Ryan Leslie – Ryan Leslie
Artist: Ryan Leslie
Release Date: 2009
Ryan Leslie isn’t like every other common rapper that you listen to every day. I perceive him as the ideal renaissance man. He’s a man with many faces: a producer, entrepreneur, rapper, and a singer. In the music field, he plays a variety of instruments like keyboards, trumpet, and even bass guitar. During his college years, Leslie attended the prestigious Harvard University, majoring in government. Not long after, he directed his interests towards music. At this point, he could be classified as one of the most established bachelors in the music industry.
“I see your body lighting up in the moonlight / As a ghost story you jump in the moonlight / I wanna feel you in the dark when I do right”
One thing that I noted earlier was how Ryan Leslie is a man who is talented in playing an array of instruments. I’m not sure if he actually created the instrumental for “Diamond Girl”, but it seems very likely. I wasn’t as interested hearing this track. The first twenty seconds were rather obnoxious. With the scaled keyboard notes, it created a pretty dull mood. I guess Leslie’s voice kinda supports the track a little. “Addiction” was a real club banger when this album first released. Both Cassie andFabolous are featured; all three artists combined are able to create an upbeat tempo and a calming mood with the piano in action. Cassie says “I’m addicted to you” a couple ten times but somehow it just never gets repetitive. A lot of people would say that Leslie’s style has been lacking in lyrical quality. I could agree with this statement, however, I wouldn’t say it to the fullest extent. “You’re Fly” gets real detailed and full of emotions. It’s like Leslie just let loose of his feelings for one particular woman and performed it through his singing. The next track, “Quicksand”, is lined up with contemporary drum beats. Let me sum this up for you, Leslie is simply saying that he’s captured by this mysterious woman. Yeah, that’s what quicksand does to you, it traps and never lets go. I really appreciated how Leslie stepped up his game on “Valentine”. I’m pretty sure that this one is a real banger for the women that enjoy music from the R&B genre. The feeling that this track creates is similar to what Usher could create. Just a quick note, this is where Leslie started getting adventurous in the album, saying how he feels a connection and wants this girl for himself. “Just Right” didn’t mean anything to me; it sounded bland while I listened to it twice over. We start to see more variation on the next track, “How It Was Supposed To Be”. Leslie was able to implement his voice to a better and smoother extent. “I-R-I-N-A” is one of my preferred tracks on Ryan Leslie. One of the many elements that I enjoy most is how the piano keys were right on. It’s all just the pure definition of R&B. “Out Of The Blue” wasn’t that bad either. Words of wisdom from Leslie; love feels so good and it suddenly is over. What you want to listen on an early Sunday morning is “Shouldn’t Have To Wait”. It’s not your typical love song where the tempo is straight up slow. The situation is more lively, but regardless, it’s all about how love shouldn’t be something you have to be too patient about. “Wanna Be Good” is a track I would rate as mediocre. I can’t say that it’s fully bad or entertaining, but it definitely falls in between a 2.5 and 3 out of 5. Even though you can’t comprehend what Leslie is singing in the last track, you have to give him credit for all that time spend making the instrumental. “Gibberish” is it’s called was completely made by Leslie. From the beginning, you can sort of understand what he’s saying. Not long after, everything just becomes another language.
“Maybe it’s lust / Maybe it’s me / But you can be sure I’ll give you what you need”
The overall instrumental quality of this album is pretty satisfying. As for the quality of the lyrics, a lot of things could be improved. Leslie seemed to recycle a lot of his lyrics some specific songs. I’m not going to give Leslie some negative comments about how he used some auto-tune or reverb in his voice. A lot of modern artists just want to test things out and see if their pitch could be corrected by a small value. Just as long as Leslie doesn’t become like T-Pain, then I’m fine. What I’m really looking forward to is Les Is More, Leslie’s next album soon to be released the January of next year.
Rubik – Solar
Release Date: 2011
Have you ever had something that was so good, so pure, so flawless and just, that you felt that no representation other than the presentation that such a thing lays out for itself would be ample in providing why it exists as a great thing? When posed with the Socratic, “Is it a great thing because we think it is great? Or do we think it is great because it is a great thing?”, our minds flutter to the former merely out of logic, but I find my eyes darting to the right for only a second. A glance is all it takes, and emotion has endured a longstanding and ancient battle with reason, but… I find myself contributing to the enemy just this one. I find myself wondering, “Could it be that, on this day, I’ve stumbled upon an album that manages to not only entice me incessantly, but that it does so because it is objectively great?” This is the peculiar question that I am now facing myself with, as Solar proves for the fifth time in half a day that, yes, Rubik may have concocted the perfect album in regards to universal enjoyment and nearly-unbridled preference.
I’m being facetious to a degree: I know that no music can be liked by all, and there is no exception in Solar even if I have been affectionately cradled by what it’s been acutely (and cutely, for that matter) offering, how unguarded it is and the assertion that it’s doing everything as conventionally as all the other musicians of the world should be. So, now that I’ve established how utterly ingratiated and enamored I’ve become with this record so hastily, a natural Romeo in the making (though I assure you I’ll not meet any end of a poison-tipped blade in the name of this), an examination is in order. Why is Solar, nearly in all cases and situations, better thanyour favorite album? What has it, that yours has not?
