I’m still pretty swamped so posts will be at a minimum over the summer. I’m hoping to move to a new property while also tidying up my old stuff so I have less boxes to take with me. I’ll try and keep the blog afloat with the album/film monthly recaps so there is at least a little blog activity. I managed nine albums in June, seven of them new to me and two re-listens. My thoughts on them below
John Wesley Harding by Bob Dylan (1967)
Well-written, enigmatic lyrics, and acclaimed by critics, yet melodically not as accessible as other Dylan albums from the era. Going to take a while to unpack and reach an opinion. I like the drumming and harmonica though I’m finding it rather samey from track to track. All Along the Watchtower (famously covered by Jimi Hendrix) is a classic, sounding like a precursor to the Rubin (Hurricane) Carter song from Dylan’s 1976 LP Desire.
Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails (1989)
Recommended by Steven who currently is reviewing the band’s discography over at his music site.
Not the first industrial rock album, as it could be argued bands such as Klinik, Throbbing Gristle, Killing Joke, Skinny Puppy, Coil, Ministry, and Foetus paved the way, but Nine Inch Nails’ debut LP was the first time the genre reached a wider audience.
The big 80s chorus is apparent on songs such as Head Like a Hole, Tell A Lie, and Down in It, although their well-produced sound has plenty of detail besides that. The piano ballad Something I Can Never Have is a change of pace and has a quiet power. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the group’s most accessible record, as they appear to have gone in less commercial directions on later releases. Trent Renzor’s vocal I’m not the biggest fan of which is the reason the rating isn’t higher. Solid album with few weaknesses. I’ve heard complaints about the lyrics being a bit immature in places but at least the words felt authentic. Kind of an angrier Depeche Mode.
The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails (1994)
Angrier and darker than the debut, with big shifts in loudness. A partially self-biographical tale about a man who was on a ‘downward spiral’ through depression to suicide. Surprising it sold millions of copies as I found it a jarring and uncomfortable listen. An album I struggled to connect with except a few songs. I liked the quieter parts of March Of The Pigs but not the rage-filled vocal. The single Closer, open to multiple interpretations, could be about reaching out to another person or to God to fight your own sadness. Ruiner has an epic sound. Hurt is a 90s classic, famously covered by Johnny Cash. I guess if you are down in the dumps the music can give you solace. I respect the ambitious concept and baring of ones soul, but hard to listen to. Give it time and the album might grow on me. Right now, I prefer Pretty Hate Machine.
Illmatic by Nas (1994)
An important hip-hop album with impressive production and lyrics. The chorus “Cause life’s a bitch and then you die” is iconic. But if I’m honest, I couldn’t connect emotionally to most of the substance, growing up in the projects in New York amid guns and drugs, calling out the fake rappers, etc. Illmatic is so dense that listening to it feels like homework rather than pleasure. I admire Nas’ skill but the album was exhausting.
Prairie Wind by Neil Young (2005)
Good but not great. An acoustic sound in the vein of Harvest and Harvest Moon. Technically there’s nothing wrong per se, though he is competing with a great back catalogue, and in that regard, the melodies and lyrics are not as distinctive and affecting as his best work. Some tracks wash over me without leaving much of an impression. A few highlights, The Painter and It’s A Dream are quite moving. The album was in part inspired by the illness and recent death of his father, and the title track, Here for You, and Falling Off The Face Of The Earth seem to be an ode to his old man and become stronger when you know the context. No Wonder is about 9/11 and He Was The King is about seeing Elvis live. This Old Guitar is too similar to Harvest Moon era. I hardly noticed Emmylou Harris’ vocal, her contributions aren’t memorable.
Marie Antoinette (Soundtrack) by Various Artists (2006)
I love Sofia Coppola’s music choices and to me this tops her Lost in Translation soundtrack. Granted it’s unconventional to have modern music played during a period film but the soundtrack is great to listen to even without the film. Disc 2 is among my favorites of all-time, a go-to album to chill out and relax to. The new wave classics and The Radio Dept. tracks flow well together on disc 1. There aren’t many compilations I consider perfect but this is very close.
Blunderbuss by Jack White (2012)
I didn’t care for the album when I heard it in 2012 but apparently my taste must have changed, as I found many tracks to enjoy this time. The best of them are the piano-driven Hypocritical Kiss and Weep Themselves to Sleep, though I would not have placed them back-to-back on the tracklist. White’s 2012 and 2014 solo records have more replay value than the new 2018 LP.
The Honeybear by Hampshire & Foat (2018)
Nice, relaxing Folk/Ambient. Had never heard of UK musicians Warren Hampshire and Greg Foat, went in with extremely low expectations. and was pleasantly surprised by their second LP. A prolific duo who have released three collaborative albums since May 2017. My only real complaint is tracks 2 and 3 are pretty similar and repetitive. A short listen at approx 35 minutes. The second half of the album is more jazzy and improvisational. Best: Honey Dreams, The Promise, Winter Bound, The Elderflower
Age Of by Oneohtrix Point Never (2018)
The title track Age Of starts beautifully with a lovely harp instrumental, but it’s downhill after that. The autotuned vocal just wasn’t for me on the next tracks. Admirable for its instrumental experimentation but too dissonant to my ears. His hardcore fans will probably lap it up though. The album just makes me want to listen to prog from the 70s instead.
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome