Best Albums 2018?

I googled “Best Albums 2018” and clicked on ten pages, with 50 or 40 albums each time.

It’s a fast zapping exercise (I need 10 seconds to know I don’t like – my platitude and clichés detector is very accurate – what’s more horrible than lazy folk?).

Here’s what tickled my ears :

Kamasi Washington, a jazz music I could explore and love.

Skee Mask is a bit too much “abstract techno” for me, but I kept listening…

Blood Orange, a luxury soul sound, made me listen to the whole album.

The Internet got me “wait whatting” all along : great bass, production, slight dissonances… I’m client for neo-soul…

Against all Logic almost lost me, but each time something was happening in the music to keep me listening.

Let’s Eat Grandma, or Arctic Monkeys, U.S. Girls, Mitski – mmh, we’ll see.

Sometimes it’s too deconstructed (I heard this pain in jazz, rap, soul), but the boundaries are interesting. Like with Esperanza Spalding. Like in “12 Little Spells” : dangerous harmonies, quietly dancing with the vocal melody…

Spent time exploring : Mitski, Blood Orange, The Internet. You? What are you albums of 2018?

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Take this Waltz / What happened in a Norwegian Wood?

Rock and Pop Music are 4/4, period. Well, most of the time.

When a group composes in 3/4 it’s a waltz, and it’s always interesting. Do they need to breathe differently, to get some air?

I don’t know why, I’m always a little proud when I hear a song and I jump : “Heyyy that’s a waltz!!”. It’s like a smile!

Beatles for the lyrics. Beach Boys for harmonies. Byrds for the surprise (it’s a 5/4 and 3/4). Golden Brown is tricky too. And I would never found Joni Mitchell’s – like floating in harmonic intelligence…

There’s a tool here…

What if your life, your creativity, your job was ALLLL in 4/4? What and how would it be to try 3/4? Take a waltz? What for? Dancing differently? Trying to find doors towards out-of-a-comfort-zone?

What if (try 7/4, haha) you tried something “which would make all of it difficult”? What for : you’re killed/bored by your skills and easiness? Try your left hand? Talk less? Oblique pictures only? Poems without any letter “e”? Tell me…

For the Pet Shop Boys song, my ear/brain system was on alert immediately : “There’s something wrong in this rhythm”. In what field would you need to do that? Sounding different…

Have a nice day!

 

 

Norwegian Wood
I once had a girl
Or should I say she once had me
She showed me her room
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?
She asked me to stay
And she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around
And I noticed there wasn’t a chair
I sat on a rug biding my time
Drinking her wine
We talked until two and then she said
“It’s time for bed”
She told me she worked
In the morning and started to laugh
I told her I didn’t
And crawled off to sleep in the bath
And when I awoke I was alone
This bird had flown
So I lit a fire
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?

Wandering into Lists of Best 2017 Albums

I googled “Best 2017 Albums” and found many things. Today I wander.

 

Charlotte Gainsbourg is pretty good. Gourmet production, crescendos, gorgeous harmonic shifts. Ring a Ring o’Roses is a great song. 4

Fever Ray and her icy voice… The album looks like a disconcerting big chest, full of sharp patterns, eargasming sounds and a constant sense of drive. There’s a lack of harmony-magic though 3

Fleet Foxes gives me smiles with strange rhythms, but it’s badly produced (too much reverb, buddy) and too casual for me. Voice is boring. Harmonic colors are great, full of moving clouds and facets, and architecture surprises. 3

Girlpool places itself in a clear “indie sound”. Average, but some rare good surprises (the slippery waltz of Powerplant – oh this bass player), the stairs, squeaking risks & breaks of She Goes By).

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith like a baby Fever Ray. Harmless and insipid, but sweet. Stupid voice and funny sounds at times (To Follow & Lead). I like her good will.

Kamasi Washington, a splendid saxophonist, great to listen in your car

Kehlani got me immediately with Keep On. Irresistible! The rest is crap, sadly.

