Posts Tagged ‘brian eno’

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Yet Another Ten Reviews

April 23, 2007

For some reason, this time I ended up reviewing a lot of albums that I love and not so many that I just like a lot or are in the middle. I pulled some of them out of the vaults. I find it easier to praise than to complain, I guess. Some of these are my absolute favorites. I’ll bitch more next time, I promise.

Alice in Chains – MTV Unplugged

This Unplugged concert was, for all intents and purposes, Alice in Chains’ final farewell. There is almost nothing that is not conclusive about this collection of songs, and in some ways it does it’s job very well. Alice in Chains was just screaming for an Unplugged concert, having two acoustic EPs under their belt and an impressive array of softspoken songs alongside their haunting metal. But perhaps there just wasn’t quite enough in the queue for the acoustic treatment. While half of these acoustic takes are absolute treasures, the other half are miscalculated performances of songs that should not have been acoustic in the first place. The renditions of Down in a Hole and Rooster were the only songs appropriate from the bands second album Dirt, and Angry Chair and Would are simply better loud and electric. Frogs probably was not a good choice to include either, nor was Sludge Factory, the name of which lets the listener know it is best played with muddy obnoxious guitars. While these clunkers are present, the rest of the performance is solid. Performances of classics such as Nutshell, Got Me Wrong, and Over Now are among the bands best moments, and unspeakably touching. Some other songs from the Sap and Jar of Flies EPs could have been included, but for the most part the most important cornerstones are hit that should have been hit. Another perk of this show is that the band is in excellent playing condition even after not playing a show for many years, and the guitar sound is as distinct and delicious as many other famous Unplugged shows are known for. The rendition of the unreleased Killer Is Me would have been grounds to buy this in the first place, and it is the perfect closer to the bands career. On one hand some great songs are played here, but the setlist is just not that well thought out. Depending on the listener, this could be either wonderful or bland, thus leaving this to be for the fans only and really a wasted opportunity.

Boards of Canada – Trans Canada Highway

While nothing works effectively as a replacement for a Board of Canada LP, Trans Canada Highway is a more than good way to whet fans appetites. While this is fairly short in terms of new material, it is also easily the best EP Boards of Canada have released yet. Boards of Canada are a band with such scant material that fans delightfully lap up whatever material they can get their hands on. Luckily, this is a solid release and completely consistent despite it’s brevity. Dayvan Cowboy, the head track from The Campfire Headphase, is truly one of the greatest songs Boards of Canada have ever produced, and it is very worthy of being included here as well as being remixed. The remix, however, feels like a completely new song and is not just a throwaway. Trans Canada Highway does almost feel like a miniature BoC LP though, as it almost equally split between longer building signature electronica and short aural vignettes. The two longer new songs, Left Side Drive and Skyliner, are both fantastic and among the bands best. The signature Boards of Canada sound is marginally augmented by a simple matter of experience, and both songs are absolutely gorgeous in every way you love the band to be. Left Side Drive is a great chillout track with a great, steady, varying beat and awesome synthesizers floating in the background. Skyliner is equally as priceless though, layering itself an impressive amount of times and carefully changing the beat in comfortable ways. The two short interludes are both heavenly, otherworldly ambiance that you would expect a group with as much clarity to produce. Trans Canada Highway may simply be a taste of Boards of Canada’s future, but it’s a fantastic EP and a necessary augmentation onto an impressive discography.

Jane’s Addiction – Strays

This really isn’t as bad as everyone says it is. Sure, it doesn’t compare to Nothing’s Shocking or Ritual de lo Habitual, but very few albums do, so what is the point in complaining? People don’t seem to get that they should be thankful that the band came back and did their career justice at all. The album is not as completely standout on a song by song basis, but there are a few of the bands absolute best songs on here. True Nature is the heaviest Perry Ferrel and company have ever been, The Riches is a classic riff that seamlessly transforms into a relaxing segment that is very distinctly Jane’s Addiction, and Just Because and Superhero are very respectable short rockers. All of the other songs are good, just not great. Part of why people complain so much is because these are more aimed at the mainstream, but after doing as much trailblazing as the band did a decade earlier, this is a bit of a relief in some way. The production is solid, but Perry’s voice has deteriorated a little bit and is at his best when he’s really yelling. It’s no question that this is Jane’s Addiction’s worst album and it does not really stand out that much, but it’s a treat that fans will especially love.

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

All things considered, Physical Graffiti was the last Led Zeppelin album that really mattered. And it was a surprise too, considering Houses of the Holy was rather disappointing when compared to the bands earlier numbered albums. Fortunately, the bounceback was in the form of a gargantuan double album around the time that the bands popularity was at it’s height and anticipation was at a record high. The album delivered in any way that a fan could ask for, with as much hard blues as could ever be asked for, and enough new heavy sophistication to keep critics who wanted change and variance happy. The disk delivered as a middle ground between every extreme the band had ever relinquished in. Custard Pie is a shorter lighthearted sexual blues knockout, and In My Time of Dying is a marathon ten minute blues epic. Trampled Underfoot is a danceable organ oriented heavy trance, while Night Flight is shorter guitar pop reminiscent of earlier days. Even Led Zeppelin’s love for eastern music is touched on with Kashmir and In The Light, alongside the pounding dinosaur rock of Houses of The Holy. Surprisingly enough, yet another middle ground is reached when one considers that the album was about half full of older unreleased tracks and half new material. The result of all of these factors convening is a colossal smorgesborg for fans of hard rock, and not just Led Zeppelin either, but a wider audience. You could even say this album shows the band in their absolute prime, and although it may never surpass the popularity of IV or II, Physical Graffiti is a grand album and anything but a let down.

