Here’s some of the music I have been listening to lately:
Jon & Vangelis, The Friends of Mr. Cairo — I originally bought this album around 1986 (it came out in ’81) but sold it with a bunch of other CDs back when I was a stupidly poor college student. I just picked it up again for $10 from iTunes. This is a surprisingly good pop album. The weakest track is probably “Back to School” in which the duo try to “rock out” and even that one isn’t really awful. “I’ll Find My Way Home” and “State of Independence” are both catchy as all get-out and the centerpiece title track is a funny pastiche of ’30s and ’40s film noir/gangster films.
Prism, “Armageddon” and “Night to Remember”. Alas, iTunes did not have the album available so I picked two tracks from a “Best of Prism” collection. I first owned this on 8-track. Ah, 8-track, the medium where album integrity was treated with a hearty LOL as tracks got shuffled about, duplicated or split in two. how I miss thee! Anyway, the track “Armageddon” is one I first heard as a piece used in a Remembrance Day ceremony back in grade 8 where we all solemnly read bits about how awful war is, with the orchestral intro/extro of “Armageddon” bookmarking the whole bit. I absolutely lurved the music and bought the album for what amounted to a couple minutes from one song. The album as a whole is perfectly serviceable pop, although I still get a chuckle out of some of the lyrics — “Jerry and Linda in the White House, president sleep in his shoes…” Somehow it seemed plausible that Jerry Brown and Linda Rondstadt could end up being the First Couple. Silly Canadians! “Night to Remember”, by the way, is not about the sinking of the Titanic, but rather a man wanting to bag a woman. It’s rather crass (“Hey, little girl, can I show you the world? Lay down beside me now…”) but all kinds of catchy.
Coldplay, Viva La Vida. Yes, it is and always has been trendy to hate Coldplay because they are fey wannabe rockers or something. I still really like A Rush of Blood to the Head, even if the simplistic lyrics do annoy if I focus on them. I thought the follow-up, X+Y was okay but nothing special. Viva La Vida, though, is their best effort yet. Musically, the band has expanded its sound and Chris Martin’s lyrics aren’t as cringe-inducing. The band is uncharacteristically whimsical on songs like “Strawberry Swing” and the title track, with a bright pop sound that is new. Definitely recommended if you’ve cared for any of their past work.
A couple of albums I picked up based on recommendations from a thread at Quarter to Three:
Zombi, Spirit Animal — This is a duo consisting of keyboard and drums, with some guitar thrown in here and there. They play “space rock” and it’s all instrumental, no vocals. The sound has been described as a cross between Rush and John Carpenter and that’s not a bad description. This is reminiscent of the long tracks favored by prog rock bands of the 70s, with songs divided into movements stretching out over 10 to 17 minutes. It’s great background music and I mean that as a compliment. At times hypnotic or soothing, a great album to mellow out to (man).
Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion — This is a weird one. The sound is dense and layered, heavy on effects and processing, with vocals that sound submerged. In fact, that’s a good word to describe the sound as a whole — submerged. It really is difficult to accurately describe the songs because there is no standard frame of reference in pop music to compare to. The sound is at times haunting and even creepy but there’s also plenty of layered harmonies that recall the bright sound of The Beach Boys. Definitely something you want to sample before diving into.