Kelela loves the sound of her own voice. It’s not good, but it’s good enough to keep me listening to the album. There’s always an element (a sound, a loop, a production idea) which makes you wonder.

Kendrick Lamar. Rap is not my cup of beer, but I really LOVED “King Kunta” in 2015 (which is perfection : the implacability of the bass, the laddered construction). Sadly I didn’t hear anything at this level today…

 

(to be continued)

 

 

In the trash :

Dead water puddles : Boring lazy, examples of “I am ecstatic about myself and I don’t work” : Björk, Future, Jay Z, Julie Byrne and Julien Baker (“I bathe in my voice and empty music”)

Stressed boring mosquitoes : Drunk, slippery and unorganized “experimentations with machines” that goes to trash pretty quickly : Arca, Jlin

Eno & U2 : a freezing creative process

Brian Eno produced a few U2’s albums. I read one day in an interview that he had to restrain these guys’ creativity : they have too many ideas, all the time, and it’s exhausting!

Therefore, as the person in charge, he sometimes has to decide a STOP.

This is what he does, then :

As each musician is recorded on his own track, the freedom is total, which leads to infinite choices. At this time of the composition, Eno decides to pre-mix what he has, freezing the whole song in stereo. Instead of having for example 12 tracks you can move, mix and change all the time, he reduces all the pack in 2 tracks, left and right. From there, nobody can touch it anymore – then he trashes the source.

He transforms, this way, the big tree of possibilities into a “this is how it is now” song.

 

Of course you see it’s a tool : what are the consequences of this? Displacing creativity? (what do they do “from this”?). Is closing inventiveness from here allow people to invent elsewhere? Another thing? When do we need, in our work, to stop inventing and move forward? Why? When do we have too many ideas? What to do? What if you remove an element?

When do you need to have a thinker in charge?

You can also read : Fecundity of Limits

Thanks for reading !

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Losing My Religion, Every Breath you Take

Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees

 

I wrote here, a few days ago, something about Every Breath you Take, from Police :

  • The strange lyrics of Police‘s Every Breath you Take, the story of a stalker after a break up. “Sting later said he was disconcerted by how many people think the song is more positive than it is. He insists it is about the obsession with a lost lover, and the jealousy and surveillance that follow.” – and not a gentle love song.

Tonight I just watched a documentary about Pixies, R.E.M. and Nirvana. I saw the clip of Losing my Religion, then discovered this on Wikipedia :

  • The phrase “losing my religion” is an expression from the southern region of the United States that means losing one’s temper or civility, or “being at the end of one’s rope.” Stipe told The New York Times the song was about romantic expression. He told Q that “Losing My Religion” is about “someone who pines for someone else. It’s unrequited love, what have you.” Stipe compared the song’s theme to “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, saying, “It’s just a classic obsession pop song. I’ve always felt the best kinds of songs are the ones where anybody can listen to it, put themselves in it and say, ‘Yeah, that’s me.'”

 

Well, I suppose everybody remembers these two songs. In France, I admit both were hits, though we didn’t care that much about the lyrics. Though we felt that R.E.M.’s song and clip was, indeed, about a powerless obsession. The mandolin…

 

Yep, it’s a tool for my blog, a dial for creatives. Stipes says it perfectly :

I’ve always felt the best kinds of songs are the ones where anybody can listen to it, put themselves in it and say, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’

It’s true I admire poets, photographers and musicians who are able to talk about subtle things “between words”. Words are simplifyiers, and it’s sometimes boring. They put life, and moving shades into immobile boxes.

We talk here about another thing. When words are “so” flat, grey, imprecise, that anyone will find what one wants. Haziness as a talent. The audience jumps into it. We apply it to our story…

Sting told the story of a stalker, but lovers love it, they play the song at weddings! Stipes sings about past pining, but never explains what it is about in the song. It’s like a tropism, a flake of feeling. One person is “losing religion” – and we all understand the frustration.