Luna – Bewitched

Although Luna’s momentous worth should truly be judged by the span of their long career, their most respectable effort, Bewitched, should not be overlooked. The album not only defined the bands sound for many great albums to come, but presented it with unmatched consistency. The mood that the pleasant dreampop group always tried to convey was a sleepy melodic dreamscape, and if there is one kind of dream that people love to have, they are dreams of love. The impressive aspect of not only this album but Luna in general is that they can do so much with so little; the simple dreamy chords and lullaby bass line gently carry the title track into a definitive sleeping song, and utilizing what could easily be Beatles lyrics, centered around love and wispy attractions. The level of sophistication in the songcraft is also very impressive, and while certain songs like Bewitched and Sleeping Pill may make do with simple strums and reserved beats, others like Great Jones Street and This Time Around boast beautifully spontaneous guitars and complex yet accessible melodies. The album also has two killer openers, setting the mood perfectly. On one hand the more uptempo daytime song California (All The Way) that very well might be the least depressing breakup song ever, and the dropdead gorgeous innocent classic Tiger Lily, that may just make your heart melt. If you have ever wanted a varied collection of top notch dreampop, look no further.

Brian Eno – Another Green World

Essentially, this album was the first venture into the art of synthesizers, loops, and synthetic sounds incorporated into pop music that was easily accessible. And it still stands as an absolutely gorgeous venture even to this day, which makes it even more amazing that it was released in the seventies. Although I hate to quote AMG, the writer of that sites review for this says it best. Another Green World plays like a dream sequence, or at least the ideal dream sequence, of creations both relaxing and structured. The record is almost short lived, and in a way sadly so, because each song almost begs for more time to express itself. This work of art comes in two specific but scattered parts. There are a few melodic pop songs featuring Eno’s pop/rock lyrics that accompany a catchy electronic background. Some of these songs are the compelling St. Elmo’s Fire featuring Robert Fripp on a downright mean guitar, the charming I’ll Come Running, and Sky Saw, which was probably the most out there pop music at the time. The other side of the spectrum are a wealth of amazing instrumental pieces that seem to describe their moods in perfect harmony with their names. In Dark Trees is an unsettling nightmare, Sombre Reptiles is a wonderful natural groove, and The Big Ship might just be Eno’s most gorgeous creation. The final five songs on the album are also to be noted as one of the strongest wrap-ups in pop history, reiterating the defined structure of the album. And while Eno amazes on all of these levels, he keeps up a specific style, which is about what would happen if someone built a time machine and simultaneously mixed the future of pop music with classical aesthetic, as the cover art projects. While Brian Eno may have arguably changed music even more with his ambient series, this was the record that not only pointed in that direction, but also made all of that able to happen. What Brian Eno did with Another Green World inspired a wealth of change in the pop music industry, and if not for it, electronica, ambient, or even structured mood music would not have been possible. So not only did Eno make a fantastic record, but he set the stage of music for years to come. Almost all artists today owe something to Eno, unless they foolishly believe that the studio’s only function is to record what is played and nothing more.

The Radio Dept. – Pulling Our Weight [EP]

Radio Dept.’s follow-up EP to their 2003 full length debut Lesser Matters ended up being more than just affirmation that the band were a one shot deal. The Pulling Our Weight EP ended up trumping an already impressive album of lovely dream-pop with only five songs, all of which are utterly fantastic and indesposable. This EP is the Radio Dept. shedding off whatever weaknesses they may have had and exploding with their full talent much like a blooming flower. The title track is the bands greatest and most representative work. The song seamlessly presents hook after hook over the trademark soft looped drums and shy hushed vocals, and the accompanying music video is a charming work of art on it’s own. The album surprisingly looses no momentum even with the consideration in mind that from the top, there is no where to go but down. A shockingly touching aural poetry is delivered with We Climb The Wired Fences, and I Don’t Need Love I’ve Got My Band is the romantic keystone of the disk and a lovely display of gently cascading guitar solos. The short two minute haiku Someone Else is tropical and relaxing, and the band once again displays their knack of creating an atmosphere with subtle touches without loosing their pop sensibilities. The album is rounded off by what seems to be a shoegaze revival, The City Limit. The song carries along a wonderful soundscape and many more beautiful melodies to contemplate. This is truly one of the most accomplished works of pop music produced in years and the Radio Dept. may well be the best band indie band out of Sweeden ever. Pulling Our Weight EP is a masterpiece of underspoken dream-pop, a perfect culmination of everything this wonderful band has to offer, and a grand sign of what the future may hold. One of the best EPs ever, for sure.

Silversun Pickups – Carnavas

Silversun Pickups’ full length debut has been pinned as a lot of things. They say takes influence from certain alternative bands of the nineties a lot, but in truth this album is fairly unique. But being unique does not always make you fantastic, as Carnavas proves. The song with the most pinnable source is the opening Melatonin, a pretty obvious My Bloody Valentine rip, but it is actually a very good song despite it’s unoriginality. But if unoriginality was the only problem with this album, it would simply be a damn good album for nostalgic alt rockers. But the problems dig deeper than that. The mood here is despondent, which is fine, but unfortunately the theme does not develop throughout the near hour it lasts. The concluding moments of this pretty much sum it up. “We’re always going to cross the finish line while everybody wants to run and hide, but now it’s too late.” Whatever opportunity that Carnavas had to be concluded beautifully was botched. Sound wise this album just feels tired. This could have been a great shoegaze record, but the drums are too loud, the guitars are too subdued (this problem is relieved if you REALLY crank it), and the vocals are awkwardly miscalculated. The vocalist kind of sounds like s/he wants to scream like Dave Grohl but doesn’t quite have the guts to actually come out and do it, and if they did it would just be painful. The upshot is that these guys can write some very good songs. Lazy Eye has gotten some significant radio play for a reason, Rusted Wheel is a very contemplative outing, and some of the albums first half can be very fun. But the fact that these people know how to write music is unfortunately overshadowed by the fact that they simply cannot produce it well quite yet. If you have heard some of these songs and liked them you will find comfort in the rest of the record, but it still really isn’t that memorable. As imaginative as these songs are, they feel like wasted ammunition, and I can only hope that the future holds good things for these possibly talented but misguided musicians.

