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I am addicted to music - this much anyone who knows me can confirm. I own hundreds of cds and always have my ears and mind in something; listening for a novel combinations of sounds and efforts, or reviewing past successes and preserving their respective talents.
This all being said, I don't know if I will *ever* come across an album this incredible in my lifetime.
For those familiar with ( ), try recommending it to a friend. The raw facts of this album are difficult for most to overcome (e.g. there are only 8 songs, the shortest song is 6:30, there are no real lyrics as everything you hear is spontaneous vocalization, not a single word is printed on the disc or in the disc jacket...). But how would you describe the sound? A short list of fitting adjectives that span numerous points on the disc: dynamic, mesmerizing, passionate, climactic, elegant, bleak, explosive, imaginative, lush, vibrant, heartbreaking, resonant...
Do I have your attention now?
( ) is a masterpiece in its ability to paint a luscious, beautiful soundscape. Many reviews equate it to the diversity and endlessness of a calm winter's night, but even this is limiting. This album is so incredibly deep that you can listen as closely as possible, and still fall in love with the intricacies you will find. Without wasting a second of your time (an amazing feat to have it persist for 70+ minutes), Sigur Rós take you on an aural adventure.
In other reviews, you will read about the equal division of the album into the 'positive' half (tracks 1-4) and the 'negative' half (5-8), reinforced by the 30 seconds of intentional silence in between. You will read about the invention of "Hoplandic" (pronounced hope-landic), the fictitious language created for this album, a derivative of proper Icelandic. You will read about the post facto titles for the songs, the material's debut in Cameron Crowe's "Vanilla Sky", and the creativity behind some of the instrumentation.
In my review, I won't hold your hand and walk you through each track, telling you what you're going to hear, because different listeners focus on different elements. I won't try to be as articulate as I can hope to be in an effort to verbally capture its musical elements, partly because I don't think it can be done. I won't rate each song on a scale from 1-10, because this album is synergistic, in that to isolate a piece compromises and belittles the whole. But, I will tell you what you might find in exchange for one trip to your cd store and a measly $15:
It will fill your soul in ways you find comforting and unsettling. It will break down listening barriers with the use of the human voice as a purely musical instrument. It will extend beyond your comprehension the ability to translate emotion into music without any lyrics. It will generate mental imagery more vivid and resonant than any other music can. To be crudely simple, it will blow your mind, even after the hundredth listen.
Give this album your undivided attention, from start to finish - perhaps in the middle of the night, perhaps amidst a long drive or walk, or even perhaps in your living room with just a candle lit. Turn off your eyes and let your ears take over; let ( ) take you on a true journey at whose conclusion leaves you to open your eyes and struggle to comprehend just how much this one disc is.
There is no mistake about everyone giving this album a rating of five stars. This is the most surprising, deep, insightful and soulful performance Nirvana had ever assembled.
The set begins with Cobain's dry sense of humor, coyly commenting "This song's off our first record, most people don't own it" before leading into the origins of Nirvana, "About a Girl". The acoustic element added a tremendous amount of depth and yearning to this song, and it was only the beginning. "Come As You Are" was unearthed like a brand new creation; echoes reverberating magically through the small concert hall. Expectations were high - what could follow this great 1-2 punch opening?
Yes, Nirvana was playing a cover in their Unplugged set. The crowd sat silent as Kurt revealed the next song was written by The Vaselines, and the band began a beautiful rendition of "Jesus Doesn't Want Me For a Sunbeam". This song was brought out of nowhere and instantly spread across the world by Cobain's range, Krist Novoselic changing gears and playing the accordian, and the others playing as though this was their song all along.
The assimilation of others' music into Nirvana's repetoire continues with the next track, David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World". Cobain cheats a bit and distorts his acoustic guitar, but with simple and haunting results. In all honesty, Nirvana's version sounds miles better than the original, and was played (and still is played) on alternative radio stations across the country.
The following quintet returned to Nirvana originals, all performed in the same emotional intensity that doesn't skip a beat anywhere in this performance. Kurt playing solo on "Pennyroyal Tea" is worth the price of this disc alone, with its indescribable power only preceded by his dry humor ("I think I'm going to try it in the normal key, and if it sounds bad... these people are just going to have to wait.") "Polly", "Dumb", "On a Plain" and "Something in the Way" all floored the audience, each sounding like an entirely new song and infinitely improved.
Kurt invited his longtime friends the Kirkwood Brothers, constituents of the band the Meat Puppets. The story goes, Kurt sat his wife Courtney Love down to play some incredible songs for her. He put on the Meat Puppets' originals, and Love loathed how rushed each song felt. Kurt then brought out his guitar and played the songs *his* way, and she was absolutely floored. If you compare the originals to Kurt's covers, you will agree. His essence absolutely floods these three songs, especially the amazing "Oh Me".