• Respect for rhythmic innovation. Absolutely, the most cloying and alarming attribute that goes into the musicianship of Solar is the almost progginess that resides beneath the helm of its creation, a prominent bass presence chugging each tune along as you try to get the feel and time signature for the song at hand; right as you think you’ve got and are ready to hum along, it breaks… only, it didn’t break. You just had the math wrong. It’s taken quite some time for me to analyze the structures of these tunes due to how eclectic of a form is being consistently employed on this release (though, probably also because I’m so infatuated with other qualities of the music and sensory overload is imminent). I’ve always argued that standard pop songs lose their oomph over time due to the excessive easiness of figuring everything of its entry and exit (as in, being able to ‘hear’ the song in one’s head without any qualms or relational discrepancies), but take an infectious tune from Rubik, such as “Laws of Gravity” and the bounciness that energizes the kind of fervor that a person might incur in its session. This is not the kind of song that someone could replicate in their head for a bedtime conjuration; it needs to be heard to be understood, and dually, appreciated. This record is full of that.
• Melodies so sweet that you’ll become needy. That’s not to say that, for example, you’ll start calling your girlfriend threefold, or you’ll begin inviting yourself to every event that involves a person you know if only to not risk missing out on something tremendous. This won’t mingle with your interpersonal affairs in the way that some music (namely of a more electronic pedigree, if I may hint) absolutely will. This clinginess will instead direct itself from you to Solar itself, a feeling after you’ve gotten through playing it that, “My laws, I need to hear that again. M-O-O-N, that spells ‘again.’” And you will. You’ll spin this so many times and you’ll find that you’ve not unlocked even an quarter of its secrets, and you’ll start to romanticize of all the different places you could go with this album to help crack just a bit more of what’s guarding it, to get at the meat inside, to harvest its essence. A good example of the sort of sucrose-laden decadence I speak of? “World Around You”, one of the sweetest and tiniest voices I’ve ever heard goes weaving to and fro, arriving at something almost Sufjanesque with a touch of Jim Adkins. Contemporary and nostalgic. Something that will claw at your field of vision, out of begging for your undivided and segregated attention? The monster “Storm in a Glass of Water”, a tune with the kind of compositional perfection that would make Mozart green with hyperbolic envy. I love the slight resemblance to trip-hop that I get whenever I happen to become dazed by the experience, and how everything snaps back into motion as soon as my attention is snagged.
• A presence of mystery that refuses to quit. I’d liken all of Solar to one gigantic and collective reverie, a sort of shared daydream that we all voluntarily delve into when we’re feeling bubbly enough to figure out that we can even do it. This fact emanates sordidly, almost pressingly upon the listener who may begin to feel inferior with only one playthrough of something so wondrously uniform and splendid, but that feeling will dissipate as he dreams on. In this, there are moments of lucidity that negate any feelings of taking the record for granted, a self-awareness that ends up holding harmoniously thorough through the entire length of this gem. “Sun’s Eyes” and “Not a Hero” are both terrific ambassadors for audibly explaining what I’m getting at, a sort of brilliance that is also humbling and utterly sublime. It’s… oh, I don’t know.
This album is going to have such a future in my lifetime, and throughout the days of many of my fellow man, I’m sure this will go onto enhancing each and every person that encounters its likes. Like a bag of cash nestled deep into the woods, just waiting for somebody to happen upon it to change somebody’s life, this will make whoever finds it absolutely dizzy with joy. We need more music like this.
Ride – Nowhere
Release Date: 1990
Music doesn’t really need direction, unlike movies and things within the vein of storytelling that really need a confident hand guiding every path and new situation throughout its entirety. Ever been watching a television show where it’s clear that the writers have absolutely no idea how to close anything of the season they just spent months churning and progressing towards a resolution on? That lackluster cliffhanger that indicates, “Hey, we’ll just read the forums and go with the most popular fan theory by the time autumn rolls around. Thanks. Globalization!” Not with music is this ever really the case, and while some songs and records can be defined as directionless, it’s not exactly an inherent insult for music to have poor spatial coordination. Some of the best acts seem to trudge sloppily along, like a hitchhiker who is using his middle finger in place of his thumb while wondering why he can’t get a ride back to his flat.
Ride indicates that this band has absolutely no idea of what direction home is in, but rather than wallowing or panicking about their current loss of a situation, they take this opportunity to have as big an adventure as humanly possible. These guys roam the streets in search of some landmark or familiarizing point-of-interest that may cause them to have a memory lapse into realizing where they need to go, but often they become sidetracked and the voyage continues to diverge from what it’s supposed to be. Just as I’ve said, a lack of direction is no insult when it comes to music. Nowhere is a bit of an oddity when it comes to my encounters with shoegaze, really reminding me of noise pop more than anything else but occasionally reminding me of why it sits in the ranks with Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine thanks to the little moments this CD offers up. That intro to “In a Different Place”, the Dinosaur Jr.-esque wailing of personal favorite “Kaleidoscope” (also, one of the most crushing noisy songs I’ve ever heard), just things that remind me of the sort of record I’m listening to and a slap across the face of how poignancy can really take hold in any situation involving audibility. Ride somehow finds a place to go, and that sense of cluelessness helps them to the umpteenth degree.
