Am I Just Sending Words into Outer Space

For a couple of 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.

Katy Perry – One of the Boys (2008)

I’ve heard a couple of songs off this album, but most of my perception of Katy Perry is based off her next album and it isn’t super favorable. I can appreciate her songwriting ability – something most pop stars don’t seem to bother themselves with. So when Tim suggested this album, I wasn’t really looking forward to it.

And maybe it’s because my expectations were low, but I liked this album. It was more rock than I was expecting. It felt very No Doubt-inspired, but with absolutely no ska/reggae influences. It seems like a more natural successor to Tragic Kingdom and Return of Saturn than Rocksteady does, but more mainstream rock than the hip-hop direction. And with a better singer. I’m Still Breathing felt very Return of Saturn to me, but I thought it was ill-placed on the album. I got bored with it pretty quickly, although the organ at the end was good. Earlier on the album would have been better.

Thinking of YouMannequin and Self Inflicted felt like late ’90s/early 2000’s adult alternative rock. I liked the almost-chiptune-y keyboards in Mannequin especially. But the highlight of the album for me was Lost. It thought it felt very personal. Maybe her other songs are very honest indicators of where she was when she wrote these, but I couldn’t really relate to them. Lost made me feel like I understood her better and there is much more to her than my very limited exposure to her has so far led me to believe. Immediately after listening to the album, it was the only song I wanted to go right back to and hear again.

The lowlight of the album for me was U R So Gay. I’m not a super fan of the sexually charged lyrics on most of the album (although they don’t bother me nearly as much as some ’70s and ’80s hard rockers), but even though the words to U R So Gay aren’t really felt like they just needed something, that’s all they could come up with last minute and they didn’t have time to improve them. And while most of the music on the album is a 3-4 with some interesting musical ideas but maybe some boring chord progressions, U R So Gay had interesting ideas, but they executed those ideas in a way I would never have chosen. I can only chalk it up to personal preference, but I’d like to hear someone take those musical ideal and do a more straightforward rock version. With different lyrics.

All in all, I was surprised how much I liked this album. Were there a couple of times she self-filtered her swears? There were times she obviously didn’t, so I’m a bit confused. I would come back to maybe half of it, sprinkled throughout a playlist. 3.17/5

Here’s what my friends thought:

“So I really blanched when I saw this. I really don’t like KP. I think she’s more or less an over-rated, lip-syncing tramp. Especially her hit Eye of the Tiger that was way overplayed on the radio drove me nuts. There was nothing good about that song. So ya…

But actually, I’m glad you shared this. Her first album seems a lot more “real” than her later radio hits at least. Her voice seems more quirky, much less produced. The music is more rock-pop here, with more guitar than I ever knew she used. Thematically, I don’t care for it, but really, its no edgier than a lot of classic rock that I do like. To be perfectly honest I thought a lot of her lyrics were funny and even clever at times.

That said I’m not going to listen to this again on purpose, but I liked it a lot more than I expected. I still think she’s mostly a sell out that basically tours out peep shows, but I can at least see why some folks would like this album. I should probably listen to her later stuff too and give it a chance, but I won’t unless one of you guys make me.” 3.5/5 – Spencer

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme (1965)

I’ve listened (and covered) my share of Coltrane, but I’ve never been a fan of modal jazz or free jazz. I just can never tell that the saxophone, piano, and bass are even playing the same song. I think a lot of music takes synchronicity for granted. This really makes you appreciate the times they do sync up.

I have two problems with the opening tune. First, the drums were too complex. Some of it was cool, but mostly it felt distracting. Calling it complex would be an understatement. It’s beyond complicated, but I’m not sure what the right word is. Second, I had a hard time hearing the bass a lot of the time. Not just on the opening tune, but throughout the album. It’s my biggest problem with upright basses.

Those two things were pretty well taken care of after the vocals on the first song, but then the song got a little boring. and then it ended. There needed to be a little more balance. Resolution did a better job, but it got a little avant garde before the sax came back in the middle, got better, and then started creeping back, but by then end it was pretty good.

One thing I thought would be a factor was the length, but I never really noticed. They had good grooves, and when they weren’t being weird, they had some sweet musical ideas. I think my favorite Pursuance, which was actually the longest. They restated the motif from Acknowledgement, toyed with it. They drums were complex, but not so distracting. And the recording was mixed more evenly. But what I loved most was the bass solo at the end.