It’s like the “But I could be wrong” image. You don’t know the author, and why we see that picture, what does this mean. You raise an eyebrow in wonder. And YES, you could be wrong, dear!

 

Awweeee. Have a nice day…

 

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Life is bigger
It’s bigger
And you, you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour
I’m choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I’ve said too much

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream, try, cry, why, try
That was just a dream, just a dream, just a dream
Dream

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Burst of Punk : Sex Pistols & The Clash

I continue watching a BBC documentary (BBC – Seven Ages of Rock), an episode about Punk Rock. They showed pretty well what was under it. The Ramones or Television as a source. A will against virtuosity and special effects. Raw rock energy, like a angrier faster sixties rock&roll.

Interviews of the guys and journalists of this era were pretty funny. I remember the leader of the Buzzcocks taling about this song “Boredom” and its guitar solo made of two stupid notes tatee-tatee in an endless boring loop…

Sex Pistols‘ slogan was “No Future”, and obviously it was the case. But how to get out of this crabs’ nest??

It led to this : No fun. Wikipedia tells it pretty well :

On 14 January 1978, during the tour’s final date in San Francisco, a disillusioned Rotten introduced the band’s encore saying, “You’ll get one number and one number only ’cause I’m a lazy bastard.” That one number was a Stooges cover, “No Fun”. At the end of the song, Rotten, kneeling on the stage, chanted an unambiguous declaration, “This is no fun. No fun. This is no fun—at all. No fun.” As the final cymbal crash died away, Rotten addressed the audience directly—”Ah-ha-ha. Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? Good night”—before throwing down his microphone and walking offstage. He later observed, “I felt cheated, and I wasn’t going on with it any longer; it was a ridiculous farce.

The band split, Sid Vicious died of overdose. No Future.

Another group (The Clash) used Punk energy and injected reggae or rockabilly in it. They became stars.

 

Tools :

It’s an interesting pattern, right? How do you use big thrust? Do you let it flow the fields? Do you let it burn itself in insanity? Do you channel it? Do you feed it with external elements? Like what? Curbing? Surprises? Taming?

 

Thanks for reading!

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Instagram : anapaula380

 

Funny Seeds & Distorted Dials in Pop or Metal Rock

There’s a series of DVD about history of rock (BBC – Seven Ages of Rock). Far from perfection (where are the girls?), but very fun to watch. Yesterday it was about Stadium Rock, with names like Dire Straits, Police, Bruce Springsteen, or Queen. This whole pack of DVDs is a source of seeds, ideas and paradoxes.

  • The misinterpretation of Bruce Springsteen‘s “Born in the USA” (“a bitter commentary on the treatment of Vietnam veteran”), by politics who didn’t read the lyrics.
  • The paradox of “Money for nothing” (Dire Straits) (“from the point of view of two working-class men watching music videos”, seeing guys getting “money for nothing and chicks for free”), becoming a huge hit (thus big money) thanks to its… music video. “I want my MTV”.
  • The US disaster of “I want to break free”, from Queen. The clip (all of the band members in women’s clothes) was well accepted in the world, but not at all in the USA (MTV forbid the video), which did hurt the Queen live career there.
  • The strange lyrics of Police‘s Every Breath you Take, the story of a stalker after a break up. “Sting later said he was disconcerted by how many people think the song is more positive than it is. He insists it is about the obsession with a lost lover, and the jealousy and surveillance that follow.” – and not a gentle love song.

There are Wikipedia pages about all of them, if you want to go further, it’s very interesting!

 

The Metal Rock documentary sounded sometimes like some… history of arts!

As Wiki says : “Heavy metal is traditionally characterized by loud distorted guitars, emphatic rhythms, dense bass-and-drum sound, and vigorous vocals”. So there. And within an hour you witness one interesting thing : how each group replaced the other one with “something new”. A strange interval in Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”‘s intro. Faster beats. New looks (Judas Priest’s singer with hardcore metal/biker/S&M macho look). Changes in sound (trash metal). More precised built songs, with new producers… How many more levers?

