Coldplay – Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends

6 05 2012

Listened: Friday February 3

X&Y is a great album, and well done, but when Viva La Vida came out, it became very clear that Coldplay had completely gone all U2, in a good way – the guitars even sound U2-y. The production is fabulous (and a bunch of it is done by Brian Eno, so the comparison is not totally out there) and the melodies and vocals are beautiful and fit together perfectly.

It’s amazing how far they’ve come from Parachutes and playing the Fillmore in 1998.





Morrissey – Viva Hate

4 05 2012

Listened: Thursday February 2

When I was first introduced to the wonders of Morrissey’s live show back in 2002, I didn’t know his solo songs very well. Now I know that he sang quite a few songs from Viva Hate, an album that was at the time 13 years old; this strikes me as a pretty unusual choice for many performers, but then, Morrissey is special, and he knows it.

Morrissey always has a way with words, but this album has quite a few songs that conjure up detailed images as well. It’s easy to see the disco in Bengali in Platforms, the seaside town that they forgot to bomb in Everyday is Like Sunday, the washed-up nervous juvenile in Little Man, What Now, the busy scissors in Hairdresser On Fire, and the very naughty inappropriate relationship in Alsatian Cousin (Do you see a male or female student in that song? I know which one I imagine).

But, as usual, there’s that great wit. In the aforementioned Alsatian Cousin, Moz sneers “Were you and he lovers? And if you were, then say that you were! On a groundsheet, under canvas, with your tent flap open wide.” I love the intriguing imaginary visuals of what’s going on in that tent and the impression one gets that the tent flap could also refer to another man’s fly.

One of my favorite Morrissey lyrics ever, and I think one of his most intentionally funny, is on Late Night, Maudlin Street when he says “No, I cannot steal a pair of jeans off a clothesline for you. But you… without clothes, oh I could not keep a straight face. Me – without clothes? Well a nation turns its back and gags“. The cultivated melodrama of that line cracks me up every time. I also love I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me’s “Your ‘My best wishes’ – they make me suspicious”.

With Alsatian Cousin’s power-laden inappropriate student-teacher relationship (and odd dog references), the whip-cracking percussion on Late Night, Maudlin Street, the fetishism of the power of cutting hair in Hairdresser on Fire, Morrissey’s proclivity to get extremely microphone-cord-whippy when he sings Suedehead, the guillotine sound effect that ends the album, and the creepy weirdness of the album title itself, the sadomasochism theme seems pretty intentional. Like all things Morrissey, it’s wonderful pain and punishment.





Pearl Jam – Vitalogy

14 03 2012

Listened: Wednesday February 1

Vitalogy was one of the first CDs I ever bought (during early high school). It’s also one of the first I remember having consciously thought-out, cool packaging, similar to special record packaging back in the day. I bought this album because I liked Corduroy and Better Man so much, and my brother had Vs on cassette tape, and we spent many hours listening to it.

At the time, I was surprised and shocked by the very punkish and experimental elements of this album, since it wasn’t the kind of music I was into yet. Spin the Black Circle, Not for You and Whipping all spun my head around a bit with their hard punky sounds, though I think they were the beginning of my introduction to and interest in such things, too.

Pry To and Hey Foxymophandlemama That’s Me are still pretty annoying experiments. Foxy might not  be so bad were it not nearly 8 minutes long. And Bugs… oh, Bugs. My reaction to that hasn’t changed. What The Eff? These songs often make me feel like Pearl Jam wanted to see how much weirdness they could get people to buy after establishing themselves as a successful band.

Corduroy and Better Man, though, are still really classic-sounding, having aged quite well. Immortality is a good song too, but it sounds so very, very 90s to me. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it hasn’t aged as well.

Needless to say, this was a nice reminder of days past, but I doubt I’ll be ripping this to my iPod any time soon. And the 1995 me would have had no idea what that means.





Air – The Virgin Suicides

12 03 2012

Listened: Thursday January 12

I believe I read The Virgin Suicides when I heard that Sofia Coppola would direct it as her first film; there weren’t and still aren’t very many young women helming films like that, so that piqued my curiosity a bit. I remember it being a novel that crept into me like few can, a story that felt like it fit perfectly into the time and place when I was reading it. I had a similar reaction to the film, and I thought Coppola did a great job telling the story and creating an appropriately creepy post-modern vibe.

Air’s soundtrack brilliantly contributes to this dread and heaviness. I haven’t listened to it a great deal before the project, but hearing it again made me want to see the film again; all the feelings came rushing back. The soundtrack is also such a departure from Moon Safari in tone. It even seems like some of the depressive vibe from this project spilled over into 10,000 Hz Legend, their next release.

There’s one odd thing, though – the slowed-down movie dialogue included here. Surprisingly it works, but I’m not sure how that struck anyone as a good idea.





