Weekly Album Challenge — Week 5

Clearly not as weekly as it once was, I’m hoping to be pretty regular though, maybe we’ll get back there

This weeks list:

  • Arrival — Abba
  • Out of the Blue — Electric Light Orchestra
  • Channel Orange — Frank Ocean
  • Bicep — Bicep
  • Welcome to the Real World — Mr. Mister
  • Physical Graffiti — Led Zeppelin
  • Singing Bones — The Handsome Family
  • Slip — Quicksand
  • Because — Aivery
  • Ocean Drive — Lighthouse Family
  • Different Class — Pulp
  • Galaxy Garden — Lone
  • Singles — Future Islands

Thanks to my parents, Hannah, Michael, Tamsin, Danny, Esme, Phil, Louis, Dan, Faris, Alex and David

And my suggested album for this week:

  • Blizzard of Ozz — Ozzy Osbourne
Advertisements
Posted in Music, Weekly Album Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bridge Over Troubled Water — Simon and Garfunkel — W.A.C.#4

Simon_and_Garfunkel,_Bridge_over_Troubled_Water_(1970)

Bridge Over Troubled Water

My thoughts

With its signature measured style, I have to confess to pausing to write this review slightly. This is purely for my own self indulgence; it allows me to pause in the hustle and bustle of life and just enjoy the moment. It should be said that this mostly means I personally find the album calming – but it’s time to be objective.

The 60’s has just bowed out and there is an excellent case for marking this album as its swan-song. Farewell to summer of love, Woodstock, and even Simon and Garfunkel’s signature minimalism; this is not an album of vocals and a guitar.

We open with the titular Bride Over Troubled Water, most know the haunting vocals here, but the song is just a masterclass in progression. The lyrics are solid and simple and the piano knows how swell and retreat in such delicate ways. Pause for contemplation after the crystal clear opening and allow the strings to join…

Sail on silver girl;
Sail on by…

It’s a duet, it’s full, it’s echoing with those distant drums and sliding basses, cellos. Oh it is so rich and a raw display of the power of music. Frankly, with the number of covers, I am so surprised that so many don’t get the feel of this track…

Cecilia… OK – time for an anecdote. At first glance the lyrics are about the rejected lover of Celilia. She has left Paul Simon and he is distraught without her, eventually she returns and he’s happy. This song has a double meaning, actually referring to St. Cecilia (patron saint of music).  Paul Simon suffers a horrible lack of inspiration until a song idea crystalises and the songwriting path becomes clear and he thanks the patron saint.

Jubilation! She loves me again!

I have heard that this anecdote refers to the actual composition of this song. I can’t point to a reliable source (Mother)… but it’s a wonderfully romantic story!

My favourite song of the album has to be The Boxer and I think this is just down to those damn vocal harmonies – I find them incredibly pretty; expertly backed up instrumentally with that lovely echoing drum strike, almost like a gun shot. Not to mention the Hans Zimmer-esque blast near the end, before resolving itself out. This is the talent – Simon and Garfunkel can so easily create a song that enters, has its effect, then leaves (not outstaying its welcome). For evidence, just look at the examples! The Only Living Boy in New York or So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright.

The album closes on Song for the Asking. It’s simple and short and represents that end to the duo, as this album was their last together. It’s a poignant tranquility that is perfectly placed after Bye Bye Love. Great chord progressions here and the lyrics:

Ask me and I will play
All the love that I hold inside.

and it’s done and I am literally hit with a sound of silence (not on this album) – the noticeable absence of what I’ve just heard and its absence is felt!

Is this album for you?

I think here is another setup for a pillar of music past. Whatever your thoughts, this album represents a fine signature of the duo and their talent. Folk music is not for everyone, although the pair make a great bridge (no pun intended) into those realms. I’ll cross it personally but I’m not heading too much further beyond. My advice is find a moment of tranquility and just allow yourself a good listen. It’s good backing to the right sort of event and just a great display of talent.

Scores

  • Writing: 9/10
  • Performance: 10/10
  • Style: 9/10 (what can I say… it’s just hit all the right areas for me)
Posted in Music, Weekly Album Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pinkprint — Nicki Minaj — W.A.C.#4

Nicki_Minaj_-_The_Pinkprint_(Official_Album_Cover)

The Pinkprint

My thoughts

When I first heard Nicki Minaj’s track Stupid Hoe, I instantly knew that this would be an artist that I would not be spending time listening to. When The Pinkprint was suggested as an album, however, I put my impressions aside to give a full and fair review, hoping 5 years of disinterest would leave me open to be fair. Full warning, we are not going to be doing full track analyses here.