In closing, the full Nirvana band returned to play an appropriate and impressive "All Apologies", then one last masterpiece - a cover of Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?". Cobain hides absolutely nothing and pours every last drop of his trademark vocal strain into this song. The instrumental outro leaves you feeling not only satisfied, but it gently returns you to your day, leaving this transported place that defies all definition, exceeds all expectation, and transcends all time.
The fans cheered for an encore, and Grohl, Novoselic and Smear felt up to it - they went to ask Kurt, and he denied the request; he had nothing left to give. After listening to this disc, you have nothing to do but agree.
And one last tidbit - this performance was all recorded in one take. Another legacy of Nirvana's unimaginable talent....Read more
Some may claim this album is the unofficial soudtrack to Orwell's "1984", others may put it on repeat and watch the History Channel on mute. However you view this album, its mastery is blindingly apparent.
Following the 1995 guitar-driven "The Bends" was no small feat for the group, a process that inextricably led the band to explore and grow musically. The album's title offers a slight allure to the futuristic tone of some of the instrumentation, while the guitars are still present at all the crucial points.
The album starts off with "Airbag", the strongest piece in Thom Yorke's 'autophobia' (cf. "Killer Cars", "Stupid Car" b-sides). The commotion, aggressive guitar riff, the oddly welcome jingling bells in the background, all feed into the urgency and significance of "In an interstellar burst / I am back to save the universe." "Paranoid Android" is one of the band's better-known songs, particularly for its insanity. The instantly recognizable riff changing guitars, frantic responses, the famous "Rain Down" section, Thom coining 'Gucci little piggy', and utter defiance towards convention, expectation, and fashionable society. "Subterranean Homesick Alien", clearly a nod to Bob Dylan, offers another Thom-and-Jonny project that sounds futuristic and other-worldly. The narrative is excellent and isolating at the same time.
"Exit Music (for a film)" is Radiohead at its best. Thom's removed near-whimper over an unassuming acoustic guitar progression draws you in, deeper and deeper, until the explosion of defiance and hatred with Colin's fuzzy bass lines and the distant high-pitched soloing. This song corresponds to the final exchange between Romeo and Juliet, all the way down to the outro fade and the final words - "We hope that you choke." Priceless.
"Let Down" is one of my favorites, especially as it is never played live. The precision and ingenuity of producer Nigel Godrich leaves his fingerprints all over this track, citing alienation and a need for escape. The track swells with dreams of hope and escape, pleading "Some day, I am going to grow wings / A chemical reation / Hysterical and useless / Let down and hanging around..."
"Karma Police" is also extremely well-known for its vibrantly colorful lyrics and piano introduction. You begin to side with them, in "This is what you get / when you mess with us". The repetition of "For a minute there / I lost myself" into what sounds like computers exploding comprises an amazing depiction of personal meltdown. "Fitter Happier" features a computer's voice reciting almost formulaic means to happiness, as random instruments fill the background and almost overtake the system, "like a pig / in a cage / on antibiotics."
"Electioneering" is a surprisingly attainable song with an eccentric riff and the tongue-in-cheek chorus "I move forwards / you go backwards / Somewhere we will meet" describing the political process of campaigning and garnering support. This song foreshadows the group's proficiency in writing political satire.
"Climbing Up the Walls" is simply creepy and fantastic. The bass is unbelievable, the mental imagery is David Lynch-ian, and the overwhelming solo at the sing's middle is worth the price of the disc alone.
"No Surprises" is another well-known piece, featuring a xylophone and a simplicity overshadowed by the complexity of the other tracks. "Lucky" has been called the 'James Bond' song for its lofty overtures and the invincibility of the character, with the chorus asking "Pull me out of the aircrash / pull me out of the lake / 'Cause I'm your superhero / We are standing on the end..." Finally, "The Tourist" breaks typical meter and takes its time, reinforcing Thom's hatred of lightning-speed tourists (in their native Oxfordshire?) with the beckoning "Hey man / Slow down...", a plead that alone has garnered many fans to appreciate this album.
But all these songs together, on one album? It is almost incomprehensible how one group could be so talented to assemble such an ambitious and individual piece as OK Computer is. Simply put, this album put Radiohead at the forefront of the world's musical talent, a perch they have yet to cast any doubt upon....Read more
I bought this album based on some back-of-the-head idea that it got good reviews, and it just blew me away.
Hooverphonic uses just enough synth and computerized sounds to give this album a sleek, refined sound that transcends most modern music, but the listener never feels lost.
"Battersea" explodes with such a rush of energy, it feels like being lifted off the ground and set into flight. The first track also introduces you to Geike's sweet voice, with an intangible quality that leaves me curious and listening to this album more and more. Following tracks like "One Way Ride" and "Club Montepulciano" flow effortlessly and beautifully.
