Archive for August, 2013

#15 – Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

August 29th, 2013 No comments

Merriweather Post Pavilion, named after a music venue in Maryland, is one of the more unique Animal Collective records. I think it is easily the most accessible record that they have made throwing in just enough of the squealing animal noises for an album that is much more electronic and much less reliant on drums and percussion.

With Josh Deakin on a leave from the band, the other three members soldiered on redefining themselves in the process. Instead of being limited, we see a band trying to redefine the music scene. While there was some sacrifice of their initial art sound, the album had a very underwater psychaedelic feel to it.

Consider a song like “My Girls” which was their lead single on the album, the song becomes a mantra, “I just want 4 walls and adobe slats for my girls”, i.e. while material possessions are nice, I have very simple priorities, and that is the safety and security of my family. It brings upon a very simplistic hippy element, that while our lives are being controlled by entertainment there are some very simple aspects to happiness.

There are also songs that have hit me personally. ‘Bluish’ for instance was the song that that my wife walked down the aisle to. I think it was one of the first song that after hearing it just felt like her.

I also still remember hearing it for the first time and stating to my wife that this would be one of the best albums of 2008. I still remember walking around the neighborhood back then with my iPod on back in January 2008 and you would see either fresh snow or sub zero temperatures and there was a certain warmth listening to this album, as if you were alway dreaming about wearing your summertime clothes.

It would be the album to start with when it comes to Animal Collective. It brings all the elements together in a perfect picture. In a way, the title of the album is suggestive enough in that a music pavilion brings people together in the same way that this album does. It’s an album that you want to hear played in the middle of 50,000 screaming fans on a summer night being in that atmosphere and that moment alone with the sound drowning out everything else would be the price of admission.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

#16 The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead

August 29th, 2013 No comments

The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead

One of the main influences that Morrissey has had on me has been my willingness to be an omnivore. His continual speaking out about animal rights issues, I wonder sometimes why he is continually getting ill, food poisoning, .etc. and how healthy the vegetarian diet must be. It has to be a big deal when you end up canceling most of your stateside tour and I do not get the impression he is much of a partier, but you know, I have been wrong about these types of things in the past. It was the first thing I thought about when writing this about the dangers of vegetables and then I realized that I was writing about a vegetable, the Queen.

The major foray into the Smiths catalog had been quickly obtained by purchasing the essential albums on cutout LP at some ridiculously reduced prices at the now defunct Rose Records. LP at the time was going out of style as a means to listen to music. I still remember listening to them as there was a slight imperfections as to how the albums would play on a record player. Normally the first minute or so of every side there were blips but something that I was more than willing to appreciate.

There is one thing that you can say about Morrissey is that he is an original. I think one of the things that the 80’s definitely had for itself was the battle between the Smiths vs. R.E.M. and how both Morrisey and Stipe were so capable of weaving their own tapestries with their lyrics.

The difference between the Smiths and R.E.M. was that Morrissey felt like this larger than life persona with the Smiths. The moments that shine for me however are the title track with the driving guitarwork of Marr and the drumming of Mike Joyce.

I know that Marr gets quite a bit of credit for his music and deservedly so but I still think that it’s Morrissey’s lyrics that are the shining moment. He is the one singing ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ and ‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others’, the latter feeling slightly obtuse but clever. Maybe it is just me but I have never found The Smiths to be depressing because I never took what Morrissey was singing at face value and nor put him on any emotional pedestal. He was just Morrisey, who is the male equivalent to the crazy cat lady who had fucking awesome lyrics about kittens.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

#17 Lush – Spooky

August 27th, 2013 No comments

Well I can lay one thing to rest by stating that this is my favorite album of the early 90’s era. It was the “Goto Album” so to speak and part of it probably had to do with the fact that I had a huge crush on Miki Berenyi.

Click to Listen to Ocean

Her cherry-red dyed hair and siren singing style wooed me in to the point it was constantly playing in my Pontiac stationwagon. The shoegazing along with the vocals of both her and bandmate Emma Anderson essentially started my love for “Shoegaze” music. It all started on this album. For what it’s worth, Spooky was their first official album that was not a compilation and while I have always been a fan of Gala, it was Spooky that hit a chord with me.

