U2 – Under a Blood Red Sky

23 11 2011

Listened: Wednesday Nov 16

Hearing Under a Blood Red Sky makes me bummed out that I was only 4 in 1983. The energy of of this show at Red Rocks makes me wish I could have experienced it. Yes, Bono is terribly earnest (as I get older I can hear just how young he is here – 24), but I never doubt his commitment to what he’s doing. That someone so young could storm in and capture everyone’s attention so fully is notable.

I’ve seen the accompanying concert video, which is an amazing document in and of itself (Bono with a serious mullet plus jeggings with boots), but I’ve just had my mind blown regarding the album, thanks to wikipedia – most of the album was actually recorded in Germany! Here I was, impressed that a young Irish band could blow minds so thoroughly in Colorado, but that’s not really what I’m hearing after all. Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

The Orb – U. F. Off: The Best of The Orb

18 11 2011

Listened: Friday November 11

The Orb are one of those rare bands who manage to sound classic yet not dated. My first exposure to them was on a mix tape a British guy named Steve sent me. I believe Steve was one of my first Internet friends way back in 1995 or so, and it was so long ago I don’t remember what his last name is or how we “met”. I still have the mix tapes somewhere (he sent me 4), and they say “Steve’s Mix” on them; that’s the only reason I remember even his first name. There was some great music on those tapes; I need to remind myself what’s there.

The Orb song I remember most from the “dance music” tape was Little Fluffy Clouds, which is an amazing painting in sound. I can see the clouds and understand how beautiful they are, just from the use of spoken word samples and musical flourishes. Whenever someone hears the inherent musical sound in conversation and uses it so effectively as a sample like this, I’m impressed. Perpetual Dawn is more of a “proper” song and satisfies my reggae/dub jones. It must have been really fun to dance to back in the day. DJ Asylum seems to be clearly influenced by the original Dr Who theme, with its chimy keyboards.

Mostly, I just love the way the songs chug along, like a slow-moving freight train. There’s no need to build to a climax like modern dance music, or at least a very immediate, intentionally crowd-pleasing one. I really need to get some proper Orb albums, since I love this Best Of so much. Similarly, Orbital – an Orb contemporary, who are very easy to confuse with the Orb since they are just as brilliant.

Culture – Two Sevens Clash (30th Anniversary Edition)

16 11 2011

Listened: Wednesday November 9

I have a secret love of roots reggae. For some reason I can’t help singing along to “Callin’ Rastafariiiiii, many are called but few shall be chosen” and “HalleluJAHHHHHH” when Culture sings with such great harmonies.I see why so many non-Jamaicans become Rastas; it’s so easy to be drawn into any ideology if the music is good. The production values are also quite good, especially for reggae at the time. It’s obvious these guys are decent musicians and care about the sound quality.

I don’t remember where I read about Culture’s classic album Two Sevens Clash being rereleased (probably Spin magazine), but as soon as I heard some samples, I had to have it. I have great memories of listening to Get Ready to Ride the Lion to Zion while driving to Zion National Park; it was a great juxtaposition to see the amazing Utah landscape while hearing reggae music and lion roar samples.


The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema

16 11 2011

Listened: Wednesday November 9

Similar to Together, I liked Twin Cinema more than I thought I would. It’s so poppy and catchy I was drawn in whether I wanted to be or not. There’s also great 60s inspired guitars on tracks like Jackie Dressed in Cobras. Falling Through Your Clothes could easily be a Shins song. Sing Me Spanish Techno is my favorite track; it’s so pretty and addictive.

However, I find Together to be a stronger album, which is good – they’ve improved with every album, apparently!

The Stone Roses – Turns Into Stone

14 11 2011

Listened: Wednesday November 9

My recent true-love rediscovery of The Stone Roses convinced me that I should buy Turns Into Stone. If I love them so much why don’t I make sure I have all their songs?

I absolutely love the alternate version of Elephant Stone that opens Turns Into Stone. The extended intro, sixties guitar, and weird clashy drum effect (or is he actually hitting a trashcan?) takes it even higher than the better-known version on their debut. Mersey Paradise also rocks my world and One Love sounds to me like it could be on Second Coming.

Since I’ve relatively recently gushed about how much I love The Stone Roses album, I’ll spare you too much more, but I also have to note that most of these songs are clearly not quite as good as the A-sides from the properly released album. Still – they get me singing along to something as ridiculous as “Ring-a-ding-ding, I’m going down” so it can’t be that bad.

Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights

14 11 2011

Listened: Tuesday November 8

Turn on the Bright Lights is forever linked with Is This It and my early 20s. Both albums were part of the post 9-11 “I Love New York” spirit and music scene. NYC with its refrain “New York cares” and its nostalgic sway encapsulates this well.

I know I made pithy comments in my review of Antics about the Joy Division love Interpol so obviously has, but honestly I think it’s only in some of the singing Paul Banks does. When he gets excitable or excessively monotonic, yes, it’s definitely there. But when he really sings (which admittedly is less often than the former) he sounds more like a normal indie crooner. I wouldn’t say the majority of the music is very Joy Divisiony either; it’s only as Joy Divisiony as any indie rock band is these days, which is a little, since their influence through the last 25 years has been so pervasive in general.

I guess I’ve changed my mind a bit in the last 18 months, or have become a bit less simplistic in my analysis, anyway.

Christopher O’Riley – True Love Waits

8 11 2011

Listened: Tuesday July 19

True Love Waits was my introduction to Chris O’Riley back in the Radiohead heyday (2003ish). Chris does great translations of both older and newer Radiohead songs for piano. I would say his triumph actually is Hold Me To This, due to the fact that that album attacks some of the very difficult latter-day songs very successfully, but True Love Waits both is challenging and familiar, due to its mixture of complex songs (Everything In Its Right Place, Knives Out) and older, more straightforward rock songs (Black Star, Thinking About You). I think I like his version of Black Star as much as the original, and I love the extra flourishes he adds to a song as simple as Thinking About You.

I have great memories of hearing him perform his versions of these songs several times in my early 20s. However, I think I may have ruined True Love Waits recently. At the end of my last job, when I spent many hours documenting my work processes, music helped me concentrate, but it couldn’t have lyrics or it was too distracting for writing. So most of my music was out. I ended up hearing True Love Waits quite a few times by necessity and timing of the project, and therefore it has some less than pleasant connotations now. I hope with time those will fade!

Ray LaMontagne – Trouble

8 11 2011

Listened: Tuesday July 19

Ray LaMontagne’s Trouble was probably one of my last listening-station related buys at Tower Records. It was cheap and it was one of those albums I fell in love with after only a minute or so of listening to its first track, Trouble. The music, lyrics, and vocals are immediately gripping; it begged me to buy it.

Jolene makes me gasp for breath every time I hear it. What else can I do after a song starts with “Cocaine flame in my bloodstream”? The further heartbreak simplicity of:

I found myself face down in the ditch
Booze on my hair
Blood on my lips
A picture of you, holding a picture of me
in the pocket of my blue jeans
Still don’t know what love means

Burn is also arresting, with lyrics like “Yes and try to ignore, all this blood on the floor. It’s just this heart on my sleeve that’s a bleeding”.

Ray tiptoes along the right side of the line between overwrought and believably anguished. This album is made for wallowing or remembering what it’s like to wallow, with both sorrow and aching beauty.