Recent comments

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   6 days 16 hours ago

    Re: How do these emotions and concepts correlate when you grade albums based on them? ... It totally depends on the album. Some albums have more "emotion", some more "concept". Others, more of a perfect balance of "emotion" and "concept". Either way, both are there, in varying degrees, but always present, one as soon as the other is.

    Re: What determines the grade? ... Not sure how I can answer this one further or more clearly. I can't tell what you don't understand about what I've said/posted on my criteria page (if that's the case) / Re: and how does it relate to music as an art form? ... In my opinion, my criteria is the definition of what makes it "art" (which would include all music [or paintings, films, etc] ever made). The higher the rating, the higher degree this has been accomplished. In all art one will find, the artist is attempting to produce an emotional or conceptual effect. I've never met or known of a serious artist that didn't want to accomplish such with ingenuity (as I describe "ingenuity" on my page), and I think you'd find that, whether they feel their capable of such or not, they'd wish to do so. In any case, all great artists seem to find their own voice sooner or later, a more singular sense of purpose that is prevalent in their work.

    Re: I'm just curious about your uniform preferences regarding the musical/lyrical/logical/historical/philosophical/social features of every album and how they determine the "emotional depth" and "ingenuity" ... I'm not sure what you mean by this question that isn't ultimately answered on my criteria page. ... You will find that every moment of every album is emotional/conceptual to greater or lesser degree, and is being relayed with a certain degree of ingenuity. My criteria encompasses and accounts for everything that could happen on a musical document (or in film, in painting, etc). There are no other additives or considerations necessary.

    Re: Revolver/Cyclops Nuclear Submarine Captain ... Without breaking it down into great detail, Cyclops Nuclear Submarine Captain composes a much greater sense of environment, becoming a monumental, operatic farce of nonsense. Everything about it, from the vocals to each instrument and the compositions as a whole, is coalesced into a vivid world, relentlessly otherworldly depiction. A plummet down a labyrinthine rabbit hole that is so strange and satirical that it walks a fine line between haunting and hilarious (like being stuck in a dream/nightmare where one would be getting pummeled relentlessly for laughs, often in slow motion). An ode to an overactive imagination, an unstoppable stream-of-conscious through a fabled wonderland. Revolver takes few of it's songs very far. They're often one dimensional facsimiles of a "young lad in love", or "watching lonely people" or "lost love" or "happy sunshiny day". There's minimal "dimension" or sense of "immersion" or "depth" in the feelings and concepts. This is because the vocals are often minimal in expressiveness (basic expressions of predictable emotions with little to no nuance), and the same with the instrumental execution; they are rarely played with adequate increase in intensity (that would increase the excitement/elation) or evocative playing (that would increase the sense of environment/scope of concept being relayed). The rhythms are mostly basic patterns following the song along, keeping the beat. There are exceptions to everything I've said (such as Tomorrow Never Knows). Cyclops Nuclear Submarine Captain fully endorses its concepts and visits them thoroughly and with tremendous scope and dexterity and from seemingly every possible angle. It's songs have dimension and immersion. While their touchstone is primarily Zappa and Captain Beefheart and Syd Barrett, nothing actually sounds much like it. One could get lost for weeks in its maze of songs and the sounds within them and the instrumental interplay and the strange nuances presented. It may take some getting used to, but sooner or later it becomes overwhelmingly strange.

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   6 days 17 hours ago

    I can get it as a vague general idea but I think you are aiming for more than that with your detailed criteria. How do these emotions and concepts correlate when you grade albums based on them? What determines the grade and how does it relate to music as an art form? I understand there's no way to come up a with a "right" answer to these questions and I'm not looking for one either. I'm just curious about your uniform preferences regarding the musical/lyrical/logical/historical/philosophical/social features of every album and how they determine the "emotional depth" and "ingenuity".

    For example: Revolver vs. Cyclops Nuclear Submarine Captain. In your opinion, why does the latter have more "emotional depth" and "ingenuity"?

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   6 days 18 hours ago

    Yeah, the Neptunes at #2 is kinda surprising -- good point.

    Re: Songs list ... That would be interesting to see.

