Swim – Caribou

23 06 2011

Listened: Monday June 6

Caribou’s Swim is difficult to describe. It’s electronica, clearly, but also decently pop-structured and almost 70s rock-like. The soundscapes are very unique yet flow together well enough that they aren’t a listener’s only focus.

The influences vary wildly – sometimes I think of it like a less bizarre Sparks (Odessa), other times it’s very chillout jazzy (Sun, Kaili). I think Bowls uses the same “flourish” sample as Writer’s Block by Just Jack (unless it’s a sample of a well-known song I’m not usually able to pick out samples, so it was surprising I noticed this). I’m addicted to the flute sample in Leave House; I think I could listen to it for a long time. Hannibal sounds like a lost Underworld song.

Yet despite all these experiments, the production and organization is very clean. Girl Talk, this ain’t.

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow

23 06 2011

Listened: Monday May 9

Surrealistic Pillow is part of the genesis of my musical interests. I believe it was the first record I put on when my dad fixed the record player (I recall him saying, “Wow, it’s been so many years since I’ve heard this”). I chose it for this honor because I had heard of it, it was pretty, and the people on the front cover looked cool. Pretty much immediately I was hooked, and dubbed a tape, with Sounds of Silence on the B side. That tape was a fixture of my car’s tape deck for the rest of high school, and spurred many discoveries of 60s music to come.

It also started my love affair with bands that have many male and female voices singing at once (see Fleetwood Mac, Arcade Fire, The Mamas and The Papas, etc). Grace Slick is another person who doesn’t seem like she’d be easy to get along with socially (see Lily Allen, Lady Sov), but she can belt it out and is willing to ego-duel with the best of them, which is respectable. Let the record show that I believe without Plastic Fantastic Lover, there would have been no Beck. I also love the extra tracks on the remastered version. They’re great songs that could have fit in perfectly on the original album.

I wish I knew what this sounded like in 1967. By which I mean, did it sound crazy and groundbreaking contemporarily? After Bathing at Baxter’s, the followup to SP, clearly sounds drug-fueled and experimental, even now. Both albums were released in 1967, but the things that took place between the creation of each album (The Summer of Love) made all the difference. Which leads me back to how Surrealistic Pillow might have sounded then. To me now, it sounds quite like a pop record with classic 60s guitar sound, while ABAB sounds much more surreal. The subtext in Surrealistic Pillow (“Feed Your Head” and lyrics about buying “nicotine” that’s obvious marijuana, not cigarettes) is maybe just less sub in ABAB.

Supreme Beings of Leisure – Supreme Beings of Leisure

22 06 2011

Listened: Monday May 9

Supreme Beings of Leisure often make me think of James Bond music. The vocalist could fit right in with Shirley Bassey. I don’t remember why I picked up this CD (I think it was back in college) except maybe I’d heard it was a good album. It does sound very turn of the century with its trip-hop/chillout leanings. It’s a product of its time.

The songs are catchy, but unfortunately I didn’t end up falling in love with it, then or now.

Curtis Mayfield – Superfly

20 06 2011

Listened: Monday May 9

I always knew of Curtis Mayfield as a person, but I wasn’t familiar with his music at all until a few years ago when I saw SuperFly on BET (it was a double feature with Blacula). The film itself was edited for TV in a truly bonkers way – because it’s about a cocaine dealer, all the cocaine use was openly shown, since the story wouldn’t make any sense otherwise, but any marijuana use or sexual content was blurred out. This was a major distraction throughout.

I immediately appreciated the music, though, and it was anything but a distraction – it fit right in. I bought the deluxe version of the album immediately after I saw it. Despite some of the glorification of the drug and thug life throughout the film, the lyrics of the songs actually speak directly against glorifying drugs, thugs, the ghetto, and does a good job explaining a lot of the hopelessness that makes people want to glorify them.

Strange that such a low budget movie had such an amazing soundtrack; I expect that it’s a large part of the reason it did so well.

A Band Of Bees – Sunshine Hit Me

20 06 2011

Listened: Friday May 6

I don’t even remember buying Sunshine Hit Me, though I’m pretty sure it was a cheap used CD. I assume I did so because it was released back when Astralwerks were really on their game and were releasing tons of varied, awesome stuff (see KOC, Audio Bullys, Basement Jaxx).

I really hadn’t listened to it until now. It definitely fits into their aesthetic of that time. It’s a mix of jazz, electronica, and rock and all are catchy. Nothing struck my fancy intensely, but it’s enjoyable for sure. I love the lucha-mask-like cover.

Fleet Foxes – Sun Giant

20 06 2011

Listened: Friday May 6

Despite being released earlier, I only discovered Sun Giant after loving Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut. The songs on Sun Giant are as amazingly good as any on the debut album. Robin Pecknold’s voice tugs at your heart and pleases your ears like no one else’s. EPs aren’t always worth buying unless you’re a superfan, but Sun Giant will make you one, if you aren’t already.

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

17 06 2011

Listened: Friday May 6

I’m ashamed to admit the Suburbs got lost in my listening project. It was released in August of last year; by then I was already deep in the project, and therefore barely listened to it. Even after they won the Album of  the Year Grammy, I still was slacking. It took seeing their mind-blowing performance at Coachella 2011 to kick my butt into paying attention.

The Suburbs is a fabulous album that really speaks to where I am right now. “Businessmen drinking my blood, just like the kids in art school said they would” strikes to the core of my being, as does “You never trust a millionaire quoting the sermon on the mount. I used to think I was not like them but I’m beginning to have my doubts.” The entire mournful, nostalgic, Luddite tone of We Used To Wait blows my mind every time I hear it.

Not only are the lyrics amazing, the music is very impressive. Some songs sound very influenced by 60s pop, others perfectly weave in 80s keyboard touches and flourishes like it’s no big thing. The fabulous mixture of Win’s and Regine’s singing is dead on, as usual.

To be honest, before I heard this, I didn’t believe Arcade Fire could keep their finger on the pulse as well as they so totally have. For shame, for shame.