Albums of the month: March

 

 

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Sea Change by Beck (2002)
*1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die*
With a deliberately quieter sound featuring orchestral flourishes, a big departure from the funkiness of 1999’s Midnite Vultures. Going for an introspective, more serious approach than previous albums, I’ve heard Sea Change described as the definitive break-up album. Certainly melancholy with lyrics such as “And the sun don’t shine, even when its day”. Beck is at his most vulnerable, using the songs as self-therapy, telling the listener about his loneliness and failed relationship, and in turn we can empathize and maybe relate. Lost Cause and Guess I’m Doing Fine are Beck classics. I’ve only listened to a third of his discography (as of March 2018) but this feels like Beck’s masterpiece. Whether you can handle the sadness is subjective. Certainly need to be in the right mood and I’d only listen to it sparingly.
9/10

 

 

 

 

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Midnite Vultures by Beck (1999)

He throws everything but the kitchen sink at you with a wealth of playful sounds and studio trickery. Very funky, including moments of rap and dance. The production is what stands out the most and it’s really fun to listen to. Part of the enjoyment are the bizarre, funny lyrics, although you could argue they border on nonsense. Apparently Beck admitted to NME that his writing sometimes is made up on the spot.
8/10

 

 

 


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The Information by Beck (2006)

Has enjoyable moments, yet patchier and more disposable than Beck’s best albums. The LP runs for 61 minutes and would have benefited from being edited down. Strange Apparition channels the classic sound of The Rolling Stones. Cellphone’s Dead is my favorite.
5/10

 

 

 

 

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Watermark by Enya (1988)

A beautiful, soothing New Age album that is easy to listen to. From a time when Enya was at her peak. The singles are great while the opening piano-driven Watermark is a personal favorite.
River is a lesser version of Storms In Africa and Miss Clare Remembers is similar to the superior title track. But minor complaints.
9/10

 

 

 

 

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Shepherd Moons by Enya (1991)
I can’t be objective. Reminds me of childhood car journeys with the family. Was played often on the tape deck. I couldn’t tell you a single lyric. It’s 100% mood. The music takes me back to a happy time when there was less pressure and responsibility. I rank Shepherd Moons in my top 5 albums of all-time.
10/10

 

 

 

 

 

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Collection by The Rankin Family (1996)
There’s comfort associated with The Rankin Family, a Canadian country/folk group who peaked commercially in the early 90s. This is a greatest hits. My sister used to play their music at home. Listening to these songs brings out a feeling in me that she is still in the next room. Probably a love it or loathe it band, as the vocal is not for everyone. I haven’t listened to their studio albums and I’m curious to do so.
10/10

 

 

 

 

Eagles by Eagles (1972)
Eagles by Eagles (1972)
*1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die*
Ranked number 368 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. If you are going to try out The Eagles, I guess their debut album is the place to start. Similarities in the Yacht Rock sound The Doobie Brothers were going for the 70s, but a bit more country rock based.
Contains the classic Take It Easy, with its catchy chorus, vocal harmonies, and masculine lyrics, about the male libido. The other hit Witchy Woman I prefer for the guitar riff and lyrics referencing the muse/wife of The Great Gatsby writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald, whose biography Henley was reading while writing the song. Zelda was known as a wild, bewitching and mesmerizing “Flapper” of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties.
Chug All Night has some fine guitar work, the sexualized lyrics continue what Take It Easy began. The second half of the album is weaker although does feature Peaceful Easy Feeling which is one of the band’s most popular songs. Earlybird is very apropos given the band’s name, with bird references and sounds.
To sum up, I can’t fault the musicianship and harmonies, but the lyrics are low-minded and boring, focusing on lust. Hopefully their next albums refine the writing.
6.5/10

 

 

 

 

Desperado by Eagles (1973)
Desperado by Eagles (1973)