Two more popular songs are "Eden", with its relaxed almost chill-out vibe, and "Magenta", a creative masterpiece. Note how the backup vocals on the chorus jump to the left speaker for "Look left" and right speaker for "Look right" - a nice little detail.
My two favorites on this disc are "Electro Shock Faders" - short, sweet, and an incredible outro that again is reminiscent of flying - and "Lung". The intro notes sound as though they'll never fit in, but halfway through the song you remember that they're still playing, and are amazed at how smooth the transition was.
I believe BWPM is the band's best work, and recommend it to any avid music fan with a little bit of a taste for adventure.
This album was my introduction to chill out, and what a way to begin...
First things first, many bitter fans claim this album is nothing more than a derivative of Air's "Moon Safari". I say: so what? They're both great albums, but I prefer this one far more than Moon Safari.
Why? Sia Furler. Her vocals are spellbinding, exquisite, and intimate all at once - like a window into her soul. "Destiny" is a song that never leaves my mind no matter how much music I listen to, and "In the Waiting Line" just relaxes everything in my body in a way no other song can. The best part of the cd is that the other vocals are almost as good, especially the female collaboration on "Distractions". "I Have Seen" is to laid back as to what "This World" is to pensive - quintessential.
"Spinning" and "Simple Things" provide more quality vocals, and "Red Dust" and "Give It Away" offer complimenting instrumentals.
The only reason this album doesn't get 5 stars are all the instrumentals - the album has a jarring feeling like it keeps going to commercial, cutting away from the main action of dynamic lyrics and harmonic interplay. Most of them are very good, but I don't particularly care for one or two.
However, I highly recommend this album - when I was introduced to it, I turned around and shared it with friends, and it quickly blazed through that circle as well. This album is enchanting and mystifying, especially for late night summer drives with the windows down and nothing on your mind but the tunes.
I really didn't want to like this album. I gave it a chance because Rolling Stone listed it close to the top of Best Guitar Albums Ever (not that I lie down to Rolling Stone, more like trying to disprove them).
They were right.
The guitar on this album screeches, swings, slides, stomps, and plenty more cool alliterations. Beyond the affable hit "Seven Nation Army", the Stripes rock out on very well-written tracks like "Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine", "There's No Home For You Here" and "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself". The unquestionable peak of guitar on the album is in "Ball and Biscuit", curiously longer than all the other tracks (7:19). Skip to this track and turn it up as high as you can stand - wow. What a display.
The band's playful side shines through on 'mini-tracks' "In the Cold, Cold Night" and "It's True That We Love One Another", aong with many of the jovial lyrics that seem to stretch and run into the music, like they must leave Jack out of breath during every show (see "...Medicine", "I Want to Be the Boy to Win Your Mother's Heart).
Overall, this album converted me from cynic to believer. A solid effort well worth the chance.
Freshwater Collins dons one of the most unique sounds today, local or national; part blues, part rock, part funk, part shut-up-get-up-and-dance. This mixture makes them an unbelievably fun live show, and some of that energy transfers into Lean Back.
The album has an incredible 1-2-3 punch with "Remains Like This", "Bound" and "Step On In". Sadly, the energy drops off a bit, leaving you unsatisfied with a hunger that could only be satisfied by seeing them live.
You have to laugh at the band's sense of humor leaving the "(False Start)" track on the album. Many of the remaining songs (Roll Away The Haze, Always Knew, Broken Glass, Disable Me, Water) demonstrate the versatility of the group within their self-invented genre, with Chris Vos' emotional wails, Thumper Vos' inventive and wandering bass, since-replaced Fatboy Gulotta's solos and Anthony Olson drumming like an Animal.
Again, many of these songs serve as templates for live performances, to which I have been to around 20. *Go see this band live if you get the chance* - you will not be disappointed.
A friend introduced me to "You" with the assumption it was the only quality track some band called VAST recorded.
Man, was he wrong, and I made sure to prove it to him.
First of all, forget what you know about so-called 'breakup albums'. This ought to be the new definition of a breakup album, because it simply cannot hide what it is - a grand, eloquent, vulnerable, overpowering masterpiece. Each track investigates its own stage of thought and feeling, and the pain in Jon Crosby's voice, the power of the instrumentation, and the chant-esque choral backing vocals seize your attention to the story.
1. "Here" - a powerful introduction that masks anger, confusion, and a scary kind of fear - A type of the 'Why did you want to talk to me? What is this about?' Crosby states "All I know is that I'm here / drifting somewhere in the past / Somewhere in eternity / I never want to leave". The frustration mounts with the loud repetition "Where do I put the love?"
