Monday, July 29, 2002

Natural Ingredients - Luscious Jackson
Your feelings on the Beastie Boys are probably as good an indication as any of what you'll think about Luscious Jackson. There aren't many obvious references on this album straight back to the Beastie Boys, but it's in the same vein- all voices the first time you listen, heavily hip-hop influenced, bouncy music. Going forward to Hello Nasty and "I Don't Know" -not a typical Beastie Boys song- is the best reference I can come up with here. That track is slower than most songs on Natural Ingredients, but it has the same kind of easy groove.
I love the Beastie Boys- even in high school, I thought Sabotage was a great song, and happily bounced along to it. A friend noticed this & started playing Natural Ingredients for me, and I was hooked. To a 16 year old grunge fan, this was a new door opening. The baby feminist in me loved the songs that make me cringe now, but I still get a kick out of listening to most of this album. Deep Shag, all hook and quiet flow still grabs me like the first time I listened to it, and I'll never tire of the energy bound up in Here.
I thought it would pale in comparison to some of the richer sounding music I've been listening to recently, and it does feel thin compared to Since I Left You, but then it's strong enough to hold up to what it is. Perhaps the biggest thing I've gotten out of this album this time around is musing that I really don't listen to as many women as I used to. I went to a L.J. concert at my college, and it was an incredible experience- I had a great time at it, despite the fact that they played more of their Fever In Fever Out songs, which I don't like as much. What made the concert so special was that the audience was more than 98% women and it felt very different even from the Sleater Kinney concert I went to at the Middle East. The women onstage were laid back and clearly having a great time, and it inflected all my listening to their songs after that night.
What prompts the kind of music purchases that we make? When I was in college, I would guess that upwards of 75% of the CDs I was buying were women artists or groups with women singers. In the 3 years since I graduated, that number has dwindled ever lower without my noticing until I bought this cd and noticed that it was the first album with female singing on it that I'd bought in a very long time. Excluding Belle & Sebastian (some songs would fit here, but not the majority), the last one I bought was a Cocteau Twins album- Victorialand- in Febuary. I'm quick to ascribe this to the fact that my college buying habits were colored by listening to WZLY and going to on-campus concerts, but that's not true. I'm exposed to more CDs coming out each month now than I was at any point any point in school, and I certainly buy more- having a grownup job helps on that front. At some point in the last few years, I just moved away from choosing women's voices in my walkman. Natural Ingredients may well pull me back again to being a little more balanced, just as it pulled me out of my mostly grunge listening habits in high school. It fits in nicely with the summery evening music I've been listening to on my walks, so I think it will stay out with my heavy listening CDs for at least a few months.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Bringing Down the Horse - The Wallflowers
Where did I ever hear so much of this album? I borrowed it from a friend this morning, vaguely thinking that listening to some new music might be the best way to rescue this incredibly chilly July day. The cover looks completely unfamiliar to me, and although I'm sure that I've heard a song or two from it it on the radio, I can't summon any particular songs to mind. The back of the CD is empty of song titles, as is the inside of the CD cover, which doesn't help me. Once I put it on and One Headlight comes on I think, ah yes- I've heard this. I've been listening to a lot of old music over the last two weeks and finding fragments of places pop up that I haven't thought of since I last heard the first words of a verse 5 years ago. A bit of that happens here- obviously I know the song, but it isn't as tied to a night as other songs like Pearl Jam's Jeremy are.
Well, so the first song was their radio hit, I guess. And then the same thought is in my head through tracks 2,3,4, and 5. I flipped the album over to look at the cover again- did I own this? It came out when I was in college, so maybe a friend had it? But I can't figure out who it would have been. Immediate familiarity bugs me, because I can't place the memories coming up- they're washed out, just the words of the chouses or a particular janglyness to the guitars in some spots.
In a way, it seems that the music would feel familiar even if I hadn't heard this album many times somewhere and forgotten about it. I know they're lumped with Gin Blossoms, Semisonic, and the other post-grunge quiet guitar bands, and their sound fits right in there. This is snuggly cardigan music for draping yourself across a futon with a drink and talking to.
Returning to One Hundred Albums You Should Remove from Your Collection Immediately, I see a mixtape asking to be created. So far:

  1. David Bowie Changes (Hunky Dory)
  2. Oasis Morning Glory ((What's The Story) Morning Glory?)
  3. Pearl Jam Animal (Vs)
  4. Beastie Boys Sabotage (Ill Communication)
  5. Nirvana Come as You Are (Nevermind)
  6. Beatles Let It Be (Let It Be)
  7. White Stripes Fell in Love With a Girl (White Blood Cells)
  8. Macy Gray Why Didn't You Call (On How Life Is)
  9. Sarah McLachlan Building a Mystery (Surfacing)
  10. Beastie Boys I Don't Know (Hello Nasty)
  11. Cocteau Twins Pitch the Baby (Heaven or Las Vegas)
  12. U2 With or Without You (Joshua Tree)
  13. Sarah McLachlan Hold On (Fumbling Towards Ecstasy)
  14. Green Day Welcome to Paradise (Dookie)
  15. Bob Marley 3 Little Birds (Legend)
  16. No Doubt Just a Girl (Tragic Kingdom)

Saturday, July 27, 2002

Reading One Hundred Albums You Should Remove from Your Collection Immediately and packing for a move had me thinking as I boxed up CDs. I made a stack of a few albums to sell, but then looked through the ones that I was saving. There are a bunch of CDs that I should probably get rid of, and be embarrassed to own, but can't bring myself to part with. Here are my top 10 albums that I should really toss:

  • Crush, Bon Jovi -it's not even like owning Slippery When Wet and claiming that it reminds me of high school. No, I was 23 and living in Seattle when this came out.
  • Top Gun Soundtrack - I love running to this one. Especially Danger Zone.
  • Living in Clip, Ani DiFranco -live double CD set!
  • Mission Impossible 2 soundtrack - I would sell this one, but it's only worth $1.99 so I can't be bothered. Oddly enough, the score for MI2 is selling used for $9.99
  • real live woman, Trisha Yearwood - I bought this on a shopping trip with Esther, so it stays
  • Angels with Dirty Faces, Tricky - the definition of "the lyrics are so bad I can't stand to play it"
  • Just Push Play, Aerosmith - the only Aerosmith album I own besides Toys in the Attic. It stays because every so often I remember that I like Jaded.
  • Bicycle, Bicycle - is a cute song, but the rest.. blah. Another Esther memory, though.
  • On How Life Is, Macy Gray - She's Donald Duck.
  • A Starbucks Jazz sampler CD- from before I realized that Starbucks makes lousy coffee.
Trace - Son Volt

This album spent a few quiet months in my CD collection -before this week, I'd only listened to about three times. I bought it in the middle of discovering alt-country (Pneumonia > 89/93: An Anthology > Yankee Hotel Foxtrot > Trace), but it was overshadowed by Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and 89/93. Then I found it under my chair a few days ago, and put it into my CD player. I could smack myself for missing what I'm hearing now.

No Depression Archive - Trace review
by Peter Blackstock: And then there's "Windfall," the first song on the record and an instant classic if ever I've heard one. It shines with an irrepressible warmth and a truer sound, like the TV's glowing cathode-ray tube, the AM radio in the dashboard, the ashes from the dying campfire drifting into the distance on a southbound summer breeze. May the wind take your troubles away.

I'll leave it at that. It's a great album.

Friday, July 26, 2002

Asleep in the Back - Elbow
First impressions can color a CD forever, and that happened with this one. I put it in my CD player one night before I went to sleep, too eager to hear it to wait until the morning. I ended up starting to drift off and turning it off. Usually this is one of my favorite ways to first listen to an album- putting it into my computer to hear the first time often means that I start paying attention to work (which I probably should be doing anyway...) or web surfing, and the CD plays through without my really hearing it. Putting it on late at night, instead, forces my attention onto it. Unless it's an album like this one... really, it's quite pretty, and tracks like Powder Blue brush up against beautiful. Unfortunately, it's very quiet- not in itself a bad thing- but then there isn't quite enough of something there to bring me back. I tried breaking the dark-room-at-night connotation by playing it in my car for a few sunny morning drives, but the connection stuck. It feels gloomy and contemplative and like it should be played under a roof with raining smacking against it.

And presuming that you make it to Presuming Ed (Rest Easy)... dear lord.
Since I Left You - Avalanches
My second favorite new (but it's really from 2001) CD.

The KEXP Morning Show played a track from Since I Left You, which prompted me to go get this. It's been ripped as "too trendy and gimmicky -- too much cut-n-paste, hook novelty without spice beneath the surf" which is probably true. The third track sounds the weakest to me, but otherwise it's got a great beginning set of songs.
First post!
One Time Bells - French Kicks
My favorite new CD in a while- Down Now is my favorite song here, largely due to the last minute or so of the song. The review got stuck in my head as describing their music as "angular post-pop" which I thought was very fitting. Building these links this morning, I see that sadly the actual text of the review starts with: "The French Kicks angular proto-post-art-punk..." which is alright, but I prefer my corrupted "post-pop" to "proto-post-art-punk" in the end.

I listened to it on a train in europe last month- started as we were sitting at the station still, and I could see a clock hung on a station pillar. The first two songs played out as I watched our departure time count down, and listened to announcements in a language I couldn't understand through my jet lag. Then we started moving, slipping slowly through miles of stopped tracks and apartments, the city trailing away but refusing to give out to countryside for a long time. Down Now felt like a fuzzy blanket draped across my exhaustion, the sparseness of the arrangements about all I could handle. This is not an empty, echoing album, although I can hear Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone (recorded in the same studio) in it. Most of their songs start off slowly with isolated drums and guiter, and take a few minutes to build up. It's an interesting approach, and I like the structures that are set up.