Week 37 Review

Mr. Oizo – Analog Worms Attack (1999)

Bottom Line Up Front: This is a 3.5 out of 5 stars album. The album has perhaps the greatest bonus track in the history of modern music and is considered to be quite influential for the electronic music genre, which is why the score is as high as it is. However, I found myself bored with this album much of the time as the week progressed. It just doesn’t lend itself to listening on repeat for an entire week.

Artist BackgroundMr. Oizo is French electronic musician and director, Quentin Dupieux.  His biggest hit is Flat Beat which features the puppet, Flat Eric. Flat Eric starred in a Levi’s commercial which featured the song. It took another half decade before he would release a follow-up, Moustache (Half a Scissor). I’m actually a way bigger fan of his second album which is a very satisfying listen for me given the overall weirdness of it. It’s like I’ve always said: if you aren’t going to be melodic, you damn well better be interesting. Mr. Oizo continues to put out unique music including The Church which he released in late 2014.

Album Background: Analog Worms Attack is an experimental, instrumental hip hop album with a runtime of about 50 minutes. Given the genre, there is a heavy emphasis on bass throughout the entire album. Mr. Oizo at least had an interesting concept with this album, which was to create the entire album with nothing but analog components. Most notably, he used the analog synthesizer, the Korg MS-20. The MS-20 stopped being produced in 1983 but played a big part in the analog revival of the late 1990’s. Quite a few of my favorite artists use the Korg MS-20 to make their music. Mr. Oizo probably couldn’t have picked a better instrument to work with. The album wasn’t made solely by himself as Feadz did most of the turntable work.

Favorite Track: This has to be the easiest time I’ve ever had picking a favorite track from an album. That song is obviously the bonus track, Flat Beat. This song defined an entire era of my life which was about the first 5 or so years after graduating from college. I didn’t quite have the freedom that I had with college life at the time, but I didn’t have all of the responsibilities and commitments that I have now. In other words, good times. I thumped Flat Beat on a Friday or Saturday with a drink in my hand whether the people I shared a wall with liked it or not. And this song still is my go-to for testing out a newly purchased sub-woofer. So why does this song stand out? The music video definitely helps. It’s so entertaining and filled with so many memorable moments; some of which my friend and I would try our best to recreate IRL. For the best listening experience possible, you want to try to imitate Flat Eric’s head bobbing pattern when listening to the song.

And I’m not the only one to love this song. It was a huge hit. It was included in the Top 5 in fifteen countries and even hit number 1 in  six countries, including the UK. The fact that this was barely a blip in the United States in 1999 doesn’t surprise me. There’s a lot of songs that are big hits internationally but don’t resonate here. What does register with me is the infectious rolling bass line and the playful approach of the rhythmic patterns Mr. Oizo used with this song. It is a must-listen song if you haven’t heard it yet. Seriously, I gave you a link. Watch the video. Let the puppet make you smile.

What Works: 

  • Turntables The scratching done on this album by Feadz was one of the highlights of the album for sure. The thirteenth track, Feadz On, is one of my favorite moments of his. His creative and often delightful technique perfectly complements Mr. Oizo’s often minimalist and repetitive beats. I think if this album would have been more sample heavy with Feadz being a main contributor for every song, this could have easily been one of my all-time favorites.
  • Timing The album is kind of unique in that it has four tracks that are under the two minute mark that aren’t skits. It really helped break up the album which had some tracks that went on entirely too long given how monotonous some of the longer songs were. Feadz On is included in those four tracks.
  • Kidnies Since this album is considered experimental hip hop, I think one of the more interesting experiments on the album is Inside the Kidney Machine. Not only does it feel like the musical equivalent of being inside a kidney machine, it also feels like you’re playing a horror video game that takes place inside a kidney machine. Could this be the main storyline of the next Resident Evil? You don’t even have to pay me, Capcom. I’m giving you this one, free of charge.

