• Favourite Albums of the 00's -- hashing out a list

    5. Dez. 2009, 23:16

    I'd like to whittle this down to 10 and do a proper write-up. Before that, though, I suppose I need to brainstorm. What albums from the last 10 years have been proper brilliant and have had lots of staying power? which are my favourites?

    Hmm. In no particular order, my brainstorming list:

    Witching Hour
    The break-through. The tinny retro-electro sound of their debut got a bit edgier and more fully-fleshed out on Light and Magic, the foollow-up, but it was Witching Hour that blew the door off its hinges. It opens with High Rise, billowing around you like hot plasma, and then you're plunged into Destroy Everything You Touch, the stomper that won't stop, a furious blizzard of a song with more hooks than a meat locker. Your guides through these brute elemental forces are a lady from Liverpool who sings sweet, like an angel, and a stern-sounding woman from Bulgaria who speaks like a voice over a PA in an Orwellian dystopian scenario.

    At War With Walls and Mazes
    Lyrical minimalism. I don't care. This is a treat for the ears. So many layers of noises and sounds. Such a wonderful blend of electronic elements and actual instruments like piano and woodwinds and, uh, porn-y funk base. A real 'headphones album.'

    Marry Me
    So deceptive. This could have been twee and self-important, but instead it's subversive and surprising. Smart and not afraid to show it without ever actually crossing the line to showing off, Annie Clarke is a guitar prodigy, a formiddable lyricist, and a disarming singer.

    It's Blitz
    Yeah it doesn't represent what the YYY's have meant to this decade, but screw it, it's my list and this is the YYY album I like most. The singles make you think it's a party record, but it's more like a party EP with some really sad downtempo electro-rock ballads you can listen to as you walk home at 4 am, suffering that melancholy feeling one often has when walking home alone from a party at 4 am.

    Two Suns
    Simply put: if Kate Bush was born in 1985, this is what she'd be doing now. I'm not saying she's a knock-off. She's in the same genre/vein, but Bat for Lashes is in some ways completely different from Mme. Bush.


    Scarlet's Walk
    Speaking of folks unfairly accused of immitating the one, the only, this is maybe the only truly good album Tori Amos has done this decade (as opposed to the full five good ones she did in the 90's). I'm not saying other releases from her haven't had some brilliant songs, but they've had a balance (or more than a balance) of unnecessary or even downright bad material. Scarlet's Walk, though? A classic singer-songwriter's album in the tradition of Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, a warm 70's Americana sound, a cohesive piece of work with some of Tori's best lyrical work (which went south sharp, and quick, after this).

    Aerial
    And we arrive at the lady herself (by accident I promise). 12 years off the radar and Kate comes back with a really nice album. That's the best word for it. Nice. It isn't revolutionary and it isn't trying to prove anything, it just . . . is. In a very pleasing way. Listening to this album is like having a sunny Sunday in September where you don't have anything in particular to do, so you sit in the window with a cup of tea and then go for a walk around the neighbourhood.

    White Chalk
    I tried to keep this list to one entry per artist, and really, it was quite difficult to settle between 'Stories from the City' and this (Uh Huh Her is, uh, not quite so good). They're so different. The former is polished, accomplished, accessible, mature. This one is gothic, affected, avant, niche. But I just like White Chalk more, I think. It's all thin and haunted.

    Medulla
    See PJ above: likewise, Vespertine was a strong runner-up (and, again, Volta kind of trails in the distance). but I just love the experimental quality of Medulla. And you know what? Hidden under the all-vocal production and the handful of totally out-there tracks, some of the strongest and catchiest pop tunes of Bjork's career are on here.

    Origin of Symmetry
    Muse is good fun. I kind of think of them as dumb-prog. Most stuff with proggy influences is a little insufferable in its pedantry. Muse is so bombastic and full of such wonderful technical proficiency and their songs are often very structurally complex, but, you know, you never get the sense that some jack-ass is stroking his beard and looking serious. No, everyone is waiting for New Born to kick in so we can all jump around like maniacs.

    Mirrored
    Did I say pedantic prog? Battles kind of goes the other way, in that this is unabashed math rockery, but it's like, the gateway drug. The fragments of melody in here are damned infectious, and the rhythm section is just an unstoppable moving wall of awesome. When I first heard Atlas, the lead single, I said I didn't understand what i was hearing but the bottom half of my body definitely liked it (or something along those lines, but wittier and more insightful). Now that my brain has had a few years to catch up, I can say with conviction: my entire goddamn body loves this.