In a way, it’s very satisfying to watch this little dial in every art, which becomes here a balance between :

  1. the audience needs to be a little surprised
  2. but not too much because it’s mainstream

(Oh! It’s called MAYA, remember? : Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable)

Judas Priest sold 50 millions albums, and Metallica 120 millions…

 

Seeds, tools, dials, levers. Paradoxes, misinterpretations, failure due to culture misreading, progress in art (which lever will you activate? Complexity? Surface? Strangeization?), and this one : what is needed to be able to please a stadium crowd? Quite surprising, right?

 

Thanks for reading. Have a great sunday! Bon dimanche !

 

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Ode to Annie Clark

For a few years I add a bad habit.

I used to download torrents of music archives like “100 Best Indie tracks – May 2012”. Then June. Etc.

Then, well, I filled up my iPod with these, exploring thousands of random song VERY casually. I used to trash 95% of all of them, commonly rolling eyes.

My main criteria in music is : “What’s new here?”. And well, nothing’s new, almost all the time. It’s always the same tricks : Pixies like, Nirvana like, Neo New Wave, Decadent Disco, Boring Indie Folk, etc.

So I used to empty my iPod quickly. A real leak. One star (means : trash it).

But really, on 100 tracks, 2 or 3 were really great enough to make me search for albums, buy records. Sometimes it’s a disappointment (I found 3 good songs by Katy Melua – The Flood is great – but not much more), sometimes I’m intoxicated for months (The Bird and the Bee), or just charmed by a song (Make this Go On Forever, by Snow Patrol), or I dance like a fool with stupid gorgeous Trance (Astrix : Poison).

If you want to find me own musicmess, I’m here : https://www.youtube.com/user/jrobocat

One day : St Vincent. I had to stop walking.

“Paris is Burning”. Everything was a surprise to my ears. The horns, the voice, the percs, the drive, the samples chords, harmonies, the permanent changes (including a “sudden waltz”), like a quiet fucking mess of too many ideas for each square meter. Then waltzing toxic casual daring ending let me in an awe in a corner (I remember it was next to a church).

Yes, a little like Kate Bush with King Crimson and David Bowie. Whatever : invent your own links!

Her deep, organized, casual, driven quirkiness is my cup of tea. Make it a bucket, OK?

Then : Her interviews are GREAT. Her Hepburnic smile is awfully cute. Her music stayed complex (too much at times, for me). I would pray to make her enthrust and leave her work in Brian Eno‘s hand (after all she worked with David Byrne, right?). And this class…

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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iPod’s Wheel Speed Dating & the Continuous Musical Invention

ONE

For a while, in order to discover musics, I was doing this : downloading archives like “100 Best Indie Tracks – June 2015”, stuffing these into my small iPod, and then, as I was walking along in the city, I was playing with the iPod wheel, wandering in random mode.

It’s awful for all these groups, I KNOW, but it is what it is : I listen to the intro, a few seconds. If I’m pleased, I go on. Then the song begins. If I’m pleased, I go on. Then the singer, then the chorus, etc.

It’s really like “music speed dating”. It’s wrong, I know.

I’m old enough and skilled enough to sort tracks like that, very quickly. Then I used the 1-5 stars system of the iPod like :

  • 1 star – trash
  • 2 stars – should relisten
  • 3 stars – not bad/I keep it
  • 4 stars – good/interesting
  • 5 stars – I love it!/masterpiece

TWO

If you think about pop-rock music, if you begin to analyze,  you can hopscotch with your brain and the “idea of pleasure”. What do you love in this track?

Energy? Lyrics? Sound? The guitar solo? Singer’s voice? Production? These are musician’s choices elements and how they are mixed together.

Makes you think about someone? A period of your life? Makes you feel you’re part of a community? These are other elements, right?…

One of the pleasures of pop music is the game with time. Listening to a music piece is “following it along its continuity”.

Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break or solo, verse, chorus, outro…

When you know the music already, there’s a pleasure in… knowing what’s going after : you can sing along, right? You wait for the pleasure which will come (ahhh this chorus is so good, move your shoulders, transform your hands in butterflies…).

THREE

I’m back with my iPod. The music begins. If I don’t like the beginning (sometimes I need 5 seconds to know it, but sometimes it’s more like a minute), I turn the wheel. I go from 0’15” to 1’20” – just to see how it will evolve, as you can guess…

Most of the time, my instinct was right : if the first verse is bad (music, singer, harmony, sound, whatever), it STAYS bad, and I see almost no difference between 0’15, 1’20” and 2’45”. This is how pop music is made, 98% of the time.

There’s pleasure in repetition, in “it comes back”.

The chorus idea is like the proof of it. A good chorus (or a great gimmick), and people sing, and you got a hit, Johnny!

FOUR

What I like the most, with my little wheel, is when I hear the beginning or a track, then I go to 1’10” and I hear something else, then I go to 2’20” and I hear again something else. Woah! Invention!

Most groups of the Progressive Music era worked like that : Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson. They liked to invent structures similar to Classical Music

And well, yes, Classical Music has this “pleasure in repetition of themes”, but it’s much more complex, of course. A theme coming back is more like an event in a ocean of… :

Continuous Invention

In Pop-Rock, it’s VERY rare. Some groups are crazy enough to build a 5 minutes tracks like Pink Floyd did with 30 minutes.

  • Instead of : Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break or solo, verse, chorus, outro
  • They do : Intro, verse, break, surprise, chorus, another music, double break, altered chorus, intro to triple variation, piano reprise, Irish drum arrival, guitar, false outro, reweaving of some previous with other instruments, choir silliness, new chorus, samples, etc etc…

Continuous Invention : you invent all along, continuously, surprising the audience with pleasant unexpectations.

Names I have in mind (for some tracks, not all of them) : Röyksopp. MGMT. St Vincent.

FIVE

In what discipline you could apply this tool of “Continuous Invention” instead of “Pleasant Structural Pattern Repetition”? Poetry? Mmmmhhh… Marketing?

What about the contrary? If most movies are based on “stories” – continuous invention – some of them are based on variations around a small story : Rashomon, or Run Lola Run. There’s a pleasure here, in viewing three or more times the same stories, viewed with another point of view…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Run_Lola_Run
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashomon

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Sick Songs of Abba & Bee Gees

Every pop music lover knows Abba & Bee Gees. Long careers, huge success, big hits, etc.

You don’t need to be a big connaisseur to notice something special about them. Behind the good music and arrangements, you can feel some melancholy. It’s maybe their secret after all ?

And sometimes some sickness too. Some nastiness maybe ? (I wanted to say “meaniness” but it does not seem to be english…).

I like to find a lever pushed a little too far in this kind of mainstream pop-music. A quiet-disturbing element, a new harsh sound, a instrumental bridge… weirdly made.

Take the first 20 seconds of Abba’s Gimme Gimme Gimme, listen loud, and admit you’ve never heard that :

Gimme Gimme Gimme

If you go from 02:50 to 3:40 in the same track, you realise that you have a mean bizarre robotic synthetic loop, before a feverish orchestra and some haunted voices… Not that common in pop music !

Bee Gee’s Liar is similar… Every line is like weirdoed by strange harmonies, risky notes, and so within a clear disco structure you’ve got a… sick piece of song, like a dark ill version of their music.

Liar

Lever : How could we call it ? You have a project, a painting, a music, a concept, and you think you’re lost, too comfortable. Take a lever, push it too far. Go 130%. Go mean, tensed, unappropriate, whatever. Add too much pepper in your soup. OK, let’s call it Lever-130.

#sky #sun #architecture #clouds
#sky #sun #architecture #clouds