- Name: theboywil
- Location: Seattle, Washington, United States
Friday, August 19, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Day 2 of background listening and snap decisions
Fewer albums were listened to today as there were more reasons to be away from my desk. Today was also a strange day as there wasn't a single album/artist for which I didn't have a preconceived opinion. This is wrong of me, as I don’t believe that I have ever actually listened to the records.
How short sighted I must be if I can know what I think without giving something the chance to prove me wrong? Or maybe that should be how foresighted must I be to have actually been correct on each of my presumptions?
Seeing the line up, it's clear I don't really possess any sort of mystical abilities, these are some of the biggest acts in the world, and (other than Coldplay) bands by whom I own other albums. In the case of Nirvana I liked ‘Nevermind’ (in fact I just bought tickets to see the album performed live by several of Seattle's current hot bands, including an appearance by Krist Novoselic. The show is actually a benefit for a mainstay of the Seattle music scene who had the audacity to contract cancer in this first world country; a country that believes that healthcare is a luxury, a privilege rather than a basic human right. Still… Enough of that...)
I’m not too sure where Tunnel of Love falls in Bruce's catalog, I have clearly heard some of his other stuff. I own 'Born to Run' and 'the Ghost of Tom Joad' (I like the latter quite a lot) but he's not someone who I have really paid much attention to, and yet is someone that I know people idolize. (I'm slightly sad Elvis Costello isn't on this list as, while being a totally different musical genre seems to hold a similar place in people’s hearts, and is someone who I also only own two of his records. 'Spike' & 'Painted from Memory')
And then Public Enemy... Public Enemy might have been heroes to many but they never meant shit to me....
(but seriously, I own 'Fear of a Black Planet' (after having my rap-interests piqued by 'This is the Day... This is the Hour...') but found PE as a whole to be a little too frenetic form my simple tastes. )
So on to the mini first impressions -
Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to hold us back -- Starting with ‘Bring the Noise’ is a good thing as I know the track from the (superior to my ears) PE/Anthrax version; ‘Don’t Believe the Hype’ is also well known to me. Both tracks are enjoyable and I am finding myself listening rather than backrounding. My original criticism of PE from way back is that for me I want my rap/hip-hop to be slower and packed with sci-fi looping. PE tends to be way more high energy, up front and attention grabbing than my listening can sustain for too long; this listen through confirms that. It starts thrilling but my enthusiasm quickly burns out, although, certain hooks did bring me back up to thrilltime throughout.
Bruce Springsteen - Tunnel of Love -- First track grabbed me with a "is this Bruce Springsteen?" but the rest of the album really floated into the background. Not necessarily in a bad way, but in a way that gave me the feeling that I was hearing background music in neon-lit battered beer-stinking and bourbon-stained wooden bars. Which is maybe the point? (again not a bad point to make.)
Nirvana - In Utero -- This is definitely an 'I didn't bother to listen back in the day' record. ‘Nevermind’ was a great standalone record, I didn't need anything else from them. I listened to Bleach, didn't like it went back to ‘Nevermind’... Plus as a student at the time; I found myself not wanting to align with the non-alt crowd who had adopted Nirvana by the time ‘In Utero’ came out. I made every effort not to hear it, but it It turns out I do know at least a few of the songs thanks to the Unplugged album (the unplugged counterparts struck me as better). The rest of the tracks rest struck me as unnecessary (as I had made up my mind that they would). The dung-dung-danananananaar teen spirit riffs seemed to pop out way too many times during the background listen. Maybe I am just getting old much of the album sounds like a lot of screamy noise.
Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head -- Again the start sounded quite welcome after the last couple of Nirvana’s irritating noise tracks (which really did sound like the band was trying to piss their public off). Two minutes into the first Coldplay dirge and it sounds so deliberately plodding that it brings back memories of trying keep together all members of a reluctant pack of youngsters being forced to go for a hike, and putting more effort into protesting that into actually doing it. I will listen to the words on the next play though, I will try to drop my preconceptions, but the sounds which came from my speakers irritated. (But again, people love it, so I want to try and hear what they love...)
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Impressions From the First Day of the Background Listening
So the first day of background listening was a success. I started listening to the 27 missed albums in the order they were ranked in the top 100. I heard 8 albums. (Well 7.25 but we'll get to that...)
My intention is to sum up the initial impression of the album in a few words. Please know full well that this was the distracted album as background listen, anything subtle will be lost and pretty much no lyrics will have been heard.
As I said in the comments of the last post it has been fun to listen to a few artists for whom I have absolutely zero preconceptions. I sort of can guess from my knowledge of the name that I am 'supposed' to like bands like Mercury Rev, but in reality I know nothing about them & the album I listened to. No knowledge of history, hometown (or country even), no knowledge of chart dates nothing.
I learned today that this lack of knowledge is a good thing.
After jotting down my initial impression of Mercury Rev (which is unedited below) I listened to more of the tracks and felt as though I had confirmed my initial thoughts. I absentmindedly I clicked the 'Biography' tab in Spotify only to discover that one of the bands I compared them to was very closely related. Suddenly I felt the joy of zero preconceptions slipping away, so clicked away from the page. Sadly the page I clicked to was the 'Related Artists' page, and saw the name of the other band I had compared them to (so there it was, the first two comparisons I had made were the first two bands listed and I felt dirty for having my initial thoughts confirmed before the deeper listen.)
Before I start telling you what I thought about each album, I want to say that something I love about music is that everyone hears something different. A common discussion (and belief) which I have is that pretty much every artist, every album and every song is someone's favorite artist/band/song. And that fact is magnificent. All music is magnificent.
Jeff Buckley - Grace -- Reminded me of pleasant older more refined version of Radiohead, from a time when I enjoyed Radiohead. Looking forward to a closer listen.
Travis - The Man Who -- Quite nice in the background, but not really anything which caught my attention, I do wonder whether this is one of the albums which was on in the top 100 because of when it was complied in 2006, and whether this would get a look in even 5 years later. I do however think that when I sit and listen to the lyrics there may be something here which delights.
Coldplay -Parachutes -- The first few bars of Yellow had me thinking that my prejudice might have been misplaced, a bit rockier than I had expected. By the third or fourth song in, I was ready for it to be done. Everything sounded over earnest, over emoted and covered in a thick layer of whiney whinging.
Prince -Sign 'O' the Times -- Quite a fun background listen, found myself grooving along a few times. I have obviously heard (and enjoyed) quite a few prince tracks, and know his oft repeated reputation as a musical genius, but have never actually listened to more than a few of his tracks in succession without getting a bit bored. I enjoyed the background listen, but time will tell whether I can take the concentrated listen.
Lauren hill - The Miseducation of Lauren Hill -- To me she has a more than irritating droney almost expressionless voice. Each track seemed to comprise of a load of random shouts/wails/noises layered over each other in what to me sounds way too busy and discordant. Maybe the rhythm is supposed to be ‘advanced’ but to me it sounds mismatched and unsettling (but not in a good way). I really want to hear what people love in this record; even quietly in the background it’s irritating the hell out of me. (Full disclosure time I couldn't take the whole thing, flipping forward a few tracks before skipping to the next record altogether.) I know she is a massive star, so must be appealing to her huge audience, but I don't get it. I will try to listen 'properly' but this has been the first real confusing record.
Mercury Rev - Deserter's Songs --When did the Flaming Lips and Spiritualized get together and have a lovechild? This is an album I wish I had listened to before, an album I could grow to love.
Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour of the Bewilderbeast --This is someone I have often thought I would like, but haven’t made the time to listen. On first impressions this is album beautiful , lovely horns, lovely pianos, lovely guitars, random lovely textures and a heartfelt sweet voice (even though I can’t quite hear/follow the words as I’m listening in the background with my thoughts on work stuff).
