Posts Tagged ‘1990s’

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PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love

Monday, November 19, 2012
To Bring You My Love (1995)

To Bring You My Love (1995)

Until a couple months ago, had never listened to PJ Harvey and honestly had no plans to. I gave Let England Shake a listen when it first came out because of the hype, and wasn’t ready for something so experimental.

Since that time two months ago, PJ has really started to grow on me – especially with her 1995 album, To Bring You My Love.

I was completely blown away the first time I listened. For those who are tired of frilly, vapid, girlish pop music that now permeates the music scene, PJ Harvey is the adequate cure. She goes to dark gritty places in her lyrics, and the voice and timbre of the instrumentation perfectly compliments themes of God and Hell and sex and the perverse.

It is clear that I and PJ (may I call her that?) have been strangers for way too long. She easily one of the most talented and versatile songwriters of recent times, and her vocal range, especially the lows, are very impressive. Her singing style is frantic and suffocating, and it works so well on this album and sets her apart from others.

It is easy to see why she is beloved by so many: she has followed her own path and made the music that she wanted to make, convention be damned. So far, of the four albums I’ve listened to this one is my favorite. This is one of those albums that goes deep enough to warrant many listens.

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Nas – Illmatic

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Illmatic (1994)

I like hip hop, but when I listen to Nas, I love hip hop.  I get that surreal feeling the most when I listen to N.Y. State of Mind.” It leaves me speechless, stunned, and floored every time I listen to it. It’s the perfect rap song – word play, rhymes, beats, production, and most importantly, truth and poetry combine and hit you like an emotional sledgehammer.

I reviewed Jay-Z last week, and nothing of that can compare to this. There is no pop here – it’s all hip hop, the bare bones and roots. The rhythm of Nas’s lines catch you from the moment he says “Rappers I monkey flip em with the funky rhythm I be kickin, Musician, inflictin composition.” It’s not just rhymes, its flow, pentameter, internal rhymes – all that stuff you learned in English class.

Though the rapping itself is beautiful, the subject is bleak. Nas paints stark reality with words and does not apologize for it. He doesn’t just allude to life on the streets like so many rappers do -the entire song is a series of stories that puts you there in N.Y.’s gritty reality . Nas raps about losing innocence, violence, pain, and the sad reality of the human condition. I am convinced that people in the future, if they don’t already, are going to analyze the shit out of this song.

There are many amazing lines, but just to pick a few:

“I got so many rhymes I don’t think I’m too sane,

Life is parallel to Hell but I must maintain,

and be prosperous.”

“It drops deep as it does in my breath

I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death

Beyond the walls of intelligence, life is defined

I think of crime when I’m in a New York state of mind.”

“I’m taking rappers to a new plateau, through rap slow,

My rhymin’s like a vitamin, hell without a capsule.”

The other tracks are great, too, but nothing compares to “N.Y. State of Mind.” “Life’s a Bitch,” is good, and sums up existentialism in a few words: “Life’s a bitch and then you die, that’s why we get high, cause you never know when you’re gonna go.” Depressing as hell, but that’s what Illmatic is – one way of looking at reality. “The World is Yours” is also very good.

Sadly, it goes downhill from there, at least for me. Maybe I just need to listen to it more.

If you guys know of any other albums that will floor me like this one, please post them below. My favorite thing about rap is probably clever lyricism and delivery, which is probably why I like this one so much – so if you know anything like that, let me know about it in the comments section. I want to continue exploring this genre.

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Radiohead – The Bends

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The Bends (1995)

The Bends (1995)

I think of a lot a words at the mention of The Bends. Nostalgia is one of them. Old friends I don’t really see anymore (sad face). Angst? I don’t know. Maybe that’s too cliche and teenagery. But one thing’s for sure – it was (and is)  an album that was (and is) really important to me, especially during my freshman year of college. All of Radiohead was like that for me in that pivotal time in life, when I was discovering a lot of different things, including a more mature taste in music.

I know I’ve reviewed Radiohead to death on this site, but there’s a reason for that. I listened to this band so much my freshman year of college (and a lot beyond as well) that I’m sure they have become a permanent part of my soul. I don’t know how healthy that is, but that sounds about right to me. It’s even to the point that you can quote one line from just about any of their songs (exluding B-sides) and I would probably be able to tell you not only what song it is, but a lot about that particular song and what exactly it means to me. Each song or album evokes a very distinct feeling/thought process within me and makes me all misty-eyed if I don’t stop myself. It’s kind of weird, and even freaks me out a bit writing about it.

