Mar 15

My Own Private Record Club*

FT110 comments • 5,499 views

boredoms vcn This is a post listing the records I’m listening to for my YEAR OF ROCKISM**, as outlined here (cut and pasted from Tumblr):

I’m going to listen to one album on a once-a-day basis for a week, a different one each week. Not in order to write about them or anything, unless I decide I want to. Just a minor attention-span workout, the listening equivalent of that “20 minutes of brisk exercise daily” or “5 a day” advice. I realised now I don’t review albums any more I’ve got out of that habit of intensive listening, except for Popular, which is done very much with writing as the aim. It would be healthy to get it back, I reckon.

The albums will mostly be a) stuff I already own that b) I know I like but c) have never really given the time they deserve. The listening cycle is Friday to Thursday, until such time as I miss a day, at which point it will shift currently Tuesday to Monday. Albums below:

Week 1 – 16/1/15 – 22/1/15: WU-TANG CLAN – “Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers” (Comments 1-13)
Week 2 – 23/1/15 – 29/1/15: BRIAN ENO – “Music For Films” (Comments 14-15)
Week 3 – 30/1/15 – 5/2/15: SKY FERREIRA – “Night Time, My Time” (Comments 16-20, 58)
Week 4 – 6/2/15 – 12/2/15: MILES DAVIS – “Sketches Of Spain” (Comments 21-56)
Week 5 – 13/2/15 – 19/2/15: LIZ PHAIR – “Exile In Guyville” (Comments 57, 59-67, 70)
Week 6 – 20/2/15 – 26/2/15: FKA TWIGS – “LP1” (Comments 68-69, 71-85)
Week 7 – 27/2/15 – 9/3/15: KANYE WEST – “The College Dropout” (Comments 86-100)
Week 8 – 10/2/15 – 16/2/15: THE BOREDOMS – “Vision Creation Newsun”

*You can talk about the records if you want, of course! You don’t have to, though. This is simply bookkeeping.
**I am not using this word seriously.


  1. 1
    Andrew Farrell on 23 Jan 2015 #

    My impression on listening through Enter The Wu-Tang again is that I actually remember there being more enthusiasm-killing skits – the dull one at the start of 7th Chamber and the vicious one on Method Man must have left quite an impression.

  2. 2
    Tom on 23 Jan 2015 #

    Yeah I can’t say I’ll miss the stories of red hot coathangers inserted into asses, but I was expecting to find them MUCH more annoying over the course of repeated listens than I did. (The torture one ‘works’ better, in fact – it’s a bunch of guys trying to outdo each other with the wildness and gruesomeness of their imaginations, which is a microcosm of the whole record. The 7th Chamber one is just shit improv acting. I love the “introducing the Clan” one though.)

  3. 4
    Tommy Mack on 23 Jan 2015 #

    I’d say 36 Chambers is probably my favourite rap album of all time and sometimes my favourite album of all time*. I literally never get bored of it and the fact much of it sounds like it was recorded on a dictaphone makes its musical and lyrical prowess all the more astonishing.

    #2: I think my brother and I could recount the ‘torture, motherfucker…’ skit word for word…worryingly enough. In our defense, this was the era of Tarantino, rather than Hostel so there was a more tongue-in-cheek attitude to violence.

    #3: That’s absolutely brilliant. I am absolutely rubbish at telling vocalists apart even when it’s really obvious. Obviously even I can tell when it’s ODB on the mic…

    *I can say this since this is about ROCKISM!

  4. 5
    Mark M on 23 Jan 2015 #

    If that chart is right, that’s a lot of Rza rapping. Far more than I think you’d want, I think, considering that that’s taking time from Gza, Raekwon, Ghost, Meth, ODB…

    Anyway, so yes, 36 Chambers, which I, as previously discussed on Freaky Trigger, notoriously gave only three stars to in Select. It should have been four, definitely four. Not five. I still think it’s more a taster than anything else, and the true Wu goodness lies not in the group albums, but in the best of the ‘solo’ albums (and the first Gravediggaz one). ‘Solo’ because most of them include lots of Wu appearances – Ghostface’s debut, Ironman, says ‘featuring Raekwon and Capadonna’ on the cover. I’ve certainly listened to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Liquid Swords, Niggamortis, the two ODB albums,and a number of Ghostface albums more than I’ve listened to official Wu product.

    Like Tom, I love the introducing the Clan bit.

  5. 6
    Tommy Mack on 23 Jan 2015 #

    Yeah, that’s easily the best skit. ‘cookin’ up some marvelous shit to get yo mouf waterin”, ‘he on some now you see me, now you don’t shit’, ‘he a physcopathic thinker’ and ‘always on point’ have entered my friends’ and my lexicon of phrases probably forever.

    RZA and GZA are Clan bosses, right? With GZA leaning a bit more to the production side? So RZA probably got a free pass on whatever verses he wanted. I heard a story that GZA made the others battle each other to earn their cuts, ensuring a suitably tense, confrontational atmosphere in the studio.

  6. 7
    jeff w on 23 Jan 2015 #

    Project needs a ‘guest selection’ week, where we choose the album ;)

    Seriously tho, good luck with this. I know from my 365 Days project from… blimey nearly 10 years ago now… that maintaining a strict album listening schedule can be challenging.

  7. 8
    Mark M on 23 Jan 2015 #

    Re6: It’s the Rza who’s the producer – and on ETWT:36C he’s pretty much the sole producer. He was definitely the boss at that point. What’s interesting on the album credits is how in progress some of the branding stuff is – it says ‘Wu-Tang Clan is: Prince Rakeem “The Rza”, The Method Man, U-God, Rebel Ins, Shallah Raekwon, Ghost Face Killer, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, & The Genius “The Gza” ‘.

    (Prince Rakeem was the name Rza had used during his unsuccessful, very different pre-Wu solo career.)

  8. 9
    Andrew Farrell on 23 Jan 2015 #

    According to Wikipedia (which agrees with the above chart, but may be from the same source), a lot of the RZA listed there is intros and outros, which makes sense – he’s working as a hype-man, most of the work at the front of Clan At The Front is just listing everyone – including the endless list of hangers-on as well.

  9. 10
    Mark M on 23 Jan 2015 #

    Re9: Yeah, that would make sense.

  10. 11
    tm on 24 Jan 2015 #

    Re:5 I never got into the solo stuff back in the day. I was a really late Wu convert and soon after I got into 36 ch, my brother got The W which was decent but very uneven so I kind of assumed 36ch was a brilliant one off from a group that never quite realised their early potential and fragmented into multiple solo projects. Clearly I was mistaken, I bought Raekwon’s second solo album on vinyl about 10 years ago after someone recommended his solo stuff (a real slow burner, disc 2 much more arresting than disc 1) and recently got into Liquid Swords and …Cuban Linx as jogging music of choice which makes for a suitably moody run when It’s raining…

  11. 12
    Mark M on 24 Jan 2015 #

    Re11: The general rule of thumb seems to be that the debuts are the strongest of the solo albums, with the exceptions being Ghostface Killah’s Fishscale, from 2006, which is my favourite album of the 21st century so far, and apparently Cuban Linx II, which I’ve never heard but got reviews saying it’s every bit the equal of the original.

  12. 13
    Mark M on 24 Jan 2015 #

    Re4: When the Rza is actually rapping, you can normally hear it because he has quite pronounced rhotacism – not something I picked on up from his records but from his acting appearances (here with Gza and Bill Murray). Meth has the biggest voice, Ghost’s has the highest and, I think, most musical voice.

  13. 14
    Garry on 29 Jan 2015 #

    I have Music For Films. I bought it on vinyl at a second hand place in Port Macquarie in late 1998. However my history of record players – or more precisely speakers – is rather dismal: in one case I packed the player up for moving house but cut through the speaker cables when unpacking. I could never find compatible speakers again.

    So I have Music For Films but have not heard it in years. The only thing I can remember is being surprised Phil Collins is on it, well before I found out Collins did a fair few guess appearances on drums around the traps back in the days.

    Looking it up now I’d also forgotten, though am not surprised, by the presence of Fripp, but am pleasantly surprised by John Cale and Fred Firth. I must get the record player working again…

  14. 15
    Tom on 29 Jan 2015 #

    I’m just on my final playthrough of MFF now. Not quite as rewarding as Enter The Wu Tang – the main effect it’s had is a shift in my thinking of it as an album that works mostly on a unified level to one where I appreciate the architecture of each of the miniatures more. But the consequence of that is that its 40 minutes seems a lot LONGER at this end of the week.

  15. 16
    weej on 30 Jan 2015 #

    Surprised you hadn’t listened to the Sky Ferreira record before, it was one of my favourites of 2013. And very judicious cropping of nipples!

  16. 17
    Tom on 30 Jan 2015 #

    This project is basically stuff I’ve listened to, know I enjoy, but have never given the time I’d have liked – I’m not (yet, anyway) chancing it with a completely unheard LP.

    The nipple-free cover is also what shows up on my iPhone, so it matches my listening experience. :)

  17. 18
    swanstep on 30 Jan 2015 #

    @16, Weej. Sky F’s album has been one of my recent faves too although it didn’t appear on my radar until early 2014. In fact, ‘I Will’ was my #1 track last year, and I was briefly obsessed with the vids for the title tack and for ‘You’re Not The One’. She did the latter well on Letterman too, looking every inch the rock-star. I thought she’d break-through more than she has. But I also thought, wrongly, that Charli XCX’s ‘Break The Rules’ was going to be a monster and that War on Drugs were going to be big stars so maybe there just isn’t much interest in or pent up demand among tweens and teens for something even slightly more rock-ish (unless you’re Kanye).

  18. 19
    Tom on 1 Feb 2015 #

    “I Will” is a cracker, isn’t it? Very well placed on the album, too – storming along just as momentum was starting to ebb a bit on Side Two.

  19. 20
    Tom on 5 Feb 2015 #

    Well, that was excellent – I was just starting to get a little bored of it as a whole by the end of the week, so 7 days in a row turned out to be just enough. The only individual track I got sick of was “Kristine” though, with the first half of the LP and “I Will” staying basically gold. She’s terrific at hammering home a line – eg on “Nobody Asked Me” and “I Blame Myself” just to the point where you flinch but not to the point where it stops being a pop record. Great sound, too.

    Next, the token jazz record.

  20. 21
    Izzy on 6 Feb 2015 #

    I’ve never really managed to consider Sketches as jazz at all, to be honest. If it wasn’t by Miles I’d have it down as classical, or preambient or something else made-up instead.

  21. 22

    Well, three of the five cuts are basically classical in origin — composed by Rodrigo, de Falla and Villa-Lobos. The “made-up” genre at the time was known as “third stream”: Gunther Schuller’s term for music combined elements of jazz and classical composition.

  22. 23
    Ed on 6 Feb 2015 #

    For that reason, SOS has always struck me as a bit of an odd record to have as your one token jazz album, although I know it is that for a lot of people.

    Coming to Miles Davis for the first time as a pop and rock fan, I found In A Silent Way (ambient) and On The Corner (drum and bass, sort of) much more accessible.

  23. 24
    Jack Feerick on 10 Feb 2015 #

    When we speak of Sketches as a token jazz album in the collection, I think it’s important to note that it acquired that reputation in the early rock era, before the Beatles made rock’n’roll art, when sophisto-pop ruled the day and groups with guitars were widely considered to be on the way out.

    And in that context, it makes sense—its arrangements (and Gil Evans, I would argue, is the real star of the album, moreso than Miles) bridge the gap between “serious” orchestral music and the heavily-orchestrated pop of the ’50s and early ’60s, e.g. Patsy Cline with an 80-piece string section, or Sinatra’s big bands.

    In that context, Miles (and by extension cool jazz in general) was approachable. The tempos were relaxed; the solos weren’t too aggressive or “out.” And the conceptual hook makes it hang together as an album, which was still something of a novelty in 1960.

  24. 25
    Mark M on 10 Feb 2015 #

    Re21/22/23/24: I guess it’s a question of whether you want your token jazz album to be representative in some way of jazz as a concept, or, on the contrary, to count as jazz but lack the qualities that might be considered off-putting about jazz (eg, noodleiness).

  25. 26
    Ed on 10 Feb 2015 #

    @25 Are there no jazz albums that are representative of the genre but lack its off-putting qualities?

    (Rhetorical question, really. I would say 60s Miles Davis, among others, fits that bill.)

  26. 27
    swanstep on 10 Feb 2015 #

    @Ed, 26. In my experience, early-mid Coltrane is the gold standard. Blue Train and Giant Steps, in particular, are so seductive that no one can resist them. Moreover as soon as you have them in your collection you quickly appreciate why jazz had to start flail around a bit after that. That hard bop sound perfected is so attractive to our ears that it takes a conscious effort to listen to anything else, and for players including Coltrane himself who didn’t want to be trapped in the orbit of that beautiful sound concerted efforts to strike out in new directions would be necessary. BT and GS (and surrounding records) are so *representative* and so *un-offputting* – so *ideal*- that they’re almost dangerous.

  27. 28
    wichitalineman on 10 Feb 2015 #

    I’m intrigued as to why the ‘token jazz’ record is always from the modern jazz era. I understand that the long playing album didn’t come into being until the swing era was virtually over, but it strikes me as weird that people ignore the music’s first 20-odd years and go straight to Miles Davis or John Coltrane.

    I get a lot of enjoyment from Benny Goodman Trio/Quartet radio broadcasts (which are available on LPs) – they have melody, incredible musicianship, improvisation and solos, everything I associate with jazz.

    Seriously, why doesn’t this era – or several eras, really – seem to count?

  28. 29
    Mark M on 10 Feb 2015 #

    Re28: It’s a good question. I’m guessing album-ness is a significant part of the answer. For what it’s worth, from a position of relative ignorance, I massively prefer song-based pre-war and just post-war jazz – Fats Waller, Fletcher Henderson, Slim Gaillard…

  29. 30
    Tom on 10 Feb 2015 #

    (I should say that “token jazz record” is me being disingenuous – most of the jazz I’ve actually listened to a lot has been – while no less canonical/obvious than Sketches of Spain – from a little bit later (In A Silent Way, On The Corner, A Love Supreme) or quite a lot earlier (Duke Ellington). Jazz is obviously ideal for this sort of listening project – a lot of great, 40-45 minute albums that definitely give you something new listened to on a daily basis.)

  30. 31

    Format wars were for a long time a proxy for taste wars in the discussion of jazz: as late as the 1980s, you still encountered significant numbers of jazz enthusiasts and scholars who basically argued that the 78 was the blessed form, and that the jazz that wasn’t explicitly made for (and on) the 78 was a fallen version. But this wing of the fandom hasn’t really had a look in, in the era of “what one record should I get?”, because this question is asked by people who assume that an LP (or the associated CD) is going to be in the answer. Basically the reps for styles prior to “modern jazz” had (by their own choices and passions) no platform in the kinds of forum where the question was being discussed in these terms: they might get room in Downbeat or Jazz Journal, but not in the sunday supps or — since it didn’t even yet exist — Q.

    Albums in the sense of “curated collections of songs on an LP” were (in the 50s, the decade of this ideas emergence) very much aimed at a listenership unfamiliar with most jazz — an audience being opened up to a music — and the musicians best able to adapt to this tended to be the younger players just then making their names: Davis and Coltrane; Mingus and Ornette Coleman; Stan Kenton and Dave Brubeck. Established figures — like Goodman — of course made albums too, though not necessarily yet of the kinds of material Wichita mentions, which only began being put together en masse in the late 60s and early 70s (often quite cheaply and shoddily, with poor provenance info and even less scrupulous as regards copyright and such than the US leisure industry).

    Occasionally collections of music they’d made that everyone agreed on — Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Sevens the most obvious example — did suit LP-sized length, but of course established figures didn’t want to be being always stuck behind the “classic status” of the music they’d made when younger: they wanted ppl to pay attention (and respect) to their NEW releases (sometimes quite justifiably). I think this aspect applies even to Ellington, who was fashioning LP-suited work from quite early on (work that was too long not to get broken up on 78s, for example).

    So I think the young turks of the 50s were just in a super-strong position to get their work motored to the top of such lists from quite early on; and as we all know, once it’s there, it’s hard to remove. Stan Kenton has lost his place in the pantheon; Brubeck — who like Goodman made a thing of playing to college kids — has not, though (as a result) he’s never quite had the artistic cachet other far less successful players have.

