Old and new albums of the month: August 2017

A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs (2017)
Album of the year so far, and will take something special to knock it off the top spot. To be honest, not a great leap forward in terms of their sound, similar heartland rock as their previous. But they do it so well. Shouldn't have doubted the band could equal 2014's Lost in the Dream. Nothing to Find is the best of the non-singles. Probably could have ended after Thinking of a Place, but nice to have the rest as bonus material.

Good Time by Oneohtrix Point Never (soundtrack) (2017)
You know the music buisness has declined when Thief (1981) soundtrack by Tangerine Dream was nominated for worst musical score (really?) at the Golden Raspberry Awards, while Good Time film score by Oneohtrix Point Never (a decent 80s homage to Thief) wins Soundtrack Award at prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
I haven't seen the movie yet. Hospital Escape, Entry to White Castle, and Romance Apocalypse are good, and would work for suspense/atmosphere. Leaving the Park has a nice guitar solo. The Pure and the Damned feat. Iggy Pop is quite haunting but loses its allure on repeat listens.

The Machine That Made Us by Flotation Toy Warning (2017)
I like their lyrics. I'd rather read the words than listen to the dull/depressing vocal again for 61 minutes. Controlling the Sea has a nice melody. King Of Foxgloves might be a grower.

Weakness (EP) Margo Price  (2017)
Better-than-average EP containing four new songs. Two excellent country ballads in Weakness & Just Like Love.
An uptempo song with an extended jam (Paper Cowboy).
The only minor track is the closer Good Luck, although I like the piano.

Songs From the Big Chair by Tears for Fears (1985)
Everybody Wants to Rule the World (with its iconic intro), Shout, and Head over Heels are the three towering pop hits the album is famous for. The Working Hour is nicely produced. Mothers Talk a bit too repetitive, although has an interesting outro. I Believe is a slower, simpler song, a mid album breather. Listen a beautiful closer, however the repetition is a bit unimaginative.
Not an album I'd play often, good for the occasional listen. The vocal is on the verge of cheesy and prevents a higher score.

Welcome to the Pleasuredome by Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1984)
A big, lush 80s pop sound, coupled with (at the time) controversial themes. The hit single Relax (a warning about the dangers of intercourse) is the most catchy and memorable. Welcome to the Pleasuredome (about debauchery), War ...And Hide (an anti-war anthem),  and the moving love song The Power of Love are the other keepers.
The rest of the album is ok but forgettable. The covers of Born to Run and San Jose (The Way) are odd inclusions. The Ballad of 32 is a Pink Floyd homage with erotic undertones.
If I listen to the album again, I'd stop after War and skip to the penultimate The Power of Love. The last 2/3 of the LP are not at the same level as the opening 25 min. Despite the unevenness, worth checking out if you are an 80s fan.

Tattoo You by The Rolling Stones (1981)
I've read Tattoo You is their last great album.  A fun, easy listen. The first four tracks, Start Me Up, Hang Fire, Slave, and Little T and A are very, very catchy.
The formula hasn't altered really from their classic sound, but why change if it still rocks? Apparently the album is mostly composed of studio outtakes recorded during the 1970s.
Not their best lyrics, the Stones don't seem to have much to say at this point, except expressing fondness for girlfriends/groupies, which is what keeps it from a higher rating.

The Nightfly by Donald Fagen (1982)
According to Rate Your Music, Donald Fagen's best solo album. I like the musicianship. The backup vocals and harmonies got on my nerves a bit, though less bothersome on further plays. There are some nice grooves on tracks such as  I.G.Y. , Green Flower Street and New Frontier.
"In my dreams, I can hear the sound of thunder" is an inspired lyric.

Can't Buy a Thrill by Steely Dan (1972)
Three classics with timeless, relatable lyrics (Dirty Work, Do It Again, and Reelin' in the Years)
The other songs are not bad, although less distinctive. Probably takes many plays for it to become a loved album. I like Can't Buy a Thrill enough to keep exploring their discography.

There's a Riot Goin' On by Sly & The Family Stone (1971) 
Short on hits (Familiy Affair stands out), rich on funk. You could listen to tons of times. I initially felt this is a good album, but a victim of excessive acclaim. On second listen, I get what is so great about it. The yodeling on Spaced Cowboy is super annoying though. It's pretty obvious Prince was influenced by their music, especially in terms of the vocals.