    Illinois
    Is there any surprise? From simple songs with just a strummy guitar and his sad sensitive Christian-but-not-in-a-bad-way indie boy vocals, to songs with about 137 different instruments all tootling and farting and humming and whatever, this is long, convulted, and entirely, entirely heartfelt.

    Woman King
    You know part of the reason this is on here is I have never really got around to getting any other full releases from iron and wine, just songs here and there. But I like this EP. I like that it introduces some electric elements. I like that the lyrics are just so damned good. Usually good lyrics aren't enough to sell me on something, but these, plus that whispy but oh-so-tuneful voice, I am sold.

    Neon Bible
    Once I got over my contrarian 'oh everyone loves these guys, boo' knee-jerk, I realized that there was some awesome stuff going on with the Arcade Fire. Most people would probably put Funeral, and fair enough, that one's awesome too -- but this one is bigger, more ambitious, more grandiose, more foolish. I like those things.

    Wind in the Wires
    This is the only commercially released album I have ever encountered that sounds like my wandering years, that feels like my wandering years. I listen to Teignmouth and all of a sudden I am back on the train pulling north out of Waterford, and no one for a thousand miles in any direction knows me or cares who I am, and I'm totally lonely and totally free and totally alive, in a way that's painful and beautiful. I'm grateful that there's an album that can bring me back to that place.


    Felt Mountain
    I like Goldfrapp better when they're being kind of spooky and ambient and 'i'm awake at 3 am and driving down a country road and i can't quite describe the way i feel but i definitely feel a certain way.' I like sexy electro-pop but seriously, Goldfrapp, this is your strength.

    Silent Shout
    Thudding, shuddering electronic soundscapes that are totally unafraid of cheesy 90's videogame elements, combined with lyrics from a dream, sung in voices from a nightmare. We Share Our Mothers Health is like a duet between a pair of petulant demi-gods, a sister and brother, twins perhaps, who are powerful and incomprehensible and simple. Uncomprehending and incomprehensible.

    Fever Ray
    Cheating! This is the lady from The Knife's solo album. What do you like about The Knife? Is it their creepy, ambient moments? This is mostly like that, except with the atmosphere dial turned to 11. It is a well-named project because honestly there is something to this which is akin to a fever dream. I do not know where the ray comes into the equation, though.

    Poses
    Rufus Wainwright got less interesting as the decade went on. I was pretty much ready to turn in my fan card around Want II. But Poses, man. Poses is a great album. Such wonderful lyrics, such lithe melodies, such rich arrangements. He's got the goods and, for at least one album, he made them work together in such a way that the end result is engaging, compelling, and memorable. Oh and if you dislike his voice, though, there's essentially no selling you on this.

    Begin to Hope
    A lot of Regina fans lament her turn to slicker production and pop elements, but I am pleased. I find her earlier recordings are mostly pretty dry (why no vocal reverb, Regina? Why?) and more like a quirky talented friend playing piano in the next room, not knowing you're in the kitchen listening. That's endearing, I suppose, but this, this is a proper album. Oh, except the version of Samson on here is way too fast.

    Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
    Probably the songwriter I'm most excited for in the next few years, because the tunes on her solo debut that are most impressive are the ones written most recently (possible exception: runs in the family). Her powerful, unapologetic voice is pretty much all that remains of the 'punk' element of the original 'punk-cabaret' designation of her old band, The Dresden Dolls, but really, when your lyrics are this smart and this visceral, you want them delivered in a voice that sounds like you really fucking mean every single syllable. Oh, and Ben Folds did a bang-up job on the production. I die of joy a little bit every time the synth bass arpeggiates in 'Guitar Hero,' which is a strong contender for 'song of the decade' in my books.

    Day One


    Scissor Sisters
    Places Like This
    Extraordinary Machine
    Cross
    Frustration Plantation



    There's some artists I like, such as Joanna Newsom, who I only know piece-meal i.e. I have never acquired a full album. I feel like Ys should be on here anyway, just because.
  • Sarah Slean's The Baronness: A brief review

    11. Mär. 2008, 17:27

    So, Sarah Slean's new album, The Baroness, is out.

    It feels like Night Bugs and Day One never happened. I expected her to build on those, further explore her fiercely idiosyncratic style.

    Instead, this feels like the follow-up to Blue Parade, an album which I appreciate but cannot say I love. I thought she'd found her voice with her last two albums, but I don't hear that same distinctiveness here.

    From the unreleased songs I heard live during the Day One era, especially such as My Song, from the dark title and artwork, I expected something so less . . . dull and conventional. I never expected something so disappointingly Sarah Mclaughlin-y.

