Pyramid is a fun album

photo of great pyramid of giza
Photo by Simon Berger on

Yes, I used the F word.

Pyramid is the third album from The Alan Parsons Project, released in 1978. It’s one of their best and here’s why, in no particular order:

  • Released at the height of disco, it exists completely outside of disco, achieving a timelessness so many great albums have.
  • At a mere 37:46 minutes long, this is an amazingly compact album (especially by prog rock standards), yet even in its economy it manages to pack in nine songs that include six vocalists, three instrumentals, a choir, tolling bells and a tuba solo.
  • Speaking of tuba solos, Pyramid isn’t afraid to go from the sublime to the ridiculous. The epic centrepiece, “In the Lap of the Gods”, an instrumental featuring the aforementioned tolling bell, choir and lush orchestration, is followed by “Pyramania”, which includes a tuba solo and lyrics like, “I consulted all the sages I could find in Yellow Pages/But there aren’t many of them.”
  • The concept (more a theme, really) comes through more directly here than on other APP albums. Every song echoes fears of death, of inevitability, regret and loss. The one exception is the final instrumental, “Hyper-Gamma-Spaces”, a trippy reprieve that focuses mainly on keyboards.

It’s a zany, mysterious grab bag of doom. Give it a listen on your favorite streaming service and soak in the experience of vocals without autotune.

Murmur and The Dark Side of the Moon

The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and Murmur (1983) are two albums I own and enjoy, but neither of which I listened to when they were new. As they turn 40 (!) and 50 (!!) years old, I thought I’d reflect a bit on each.

When The Dark Side of the Moon came out in 1973, I was only nine years old and didn’t listen to any specific music or bands yet. I was gravitating toward The Beatles and The Beach Boys, though (in 1973 The Beatles had only been split up for three years). I came across this album years later, getting it first on CD in the mid-80s. The transfer was so bad (or good, depending on your perspective) that you could hear the analog hiss during quieter parts of the album.

Of the two, DSOTM is more famous, of course, but I feel it’s more dated or, to be more generous, of its time. In particular, the instrumental “Any Colour You Like” sounds very early 70s to my ears. That said, the rest of the album is sleeker and more timeless, and while it isn’t a concept album in the purist sense, all the songs connect together through themes and sound collages in a way that makes it feel like a single piece, a real album album (kids, ask your parents what an “album” is!)

DSOTM is also the sound of a band coming into its own with confidence and newfound maturity. It was Pink Floyd’s eighth album and was one of the last where all the band members fully participated.

Murmur, by contrast, was R.E.M.’s debut. Listening to it now, 40 years later, it still has a weird kind of freshness to it. I mean, it doesn’t sound anything like what you hear in contemporary pop music (which I can’t address without jumping straight into “old man yells at cloud” territory), but if you sought other albums with a similar sound recorded today, Murmur would effortlessly fit in with them, because Stipe’s vocals (not as murky as legend would have it) and the band’s early experimentation in style, going from jangly pop to simple acoustic numbers, remains vibrant and clear. It’s a fun album, an early adventure, and a great example of a group that fired on all cylinders right from the start.

Although I could have picked up Murmur when it was new (I was 19), like many others, I didn’t discover it until after getting brought in to R.E.M.’s music by a later album, in this case Document (1987) and specifically, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)”. In retrospect, I wish R.E.M. had done more zany songs or lighter songs. Some of the best on Murmur are these, like the appropriately propellant “Catapult”. Ah, well.

The song remains somewhat the same

How did I not notice this until just now, 12 years after R.E.M. retired as a band?

The first song on three consecutive R.E.M. albums includes the word “song” in the title. It can’t be a coincidence! It also can’t mean much other than just being a goofy little thing, so probably not worthy of a Dan Brown novel (what happened to him, anyway?)

  • Finest Worksong (Document, 1987)
  • Pop Song 89 (Green, 1988)
  • Radio Song (Out of Time, 1991)

Did the word “song” appear in any of their other song titles?



The shortest and snarkiest review of Around the Sun

I am weirdly fascinated by R.E.M.’s 13th album, Around the Sun. It was a commercial and critical flop (though there are some people who really liked it), and I think Peter Buck’s assessment, circa the release of its follow-up Accelerate, though unduly harsh, has the right general sentiment:

[It] “just wasn’t really listenable, because it sounds like what it is: a bunch of people that are so bored with the material that they can’t stand it anymore.”

Peter Buck

I don’t think it’s not listenable (and Buck probably doesn’t either, really), but I remain intrigued by how the whole album is so refined and carefully constructed, yet utterly tepid.

And then I came across this, which is actually a follow-up to the person’s full review, and it made me laugh out loud because that’s the kind of mood I was in:

Full review can be seen here.

