The 1000 Album Challenge – Plugging into the ever-drifting musical universe
I’ve heard so many amazing albums this month, and had many five album days. I want to spend my whole summer this way.
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 shows, albums, and radio as well as other tidbits of the musical persuasion. Check out the lists for January, February, March, April, and May to stay completely current! Feel free to contact me with your recommendations.
Here are the singles I loved most this month:
- Sun Kil Moon – That Bird Has a Broken Wing (2012) I’m glued to the stereo from start to finish, every time I listen to this song. This album should have been in the top 5.
- The Felice Brothers – Frankie’s Gun (2008) I hold this as a classic single, one that I’ll look back on.
- Tallest Man on Earth – Love Is All (2010) One day, this song just hit me. On an album I’ve listened to many, many times.
- Pantha du Prince – The Splendour (2009) Minimalist with beautiful inserts of stunning clarity
- Man Man – Ice Dogs (2006) This made the whole album for me, and it’s the last track.
1. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (2012)
An album of the year contender undoubtedly. This album is so raw, emotional, outstanding. It grabs hold of the listener and shakes them every which way. Much like Apple herself, The Idler Wheel is stunning and unpredictable.
2. Various Artists – Fallin’ Off The Reel Vol. 1 (2006)
“A series of limited edition 45 singles (converted to mp3) that never exceeded 2000 copies pressed.” This album turned me onto an amazing record company and some fantastic re-issues I’m set to order. Really can’t complain.
3. Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse (2012)
You rarely hear sounds this raw anymore, without being a direct imitation. This album shifts from garage, to punk, to even some classic rock influence with hardly any rifts between. Great for fans of Black Lips, in that both bands are simply too cool for clear, crisp sounds.
4. Ben Howard – Every Kingdom (2011)
This album has turned some of my friends into screaming pre-teenesque super fans quicker than Bieber. They probably account for a quarter of the YouTube hits, each. It’s a really good album, a more hook heavy version of the heart of John Butler, and soul of Xavier Rudd, as would be featured on Thicker Than Water.
5. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music (2012)
This is not another southern rap album focused on swagger first, bravado second, style third, rapport fourth, etc. That style of music, I don’t at all endorse. This however, I do. Very much so. R.A.P. Music is a focused display of critical, skillful, smooth lyricism that says some very edgy things about major issues (see “Reagan”) and also happens to be gangster as fuck.
Essential Classics of the Month : Gang Starr - “Hard To Earn” (1994) and “Moment of Truth” (1998)
It’s so, so, close but I think these two albums tie for my favourite Gang Starr records, and I listened to the discography in one day this past month. They’re very different though: “Moment of Truth” is much more smooth than “Hard To Earn,” which is the ‘gritty’ one. They spent considerably longer on Moment of Truth, which is obviously apparent, but may call for a disclaiming asterisk in the combat.
Underground Album of the Month: Quasimoto – The Unseen (2000)
Conversations between a blunted out, basement dwelling, loop digging genius and his imagined sidekick persona. So much material allows each piece to stay fresh and interesting from start to finish. A stellar debut for this project.
The Complete June List OR “What I Listened to This Month”
- Bold text : Albums I would recommend
- 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
- Regina Spektor – What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
- Wolfgang Gartner – Weekend In America
- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes – Here (More calm and personal an exploration of Alexander Ebert rather than a pursuit of producing hippie summer anthems. Perhaps Ebert is starting to question the strength of his new persona)
- fun. – Some Nights
- The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart (a collection of cute, tender love songs with burning desire repressed behind childlike apprehension)
- Roc C & IMAKEMADBEATS (Adequte flow, some of the tracks are so incredibly irritating in their complete disregard for melody while not making the full transition to post melodic music. Pop hip-hop in denial.)
