Albums of the month: June

 

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).jpg
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.
?/10

 

 

 

 

 

Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails (1989).jpg
Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails (1
989)
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.
8/10

 

 

 

 

The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails (1994).jpg
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.
6-7/10

 

 

 

 

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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.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.
10/10

 

 

 

 

 

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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.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

Age Of by Oneohtrix Point Never (2018).jpg
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.
4/10

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

 

Albums of the month: May

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Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere by Neil Young & Crazy Horse (1969)
A showcase for the rockier side of Neil Young, offering several classics including Cinnamon Girl, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Down by the River, and Cowgirl in the Sand. Running Dry is the best of the slower songs.
A great album, with superb guitar work. I just prefer his acoustic direction on After the Gold Rush and Harvest which hits me harder emotionally.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

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After the Gold Rush by Neil Young (1970)
Southern Man is a classic and Tell Me Why, After the Gold Rush, Only Love Can Break Your Heart are great too. On the track Oh Lonesome Me he makes the listener contemplate going to a party or staying home. There’s an earnestness in his vocal. The last four tracks are weaker.
8-9/10

 

 

 

 

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Tonight’s the Nigh
t by Neil Young (1975)
A raw, emotional blues rock/country rock album. Part of the so-called ”Ditch Trilogy” (Time Fades Away and On The Beach are the other two), in which Neil Young’s success collided with personal chaos and loss. A darker album with Neil is in a reflective mood due to the death of his friend & Crazy Horse band member Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry (professional roadie for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young). There’s a pessimism that stemmed from the idealism of the 1960s. Needle and the Damage Done (Harvest) was written about Whitten’s heroin addiction. Young revealed in an interview that he felt responsible for Whitten’s death (he was fired by Young on 18 Nov. ’72 and died of an overdose later that night). The album was recorded in August ’73 but wasn’t released until 1975. Whitten sings and plays on “Come On Baby”, which was recorded live in 1970.
The title track Tonight’s the Night (a cautionary song about Bruce Berry’s drug overdose) improves with each listen. The moving ballad Borrowed Tune is a personal favorite and Speakin’ Out has great lyrics and much replay value. Albuquerque and Lookout Joe are the most memorable from the B-side.
8-9/10

 

 

 

 

 

Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young & Crazy Horse (1979).jpg
Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young & Crazy Horse (1979)

You can’t really go wrong with Neil Young from the 1970s. Rust Never Sleeps is a semi live/semi studio album, split into an acoustic A-side, followed by an electric B-side. I was impressed by the songwriting. The iconic opener My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) and Pocahontas are great songs with distinctive guitar melodies, the former is probably one of the most affecting songs of his career.
Powderfinger and the guitar playing is a highlight of the B-side, in the vein of the 1969 Crazy Horse collaborations. Sail Away felt like filler.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

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Demons and Wizards by Uriah Heep (1972)

Why is this album rated so highly on RYM? Annoying quivering vocal, boring lyrics, unremarkable singles. But not a total waste of time as the closer Paradise / The Spell is powerful and skillfully composed. Circle Of Hands is good too.
4/10

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden by Zero 7 (2006)
The Garden by Zero 7 (2006)

Third album by Zero 7, an electronic/down tempo group who were active in the 2000s. At times, their sound is reminiscent of the French duo Air. Fond memories of Crosses with José González on lead vocal, easily the track with the most energy and best production. The rest of the album isn’t as essential. I like the jazzy, mostly instrumental Your Place. The Sia tracks are fairly dull.
5/10

 

 

 

 

 

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Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino by Arctic Monkeys (2018) 

As a collection of Alex Turner poetry it’s not bad, but if you like a good melody you won’t find many here (She Looks Like Fun and Batphone are the most melodic). The group reinvent themselves, going for a low-key lounge style, very different to the guitar/riff based previous albums. As others have said, it feels less like an Arctic Monkeys album and more of an Alex Turner solo project. I respect the desire to change but I can’t say I found it a particularly enjoyable listen. Sort of in the same vein as 2017’s Pure Comedy by Father John Misty, lyrical content and piano are prominent.
Kudos for the Blade Runner shout-out and space themed concept, writing about another world in order to comment on this one. The commentary on fame, gentrification, Donald Trump, Theresa May, smart phone/device obsessions, internet trolling, and the “endless stream of great TV” is relevant, yet merely repeating what others have said before. Nice artwork on the sleeve.
5/10

 

 

 

 

 

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7 by Beach House (2018)

Currently my favorite album of 2018. The songs are very pleasant. Dive, L’Inconnue, and The Jesus and Mary Chain-esque Pay No Mind are early favorites. Lemon Glow is the weakest of the four singles.
The heavy distortion at times makes it difficult to detect Victoria Legrand’s recognizable vocal, for example on the opener. Maybe the change is a blessing. Dive is the most Beach House-y because she actually sounds like herself. I’d be curious to listen to the album in a higher audio quality than free spotify provides.
7-8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

 

 

Neil Young to release catalogue for free

 

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Exciting news. Neil Young recently posted this message on Facebook:

“Hi there,
December 1st will be a big day for me. The Visitor will be coming to your town. I will be going to my town. You will be able to hear me and see me. My archive will open on that same day, a place you can visit and experience every song I have ever released in the highest quality your machine will allow. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. In the beginning, everything is free.
Lots of Love,
neil

Apparently everything will initially be free at neilyoungarchives.com. If you want to explore Neil Young’s discography, December is an opportune time to do so. I know I will be. Great to have all Young’s work gathered in the same place and with him vouching for the audio quality is up to scratch. The website will use Xstream Music high resolution streaming by OraStream to offer uncompressed master recordings.

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

Songs for your iPod

(Fourth part of my Neil Young songathon)

Deep Forbidden Lake – Neil Young

(Can you believe above acoustic track is not on any of his studio albums? The song itself was too good to shelve, so it was released as part of a greatest hits album in the late 70s. Homegrown (1975) was so near to being released that an album sleeve had been created, see above)

Pardon My Heart – Neil Young and Crazy Horse

(Acoustic track from Homegrown (1975), ended up on the album Zuma. They say Homegrown was quite personal, and revealed much of Young’s feelings on his failing relationship at the time with actress Carrie Snodgress.)

Hank to Hendrix – Neil Young

(1992’s Harvest Moon is one of my all-time favourite albums. So rarely do I find an album were I like almost every song)

You And Me – Neil Young

(Also from the Harvest Moon era)

Any thoughts on the music, readers? Any suggestions for other Neil Young tracks or albums worth highlighting?

Songs for your iPod

(3rd part of my Neil Young “songathon”)

Motion Pictures – Neil Young

(A song about movies, perfect for my blog, don’t you think)

See The Sky About To Rain – Neil Young

(1974’s On the Beach is maybe my second favourite album of his, of the ones I’ve got to so far)

Ambulance Blues – Neil Young

(Love album artwork, wonder if they actually buried a car, or just a part of?)

Readers, any thoughts on this week’s music?