For almost a year now, some of my friends and I have been sharing an album with one another, partly for exposure to new music and partly to give us something to listen to while we work, etc. We’re supposed to review it, rate it, and share those reviews/ratings with one another as well, but that doesn’t always happen.
Grizzly Bear – Yellow House (2006)
When Chris shared this album, he said it had a very rustic, almost ghostly feel to it – the audio equivalent of looking at an old-timey black and white photo.
I don’t know if it feels quite that old to me, but it at times it does feel very much like late ’60s/early ’70s psychedelic folk rock. But only at times. Most of the album was simply well done modern indie folk rock.
Most of the album I would describe as a sonic experience. It’s a little haunting in the way it goes more for a musical atmosphere, rather than radio friendliness. Especially in Marla. If you want more traditional pop-based music, you may just be annoyed with this album. But a lot of the album does a better job of getting me to relax than, let’s say, Jeff Bridges’ Sleeping Tapes (which are just trippy).
Marla, by the way, was written by (and named after) singer/keyboardist/songwriter Ed Droste’s great aunt in the 30’s. The band took it, slowed it way down, and embellished it a touch to create the track you hear on the album. A perfect example of that “audio equivalent of looking at an old-timey black and white photo” sound. Partly because you can’t really understand any of the words. Frankly, I’d like to hear the original version.
While I really enjoyed this album, Knife was the first song I thought I would want to seek out again and put in a playlist. It was the most normal of the whole album. And possibly because of that, I think of it as one of the highlights of the album.
The my favorite song on the album is probably On a Neck, On a Spit. It’s lyrically very simple. But musically it’s much more impressive, and has a whole range of moods crammed into an almost six-minute roller coaster. As intense as it gets, each voice or instrument has a distinct place. I don’t feel like any thing is crowding out anything else. The musical riffs are good, the variations on those riffs are clever, and the vocals can be heard clearly.
Reprise was alright, but it kept stopping and starting again. It felt like a rehearsal. And I’m not sure what they were reprising. And while I didn’t totally love Colorado, it was a good way to end the album.
No song on this album scored lower than a 3, and a few were a 4, but I feel like the album as a whole was a 3/5. This is one of those times I feel the failings of a 5 point system, but until iTunes lets me give half stars, I’m sticking with my inherently flawed system. That’s better than Spotify’s one-or-none star system.
Victor Wooten – A Show of Hands (1996)
I’m sure even though I’ll tell you right up front that this is a jazz album, it’ll still confound some people’s expectations. Sure there are funk and reggae flavors, but didn’t those start as offshoots of jazz?
The answer is yes.
I started playing bass guitar for two very simple reasons:
- I was the only guy in the band who didn’t own my own instrument
- Nobody in the band owned a bass guitar, although one guy did have a bass amp
So naturally, it became my duty to buy my own and play bass.
It wasn’t until later that I learned to love holding down the bottom end. Sir Paul McC was an obvious influence. But the only other guy I cite as an influence in my bass playing and writing is Vic Wooten. He’s from a suburb of Boise and grew up playing back-up. This is his debut as a solo artist.
I won’t pretend that every song is a Grammy winner. But you can’t deny that what he does and how he does it takes serious talent.
Like the song says, this album is just him and his bass guitar. Well, and a few other voices. And maybe some claps, I don’t remember. The point is he can make sweet music all by his one-some. He really shows off the capabilities of an instrument most bands give to their least musically inclined member.
You may recognize Stevie Wonder’s Overjoyed, as well as a few songs in the medley (Someday My Prince will Come from Disney’s Snow White, Misty, A Night in Tunisia) but frankly the covers aren’t my favorite tracks. They’re not bad, but even the cool jazz The Vision has more emotion than Overjoyed. Also, is it just me or does Me and My Bass Guitar channel a little James Brown?
The best track on the album is easily Classical Thump. It blows my mind every time I hear it. Remember, this is just one guy and one bass guitar. No overdubs.
The title track is certainly a spectacle, but I think some parts of it are a little too frenetic and it’s not really something you’d ever want to happen to listen to. It’s a song that you should choose to listen to. I think it’s technicality is both it’s strength and its weakness. And while many songs you can listen to with one headphone in, I highly recommend you use both headphones. Unless you get dizzy easily, then you might just want to skip that song altogether.
The track I like the least is Justice. Partly because of the melody line. Partly because of the weird other noises going on. And partly because he broke the one rule he said he set for himself (to only use voices and a single track of his bass); those weird noises might be made by his bass, but I don’t know how. And if they were, he obviously overdubbed them. Anyway, this is the weakest song on the album. And not just because it sounds weird, but because I think the weirdness overshadows the message he’s trying to get across.
Also, I think Spotify only has the 15th anniversary version with a couple extra tracks, just to make you aware.
Let me know what you thought in the comments below.