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Old 01-19-2013, 02:41 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default j_c Takes On the Favorite Artists of Yesterday and Today!!

joy_circumcision's Journal


As an exercise in getting my writing muscle some consistent use, as well as a way to both offer my thoughts on the canon and expose users here to new artists and maybe even whole genres, I thought it would be a pretty stellar idea to get a music journal started. A few notes before we begin:
  • This journal is gonna focus mainly on full artist discographies, but I definitely reserve the right to icksnay further listening to an artist I find super dull and of course to occasionally sample a single album and discuss its merits and dismerits independent of the rest of the artist's catalog.
  • I also am going to try to serve up two or three paragraphs per album, with plenty of historical contextualization as well as sonic description, but as with the full discography business, this isn't set in stone, and sometimes a blurb will come up.
  • The last thing I will do is discuss your disagreement with my genre labels. I just borrow the ones that have been democratically selected on Rate Your Music, and if you dislike it, then make an account and downvote the genre distinctions users are making.
  • The table of contents is sorted by last name, with stage names being treated as they come (for example, Panda Bear is sorted under P because the whole thing is the name, where Philemon Arthur is sorted under A because it is intended to mirror a real first/last name combo).
With those few things out of the way, we can begin!


Last edited by joy_circumcision; 01-30-2013 at 10:16 PM.
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Old 01-19-2013, 03:06 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Philemon Arthur and the Dung

Philemon Arthur and the Dung
The Swedish Grammy Sweepers

avant-folk, lo-fi indie

Discography
  • Philemon Arthur and the Dung 8/10
  • Skisser över 1914 års badmössor 9/10
Philemon Arthur and the Dung are a reclusive outsider art project by two as-yet unnamed Swedish musicians. According to Wikipedia, they refuse to release their names lest people in their small village discover their identities. The mystery surrounding the band adds to the intrigue of what is one of the oddest bodies of work in the past fifty years of music or so. They released two LPs, listed above, and a couple compilations, one an anthology and the other a greatest hits.

The duo do a very good job of combining folk influences from their region with outmoded recording technologies, untuned instruments, and (attempts at) styles of music from all over the rock Anglosphere. The Shaggs they are not - the two succeed in not only creating a naive take on musical composition that perhaps the young, amateurish gal group could take claim to doing as well, but also in being socio-politically provocative in their lyrics, which discuss a broad range of topics of critical world importance; for instance, homelessness.

The music itself is magical. The timbre is that great, off-putting, recorded-on-****-microphones sound that, say, Half Japanese took advantage of. The guitar tones are plucky and resonant, while the assorted strange instruments create scenes not only of bedrooms and musical adventure, but also of a frosty, distant circus. Philemon Arthur and the Dung also don't shy away from the occasional utility of things around the house that are available to bang against walls and chairs and each other, but their singular musicality is never lost to pretentious bouts of banging. These guys are a pop band at their core, and a damn fine one. A final fun fact: the band's debut self-titled LP actually won best album at the Swedish equivalent of the Grammys, leading to mass boycotting of the show for a few years!

Sample:

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Old 01-19-2013, 03:19 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Always happy to see a new addition to the journal family! Welcome! From reading your "best albums of 2012" post, it seems your musical taste is way outside what I would be interested in (which is not to denigrate or discount it, just that it's not the direction I flow in, musically speaking) but as always I'm interested in how and what people write, regardless of my interest, or lack of, in the music they write about.

So I look forward to your further entries, and you'll certainly make it into tomorrow night's journal update post!

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Old 01-19-2013, 03:41 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Glad to see I have at least one reader! Thanks
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Old 01-21-2013, 03:09 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Atom & His Package

Atom & His Package
The Best of College Rock

synth punk, punk rock

Discography (studio albums only)
  • Atom & His Package 8/10
  • A Society of People Named Elihu 8/10
  • Redefining Music 4/10
  • Attention! Blah Blah Blah 6/10
Atom & His Package, made up of Adam Goren and a sequencer affectionately included as his counterpart in the "band"'s name, is the weird kind of nerd rock that everybody who cares about post punk, jangle pop, alternative rock, or whatever should hear. Goren's music is made entirely on a sequencer/synthesizer that emulates sounds of other instruments to accompany his nasally voice in its lyrical odysseys through punk rock high schools, black metal, personal anecdotes, and the lack of humor in Tim Allen's comedy.

