Week 5 Review

This week I’m reviewing my first album that I consider obscure. It’s not an internet sensation nor has it defined a decade. So let’s take a look at …Waltzing Alone by folk band Guggenheim Grotto.     

Artist: The Guggenheim Grotto {Shane Power (drums, piano), Mick Lynch (guitar, vocals), Kevin May (vocals, guitar)}
Album: …Waltzing Alone
Year: 2006
Genre: Folk-Pop
Rating: 3.75/5 Stars (5/5 Stars if you’re feeling introspective or heart broken)

Worth Your Time? If you’re in the right mood.

Twitter Review: …Waltzing Alone is like a finely aged scotch. You sip it slowly appreciating the individual flavors and smells that surround it.

Top 3 Tracks: 

  1. Wonderful Wizard
  2. Rosanna
  3. Philosophia

Things to Look For:

  • So many instruments. All three band members are multi-instrumentalists so there’s more going on here than your average album. You can tell they searched for that one instrument to give them the exact sound they were looking for.
  • Look ma, no drums! There’s quite a few tracks that do not not make heavy use of percussion.  Maybe that’s not special for folk music, but as your average listener it stood out to me while listening this week.
  • Craftsmanship. Obviously, these guys had more interest in creating gorgeous sounds for your mind to process than trying to appeal to the masses. I could see listening to this album with my co-workers $1000 headphones to appreciate all the little touches. (Yes he does actually let me borrow them at work from time to time.)
  • Is the Cake a lie? My wife says Wonderful Wizard sounds like a Cake song.  And I have to agree. They are one trumpet away from it being on Prolonging the Magic.

Low Points: There was actually one point in the chorus of the song I Think I Love You that infuriated me nearly every time I listened to it. He says “Hell I want to scream” but at no point does he ever raise his voice to anything close to a scream.  I guess I have the mind frame of show me/not tell me when it comes to writing and that chorus is nothing but tell.  But this album’s biggest downfall is that you really need to be in the right mood to appreciate it. Some of my favorite albums bring a mood to me and not the other way around so I think it deserved to lose some stars because of that. If you don’t agree I don’t care because yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

Anything Else: There’s something worth mentioning here outside of the music that makes this album worth owning like as in a physical copy kind of owning.  They really put incredible effort into the album’s packaging.  It’s basically a small book with red leather texture and silver embossed text.  That right there is pretty special since your average CD comes in a plastic jewel case that you’re never going to make any kind of connection with. If it cracked you would simply replace it with another one that looks exactly like it without ever giving it a second thought. In a word: disposable.

The liner notes begin with 5 pages worth of excerpts from an online discussion on a site dedicated to graphic design about the current state of CD packaging.  This is followed by the lyrics for each song with several illustrations related to the lyrics. Then it closes out with commentary by Shane, Mick and Kevin for each of the songs that brings insight into what was going on inside their heads such as that they were all heavily listening to Marvin Gaye when Vertigo was formed into being. You really don’t get this level of detail and discussion with your average album. Do yourself a favor and hunt down the CD rather than downloading the MP3s if you plan on getting this album.  I’ve included some pictures to help you visualize the awesomeness.

Awesomeness!

On a random note, my wife and I were at the concert where the Vertigo video I just linked to was recorded. We high tailed it up to Cleveland to see a They Might Be Giants concert where they performed Flood in it’s entirety. And that is where I first became acquainted with The Guggenheim Grotto and, like with most opening acts, I bought their album.

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Week 4 Review

This week I’m reviewing one of the most important 90’s BritPop albums: (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis. Yet another album with lukewarm reviews initially but is now considered a classic.   

Artist: Oasis {Liam Gallagher (vocals), Noel Gallagher (lead guitar), Paul Authurs (rhythm guitar), Paul McGuigan (bass guitar), Alan White (drums)}
Album: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
Year: 1995
Genre: BritPop
Rating: 3.333/5 Stars

Worth Your Time? Listen to it only while your driving.

Twitter Review: Mediocrity thy name is Morning Glory. It has some qualities of a good album but those get overwhelmed by the time everything is over.

Top 3 Tracks: 

  1. Champagne Supernova
  2. Wonderwall
  3. I’m not wasting your time by picking a third song from an 10 way tie.

Things to Look For:

  • Now where have I heard that before?  Oasis is famous for their songs sounding fairly similar to existing songs. I’m sure you could pick out a couple listening to it or at least have one déjà vu moment.
  • Follow the bouncing ball.  I don’t think I know of an album that I can sing along to as much as I can with this one.  It is definitely the album’s greatest quality and makes this one of the best albums to listen to in your car. Champagne Supernova is of course the sing-along high point.
  • Silence.  There is a moment in Wonderwall where it’s nearly silent as the guitar fades for a couple beats before the drums start back up. For whatever reason I have always loved that moment.
  • Feuding brothers. Liam and Noel got into all sorts of fights and were a mainstay for British tabloids. It’s worth reading up on their brotherly love throughout the years.

Low Points: I usually I struggle with this moment.  And you would think with this being one of the greatest if not greatest 90’s BritPop album of all time, I would struggle here as well. I really wish that was the case but I think the original reviews had it right.  Even though I am compelled to sing with every chorus on the album, I can barely tell the songs apart minus the two US singles.  They’re just so unimaginative and similar sounding.  Most of the tracks are just kind of there. Maybe from a historical/cultural perspective they are important but that really doesn’t help me enjoy the songs. Again, not counting the two US singles. I cannot stress that enough.