Random music thought: The song “Aftermath” is actually pretty decent, but could have been better if the tempo had been boosted. It feels like it’s always running about two beats behind where it should be, if that makes sense (I am not a musician or even musician-adjacent).

Microsoft’s new Media Player is making me miss Groove

Not really. Groove was terrible, and I’m sure the new Media Player almost has to be better by default. But when I go to my Music Library and sort by Artist, this is the image it presents for ABBA (ABBA is the first artist in the list):

Yes, it’s the Bee Gees’ late younger brother, ABBA Gibb.

Right next to that is a photograph of Alan Parsons, or possibly some stand-up comic who had a sitcom in the 90s called The British Pop:

“Yo, dig my project.”

I will say this: After sampling a few songs, they actually do sound better than in the fossilized software known as iTunes. So there’s that. But I also checked The Magnetic Fields’ album 69 Love Songs and yes, it has all three virtual discs smooshed together like so:

1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3

Which I suppose is an interesting way to experience the album, a pseudo-shuffle play without actual shuffling required.

Unsurprisingly, our glorious future of streaming music means that even downloaded songs from Apple Music are nowhere to be found in Media Player, as Apple has them DRM’d and hidden away, playable only through iTunes or an app like Cider that uses Apple’s specific APIs (and then it streams the songs anyway, instead of playing the local version on the computer).

Maybe I should go full hipster and start buying vinyl again.

(lol no)

Disco Inferno: a visualization

How the lyrics for “Disco Inferno” appear in Apple Music (Mac version):


As you may or may not recall, the song is 10:51 minutes long. That is a lot of burning. The conventional wisdom is people don’t listen to the lyrics, and that would apply even more for a song meant to be danced to in a disco (inferno). But streaming music services means we can not only see the lyrics, we can follow along to them in real time and appreciate just how utterly inane they are when depicted visually. I don’t mean this as a bad thing. In fact, the idea of “Disco Inferno” actually having profound or meaningful lyrics is way more disturbing than seeing the word “burning” appear 24 times in a row.

Why are YouTube comments so weird? They are weird.


The algorithm burbled up Queensrÿche’s “Silent Lucidity” on YouTube, and it’s been awhile since I listened to the song, so I watched the video.

It’s still a very nice song, and yes, it still sounds a lot like Pink Floyd. I submit that if Dave Gilmour recorded vocals for it and had included it on The Division Bell, no one would have suspected a thing. In fact, it might have been picked as the best song on the album. Zing!

Anyway, I started reading the comments because I wanted to see if people were still making the comparison to Pink Floyd (the song was released as a single way back in 1991), but instead I found what almost feels like a parody of YouTube comments, where everyone is proclaiming how old they are for reasons (??) or how the song means something to them because someone they know died or nearly died or maybe they themselves died, which I guess are things that can happen, but most especially happen in YouTube comments. Am I a bad person to find these comments weird? Probably. Here are some samples:

I played this song after I was dealing with health issues 4 years ago. And 3 years later today, I’m now cancer free!

85 years old and music is my life.

Just played at my Mother’s funeral.

Boyfriend of 6 years only ever played this song for me after he was diagnosed with cancer.


I’m a 97 years old man and i love this song so much!!!.

OMG Im 55 years old and heard this song yesterday

It’s my late husband’s birthday today

Reminds me when I was in rehab for a year

My mom would play this song for my brother and I when we were younger. She passed away 5 years ago today.

This was the first song I heard in ICU after coming off sedation .

My late husband practiced and practiced until he got this just right on his guitar.

My son is special needs, almost died at 20 days old

My dad passed away one month ago because of covid-19, he dedicated me this song when I was just a kid

And an actual Pink Floyd reference!

Una obra maestra a nivel Pink floyd. En mi top 10 de temas preferidos del rock! Translation: A Pink Floyd level masterpiece. In my top 10 favorite rock songs!

Oh, and here’s the actual video, for reference:

Rhyming is hard, he said to the bard

Did you know that the song “Tubthumping” from the album Tubthumper (there’s a good trivia question–which was the song, which was the album title?) rhymes the word “down” with the word “down”? It’s true!

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never gonna keep me down

It’s just catchy enough that you never notice until 20 years later, like me.

Why am I listening to The Go-Go’s so much?

I don’t know, but I am, and I’m not sorry!

