Tag Archives: Pearl Jam

The Art of the Album

Feeling the nostalgia bug again this week.  I’m sure it stemmed from weekend conversations with friends.  I remembered yesterday that I wanted to touch on what an ‘album’ is in this day and age.  The digital music revolution has changed how we listen to music, how we talk about music and how we obtain and distribute music.  What is an album?  Is it a collection of music on either a ‘record’, compact disc, cassette tape, 8-track or other such media?  Is the new album that you download an ‘e-album’ the same way you read an eBook?  I get so confused by this ever-changing terminology.  A ‘record’ to me is vinyl visually….but maybe a record is a ‘recording’ and the medium on which it is ‘recorded’ can be all different formats.  I assume yes.

This train of thought leads me a conversation with Ryan Star.  Of course I made my way to his two shows in Montreal and Toronto over the last extended weekend.  Of course I did.  My short show review = fabulous but way too short, I’m in need of another headline show.  But this isn’t about the show, the set list, the energy, the rstar vibe, it was all there and I’m thrilled that I was in the house for both Canadian dates.  This blog today is about song listing on albums (I’m calling the collection albums because it makes the most sense to me).  Ryan took the time to chat with myself, Betty and our fabulously fashionable and cool friend Deb (@realyeo) outside Lee’s Palace in Toronto.  I think being in that neighbourhood, being in that venue sparked some serious nostalgia vibes for me, its crazy how fast memories of shows and crazy nights in the Annex come wafting back so very very fast.  I’m trying to remember if it was Dinosaur Jr. or Buffalo Tom I first saw at Lee’s.  Maybe it was neither…maybe it was both…..I don’t really know.  I do know that I danced my ass off at the Dance Cave upstairs…..that I know for sure.

The conversation with Ryan turned to his intentions with his future recordings.  He mentioned his love of the vibe of ‘Elephant’ (his first solo ‘album’ – Songs for the Eye of an Elephant) and how he wants to get back to that place with the next record.  He also mentioned how painful it was to take 4 years to put out 11:59…..dude we know we waited with you!  From this I took to mean that he wants a more raw approach to his recordings, showing more vulnerability.  I’m thrilled as this is who he is and who I see him as and why I’m drawn to his music.  Don’t get me wrong 11:59 is a great collection of songs and I love it but what I’m about to touch on as the art of an ‘album’ doesn’t quite apply, at least as I see and experience it.

The first time I heard ‘Elephant’ all the way through from Track 1 to 20, I was driving.  I had received the CD in the mail and popped it into my car stereo before a lone road trip south to Toronto.  The first leg of my drive is somewhat remote, I love this part because I can zone out and listen to tunes.  

What I love most about listening to a collection of songs in the order the artist placed them is when it becomes less about the individual song and more about the album as a whole.  A great album captures you and keeps you entranced from beginning to end.  ‘Elephant’ did this for me, I may have sped that day, I may have made it to my destination in record time…..my god I love driving fast, and it’s usually the fault of good loud music that drives me lead foot.

A blog wouldn’t be a blog without a list.  Right?  I’ve added a list of albums that have gripped me, grabbed me by the throat and choked me so that I have to breathe through my ears.  Each note, each word sung from beginning to end, enter into my brain, my blood, and my breath.  I look at these albums and see an entire book, each song plays a part, each song is a chapter and the story isn’t complete with one missing.  For me these artists have mastered the art of the album.  I’d like to see Ryan strive to take his next album to this level.  I believe it is there, that Elephant was the beginning, 11:59 has it, but The America EP proves the art is in him.  I can’t wait to see what is next.

So here is my 12, some old, some newer, some classic and in no particular order.  Please comment and add your own as I would love to discover more albums that choke me.

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

 

I don’t think anyone will argue with me on this choice.  Pink Floyd are masters of the concept albums and Dark side of the Moon does not fail, beginning to end it is a masterpiece.

Radiohead – The Bends

Radiohead take art rock to a new level.  Thom Yorke doesn’t right songs, he writes albums. This 1995 release is hands down my favourite Radiohead album and gives me a cosmic release as I listen; it is an orgasm for my ears.  In Rainbows should be on this list too, but in choosing between Radiohead albums I have to give it to The Bends.