On the Eagles second album they continue the laid-back country rock formula but there’s variation, experimenting with various country styles.  Starts promisingly with Doolin-Dalton. Not keen on Twenty-One and Out of Control which remind me of what I disliked about the debut album. Tequila Sunrise and Desperado are Eagles classics, both melancholy ballads. Tequila Sunrise was a popular drink at the time and the lyrics are about drinking to forget and to give you courage. Desperado conjures images of giving up the single life and settling down, containing the iconic closing lyric “You better let somebody love you, before it’s too late”, made even more distinctive with Johnny Cash’s cover. Certain Kind of Fool is the album’s hidden gem, while Outlaw Man is a song referencing the wild west but could represent the Eagles life style as travelling musicians. In fact the entire disc might be viewed as a concept album with the Eagles comparing themselves to outlaws, such as Bill Doolin and Bill Dalton(in the opening and closing tracks). Bitter Creek is elevated by the vocal harmonies.
8/10

 

 

 

Hotel California by Eagles (1976).jpg
Hotel California by Eagles (1976)
*1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die*
Sometimes labelled Pop Rock, Country Rock or Soft Rock. To me, it’s closer to the rock opera sound of The Who’s 1973 album Quadrophenia. The bigger production I think suits the Eagles. Considered one of the best-selling and most divisive albums in rock history. Critics accused them of being too polished and the similarity to 1969’s We Used To Know by Jethro Tull is obvious.
Songs like Hotel California and the uptempo Life in the Fast Lane are ideal for car journeys, as is the whole album. The title track is arguably the Eagles signature song with its unforgettable chorus and guitar duel between Don Felder and Joe Walsh. Another Eagles classic is New Kid in Town, arguably about anyone who is new in town, for the band could be about being replaced in the music industry. The lyrics to Wasted Time and Try and Love Again have a relatableness and timelessness. The closer The Last Resort, intended or not, actually makes me feel like I’m in paradise, especially the ending. A song about mankind destroying every place he/she finds beautiful.
Some interpret the record as a statement about the times, the spirit of peace and love was turning into cynical hedonism, a decline into materialism and decadence. Henley said about the album: “We were all middle-class kids from the Midwest,” he told Rolling Stone. “Hotel California was our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles.” In 1995, he referred to the record as being about a “loss of innocence”.
9/10

 

 

 

 

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Trans Europa Express by Kraftwerk (1977)
*1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die*
I like this album but I’m not quite loving it. There’s no denying Kraftwerk were innovative in the field of electronic music and influenced various artists right up to this day, paving the way for synthpop in the 80s. The synthesizer-driven title track Trans Europa Express is well done, but quite repetitive, and too similar to the next track Metal on Metal. I prefer opener Europe Endless. The themes of the songs include celebrations of the European railway service and meditations on the disparities between reality and appearance-in particular the tracks The Hall of Mirrors and Showroom Dummies.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

Boarding House Reach by Jack White
Boarding House Reach by Jack White (2018)

Probably the most polarizing album of 2018 so far. Many albums in the streaming age lack ambition and are flavor of the month. Nice for a change to listen to a new release that has actual aspirations to be a classic.
I admire his willingness to go in weird, experimental directions, even if not all of it hits the mark. Previously he was hesitant about manipulating with technology in the studio but now accepts the challenge.
Connected by Love has a strong melody and a candidate for song of the year. Why Walk a Dog? is affecting with its plea for animal rights. Corporation simply annoys me due to the over-the-top vocal performance. On Abulia and Akrasia he changes his accent to become almost unrecognizable. Hypermisophoniac mixes futuristic sounds with traditional instrumentals. Ice Station Zebra deals with artistic freedom which White embodies by recording, writing, mixing, and releasing the album on his own label. Over and Over and Over has energy and a big guitar riff, the title is comparable to his 2012 solo song On and On and On. Everything You’ve Ever Learned is a powerful, philosophical spoken-word interlude even though by the end, the words get drowned out (deliberately?) by the instrumentation. Respect Commander begins as a drum machine concoction with the singer coming in half way with guitar and vocal, expressing thoughts on the value of respect in a relationship. Get In The Mind Shaft sounds like White has taken a time machine back to his childhood with 80s synths and a memory about discovering the piano. What’s Done Is Done is reminiscent of his White Stripes days and stands out for its darkly funny conclusion. Closer Humoresque is the most self-indulgent, rewriting  obscure lyrics by Al Capone which White bought at an auction.
8/10

