The one hundred and eighty-fourth classical recording: #259 Frederic Chopin - Piano Concertos

The two published concertos of Chopin's are tender and romantic, nothing big or aggressive but staying small throughout instead. It's a lovely piece to listen to, nice in the background, without being too straining.

The one hundred and ninety-seventh TV show: #283 Salem's Lot

One of the wonderful things about Twin Peaks was the way it combined quite standard soap opera tropes and storylines with th eweirdness that occurs throughout the story, exploring how they intersect with a Lynchian bend (as well as the contributions of others). In Salem's Lot, it feels like Stephen King tries to hit similar beats about two decades earlier, but it doesn't succeed quite as well. While the mysterious house in a insular village is a well known trope that does work, the set up it does in its first half drags a fair bit, with the mystery not becoming tantalizing enough. There are some vampire appearances, but it doesn't have anything actually compelling about it for a long time. It's not until the final hour or so that it feels liek we start to see more, but where the series seems to start with a mystery to solve, it feels like it turns into scary scenes later without as much of a mystery in it. It becomes too close to the Dracula store, but with the added elements detracting, rather than adding to the whole.

The five hundred and sixth album: #506 Kate Bush - The Dreaming

Although this is the first Kate Bush album on this list, this was her fourth studio album. The art rock sound of her work would have been familiar already to a lot of people, with this album heavily leaning into it. It's esoteric, at times dream-like with the overdubbed harmonies and shifts being recognisably Kate Bush. There's some interesting story telling, all wrapped in this ethereal, deeply emotional sound that keeps hinting at something deeper.

The five hundred and fifth album: #505 Haircut One Hundred - Pelican West

Not too long ago, I talked about an album feeling straight up like a Comedy Bang Bang bit, and with Pelican West we get another that comes from the same mold, poppy love songs with titles that seem a bit off. This album, however, brings in a lot of jazz - long solos, a lot of trumpet, and a more sedate feel to the tracks that I assume weren't candidates to become a single. They're the more engaging parts of the album for me - overall it's a nice and easy listen, but they are what brings the depth to the album.

The one hundred and eighty-third classical recording: #362 Jacques Offenbach - La Belle Helene

When listening through Youtube, I always prefer to cover an opera with half an eye on what happens on stage. That pays off with La Belle Helene more than almost anything else, as the comedic opera is over the top enough that the performers' dedication and overacting really adds to the story. The version I had has the proper exaggerated staging to encourage that, enhancing the impact of the various strange, more modern touches. But despite being quite stupid in places, in the best possible way, the vocal performances are great and the sweeping music takes you along. By its nature, it focuses more on the abundant, party atmosphere than delicate, sad songs, and it's to its benefit making it an enjoyable listen.

The five hundred and fourth album: #504 Donald Fagen - The Nightfly

With The Nightfly, Donald Fagen gives us a nice bit of accessible, jazzy rock. It's simple, it's poppy, fun and polished, but I am also not sure it's fully my thing - I enjoyed the album, but never really grew to love it.

The one hundred and ninety-sixth TV show: #861 Spartacus

Having watched a good chunk of the first season of Spartacus, it's a frustrating show. Its start is undoubtably weak, with the titular Spartacus (a slave name, named after the more famous revolt leader as he is set to repeat) being quite unlikeable and hard to root for. There isn't much interiority and the way he's closed off and refuses to engage with anything gets quite frustrating. The show goes for a lot more shock value and excessive amount of blood, but the over the top, mediocre CGI (even for its day) is distracting and laughable. After a few episodes and a change in showrunners, it does pick up and the characters become more interesting, the focus shifts, and we see more about how Spartacus could survive in this world, but it's quite uneven even after that, with some shock twists coming in too early to have an impact, and stopping you getting a more satisfying followup later. With that said, when it works, it works well. John Hannah and Lucy Lawless do well when given the chance to, even if the show doesn't always give them much to work with, and it feels like Andy Whitfield grows into the role as a number of the performers around him do good work as well. It's the effects, and at times the writing, that let it down, but it's enough to make me want to continue to watch it - even if I can't deny having muscled shirtless men feature regularly might have kept me drawn in. Well, whatever it takes to stay entertained, right?

The one hundred and fiftieth book: #820 Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Douglas Adams

Sometimes, it does feel like I'm criticizing a still great work as I'm writing this. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency has all the hallmarks of a great Douglas Adams novel, but it feels like it teases a bit too often leaving you a bit short. The titular Dirk Gently - the interesting force of chaos you want to interact with - doesn't show up until halfway through the novel and doesn't get to shine until later. Instead, there is a lot of set up of the book. It's fun set up, following all the hallmarks of Adams' writing, but it almost stays too rooted in reality. The balance also means that it feels like the resolution gets quite rushed, going from a decent speed to rushing through a lot of concepts in a short amount of time. It's a satisfying read, but I wish it got to its titular character a bit earlier - a shift I hope we can see in the sequel more quickly.

The five hundred and third album: #503 Madness - The Rise & Fall

Oddly enough, this is the first time I've covered Madness - later than I would be expecting, but at a point where it's quite interesting to do so. The Rise & Fall is a prototypical ska album, an accessible example of the genre that's nicely accessible and quite fun to listen to.. With that, it also covers a lot more of just everyday life - it feels like it focuses a lot on fairly standard, mundane events, and commenting on English life that way. Seeing that they went political for the first time with this album makes sense - some of the intention is there, but you can see how it would progress further from there. It makes for a more thoughtful album than it might seem, without trying to be too fancy or complicated.

The one hundred and eighty-second classical recording: #287 Robert Schumann - Kreisleriana

As apparently comes from his inspiration, Schumann's Kreisleriana plays with contrasts. Its movements alternate between lively, exuberant sections and sombre and thoughtful sections. There's a good balance and some skill in how they move from one to the other, maintaining a similar delicateness through these shifts.