The 1000 Album Challenge – Plugging into the ever-drifting musical universe
Ah, Summer. I’ve been caught in a whirlwind since the university year ended.
One filled with sun, and friends
I went to the Sasquatch music festival this past May and saw so many great live acts that kept me in good spirits for the entire four days (although substances may have aided that as well). I wish I would have been able to keep up with WordPress, Twitter, and Facebook during my time in the United States, but alas, the rates were not within my permittable range.
On the side of albums, I stayed pretty regular with listening, but abandoned full length releases for the 10 days of my trip to Vancouver, Seattle, and ultimately the Gorge Ampitheatre in Central Washington in favour of the playlist formation and pursuit of matching perfect tunes to the passing times. (This may be why I am so late with this blog post, I do apologize for that.
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, and April to stay completely current! Feel free to contact me with your recommendations.
Here are the singles I loved most this month:
- Purity Ring – All the singles, really. Ungirthed, Lofticries, Belispeak and newest single Obedear from their upcoming debut release “Shrines.” This group, based out of my hometown of Edmonton, AB has garned so much critical acclaim without having released a single album yet. I saw them at Sasquatch even! (They were phenomenal) [Edmonton, Alberta\Montréal, Québec]
- Aesop Rock – Zero Dark Thirty (2012) The single from his first release since 2007. Set to drop July 10th, 2012. [New York, USA]
- Reptar – Office Origami (2012) Pitchfork hates this group, I do not. [Georgia, USA]
- Beat Connection – Silver Screen (Young Montana? Remix) (2011) It sounds like the synths are almost afraid to speak. This is a really interesting take on the original, and takes it in a great new direction. [UK]
- Yellow Ostrich – Daughter (2012) – I feel like one slight push could make this project sappy, but Alex Schaaf toes the line of vulnerable vocal style so well that I find it endearing.
1. Huoratron – Cryptocracy (2012)
If my modem in the 90s had sounded like Huoratron, I would have stuck with dialup. I haven’t heard an album this raw and dirty in so long without it being dubbed so by YouTube commenters on a brostep track. Fans of Boys Noize or Daft Punk will be most likely to take to this record. Unfortunately, the audio quality of Youtube doesn’t do this album justice, so I’ve linked the best quality one I could find. My personal favourite track was “A699F,” although I’ve changed my mind so many times I’m still unsure. This is a harsh, gritty, offensive sounding album that just dominates one’s body and mind in the greatest way. You have to be prepared to let go though, it’s horrible background music.
2. SORNE – House of Stone (2011)
Highly recommended. Complete artistic immersion, complete with visual art and film accompaniment to be found on the project’s website here
3. mewithoutYou – Ten Stories (2012)
The whole LP passes by so smoothly. You can discern a struggle between the lead singer’s desire for poetic departure and his ties to the group’s original sound. And while they aren’t solidly combined, both facets are strong
4. Wire – Pink Flag (1977)
A classic album. British post-punk forefathers. Get it in your ears. This is down on the list because I listened to it late this month, not to be taken in relation to the others in any way. It is probably on the “best of all time” lists of many music critics
5. Dr. John – Locked Down (2012)
This album, released by Dr. John at the age of 71, is a collaboration with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Auerbach, who produced and contributed backing vocals/instrumentals left a huge mark on this record. From the get go, through to the end, I kept thinking of the way this album fits into the Black Keys repertoire. This sound has Auerbach’s fingerprints all over it. However, it spoke to me strongly in the way that the two sounds, both of the style of southern grit, fit and excel so completely. Worth it for fans of either project.
Essential Classic of the Month : A+ – Latch-Key Child (1996)
This is an absolute hip-hop essential, released on August 27, 1996, at the heart of what is now called the golden days of “old school hip-hop.” What makes this album standout so much, is that this artist was only 14 years old at the time of it’s release. Featuring Mobb Deep Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, A+ was on the radar of hip-hop’s heavy hitters, right from the get go. Not to be missed
Underground Album of the Month: The Unicorns – Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? (2003)
This concept album is twee pop masquerading as a burnout rock album or, most likely, the other way around. The Unicorns challenge the traditional sickly-sweet pop tendencies with their own brand of alternative arrangements and timbres. While it is not popular in the mainstream music media, this is an underground classic, easy to find if you look in the right places.
The Complete May 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
- SORNE – House of Stone
- URBNET: Underground Hip-Hop Volume 2 (More diverse than volume seven. These compilations are a great way to pick out individual artists and are selected to pique your interest by classifying a certain rapper by a “standout” track. I’m not convinced that this is successful, but it may not be possible either)
- Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Broom (cute indie pop)
- Suff Daddy – The Gin Diaries
- Barn Owl – The Roman Empire Never Ended (Socially conscious post hardcore, in which folk instrumentation with symphonic cloaking, ie. “Young Explorers,” meets the insistent bark of Jared Both. My favourite track, one of the most insistent and well punctuated, was “Death of a Submariner.” Apparently there is also a band called “Barn Owl” circulating. They are a psychedelic drone band from San Francisco, California. This is not the same.)
