Archive of August 2020

The two hundred and twenty-ninth album: Leonard Cohen - Songs of Love and Hate

I've covered enough folk from this era before, between Bob Dylan and other contemporary artists. From that, I know that it's a hit and miss genre for me, sometimes dependent on my mood at the time as so much of it relies on hitting that emotional core. Leonard Cohen's Songs of Love and Hate hits an odd spot for me in that, as it has some lyrics that connect with me, but then adds some flourishes that don't feel quite right to me, with Diamonds in the Mine feeling really off for me there. Perhaps it's the vocals: Leonard Cohen's gravel suits some songs, but not all, and right now it feels like it goes between pulling me in on the smaller one and pushing me away when it's bigger. Folk, more than anything, thrives on that emotional connection, and today it felt like it fluctuated so much that I couldn't decide where the album fell.

The one hundred forty-fourth TV show: #367 Eastenders

Is it bad to say that all soaps feel the same? Other than different faces and a different setting, so much of it feels the same that I genuinely get quite bored with the episodes and don't see the point of them as much. I get that the appeal is in part in getting to know the different people, but I saw so many faces in these few episodes that I couldn't catch up with all of them and there were a bunch of storylines I couldn't really follow - and this is while watching several omnibus editions that meant they shoudl have gone through.

I mean, oddly, the acting feels better here than I've seen in other soaps and it seems like some more are was put into it, but the stories are just fine and most of them feel repetitive one way or another. Again, this is a genre I'll never quite understand, with its sheer size making me even less likely to get there.

The two hundred and twenty-eighth album: #228 Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Pictures at an Exhibition

We covered another Emerson, Lake & Palmer album two weeks ago, a lengthy jazz fusion album that just didn't sit right with me. Pictures at an Exhibition, a prog rock interpretation of the classical piece that I will be covering for that list some day. It works far better for me, the progression of the classical piece supporting the different decisions for this live performance well - going between genres, moving from using just the organ to having a prog rock arrangement of the same linking pieces. It's a piece that feels coherent, flows well and feels like a really good interpretation of the work. I think I've got to schedule the full work soon when we get back to listening to classical pieces.

The two hundred and twenty-seventh album: Rod Stewart - Every Picture Tells A Story

It's weird how an opening can affect your opinion of the rest of the album. The titular track that opens the album is explicitly racist and quite sexist, a combination that felt apparent just listening to it and just put me off of what was a decent rock song initially. It made me look at the entire thing with some suspicion, an uphill battle the album didn't seem up to. I have to admit that Rod Stewart's vocals add to my discomfort. While they're fine for the harder rock numbers, the strained, hoarse vocals don't suit the ballads and more sensitive numbers he seems fond off and while it'd make sense to include one or two in there, this album uses them too much. Because of that, there are flashes of good songs, but I'm not sure the entire album works as well.

The two hundred and twenty-sixth album: #226 Serge Gainsbourg - Histoire de Melody Nelson

We've only covered Gainsbourg for the songs list so far, where it focused on his individual songs. For the albums list, the compilers selected this concept album with a throughline of the singer's romance with Melody. While the chanson style is one that is a familiar one as I heard it often enough growing up, it feels like the list doesn't show it (or really that many non-English language acts) that often. It feels like a nie break, a gentler album that plays on the feeling of atmosphere and feeling that these French songs bring, one where you get enough of the lyrics to set a tone, but don't quite need it to be brought into this world.

What helps the album in particular is that while the vocals may be more traditional, it's actually quite pop-like in its setup, using electric guitar and organs and a lot of other flourishes that feel like they'd suit Phil Spector - but with a depth of lyrics and focus on vocals rather than those being drowned out as you would get in those numbers. It's cleverly and nicely done and there's something gloriously immersive about it.

The two hundred and twenty-fifth album: #225 Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV

With this being the fourth of five Led Zeppelin albums on the list, I started off wondering whether the repetition had started to become a bit much and there wouldn't be enough for the album to offer something new in.

Mostly, what sets it apart is that later in the album, the album calms down, with Stairway to Heaven the big centerpiece, a fairly mellow number which doesn't have as much of an impact for me, but where I can see how it works far more effectively as a way to reach someone. Even when it does step up, it feels fairly sedate, an increase in energy without overdoing it. IN the end though, it feels like nothing in the album really sticks with me. I know I listened to it, but I doubt I'd recognise the songs if I heard them again.

The two hundred and twenty-fourth album: #224 Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Tarkus

Oh boy - another prog rock album with one side being a single twenty minute epic that feels jazz-infused improv a few bars in. There's some more structure to Tarkus than that implies, but it still feels like it lacks the focus of the really grand epics. There's some storytelling in here, but the lyrics don't fulfill that and the music feels more like an accompaniment to the liner images. The rest of the album, like some many prog rock albums, feels like a playground, trying to seem smarter than it might well be. There are some interesting experiments with instruments, but it feels like it's been done better, with more earned confidence - I can see how this could be your thing if you're into prog rock, but it's hard to do so when you feel the genre has shot past what makes it good.

The one hundred fourty-third TV show: #690 The X Factor

I'm not a fan of these singing competition reality shows, but The X-Factor feels like it's more off-putting than others in the type. It feels like it's all about stroking the judges' egos, having them belittle and play tricks as they compete, rather than actually being about the performers themselves. This may change in later seasons, but it's so strong in the first season that I watched that I was genuinely put off even after the first episodes, auditions that seemed set up to take too much advantage of people. It seems to be made to feed these egomaniacs, whether they play it up or not, and I wouldn't want to watch any more of it.

The two hundred and twenty-third album: #223 Don McLean - American Pie

Listening to the title track of the album, it really made much more sense to me. As a statement, it says a lot about Don McLean's point of view, a statement about his work as much as it's commemorative. It's still joyful and excited, not just sad about the day the music died, and it's that sort of celebration that carries through. The sensitive Vincent - the other notable song here - isn't jubilant, but it's so caring and sweet that it makes its own impact.

Everybody Loves Me, Baby is the oddball on the album, a jubilant, noisy number that's partially just people making noise. Through that contrast, Don McLean makes his point - that of the self serving, unaware annoying person - so much better. He is being over the top, but considering that if others would have recorded it this way, it might have been slightly more of a jubilant love songs rather than a complete send up like it feels here.

While not all instant classics, it feels like American Pie has a few tentpoles, and a number of thoughtful songs surrounding it, with plenty of different emotions portrayed in the album. It was a really enjoyable listen, a folk album that, like the best of them - really shows you what's happening and impressing those emotions on you without thinking.