We Were Rocking Out

Some of my friends and I share music with one another to listen to at work. We’re supposed to review/rate whatever’s shared with us, but that doesn’t always happen.

This week marks three years we’ve been playing this game. To commemorate this occasion, we did a “best of” – we shared our favorite albums originally shared by somebody else that we wouldn’t have shared ourselves. Does that make sense?

For example, I could only find five times I gave out a perfect score. Once, Tim shared an album I would have gotten around to sharing, but he beat me to the punch. Another time, Spencer shared an album I had suggested before he joined the game. Of the three other albums, I had never heard of one band (perhaps I would have discovered them eventually and shared them, but who knows), had heard of another but never listened to them, and the last album is from an artist I listened to on the radio in the ’90s/early ’00s, but after getting burned copies of the whole albums, I wasn’t super impressed. So when a new album came out a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have given it a chance unless (like Chris did), someone suggested we listen to it for this game.

Basically, it means there was a ton of great music shared this week. But before we get there, here’s what my friends thought of as the best things shared in this game over the past three years.

Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song (2011)

Spencer went with the album that has most entered his regular listening rotation (though he did say it is probably tied with Toh Kay’s Hand that Thieves, but went with this one). To read what he had to say about it the first time he reviewed it, click here. This is what he had to say this time around:

“First listen through the singers thin voice annoyed me, but as I listened through a second time, I really wanted to listen again. There are a lot of catchy tunes here, some really good emotional variation, yet a nice overall mood carried through. Time Moves Slow, Itchin’ on a Photograph, Love Will Save Your Soul, Cruel and Beautiful World are some of my favorites. Good sing-along jams. Not really a bad tune on this album either.”

Let me put it like this: Two years ago, my laptop died. Since then, I’ve been re-uploading all my music to a different computer, listening to it all and rating it all. Spun, Chloe and Close Your Eyes and Count to Ten are in my top 150 songs (out of the 50,000 songs) I’ve listened to over the past two years (which doesn’t necessarily include what I’ve listened to as part of this game), which is part of why I shared this album in the first place (another part: I thought you might like it, too).

Side note: Tim and other Cloud users are probably laughing at me, but I still just don’t trust the Cloud; if I’ve purchased it, I want a physical copy or backup I can do with as I please. Skynet? No, thank you.

Side note 2 (a little insight into my nerdiness): iTunes lets you have 0-5 star ratings, plus a “Love” heart toggle (technically 12 unique ratings). In practice, I only use ★☆☆☆☆ through ★★★★★ (★★★★★ stars are songs I wish I wrote, ★★★★☆ are songs I want to cover, ★★★☆☆ are good, ★★☆☆☆ are fine but either not really my thing or perhaps just poorly executed, and ★☆☆☆☆ isn’t music – sometimes it’s supposed to be, but comes off as noise, and other times it’s dialogue or something). And I only use the for ★☆☆☆☆ songs (for those things that aren’t music, but I still want to hear – usually comedic dialogue) or ★★★★★ and ★★★★☆ songs (because iTunes also has a “Highest Rated” smart playlist that automatically populates with ★★★★★ and ★★★★☆ songs). Due to storage constraints, songs rated ★☆☆☆☆, ★★☆☆☆ and ★★★☆☆ (but only from soundtracks) go back on my portable hard drive, although ★☆☆☆☆ ♥ are welcome to stay.

Side note 3: in this game, I used to only give full-star album ratings, since iTunes doesn’t give partial star ratings. But that means I would wind up with (I’m going to guess) about 68% of my reviews as ★★★☆☆, with no real way to differentiate between them. Since I would round both 2.5/5 and 3.4/5 to 3/5, that meant albums I felt quite different about got the same rating. True, that would severely limit the amount of albums that got ★★★★★, since before they’d just have to get 4.5/5 or higher. But I stopped caring about not giving out partials; now there’s an easier starting place to see how albums compare to one another. That’s also why we give text reviews, so you can understand where we’re coming from. If you read much of our back log of reviews, you’ll probably start to identify with and agree with certain reviews. Then, when you’re looking for music recommendations, you know some people you can trust.

Side note 4: you can listen to most of the best songs on my computer (some are originals and not on Spotify, and there may be more/different versions on these playlists that just rank highly and aren’t necessarily the absolute best) through a combination of these four links:

Grouplove’s latest album (Big Mess) feels more like the dancey Tongue Tied than with the almost prog-ish indie folk pop rock tunes later on the album. Really, I like having that blend.

Also, Slow stood out to me more this listen through than in the past. And I looked up the bonus track Je Pense Toujours a Toi. It was fine. 4/5

Here’s what my friends had to say about this album this time around:

“Such great cover art too.” – Chris

The full album spreadThe Darkness – One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back (2005)

Three years ago, I described The Darkness as a modern group from the 2000’s playing 70’s rock and roll. So Tim was interested. He has listened to their other albums, and their first one, Permission to Land, is one of his new favorite go to albums for rock. To read what he had to say about it the first time he reviewed it, click here.

Side note 5: he also thought about re-sharing Carole King’s Tapestry and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, which he thinks is one of, if not the best album of its decade. It’s great, but I don’t know if it’s that good. Especially if we’re talking the ’70s as a whole. Or are we talking ’72 to ’82 – the decade around when Rumors came out?

