Old and new albums of the month: March 2017

Life Will See You Now by Jens Lekman (2017)
Lekman’s lyrics are playful and the humor is subtle, he’s quoted as saying humor is “a good way of telling a story, a good way of communication”. The dance pop production is a departure from the sound on his previous albums. For example he samples the beats off Ralph MacDonald’s The Path.
He boldly disses 90s recording artists on the opener To Know Your Mission. Evening Prayer is a strangely upbeat song about a tumor. How We Met the Long Version a tongue-in-cheek exploration of how our relationships can be traced backward. Postcard #17 about fears. How Can I Tell Him is about a bromance. Wedding in Finistère taps into the worry you might have about the future. Less original are songs such as What’s That Perfume You Wear? and Our First Fight, which contain some generic writing.
Overall though, the album won me over.
A few lyrics made me chuckle: "If you're gonna write a song about this then please don't make it a sad song"

Drunk by Thundercat (2017)
I was attracted to the album via the catchy single Show You The Way (featuring Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins). Other memorable moments are Friend Zone and the melancholy closer DUI. Blackkk has an inviting groove. Other tracks are nice background music but kind of forgettable and lacking emotion. The synth in Drink Dat reminded me of The Beautiful Ones by Prince.
My overall assessment is similar to Childish Gambino’s 2016 album, too much vocal distortion and computerized instrumentation. I prefer listening to music of the past where you hear the talent of each musician and can distinguish them from each other.

Real Britannia by Ultrasound (2016)
I'd never listened to 90s group Ultrasound until now. Based on Rol's enthusiastic review I gave their latest LP a shot. An overlooked album with good tracks from start to finish. The highlight is the prog rock closer.

Endless (2016) by Frank Ocean
Has a distinctive mood, yet not as memorable as Blonde (2016), A few stand outs: At your best, Alabama, Slide on me, Sideways

Seventh Tree by Goldfrapp (2008)
Continuing my look back at their career. A few tracks outstay their welcome and are too repetitive lyrically, but even so, it’s a strong effort. Hardly any weak tracks. Alison Goldfrapp uses her vocal range to give the songs variation. The album is less sensual than Black Cherry and Supernatural, but her vocal is still otherworldly and angelic.

Head First by Goldfrapp (2010)
I didn't care for the LP when it was first released. Better than I remembered, even if there are a few weaker tracks. If Goldfrapp was around in the 80s, this is what their sound might have been. Not sure holds up to as many listens as other Goldfrapp albums, but as 1980s revivals go, Head First is enjoyable and competently made.

Tales of Us by Goldfrapp (2013)
Several songs feel like they were inspired by nature while other tracks could be lullabies sung to children. However I do think it’s a disposable LP, an album which, over time, has lost its sting. The closer Clay I still love for its energy and Alvar is beautiful, but a number of other tracks no longer do much for me. Maybe it's a case of overplaying. The dream pop/folk style is similar to Seventh Tree, which I prefer.

Silver Eye by Goldfrapp (2017)
Pitchfork wrote, the new album is "a combination of all the things the group has done well". While Slant Magazine claim the group "have failed to materially push their sound in new direction".

I agree with both those quotes. The vocal is workmanlike yet uninspired. Silver Eye is atmospheric and distinguished by its darkness. My favorite of the non-singles is Tigerman for the soundscape. The album finishes strongly with two haunting tracks. Obviously still early days, with the album dropping March 31, so my verdict may change in the upcoming months. There's lots of replay value, though not as memorable as their earlier work.

The Subway Organization 1986-1989 by Various Artists (2005) (compilation)
Suitable for those nostalgic for these 80s UK bands, or simply listeners (like me) who are curious about lesser known music from the era. The compilation consists of indie pop from The Subway Organization, an independent music label founded in 1985 in Bristol. Cherry Red went on to distribute the 2005 Best Of. I had already enjoyed the two Choo Choo Train tracks (High, and Flowerfield) which was how I stumbled upon the compilation on Spotify. There’s too much average material for a best of, although I did uncover some fine tunes, which I blogged about here.

Portishead by Portishead (1997)
Dark, atmospheric and VERY melancholy. There are a bunch of good songs, although it's not something I would listen to often. I can't handle the sadness. The singer sounds like she is in a pit of despair which is impossible to escape from. Approach with caution.

Radio-Aktivität by Kraftwerk (1975)
Futuristic yet timeless album, with a global appeal. By building their own equipment together with a sound engineer, Kraftwerk created new sounds. The music is influenced by machines and the city. You can view the band as historians or cultural commentators. Music that penetrates the air, but as with radioactivity is alarmingly invisible to the eyes. Released at a time when nuclear war was a distinct possibility, and still poses a threat today. The title track is the most iconic, but the rest of the album is solid. The version I listened to was a mix of English and German.

The Doobie Brothers by The Doobie Brothers (1971)
Yacht Rock / Country Rock. A harmless debut from their pre-Michael McDonald days. Passable entertainment. Not much variety, but a few decent tracks such as Nobody, Travelin' Man, and my personal favorite Greenwood Creek.

Toulouse Street by The Doobie Brothers (1972)
More ambitious than their 1971 debut. There's quite a nice variation throughout the album with genre detours, and faster and slower tracks. The two openers Listen to the Music and Rockin' Down the Highway get a lot of love, but I find them slightly overrated and too similar back-to-back.
Of the two, Rockin' Down the Highway I prefer, which is suitable for a road trip compilation.
Mamaloi goes in a surprising reggae-styled direction. The title track Toulouse Street is vocally Cat Stevens-esque, which I like for the horn midway. Don't Start Me to Talkin' is very bluesy. Jesus Is Just Alright is the album highlight, with its catchy foot-tapping melody and sing-along lyrics. Also enjoyed Disciple, a long-ish jam with an infectious riff.

The Captain and Me (1973) by The Doobie Brothers 
Considered their best album. You can’t fault the musicianship, nothing is out of place and the players work very well together. Long Train Runnin' and China Grove are two Doobie Brothers classics which still get radio play. The album has plenty of replay potential and is more cohesive in its rock sound than the experimental Toulouse Street (1972).

Any thoughts on these albums and reviews? As always, comments are welcome


  1. I love Seventh Tree by Goldfrapp. It's a great record to chill out to while Radioactivity is one of my favorite Kraftwerk albums. You can never go wrong w/ Portishead as I'm still waiting for their next album.

    1. @thevoid99: Glad you agree on Seventh Tree, I think it’s one of Goldfrapp’s best.

      I need to dig into the other classic Kraftwerk albums soon.

      Portishead’s self-titled is powerful, though I wouldn’t listen often because it’s so bleak. Still, very well made.

  2. I love the way your listening goes from Jens to the Doobies, Chris. You're a man after my own heart. Glad you liked the Ultrasound album...Though I think you've just talked me out of Thunderstorms.

    1. @Rol: Thanks for the tip on Ultrasound. You’re not missing much with new Thundercat album.
      I can thank Thundercat’s guest list for reminding me of Michael McDonald/Doobie brothers. I decided to listen to the Doobies from the beginning, fun so far.

  3. That should have read Thundercat. I hate autocorrect!


What do you think about the post? I look forward to hearing from you. Rest assured I will reply soon.


Related Posts with Thumbnails