The one hundred and fourty-fifth classical recording: #372 Camille Saint-Saens - Piano Concerto no 2
Varied and engaging, there is a lot going on in this recording - allowing the piano to shine, but giving it so much more context as time goes on. It's an abstract piece, but what we've heard so far works well.
The four hundred and sixth album: #406 The Residents - Duck Stab/Buster and Glen
From the first track, Constantinople, I knew I was in for something different with the Residents, in a way that I really like. The art rock label can apply to a lot of different styles, but here it's a collection of strange songs, all feeling different, but all intriguing to listen to, often relying on electronic sounds and manipulation. There's no clear viewpoint, there's a lot of different sounds, but the tracks are short enough that it never wears thin - there's always something new going on. There are times where the album is trying to be deliberately off-putting, but even then the subversion is enough to see how the Residents are looking to spin the song and it keeps pulling you through regardless. This is the only album from the Residents on the list, but I want to try more, even if this is one of their more accessible albums.
The four hundred and fifth album: #405 Big Star - Third/Sister Lovers
As someone who's not familiar with the work of Big Star, this album's history reads as a bit puzzling. A rock band split up and some of them release an album of pop songs that's marketed using the same name. If nothing else, just reading the "rock band" byline and getting a number of power pop ballads and similar songs took some adjusting before I fully got it.
The music itself is fine. It's the typical big production pop that we've heard, including violins in places, and it's well done at that. There's no stand out track or anything that I really loved and I don't feel like there's much of an identity in the work, but it works well for what the album wants to do.Some good pop that I'd happily hear mixed in with other songs, but not one that I'd expect to seek out myself.
The one hundred and eighty-second TV show: #37 Perry Mason
While a lot of shows on this list are shows I just want to watch, just as many are to experience the history of TV and where things lead. Perry Mason is an early procedural, with a heavy bent, and one of the first hour long weekly shows on American TV - it seems like this was the year where they really started. At 40 episodes a week, that all seemed pretty intense as well. It's interesting to see how a number of traditions started, sometimes even out of necessity - starting off with some time without the regulars, instead showing the time before and after the crime, is something we see to set pu the show now, but was actually intended to give Raymond Burr some time off where otherwise he'd be in 98% of the episode.
The show is well written and feels well researched, but it also is of its time. The main thing where you notice is the pacing. There are some really interesting scenes, but there are some slow, unengaging sections in between that really seem to drag the show. The denoument happening in the courtroom is interesting enough, but it takes a while to get there and makes for another slower section of the slow. I'm not saying we need to end in an action filled chase, but it feels like other, later shows based on similar premises bring it some more things to keep your attention. It's why this was more of an interesting curiosity to watch, an insight into the TV shows of 65 years ago as the medium was developing, rather than something I could watch the full run of.
The four hundred and fourth album: #404 The Adverts - Crossing the Red Sea with The Adverts
I've been more critical of punk bands than I expected to be - the variation is much greater than I was expecting for a genre that was rapidly succeeded by others and referenced in music mostly as something that was built on. There is a heavy focus on riling up people - going against the establishment, shocking people and making their points, and with its shorter length and punchiness it feels like it really pulls it off. Sure, it's theatrical and over the top, but to me, that's what becomes part of the same charm.
The four hundred and third album: #403 Joe Ely - Honky Tonk Masquerade
I'm still not a fan of country music - lyrically I rarely care, the music ends up just that bit too slow and the steel guiatar just sets me off in the worst way possible. There are times where an album comes along and works, but it's in spite of the genre most of the time. This album doesn't do anything different. While Joe Ely has a good voice in places, it doesn't add anything for me, and the straight up country tracks, some of which are covers I've heard before, don't win me over this time.
The ninety-ninth book: #1017 The Monastery - Sir Walter Scott
I try to make not finishing a book a rare thing, but I couldn't quite get there for this, and some device switching meant I wasn't interested in trying to transfer my slow progress. The Monastery is a throwback, describing a semi-mythical medieval time that was, in some ways, really well researched (in the "I want to show off everything I know" way that can get annoying) but also romanticizing in a way that gets tedious for me to listen to. I'm playing Pentiment at the moment, with similar levels of research, but its focus on the 'lower' classes in addition to the more revered nobles and religious leaders makes it more interesting and accessible, and feel more real than I think The Monastery ever entirely gets. There's not much for me to grasp, and starting and finishing with epistles as The Monastery does didn't help me place the story. I can see where it can be revered, but it's not a type that appeals to me.
The four hundred and second album: #402 The Jam - All Mod Cons
The mod revival of this album comes with a sound I'd never quite thought about - if only because it feels like it's gotten mixed in with other genres in the intervening years. It's a punk inspired sound, but more written than that genre implies and poppy in its accessibility. The songs aren't more complex, but have more to them than the loud punk sounds we've had before, and it has more of this simplicity that harkens back to earlier times. While there's some praise in that description, I also think it's one that I feel we've outgrown. I wish it could have a bit more to offer - it does well at what it does, but it's not enough for me.
The four hundred and first album: #401 Elvis Costello - This Year's Model
This Year's Model's music is straightforward and very accessible - some very accessible new wave, with Elvis Costello's distinctive sound suiting it incredibly well. There is a large variety of styles - the rockier songs mixed in with what feels like pure pop - which really helps the tracks to stand out on their own. It also helps that the lyrics stand out well on their own, focused enough and adding their own layers to each song.
The one hundred and fourty-fourth classical recording: #582 Arnold Schoenberg - Erwartung
Erwartung is a one act, short opera for an orchestra and a single soprano. Notably, it never repeats itself, which really added to the complexity of the piece. It doesn't build themes it comes back to, but its economy of storytelling means it doesn't have to, instead it can rely on continuing to tell its story - it can have its complexity because of its brevity, which is a nice compromise. It's a short, sad piece that was lovely to listen to.