    Re: Cyclops Nuclear Submarine Captain ... Satire, such as Dogbowl and Zappa, is an interesting case. Id have to revisit it. It depends on if it sounds too drugged out and/or surreal and/or delusional/like madness (ex: Syd Barrett) for the optimism to be "real". A satirical album like, say, They Might Be Giants, qualifies for me because its satire sounds mostly lucid (plus they're clearly just having a hell of a time). Anyway, Ill revisit and let you know my take...

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   6 days 20 hours ago

    I'm definitely jealous of you getting to see Rosenbaum's talk on Citizen Kane/Welles. He's a really insightful film historian/critic. I love his views on Satantango and Bela Tarr in general, as well.

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   6 days 20 hours ago

    That's true.

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   6 days 20 hours ago

    No worries, The Beatles always seem to bring out the best in us! ;-)

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   6 days 20 hours ago

    I do need to see Citizen Kane again. Just last week I had the luck of going to three Jonathan Rosenbaum sessions about Welles here in Lisbon. Citizen Kane was the first one (the others were Othello and Touch of Evil) but I couldn't stay for the movie and just attended the pre-movie discussion. Rosenbaum's views on why the movie was first neglected and then accepted and enshrined by the mainstream as the greatest american movie are worth reading (he has defended the film throughout his life).

    Why thank you. Sorry if it got too testy.

  • Music Rankings & Notes   6 days 23 hours ago

    Paul's Boutique -- nice, love those beats and collages!

    Re: The White Saint and the Sinner Lady ... Seriously? My curiosity is growing...

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   6 days 23 hours ago

    Re: Citizen Kane ... Perhaps you should look a bit deeper into the film as I have and you'd probably feel the same way (whether that sounds pretentious or not, I'm completely serious. I'd rate my conviction on the matter a 9.8/10).

    Re: The Beatles and your opinions on those other artists ... That's an interesting opinion.

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   6 days 23 hours ago

    Ok, maybe that's possible. It's an interesting admission.

    I think it's obvious I wasn't comparing The Beatles' music to Citizen Kane as works of art (not that it would bother me as much as it does you). The analogy was meant to point out the importance of historical context in your appreciation of both, a topic you barely address. Instead I got pointless fawning over Citizen Kane's magnificence and how the Beatles couldn't even dream (the poor things!) of reaching its tremendous depths. I couldn't get more pretentious and hyperbolic if I tried. This kind of adulation and enshrinement of Citizen Kane does the film and the filmmaking art no good. But that's another discussion.

    I also didn't say The Beatles' legacy was unsurpassable - I'm not interested in that kind of talk. But if I'm pressed to guess I'm pretty sure it won't be either TV on the Radio, Green Day, the dBs, the Decemberists or Arcade Fire to do it - these are bands that follow musical trends created by others decades ago. I'll take the originals over the imitators any day - Beatles, Dylan, Black Sabbath, VU, Ramones, etc. The day a band as boring, phoney and affected as Arcade Fire is viewed as the greatest pop/rock band of all time we've reached a very grim period musically.

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   1 week 4 hours ago

    "Expressed" because it must be evident in the work as part of its expression or confluence of expressions, "emotional" because it can be any emotion, "conviction" because I want art with purpose, where the artist feels and/or is convincing in his/her expression(s).

    "Evocative" expressed in a way that illuminates the concept in a real or compelling way, "conceptual" because it can be any concept, "content" because it's content within a whole, or could also refer to the "whole" itself.

    Regarding how I measure it, I already covered that in my last post. Understanding the "formula" is probably the key and not over-complicating it by thinking I might be saying something deeper than what it says (because its quite simple). If you have something specific in that part that needs clarification, feel free. Otherwise, I dont know how much more I could break it down outside of give you a specific, detailed example of an album or painting or film (which I may or may not be willing to do right now). Perhaps with the above definition breakdowns, the post might now be more understandable. If not let me know and Ill see what I can do.

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   1 week 4 hours ago

    We probably don't really disagree too much regarding early rock music. Maybe I'll make a list ranking songs and see how well those pre-1965 songs stand up for me. Or maybe I'll make a list of recommended compilation albums with pre-album-era songs and see whether they're as good as later actual albums. Maybe both. Maybe neither. Maybe neither both nor neither. Maybe.

