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Movin Slowly (Figaro)

In current listenings, tracks to listen to on September 6, 2013 at 11:55 am

The trio calling themselves Figaro have released this cool and cleanly produced track, “Movin Slowly” and within the first few minutes of the tune, I knew it had something a little special to it. It’s got enough of an edge to have a great rock sound that references classic rock guitar riffs. But again, that’s all balanced with the clean production, a la Vampire Weekend.

Very cool sound, and definitely worth a listen. You can also download the track from their Soundcloud account!

#98 – This Year’s Model (Elvis Costello)

In 99-75, Top 150 on June 26, 2013 at 11:38 pm

 

Elvis Costello. His music sounds like his look. A bit unassuming, with a quirky style and slight eccentricity. This Year’s Model is his second album with The Attractions backing him up, a 1978 release that has been critically acclaimed.

As usual, my first few listens to this album didn’t really sit well with me, but as I listened to it more and more I realized that this album still has a current sound. For a 1978 release, its incredibly contemporary. Its got an intentional sound that is precise, skilled, and really makes me appreciate the talent of Costello and his crew. And yes, with songs like “Pump It Up” and the rock-organ that underscores much of the track, you can easily place the music in the late 70s, early 80s. It captures some of the wild, loose sounds of the psychedelic era and refines it into a sound that is equally expressive but almost sounds more controlled.

What sticks out to me more than anything else on this album is the sex-charged undertones. But I suppose with an album title like This Year’s Model, what should I expect, right? It just amazes me because beneath the upbeat, light, jazz-pop sounds, there are lyrics like “I don’t want to be a lover / I just want to be a victim” (from “The Beat”). I mean come on, Mr. Costello! But I guess that’s part of what adds to his music, in particular this album. Its charged with passion that’s exciting to experience, whether you listen to the lyrics or not.

The more I listen to this album, the more I appreciate it. It might actually become part of my regular listening repertoire, that’s how much I’m enjoying it right now. Really cool to listen to some of his earlier music.

Track Listing

Side One

  1. No Action
  2. This Year’s Girl
  3. The Beat
  4. Pump It Up
  5. Little Triggers
  6. You Belong To Me

Side Two

  1. Hand In Hand
  2. Lip Service
  3. Living In Paradise
  4. Lipstick Vogue
  5. Night Rally

#101 – Fresh Cream (Cream)

In 124-100, Top 150 on November 2, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Okay, it’s been way too long since I’ve posted anything. Truthfully, I’ve listened to this album, Fresh Cream, a few times, but didn’t know what to write about it. And it’s definitely grown on me, as much of the music I’ve listened to does after a while.

So yes, Cream. This album was released in January 1967, although the UK version was released one month prior. It included one track that the US version does not. The US version includes the single, “I Feel Free”, where the UK version includes “Spoonful” instead. Just prior to the release of the UK album, “I Feel Free” was released as a single. For Cream, this album came as their debut record so it makes sense that it did well – it was released by a new supergroup of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker.

To me, the album is good, but not phenomenal. Yet, it’s rated higher than Disraeli Gears on the list of the greatest albums. “I Feel Free”, “Four Until Late” and “Toad” are my favorites tracks on the album. The other tracks seem a bit lack luster to me. I feel like the second side of the LP release is where the real magic starts to happen. It’s almost like the first half of the LP was a warm up until you flip the record over and get to hear the real juicy stuff on side two. And on the second side of the LP you really get a sense of diversity on the album. Ranging from the airy amp up anthem, “I Feel Free”, which starts off the entire album, to the country feeling in “Four Until Late”, to the more classic rock sound in “Toad”…this album definitely delivers a sense of diversity by the end.

Many of the tracks I really enjoy, but for some reason as an album, it doesn’t excite me. That said, it is an iconic album in history, and it’s driven by Eric Clapton’s incredible guitar and vocals. And something else cool about the release is that it was officially released in both stereo and mono recordings for LP. I would love to get my hands on one of those LPS and give it a good listen. Classic rock was made with analog sound and personally, I think it would sound even better with the warm and depth of that mode of sound, as opposed to mp3 or CD.

Anyway, I’m happy to listen to Cream, and I really dig Clapton, but this album isn’t one of my favorites and I’m okay with that.

Track Listing (US Release)
Side One
1. I Feel Free
2. N.S.U.
3. Sleepy Time Time
4. Dreaming
5. Sweet Wine

Side Two
1. Cat’s Squirrel
2. Four Until Late
3. Rollin’ and Tumblin’
4. I’m So Glad
5. Toad

#103 – Sweet Baby James (James Taylor)

In 124-100, Top 150 on July 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Released in February1970

In my home town, James Taylor was played (a lot, I should add) on the Easy Rock station. As a result, the music of James Taylor has always seemed a bit stiff to me. After listening to Sweet Baby James a few more times, and just sitting with it a bit and trying to understand it a bit more, it still felt a bit stagnant to me. What was I missing about this album?