His debut LP remains a great chunk of tunes, with a surprisingly cohesive take on the music Goren would continue to produce. There is the typical pluckiness of a debut rock album combined with the insufferable smartness of a young college student. While quintessentially "rock," the rock Atom explores is the rock of David Byrne more than the extravagant rock of a David Bowie. It stands out from a lot of its peers looking for the same scene thanks to a whole load of heart and some great homage/jabs at popular acts, including a reinterpretation of sections of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long."

Where Atom & His Package would come into its own was 1997's A Society of People Named Elihu, an overwhelming dream for a music fan. From obscure fun references to black metal tropes and punk rock acts lost to time, to fun takes on day-to-day experiences, it's the most listenable of Atom's productions and a roller-coaster ride of fun much in the same vein as the debut, just magnified.

After the sophomore LP, Atom would go on to release a collection of EPs called Making Love before, after four years of waiting, the 2001 third LP was released: Redefining Music. It was inappropriately titled, as it is essentially the same music Atom always made, just completely forgettable. The lyrics attempt cleverness but start to show degeneration of Goren's wit (he begins his reactionary rants against the young and politically active in an initially benign-ish manner), and the instrumentation loses the outsider quality for a lot more straightforward punk sound. So, essentially, Adam Goren became Ted Leo and had a similarly disappointing late career.

Where Attention! Blah Blah Blah served as a simultaneous capitulation to a new punk rock aesthetic for Goren as well as retirement from Atom & His Package to pursue an academic career and have a child, it also served as a slightly more enjoyable album than his previous attempt. The only trouble here is the complete 180 the lyrics take form earlier releases: Adam becomes an intense social critic largely standing in the "angry old person" position and shows his age in myriad ways, among them a song railing against Palestine supporters for just being young trendhoppers (to which one RYM reviewer says "Zionist punks **** off") and a song against smoking, also known as the least controversial issue of 2003.

On the whole, the career of Adam Goren and his wonderfully idiosyncratic Package is the legacy of a young college rocker turned angry college authority figure, but the first two albums are such treasures that his later work starts to pale into the background.

Sample:

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Old 01-22-2013, 02:47 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Nice write up! I love Atom & His Package (sounds a little sexy phrased that way). But I disagree with your assessment of Redefining Music. That's easily my favorite of his releases, where he was best able to balance the goofiness with great pop songwriting imo. A Society of People Named Elihu is my second favorite though, I'm with you there.
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Old 01-22-2013, 02:49 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I look forwards to this journal.
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:07 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Orthotonics

Orthotonics
Bringing Saxy Back

avant-prog, experimental rock

Discography:
  • Wake Up You Must Remember 2/10
  • Luminous Bipeds 9/10
The picture above betrays just how strange this trio is. Orthotonics are a sorta proggy, sorta post-punky concoction of the early '80s. Their experimental niche rests squarely in that odd space at the beginning of the synth's introduction and that classic sound that John Peel liked in ...And the Native Hipsters, for instance. Being born of an avant-jazz background, the band came into its own in a very unique space, utilizing trumpets and especially saxophone in conjunction with jazz drumming to accent some sweet keyboard and great, insane vocals. After a cassette-only album that I invite everyone on this forum to try to find and then immediately send to me (or at least a dl link, come on!), the band would release two LPs: Wake Up You Must Remember and Luminous Bipeds.

Wake Up You Must Remember completely denies whatever talent the band would find on their sophomore LP and as such should not be discussed. If we must, it's like bad Pere Ubu, where the second LP would be Pere Ubu but better and denser and more complex and really cool. The album starts out as and continues to be throughout its duration a mess of audible failed attempts at poignancy and sonic interest. Scaruffi calls it "neo-progressive" or whatever but seriously like skip this. Please.