    Regarding his producers list, the one I imagine some people being a bit surprised about is the Neptunes on number 2. They are known for producing some of the most popular pop and hip-hop songs of the early 00's, including some of Britney Spears biggest hits. So... not exactly what people would associate with Scaruffi. Though I'm sure that they were not placed on the list for their work with Britney Spears, it's more for what they did with Clipse and N*E*R*D. By the way, Fly or Die by N*E*R*D would probably be appropriate for this list. It is quite optimistic. And what do you think of Cyclops Nuclear Submarine Captain, is that optimistic enough? It's definitely funny.

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   1 week 4 hours ago

    Sorry but that didn't answer my question. Thanks for posting it though. I think I should get more specific because parts of your response allude to what I'm asking:

    ""Fundamentally, it's "expressed emotional conviction" (any emotion or emotions) and "evocative conceptual content", relayed with "ingenuity". Most, if not all artists, do this to some degree."

    My question: What's "expressed emotional conviction" and "evocative conceptual content"?

    "The differences in rating and ranking are determined by a precise attempt at measuring the emotional/conceptual content and ingenuity from the whole work while it is being assimilated... "

    My question: how do you measure emotional/conceptual depth?

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   1 week 5 hours ago

    Fundamentally, it's "expressed emotional conviction" (any emotion or emotions) and "evocative conceptual content", relayed with "ingenuity". Most, if not all artists, do this to some degree. Even a Miley Cyrus song has each of these factors to a mild, superficial degree. I am most interested in the most extraordinary examples.

    A reliable formula for my ratings and rankings is as follows:

    Accumulation of the degree and consistency of expressed emotional content or evocative conceptual content and ingenuity within the time frame or space of the work of art.

    With "time frame" I am referring to arts such as film and music that play out and are assimilated within certain running times. With "space" I am referring to arts such as painting or other visual arts that are viewed and assimilated within certain spatial parameters such as a canvas.

    The differences in rating and ranking are determined by a precise attempt at measuring the emotional/conceptual content and ingenuity from the whole work while it is being assimilated. Both its qualitative peaks and consistency are carefully considered into the overall rating. Experiences do tend to differentiate -- even if slightly -- from one to the next, so a resulting evaluation marks an attempt to determine as precisely as possible the highest rating that it consistently sustains. Therefore, I will tend to assimilate a work several times (particularly in the higher ratings) before I really settle in to a more "permanent" rating and ranking for it. Of course, even then, these are subject to change, but usually I can sooner or later come to terms with a very close estimation of its sustained value within my criteria and in relation to other works of art. After that, there are still variances with that work, from one experience to the next, but in most cases they are so minute that the rating usually doesn't change much, if at all.

    My Ratings Scale:

    5.0 - AVERAGE/MEDIOCRE

    5.5 - ABOVE AVERAGE/MEDIOCRE

    6.0 - GOOD

    6.5 - WELL ABOVE AVERAGE

    7.0 - VERY GOOD/EXCELLENT

    7.5 - EXTRAORDINARY ... At 7.3+ the experience becomes extraordinary, and will begin to stand out as a historically significant work in relation to my criteria.

    Definitions of extraordinary being applied: "Highly exceptional; remarkable" and "Beyond what is usual, ordinary, regular, or established." --Dictionary.com / The Free Dictionary.com

    8.0 - AMAZING ... At 7.8+ the experience will be thoroughly extraordinary and the work starts increasingly representing a truly amazing experience historically and in relation to my criteria.

    Definition of amazing being applied: "To affect with great wonder; astonish." --The Free Dictionary.com

    8.5 - AWE-INSPIRING ... At 8.3+, the experience will be thoroughly amazing and the work starts increasingly representing a truly awe-inspiring experience historically and in relation to my criteria.

    Definition of awe-inspiring being applied: "an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like." --Dictionary.com

    9.0 - ALL TIME MASTERPIECE ... At 8.8+, the experience will be thoroughly awe-inspiring and the work starts increasingly representing a towering masterpiece historically and in relation to my criteria. These works will tend to be the most historically singular, powerful and compelling expressions of their particular genre or confluence of genres.

