filling in the gaps #4

Filling In The Gaps is an ongoing series of blog posts I’m working on, where I’m listening through all the music from CDs I’ve purchased over the years that, up until this point, I’d never actually listened to. If this is the first entry in this series that you’ve come across, please click here to catch up on the past entries. Enjoy!

Feb 12, 2018

He Is Legend – I Am Hollywood (2004)
Oof, this was bad. Emo-drenched metalcore with trite lyrics (at best), this is like a cringey trip backwards into my most horrifically awkward high school moments. What’s worse is that I bought this in my college days — if anything positive can be said it’s that I didn’t actually listen to it until now, when I had to. I suppose it’s not up to me to judge what does and doesn’t speak to people, but I just find it hard to understand how people past a certain age can relate to this kind of stuff. Of course, then I remember that I, like, really enjoy Korean music aimed at 14-year-old girls, so maybe I should just shut up. — 1.5/5.0

Hootie & The Blowfish – Cracked Rear View (1994)1-hootie
A few observations:

(1) Anyone who owns any CDs has this one, it’s basically required to be considered a music connoisseur, like needing to own a license in order to drive or something.
(2) It’s very ’90s. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who hasn’t heard it but it’s worth pointing out again.
(3) It’s actually pretty good, and I would accept it as one response to the challenge, “Give me three reasons Pearl Jam wasn’t a bad idea.”*

Not something I’m going to be throwing on regularly, but there are some pretty standout tracks here — “Hannah Jane”, “Let Her Cry”, and “Goodbye” to name a few. This is a really likable album all-around. — 3.5/5.0

*I don’t actually dislike Pearl Jam all that much, but most alternative/grunge that derived from them is just not my thing…which should be obvious by this point if you’ve been following these posts.

Hot Chip – Made In The Dark (2008)
So this is basically Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer?-lite, and that’s an album that IMO has not aged particularly gracefully. This is also an album that is BAM MID-2000s INDIETRONICA in a really unappealing way. I don’t know, if I had first heard it when it was originally released, I might feel differently, but now, in 2018, this album is just really middle-of-the-road artsy indie pop that leaves a somewhat sour taste in my mouth. Nothing stands out, and there’s nothing here that would cause me to bypass Hissing Fauna so its existence seems kind of pointless for someone like me. — 3.0/5.0

Feb 13, 2018

Hot Chip – One Life Stand (2010)
ANDY BELL. That’s who the singer reminds me of. Wait, no — totally Kevin Barnes. Err…I don’t know I guess! These guys switch between Erasure and Of Montreal on a fricking dime, it’s crazy. It’s also slightly better than Made In The Dark, though it still retains a really distinct sound that I associate with bands like Animal Collective and their ilk — pop-influenced artsy-fartsy indie dance that college me was in love with but that almost-30-me just kinda finds somewhat pretentious and dull. That isn’t to say this album doesn’t have some good cuts — “I Feel Better” and “Alley Cats” really stand out — but overall it’s not something I’ll probably be returning to very often. — 3.5/5.0

2-humHum – Downward is Heavenward (1998)
This is an album to keep on the backburner, for sure, and I probably did it a huge disservice by being distracted while listening to it — the sci-fi lyrics and imagery that I caught here and there were really cool and hinted at big ideas and narrative that I was unable to fully explore. The overall ’90s shoegazey sound didn’t do a whole lot for me, but I think this might be one of those exceptional albums that requires some time and dedication to really get into, and I can see myself doing just that in the future. And “Apollo” — holy crap, I’ll be coming back to this album if only for that song. — 3.5/5.0

I Mother Earth – Scenery and Fish (1996)
The band name, the album title, and the album art all pointed to grunge crap that I was sure to hate so I’m not sure what led me to purchase this in the first place — I think it was based off of the recommendation of a friend but I can’t remember for certain. All I know is that I got exactly what I expected and the 50+ minutes it took me to listen through this were probably the low point of my day. This is the kind of stuff I was talking about with my Pearl Jam comment earlier. — 1.0/5.0

