Posts Tagged ‘Velvet Underground’

Looking Back at 2011

December 19, 2011

It’s been a good year for listening to music.  I felt like I listened to a lot more new artists (at least to me) this year than I have since I was a teenager.  I also rediscovered a lot of old albums that I hadn’t heard in awhile.

Best (and worst) music platform – Since it came to our shores earlier this year, I’ve been a big fan of Spotify.  One of my recurring posts this year revolved around recounting what I’d been listening to on Spotify.  Easy to use with a huge library, it was a great way to listen to new albums in their entirety as well as catch up on old albums I haven’t heard since I had a cassette player.  So why’s it also get a worst nod.  A few weeks ago, it started crashing my computer any time I tried to run it.  Like total freeze-up crash, have to manually power down and restart the machine crashes.  In trying to find an answer, I’ve uncovered a wealth of problems others have with the app.  I also found that customer support is spotty (sorry).  I finally found a customer support email; I did finally get a response after two weeks, asking me what version of Spotify I was running.  We’ll see if they can come up with a solution.  Wonder if the expansion to the US has overextended the service and its employees?  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, I’m going to be checking out turntable.fm and rdio to see what they have to offer in 2012.

Best Concert – Ben Folds at The Wiltern.  I loved the stage banter, the energy, and the music was phenomenal.  I went in with only a little bit of knowledge about his music, but I left wanting to hear more and learn more about him.  That’s the mark of a good concert.  Honorable mention to Portishead and to John Vanderslice.  I didn’t write about the Vanderslice show, but I’ve seen him three times now and each show has been distinctly different.  And his drummer, Jason, was amazing to watch.  I ended up missing the Bon Iver show, but Sarah told me that it was very good (I believe her).

Favorite Album – Rome by DangerMouse and Daniele Luppi.  I feel like a lot of year-end lists become top heavy with material released toward the end of the year, which I understand since the songs are fresh in reviewer’s mind.  Rome came out in May, which is a long time ago in today’s millisecond attention-span world.  I also am also only basing my choice on albums I actually listened to in their entirety, which I admit isn’t a lot.  But, I come back to this one because, like his collaboration last year as Broken Bells, as an entire album, the songs meld into a cohesive unit and he can just really create a vibe.  Here, he’s wisking you away to the set of spaghetti westerns with a tribute to the soundtrack sound of that era (most notably Ennio Morricone).  Honorable mention to Little Dragon’s Ritual Union, for the same reason basically.  A lovely arrangement of electronic music that makes you stop thinking of individual songs (much better than the sprawling and Pitchfork-loved M83 album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming).

Biggest Surprise – The Whole Love by Wilco.  After Sky Blue Sky, I kind of lost interest in Wilco and didn’t even bother to listen to their next album.  They seemed to have lost a lot of their bite, both lyrically and musically, from previous records.  I had heard nothing of their new album, but decided to give it a listen when NPR was doing a free preview of the album.  To my amazement, I heard the rockin’ Wilco from Summerteeth days.  I’ve seen Wilco twice, now I have a new reason to go see them a third time other than Jeff Tweedy’s amusing stage talk.  Honorable mention to the Beastie Boy’s new album, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2.  Another group that I had just lost some interest in, but this re-ignited interest.

Best Music Book – Read the super comprehensive history of the Velvet Underground put out by Rough Trade.  Not knowing much about the band other than the songs on their greatest hits albums, this was a good and thorough introduction to the band, as well as the solo careers of all its members.  Can be a bit overwhelming, but overall a good read.

I’ll try and come back with a few more year end thoughts before the year actually ends, but if not, have a great new year filled with good tunes and good times.

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Spotify My Soul – September 27

September 27, 2011

I’ve been traveling the past few weeks for work, and my blog output has suffered accordingly.  I have a bunch of things in the hopper, including a long overdue record review and my contribution to the 20 year anniversary celebration of the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind (boy, that makes me feel old).  In the meantime, here’s a quick look at some of what I’ve been listening to when I’ve had a chance to log on to Spotify.

  • The Horrors, Skying.  I’d seen some billboards for this album around the neighborhood and an ad on Spotify touting some English music mag’s (NME?) proclamation that this was an inventive album convinced me to give this a listen.  I didn’t know that aping The Church and Disintegration-era Cure was inventive, but I’m not the writer for a major music mag.  As you can tell, I wasn’t impressed.
  • DJ Shadow, I Gotta Rokk.  Newish EP from DJ Shadow, more of a return to some of his earlier work in my opinion.  I had already heard the title track and loved its combinations of guitar riffs and drum fills that evoke memories of the headbangin’ 80s.  I also really liked the track Def Surrounds Us.  It combined some of the atmospherics of Entroducing with some of the more uptempo beats from his last album.
  • The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow.  This is a collection of some really pleasant songs.  Really enjoying listening to this, Joy Williams and John Paul White both have great voices and they work well together.  The spare accompaniments rightly let their voices shine, but are a nice complement.
  • Scott Walker, various songs from his self-titled 1 to 4 series.   I had never heard of Walker until I saw a documentary about his fascinating career and reading about Lou Reed (see below) for some reason reminded me of him.  Rising to fame with the Walker Brothers singing pop ballads, he left the group and forged out on his own, with a series of albums that continued to produce ballads, though the subject matter veered toward more adult topics that typical pop fare.  His velveteen voice is not for everyone (my girlfriend found him “creepy”), but I like it.  The voice and subject matter are often incongruent, it’s like if Tony Bennett was signing Trent Reznor lyrics, but I find the contrast likeable.
  • Lou Reed, Metal Machine Music.  I recently finished a very comprehensive history of the Velvet Underground from the Rough Guide series.  Based on this volume, I’d recommend the other books in the series if you want a completist account of a band.  Not only did it chronicle the history of the band, but had a thorough look at each of the VU records as well as the solo careers of each band member.  Lou Reed has had a prolific, though sometimes spotty, career that I didn’t fully appreciate.  One album in particular caught my eye.  Metal Music Machine is an instrumental album, a seemingly odd choice for a talented lyricist like Reed.  Not only it is an instrumental piece, but an experimental one at that.  Broken up into four “songs” lasting sixteen minutes apiece, this is all feedback and noise.  I made it through in one sitting (I’m sort of surprised I made it), and I’ll say that theoretically it was interesting as an artistic statement, but I will probably never listen to it again.  The last of the four pieces, in particular, verged on unlistenable, a repeating sound that reminded me of a dentist’s drill almost drove me over the edge to hit “STOP”.  Reed claims this wasn’t the big FU to his record label that it seemed, but even if that wasn’t his original intent, that’s what I see it as.  And to think that only a few years before, he had created a song like this: