52 Weeks, 52 Albums: March – April

Christ does that last article say FEBRUARY? JEEEEEESUS. I had some dramatic life changes. This past week I had another. One that says it’s time to hit it hard. “Hit what hard?” You might be asking. Anything in sight. Hit the desk. Hit the dance floor. Hit your AA chip to the counter of a liquor store and relapse. Hit up your drug dealer and OD on heroin, because you can’t afford the OxyContin you want to get. If you have a spouse who’s been nothing but good to you, time to hit the shit out of them. Because shit is fucked. I’m going to hit the keys on this keyboard and ramble out some views on these albums I listened to in the past two months. CHRIST! Two months.

Frank Sinatra – Watertown

Last we left off we were listening to Panic! At The Disco’s Death of a Bachelor which has a pretty stellar final track “Impossible Year” which is very evocative of Sinatra’s style, or so I’m told. So naturally, I should listen to a Sinatra album right? Well, I don’t know what happened between 1970 and 2016 but high production back then is low signs of life now. Even explaining the album’s contents: Sinatra’s signature baritone vocals, the varied production with string instrumentation, and a tone of sadness, you’d think this sounds like my delight album. Well the underlying secret is it sounds boring as hell. Maybe it has something to do with the tempos or some aspect of the music I’m not thinking of, but as of now I found listening to this a chore. 1/5

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

Hey Arthur, don’t beat yourself up, clearly other good stuff came out in that era! Let’s shake it up and listen to Marvin Gaye. He’s funky! Yeah no. Although I found my listening of Gaye’s music more enjoyable compared to Sinatra, it still failed to make an impression beyond “YUP, THIS IS MUSIC ALL RIGHT!” I can remember liking “Right On” from this album, but otherwise this whole album washes over like room-temperature bath water when you’re already sitting in a bath. 2/5

DJ Shadow – Endtroducing

This album got me back on the horse with this whole project because I genuinely enjoyed listening to this album. As someone who got pretty big into Massive Attack, Portishead, and other “trip hop,” musicians, this album brought me back to that time where I would leave heavy sample-based instrumental albums on loop while doing school work for hours and hours. Sure enough, Endtroducing became part of my daily regiment at work for longer than the one-week it had been allocated. Personally, I feel all the songs in this genre have a melancholy vibe to them. I gravitated toward songs like What Does Your Soul Look Like Pt. 1, Stem / Long Stem / Transmission 2, and Changeling / Transmission. I should note that apparently there’s a “second half” to this album that I just didn’t bother with. It looks like there’s some actual additional songs, but the first track of the second half sounds exactly like a song from the first half, so I just skipped over it. Ain’t nobody got time for that. 4/5

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F#a#infinity

This has to be both the worst band name and the worst album name of all time, but yet the album is just decent. Later in this article I’ll mention Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s second album, which I ended up liking more, and I was compelled to listen to more specifically because their first effort sounds like a sample. F#a#infinity has some interesting ideas, especially on the first track with the post-apocalyptic narrator and the brooding mood, but the music itself I thought was lackluster. I’ve never been a huge fan of 25 minute long songs when they have several minutes of silence or bullshit sound effects, and this album had way too much of that going on. Better luck next time! 2/5

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

I’ve tried to listen to this album three times in my life, this being the third, and I make it to the fifth song before turning it off every time. This week was no different. Actually I got to track #6, because I remember Bluish. But yeah, I don’t get it. Maybe I’ll go back to it. 1/5

Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

I’m a big Kanye fan. When I was in College, I tried to convince my housemates to have a Kanye party where we passed out stunner-shades, played Kanye music videos on televisions, and played nothing but Kanye music all night. His catalog could support it. You could even dip into associated acts if you had to go for 4-5 hours. It’d be sick. I’m a huge apologist for his weird albums like Yeezus, and for all the weird stuff he does. With that said, The Life of Pablo is a garbage unfinished album. To the extent that he re-released it with different mixing. Sorry Kanye, this has nothing to do with wanting the “old Kanye” back, I just want you to stop being such an idiot. That said, FML and Real Friends are ok. 1/5

Vince Staples – Summertime ‘06

This album got high reviews in 2015 and went on to get near universal reception as the best rap album of the year next to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. The little research I did found that Staples was closely tied to Odd Future (Tyler the Creator’s group of buds) so I was pretty convinced I would like the album. Sure enough this album is a really great blend of clever lyricism, memorable hooks, and catchy melodies. Specifically Lemme Know, Summertime, 3230, and the killer opening track Lift Me Up have stuck with me, but really the whole album is great. It also works great way to wash out the garbage of Kanye out. 5/5

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

“Hey that ‘Top Artists of 2015’ worked out for Vince Staples, what else is on the list?” That was my thinking for discovering Courtney Barnett. I fell in love with her self-deprecating lyrics and classic-rock sound pretty immediately, but it’s more than just nostalgia for the style of grungey rock and having the attitude to go with it. Her lyricism is genuinely impressive, with some of the structure bumping up and down and single lines sound like self-contained poems. Take for example the song An Illustration of Loneliness, which has the line “There’s oily residue seeping from the kitchen, It’s art-deco necromantic chic, all the dinner plates are kitsch with,” read on it’s own the line seems insignificant, but the rhythm of the words sticks with you. Most of Barnett’s lyrics have that type of structure, while also being personal and humorous. Not every song is an all-star, but the ones that are turned out to be some of my favorites from this venture so far. 4/5

Miguel – Wildheart

The Top Artists of 2015 list continues! Miguel’s Wildheart was considered so good he drew comparisons to Prince in his prime. I thought the first few songs were pretty good, and added them to a playlist I call “mad rep,” which I envision playing in the background when someone comes over and suggests playing music, but otherwise I don’t see the deep appeal of the music. Sure enough all of his YouTube videos are filled with people wondering why he isn’t bigger than they think he should be. It’s not a mystery people, just background music. 3/5

Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

My co-worker started recommending me bands based on what I’ve listened to so far. Among them was Wolf Alice. My first listen pegged them as kind of generic but after a second or third run through they actually have some catchy stuff. Overall, they’re probably easy to forget about, which might explain around 75% of artists in existence. So I’ll rate them a solid “Inoffensive,” with the caveat that they play to some of my tastes (female singer, rock genre, bass and drum focus). 4/5

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven

I was iffy about listening to two albums by the same band in the same year, but I’m really glad that I did because this turned out to be one of my favorite. Or at the very least, one song turned out to be one of my favorites and since it’s 20 minutes long that’s basically half an album’s worth. “Sleep
” is the song to check out from this album. The first seven minutes build this moment and then it introduces this sound that sounds like what I can only describe as an instrument screaming. Then when it reaches a climax it goes into this fast-paced second section. The words don’t really do justice, just give it a listen. It’s my jam. It’s my peanut butter and jam. 4/5

Oh man. That was actually eleven artists, so I guess that Kanye album put me past the point where I’m supposed to be. Not like anyone is counting. Anyway, consider this shit cataloged and I can move on with my life.

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