I really think every track on this album is really great. Blind Man is probably my least favorite of the standard tracks (I also looked up the extra tracks, and one of the b-sides to Is it Just Me? was just ok), and even that is better than your average retro glam rock tune from the 2000s.

And then there are tunes like Hazel Eyes, Girlfriend, English Country Garden and Wanker (a b-side to the title track) which are even better. I love every album on this week’s list, and some of them have songs with I think are better than any of these, but this album overall is my favorite. 4.25/5

From my friends:

I’m back and forth about this album. I don’t care for glam rock vocals. And I feel like this whole thing is toungue in cheek which makes it even harder to take it seriously. It makes me feel like if I like it then I’m making fun of the music they are parodying.

Dinner Lady Arms probably had the best balance of falsetto with “normal” singing. It actually sounds like Boston to me. Girlfriend almost sounds like a BeeGees disco hit. I really like the queen-esque parts with guitar and vocal harmonies in the last two tracks.

Its clear they have mastered the sound and really theres some great musicianship, but I keep thinking its a little like Weird Al where its appreciable, but not really what I want to listen to. I don’t know. Like I say, I’m really torn about this album, sometimes I really love it, sometimes I hate it. I’m going with 3.8/5 on this.” – Spencer

Transformers SoundtrackThe Transformers: The Movie soundtrack (1986)

Chris said this has only been one album that he actually went out and bought after it was shared in this game. To read what he had to say about it the first time he reviewed it, click here. This is what he had to say this time around:

“I don’t quite recall what I said about it initially, but I was pretty blown away by just how bombastically fun the soundtrack was. I’m sure I heard it in my youth but didn’t appreciate it the same way one would as an adult looking back. A bit of irony in that enjoyment, but it really is just a balls-the-wall goofy good time.”

It’s been a while since I’ve really listened to this whole album. Unlike Chris, I knew this was epic since the first time I saw the movie.

Side note 6: If you’re noticing a pattern with the music everyone else shared, Chris put it best. “Mathematically it was likely that would happen. Paul is the only one who shares every single week, and has given us all many more options comparatively.”

I went all out with this one, listening to the whole soundtrack (there are a couple different releases out there with the score on them – try the one called Lighting Their Darkest Hour if you’re interested), not just the 10-track standard edition or even 14-track special edition.

I know some movie scores just turn into background music, and that’s still the case sometimes with this one (More Luck Than You Imagine and An Unexpected Friend were kind of lowlights). But not all the time. This whole album is full of ’80s hair guitars and synths. And it’s not just the vocal tunes (which are all great – Dare, Nothing’s Gonna Stand in Our Way and Lion’s version of the theme song especially). Attack on the Shuttle (which was replaced in the movie with Instruments of Destruction), Autobot/Decepticon Battle, City under Siege, Death of Optimus Prime (oh, spoilers, I guess), Escape, Pursuit, Unwelcome Visitors, Ambush, Another Leader Dies, and Unusual Allies through In the Belly of the Monster are all great.

The whole soundtrack does a great job taking the action of robots fighting with one another and blending it with the desperation of having your leader killed and the threat of your planet being eaten. It makes me want to go back and watch the movie and all 98 episodes of the original series again. 4/5

From my friends:

“All of these albums were shared before I started playing, so I got to experience them for the first time.

This one was a fun listen. Especially for a movie soundtrack. I haven’t seen the film so the album actually seemed a little disjointed, but it made me want to watch it, and the music was all good, even the instrumental score kept my interest in a way most soundtracks fail. But it didn’t really make me feel like I had to listen again. Maybe after watching the movie though.” 3.7/5 – Spencer

Beck – Morning Phase (2014)

Throwing it back a little more than two years, this was exactly the kind of album I needed at the time. I think I was laid off the week Chris shared this album, although listening to it now doesn’t really remind me of that, you know? This may be the best album I’ve heard in a long time. I’m not sure knew what I was getting into.

Musically, it’s a chill, mostly acoustic album. It reminds me of a mix between Pink Floyd’s The Wall (Heart is a Drum is especially Floydian) and Blitzen Trapper’s Furr. Maybe with a little solo John Lennon thrown in there, too. This whole album is a mix of a lot of the things I love in non-body moving music. I think the highlight of the album is Blue Moon. It literally gave me chills. And it made me want to whip out my mandolin.

Here’s what my friends had to say:

“Of the albums you guys shared, this was my favorite of the week. It doesn’t surprise me Chris was the one to share it because it reminded me a lot of Sigur Ros or even a little of Loveless. Kinda noisy, deep, beautiful. Not that particular tracks really caught me but everything just seemed to flow really well.” 4.1/5 – Spencer

If you have any thoughts about these albums, or if you want to share an album you wouldn’t have recommended at first but gave a chance and now love, please sound off down in the comments section.

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3 thoughts on “We Were Rocking Out

  1. Pingback: Let Simple Things Amuse; Sweeping Out the Worry, the Clutter in My Mind | An American Audio-logue

  2. Pingback: Don’t Let Them Applaude | An American Audio-logue

  3. Pingback: Rocking You to Sleep from the Otherside | An American Audio-logue

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