Hip by Steppeulvene (1967) 
The Danish Bob Dylan. Featured in my edition of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
Stand outs include Dunhammeraften, Itsi-Bitsi, and Til Nashet

The Times They Are A-Changin' by Bob Dylan (1964) 
While well-written, the album is lacking in variety. Bob Dylan was among the folk music revival songwriters with social and political messages. Nowadays political albums are commonplace, and when everyone is doing it, it feels less vital. The opening title track is a 10/10.
Best tracks: The Times They Are A-Changin', With God on Our Side, North Country Blues

Kind of Blue by Miles Davis (1959)
Considered among the greatest jazz albums. No idea what to rate. I've tried listening on three separate occasions. I don't find Kind of Blue as soothing and calm as the Rate Your Music descriptors indicate. The best album experience was while doing the dishes, the worst was driving when the improvisational tunes made me stressed. The third time I just sat in a chair and was bored. Perhaps I'll have to chalk it up as a classic that just isn't for me. Think I prefer music that is more melodic.

In the upcoming weeks, I'll have posts ready on the discographies of Led Zeppelin and Cream.

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome


  1. Tattoo You I'm still convinced is the last album by the Stones that is the closest the band did in creating a classic. I haven't heard any of their recent albums. The Times They Are-A Changin' is a great Dylan album but I prefer the more weirder stuff like Blonde on Blonde and The Basement Tapes.

    I really haven't gotten a chance to hear any new music as I've just lost interest altogether as I'm just waiting for the new NIN EPs to get a proper physical release as the distributor handling the physical releases have really messed things up as it's one of the reasons why I didn't buy the new vinyl reissues or the new EPs physical components. I just prefer getting the CDs when it's available on Amazon.

    I keep hearing about the new War on Drugs record. I might have to download it and put it somewhere to listen to it in the folder of new music that I have in my laptop that I have yet to listen to.

    1. @thevoid99: I’m getting through Dylan’s albums slowly but surely. Not yet listened to Blonde on Blonde and The Basement Tapes.

      I’ve listened to 26 albums from 2017, and for me, A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs is the best album of the year so far.

  2. The Flotation Toy Warning album is in my top ten of the year so far and 'Kind of Blue' is a stone cold classic. The War on Drugs LP is an absolute corker too.

    1. @The Swede: I remember you praised The Flotation Toy Warning in your mid-year rapport. The album just wasn’t for me, happy it struck a chord with you.
      Glad we agree on new War on Drugs-as you say it’s impressive and I’m looking forward to listening again.

  3. I'm afraid I've lost the plot when it comes to new music and seem to be firmly stuck in the past but was pleased to see you included the big production number that was Welcome To The Pleasuredome (as well as The Nightfly and Can't Buy A Thrill of course).

    I remember 1984 well and it was definitely the year of Frankie whose big chart hits covered all the big controversial topics such as sex, politics and religion - Get banned but in doing so get to the top of the charts!

    1. @Alyson: Yes, a strange one when music is banned yet popular. I guess the controversy surrounding Frankie Goes to Hollywood caused a stir, and helped boost interest/sales. And most importantly, Welcome To The Pleasuredome has a handful of excellent songs!

  4. Thanks for giving me some new stuff to look out for. You've also taken me down memory lane with the older stuff. I didn't listen to any of those albums in full, but I'm familiar with almost all of the singles you mentioned. Great songs.

    1. @Wendell: You’re welcome. Yep, the singles from many of these records are top notch.
      If you like Bruce Springsteen, you might take to the heartland rock of The War on Drugs. In a sea of mediocre 2017 albums, A Deeper Understanding is a pearl.

  5. Start me Up was the first Rolling Stones songs I ever heard and I had no idea at the time that they have been around for a while. That opening riff is still good. I fully remember hearing Tears For Fears and I enjoy Head over Heals more then the other songs

    1. @The Vern: Start Me Up still holds up, a great Rolling Stones song.
      Tears For Fears have a unique sound. Maybe I will like them more, just by focusing on individual songs. I agree Head over Heals is one of their best.

  6. Glad you appreciated Thrill and Nightfly (again). They get better with time, too.

    Just can't get into The War On Drugs. It would help if I could hear what he was singing, as I do like the music.

    1. @Rol: Music is all about the sound/feeling for me. I tend to welcome indistinct lyrics, so The War On Drugs was the right album at the right time for me. I can see your point though that it's tricky to hear the words.


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