Márta Sebestyén – The Best Of Márta Sebestyén

25 05 2010

Listened: Tuesday May 25

Márta Sebestyén is most famous for the beautiful Hungarian songs in The English Patient, though she’s had a long career besides that. On this collection of her songs, she sings in Hungarian, Slovak, English, and Hindi amongst others. Whatever the language, her voice is lovely, haunting, and not like anything I’ve ever heard before.

This CD actually belonged to my college roommate, but I inherited it when she moved to Nepal (she’s since returned but I still have the CD). The songs always makes me think of her.





Desmond Dekker & The Aces – Best Of Desmond Dekker

25 05 2010

Listened: Tuesday May 25

This album is of an entirely different nostalgia than the high school soundtracks I’ve just written about.

For context, Desmond Dekker was one of the first Jamaican stars recognized outside Jamaica (which, really, probably means he had a minor hit in England). It’s interesting to hear from this collection of songs where Bob Marley got some of his sound. Some of the very early Marley is of a similar musical style and the physical style of those early groups was more do-wop like Desmond (tailored nerd suits and close cropped hair, not hippie clothes and dreads).

007 (Shanty Town) has been referenced by many people over the years (“Dem a-loot, dem a-shoot, dem a-will”). Israelites, Problems, and Too Much Too Soon all have amazing beats and rhythms. Honor Your Mother and Father makes me laugh – a “cool” song about how you should respect your parents?

Now for the nostalgia – after college I went to Wales and England for 6 weeks to volunteer at some work camps doing historical and conservation projects. Desmond Dekker songs were definitely a big part of that trip. Ska, especially old-school ska, is mandatory listening in Britain. These songs make me think of the Welsh landscape, sleeping in a tent for weeks, and bouncing along country roads in a Lada with a shite sound system. But it all makes perfect sense – after all, it is island music, and isn’t Britain an island?





Blur – The Best Of

25 05 2010

Listened: Tuesday May 25

Back in the Britpop wars of the early 90s, I was on team Oasis. Maybe the trashiness and unpredictability of the personalities involved on the Oasis side appealed more to teenage sensibility.

Whatever the reason, I don’t own any of Blur’s non-“Best of” albums. The Best Of makes me think I should. Everyone knows Song 2, which is a good song, but is super-overplayed. I love Charmless Man (British humor again), She’s So High (90s sound nostalgia), and On Your Own (epic singalong). My Amazon wish list got a lot longer after I got this album.





Radiohead – The Bends

25 05 2010

Listened: Monday May 24

The Bends is one of my favorite albums ever. I have to admit that I didn’t own the first two Radiohead albums until well after OK Computer and Kid A. I was a fan of their singles on the radio; I just didn’t take the time to check out all their albums until I had worn out the later ones. I was missing something!

Sulk is the only hetero-male legit torch song I can think of. High and Dry, Fake Plastic Trees, Nice Dream, and Bulletproof are all very creepy (ha) but beautiful songs. The guitar and bass are really good as a whole, and the relatively immature angst of this album is kind of cute compared to later Radiohead.

Despite not owning the album at the time, The Bends era holds a special place in my heart in terms of nostalgia. My high school friends and I saw Radiohead at the Berkeley Community Theater for Live 105’s Green Christmas. They were the second band to play in a 9 band lineup (the other bands were Sonic Youth, Billy Idol, Oasis, Jawbreaker, The Rentals, Garbage, No Doubt, and Toadies, for context) and according to the internets they played:

The Bends
My Iron Lung
High & Dry
Just
Fake Plastic Trees

I remember the circumstances of that show a lot more than how or what Radiohead played. Friends had to lie to their parents to go to a show that far from home and we had to leave before Oasis was done, to catch the last BART train back to Fremont, where I had parked my newly acquired 1986 Volkswagen Jetta with the whistley radio. We packed that car full of 5 teenagers for the trip (and this was before the rules about kids not being able to drive a car full of kids after midnight – thank god. I pity today’s teenagers!) and as a new driver it seemed a big deal to drive so far outside normal routes with a full car. Probably because of all the exigencies, it’s a really fond memory and these songs definitely bring all that back.