Tool – Ænima

Tool’s second album Ænima is a significant leap forward from an already great album, and it secured the bands fanbase while delivering one of the ninties more compelling metal albums. Like all of Tool’s albums, this takes time to open up. At first it seems passive and less forceful than the aggressive and fast-paced Undertow, but Ænima is truly an informing listen. And simultaneously driving too. On one hand the album delivers a radio hit with Stinkfist, but after that the listener is plunged right into the middle of the issues and ideals that are to be put accross. As opposed to being stated explicitly, these themes are to be realized after close inspection. Even then, fans of Undertow will love this album. Songs like Eulogy and Forty Six & 2 are alternately introspective and uncompromising. And yet the album still rocks out while delivering it’s complex and important messages. Hooker With A Penis is a short rocker (at least for Tool), and the title track is more rock solid than anything off of this album or Undertow. And the album can get progressive too. Eulogy, Pushit, and Third Eye are all huge, interesting pieces that are expanded on in complex ways that only the attentive ear can decifer quickly. When I first bought this album I didn’t like it at all, but after giving it a chance and looking for what makes this so popular, every song on this album opened up. This really isn’t inviting, as far as the general style goes or the colorful yet disturbing filler, but this is a fantastic album and it really put Tool on the map for a reason.

Cocteau Twins – Treasure

Treasure is Cocteau Twins’ most popular and influential record, but it’s questionable whether it is truly the best. Undeniably this is the Twin’s at their stylistic peak, delivering the goods with a greater and more constructive precision than ever before. These melodies are, for the most part, touchingly beautiful and accessible. This is really the breakthrough music that the band had been working towards, although the Spangle Maker EP was geared towards the same thing with significantly less success. The difference lies in the vocals, and Treasure is Liz Fraser’s vocal peak. The most obvious and unique charm of this record is Liz Fraser’s new vocal style. She no longer even tries to sing words but instead sings in unintelligible sounds thus extending her voice into what is now truly a musical instrument. Side A is quite simply perfect, and all five songs are beautiful and essential. Ivo is perfectly refined nuanced poetic dream-pop and one of the bands absolute best. The following Lorelei is misleading. The song has unbelievably beautiful hooks, a quality that the band were not known for, but if you turn up the volume on this, spontaneous eargasms will follow. Beatrix is as regal as it is fresh even over twenty years later, Persephone has deliciously dirty guitar cutting accompanied by another flawless vocal performance, and Pandora (For Cindy) is a lovely, relaxing, and almost tropical song that points directly to the bands next album, the beautiful Victorialand. An album with this much momentum seems unstoppable, and it almost is, but the unfortunate flaw of Treasure is that Side B derails a bit. Or maybe it just seems like it does because some of the songs aren’t as standout as those that preceeded them, but in any case it feels like the album runs out of energy. Amelia is very good upon closer inspection, and Aloysius is just as priceless as anything on Side A. But Cicely feels like a revisit to Persephone only with less enthusiasm, Otterley has almost no melody at all (although it is pretty ambiance), and Donimo is a vocal misfire. Even considering the fact that some of these songs are not quite as priceless as others, the album still stands in quality and this may well be the Twin’s best, most moving album.

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Ten More Reviews

March 15, 2007

Cocteau Twins – Love’s Easy Tears

Love’s Easy Tears kind of ties Echoes In A Shallow Bay as the Cocteau Twins best EP. It’s killer, that much is obvious; both Orange Appled and Those Eyes, That Mouth are frequent picks for favorite songs by the band, and both are fantastic. Those Eyes, That Mouth is a hypnotic pop love wave, and it’s really hard to get better than that. But Orange Appled does it. The song is just about as good as Carolyn’s Fingers if not better. It has a killer hook and a quenching Guthrie solo alongside absolutely gorgeous vocals, as usual, from Liz Fraser. The title track is also very fun and simple, and Sigh’s Smell of Farewell is nice too, just not as good as the others. In short, this is vintage Cocteau Twins, and some of the best of it. Don’t waste any time; if you are a fan who wants to delve into the EPs, go for this first. First timers should pick it up if nothing else because the songs are fantastic, but it might be better to start with a full album like Treasure or Blue Bell Knoll.