- BBU – Bell Hooks (party hip hop with socially conscious moments, hard hitting production and a good cast of featured rappers. First half is noticeably stronger)
- Wire – Pink Flag A classic album. British post-punk forefathers. Get it in your ears
- NEON CANYON – EP (Soft electro, too much action to be ambient, too much reverb/not a strong enough “wall of sound” to be shoegaze. Contemplative, but doesn’t really go anywhere)
- Björk – Vessel (a collage, a journey through Björk herself. A beautifully personal work. Recommended to those who just can’t quite get into Björk or perhaps finds her too crazy)
- Shotgun Jimmie – Still Jimmie (A very unique sound, not an album to recommend because it could so easily be disliked. But for me, the sound is great. It baffles me though that that he chose to do a new intro to “Waist Deep In The Water” which was a much better song before.
- Girls – Album (Dreamy, greasy, Australian haze pop record. Really great alternative vocals, excellent for playing mid afternoon in a house you share with friends)
- The Music Tapes – For Clouds And Tornadoes (Excellent. Amazing. For those who simply like sounds, and uninhibited personal expression)
- Björk – Volta (She sounds much more frustrated on this record. Didn’t care for the featured vocal accompaniment.)
- The Unicorns – Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?
- MP – Fresh Beets (An instrumental hip hop track from the group that would eventually become Zed’s Dead)
- The Velvet Underground - Loaded (An absolute classic)
- Elliott Smith – Elliott Smith (I was enthralled right from “Needle In The Hay.” Pay close attention to the lyrics)
- Huoratron – Cryptocracy (If my modem in the 90s had sounded like Huoratron, I would have stuck with dialup)
- Solid Space – Space Museum (Interesting samples, uninteresting album)
- Borghesia – Ljubav Je Hladnija Od Smrti (A little too much of the same vocal note for me)
- Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light (A confident departure from the old stuff, but not anything very new on a broad spectrum)
- Arkells – Michigan Left (Some catchy tracks, but a very obvious album)
- Arkells – Pandemonium (I like that they left the live sound intact and didn’t interfere too much in post production. However, while the atmosphere may have been pandemonium in person, it was far from it on record)
- A Hawk and a Hacksaw – Darkness At Noon (A band of adamant expression and full force trapped in a lost age)
- Dr. John – Locked Down
- Spoek Mathambo – Father Creeper
- A+ – Latch-Key Child (A hip hop essential. And it came from a 14 year old. Amazing)
- Sharon van Etten – Because I Was In Love (I’m not sure if it’s her windy timbre, vocal runs that rise and fall like ocean waves, or her occasional reserved belting that makes me truly love this woman’s voice. Lack of pronunciation doesn’t turn me off, but causes me to scour the lyrics)
- Sharon van Etten – Tramp (A much more mature album, I love the way the album title connects with the titles of multiple songs being men’s names. It has a raw self deprecating feel that pairs well with it’s self-reflective moments and beautiful plateaus of emotional clarity)
- Jay-Z – MTV Unplugged (This is not an outstanding album in that it in no way captures the essence of the live experience. However, it has The Roots, Mary J. Blige, and demonstrates (as if we didn’t know) how truly, naturally skilled Jay-Z is. So, as an album, not great, but I’ll definitely get my hands on a dvd of the show)
- Scarface – Mr. Scarface Is Back
- Honeybear – Viral Linguistics
- Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
- Young Jazz Rebels – Slave Riot
- Schoolboy Q – Habits and Contradictions
- broken haze – raid system
- The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble – Miles Away
- St. Vincent – Marry Me
- Bear In Heaven – Best Rest Fort Mouth (War, and misty soundscapes that envelop rather than lead)
- JMSN – †Priscilla† (I find his voice very sappy and irritating, lyrics equally so while being obvious. That being said, the production is fantastic and, in juxtaposing, saves this record.
- Beach House – Bloom (Dreamy, open sky songs that exude a grown maturity that has developed along with the band itself)
- mewithoutYou – Ten Stories (The whole LP passes by so smoothly. You can discern a struggle between the lead singer’s desire for poetic departure and his ties to the group’s original sound. And while they aren’t solidly combined, both facets are strong)
- Abbey Lincoln – Straight Ahead (She may not have the smooth timbre of many popular female jazz singers, but she has a simmering, soulful persistance and urgency that resonates through each track)
- Yellow Ostrich – Strange Land
- Zola Jesus – Conatus
- Reptar – Body Faucet (Think of the vocal experimental style of Future Islands but in a soweto pop style. Excellent vocals – the lead singer does intense facial contortions live in order to get exactly the sound he’s aiming for. Truly makes the voice an instrument. More reserved pop in the first half, really opens up in the second)
- Brian Eno – Ambient 1, Music For Airports (A caressing soundscape, where everything is fleeting, but nothing hurts)
- Beirut – The Rip Tide (a beautiful comvination of the confidence and urgency/power that was lacking on the Flying Club Cup. The only thing missing there was variation. Also, that album seemed to race through a bit too quickly. The Rip Tide sufficiently solves those problems)
- Active Child – You Are All I See (Active listening is definitely needed. This unassuming album blossoms through its subtleties, but is insistent with powerful while listless meditations such as “Johnny and Belinda.” Voice like Florence Welch without attentiveness. More spacey sound and mellow flow)
- bee – Open Your Mind (a feel good record, best for transition from rain to sun. Doesn’t quite shine though…)
- Specifics – Lonely City (a sad rap album while strong throughout. Usually rides one beat for a long time, but doesn’t get boring – rather, it deepens the vibe)