The Soundtrack of Our Lives – Behind the Music

25 05 2010

Listened: Monday May 24

Behind the Music is an immediately accessible album with diverse grooves and arrangements (plus a somewhat disturbing album cover). At times it sounds like the Beatles, the Shins, or Coldplay. It’s just nice background music. However, I never really got into TSOOL’s music enough to remain a fan. It’s enjoyable, but not love-inducing for me.





Underworld – Beaucoup Fish

25 05 2010

Listened: Monday May 24

A classic. And great work music. Beaucoup Fish is dance music with a soul and a positive attitude. Underworld still play a bunch of these songs at their shows to this day (King of Snake, Moaner, Push Upstairs) because, frankly, they’re still fun, even if they’re over 10 years old now.

If you can spare the $4.99, download the Underworld edition of the iDrum app. Many of these songs are on it and you can do your own mix of them, which is really cool and addicting. Many times I’ve been up late making mixes when I should’ve been sleeping!





The Beatles – Beatles for Sale

23 05 2010

Listened: Friday May 21

Beatles For Sale is the last Beatles album I acquired in my Beatlemania phase. Probably because it’s the least famous as a whole and has no famous ‘Beatles’ song on it (Eight Days a Week being only a minor song in the pantheon).

I always forget how much fun it is to play.

I also always forget on the early albums which of the lesser known songs are Lennon/McCartney and which were written by Lieber/Stoller, Little Richard or the like. I’m repeatedly shocked when I realize which songs the Beatles wrote that I was sure were written by more experienced songwriters. I could have sworn No Reply, Baby’s in Black, and Every Little Thing were written by the “big guys”. Lennon and McCartney were excellent style mimics as well as lyric writers.

This album is drenched in handclaps, which somehow really works and increases the energetic qualities and old school feel of it. I’ve got to remember to play this album a lot more when I need some “buckle down, sing to yourself, and crank” music.





The Beatles – The Beatles aka the ‘White Album’

23 05 2010

Listened: Friday May 21

It’s amazing to me – ignoring close reading of lyrics for a minute – how much the White Album is like a children’s record.

Piggies, Bungalow Bill, Ob-la-di, Blackbird, Birthday, Me and My Monkey, Good Night – all could easily be played for children. Plenty of other things on this album are not, though. Helter Skelter is sonically frightening/challenging. Happiness is a Warm Gun is not explicitly sexual, but definitely has overtones and even if it wasn’t about sex, singing about how great a gun is is less than desirable. And Revolution 9, let’s not even go there. But what can I say about the White Album that hasn’t already been said? It competes with Sgt Pepper for most studied Beatles album.

I’m glad I was very versed in the Beatles’ other albums before hearing this one. It was my first Beatles album I owned on CD (and not taped from the library’s copy – the only one they had was on vinyl and I wasn’t set up to tape that). I have to admit that I’ve always disliked both Back in the USSR and Birthday. Imitating the Beach Boys (who I am not a big fan of) did not strike me as interesting when taken out of chronological context, and Birthday I just found silly. Though actually upon reflection it’s a pretty brilliantly simple song. It should be noted that I used to be a lot more anti-Paul and staunchly pro-John than I am now, so that might have something to do with it.





Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country

22 05 2010

Listened: Friday May 21

I didn’t own any Creedence albums until recently when Amazon has started having one of them on sale each month for $5 as a download. I need to listen to Bayou Country a lot more.

According to Wikipedia, this album starts off with “over-driven amp vibrato on a slow setting”. Definitely the guitar and the vocals on this album are both similarly shredded, in a good way. I can hear the Jimi Hendrix influence in the guitar solos and CCR do not skimp on harmonica.

This project is clearly paying off insofar as my music nerdery – I learned what “humbuckers” are when I dug into the Wikipedia article on this album (not that I practically know what they are, really, having no electric guitar experience whatsoever).





China Drum – Barrier EP

22 05 2010

Listened: Friday May 21

Barrier is from back in the day when I was doing my obscure British music research. I haven’t listened to it in probably 10 years. Listening to it now, it sounds a lot like Ned’s Atomic Dustbin in musical style, but unfortunately the sound of the singer’s voice and the treatment of it make it resemble Creed a bit too much for me.