Old and new albums of the month: May 2017

Pure Comedy by Father John Misty (2017)
Rol at My Top Ten would possibly enjoy this album better than I did, with its wit, anti-Trump message, and elaborate lyrical content. Granted the song Ballad of the Dying Man is a highpoint, but the rest didn’t grab me as music.

In fact I prefer the video from XPN Festival in which he talks to an audience about his views on society, which is more straight-forward than what he is presenting in the lyrics. Here’s a summation:
Entertainment is making us stupid and making us make bad choices, by picking a stupid president who is just entertaining us.

Favorite lyric, from the track The Memo:
“Oh, caffeine in the morning, alcohol at night
Cameras to record you and mirrors to recognize
And as the world is getting smaller, small things take up all your time
Narcissus would have had a field day if he could have got online
And friends it’s not self-love that kills you
It’s when those who hate you are allowed
To sell you that you’re a glorious shit
The entire world revolves around
And that you’re the eater, no not the eaten
But that your hunger will only cease
If you come binge on radiant blandness
At the disposable feast”

 


Windswept by Johnny Jewel (2017)
It’s atmospheric and dreamy, paying homage to the Angelo Badalamenti Twin Peaks soundtracks of the early 90s. I like the jazzy tracks Windswept, The Crimson Kiss, Motel, and The Flame, even if doesn’t have the emotion and impact of Badalamenti. An album that could fit nicely with Season 3 of Twin Peaks.
7/10




Bob Dylan by Bob Dylan (1962)
His debut album. You can’t tell what he’s thinking on that sleeve. Many of his album covers have a sense of mystery.
A sign of things to come, Dylan’s folk style, harmonica and guitar skill, giving you a glimpse into his songwriting potential. Many are covers. Dylan’s high-pitched vocal is unusual on “Freight Train Blues”.
The most interesting are his self-penned Song To Woody (dedicated to Woody Guthrie who was a friend and inspiration) and Talkin’ New York. According to the sleeve the latter is “with a certain sarcastic bite, very much in the Guthrie vein”, “a comment on his reception in New York”, “satirizes his troubles in gaining recognition”, “a diary note set to music”.
6/10

 
 
 

Please Please Me by The Beatles (1963)
Debut album. I wouldn’t listen to this often, hasn’t aged as well as their mid-to-late 60s releases. The lyrics don’t appeal to me on an emotional level, I find the writing a bit cheesy and dated. However as I was told by a couple of commenters on my blog, The Beatles were considered groundbreaking in the early 60s compared to what other groups were doing.
I Saw Her Standing There, Please Please Me, Love Me Do, and Twist and Shout (cover) are Beatles classics and timeless for the pop melodies.
7/10





With The Beatles by The Beatles (1963)
Like their debut, a collection of original compositions and covers. All My Loving is the stand out.
Lesser known highlights: Don’t Bother Me (George Harrison), and You Really Got a Hold on Me (Smokey Robinson cover)
6/10

White Album by The Beatles (1968)
I want to rate White Album higher, but it’s bloated and lacking the cohesiveness of Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Pepper. Maybe the experimentation and genre-confusion is part of its charm?
The second disc is definitely weaker. That said, the lesser-known tracks are still better than most contemporary music. Not many records have this many classics. The gold standard for double albums.
Best songs: Dear Prudence, Julia, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Blackbird, Helter Skelter, Revolution 1, Back in the U.S.S.R.
Lesser known highlights: Birthday, Sexy Sadie
9/10

 

Let It Be by The Beatles (1970)
As with other late-career Beatles albums, there’s filler. I Me Mine should have been cut, but we get defining classics Let It Be, The Long and Winding Road, Across the Universe, and Get Back. Lesser known highlights: Two of Us and I’ve Got a Feeling. The interludes are too short to make a big impact.
I’ve read Let It Be… Naked (2003) presents the songs “naked” – without Spector’s overdubs and without the incidental studio chatter featured between most cuts of the original album.
8/10



Past Masters, Volumes One & Two by The Beatles (1988)
A number of these, Hey Jude for example, were stand-alone singles and not featured on the studio albums, although I was familiar with many because they are so ingrained in our culture.
A highlight on disc 1 is the melody of I Feel Fine. The Ballad of John and Yoko was a great discovery on disc 2.
Across the Universe is a beautiful song but I find this version to be a weak vocal performance by Lennon. Volume Two of this 2-disc compilation has the most replay value.
8/10

