I don’t know if it’s just me but I feel like it’s becoming harder and harder to love whole albums nowadays, I’m not sure whether it’s the bands that have the ADD or me but where I used to listen from start to finish, now I flick, graze. If something doesn’t grab me in ten, twenty seconds I skip. I listen to tracks, playlists, not albums. So when Simon asked me to write this I was a bit perplexed really as to what five whole albums I could claim to be loving right now. It was tricky. Also if I’m being honest I’ve only been listening to my music of late because I’ve been recording and you can’t very well put your own music as an album you’re loving without seeming like a total big dick. So I had listen to some music. If nothing else it was good to get out of my own doom and gloom sounds for a while and listen to others’…
1 – Wine Dark Sea, Jolie Holland: I’ve been so disappointed in the Jolie of recent years. She seemed to have lost her lustre for a while there. Her music became a bit…joyless. I don’t know what was going on with her but it was disappointing for me, I was such a fan. I saw her three times. Every time she came to New Zealand I went. The last time I swore it was the last time. I had put off taking a flight so I was stuck taking a hellish graveyard shift substitute on no sleep, all to see Jolie. It was a terrible gig. She drunkenly told the audience, at length, about how she had read every translation of The Master and Margarita just to see whether there were subtle differences in the word choices. Wank wank. There were low rumblings in the audience at that stage which turned into louder rumblings when she broke off midway through a song to ask if ‘anyone had seen her wine’ which she then went looking for. If I recall Steve Abel kindly brought her another one to keep the momentum going…A few years and a couple of crappy albums down the road and I had mainly forgotten about Jolie. I chalked it down to “fame” and how some people just can’t keep it together after they get a bit of success. I actually thought she may be turning into Norah Jones. Now along comes Wine Dark Sea and I’m a little bit excited. It’s not original, some of it sounds like her best moments from Springtime Can Kill You and she has boldly made a cover of The Love You Save which has turned out pretty nice. Her voice is becoming more of a caricature of her signature sound but that’s okay. It’s nice to hear her sound like she cares about music again. She is far more confident now. It’s interesting.
There is some pretty (and) distorted guitar, something she hasn’t really done before; it’s a mix of sweet and crunchy. She’s still jazzy, still bluesy, a bit less country. It’s not a patch on Escondida or Catalpa but I don’t think anyone could keep making music as luminous as those two albums except maybe angels. I’m liking Wine Dark Sea because I’m happy to hear her happy and with an appetite for making songs because that’s a good thing for anyone. She is a person after all. I’m not buying into the hype but it’s the best she’s been in a long, long time. (NB: Waiting for the Sun, the first single, is tragically awful. It should have been a B-side. And it’s not even the worst track on the album…)
2 – Bardo Pond, Gazing at Schilla: This is great, you know, it’s a “two” track – they say but it’s really one – ep. It feels like you’re free floating in space and it’s really awesome and beautiful for the first ten minutes and you feel at one with the universe and everything makes sense for the first time but then out of the blue you have this vague suspicion that your oxygen is running out and around two minutes before the end you’re starting to really suspect that’s what’s going on and space is feeling a little darker, less sparkle, more black holes and red dwarfs and something that wants to take you, engulf you and hold you in an endless embrace and you aren’t really at one with anything, more, at risk of being preyed upon and oh so small and vulnerable and then thirty seconds to go and, well, I shouldn’t spoil the ending for you.
3 – Brian Jonestown Massacre, Revelation (Demos): I actually AM loving this. I have never listened to Brian Jonestown Massacre before now. I thought I had, I thought they did a lovely song with Nina Persson from the Cardigans which I dug but it turned out to be the Manic Street Preachers. Man, that was a great song. Here is a link to that song because it’s so great.
Anyway, so Brian Jonestown Massacre: As it turns out I have never listened to them.
So I had been struggling to figure out what five albums I love right now and I had a touch of the insomnias or “coke zeros” as I like to call them and had stayed up all of the night trying to listen to albums. There was a lot of crap, and a lot of crap that isn’t really crap but sounds the same so when you listen to it back to back it just seems like Beach House was having some mood swings and made a five hour album. So I was at the stage of having listened to five hours of Beach House when I found this. Brian Jonestown Massacre – Revelations Demos.
It’s so good. It’s so happy. It’s so real. Dripping with nostalgia. Good nostalgia, driving in convertibles down highways at magic hour nostalgia. There is a song that could be the Abel Tasmans. There is nothing not to like about this. It would go with anything. It’s this year’s little black dress of an album. I’m not sure I want to listen to the real album album but I’m sure I will in time. I’m sure I’ll be disappointed too. There’s just something about a good demo…
4 – John Frusciante, Niandra LaDes And Usually Just A T-Shirt: I’ve been trying this out. I’m not quite loving it. It’s mental yes but it’s real. He has made some achingly, chillingly beautiful music over the years but this album is cuckooville. He claims the horse had nothing to do with its creation but I suspect a few pricks and nibbles. I love his cuckoo sampling of sounds and how he mixes things so for instance the vocals are coming purely out of the right speaker and guitar through the left. It’s honestly bonkers. But people said that about Frank Zappa too, bonkers, yet some people maintain he’s a genius. It’s the same with John. He was always so far above the Peppers. I like music if it makes me feel something and if it seems to come from a real place inside a human being. That’s always been the case with John. He sings from his soul. This is so raw and full of sharp surprises but I imagine it would be imminently listenable if you were, say on mushrooms, or a masochist. I didn’t have any mushrooms. Listen to this instead.
5 – John Lennon, Plastic Ono Band: It’s his best album. I can’t get over how good it is. It’s that thing, again, about music being real. There is so much emotion in this album, it just kills me. All of the music John ever created was good. It was all catchy with mass appeal but this album is something else. He just laid it all out and said, ‘here, nice to meet you, this is everything you’ll ever need to know about me. I’m John.’ I think this album is one of the greatest musical gifts the world has received. Yoko was the wind and she breathed life into that man. I don’t know how she deals with his loss. The sum of their parts was so much greater… She found the magic and she dragged it out of him and I love her for that.
And I love his Plastic Ono Band, I’ll always love it. I can listen to Mother on repeat.
Also, it should be said that Ringo’s drums on I Found Out are sublime, minimal, at the very top of his game.
I just love catching glimpses of people’s souls…I suppose that makes me sound a bit like the Grim Reaper…