Saturday, February 3, 2018

#467: The Band - The Band (1969)

Zack: Once again, I really need to re-listen to this album. It’s for the opposite reason that I applied for The Undertones, though. While for that album I was worried that I didn’t get it, here I’m worried I got it too much. I listened to this album from about 12:45-1:30 a.m. while drunk and watching an Ali-Frasier fight on YouTube (The Rumble in The Jungle to be specific). It was such a particular environment, but I’m worried that it’s the reason that I loved this album so much. Seriously, I adored The Band from start to finish. But hold back my affection out of fear that part of my adoration is really owed to the strategic beauty of the rope-a-dope. In the event that my feelings are not misplaced, however, what jumped out to me on this album was the cohesiveness of the music and lyrics. It was all one. That may sound simple, but I’ve encountered plenty of songs that disconnect the atmospheric mood of the song from the lyrics of the song. Here, it all flowed as one. Each song felt absolutely complete. And it’s just a bonus how well they matched up against the first 4 rounds.
Favorite Tracks: Whispering Pines; The Unfaithful Servant; The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Emily: I'm not sure if calling your band The Band is incredibly stupid or incredibly audacious. It's probably a little bit of both. You make your claim that your band is not just A band, but THE band, the band of bands as it were. But also when you tell people that your band is called The Band they'll just say "Yeah, I know that it's a band, but what's it called?" I think I'm on the side of stupid for this one. This self-titled album is perfectly fine - it didn't really grab me, probably because it was a bit too country for my tastes. But as far as band names go, The Band might be one of the all-time worst.
Favorite Tracks: Whispering Pines; Across the Great Divide; The Unfaithful Servant

Sunday, January 28, 2018

#466: The Undertones - The Undertones (1979)

Zack: I think I need to listen to this album again. On a first listen, I thought it was pretty good. It sounded like an early progenitor of pop punk, which was kind of interesting given the year it came out. But musically, I thought it was pretty good. Yet this album has garnered a not insignificant number of awards and accolades, and this isn’t one of those cases where I’m just flabbergasted to hear that. I’m just, like, wait really? I feel like I’m missing something. Maybe this album grows on you, but I’ll have to report back in to let you know if that’s the case.
Favorite Tracks: She’s a Run Around; Jump Boys; Jimmy Jimmy

Emily: This album sounded like so much music I listened to in high school. Local bands of other pimply-faced high-schoolers trying their hand at punk rock, random no-name bands on Myspace trying to be the next Fall Out Boy - somehow The Undertones sounded like all of that, except British. They have the snottiness down, and the everyman young person lyrics. Overall it worked, but definitely didn't seem too special. But then you have to consider that it's from 1979 - maybe they were just innovators, bringing forth several decades of amateurish three-chord punk to come.
Favorite Tracks: Jump Boys; She's a Run Around; I Gotta Getta

#465: Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath (1970)

Zack: Black Sabbath are just as iconic now as they were when we last listened to an album by them back in 2011. But the interceding 7 years have not made me a convert. I have nothing against Black Sabbath, but I can’t say I’ve ever had a craving for Paranoid, and I’ll go on the record now as saying the odds I replay Black Sabbath (the album) from here on are low. The album was good, and the way that bass line just jumps out at you in impressive. Plus there is just a thrilling authenticity to it. Apparently the whole album was recorded in one day, and I believe it. It just sounds like it was all thrown together in the best way possible. But it’s just not a sound that I would seek out if not prompted.
Favorite Tracks: N.I.B.; Warning; Black Sabbath

Emily: As far as metal goes, I'll pick Black Sabbath over most other bands every day of the week. Since they're pioneers of the genre, their sound still has roots in the heavy rock and blues of the '60s without the screaming and squeaking and other antics that malign the genre in later decades. This eponymous album is Black Sabbath's debut, so therefore it's even more rooted in metal's forefathers than Paranoid (which only came a few months later). They're still figuring out their sound here, but there are certainly shades of classics to come.
Favorite Tracks: N.I.B.; Evil Woman; Sleeping Village

Friday, January 26, 2018

#464: Frank Zappa - Hot Rats (1969)

Zack: Last time I listened to a Frank Zappa album for this endeavor, I was getting very drunk on bourbon with a coworker and listening to Freak Out! I really liked that album, and I really liked Hot Rats as well. But while my fondness for Freak Out! stemmed from how impressed I was at the execution of a concept, I appreciated Hot Rats just as a piece of music. Only one track here had any vocals, but unlike Jazz Samba, I was sufficiently engrossed into the jazz-infused sounds at work here that I didn’t mind at all. The arrangements really are beautiful, and I can’t wait to relisten to it once I get a chance. It’s definitely a perfect in-the-background-while-I-work album.
Favorite Tracks: Willie the Pimp; Son of Mr. Green Genes; Peaches in Regalia

Emily: When we listened to Freak Out! way back in 2012, I wasn't sure where the next Frank Zappa album would go. My prediction was "blues, rock, noise, or something completely different?" Five and a half years later, we've returned to Zappa and the answer is (D) something completely different. Hot Rats is best described as an experimental jazz fusion album. The only words sung on the album are by our less-than-favorite guy, Captain Beefheart, but overall it's probably 90% instrumental. And it's really interesting instrumental music, not just background noise. Frankly, lyrics would have been a distraction from the unique and complex arrangements that flow beautifully throughout this album. Now I truly have no idea what other Zappa albums will entail - could be blues, could be jazz, could be Beefheart, or could be all of the above.
Favorite Tracks: Peaches in Regalia; Willie the Pimp; The Gumbo Variations

Sunday, January 21, 2018

#463: Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd - Jazz Samba (1962)

Zack: I’m going to keep this one sort and sweet, just like this 33-minute gem. Jazz Samba was a good album, and reminded me a lot of the Sinatra and Jobim jawn we listened to forever ago. The main difference is that one had Sinatra’s crooning over the bossa nova jazz sounds, whereas this is all instrumental. Overall, the lack of vocals hurt my ability to focus in on the music, and I ultimately found this album good, but not as great as I had hoped it would be.
Favorite Tracks: Samba Triste; Desafinado; Ex Lux So

Emily: The bossa nova vibes of this album can transport you back to a tiny New York jazz club in the '60s. Everyone is dressed to the nines, drinking classic cocktails and smoking long cigarettes (hey, different times), and tapping their toes to the jazz musicians huddled together on a too-small stage. Definitely a far cry from how I listened this album today (on the couch, Sunday morning, drinking coffee and skimming the news) and how I would probably listen to it in the future (at my desk at work, writing briefs or reviewing documents). But the genre blending and vintage flair of this album has the power to transport you away from such mundanity, if only for 33 minutes at a time.
Favorite Tracks: Desafinado; Samba Triste; Bahia

Monday, January 15, 2018

#462: The Birthday Party - Junkyard (1982)

Zack: I fucking hated this album. Absolutely despised it. The first two tracks had this edgy hardness to them, and I thought I was in for a post-punk album that was heavier on the punk. And that was true, from a certain point of view. Unfortunately, it was a pretty shitty punkishness. Honestly, I think Wikipedia sums it up pretty well: Despite limited commercial success, The Birthday Party's influence has been far-reaching, and they have been called ‘one of the darkest and most challenging post-punk groups to emerge in the early '80s.’ The group's ‘bleak and noisy soundscapes’… provided the setting for vocalist Nick Cave’s disturbing tales of violence and perversion.” The Birthday Party are certainly…challenging. They seemed to be trying to create a sound where every element sounds like that moment where a motorcycle goes screeching past your window right at the moment where you’re getting frustrated that you are still awake and doing work at 2 a.m. It’s noise for the sake of being noise. What’s disappointing is that the vocalist Nick Cave mentioned above is that Nick Cave, whose album Henry’s Dream is one of the gems we’ve encountered and an album that I return to frequently. That album is also dark, but at least the music is, well, musical. From start to finish, this album was just the parts of Sonic Youth I dislike the most, amplified, and I am just glad it’s over.
Favorite Tracks: Blast Off; Dead Joe [2nd Version]; She’s Hit

Emily: Birthday parties are supposed to be fun and festive. Friends gathered together, balloons and streamers, snacks and drinks. There should be cake! The Birthday Party, sadly, doesn't have any cake. It doesn't even have fake "birthday cake" flavor (which I don't like but would be appropriate). It's loud and mostly unpleasant, not even close to festive. So I guess it's more Junkyard than Birthday Party, and not exactly how I wanted to spend 45 minutes of my day off.
Favorite Tracks: Blast Off; Several Sins; She's Hit

Sunday, January 14, 2018

#461: The Doors - The Doors (1967)

Zack: We last checked in with The Doors in February of 2013 which…man, I feel like I write about how long we’ve been at this in every post but that is just crazy. We were already more than 200 albums in then, and that was four years ago. Anyway, I had no memory of listening to that album so I went back and re-read my review, mostly just to look up how long ago it had been. In my review of L.A. Woman I wrote that I liked the album so much that I was planning on taking a deep dive into the rest of The Doors discography, going so far as to say, “So when either Morrison Hotel or The Doors rolls around, you can bet I’ll be a much more informed Doors fan.” Lol. What a sweet, na├»ve, person I was. If you made that bet, I’m sorry to inform you that it’s time to pay up. I have not delved into The Doors discography, and I don’t even think I’ve re-listened to L.A. Woman. So, this is The Doors’ second chance to thoroughly engross me, and maybe this one will stick. I am pretty impressed with the bluesy, heaviness that this album has. At points, the sheer weight of it feels palpable. The sound is more directly comparable to Black Sabbath than what I typically think of as psychedelic rock. But there are those tropes as well, and the mix of the heaviness and the swirling psychedlia make it a sound that stands out as its own thing. Maybe Iron Butterfly was similar, but otherwise The Doors sound like The Doors and no one else. It sounds simple, but a unique sound is one of the hardest things for any artist to cultivate. That they were able to do that here, on their very first album, is a testament to why the band is now considered so iconic.
Favorite Tracks: Break on Through; The End; Twentieth Century Fox

Emily: Fifty years ago, I bet Jim Morrison and The Doors had no idea that several of their songs would become mainstays in car commercials. That's really how I know many of the songs on this album - they've been repackaged as bouncy jaunts over visions of Hondas and Toyotas and probably a few Diet Cokes and replayed hundreds and hundreds of time in between Monday Night Football plays and Bachelor rose ceremonies. It's a blessing and a curse I suppose. On the one hand, this exposure means that millions more people know how awesome The Doors were. But on the other hand, it kind of bastardizes the whole heavy, psychedelic artistic expression that embodies this entire album. Jim Morrison was a one-of-a-kind talent, and that really shines through here on The Doors' debut. They have such a fully formed sound from that first song, Break on Through (one of the most prevalent Doors-in-commercials songs), and that coherent vision carries through throughout the album. It really shows that The Doors deserve to be explored in longer than 30-second snippets.
Favorite Tracks: Break on Through; Light My Fire; Soul Kitchen