Buffalo Tom – Let Me Come Over

Let Me Come Over is a rollercoaster ride.  The track listing is up down and all around, that by track 6 I’m out of breath and then Larry hits you in the chest.  Best Buffalo Tom song ever, right smack in the middle of the LMCO, perfect.

Dinosaur Jr. – Where You Been

J Mascis squeals from beginning to end with his voice, and with his guitar.  Dino Jr. isn’t for everyone, but they’ve kept my attention for 20 years and WYB and Green Mind are albums that need to be listened to from beginning to end to appreciate the wonder of J Mascis.

Florence + The Machine – Lungs

This is the most current album on my list.  Florence stabbed me in the ears early on with Cosmic Love and I didn’t actually acquire the entire album of Lungs right away.  I downloaded Dog Days as a single and soon after realized what I was missing.  Lungs is a brilliant album and Florence is an album artist, Ceremonials their second album release does much the same.

Pearl Jam – Ten

Do I really need to explain?  1991 seems like such a long time ago.  I wouldn’t change a thing on this album but it seems the band would love to remix it…..leave it alone please please please.

Portishead – Dummy

Clearly ‘Dummy’ is more an album than the songs are songs individually.  The album really leaves you ‘numb’ and ‘it could be sweet’ so don’t be a ‘dummy’ and go down the ‘roads’ and listen intently from beginning to end or I will kick you in the ‘glory box’.

Moby – Play

Play is weird.  Weird is good.  If you listen to only one song weird will just be well…..weird.  Play is a story of weird and Moby is the lead character.  Throw in a Gwen Stefani and you’ve got a hit, even if she’s a minor minor character. 

Peter Gabriel – Us

 ‘Us’ might not be people’s first choice in PG album. The narrative is so personal and not listening to the album in its entirety is being rude to Mr. Gabriel, he’s pouring his heart out and giving you a piece of him so listen and feel or I will punch you for him.

The The – Dusk

Don’t ask me anything about The The.  I know who they are, where they are from a bit about their history but this is the only album I have any connection to by the band.  It just sort of fell into my lap and became the late night dark room music of us budding photography students way back in 1993.  The melancholy here was perfect, the gloom is actually uplifting at least for me as an avid beginning to end ‘Dusk’ listener.  I cannot pick a favourite track on this album, I just can’t do it.  This is my perfect example of the art of the album, and I will go out on a limb and make it my #1.

Jane’s Addiction – Ritual De Lo Habitual

If you don’t see the genius that is Perry Farrell than stop reading.  Ritual is actually two stories, if you originally bought this on cassette….part one was on side one and part two was well…side two.  There is a distinct break in the album after track 5.  It still warrants a full listen.  I don’t think anyone will ever ‘get’ Perry Farrell and/or get this album but you certainly can feel the story and the anguish of his life at that time.  This album has many layers, those layers may be laced with hallucinogens but that is all part of the story.  Indulge in this again if it has been awhile, so worth repeating.

The Smiths – The Queen is Dead

I have always resented the ‘slit your wrist’ mind-set that label The Smiths.  Johnny Marr makes an appearance here as he does with The The, follow him on Twitter he’s interesting.  It doesn’t surprise me that he wrote quite a few of the songs on this album.  This album takes me back earlier than the others, even Dark Side of the Moon which I did not listen to until much later in life (shameful I know).  Morrissey is a story-teller and this album delivers a story.

 And for your listening please….Larry by Buffalo Tom

So there it is a blog with a list, a blog with rstar content, predictable Lila Lyric style.  Now give me your top ‘albums’ that need a full listen.

~Lila

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So Done (2011)

Since we are about to be “so done” with 2011, it was suggested to me that I compile a “so done with” list from the preceding year. This is a collaborative effort – things some of my favourite people are “so done” with, along with my own thoughts. A huge shout out to the person who inspired this – a brilliant way to end our year. Equal billing. It’s a tie.

So, here we go. Repeat after me, “I’m so done with…”

METALLICA

Let’s start out with a talk of relevancy. They aren’t. They were. And as a “classic” artist, I’m good with them. One is still one of my all-time favourite songs.