What Doesn’t:

  • Build Up I think my biggest problem with a good majority of songs is they don’t really go anywhere. If you have four or five minutes and no lyrics, I think your song needs to slowly build up to something to get and, more importantly, keep my focus. Too many times I found myself asking, “Is that all?”
  • Boring  While I love minimalist graphic design, I rarely find myself as intrigued by minimalist music. It usually just comes off as boring. And that was the case here. Many of the songs just did not have enough going on for me to really enjoy them. And hearing them over and over didn’t help. I’m pretty sure, if I wanted to, I could yada yada nearly the entire album: “I put on my headphones. I turned on Analog Worms Attack. Yada, yada, yada. Flat Beat finally came on.” Yep. That works.

In Conclusion: I’m not telling anyone to not listen to this album. I think it might be worth a look if this is a genre you are interested in. It might even become a favorite album for the right kind of person. There are some hidden gems to be found, such as Monophonic Shit, and Flat Beat is absolutely a must-listen situation. But I don’t think this is going to end up high on the all-time favorites list for your average person since it really doesn’t hold up to repeat listens.

Finally, please check out his official website. It’s seriously retro-rrific! And it has free music to download for the if it’s free it’s me crowd.

Music Video Links:
Mr. Oizo – Flat Beat (Official Video) 

Streaming/Purchase Links:
Amazon Music
Google Play
iTunes
XBOX Music
Spotify

Information Links:
Wikipedia Artist
W
ikipedia Album
Facebook
Twitter
Official Site

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Week 31 Review

U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000)

Bottom Line Up Front: This is a 4.8 out of 5 stars album. It’s not a perfect album but it is really close. There is a lot to like here and I fully agree with the statements of this album being U2’s third masterpiece. For me, it was the consistency in quality across this album that really impressed me as I listened to it all week.

Artist BackgroundReally? The background of U2? There’s probably entire books dedicated to this. Oh look at that. There are. I’m going to do my best anyways. They formed in 1976 and are from Ireland. The band’s lead singer, Bono, is always wearing sunglasses. The band’s lead guitarist is The Edge and he is always wears a beanie. Those two are really easy to pick out in a picture. Adam Clayton plays bass and Larry Mullen, Jr plays percussion for the band. They reached international super stardom in the 1980s with their album, The Joshua Tree.  In the 1990s, they experimented with their sound by incorporating different genres. Overall, this did not go as well for them as they probably would have hoped. In 2000, they decided to go back to basics which led to the album I’m reviewing. Their most notable recent moment was the fiasco with Apple where they gave a free digital copy of their new album, Songs of Innocence, to anyone with an iPhone 6. Not everyone was happy about this as U2 can be pretty polarizing. There are people that absolutely worship the band but there are also people that completely hate U2. If you are wondering, I don’t fall into either of those categories.

Album Background: The rock album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, is about 50 minutes long. The most notable thing about this album is that it won Grammy Record of the Year in both 2001 and 2002 for two separate tracks off of the album. This is the only album to ever do that so I think regardless of how you feel about U2, you need respect that accomplishment. But all together the album won 7 Grammy awards. Development took place from 1998 to 2000 and they brought back producers they worked with on Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby which are considered their other two notable albums. I assume it was done in an effort to recapture the sound of their earlier work.

Favorite Track: You would think I would pick one of the songs that won Record of the Year. You’d be wrong. Well, then you would think I would at least pick one of the 4 singles from the album. And again, you’d be wrong. So what in the world did I pick? I actually went with the sixth track off of the album: In A Little While. In terms of lyrical content, it’s your basic song about returning to one you love. It’s not surprisingly addressed to his wife who inspired Bono for many of U2’s songs. The song is also held in high regard by U2 because it was the last song Joey Ramone listened to before he died. While many songs have been done on the topic, it doesn’t really take away from the song in my view. If it’s good, it’s good. I really like the intro. It starts off with a nice guitar hook that draws you into the song. Bono’s voice has this raspy quality to it that I also really like. It adds to this idea of being worn out but still putting in all your effort to make it back to the person you care about most in the world. Bono also wrote an incredibly beautiful verse in this song that I think could easily be included in a book of poetry. “A man dreams one day to fly, A man takes a rocketship into the skies, He lives on star that’s dying in the night, And follows in the trail, The scatter of light” Maybe I’m partial to it because I’m in awe of what the human race has been doing in terms of space exploration over the past couple years. Or maybe it is actually an excellent verse. Overall, it’s a nice laid back song worth listening to a couple times. Hopefully, within a short period of time from now.