The Jesus And Mary Chain – Psychocandy

When The Jesus And Mary Chain first started out, they had an idea, and it was delicious. And usable too, and even better, it could appeal to a mass market. Fans of pop and catchy hooks could appreciate the melodicism, and punk rockers valued the noise and chaos in the sonic density. The idea was to ultimately slam innocent pop tunes into a wall of sonic guitar sheen and noise, and the result is somewhat reminiscent of the albums title. It is candy and very sweet candy, that much is true. But it is candy in the most perverse and guilty way possible. Just listen to any track on this album and you will hear the utterly ingenious pop flowing through different parts in ways that even The Beatles would be somewhat impressed with if the production was smoother. But it’s not. It’s both rough and smooth, ugly and beautiful. These tunes are constantly accompanied by a sonic wall of meaty feedback, guitar shine, and occasionally the addition of a disturbing but fun sound effect like a hushed scream of agony in the background or an unintentional burst of noise. And it just keeps coming. Every track on this album is priceless in some way, from the pretty surf rock ballad Some Candy Talking to the relaxed rock of Taste The Floor to the pretty Just Like Honey and even the garden variety punk of Never Understand. Each song has an almost sinisterly simple beat and a simple chord progression. Even skilled musicians will sit and think to themselves, “hey, I could have written this.” But then they will realize that they so couldn’t have. What’s really amazing about this is how none of the songs have choruses or verses…a melody or tune is never used for more than a half minute, after which a completely new and impressive hook is thrown the listeners way. It’s candy, delicious sweet candy, and only a skilled band could have made it. It would take a little while for The Jesus And Mary Chain to reach a wider market and truly gain respect, but this is the start of something beautiful and easily The Chain’s best album.

Led Zeppelin – Coda

This is really not as bad of an album as you have been told it is. If you would even consider it an album. We should really be thankful of Jimmy Paige and company for releasing this after our dear John Bonham died, although it was more of a contractual thing than an act of kindness, but in any case this wraps up just about everything the band had to release save a good live album which would take a few decades to surface. So this is a b-sides collection. It doesn’t do anything more or less, and considering only a select few album tracks by the band are ever bad, this isn’t a huge blemish on the bands discography. We’re Gonna Grove is a pretty immediate winner, and it goes back to the blues rock that the band started out with. Wearing And Tearing is actually also very good, an answer to the seventies punk movement. Beyond that, Bonzo’s Montreux is an interesting drum-fest and Poor Tom is among the best of the bands Led Zeppelin 3 material, and most likely the best on the album. Yeah, of the two sides, half the material is bad, but not disposable. For a band where every scrap is a treasure, this is really pretty good. But only for the hardcore Zep fan.

My Bloody Valentine – Only Shallow Single

The Only Shallow single from My Bloody Valentine is actually a promo on vinyl that subscribers to certain French magazines acquired in a 1992 issue. The single contains three great songs, the first of which is Only Shallow, one of the better songs from Loveless. The song is truly single material, and it’s huge sound and wonderful melody are reasons enough to have made this single at all. But two b-sides are also included. Sugar is a MBV classic and one of the bands rarest songs. Instrumental B is also very good, and was released prior to this single on the Instrumentals promo a few years earlier, accompanying the Isn’t Anything release. A true rarity for hardcore MBV fans; it’s an antique, but it’s probably worth a ton and well worth the price if just to hear Sugar.

Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth

Back in 2005, Nine Inch Nails returned from a six year fallout with the fifth studio album and nineteenth Halo, With Teeth. I remember driving home from the record store and listening to this for the first time, and I was generally impressed. This album does get a lot of shit though, and I can’t exactly put my finger on why. Collectively I suppose it is kind of weak, but this easily delivers some of Reznor’s finest material since The Downward Spiral. The sound still echoes of The Fragile’s reconstructive cool production, but the album still stands alone with a good amount of success. It’s a compelling enough listen to make fans happy, and the songs are very good. Many songs are characterized by heavy riffing, especially the grooving The Collector and a popular live/club pick, The Hand That Feeds. But most of the songs are very individual, especially Only, Every Day Is Exactly The Same (a personal favorite and subject of it’s own remix EP), and Beside You In Time. The disk ends on Right Where It Belongs, a very Hurt-esque ballad that deserves some respect. The problems are minimal, and this is about as consistent as The Fragile, simply one disk less. If this is the future of Nine Inch Nails, I’m happy. Without a doubt this is the worst album NIN has produced thus far, but considering this album is very good, I think that says a lot for how much talent Reznor actually has. A good one, hardly disposable like most people will tell you.

Singles Soundtrack

Singles really wasn’t that great for a date flick, but it had a pretty good soundtrack and at least captured the look and part of the feel of the 1990s Seattle grunge scene. In retrospect, this soundtrack is probably less disposable than the movie itself. The soundtrack is mostly comprised of various rarities from some of Seattle’s most popular rock acts, save the conspicuous absence of any Nirvana. And there were some songs from the movie that didn’t make it here, namely Alice in Chains’ It Ain’t Like That and Soundgarden’s Spoonman. But hell, you probably already had those songs if you were ever interested in this disk in the first place. For that reason, the inclusion of Would? and I Nearly Lost You is probably unnecessary to the grunge fan, but both songs are fantastic in any case. Other highlights include some contributions from former Replacement John Westerberg, some really good Pearl Jam rarities, Soundgarden’s Birth Ritual (one of Chris Cornells best vocal performances), and a great Mother Love Bone take. It’s more of an odds and ends collection, but that is actually good, and you would stand well to pick this up if you like grunge or 90s alt rock.

But come on, theres no version of the movies original novelty “Touch Me I’m Dick.” That would have been a hilarious inclusion.

