Set Me on a Silver Sun, For I Know that I’m Free

For almost two years, 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.

Manchester Orchestra – Cope (2014)

I have heard of ManOrch (a nickname my friend Spencer decided to try out, but I think would be better without the “h,” but that might be misleading), but I hadn’t yet heard anything by them.

Heads up: The Ocean and All that I Really Wanted each have an F-bomb. If there are any more than that on the album, I didn’t hear them.

I did expect the vocals to be … different. I don’t know how or why even. They seem like punk rockers who, musically, have switched to harder rock with fuzzy, drawn out chords. It’s not bad. It’s just not what I was expecting. Top Notch was great. There were highs and lows and I like where it went musically. Girl Harbor felt like a straight forward late ’90s alt. rock song and was a more predictable fit with the vocals, although there were still a couple of guitar licks whose tone sounded out-of-place. But the tune also felt more “blah” (but not bad) than the first two. Skipping ahead, All that I Really Wanted also felt like it went together better, but without the “meh”. The Mansion sounded like a tribute to Weezer to me. It was okay, but it mostly makes me want to just listen to 2008/2009-era Weezer.

I thought the weakest song on the album was The Ocean. The chorus was fine, but over-stayed its welcome a little. And the rest of the song didn’t really do much to impress me either. I really liked the title track. It might be my favorite on the album. Unless you listen to the bonus tracks. After the Scripture is fine (although maybe a little long), but finding those track is worth it just for Never Really Been Another Way Out, which was really strong. It’s a 3/5 album, but it does make me want to look up more of their stuff.

Journey – ESC4P3 (1981)

I’m amazed it took us this long to get around to sharing some Journey. They’ve been on my list almost since the beginning of this game, but I’ve had a devil of a time deciding what album to share, so I haven’t. There’s another band that I also have a hard time deciding what album to share, and probably won’t before someone else gets around to sharing them. This is also one of the inspirations for most of my home network passwords, which pretty much all replace vowels for numbers. But they’re longer and more obscure, so I’m not worried about anyone figuring it out.

Anyway, how can you not love Don’t Stop Believin’? It has some great energy, it has a great arrangement, the instruments (specifically the guitar and bass) sound like the ’80s I love without sounding out-of-place today (it reminds me of the Transformers soundtrack), and it has a face-melting guitar solo. I used to feel a personal connection to this tune, as I was a city boy born in Detroit. Although we lived north of the city for quite a few years, I was mostly raised in Utah. Stone in Love keeps it going, and is a similarly great tune.

Every time Still They Ride comes on, I have to remind myself that in a minute, it’ll get better. And it always does. I don’t really care for the slow jam verses, but I like the chorus and to get there, you need somewhere to come from. The title track was better than I remember it being. Compared to the rest of the album it doesn’t really shine, but it’s a pretty solid song. It’s not amazing, but it’s better than a lot of other stuff coming out in 1981. I thought that I had heard this whole album, but I don’t ever remember hearing Lay it Down before. It wasn’t amazing, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Dead or Alive I discovered when I was looking for a similarly titled song. I think it have the best (and really only) groove on the standard album. And it has quite a bit of energy. Next to Don’t Stop Believin’, I think it’s the second best tune on the album. I think it’s a hidden gem. La Raza del Sol, the b-side to Still They Ride and a bonus track on some re-releases, has an interesting groove. The main riff is pretty sweet, although I don’t always feel like the guitar solo fits. I think it outshines it’s a-side, and is one of the top three tunes on the album.

I’ve always loved Mother, Father. The chorus is fine, but I like the edge that the choruses and solos have. And before I learned the name of the song, I always thought the lyrics were “So now I come to you with broken arms.” Once I learned the title, that line became clearer. I still prefer my lyrics. Otherwise, I don’t really care for the tune.

I think this album deserves a 4/5. As a whole, it’s the best album I listened to this week. However, part of that is because of the split nature of the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.

The Beatles – Yellow Submarine (1969)

Possibly as a continuation of Spencer’s suggestion from last week, this week Scott shared the soundtrack to the Yellow Submarine movie.

There are two versions of the soundtrack out there, so don’t get confused. The original has Beatles tunes on the front half of the album and selections from the score on the back half of the album, which is the one Scott shared. The other one is longer and has all of the Beatles songs found in the film except A Day in the Life. Frankly, I like the album artwork for the second one more:

But the first one uses the art from the film poster. And, out of curiosity, it has John using the “rock on” hand sign – one of the earliest uses in rock and roll.

If you haven’t seen the film, it’s pretty trippy. I have it on VHS somewhere, but I haven’t watched it in maybe 10 or 15 years. To me, it’s like the Star Wars Holiday Special; it’s a piece of the culture and deserves to be seen solely on those grounds, but it’s not a particularly great piece of art, unless maybe you’re stoned. So don’t get your hopes up.

A lot of people, The Beatles included, aren’t particularly impressed by their original tunes on this record. I am not one of those people. I love Hey Bulldog and It’s All Too Much. They are two of my favorite Beatles tunes. I love the heavy riff and guitar solo on Hey Bulldog. I love the optimistic, triumphant vibe of It’s All Too Much. I love the bass on both. Only a Northern Song is a great exercise in an artist sarcastically venting his bitterness. And I love the swirly organ.

The title track is a good children’s song and All Together Now complements it nicely.

And let me sum up the last half of the album here: it’s not bad. I especially enjoy Pepperland and Yellow Submarine in Pepperland. Both are good, and I think the latter is especially noteworthy for it’s blending of the two songs. There’s maybe 15 seconds in the middle of Sea of Time that are really good, and there’s some good daydream-y stuff near the end that’s okay too. I like the main theme of the March of the Meanines, and moments of the marimba ostinato, but something about the whole of the piece just doesn’t do a lot for me. Unlike the front half of the album, the rest of these aren’t songs I tend to come back to. This half would get a 3/5 by itself. The a-side (as a stand alone EP, the best thing I heard this week), and the album as a whole, get a 4/5.

Brave Saint Saturn – Anti-Meridian (2008)

It hurts my pride a little, like I’m being lazy, but if there’s one week that’s a throw-away for pretty much everything, it’s the week between Christmas and New Years. So, going off of my suggestion from last week, here’s the third in a trilogy from a Christian rock band made up of former members of Five Iron Frenzy. It chronicles the return of the crew of the U.S.S. Gloria in an escape pod called the Starling.  Lt. Hoerig (“played” by bass-player Keith) saves the mission at the cost of his own life (the last song on the album, Invictus, I’m pretty sure is from his point of view). Several of the songs deal with the crew’s thoughts and remembrances in the aftermath of their safe return. Their Electric Light Orchestra influences are more overt on this record with a cover of Here is the News. And generally, this album has a harder, more mature sound. These Frail Hands is one of my favorite songs of all time. I like the lyrics and the message and I like how it ties in musical ideas and quotes from Gloria and Daylight (album closers from their first and second albums, respectively). I think it adds a sense of completion. Reportedly there’s an album of b-sides, but I’ve only ever seen the cover and have never seen evidence of any more songs being released.

Here’s what my friends thought:

“This was a good album. It had a good theme, but I have to say the story telling was so contrived and forced. Their music far, far, outshone the lyrics. And I have to say the lowest point were the speaking tracks…serious snoozes. But flaws aside it is still mostly enjoyable and gets 3 stars.” – Tim

Feel free to share your own thoughts on any of these albums down in the comments.

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