- Wintersleep – Wintersleep (2003)
- Wintersleep – Untitled (2005)
- Ben Howard – Every Kingdom
- Beat Connection – Surf Noir
- Gardens & Villa – Gardens & Villa
- The Heliocentrics – Fallen Angels: The Singles Collection
- Wintersleep – Wintersleep (2003) (Sincger sounds like counting crows with a tad bit of power chord-post grunge style, mixed with Canadian indie)
- Wintersleep – Untitled (2005) (A much more mature, brooding, and dark album than their previous)
- Peter, Bjorn, and John – Gimme Some
- Volcano Choir – Unmap (An exploration into dissonance for Justin Vernon)
- War on Drugs – Future Weather (My favourite of the two W.O.D. albums)
- War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
- Tycho – Dive (A very interesting instrumental albums with slightly non-conventional sounds and arrangement)
- World’s End Girlfriend – Seven Idiots (On tracks like “Les Enfants du Paradis,” the rhythms become so complex that one must cling to one of the two independent rhythmic lines while they clash together like two trains converging on a single track. Before these lines seamlessly blend together, it is common to oscillate between loci. This is speaking only of rhythm of course, by the same may even be said about the harmonic/dissonant contrapuntal relationship between melody, harmony, and counter-melody. This is very complex work with an adamant purpose and drive. Often, a groove will start that puts the listener into an unsuspecting trace, before random beeps and instrumental runs bring on a section of rapid change and movement. One must stay on one’s toes. I will say that for someone very familiar with Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel Im Spiegel,” W.E.G.’s version really missed the emotional mark. Perhaps he was trying to highlight the anxiety, and absurdity of gazing into oneself. However, all sense of reverence and care are quickly and awkwardly lost. If “The Offering Inferno” has anything to do with the poet Danté’s work though, it’s fantastic. The whole album ends on an intriguing note. Pensive and slow; very much unlike the rest of the work. Ultimately, this record didn’t have as great an effect on me as Hurtbreak Wonderland, but I would still recommend it to fans of the project.
- Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions (An absolute hip-hop essential, released in 1988)
- Gang Starr – No More Mr. Nice Guy (Their debut. A good starting point, but doesn’t quite stand up to the other releases)
- Gang Starr – Step In The Arena (Only slightly made the mark into the bolded category. DJ Premier is great, but Guru’s rhymes sound forced and basic. He has not grown into himself at this point)
- Gang Starr – Daily Operation (Getting better, less in your face, more focused, and less forced. They improve with every album!!)
- Gang Starr – Hard to Earn (My favourite Gang Starr record, personally)
- Gang Starr – Moment of Truth (It’s so, so, close but I think this ties for my favourite with “Hard to Earn.” They’re very different though: this is much more smooth than “Hard To Earn,” which is the ‘gritty’ one. They spent considerably longer on this album, which is obviously apparent, but may call for a disclaiming asterisk.)
- Gang Starr – The Ownerz (A great send-off for a great duo, who broke up 2 years after its release. A very catchy album, not even close to as raw as their early work, but arguably better. Still wouldn’t list above Moment of Truth or Hard To Earn)
- Gang Starr – Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr (I’m glad the choice wasn’t made to grav simply the most catchy tracks, but rather a diverse selection that might help an uninformed listener flesh out an idea of just what Gang Starr is.)
- The Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now (I am amazed by his ability to integrate new elements into his style after two great albums and still produce a high quality record. There’s No Leaving Now features slide guitar, vocal reverb, and greater depth in layers that detracts form his nature-bound singer-songwriter style, but carries the “Tallest Man on Earth” moniker to new ground. The change is not seamless, but fans should adapt, although many will undoubtedly crawl back to comfort with his first two LPs. He consistently puts out amazing ang complimentary title tracks. “There’s No Leaving Now” is greatly pleasing both as a song and an album. I anticipate it being in my top 20 albums of the year.)
- Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel
- Metric – Synthetica (A lot more produced and hook heavy (which is difficult for a pop band that has thrived on creating memorable hooks). This record, however, seems to be void of the reinforcing purpose, determination, and humanity that made Metric endearing to me)
- Architects – The Here And Now (Wherever, Architects are, it’s quite far from their original agenda. Although they throw some old style pull-and-tear in the mix, this album is much more pop than they should be producing. I’m still struggling with whether or not to bold this album)
- Nite Jewel – Am I Real? (Entirely boring. The sound is flat, and mediocre lyrics like “the future is made of white lies” and “am I real?” are repeated over and over as if to shape the meaning. Which would be great if they weren’t elementary and basic.
- Mos Def – The New Danger (This has proven to be such a polarizing album. When I first hear it years ago I hated it. But I decided it deserved a second chance. If it came our new during a second run through, I would count it as such and it would qualify form my 1000 New Album Challenge list. This album did just that. Many felt betrayed and/or left behind by Mos Def’s peculiar new sound, especially given the large gap between his first album and this one. But what I find now is such a determined desire to use a variety of genres as tools and build his own empire outside of what critics would expect. His hip hop skill is undeniable; he charts uncertain ground in a way that is nothing if not brave. He will not just spoonfeed the people, he endeavors to stretch his legs as an artist and throw himself into new territory. It’s not my favourite album undoubtedly, but it is skillfully done and admirable on that basis. As far as taste and style of sound, critique becomes divided, but that criteria is far too subjective to facilitate useful debate.)