Psalm was the only track that didn’t really do anything for me. It didn’t do anything wrong, per se. It was just kind of a downer and not a great way to end the album. Still, I’d give this album a 3.25/5

Thoughts from my friends:

“I think I have shared enough now that Jazz just isn’t my thing. I can appreciate it, and in the right setting enjoy it, but the stars have to align for that to happen most days. That being said I feel like Coltrane just has a ton of talent, soul, and brilliance ion what he does. You can tell he oozes music, but this album just felt fractured to me. I never felt like there was a central theme, as much as just playing a tune until he decided to change or end. If there had been more structure I could have easily given this 5 stars, but as it stands it is just middle of the road for me.” 3/5 – Tim

Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION (2015)

I don’t really have anything against Carly Rae Jepsen, but I didn’t really care for this album. Nothing stood out to me. The album is called Emotion, but it didn’t really elicit any from me.

At least anything from the standard edition. The music was fine, although I didn’t love the main synth on Gimmie Love. And All That was a bit boring. I didn’t really care for the shuffle feel of Warm Blood, and they also used a weird vocal effect which was creepy and weird. That was probably my least favorite track. The lyrics to I Really Like You were a bit banal, but the other songs were fine. It was mostly just meh.

Here’s two compliments: I thought Boy Problems sounded like an homage to Michael Jackson. The best song on the album was the bonus track Black Heart. I liked the groove. I liked the melody. Maybe it wasn’t great, but it stood out above all the other tunes and is worth seeking out. Favourite Colour was pretty good too. Her voice on that track reminded me of Erato. 2.82/5

From my friends:

“I had much less of a bias against Carly going in than I did for Katy. Sure Call Me Maybe was overplayed, but there are worse songs. But I tried to give this two full listens and just couldn’t do it. I turned it off 3/4 way through the second listen.

This seems straight pop and kinda 80s/contemporary pop (to me they’re about the same) with the heavy reverb going on. Its ok, but gets old a lot quicker than the 56 minute running time of this album warranted to me. I didn’t catch any lyrics that I appreciated. As clever as the lyric “I really, really, really, really, really, really like you,” is, I for some reason found it rather inane. Kinda catchy I guess, but it didn’t seem like she was using redundancy for effect. Maybe because the song just sat in the middle of a whole bunch of other tracks that sounded the same I didn’t see any humor in it. Anyway, this couldn’t make it through my pop filter.” 2.7/5 – Spencer

“I really wanted to like this album more than I did. I like the doses I’ve had of her before, but after this album I just kind of felt like she was more of a voice than anything else, which disappointed me. Most of the songs here were fun, and many were borderline great, but the album seemed to really lack a cohesive vision and story. This is one where the parts are definitely better than the sum. That being said I would probably listen to it again, and I’m sure I would listen to specific tracks on their own, but it isn’t one I’m going to seek out on a regular basis.” 3/5 – Tim

Dan Wilson – Love without Fear (2014)

This is the second solo album from the lead singer/songwriter from Semisonic. The music is 1970’s pop rock with a little country influence. The lyrics are a little more soulful. He said the songs are about, “being left alone, not wanting to lose someone, about desperately wishing for connection and togetherness.” Both the music and lyrics can be attributed to the people he has helped write and produce Grammy winning music for in the past 20 years. And some of those collaborations come back to help him out on this album.  I shared this album with co-worker Kari right before we started playing this music sharing game because she likes Nickel Creek, whose Watkins siblings (among others) appear on some of these tracks.

I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time, so I was excited when he said he was coming out with a new album and I backed this on whatever crowd-source funding website he used. For my troubles, I got the vinyl, CD, bonus tracks and a hand illustrated, 24-page hardcover album book that includes Dan’s own calligraphy, sketches, and handwritten lyrics for each song on the album. Worth it for $30.

“Aight. Dan’s album was proabably my favorite of the week, but still, a bit country for me. It almost seemed too monotonically themed about loneliness, but not overwhelmingly so. Just enough that it left me thinking it was a pretty sad/lovesick sort of album. I like Dan’s voice a lot. He seems a great artist, just not really in my favorite style.” 3.8/5 – Spencer

“I really enjoyed this album. Definitely not something I would have tried without Paul’s share, which I suppose is what this group is all about. I felt the vocals, theme, and flow of the album were great, but I felt like the songs over all were just shy of being really spectacular. But I don’t think his intention was to make a “greatest album of all time,” it was just to do what he wanted. And in his case it wasn’t overly indulgent, it was still accessible.” 4/5 – Tim

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3 thoughts on “Am I Just Sending Words into Outer Space

  1. Pingback: Canyons | An American Audio-logue

  2. Pingback: We Can Do Better Than That | An American Audio-logue

  3. Pingback: On Songwriting | An American Audio-logue

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