Her Point of View (1997) by Olga Konkova

Categories: 1997 and Music.

Konkova takes aim at a number of jazz standards and reinvents them and makes them her own. She makes them sound of a piece with her own compositions. And this is what I like about jazz: fresh interpretations of old music so that it sounds more modern, with plenty of improvisation to go around. (As one critic noted, Konkova doesn’t introduce the melody and then improvise – she starts improvising on these standards from the get go.) Read More

The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage (1974) by Peter Hammill

Categories: 1974 and Music.

This is a weird combination of what sounds like super eccentric singer-songwriter solo stuff and music that is basically Van Der Graaf Generator. It’s an odd mix that I would find less appealing if I didn’t like Hammill or VDGG so much. It’s great that Hammill wrote so much so that even when the band was on hiatus he just had so much material. But one of the things I struggle with while listening to solo albums from the frontmen or songwriters of bands is when their solo music sounds too much like their band. That’s a weird problem to Read More

At the Drive-In Live at Rebel, Toronto, March 29, 2017

Categories: 2017 and Music.

When I was young, band reunions were thought of as really awful: just a bunch of washed up musicians trying to make money. But times have changed: reunions are now viewed as normal and often something to be cherished. I think I’ve changed too, I’ve grown up a bit. When I was young, I had no interest in seeing my favourite 70s bands reunited. I thought it was an awful idea. But now I recognize that this is a completely natural thing for people to want to do: to recapture the glory of lost youth. Sometimes it probably doesn’t work Read More

Subconcious-Lee (1955) by Lee Konitz

Categories: 1949, 1950, and 1955.

Because it was released half a decade after it was recorded, this album’s revolutionary status gets overlooked or ignored. Instead it’s Birth of the Cool this and Miles Davis’ Nonet that. And that praise is deserved. Those sides went a long way to establishing cool jazz, but this band was doing remarkably similar things at the same time. The one major difference is speed – Konitz and the other soloists play fast on a number of tracks, and that makes it sound more like bop (though if you listen to the rhythm section they sound significantly “cooler”) and so you Read More

Honey’s Dead (1992) by The Jesus and Mary Chain

Categories: 1992 and Music.

I should never read anything before I listen to a record, especially a record by a band I don’t love. I heard why they called it Honey’s Dead and suddenly my head was filled of dreams of reinvention. But no, it’s still very obviously The Jesus and Mary Chain. Only this time they’ve gone Madchester (I think). Read More

Going Blank Again (1992) by Ride

Categories: 1992 and Music.

I thought I was getting shoegaze, and I do.. But there’s a lot of other stuff going on here that isn’t strict shoegaze. One of the things that I don’t love about some shoegaze is the relentless commitment to one particular style. But there’s enough variety here that I’m kept interested. Also, the songs are pretty good so it’s not just the wall of sound that is appealing. 7/10 Read More

RIP Chuck Berry

Categories: 2017, Music, and RIP.

With guitar-based rock music decidedly out of fashion it is possible – probable? – that many people don’t understand how important Chuck Berry was to the music of the second half of the 20th century. But just because the electric guitar isn’t currently popular doesn’t mean it wasn’t the central vehicle for musical expression of the last 60 years, as it was: from the 1950s till very recently, if you wanted to form a band, someone in your band had to learn how to play guitar. That is because of Chuck Berry. Read More

Mellow Yellow (1967) by Donovan

Categories: 1967 and Music.

This feels like a transitional effort for Donovan. On the one hand there’s still some songs that feel like they could have been on Sunshine Superman (though they feel like outtakes to me) on the other and there are some more subdued singer-songwriter things that feel nearly completely at odds with his sort of “Swinging London onlooker” persona he seemed to cultivate. Read More

Here’s Little Richard (1957)

Categories: 1957 and Music.

Little Richard’s debut makes Elvis’ records of the previous year look tame in comparison. Some of this is me listening to the remaster (I must have not listened to remasters of Elvis) but most of it just comes down to Little Richard himself. Though Elvis was far more adventurous in the music he covered (including multiple styles on his records well before that was a normal thing to do), even the rock and roll songs on those records feel reigned in compared to this stuff. Richard is just wild. Some of that is his singing but a lot of it Read More

The Idiot (1977) by Iggy Pop

Categories: 1977 and Music.

Recorded before Low but released afterwards, The Idiot feels in many ways like the missing link between “The Berlin Trilogy” and Station to Station. Though it’s Iggy’s solo debut, it is the least Iggy Pop album he recorded, as far as I know. I do think the criticism that Bowie hijacked Iggy for his own ends is fair. Read More

Either-Or (1997) by Elliott Smith

Categories: 1997 and Music.

The problem with hype is that it makes you have expectations that can never be met. And, for some reason, the the death of someone just makes this so much worse, but in retrospect. Once a beloved musician dies, everything they ever made becomes a masterpiece and must be held up as proof as the dead musician’s genius that was cut short by their death. Etc. I have been hearing about how amazing Elliott Smith is for probably 15 years. Fortunately for my expectations, I have been hearing less of that in the last 5-10 than in the first 5. Read More

Brigthen the Corners (1997) by Pavement

Categories: 1997 and Music.

A kinder, gentler Pavement. With hindsight I think we can say this is the first record where it really sounds like Malkmus is writing songs for himself, rather than the band. I’m not sure that’s fair, but I sure feel like this has more in common with his solo career than with Slanted and Enchanted. It’s still recognizably Pavement, but a far mellower one. Read More

Vulgar Display of Power (1992) by Pantera

Categories: 1992 and Music.

I have not heard Cowboys from Hell but I have a hard time imagining that it’s significantly better than this onslaught of a record. I have no idea if this was is one of the first proper groove metal records (I doubt it) but, listening to it, it’s hard to imagine one that’s more definitive: with the exception of two semi-ballads that briefly suggest we’re in for a break (and then pummel us), this is wall to wall thrash metal with a groove (at times it actually sounds like Metallica with a groove). Also, I hear so many echoes of Read More

Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992) by Aphex Twin

Categories: 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, and Music.

I am familiar with electronic music up until a point – that point is somewhere in the very early 80s. I have no idea what happened between then and the music we have today (save for the odd track that gets played too much or turned into stadium music). Read More

Generation Terrorists (1992) by Manic Street Preachers

Categories: 1992 and Music.

What do we do with a record like this? It’s called Generation Terrorists but sounds like it was produced by Mutt Lange or Bob Rock or someone like that. (Well, the production is maybe not that bad.) We have the bizarre amalgam of 80s hard rock (or “cock rock” as some call it) with extremely political lyrics that belong in punk songs. Is the idea to make super accessible and conventional music but to sneak in the lyrics so that young, impressionable youth are converted? I mean, if that’s the goal here, I’m not sure how much it succeeds. How Read More