Otis Redding – The Very Best of Otis Redding

11 03 2012

Listened: Wednesday January 11

The Very Best of Otis Redding takes me back to being 19 and working at my first job at Great Harvest Bread during summer break from college. This was one of the CDs that I discovered I really enjoyed. I hadn’t previously been very into soul music, so it wasn’t something I expected. I remember I’ve Got Dreams to Remember particularly catching my attention.

Otis is my favorite soul singer, for reasons as simple he wrote songs that used the phrase “These Arms of Mine” instead of “My Arms.” It’s a great example of a longer, perhaps less grammatically correct phrase is more engaging than the “proper” way of saying something.

I love Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay naturally, but Tramp cracks me up to no end. It’s like a OG rap brag/dis track between he and Carla Thomas, and I love Otis’ indignation – “WHAAAAAAT?”

It’s amazing such a young singer at the time both wrote his own songs and fully owned the copyright. He was a very smart, driven businessman as well as a great performer; it’s a terrible shame he never really got to enjoy the fruits of his labor and we never got to hear the development of the classic artist he would have become.

 





Kings of Convenience – Versus

25 02 2012

Listened: Tuesday January 10

Versus is an unlikely mixture of Kings of Convenience, Erlend Oye‘s solo work, and Royksopp. Such beautiful acoustic music seems odd to remix, but a wonderful new vibe is added by several different artists.

Like Unrest, Versus makes me groove and relax all at once. I love the album cover too!





The Hives – Veni Vidi Vicious

25 02 2012

Listened: Monday January 9

I think one of the most jarring transitions of the project comes between Veneer and Veni Vidi Vicious. The slamming, loud guitars following such mellow meditative music is a bit much. I have to be in the right mood for The Hives.

I’d never imagine such messy, loud garage rock coming from Sweden. But I guess I should, since Sweden is also one of the black metal hotspots, which is more disturbing music.

This is early 20s music for me, and it probably stayed there – I can see the appeal, but I don’t think I’ll be feeling the urge to bust this out to listen to any time soon.





Jose Gonzalez – Veneer

25 02 2012

Listened: Friday January 6

Jose Gonzalez’s music is like very pleasant meditation. I like Veneer even more than In Our Nature.

My first Jose Gonzalez experience was hearing Heartbeats as a soundtrack to a video about Throwies (temporary LED light graffiti). I was captured by it immediately, and impressed with how well it suited the video. The video is also probably one of the first handful of videos I watched on YouTube as well; it was quite a while ago. Now whenever I hear it, visions of beautiful slow-motion Throwies being applied flow through my head.





Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

15 02 2012

Listened: Thursday January 5

Animal Collective have been indie darlings for a couple of years, but I’ve never been able to get into them; their psychedelica is a little too experimental for me. When I heard Grizzly Bear mentioned in similar context, I wasn’t expecting to like them. However, while psychedelic elements are there, I would describe them as a more funky Fleet Foxes – a little less folky, and a little more psychedelic in sound.

I hear similar threads through this album, vocals that remind me of John Vanderslice (About Face), instrumentation that reminds me of Beach House (All We Ask), harmonies that sound Crosby-Stills-Nash-esque (Fine for Now) and a general feeling that Grizzly Bear are borrowing from everyone and spinning it out in their own unique way. I’m pleased to have found them.





Morrissey – Vauxhall & I

11 02 2012

Listened: Thursday December 1

Vauxhall and I is the first Morrissey album I can recall being released, back when I was in high school. The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get was in heavy rotation on Live 105 at the time. However, until a friend and I went to his shows back in 2002 (just before his modern comeback), I hadn’t bought any of his solo stuff and was reasonably unfamiliar with it. Those 2002 shows changed all that. This album was my first Morrissey.

Vauxhall highlights Morrissey’s talent for telling tales that could be told by gay or straight people alike. However, when I hear “I am hated for loving” or “Now my heart is full, and I just can’t explain so I won’t even try to” or “Used to be a sweet boy… Something went wrong and I know I can’t be to blame” or Spring-Heeled Jim or Billy Budd I can’t help but hear the gay voice more than the straight one, even though there’s nothing overt about it. I don’t think anyone makes this happen better than Morrissey does.

I also get the idea on this album that Morrissey was getting quite sick of the music industry and journalists (but not his fans). “Some men here have a special interest in your career, they wanna help you to grow and then siphon all your dough” and “All of the rumors keeping me grounded, I never said that they were completely unfounded and all those lies, written lies, twisted lies” sort of give me that idea. But he still loves us: “I’ve always been true to you, in my own strange way, I’ve always been true to you, in my own sick way, I’ll always stay true to you.” Aw, thanks Moz.