Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Listening Journal 2

In order to keep up with my idea, I'm going to avoid trying to be comprehensive. If something impresses me, I'll record it here. If I'm unimpressed by something with a big reputation, I'll record it here.

R.E.M. - Murmur
-the playing is thoroughly rudimentary, but the songs themselves are surprisingly complicated
-some sort of songwriting genius is at work in that the verses never predict the choruses, but they transition and mesh seamlessly - see "Laughing," "9-9"
-perhaps the genius lies in the juxtaposition of post-punk riffs with folkie sonics -angular licks and hints of polyrhythms
-writing is distinctly riff-based, not chord progression based, which immediately distinguishes it from so much folk rock
-production is brilliant - again reliant on the juxtaposition of dull drum and bass with guitar chime
-like so many great albums, this sketches some sort of journey in an alternate universe
-Some albums are great for obvious reasons - this is one I think I could speculate about for hours and never dissect - note the number of perhapses here
-formula - Big Star meets Gang of Four
-perhaps the best rock debut of the past three decades - only serious challengers in my view are Jeff Buckley and The Arcade Fire

Leonard Cohen - Songs of Leonard Cohen
-if you'd only heard his more recent work, you might not realize this was him - voice is austere, but tuneful and subtle
-the arrangements are gentle in timbre, but not in harmony - they suggest the deep darkness of his lyrics
-and Cohen is probably the most poetic of all rock lyricists - he's not necessarily the best, but his lyrics read most like poetry and have the best-developed patterns of imagery
-the great contrast here - the gentleness of Cohen's voice and the menace of his words
-the arrangements are also repetitive, and the songs often have too many verses, making this a bit of a chore to hear in one go
-it's unique, it's an essential listen, but I'd rather hear these (or any Cohen songs) as part of a playlist

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