    Where's the drama? Where's the bravado? Where are the anthems, the calls to arms? Rage, my darlings, rage . . . . right, Sarah, you sang it with all your heart and I believed it, but where's the raging here?

    For some reason I'm inclined to blame the producer. This album is terribly, blandly, safely produced.

    Sarah honey, please run back to Hawksley Workman. Make some wonderful songs together. Bring back the cabaret, bring back the whimsy. Be quirky and brave and dramatic again. We need more people like that, and fewer safe little girls singing safe little songs.

    Bah.
  • Top 10 Albums of 2007

    8. Jan. 2008, 16:32

    1. Mirrored - Battles
    2. White Chalk- PJ Harvey
    3. In Rainbows - Radiohead
    4. American Doll Posse - Tori Amos
    5. Myths of the Near Future - Klaxons
    6. Is Is EP - The Yeah yeah yeahs
    7. Oh, My Darling - Basia Bulat
    8. Oh Perilous World - Rasputina
    9. Songs From 5ideways - Peter Gresser
    10. Volta - Bjork


    I complain about Volta sometimes, but the 5 best songs on it are amazing (especially Wanderlust and Earth Intruders). The Rasputina album is a little disappointing in the context of previous efforts but it is still quite interesting and worthwhile. I like the narrative aspect linking the songs. Klaxons, Tori Amos, Radiohead, PJ Harvey, and Battles really blew me away this year. American Doll Posse is too long and bloated, but honestly I'd only cut three tracks; the rest are really ace, and 20 great tracks is god-damned amazing. I love its stylistic eclecticism, but most of all I love that it's a fun album, an album full of energy and verve. PJ Harvey's record sounds like a Victorian ghost story and Klaxons sounds like a series of dance parties, riots, and chill outs, and you know I love all of those things.

    There are some releases from this year that I haven't heard yet that I will probably love. I'm always late to the party. I discovered The Knife, Sufjan Stevens, Patrick Wolf, etc. all a year or more after their respective breakthroughs. I almost put Patrick Wolf's new one on this list but I haven't connected with it yet (I may in future). Similarly, my friend Kaya Fraser released an EP, Tremor and Slip, in December, but I haven't had a chance to hear it in full yet. When I do maybe I'll retroactively add it.

    I am exceedingly pleased to give Battles my #1 spot. Cyborgian mathrock that's weird and wonderful and wild --- of course I love it!
  • Tori Amos' American Doll Posse - Extensive Review

    3. Mai. 2007, 23:31

    EDIT: So, unexpectedly, I've found this review copied and pasted onto this celeb-watch cultural-commentary blog, without even so much of a "I copied this from lastFM," let alone a link, or my name, let alone a "hey do you mind if I use this." NOT cool. /EDIT

    Over-all, American Doll Posse, the new Tori Amos album, is very good. Certainly, it's miles better than The Beekeeper, but beyond that I'm having trouble ranking it among her other albums. As a whole it seems so different from them, yet individual tracks are so clearly like previous releases (i.e. Code Red = From the Choirgirl Hotel, Smokey Joe = To Venus and Back, Father's Son = Scarlet's Walk, etc).

    I don't know. It's puzzling. I think American Doll Posse's 'concept' of 5 characters or personae is mostly silly, but it does reflect the reality that this album does NOT have any sort of over-arching 'feel' to it. All of her previous albums do have that. Scarlet's Walk is characterized, in my mind, by warm 70's style singer-songwriter AM rock, for example.

    But what is American Doll Posse? A tossed salad made up of her favourite classic rock albums, her songwriting heroes and inspirations, and her own back catalogue?

    For a few years now, some fans have been saying "ditch the massive concepts! just release a collection of good songs!" Maybe that's what American Doll Posse is, except she even had to conceptualize the fact she was basically releasing a diverse group of (mostly) good songs. Tori Amos has never been able to let the music and songs speak for themselves, it seems.

    Who knows. I find it hard to speak about the album as a whole, is my point.

    Anyway, the point is, the album itself is, well, really rather good. I'll break the songs down and say a little bit about each one.

    AWESOME (9-10 out of 10)

    - Code Red. This has some of her deepest, spookiest vocals ever recorded. It's a dense, swirling soundscape haunted by bass piano, a la her late 90's material. Instant classic, one of the best tracks she's released this decade. 10.

    - Smokey Joe. This is the creepiest song Tori Amos has released since . . . maybe since ever. The song chugs along, with multiple vocal tracks, menacing swirling electronics, minor key piano, and some good ol' fashioned crypitc dark lyrics. The electric guitars are mercifully atmospheric; they ruin a few moments on this album, but not here. This song MUST be heard on headphones. 10.

