Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Art of Evolution: Radiohead Continues to Lead the Way

Now that I am so far behind on my recording of the recordings, I realize I don't have to faithfully record them in the order I hear them. I am free to cherry pick whatever recording seems to work the best for the events of the world. For example, on Friday Radiohead released their new album, The King of Limbs, their first release since 2007's critically acclaimed In Rainbows. In fact, as they always seem to do, the band released this one with a twist-- the album was released a day early due to the fact that it was "a full moon." I won't get too into the new album except to say it's worth a listen if you have liked anything Radiohead has done since OK Computer, which is apropos considering that it's one of the 1000 Recordings.

Artist: Radiohead
Album: OK Computer
Recording #80ish

Back in 1997 I was only a few years removed from my discovery that the music I bought didn't have to come from what was being played on the radio. Experimentation was at an all-time high in my musical taste, yet somehow I missed this the first time around. Perhaps that's the reason my favorite Radiohead album is still Kid A (I understand that it is a very dangerous thing to list a favorite Radiohead album. People are as defensive about this opinion as they are about their favorite sports team or their religion. I will not defend my choice except to say that I can understand why you like better and I'm glad that works for you).

I won't get too far into reviewing this album because there are people with PhD's in Radiohead's music and a few seconds on Google will produce more than enough opinions (my friend John87 actually wrote a term paper on the discography of Radiohead about seven years ago, plus check out the Amazon stats). What I would like to say about this album is that it was the first of Radiohead's albums to really foretell their reign as rock's unlikely king. "Paranoid Android" seems as schizophrenic and dense today as it was at its release, and yet it is supremely listenable. The song takes about five unexpected right angle turns and yet the final destination still seems so obvious... once you get there. "Karma Police" was the radio favorite at the time of release, and I still don't understand how I didn't buy the album after hearing it, as "I lost myself" in it every time it came on the air. The rest of the album is full of strong tracks that take you to another world, full of darkness and beauty.

OK Computer led to Kid A, which was the real game-changer in alt-rock and it opened the door for electronic rock that actually, well, rocked. At the same time, OK's not a period piece: it truly is a great listen from start to finish. Whether it's the devastating "Exit Music (for a Film)" or the jarring riffage of "Electioneering," every note evokes distopia while sounding like paradise. And if that sounds like hyperbole, then you just haven't listened to enough Radiohead yet to appreciate it. I know after listening to the newest album I'm ready to return to the catalog and witness the evolution of music happen again.

Buy it at Amazon where you will find 2076 user reviews, 1799 of them 5-stars.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

...And We're Back

So it's been awhile since my last post. With grad school and baby duties and work I realized I just wasn't able to keep up. In fact, my obsessive desire to write about my project was slowing down the project itself. I couldn't listen to and write a post every single day, which is about how fast I was listening to the recordings. So the baby is getting bigger and (moderately) easier to take care of, grad school is out the window, and I have settled into a routine at work. The last part of the equation is that I just applied for and got a spot writing for the music blog Cover Me. I realize that if I'm spending time listening to and thinking about these recordings, I might as well keep writing about it. The problem is 156 recordings have gone by at this point since my last post. So for that reason, I'm going to make this more of a highlight reel than a play-by-play, talking about the recordings I find the most interesting. With that in mind, I will move on to the next most interesting recording:

Artist: John Coltrane
Album: Blue Train
Recording #262

I heard this recording back in August of last year. My son was only a couple of months old and my parents had just come out to visit. I remember putting this on at work and not finishing it, but when I got home I realized that it actually made great dinner music. I had heard of Coltrane, but really didn't know anything about the kind of jazz he did and I was pleasantly surprised by this album. Having recently slogging through avant garde noise entries, I found myself melting into the soothing, pulsating backbeat and stellar solos. This isn't exactly smooth jazz, but at the same time the dissonance of most of the modern jazz in this book is, thankfully, missing. I still enjoyed the next recording on the list, Coltrane's more challenging "A Love Supreme," but this just happened to be the perfect sound for a home cooked meal on a lazy summer night. If you need something sweet, but not saccharine, pick this one up.

Recordings I skipped:
#257: Joe Cocker- Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Overall impression was this sounded like a fun concert, similar to Van Morrison, had never heard him before, but I have a few songs now
#258: Codona- Codona 3: Genre hopping jazz. Free jazz to African/World. Final track is nice
#259: Leonard Cohen- Songs of Leonard Cohen: Another artist I knew a little about, but not much. Reminded me of Lou Reed and Simon & Garfunkel. Not real impressed overall
#260: Nat King Cole and His Trio- The Complete After Midnight Sessions: Very relaxed jazz, wonderful dinner/after dinner music
#261: Ornette Coleman- The Shape of Jazz to Come: Experimental, but listenable. Steady rhythm, lots of good, fast sax