This album is overwhelmingly upsetting to me, and that’s coming from somebody who had a terrific day and who will probably continue to have them until Tuesday at the very earliest. I’m a man with his grievances and troubles, but I’m not really finding any rationality in feeling as glum as I am as with Nowhere floating into my ears graciously. It’s not rare that I find something in somebody’s words that I can connect and identify with, but all of this album seems to be written ominously and scarily about things I’ve encountered, thoughts I’ve endured and things I’ve never told anybody. Here it all is, recorded and available for the world to see and read and it’s all mine and my life. It doesn’t help that this singer sounds so pitiful and pathetic like I can be regarding my aspirations, so to hear such a refraction in an album like this… it sets my heart on fire. As I’m immolating from the inside-out, it’s as if Ride is dousing me in icewater just to keep me from losing myself or anything about my bearings. This is adrenaline pumping through every capillary in my body, and it hurts so good.
Ride isn’t a masochist’s album as I’ve just implied, but it certainly pains me to put myself through it. This is, oddly, a good thing. I’ve got a lot of delving to do when it comes to this record still, but if my first old bedroom listening session in the wee hours of an eventful Friday are any indication of what’s to come, I’ll be a frigid corpse by my third playthrough. A very thought-provoking listening record, this is.
Rich Hil – Slickville
Artist: Rich Hil
Release Date: 2010
Tommy Hilfiger’s son raps? This is what usually hooks people to Rich Hils music; but bear with me: yes the son of the renowned fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger raps and it’s not about how good he has it or how many cars he has in his driveway. In fact the twenty year old, self-proclaimed hippie raps about pills, weed, limos, girls, and his home state of Connecticut. Rich Hil is also inked head to toe in tattoos and constantly mentions the word “limos” or “Limosa Nostra” in his music which in his own words he describes L.I.M.O. too mean Living is Musically Outrageous but also Rich says a limo represents “a flashy lifestyle that we hate. Limos are kind of like a metaphor for the opposite of that. And Limosa Nostra is just basically another word for saying a family of limos.” Rich ever since his first appearance of “Limos Were Cool in the 90’s” has been dropping a steady stream of mixtapes and tracks including the Electric Street Art genre crafting Slickville.
“My bitch took 5 E pills bet she never felt more alive, she stay high, higher up then high fives”
When you hear the eery beat right before Ricky say his infamous catchphraselimos in the Intro track on Slickville you have that feeling that is so reminiscent of a Rich Hil verse. The way he easily blends in his drug usage, constant Crown Vic, CT references and his Cypress Hill – raspy sounding vocals that so easily goes with these electric down temp beats. Another record on this mixtape that caught my attention was the one with the LA native Casey Veggies. Ricky and Casey released a project while back labeled “Bum Shit” and I very much enjoyed it but Casey’s verse on this was sort of out of place to say the least. Ricky killed it but when Casey came in awkwardly and at some parts I felt he was on point but then he would start tripping again. The other track on here that included features were “LOTTA DAT” featuring a Limosa Nostra affiliated artist Boo Bonic which has this psychedelic/chopped and screwed feel to it like every other song on this Ricky is in his niche with his real smooth flow and no pun intended but very slick lyrics. Boo Bonic’s verse is auto deepened but it is used perfectly and really adds that element that was needed for this song. The last feature on this project was with the Harlem Bud Burner Smoke DZA himself, the track starts very grimy with Ricky coming in raw “She said the morphine’s kinda like propane but I told her I’m like Morrison or Cobain” Smoke also kills it with his verse and like any other Smoke verse its got those clever lines and smoke references “You puffin every doob I pass, is equivalent to central park dog shit in the grass, as I took a wiff of it huh I had to laugh, you come with twenty cash I got some brownies for your ass”. Ricky also freestyles over the infamous Outkast song Ms. Jackson and to my surprise I found it one of the most easy going songs just something short and sweet and the beat definitely went well with the rest of the Electronic Street Art sound Ricky was trying to establish here. In “Ride Around Slow” it also has this sort of frivolous electric dark psychedelic chopped and screwed sound that’s so addicting. This song to me is what makes Ricky stand apart: all he does is be himself which makes him such a favorite for people to hate and love. The songs “Slurr” is one of the darkest songs on the album, 21 Blunt Salute is dark as well but has a sort of blues feel to it . “Rebel Shit” and “Leave in the Arm” definitely got the real sweet tooth dark electric vibe to them. Overall this album makes me just want to replay it till I’m deaf; it’s got a very addictive feel even though Rickys lyrical substance is lacking and limited at points, it’s something different all together. This mixtape is the proof to why Ricky doesn’t even consider himself a rapper. His style isn’t just rap it’s something else entirely.
Red House Painters – Rollercoaster
Artist: Red House Painters
Release Date: 1993
A long time ago, I was planning to dedicate my review of this very record to a girl I met from central northern Texas, and I suppose that projection still stands. If you ever come across, Archimedes, I hope it makes you feel things.
