Just Like a Dream, You Are Not What You Seem

For a couple of years, some of my friends and I have been sharing music with one another. We’re supposed to review/rate whatever’s shared with us, but that doesn’t always happen.

thesoulutionsthisiswhatyougetMadonna – Like a Prayer (1989)

Tim was surprised that none of us had shared Madonna yet, and I actually am as well.

To be honest, I haven’t really ever listened to Madonna. I think part of it is that nobody I knew listened to Madonna in junior high, high school or college (or at least her stuff at the time wasn’t in vogue for us), so she just never really came up. Aside from hearing some of her early stuff, my only exposure to Madonna was through her acting or through critics comparing modern diva pop stars to her, and I knew I didn’t care for these new artists. So I’ve never bothered looking into Madonna’s stuff. Which is too bad, really.

I kinda get where people are coming from comparing new pop divas to Madonna, but her music is more Blondie or Pat Benatar than it is Michael Jackson. I feel like Gwen Stefani and No Doubt are a more likely successor to this album’s style than anyone else.

I really liked a lot of these songs, but not all of them. It came up a few months ago when Prince died, but digital versions of songs on which Prince sings are hard to come by (legally). Love Song features Prince and I had to look it up on YouTube to be able to hear it. And I didn’t like it. I don’t think their voices blend well. Sometimes they just sounded out of tune. Maybe it was the writing. I think the song overall was just weird. It’s like they were overthinking it and it ended up being too complicated for it’s own good. There were moments that were okay, but it really wasn’t worth listening to.

Another lowlight was Promise to Try, which just felt a little sappy. And Keep it Together felt like she was trying to connect with some inner city kids. I know Bay City, Mich. (where she’s from) isn’t really the nicest of towns, but Keep it Together didn’t really do anything for me. Act of Contrition was just weird.

The highlights were the title track, ‘Til Death Do Us Part and Dear Jesse. 3/5

Here’s what my friends had to say:

“I was actually enjoying this quite a bit at first. I must have been in the right mood or something but it was some good classic pop stuff that was like MJ or others where I’ll ocasionally pull up a hit single just to shake up a mix a bit. But by the end I was wanting a bit more. The title track was my favorite, kinda funky, fun, upbeat, but it got either too serious or too samey after the first couple tracks. Madonna was a major influence, but not really on me.” 3.4/5 – Spencer

thesoulutionsthisiswhatyougetJames Blake – The Colour of Anything (2016)

Similar to Sunn O))), this is something Chris feels describes his mood as of late.

His voice reminded me of Sam Smith‘s and Coldplay‘s Chris Martin’s, neither of whom I particularly like. The musical qualities of the music were interesting and the chill grooves were fine, but mostly this floated to the background of my consciousness.

The closing track, however, blew the others away. It made me want to go back and listen to the whole album again, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything else like it.

The title track probably did the best at getting his emotions across, although I didn’t always love the harmonies. Sometimes they were good, but not always. f.o.r.e.v.e.r. and Noise above Our Heads were pretty ok, too. All in all, I give it a 2.5/5.

From my friends:

“Sorry, but I really didn’t like this album. It almost got 1 star from me, but there is enough interesting stuff for me to give it 2.

In addition to the INCREDIBLY depressing lyrics, I was really turned off by the sound. It was so repetitive that I feel most tracks could have been 60 seconds tops. At times the notes he was choosing, mixed with the vocal pitches were like nails on the chalk board, and I admit that on about 7 songs I had to just skip ahead after about a minute and a half.

I actually had high hopes for this album, but ultimately felt like it was someone who though much too highly of their talent. That being said, I did like some of the choices he made in many of the songs in terms of which notes and sounds went together when, but then he would ruin it by repeating incessantly for another 3-4 minutes.” 2/5 – Tim

“This was what I’d describe as loop based music. It wasn’t the worst example of it, but loops always sound so lifeless to me. So pretty quick I lose interest. It just felt like there wasn’t much going on here.” 2.8/5 – Spencer

thesoulutionsthisiswhatyougetThe Soulutions – This is What You Get (1999)

When I shared My Man Friday a few weeks ago, I started thinking about other local bands (ska or otherwise) and their influence on me and my music. And there was only one band that really stuck out: The Soulutions.

I can only think of a couple of bands I’ve covered as much (Paramore) or more (The Beatles) than The Soulutions. In addition to the songs I’ve covered (Go On and Get Married, Memorial Day and Hush from this album), the highlights for me are Do Right and My Defense. The lyrics from one of their songs even served as one of my band’s passwords for our social accounts for a while.

Once upon a time, there was a band called Gogo13. They were short lived, but helped spawn The Aquabats and these guys. The Solutions broke up six or seven years later in 2001, in the middle of recording their second studio album.

Most of these songs are live, being recorded Feb.13,  1999 at Tuacahn, although there are a couple of studio tracks. If you’ve listened to The Singles Ward soundtrack, you may recognize one of these. They had a studio album before this, from which I have a couple of songs, but not the whole thing so this is what you get.

Here’s what my friends had to say:

“I enjoyed this. I like the vocal harmonies that seemed more present here than most ska. Most of it was chill stuff I could listen to with my mom around, but not in a bad way.” 4.0/5 – Spencer

“This album was better than I thought it would be from the first song. It flowed pretty well, and I could feel their enthusiasm for the music coming through. Overall they melded well between music and lyrics. But, I don’t feel it has that ska feel Paul and Spencer mentioned. It felt more like a mix of modern folk/rock…slightly influenced by ska. Anyway, it was worth the listen.” 3/5 – Tim

Share your own thoughts about Madonna, James Blake or The Soulutions in the comments below.

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