- Sigur Ros – Rimur (A traditional epic poem that is slight and listful, set to music with just the same tone. Water and bird sounds are used to emphasize that traditional (grassroots) connection to nature and the roots of humanity itself. Good background dinner music for lovers of the arts)
- Quasimoto – The Unseen
- Quasimoto – The Further Adventures of Lord Quas (A lot darker than The Unseen, but also a lot more self involved. Not quite as solid as the debut.)
- Zachary Lucky – Come and Gone (I find that he stands out much better in a concept album format – i.e. Saskatchewan)
- Q-Tip – Amplified (Flow is a bit more constipated than Q-Tip is capable of, and the subject matter is limited. Last half of the last song is phenomenal though)
- Q-Tip – The Renaissance (A well combined album where not only are there noticeable changes within, but many of the songs themselves have very diverse components)
- Q-Tip & DUB MD – Open: The Mixtape (A great mix that adds a whole new flavour to Q-Tip’s tracks)
- Giraffes? Giraffes! – Pink Magick (Math rock with a metalcore vibe. Great instrumental album).
- Damien Jurado – Maraqopa (A more singer-songwriter version of Fleet Foxes, harmonic vocals add airy, peaceful, and heartfelt feeling)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – It’s a Corporate World (A very cute, dreamy pop album with electric influence. Their name is made to juxtapose the sound, unless they intend to be the Earnhardt family’s black sheep)
- Danny Brown – Detroit State of Mind 4 (He has a ton of swagger, and smooth, confident flow. The subject matter is evocative, although most of the rhymes are very basic. Not as strong as he is capable of)
- Sweatshop Union – Local 604
- Sweatshop Union – Natural Progression
- Aesop Rock – Appleseed (This is a get in, get out Aesop Rock album. He barely takes the time to breathe, which means you can’t either. The album appears to be an expulsion of creative buildup that fits perfectly into Aesop’s repertoire without distancing the listener too much, while never letting us close – keeping one loosely in tow.
- Aesop Rock – Bazooka Tooth (Incredibly strong, but may be difficult to get into if you are unfamiliar with A.R.’s work (Float is a better place to go in that case). Some excellently integrated collaborations here)
- Aesop Rock – Daylight (Another great introductory album for this artist. Clean, well organized, as well as poignant and crisp (while congested) as ever)
- DJ Burn One – The Ashtray (Good beats that serve a utilitarian purpose for rappers, but have no real place for listeners. The tracks simply do not have enough content for their length.)
- DJ Burn One – Joints (Utilizing the same beats found on The Ashtray, Burn One features a variety of rappers that have the same drug-fueled, southern-drawl-laced, swagger-rap style. They don’t overlap, however, as much as they compliment each other. While some featured artists like Freddie Gibbs excel, no tracks stand out incredibly.
- The Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca (An album that should be heard. Fantastic)
- The D.O.C. – No One Can Do It Better (An essential hip-hop album, amazing support from Dr. Dre, Easy E, Ice Cube, etc. Not bad for a debut, hey?)
- Craft Spells – Idle Labour
- Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse
- Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
- Various Artists – Fallin’ Off The Reel
- Hey Ocean – It’s Easier to be Someone Else (A surprising pop record that attracts with sappy hooks and then surprises with diverse musical influence (jazz, hip-hop, latin, singer-songwriter, pop, etc)
Hodgy Beats – The Dena Tape(There is nothing about this tape that stands out. Hodgy’s beats at this point aren’t even half as good as he professes them to be. The song lyrics on “Ignorant Shit” (as the title may suggest) are laughable when serious and may be taken as an example for the rest of the record.)
- I Break Horses – Hearts (Dreamy, melodic drones shimmer and ripple overtop of the lead vocals with shoegaze-esque arrangement. IT gives the feeling being put into a warm bath. However, it is very conservative and doesn’t take the listener anywhere)
- Ernest Gonzales – Been Meaning to Tell You
- Savath y Savalas – The Predicate [Dub Version] (Too disorganized but not diverse enough. Hardly draws the listener in at all.)
- Shearwater – Animal Joy (I like this album more each time I listen. Singer-songwriter style with complimentary arrangement drawing the sound to an entire band setting)
- Scroobius Pip – No Commercial Breaks (The more I listen, the more I regard this as a novelty. Ideas are great, flow very seriously lacking)