She was remarkable, really. You know that fear of judgment that comes from revealing yearlong secrets to friends that have proven their worth again and again, as if the fact that you’ve kept something from them is going to end up igniting a pocket of gaseous contempt that leads to the ultimately uncomfortable downfall of the both of you? Not sure if I articulated that correctly, but there are things that I’m not open about with the people I know that I probably won’t be until I’ve grown up plenty more. I know that I’ll come to terms with those things, but this isn’t about that. This is about the girl who somehow possessed complete abolition in matters of apprehension, a person where I could say literally anything about my most esoteric and clandestine dealings only to receive the most sympathetic ear and an eagerness for understanding that her chosen nickname most heartily suggests. An openhanded, vibrant young woman whose overflowing interests and congruent behaviors, subtle quirks, and unabashed genuinity knew no bounds, and whose curiosity at every new piece of something I showed caused me to have unrealistic expectations of the others I shared my space with. I could show her anything, and she would love it. Not just a placating, “Oh yeah, that’s really cool, Vito.” but a complete foray into whatever it is that I’ve thrown her way. The sort of broadmindedness she deployed, the way she would go on and on about how much she loved the post-rock I’d just left on her page, the alluring way she would invest into what I loved…
Everything crumbled and disintegrated on the night she told me that, if I were to disappear from her life at that very second, she would have a simple time getting over the loss of me. Those words… I’ve been delivered so many hurtful words over the past five years, usually from women with no tacit eloquence to their moodiness and whose general motivation to displease was ingrained to the point of obsession. I guess that’s a pedantic way of saying that I’ve come across plenty of bitchiness from an unexpected selection of my peers, but those words… nothing has ever felt like that, to be told that losing you would mean a speedy recovery and a mournful refraction of only days, that the mark you’ve left over a period of years isn’t enough to leave behind any notable indentation that would bring sadness… how do you come back from that? How do you continue being the friend of a girl who has admitted this to you? How does one reconcile the entirety of a friendship with this underlying? Whatever the answer may be, I didn’t stick around to find out. I gave a hasty, albeit formal goodbye, and I haven’t had an ounce of contact since. I still think about her somewhat periodically, and it appears that her prediction was right.
“Katy Song” poured incessantly from my bedroom that week. I never got to show her Red House Painters, my fixation with the brilliance of their work not quite arriving at my door until months after everything (and perhaps motivated by losing this person, half of their songs being so easy to equate to anything having to do with her). No song has ever been as much about curling into some misshapen position on a hardwood floor, trying to cry even though your nasolacrimal ducts are just refusing to let anything come out. The self-loathing in this presentation may be similar to how it went for my first runthrough: the first of many tremendous moments of sadness of Rollercoaster that just bleed through and do their best to puncture and perforate your essence. How about that vocalization that Mark Kozelek peppers through the entirety of the second act? Or that last line, “Quiet in the corner: numb and falling through / Without you, what does my life amount to?” Nothing has ever been put on an album that has such a tone. Ever. The repetitious acoustics that somehow never get old, even in the eight-minute span that this monster takes to get its message across…
This album is chock full of moments like those littered throughout the misery-laden “Katy Song”, some of which still have me clamoring for a tissue or shaking my head in awe at how sincere and confessional everything is. “Mistress” reeks of malice, a haughty look at one of the cruelest individuals he’s ever let and had to let go, and the musing over just how right of a decision it was to send her away. “New Jersey” rises like steam from an overheated concrete slab, rising steadily until it’s over the hills of some barren wasteland out and away from the sewage-riddled metropolis. There’s a moment in that song that always gets me and strikes a little pang into one of my ventricles, and it’s that moment in the makeshift chorus where Mark brings the final word of his recitation to a falsetto: “Don’t you leave me out here too long / Will you bring me out there-ooh?” He croons and strains to add that second syllable to the word ‘there’, and she succeeds with such staggering prominence. I showed that to another friend of mine a couple of months ago, and right when he hit that note, she clutched her chest and made a noise that indicated she felt exactly as I did. That moment made me think of the girl I opened up with talking about.
This album will always be too long, not to say that there’s a gram of anything that could be considered filler or unnecessary, but… I feel like this should have been turned into two records. Everything about this broods and I always think of her whenever it plays, as if this could have been the one that I shared and dually loved alongside her and Godspeed You! Black Emperor had held the place that Red House Painters now is. Sometimes I wonder about her, and I think of trying to find her just to reconnect for my own redolent thoughts, but… I know nothing good would come of it. Even if she returned, I’d always have the memory of her saying such a horrible thing to me, and it will shadow the both of us. What I need to do isn’t involving speaking to her. What I need to do is crank up the volume onRollercoaster.
Rebelution – Bright Side Of Life
Release Date: 2009
After listening to this album, I felt a sense of nostalgia come to me. As the mellow vibes flowed through my headphones, the music reminded me of artists like Bob Marley and Collie Buddz. Collectively, the sounds of Jamaican drums, guitar strings, and keyboard notes most definitely characterize this album. The voice of lead singer, Eric Rachmany, gave me a sense of music from the rock genre. However, his voice fused with the reggae acapellas, making the music pleasurable to listen to. Bright Side Of Life is probably one of the more exceptional albums in the reggae genre.
The first track, “Bright Side Of Life”, didn’t really catch my attention. The guitar and drum beats at first weren’t so appealing. The upcoming track had a much better “tropical” vibe. It is most likely the trumpet noises captured my attention. The words “remember me and you” are constantly repeated in the song. I assume that this track has regards to guy speaking to his lover about the times they’ve spent and how nothing has changed. Skipping one track to “From The Window”, the tempo becomes a little more hyphy. Wesley Finley really puts it down with the drums. I feel like his part plays a major role in the music that Rebelution has created. Honestly, their music probably wouldn’t sound as great without his talent. If you want to listen to slow-jamming reggae beat, go ahead and listen to “Suffering”. If you ask me, this song is somewhat spiritual and philosophical at the same time.
“I’ve got my mind set at ease/Don’t know you it’s you why you’re suffering?”
There was one track that kept my head bumping throughout the listen. “Dubzilla”, although with no vocals whatsoever, had a chill beat to itself. It’s unfortunate how it’s only 2 minutes and 15 seconds in length, making it the shortest track on Bright Side Of Life. My favorite track on this album, “Lazy Afternoons”, had me feeling sluggish for sure. Just within one listen, I had a mellow feeling like I was at a sunny beachside. Most of the tracks tend to give you this feeling, but “Lazy Afternoons” gave me that extra boost.
