Tag Archives: Portishead

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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Love to Hate: A VDay Top 10 List

It is Valentine’s Day. Love, gush and all that. In the world of singletons, it’s more like a day of hate.  I like to be inclusive. A day worthy of a list. A teeming smorgasbord of songs that inspire love (well, in some form, we’ll see what you guys think) and a few tossed in for those that will spend the day throwing punches instead of kisses (non-literal punches of course, I don’t condone violence. Unless deserved).

Two Top 5 lists amalgamated to create the ultimate Top 10 Songs to Valentine To:

Nine Inch Nails, Closer

Ugly Kid Joe, Everything About You

Portishead, Glory Box

Violent Femmes, Add it Up

Massive Attack, Teardrop

Limp Bizkit, Break Stuff

Such gratitude to the one who pulled out this suggestion – truly stellar and undeniably appreciated. xoxo

Santogold (before she was Santigold), My Superman

Godsmack, Cryin’ Like a (Bitch)

Garbage, #1 Crush

Lisa Marie Presley, Idiot

So, there. 10 songs to love to and hate to. See if you can figure out which is which. Upon further reflection, maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t so bad.  When there is music. (and that’s the only Valentine Cheese I have for today, the rest will have to be doled out on another mass market holiday… I’m such the cynic. I know, right?)


Song for Today – Going Solo

When members of bands that I’ve forever listened to break out on their own, the results aren’t always what I expect. Sometimes that is good, sometimes not so much.

Weezer has been a longevity band that often have been a mixed emotion for me. I either love them, tolerate them or get annoyed by them. The Blue Album was a constant on my stereo (both due to radio play and my over-listening of the album) in the mid-90s. I kept it up through Pinkerton and the Green Album, but lost touch with the band through the early part of 2000s (preferring my angst-driven Portishead and Fiona Apple and a myriad of what I’ve dubbed “bad bar music” years). While I loved the nostalgic goodness of Buddy Holly and it’s quirk, it quickly became overplayed radio fodder in short order, leaving me to choose other less industry-driven bands (when sober – my drinking music, again, is something of an embarrassing confession, best saved for another day).

So colour me surprised to discover Rivers Cuomo has solo projects. Upon reflection, I shouldn’t be shocked. It’s the thing to do, right? But I wasn’t expecting to like it. Or to listen for Weezer-style musicality. Or to be happy when I discovered a mix of the eclectic that I enjoyed as part of Weezer with a much rougher, low-key sound that is vastly different, which was an unexpected surprise.

The day I first heard Alone (circa 2007) was a day of unexpected surprises. Maybe that’s why I ended up liking it as much as I did. Immediate memories combined with it. And it was sunny. A great day with a pretty decent soundtrack.

I spent the rest of the weekend listening to the album in its entirety as well as the following album Alone II (circa 2008). The more I listened, the more I liked it. Songs like The World We Love So Much and Crazy One; The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World, and, Cold and Damp (both a bit more of a Weezer-vibe, in my opinion). What it all has in common is its raw, unpolished goodness. It has nothing resembling an overproduced radio hit recording, save for quick flashes of Weezer throughout. It makes you sit up and take notice of an artist in a way you didn’t before – suddenly Rivers Cuomo isn’t just the lead guy from Weezer. There is depth and intrigue. And a penchant to get my fingers on the liner notes, which, from what I’ve heard are insightful and interesting reading.

The song for today was the first one I heard that hooked my interest (since it was the thing to do that day, it seems). The World We Love So Much – Rivers Cuomo; from Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo, released 2007. Well played.


Friday’s Friendly Finds (FFF)

I like the letter F. Most of my favourite words start with it. Yes, I have a 4-letter F-word addiction I could be cliché and say that word was, “food” (although I do enjoy a tasty burger from time to time), but no. It is what you think.

Another F word we love ’round here?  Friday. Fridays are usually about good friends, good music, a few good drinks and the lingering promise of mid-afternoon naps taken in the warm sun, lounging and playing and a break from the monotony of your Monday through Thursday.

Our Fridays here are about our friends. Friends who love music the way we do, that always have a recommendation at the ready to share and who understand those gleeful hours right after a new musical discovery.

In some ways, through their recommendations, you might get to know them a bit too and realize why they earned the name “Music buddy.”

Today, my Triple-F feature comes from a work friend, Sean B. Sean has a taste for the eclectic, as I do. He has reminded me of bands I’ve forgotten (Frente! is a good example) and introduced some really great new musicians into my daily soundtrack.

Girl Talk. Also known as Gregg Gillis. What Gregg Gillis does to music is why I love music – it’s a complete mash-up of the somewhat eclectic (“Jump on Stage” features an all-time favoured Portishead) with the very popular (snippets of Gaga, Missy Elliott, Beyonce) and he doesn’t apologize for any of it. Girl Talk makes music I often tend to find unpalatable on its own and turns it into something that makes my head nod and my toes tap. I’m a bit surprised at myself because of it – the music found here are not my usual style. It’s much more hip hop/pop than my norm. The album All Day was immediately downloaded (free! The best music friends are ones that hit you up with freebies) and, as it was suggested, I spent my entire day today roaming through it.

The best experience in this album? How you would hear those beginnings of a sound, get into it; it’s not anything earth shattering, but solid good beats. And suddenly you hear Peter Gabriel. Or Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”. Or any other number of highly recognizable tracks that then mesh with other snippets. And you discover you’re grinning. And liking it. And, despite my surprise, I’m also sharing it with all my other friends.

As always, thanks for the rec, Sean! Well played!

Get Girl Talk’s All Day here:

 http://www.illegal-art.net/allday/


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