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I’m not dead! Here’s what I’ve been busy listening to

22/02/2012

I suppose it is some sort of sense of responsibility caused by the occasional evidence that there are in fact people who read this, but I do feel bad when this thing goes unupdated for weeks. These things happen every now and then – I love writing about music, but sometimes writer’s block strikes or my attention shifts away to other things for a while and this little thing goes a bit quiet. Add to that that we’re still only in February and that there’s been barely any new music released that’s got the creative juices flowing with first impression things, and that my current listening habits have been very scattershot rather than focused enough to make me write about older music in passionate fervour. Good thing this is just a hobby rather than something I’m paid for!

In any case, as an attempt to show some signs of life till things get properly going again, here’s a small listener’s diary of what I’ve been spending time with lately.

AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB – EVERCLEAR

AMC are still a fairly new thing for me. I’ve only heard two albums of theirs – this and Mercury – and I’ve been taking my sweet time with them rather than going through mad obsession or huge shopping sprees into their back catalogue (not particularly helped how it’s very easy to find their post-reunion albums from record stores but their 90s works less so, which is what I’m trying to hear first in a bizarre fit of organisation). They’re very much my kind of music though, god knows I love my lyrically heavy sadsack music, and while they’re on the slow burner for me it doesn’t make what I’ve heard any less impressive. Everclear has recently been really revealing its strengths to me: more and more tracks are becoming strong favourites and it’s starting to show its own personality. I don’t think it’ll ever become a genuinely flaw-free album for me thanks to the presence of “Crabwalk”, a cringy honky-tonk bar drawl that sounds like a drunken studio foolaround amidsts all the deeply depressed sadsackery and makes for one hell of a moodbreaker. As a counter though, it does have “Ex-Girlfriend”, which hit me massively from day one, and “Royal Café” which has recently become a small obsession of mine with its gorgeous jangling.

 

GRANDADDY – THE SOPHTWARE SLUMP

I love Grandaddy. I love The Sophtware Slump. I’ve owned the album for years. And yet, somehow, only about few weeks ago everything finally clicked into place. It’s an album I’ve always appreciated and adored but its classic status has always somewhat eluded me. It’s an album filled with great songs and many Grandaddy’s most legendary moments, but it’s never been one of my very favourites of the band (I tend to find they got better and better with each album, so as an album 2 out of 4 it is, as you can see, not in the top 2). And now it just has somehow perfectly clicked with me. Songs I adore sounded even better, songs I didn’t use to find all that interesting suddenly revealed their magic. For a good few days I listened to barely nothing but Sophtware Slump and absorbed all the sudden new additional wonder I was getting from an album I was already extremely familiar with.

Sometimes, stuff just clicks randomly. I used to very much enjoy The Sophtware Slump and now I adore it. I still don’t agree that it’s their crowning achievement, but I’m starting to understand why it’s the one album of theirs held in classic status.

 

MEW

Just in general. They’ve been pushed back in my listening habits for a fairly long time now, despite my huge love for the band, so it was only a matter of time before I’d “re-discover” them. It took a weekend trip to Denmark and the purchase of the re-release of Half a World Is Watching Me to start the re-surface process, and for the past week I’ve been steadily sinking time into all of their wonderful discography. Mostly to Half a World, for obvious reasons. It’s not a new album to me but listening to it from a proper copy has really made me spend more focused time with it and allowed me to see more of its own strengths rather than just view it as inferior versions of Frengers songs (for the uninitiated: Frengers, the first album the band released internationally, was half-composed of re-recordings of Half the World songs): I do still believe that the Frengers versions of the songs are superior but the HtW versions still carry the same amazing songwriting, just with a different, more relaxed and less massive feel. Add to that “Mica” and “Saliva”, two utter gems of pop perfection, and you have a great album. And a great re-release. While the bonus disc lacks the b-sides and bonus tracks of the era (boo!) and yet barely passes the 35 minute length, what little has made to it is at least interesting and worth several listens (I particularly love the demo of “Comforting Sounds” and hearing what a song that wants to be the biggest thing in the world sounds like when it’s just a newborn tune in a practice room).

On a more inverted side of things, my recent forays into And the Glass Handed Kites have lessened my love for it. What used to be a mind-blowing prog pop monster is now a, well, a prog-pop monster. It’s a great album with some career-high songs, but frequently lets the desire to be very proggy and very musically twisty get in the way of actual songcrafting. Sometimes it actually works wonders, sometimes it feels a bit fillery. Still great though… just less so than it used to be.

 

PARIISIN KEVÄT – KAIKKI ON SATUA

The new Pariisin kevät is out! Sort of. It’s on Spotify anyway right now and that’s all that matters right now as I wait for the right time to brace for Finland’s high music prices to get the album next to its siblings on the shelf. It’s still very early days so I’m not willing to come up with a one true statement about its quality, but they weren’t kidding when they said it was going to be a much darker album. The colourful pop extravaganza has been pushed to the back for a while and gloomier, more dangerous undertones have creeped to the spotlight. The production is still lush and the songwriting imaginative, but this time the end result is something you’d expect to wander mysteriously from a fog rather than explode with billions of joyful colours. The lead single “Saari” is somewhat deceptive in its more instant tone as the rest of the album is far more of a slow-creeper. But ooh, it does sound so good already.

****

Yeah there really isn’t much more to this update. Just wanted to let the few readers I have that I’m not dead or abandoned this thing. Just been… busy. Proper updates resume soon! I think.

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