“I’m thinking of you constantly and what you mean to me/I’m living just for thee, girl come and get at me”
I trust that reggae fans will surely enjoy a listen to this album. Those of you who listen to rock music, be sure to give this album a listen. You never know, just a little exposure to this album might get you hooked. This album is pretty amazing, and it’s guaranteed to brighten your mood. The summer is soon coming to an end, so be sure to give this one a listen with the perfect atmosphere around you.
Radiohead – The King of Limbs
Release Date: 2011
The release of a Radiohead album is enough reason to celebrate for fans around the world. When In Rainbows came out in 2007, people around the world gathered at their computers, listening to an album that they had all anticipated for four years. In Rainbows was worth the wait, and exceeded the expectations of critics and fans alike. It’s been four years since the release of In Rainbows, and The King of Limbs is a scraggly offering compared to In Rainbows’ two disc extravaganza.
Clocking in at just under forty minutes, this is Radiohead’s shortest album ever, but the length is just right. The eight tracks are immediately recognizable, with rhythmic, electronic percussion and Thom’s famous falsetto dominating each song. The tracks here would not be out of place in an earlier album; in fact, they seemed to be recorded during the same time as In Rainbows. It’s strange to see Radiohead finally settling down and having a signature sound that doesn’t change from album to album. Rather than attempting another sonic revolution a la OK Computer and Kid A, the band is comfortable in their post In Rainbows territory.
While there is nothing wrong with Radiohead’s decision to stay firmly in the electronic genre, the album lacks any sort of lead song. Each track flows onto the next, and before you know it, the album is over. Picking through the album with a finer comb reveals Morning Mr. Magpie and Lotus Flower as standouts, but neither can be compared to Radiohead’s earlier masterpieces like Pyramid Head or Paranoid Android. Still, as much as I’ve criticized the album, I find it difficult to stop listening to it. This is because The King of Limbs is an excellent album, but is still a bitter disappointment in light of Radiohead’s potential.
We have come to expect lightning innovation from Radiohead, so much so that we eagerly anticipate the revolution of a genre with each new release. The King of Limbs does no such thing. It stays in well-worn territory, an excellent album hampered only by unrealistic expectations.
Pink Floyd – The Division Bell
Artist: Pink Floyd
Release Date: 1994
Extraterrestrial beings, a family of four to be exact, grinning and green and eye stalks vibrantly glimmering as they watch the TV aboard the domestic quarters of their spaceship. It hurtles at a mere parsec per decade, but the family loved long vacations like this one. With a life expectancy of over eight-hundred years in their home galaxy, the beings that circle the red dwarf Gliese 581 have found that their sense of urgency in being alive, that nagging antsy feeling that they have to be doing something important right here and right now, has slipped dramatically and soothingly. It’s as if the impending certainty of a death centuries from the second they stand, all of which whose time will be filled with a life of leisurely decadence at the welfare of a planetary federation gone altruistic, is exactly the sort of cure that the cognitive plagues of mankind (a lesser, failing form of sentient life, akin to the scurrying crustaceans that lurk the depths of every ocean floor on every spinning rock) have been wishing and praying for forever: cynicism, lethargy, apathy, nihilism, suicide. All of these things vanished as soon as the lifeforms were abolished of the fear to die; the happy family of Mr. and Mrs. Xylqqfuhkur (pronounced Gilmour) were not only going to visit the humans for an educational adventure, but they had an old friend to collect.
David Xylqqfuhkur had traveled to this planet out of interest alone, but the ramblings and psychosis of an earthling, Syd Barrett, caused David’s underlying ego to try his hand at becoming one of the rockstars that the planet seemed to hail like celestial sky monsters. Instead of attaching his AndromCo Comet Caravan™ to the underside of passing space debris and checking out in 1969, David Gilmour decided to stay and turn this ordinary psychedelic rock band into one of the most brilliant collection of masterminds that the world had ever seen, all through the cunning utilization of audible frequencies arranged at intricate placements and patterns. The primitive folk of this planet liked to call it ‘music’, and as silly of an idea as that seemed for David, he sought to become one of the very best understanders of notation, theory, and pure melodic catharsis. Over the course of his tenure as a rock idol, he played a board made of taut strings and adjustable knobs that could be electrified and filtered into a myriad of different tones, and he even went the extra length of vibrating his vocal chords into a domed amplifier, his very voice becoming a component of this music that everybody came to instantly recognize. It’s no wonder that David overstayed the guarantee of his galactic Green Card, but he was lucky that a clause allowed him to be spared of admonishment if family came to personally retrieve him. A bright pink barrage of clouds drifted serenely overhead, the late March air crisply tantalizing what might very well be the final seconds on this monolith. He looked towards the sky, and then he saw it, blazoned on the side of its meteor-beaten underbelly: “Cluster One”.
