Less than two weeks left!!!! I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release of "Held Momentarily" on January 20, 2015. If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here).
If you're in the NYC area, I'll be playing my album release show on Thursday, January 22nd at 7PM at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3. I'd love to see you there!
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"Already" is the third song on the album. This was the last song I wrote for this album--on Valentine's Day in 2014. The writing for this song was based on a very simple rhythmic riff--something different for me, as most of my songs start as (sometimes more complex) chord changes. Then when I went to record it, I scrapped the rhythmic guitar riff and kept only a synth arpeggio, and built the production around that. It's completely different than the rest of my work--and I'm really happy with the way it turned out. To me, the song is really about how disaster can sometimes bring the right people even closer together (as Super Storm Sandy, and its havoc, did for us). The recording features Jonathan Ahrens on bass, and was mixed by Igor Stolarsky.
This marks the first week that I am starting from the Acclaimed Music Top 100 list. I will move through the new list, and skip over the albums I already covered during the 2014 project. That leaves about 37 new albums to listen to.
Let's do this.
100: Pixies – Surfer Rosa (1988)
Never heard this one. Well, I had heard (and liked) Where Is My Mind, but nothing else.
How is that possible?
Watching the documentary below, I learned that they were a huge influence on Radiohead (one of my favorite bands). The Pixies are also referenced and exalted by many other bands that I admire on this documentary. The statement has been "Nirvana and Radiohead would not have existed had it not been for The Pixies."
The first time I listened to this album, I was not sure how to feel. It was dark and brooding. It was strange. I could instantly hear how bands that came later pulled from these sounds.
Once I soothed my fearful inner child, I began to really like these songs.
After about four listens this week, I wonder how this album is not on Rolling Stone's top 100 albums list? It's certainly better than several of the albums I listened to last year from that list.
For me, the album is super strong up until Cactus. The tracks after that are good, just not something I connect with as much.
I can definitely see why Kurt Cobain was so taken with the production of this album (by Steve Albini, who Cobain later hired for their album In Utero). The deep reverb on the backing vocals is haunting, the guitar sounds are so dense. The subtle production work is biting (like how that last syllable of To-ny, from Tony's Theme sounds almost like the bark of a rabid dog).
I don't mean to give too much credit to Albini. From the documentary above, you can see from their live set filmed in 1989 that the band could easily replicate their sound in a live show with just the four of them.
099: Frank Ocean – Channel Orange (2012)
I am proud to say that I had (finally) heard an album before I was slotted to listen to it for this project. That's something that didn't happen very often over the past year.
I first learned of Frank Ocean when I heard his songs Novacane and Swim Good from his mix tape Nostalgia, ULTRA. I especially loved the latter track--impressed by the his lyrics and melody.
So, when Channel Orange came out in 2012, I was looking for it. Upon hearing it, I was deeply impressed by it--immediately aware that a bold new talent in alternative R&B had arrived.
There is so much in this album to reward repeated listening. There are interludes between many of the songs that add to the dark and modern world he's creating here (with producer Malay). The songs somehow deliver commercial appeal while also tucking in enough darkness to earn its alternative credibility.
In songs like Sweet Life, Ocean sings about California from the point of view of the young, wealthy, and black. He talks about landscapers and housekeepers, and ocean views--privilege--and how that can prevent you from striving for something bigger, or to even identify your dreams. This is something I hadn't heard represented before in R&B.
In Super Rich Kids, he continues this theme:
Too many bottles of this wine we can't pronounce.
Too many bowls of that green, no lucky charms.
The maids come around too much.
Parents aint around enough.
Too many joy rides in daddy's jaguar.
Too many white lies and white lines.
Super rich kids with nothing but loose ends.
Super rich kids with nothing but fake friends.
In Crack Rock, he sings about less glamorous neighborhoods. Toward the end of the song, he talks about crooked cops, and to paraphrase, he says when a crooked cop gets shot 300 men will search for the shooter, but when his brother gets shot "don't no one hear the sounds". He says, "don't no one disturb the peace for riots--don't no one disrupt nirvana". Just 2 years after he records this song, that lyric is no longer true. People are disrupting nirvana for change--and I hope they will continue to.
On the back half of the near ten minute Pyramids, he tells a story of his girlfriend who strips at a club called The Pyramid, to keep his bills paid. She comes back from work, and he wants to be with her, but her "love ain't free no more".
My point--he's covering some really dark content here. Rock & Roll, right? Sex. Check. Drugs. Check. But I wouldn't say he's glamorizing any of it.
Then, in Bad Religion and Forrest Gump, he talks about being in love with a him. When has that really been done in commercial R&B? Perhaps we could have thought he was just playing with pronouns to express his artistic vision. Before the album dropped, he posted on tumblr, a confession of sorts that he was in love with a male friend (who didn't return his affection). He had later been a bit dodgy about whether he is bi or gay. He doesn't want to be beholden to any label or box. He wants to be allowed to live a dynamic life. In GQ, he said he shares what he shares as an artist because he wants people to connect with that aspect of himself. Anything other personal details are his and his alone.
Good for him. I love that we're in a time when someone can be that bold and vulnerable, and still have a wildly successful album launch.
One of my favorite tracks is the moody Pink Matter because it features one of my all-time favorites Andre 3000.
I love that there's a modern R&B album in the top 100. It's the only R&B album in the top 100 from the past 25 years. But I would be lying if I said I wasn't curious why some other modern (neo-soul) albums aren't higher on this list. Or why Channel Orange ranks higher than them. Some examples:
Lauren Hill's Miseducation is # 119. Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid is #368. D'Angelo's Voodoo is # 521. Erykah Badu's Baduizm is # 594. Jill Scott's Who Is Jill Scott is # 1797. Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite is # 2163.
Don't get me wrong. Channel Orange is an excellent album. The issue with lists, is that there will always be question as to the specific rankings.
I really liked both records this week. I am interested to hear the next Pixies track further up this year's list. As for Frank Ocean, I am curious where his career will go from here. Even though we started back at the bottom of a new list, I still enjoyed this week's albums as much as I did last week's (Pet Sounds and Sgt Pepper). Blasphemy? OK.
098: Kraftwerk – Trans-Europa Express/Trans Europe Express (1977) 097: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)