What Works: 

  • Edge One popular song off of the album was Elevation. Some of Bono’s vocalizations on the track probably are what make it stand out the most, but I think a major reason why the song works is the guitar playing from The Edge. It’s just this crazy wall of sound rocking your ears from start to end. And works so freaking well. This isn’t the only song that is a winner because of him, but it’s a good example.
  • Bono An aspect of this album that really stood out for me was how well Bono can make his approach to singing on a particular song blend so perfectly with everything else with the song. He’s like a vocal chameleon. Maybe it’s not so apparent with casual listening, but I was seriously impressed by the end of the week. In addition, Bono can write such beautiful lyrics as I already noted. Unfortunately, his lyrical prowess is not nearly as consistent as his singing.
  • Intros U2 knows how to write a track opening. Kite‘s opening is interesting since it sounds almost like the note is being playing backward with Edge on a sliding guitar. It’s a unique note to build a song around but it works. Many times they slowly eased into the song like an old man into a nice warm bath. Grace and Peace On Earth are great examples of this.

What Doesn’t:

  • Stacked I’m not a particular fan of front loading an album with your strongest material. I like it to be distributed evenly throughout the album. Reward me for sticking it out and listening to everything. And it’s impossible to not accuse U2 of doing this when the four singles from this album were the first four tracks of the album AND they were released in the same order that they appeared on the album. It is the textbook example everyone should refer to. And the second half does suffer because of it. The first six tracks for me are absolutely amazing. The weakest point of the album for me is probably track 8 through 10 where I kind of get my typical ‘lost in a U2 album’ lost. Thankfully, Grace is a strong closer.
  • Bono You know how I said Bono can write beautiful heartfelt lyrics? Well, sometimes I wonder if U2’s writing process is more like this:

    Bono: Okay, next!
    Larry: But that lyric doesn’t make any sense. In fact, it’s kind of silly.
    Bono: Does it rhyme, Larry? Does…it…rhyme?
    Larry: Well, yeah. But..
    Bono: Okay then. NEXT!

In Conclusion: If I wasn’t all that familiar with U2 and I wanted to get a better feel for their music, I would honestly start with this album. I know Joshua Tree is this incredible 80s album that’s probably on a good chunk of Albums to Listen to Before You Die lists but it also sounds incredibly 80s. I think ATYCLB still sounds very modern and almost timeless due to the mix of their attempt to go back and reboot their sound mixed together with everything they learned from experimenting with other genres in the 90s.

Music Video Links:
U2 – Walk On (Official Video)
U2 – Beautiful Day (Official Video)

Streaming/Purchase Links:
Amazon Music
Google Play
iTunes
XBOX Music
Spotify

Information Links:
Wikipedia Artist
W
ikipedia Album
Facebook
Twitter
Official Site

Week 23 Review (End of Summer Blow Up 2)

This week I’m reviewing Mike Pinto’s Little District which came out in 2005 for End of Summer Blow Up. Though I was only recently introduced to his music, he is absolutely deserving of a bigger following.

5

Artist: Mike Pinto
Album: Little District
Year: 2005
Genre: Reggae, Ska
Rating: 4.5/5

Worth Your Time? Absolutely. This album is jam packed with memorable lyrics and melodies and has a nice blend of several genres and instruments to keep things fresh.

Twitter Review: Mike Pinto writes incredibly heartfelt and insightful lyrics. And he has both the singing voice and guitar skills to be a complete package.