I listened to it a few more times and started doing some reading, trying to gain a better understanding of the context within which this album was released. And that’s when I started to understand this album and its success. In a time dominated by music from The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, the stripped down sound of James Taylor probably felt like a breath of fresh air. It is totally breezy! Its simple and has space in every track that really lets you hear Taylor’s beautifully simplistic guitar and lyrical imagery.

In “Oh, Susannah” you can practically hear the wind rustling between notes.  “Sunny Skies” almost feels like it could be the opening of a 70s-version of the TV show ‘Friends”. Its got such an easy, upbeat feel to it. Most of the tracks on this album have a similar musical structure to them – and I don’t mean that in terms of the lyrical structure, I mean that in terms of the overall sound. The instrumentation and lyrics work together in a similar fashion for most of the tracks on this song. That said, “Steamroller” was a total shock to me when I heard it on the album. Its a bluesy-jazz tune with more vocal variations in one track than you can hear on the entire rest of the album. And I loved it! I was impressed that James Taylor, who I thought was just a nice, quiet man singing honestly about his troubles and his experiences, could put so much intensity into his vocals (a great example is when he sings “I’m a napalm bomb for ya baby”).

“Fire and Rain” is a song that I feel like everybody knows, and again, when I really started to listen to this song, I started to understand it on a much deeper level. Its immensely personal, referring to the loss of a friend (Suzanne) who committed suicide, as well as referencing his own personal struggles with depression and drug addiction. He also sings “sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground”, which is a mention of his work with The Flying Machine, which was a band that Taylor pursued a career with prior to his solo success with Peter Asher, Paul McCartney and Apple Records. Once I began to see the depth of this song, and recognize the personal stories that Taylor worked into his songs, his music became so much more meaningful to me.

To think that Sweet Baby James was released in 1970 in the midst of the pyschedelic rock era is amazing to me.  I still won’t say that its one of my favourites, but I do feel like I understand its musical significance in a very different way than I did before I decided to write about it. So that’s great news! Sweet Baby James has a totally different sound and honesty than any other music I’ve heard from the late 60s and early 70s.

#108 – Aftermath (The Rolling Stones)

In 124-100, Top 150 on April 16, 2012 at 1:17 pm

The British version of Aftermath was release in 1966 by Decca records, followed by the U.S. version. I listened to the U.S. version of the album, since that is what is listed on the Rolling Stone list of Top 500 Albums of All Time.

It was a bit of a strange experience for me listening to this album, because I listened to it with all the general knowledge of the Stones being a great rock band. So I approached it from a different, and I must admit, biased mindset. It was interesting for me though because at first, I didn’t love it. My first thoughts, admittedly, were a bit of disappointment. These songs seemed so simple to me, but not in an exciting and powerful way. I had more of a feeling of “That’s it?”, and thinking the songs sounded more amateur than I expected (I feel like I’m saying musical blasphemy here…).

The more I played the album start to finish, and really listened to it (as opposed to putting it on in the background), the more I began to like it. Even as I’m writing this, its playing and I’m realizing how some of the songs I am starting to love more and more. Right now, “Under My Thumb” is playing, and I just love the marimba riff in the background that has this mellowed out tonal quality that also lightly softens the sound of the song.

From my understanding, this album was notable at the time of release because of the musical diversity and experimentation. The marimbas on “Under My Thumb” are a great example, however you can still hear the rock-blues base that the Rolling Stones built on. It was also the first album completely written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, which is pretty huge.

As a side note, I’m listening to this album right now wishing I had a vinyl copy and a record player here, because I feel like this album would be seriously phenomenal on vinyl.

The by the fourth or fifth song on this album, I began to recognize that the songs have this loose pattern of one catchy lines that’s followed by the songs main riff (as in “Doncha Bother Me”). I guess that kind of corresponds with the bluesy inspirations.

I also felt like I recognized tracks on this album, even though I can confidently say that I’ve never played it before (at least, not knowingly). I instantly recognized “Paint It Black” and the opening riff to the song, and the album, which immediately, I thought “Oh yeah, I know this…” The first side of the album was more familiar to me, although songs like “High And Dry” and “I Am Waiting” sounded familiar too. Actually, I really love the ho-hum, drifting, calm, repetitiveness of “I Am Waiting”, and how it really brings up those feelings of calm anticipation you experience when you wait for…anything!

I’m happy to finally have listened to this album – my first second full Rolling Stones album. So now, tell me…what memories do you have of this album? What does it remind you of?