    Add to this, the fact that a lot of musicians felt and — and some jazz critics continue to argue — that jazz on record is very much a lesser thing than jazz live in the moment: which means that the LP is, in a key aesthetic sense, unrepresentative of the music at its best; the more album-oriented it is, the more this is felt to be true. So again, I think this version of canon-formation happened (by default) among people more interested in making such lists (and establshing such sales) than its equivalent in pop or rock. Where the same kinds of arguments of course existed — rock vs pop! lps vs singles — but the quarrel always being more central to the main discussion, and more part of the point of the music?

    (Back in the day, an album was a collection of 78s, possibly in a fancy box of some sort. So these did exist, for some kinds of music. You’d have to ask a collector or a scholar how well earlier modes of jazz were covered: I don’t know the answer, though I do know that “Birth of the Cool” first came out as 78s.)

  31. 32
    wichitalineman on 10 Feb 2015 #

    Thanks Mark. I had no idea about the jazz format wars, but it really makes a lot of sense. And just the older generation dying off seems to have sealed the fate of, say, Stan Kenton who I know was a huge influence on John Barry but I know absolutely nothing about.

    I can relate it pretty easily to my own personal tastes – I’m becoming increasingly aware of how very old (and therefore, from a professional viewpoint, irrelevant) a lot of 50s and even mid 60s pop is beginning to sound. It’s influence doesn’t reach to anywhere near the present day.

    It’s also good to be reminded that Duke Ellington embraced the album from the beginning. I only discovered his Nutcracker Suite last Christmas – this is extraordinary:

    Tom, I’d guessed you didn’t really mean token jazz record! But the phrase and the notion exist. It never seems to be questioned in the way that rockist best of/Top 10 lists are hummed and hawed over – but it’s always the same names: a few Miles Davis, Headhunters, Love Supreme, yadda yadda. And the smart arse extensions to that short shortlist are always Moondog and Sun Ra, as if ‘Jazz’ had a back catalogue of a similar depth to Washington Go-Go.

  32. 33
    enitharmon on 10 Feb 2015 #

    Ed @ 26: I suppose it depends on which qualities you find off-putting. There’s jazz and there’s other jazz that sounds completely different.

  33. 34
    Mark M on 10 Feb 2015 #

    Re27: I’m going to assume you’re being rhetorical. The one absolute in all forms of art (indeed all taste-related matters) is there is nothing in the ‘no one can resist’ category. But I know you know that.

  34. 35
    Ed on 11 Feb 2015 #

    @31 That’s fascinating.

    Re this: “a lot of musicians felt and — and some jazz critics continue to argue — that jazz on record is very much a lesser thing than jazz live in the moment: which means that the LP is, in a key aesthetic sense, unrepresentative of the music at its best;”

    Maybe that’s why rock and pop fans like me feel comfortable with In A Silent Way and those other Davis / Macero albums, which are the antithesis of “live in the moment” recordings.

  35. 36
    swanstep on 11 Feb 2015 #

    @34, Mark M.. Yes, I was being rhetorical… but I’ve never known anyone, once exposed, to not love Blue Train through to about 1963 Village Vanguard sessions (w/ Dolphy) though. I dunno, those records occupy a region of musical space where freedom from and constraint by melodies and beats are perfectly balanced somehow…it feels like a new peak classical music, and in my view a lot of the best stuff that came before feels in retrospect to be leading up to it.

    Wichita, 28’s question about why do people with little jazz in their collections tend to go for Coltrane/Monk/Davis etc. and not Ellington/Goodman/Armstrong/Whiteman etc.? is partially answered I think by considering that that earlier jazz is to a significant extent just the popular dance music of its era. Post-rock-n-roll, however, Jazz kind of specializes in cool, non-dance music. People wanting to jazz up their record collection have already got a ton of various sorts of dance music in their collection and aren’t that interested in ’20s-40s attempts to do dance music without much bass (witness the anachronistic soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby recently) whereas they specifically gravitate to the disambiguated jazz cool of the late ’50s. Wynton Marsalis used to bang the drum for Armstrong et al., bemoaning that Jazz had lost touch with its dance music/popular music roots, but that message has almost no appeal for the masses I believe. Rather the same insurgent forces that drove Jazz musicians away from dance/pop music back in the ’50s still apply today, and the jazz that’s of broadest interest tries to do something else, and Coltrane et al. were the first, most stable cab off the rank in the competition for what else small ensemble music could do.

  36. 37
    Ed on 11 Feb 2015 #

    That said, I’m not prepared to concede entirely to the argument that my utterly predictable and orthodox “token jazz” tastes – basically Wichita’s list @32 – are all culturally / technologically / economically determined.

    It’s also relevant that A Love Supreme and In A Silent Way are works of transcendent genius.

    @33: “Off-putting” was Mark M’s word @25, used to describe “noodlieness”. I couldn’t tell you exactly what that is, but I think I know it when I hear it.

  37. 38

    actually after a lifetime of paying pretty close attention to jazz, i still remain basically unmoved by coltrane, early *or* late: and ditto hard bop, which is probably the period i’m least taken by, even including the marsalis retro-wave

    “earlier jazz is to a significant extent just the popular dance music of its era” <-- think you ruin this argt by dropping in the word "just"; it's true that the relentless trebly peppiness of the 20s jazz backline especially can be a bit hard going for more modern ears (and that this is a product of a music having to cut through the limitations of the medium), but it's seriously nuts to claim that armstrong, bechet, pee-wee russell, ellington (i could go on) were all "just" making dance music and to reiterate, the emergent jazz audience in the 50s/60s was *at war* with the scholars and fans of earlier jazz (and basically won the war, bcz the technologies they were getting behind had better general heft): the loss of a good historical sense of what had gone before -- which i don't to be fair think the musicians lost -- is as much the explanation of why this era is so over-represented in the tastemaker armoury i too prefer miles once he encounters teo: for me, in a silent way >>>>>>>> a love supreme, but actually i like him best in the deep black rock phase (agharta, pangaea, dark magus)

    don’t get me started on KIND OF EFFING BLUE

  38. 39

    adding: it’s true that a tranche of snobbery of much this stripe did begin to emerge re cool* jazz — it’s what got dave brubeck onto the cover of time magazine, and what so pissed off the free jazzers (and leroi jones) — but insofaras it was an element in the “such token alb, much limited selection” phenom, it was driven by ppl who knew nearly nothing about jazz prior to the mid-40s (goodman partially excepted), and considered themselves a lot more racially/culturally sophisticated than they actually likely were <-- not to say there weren't interesting consequences, but i still basically think that 50s jazz (excluding ornette, mingus, cecil, and some of the titans of earlier times) was hunkering down into limitations and resignation, and backing off from the voracious overreach of earlier periods #notallcool obv

  39. 40
    Izzy on 11 Feb 2015 #

    Is it maybe related to the rock & roll lifestyle of Bird, Mingus, Miles et al? They always seemed to me to have got there first, before the beat groups, and thus established an easy framework to be acclaimed in? It’s not just about the music after all.

    Admittedly I don’t know anything about the early cats, no doubt they were mainlining absinthe with flappers on each arm, basslessly.

  40. 41

    Retroactively, I think lifestories that are entertaining to read did indeed help get some names into people’s minds — a lot of rockwriting is NOT about the details of the music (this is often considered more feature than bug) so the more exotic shores of behaviour aren’t unhelpful, for hooking jazzers into the rockwrite-sanctioned canon. But this doesn’t explain Coltrane, really (I mean, yes, ex-junkie but not his story is little but dedication to music, inc.the music of others).

    Also doesn’t explain why Bird’s salience doesn’t extend to getting his records into the “token” list (this lack I’d argue is almost entirely technologically determined; except the bit that’s determined by his dying young, too soon be get to try out concept ideas the way Mingus or Miles shortly would).

  41. 42
    Mark M on 11 Feb 2015 #

    Re40: No shortage of incident in the Jelly Roll Morton story, for just one example.

    (Sprang straight to mind because of the mention of him in the recent Billy Bragg-fronted Radio 4 doc about Alan Lomax, which – up to the point I heard it – had completely ignored all of the controversy about Lomax’s work. Anyone else listen to it?)

  42. 43
    swanstep on 12 Feb 2015 #

    @38, Sukrat. I cheerily retract my ‘just’. I wasn’t meaning to put down those early jazz-swing guys at all by saying they were principally the popular/dance music of their period , only offering a partial explanation of why (together with technological barriers) it might not answer as much of a need for (not especially historically-minded) people today as the later ‘cool’ stuff does. Example: I’m a big fan of Doris Day records from the ’40s but have never been able to get anyone else, not even my siblings interested in them: they just strike them as more pop of which they’ve already got plenty that’s more spaciously recorded, etc.. By way of contrast, those same folks have eaten up anything from the same period that’s evidently en route to the hard bop promised land, e.g., http://youtu.be/2v_Y3Pbiims (that said, Gene Krupa and Louis Jordan have also gone down a treat with them).

  43. 44

    i think we’re more or less in agreement then, apologies for coming in a bit hard :)

  44. 45
    Tommy Mack on 12 Feb 2015 #

    Sukrat, what’s yr beef with Kind Of Blue? I know it’s the ‘I own one jazz album’ album* but I’ve never heard anyone express dislike with it in and of itself. I thought the concensus was ‘this is Miles hitting a peak so pure even the squares can dig it’ rather than ‘this is Miles watered down to score a hit with the squares’. Curious to hear yr thoughts.

    *I own about six jazz albums, one of which is inevitably Kind of Blue, so am about five times as cool as squares, which is still not very cool.

  45. 46

    the short version is i suppose this: that it is a sly, niggling, jittery record of odd subtle hard-to-pin-down not-very-nice emotions and evocations, which depends for its expressive intent on the listener having a pretty solid familiarity with the music of its day and what went before, for its devices and effects to come across properly (most famously the introduction of the modal approach to harmony, the details and purpose of which i’ve watched seriously learned and articulate musicians struggle to explain coherently or usefully)

    and yet it has somehow become the stand-alone representative of the form it is on the whole sardonically setting itself against: something about the way it’s been made — its constituent parts, its presentation — exactly and completely masks this subtly hostile aspect of it, to the extent that it’s instead become a kind of nice-to-hear-in-the-background chill-out classic, which in my opinion suggests a flaw in its conception or execution: that it can’t (or anyway doesn’t) draw the newbie into its darker heart

    i don’t think it’s bland or diluted, exactly the opposite — but there’s something about it that allows it to be excerpted from its somewhat snidey role in a larger conversation, and set up on a plinth that puts the rest of this conversation into shadow if not oblivion… which annoys me! miles was never not an argumentative man: he disliked a lot of the work his peers were making, but this almost always meant he came round to his own version of this work by another route

    if my musicological chops were less rusty i’d write this up in more detail — tho if/when i attempt this will probably then merge itself into my long-awaited ever-expanding epic dissection of rattle and hum (the “angel of harlem” volume) –:D

  46. 47

    my eru2itorum if you will X(

  47. 48
    Tommy Mack on 12 Feb 2015 #

    “depends for its expressive intent on the listener having a pretty solid familiarity with the music of its day and what went before” – interesting, my brother, major jazz freak who drums in a swing band (and quoth, only half-joking ‘bebop was the death of jazz’) reckoned the only way to properly enjoy jazz was to work your way through chronologically ‘if you just put on Bitches Brew it’ll make no sense’. Mind you, his own entry point to Jazz was Jamiroquai so not entirely in keeping with chronology!

    I definitely identify with the notion of wanting jazz to do something different to pop (where pop = not jazz or classical) but not exclusively, I enjoy loads of the pre-war stuff mentioned and more but as others have said, put off by the lack of approachable portion size (40 minute LP vs multi-disc cheapo comp box set). With jazz, as with classical music, I prefer to listen to a single album on a loop for the best part of a day and ideally subsequent days, feeling like I’m picking up different things each time. (this while doing other things, I can’t remember the last time I had minutes let alone hours to JUST listen to music)

    I feel about Jazz like I feel about comics: whenever I’m listening /reading to it/them, I think I should do way more of this but generally I imagine a huge and daunting body of work I’ll never wrap my head around. This is clearly ridiculous, I mean it’s true but no more so than pop music or literature are unconquerable. I’m aware canonism has convinced me pop and lit come in easier meal-sized portions.

  48. 49

    i should add that my general view is not your brother’s! i don’t think you need to do lots of homework before jumping into jazz at any point other than the start: but i also think there are good and bad records to jump in at, and kind of blue is — for me, for the reasons given, not a good one (not least because it seems to end up being the first AND ONLY for so many ppl, which is i think telling)

    i tried to put together a quick list of records that would be better places to start in roughly this era — obviously this cleaves to my own tastes (no coltrane) but i don’t think any of these are these days controversial or quirky or contrarian; all of them are strong and striking just in themselves, obviously you get more out of them if you do know more (this is true of everything) but you don’t need a run up

    sonny rollins: saxophone colossus (prestige, 1957) [1]
    ornette coleman: the shape of jazz to come (atlantic, 1959) [2]
    charles mingus: mingus ah um (columbia, 1959) [3]
    oliver nelson: the blues and the abstract truth (impulse!, 1961) [4]
    roland kirk: we free kings (mercury, 1961) [5]
    lee konitz: motion (verve, 1961) [6]
    eric dolphy: out to lunch (blue note, 1964) [7]

    1: rollins is actually the player i’m most circumspect abt saying you can come to cold and get something out of, bcz (a) i came really late to him, and (b) actually maybe prefer “way out west” myself, which is a complex and playful argument abt quarrels in jazz in the late 50s (and authenticity! which it teases!) — rollins has enormous knowledge of the history of jazz (and other musics) so he always is talking about them, but i don’t think you have to bring this with you yourself, i think you can begin learning it from him! (others may disagree…) (miles by contrast is a really tricky place to start learning abt the rest of jazz, he has OPINIONS and a MANIPULATIVE AGENDA —> not that these are bad, quite the reverse, but caveat the newbie listener)
    2: originally i went with ornette on tenor here, the first ornette i owned myself, but it is more of an oddity i suppose — i am very fond of it though; ornette’s desired title for “the shape of jazz to come” was “focus on sanity”, haha x0x0 never change dude (he is probably my favourite player of all, forever)
    3: kind of a history lesson in itself: mingus when not irascible sprawling (he’s great when irascible and sprawling also, but keeps it very tight here — and establishes the links to black music that isn’t jazz very effectively); great title, great cover
    4: nelson probably the least widely known in my list; bcz he afterwards went to LA and mainly composed for the telly — as per the title, yet another stab at the question of how to combine composition, arrangement and the improvised encounter of individuals only just now in a group (a very 50s question, which many returned to), but again, entirely stands on its own; gripping, not least because the modern remaster means the sounds just leaps out and grabs you (i hadn’t listened for ages, just went to find it on spotify)
    5: not yet “rahsaan roland kirk” (he found his extra name in a dream), kirk was blind, a multi-instrumentalist showman, with a dramatising fascination for sound — like mingus (who he played with) he has a fascination with and knowledge of black music history, so you’re learning upfront from him and the homework can come afterwards :) he’s also wildly and weirdly funny
    6: i saw konitz play at one of derek bailey’s company weeks, genuinely one the strangest and startling performances i’ve ever seen (he was way out of his apparent comfort zone — a white cerebral scion of the cool school in hardcore improv terrain — except he seemed not only comfy but composedly making more of the adventure than anyone else there); this is not *that* but in a curious way not entirely dissimilar, a deeply reserved man finding a space to make endless reflective plangent shapes
    7: this is of course the record everyone should have if they only have one :D

    if i were to pick a miles i think it wd be “live at the plugged nickel” — “in a silent way” is lovely but no longer really “jazz” in the sense wichita and others are puzzling at (contentious i guess, but it’s miles’s own position also)

    quite pleased that i got seven difft labels there — this wasn’t done on purpose!

  49. 50

    ^^^this also skirts the shores of the NEW THING (aka free jazz) without plunging in: like miles post “in a silent way”, free jazz is i think a different issue — it was actually my starting point (i think this is quite often true of ppl arriving from rockier territories), and declares itself more ab novo than it probably actually is (which i didn’t then realise)

  50. 51
    punctum on 13 Feb 2015 #

    My starting point also, aged about five, when life is a big cartoon and so Ornette etc. were yet more crazy but lovable primary-coloured blocks-o’-fun. Before you fall into the trap of “learning” about anything.*

    *”what do you mean, five, you poseur?” My father loved, bought and played the stuff (and Stockhausen, Xenakis &c. on parallel plane) and I listened.**

    **but then you get to where I am now and have worked your way back to The Beginning Of Jazz with the starkly delightful revelation: oh, they were doing this kind of stuff from the off!

  51. 52
    Lena on 13 Feb 2015 #

    An American quartet called Mostly Other People Do The Killing (they are good and funny, yes humor does belong in jazz) have done a note-for-note cover of Kind Of Blue, which I am more & more intrigued by (like my mom I like things like Miles Smiles and Miles Ahead). A big co-sign from me on Sonny Rollins, as he once said that jazz is the umbrella that all other musics stand under, and his music proves it. Way Out West is great, but then so is The Bridge…

  52. 53
    Tommy Mack on 13 Feb 2015 #

    Thanks for the tips Sukrat, I’ve heard bits of most of those guys but never at length. I’ll be sure to have a deece listen.

    My dad too had a load of jazz and avant stuff though he rarely played it, having settled, by the 80s, into a dadrock diet of Joe Cooker, Eric Clapton and Dire Straits. He definitely played me On The Corner and In A Silent Way, possibly Bitches Brew and Live Evil too. I remember being intrigued but clearly not enough to return to them much. He was a big John McGlaughlan fan and definitely played me a couple of Mahavishnu Orchestra albums which I tried to get into, being similarly awestruck by McGlaughlan’s guitar playing but I found their sound harsh and ugly and their music impenetrable at the time. He also played me John Cage Cage, possibly Stockhausen, definitely Steve Reich who I found most interesting (It’s Gonna Rain sticks in my head – this must have been much later once I had re-embraced dance music as I remember hearing parallels with phase stuff DJs were doing). For the most part I plumped for the more rock/pop stuff in the parental record collection (Beefheart, Modern Lovers, Chuck Berry, Who, Zep, Atomic Rooster from my Dad, Nilsson and Nat King Cole from my mum, Beatles from both)

    What I did haven’t mentioned is that in our late teens, my brother and I used to go to live jazz all the time. It was mainly dancing to jazz-funk at Dancehouse Cafe Bar but the odd sit-down modern jazz gig too. We were stoned most nights. While I don’t want to sound like a tedious weed enthusiast (haven’t smoked it for years) for a bit it definitely helped me absorb myself in rich and complicated music.

  53. 54
    Ward Fowler on 13 Feb 2015 #

    Yes! to Way Out West over Saxophone Colossus. Yes! to Blues and the Abstract Truth – EVERYBODY likes that when they hear it. Hmmm to Out to Lunch, because in my experience ppl who are new to jazz find it quite difficult to get to grips with – in some ways those semi-free Blue Note albs of the early-to-mid 60s are more daunting – abstract, elusive – than the fire-breathing stuff like Spiritual Unity. Yes! to Motion: just as the Nelson smuggles in Bill Evans (so Kind of Blue is present anyway!) Motion smuggles in Coltrane via Elvin Jones (tho’ yeah Konitz and Coltrane are a million miles apart as players and people).

    My number eight wld be Speak No Evil by Wayne Shorter – because it’s quite ‘witchy’ modal jazz played by a stupendous group, and it has one of the great Blue Note front sleeves. ‘Where Flamingos Fly’ on Gil Evans’ Out of the Cool also has some of this semi-exotic/post-Martin Denny spookiness – ‘cool’ as heroin-y numbness and emptiness (see also the Chet album w/ Bill Evans again.) And Gil always said it best about Ornette – “I like him. He swings, and he’s got a good feeling for melody.”

  54. 55
    Tom on 13 Feb 2015 #

    The record’s changed over but the conversation can (of course) stick to jazz if you want! I have learned more from this excellent discussion than from Sketches itself, though I enjoyed it very much. It was at its most evocative in the car park outside Croydon IKEA waiting for a kids’ birthday party to finish at the nearby. bowling alley. Obviously what Miles and Gil Evans had in mind.

    Back to my university days this week.

  55. 56
    lonepilgrim on 13 Feb 2015 #

    I’ve also glad to have a(nother) recommended route into jazz. I’ve never listened to Kind of Blue – it’s another of those monoliths like Pet Sounds that I tend to avoid. Knowing that it is open to other interpretations makes it more appealing. I think I got drawn into jazz through Prog: Mahavishnu Orchestra > Miles Davis. His name was also dropped from time to time in the NME (and later in The Face). Weather Report got played a bit on Nicky Horne’s show on Capital Radio and there was some crossover via Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell. There’s something about Wayne Shorter’s playing that really appeals to me. I went to see Art Blakey in the early 80s because he was playing near and near the end of the decade I saw Abdullah Ibrahim and Ekaya. Both shows were marvellous. More recently I worked at a (state) boys school which supports a big Jazz band and it was an astonishing privilege to listen to them as they rehearsed – the volume! the rich complexity of tones! I appreciate that I’m wandering into ‘jumpers for goalposts’ territory here – but it is music that stimulates me whenever I get to hear it so I’m glad to have another set of routes to explore

  56. 57
    swanstep on 13 Feb 2015 #

    ‘Exile in Guyville’ at the time had some hype about it, started by Phair herself, as a song-by-song (same number of tracks) reply to the Stones’ ‘Exile on Mainstreet’. Has anyone found that an illuminating way to listen to the album? (I haven’t – maybe if I liked the Stones’ record more? I’ve never been able to get over its basically feeling like a shambles and a significant drop-off from the Stones’s previous 3 records.)

    Anyhow, EIG plays great taken by itself with ‘Strange Loop’ especially one of the great taut album-closers and a perennial fave. The implicit joke from its title; it’s so good you’ll be driven either to play it again or to start the album from the top. Phair herself must feel like she’s stuck in a strange loop because appreciation of her has never really got beyond EIG – nothing else has come close to escaping its shadow, and when she tried to go Avril-pop, all the poptimists in the world couldn’t stop Pitchfork et al. burning her in effigy.

  57. 58
    Tommy Mack on 13 Feb 2015 #

    Just to confuse the lineage further, I listened to the Sky Ferreira record today: enjoyed it, I had no preconceptions and was surprised by how punky she is (so clearly I did have some preconceptions!) I don’t know if I’ll come back to it much but like the super-compressed electropunk Spector sound. Deece as Jason Sleaford Mods would say.

  58. 59
    Tom on 13 Feb 2015 #

    I am not sure I’ve ever listened to Exile On Main Street as a whole – I took it a track or two at a time, it seemed so sprawling. I love “Rocks Off” as much as anything in the Stones’ catalogue – the rest? I dunno. I might try a side-by-side at some point this week!

    The self-titled LP may not be Liz Phair’s finest hour but the response to it sure as hell wasn’t Pitchfork’s (this was before I started working for them, FWIW). “Why Can’t I?” is, after “Fuck And Run”, the song of hers I have played most: conceptually and actually a fine pop record, exploring whether Avril-style teenpop could work as sung by and about an adult. A question worth asking by someone: because it was her, she got crucified. I never heard the whole thing, though.

    I haven’t heard Exile in full for a long time and never knew it well, so this week is something of a gamble: I never sit through sixty-minute indie rock records these days, and I’m interested to know if it’s a muscle that’s entirely atrophied or not…

  59. 60
    Mark M on 14 Feb 2015 #

    My favourite Phair album is Whitechocolatespaceegg, which I guess could be seen as the semi ‘sell-out’ album – the one before the self-titled one. It’s got bigger drums and bigger, airer production. Not things I’d necessarily consider myself as liking, but I think it works for Phair. So I listened to that, and Exile In Guyville, and the two state-named/cow-sex referencing songs from Juvenilia, all this morning, and concluded:

    – Although it’s meant to be the defining album, I’m not convinced that EIG is her standout work
    – To my ears, EIG doesn’t sound that lo-fi. It’s hardly Half Japanese or something (but then again, when you take the whole spectrum into account, I guess it might be closer to Half Japanese than Steely Dan)
    – I think her voice is the key – it’s distinctive and expressive
    – I kind of feel that Jenny Lewis nicked her patch (I know that there should be room for lots of people doing similar things, but it often feels like in the general discussion there really isn’t)
    – It’s been a long time since I listened to Liz Phair, and I’m really glad that Tom prompted me to, because I’ve enjoyed it. So thanks.

