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#126 – Remain in Light (Talking Heads)

In 150-125, Top 150 on June 28, 2011 at 10:00 am

Album Art (October 8, 1980)

I instantly loved this unique, funk and Afrobeat-inspired album. Talking Heads worked with renowned producer Brian Eno and wanted to get rid of the idea of a single frontman for this album. They wanted to explore new rhythms and beats for this record and from what I’ve read it was an incredibly experimental process. Working with Eno, the Talking Heads used looping when it wasn’t really available, and record loops for their recording sessions and jamming. One of the members of the band would forget lyrics, and was inspired by African singers, who just make up new ones when they forget the lyrics, which sometimes turned into more of a scat. Either way, this process was unique for the band and rid of most of their own recording conventions.

Track Listing

Side One

  1. Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
  2. Crosseyed and Painless
  3. The Great Curve
Side Two
  1. Once in a Lifetime
  2. Houses in Motion
  3. Seen and Not Seen
  4. Listening Wind
  5. The Overload
This album has great diversity in the tracks, and I love the blending of genres in different tracks. The first track, “Born Under Punches” has a peppy, funk-rock groove to it which starts the record with energy, and is contrasted with lyrics that have a bit of a haunting sound to them. Its funny, when I was younger the first thing that I really listened to in a song was the instrumentation, as opposed to the lyrics. I had a good friend who only really listened to the lyrics and didn’t notice the subtleties in the music. She thought I was nuts for not noticing lyrics. But there is so much to be heard besides the lyrics in a song, and especially when the lyrics of the song are kind of stream of consciousness, without a really clear meaning to them. The lyrics for Remain in Light create an overall feeling, and I know there is some meaning to the lyrics, but I think the overall priority for this album was not necessarily writing lyrics for the sake of lyrics, but creating a soundscape of different energies and different feelings. As a result, its a very exploratory sound and very inquisitive. Its fun to listen to.
There is a real driving force behind the entire album, which might be the drums and percussion in the background, but also the repetitive (possibly looped?) electric guitar riffs that are hammered out almost non-stop on many of the tracks.  What I love about this album is that there is this positive energy to it. Even the tracks that have a bit of a haunting sound still are overcome with the sound of really free-spirited, discovery-filled joy. And I think that’s a great example of how it probably felt recording such a unique album, and stripping down a standard recording process to start something new.
My favourite track is “Once in a Lifetime”. I think I’ve heard it before. Maybe on the radio or something. But its got a really upbeat sound, and the lyrics talk about realizing, all of a sudden, where you are in life and wondering how you got there. Its just got a cool sound.
Check this album out. I really, really dig it. Its different than any other album I’ve listened to on the top 150 so far, but its one of my new favourites. Thanks, Talking Heads!

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