But they have gotten a bit self-indulgent in their advanced age. The “concept” album with Lou Reed? Disastrous. Worst thing I’ve heard in a while. And I’m the girl who has had some of the worst bands send me music to listen to over the course of the last year.

CEE LO GREEN/GNARLES BARKLEY

I’m sure I could Wikipedia the difference between the two (note: I did. I get it now. My thoughts still stand). But it was asked of me during one of many music talks, what’s the difference? When Crazy is played on the radio it is introduced as a song by Gnarles Barkley. When Fuck You (I refuse to radio edit here, people. Deal with it.) is introduced it’s by Cee Lo Green. It’s the same fucking person singing!

Not to mention both songs are high on the suckage list and I abhor a song that was written as a “pop” song, then promptly changed and radio edited to be “Forget you” like the world didn’t know it was originally “Fuck You.” Dumbest song of the year award.

An excellent point of heroic proportion. I can’t even take credit. And how I laughed when this was discussed. So, while I’m done with radio edits and irritating pop songs, I’m not done with the ardent mocking of them. Not even close.

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

Months ago, we discussed how the use of cowbell salvaged this song. Until it was played 6225 times on the radio and I was subjected to a once-hot Anthony Kiedis sporting a 70s porn-‘stache (and it wasn’t even Movember).

Cowbell can’t save it. The song is annoying. Please see previous comment on relevancy.

20TH ANNIVERSARIES

I still maintain the PJ20 and Nirvana tributes this year were totally deserved.

However, I still maintain the U2 documentary was useless. A documentary of the anniversary of their 8th studio album. Hello bandwagon, I’d like to jump on you now.

STADIUM CONCERTS

(Okay, it’s a Slayer concert video – I was in a time crunch, it was the first one I found that adequately shows why I hate big venue – mock it up)

Miles from the stage, how can anyone really appreciate the music? Festivals, I get. Blissed out on the grassy knoll. Watching a Jumbo-screened version of a band you didn’t know existed until you heard their song 365 times on the radio and became a “fan” (you were the person who would buy an album for one track, weren’t you? Admit it. It’s okay. I was like that. In 1992.)

I suffer from Small Venue Snobbery. Don’t brag at me because you’re going to the ACC to see Black Keys with thousands of other band wagon jumpers. Let me know when you’ve got something good.

MUSIC SNOBBERY

(Harvard Sailing Team’s Hipster Playlist – thanks to Lila for sharing!)

I was a music snob. If it wasn’t indie, I wasn’t listening. I mocked radio. Until I noted (or, rather, I was corrupted to notice) that The Edge (102.1, yes, I have to live stream it at home) had moved back to a more indie-alternative vibe. Hollerado. Hey Rosetta. City and Colour (Dallas Green.. clever point-out Sean B. I’m smarter now. As I was when handed the tidbit about Alexis on Fire and S.B’s tie-in.. love coincidences when they happen coincidentally. That was a great day….). Among so many others. Of course, there are days I seriously question who is programming Edge. Nickelback and Eminem? Metallica? As Sean B. said, “when did (they) become alternative?!”. A fair point. But Edge does more for exposing great local music than it harms with the odd playing of “Home for a Rest” (no, really, I get Canadian Content rules, but, really?!).

So there. I was schooled. Let go of the snobbery. Just a bit. It makes sharing that much more exciting.

DUMBING DOWN THE LYRICS

Some gems from 2011:

“I love you like a love song, baby.” (Selena Gomez, Love you Like a Love Song)

No. Really? You want to love me like an overly insipid and dramatic pop song, overplayed and overdone by a teenager? Gotcha. Sign me up.

“Kicking in the front seat; Sitting in the back seat; Got to make my mind up; Which seat can I take?” (Rebecca Black, Friday)

Dude, I don’t care which seat you take. As long as you sit there with your mouth shut and never sing again. Worst case of viral marketing gone awry I’ve ever seen. When bad music gets good press. (and by good press, I mean lots of it because it was so bad).

“Take me by the tongue; And I’ll show you (uh); Kiss me ’till you’re drunk; And I’ll show you; All the moves like Jagger.. “ (Maroon 5, Moves like Jagger)

What does this even mean? Is it masochistic? You’re bragging that you move like an old, slightly irrelevant rock star past his prime that is still grinding away? I did say sign me up, right? Good.

