filling in the gaps #3

(Confused as to what the heck this is? Read the first post to get the run-down.)
(And I guess the second one too, why not.)

Sep 28, 2017

D:Fuse – People_ (2002)
I (kind of) liked it! Well, more than I thought I would, anyway. Was expecting something along the lines of most other trance mixes, and while this one was nothing groundbreaking it was a bit more varied than the last one I listened to. More melodic, and housier. It’s actually something I might throw on as background noise when reading or doing something else that requires concentration but where I don’t want silence. — 3.0/5.0

Diplo – Fabriclive 24 (2005)1-diplo
Maaaan this was a fun album. Fabric and Fabriclive mixes are, at least from my limited experience, pretty high-quality, and while Diplo seems to me to be a bit of an odd choice for the series, this mix is really great. Lots of upbeat, party hip hop and fun electro; it’s an eclectic mix, but even the weirder inclusions (“Love Song” by The Cure, “Windowlicker” by Aphex Twin) feel oddly at home. I was especially fond of the middle portion that was like four straight songs of Brazilian rap — it fit so perfectly into the overarching sonic narrative. This is a bangin’ mix. — 4.5/5.0

Sep 29, 2017

Dishwalla – Pet Your Friends (1995)
Every day I become more and more convinced that post-grunge was one of the worst things to happen to music. “Counting Blue Cars” is slightly nostalgic, and I actually didn’t mind “Moisture” too much, but this really just left me wondering what 14 year old me was thinking when he bought this, especially given that it ended up taking me 15 years to actually listen to the thing. — 1.5/5.0

2-doorsThe Doors – The Doors (1967)
Are The Doors still a Protected Class? Am I aloud to talk frankly about Rock’s Misunderstood Genius Jim Morrison yet? Because I didn’t care for this album, and I think it’s incredibly overrated, despite its influence. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know, but there just wasn’t a lot for me to get excited about here. Now, I think there were moments of brilliance — “Light My Fire” is a great song, and the first half of “The End” was pretty great, but most of the rest just faded into the background while I was listening. I can see this sounding pretty good in certain contexts, like over a montage of footage from the Vietnam War or something equally cliche, but in a general setting, there’s not much for me to latch onto. — 3.0/5.0

Edison Glass – A Burn Or A Shiver (2006)
Surprisingly listenable, at least for the first half. But this album is way overlong and I kind of got over this generic emo-influenced indie rock a few years ago. The singer’s voice is also really distinct, and was almost a turn-off for me, but after sticking with it for a couple songs I began to enjoy it. Meh, probably won’t ever return to this album, but who knows? — 3.0/5.0

Element 101 – Stereo Girl (2001)3-element-101
This is basically early Paramore, but with a much, much worse singer, which would be ok, but the singer is just…awful. Like, she’s really bad. It also doesn’t help that the music is super basic with no perceivable depth; it felt like a teenage band’s first attempt at making something after practicing a few times in one of their parents’ garages. I do not ever want to be near a stereo that is playing this music ever again if it can be helped. This is what I get for buying random $2.00 CDs. — 1.0/5.0

Oct 5, 2017

Erasmus Talbot – Elite: Dangerous Original Soundtrack (2015)
(This is out of order because I had it filed under “Elite: Dangerous” in my CD collection, rather than “Erasmus Talbot”. Oh well.) I imagine these songs would be much better in the context of the game. The first disc was 40 (yes, 40) songs of sub-two minute ambient classical tracks. The second disc was slightly better, with more normal-length songs, but also much more classically-oriented, and the third disc was a lot like the first. Not really my cup of tea — and dude, this was frigging long. If I heard these songs in their natural setting though, I’m sure I’d think more highly of them. — 2.5/5.0

Nov 8, 2017

4-ellaElla Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Lightly (1959)
This was always going to be good. My wife got me into jazz shortly after we started dating, and while I’m by no means a jazz connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, I know what I like, and Ella is always a safe bet. Her voice is just so smooth and pretty, and while the arrangements of these standards ditties are all pretty simple and similar, it’s very warm, comforting music for me. I really liked this, and I feel like it’s as good as pretty much anything else I’ve heard from her. You really can’t go wrong with Ella. — 4.0/5.0