On songs such as ‘Covert’ offered an emotional whallop to a 20 year old. A sound that was still in a relative infancy, coupled by my own naivete, and well also for the simple fact of being 20. I could not fathom the amount of time that I spent driving around to this album.

Songs like ‘Covert’ rip your insides up. “Untogether” …well you pretty much get the idea from the title. Berenyi and Anderson would just kick me in the face with their vocals and you realize that you have been maimed by rock and roll.

What I appreciated about Spooky more than the follow-ups was for the vocals to become part of the music, this exotic siren songs where the emotion of the music took over. As the band had matured, their sound did as well and I felt ruined some of the magic of their earlier recordings. I wanted them to remain that band where you could only make out every third word rather than have to get the message.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

#18 The Beatles – Revolver

August 23rd, 2013 No comments

There was that great scene in Mad Men when Don Draper sat down and listened to the last track on Revolver, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and you realize in this epic TV show is this that you have to think about music up to this point, that psychadelic music is just at it’s infancy and the biggest band in the world is sitting and setting a bar over 2 minutes and 57 seconds that could only be considered mind blowing. The song could be considered the core of several psychadelic movements. The lyrics have been recycled in songs several times over.

Of course, if you capture the history of rock and roll and you are sitting in front of a speaker system listening to this album for the first time and realize that only a couple years prior it was Buddy Holly making the scenes. The dimension at which ‘Rock and Roll’ had changed had shifted to a quick and furious pace. For me, Revolver has always been about the efforts of George Harrison who never gets enough credit but offers the underappreciated ‘Love You To’, offering his sitar which becomes the crux of the psychedelic sounds on this album.

While ‘Rubber Soul’ might have gotten bands like the Beach Boys to notice, Revolver is their statement album.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

#19 The Clash – The Clash

August 22nd, 2013 No comments

The Clash – The Clash

My first real “experience” with the Clash was picking up “The Clash on Broadway” and it could be that there was part of me that fell in love with ‘Janie Jones’. The former convict and singer of the schlocky “Witches Brew” became a rare rallying cry for a punk band on their debut album. For me, she was that rock and roll girlfriend as there have been several (The Who’s ‘Pictures of Lily’ and Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘Naomi’ to name a few. But it was the first ever song that I had listened to on a CD that I had owned and for some reason I think that I picked a great song for that virgin experience. It wraps up the teenage mindset perfectly in two minutes.

The first thing to note is that there is different UK and US versions. The UK version was released about 18 months prior to the US version. Both versions contain the essential tracks of the album but there are notable differences such as the US inclusion of the cover song “I Fought the Law” as well as ‘(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais’, which was one of the first songs that attempted to merge reggae and punk.

The album focuses much on the economics during this time during the UK. Songs like “White Riot” and “Career Opportunities” discuss politics and race in a manner that engaged youth. The necessity of punk was it’s need not just to tear down the established roles in society, government and politics but also music. The sense of urgency in their music and live performances.

The Clash go beyond your typical “Punk” album by covering Junior Murvin’s ‘Police & Thieves’ with its perfect bass line and reggae style backing that was a perfect compliment for this album.

But over the years there was something else. The Sex Pistols were a freakshow, and the Clash had a message. They were not perfect as Lester Bangs could attest but they were the working man’s band. Songs like “I’m so Bored with the USA” spoke to me about the culture that I have lived in and helped propogate to the rest of the world. I am reminded of this song because I think I something like McDonald’s. It exists as this cultural safetynet. The caloric intake might be through the roof but you never hear of any health violations or people getting sick. It becomes a fail safe.

For Bangs, he had gone on tour with them and listened to them speak of how they wanted to demystify rock and roll and tear down the walls between artist and fan and create a more democratic form only to see the bands security picking on a fan and the band laughing about it. But Bangs realized that he did not do anything in this situation either. I am not sure whether this final paragraph is going to make you run out and get their debut album but I think for me it was one of those important moments to remind myself that as much as you see me writing about it, music is sorta bullshit as well. You need to find a healthy balance between complete adulation and believing that your rockstar lover can do no wrong and talking during the fucking show.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

#20 Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

August 21st, 2013 No comments

Their apex. The story of YHF has been told many times about a record company (Warner Bros.) selling the album back to the band due to the fact the record company did not like it. In the meantime the record gets leaked and creates a tremendous buzz among fans and critics alike. A subsidiary of Warner Bros. (Nonesuch Records) ends up buying the album back from the band for a profit on top of signing a record deal with Wilco. This album creates an aura around it, possibly due to some of the overriding themes of the album and the fact that it was around 9/11. Where this album stunned was with the addition of Glen Kotche on drums whose percussion was central in it’s sound.

It’s the Wilco album with the magic. It is the one, if you have not paid attention to them yet, to start with and I think that theme wise it’s not just good songs but topics that feel a little broader than Wilco’s typical relationship blues.

The title of the album came from a recording that Tweedy had listened to that went by the name of “The Conant Project” which included individuals giving transmissions to spies. A section of this recording ended up on the song “Poor Places”, and thus also became the title.

The combination of the title, the aura of putting a photo of Marina Towers in Chicago made several allusions to the events of 9/11 but the fact remains is that while the album had been released after 9/11, the entire album had been completed and sent to the record company (and rejected), in early summer.

But the topics were grander and just fit for the moment. “Ashes Of American Flags”, Tweedy suggests, ‘I wonder why we listen to poets, nobody gives a fuck”, and it has often just punched me in the face. I guess the easiest way to describe it would be like going to a Wilco show and sitting there talking to your friend all night. The concept of going to a rock concert is a fairly anti-social endeavor. If I am truly interested in going to see a band live, I am spending that money to go see that band live and not to talk to you. How do you value the artist? That individual is writing shit on a piece of paper and making it public and you have decided to pay good money to talk away to your friend and that I do not understand.

On a larger scale how do you view the concept of America, as Tweedy alludes that it would appear that it’s not “Freedom” we are fighting for but “Convenience”.

The concept of the album feels more central around a general disillusionment with our society. Listeners were dealing with post 9/11 thoughts and the tragedy that had surrounded us and had to examine what did America really mean as well as the relationships that we had.

Behind the blips, the psychedelic sounds was something very visual to me. I often remembered just walking about the city and staring at the buildings, the lights and the people when I would listen and figure that this feeling is not going to end anytime soon.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

#21 R.E.M. – Monster

August 20th, 2013 2 comments

R.E.M. – Monster

So what better than coming off a slew of acoustic-minded albums than to return with an electric blitz of guitars. Monster feels at times big and bloated. It’s R.E.M.’s way of making an album with a huge sound to tour around.

Monster gets a bad rap sometimes. There have been about 15 different times over the years that R.E.M. has sold out according to critics and fans of the band and I think that Monster was one of those times. I felt that I had even gone with the crowd a little bit on it until I realized subconsciously how much I would listen to the album. I think that the album might be a bit more mature than your standard 17 year old fare and it truly does not mesh at all with the 90’s grunge sound that came from the land of Starbucks.

Instead, Monster feels like R.E.M. making an album that should have been dedicated to some of the bands favorites of the 70’s: Iggy Pop and The Stooges, New York Dolls and T. Rex to name a few. Just like albums prior, the album is dark but still sexy enough and not deliberate. It has a bit of a neon hue attached to it and I think I am reminded often of the video for Crush with Eyeliner when I say that.

From the standpoint of Stipe, it’s one of the few where he is allowed to take on some different characters. He writes “Tongue” from the point of view of a female with falsetto voice and all but it’s also the use of tools, filters and gadgets to give it some character.

When he does need to get personal we get ‘Let Me In’ a tribute to Kurt Cobain. Stipe had befriended Cobain and there were talks of writing music together, but the song works for it’s simple message but one that R.E.M. could relate to. R.E.M. had already been together for 14 years. They had gone through the same growing pains of success from years prior and had become comfortable in their own skin and they had used their goodwill to aid bands under similar circumstances that were feeling those same pressures and kept them from falling over the edge.

