Archive for March 28th, 2010

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Porcupine Tree Signify

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Signify (1996)

Last winter, I listened to a lot of Porcupine Tree. I listened to, for the first time, Signify, Lightbulb Sun, and Stupid Dream. Of these, I probably like Signify the best.

I always remember winter when I listen to Signify, mostly because it was the default as I drove to work each day in ice and snow. And it is a suiting winter album.

I think and feel several things when I listen to Signify. The themes are usually bleak, dealing with disconnect and numbness. The lyrics ask haunting questions, such as “Where will be when the future comes?” It expresses discontent and anger toward religion and those use it for power, perhaps even outrightly condemning religion itself.

But musically, this is Porcupine Tree at their best, and they’re at their best quite often. If you’re used to In Absentia or Deadwing era Porcupine Tree, as I was, the style might take some getting used to. After all, it was composed in 1996, six years before In Absentia. But they rock as hard as ever and sound quintessentially Porucpine Tree. This album is host to several classics, such as “Sleep of No Dreaming,” “Sever,” “Idiot Prayer,” and “Dark Matter.”

This is one of those rare albums that’s good from start to finish. The message isn’t very good, expressing bleak discontent and outright negativity that could be depression-inducing at times, aided by the minor key tonality. It is certainly haunting and even creepy at points. But it’s Porcupine Tree and that’s to be expected. Just be aware that the album will deal with dark themes that it doesn’t attempt to answer positively.

Signify is a good album. Porcupine Tree is a highly talented band, and this album is worth a listen, if only for its outstanding musicality.

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Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ágætis byrjun (1999)

Ágætis byrjun is among the most beautiful music I’ve heard.

It whispers, it shouts, it thunders, it flows like clear, cold water. Sorry for the metaphor binge, but I can’t describe it literally.

I might not understand the words (because they’re in Icelandic). But the best music speaks without words.

Ágætis byrjun is that rare album that ceases to be mere entertainment and achieves art. It’s spiritual, lifting your soul to the clouds, reminding you that life and the world is beautiful. Its melodies are like memories from childhood, almost forgotten. It reminds me of when I saw the world through magical eyes, where anything and everything was possible, where love came as naturally as breathing.

I have a hard time describing what this music does to me. At the risk of sounding crazy, sometimes before falling asleep, I hear the most beautiful music in my mind. I could never remember it or write this music down. I just enjoy it while it’s still there, and maybe when I go to Heaven I can write it down. I know that probably sounds stupid, but that is the closest comparison I can find. I guess angels’ song also works.

Perhaps this music speaks to you, too. Maybe you feel the same about it. Maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s just some guy (yes, it’s a guy) singing unnaturally high, orchestrating the notes in such a way to go for the cheap emotional knockout. But that’s sort of what I love about this album – the pure emotion of it.

And isn’t that what good music is supposed to do, anyway?