“You’re so supersonic; Wanna feel your powers; Stun me with your lasers; Your kiss is cosmic; Every move is magic.” (Katy Perry, E.T.)

Katy Perry kissed a girl and is now going on about alien love. I want whatever it is she’s smoking.

“Today I don’t feel like doing anything; I just wanna lay in my bed; Don’t feel like picking up my phone; So leave a message at the tone; ‘Cause today I swear I’m not doing anything.” (The Lazy Song, Bruno Mars)

You know what I don’t feel like doing? Ever hearing this incredibly stupid song ever again. Thank you Bruno Mars. You feel lazy and now I feel dumber. Much appreciated.

“All-all these girls they like my swagger; They callin’ me Mick Jagger; I be rollin; like a Stone; Jet-setter jet-lagger; We ain’t messin with no maggots.” (The Time (Dirty Bit), Black Eyed Peas)

First – what is it with Jagger showing up in songs this year? Secondly, thank you for bastardizing my nostalgia Fergie and crew with your insipid pop crap. Thirdly, I don’t like messin’ with no maggots either. So you got me there.

“That badonkadonk is like a trunk full of bass on an old-school Chevy; Seven tray donky donk; All I need is some vodka and some shonky-tonk; And watch she gon’ get Donkey Kong.” (On the Floor, Jennifer Lopez)

Okay, granted it was Pitbull who mouthed this drivel, not J. Lo. But she allowed it in her song. And I don’t know what shonky-tonk is, but apparently you need it and the vodka in copious amounts to decipher this shit. Goes directly into the “What the fuck” file.

“She gave me, 7 minutes in Heaven, 7 minutes in Heaven; I spent 7 minutes in a motel with her; I’ve been to Heaven but I’m going to; Going to Hell; She’s comin’ with me I can tell.” (School Boy Humor, 7 Minutes in Heaven)

First of all, I had no idea this band existed. Until they sent me their music because of the blog. Secondly, they’re young. I think they need some advice. So here it is, from me to you: Honey, 7 minutes in a motel with her? That’s it? 7 whole minutes? And you think that’s Heaven?! The naivete is adorable, really. There might be some girls who would welcome a 7 minute “fest” with these boys, but I suspect that the Hell descriptor is more accurate for any girl who got her 7 minutes with them. And I suspect that if all they can provide is 7 minutes, they very likely don’t have a clue if she’s coming with them or not. And my guess is on the “not”. Psst. It’s not brag-worthy. Especially in a song. It is like a musical confession of sexual ineptitude disguised as scrub bragging. Which would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

THE PERSON WHO CHOOSES A SHIT #1 IN A TOP (INSERT NUMBER HERE) LIST.

You know the lists. Hell, I’m a huge fan of them (thank you High Fidelity). The list. The quintessential run-down by a person who just can’t choose one.

I love these lists. But only when the number one choice has me nodding in agreement. Or even grudgingly admitting it’s a decent and worthy choice. But when the choice, as it so often is, is ridiculous, I am SO DONE. It is the epitome of time suckage – you’ve spent hours listening and agreeing and arguing spots with like-minded friends. Only to get to number one and shout out an incredulous “What the fuck?!”

Edge just did this with their Top 102 songs of 2011. Number one? Really?! On January 1st go read the list and see if you don’t have the same kind of “what the fuck” moment. You will. The only amusement I felt at discovering the number one choice tonight (after hours of listening diligently) was a morbid amusement at knowing that there are some people in particular who will find out what the number one song of 2011 is claimed to be and will loathe it. I don’t revel in their loathing, but rather at the picture of the reaction because I know exactly what they’ll say and exactly how they’ll say it. And I know they’re completely right (because we’re super smart). It was a terrible choice.

I’M NOT DONE!

So, that’s it. Things I’m So Done with from 2011. What I’m not So Done with? Sharing music. Enjoying the corruption of a more popular music world. Enjoying the snobbery I still revel in. Enjoying my musical friends and counterparts thoroughly. Thank you all for sharing this year with me, for teaching me and for letting me impart a bit of my own bias and knowledge on you. Thank you for the continued inspiration. It means the world.

