For more than a year, some of my friends and I have been sharing music. We’re supposed to review/rate what gets shared with us, and share those reviews with the group, but that doesn’t always happen.
Coldplay – Ghost Stories (2014)
Scott suggested just the A Sky Full of Stars single, or maybe EP, but I went ahead and listened to the whole thing. I haven’t ever been a huge Coldplay fan. Parachutes was good, but I didn’t totally love Mylo Xyloto. So I’m interested to see how this goes.
My first impression is how dancey Coldplay has become. Maybe people who have been following them for years have noticed this gradually, but I didn’t see it coming. I felt like they used to be shoe-gaze music; almost emo, but chill. This album however feel like it’s more like Bastille or some other rock inspired pop musicians. And I’m not entirely convinced that every song had musicians on it. A Sky Full of Stars especially stood out to me as feeling like it was just Chris Martin backed by some stock loops. Not all the songs were that way. Oceans and Ghost Stories (off the A Sky Full of Stars EP, which I also listened to) were obviously played by humans, and they were pretty good.
Some of the electronic stuff really worked. The choir on Midnight felt especially haunting. And, while I know not everyone would see this as a plus, the choir element off Another’s Arms felt very video gamey. I didn’t really love the rest of the song. There were some synths in the background that I can only describe as whale songs which were pretty good, but not enough to make up for the incessant beat. But sometimes the electronic stuff backfired. I felt like Always in My Head was being played in an empty garage or a submarine. It was just super echoy, and I didn’t like it. It was kind of overwhelming and I just got bored with it.
I’m still not a huge fan of Coldplay, but this is a fine album. Just different from what I expected. There are some songs on here I’d listen to again, although I wouldn’t seek out most of it again. 3/5
Supertramp – Breakfast in America (1979)
I have only heard four of the singles off this album. And I actually like them all a lot. I’ve only ever heard Supertramp on the radio. I never really sought out a full album of theirs, so I was surprised to learn that most of the songs of theirs I could have named came off this album.
This is part of the reason why I love playing this game. Sometimes there are new bands I discover because my friends share an album of theirs. But sometimes there are great old albums I just have never listened to all the way, and I probably wouldn’t think to listen to unless someone encouraged me to. So thanks, Tim, for sharing this album.
The Logical Song is possibly the most well-known song on here. It’s good, and it has a great pre-chorus, but mostly it’s just good. I love the kind of creepy circus feel of the horns in the title track. And Goodbye Stranger is absolutely great.
But even the less-well known songs are good, although either too interesting or not interesting enough. Oh Darling, Just Another Nervous Wreck and Casual Conversations are those type of songs that I feel like a lesser band would put down as a greatest hit, but because of its bedfellows, it seems comparatively unimpressive.
Lord is it Mine is slower and probably my least favorite, but even then, it provides a good contrast from some of their other stuff. And it reminds me of Harry Nilsson’s Remember from a few years earlier. Except Lord is it Mine builds more toward the end.
I was pleasantly surprised by Child of Vision. On an album so saturated with hits, I totally understand why there’d be other great tunes and why it might be hard to pick which songs to promote. At seven and a half minutes, I guess I understand why this wasn’t on the radio as much as the others, but this album would have been worth listening to just to discover this one song. Gratefully I didn’t have to suffer through anything else to get to it. There really are no bad songs on this album. 4/5
Alan Parsons Project – I Robot (1977)
I really had no idea what to expect. But right away, I thought the title track was a little creepy and musically odd, but it had a sweet groove. I really thought it was great.
I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You also started out a little creepy and musically odd, but it quickly switched to some straightforward funk. And it continued to evolve. I barely noticed when it switched to Another Time, except the mood changed a little. The whole album was kind of that way. It was musically rather interesting. It wasn’t just an a-typical song structure, but it’s also a little hard to peg a specific genre on this. Which kind of automatically promotes it to prog, despite the lack of obvious mixed meter or polyrhythms. It’s almost like a soundtrack, but better.
I don’t know how many of these songs would stand on their own – on the radio, for example – but all together, they’re great. Maybe just because it’s rather different from anything else I feel like I’ve listened to in a while, but I really liked this. Again, there wasn’t a song I didn’t really like. Well, I didn’t love Total Eclipse. It was very dissonant, and I don’t know that Genesis 1:32 really resolved it. I felt like the album peaked with The Voice, but while the rest of the album wasn’t as engaging, it was still good. I want to hear more. 3/5
Metallica – Ride the Lightning (1984)
This was the album my brother used to introduce Metallica to me. It was the early ’90s and he just got their black album. I heard a few singles off of that, but before he’d let me listen to the whole thing, he said I had to hear some of their old stuff to really appreciate their new stuff.
Looking back, I think that’s odd. Early Metallica was really metal. Starting with the black album, they just kind of became hard rock. Good for different reasons, in my opinion, but they’re almost like a totally different band. And to tell the truth, I prefer the hard rock stuff to the thrash metal.
Part of it is Hetfield’s vocals. It was like his voice hadn’t quite dropped yet. Maybe it’s just the way it was recorded, but it seems high and … almost tinny. I don’t know if that’s the best way to describe it.
There are quite a few good songs, but for me the highlight of the album is The Call of Ktulu. Not only did this teach me how to correctly pronounce that creature’s name (by the way, the Cthulhu mythos, like Dr. Who, is something people keep recommending to me and I just can’t seem to get into), but it is a great piece of metal song writing. I think it’s their best instrumental. And the S&M version is worth listening to. It really makes me sad that Cliff Burton died. I would have loved to hear what else he could have come up with. Maybe he would have turned into another Danny Elfman.
