Thursday, October 01, 2009

Things I've Been Listening To

Here is a list of some of the albums I've been listening to recently.

Volcano Choir - Unmap

This is a project featuring Justin Vernon (from Bon Iver). Seeing as how I love Bon Iver, I was pretty excited about this album.
Aside from the vocals (which are not a huge part of this album), the music sounds nothing like Bon Iver. This album is full of glitchy electronics, bursts of sound, and long periods where the tracks seem to be building to nothing.
Still...I like it. I don't love it, but I like it...although it took me a couple of listens to get there. Right now is the perfect time of year to start listening to this album, too.

Favorite song: "Husks and Shells"

Rating: 3.5/5

Wilco - Wilco (The Album)

Although I love Wilco, there were a number of barriers I had to get past to enjoy this album.
Barrier #1: While I loved Sky Blue Sky, the constant barrage of hearing those songs in commercials kind of killed the album for me, which is a real shame. I thought it had a shot to rank among my favorite Wilco albums...but now that will never happen. In addition to that, I now have to get past that feeling and try to listen to this album without thinking, "I wonder how long it will take for all of these songs to make it to TV."
Barrier #2: The album is called Wilco (The Album). That is a terrible name for an album. Self-title the album if you must...but Wilco (The Album) is terrible, and nothing will be able to change my mind.
Barrier #3: The first song is called "Wilco (The Song)". Come on. Are you trying to make me hate you? On top of that, the song sounds like Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London". I enjoy "Werewolves of London". I am much less enthusiastic about people trying to copy it.
Once I got past those barriers, I found that I liked the album quite a bit. It doesn't compare with their best work, but it's a good, solid pop/rock album. It's looking like their best days are behind them. But, as long as they keep releasing good, solid albums, I think I can come to terms with the fact that they are not great. I don't know if that makes any sense to you all, but it makes perfect sense to me.

Favorite song: "One Wing"

Rating: 3.5/5

Sufjan Stevens - The B.Q.E.

When I heard this was coming out, this was how it sounded in my mind: "A modern classical album, filled with all of the orchestration that Sufjan is known for. Also, a couple of tracks of noise." Add in some scant amounts of electronic experimentation, and I pretty much hit the nail on the head.
It is almost exactly what I expected...and I love it.

Favorite song: "Movement IV: Traffic Shock"

Rating: 4.5/5

I never have been a huge Pete Yorn fan, but I enjoyed Scarlett Johansson's previous album, so I decided to give this album a shot.
The album works its way through the break up of a relationship, as seen through the eyes of both parties involved.
It works extremely well. I never cared much for Yorn's voice, but, when mixed with Johansson's, it just sounds like it fits.
The album kicks off with "Relator", which sets the stage for the entire album. It also happens to be the catchiest track on the album.
They also work in a cover of Chris Bell's "I Am the Cosmos", which is my favorite moment of the album. Scarlett's voice works so well with that song.
This is a pop album. Plain and simple. But they do it extremely well.

Favorite song: "I Am the Cosmos"

Rating: 4.5/5

Margo Guryan - Take a Picture

This album was released in 1968, but it never really garnered much attention. I've been listening to it for a little while, and it's high time I said something about it.
Margo Guryan was a classically trained musician, who majored in composition at Boston University. She loved jazz music, and spent most of her time writing jazz compositions. While she was attending the Lenox School of Jazz, someone introduced her to Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. She became obsessed with pop music, and began writing pop music of her own. In 1968, she released this album (it was the only album she officially released).
It's full of fantastic pop songs with a classical influence. The standout track is "Someone I Know", a piano driven song that uses "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" as a theme.
Her voice can take a little to get used to, and there are a couple of "down" moments on the album. But, for the most part, it's a great album that should be heard by more people.

Favorite song: "Someone I Know"

Rating: 4.5/5

Maps - Turning the Mind

Maps first album, We Can Create, was an album filled with electronics and synths, creating a wonderfully lush sound. It was one of those albums that I thought was amazing the first time I heard it, but it lost some of its luster the more I listened to it. Still, it was a solid album, and I was excited for this one.
Apparently James Chapman (the only member of Maps) decided that disco was not dead, and so made an album of disco-infused electronic music. It's not even as good as it sounds. All of the songs bleed together into one giant mistake.

Rating: .5/5
Tyondai Braxton - Central Market

This album sounds like Mickey Mouse started listening to some Stravinsky, then hired the Seven Dwarves to be his backing band...but in a good way. I'm sorry, but that's the only way I can think to describe it.
It's a bit uneven, but, overall, it's an enjoyable and interesting listen.

Favorite song: "Uffe's Woodshop"

Rating: 3.5/5

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