To Lila – thank you for being my partner in crime, my musical confidante, my concert friend and the girl who took my Rstar virginity and started my year off with an amazing adventure – one that set the pace for my year. I couldn’t ask for a better friend to have shared my music with this year.

To 2012. Play it well and play it loud. Sing along loudly, share the music and listen when people share back – you never know what you’ll end up discovering. Even about yourself. Happy New Year!

 ~ Betty Beat. xoxo


20 Years Later – Don’t Remind Me…

What came first? The Nirvana Nevermind 20 year remembrance or Pearl Jam’s PJ20? Whichever, it doesn’t really matter, seeing as I found both albums illustrated a movement in time and a style of music that translated through fashion and lifestyle. Both iconic. Both worth remembering. Kudos.

However, colour me shocked when, a couple of weeks ago, I hear how U2 is jumping on the 20-year-bandwagon with a documentary and PR campaign for Achtung Baby. U2’s seventh (yes, seventh) studio album. An album fairly inconsequential and background noise in comparison to those that began a Seattle Grunge era. But From the Sky Down isn’t about us or the time it came out during. It’s about them. Their change as a band during the recording of the album. Yet another documentary from them (*cough* Rattle and Hum, circa late-80s *cough * ). Yawn. It is just me, or does the whole thing seem a bit… self-serving?

Which isn’t to say I hate U2. Or even the album. I fairly enjoy the song “One” (side note: accolades to the one who reminded me to not trash that song along with the rest.. kind of like not tossing out the baby with the bathwater, to coin a really bad cliché. A fair point. Nicely played.).

What I loathe is a desperate ploy to remain relevant. There wasn’t anything noteworthy about the album. Decent, sure. But it wasn’t iconic the way Ten or Nevermind were. It was solid, mainstream pop. Why can’t that be enough and leave it in the nostalgic memories of the 30-somethings that will hear “Mysterious Ways” and remember how cool they found it in Grade 10? Why the bandwagon jump?

As one who grew up having her music tastes formed by the likes of Cobain, Vedder, Staley, Cornell, et al, U2 was removed from the vibe of the decade. They sang nice songs that played well on the radio. Pretty music that sometimes struck a chord. Not something I want to dwell on as a changing force in music during the late 80s and 90s. Again, is this album truly relevant in comparison?

In the spirit of pop-y 90s goodness, I have my own offering: Top 5 Songs I Won’t Overdose on Nostalgia For. Also known as, “Here are some songs I will mock myself for knowing the words to.”

#5: Time, Love and Tenderness, Michael Bolton

Oh, early 90s. The time when it was okay to see a long haired mullet on a balding man, in tight jeans crooning to millions of… wait. Did anyone really listen to this? I remember it on the radio. Hell, I can even sing the words, but did anyone really admit to being a Michael Bolton fan even when he was popular? It was mock-worthy then. The only documentary I want to see will be entitled, “I’m Still Balding”.

#4: OPP – Naughty By Nature

It was one of my first CD’s I ever purchased (along with Temple of the Dog.. actually, that is kind of ironic and funny). It played at every high school dance I attended. Many, many young white boys wearing embarrassingly baggy pants, doing the “pee dance” and occasionally being brave enough to attempt some Kid N’ Play moves.

It goes along with those multicoloured jeans I loved to wear – best left in a bag which was sent to Goodwill 10 years later. Given away with a wave and a small embarrassed smile that I ever owned either of you.

#3: I Wanna Sex You Up – Color Me Badd

Hmm. Colour IT Bad. Perhaps they were the pioneers of the Boy Band. Except they weren’t really boys. They were a bit more like pervvy old men. Only to teen girls they had pretty voices (which I’m certain weren’t really theirs, but courtesy of computer enhancements…), pretty clothes and looked pretty dancing ’round. And the song used the word, “sex”. Which I’m sure made my 14 year old self giggle a bit in her head.

And all of that made one forget completely how terrible the song really was. Blame the hormones.

Honourable Mention here goes to Gerardo for being able to pull off the same feat, but as a solo act. And in Spanish. With about triple the cheese factor.

#2: Shiny, Happy People – REM

A song so insipid and full of innate goo that even Michael Stipe refused to sing it ever again.