    - Girl Disappearing. I love the string quartet. This song makes me think of Marianne, Leonard Cohen, and some of The Beatles' saddest songs. 9.6.

    - Bouncing off Clouds. This is a driving, catchy pop song that owes a lot to the late 80's --- nuanced, multivalent, complex, both immediately appealing and rewarding over the long term. I say this as a huge Kate Bush fan --- it's the best pop song Kate Bush never wrote. 9.4.

    - Body and Soul. This is the most convincing "sexy" song Tori Amos has ever released. Hammering midtempo rhythm, fuzzy bass, nice deep bass piano, crashy chorus. 9.2

    - Dragon. This great song has a few little flaws --- I think the electric guitar at the end is ill-advised --- but for the most part, it's one of those really good Tori Amos songs that's hard to categorize. It's not a ballad per se, it's certainly not a rocker . . . it's just a really good, interesting song, with a nice, deep, somewhat menacing piano motif and sparse, interesting accompaniment from other instruments. 9.


    Very Good or Great (7.5 - 8.9 out of 10)

    - Beauty of Speed. This is a wonderful song. I initially thought it was ruined by horrible production and overly-busy arrangement, but a close listen on a good pair of headphones partially changed my mind. 8.8

    - Father's Son. This is easy to miss at first, but it has a meditative power and deserves attention. Very Scarlet's Walk. 8.6.

    - Big Wheel This is her best single since A Sorta Fairytale. Very Lynyrd Skynard stompy southern piano bar rock. Stompy. Oh, and the MILF bridge is ironic. 8.5

    - Teenage Hustling. This is a great early-Queen style rocker. Energy to spare. Gets a bit repetitive and goes on a bit too long, though. 8.2.

    - Digital Ghost. A good ballad with some great lyrics, but it sounds a bit too fey at the start, and a bit too guitar-driven once it gets going. It may grow on me. 8

    - Dark Side of the Sun. I've yet to absorb it. I know I like it, but I don't know how much I like it. I like the power in her voice during the "how many young men" bit. 7.9

    - Velvet Revolution Gasp! she remembers what rubato is! This song is almost too short, almost too inconsequential, almost too much of a pastiche, to rate, but I like it. 7.7


    Special "Great Song Hidden Under Inappropriate Arrangement and Production" Award

    - Almost Rosey. For serious. Some of her best lyrics in years, a great melody and piano bit, but produced as if it were a late 80's powerballad. Overbearing guitar, out of place drums that artificially up the tempo . . . the solo live performances show us a heartbreaking glimpse at what might-have-been for this song. Oh, those lyrics and melody are just so good!. 7.2 --- but it coulda been 9 or higher, if the stars had aligned differently.


    Good, Fun --- more Fun than Good? (6-7.5 out of 10)

    - Secret Spell. Unjustly reviled. A Fleetwood Mac style swirling jangly guitar pop-rock song with a great melody and some good lyrics. I imagine a lot of people who may not like Tori Amos might like this. 7.5

    - You Can Bring Your Dog. A Led Zeppelin style rocker. The "ooh ooh ooh" hook is killer, the swagger is great, but something about it just doesn't gel right for me. Maybe it goes on too long? 7.2

    - Programmable Soda. Another Beatles-esque song --- almost too short and cute to rank, but the orchestral arrangement is serious fun times. 6.8

    - Mr. Bad Man. Ridiculously like an uptempo mid-career Beatles song, like Penny Lane. A fun, bouncy old-timey pop song. Hating it is like hating an affectionate puppy, but it's nothing wildly impressive either. 6.6

    - Posse Bonus. For what it is --- a cute improv to demarcate the 'proper' album from the bonus tracks --- it is way better than it needs to be. The bassline is grooving, the melody is so catchy, and it even has a few good lines ("their ideas are fried in fat"). Should be a throwaway and in a sense it is, but it's actually good, in its way. 6.5

    - Roosterspur Bridge. Despite being the album's The Beekeeper backwash, I actually like it better than 1/2 of the songs that are actually on The Beekeeper. Cheesy, but not without appeal. 6


    I could take it or leave it

    Yo George. Simple, polite piano, cringe-worthy lyrics, heavy-handed ham-fisted introduction of the album's supposed 'theme' --- bleah. 4.5


    N/A

    - Fat Slut

    - Devils and Gods

    These two songs are so short they just can't be considered alongside the others. D&G has a nice medieval arrangement that needs to be heard on headphones. Fat Slut is like My Bloody Valentine with angry shouty Tori from 1996 making a brief cameo. Neither are bad, but neither are long or substantial enough to really be good, either.
  • 20 Best Albums

    11. Mär. 2007, 15:53

    I figured I'd sit down and try to name my 20 most favourite albums . . .

    1. Hounds of Love - Kate Bush
    2. From the Choirgirl Hotel - tori amos
    3. Mezzanine - massive attack
    4. To Bring You My Love - pj harvey
    5. Wind in the Wires - patrick wolf
    6. Day One - sarah slean
    7. Illinois - sufjan stevens
    8. The Dreaming - kate bush
    9. Witching Hour - ladytron
    10. Yes Virginia - the dresden dolls

    11. Scarlet's Walk - tori amos
    12. Aerial - kate bush
    13. Version 2.0 - garbage
    14. Out - gabriela kulka
    15. Poses - rufus wainwright
    16. When the Pawn - fiona apple
    17. Frustration Plantation - rasputina
    18. Medulla - Bjork
    19. Origin of Symmetry - muse
    20. Demon Days - Gorillaz
  • How diverse are your YOUR listening habits?

    28. Feb. 2007, 1:02

    Let's stat it up in here.

    I've listened to 5158 tracks since signing up at LastFM.

    My top artist is currently (by ONE play!) Tori Amos, with 334 tracks played. 334/5158 = 0.064753780(etc)

    So, that's 6.475% (decimals rounded) of my listening to Ms. Amos. What percentage does your top artist take, fo your total cumulative tracks played?

    My Top 3 are Tori Amos, The Dresden Dolls, and Kate Bush, with 334, 333, and 319 plays, respectively --- that adds up to 986. 986/5158 = 0.191159(etc)

    So, that's 19.116% of my listening, taken up by my Top 3. You?

    My Top 5 areTori Amos (334), The Dresden Dolls (333), Kate Bush (319), Gabriela Kulka (235), and Sarah Slean (232). That adds to 1453.

    That's 28.17% of my listening, taken up by my Top 5.

    Finally, the Top 10. Here they are:

    1 Tori Amos 334
    2 The Dresden Dolls 333
    3 Kate Bush 319
    4 Gabriela Kulka 235
    5 Sarah Slean 232
    6 Muse 195
    7 Patrick Wolf 194
    8 PJ Harvey 163
    9 Ladytron 161
    10 The Faint 157

    That adds up to 2323. That's 45.037% of my total listening.

    So, approximately 55% of my listening time is spent on artist whoa re not in my Top 10. I'd say that's indicative of fairly widespread listening habits, despite the fact that my Top 5 is entirely comprised of theatrical piano-based female singer-songwriters (whoa re not the same, but who could be perhaps loosely grouped in a genre).

    What about yooooou?
  • "The" Tori Amos journal entry

    25. Feb. 2007, 1:24

    I knew at some point I would have to write this. I swear I'll try avoid the clichés of the genre (yes, the "cool kid reconciling and analyzing his/her enjoyment of sorta-uncool Tori Amos" journal entry is a genre, at this point).

    Maybe it'll help if I create an "Essential Tori" playlist as I write. Hmm, what to start with? Carbon. Yes. It's got everything I love about Tori: flowing piano lines over burbling shifting time signatures, a good chorus melody, and lyrics that conflate mental illness, chemistry, jewelry, and skiing to evoke the feeling of speeding through a snowstorm at night. It'll serve well as an opener.

    OK, here I go. Tori Amos was, no question, my favourite artist or band from late 1999 through to . . . hmmm, late 2003? Early 2004? Some time around then, Kate Bush and Rasputina joined Tori at the top, forming a sort of triumvirate. Like most triumvirates, that state of affairs couldn't last. The floodgates were open, and Tori lost her crown. I still enjoy her music very much, and she floats around the Top 3 of my cumulative charts, but I'm not preoccupied with undying loyalty, and I like to think I'm a better music fan for it. Yoking yourself to one artist (or even a very small group of quite similar artists) isn't healthy or good, in my opinion.

    Time for a second song . . . let's make it Cornflake Girl, that excellent combination of pop hooks, obtuse lyrics passionately sung, loping toe-taping tempo, and some of the best piano work pop or rock music has seen in the last 20 years.

