This Week’s Albums
September 3rd, 2015
IT is a case of “Something old, something new/something ‘borrowed’, something…
that doesn’t rhyme. “ I do a D.J. gig every week at The Stoke Pub and Pizzeria (https://www.facebook.com/TheStokeGuildford?fref=ts); I have the opportunity to play four different albums: one that is ‘old’ (to my mind, anything pre-1985), something ‘new’ (released brand-new that week); something influential (and has inspired a genre/other acts)- in addition to dealer’s choice (any album I choose). Having done this for over a year-and played everything from Graceland to Pearl Jam; from FKA twigs to Beastie Boys- it is enormous fun. I get to talk to people (about music); play some awesome stuff- turn people on to some great/forgotten sounds (well, I try to). I shall publish this every week; try and highlight some fantastic albums- maybe some you had forgotten about.
The Old: Miles Davis- Birth of the Cool (1957)
Standing as one of Jazz’s most pivotal moments- the period where Cool-Jazz was born (hence the album’s title)- Mile Davis’ opus compels still- some 58 years after it release. Whereas (Birth of the Cool’s) follow-up- the multi-coloured and orchestral- Sketches of Spain sounds more romantic and innovative; Birth of the Cool is his finest moment: an album brimming with Bop malleability and chilled seduction- never running too fevered or hot; each track is concise and measured. Like a lot of Jazz albums (Davis’ own work included) there are no sprawling narratives; none (of the twelve tracks) exceed 3:13 (Moon Dreams is the longest here) – meaning emphasis is placed on the tone colour and the tunes themselves. Numbers like Israel have become Jazz standards; Jeru is the album’s highlight- a perfect distillation of the themes, dreams and (the) serene. Recorded over three sessions (between 1949 and 1950) the album does not lose focus and concision. The mother of the ‘Cool-Jazz’ movement, Birth of the Cool was inspired by Classic music techniques (such as polyphony); this innovativeness and forward-thinking technique revolutionised the Jazz movement- an album (whose tracks and moments) have seeped into modern culture- it remains a timeless masterpiece.
The New: The Arcs- Yours, Dreamily (2015)
The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach steps away from his alma mater- creating something fun-filled and familiar. Retaining some of The Black Keys’ Blues-Rock sounds- a lot of Yours, Dreamily can be compared with the likes of Turn Blue and El Camino- the album is packed with big choruses and fuzzed-out guitars. Outta My Mind is (one of the album’s) most Psychedelic/Beatles-inspired moments (it could easily fit into Revolver); with backwards-sounding loops and drug-addled strings, it is a clear standout. Stay in My Corner is more gentle and plaintive: heart-aching and earnest, it shows the band at their most yearning. Pistol Made of Bones (is evocative as) its title: compacting snake-like groove and ambience; it is hard not to think of El Camino-‘Keys. Critics have noted the out-of-body nature of the lyrics- the songs take on a spectral and existential quality- it sees Auerbach looking down on himself; reflecting on things. Whilst not as stunning (as The Black Keys’) best albums- or as intoxicating, as say, The Alabama Shakes- the album shows a new side to the Ohio man. Not as narrative-driven (as it could be) Yours, Dreamily is very much Ours, Gratefully.
The Influencer: Oasis- (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995)
(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? became a catalyst of the ‘Britpop’ movement: the swagger and optimism (contained throughout) compelled Oasis’ peers- the album stands as a changing-point in British music. Although Noel Gallagher has been criticised regards his lyrical depth (or lack thereof; they tend to contain clichés and bogged-down sentiment) and compositions (that crib from the likes of The Beatles and everyone else you can think of) the lack of originality does not dampen the magic- the energy and passion demonstrated is infectious and anthemic. The natural tension between the Gallagher brothers resulted in their finest music: Oasis produced their most varied and compelling work. More emotional and romantic (than Definitely Moment) tracks like Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back In Anger show a softer, more heart-bearing band; Roll with It- which went against Blur’s Country House in the ‘Britpop’ battle of ’95- and Some Might Say are classic Oasis stadium-fillers. Liam Gallagher’s voice sounds less sneering and snide here; filled with greater soul and nuance- bringing the songs fully to life. Changing the landscape of British music, Oasis beckoned-in a wave of followers- the rules were ripped-up and changed. If you need a reminder (of a time when) music was untouchable- this is a timely reminder.
The ‘Other One’: Arcade Fire- The Suburbs (2010)
One of the most consistently innovative bands of modern times, The Canadians hit their peak here: their third album stands as their most captivating and grand statement; an album overflowing with heart-stopping moments. Where Funeral (their debut release was angrier and darker) here there is a playful optimism; a mass appeal album that reaches to the people- songs that (metaphorically represent) the suburbs of America. Having been compelled by anger and disillusionment, The Suburbs sounds more peaceful and motivated: tracks like City with No Children, The Suburbs and Rocco glisten and shine. When the album gets slower and more introverted- cuts like Wasted Hours in particular- there is no loss of magic and appeal- the album keeps promising hope and redemption. It is said, there is little hope in the suburbs: there is no giving in or succession; you have to keep pressing and hoping. N.M.E. called the album “hautological”- “… state of temporal, historical, and ontological disjunction in which the ostensible immediacy of presence is replaced by "the [metaphorical] figure of the ghost as that which is neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor alive." However you define it, the truth is this: few albums convey a juxtaposition of home-comfort and fear; leave you dreaming and thoughtful- quite an achievement!