Paul Simon (1972)

Categories: 1972 and Music.

I don’t love Paul Simon as a songwriter. I have been trying and trying but, aside from a brief period in my early teens when I liked Simon and Garfunkel, I just can’t do it. He doesn’t connect with me like so many other of the great song-writers do. But I admit that this – Paul Simon’s sort of debut, sort of second record – is a varied record and its a strong set of songs for him. The things that I don’t like about it are things that I don’t like about Paul Simon and have nothing to do Read More

We Became Snakes (1986) by Saccharine Trust

Categories: 1986 and Music.

A lot has been made of the latent jazz influences on hardcore and post hardcore bands – Black Falg is supposed to have listened to Free Jazz for example. But never was I expecting a hardcore band to make music you might actually confuse with jazz. There are times on this bizarre, crazy record that you could possibly mistake these guys for one of the “Downtown” NYC jazz combos trying to incorporate punk and metal into their music in the 80s. But then, the lyrics come back, and you are reminded that this is indeed rock music. This is a Read More

This is The Ice Age (1981) by Martha and the Muffins

Categories: 1981 and Music.

Yes, this is second wave New Wave, and it sure sounds like a lot of other bands and musicians. (The guitar lead on “Swimming” is so wannabe Robert Fripp it’s not even funny. A bunch of tracks sound like Eno-lite.) But this is a strong set of songs with good lyrics and a commitment to New Wave in a way that many of these later New Wave bands were unable to match. (I mean, it’s still quirky.) Also, I am a sucker for any song that gently mocks anything I know, so the song about Ontario Cottage Country hits home Read More

Odyshape (1981) by The Raincoats

Categories: 1981 and Music.

I loved the debut, a seemingly perfect combination of naive rock and punk energy. But this is another thing entirely – shockingly different. To call this music post punk is to admit that we don’t know what to call it. It’s not post punk in any sense, except that, once upon a time, maybe The Raincoats were a punk band, and they put this out later. The world music influence here is on the magnitude of Eno/Talking Heads, but the approach is so far from that you’d be forgiven for thinking that a crazy comparison. This is, for the most Read More

Hotel California (1976) by Eagles

Categories: 2016 and Music.

Who is this record for? Clearly, it’s for a lot of people, as it sound somewhere between 20 and 30 million copies. But listening to it, I don’t know who it’s for. The rock tracks feel like they appeal to one group of people, and the sappy, over-produced soft rock ballads to another group. It’s amazing that this record, of all records, has become this successful. Read More

Licensed to Ill (1986) by The Beastie Boys

Categories: 1986 and Music.

I don’t know anything about hip hop, and even less about 80s hip hop. I have no idea whether or not this was a big deal. But I can guess, and I would guess that the sort of hardcore punk aesthetic was pretty revolutionary (and helped sell records). I can imagine that there wasn’t a lot of hip hop like this out there before this record. So I think this record is probably important. I don’t love it though; not only do I not like hip hop but I often find young bands like this obnoxious. No different here: they Read More

No Pocky for Kitty (1991) by Superchunk

Categories: 1991 and Music.

This is a set of solid songs that are uptempo and pleasantly loud. I get why this band was a big deal back then because, to my knowledge, this kind of straight-ahead abrasive power pop/pop punk was a relative rarity. But it’s not really my thing. It’s too one note for me, as much as I appreciate what they’re doing and I think they do it well, I just don’t love this particular style of music enough to get really excited about this record. 7/10 Read More

Ghost in the Machine (1981) by The Police

Categories: 1981 and Music.

This is, for me, the weakest Police record: it’s top heavy (the first three tracks – the singles – are far and away the best ones), it’s the first record to really emphasize the growing musical divide between Sting and the rest of the band and it’s just their weakest set of songs. I’d say that it’s certainly the least essential of their albums and the album that most makes me feel like they were deserving of the title of “singles band.” 6/10 Listen to me talk about The Police Read More

The Dillinger Escape Plan Live at The Opera House, Friday December 16, 2016

Categories: 2016 and Music.

I wanted to go see The Dillinger Escape Plan in August but my friend who likes them had to work both nights. I figured I’d see them next time. Then they announced they were going on “hiatus,” seemingly permanently, and I thought, for the nth time, “Once again I have failed to see a band I liked before they broke up. Read More

Night Moves (1976) by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

Categories: 1976 and Music.

For much of my life I have had a hatred for “boomer nostalgia” – movies and music that lionize growing up in the 50s and 60s as if it was just the bees knees. I am getting to an age where I am finally able to better understand the appeal of such nostalgia – I’m likely a sucker for some nostalgia for growing up in the 80s and the 90s – but I still think that art that relies on a such a strong emotional pull to a particular generation probably can never be truly great art. Truly great art Read More

Tupelo Honey (1971) by Van Morrison

Categories: 1971 and Music.

Before I heard Astral Weeks, I had an idea of Van Morrison and what he sounded like (without listening to him). And this album is what I was thinking of. I’d never heard it, but it’s pretty much what I expected from Astral Weeks. I guess that’s why this one is disappointing. “Pleasant” gets thrown around a lot with this record and that’s what I think of while I listen to this. It sounds like someone who is pretty happy and that’s fine, but his earlier records are so cool that this feels like someone resting on their laurels – Read More

Camembert Electrique (1971) by Gong

Categories: 1971 and Music.