It makes sense that David would dedicate his last work under the semblance that brought him to so many places, stadiums and outdoor arenas and dunes where drunken teenagers no doubt made love to the sounds of his vibrant execution, to the home that he came from. I’ve made it perfectly clear that it was all in the guided cards for this band that some help from the stars should skyrocket their fame and glory to a transcendent, unreachable-by-mere-men tier. It’s not that David didn’t love the people that he’d come to meet over the tumbling decades of surmounting pomposity, his dealings with Roger Waters being something that he found more amusing and cute than legitimately angering and with genuine conviction, but he did become wary of the insatiable demands and the role of imperative thinking that pervaded the mind of the humans. Everybody was so rushed, “Get this album out and mastered by September 23rd, Gilmour,” and though he loved the challenge that came from constantly succeeding in the face of extreme adversity, it had worn him out. It makes sense that he feigned such a snide attitude on “What Do You Want From Me”, only to recant his actions with heartfelt juxtapositions of sadness and homecoming on all other songs throughout. The Division Bell wasn’t a satisfaction for the record company: if he had went AWOL without fulfilling his contractual obligations, not even an armada of space shuttles and fighter planes could make it to his planet to serve the litigation papers. This was David’s album, his farewell to us and to the world that cared for him unlike any other.
The Publius Enigma was coined as a riddle that ran throughout the entirety of this very record, men with ponytails, acne-ridden complexions, and premature baldness (if you’re one who took interest in the enigma, allow me to extend a humblest apology for this generalization, as I’m sure not all of you fit the bill) mulling over every last note and second of this record to document the technicality of what hidden message this record might possibly contain. David wasn’t lying when he said that there was something underneath this CD that was redolent, particularly meaningful to both himself and the listener if they should come to discover it, but he failed to consider the humanity in the individuals he was saying these words to; people are too literal, a message inside of music being treated like an expedition rather than an observation. Anybody from his own planet would have known exactly what he meant, that this was his revelation of who he really was and why he had come to do what he did, but nobody was listening to him. Nobody got what he was really trying to say. People to this day wonder what secrets this record guards, and the answer is, “Nothing.” It’s as clear as day: David “Gilmour” Xylqqfuhkur just wanted to say goodbye, but the world was too shaken up to get it. This album is constantly called a failure, a joke of the Pink Floyd repertoire, and it was never meant to be anything except a farewell card to those whose lives he’d touched. Maybe it was all for the better that David went back to living with his own kind, because the people of this planet certainly haven’t given him the respect he deserves.
Pearl Jam – No Code
Artist: Pearl Jam
Release Date: 1996
I remember exactly where I was on the day No Code came out: at the airport, leaning against a velvet railing as the pre-9/11 airport terminal thrilled my four-year old mind with the sights and sounds of voyages abound. I think that hospitals and airports are the two most fascinating places to people-watch, or to observe the simple mechanical workings of how something is while marveling at the intricacy that goes on in everyday life. Haven’t you ever sat near the monorail that connects the terminal to the reception area of an airport, only to watch the traveler’s disembark with eyes wide and faces nervous as they themselves scan this new and foreign place they’ve been collected into? It’s fun, and I wish that a fringe group of zealots hadn’t ruined the pleasure of watching people leave the actual plane with that initial spark of fascination and jetlag passing through their heads. On the day that this very record came out, I was peering out the window at the landing planes and sulking over the departure that my camera-wielding cousin was about to commit to. Back to New York, never to return (not just a childhood exaggeration, as he never came back to visit), and I brooded over this simple fact as I refused to watch him slip out of view. I always seemed keen on not wanting to watch people walk away from me, as if looking away allowed me to get my last glance of them at my own terms rather than theirs. It’s odd that I wouldn’t exchange another word with the man for about a decade.
At such a tender age, the late August sun crisply tanning through car windows and a head that clearly forgot about everything that occurred after I gazed at the zooming aircraft, I hadn’t a clue as to what Pearl Jam was when I was 4. And I didn’t know anything about No Code and the fact that it hit shelves for the very first time as all this petulant misery was unfurling for me. The mid-1990s, a time before album leaks were possible on a scale any wider than a city at best, and a period where I can see a date and realize that people first heard a variety of music on that very day due to the label and band’s collaborative (or solo, who knows) decision to sell a CD on that set date. The grunge train has been long hurtling across the musical stratosphere at this point, Pearl Jam establishing their worthiness as one of the best bands since Nirvana and Soundgarden; I’m sure that the radios and public places I frequented had some of this band buzzing around due to the era and whatnot, but I didn’t consciously hear a single note out of this band until I was much older. Even so (EEEEVEN SOOOOO), there was only ever one connection of genuine brilliance that I have and still continue to tether to the success of this band: “Jeremy”. I don’t know what separates this track from everything they’ve ever put on a record, but it is the standard upon which I judge all Pearl Jam records and an archetype of what the 1990s is musically. That and Red House Painters’ everything, and a few miscellaneous things. That is the heart of an era, and with one of my most fond memories of that lost period being August 27th, 1996, I find myself dying to get to know No Code.
It’s unfortunate that this record doesn’t vesuviate that sort of raw passion that Ten orVs. has overflowing from its pockets, as if they spent up all of their intake on the decadently gourmet and realized that the only way to keep from getting fat is a diet of pine nuts and asparagus stalks. I have a romanticized view of Eddie Vedder’s tremendous voice cutting through and punching an imprint into my forehead, as if he’s been waiting behind the balustrade for me to willingly come around the bend to meet his fist. It’s the fact that i want him to hit me and his refusal to do so that frustrates me to insatiable degrees, acoustically noodling and grinning like a sadist as he realizes that I’m not going to get what I want. I throw a fit, like the child I was at this record’s very release, and I want him to be better. I want this album, this entire band to be better and to live up to what they’ve set me to think they’re all about on the early records. That never ends up being the case, and a great deal ofNo Code becomes consequently lost on me. Why doesn’t he just wail? Why does he have to subdue himself so lamely? I ask myself these questions through the whole of this release, and only when I’ve finished do I raise my hand and swear, “Never again will I try a Pearl Jam album; he’s too much of a tease for my sanity to remain intact.”
