Pleasures of the Harbor (1967) by Phil Ochs

Categories: 1967 and Music.

I have a heard a lot about Phil Ochs as a songwriter and he has been recommended to me both by the critics I used to read and by friends of mine. Yet I have still managed to barely hear any of his songs, and usually only covers. Like so many other artists, his music just feel between the cracks of my listening habits. Read More

Chelsea Girl (1967) by Nico

Categories: 1967 and Music.

The first time I heard the Velvets’ early singles, with Nico on them, I didn’t like her voice. And for quite some time after, I don’t think I did. I’m pretty sure that, for a long time, I regarded her presence on that first album as some kind of weird aberration, forced upon them by Warhol, and completely at odds with what they were doing. (I’m not sure that’s true,I think that’s just how I felt.) Read More

Saint Dominic’s Preview (1972) by Van Morrison

Categories: 1972 and Music.

When Morrison is on he is like few other performers and songwriters – he creates this seemingly effortless blend of so many things that we never would have expected would go together and he makes it all sound organic, as if his genre-blending was the most normal (and obvious) thing in the world. 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

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

Missy Higgins: Oh Canada (2016, Nicholas Kallincos, Natasha Pincus)

Categories: 2016, Movies, and Music.

I saw this music video posing as a short film at Hot Docs last night. It’s an animated film about Alan Kurdi. It includes pictures drawn but refugees but most of it was professionally animated (even though it is given the look of a child’s picture). This is a manipulative video and a manipulative song that shows a real lack of knowledge about contemporary events in Canada  – given that, by the time Higgins released the song, Canada had taken in 2.5 times as many Syrian refugees as Australian (Higgins is Australian) – and in Australia. (The “film” aired prior Read More

Songs of Love and Hate (1971)

Categories: 1971 and Music.

My first encounter with “classic” Cohen yields the following: Extremely depressing and dark lyrics – and a delivery that is almost anti-musical at times – and elaborate, sometimes almost “wall of sound” arrangements. It’s a bizarre combination one that reminds me slightly of a less musically ambitious, less boisterous, more obviously dark Forever Changes. I feel like this is the kind of record that rewards many, many more listens than I have given it. Cohen’s lyrics are dense at times – not Dylan-dense by any means – and he is so willfully unwilling to make his music more accessible that Read More

Through Darkness Into Light (2015) by The Visit

Categories: 2015 and Music.

This is some pretty spectacular stuff: a huge range of sounds created by just a cello and voice. The range of musical influences is rather broad, with various “eastern” musical ideas complementing more traditional (and not so traditional – I heard the influence of minimalism and even metal…seriously) western ideas, all presented as what we might call progressive folk. Really, really cool. 9/10 Read More

Let England Shake (2011) by PJ Harvey

Categories: 2011 and Music.

Harvey continues her new chamber direction, this time with help from Mick Harvey, which is exciting. Harvey helps to add a new dimension on this record that was missing from the last – this is, I guess, a little more closer to rock than that last record, though that could be a decision PJ and Parish made themselves. She’s still singing in this new range mostly though, which definitely makes this a piece with the previous record. There’s a far more coherent concept here, this time (at least to my ears, upon only three listens). And the recording is a Read More

White Chalk (2007) by PJ Harvey

Categories: 2007 and Music.

The (lady) balls that it takes to make such a drastic about face in one’s sound is absolutely incredible. I am blown away.I have no idea when she made this change, to be honest, as I haven’t heard anything she made (beyond one song) between the mid nineties and this release, but this is crazy.Not only has she dropped her signature electric guitar (on which she had a rather unique style) for piano and other instruments, but she is singing in a different range. I mean, what? Who does that? The balls.I love when an artist pushes herself into new Read More

Ys (2006) by Joanna Newsom

Categories: 2006 and Music.

Newsom’s debut introduced one of the best songwriters of her generation, with a sense of fun – and inaccessible voice – that was practically Dylanesque. On her second album she takes a pretty big risk: she writes longer, less accessible songs, with only her harp and her voice, but then she has them orchestrated by one of the most idiosyncratic of popular music arrangers. The results are pretty fantastic, in fact I think I am willing to say they are great with a capital ‘g’. I want to say that the finished product is one of the great works of Read More