 

Dear Catastrophe Waitress by Belle and Sebastian (2003)
Arguably the most beloved UK indie band since The Smiths. Plenty of strong melodies, especially the first half, and the closer.
Best songs: Stay Loose, Step Into My Office Baby, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, If She Wants Me, Piazza New York Catcher
8/10

 

Push Barman to Open Old Wounds by Belle and Sebastian (2005)
2-disc compilation that includes seven of their EPs. There’s a lot of good-but-not great material, but even on the lesser tracks I enjoy the lyrics.
Most memorable melodies: Dog on Wheels, I’m Waking Up to Us, Marx and Engels. Judy Is a Dick Slap is a nice instrumental.
7/10

The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (1973)
Among the most acclaimed Pink Floyd albums. The artwork is iconic. The only track I disliked is On The Run, which is why it doesn’t achieve a perfect score. Definitely has me curious to listen to the rest of their discography.
9/10


The Doobie Brothers, albums reviewed 1974-1978 (see seperate post)
Slowdive, albums reviewed 1991-2017 (see seperate post)

Phoenix, the albums, and top 10 songs (upcoming post to tie in with new album in June)




What do you think? As always comments are welcome

Old and new albums of the month: April 2017

 

A Beatles heavy month, I managed 7 of their albums. I wanted to complete the Beatles discography so I could rank them, but couldn’t bring myself to listen to the fab fours earliest material Please Please Me (1963) and With The Beatles (1963), which seem mainly for teenagers. Also remaining, Yellow Submarine (1969), Let it Be (1970) and the compilation Past Masters (1988), which I’ll get to later. White album (1968) and Abbey Road (1969) I was familiar with.

On a side note, you may (or may not) have noticed I’ve expanded my album top 10s on the Music page, which now includes the years 1965- 2009. Obviously incomplete, I have a long way to go. Feel free to make album suggestions over there for what I overlooked, or should listen to next!

 

Computerwelt by Kraftwerk (1981)
As with Kraftwerk’s Radio-Aktivität (1975) which I reviewed last month, Computerwelt tackles another of the 20th Century’s big innovations, in this case computers. Not for everyone, but a beautifully crafed album.
9/10

 

Rage in Eden by Ultravox  (1981)
Very powerful. A synthpop album that sounds amazing from start to finish, and you can tell a lot of care has been put into each song. Better than Vienna (1980). Want to explore the rest of Ultravox’s discography.
9/10

 

Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys 
The title Pet Sounds was derived from the last track which ends with a dog barking. God Only Knows and Wouldn’t It Be Nice are the recognizable hits, but it’s the ambitious writing that really stands out for me. The lyrics are universal and timeless, and make you think about your own life.
In terms of the production, Brian Wilson used Phil Spector’s wall of sound session musicians and tried something new.
9/10

 

Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan (1965)

The album when Dylan went electric. That aspect is not as shocking for today’s audiences. I didn’t love all of these songs, but he is a great lyricist and lengthy tracks were groundbreaking back then.
Like a Rolling Stone, Ballad of a Thin Man, and Desolation Row are classics.
8/10

Modern Times by Bob Dylan (2006)
His late-career crocky, raspy vocal will divide audiences, and undermines what are some of my favorite Bob Dyan lyrics.
7/10

 

The Far Field by Future Islands (2017)
Seems to have motion as its theme, and certain tracks would be ideal running music. The album is too samey, and the second half has some filler, but there are 3-4 vibrant tracks. Cave, Aladdin and Day Glow Fire are enjoyable for the bass and synth work, while album highlight Ran with its running video is the most powerful, and an early candidate for song of the year. The sad, slower ballad Candles might be a grower. Debbie Harry’s guest appearance on Shadows is forgettable. In a year with so little new music to get excited about, this will do for now. Good but not great.
6/10

DAMN by Kendrick Lamar (2017)
A disappointment considering his previous work. Well-written here and there, but unenthralling and rather boring presentation. Lacks memorable tracks. Humble has a punchy piano melody, although it’s quite repetitive and I disliked the lyric. Album highlight Fear has a smooth beat, sampling 1973’s Poverty’s Paradise by The 24-Carat Black. Not as accessible to the mainstream as To Pimp a Butterfly. For hip hop fans only.
4/10

 

Humanz by Gorillaz (2017)
I’ve sporadically enjoyed Gorillaz hits in the past, without actually listening to albums in their entirety. Based on the early 2017 singles, I had very low expectations.
I found 5-6 good songs, especially Strobelite, We Got The Power, Andromeda, Busted and Blue, She’s My Collar, and Hallelujah Money, yet as an album experience I feel unsatisfied. Most of the other cuts I failed to connect with, because had very little melody or emotion. Perhaps will appeal to hip hop fans, because many tracks go in that direction.
I sense there’s an attempt to inject some heart into the songs I highlighted. Sadly the modern computerised production is too cold and soulless for me to feel much for the album as a whole. A mixed bag.
6/10

 

Beatles for Sale by The Beatles (1964)
Teenage heartbreak songs. Eight Days a Week is the big hit, and No Reply is very catchy too.
6/10

 

A Hard Day’s Night by The Beatles (1964)
Catchy pop geared towards a young audience. I’m in my mid 30s, so I’m the wrong age for this type of music. And I Love Her is sung with feeling by McCartney, yet most of the other stuff here is overly commercial and a bit impersonal.
Best songs: A Hard Day’s Night, If I Fell, And I Love Her, Can’t Buy Me Love
Lesser known highlight: Things We Said Today
7/10

 

Help! by The Beatles (1965)
Similar package to A Hard Day’s Night, in that it’s a soundtrack of catchy pop aimed at radio and mass appeal.
In contrast to A Hard Day’s Night, there’s an attempt to appeal to an older demographic with lyrics to Help!, Yesterday and I Need You, but still wanting to maintain the adolescent listeners.
Best songs:
Help!
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
Ticket to Ride
Yesterday
Lesser known highlight: I Need You
8/10

 

Rubber Soul by The Beatles (1965)
One of my favorite Beatles albums with some great melodies. You can sense the growing maturity in their songwriting. There are Beatles hits (Drive My Car) which are simplistic entertainment and make you forget the world, and then there are affecting songs such as Norwegian Wood, Nowhere Man, Think For Yourself and In My Life, which are about life and touch your soul. Rubber Soul thankfully has many of the latter category. The Word and What Goes On annoy me for the choruses, other than that I have no complaints. A classic with endless replay value.
9/10

 

Revolver by The Beatles (1966)
Considered by critics to be among the best LPs of all-time and best Beatles releases. Admirable for its aesthetic and influence, but not a personal favorite.
Production wise more experimental than the folk rock of 1965’s Rubber Soul, with electric guitars, Indian music, piano, horns, orchestral florishes and vocal distortion.
There are undeniable classics (Eleanor Rigby, Yellow Submarine, & Got to Get You Into My Life) but those are few and far between. My favorites of the lesser knowns are Here There and Everywhere, She Said She Said, For No One and I’m Only Sleeping. Weaker tracks Good Day Sunshine and Doctor Robert needn’t have been included.
A strong set of tracks, with some really good non-singles, but Revolver’s lyrics aren’t quite as emotionally involving as their 1965 effort. In time, it’s possible I’ll grow to love it to the same degree as other Beatles albums.
8/10

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles (1967)
The Beatles’ concept album. A big number of hooks, so that you can enjoy simply by listening to the melodies, or if you choose, listen to the words. The sleeve is iconic and many things have been written about it, with the Beatles reinventing themselves as Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band, a fictional alter ego group, which allowed them to experiment.
Probably one of the most innovative, consistent and best-loved Beatles LPs. A commercial and critical success. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number one in its list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. Producer George Martin claimed Sgt Pepper was an attempt to match the quality of Pet Sounds, a landmark release in 1966 by the Beach Boys.
The closer A Day in the Life gives me goosebumps, and there really isn’t a weak track.
10/10

Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles (1967)
An album of two distinct halves. Reminds me of Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love, with the pop stuff and the art stuff included separately.
8/10

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome