Friday, 10 January 2014

December 2013 - Popular Music

Beyonce - Beyonce
Kate Bush - 50 Words for Snow
John Mayer - Paradise Valley
Katie Noonan & the Captains - Emperor's Box
Radiohead - Kid A
Radiohead - In Rainbows

A little flourish of new music at the very end of the year thanks to Christmas - either gifts, bought with gift money or spotted for myself while shopping!

Katie Noonan's album was a long-intended purchase. She was one member of george, a band responsible for just about my favourite album of the last decade.  Since then she has explored a variety of styles, but I knew this particular album was the most george-like work she had done. So far so good, although really after only a few listens I can't say whether this will match previous work in my affections.

John Mayer in Paradise Valley appears very much like John Mayer in Born and Raised, although it's perhaps a bit more straightforward and less adventurous than the previous album. Then again it might reveal a bit more with further listening. At this stage, one of the most impressive things on here is the duet with Katy Perry, mainly because of how different she sounds - as one review said, she has warmth here that is nothing like her usual highly-produced pop.

The big surprise purchase, with Christmas money, was Beyonce.  I won't lie, the concept and method of delivery drew me in to begin with. Here was a singer explicitly saying 'this is an album, I want it thought of as a complete unit'. That's always a positive for me.  But then, as I watched 30-second samples of the videos, I was impressed. Then I read reviews saying how this was some of her finest work. Then I listened to 90-second audio samples on iTunes and was still impressed.

I'm pretty sure this is the first time in my life that I bought an album, and the first thing I did was sit down to watch it.

And you know what? I'm still quite impressed. After that first 'viewing' I've tended to focus more on the CD version. There are some differences, and it's actually nice to see that occasionally it's the audio version that is longer, not the visual version, but on the whole it plays/feels like the same work. That in itself is to be applauded.  But really the main point is there's some pretty good music here. It's not remotely what I could my 'normal' listening genre, and I wouldn't say I love all of it, but I do like all of it and it's constantly interesting and engaging. I find myself wanting to return to it to have another listen and explore further. I'd say that's a big win on Beyonce's part, in my little corner of the world.


The tally for 2013 is in and it says I only listened in full to 73 pop recordings. Take away a few bits and pieces and it's just 65 albums. That's way lower than previous years. The reasons why include being away for a lengthy period, and probably a bigger focus on classical music. Still, I'm surprised and not pleased. There's plenty of other good music to be listening to.

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