2. "Touched" - Immediately after the blow, before any tangible emotions emerge - that state of shock, disbelief, and surreality all at once. It seems that all that can surface is dispair - "I'll never find someone quite the way that I found you". Again the chant vocals add such an impressive layer of force and emotion all at once.
3. "Dirty Hole" - Betrayal and hatred swell with malicious lyrics I can't type here. It's deliciously evil, in a way that fear pushes one over the edge. The attempt to push away everything you wanted to hold close, with Crosby's incredible voice sending chills down spines.
4. "Pretty When You Cry" - Loathing bitterness and comtempt. "I didn't mean to hurt you / but you're pretty when you cry."
5. "I'm Dying" - The hatred recedes, and the realization strikes that a piece of you - perhaps the biggest piece - is now missing. Crosby screams "Not one day goes by that I don't know that I'm dying" at his ex-lover, with crunching guitars accentuating the spite.
6. "Flames" - As emotions run rampant after a breakup, Crosby falls back to love in this unbelievably sweet, sincere song, citing his love as his reason to exist. "Oh, when I am with you / I feel flames again." Unbelievable as a standalone, indescribable in this context.
7. "Temptation" - An admission of vulnerability, with the simple and repetitive "You are my temptation" as Crosby attempts to pull out of the swoon from the previous song. Loud, overpowering, effusive.
8. "Three Doors" - "Three doors to go through / I only want the one that leads to you". Given the choice of life with or life without the lost love, the choice is clear - there are senses of clarity and purpose ringing loud and clear with layers of vocals.
9. "Niles Edge" - ... but maybe not. Questions of regret, words laden with fear and uncertainty, acting as a bridge to another emotional twist.
10. "Somewhere Else to Be" - Desparate for escape, "I wish I could run / from everyone / Give me somewhere else to be... give me out, that's all I need." Screeches and driving guitar solos propel the immediacy and near-insanity.
11. [untitled] - Beautiful transition piece, only a soft instrumental loop and more chant in a slow build, leading to the final admission, the final decision --
12. "You" - One of the most beautiful songs ever written. The spacy keyboard takes you to a completely different place, a conclusion. The final move is a form of release, crooning "You can't take anything with you / Except the love I have for you." This is the best track on the album, but again, in context, it is simply indescribable.
The emotion behind Crosby's debut work exceeds explanation and comprehensions - this is a brutally honest, graphic depiction of the torment and mood swings of a breakup, all without being scary or offensive. For anyone tormented by a past love, this is your anthem.
A true masterpiece.
There are two tragedies that surround this great album - 1) So few people have heard of FWC, and 2) This (and any) album pales in comparison to seeing Freshwater live. Many of these songs serve as templates for live performances, which often showcase lead singer Chris Vos overflowing with emotion and pounding his guitar or jumping like a maniac.
Three songs easily stick out as mainstays for live performances:
Blue Sparkle Fade - the stage for Vos' incredible talent at the slide guitar
Footdown - hosting an incredible breakdown section at the song's middle that will bury you in its energy and decisiveness
Eastside Tweed - probably the band's most popular song, due to its catchiness, fluidity, and personal touch (probably everyone who lives in Milwaukee has been to Bradford Beach at some point).
Toss in Recipes for Persephany and Route 66 to Yokohama, and you've got a clear idea of the sound of this band at its roots. Sophomore effort Lean Back shows a bit more development with fewer instrumental ditties, making it the better album, but any fan needs to have both. (Take it from me - I've seen them live over twenty times).
(Being from the northern US, this analogy won't apply for everyone, but many can sympathize): Can you describe how great you feel on a surprisingly warm winter afternoon, where snow is melting everywhere and the sun brightly reflects off the wet city streets?
For me, this album captures that feeling - a pervasive warmth donned in a kind of contendedness that simply cannot be extinguished. The perfectly intertwined male and female vocals, the gentle instrumentation, and the sense of upbeat that carries throughout, even in the sadder songs. No other album that I have found does it so well.
J&MC use several themes in these songs - love, companionship, and hope, but also shades of shame and fear. The songs are unbelievably human to persist such an engaging tone while avoiding being all cutesy and flaky. I can listen to "Dirty Water" endlessly, even in its "I've been swimming where the fish won't go... kick me down and I will kick you too / Isn't that what we're supposed to do?" confusion. After the first track, it's hard to pull any others out because they all work so well together. This is not an album of singles, but an incredibly well-woven album. After coasting along, hearing tales of longing and mistakes make, the outro of You've Been a Friend / These Days / Feeling Lucky end on such a high note, the album will feel like it ended too soon.
There aren't many albums I can listen to at Repeat All and not tire of them, but this is easily the top of that list. It never fails to produce that sense of warmth, that glow that consumes you and won't die down, no matter what happens.
A disc that can do that? Priceless.