Anything Else: This album has a lot of personal significance.  It was the very first compact disc I ever bought and with my own money too.  I went home and listened to it in my bedroom over and over being it was the only thing I could play in my CD player. Wonderwall was the first song I ever tried to learn on my saxophone by just listening to it and trying to figure out the notes.  After weeks of practicing, I debuted my incredible recreation in the high school art room after some coaxing from a close friend. After I finished, he quietly informed me that it sounded absolutely nothing like the song. I stuck to pop songs I had sheet music for after that. (Yellow Submarine, anyone?)

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Week 3 Review

This week I’m reviewing part one of a three part concept EP series by emo rockers Mae titled (m)orning.  I’m a sucker for concept albums. Mae even donated all proceeds from this album to charity.    

(m)orning cover

Artist: Mae {Dave Elkins (vocals, guitar), Zach Gehring (guitar), Jacob Marshall (drums, piano)}
Album: (m)orning
Year: 2009
Genre: Emo/Inidie/Pop
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Worth Your Time? Yes

Twitter Review: (m)orning is an incredibly well-crafted multi-layered genre mashing EP that should feel like a mess but flows together without any struggle.

Top 3 Tracks: 

  1. The Fisherman Song (We All Need Love)
  2. Boomerang
  3. Night/Day

Things to Look For:

  • Christian metaphors.  Like all good art, what people see says more about them then the piece itself. Well I think this album is jam packed with Jesus. What I like even more is you could argue that this EP has no more Lord and Savior than your average grilled cheese sandwich. (Cheesus not withstanding)
  • An eight minute and forty second magnum opus.  I think The Fisherman Song is a lush complex masterpiece well deserving of the title. Just by itself, it elevates the album to the level of worth listening to. It even makes excellent use of dynamics. No wall of sound here.
  • Channeling the greatsAt time it felt like a Beatles album, sometimes Queen and other times U2… and still pulling it off beautifully.

Low Points: I’m really loving this album and routinely bobbed my head while listening to it so it’s hard for me to pick a low point. But I still have to find this album’s valley.  I feel like the the ending and beginning tracks would be better suited for waiting to talk to customer support than rounding out the EP. But considering Mae’s previous albums and that this is a concept album, it’s quite possible that this was what they were going for.

Anything Else: I had this album for a long time but never gave it a good listen. And it surprised me in so many ways. So it really represents my goals for Project Lt. Morning which is to discover the gems scattered throughout my digital hoard.  I have to listen to Destination Beautiful and The Everglow again but this might be my favorite Mae album overall.  I also really need to add the other two EPs of the series: (a)fternoon and (e)vening. Like I said at the start, I’m a sucker for concept albums. (even if the results are sometimes disastrous)

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Week 2 Review

This week I’m reviewing an all-time great jazz album: ‘Round About Midnight by Miles Davis.  Much like Daft Punk’s Discovery, RAM was met with ‘meh’ reviews then later critics realized its greatness.

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Artist: Miles Davis {Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (saxophone), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)}
Album: ‘Round About Midnight
Year: 1957
Genre: Jazz (Hard Bop)

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Worth Your Time? Absolutely

Twitter Review: RAM is a wonderful album that is quite accessible to listeners thanks to the inclusion of the jazz standards Bye Bye Blackbird and All of You.

Top 3 Tracks: 

  1. Bye Bye Blackbird
  2. All of You
  3. ‘Round Midnight

Things to Look For:

  • John Coltrane’s gorgeous soloing on ‘Round Midnight (and elsewhere) got me hooked on this album.
  • Philly JJ’s drumming on Ah-Leu-Cha (a Charlie Parker song).  The drum breaks are perfection.
  • Miles Davis’ use of the horn mute throughout the album.  Exactly what you need when your looking to just chill and relax.

Low Points: There really isn’t anything negative to say about this album though it’s kind of short by today’s standards at 39 minutes.

Anything Else: I really dislike hate avant-garde jazz. To me, it brutally murdered jazz in the shower ala Psycho from which, like most murders, it never recovered.  It’s so nice to listen to Coltrane before he went way out there. Yeah I know people worship Coltrane’s later stuff and literally worship Coltrane (not kidding) but for me his early work is what I love most. I’m nowhere near a jazz expert so feel free to disagree with me or start your own Project Lt. Morning equivalent blog and show me what’s for.

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Week 1 Review

This week I’m reviewing the South African Rap Rave Die Antwoord’s 2009 album $O$ which was originally released for free by the group. They made a big splash on the internet with Enter the Ninja.        

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Artist: Die Antwoord {Ninja (volcals), Yolandi Visser (volcals), DJ Hi-Tek (beats)}
Album: $O$
Year: 2009
Genre: Rap Rave

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Worth Your Time? Yes

Twitter Review: $O$ sounds unique to US listeners. Ninja and Yolandi are an exciting MC duo that complement each other nicely. Plus their videos are insane.

Top 3 Tracks: 

  1. Wat Pomp
  2. Wat Kyk Jy
  3. Enter the Ninja

Things to Look For:

Low Points: When the songs slow down, Die Antwoord isn’t nearly as compelling most of the time.  I definitely enjoy the upbeat tracks on the album more.

Anything Else: Check out their videos on YouTube. They are just as interesting visually as they are lyrically. Not seeing them is really only getting half of the experience.

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