What I think that the band does not get enough credit for was that they took something that worked for them and went in the complete opposite direction. This is not Automatic Part 2. This was not R.E.M. by numbers. It still stands by itself as a unique direction that the band took, one that was not always easy to complete but the end product is something that is still cherished from my ears.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

#22 Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

August 17th, 2013 No comments

One cannot play ‘Foreground’, the last song on Veckatimest, in the presence of my wife without her getting anxious. See, we had decided to play about 10 of the 12 songs as the prelude to our wedding reception and Foreground was the last song that we played before she walked down the aisle. The combination of the DJ playing the music way too loud and our venue Architechtural Artifacts, being cavernous, seemed like the perfect album to play for the typically nervous soon-to-be-husband who had somehow found a way to stay calm and I will have to give some credit to this album.

I think that we would both agree that the songs on the album are stellar, still mixing the artsy side of their previous works with more pop enthusiasm and hooks. From their early days when the band pretty much consisted of only Ed Droste, the band has matured by becoming more than just a name but an actual 4 piece that has moved away from it’s artsyness of earlier incarnations to becoming more pop oriented. There are songs like “Southern Point” and “Two Weeks” which are full of hooks and melodic with a much more produced sound than the debut album “Horn of Plenty” and their follow-up “Yellow House”. While there are plenty of highlights for these two albums, this album is a true combination of all 4 members efforts.

The fear of a band like Grizzly Bear is trying to decide what they want to be. It was Drost, that was disappointed, in fact, when the band was not nominated for a Grammy for their latest effort “Shields”. In my best Yoda impression: “Awards not make one great!”.

For me and my wife, the album will always have a special place in our hearts for that moment mentioned above, and maybe one day she will be able to listen to it without getting anxious.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

#23 Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Blood & Chocolate

August 16th, 2013 No comments

Elvis Costello has been all over the map music-wise. He has tackled just about every music genre and been prolific in the process. The words just roll off his lips.

Elvis has been in my life for a good 20+ years and through all his works, whether it was his early debut works, his clashes with various genres of music whether it was country, bluegrass or classical, Blood and Chocolate was always the most deeply emotional album that seemed to truly pull out Costello’s soul. A song like “Uncomplicated” is written for Costello’s voice and you feel the pain in Costello’s voice in “I Want You”.

Costello has that voice that nasally voice that is either reveled or reviled by music listeners. I think that often that when Costello is direct and tries to get his point across he is at his best. Songs like Radio, Radio and Allison from earlier albums point to his strengths. While ‘Blood and Chocolate’ does not contain many of his so-called hits, the personal nature of the songs bring both the alkaline of blood and the sweetness of Chocolate to your lips and yet still darker than some of his previous albums.

There is a sense of urgency on the album which might be related to the manner at which the band recorded the album, done in a single room at high volume.

But there is something deeper in this album. You just cannot write shit situations in your life and put some fancy production values on top and release it. There is a back to basics approach with this album but also in “R.E.M. Talk” a feeling that this is Elvis and The Attractions, “Fables of the Reconstruction”, an album made under strife and that strife creating something very personal.

Elvis has made a host load of albums and there are several which are more note-worthy among critics (Armed Forces, This Years Model, My Aim Is True) but this is the album that I keep on coming back to. I would still say for the Elvis Costello novice to get “Armed Forces” first but if you want something special, this is the one to get.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

#24 The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

August 15th, 2013 No comments

What is there to say about the Beatles? Probably nothing.

Magical Mystery Tour is a unique album in that it contains both a critically awful movie, but great soundtrack with a couple singles stuck at the end of it to make it long enough to be an album. Although you could say that an album such as Sgt. Peppers is more consistent in it’s effort to act like an album, Magical Mystery Tour, in my opinion has always had better songs.

The only other thing that should be mentioned about this album is that “Blue Jay Way” is the best song on the album. Maybe it’s the presentation as if the song was performed underwater. It could be that it was written by my favorite Beatle, George Harrision. Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s underappreciated due to the other hits on the record: Strawberry Fields and I am the Walrus come to mind first.

Otherwise, when discussing the biggest band rock and roll band ever, there is not much to discuss. If you have not listened to this album, I guess I would feel sorry for you.

(I do apologize for my outburst about the Beatles. They are such a great band that writing anything about them is about as enjoyable as sticking my tongue on a 9 volt battery.)

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: