If I’d Only Thought of Something Charming to Say

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.

Last week I just shared a single because I was having a hard time deciding what to share. My wife kept suggesting things, but I wasn’t really in the mood for any of those. I told her she should just share something again (she did once last spring), but then she couldn’t decide what to share. So I went with the first album I ever called mine. And that inspired her to go with the first album she ever bought.

But first, here’s what my friends (or their own wives) had to share:

Mariah Carey – Daydream (1995)

This isn’t really my kind of music. I can appreciate the vocal artistry, but this isn’t something I ever would have thought about listening to on my own. Apparently, the Boyz II Men collaboration One Sweet Day still holds the record for longest streak (16 straight weeks) at No. 1 on Billboard’s charts.

And I totally get it. It was one of the better tracks. Except for the two spoken vocal “echos.” Those were a bit tacky.

I was surprised by how much I liked the opening track, but Always Be My Baby was the highlight of the album for me. Looking In was another surprise. I liked how minimal it started and only grew subtly. I can tell I’m in music writing mode when, about two-thirds of the way through the song, I imagine a Pink Floyd-esque guitar solo would fit nicely. Still, it’s a great song without any face melting. I wouldn’t mind revisiting those tracks sometime. I am Free was almost as good. It had some more obvious gospel and light jazz influences.

The Journey cover was okay, but I think it showcases what I don’t like about soft pop vocals. They throw in a lot of unnecessary ornamentation. Steve Perry’s melody would be relatively simple to transcribe and recreate. But Mariah’s “embellishments” are distracting to me. It’s like she can’t find the note she wants or she knows she can’t stay in tune on a sustained note, which I know isn’t true, but that’s what it sounds like to me. Actually, the Spanish version (El Amor que Soñé) seemed to fit her style better, maybe because was even more different from Journey’s version.

Side note: I always thought the words were “So now I come to you with broken arms.”

The only real lowlight for me was Daydream Interlude. It was mostly just weird. They synths were late ’80s, but then it goes into some techno disco stuff. Just weird. I didn’t really care for the super-repetitive backing track of Long Ago. It didn’t quite fit. I feel like it wanted more of a rap vocal style. But I don’t know how I’d feel about Mariah doing those kind of vocals. I did like the change from a minor to major key in … the bridge? Pre-chorus?

I can appreciate this album, but it was probably my least favorite of the week. It’s not bad. It’s mostly just not my thing. None of this really made me tap my foot or made me want to turn up the volume, the two most basic ways I know I really like something. I’m not going to go out and listen to her other stuff to see what I’m missing out on. 3/5

Thoughts from my friends:

“It wasn’t easy listening to this much easy listening. Maybe its not easy listening but to me it just seems to have that fm100 sound. I was surprised how almost hip-hop some of the tracks were (save the vocals), but even the big hits here that I recognized, I got bored with. She’s very talented sure, but I’m not into the style. When Mariah comes on, I reach for the dial.

Oh ya, I was going to comment on Daydream Interllude. I thought it was a remix or something. It made the album worse IMO anyway.” 2.5/5 – Spencer

“The album itself wasn’t quite as seamless as I remember. But, it still has a handful of great tunes. I think I like “Fantasy” a lot more today than I did back then, and I forgot just how powerful “One Sweet Day” was. The highlight for me on this re-listen was “Forever.” I had completely forgotten about that song, but suddenly some old feelings of teenage love came rushing back. I must have listened to it a ton whilst crushing on some girl, although I can’t quite remember who (I can kind of narrow it down based on the timeframe, but…) That’s a great, old school sounding ballad.

Mariah has always had an INCREDIBLE voice. And I’m a sucker for good R&B jams. Sometimes the vocal gymnastics do get a little overwhelming, but I can’t imagine any true fan of a good vocal performance not getting goosebumps by her talent. Anyway, while I still hold this album highly for nostalgia sake, and some of the tunes are near perfect, it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as I remembered it as a whole.” 7.5/10 – Chris

“OK this was the first time I have listened to this album. Ever. It was so very well done that I am ashamed I didn’t listen before. I can see how this album really launched her career (even though it came many years after her start). I think this album runs the risk of disappearing as the music style goes out, which is a shame because it is really a great album as a whole.” 4/5 – Tim

Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlantisism (2003)

This has nothing to do with the music: the album art reminds me of The Secret of NIMH, also known as the scariest cartoon I have ever seen. It also has a crow tangled up in red string.

Death Cab is a very stable band for me. They have a couple of great songs surrounded by tracks that range (narrowly) from “chill music best listened to at twilight” to “sit-on-the-deck-of-your-cabin-with-a-mug-of-some-hot-drink-and-watch-the-rain-come-down music.” They’re not poorly written or performed, and I’m okay with some more “downer” songs mixed in to break up the upbeat stuff, but Death Cab is the other way around. Songs like The Sound of Settling are highlights because they’re so different from the other tunes. And maybe because it was so different, I think it was the best song I heard this week. Title and Registration and We Looked Like Giants are some of my other favorites from this album, although Title and Registration kind of peaked at the solo, both songs go on just a little too long, and, like Spencer, I don’t love the meaning behind We Looked Like Giants‘ lyrics but I like how he says what he says. It’s a rhythmically interesting song, without getting too interesting.

As much as I feel like I can just listen to Death Cab instead of taking Valium, I don’t feel like there are any bad tracks. Lightness is probably the weakest; the drums don’t always seem to sync up and I’m not really a fan of the ambient stuff going on in the background.

As much as I might not love the shoe-gaze-ier elements of Death Cab, this was my favorite record of the week. Good pick, Rachel. 3/5

“The first time I ever heard anything Ben Gibbard was with The Postal Service right after my mission. I was enamored with that album, so when I found out the singer was actually part of a separate band called Death Cab For Cutie, I was excited to hear their brand new album Transatlanticism. But… I wasn’t all that impressed. Their sound just wasn’t all that interesting to me by comparison.

It took some time working at the music store for the album to grow on me a little. It seemed like everyone loved them except me. I just wanted more Postal Service. But songs like “Title and Registration” and “Expo ’86” did catch my fancy. The song that stood out to me this time around was “Lightness.” I didn’t remember liking that one all that much back in the day, but it might be my favorite one now. That low bass humm in the background gives it a nice solid sound.

I think my opinion of the album and the band in general hasn’t changed all that much with this listen. I think Death Cab is a talented group, and they do some fairly interesting things with a rather uninteresting formula, especially when they decide to get technical with the rhythms. But overall, they’re just kind of eventless to me. Not horrible by any means, but just kind of bland. That might sound like I dislike the album, but it’s not a bad listen. Just vanilla. Not quite Denny’s, maybe more like IHOP or Cracker Barrel. Sometimes that’s exactly what you want but not all that memorable in the long run.” 6.5/10 – Chris

“This week was just full of first time listens for me. I really enjoyed this album as well. It had great flow and story throughout the album. I think I will check out their other albums now.” 4/5 – Tim

Hanson – Middle of Nowhere (1997)

I guess this might give you a clue on how old my wife is.

This is Hanson’s debut album. It includes the song they are most well known for: MMMBop, which reminds me of one of the songs from Disney’s Tarzan. Not that it’s a Disney channel kind of album by any means. Although A Minute without You did seem more mature than the rest of the album, like it was written 20+ years earlier.

I’ve only listened to this album once, so I’ll probably review it this week as well.

I have listened to this album exactly once before when I put it on my computer. Aside from the hit single being very pre-teen to me, I liked it. I remember the whole album being pretty light pop rock. Other highlights I remember were Speechless and Look at You. There were other songs I didn’t care for so much, like Weird, Lucy, With You in Your Dreams and (to my wife’s consternation, although I can’t tell if she was being sarcastic or not) Yearbook.

This time around, I didn’t exactly feel the same way about all of the songs. I liked the breakdown of Thinking of You more than I remember. The writing and emotion of I Will Come to You stood out to me much more than before.

Some songs I liked more and a couple I liked a little less, but I like this slightly more than I did a week ago. I shared it just because my wife did, but now I feel like I can stand behind it like the other albums I’ve shared over the past few years. I’m still not a fan of Weird or Yearbook though. 3/5

Here’s what my friends thought:

“I enjoyed this album and took a chance to familiarize myself more with Hansen. I was surprised at the variety in the tracks, some funky, some kinda acoustic, some just fun pop-rock. Not what I expected from the album of MMMbop. Then I looked at the list of session musicians, holy cow! So its hard to think of them as a band, even though they all play when the supplemental musician list is longer than the track list. Whats on display here is their songwriting and vocal abilities. Sure they play on most of these (I assume) but they’re pretty buried in production. Those abilities are notable but not mind-boggling. I have a hard time getting over the 14 year old lead voice. Lucy was probably my favorite here. Overall, more impressed than I expected, but not really a keeper.” 3.8/5 – Spencer

“As Paul probably remembers, I’m a shameless Hanson fan. But it wasn’t until 2010 with their single “Thinking Bout Somethin” that I truly came around. That song is legitimately one of my favorite songs of the last decade, and it was my favorite song of that year. I liked it and it’s album Shout It Out so much, my wife and I even saw them live later that year. It was a great show! All three of them sang and harmonized together flawlessly. Of course, they did have to drop a few of these Middle of Nowhere numbers a few octaves to play live.

I now own all their albums since and including Middle of Nowhere. Although, it may be my least favorite. I’m still pretty amazed at how talented these guys were at that age, especially with regards to singing. And their songwriting of course. They’ve been able to produce quite a few perfect pop/rock gems with a surprising amount of soul.

“MMMbop” is unavoidable. There’s a reason it was a huge hit then, and kind of a pop classic now. Other than that, I really enjoy their other hit from this one, “Where’s the Love.” But the album overall is pretty enjoyable, even if not their strongest work. Good share!” 7/10 – Chris


2 thoughts on “If I’d Only Thought of Something Charming to Say

  1. Pingback: It Might Be a Shame and You Might Be Disheartened | An American Audio-logue

  2. Pingback: Laughing Too Loud When We found We Were Locked Out | An American Audio-logue

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