    9.5 - SUPREME MASTERPIECE ... At 9.3+ the experience seems like an impossible achievement. An achievement so astonishing that, regardless of the type of emotional and thematic content, it inspires awe comparable to a life-changing religious experience, and does so in a manner so singular and exceptional that it will tend to completely revolutionize one's concept of what a work of art can express.

    10 - IMPOSSIBLE?

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   1 week 5 hours ago

    Re: Indie bands nobody will remember ... I'm sure people were thinking similar things about Beefheart, The Velvet Underground, Slint and, almost 20 years ago, Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. I can assure you Arcade Fire's Funeral will rank highly on "best of" lists for decades to come, and Return to Cookie Mountain will grow in stature (maybe not as highly because its purpose/concept is less clear and relatable). Not that any of this "legacy" stuff matters in my criteria, but you do realize Funeral is already 12 years old and almost universally regarded as the 1st or 2nd best album of the 2000s (Kid A and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot being the other two most common choices).

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   1 week 5 hours ago

    I've been meaning to ask you this question for some time:

    What's "emotional/conceptual depth" and how do you grade it? I'm not asking for comparisons between albums, just the definition of "emotional/conceptual depth" and the tool that you use to grade it.

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   1 week 5 hours ago

    Its of course impossible to say things like "if TMR were released today..." because several works on my list wouldn't exist in the same form had it not, as well as many other albums. But, I can say this: If somehow every single album on my list were released at the same time (even though its an impossible idea), yes, all the ratings would be exactly the same.

    Comparing The Beatles to Citizen Kane is ridiculous. Citizen Kane would have the exact same rating no matter when it was released. No other film has been able to accomplish what it does. The Beatles were a mild step apart from what was already happening. Citizen Kane was decades ahead of its time, completely revolutionary in both form and emotional/conceptual weight, in ever aspect or confluence of its filmic language. Citizen Kane's emotional/conceptual content is still being wrestled with to this day. Its depths are practically endless. It is on a similar level as Beethoven's or Mahler's or Michelangelo's or whoever's greatest masterpieces and will likely never be repeated. The Beatles were not even dreaming of the profound depths Welles and Toland were delving into with Kane. Its a silly comparison.

    The Beatles legacy is, in your opinion, unsurpassable, I get it. I find it has some merits, but is blown way, way, way out of proportion -- at least if one is grading by emotional/conceptual depth. Which we've already agreed they didnt accomplish much in the way of, so I'm not really sure, in the end, what the argument is really. I mean, if you really think the Beatles "emotional/conceptual depth" is extraordinary or a colossal achievement, or greater than Arcade Fire's Funeral, or whatever, than "to each his own". I dont care about "legacy" or how many times Brian Wilson cried about Rubber Soul, etc. My criteria page is what I value and that's why I rate The Beatles where I do.

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   1 week 7 hours ago

    The Beatles' legacy in music is too colossal to be "surpassed" by a couple of boring indie magazine bands nobody will remember in 20 years (I had already forgot TV on the Radio existed). You may not grade on a curve but I think anyone can tell it is a much more remarkable feat to be The Beatles in the 60s than to be TV on the Radio on the 00s or the dB's in the 80s. And I'm talking about music, not exposure or record sales. Bernstein would agree, I bet.
    I think putting the works in their respective historical context helps understanding the work and constitutes an inseparable part of our appreciation of it. How can you value Citizen Kane's innovative formal and dramatic techniques if you are not familiar with the american cinema of 1940 and before? How do you know it's such a "singular" achievement in the first place? No different in Beatles' case. I've already said there are different things to be valued in Beatles music (as well as earlier pop music) that may be getting lost in your criteria. It just comes down to what you think it's more important - your personal criteria or the music not encompassed by it.

    Yeah, Bernstein would probably not have said those things in 1966 if The Beatles never existed. Would Trout Mask Replica still be the greatest album on your list if it was released today, after things like Pere Ubu, PiL, and Minutemen (assuming the unlikeliness that these bands would sound the same without his influence)? Probably not, we need a musical past for that music to sound so iconoclastic and revolutionary. I doubt you don't take this into account when listening to Beefheart. And this exactly is what you call a concession, is it not?