But, hey. The B52s chick sang along. And it was featured on Sesame Street. It must have been a classic.

And not one of us got that the whole thing was ironic. So cute. Not so smart.

#1 Groove is in the Heart – Dee Lite

My fashion icon circa 1991. I wanted to be her. Dress like her. Babydoll dresses, big shoes and lots of 60s retro and bold colours. More than the others, this song actually holds a lot of memories for my first year of high school.

But like any good one-hit wonder of the year and any short-lived fashion trend, it is a song best left in my memory and for the days I leaf through old photos and wonder just what the fuck I was thinking. More like a year-long acid trip. A good one, no doubt, but one that does not bear repeating. Ever.

Hit us up with all your other 1991 classics, people. We want the cheese.


Monday Music Memories; Channelling My Teen Angst

My teenage years were a music bridge, they covered a weird gap through the late eighties into the early nineties. I almost feel that I was in limbo – I relate to those slightly older 80’s poster-children but also fit into the 90’s grunge as I watched it unfold.

Generation X – and I fit the mold. I think. I’ve been scouring the internet trying to find a clear definition of the Gen-X and who they are, but man alive that is a difficult process. Maybe that’s the point? Perhaps Gen-Xers cannot be defined, are we are generation that was so much in this state of limbo that that is our definition? The stereotypical image is the flannel-wearing grungey lazy teen slacker looking for the easy route to success, is that me? Perhaps in some ways.

The music we grew up with in the early years is heavily influenced by the Baby Boomers and the overlay into a music era in the late 70’s and early 80’s that produced so many one-hit wonders and artists that VH1 started a show called “Where are They Now?” Notice that many of the artists featured on that show that ran from 1999-2002 fit this musical niche. Baby Boomer music defined that generation the legacy still holds strong, many of the artists are still relevant and have come full circle into being ‘cool’ music with Generation Y.

I wonder if it’s the end of each so-called generation that brings out the best in music. If you look at the baby boomer generation much of the music that is labelled as the music of the times seems to have been in the later part of that time period. Was it all that ‘revolution’ and ‘change’ from the youth that moved us into the next generation? And where the hell does Disco fit into all of this?

The early 90’s after we conveniently swept the somewhat embarrassing music of the 80’s under the carpet were a real time of change much like the 60’s. From my perspective it seemed like a switch was turned on. I was right there in the middle of it when “Alternative” music became mainstream. For some of us it was a weird feeling to watch the music you had already been familar with and were jamming to with your friends become the new fav of the jock that sat next to you in history class.

I had a few friends during my teenage years that were fanatical music fans (like minds and all) and working in a record store really helped keep my current, but also developed my love for the obscure not so mainstream music (now with a classification of it’s own). The ‘Alternative’ music label still makes me giggle as I’m still not sure what it is the alternative too anymore. In the early years it was literally the alternative to Top 40 hits on the radio, now it’s too confusing to define.

Pearl Jam, twenty years and counting. I remember in August 1991 when that one lonely CD came into our small little record store in the mall. One copy that was it. My boyfriend at the time was quite excited that we had a copy and scooped it up on my discount. I may have purchased the next copy that was delivered, it was one copy at time as the album was not on any chart in 1991.

Pearl Jam graced The Concert Hall in Toronto on April 4, 1992 and I had the pleasure of being there. It was the first of many unbelievable concerts I attended. The setlist: Oceans, Even Flow, Why Go, Jeremy, Deep, Alive, Black, State of Love and Trust, Once, Porch, Breath, Happy Birthday, Leash. I remember during Porch,’ that Eddie climbed up onto the balcony and starts working his way all the way around the venue on the edge of the balcony. About 3/4 of the way around, two security guards grab him and pull him off the edge. They don’t realize who he is, thinking he is a fan climbing. When they realize their error, they let him go. Ed stands on the edge of the balcony and then drops down onto the crowd below – quite a drop but they catch him! Then he “swims” to the stage, picks up the mic and says, “I can do … whatever the fuck I want!”

My teen angst turned into a hot and bothered hormonal hot mess with the release of Pearl Jam “Ten”. Eddie Vedder in Jeremy is unforgettable, and I bet even today with a Ukulele he would invoke that hot mess in me.


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