Macy Gray - Macy Gray on How Life Is -- So far quite enjoying the background listen of this. I don’t hate her voice and I quite like the fact that she's quite unique sounding. Lots of lovely well matched grooves taking me towards the end of the afternoon. With no clue about her background or her music I can say that I am pleasantly surprised and hope that the deeper listening works out nicely.
An Honorary 28th Place addition
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
"Never Knowingly Listened to" List of well regarded albums
Thanks to Spotify and my search for great music of which I have no knowledge, I have discovered that there are 27 albums in Q's top 100 albums (from 2006) that I have no knowledge of ever having listened to.
The high number shocked me, I thought I was a decent all rounder in my chosen sport.
There four basic subsections of these 27 albums
- Some which I am really surprised that I haven’t ever listened to (Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Joy Division - Closer, etc ). These are album titles which I can name from the top of my head; these are by artists I think I like. In my youth they may have never been in stock at West Bromwich or Walsall libraries, weren’t anywhere to be found in my family or friends collections and weren’t highly placed in the competition for my limited spending money. By the time music became more affordable or accessible to me I had moved on to something else and never quite looked back at them.
- Albums by artists from whom I listened to another album or albums and those sufficed as all I needed from that artist (in both good and bad ways). Here we have Neil Young – After the Goldrush, Prince - Sign 'O' the times, Kraftwerk - The Man Machine, Nirvana - In Utero etc etc. This seems to be the largest subsection.
- Albums that my prejudices regarding the artists caused me to avoid. Coldplay, Morrissey to name the top two.
- Albums by artists who that for one reason or another just never really reached my radar. Jeff Buckley, Wilco, Muse... I have pretty much not preconceptions about these.
There are albums in the Q top 100 which I don't feel that I have given a proper chance and would maybe like to revisit. The Clash - London Calling is the top contender here, people love it, I might love it... I have listened to it and not really bothered to get to know it. Maybe I should, maybe I will in future and it will become a temporary obsession. Or maybe it will always be one of those just out of reach albums. One thing is for sure, this category of albums is also excluded from the 'Never Knowingly Listened to List'
The albums on my 'Never Knowingly Listened To' list do not include stuff that I know I have heard, either through someone else playing them, a borrowed CD, a mostly ignored a tape, an mp3 etc etc. I know I have listened to them, just not very much. This could be through my prejudice or my gut reaction, who knows? I just know that I have given them a day in court (however swift my judgment may have been) and therefore don't want to add them to the 'Never Knowingly Listened To' list. (Most noticeable contenders here are the Oasis albums)
So the plan is to go through each album the twenty eight unheard albums and listen to them at least twice. First, in a background sort of way (essentially quietly at my desk through a pair of reasonable sounding Bose PC speakers) then again at home properly at proper volume through full sized speakers. Then to write down what I honestly think about each of the albums. A one line first impression, and maybe a full breakdown after a proper listen.
My 'Never Knowingly Listened To' list of albums from Q's top 100
- Jeff Buckley - Grace
- Travis - The Man Who
- Coldplay - Parachutes
- Prince - Sign 'O' the times
- Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauren Hill
- Mercury Rev - Deserter's Songs
- Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour of the Bewilderbeast
- Macy Gray - Macy Gray on How Life Is
- Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
- Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Tunnel of Love
- Nirvana - In Utero
- Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head
- The Strokes - Is This It
- Joy Division - Closer
- David Bowie - Hunky Dory
- David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
- Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
- Muse - Origin of Symmetry
- The Clash - The Clash
- The Jam - Setting Sons
- David Bowie - Low
- Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life
- PJ Harvey - Stories from the City, Stories From the Sea
- Neil Young - After the Goldrush
- Morrissey - Vauxhall And I
- Kraftwerk - The Man Machine
- Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot