Since my First Quarter Note I have diligently, doggedly, at times reluctantly, maintained a rigorous schedule of listening to a new album of music each week. There have been difficult dry spells when I felt burned out (See Weeks 17-19) and times of glorious abundance when I had the world on a string (See Week 22). This self-imposed pursuit of music has not had a 100% success rate, but my persistence continues to reward me with gems from time to time.
Again, my impersonal rating system:
★★★★★ I listen to it regularly.
★★★★☆ I will listen to it again.
★★★☆☆ I wouldn’t mind listening to it.
★★☆☆☆ If it comes on I won’t turn it off.
★☆☆☆☆ I’m not interested in hearing it again.
Prince – Purple Rain (1984) ★★★★☆
Until his death, I was not aware that Prince was considered a serious musician. I only knew him as a punchline and a very strange recurring SNL character. Thankfully my misunderstanding has been corrected, and I can fully enjoy his smooth voice and banging tunes. The Purple Rain songs I know from the radio (“When Doves Cry,” “Let’s Go Crazy”) are even better in context. “Take Me With You” and “Darling Nikki” are two other favorites.
I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness – Fear Is On Our Side (2006)
My memory of this album: first song sounds like the Pixies, and I don’t remember a single lyric or note after.
Jonathan Coulton – Thing A Week Two (2005)★★★★★
Not since Hamilton have I heard an entire album of insatiable earworms. “Chiron Beta Prime” and “Re: Your Brains” are the sci-fi novelty songs I needed in my life. “Dance, Soterios Johnson, Dance” is an absurd delight. “Stroller Town,” “Curl,” and “Don’t Talk to Strangers” are brilliant ideas, executed perfectly. “Take Care of Me” is beautiful satire, and “So Far So Good” is just beautiful.
Bonus Tunes: Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. (2017)
DAMN. is incredible by every metric–the intricate lyrics, the powerful beats, the unity as a concept album, the depth of the concept.
Siouxsie and the Banshees – Through the Looking Glass (1980)
“This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” is a slamming opener, and I also enjoy “Little Johnny Jewel” and “Hall of Mirrors.” I would like to hear this album’s songs mixed into a playlist, but not necessarily as a front-to-back unit.
Led Zeppelin- Led Zeppelin IV (1971)★★☆☆☆
The softer, acoustic songs are lovely, and I learned to like “Stairway to Heaven.” This is the fourth Led Zeppelin album I have listened to (progressing chronologically through their catalog), and I have more or less resigned myself to the fact that their music is Boy Music. It is not meant for me, and it is ok if I don’t care for large portions of it.
Neko Case – Blacklisted (2002)
I wanted to be drawn in to Blacklisted, but that hasn’t happened. I will keep it in rotation; I think it needs more time to creep in.
New Order – Power, Lies & Corruption (1983)★★★★☆
As a friend recently observed to me, New Order is “a rock band that makes dance music,” and I am grateful to finally have those words to describe them. I find long, instrumental songs rarely have lyrics worth sticking around for, but Power, Lies & Corruption has just the right mix.
Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood – Nancy & Lee (1968)
Nancy & Lee…confuses me. I cannot tell if it is a joke. Hazelwood’s vocals on “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” are so poor, so painful, that I don’t know why else someone would choose to open an album with them. Even so, some of the songs are very enjoyable, particularly “Some Velvet Morning.”
Cher – Heart of Stone (1989)★★★★★
This may sound like an overstatement, but Heart of Stone is the greatest album of all time. “Just Like Jesse James” is a masterpiece of raw energy and lyrical wonder that could only become manifest through the power of our blessed goddess, Cher.
Bonus Tunes: Original Broadway Cast – Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (2017)
This musical captures with remarkable effect the social interactions and subtle character portraits of great Russian novels. The music flows masterfully between grand orchestral style and modern electronica. The performance of each singer is striking and unique: Sonya’s dark, sweet voice; Anatole’s foppish, hair metal crooning; Natasha’s naivete cut with lines like a stake through the heart. “Dust and Ashes” is the “Memory” of the 21st century. I love this album.
Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes (1983)
Even more stripped down Modern Lovers. I like it! Considering the fact that I thought “Blister In the Sun” came out in the early 1990s, I suspect this band influenced a lot of those grungy folks. (I’m receiving word that I’m the last person to realize this. Yup. Common knowledge. Got it. Over and out.)
Dan Auerbach – Waiting on a Song (2017) ★★☆☆☆
Like a lot of recently released music, each track on Waiting on a Song sounds like a tribute to 1970s genre music. Some are especially catchy, like “Malibu Man” and “Cherrybomb,” while others are more clever, like the title track and “Stand by My Girl.”
The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America (2006)
This album plays like a series of indie movies about bored white people doing drugs. Arena rock is not my scene.
Bonus Tunes: The Killers – “The Man” (2017)
Another new song heavily influenced by the ‘70s. I’m guessing this is somewhat satirical, but it’s a pretty hot jam. I look forward to the release of the album.
Aimee Mann – Whatever (1993)★★★★☆
At the intersection of Joni Mitchell and Liz Phair, Whatever balances beauty and skepticism using incredible songwriting. “Say Anything” and “I Should’ve Known” rock especially hard. I don’t know if another song like “Mr. Harris” exists.
Third Quarter Projections
I enter the second half of 2017 without expectation. There are many albums remaining on my to-listen list, both from external recommendations and personal choice. I have faith that the next 26 weeks will bring me the music I need to hear; I will keep my ear to the ground and my heart open.