  60. 61
    Mark M on 14 Feb 2015 #

    Re57/59: Like Tom, I don’t know Exile On Main Street well enough to plot the links, if they really are there. Obviously, Divorce Song gets quite Stonesy at the end, but a deeper conversation about the records? I’m none the wiser. (There are good songs on Exile On Main Street, but overall, I used to find it quite a wearing listen. I much, much prefer Beggars Banquet).

    Liz Phair is apparently in the documentary about Exile On Main Street (Stones In Exile), which I’ve seen, but I can’t remember her in. In fact, possibly the only thing I do remember is the revelation that one of the little kids who can be seen in the pics/footage of the Exile recording, and who rolled joints for the band etc even though he was only eight, turns out to be Jake Weber, who grew up to be the actor best known for playing the long-suffering husband in Medium. I really like that fact, for some reason.

  61. 62

    maybe not soon if it’s too close to liz p’s exile, but i think EoMS shd actually go onto this list at some point — i have a lot more time for it than MM it seems (as “pure” music, if that makes sense given its sleazepit contents)

  62. 63
    Ed on 16 Feb 2015 #

    Exile on Main Street seems to be a touchstone for some US indie rockers: an inescapable ancestor that you have to either revere or reject. Like Sons and Lovers for Northern novelists.

    I wonder if Phair was in part inspired by Pussy Galore’s cover / reinvention of EoMS a few years earlier.

    Earnest piece on the PG version in The Quietus: http://thequietus.com/articles/04402-death-of-the-rock-gods-the-rolling-stones-pussy-galore-and-exile-on-main-street

    Excitable piece on XTRMNTR: http://www.xtrmntr.com/pg/exile/

  63. 64
    Matthew K on 19 Feb 2015 #

    This thread from I Love Music, which alternates the lyrics from each of EoMS’s and EiG’s tracks, makes it apparent that the two albums are a dialogue. At least, that’s how it strikes me.

  64. 65

    i’ve hoisted the jazz discussion up into its own post, so it can carry on w/o derailing tom’s project here

  65. 66
    Tom on 20 Feb 2015 #

    Conclusions from the Exile in Guyville week:

    – It’s a tremendous record, and probably the one where the repeated listens have done it most good, as different parts clicked with me and as I started listening past the lo-fi vibe of it (which led and leads a lot of people into hearing it as ‘confessional’ or w/ever, completely contrary to what LP says about it) to hear the craft and decision-making in it.
    – Though credit where it’s due, I was primed on this reading by Isabel Cole’s marvellous OWOB on her: http://oneweekoneband.tumblr.com/tagged/liz_phair/chrono – Cole, while loving the record, plays down Guyville quite a lot in her overview FWIW.
    – The sound and feel of it is really poignant – SO tied to a time and place and way of making music – so things like the slight tempo change on Gunshy, the long instrumental intro to Shatter, the entire sound of Explain It To Me are all memory catnip for me even though I barely remember the album from when I heard and quite liked it at the time.

  66. 67
    Tom on 20 Feb 2015 #

    Also the final play was a Main Street / Guyville alternating playlist which I found VERY interesting and rewarding, the two records flow together very well, and I think there are links on a bunch of levels: sometimes in terms of mood, sometimes as a counterpoint to the Stones’ mood, sometimes critical (“Canary” sounds even more sad and angry after “Sweet Black Angel”, and the “Let It Loose”/”Flower” juxtaposition is hilarious), sometimes musical – it makes you hear Guyville as a rock’n’roll record and also backs Main Street into the corner of being a personal one.

    There’s a great quote in that OWOB about how seriously Phair took the “response record” theme (VERY SERIOUSLY). And I truly think it works. BUT this is so much in my sweet spot as a listener and critic – the rock record as OULIPO style intertextual game – and I know how easy it is to invent and hallucinate patterns once you’re looking for them. So don’t trust me on any of the specifics! But I loved it. Definitely when I do the EIMS week I’ll end it with a reverse of the experiment, try and take Main Street as an anachronistic reply to Guyville, and see how that works (it’ll make it sound REALLY GROSS, I’m predicting…)

  67. 68
    Tom on 20 Feb 2015 #

    FKA Twigs this week – taking a little bit of a chance since I don’t really know how much I like it. But that’s the point of the exercise I guess!

  68. 69
    Tommy Mack on 20 Feb 2015 #

    I too am on the fence about Flat Twigs. Maybe I’ll try to give it another spin this week.

  69. 70
    Mark M on 20 Feb 2015 #

    Re67: Yes & yes, in that so it turns out she did really mean it, but also that – in the manner of a conspiracy theorist/Adam Curtis/stoner – it would surely be possible to make those connections anyway.
    That’s a terrific OWOB – thanks for steering us to it.

  70. 71
    Tommy Mack on 20 Feb 2015 #

    FKA not Flat Twigs! New Android spellchecker a bit overkeen I must say.

  71. 72
    Ed on 21 Feb 2015 #

    I absolutely love LP1: my favourite album of last year.

    It’s as retro as The Strokes: an exquisitely crafted piece of 90s nostalgia that takes as its reference points Martina Topley-Bird, Aaliyah, Bjork’s Homogenic and Red Shoes-era Kate Bush.

    The concept – exposing the anomie and melancholy at the heart of hedonism and glamour – is not entirely original, either.

    But what FKA Twigs does with it is both challenging and ravishingly beautiful. The bridge in Two Weeks stops my heart like nothing else I have heard for a very long time. And the way she sings “motherf***er” is both hilarious and intensely moving.

    Her persona – an anonymous objectified dancer who has found her voice – may or may not be an accurate reflection of her biography; I don’t care. The idea of presenting a perspective on contemporary pop that has previously gone unheard is brilliant.

    Spending a week with it is an excellent idea.

    @67 Ha! I also did that: interleaving EoMS and EiG in a Spotify playlist. It’s now my most favourite thing to listen to.

  72. 73
    Tom on 24 Feb 2015 #

    This is proving an interesting one – of course all listening is context dependent, but the effect of that on my basic enjoyment of the album is really strong with Twigs.

    It’s not a conscious effort, but each of these records is getting played in roughly the same range of contexts, because obviously I have routines (by choice or otherwise) and there’s only so many points into those routines that listening to a whole album fit. So every record is getting played while in the office, while working from home, while out doing something (shopping, often), at night before going to sleep, commuting etc. Very different opportunities for concentration/passive absorption and so on.

    Anyway, with Twigs on Saturday I put it on while I was tidying up and I was thinking FFS I’m not even going to get through this week, what’s the protocol for not enjoying a record at all. And then I listened the next day when unable to sleep at 11 or 12 at night and was really beguiled. Which on the one hand, bleedin’ obvious that this record is going to be a better late night than washing up soundtrack, but the sudden swing between aversion and enjoyment really surprised me.

  73. 74
    Tommy Mack on 24 Feb 2015 #

    First time I heard her I hated it, thought it was both ethereal to the point of barely being there and also try-hard aren’t-I-kooky? But it did grow on me as I listened more. Still not sure how much I like it but there’s *something* there that makes me think I’ll listen again some time. I know that sounds like faint praise but it’s a big step up from my initial reaction!

  74. 75
    wichitalineman on 25 Feb 2015 #

    Haven’t yet got past my initial reaction of professional kook (I still struggle to listen to Joanna Newsom for the same reason) so I’m intrigued to see how this pans out.

    The FKA pisses me off. A pre-emptive TAFKAP move? It’s very “take me seriously”, which is probably my biggest pop turn-off.

  75. 76
    Ed on 25 Feb 2015 #

    The FKA is forced, not voluntary, according to Pitchfork: http://pitchfork.com/news/58366-fka-twigs-stuck-in-legal-battle-over-name/

    She’s like the London Suede, the English Beat, and The New Originals.

    I agree she’s demanding to be taken seriously, particularly in her videos.

    But I’m the opposite: seriousness is the quality I like best in pop. And for me it’s a big part of her appeal.

    @73 LP1 also probably not suitable for: Driving, the big room in a club, a cardio workout, children’s parties.

  76. 77
    Ed on 25 Feb 2015 #

    Sorry: should have cited Billboard, which is the original source on the legal battle over FKA Twigs’ name.


  77. 78
    wichitalineman on 25 Feb 2015 #

    Re 76: She was already FKA in 2013 when I first heard her (on Dummy’s best of the year list), which makes that story rather odd.

    I love “seriousness” in music, don’t get me wrong. I don’t like “take me seriously” which is a different thing, somewhere close to “we are weird” (another big turn off).

  78. 79
    Tom on 25 Feb 2015 #

    I think – with two plays to go – that this is going to level out as a good record that I don’t adore. It could do with trimming, especially in the middle section. And “Two Weeks” is a problem for it – it’s too good and engaged, promising a momentum the rest of the album isn’t really even trying to deliver on, which does the moodier pieces just after it a disservice. I’m not sure it really gets back on track until after “Numbers”. I’m going to try it on shuffle today, to see if mixing up the sequencing brings some of those middle songs more into the spotlight.

  79. 80
    Tom on 25 Feb 2015 #

    Ah, the plot thickens – it turns out I’ve been listening to the Japanese version of LP1, which has the whole of EP1 bolted on the end. On the one hand, this solves my length problem at a stroke. On the other, the EP1 tracks were my favourites on the record bar “Two Weeks”.

  80. 81
    Ed on 25 Feb 2015 #

    @78 OK, I see your point about seriousness.

    I still think that when “take me seriously” = “I deserve your attention and respect”, I am more likely to be favourably disposed towards it.

    Agree 100% on “we are weird”, though, which seems to me to have exactly the opposite meaning: “Don’t take us seriously”.

    Like so many other things, that was a syndrome brilliantly skewered by Peep Show.

  81. 82
    Tommy Mack on 25 Feb 2015 #

    Thing I hate about ‘we are weird’ is that it often translates as ‘this is our study of what has drawn critical acclaim for weirdness in the past. It’s gonna BLOW YOUR TINY MINDS!’ Genuine weirdness in pop = good thing.

  82. 83
    Tom on 27 Feb 2015 #

    I don’t think there’s a lot of “we are weird”-ness going on with FKA Twigs – everything is very artful and deliberate, precisely placed for particular effects, she’s using a couple of different registers to do it but once you get used to the high one nothing is especially ‘kooky’ or w/ever. I think it’s ultimately a good record – very strong on constructing tracks, on atmosphere, on putting emotion across, but just weak on hooks. Her next one could be astonishing. Or it could be more of the same, I guess. Glad I chose it, after a rocky start.

    This week it’s The College Dropout, by a Mr K. West. I’ll edit the post later.

  83. 84
    Ed on 27 Feb 2015 #

    A bit disappointed I was the only one here who really loves this, although I am sure FKA Twigs will get over it.

    Interesting to see her becoming tabloid semi-famous because of her boyfriend, which is a very different context for her than the one she has constructed herself.

    Having agreed that “we are weird” is a bad thing, I now worry I don’t really know what it is. The prime offenders seem to be from the 90s: the Super Furry Animals, the Flaming Lips, the Lo-Fidelity Allstars, the Klaxons. Also They Might Be Giants, perhaps worst of all.

    But there is a lot of “I am weird” self-presentation in artists I love: Bowie, Kate Bush, Bjork. FKA Twigs feels closer to them than to any contrived wackiness. Was Captain Beefheart saying “I am weird”? Sun Ra? I think so.

    Looking forward to The College Dropout. Another great choice.

  84. 85
    Tommy Mack on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Captain Beefheart said ‘I may be hungry but I sure ain’t weird’ so that’s that one settled!

    I’d say ‘weird’, like any other aesthetic only works if you feel there’s something of interest going on in there. Just Weird is as dull as Just Angry or Just Smooth. Obviously, who you feel delivers on their promises is at least partly a matter of personal taste.

  85. 86
    Tom on 1 Mar 2015 #

    This is a LONG album. A brilliant album, but a LONG one. I’ve already fallen one listen behind – more thanks to family illness than anything else.

    Looking at the man’s career as a whole, is there any other record by anyone that more genuinely deserves the description “the early, funny stuff”?

  86. 87
    Ed on 2 Mar 2015 #

    For real. I can’t remember ever having been as disappointed by an artist as I was by Kanye West.

    I have reconnected with him a bit in the past few years: I like parts of Watch The Throne and My Beautiful Dark…, and Yeezus is good knockabout fun. But The College Dropout promised unlimited potential, and I can’t see his subsequent career as anything other than a letdown. He could do anything: serious and goofy, rational and sentimental, seductive and aggressive, populist and arty, sacred and profane. And if his subject matter was already principally himself, he knew how to make his stories engaging. TCD is long, yes, but there isn’t a single song I’d be happy to lose from it. And at its heights, it’s spectacular. I used to listen to it walking round London, and a moment when I stepped out into blazing sunlight on a bridge over the Thames just as J. Ivy was reaching the culmination of his verse on Never Let Me Down is one of the most memorable musical experiences of my life.

    It is, of course, ridiculous to expect anyone to sustain that level of quality album after album, and I guess we should be grateful that West remains consistently interesting even now, especially given the tabloid circus that his life has become. There’s still a chance that he has more great work left to come. But The College Dropout has a sense of freshness and excitement, of a lifetime of pent-up ideas finally getting the chance to escape, that can never be recaptured.

    It reminds me of Joseph Heller’s great line (possibly apocryphal), when someone asked him why he had never again been able to write anything as good as Catch 22. “It’s true, I haven’t,” he is supposed to have said. “But then, nor has anyone else.”

  87. 88
    Tom on 2 Mar 2015 #

    In terms of length, it’s not so much that there are weak tracks, but three or four could have been held over for later records – this is very much not the Kanye way, of course, you get what you get all at once.

    I am very fond of 808s, half of Yeezus, scraps of MBDTF – I think it helped that I didn’t pay attention until Graduation, though, so I didn’t get any sense of disappointment.

  88. 89
    Mark M on 3 Mar 2015 #

    I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a Kanye album the whole way through, even though I like a bunch of his singles. But after three days or so of this, I’m enjoying it a lot.

  89. 90
    enitharmon on 3 Mar 2015 #

    @89 I have Mark, just three days ago on the evening Manchester to Barrow train. It was being played by a bunch of Manchester United fans who amongst other things joined in while standing on the seats waving their arms. I didn’t enjoy it much but then it had been a long day and I was very tired.

  90. 91
    Tom on 3 Mar 2015 #

    My sympathies Rosie! I can’t think of many albums, by him or anyone, that would be improved by those circumstances. Though actually, hearing a carriage of fans sing along to every word of 808s And Heartbreak after a defeat might be quite interesting.

  91. 92
    thefatgit on 3 Mar 2015 #

    I like the idea of Kanye better than I like Kanye, therefore I had maybe a couple of singles on my iPod (Through The Wire and Jesus Walks) off TCD. I was initially impressed with his attitude and perseverance, and as the years have passed, I’ve been equally fascinated and repulsed by what he has done. I’m going to say this once, while my head’s above the parapet, but there are times when Kanye wipes the floor with Jay Z, artistically. Although I’ve probably heard TCD only once (and probably not all the way through), I remember it as a fantastic debut. I have no idea why I didn’t push through and make the purchase. I really should make the effort to buy a copy or at least stream it.

  92. 93
    swanstep on 4 Mar 2015 #

    @Tom. I can recommend Kanye’s second album, Late Registration (the one with ‘Gold Digger’ on it). It’s 70 minutes long and has a lot of guff on it really, but the ten or so best tracks are fantastic. Sweetly produced by Jon Brion (who was riding high at the time with production for Aimee Mann and Beck and for himself for Eternal Sunshine) it was many an indie-kid’s entry-point for Kanye, including mine. Since then, Kanye hasn’t really disappointed me – there’s always a lot of nutty guff with him but the good stuff kills. Anyhow, I’ve never gone back to listen to The College Dropout so this week’s listening project is on point for me.