Ellegarden – Eleven Fire Crackers (2006)
I’m only giving this a 3 but this was actually really good. Seriously, if the lead singer had just sung in Japanese instead of really bad, accented Engrish peppered with nonsensical or grammatically-incorrect phrases, this would have been a solid 4. I love me some good pop-punk, and this is good pop-punk. But the bad lyrics (by merit of the singer’s poor grasp of English only) really hold this back from being great. As background pop-punk though, where you ignore the words, it’s actually surprisingly listenable. — 3.0/5.0

Elliott Smith – Figure 8 (2000)
HEY GUESS WHAT ELLIOTT SMITH IS DEAD HE COMMITTED SUICIDE ISN’T THAT SOMETHING. Ok, with that necessary disclaimer out of the way (you have to have it before discussing This Guy), I’ll just say that I’ve tried multiple times to listen through this album over the years, and it always bores me to death within a few songs. I think there’s more here than I was giving it credit for before, but it’s still pretty boring and drawn out. I like the instrumentation, but Smith’s voice is kinda grating over 50+ minutes and it all feels very familiar — and truthfully that should probably be taken as a testament to Smith’s influence on later indie artists than a dig at his work. Still, this wasn’t anything too particularly memorable to me. — 3.0/5.0

Nov 9, 2017

Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)5-elton-john
Phenomenal. Wow, I’ve been missing out by not listening to this until now. My familiarity with Elton John was basically limited to “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer” until now, so listening to this album was basically like discovering him for the first time and it was great. I loved pretty much everything about this album, and it rocks a lot harder than I’d have thought. This is ’70s pop rock done right, I have literally nothing to nitpick. The 11-minute opening track is among the strongest openers I’ve heard in recent memory…and actually the first four songs are all unbelievably good. I really want to check out the rest of his discography now, which I might just have to do. — 5.0/5.0

Enigma – The Screen Behind The Mirror (2000)
Objectively a sterile and bad album, but there’s a certain amount of sentiment attached to music like this that I associate with my early days of getting into AMVs, so for me anyway, it’s passable. Still, it’s hard to get past the new age-y beats and atmosphere (new age was a terrible music trend and we should feel bad that as a society we allowed it to become as big as it did), as well as the repeated use across multiple songs of waaayyy overplayed “O Fortuna” samples to make certain songs feel more “epic”. There’s nothing here to recommend, and if it weren’t for nostalgia this would be an even more abysmal score. — 2.5/5.0

6-enigmaEnigma – Voyageur (2003)
Better than Screen, but not much. I will say that I definitely enjoyed “From East to West” and “Boum-Boum”, but the rest was more or less forgettable. It has the advantage of being significantly less cheesy than Screen, its problem is more just that it tends to be boring. I didn’t hate it though, which is more than I was expecting. Will I listen to it again? Nah, probably not, but I can’t say I regret doing so once. — 3.0/5.0

Nov 10, 2017

Erasure – Pop! The First 20 Hits (1992)
I love modern synthpop — it permeates a lot of the music I listen to nowadays, and tends to be my fallback when I don’t know what else to listen to at a given moment. It underpins so much of modern pop music that it’s seeped into all kinds of other genres. It’s hard to escape. Much of the fetishization of the ’80s that’s been in vogue the past decade can be attributed directly to the rise of modern synthpop, musicians who were basically playing Erasure songs with updated equipment and two decades of pure electronic dance music to inform them. That said, it’s been hard for me to get into synthpop from the ’80s in any serious fashion, and Erasure’s always been particularly tough for me for some reason. I don’t like Andy Bell’s voice all that much, and an hour plus here is just too much. The songs also tend to feel very similar, with little variation in tempo or subject matter. It’s all just kinda boring, to be honest, which is exactly something that a greatest hits album entitled “Pop!” probably shouldn’t be. — 2.5/5.0