    Back to it: the thing is, Tori Amos is really important. In a way, it's a shame she's such a polarizing figure. Unthinking loathing and unthinking adoration, neither of them are helpful. Tori Amos pre-dates Lillith fair, but she never participated in it. She did a lot to help revive the flagging singer-songwriter genre, bringing the focus back to musical proficiency and emotional expression, in the same way Nirvana helped revive rock (it's no accident much of her early fame came from her cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit --- their differences are exhibited in the two radically different versions of the same song, but, at the heart of it all, from 1992-94, Kurt Cobain and Tori Amos were something like very strange kindred spirits).

    Time for a third Essential Tori song . . . let's go for the often over-looked Black Dove (January), one of her most successfully evocative songss. Plus, the instrumental bridge helps show that Tori Amos is simply a better musician, technically, than the Lillith crowd, the post-Lillith crowd, and most male piano-rockers like Coldplay.

    I just said Tori is better, as a musician, than the Lillith Crowd. That's true. That's probably why things have been pretty dire in Tori-land, of late. The Beekeeper, released in '05, was pretty much a blatant attempt to appeal to the mainstream "Hot AC" crowd, the Vanessa Carleton, Sarah McLachlan,Coldplay crap that clogs up Safe FM radio from coast to coast. It's very frustrating when an artist who was to the 90's what Joni Mitchell or Jimi Hendrix was to the 70's descends to mediocrity.

    Time for another tune --- how about the decidedly unmediocre Blood Roses? Tori at her most visceral and raw, backed by the angriest baroque harpsichord imaginable.

    The thing is, it rarely turns out well when artists do make that descent (some call it "selling out," but I have such problems with that phrase --- I'll save them for another journal, another day). We don't need another Sarah McLachlan --- the one we have suffices quite nicely. Just as when Jewel or Liz Phair try to be pop stars --- the world is full of disposable, might-as-well-be-anamatrons like Britney Spears or Hillary Duff. That niche is occupied. What's more, the transition is almost never well-made --- I'd rather listen to Britney Spears than0304. She's just a better pop star, is Britney.

    Another song . . . Let's go for Concertina, to show that catchiness isn't what I consider the crime, it's blandness and stupidity. Concertina is catchy, but anything but bland or stupid.

    So, this is why The Beekeeper failed. Tori's simply never going to appeal to the soccer mom crowd, as much as she might want to. So, she failed to pick up new listeners - and she alienated old ones. It was never properly"cool" to like Tori Amos, but she used to hold a position not unlike Bjork's or PJ Harvey's --- her "cred" has diminished greatly, and ordinarily I wouldn't mind much (Pitchfork can go fuck itself), but she's such an important figure, both as an artist and as a cultural force, that it's irksome to see "Top 100 Albums of the 90's" lists that don't mention her, or might give a passing nod to Little Earthquakes at #92 or something like that. She deserves more and better.

    Another song? No "essential Tori Amos" is complete without Precious Things, the one track that, better than any other, 'sums up' what early Tori is all about.

    This is why I have hope. A couple of days ago, news and a picture surfaced, regarding Tori's new album, American Doll Posse, to be released May 1 of this. Tori's Official Website has the information and the image; see for yourself what I mean when I say it's a "departure." Whether it's a contrived attempt to regain her lost audience, or a legitimate "enough with this bullshit,I'm taking off the gloves and getting nasty" on her part, the next few months should be very interesting.

    That's all I have to say at the moment . . . I'll round out my Essential Tori Playlist now.

    Pretty Good Year
    Professional Widow
    Spark
    Hotel
    Siren
    Spring Haze
    Silent All These Years
    Real Men
    Taxi Ride
    Tombigbee
    The Beekeeper
    Not David Bowie
  • Albums Acquired in 2006

    30. Nov. 2006, 20:11

    I'm gonna include the albums I got for X-Mas 2005, because, honestly, it's the new year by the time you get to know the music on those albums anyway.

    X-Mas 2005 Haul
    Witching Hour - An satisfying, atmospheric listening experience. A very cold, wintery album, but still catchy and dance-able. Destroy Everything You Touch, International Dateline, and Soft Power are the highlights for me, and the fact that they come one-after-the other makes for one of the best 3-song sequences ever. 9/10

    Demon Days - A great, smart, successful pop album. I'm shocked DARE wasn't a mainstream hit in North America --- it was huge in Europe, but when I came home no one knew it. It's probably the best pop song of the last 18 months, in my opinion. This album's musical experimentation, layering, and smart ear for melody and rhythm gives this album a good, long shelf life. El Manana, Kids With Guns, Dirty Harry are all highlights. 8.5/10

    Get Behind Me Satan - Honestly, I was disappointed. Blue Orchid and The Denial Twist are fantastic, but most of the rest of the album left me cold and passed me by. It sits on the shelf, gathering dust now. I guess The White Stripes aren't for me, beyond their usually-good singles. 5/10

    Infiltrate Destroy Rebuild - An unsolicited gift from my brother, inspired by offhand comments like "I like this!" and "this is good!" that I'd make when overhearing the music he'd play. This music is inventive and never stays the same for too long; the riffs are nice and unusual (lots of triplets and syncopated rhythms), the light keyboard touches are well appreciated by a piano/electro freak like me, and the melodies are catchy. This is great running music. 8/10

    ----- 2006 PROPER -------

    Wind in the Wires. What a glorious, heartfelt, beautiful album. It feels like his music was tailor-made for my relationship with my Newfoundland home. Lots of walks on sea cliffs and wind and birds and storms and harbour towns that shut down when the tourists leave in autumn. Teignmouth is one of the most moving musical experiences that I know of. 9.25/10

    OK Computer - OK, so, if a band or artist is hyped too strongly, I tend to avoid them. I know this is illogical. Hype has nothing to do with how good or bad something is, and often things are hyped because they are actually amazing. Being in high school during the Kid A / Amnesiac era meant that I was sick to DEATH of people sloppily fellating Radiohead. I say now what I said then: they are not the second coming. They are an above-average rock band, nothing more. But you know what? I really like 6 or 7 tracks on OK Computer, and I'm pleased that I finally got off my high horse and bought it. Best album of all time? Hardly. Best album of the 90's? Maybe it's in the Top 100. A good, interesting album? Definently. 9/10

    Employment - this album is so, so dumb. But you know, it's catchy as hell, and those choruses were just made for shouting along. Great mix CD fodder. 7.5/10

    Wet From Birth - One look at my comprehensive stats will tell you what I think of this album, the only one by
    The Faint that I own. Again, it isn't the smartest album in the world, but it's just so much fun. It's sexy, catchy, shimmery, bass-heavy electro-rock --- in short, it's my perfect party CD. 8/10

    Yes Virginia - I was a moderate Dolls fan based on the strength of their self-titled album. Songs like Half Jack and Truce were amazing, but the album felt spotty. Yes Virginia is much better produced and maintains a high standard of quality through. From Sex Changes to Mandy Goes to Med School, this album is smart, aggressive, and wild, at turns hilarious and heartbreaking. Amanda Palmer plays piano like she's not afraid she'll break it; such a refreshing change from dainty girly piano or clompy Coldplay style Keyboards-For-Dummies. 9.75/10 (points deducted for otherwise perfect score for the self-indulgent Me and the Minibar and the sorta trite, formulaic Sing)

    Illinois - Remember what I said about Radiohead, up above? Ditto for Sufjan. I was so sick of hearing indie kids lose their shit about this stupid Sufjan Stevens! But then, I heard UFO Sighting and They Are Night Zombies and was absolutely blown away by their beauty and goodness. I got this album shortly thereafter, and despite some of the filler and self-indulgence, I am so happy I did. It is glorious. 9.25/10

    Out - Gabriela should be an indie darling, if not a global superstar, a Polish Kate Bush for the 21st century. Equal parts cabaret and Danny Elfman, all with a heady sense of the dramatic, its on this album that I feel Ms. Kulka has arrived. Give Death Won't Save The Day or In the Lens and see if you don't agree. 9.5/10

    Black Holes and Revelations - See my previous journal entry for more detailed thoughts on this. In essence, one excellent song, maybe 3 good songs, another 3 mediocre songs, and the rest dire. 6.75/10

    Origin of Symmetry - Now THIS is what I want in a Muse album. It's not all excellent, but it'sallgood, and most of it is great. So gloriously OTT! 8.75/10
  • Origin of Symmetry

    24. Nov. 2006, 22:28

    So, in September of this year, on an Air Canada flight from St. John's to Toronto, I heard Muse for the first time, on the in-flight radio station.

    Yeah, yeah. I know. "What rock have you been living under?" I can't even claim North Americanism as an excuse for my ignorance; I'd spent most of the previous year living in Ireland.

    Anyway, I was surprised by Muse. I had heard people speak of them before, but I always just sort of assumed they wouldn't be my cup of tea. I imagined soft acoustic strummy indie-esque fare, which can be good (Sufjan Stevens, for instance) or can be very, very bad (a majority of the strummy acoustic indie-darling genre). I mean, come on, they're a trio called Muse ferchrissake. The word connotates soft airy-fairy warbling.