Mar 5, 2018

Interpol – Antics (2004)
This album started off quite good but got mediocre real fast. Everything past “Take You On A Cruise” kind of blended together into a mopey sprawl. Like a lot of the albums I’ve listened to since I started, this wasn’t bad at all — “Evil” is a really good song, and the entire album is pretty listenable. It’s just not terribly interesting. It’s probably worth noting as well that while Turn On The Bright Lights was once close to a five-star album for me, my love for it has cooled quite a bit in recent years, and Antics doesn’t do much to reel me back in. — 3.0/5.0

Mar 6, 2018

Jars of Clay – Much Afraid (1997)3-jars
Painfully mid-90s adult contemporary college rock, but I have a soft spot for Jars of Clay so I probably enjoyed this more than the average modern listener would. Even so, there’s not a whole lot here worth returning to — their best work was and will probably always be their debut, but this is still decently serviceable for what it is. — 3.0/5.0

Mar 7, 2018

The Jayhawks – Blue Earth (1989)
Buckle in friends, we’ve got five Jayhawks albums to get through, and man this is probably going to be a trudge. Normally I wouldn’t mind this kind of stuff — I’m generally fairly receptive to rootsy alt-country, and musically and lyrically this album is fine, but Gary Louis’ voice…it’s not bad, but it lacks all personality and emotion. Really brings the whole experience down, and turns an otherwise fine album into something pointedly lifeless. I really wanted to like this more. I’m hoping the next four albums are better…fingers crossed. — 2.5/5.0

The Jayhawks – Hollywood Town Hall (1992)
Marginally better than Blue Earth, but suffers pretty much all the same problems. I think in the right mood this might work a little better, but even then I can think of other groups I’d throw on well before I got to The Jayhawks, and by that point I’d probably have moved on to other genres anyway. — 3.0/5.0

Mar 13, 2018

4-jayhawksThe Jayhawks – Tomorrow The Green Grass (1995)
Peppier and catchier than their other stuff so far, but still does very little for me. I just can’t envision a time when I’ll want to throw this on, unless I’m in a super specific setting or a really unusual mood. It’s not bad music by any stretch of the imagination, I’m just having trouble justifying rating it very highly, knowing that I’ll probably never listen to it again. — 3.0/5.0

Mar 14, 2018

The Jayhawks – Sound of Lies (1997)
ZzzZZzZZZzzzzZzzZZZ…oh hey WHAT it’s over, another middling score GO. — 3.0/5.0

Mar 15, 2018

The Jayhawks – Smile (2000)
Oh man, we’re finally DONE with this section. It was pretty gruelling (although there’s worse to come, I’m expecting). I feel like I just listened to the same album five times and while it was perfectly pleasant, it left practically zero impression on me. I can now say I’ve listened through most of The Jayhawks’ discography, and I can also say that it’s probably not something I’m ever going to really seek out in the foreseeable future. — 3.0/5.0

Apr 24, 2018

Jeff Buckley – Grace (1994)5-jeff buckley
This was a very good album — Buckley’s voice is just, wow, and there are some seriously good songs on here. Everyone knows “Hallelujah” but there’s a reason it’s been covered so many times — it’s really fricking heart-rending. This is an album I’m definitely going to enjoy exploring in the future, it really deserves some solid, focused attention and reflection. Not bad for a $2.00 find. — 4.0/5.0

Jethro Tull – War Child (1974)
It was…ok. The thing is, I’m pretty sure Jethro Tull can do better, and I have two more albums to go through to prove this theory (although I’m fairly certain only the next one — Songs From The Wood — will deliver). This one is certainly charming in its way, with its British folk sound and references. It summons up imagery from medieval peasant Europe, and feels very earthy and genuine — most of the time. Songs like the awkward “Bungle in the Jungle” kinda break the illusion and sound really out-of-place, so as an album it just doesn’t work very well. But, I’m looking forward to hearing more from them. — 3.0/5.0

Jethro Tull – Songs From The Wood (1977)
I was shocked to find that I liked this less than War Child. It just didn’t engage me in any meaningful way. I think it was too rock-focused, and a lot of the folky elements had kind of gone. It wasn’t terrible or anything, but I think my expectations were a bit too lofty. — 2.5/5.0

