365 Day Music Journey: Week 1
So for this project, I am challenging myself to listen to a new album every day, taking in a wider variety of music and forcing myself out of a music rut. I often find that asking friends for suggestions yields a rabbit hole of similar artists or discographies that I have yet to explore. It’s going to be a fun year! This week was a combination of some suggestions and some albums I just wanted to check out that were very recent. I started last Monday, so it hasn't been a full week, but the updates will go up on Sunday every week from now on. In the list, I will offer up my impressions, having only heard these albums once straight through. These will reflect the music along with the context that I listened to them in. I want to be able to revisit these albums later, but I’m not going to try and digest a full body of work in one sitting while trying to stumble through some attempt at a prolific response. I love music, and I just want to be able to open up the possibility of a brand new music experience.
Modern Flows EP Vol. 1 by Marquis Hill
This album came out in the fall of last year from the fantastic trumpeter/educator Marquis Hill! His Blacktet is such a strong blend of jazz, hip hop, and soul, combining the talents of jazz musicians as well as spoken word poets, rappers, and strong vocals.
I listened to this EP while playing dominoes with some GravesTones folks after a great show at the Tip Top Deluxe on Saturday. Tom Hymn and our group had supported Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish band, so the energy level was very high between all of the acts. It was nice to relax after a great performance and be completely receptive to the vibe the Blacktet delivered in this release. So much talent in both the songwriting and the creativity of the group, I’m definitely going to keep myself informed on Marquis Hill.
Eldorado by Electric Light Orchestra
According to the information on Wikipedia, “Eldorado is the first complete ELO concept album; bandleader Jeff Lynne conceived the storyline before he wrote any music. The plot follows a Walter Mitty-like character who journeys into fantasy worlds via dreams, to escape the disillusionment of his mundane reality. Lynne began to write the album in response to criticisms from his father, a classical music lover, who said that Electric Light Orchestra's repertoire "had no tune". The influence of the Beatles is prevalent, especially in the melody of the verse of "Mister Kingdom" which to some degree resembles the Beatles' "Across the Universe".
The concept, reading it now after having listened to this album, makes sense in the music. Each track is its own great experience while somehow being linked together intuitively. I often don’t listen to the lyrics as much as I examine the music as a whole, so if the concept was described in the verses, I did not catch it. However, I did feel that while each track had a very diverse blend of classical elements, jazz, funk, and some of that strong Classic Rock vibe, it was not a disjointed jumble of musical ideas. It definitely feels like a strong showcase of Jeff Lyne’s writing abilities in response to his father’s criticisms. It was great album to listen to while working, because it put me in a zone that did not blur the music while still being focused on the task at hand. I’d heard some of their stuff before when I was in middle school, but now having heard a full album, I want to learn more of how they put songs together!
River of Dreams by Billy Joel
I would have been a 1 year old when this album debuted, but there is no denying the strong presence of Billy Joel in American music. Everybody and their mother has asked me to play “Piano Man” at some point, because why wouldn’t you play it if you played piano? Because I have feelings Karen….geeze….
Anyway, this album was fun departure from my disdain for hearing his name rarely outside of the Piano Man. The vocals were great, the songwriting was fun while being very grounded and confident, and there were plenty of tunes that got my head bobbing while I was enjoying some lunch and getting some work done. It has a cool spirit to it, and it definitely sheds some light on the man behind some of karaoke’s favorite tunes. I’d jam to this in the car or listen to it casually again for sure.
Vows by Kimbra
This debut album from Kimbra came out before last year’s “The Golden Echo,” and it is such a delicious layered sound cake for your ears to enjoy. So many interesting choices to layer certain loops, electronic and acoustic sounds to make a groovy album that feels deliberate and fresh. I had heard her in the collaboration with Goyte, but it’s nice to finally listen to hear music showcasing more of her personality. It’s such a smorgasbord of different styles, from bubblegum pop to 60’s doo wop to avant-garde, but crafted in a way that it resonates with a wider audience. It gives variety without sacrificing songwriting strength. Definitely gets me interested in listening to her latest release.
Never Listen by With A Smile
Okay, let me preface this impression by clarifying two things:
- I am a James Knoerl fanboy, ever since seeing him and Matt Ryan play Liquid Tension Experiment songs in my middle school cabin at Blue Lake, I knew he was gonna keep slaying his way to the top. He’s done some awesome things, including attending Berklee School of Music.
- Heavy Blog is Heavy has a great review up of this EP, so you should check it out: http://www.heavyblogisheavy.com/2015/09/04/hey-listen-to-with-a-smile/
This album was his first EP of original music, and what a showing! It’s got jazzy grooves that liken to Tigran Hamasyan and Robert Glasper, it’s got a Tori Kelly cover with some great musical moments, and it’s like a delicious, bite size sampler of ear candy for those craving some skillful musicianship and creative music. So happy for this man! It was fun to sample this album with a friend.
Omivorous by The Yeqy
This is a prog metal, avant-garde, jazzy album straight from Belgrade, Serbia. The band name is taken from its creator’s name, Milan Jejina Yeqy, who plays drums for David Maxim Micic’s solo project Bilo and Destiny Potato. It features a host of great guest artists, included Micic and prog metal/jazz guitarist Jakub Zytecki. It’s such a tasty album, full of odd-meter grooves, cool instrument sounds, interesting song arrangements, and shamelessly skillful musicianship. Listening to this at my buddy’s house definitely got us both grooving! It’s awesome music, and if you want to see a full performance of the EP, you’ll definitely want to check this link out: https://youtu.be/-pvjFiOgpSk