Fade to Black is probably the best known song of this album and my second favorite. The guitar’s are great, it has energy without being to thrash or bogged down in heavy metal, and even Hetfield’s vocal performance isn’t too bad on this track. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a close third, for all the same reasons. Fight Fire with Fire is a distant fourth, just because it’s more thrash metal.
I feel like Escape is a hidden gem of this album. I’ve never seen it on any compilations, but I think it’s really good. I especially like the chorus.
While I don’t really play music this hard, this was a pretty big influence on some of my music – both things I wrote/played as well as introducing me to other music. I think the black album is better, but of their old stuff, I like this album the most. 4/5
This is a slightly different suggestion. I’m actually sharing music from a web series where they take three or four musicians who have never met before, stick them in a studio, and give them 24 hours to write and record three songs.
You don’t have to watch the whole series, but here’s the trailer:
If you want to watch the whole series (so far), they have a playlist, but it goes in reverse order. I put my own YouTube playlist together (where each episode is followed by the songs from that session) that goes in chronological order:
But I do think listening to all the music is worth it. The Love and Terror Cult’s Hunter of Forgotten Time has an I Want You (She’s So Heavy) kind of feel, but with earlier Beatles style vocals. Actually, all of their stuff has a psychedelic ’60s vibe to it that I like. It was probably the session with the best music, for me. Other sessions that have good music are Courgette (the guitar on Are You Lost is just great), Taro (I love the dreamy feel of Forget about Me), and Tripple. Taro is probably the session where I feel like I would have fit it the best. Maybe Courgette.
In the End You’re Free is maybe sub-par, but the rest of the Morning, Morning session is alright. The same is true for Backtrack Pt. 2 compared with the rest of the Elephant Chords session. The one set I really don’t like is Jungle of Love. Part of it is that I just can’t get into some of the more experimental stuff they’re doing. All Fire was the best of the lot, and it was just alright. And partly, I’ve known too many other guys who remind me of Caleb Groh, the main vocalist for the session, who just piss me off. I try to get along with everybody, but there are just some people I have a hard time working with. Also, he seemed totally wasted. Lindsay Jamieson, from the Elephant Chords session, would also be hard for me to work with. He seemed like kind of a diva.
There is one session, Fist, that I think has some great stuff (My Way Home, which feels like a Wolfmother tune) and some not so great stuff (We’ve Got You Surrounded (My Latin Baby), which I think suffers from not being the genre most of the guys were comfortable with). It’s also one of my favorite episodes, from a documentary stand point.
Right now there are 10 episodes, and at three songs each, there are 30 songs that have come out of this project. So it’s pretty much a double album compilation of EPs. Bite-sized for your listening convenience.
Google Music has music from eight of the sessions; they have The Love and Terror Cult, but are missing Blank and Elephant Chords. iTunes has nine, again missing Elephant Chord. Spotify has all of them.
I totally get that this might not be as interesting to everyone, but I think this web series is pretty interesting. While I wish the episodes were longer (they range from shy of 7 minutes to about 13:30) and there were more (or at least they came out more often), I think it’s a really interesting look into how bands can form and the songwriting process.
In case you care, here’s a list of the sessions (in order of my favorite to my least favorite):
- The Love and Terror Cult
- Native Drifters
- Morning, Morning
- Elephant Chords
- Jungle of Love
I don’t think my friend Tim understood I was sharing the music from the episodes (in addition to suggesting he watch the documentaries themselves, of course), but I guess that’s his loss. Here’s what he and my other friends thought:
“Thanks for sharing this Paul. If found it to be really cool and interesting, and honestly, too short. I would have loved to hear 30 minutes of interviews and creative process, with the songs being played as they are completed. I would totally watch that on TV any day. I watched 2 episodes, and as someone who plays in film, they have a really talented production crew; it’s high quality work. I’m curious where this is produced, but I’m thinking Los Angeles. The people they brought in varied quite a bit in terms of personality, but I wouldn’t say their style was very different. They all seem to be part of the “indie” crowd of musicians. I’d like to see more variety in terms of styles, and maybe there is in other episodes, but I don’t get that impression. The music was decent too, but it is what I would expect from such a project. It’s raw, and it’s good, but it isn’t refined. Still, it is very entertaining to watch. (and no reduced score for not giving us an album 😛 )” 5/5 – Tim
“I watched a few of the videos back when Paul shared a link with me on Facebook. At the time I was annoyed I couldn’t just hear the songs, so I was excited to learn they’re all on Spotify. This was a lot of tracks so its hard to give a good review without doing it while I listen.
My favorite track would be “Hope in my Head” by Tripple, but when the girl sings “Hope, Hopin'” it sounds like she’s tone-deaf. I don’t know if she’s just missing the harmony or if it’s supposed to be atonal, but it drives me crazy and ruins an otherwise great track. Jungle of Love had some good ideas, but not enough to keep it really interesting, the weirdness started to get old. Taro had some good tracks. Fist was a bit too raw, for me to really get into it. Elephant Chords opened really well, then the other two tracks were a little disappointing.
The rest of the groups were all nice, but overall, there weren’t a lot of tracks here that were very memorable. Its good music, and cool to hear how well it turned out under constrained circumstances (as a side note I understand Bob Dylan would usually cut a whole album in one boozy overnighter at the studio) but not stellar.
In some ways I can’t help but feel like the music is a little cheap. I mean if you can do the whole production in 24 hours, its not likely to be gold. It ends up feeling just a bit like mass-produced pop. I think the knowledge of the production timeline is biasing me. I like to think really great music takes more time, more revision. But who knows, even though bands spend months, sometimes years in the studio producing, how long do they actually spend on writing? Or do they just take a few hours on each song and keep the best 10 out of the 34 they wrote in the sessions? I’m sure its artist by artist, but I’m going to think about this more.” 3.5/5 – Spencer
Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments below on this web series, the recording process, or any of the music shared.