Apr 25, 2018

6-jethroJethro Tull – Roots to Branches (1995)
Better than Songs From The Wood, but not much. A lot proggier than either of the other two albums I listened to yesterday, which isn’t a bad thing — I have a history with prog rock and this was actually pretty tame in comparison to most of what I’m familiar with. It didn’t leave too much of an impression overall, other than it felt a little long at some points and there was a more “tribal” feel to the music. Not bad, not great, just meh. — 3.0/5.0

Jewel – Pieces of You (1995)
Ok, so this album is all over the map — you have some clever and surprising bursts of lyrical genius (“There are addictions to feed and there are mouths to pay” from “Who Will Save Your Soul” was a head-turner for me), and then you have stuff like the absolutely, horrifyingly atrocious title track that has to go down as some of the most cringe-worthy songwriting I’ve ever heard. And then there’s Jewel herself, whose vocal range is as wide as the Grand Canyon, but who tends to get into yodel-y territory a little too often. I definitely enjoyed this, way more than I thought I was going to, anyway, but 50+ minutes of her singing with an acoustic guitar is a little…much. I have three more of her albums to get through, so please pray for me. — 3.0/5.0

Jewel – Spirit (1998)
Uhhh…actually this was rather pleasant. In between her her first album and this, her second, Jewel reigned in her warbling tendencies and the result is that her voice feels a lot more under control and just much more aurally pleasing. On top of that her lyrics are better (save for the slightly-awkward “Fat Boy”, although I’ll take it over “Pieces of You” any day), and the album format works here — it’s longer than Pieces of You, yes, but there are also no real throwaway tracks. I don’t want to overstate anything because this is definitely nothing revolutionary, but for mellow acoustic-driven folk-pop, you could certainly do a lot worse. — 3.5/5.0

Apr 26, 2018

Jewel – This Way (2001)7-jewel
Just an all-around bigger album than her previous two — more instrumentation, more energy, more put-on emotion — but not exactly better for it. While neither Pieces of You nor Spirit were exactly “daring”, they at least showed that Jewel was trying a bunch of things to find her niche. This album feels a lot more like she was trying new things…just to try new things. It doesn’t sound authentic most of the time, and is comparatively bland. The blatant infusion of country elements also kinda turned me off. Now, I say this all with the caveat that the last four tracks on the album are actually pretty amazing, and Jewel’s scream near the end of “Love Me, Just Leave Me Alone” is probably the most genuine outburst of emotion she’d put to record up to this point, so there’s some redemption there. — 3.0/5.0

Jewel – 0304 (2003)
Slick, high-energy pop music just doesn’t suit Jewel, what can I say. This feels overly produced and vapid, repetitive and obviously reaching for a wider audience, with the result being diluted, boring, leveled-out schlop. I don’t want to be too harsh because the album has some pretty catchy songs, but they all blend together and there’s also some pretty terrible lyricism. Most of what Jewel did up to this point overshadows almost all the cuts here, and it’s in large part thanks to the more intimate, coffee-house approach she had touted (at least in her first two albums). This one lacks any such personality and ends up as forgettable bargain-bin material. — 2.5/5.0

8-joanJoan Osborne – Relish (1995)
If, like me, your sole basis for recognition of Joan Osborne’s name is “One Of Us”, you’d be in for a huge surprise when firing this one up — it’s largely a rough-and-tumble collection of ragged-edged blues rock and aggro-folk, and man is it good. Osborne’s voice is up to the challenge of matching this very non-pop style — deep and rolling and vibrant. It’s got potholes, for sure — “Let’s Just Get Naked” is every bit as weird as the title would have you believe, and the stylistically misleading “One Of Us” has been played to absolute death by Alternative Radio — but none of them rob the album of its momentum and it ends up being a pretty fantastic time, even clocking in at just over an hour in length. Color me happily surprised on this one. — 4.0/5.0

Apr 30, 2018

Joan Osborne – Righteous Love (2000)
Massive step down from Relish. Where that one was aggressive and frayed, this one feels limp and smooth-edged, and not even Osborne’s powerful vocals can salvage it. It feels full of compromises and ends up being a monumentally boring work, which is something I don’t feel like I should be able to say about the same woman who wrote stuff like “St. Teresa”. — 2.0/5.0

