Friday, 1 November 2013

October 2013 - Popular Music

Tori Amos
  • The Beekeeper
  • American Doll Posse
  • Audience bootlegs - Seattle 17 July 1996 (early show), Seattle 26 July 2003, Seattle 22 April 2005, Seattle 5 December 2007
Bat for Lashes - The Haunted Man
David Bowie - Aladdin Sane
Brooke Fraser - What to do with Daylight
Garbage - Garbage
Gomez - How We Operate
Gotye - Making Mirrors
Jars of Clay - The Long Fall Back to Earth
k d lang - Invincible Summer
Wendy Matthews - Lily
John Mayer - Born and Raised
Moloko - Statues
Simply Red - Picture Book
Sons of Korah - Shelter
Tears for Fears - The Seeds of Love
Thom Yorke - The Eraser

I have a weirdly schizophrenic view of this month's list.  On the one hand I have a certain sense of listening to the same old things - even though in some cases the statistics tell me it's quite a while since the last full listen to the same album.  I think that's partly because I'm conscious at the moment of how much of my pop music collection still hasn't been catalogued properly, which is arguably preventing me from being more deliberate in getting to some of the more hidden corners of the collection.

On the other hand, there are a couple of things on here that feel like I'm being reunited with old friends.  I hadn't listened to Invincible Summer for a tremendously long time simply because I didn't have it in my possession. I lent it to a family member and the loan became rather long-term.  It's easily my favourite of the several k d lang albums that I know. It has a lovely warmth to it (pun intended), and just feels like a nicely consistent record in terms of tone and quality - although the opening track, 'The Consequences of Falling', has its own peculiar ability to get stuck in my head.

The opening track of Shelter has that ability to, thanks almost entirely to one small section of the song.  It's actually a little amazing to me that Sons of Korah have been out of listening circulation for me for as long as this.  They are an Australian Christian band whose work consists entirely of sung versions of Biblical psalms.  That might sound extremely limiting, but what's superb about them is their sensitivity to the words of each text.  Songs change mood and tempo in a way that frequently feels very organic.

Shelter is, by their own description, a particularly melancholic and introspective album. I'm a couple of albums behind now, but of the ones I have it's also one of the ones I respond to the most (the other being the much brighter Redemption Songs).  The first track, 'Contend', their version of Psalm 35, is a pretty good indication of much of the mood of this particular album, but also encapsulates the band's overall sound quite well.

And then, 2 minutes in, is the utterly glorious moment where the music opens up...

[For some mysterious reason, Blogger and Youtube absolutely refuse to let me link to the full, 5-minute version of the song. So here's a version that's missing about the last 2 minutes.]

And then, there's Picture Book.  Which I have managed to listen to occasionally in the last couple of years, but haven't talked about here.  Opinions vary wildly on the quality of Simply Red, and for my own part I think they did a lot of not especially inspired things.  But when I got to know this first album properly, quite some years after its release, I was thoroughly impressed by its quality.

I already knew quite a few songs because there were some big hits - none bigger than 'Holding Back the Years' - but there really isn't a single weak track on the whole album. There's some great jazz-oriented tracks, a couple of excellent fast ones, a couple of very nicely done covers that you wouldn't necessarily know are covers, long songs, short songs... everything contributes to keeping it interesting.  It's definitely one of my favourite albums from the 1980s, and when I first tried to do my own 'official' top 10 albums list it scored an entry.  It would still rank pretty highly now, over a decade later.

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