Track Listing

Side One

  1. Paint It Black
  2. Stupid Girl
  3. Lady Jane
  4. Under My Thumb
  5. Doncha Bother Me
  6. Think

Side Two

  1. Flight 505
  2. High And Dry
  3. It’s Not Easy
  4. I Am Waiting
  5. Going Home

I Ain’t The Same (Alabama Shakes)

In albums, current listenings, tracks to listen to on April 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Geez, I heard the band Alabama Shakes last week and they have this Southern, sassy-ass rock-soul groove to them that I can’t get out of my head. I love this sort of simple, laid-back kind of rootsy, rock sound, combined with a bit of refinement, and of course, the soulful vocals of lead-singer, Brittany Howard.

The first tune I heard off Boys & Girls, their soon-to-be-released debut album, was “I Ain’t The Same”, and I love the contrasting intensity of the opening riffs with the delicate grunge of Howard’s voice. I love how her voice plays with the lead guitar in the background, and I love the vintage rock sound. It’s authentic, and clearly inspired by a wide range of musical talents, ranging from some good, classic hard-rock like AC/DC, to the soul music of Otis Redding. And its woven into their own fusion sound that totally suits them.

If you like this track, you will love the entire album, because it all has the same amazing sound that gets into  your bones in the best way possible. And Boys & Girls is streaming live on their website! Give it a listen!

I can’t wait for you to hear this track and love them as much as I do.

Feral (Boxed Wine)

In current listenings, tracks to listen to on April 6, 2012 at 10:06 am

“Feral” is an energetic a track from the debut EP of New Jersey band Boxed Wine.  This morning my friend send me a tune and said something along the lines of “Brady, listen to this, I think you’ll like it.” So I excitedly hit play, and then (sadly) didn’t love the music. As I said to her, it had too many electronic and computer noises, and to me, it distracted from the rest of the song. I’m guessing that’s the reason that I was really drawn to “Feral” when I listened to it.

This track has a really great, unprocessed sound. The electric guitars are powerful but not overbearing. The entire sound of the track is not too refined and not over-complicated. At the same time, its still crisp enough to sound cohesive and complex enough to be interesting to listen to. I also really love that opening guitar riff.

So, as an anti-thesis to computer blips and beeps (which admittedly, sometimes really do it for me), check out this tune by Boxed Wine and let me know what you think!

Happy Friday, music fans…

PS. I added “Shiraz” to the tags on this post because I really love a good bottle of Australian Shiraz…that’s all.

#109- Loaded (The Velvet Underground)

In 124-100, Top 150 on April 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm

In November 1970, The Velvet Underground released their fourth album, Loaded, under pressure to create an album “loaded” full of radio hits, hence the name.

This is the first album I’ve listened to by The Velvet Underground, and honestly, I’m not really into it. I think there is significance in the fact that the band was established in New York, which is pretty huge in a time when so many of the major rock bands were from the U.K.. Since I haven’t heard their first three albums, I don’t really know whether Loaded is a good representation of their work or not. I’ve read that Andy Warhol was the band’s manager in the early days, which is pretty cool. But Loaded was released after their management by Warhol ended, and as a result, it was supposed to be created with a more mainstream sound.

To me, the first side of the album is much better than the second. In particular, I love “Sweet Jane”. In fact its one of the only songs on the album that I really love.  The others are okay, but overall, not great. And to me, the only track on Side Two that is really worth mentioning is “Head Held High”, which has a sound that reminds me of the Stones and The Beatles combined.

I feel like I don’t understand this album or something. What do you think of The Velvet Underground? I know they have a pretty big following now, so what do you love about their tunes? Do you think I don’t like them just because this isn’t their best album? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so give Loaded a listen and let me know!

By Surprise (Gemini Club)

In current listenings, tracks to listen to on March 15, 2012 at 9:57 am

Let’s keep this simple today. It’s a beautiful, sunny day here on Jeju Island and this track makes me feel like dancing on the beach (although its not quite that warm yet)…

Download a free copy of “By Surprise” from Gemini Club’s website.

Enjoy.

Why Am I The One (Fun.)

In current listenings, tracks to listen to on March 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm

This NY-NY three-man-band is cool and fun, just like their name. I dig these guys and their mixed up retro indie sound.

“Why Am I The One” has a crisp and clean sound and these guys have a great contemporary rock sound that also has some retro influences that sound a lot like Queen and The Beach Boys. I think I’ll just let you experience this song and let you make up your own mind on this one.

And if you need another track to get a good impression, check our their initial single, “We Are Young”, featuring Janelle Monae. Its another great track, which is also from their newest album, Some Nights. I’ve just started listening to the entire album, and it sounds cool.

They’ve got lots of North American tour dates scheduled, including Toronto (for all my Canadian friends back home)! You can also coordinate rideshare through their website, so check it out!

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