Erasure – I Say I Say I Say (1994)7-erasure
Liked this a whole lot more than Pop!. It may be because this is an actual album and not a disjointed collection of songs, but it felt more cohesive and I found that this actually made quite a bit of difference. Beyond this, Andy Bell’s falsetto in some of these songs is just outstanding — “Take Me Back” is a prime example and one of my favorite cuts from the album. There’s a whole lot more melody here as well. Overall it’s just a really enjoyable listen with few low points…definitely a step up from their pre-1990s stuff. — 3.5/5.0

Nov 13, 2017

Everything But The Girl – Amplified Heart (1994)
This may be even better than I’m currently giving it credit for. I really enjoyed it — less sophisti-pop-y than Idlewild (the only other EBTG album I’ve heard) but no worse as a result. It’s steeped in melodramatic sentiment, which could be an insult depending on the context, but for an album like this it works really well. The opener “Rollercoaster” is just a super beautiful track, and the rest of the album is almost as good. This sounds like a proto-Sarah McLaughlin album, and I mean that in the best way — heart-on-sleeve, tear-jerking pop rock that’s aged surprisingly gracefully. I’ll be coming back to this one, for sure. — 3.5/5.0

8-eyes-of-autumnEyes of Autumn – Hello (2003)
I’ve actually listened through this album more than a few times, but the last time I did I was in high school and that would have been over 10 years ago at this point. I wanted to give it another go so this list seemed like as good an excuse as any. I very clearly remember buying this — the used CD store I would frequent had a sale bin that had this album in it for $0.97, and the cover seemed cool enough (and I liked the band name) so I thought why not. After bringing it home I was able to find practically no information on this band, and so I thought it was kinda cool that I had found such an “underground” record.

The fact of the matter is that it’s very ok. Most people would probably be turned off by it — you have to be at least a little into “math rock” to enjoy this kind of stuff, and given that I have a very short history with the genre (but a history nonetheless — Roadside Monument and 31knots are also in my discography), I’m still able to eke some enjoyment out of it. I wish its highs were higher, because there are some neat ideas peppered throughout the album, but the crummy production tends to hold it back. The opening and closing tracks are both quite good though, and I still think it’s kinda awesome that I happened across a band like this. I’m probably the only person in a 100-mile radius that owns this CD, so that’s pretty rad maybe? — 3.0/5.0

Fastball – All The Pain Money Can Buy (1998)
I bought this back in my high school days solely for “Out Of My Head”, and it’s still the only song on here worth hearing. A lot of people seem to really like “The Way”, apparently, but I didn’t think it was anything too special. This is pretty much the de facto standard for “generic ’90s pop rock”, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit that they faded into obscurity after the relative success of the two aforementioned songs. Blah. — 2.0/5.0

Fiona Apple – Tidal (1996)
The driving force of this album is definitely Fiona’s strong, distinct voice, and it doesn’t really appeal to me. I’ve listened through When The Pawn… and I enjoyed that one a bit more than Tidal, but overall I think I’m just not a huge fan of hers. This is a nice, slow, melancholic album, but it does little to distinguish itself from the mass of female-fronted pop rock that was dominating the radio in the mid/late ’90s. — 3.0/5.0

Nov 14, 2017

Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (2008)9-fleet-foxes
I had high expectations for this because it was considered one of the best albums of 2008, and one of the best albums of the decade in which it was released. I was slightly let down — I don’t know what exactly I was expecting sonically but it ended up being a lot less interesting than I was hoping. Still, credit where it’s due — the lead singer has a really soothing voice and “White Winter Hymnal” is as good as everyone probably says it is. I’m also going to give this the benefit of the doubt — I really think this would sound good in certain contexts and would fit certain moods/settings really well, and doing work in an Excel spreadsheet in your office building on a Tuesday morning is certainly not one of them. I’ll keep this in my back pocket for a better day. — 3.5/5.0

10-flippersFlipper’s Guitar – Three Cheers For Our Side (1989)
I actually just picked this CD up a few days ago, just in time to listen to it in order here. I really like this. It suffers the same Engrish problems that Eleven Fire Crackers does, but the music here is so lighthearted that it actually adds a kind of whimsical element that complements the music in a really nice — and probably unintentional — way. This is sunshiney ’80s guitar-pop-via-bossa-nova served with a big helping of nostalgia, and I’m not sure that I’ve listened to a happier, more summery album since I started this list. The version of this album that I got also has a bonus track — “Friends Again” — that ends up being probably the best song on the album. Seriously good stuff, I’m really looking forward to discovering more from these guys and similar bands. — 4.0/5.0

Fountains of Wayne – Utopia Parkway (1999)
Fun! Although I do feel like FOW perfected their sound on Welcome Interstate Managers, this is a nice lead-up to that and has a lot of the same qualities — the narrative, vignette-like approach where each song is a self-contained story, the fun atmosphere, the sunny melodies. Great suburban sing-along pop, and some of the goofier cuts (“Hat and Feet”, “Laser Show”) remind me more than a little of They Might Be Giants. This is just good stuff. — 3.5/5.0

Further Seems Forever – How To Start A Fire (2003)11-fsf
HOLY CRAP THIS IS EMO. I’m pretty sure even high school me would have been embarrassed by some of the writing on this album — these lyrics from “Insincerity As An Artform” are but one example of the kind of thing we’re dealing with here:

Were my arms too short to ransom you
From broken skin and black and blue
Unstitch your eyes and you could
Read this forever and breathe this forever

It’s been a long time since I felt the rain upon my head
Your varying degrees of grayness
Tugging the deepest of heartstrings

I may not know who you are, dear reader, but if you didn’t physically cringe when reading that then you are probably younger than 17, or so entrenched in the emo subculture that you write this kind of stuff in your diary on a daily basis.

All joking aside, this is not a good album, although I say that with the caveat that lead singer Jason Gleason actually has some decent pipes and it’s a shame he was pigeonholed into using them in such bland and repetitive ways throughout this album. Emo as a genre is certainly not the musical quagmire that critics loved to paint it as ten years ago, but looking at it now, with more seasoned eyes and a much wider musical palate, I can certainly see how albums like How To Start A Fire made it seem that way at the time. — 2.0/5.0

Nov 15, 2017

The Futureheads – The Futureheads (2004)
Once upon a time I took everything Pitchfork said as gospel which led me to numerous bands I probably wouldn’t have discovered any other way. While this was a necessary component of my musical journey (and truthfully, opened my eyes to entire worlds of music that I was woefully ignorant of beforehand), it was often haphazard and scattershot, which explains how The Futureheads (and others we’ll get to) ended up in my collection. In a vacuum I don’t find anything terribly bad about this album, per se, but garage rock/snotty post-punk revival of this ilk simply doesn’t interest me in the least, in any way, and I found little to love here. (Weird that looking back, Pitchfork actually rated The Futureheads’ cover of “Hounds of Love” as their #5 single of 2005 — what??) — 2.0/5.0

Gin Blossoms – New Miserable Experience (1992)
I was really rooting for this album after the first two songs — “Lost Horizons” was a great opening song, and it really wouldn’t be that difficult to make a case for “Hey Jealousy” being one of the best singles of the ’90s, but after that the album settles into mediocrity and never recovers. The Gin Blossoms are one of those quintessential alternative radio rock bands that were always just kind of in the background for me, and this album of mostly filler material does nothing to change that perspective. –2.5/5.0

12-green-dayGreen Day – Insomniac (1995)
It’s telling that Insomniac uses the same basic songwriting formulas that permeated Dookie, and yet the only song that people might remember from this one is “Brain Stew”, whereas Dookie has at least five songs that still get regular airplay even today, over 20 years later. It’s just inferior in every way, and I don’t even say this as any kind of Dookie apologist (man that was a weird thing to write). I’m not overly fond of Green Day anyway, but Dookie will always be a sorta-kinda classic in my book; Insomniac will be forgotten in the next five minutes. — 2.5/5.0

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About crakthesky

Mid-20s and vocal about my subculture.
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