This album does have a couple of surprises for me, for example, I really didn’t know Minaj’s voice was this decent; she has range and power and its more than generic spoken work. On listening to the full album, however, it became increasingly clear that Minaj has a lot of different voices she can use and at best it’s versatile but at worse it’s like a pile of impressions. There’s some talent but it’s confused…

If we briefly dip into a few tracks. The first two All Things Go and I Lied have the minimal backing of a slow synth and regular drum beat, backed with some inoffensive backing vocals. It’s actually a solid opening with a surprising set of emotional settings, losing children and family. The vocals as well… I have to say it pleasantly surprised me.

In the reverse side Get On Your Knees cannot be looked at for depth. Nicer vocals that work with Ariana Grande but it’s just a “plead to have me” track that is almost laborious at time. Not my taste – it’s not the message as much as the lack of content. This is one of three sequential big-name collaborations (I know Jessie Ware was on the previous track). Feeling Myself is alright Beyoncé is certainly a safe bet for quality… This track has some more of the punchline rap:

Bitch, never left but I’m back at it
And I’m feelin’ myself, jack rabbit
Feelin’ myself, back off, cause I’m feelin’ myself, jack off
Heard he thinks about me when he whacks off
Whacks on? Wax off

I laughed but it’s a bit samey and only really shines when Beyoncé sings.

We progress to Lil Wayne, Drake and Chris Brown joining Minaj and there’s clearly the collaboration effort going on; there is a lot more content and it’s richer verbally – maybe a little lewd for me?

As we carry on though… its collab after collab, which really does get wearing. The album actually surprised me in the beginning but began to get a little off as I progressed. Trini Dem Girls was a pretty dull low light for me, which just bored me.

Anaconda was obviously very well known as a single and it bothers me because it is completely the same as Sir Mix A Lot’s Baby Got Back, in theme and beat… rhythmically a little different but basically the same song…sorry!

As we go out, actually Grand Piano is a really nice ending and finally we get a showcase of her voice again in a much stripped down track with just a piano and violin. It works a lot better for me showing that hint of versatility. So… Was there an overarching thing with this album? Please tell me if there was because I’m afraid I may have missed it. It was better than I initially thought but I can honestly say I wasn’t a fan. The album was too sparse of content – some very minimal tracks could take a message and take a lifetime to say nothing of importance. Yet perhaps the album does represent a growth of style… Dare I check out the back catalogue of Minaj? Eh… maybe not right now…

Is this album for you?

If you, like me have always pegged Nicki Minaj as a bit of a vapid one trick horse, I have to say to check the album out as it is actually showcasing a whack of ability. For me there are a lot of irritations to get through and a real lack of anything other than a mob of people appearing of every track. I would advise to perhaps see what the next big Minaj work is before exploring this. This album needs to fit into a timeline somewhere but would crumble as a magnum opus.

Scores

  • Writing: 5/10 (more individual work needed)
  • Performance: 8/10 (a bit high maybe for me but there were some eyebrow raising moments
  • Style: 6.5/10 (not really for me but not putting me off forever)

Bonus:

  • Effort: C – (I really think a more focused album could genuinely be great)

 

Posted in Music, Weekly Album Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Queen is Dead — The Smiths — W.A.C.#4

The-Queen-is-Dead-cover

The Queen Is Dead

My thoughts

Right. If I don’t do this now, my entire review will be a rant:

Slide1  Slide3.png

Here I describe what I’m going to call the “Melody Pit”. Above is a photo of my keyboard; on the left is highlighted a minor third. The problem is every Smiths melody not only utilises it, they barely stray from it. If YOU would like to write a Smiths melody, take a look at the keyboard on the right. Stay on the dark blue circle as much as possible, hop down every once in a while but generally stay in the top three notes. Basically hop up the minor third then back down via a passing note as highlighted. Here you are aiming to sound like a melancholic ambulance.

I have to joke a little and that’s just because every Smiths melody seems exactly the same to me. Ok! Now to the album.

It’s widely regarded as the Magnum Opus of the Smiths and for good reason. For an 80’s album it is not dated at all. The titular first track The Queen is Dead could well be written now and features a great upbeat drum with some beautiful chord sequences. I really like this track and it’s sort of an exploration into what was an aging punk scene – rallying the anarchy side and reiterating Morrissey’s fairly well publicised anti-royalist views.

The bouncier Frankly Mr. Shankly, I’m afraid is the victim of the Smiths melody point stated above but its a solid enough piece critiquing those obsessed in the music industry, specifically this is a shot at the head of Rough Trade, who the Smiths were signed up with at the time. With the end of this track we head into the territory of the breakup song I Know It’s Over and I have to confess to just getting a little absorbed here. I made a point to listening to the message and song as a whole, then returning to just listening to the backing and I have to say, once you mentally extract the lead singers wailing, the instrumentation is pretty damn wonderful. I don’t hate Morrissey here and he certainly enhances the track but for me the whole body can get tiresome.