Malory – Not Here, Not Now

A decent shoegaze album, Not Here Not Now delivers the dreamy goods in as good of a way as it can. The problem is probably a lack of originality, because the band rips on Slowdive pretty relentlessly. This can only be complained about so much considering Slowdive are one of the worthiest bands to rip on in the genre, but the sampling only makes Not Here, Not Now more easy to call an attempted Souvlaki clone. If anything, the acquisition of this album would be justified enough by the opening Falling, an absolutely gorgeous dreamy instrumental that is nothing like anything else on the record. But the rest of the album doesn’t exactly continue with this same style and very obviously draws influence from Slowdive in just about every way. But in the same way Kevin Shields would probably be proud of some of Pia Fraus’ escapades, Neil Halstead probably wouldn’t have too much of a problem with someone drawing heavily from his style if it is done this tastefully. Dany, Sunday Nights, and Spring are all gorgeous songs, but once again, you can’t help but feel like you are being lied to. Everything down to the male/female vocals, soft beats, and emotional guitars, this practically IS Slowdive, the only difference being the bands serious problems with concluding their songs which Slowdive can conversely do very well; the most pretty of these songs just seem to drone with no conclusion when they were clearly within sight. It’s good, but uninspired and unfortunately completely disposable.

My Bloody Valentine – Olympia, Paris

While every My Bloody Valentine bootleg can be considered a treasure, this may well be the bands worst available bootleg that I have heard, and extremely overrated. The band is simply not in fantastic playing condition at this show, for one thing. But the real killer is the fact that the recording quality is atrocious. This bootleg is really almost unlistenable, but it does win in one respect on one song. The version of To Here Knows When here is good if you crank it up to ludicrous volumes and appreciate it for what one of MBVs greatest charms is, a wall of beautiful sound. However, this is really the only time that this bootleg is worth anything.

Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music For Airports

The ambient breakthrough of Brian Eno, Music For Airports was the blooming result of years of ideas and contemplation. Eno first honed his pop skills with the utmost reliability, and then took a turn for the experimental. The new idea was mood music, relaxing pieces that could be used in films or to make someone feel a certain way with just instruments. The new direction was explored with great success on Another Green World, again employed on Music For Films, and completely fleshed out into an ambient masterpiece with Music For Airports. The idea was simple, and utterly ingenious. Eno had been in an airport and had a bad experience witht he music playing, and decided to make a record of music built specifically for being played for the enjoyment of a wide array of people in public places. The soul of the music is relaxation and sheer beauty, but when the music is analyzed as closely as Eno explains it, it only makes more and more sense. The music had to be long so that it wasn’t changing too much on the listener, easily interrupted by P.A. systems, higher or lower than voice frequency so to not be a nuisance, and ever changing to keep the listeners interest. And beyond that, the music also had to be non intrusive a nd passive in the background of a situation, and also accessible to a wealth of people. While this is not the first album to employ modern ambient sounds, it is surely one of Eno’s most influential and enjoyable ambient works.

Nick Drake – Pink Moon

Considering the direction that it’s predecessor Bryter Layter took, Nick Drake’s last album is at first seemingly a step backward. The complexities of Nick Drake’s other work has been conspicuously stripped down to it’s core, a brutally honest album consisting of little more than Drake’s voice and a skillfully played acoustic guitar. And even more touching is how sudden and momentous it feels. And yet Pink Moon doesn’t play like anything close to a suicide note or a final farewell so much as a deeply personal and trusting letter from a friend. Aftergiving this gem enough time to unfold, every song can reveal a subtle relaxing beauty. The title track is fantastic if not a little misleading, projecting the definitive late night chill image. But as the album goes on, the music stays revealing and yet surprisingly simple. Only someone such as Nick Drake could possibly say so much with only a few chord strums like he does on Horn or discuss mixed feelings like on Parasite. In many ways, this is as close to Nick Drake as you will ever get, and as moving of an album as it is relaxing. Truly a classic album, taking the best of the folk genre and it’s most important aspects and bringing nothing more than poetry and personal taste.

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Brian Eno – Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks

February 5, 2007

Apollo

Space travel has never really interested me, for numerous reasons including how boring it must be to just go out into outer space and sit in a space station or something. If I want to see the stars or nebulaes or whatever, I’ll just go out in the middle of Montana or something and lie on the ground and watch the stars. Going on a shuttle and out of our earths atmosphere doesn’t really get you any closer to the stars that you dream of. The fact that Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks gets past these realities make it just as essential as some of Eno’s other popular pieces. The problem is that one needs to treat it in the right light and let it take you away.

I say that because it is extremely easy to listen to Brian Eno and just think about whatever the title tells you. It’s easy to imagine an airport during Music For Airports, and a plateau in The Plateaux of Mirrors. It is simmilarly easy for one to imagine the moon or outer space when listening to Apollo, and by outer space I mean the real outer space, and how truly boring it is. If you are floating in outer space, you are kind of close to weightless so that is pretty cool. But you are also lonely, probably close to death, bored out of your mind, and worried. What Apollo does is sort of transcend any images we can already recognize as reality, and in that sense it is the true victory of Eno’s ambient catalogue. It is evocative of outer space, but not an outer space we know. Picture if looking out into the night sky was more interesting, and everything in the universe was a tad closer together, and there were more nebulaes and planets and moons and shooting stars and such to see in the night sky; a more colorful night. And now don’t restrict yourself necessarily to floating out in the middle of space. You can if you want, but you could also be watching from earth too. And you don’t have to be all deep about looking out into space, and you don’t have to think about whether or not we are alone or if there is a meaning to life. Are you relaxed yet?

