Posts Tagged ‘2000s’

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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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Amy Winehouse – Back to Black

Monday, November 19, 2012
Back to Black (2006)

Back to Black (2006)

Amy, Amy, Amy…

It’s been over a year now, and I’m still listening to you. I’ve listened to Back to Black at least once a week since “it” happened. There is not a single bad track.

Yes, I know that “you are no good,” but really, you are very, very good. This album can be deceptive. A few listens, and anyone can catch all the surface meanings. But if you dig deep, you realize how much of a poet Amy was. Especially in “You Know I’m No Good,” “Back to Black,” and “Wake Up Alone,” she captures the longing and despair of love so well that it is uncanny. She puts you there, in the situation and moment, that you can’t help but feel along with her and get a taste of what we’ve all been through. All I have to do is change all the pronouns to “she,” and it feels like she’s singing about me.

That’s what’s great about Amy – she’s utterly relatable. And then, there are the hooks and the catchy melodies that will not be able to be replicated by anyone else. I loved Amy for her brutal honesty, her grittiness, her not being afraid to be real and call it how it was. I was hoping for a couple more albums out of her. I had to settle for Lioness: Hidden Treasures, I guess. Still, Amy’s leftovers are better than Adele’s chart-toppers (sorry, but that comparison was inevitable).

As a fan of jazz, I could not ask for more out of a songwriter. Hell, even Frank was amazing, but Back to Black was her masterpiece. It deserves all the hype it gets, and more.

Thanks, Amy. You are still missed, by at least this fan.

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Arcade Fire – Funeral

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Funeral (2004)

This is one of the only albums I can think of (maybe the only one) that infuses and intermixes happiness, sadness, childhood memories, and intensity that can be, at the same time, uplifting and heartbreaking, mysterious, and so full of love. This is an album, every time I listen to it (because no matter how many times I listen to it, it never gets old, but is always new, like love), that it fills me with every emotion known to man and nothing contradicts. It draws out in me a longing that the Germans call sehnsucht. It’s like trying to remember the best dream in the world, but failing, having the perfect thought or realization, but being unable to wrap your mind around it or put it into practice, or the way you feel when you remember what it was like to look into the eyes of your loved one who is now gone, for whatever reason.

This album represents everything that is beautiful to me – about finding beauty in the unexpected. It’s like I realize that life doesn’t make sense, and that’s okay for some weird reason. I think, most of all, it reminds me of childhood, when we were too young to realize that our dreams were impossible, and because of this, they were possible. I remember, when I was a child, I liked to try to write books and draw pictures and pretend, and everything was fresh and new – where the forest by my house, probably just an acre in size, might as well have been the dark forest of ancient Germany that would take days to explore and tromp around in. It reminds me of my first loves, my first crushes, the awkwardness and beauty of growing up, the tragedy of growing up, and the slow pains of what it is to lose your childhood and innocence, and the loss of pure friendships, which seem to become harder and harder to find as one grows older (when one’s heart grows colder, and when you can’t see that it’s still alive).

That’s what Funeral is to me. It’s like when you grow up and become an adult, there’s a funeral held for your childhood, and you’re the only one that’s invited, looking at your coffin being carried out by the ghosts of your dreams, which are buried with it. Society expects you to put away your childhood and be the perfect adult, and not do anything “childish,” like pretend, love, or laugh too much, or blow milk out of your nose for fun, or what have you, so you can become crotchety old man or woman who frowns upon young upstarts who do the same thing. But in Arcade Fire and with Funeral, there is this duality of joy and loss, of remembering childhood and all its possibilities, and looking back and realizing that things can never be the same. It’s like how the greatest misery is rehearsing memories of happiness , realizing that all those things you were no longer are. I love this album, and within each song, so brilliantly written and executed, I hear echoes of the human soul that is evident throughout all ages, of our struggles and beauty, longings, and love.

Funeral, to me, is a reminder that life is as beautiful and lovely as it is sad. It is not one, or the other, but both. What’s weird is I have all these impressions, and I’ve only been listening to this for a short while (perhaps a month or two). This is one of those rare albums where I love every song – I have no favorite, and each speaks to me in a different way. From the excitement of Neighborhood 1, to learning how to try (for all your life), I love this album. That is all I can say. What’s strange is – I have yet to listen to anything else by Arcade Fire – and even if I never did for the rest of my life, I would be completely happy knowing this album. It’s like when I listen to it, I’m drunk on it, and is a complete and utter eargasm (nay – a DOUBLE eargasm). Yeah. That’s right.

On that note…yeah! I don’t just love this album – I’m in love with it. And I hope the magic never fades.

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Jay-Z – The Black Album

Friday, August 26, 2011
The Black Album (2003)

The Black Album (2003)

Last Sunday I bought this, doubling my hip hop collection. Kind of sad? Yes. Obviously, I’m not that into rap, and that’s a damn shame. It’s taken me a while to check out what is, arguably, the most popular genre of music in America.

Other than Illmatic and some of the more really popular songs that come on the radio (the ones so popular that I’d literally have to be living under a rock or willfully ignoring them to not know they exist), my knowledge of rap is near zero. It’s just never appealed to me. I’ve always been a rocker/indie type at core.

But if The Black Album is any indication, I’m missing out on quite a lot. Now I want to dig deeper, not only into Jay-Z, but other rappers, too.

I’ve been told that this is not Jay-Z at his best, but after a week of listening to it, I really like what I hear  – and if this is not his best, then I’m really looking forward to his earlier stuff. I already have some favorite tracks – “Moment of Clarity,” “What More Can I Say,” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” being some.

I like The Black Album, because it’s easily accessible to a newbie like me. It’s something I can instantly like and get into. I love how Jay-Z blends pop and rap together – making this album just fun to listen to.  Oh yeah, and the lyrics are great (for the most part). As a man of words, I’m surprised it’s taken me so long to check out music where words are the main emphasis. This album is  a pleasure to listen to.