  93. 94
    Ed on 4 Mar 2015 #

    Fantastic clip of West rehearsing his verse in Never Let Me Down, watched by Pharrell Williams, offers some support for the argument that Kanye > Jay-Z:

  94. 95
    Tom on 4 Mar 2015 #

    #93 I know Late Registration better than TCD – I went back and listened to both but it was when I was doing Pitchfork and Guardian stuff so I had a lot of enforced focus on new music (not a bad thing really!) – anyway “Gone” is pretty much my favourite Kanye West track of all.

    This is almost certainly going to be the first of these listening projects to overrun its week, though – hopefully I can catch up at least one listen and end on Friday.

  95. 96
    Tom on 4 Mar 2015 #

    Re Kanye v Jay-Z, it seems to me that Kanye’s strengths as a rapper are often in areas Jay-Z doesn’t really bother with: Kanye likes punchlines more, he is interested in boasting but not really in feuding, he likes to explore his vulnerability and fucked-upness, which Jay-Z really doesn’t care about on record. To generalise very very broadly, Kanye raps about himself, Jay raps about his work, and he is more interesting about becoming the biggest rapper in the world than about being it. After The Blueprint, his stuff gets a lot stiffer, or drier, or anyhow less engaging. At his best, he’s incredible, though, the way his flow around the rhythm is so loose and conversational and then hardens up in an instant.

  96. 97
    Tom on 6 Mar 2015 #

    I think this is going to be the first album where I admit defeat – 5 listens in 7 days and I’m keen to move on. Weird, because it’s obviously a really good record – “Breathe In Breathe Out” is the only thing that feels subpar. I think it might be because Kanye is such a strong personality it’s exhausting spending such regular time with him? I dunno, though.

  97. 98
    Ed on 7 Mar 2015 #

    Chuck Eddy has a great line in ‘Stairway to Hell’ about Led Zeppelin IV, something on the lines of – I don’t have either of my two copies in front of me right now – “This album is a golden calf. It will allow you no other gods.”

    I think that’s the effect Kanye was going for with TCD. And probably every record since, now I think about it.

  98. 99
    Ed on 7 Mar 2015 #

    Got it now: “The fundamentalists are right. This music, by any biblical standard, should be illegal. It is a golden calf… Zoso is a jealous god, it will accept no competition, it demands that you devote your life to it”

    Sounds exactly like Kanye…

  99. 100
    Tommy Mack on 7 Mar 2015 #

    Or as Chris Rock put it ‘oh, he good but man, he know he good!’

    I know jack squat about Kanye other than that he seamlessly morphed from critical darling to tabloid antagonist. I should really put him on my running playlist (I would listen to way more rap but I can’t combine listening with anything even remotely work related and my wife has little time for rap so I never play it in the house)

  100. 101
    Tom on 10 Mar 2015 #

    And we’re back, with The Boredoms’ Vision Creation Newsun.

  101. 102
    lonepilgrim on 10 Mar 2015 #

    now you’re just making things up ;-p

  102. 103
    Ed on 11 Mar 2015 #

    So I wondered what Julian Cope thought of this one, and he made me really want to listen to it:


  103. 104
    Tom on 11 Mar 2015 #

    Haha yes I would imagine the Arch-Drude would approve.

    It’s a very smooth listen, this, the 68 minutes fly by.

  104. 105
    Phil on 11 Mar 2015 #

    A bit late on this one…

    “with Twigs on Saturday I put it on while I was tidying up and I was thinking FFS I’m not even going to get through this week, what’s the protocol for not enjoying a record at all”

    There are two albums which, on first listen, made me react so strongly that I was halfway out of my seat to take it off before I stopped to think (and leave it on). One was the Goldberg Variations (on harpsichord; quite an austere reading, straight through with no repeats & no tempo changes). The other was cLOUDDEAD’s first album. Needless to say(?) both are now among my favourite pieces of music.

    Re the Boredoms, I have to say – in the immortal words of Sudden Sway – “Sounds good. But what does it *sound* like?”

  105. 106
    Tommy Mack on 11 Mar 2015 #

    Phil @ 105, music I hated so much you had to turn it off: Nirvana Teen Spirit actually frightened me when I was a kid, the anguish in Kurt Cobain’s voice and the queasy churn of his FX pedals. MC5’s Kick Out The Jams, I bought cos I love(d) RATM’s cover of the title song. I thought the MC5 album was the worst dreck I’d ever heard and took it straight back to Selectadisc where I swapped it for The Stooges’ Fun House.

    Needless to say both Nirvana and The MC5 are now firm favourites of mine. More tellingly, it’s arguably what I hated most initially that I now enjoy in them.

  106. 107
    Ed on 13 Mar 2015 #

    This one was new to me, and I am very pleased to have been introduced to it.

    I started out with it ticking off the reference points: Can, Remain In Light, Supernaut, electric Miles Davis, Hendrix’s 1983…, The Private Psychedelic Reel, Oval. And although I love all of those things, I worried that the Boredoms were aiming the album a little too precisely at my particular cultural and demographic niche.

    But then I heard the one with the Air / Daft Punk vocoder in it – I still haven’t got the hang of the titles, sorry – and my resistance crumbled.

    I now think it’s best approached like Avatar. If you don’t think too hard about what its effects are and how it creates them, it’s possible to have a rollicking good time.

  107. 108
    Garry on 15 Mar 2015 #

    #105 – I know what you mean about cLOUDEAD’s first album. Took some getting used to and almost gave up on first listen. But I’d heard one of the few full-membered Anticon tracks which I had loved, so gave cLOUDEAD another go and love it. Played it a lot on the radio.

    I saw Yoshimi live once with her OOIOO group. I don’t know if it was her young daughter or that of another member, but she was all of two or three and on her dad’s shoulders while wearing the largest industrial headphones which could fit her head.

    As for Boredoms, I’ll give anything they’ve done at least one listen.

  108. 109
    Mark M on 15 Mar 2015 #

    So, in the spirit of listening to something completely different, I gave Vision Creation Newsun a go. And lasted into the sixth track, which is far, far longer than I expected. I think Mr Sinker mentioned elsewhere that he had The Boredoms mentally filed as all-out noise – I did too. I guess that was their first incarnation and, not being part of the conversation about them, I never had any cause to update that. In any case, not within a galaxy of being my bag, and definitely not compatible with writing an essay (which is what I was trying to do), but definitely neither dull nor unlistenable.

  109. 110
    Tommy Mack on 14 Jul 2015 #

    Thought I’d missed my chance to chip in here but as this seems to have stalled I don’t feel too bad at screwing up the continuity.

    So…I properly love the Sky Ferreira album: 24 hours, what a song! Brilliantly sequenced too, the last three songs are really beautiful, it feels like the album’s moved through the evening and, like it says, into the night time. I’m not mad keen on the hyper compressed and distorted production but there’s plenty going on musically so it doesn’t get wearing.

    Kanye: he’s a hard guy to take, I’ve had mates like him: a volatile cocktail of arrogance and insecurity. At first, my reaction was ‘get over yourself’ but actually the guy’s got plenty to say, like a man arguing with himself, wrestling with contradictory ideas. Loads of smart production ideas and some, ahem, sick flows too. Musically He seems less in your face than Jay Z but as a personality obviously more extrovert and needy. The long rambling tale at the end of how he signed to Rockafella is strangely absorbing too. The only things that really grate are the casual misogyny (isn’t he meant to be the smart guy who’s better than that?) and the bizarre chip on the shoulder anti-intellectualism of the skits (a real missed opportunity: there are loads of valid criticisms you could make of modern students: careerist, hard-line, superficial etc but ‘idiots wasting their time with their head in a book, gonna end up broke cos they’re not out working’ is a bizarre, ignorant stance to take. ‘dad was so hungry for degrees, he stole my degree! ‘ made me laugh though.)

    Listened to Late Registration and Yeezus too. Both got some great stuff: highlights possibly better than TCD but both quite uneven albums. LR in particular relies a lot on some VERY expensive samples.

    Still haven’t got round to listening to Liz Phair: I decided to get to grips with The Stones’ Exile first and then go back to back or track for track or both. I’m enjoying Exile, all the more as it’s everything that used to annoy me about 70s Stones in excelsis.

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