Archive for the ‘Portishead’ Category

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Portishead – Third

Friday, November 23, 2012
Third (2007)

Third (2007)

This is one of those rare examples of an artist coming back after 10+ years and completely hitting the mark.

Third just might be Portishead’s best work. Why? It’s true of every Portishead album, but there is not a bad track, and Third contains Portishead’s best track, in close contention with “Roads” – “The Rip”.

Like every Portishead released, Third explores themes of alienation, pain, and anger with such alarming beauty. It is a bit experimental compared to Dummy, and maybe less so than Portisheadbut Portishead will always be one of my favorite groups. Beth Gibbons lyrics are pure poetry – only she could pen something so absolutely chilling with such earnest warmth. This is especially evident on “Nylon Smile”: And I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve you / And I don’t know what I’d do without you. “The Rip:” In my thoughts I have bled / for the riddles I’ve been fed / another lie moves over.

More than most other artists, Portishead creates this dark ambiance that is hard to qualify with words. Listening is always a wonderfully cathartic experience; when we hear our own fears voiced and explored in Portishead, it’s strangely peaceful. I guess like falling into deep water, to reference the track of the same name?

All I can say is, I really hope they release another.

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The Art Of Making An Awesome Mix CD

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nothing is awesomer than an amazing mix CD.  And I came up with an awesome one. At least, for me, it’s awesome. I think it’s an extension of my psyche, and anyone who is just like me should love it too!

Almost all, coincidentally, come from bands I’ve reviewed for my blog, in some form or another.  Of course, it’s not perfect (there’s no such thing as a perfect mix CD – Johnny Banks of Iowa claimed to have made one in 1978, but before it could be heard, it was tragically eaten by his pigs.)

Here is my mix, and beneath the track listing, I will explain why it’s so awesome.

1. “The Bandit” -The Starlight Mints
2. “Triple Fascination” – The Listening
3. “Lazarus” – Porcupine Tree
4. “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” – Modest Mouse
5. “Here Comes Your Man” – Pixies
6. “So Real” – Jeff Buckley
7. “Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid)” – Sufjan Stevens
8. “A Lack of Color” – Death Cab for Cutie
9. “Roads” – Portishead
10. “Untiled” – Sigur Rós
11. “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” – Radiohead
12. “Mexico” – Incubus
13. “Jesus, Etc.” – Wilco
14. “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” – Gustav Holst

Now, I will go into the logic behind making a mix CD. Here are some of the basic rules:

1. The mix CD can never stop or end with a lead track or closing track from an album. For example, I could not start this mix CD with “Airbag” off Radiohead’s OK Computer, since that is the lead track from that album. Likewise, I cannot end it with Sonic Youth’s “The Trilogy” off Daydream Nation, since that album ends with that track. Otherwise, it just feels like your listening to that particular album, thus defeating the purpose of a mix CD.

Notice, then, with my track selection, I chose my lead song to be “The Bandit” by the Starlight Mints, which is track two off their album The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of. This was an awesome choice because the song is upbeat and gives energy, enticing the listener to listen further. Only in the rarest of circumstances do you start a mix CD with a slow, soft, or track that’s a downer, but we’ll get to that later.

In a similar vein, I chose my closing track to be “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity,” by Gustav Holst from his Planets suite. This was a wise choice, because “Jupiter” is in the middle of the suite, yet the piece can also stand on its own. Also, being so glorious sounding makes it conducive to be the ending of a great mix CD, although to some professional CD mixers, this choice might seem a little cliché.  Regardless, it is important to end the mix CD as strong as you started it, if not stronger, in a vainglorious way if at all possible. I am hard-pressed to think of a more epic sounding song than “Jupiter.” (If you haven’t heard it, listen to it! It rocks!)

2. The songs must flow well! Each and every song on my mix CD must blend reasonably well into the next. If you notice my selection above, I would argue that some of my choices are just pure genius, in particular, the transition from Radiohead’s “Street Spirit” into “Mexico.” Both are guitar-picked songs, and both sound like they are in a similar key). By the way, it’s always good for the next song’s first note to either be the same as the previous song’s last note, or at least in the same key. Usually you can tell if you’re ear is good enough – though not necessary, it’s a nice touch.

