The 1000 Album Challenge – Plugging into the ever-drifting musical universe
I had more time to listen to records this month than I had anticipated, and was fairly satisfied with the mark of 61 albums. The weather is getting gradually nicer, and after a stint of stress during late-April exams, I will have the entire summer to consume great music.
Two significant things happened during my challenge this month:
- I found that I was listening to too many good albums, and have made a mental note to prevent over-indulgence.
- I reached a noticeable limitation in the three part method I developed for the rating of albums. Now, I don’t much care for the numerical rating order or even the granting of stars to a great extent. However, the 3 part system is quite vague in that it lumps albums I am fairly impressed by with albums that blew my mind, or albums that didn’t quite do it for me with albums that I wouldn’t recommend to my worst enemy. Unfortunately, I have not reached a consensus on what to do about this. More info to come I suppose.
To stay connected with my journey, you can watch my listening list as it happens! Also, you can follow me on twitter to find songs of the day, information about my shows, albums, and radio as well as other tidbits of the musical persuasion. Check out the lists for January and February to stay completely current!
I have also, for the first time, introduced a small tracklist of recommended singles. Unfortunately, Grooveshark did not have most of these songs, so I will have to post them with video links.
- Mmoths – Heart (2011)
- Charlie Rouse with the Julius Watkins Quintet – Golden Chariot (1953)
- Ketamines – Kill Me Now (2012)
- Arn Rhys – The Rebel (2011)
- Jnyce – The Exorcism (2008) [Whole album available to stream here]
1. Elfin Saddle – Devastates (March 2012)
Beautiful use of uncommon instruments, great sense of tone in each song. The only really ‘catchy’ and easily accessible track is the last one, but that’s because all of the others are so slow-burning, patient, and filled with emotional intelligence.
The band’s unique sound is of a direct representation of their artistic approach. Based on their bio, this group is a Canadian arthouse hipster’s dream.
2. Zachary Lucky – Saskatchewan (March 2012)
Canadian folk troubadour Zachary Lucky has put together a phenomenal, almost perfect set of songs about his home province. It features comfortable storytelling with confident, while yearning voice. It is so tender, and so unintrusive that the recording warranted 3 complete listens to fully appreciate. Each time got more and more interesting. A joy to listen to.
He is currently on a cross-Canada tour, and this album is just over a month old. Very new and exciting stuff.
Joe Gurba, the writer of Argue Job, is the one who turned my on to this release. He wrote a better summary than I, and you should read it. The album is also available to stream or purchase at the end of the link.
3. Portico Jazz Quartet – Knee-Deep In The North Sea (2007)
An interesting modern approach to the Jazz genre. I listened to a lot of Jazz this month, and part of the problem was that there were too many masters of the medium to pick an outright winner. This album is one with a noticeable departure from the traditional stylings and would be an excellent avenue for those looking to branch away from indie music (the word “indie” has lost all meaning, and seems to have become a classifier of slightly alternative popular music. Although the word “alternative” raises its own questions as well) and test the waters of Jazz music from within a certain comfort zone.
4. Little Scream – The Golden Record (2011)
Artistic, yet extremely accessible. Works within clouds of soft noise, changing tempos, using incomplete harmonies that ring true and yet offer a sense of angst, unease, displacement, and lack.
The song I have linked (“The Heron and the Fox”) is absolutely beautiful; the lyrical subject matter and lack of strict adherence to pattern sets this song well apart from the endless sea of pop songs with a female singer and acoustic guitar. I thoroughly enjoyed this record.
5. Björk – Post (1995)
Essential Classic of the Month : Charles Mingus – The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady (1963)
Arguably one of the greatest Jazz records of all time from one of my favourite Jazz musicians. Part of the rhythm section as an upright bassist, he writes really great lines for other artists that incorporate thickness of tone and solid groove without ever dominating as a soloist himself. You’ve got to respect that.
Underground Album of the Month: Famines – The Complete Collected Singles (2011)
It is hard to explain the power and skill of this group without seeing them live in person. Their recordings do not do them justice unless you have experienced the loudness, the power, the screams, the sweat, the disaster, the brilliance.
One thing that you could do from an armchair is take a glimpse into the Clark-Kentian-alterego of lead-singer/guitarist Raymond Biesinger, who is a graphic designer based in Montréal.
The Complete January List OR “What I Listened to This Month”
- Bold text : Albums I liked quite a bit
- Regular text: Albums that I was pleased with, but didn’t exceed any standards
Crossed Off: Albums that I do not recommend/Was not at all pleased with
- The Wooden Sky – If I Don’t Come Home, You’ll Know I’m Gone
- The Wooden Sky – Every Child A Daughter, Every Moon A Sun
- Sinead O’Connor – How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?
- Band of Skulls – Sweet Sour
- Said The Whale – Little Mountain
- Rizzle Kicks – Stereo Typical
- PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
- Sleigh Bells – Treats
- Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror
- Chiddy Bang – Breakfast
- The National – High Violet
- Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball (mixed reviews)
- Cant – Dreams Come True
- Mono – You Are There
- KRS-One – Return of the Boom Bap
- LAL – LAL
- Ghibli – Pythia
- Lootpack – Soundpieces: Da Antidote!
- Björk – Debut
- Famines – The Complete Collected Singles
- Charles Mingus – The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady
- Charles Mingus – The Clown
- The Boston Symphony Orchestra – Beethoven Overtures
- Boogie Down Productions – Criminal Minded [Instrumentals]
- Julius Watkins – Julius Watkins Sextet Vols. 1 & 2
- Max Roach – Percussion Bitter Sweet
- Jung People – Tenterhooks
- Ketamines – Spaced Out
- Björk – Post
- Great Aunt Ida – Nuclearize Me (Tender and honest indie album. Bedroom style with great recording quality leaving the voice clear, close, and unimpeded)
- Built to Spill – Perfect From Now On (Complex artistic songwriting. Long songs that feel much shorter.)
- John Southworth & Andrew Downing – Easterween (Very unique work. Dense, and incredibly devoted to artistic concept. Klezmer-Folk. Not my personal taste, but a noticeably great work.)
- The Kinks – Something Else From The Kinks
- The Kinks – Ultimate Collection Vol. 1
- The Kinks – Ultimate Collection Vol. 2
- Dr. Dog – Be The Void
- Jim Noir – Tower Of Love
- Ecid – Werewolf Hologram
- Plants and Animals – The End of That (Great songwriting that rocks when it needs to, but still stays folk enough to get the lyrics across. More abstract lyricism overtop focused instrumentation that drives the point home)
- Elfin Saddle – Devastates
- Blazo – Colours of Jazz (Loved the attention to timbre and tone colour throughout. Knowing the title ahead of time nicely shapes your understanding of the aim. But, sometimes its good to guess instead and see if the sound truly painted a picture in your mind, whether it’s the same as the artist’s or not.)
- Jnyce – Vaults of Horror
- Arn Rhys – Chapel of the Fool (Beautiful. Lovely tone, very melodic yet reserved. Whether you tend to focus on music or lyric, I think you will find many things of value here.)
- Zachary Lucky – Saskatchewan
- Samian – Face à la Musique (Adopting popular hip-hop traditions and spinning them toward a smaller cultural niche. Multi-linguistic rap that switches tongues without skipping a beat. I wish I knew what was being said.)
- Odd Future – OF Tape Vol. 2
- The Shins – Port of Morrow
- Portico Jazz Quartet – Knee-Deep In The North Sea
- Yukon Blonde – Tiger Talk
- Mass Choir – Circles (A synth dominated dance pop album that tends to use some non-conventional sounds within a very conventional motif. I tried to hate this album, but it was hard. On a surface level I can say that I found it bland; the lyrics are more than a tad boring and the bubble gum “unce unce” pulsation is something that I still have not penned the source of attraction to. But the very root and motivation of the project seems to be bent towards increasing the accessibility of a purely physical genre (dance) to a somewhat alternative crowd, slightly beneath the mass of mainstream. Perhaps those who love to dance but feel out of place by the progression into crude sexualization and vulgar treatment of women all to recognizable in modern club music. It’s music that you, and your younger cousin could dance to without fear – maybe the two of you could eat Sour Patch Kids and watch Beaches afterwards.)
- Björk – Vespertine
- Amon Tobin – Bricolage
- Björk – Medùlla (a very daring album. Some great rhythms in vocal use.)
- Ernest Gonzales – Been Meaning To Tell You
- JJ Johnson – Blue Trombone (Very subtle variations on the classical approach to motive. Doesn’t not let one total phrase dominate, and I really dug that. Especially on “Pennies From Heaven.” Playful and nimble. Plus he’s playing with Max Roach. How could you not like that?!)
- XXYYXX – XXYYXX
- Lloyd Miller & the Heliocentrics – Lloyd Miller & the Heliocentrics (Brilliant use of alternative instruments to create exotic soundscapes that make you feel you’ve traveled millions of miles, all the while sitting in your bedroom)
- Little Scream – The Golden Record
- Mount Eerie – Wind’s Poem (A great concept album. Not an easy listen, that’s for sure. But if you pay extremely close attention, underneath the blustery fuzz that overtakes many tracks, you will realize how sensitive and beautifully intricate this release truly is. It gets incredibly abstract at times, delves into shoegaze vocal style imperceptibility, electro-acoustic interludes. A display of extremely dexterous songwriting.
- Matthew A. Wilkinson – NAMERS [EP]
- Various Artists – Camobear Green, 10 Years of Camobear Records (Some catchy tracks, but not incredibly diverse. I found some I’ll definitely play on the radio show, it’s true. But I suppose, with 10 years to prepare, I would have expected they would have some subgenres present. However, if you know little to nothing about Canadian hip hop, this would be an excellent place to start).