I’m doing my best to take away some things to like about Pearl Jam, blues rock prowler “Red Mosquito” giving me the sort of thing I seek occasionally from more modern acts like The Black Keys and Comets on Fire, short powerhouse “Lukin” being one of the tunes that made its way onto my running mixtape (I need to exercise more, and this is one of the most staggering pieces of the expedition)… I’m finding myself struggling to point out things I don’t find to be monotonous and droning about this bland, tepidly unconvincing collection of songs, and I’m really having no luck. No Code is an album that the mind wants to like, but nothing sticks out or allows me to escalade the towers of fruition that this record seemingly obscures. Maybe they don’t exist at all, but life is too short to try and obsess over finding out. This one isn’t anything that I’ll be going back to.
Pain of Salvation – Road Salt Two
Artist: Pain of Salvation
Release Date: 2011
Have you ever seen a girl that’s so pretty, so magnificently and astronomically within the realm of universal beauty and overall radiance, to the point that you find yourself attracted to parts of her that you’ve never even found attractive on a member of the opposite (or same) sex before? Have you ever seen this girl and, in realizing that she’s remarkably out of your league and that she would never want anything to do with you on an intimate or otherwise sexual scale, tried to make yourself shun her beauty? What I mean is, have you ever tried convincing yourself that a girl isn’t as attractive as you think she is on the sole basis that she wouldn’t have anything to do with you, and therefore, you look to this method as your strange coping mechanism for moving on? If you answered in any way that isn’t, “Get this guy off the stage,” then good. Let’s try this on a different variation: have you ever seen a girl that is equally as pretty as that of the example I’ve just given, a girl that you do have a chance with when it comes to her interest, but there’s some glaring flaw about her that you know would make the relationship not work? Maybe it’s a different in political or religious views, or maybe she accepts some kooky conspiracy that qualifies her as clinically insane. Maybe she has a tendency to be rude to waitresses, or she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and would expect you to wait on her hand and foot, or maybe she’s a serial killer by night. Whatever the reason is, you find her beautiful and you want her and you know that she’d let you have her, but this one key attribute holds you back. As a result, you do the same as in the former example: you attempt to suppress her beauty in your mind’s eye, telling yourself that the biological attractiveness isn’t as strong as you initially feel, and perhaps… just perhaps… it even works.
Road Salt One was an example of the former, Road Salt Two is an example of the latter. And by that, I mean this: Road Salt One was a firecracker, 6’2”, tanned and french-manicured with the longest and sexiest hair you’ve ever seen on another living being. She had a piercing gaze through murky brown eyes, in the wrong light they would always look as if she had no irises, and if she ever was shifting in her chair to crack her slender and elegant back, she would see that you were admiring your beauty. You’d quickly avert your gaze, hoping that she wasn’t noticing you noticing her, and you’d go about your day. Road Salt Two sat on the other side of the room, near the window so that she could get a healthy dose of the mid-morning sunlight and a somewhat healthy complexion adorning her often-cheerful face. She was pretty, but not in that way of supermodels and cheerleaders; she was the quirky girl in all those high school comedies, the one portrayed as a nerd or an outsider, an quasi-Ally Sheedy for your classroom’s grace.
Between both of these girls, Road Salt One (I feel bad not assigning an actress to this album like I did the other, so let’s go with Evan Rachel Wood because I’m not feeling imaginative [not that she isn’t absolutely gorgeous, but still…]) and Road Salt Two, nearly all of everybody was attracted at first to the former. She was bold, exciting, something that they’ve never seen before and they couldn’t imagine even existing, but she was intimidating. She seemed rough around the edges, as if she would gorge your heart out using nothing but her teeth, and she frightened a great many of you away. This is why many of your hearts fought the possibility of being unrequited, and after very little speculation and scrutiny, you called her out. “Road Salt One,” you’d all say internally, “you’re just too out there and different for me to relate to. I don’t like the idea of opening up to you.” It was then that you’d set uponRoad Salt Two, similar in her idea of being stunning but from a different perspective. From a safer perspective. She was the kind of pretty that you didn’t feel awkward about bringing around to meet your mother, the kind of pretty that you thought might last forever.
The problem is, Road Salt One wasn’t anything like you judged her to be. She may have possessed a stare that seemed icy and distant, as if she couldn’t care less about what you were saying, but that was never it. Her problem was that her beauty warded off so many potential suitors, all under the assumptions that they would never want her because everybody flocked to her. The irony is that, as a result, nobody did. People judged her, tried to convince themselves that she wasn’t worth it, all for the fear of being rejected or made to feel foolish. Road Salt One was too happening to be happened, and that’s the crying shame of why such a superior album has been shat on and disregarded like it has been. The fact that all of you, or a great many if I’ve got a few allies on my side, are praising Road Salt Two as the better record between both of these is an absurdity wrapped in an absurdity. An album with less innovation and wonderment, a safer road to walk down, the elements that made its predecessor so edgy and incredible being either worn down or removed entirely, is getting more acknowledgment as a CD with more to offer. And that, my friends, boils my blood.