This also works for similar instruments. Note how strings conclude Wilco’s “Jesus Etc.,” which blends very well into Holst’s strings at the start of “Jupiter. More often than not, a good mix CD has tracks that blend well together, either through similar instruments, keys, distortion, or any other similarity.

3. Having the same two bands in a row is almost always a tacky decision, defeating the purpose of having a mix CD. Similar to this is having two songs from the same band on the mix CD, though you can get away with this more often. If you opt to do this, make sure that these songs showcase different styles for the band. For example, to use Radiohead again as an example, I could pick “Exit Music,” a nice acoustic number by them, and accompany this with “Backdrifts,” a mostly electric song by them using strange chord progressions.

4.  Try not to have all your songs have a similar feel, musicality, or theme. This also defeats the purpose of making a mix CD. The challenge of making an awesome mix CD comes with having plenty of variety form different bands, but still making it flow logically. An exception to this rule is if you’re making a “greatest hits” CD of a certain band, or an eighties themed post-punk CD, or a childhood guilty pleasures CD.

5.  Try to start lighthearted and happy before getting more serious. Try also to end on a light note, so the listener goes away feeling good. It’s the same with writing a book. There needs to be a hook, but it also has to end well or the reader will feel cheated. It’s the same with a great mix CD. Ask yourself: what do I want the listener to feel from the first notes of the first song? And what do I want them to walk away with? Like a good book, save all the heavy conflict, breakups, and drama for the middle. While I didn’t really have the foresight to do it with my mix CD above, try to have songs following your depressing songs that are sort of an answer to them in a positive way, thus making the sun shine over a dark and weary land, so to speak. Notice how in my example of a mix CD, I’ve incorporated all my heavy and depressing songs toward the CD’s middle. Notice how blatantly happy my last track is…I mean, the word “jollity” is in the song’s title! And the happiness of the sickly sweet Starlight Mints song speaks for itself.

6. The sixth rule is the hardest of all – don’t be so rule-bound! If all your mix CD’s follow a formula, than this, too, means that they aren’t a truly mix CDs. There has to be some sort of randomness to it. And keep in mind that once you get better, you’ll learn how to bend and break the rules at the right moments, thus becoming a Mozart or John Coltrane of making mix CDs.

I hope this essay has helped enlighten you on how to make an awesome mix CD. Next time, when you’re at a loss for what to put after that weird TV on the Radio song or just why your mix CD isn’t flowing right, I hope you’ll remember these rules and right your paths on the road of CD mixdom!

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Portishead – Dummy

Monday, February 2, 2009
Dummy (1994)

Dummy (1994)

I got this a couple weeks ago when I went with my friend to Hastings. It was a six dollar gamble, considering Portishead was a band I’ve heard of but never actually heard.

I asked my friend to put it in his CD player in the car on the way back. He picked the most depressing sounding song on the album, “Numb” (he’s kind of emo).

We really dug it – I didn’t expect the heavy bassline and beats. My friend commented that is sounded like hip-hop (I later found out i’ts called trip-hop, but to anyone reading this that’s probably not a new thing.)

Then came the voice. Holy crap, it’s a girl! Yes, that was the general reaction.

The genral vibe of Dummy is sort of spooky, yet simelteneously strangely relaxing and warm. My friend agreed, although more on the spooky side.

Anyway, in the two weeks since, I’ve probably listened to Dummy ten times or so, which is actually saying a lot since I go through new music pretty fast. The last album I remember getting that kind of attention was Depeche Mode’s Violator, which I bought last summer.

I haven’t had time to fully explore the album, but I just want to mention that “Roads” is quite possibly one the most haunting and beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. If you have not heard this song, you’re missing out on one the greastest musical creations of the nineties, no contest. Incredibly powerful and powerfully simple, “Roads” really hits me deep.

Sorry to end this so abruptyly here, but I posted a video of “Roads” below, which has something like two and half million views. So it’s a very cool song.