Luminous Bipeds, on the other hand, is among the greatest albums ever made. Utilizing all the ethos of the new wave scene and jazz improvisation movement, it comes to a lovely synthesis that must be heard to be believed, as much of a cliche as that is. Imagine that disjointed post-punk that borrows from Beefheart's schizophrenic output and mix in alternately manic and smooth saxophone. Imagine a male B-52 shouting weird **** while a female crooner accents his vocalizations and a percussionist shakes, batters, and bops his way through fairly short tracks, complemented by a bass guitarist adding layers of intrigue and fun you can't believe you're hearing and ugh! you might kind of have an idea of what you're getting into.

Sample:

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Old 01-23-2013, 09:03 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Eldritch Anisette
by Eldritch Anisette

emo

Rating: 8/10
As stated in the OP, this journal from time to time will focus on an album at a time. Technically, this is still a full artist catalog, since this emo outfit, like many of its era, only lasted about a year to record this 7" and nothing else, but I digress from the purpose: trying something new and seeing how it goes.

Though I may be new to single albums on this journal, what I'm not new to is emo music: it has been some of the nearest and dearest sonic content to grace my ears for about two years. Everyone Asked About You; 125, Rue Montmartre; and others have filled endless blocks of time too short for full LP spins. Eldritch Anisette fits into a similar niche to those two: dominant female vocals with some male interplay, and sweet noisy guitars that never make the band digress too much from a hazy pop sound into a harder semi-screamo sound (though those bands are usually great, too!). This indie emo stuff really just hits me right here, and this 7" is no exception.

First, some backstory: Eldritch Anisette is the latest known surviving incarnation of a Newark, Delaware emo band named formerly Clevinger, Network 34, and perhaps one or two other titles. This is the only incarnation that recorded, and that northeast heritage really informs the work nicely. The band consists of Courtney Miller, a powerful vocalist who really shines on the third and final track of the single but can't be faulted much elsewhere; Timothy Nichols, a drum prodigy who was described as one person who saw the band's live shows way back when he was 14 as a genius and whose talent is palpable throughout; and guitar/bass combo Allen Hitchens and Mark Krupanski, respectively. The first two songs on the single serve as straightforward, quick indie emo songs, one of which you can sample below, while the final track, "Dissection of Silence," is a very brainy, informed piece of rock music that nicely combines the midwest emo sound with the virtual shoegaze elements that creeped in very often. On the whole, the release is nothing short of an aesthetic dream, and a visceral reflection of youthful ambition.

Sample:

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Old 01-30-2013, 08:47 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Polly Bradfield
Master Sawer

free improvisation

Discography:
  • Solo Violin Improvisations 10/10
Polly Bradfield is an incredible talent, if completely reclusive. One of the most inspired artists of the twentieth century and among the most talented solo improvisers ever born if her single LP is to be believed, her influence may be small, but her influences are so varied and fantastic as to make the product she released a must-hear. She borrows from John Zorn (whom she met when she moved to New York, some time before recording her first LP and subsequently abandoning a crate full of copies of it in front of her apartment as she skipped town to go to California and have a family) principally, but to say she is in any way pigeonholed is to be completely dishonest. She also cites several giants of the 20th Century like Stravinsky, as well as the "Sacred Guitar and Violin Music of the Modern Aztecs" Folkways record featuring Native American festivities led by violins.

Her work is centered on her playing (sawing) of the violin, and her LP features a child sawing a tree for punniness. The music inside brings new meaning to the term, as the violin is seemingly plucked apart by a furious fit of playing that consists of extended cacophonies punctuated sublimely by silences before harrowing high screeches or low saws or mid-range plops and thuds force the sounds back into the listener's ears. Not for the faint of heart, Solo Violin Improvisations stands on its own as an incredible Cageian statement, aesthetic surprise (her brand of improvisation is incredibly engaging and engrossing once settled), and historic testament to one of the great musicians who could have been.

Sample:
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