 

 

 

 

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Record by Tracey Thorn (2018)

I’ve enjoyed her voice in the past, the Massive Attack collaborations, and also her underrated 2010 solo album Love and Its Opposite. Not yet explored Thorn’s Everything but the Girl albums. I was willing to give the new LP a chance based on good reviews I read. Have to say the humor others took note of I missed, I think her biggest talent is as a singer, while her writing on this is good but not great. Going for an 80s pop sound, the single Queen disappointed for its bland lyrics. Second single Sister is arguably the album’s best moment with a layered production and guest appearance from Corinne Bailey Rae. Two non-singles stand out for their sadness and autobiographical nature, Face (trying to put a lover behind you), and Smoke (a homage to London and her family). The closer Dancefloor is a nostalgia-tinged tribute to the joy of the dance floor. If you’ve followed her entire career the record will likely have a bigger impact, as Thorn (now 55) is looking back over her life. I didn’t instantly enjoy the music, began to click on second or third listen.
7/10

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

 

 

11 thoughts on “Albums of the month: March

  1. Sea Change is my favorite album by Beck. I just love the production of that album as well as the mixture of spacey soundscapes with orchestral flourishes and organic instruments.

    I’m not into the Eagles. I like some of their songs but I kinda think they’re overrated. Trans-Europe Express is the one album by Kraftwerk that I own as I just love it.

    The new discoveries I’ve made recently has been The Lover Speaks’ song “No More I Love Yous” which was famously covered by Annie Lennox as I can’t believe how good it is. Then there’s John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers’ sole album they made with Eric Clapton often referred to as The Beano Album as I discovered it through that Eric Clapton documentary. Man, it sounds so fresh and the production on that record is incredible. Especially if you hear what Clapton was able to do with a Gibson Les Paul and a Marshall amplifier.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @ninvoid99: Beck’s album has both emotion and impressive production, a winning combination

      I can tell from the polarity on Rate Your Music that the Eagles (despite their massive sales) are not beloved by all. The 1972 debut is bit overpraised(and probably shouldn’t be in the 1001 book) but the other two albums Hotel California and Desperado I really like.

      I enjoyed the song you shared by The Lover Speaks, kind of has a Cocteau Twins vibe. The Beano Album sounds great. I’ve added both names to my listen-list.

      Like

    1. @Aphoristical: Trans-Europe Express may grow on me over time, I love the song Europe Endless. Right now, I prefer Kraftwerk’s Computerworld as an album experience

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I honestly couldn’t name a bad Beck album. The Information is as close as his stuff gets to being bad, but there are enough gems on there to make it worthwhile. Sea Change, though, is exceptional. I dare say most folks would point to that as their favourite… mine will forever remain Odelay. I honestly can’t see that changing.

    … and I’m with The Dude when it comes to the Eagles.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @J: Agree The Information tends to be patchy and yes Sea Change is exceptional. Odelay is included in the 1001 albums book and hope to listen to that soon.

      I’m curious, what do you dislike about the Eagles? Their music is pretty harmless but maybe that’s what you hate! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just find them very beige and it’s probably the high regard their held in that makes me dislike them. Well crafted songs, but no soul.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. @stephen1001: I remember you wrote about Thorn’s Everything but the Girl albums, I agree about her vocal. The first Eagles album is okay but the lyrics are uninteresting and (much like the Doobie Brothers) in service of the sound.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wasted Time & The Last Resort are the highlights of Hotel California for me. I never tire of them.

    I’ve got the Jack White album but haven’t listened to it yet. Some mixed reviews have filled me with trepidation. Yours has convinced me to not put off listening to it any longer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Rol: The Last Resort is great, I can’t believe I only just discovered it! If you do a top 10 paradise songs, I’m sure you’ll manage to include.

      My first impression of Jack White’s new album is very positive. Whether will still be enjoyable in a year, only time will tell. Curious to hear your thoughts.

      Like

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