Joan Osborne – How Sweet It Is (2002)
Marginally better than Righteous Love, but only just. It’s an album of covers, although I didn’t recognize most of them. I dunno, I find very little to comment on here, it was just a very dull 50+ minutes. — 2.5/5.0

May 1, 2018

Joanna Newsom – Ys (2006)9-joanna
Man, I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. Newsom’s voice is just so hard to get behind — I get the appeal, really I do, but 50 straight minutes of it is really pushing it for me. I also found the music somewhat dull — it’s often little more than a harp and maybe some other chamber elements. What captivates here more than anything is the storytelling, and as such the album as a whole definitely deserves another listen, but it’ll probably be a while. Although, I will say that I really did like “Sawdust & Diamonds”. — 3.0/5.0

John Coltrane – My Favorite Things (1961)
Love it. I’m weirdly picky with when I’ll listen to jazz (I usually prefer it in the winter over warmer months, for whatever reason), but this just hit the spot, like pretty much everything I’ve heard from Coltrane. I don’t have nearly a good enough understanding of music theory or jazz in general to break this down much further; all I know is that I like it and I’m looking forward to the other Coltrane albums I have coming up. — 4.0/5.0

John Coltrane – Africa / Brass (1961)
Slightly less engaging to me than My Favorite Things, but again, really hard for me to pinpoint exactly why. Although I will say that “Greensleeves” is the perfect example of why I prefer to listen to jazz around the Christmas season. — 3.5/5.0

May 2, 2018

10-coltraneJohn Coltrane – Olé Coltrane (1961)
The first track, “Olé”, is a sweeping, epic piece that I really enjoyed. Exactly the kind of thing I want to hear when I listen to jazz. Didn’t care too much for the second track, but the third, “Aisha”, was the other side of the coin compared to “Olé” — downbeat, relaxed, and very calming. It’s a really well-balanced record and clocking in at only just over 30 minutes, an easily-digestible little chunk of music. — 4.0/5.0

John Legend & The Roots – Wake Up! (2010)
A beautiful, moving cover album of protest songs from the ’60s and ’70s, updated and given a new voice. This is striking stuff, and some of the most lyrically thought-provoking music I’ve listened to in a long time. Legend’s voice is untouchable, and The Roots are consummate professionals in everything they do, this album not least of all. “Hard Times”, “Wholy Holy”, “I Can’t Write Left Handed”, and “Shine” are true stunners, but the entire album is super listenable and just riveting. — 4.0/5.0

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About crakthesky

Mid-20s and vocal about my subculture.
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2 Responses to filling in the gaps #4

  1. Seasons says:

    Used to own Cracked Rear View and I kind of wish I still did (probably the most obtainable life goal imaginable). But some of these songs, especially “Let Her Cry,” are unbearably long for no apparent reason other than to pad out the CD runtime. This is not a song that needs to be five minutes long or even much more than three.
    I also don’t own that Jars of Clay CD anymore but I remember really liking some of it. Like, they really could have done even more with all the ideas they tried out in it, but a song like “Fade to Grey” and the way it starts out with that really out of place beat and the organ is just, I don’t know, really cool imho. “Crazy Times” is a good song” “Five Candles” may or may not be as well but I’m really nostalgic for it because I used to hear it all the time at a job I used to have a long time ago. I still own their first album and can’t remember the last time I listened to it, but it was a unique sound in a genre of music that was always really hostile to artists who wanted to do just that.
    I HATED Made In The Dark and never listened to any Hot Chip after that, even though I really, really loved the album they put out just before it and still do. There was a rash of overtly “quirky” indie music coming out in the mid/late 2000s and I hated seeing them get caught up in it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • crakthesky says:

      JoC’s first album is by far their best, and it still holds up today, although I may only think that for sentimental reasons, it’s hard to tell. But I definitely find it a lot more palatable than virtually every modern CCM artist releasing the same song over and over today.

      I didn’t hate Made In The Dark or the other Hot Chip album, but both really reek of the mid-2000s in a bad way. I have a hard time listening to a lot of indie music from that time period these days.

      Like

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