I also picked up The Chronic by Dr. Dre – so rest assured – I hope to review some more rap pretty soon, including Illmatic. Figured I’d start with the classics to have a good base. As my appreciation and knowledge for it grow, hopefully the reviews will get a little better as well.

Also, if you have any recommendations for stuff to review – post it below. I’m always looking for new music.

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Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone

Thursday, April 1, 2010

All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone (2007)

Three years ago, on April 1, I waited in line to see Explosions in the Sky play in Norman, Oklahoma. Anticipation was high. I was a freshman, and the whole world was before me. Finally, after all this time, I would at last see one of my favorite bands live.

Yet disaster struck, because they sold out. I was told by a friend they would have plenty of tickets, so I didn’t go Ticketmaster. I guess you could say I was fooled on this worst of days. April truly is the cruelest month…

Anyway, I couldn’t decide what album to review, so I decided on this. Today, I’m not as into Explosions in the Sky as I once was. Which might seem kind of weird, because the album art is my profile picture thing. I really like the album art for this one.

But for a while there, I listened to Explosions way too much. All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone I would often listen to while falling asleep. The music is peaceful and transcendent, the kind of stuff one would expect to hear in the post-rock genre. But while it is nice to listen to, and is very pretty, it really doesn’t try anything new. It’s musically similar to their previous album, The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place.

But other than that, All of a Sudden… is solid, depending on the mood I’m in. Sometimes, I find Explosions in the Sky hopelessly boring. But other times, when the mood strikes, I’ll put them on and it’s very relaxing and helps me concentrate on working – whether it’s homework, writing, whatever. They’re great background music, and when they’re at their best, can be very emotionally moving.

The only song on the album that moves me is probably “The Birth and Death of the Day.” It begins soft, and then explodes in melody, like the sun creeping above the horizon, banishing night for another day. The post-rock genre thrives on creating mood – and nowhere else on this album does Explosions do it more successfully than on this song.

The rest of the tracks are good – but merely good. Nice to listen to, but nothing too special.

Today, I’m not the adorer of this band I once was. But still, I respect their talent, and I’ll remember the nostalgia. Their best songs are breathtaking – but more often than not on All of a Sudden, Explosions doesn’t live up to their potential.

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Kayo Dot – Choirs of the Eye

Monday, March 29, 2010

Choirs of the Eye (2003)

This has to be the weirdest, most confusing album I own.

And where to start?

Extremely experimental meets post-rock meets classical meets jazz meets metal. None of those things should go together. But somehow, Kayo Dot have managed to do it. Whether that leaves you with something listenable is debatable. Personally, it leaves me dumbfounded that it has been done so well.

I got Choirs of the Eye because I’m such a huge fan of maudlin of the Well. I was expecting much of the same. While there are some similarities, Kayo Dot takes it to a whole new level of experimentation and challenge.

I’ve owned this music two and a half years. To this day, I haven’t wrapped my mind around  it. The music is an explosion of every instrument imaginable, from trombone to flute to heavily distorted guitars to strings to drums. It’s violence cuts, its numbness subdues, its ethereal beauty entrances. Like other maudlin of the Well music, the lyrics are sheer poetry, when you can understand what Driver is saying. He croons like Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke (though is not as talented as either).

But it isn’t for the singing that you listen to Kayo Dot. It’s the fact that it’s insane, not only for its extreme intensity, but also for its laid back moments where it almost grooves, lulling you into false sense of security before it blows up on you again.

Choirs of the Eye, at least for me, is a musical challenge unlike any other. What it accomplishes has likely never been done before. Sure, there is avant-garde music. Maybe there’s even avant-garde music that’s been blended with metal, jazz, and classical. But I doubt that it’s been done with as much success as Kayo Dot did with Choirs of the Eye.

Before listening to Choirs of the Eye, I never would have believed music like this could exist. For at least this one thing I can consider Kayo Dot’s Choirs of the Eye a success.

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Sigur Rós – ( )

Monday, March 29, 2010

( ) (2002)

If Ágætis byrjun were Spring and melting snow and rushing rivers, then ( ) would be Fall and glaciers encroaching their icy claws over an already icy land.

Sigur Rós slows down here. The music exchanges the extreme range of emotion of Ágætis byrjun for the deep melancholy of ( ). This work is sadder, and deeper. If Ágætis byrjun were joyful exuberance, then ( ) is sorrowful wisdom. If Ágætis byrjun were youth and dancing, then ( ) is regret and old age.

The music is minimalistic in comparison, and shows another side of Sigur Rós’ brilliance. The music has a cold and haunting quality, like the year’s first rush of cold wind. It numbs and freezes you with its strains of sorrow.

Like Ágætis byrjun, ( ) strikes deep into my soul. The notes eerily describe how I often feel. But unlike Ágætis byrjun, it strikes solely into feelings we do our best to avoid – like sadness and pain and distance from a world that always seems to be going the other way. There’s the feeling of a scaling a beautiful, snow-capped mountain, hoping to see a promised land beyond of eternal spring, but instead of only finding a desert of ice.

( ) might be too bleak for some people’s tastes. But it is bleakly honest. To me, it’s about searching and searching, yet coming up short. It’s always trying to find home, telling ourselves it’s beyond the next mountain range. And then the next, and then the next, and then the next…

Maybe this sounds too depressing for you. But when describing this album, it’s impossible for me to do otherwise. And I think we mature when we contemplate the hard questions and enter the house of mourning rather than the house of feasting.

This album will mean different things to different people, making it all the more difficult to describe. But one thing is for certain – if this music enters you, it will get you thinking and feeling. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’ll leave for you.