I recently grabbed their third album, Talk Show, which I never got back on its original release in 1984. Sorry, Go-Go’s, I’m one of those people who helped contribute to the album’s relative unpopularity. I enjoyed the (hit) single “Head Over Heels” but for whatever reason the album as a whole didn’t appeal to me. I think the cover actually was a negative. Not only is it incredibly 80s (which offers a certain amount of kitsch value now), but it demonstrates a serious lack of imagination–unlike the album, which is actually their most sophisticated. Let’s compare covers:

  • Beauty and the Beat: Not only is the title great all on its own, the cover features the band members pseudo-anonymously dressed in towels with beauty cream covering their faces. It’s fun and clever.
  • Vacation: This one looks like a postcard from the 1950s, with retro typefaces and colors, and the band water skiing in formation in puffy pink and white outfits. Once again, it conveys a tremendous sense of fun.
  • Talk Show: This one is simply the five members of the band all photographed straight-on, the photos cropped and lined up to span the cover. There’s a multicolor border. That’s it. Even leaving aside the fabulous 80s hair and fashions, this cover is just boring. It also turned out to be prescient, because it was the first cover to not actually have all the band members posing together, hinting at the split to come after the album was released. Also, I still don’t know what the asterisk after the words “talk show” refer to.

There’s only one more studio album to go, 2001’s God Bless The Go-Go’s, which is allegedly a fine but not outstanding addition to their sun-dappled oeuvre. This means I’ll soon probably put these albums aside for a while. For now, though, I got the beat.

Bad design: Most music apps

But the one I’m going to highlight here is, of course, Apple’s. Apple makes itself such a juicy target because the company’s leadership extols its superior design aesthetic while charging a premium price for the experience.

Specifically, I want to highlight one thing about the interface of the iOS music app, which is pre-installed on every iPhone. You can see it in this screenshot:

First, let me acknowledge the prehistoric nature of the songs highlighted (the newest is from 1992). I am old as dirt, and so is the music I like. Plus, I was sampling some music Apple has highlighted that supports the Dolby Atmos spatial sound standard (more on spatial music in another post) and I didn’t recognize the majority of suggested tracks (again, due to being an out of touch dinosaur).

(Also, the fact that the time was 4:20 p.m. when I grabbed the shot is not some sly signalling that I love the mary-ju-wanna, it’s just a coincidence. Sorry, my BC buds!)

You can see the currently playing song at the top of the screen. It’s Blondie’s well-known classic, “Hanging on the Telep.” It’s “Telephone,” of course, but because the song title is too “long” (four entire words) for the UI, it gets truncated. Apple’s solution (as with nearly all music players) is to slowly scroll the title from beginning to end, allowing the music lover to eventually piece together the entire title of the track they are listening to.

Look at the rest of the music app and ask yourself, “Is there enough room here to fit the entire four word title of a song so it doesn’t have to scroll?” and you may find the answer is, in fact, yes.

And yet this is almost never done. The UI of the music app isn’t actively bad or anything (Apple has much worse stuff tucked away in other areas of iOS), but this tiny space for song titles has always baffled me, because when you’re listening to music this is always going to be the active part of the interface. It just grates on me, especially since there is enough room to easily manage any title of reasonable length. I mean, okay, I don’t expect a music app to properly display Pink Floyd’s “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict”, but still.

A random list of favorite songs

These songs are all silky smooth pop confections. And old, like me.

  • Dreaming, Blondie
  • Vacation, The Go-Go’s
  • Don’t Answer Me, The Alan Parsons Project
  • Roam, The B-52’s
  • Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys
  • Got to Get You Into My Life, The Beatles
  • Get Through to You, Blue Rodeo
  • The Logical Song, Supertramp
  • Coming Home, Prism
  • New Sensation, INXS
  • Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey
  • Ray of Light, Madonna
  • Something About You, Level 42
  • Gemini Dream, The Moody Blues
  • Graceland, Paul Simon
  • Sean, The Proclaimers
  • Catapult, R.E.M.
  • More Than This, Roxy Music
  • Birdhouse in Your Soul, They Might Be Giants
  • End of the Line, The Traveling Wilburys
  • Buddy Holly, Weezer

Listening to music in alphabetical order

I should probably have been mentioning here that I ended my last week of vacation by going on roughly hour-long walks down the Brunette River trail in lieu of running (exciting heel update also coming soon). The weather has been fairly good for these brisk walks and I’ve resumed listening to music. I am now doing the walks immediately after work and they serve as a nice way to unwind from the day–and help get ye old blood circulating after spending most of the day sitting.

Normally I will listen to a specific album if I’m in the mood or just shuffle all songs and skip any that come up that I’m not in the mood for. Or just kind of suck, because let’s face it, not every album released is filler-free.

The last three walks I have done something different. I started listening to songs in alphabetical order. My song library consists of over 3,600 titles so it would take awhile to get through the entire alphabet (10 days if iTunes is right). That’s a lot of walking.

I am still on the letter A and it’s actually not a bad way to listen to music. I sometimes hear songs with the same title from different bands, I’ve discovered a lot of songs start with the word “All” and I’ve mostly not skipped any songs.

I may move to the B’s early, though, because I’d like to hear some other letters without having to necessarily commit to 240 hours of walking.