Top 3 Tracks:

  1. Bill’s Song
  2. When I Die
  3. Chilean Lover

Things to Look For:

  • Epic First Track. The album starts out with the story of Bill, worshiper of the almighty dollar, who is a bank robber. The production of Bill’s Song had me smiling every time the album started over. Not only do you have Mike’s clever writing but the little touches on this song really put it over the top for me. If you really want to appreciate this song I’m begging you to listen with headphones. Why? Because half of the stereo mix is used for letting you listen in on the bank robbery in progress. It sounds fantastic on headphones. My favorite part is when the upbeat trumpet solo starts and the music goes into high gear with the sirens blaring as the cops head toward the bank. It creates a momentary sense of urgency that I’m sure Bill was also feeling. I also love the line “Put your hands up! Put your fucking hands up!” because it works equally well with a bank robbery and at a concert. Finally, the ending was unexpected for me. Very different from say the classic Children’s Story by Slick Rick.
  • Point/Counterpoint. Mike has two songs on here that cover the topic of adultery. The first song Dear Señoritas which blames a husband’s cheating squarely on the woman for not providing loving “three times a day” which apparently is the bare minimum for any guy. I really don’t think Mike believes this but rather he is just telling a story. Possibly based on someone he’s met in his life either in Philadelphia or San Diego.  Where this gets interesting for me is three tracks later he starts telling another story of adultery in Chilean Lover. This song tells the story of a husband and father who constantly cheats on his wife but ends up with a bullet inside his brain from a scorned ex-lover. And as Mike put it: “You’re gonna get what you deserve.” So both sides of the coin I think are well presented here.
  • Genre Blending. While Mike lives mostly in reggae and ska, he transitions into an almost industrial sounding song with When I Die. The song is quite a brilliant take on the topic of the existence of an afterlife. It starts out with a very minimalistic acoustic opening of just Mike and his guitar.  Eventually this turns into this driving industrial beat that relentlessly comes at the listener. Perhaps the transition is a metaphor for how the question becomes more important in life as we follow our own slow but inevitable march towards an ultimate demise? Or maybe not. I just know I loved the song.
  • That One Night. Despite One More Time (radio edit) making me think back fondly to my college days with fabulous heartfelt lyrics, the over-processed vocals on the song’s chorus make me think of the infamous That One Night song from the Dinner Party episode from The Office with Jan’s incredibly awkward dancing. Rest of the song is actually quite beautiful and really captures the magic that is friendship.

Low Points: This is a fantastic album with gorgeous lyrics, stunning guitar work and a brass section that just won’t quit all the while covering some impressively deep topics. There’s nothing bad to say about it, right? Well, not quite. How about we skip to the hidden track found about two minutes after One More Time (full version) is finished? It actually resumes the really funky beat found in Dub Interlude. It even finishes the lyrics that Dub Interlude unexpectedly stops at. That’s a pretty cool idea. So how does the rest of the song go? “Shove my lyrics down your throat like my dick, like my dick” Woah. Back it up. Back it up. Beep. Beep . Beep. What the hell did I just listen to? Um, that was unexpected. I’m not sure what Mike was going for with the hidden track but I’m not totally digging it besides the incredibly groovy beat. To me, it just doesn’t fit. Or maybe I’m just pissed because that hidden track meant two minutes of silence before I could finish the album and start it over.

Anything Else: I don’t really have anything else to say. Mike seems like a cool guy. Apparently, he’s big in Japan. So that’s kind of interesting and unexpected. Not dick down your throat unexpected but still unexpected. From what I understand, he is freaking amazing live so catching one of his concerts would be highly suggested if you get the chance. And like one of my friends, he grew up in the midwest (Mike grew up in Philadelphia, PA) and moved to beautiful San Diego, CA where he did some amazing things with his life with more to come I’m sure. So maybe that’s not interesting to you, but the parallelism was interesting to me.

Additional Links: