Decent variety of tone, themes, and musical style, but there’s not a lot I like.
- Black Diamond – Great riff and some genuine emotion. Only part I dislike is the anticlimactic end.
Sun Sep 18 2022
Something Else By The Kinks
Of the many English rock albums I’ve gotten over the past few weeks, this is the earliest, and unfortunately there really isn’t anything on here that I haven’t heard better elsewhere. Musicianship is competent but unspectacular. Vocals are inoffensive, but not something I particularly like to listen to. Songwriting isn’t bad, but doesn’t really connect with me.
The Kinks were undoubtedly influential, and there are some songs of theirs I like, but unfortunately, after my first listen through this, I don’t particularly like any of these. Best musical moments are the intro to Waterloo Sunset, but outside of that, it’s pretty thorough mediocrity.
- Harry Rag – Weird, and I don’t really like it, but it’s memorable, I guess.
- End of the Season – Kinda nice, but not one I’d save.
- Waterloo Sunset – Intro is nice, and some of the musical parts are pretty decent. That’s it.
Mon Sep 19 2022
Tue Sep 20 2022
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Not my vibe, but it’s not bad. Springteen’s music does have a mix between angst and hope that is kinda uplifiting even though a lot of it just isn’t my thing. His vocals aren’t always enjoyable to me (they work on Badlands, I hate them on Darkness on the Edge of Town and Racing in the Street), I’m disconnected enough from the time period that the lyrics don’t always really connect with me. I can see why he was a megastar at the time, but not for me.
Wed Sep 21 2022
Not into alternative country, so this is my first encounter with them. It’s not my style of music, really. The guitar work is often decent, but lots of the songs just don’t really go anywhere interesting. Nothing is off-putting or unlistenable by any means, but nothing is memorable or resonating with me either. So many of the songs have a single reasonably catchy melody and then don’t develop or build off of it in an interesting way. The songs that do have a climax have it come way too late and with way too little interest. Listening to the same chords five minutes straight to have the song finish with the same exact chords but now with brass and choir voices over it just doesn’t do it for me. Lyrics aren’t anything special either. Overall, it’s a reasonably competent record, but nothing I’d see a reason to come back to.
Thu Sep 22 2022
Emergency On Planet Earth
Mix between 90’s house music and 70’s soul/funk. It’s groovy! Unfortunately, groove is about all the value it has. The lyrics are entirely forgettable. None of the melodies stick. Outside of the admittedly tasty rhythms in some songs, there’s just not much to grab onto. It’s an enjoyable listen, but that’s all.
Some of the songs are way too long too. There’s no reason whatsoever for there to be 8 or 10 minute tracks in this. It just doesn’t have enough musical ideas to sustain interest through tracks like that.
Fri Sep 23 2022
The Mothers Of Invention
Mothers of Invention
Ah, some Zappa. Don’t like the monotone singing (even being intentional, it’s annoying). The rhythm and tempo changes are definitely interesting, however, and I can see glimpses of the musical genius in here. Unfortunately, a lot of that genius is hidden under layers of weirdness masquerading as genius, and separating the genius from the mere idiosyncrasies is often a difficult task. Ultimately, while I appreciate the innovation, I don’t like to listen to most of it, so I can’t really give it that high of a rating. The guitar work is often really, really good though, and the moments everything comes together and works, it’s a trip (in a good way).
- Hungry Freaks, Daddy – A good balance of weirdness and actual cool music
- Trouble Every Day – One of the better white blues songs I’ve heard.
- Help, I’m a Rock – Delightfully weird. I’m glad the reissues separated “It Can’t Happen Here” because it’s better without that section.
Sat Sep 24 2022
This apparently marks a departure from Britpop into a more alternative/indie rock influence. I like it better than the Britpop I’ve heard, so I’d say that change was a good move. Good variety, from Beatles influenced Beetlebum to the harder hitting, almost grungy Song 2, to the weirdness that Albarn would later take into Gorillaz. Great balance of experimentation while maintaining good songwriting. However, the second half of the album does slip quite a bit. Ultimately, the weaker second half knocks it down to a 4/5.
- Beetlebum – Chill and interesting track.
- Song 2 – Highest energy and rockiness from the album.
- Theme From Retro – Interesting space/psychedelic rock almost instrumental.
- You’re So Great – Nice acoustic love song.
- Death of a Party – Spacy track about the damage done by partying lifestyle.
Sun Sep 25 2022
Nice early country rock (from LA but has a better country sound than most country). Good harmonies and melodies with pretty good songwriting. A variety of tones and themes are covered, and most are done at least competently. There is, however, quite a bit of album filler and weaker tracks. I hear a lot more of Boston in this album that I expected (or rather, since this came first, there’s more Eagles in Boston than I realized; that’s a plus because I like Boston). The amount of filler definitely brings it down, but it’s still a very solid album. Borderline 3-4 stars, I’m leaning 4 since the listen was an overall very positive experience.
- Take it Easy – Nice and Chill
- Witchy Woman – Cool vibes. Femme fatale songs are cool.
- Peaceful Easy Feeling – Great solo and general good vibes.
Mon Sep 26 2022
Vocals do shine on this one. “Mariah Carey has a great voice” is like, one of the least controversial opinions a 90’s kid like me could have. Some reviews I saw were claiming a lot of her vocals were “showing off”, which is a criticism I find as idiotic as when people criticize bands like Rush for “showing off” their instrumental prowess. Great love songs with more instrumental diversity than I expected, with piano, guitar, Latin percussion, trap beats, and more sprinkled around to create the soundscapes.
All that said, the fact that most of these are fundamentally low tempo R&B love songs does mean that they fade together a bit after a while. The first few songs are great, but after that it gets old. A heavily frontloaded album, but that front load is good enough to give this a decent rating.
- Honey – Nice dance track.
- Butterfly – Solid anthemic track.
- My All – High tier love ballad with a little bit of Latin influence.
- The Roof (Back in Time) – Great sensual song.
Tue Sep 27 2022
Let It Bleed
The Rolling Stones
Not the Stones’ best, but there’s some good stuff on here. Gimme Shelter and You Can’t Always Get What You Want are classics. Unfortunately, more blues/country trakcs are unfortunately accompanied with really obnoxious vocals. The lyrics really just often come across as either trite of skeevy on many of these. I really only like harmonica in very small and tasteful doses, and many of these songs have it in overdoes. Overall, this is definitely a mixed record, though the highs are quite high.
- Gimme Shelter – Classic anti-war song.
- Let it Bleed – Jagger being a gross human being aside, this is a good sex song.
- You Can’t Always Get What You Want – A great album closer.
Tue Nov 01 2022
Outside of Blitzkrieg Bop, which is a fun track (albeit one I don’t like enough to regularly listen to), there’s not much here.
Straightforward and samey instrumentation, slurred (almost incoherent at times) singing, simplistic lyrics and a lack of any real edge or emotion makes this pretty low-tier punk rock for me. Almost every song is extremely repetitive, and very little stands out from the rest.
The only track that really breaks the formula is “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”, which instead of being a fast tempo, repetitive punk song with simplistic lyrics is a mid tempo, repetitive pop love song with simplistic lyrics. Yay?
Overall, not impressed. They may have been the “first true punk band” and helped inspire a lot of the punk aesthetic, but compared to what later punk and rock groups have done, this album just doesn’t hold up.