No, sorry; I was wrong. Never Had No One Ever, the fourth track is a problem. It is exactly the same vibe as the previous track but less good in every respect. I have actually enjoyed the album to this point and more than I thought I would, not being a Smiths fan. This track, however is too much of a durge for me — too samey with my mind picturing a Monty Python style “get on with it”.

Cemetry Gates thankfully picks up to a more upbeat feel with well paced guitar and its message is pretty solid about misappropriation of other people’s quotes. I mean, you can’t accuse the lyrics of being vapid and they are clearly being written by someone who has lots of good ideas. This is more the type I can get into, which is a shame because we return to the melody pit in Bigmouth Strikes Again. To be honest this is just run of the mill stuff and there isn’t much to say here.

The Boy With The Thorn In His Side was a bit of a flop for me. I think this is because that opening sounded so different again before dropping me down into the same stuff that I have already described. I feel so pulled in two directions with this album it falls into repetitiveness that I knew it would a lot … but not every time… and then… Yes! Vicar In A Tutu is different! It’s lighter and sillier (though still mocking because there has to be some angst with Morrissey) but I really quite enjoyed this song and backing is great…(Melody pit).

The final two tracks are pretty solidly written and a lot more signature Smiths and if you are into that, they won’t disappoint. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out is pretty nice, talking about love (and how the chap would be happy to die in a car crash with his partner) but it is so representative with its nice synth strings and pleasing backing, I can’t fault too much. (Melody Pit). Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others is a lot more varied in that its a lot more in terms of variety. The music is richer, the melody pit is climbed slightly and consequently the lyrics are pretty bizarre to be honest. The title of the track is about as deep as the song goes and that’s the shame: there is no perfect track on the album as nothing ticks every box… hmm

Is this album for you?

Smiths fans already know they like the Smiths but if you aren’t one of these people I have to say with some genuinely solid writing, this album may be the one that gets you to explore some of the best of the group (and showcase the Melody Pit). There are glaring faults for me and I am never going to love the band. I’m not sure if Morrissey is cynical because of lost loves or if he lost loves and is also cynical. One thing’s for sure: if he feels he has a good lot anywhere in life, he’s forgotten to tell us.

Scores

  • Writing: 7/10 (Some great, some vapid)
  • Performance: 8.5/10
  • Style: 7.5/10 (It was really going to be lower but I can’t deny a lot of talent)
Posted in Music, Weekly Album Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hypocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury — The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy — W.A.C.#4

Hypocrisy_Is_the_Greatest_Luxury_-_Album_Cover

Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury

My thoughts

Ah, back when I started this break I had to review this album in the wake of the British election and it was just politics everywhere – fun to chat about but looking at constant political under currents certainly had something about it that put me on the back foot. Generally, there seems to be something about the left wing protest theme that seems somewhat timeless; like Bragg, arguing against Thatcher’s Britain, you also see the same themes cropping up against a right wing government.

So this is the debut album for the Disposable Heroes, released in 1992 and its messages still hold true; the only thing that dates this album is its musical style. Admittedly this is hip hop you would more expect to hear in the late 80’s but it’s nonetheless catchy stuff and heavily lyric based.

The opener Satanic Reverses, of course, takes its name from Salman Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses”. It’s not an attack, but more a statement on religious intolerance. It’s the way the album is themed, with a view to looking at the problems with organisations in society; it makes for interesting listening.

Fine And Dandy follows with an intriguing message:

We learn to like to be the heroes
We learn to lie to the brand name Negroes
We learn to laugh to avoid being angry
We learn to kill and learn to go hungry
We learn not to feel, for protection
And we learn to flaunt when we get an erection

So in a nutshell, has hip hop gone from a form of expression reacting against the mainstream, to joining it? A deep area of personal representation can be branded, sold and warped and all of a sudden the art form becomes a parody of its history. I don’t feel qualified to comment fully, but it is interesting that perhaps listening to repeated messages about material possessions does not represent the origins of the genre. This is also tied together with the featuring of Amos N’ Andy, portrayed by two white actors in a black minstrel style. I’ll just let the comparisons be drawn for yourself and apologise to my GCSE English teachers for not actually comparing the work.

As you progress through the album you realise that it’s full of word play and clever English devices. It’s poetic and will throw out a good simile, which aid the tracks messages. They’re perhaps slightly overdone, leaving you listening to messages that go for the surface snap of approval rather than too much depth, but in a 5 minute lyrical message, you hardly expect Tolstoy.