    Instead, it was like . . . what would happen if Queen, Radiohead, and Nine Inch Nails were somehow fused by a musical mad scientist. Except, way better than such a formula might suggest (because, by themselves, I'm not overly fond of any of those three bands, although i do have a positive opinion of them; well, Nine Inch Nails, less so since I got my adolescent shit straightened away around age 20, but whatev).

    In any case, I was enamoured by the dense, aggressive, but melodic musical barrage that my poor pressurized eardrums (remember, 'twas aboard a plane) were encountering. In October, I picked up Black Holes and Revelations, figuring their new one was as good a place to start as any (oh! the folly of this, especially for a Tori Amos fan! Did The Beekeeper debacle teach me nothing?)

    Map of the Problematique is an amazing song. Just bloody brilliant and I can't listen to it too much, it seems. Despite the embarrassing lyrical refrain at the end, Knights of Cydonia is the sort of velveeta-rock wall of sound I enjoy (OMG Matt Belamy must have been sick the day they taught the concept of 'restraint' in school and I am so happy for that). Supermassive Black Hole is a pretty good pop song, there's a few other acceptable rock tunes, and . . . a lot of really distressingly mediocre shit. I mean, Starlight? Why are so many people listening to that? Are they pouring wax into their ears?

    In any case, careful internet research (read: watching videos on youtube.com) lead me to realize that, regardless of your opinion of Black Holes and Revelations, Muse have released at least two generally-well-regarded albums in the past. I vowed to pick those up, if for no other reason than Microcuts and Time Is Running Out are real treats for these ears and I can't logically log on to youtube every time I want to hear either of them.

    So, I came across Origin of Symmetry for $12 yesterday, and I am so happy that I did, even though I technically can't afford even a $0.99 mp3 download right now. Music is worth starving for, folks! I say this because, holy crap, isn't this album just blisteringly good? I could get into a list of favourite tracks, but honestly, it would just be the album's tracklist.

    Although, I have to say, my favourite Muse song is still Map of the Problematique. Some Pavlovian reaction happens in my brain when that song comes on. Massive endorphin release!

    I can't wait to get a few bucks so I can hunt Absolution down.
  • Re-Jigging the 'How Mainstream are your Listening Habits' for the new stat thingers

    1. Nov. 2006, 19:59

    Hooray! There are new statistics (or at least, new to me) on lastFM! Now, instead of the number of listeners under an artist's name on their page, we see how many times the artist has been listened to.

    I like this, 'cause I think it's a more accurate reflection of the artist's popularity. I mean, I count as just one listener for both Peter Gabriel and The Dresden Dolls, but for the former I might play Sledgehammer once a month, whereas I listen to the latter almost constantly. This new system reflects that.

    So I took the old 'calculate how mainstream your tastes are' formula, and instead of using the number of listeners, I plugged in the number of listens instead. It means you're playing with much higher numbers, but it also means the results are more accurate, I think.

    Or maybe not. Honestly I just needed something to do that wasn't housework or schoolwork.

    Also, I used The Beatles as the benchmark, not Radiohead, as is traditional. Why? Because Radiohead no longer has either the most listeners nor the most plays. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers have the most listeners, but The Beatles have the most listens. Anyway, don't you think they're a more fitting benchmark? I do!

    ARTIST --- MY PLAYS (multiply by) TOTAL PLAYS = WEIGHTED PLAYS
    The Dresden Dolls: 133 X 2,526,952 = 336,084,616
    Tori Amos: 130 X 4,758,059 = 618,547,670
    Kate Bush: 126 X 1,731,187 = 218,129,562
    Sarah Slean: 102 X 191,470 = 19,529,940
    The Faint: 81 X 2,894,530 = 234,456,930
    Gabriela Kulka: 68 X 5,636 = 383,248
    PJ Harvey: 66 X 2,303,068 = 152,002,488
    Patrick Wolf: 65 X 1,466,958 = 95,352,270
    Ladytron: 59 X 2,683,113 = 158,303,667
    Sufjan Stevens: 54 X 10,492,837 = 566,613,198


    Combined Weighted Listens (the number after the equals sign) : 2,399,403,589
    Combined My Plays: 884

    2,399,403,589 / 884 = 2,714,257.454 (I rounded this to 3 decimal places for ease of display)

    Divide this number by the total plays for The Beatles: 24,177,626.

    2,714,257.454 / 24,177,626 = 0.11226319133317346799319517304611

    Or, my tastes are 11.23% mainstream (or at least, mainstream, using LastFM as a benchmark, which isn't exactly the most mainstream measure in the world).