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Old 01-07-2019, 05:08 PM   #1101 (permalink)
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0119 MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
(USA, 2008, indietronica / indie pop / synthpop)


Apparently this album was played a lot at college parties. Since I missed that whole scene, I am able to enjoy this album. This is, however, one of the most front-loaded albums I've ever heard. As a bonus, I love how they got Joanna Newsom to play the mom in the video of "Kids". That song is such an earworm that everything after it on the album, though good, suffers by comparison.

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Old 01-08-2019, 06:46 PM   #1102 (permalink)
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0120 R.E.M. - Reckoning
(USA, 1984, jangle pop / alternative rock)


When I was a kid, “The Seven Chinese Brothers” was my favorite storybook. Water imagery and dark themes are often linked in art, and here it’s no difference. It must be part of the human consciousness, that inscrutable unknown that surrounds us, even when we cannot see it. I always feed a touch sad when I listen to an R.E.M. album. I guess it’s because of the texture of songs like “Camera”.

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Old 01-08-2019, 07:21 PM   #1103 (permalink)
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0121 Make a Rising - Infinite Ellipse and Head With Open Fontanel
(USA, 2008, avant-prog / progressive pop)


This album is surreal, challenging, progressive, unexpected, beautiful, ugly, calm, and frantic. These musicians know what they're doing with all their instruments and with the variety of sounds they play with throughout, and they've got Mary Halvorson on vocals at least part of the time, so that's a big plus. This album is a sophisticated journey through music Animal Collective only wishes it could make. Here’s a sample of how fringe they go on the album.

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Old 01-09-2019, 04:47 PM   #1104 (permalink)
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Third Anniversary of Bowie's Death


My new year begins, as it did last year, with thoughts of David Bowie. I wonder if this will become a tradition. Anyway, I'm spending this third anniversary of Bowie's death with my favorite album of his: the 1969 David Bowie, better known as Space Oddity.


I am continually astounded by the sheer creative beauty of this album, its illimitable poetry and magic. From "Space Oddity" to "Cygnet Committee" to "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud" to "Memory of a Free Festival", this album catches the spirit of the late 60s perfectly: naive young people thinking music and love could save the world, dreamers forming clubs and societies for the sole purpose of getting together and creating art. "Cygnet Committee" just keeps on giving to me. Bowie creates a whole world in one song, from the ends of despair to the heights of an unrealized hope, from the small club of likeminded artists to the wide expanse of a future horizon. There's so much room here for my imagination to explore.

When Bowie was on point, his interviews could be incisive and profound, and probably my favorite of his is his 1999 BBC interview.


The BBC covers a lot of ground in this 16-minute sit-down with the contemplative, philosophical, exuberant artist. Bowie talks of his exquisite roleplaying ability, borne of a kind of shyness of the stage, even though he wanted in his youth nothing more than to write musical theater, and so he reinvented himself throughout the 70s, living out in rock lifestyle his dream of writing musicals. He was a creator, a storyteller, and not just a songwriter. Related to the constant adopting of roles, he seems to be happy in not knowing who he really is. I'm not sure if I believe him, though. He knows a lot about himself. Well, he's better at describing himself than identifying himself.

They also briefly cover substance abuse in the interview, and Bowie talks of when he was young and how he would sabotage relationships in order to create the tension he needed to write. I appreciate the brutal honesty about his alcoholism, too. Bowie was a man of such refreshing honesty.

And then they get to what I consider is the most fascinating part of the conversation: the internet. He is prescient in his appreciation of what the internet is capable of, and he touches on how it is a tool by which the artist is demystified in the estimation of the audience. It is the decentralized voice, image, and media through which listeners interact with music--the gatekeepers are dead, a fact he is very happy about. With the rise of genre identification, music has become more about the audience than the trailblazing artist who stands above everyone and leads, pointing the way to the stars. The internet exemplifies the democratization of ideas. And it isn't just as tool, as the interviewer believes. It's "an alien lifeform", both exhilarating and terrifying in its potential. This musing on what the internet means brings Bowie to a contemplation of the philosophy of art: that art is not completed until the the audience brings its interpretation to it. This is what the internet will highlight and expand upon.

Hats off to Bowie for grace in the face of idiocy. That interviewer is an obtuse, condescending, scoffing asshole.
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Old 01-13-2019, 06:09 PM   #1105 (permalink)
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0122 Uriah Heep - Look at Yourself
(UK, 1971, hard rock / progressive rock)


Somebody put something in the water at the end of 1970, stepped back, and watched from the shadows as all-that-is-awesome unfolded in the next year. The vocals on this album are so effortless and cool, the guitars cocky and energetic. One day I’m going to have to listen to this album as I watch the sunrise.

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Old 01-13-2019, 07:39 PM   #1106 (permalink)
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0123 The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed
(UK, 1969, blues rock / rock)


This is my favorite Stones album. I’m not a super fan of the band’s career in general, but I can’t deny how amazing of a blues rock album this is. I mean, it’s the kind of work where, at the end of every song, you just shake your head in disbelief and wonder if it can get any better. And then it does. It accomplishes perfectly what it sets out to do: make a cool, swaggering record of tavern blues songs. The testosterone-driven hedonism is strong on this one.

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Old 01-14-2019, 04:38 PM   #1107 (permalink)
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0124 Leonard Cohen - New Skin for the Old Ceremony
(Canada, 1974, singer-songwriter / contemporary folk)


It took me a while to get into Cohen because he demands a close listen to his lyrics, but if you give him that time, you’ll not be disappointed. He’s got a lot of raw, confessional—sometimes rather embarrassing to hear—stories, and so many of his songs revolve around how he just can’t get the whole love thing right. Love, for him, is a battlefield.

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Old 01-14-2019, 10:40 PM   #1108 (permalink)
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0125 Claude-Michel Schönberg -Les Misérables - The Musical That Swept the World (10th Anniversary Concert at the Royal Albert Hall)
(France / UK / USA, 1996, soundtrack)


This is the dream cast, collected from all the English-singing troupes. I’ve come to realize that this kind of music is for fans of the stage, so the people (like me) who love it are going to really really love it, and those who don’t care for the genre are going to shrug and wonder why this kind of music is so popular. Well, for me, it’s the storytelling, the swells of beauty, and the depths of despair. Les Misérables is one of my favorite books, one I re-read often, simply because I love the struggles and final triumph of Jean Valjean. The selfless and self-sacrificing bishop at the beginning of the book is inspiring, too, to say the least. However, Hugo often digresses in his narrative, descending into not only Napoleonic history (wherein he pontificates) but the history of the Paris sewers! All this non-essential scribbling is left out of the music, and the story is better for it.

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Old 01-14-2019, 11:04 PM   #1109 (permalink)
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Quote:
This is my favorite Stones album
Mine too.
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Old 01-15-2019, 05:44 AM   #1110 (permalink)
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0126 Lou Reed - Transformer
(USA, 1972, glam rock / art rock)


Is this the most technically proficient album ever made? The most beautiful? Is it even that good musically? No, not really. But that doesn’t matter. I love this album for its unique NY charm and sense of detached cool, carried a lot by the awkward vocals. “Perfect Day” is the song that, for most people, rises above the rest of the tracks, but for me, it’s just part of the suite. Reed certainly had a knack for writing a melody, especially when it came to the chorus. If you haven’t yet, babe, take a walk on the wild side.

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