This is not my favorite Eno album, and it does have it’s problems. The cover art sucks, for one thing. Of all the things to put on an album that shouldn’t be associated with the moon… How silly. The moon, while beautiful in it’s own way, is desolate, grey, lonely, and in the middle of nowhere. Once again, this album is not the night sky you know. Other problems I have are with a few individual songs. One of those is The Secret Place, and while it was a good enough idea, it’s not a priceless track like the rest. It has important ideas and details like the other songs, but not ideas that meld extremely well. The drums are discreet and cool, and the almost ocean-like synthesizers make sense in the context of an underwater setting, but it’s not an enjoyable listen, as being in a dark underwater expanse is NOT FUN. Or maybe just not for me. At least in outer space I can turn my head and not see a giant sea monster swallow me up. In the ocean you don’t know what the hell is going on. But the songs follower Matta sort of does the same thing better, more like feeling like you are on a quiet eerie dock, all dressed up with whale sounds and deep echoes. And what a comparison that is; the depths of space to a deep ocean! To have the universe be filled withouter space animals would be interesting. Just picture whales in the sky, just for a moment. Eno’s goal with ambient music was always to create an environment without images or words in conjunction with the listeners imagination. On all of the songs here he does the job well. But quite simply, some songs are more enjoyable than others to listen to, as effective as most of them are.

This is actually probably the most structured and melodic of all of Eno’s ambient works. Not that every song is structured, because about half the album is complex chord tones and discreet atmospheres. But there are few tracks that could actually be considered songs, much in the wake of Another Green World’s instrumentals. Right about when the album hits Silver Morning it starts getting very accessible and song based, up until the last song Stars which is sort of a combination. Silver Morning is actually more of a big relaxing almost southern American guitar solo, all dressed up in down home slides. That sort of twang carries through the pseudo lullaby Deep Blue Day, and it almost contradicts itself. It has a chugalong pace and a relaxing centerpiece melody, but the synthesizers are too vast to truly be relaxing or sleep-inducing. The effect isn’t by any means failed or anything, but are very interesting, almost too interesting to be discreet like ambient music should be and conversely too non-intrusive to hold ones ear for too long. Consequently this music is very much an album you want to give a full listen and understand fully, but it really takes a while, because this is by no means the epitomy of ambient music. It has more feeling, that much is for sure. It just doesn’t hit all the right qualifications.

The moodier pieces are probably the better ones though. Always Returning is sort of a combination of melody and atmosphere. It has a repeating synth line that gets closer to a flat out lullaby, and it is tired and flexible enough to represent a number of things to the listener, including a weary city and it’s weary people at very late hours. One clear winner is An Ending (Ascent) in all of it’s shifting beauty and subtlety. Another is Under Stars II, but it’s less of a touching piece and more of a mellow outing.

This is really not an album that my words can do justice to. And I don’t mean to say that with an air of pretentiousness that this album is ingenious or perfect. It’s not. It’s not even my favorite of Eno’s ambient pieces. But it is very good for those who chose to understand it in their own ways. And for gods sake don’t think about the goddam moon when you listen to this, unless you really want to. I reiterate; Eno’s music was never meant to paint a specific picture so much as a tangible feeling that the listener can latch on to subconciously. You aren’t supposed to listen to this album feverishly pointing out to yourself what you do and don’t like, because it is supposed to be in the background. Like every ambient album, there will be songs you do and don’t like, that work and don’t work, and that is fine. Ambient music doesn’t work at it’s best on an album basis, like other music does, if you would even call this music. But for all intents and purposes, Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks is Ambient V, and it should be treated in the same way as all of Eno’s other ambient albums.

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Brian Eno – Music For Films

October 23, 2006

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have a problem, perhaps an addiction. It’s not an addiction that will kill me or make me lose my hair or turn my skin all clammy, but it’s an annoying one nonetheless. I buy way too many CDs. Well, I acquire way too many CDs. I don’t have a lot of money as it is and I am going to have to start to worry about college and other such expenses soon enough. Which makes my addiction all the more ridunkulous. When I see something I want, I say to myself, oh, if I had that I would be content enough to not buy any albums for a loooong time. Never works out. I always seem to make certain excuses as well to justify or protect my (what could be) dangerous habit, but I think it’s really time to buckle down. I do have some solutions that I could employ, and aren’t even that hard at employing. I should be more akin to roughing it musically than I already am, so I’ll try my hardest to review my current stash (ginormous) within the next few months without getting anything else. I have so fricking many things that I could review right now. This is one of them, and consequently one of the worst CD buying decisions I have made in the past few months. It’s Brian Eno yes, so I suppose it has to be good if you are in the right mood for it. It is, that’s very true. But it was way too expensive, even considering the fact that I could likely not get it for any cheaper elsewhere, as it is a rare import from Holland like most all of Eno’s work seems to be.

If you have ever enjoyed the wonderful sounds of Eno’s Another Green World (If you haven’t, fucking do it now. That’s a goddam order soldier.), than you might be able to equate most of the songs on this collection as music close to Becalmed, Zawinul/Lava, and possibly even Little Fishes if you want to stretch it, mostly in the way of length. The music is what the title suggests, music that sounds like it really should be from a film soundtrack. That said, like movie soundtrack nuggets, most of the songs on this album are very short, somewhat spontaneous and different from one another, and very atmospheric and interesting. I believe many of them were actually used in movies, interestingly enough.

This is, quite simply, ambient music. Keep in mind the circumstances in which it was made though. The year is 1978, and the release was technically before that of Ambeint 1: Music For Airports even though it was the same year and the man was arguably already working on the more well known masterwork. This is actually a collective work as well, and the credit on the album goes to several different people other than Eno on different occasions, the most interesting of these people being Percy Jones, Phil Collins, and Robert Fripp. But Eno himself did most of the work, and this shows in the striking simmilarity and comparable soundscapes to his later work in the Ambient series. All this said, each track is a meticulously created synth instrumental, and sometimes they work fantastically. Other times though, the pieces feel almost criminally underdeveloped and able of being crafted into something perhaps simmilar to the better tracks on Another Green World, where the instrumentals dwarf all others.