Just because I really need to indulge less in my openings and analogies, let’s cut to precisely what made Road Salt One a better record than this one. One monstrous reason off the top of my head? It had “Sisters”. “Sisters”, a heartbreaking portrayal of a man torn between his wife and her kin, a brooding crescendo of desperation and lust that catapulted itself to the top of this band’s charts everywhere (no, really: go look at what the most scrobbled Pain of Salvation song is, both by week and half-year). That song blew my mind, and it was the centerpiece (fixed thereafter, it only being a tertiary affair) of explaining how the band (and Dan’s songwriting more particularly) could thrive under any blanket or stylistic endeavor, an energy underneath them that still has me shaking my head in awe at what they’d managed to accomplish. Road Salt Two does not have that sort of a song. Of all ten complete thoughts that the album contains, ranging from the remnants of blues rock that is horrifically absent through most of the session (that was the selling point that had me loving Road Salt One also, but I’m getting ahead of things) to the contrived folk sentiments that weasel their way instead, I see no song of even half the magnitude which that one was. Another key difference between the two CDs? “No Way”, “Linoleum”, “She Likes to Hide”, “Tell Me You Don’t Know”, and “Curiosity”. Q: What do all of these Road Salt One songs have in common? A: The fact that they support the aforementioned best song “Sisters”, and that they come close to rocking and swaggering the everloving shit out of the playthrough at hand.
Road Salt Two isn’t about that. Those who were tricked by pre-release jam “Conditioned” (which, on all its merits, is quite a delightful song that should have replaced “Of Dust” on the last album) probably found yourself wanting that pomp and smugness, the dripping ego and assuredness that Daniel Gildenlow outright refuses to leave at the door and the very reason that I’m in love with the guy. There’s plenty of narcissism throughout the album, his vocalizations being at a maximum and the power behind his screams being as flawless as they ever were. The problem is that the songs in which these moments take place are not very happening, dull or otherwise building up to a moment of no (or very little) release. Once that’s over with, it moves on. This feels like a giant and complacent affair, an album that exists just for the sake of being an album.
“Softly She Cries” and well-known “Mortar Grind” (the first thing heard post-Scarsick, I’m glad that it’s finally seen a full-length and polished release) serve as the balls of the album, both seeming continuations of the vindication that pervaded the concept that we began on. I’m drawn to these songs most especially due to their natural ties to the first release, that reminder of what could have been and the sallow composition that we ended up stuck with. You’ve also got a few softer numbers, or some that are more associated with a folk rock vibe that doesn’t really do it for me: “1979″ is a melancholy baby, something that I’ll gladly mouth the words of as I meander sluggishly from the school with a chilly dusk keeping me from home; “Through the Distance” is the only song here that I’d call rhythmically pleasing in any sense, almost alluding to “Song for the Innocent” as portrayed in12:5, and there’s a bluesy yelping that occurs in its final minute that makes me crave more (to no avail); “To the Shoreline” almost moves like a folk metal monster, climaxing at the uncomfortably quiet whisper of Dan as he sings atop a mimicking piano. These songs are all nice in their own right, but on what plane do I want to be calling songs of Road Salt Two ‘nice’? “Linoleum” was the bogeyman with rocket launchers, “She Likes to Hide” was a bed of needles and a complementary weight to keep you tucked in. “No Way” was being smashed in the teeth by your girlfriend’s ex-lover. I should not be calling anything of this album ‘nice’. I should be terrified and reluctantly obsessed with its relentless sadism like I was before.
There are three big tunes that Road Salt Two tries to entice with, and of them, I don’t particularly fancy any. The best is “Eleven”, which kind of caters to the style that they were going for initially, but in a subdued and lukewarm fashion that makes me scratch my head and wonder, “Why even bother?” It probably doesn’t help that we’re given very little time to breathe before “The Deeper Cut” comes into focus, one that has its moments but falls into the unfortunate sickness of needless repetition and pointless experimentation. People are loving the chanting of “Into the wild / Into the wild / Into the wild / Into the wild / Into the wild” underneath nearly the whole of this track, but it just annoys me. It’s an annoying ostinato to a song that couldn’t much handle itself in the first place, and the result is me being disgruntled and wishing that it was more like the grooviness of “Innocence”. Most monotonous and unfortunate, however, is the fantastically-titled “The Physics of Gridlock”, one that I was hoping to sink my teeth into ever since the tracklisting dropped, but… whose filthy exterior and unkempt structure is one that has me holding my nose shut more than anything else. I know that I was just in a rant about how this record shouldn’t pull punches or attempt to be nice, but this wasn’t what I had in mind either. It sloshes and stutters, like an engine that stalls only when you’re in the center of an intersection at the second the yellow light turns red. It’s a nuisance that I wish to be gone almost as soon as it’s begun, and it takes up almost nine goddamn minutes.
I’ve probably come across like the grumpiest man alive here, and I wish it didn’t have to be that way. In all honesty, I still like Road Salt Two more than I’d say I dislike it, a presence unwanted still being a presence nonetheless. What this all comes down to, completely and ultimately, is that it is not the sequel I wanted. It is not the record I wanted them to release, and it’s not getting an accurate portrayal by many who are exploring it for some tremendously odd reason that has evoked that opening analogy. Out of desperation? Somewhat. I don’t know how anybody could be turned off by what a terrific piece of work Road Salt One is, and Road Salt Twojust makes me go, “What’s the point in all this?” Had they left the songs on this one for a series of EPs and bootlegs, I’d probably be content. Still, this isn’t anything to sprint away from while flailing and screaming.