During the course of writing this review, it became quite apparent that if I went track by track, I’d be writing a commentary; this should be a compliment! There is a lot of material in here and it’s not up to me to preach its messages or arrogantly tell you I can explain them for you, however much I might side with them. Television, The Drug of the Nation is seemingly the most lauded of the tracks and really does cast the spotlight on modern day attitudes with the media even though its message may seem a little dated. I say this but it’s truly a great fun listen for anyone remotely critical of the media, even those who aren’t.

The styles in this album are fairly flexible too, and I don’t think I got that across. Hell, holy crap, just listen to Music And Politics; it’s self critical, insightful and set a fantastic jazz backing, which just lulled me into a pleasant thought-space that has one sitting there, drifting and lost in the poetry. My god I’m a ponse…

Is this album for you?

I feel a little uneasy when I write this section if I don’t think I’ve got my thoughts fully across. This album is razor sharp with wit and really indulgent with style. If you don’t like political music, this may just be about enough to change your mind because you get so much entertainment and discussion from it! The general music bumbler wouldn’t get on with it, but it’s a good album that can take you if you like anything that’s slightly off-beat. It’s actually incredibly good for those on the fringes of rap or political pieces.

Scores

  • Writing: 8.5/10
  • Performance: 7/10
  • Style: 8.5/10

 

Posted in Music, Weekly Album Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ghost People — Martyn — W.A.C.#4

12inch_gatefold.indd

Ghost People

My thoughts

Knowing the distaste some people have for electronic dance music, I was rather pleased that Ghost People classes as dubstep. I make this statement because the name of the genre alone tends to gather the group of purists eagerly in and blasts the non-fans a country mile away. By this I mean, you might be grimacing reading my review of techno, but you’ve fled for dubstep.

We’ve moved on a bit since my Benga review in Week 2; Martyn’s sound is more ambient and by-the-numbers than Diary of an Afro Warrior, which seemed like it would be able to persuade a crowd to do anything it wanted. Certainly, it’s less visceral, less deep but it’s more broad, mixing a heck of a lot of techno sounds in there.

Viper, the first main track, opts for its heavy bass line and by rights I should be telling you it’s a set up for what’s to come, I say that a lot… but it isn’t. What starts here dissolves into a completely different sound on the next track, Masks, and it feels you’ve hopped a time-warp back a few years… “ah… there’s the dubstep…” subtle at first but soon it’s painting the track.

We continue in this vibe with Distortions, another techno based track that to be honest is just easy listening – it’s one of those late night club numbers that keep people on the dance floor in a nice tempered way. Yes it doesn’t change much but, as I said in previous reviews, you have to exam when a track is to be used and it fully serves its purpose. Popgun on the other end really takes the deeper side, with a pulsing dubstep bass that achieves more of the same. I’d almost partner the two tracks together just to see how club music really moves into the visceral moving sound that keeps people there for hours.

The titular track has a lovely little vibe that just continues a flowing trend and herein lies our takeaway. This is functional club music and its good stuff too. If you’re here to find the musical devices that show a level of astonishing insight, you will be out of luck. If you are here for functional, precise and well produced music, this is the place for you. But… how do I win you over by saying its unastonishing and functional? We’ll get back to that…

Bauplan is a winner to me, with it’s strong, defined bass and really very pretty mix of sounds. Probably one of the tracks to recommend this album. It doesn’t have a whacking great drop or an overly surprising sound at this stage but it just works. That’s it, it keeps working.

The final track, We Are You In The Future does pull out a few more stops and actually gets things moving a bit more. I know it’s the closer but it earns the place well. If you’re going to listen to one track and are a fan of this sound, this the track for you. It’s darker, more pulsing and just an all round real club number. These are tracks to mix in to enrich your library and any DJ will have bags to work with in this set.

So there’s the conclusion, this is dance music that you can really do anything with, its a collection of tracks you can mix or that stand well in their own right.

Is this album for you?

Honestly, if this electronic dance music isn’t your thing, this album is not here to convert you but it really is a well made, sharp and great album to listen to. I would definitely say give it a listen if you are into anything similar in sound. This will be a good one to stick in your library.

Scores

  • Writing: 8.5/10
  • Performance: 6.5/10 (a bit of variety lacking)
  • Style: 8/10

 

 

Posted in Music, Weekly Album Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another shock Hiatus

Well i had a few things on and then I went on holiday – let’s finish “week” 4 and pick up for the old pace with week 5. Martyn follows…

Posted in Announcement | Leave a comment