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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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Junos: The Final Frontier

So. Bill Shatner is hosting the Junos.  It was once joked (during his roast, if I’m not mistaken) that he is a bit of a whore-type star who is willing to appear in anything.  Okay. Plausible.  That said, Shatner is a Canadian icon and has delivered some much-needed hype to Canadian music awards that often hardly register as a blip in the television universe.  Hell, a re-run of some terrible Real Housewives of (insert city name here) would have likely garnered more viewers.

But Captain Kirk is ours, for one night.  It is said that he won’t sing.  It is said that he won’t live up to the hype. But what I won’t dispute is that his hosting-ability, no matter how bad or good (and I hope it is bad – in a good way) has given the Junos a boost. As has some great Canadian music (although, like any award show, there is sure to be a superfluous smorgasbord of insipid pop-crap to endure).

I’ll be live tweeting the Junos (@Betty_Beat). I’m very likely to be doing so with drink in hand and having endured an entire day of a little Beat’s Princess birthday party.  Expect sarcasm.

Until tomorrow night, here are my Top 5 Shatner Sing-a-Long Songs.  Because, as expected from Shatner, it is all uber-cheese and fun as hell.

#5: I am Canadian

An oddity. It’s not a song.  It’s more of a rant; a fabulous take on Shatner’s patriotism.  Fitting for his hosting the Canadian music awards. And full of hilarity. As he always is.

#4: Lucy in the Sky of Diamonds

One I found on a whim. Perfect because Lucy, the littlest Beat, celebrates her birthday on Monday. I thought it highly apropos that this song made the list for no other reason.  Plus, the video is trip-happy-psychedelic goodness.

#3: Bohemian Rhapsody

Oh, memories of Festivus… the video makes this song. Shatner sounds so damn sad. I almost shed a tear (not really.. only if I was giggling so hard I cried..). Although Shatner’s face in the sky seems more like a bad acid flashback. Creepster. I do like how the lyrics are there though. Helps me sing along.

#2: Fuck You

I. Can’t. Stop. Laughing. This is why I love Shatner.

#1: Common People

By far, the best Shatner cover, in my opinion.  Likely because I love the song.  Maybe because it is a shared enjoyment as well. A multitude of reasons, however, it is a kickass cover that I love. And very deserving of the top spot.

William Shatner is 81 years old. It amazes and awes me that the man still sings and performs (although I’m sure some would argue he’ll do anything for a buck…). I am ecstatic to watch him host the Junos tomorrow. So forget that typical Sunday programming you’ll usually watch. Simpsons is likely a re-run. Game of Thrones?  Yeah, exciting, but PVR it. Check it out with us and let us know what you think.

Live long and prosper.


No Bullshit or Blowin’ Smoke……

No bullshit or blowin’ smoke ever from Ryan Star.  A promise to fans on twitter follow him @RyanStar http://twitter.com/#!/ryanstar and he delivered.  Great new song, can’t wait for more.  Hopefully this single drops soon and gets picked up on radio.  I hear from rstar fans on twitter that it’s being played on some stations.  The Pulse http://www.siriusxm.com/thepulse on Sirius love Ryan and I keep listening hoping to hear soon….perhaps we can all request it!

Ryan’s on tour with Andy Grammar right now.  Catch a show, dates here http://www.rstar.net/tour-dates/

More links to check him out!

www.rstar.net

http://www.facebook.com/#!/ryanstar

Happy Family Day Weekend and/or President’s Day depending on if you are north of south of the US/Canadian Border.

~Lila


If you tweet it, I will listen……

When a certain twitter pal posts about music I listen. So here is a link to The Horrible Crowes, a side project by Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem.

Streaming here:

http://exclaim.ca/MusicVideo/ClickHear/horrible_crowes-elsie_album_stream

It’s good, but here in Canada again with iTunes the bonus track is left out. They put an interesting spin on “Joey” an old Concrete Blonde fav…..I will keep my eyes on the interwebz for a video/stream of this bonus track and post when I can, I’ve heard it and I say ‘LIKE’.

~Lila


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