This is the first proper Gong album I’ve heard, because, for some reason, I’ve only heard their jazz rock spinoff to date. It seems pretty obvious to me that Allen was once in Soft Machine because this sure sounds to me like the kind of music The Softs were making early in their career. And maybe that’s why I find the record a little underwhelming. It is wacky, out there, fun, and ridiculous, as well as well-played, but I sort of feel like I’ve heard music like this from The Softs back in the 60s. I guess what I’m trying Read More

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966) by Simon and Garfunkel

Categories: 1966 and Music.

I don’t know if I can put into words the difference in quality between Sounds of Silence and this record. Sounds of Silence was so tossed together. Though this record features some re-used songs as well, it’s clear that the duo had a lot more time to work out what they were doing, and the arrangements feel purposeful and well thought out and there are fewer weird missteps. Read More

Face to Face (1966) by The Kinks

Categories: 1966 and Music.

I have come to the early Kinks records backwards, listening to their late 60s classics before these earlier records and so my experience of them is coloured by being far more familiar with Davies’ mature songs than his early songs, leading to me listening to his early songs and thinking they are not as good (shock of all shocks). Read More

Complete and Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul (1966)

Categories: 1966 and Music.

Otis is my favourite soul singer but I find him more restrained in the studio than live and generally prefer his live music. (Or maybe it’s just the mixes…) His final album is a strong set of covers and originals with an excellent backing band. I prefer Otis Blue in terms of content, but this is still a pretty good idea of what he did, and how well he did it. “Complete” it is not (the original record isn’t quite 25 minutes long). Nor is it some kind of encyclopedic overview of the genre. But it’s good stuff. 8/10 Read More

The Dresden Dolls (2003)

Categories: 2003 and Music.

This is some pretty good stuff. I can understand why some people don’t love it, as Palmer’s delivery is often extremely affected. But that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? I mean, this is cabaret rock, it should be at least a little bit theatrical, right? Palmer’s songs are mostly great, even when they (often) borrow lyrics from famous songs from the past. She does an excellent job of combining a theatrical side with confessional songwriting that feels honest and, in its best moments, revealing. Pretty good, pretty good. 7/10 Read More

Why (1981) by Discharge

Categories: 1981 and Music.

I didn’t even know the UK had a hardcore scene until I listened to these guys. The music is brief and loud and fast. It is significantly less musically interesting than many of the American hardcore bands I know, as it focuses very much on a particular style (essentially a super angry and loud, but slightly more professional version of The Sex Pistols). But listening to this, it’s pretty easy to hear the roots of a lot of what came after in both punk and some forms of metal (and the areas where they overlapped) and that makes it a Read More

The Return of the Durutti Column (1980)

Categories: 1980 and Music.

This is a really unique take on Post Punk, if it can even be called that, featuring expressive guitar playing over some pretty minimalist bass and drums (sometimes not even that). In fact, it’s more the era it was made in and the legendary post punk producer who supervised it that mark it out as post punk; I’m not sure it really qualifies, But regardless of what it is, the music is lovely and really stands out from the other British bands of the era, though the production is kind of dated. Pretty interesting. 8/10 Read More

Horse Stories (1996) by Dirty Three

Categories: 1996 and Music.

Dirty Three charts their own course in the post rock world, sounding nothing like other post rock bands, in part because of their unique configuration (violin, guitar, drums) and in part because of their willingness to be noisy. The performances range from mournful to unbelievably intense while sounding like literally nobody else. Great stuff. 9/10 Read More

Still Feel Gone (1991) by Uncle Tupelo

Categories: 1991 and Music.

Before Uncle Tupelo, I feel like alt country (such as it was) was so much cleaner. Despite the ostensible punk influence on the genre, the alt country records I’ve heard from the last 80s are all pretty much straight up country rock. There’s more of an edge here, even if it isn’t much of one compared to some later alt country bands. It’s a strong set of songs and one reason I prefer these guys to Son Volt is because I like the two competing songwriters, I think it made them better. 8/10 Read More

Laughing Stock (1991) by Talk Talk

Categories: 1991 and Music.

Though Hex is generally considered the official beginning of post rock, you could make a very strong argument that post rock begins with this record. Already very much hinting at it on Spirit of Eden, the music here is often even less recognizable as rock music, with entire songs seemingly barely existing as actual pieces, in a way that had little precedent in popular music prior to this band. The jazz influence is perhaps even more pronounced this time out, but though some or even all of these songs were initially recorded as if they were free jazz, the results Read More

Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? (1986) by Megadeath

Categories: 1986 and Music.

Megadeath have been on my list of essential 80s bands to listen to for years, possibly a decade or more. And now that I’m finally getting to them I’m so, so disappointed I don’t really know what to say. This is some pretty damn heavy music for 1986, and that part is good and cool. But I don’t like Mustaine – I don’t like the guy personally, which is probably obvious, but I don’t like his lyrics, they’re worse than regular metal lyrics. And the mix forces his vocals way up front which makes everything less heavy. Having come at Read More