It should be noted, though, that even the underdeveloped and simple songs are joys to listen to. Brian Eno is not close to a typical music artist, so obviously this album is going to be quite different. I can immagine even the most avid listeners and fans of Eno at the time who had enjoyed not only Roxy Music but Another Green World and Eno’s other great albums would be surprised and put off by this, at least slightly. The album isn’t really organized, and songs with certain emotions don’t necessarilly carry to their followers. The biggest problem would be the fact that many of the songs could be extended a minute or two and would still fit snuggly into the format of the album. Even considering the typical length of records at the time, this clocks in at 40 minutes or so, a bit shy of the typical release. But those problems aside, most of the music here is just as breathy and atmospheric as any Brian Eno ambient work you will find.

The mood is typically very relaxed. Only the artists truly know what context these songs were supposed to be played in, but the titles hint at some theatrical situations that may or may not be fitting. Slow Water is a wonderful piece that whispers of a shimmering transparent flow. Another great one, Task Force, speaks musically of a late night city group who finds some excitement among the monotony. ‘There Is Nobody’ comes close to a flat out groove among the bleeps and bloops. The three part relaxing melancholy of Sparrowfall 1-3 are also very delightful and worth extended listens. But the two obvious winners are Quartz, a shimmering dreamer, and From The Same Hill, with it’s lovely acoustic guitar.

I guess I shouldn’t stress the fact that these pieces are relaxed so much as they are atmospheric. Alternative 3 is good, but surely disturbing. The idea here is what you would expect. It’s a collection of moody instrumental pieces that could easily be placed in movies. Considering the time in which it was made, this album is WAY ahead of it’s time and worth a listen if you are a fan of any other of Brian Eno’s ambient music. If you have heard his earlier pop or Another Green World and none of his later stuff, this might be a bit difficult if you are expecting any of the same, but it is still a great treasure box of mood pieces. Was it worth it for me? Probably not, as there are many other great Eno instrumental albums which I don’t have the pleasure of owning or even having heard, and it fetched a very high price that I was dumb enough to pay, but I am still happy with it because it is Brian Eno, and it’s really hard to go wrong with his art.

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Shuffle Time, Again

October 9, 2006

Hey, sorry about the missed update on Thursday again. It’s not that I’m running out of things to say so much as time to say it in. And beyond that, I am having difficulty finding things to review that haven’t already been acclaimed by everyone already. It’s not that I don’t want to review things like Oasis, Tool, or Liquid Tension Experiment. I’m just 90% sure that you don’t give a shit. And why should you? I don’t want to stray too far into the mainstream even though I am your typical mainstream whore. I just want to keep things a tad interesting.

Sonic Youth – Silver Rocket

Talk about a dream job. What non-jock guy wouldn’t want to be Thurston Moore? He’s around fifty now, and yet he’s still kicking, producing great records with his art punk band that not only revolutionized music, but can still kick out some good hooks and also features his lovely wife. Now that’s the life. I haven’t heard Rather Ripped yet but I’m told it’s pretty awesome. Daydream Nation, however, I have heard and it is an awesomely badass album not to mention revolutionary and extremely important on it’s own. Silver Rocket is actually a standout punk song of sorts, with a livid guitar squall in the forefront driving it all the way home. It’s no Teenage Riot, but holds it’s place as a fantastic short rocker.

Head Automatica – Broklyn Is Burning

Theres something awesome about this, but I don’t know what. It’s got a solid beat I guess, and the riff is nice, but that’s about it. It’s kind of sleazy rock, and if you are in the right mood for it, that’s good. I haven’t heard too much else by these guys nor do I really have a desire to. I believe they just recently came out with a new album. The guys voice really annoys me though, enough so that even if this is a half-decent song, I have absolutely no desire to get anywhere close to anything with these semi-emo vocals.

Stone Temple Pilots – Days Of The Week

This was one of STPs last hits off of Shangri – La Dee Da in, what, 02 or 03? Something like that. The album is rather difficult but if you give it a chance it could be considered better than No. 4, which is usually classified as a little better than Shangri. In any case, this is one of the bands better songs. But there are a few other good ones on that album… Bi-Polar Bear, Hollywood Bitch, even Coma. Theres good things to be found in the druggy mind of Scott Weiland, and it’s surprising enough that these good things are infectious straightforward pop. Purple was the height of that talent though, and after that things sort of went downhill, at least as far as albums go. The band still produced pop gold until the end, but just not consistantly as they did before.

Home – Smashing Pumpkins

This is one of the better tracks off of Machina II, the final album from our great friends Smashing Pumpkins. I’ve already ranted more than necessary in refference to their current situation, so I won’t do that. But this is a great song from a pretty underrated album. In my opinion, Machina II is miles over Machina/The Machines of God. For whatever reason, it is just much more inviting and comforting than it’s predecessor. For those of you who don’t know, the album was only released in hard copy form in extreme rarity in the form of four rare EPs (I think they may have all been vinyl, actually), but the gist of the whole thing was that the bands last album was encouraged to be shared on the internet for free. What a nice gesture. The only problem might be the production, and even then that might just be the version I have. I’m sure there is a higher quality version elsewhere on the web. Anyway, this is actually a standout track from an album that really shines and serves as a grand sendaway to SMP.