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   1 week 7 hours ago

    I think perhaps the main problem for me is that the Beatles aren't very interesting rhythmically. Ringo Starr seems to be the only one interested in the rhythm. Whereas if you listen to the Rolling Stones (another band who did a lot of covers at the time) every musician is very aware of the movement of the song and adds something to it (including the singer.) Now, I'm not saying that to make rock music you have to be as rhythmic as the Rolling Stones, but since the Beatles didn't have very interesting arrangement/production at that time either, you're left with just (in the case of Twist and Shout anyway) Lennon's screaming voice. Which is interesting, but not as powerful as, say, Little Richard a few years earlier. There are some early Beatles songs where their approach to rhythm does work, though. A Hard Day's Night comes to mind (but ofcourse, that isn't a cover.)

    By the way, if you're interested in music from that time with a raw punk-like energy, what do you think of the Kinks' Beautiful Delilah?

    Also, you asked what I thought of the originals to the Beatles' cover songs. Ofcourse I don't know all of the originals, but I like the Motown songs (Money, Please Mr Postman) and I'm very fond of Chuck Berry. And I just listened to the Shirelles' Baby It's You and it has more atmosphere in the Shalala-part than the Beatles' version (darker as well.) The instrumentation is more surprising as well, with an organ (or similar sounding instrument) solo appearing out of nowhere.

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   1 week 7 hours ago

    Yeah, Freak Out raised the bar for sure.

    I don't dismiss the earlier songs/producers as unimportant. I just can't think of any of them I would rate highly on my scale (which favors ingenuity and emotional/conceptual depth). For instance, Chuck Berry was, obviously, massively influential, but I wouldn't rate his songs among the best of the 60s by any stretch of the imagination, let alone "all time".

    His producers list seems fine. I dont pay too much attention to who produced an album so its not something I have much of an opinion on. I would definitely agree with ranking Steinman highly, and if they counted, Kanye West, Frank Zappa and Brian Wilson. His list looks pretty good to me.

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   1 week 11 hours ago

    John Lennon's voice is obviously the defining feature of the cover. Overall, it seems to me that the Isley Brothers' version is more "cool"/confident, soulful and assured; the cover is sped-up (or at least, that's the impression I get) and more forceful/triumphant/anthemic, giving it that raw rock edge that pointed towards the more energetic, more "punk" direction that many rock artists would later on take. Whether that's an improvement is a matter of preference, but I think it at least explains why the cover is more popular and why, for example, Ferris Bueller's Day Off doesn't feature the original instead. Both are good party songs, with a slight nod to John Lennon's screams.

    I like Anna, Boys and Money, but I've forgotten the originals. I never really made a comparison between the originals and the covers in most cases; the most obvious one coming to mind right now is Roll Over Beethoven: the Beatles' changes aren't really bad but I enjoy the original significantly more. Other than that, either what most of the covers sounded like has slipped my mind because they didn't interest me much in the first place, or else I've forgotten or never listened to the originals. What do you think of them?

  • Favorite books   1 week 12 hours ago

    I'll definitely check those out, there's a lot of Russian lit I haven't gotten around to reading yet. Marlowe did have a great sense of comedy, shame he died so early in his career. As for Wilde's plays, I've only read Being Ernest, but if you haven't read A Picture of Dorian Gray then I would highly recommend it

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   1 week 14 hours ago

    What makes the Beatles' version "next level" for you? Is it john Lennon's voice, or are there other things you consider an improvement?
    Also, what is your opinion of the Beatles' other cover songs? Because personally I consider (almost) all of the original versions better than theirs.

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   1 week 14 hours ago

    Another one I would add is Freak Out! by Frank Zappa, supposedly a big influence on Sgt Pepper.
    But yeah, though I would agree that there was a significant improvement in quality in 1965-1967, I don't think you should dismiss the stuff that came before. There were some great things being done with rhythm (Chuck Berry and tons of other rock and roll musicians) and "sound" (Phil Spector, Joe Meek and other innovative producers.) What do you think of Scaruffi's greatest producers list, by the way? http://www.scaruffi.com/music/producer.html It is relatively mainstream (for Scaruffi) so I'm curious what your opinion of it is.

  • Best Upbeat & Optimistic Albums   1 week 19 hours ago

    The Isley Brothers' version is almost as good actually. But the Beatles took it to the next level.