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.
Gentle Giant – Octopus (1972)
Here’s a loose concept album by prog. contemporaries of last week‘s Yes. The concept was a song about each of the six members of the band. Except they ended up with eight tunes. And the title is a pun on that, specifically the eight (octo-) musical works (opus, the plural of which is opera, which gets confusing to us modern, non-native Latin speakers to whom opera is a very specific thing).
And I get why these guys never came on my radar. They’re good (good enough that I want to look up some other stuff of theirs) and musically interesting, but not mind blowing. They’re a nice change from both contemporary prog. bands and my general mix of everyday listening stuff.
Knots was the one tune that lost me. It just seemed disjointed, with moments where it all came together. Some of the other tunes may not have been great either, but their mix of weird and good was the inverse of Knots‘. Think of Me with Kindness was the most normal and I think the best on this album. 3/5
Thoughts from friends:
“I’ve got to be honest here. I really, really, really didn’t like this album. It was hard for me to sit through. I felt like the songs just meandered without plot, and the album similarly wandered aimlessly without purpose. There would be a moment here or there where I would find the music interesting, then it would go off on a weird tangent and completely lose me…constantly. For me it is just 1 star, and I honestly tried to justify 2 stars here. But I will say I had an interesting thought while listening to it. I kept thinking over and over that this was “Musician’s Music.” I don’t normally think that about any album, but it felt to me like the appeal here is specifically for someone who was in a high school, college, or garage band. Like the only people who would really “get it” are people who play their instruments every day and are constantly trying out new and experimental techniques. It just felt to me like a long practice session where they wrtoe from their hips…and only other musicians would see what was behind what you heard. I hope that makes sense? Anyway, I could see other people liking it, but as a non-musician it just didn’t make sense for me at all.” 1/5 – Tim
The Weeknd – Beauty behind the Madness (2015)
I was a little apprehensive about listening to this. The little I knew about this artist and album seemed like it was obvious that this wasn’t really what I normally choose to listen to. And I’d hold it against him that one of these songs, Earned It, was in Fifty Shades of Gray, except it may not have been his decision. While the company you keep may be a reflection of yourself, it shouldn’t be what people judge you on.
Generally, I didn’t really care for the music (which I know isn’t really the point of this style, but they were boring) or the lyrics. It was most prominent for me on Can’t Feel My Face and In the Night, but there were times his voice reminded me of Michael Jackson, and although I don’t love MJ, I mean that as a compliment.
Highlights: Dark Times. Part of it is that I like Ed Sheeran. Most of that is because I like the music video for Lego House, both the story and
Ron Weasley Rupert Grint being a little creepy. Back to Dark Times: I like the guitar riff (that I wanted to hear more of) and Ed’s vocals. I didn’t love The Weeknd’s vocals, but I’m not surprised this is something Tim likes. Losers had the best groove of all the tunes. I had never heard of Labrinth before, so I don’t really know what was his influence and what would have been part of the song even without his involvement, but I think it was my favorite tune, musically. The horns were a nice touch. They reminded me of Fleetwood Mac‘s Tusk. I’m not sure I cared for the lyrics.
And lowlights? I only didn’t skip Tell Your Friends and Often because I wanted to say I listened to the whole album. Talking about how hard life can be is one thing (like Everlast’s overly-censored What It’s Like, for example), but The Weeknd seems to be glorifying his thug life. I think Shameless pretty much said it all. I haven’t read (or seen) Fifty Shades of Gray, but if this music is any indication, I feel justified in my lack of interest.
To round out the guest artists, I’ve just never really been a fan of Lana del Rey. 2/5
Thoughts from my friends:
“I really liked the intro of the opener, but his vocals are a little too poppy. Reminds me of boy bands and stuff, but the music is really cool, some good movement and stuff. I hope I can get over the vocals to enjoy the rest of this.
“I was surprised how vulgar some of these were. Theres some cool stuff going on in the tracks, but the vocals aren’t my fave. I get the MJ vibe and thats kinda cool, but I don’t actually like MJ’s vocals necessarily.
“I started out liking this, but it started to all sound pretty samey. I don’t know what it is, but by the middle of the album I started getting bored. I’m not finding as much good stuff going on; it seemed to turn more into boring dance music as it went on. I think he could have done better taking the best tracks and making a shorter album.
“Between the getting bored and the surprising number of F-bombs, even though I saw some good in this, I’m not coming back to it.” 3.3/5 – Spencer
Side note: When Tim shared this album, he said, “I think a lot of music will have a slow burn because it is just not as easy to find music as it was. We can’t go to a music store to browse the new releases, or get opinions from store clerks.”
And I kind of agree with him. I think the lack of brick-and-mortar stores makes it harder to find all the new stuff. But a CD store never would have had all the new music, even 15 years ago. And technology has made it so much easier for anybody to put out music. On the other hand, Google Play, iTunes and Spotify might have a lot of new stuff, but they don’t really make it easy to find. They just serve up the stuff that will make them money.
The real disservice we did ourselves was getting rid of those people behind the counter who knew everything about music and can help you discover stuff. We did ourselves the same disservice (among others) when we got rid of video rental stores like Blockbuster.
Spencer chimed in, too:
“I agree too. I really think the industry is able to push certain things and its hard to even know about new albums that aren’t in the money-maker track. But luckily they exist and are easily accessible once you know about them.
Luckily we did not genocide these people. They are on places like allmusic.com and various forums. Whether this makes them more accessible or less I’m not sure.
I’ve tried to read up on whether spotify really is evil and if streaming is good or bad for the industry and still come up very undecided. In some ways it makes sense for people to get paid proportionally to how often their content is consumed. But maybe that just encourages and enforces that the big pop stars are rich and the less known artists starve.
Really though, when you buy an album or a movie, what do you own? Its not yours. You can’t copy it, even for personal use. I’m not sure what the legalese of copywrite says about even reselling licensed hard copies of media is (though it certainly appears to be legal as Hastings hasn’t been sued yet). All we did was remove the disk and suddenly its illegal to sell the music if you didn’t like it? There’s something very strange and counter-intuitive with the whole media market. I haven’t figured out any answers.
Anyway. Interesting thoughts. As for the future of music, all I know for sure is it will be interesting to watch the industry in the next few decades. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe it will just continue to be squabbling execs trying to fight pirates, making more and more obnoxious DRM.” – Spencer
The Grateful Dead – American Beauty (1970)
When I shared Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young a few weeks ago, I was reminded that none of us have shared any Grateful Dead. So here is what I think is their best album. My oldest brother introduced me to these guys many years ago when he was listening to other jam bands. Phil Lesh (the Dead’s bass player) and Paul McCartney are probably my two most foundational bass guitar influences.
In case you’ve only heard the name and not actually heard any of their music, they’re a folk rock jam band, with some strong marijuana influences (which may be half the definition of a jam band). Some of the highlights for me are Friend of the Devil, Sugar Magnolia and Truckin’.
Here’s what my friends thought:
“I don’t consider myself a Dead-Head, but I have listened to a fair number of their recordings, including this one. Their music is just solid. Its not the catchiest, but its always enjoyable to listen too. The way they drive the beat but have such relaxed vocals and melodies is fascinating. My favorite track is probably Truckin. Sweet shuffle, yet so chill.” 4.3/5 – Spencer
“Interesting album. It’s funny…I’ve always thought I knew the Grateful Dead, but this album was 100% new to me, and makes me question my knowledge of them. The album had a great vibe all the way through and was consistently good. As a whole it worked incredibly well. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I gave it 4 instead of 5 stars…and ultimate there was no reason other than my gut feel. Great listen and something I would sit through again.” 4/5 – Tim