But anyway, tangent. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to this album. Well over a hundred. And listening to each song evokes a certain feeling of sadness in me, for some reason. Something  sublime and completely indescribable. This is Radiohead beginning at their best. The sadness, I guess, comes from such bleak lyrics as “Everything is/broken, Everyone is/broken,” “I want to live, breathe, I want to be part of the human race.” And those are just the first two songs. I don’t want to say it’s depressing. Unlike other music that truly is depressing, Radiohead somehow transcends that. I really don’t know what magic allows it do that, and if I did, I guess it really wouldn’t be magic.

And of course, there’s “Fake Plastic Trees,” “My Iron Lung,” and “Street Spirit,” the latter being one of the main reasons I picked up a guitar. “Immerse your soul in love,” to this day, has to be one of my all time favorite song lyrics, and also a very good philosophy on life.

Well, I haven’t written on this blog for a while, so my writing feels a bit sloppy. But oh well. I love this band. I love this album. The end. Get it now if you don’t have it.

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Muse – Showbiz

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Showbiz (1999)

This is early Muse. Muse, before they delved into the dancey depths of despair, known as Black Holes and Revelations and The Resistance.

Now Showbiz isn’t Muse’s greatest effort, either. But it is a great effort. From “Sunburn” to “Unintended,” this album is pretty solid. That unfortunately is the extent of the good tracks on here (although I’m partial to “Escape”).

For Muse fans who are only turned on to their later output, or have figured this one isn’t worth picking up, hopefully I can change your mind. Muse is just a fun band, whatever era of theirs you pick. Even though I just bashed their last two releases, there’s still much to like about them.

The best moments of Showbiz soar into a stunning fusion of masterful piano and progressive alternative. Also soaring is Matthew Bellamy’s falsetto – which is entertaining in itself to listen to, although I’ve heard of people who find it very annoying.

Though good, Showbiz is far from being the most interesting Muse album. What interest it does hold only lasts for a short while. There are a few stellar tracks – “Sunburn,” “Muscle Museum,” “Cave,” and “Showbiz” come to mind – the last more for its extreme passion, intensity, and lack of control than anything else, which is guaranteed to get your heart pumping.

But Muse at this time is a band of great potential, still finding their voice and niche. They eventually found that it in Origin of Symmetry. But in Showbiz, you can catch shadows of the greatness to come. On the better tracks, you’ll be rocking as hard as you would to either “Citizen Erased,” “Micro Cuts,” or “Stockholm Syndrome.”

Well, almost as hard. Showbiz is a debut, after all, and it’s rare for a band to knock it out of the park on the first try. Or if they do knock it out of the park, they end up striking out every other time. But for a debut, Showbiz is great, hinting that the best was yet to come.

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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?

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Nirvana – Nevermind

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Nevermind (1991)

This is the most redundant review ever. But whatever.

I never really got into Nirvana. Of the Seattle Four (Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam), they probably rank third, after Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. But they are an interesting group, if only for the drama itself.

Only being 22, I don’t have the memories of the Grunge Age like people a decade older than me.  So I could never understand this band fully, or the influence and obsession associated with them.

But what I do understand are the melodies.

Not since the Beatles have I heard so many melodies on one album kept so simple yet so unique. That was one of the Beatles’ strength, and this was definitely Nirvana’s strength. The music is instantly recognizable and enjoyable, and, like the Beatles, will be listened to twenty or thirty years from now. It only takes one listen to understand emotionally somewhere where we’ve all been, even if we can’t understand it in our minds.

Because at one time we were all young. Most of us had that undirected anger and angst. At least, I did. I think Nirvana exemplified that understanding, singing feelings we couldn’t put into words.

Maybe I’m just trying to encourage the cliche of connecting Nevermind to teenage angst in a review. After all, no review of this album would be complete without it.

So that’s what this album is to me. It’s angry, it’s sorrowful, and instantly relatable. I don’t know what it taps into that gives it such a following, but perhaps it’s these feelings. I’m no psychologist, so I’ll stop trying to be one. I guess for me, it will always be the melodies of Nevermind that I’ll remember.

I’ll remember that famous opening riff of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I’ll remember the mocking tone of “In Bloom.” I’ll remember the bounce of “Come As You Are,” the reckless abandon of “Territorial Pissings,” the haunting sorrow of “Something in the Way,” among others.

This is apparently the album of Generation X. But to me, it’s not really that, because I wasn’t there. To me, it’s just music with a catchy melody that just so happened to change the world.