Led Zeppelin – Night Flight

As far as I’m concerned, Physical Graffiti was the last Led Zeppelin album that really mattered. Presence never did anything for me, nor did In Through The Out Door (although I guess In The Evening is a classic product of it’s time). I never even really liked Houses of The Holy that much either, but I would still say it’s a good album. Physical Graffiti, however, remustered the bands old energy and innovation and put out all the cards on the table. It was a big deal when it came out, surely. My mother even remembers the sign in the local mall above the entrance to the record store. “ITS NOT HERE YET.” That’s just how big they were. Half the album was new stuff and the other half old unreleased stuff. It’s hard to pinpoint which was which, but you can hear some of it having some newer eastern and even dance type stuff in it, while the other half is more vintage Led Zeppelin, consisting of more bluesy and pop stuff. This is one of the better tracks from that world. Great track from a great album.

Nirvana – Stain

Well, it was bound to happen. How many Nirvana songs do I have on my iPod anyway? Over two hundred easily. So one is bound to come up early in a shuffle. To be honest, there isn’t too much special about this song. There are some Nirvana songs I just don’t like. They are few and far between yes, and most of them are b-sides like this. It’s just generally an uninspired obnoxious rocker. And yet when I get to this whenever I listen to Incesticide, I won’t skip it. It’s got pretty good production and the solo is good. It’s got the punk attitude down, it just doesn’t follow through with it, and the lyrics are kind of tasteless. Not much else to say.

Porno For Pyros – 100 Ways

Theres something strange about Perry Ferrel…
Wait, I didn’t just fucking say that, did I?
EVERYTHING is strange about Perry Ferrel. He’s totally weird, but ingenious too. For some reason, not one of my friends likes Jane’s Addiction, and they seem to bring up the fact that they don’t like them at totally irrelevant times. I can’t understand that. Whatever. Porno For Pyros was the sort of follow up project to Jane’s Addiction featuring Perry as the main songwriter. They had two albums, and the approach was generally much more relaxed and mellow. This is a pretty good song, but there is something unnerving to hear him making something serious and contemplative instead of genuine angry punk like Mountain Song. I still like it though.

Elvis – Can’t Help Falling In Love

Here’s one from the King, maybe my favorite song from him. It’s just a beautiful love song. It’s a cover, like most all of Elvis’ songs, but we all know that Elvis didn’t really shine in his songwriting ability so much as his keen delivery. Everyone has to have a little Elvis, right? Right. Want a greatest hits? Go here and prepare to get sick.
http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:6qotk60x9kr0~T21
I myself find the vast number of movies he starred in more dependably hokie and interesting than I find his music ingenious or fantastic. He’s the man, theres no denying that.

Tool – Parabola

Tool disorients me. They are a great band, don’t get me wrong, but they have some obvious downfalls. One of which is their fanbase, which is about 7/8 complete and total ass wipes. Second is the fact that I personally find it tiring to listen to one of their albums all the way through. Their sophistication in the metal genre is off-putting to the casual listener too. Their sound is very tribal and often times filled with strange time signatures and progressive outings that people find difficult. I know I sure did, and it took me a long time to bring myself to like Lateralus. But it happened eventually, and this is probably one of the better songs off of the album, standing up there with The Grudge, Reflection, and Mantra (what can I say, I was never really one for Schism).

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dosed

The best song off of the bands best album, By The Way, easily. To be honest I’m not a big fan of the band, but they can pull off some great songs if they put their mind to it. I think the main reason why is Anthony Kiedis. I think the instrumentation of the band is utterly fantastic. But with his voice and lyrics… I find I can’t really take them too seriously anymore. Especially on Stadium Arcadium. There are so many great songs there just ruined by uninspired lyrics, but you have already heard my take on that album. Coincidentally, my friends mother recently saw Anthony Kiedis in an airport. Apparently there was some fuss in the ticket line with him, and he was a little flustered. Keep in mind that my friends mother is pretty much the biggest RHCP fan EVER. He was doing a little damage control I think, so he allowed a picture to be taken with her. Strangely enough, she saw the band on an airplane ten years earlier, before she was a fan. Weird coincidence.

Brian Eno – The Big Ship

Another Green World defined the electronic genre and what synthesizers could do in not only a pop context but in a lush instrumental. It’s easily one of the greatest albums ever made, truly a one of a kind piece. This is one of the instrumentals, which arguably make up the more interesting portion of the album. A very floaty and airy guitar fuzz wall is in the middle, with a piano like instrument augmenting the chords, a noteworthy beat supplementing the beauty, and an interesting synthesizer cut in the background (which if you listen closely enough, is in the same rhythm but not the same time as everything else). The image is what it sounds like. Think a traveller who has come all the way from a monastary in sixteenth century England, now arriving at a port with a big beautiful ship ready to take off to his next destination into the early morning sea.

The Jesus And Mary Chain – Dirty Water

This is the opener to the bands 1994 accoustic album Stoned And Dethroned. It’s really a very relaxing tune. The entire album is underrated I’d say, and it contains a lot of mellow almost country-ish chill tunes. Like Psychocandy, it’s got such a great number of songs that it should keep even the most avid Chain fans satisfied for a long time. To me, this is the more obvious choice for a single, way more obvious than Come On or Sometimes Always (with all due respect). This song reminds me of when I was on vacation in upstate New York when I was in Seventh grade. We stayed with some relatives, and we all went swimming in a pond one day. I didn’t really swim so much as put my feet in the water. I was still a little pampered back then, so I didn’t really want to jump into the dirty and cold water on that chill late summer morning. It wasn’t that big of a pond as far as diameter goes, but it was bordered by an extremely high cliff, at least a few hundred feet tall. I remember someone saying that the pond was probably at least as deep as the cliff was tall. That always stuck with me for some reason.