Listening Log (album reviews)

  • [Love] Terry Scott Taylor - Neverhood Songs (1997): Every bit as fun as the video game. It runneth over with joy.
  • [Hate] The Shins - Wincing the Night Away (2006): I suspect fawning critics will make the argument that The Shins are radically expanding their sound on this record, but such a tiny progression barely registers on my scale: Seriously, folks, it's just another template pop album.
  • [Hate] Chavez - Better Days Will Haunt You (2006): Seriously, Pitchfork. What the hell. I'm bailing.
  • [Like] Various - The Secret Museum of Mankind [series]: I've got 8 volumes of this exciting set of folk music from around the world (much more "folky" stuff than what's on Putomaya or Rough Guide releases, thankfully). Here's just a short list of some of the countries covered: Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Romania, Vietnam, Morocco, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Visayan Islands, Fiji, Bulgaria, Mozambique, Trinidad, Crete, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Burma, Laos, Tunisia, Peru, Lesotho, Azerbaijan, Tajikstan, Mongolia, and many more. An excellent set!
  • [Hate] The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America (2006): Clearly, I am out of touch. This disc is universally acclaimed, and I can't see any value in it whatsoever. I don't even know what Pitchfork hears in it.
  • [No] Jessica Bailiff - Jessica Bailiff (2002): Sucky and boring. What was Scaruffi thinking?
  • [Really Like] Philip Jeck - Surf (1999): A haunting collage of vintage vinyl samples and an examination of analog recording techniques.
  • [Like] Intelligent Shanghai Mono University - Intelligent Shanghai Mono University (2003): A very diverse set of song-like noise pieces from the Chinese avant-garde. More effective than 99% of noise music, but noise still ain't my favorite genre.
  • [Really Like] Steven Jesse Bernstein - Prison (1992): I like plenty of spoken word "albums" like stand-up comedy or a particularly effective sermon, but this is the first spoken word album that I've liked. I was blown away by the voice, the interplay with music, and the words.
  • [Love] Paul Dolden - L'ivresse De La Vitesse (1994): Same style as the Michael Levinas album, but much better!
  • [Like] Antony and the Johnsons / Current 93 - Live at Saint Olave's Church (2003): No, this wasn't co-composed by Hagerty and Current 93 - alas! Instead, the first three track's are Antony's, as lovely as ever, and the last three tracks are Current 93's piano ballads. I especially like tracks 1 an 5.
  • [Really Like] Beck - The Information (2006): Basically, a hip-hop record that doesn't quite sound hip-hop because of many of the instruments and song forms used, and because Beck is mostly "singing." The production is extremely slick, and I find this album more enjoyable than Beck's last several albums.
  • [Like] Enigma - MCMXC A.D. (1990): A fusion of easy listening, hip-hop, and gregorian chant that begs to be called "lame", and definitely shouldn't work, but for the most part somehow does. As long as you don't overdose on it.
  • [Hate] Hermann Nitsch - Harmoniumwerk volumes 1 through 12: Six hours of over-indulgent minimalist synth-organ drones.
  • [Love] M83 - Before the Dawn Heals Us (2005): Great soul-soaring music.
  • [Hate] Robert Pollard - Relaxation of the Asshole (2005): Pitchfork Media notoriously gave this album a "0.0 or a 10.0", but leaned toward the 10.0; but no, it's definitely a 0.0. There's no music here; just Robert's idiotic between-songs rantings on stage.
  • [Love] Dream Theater - Scenes from a Memory (1999): They say that your favorite music is whatever you were listening to at age 13. That's definitely not true for me (my current musical world didn't start forming until age 19) - except for this album, A Change of Seasons, and Master of Puppets. It was my First Musical Awakening, when I snuck non-Christian music into the house. I remember digging the CD out from a stack of Carman and DC Talk albums, slipping it into my discman, and cranking the volume all the way up. The creativity, the passion, the scope, the power! This was nothing like bland ol' 90's CCM. The rhythm seemed to change at nearly every measure, crunching and slamming its way beneath the most varied and expressive guitar I'd ever heard. Petrucci shredded his way out of this galaxy at warp speed, only to stop for aria-esque crescendos. Tears come to my eyes now as I remember the tears that came the first 50 times I heard "Fatal Tragedy" and its emotionally ransacking guitar solo. I discovered air guitar and air drums and silent screaming with these tracks. One passage in "The Dance of Eternity" is still one of the most orgasmic sections of music I know, and apox on anyone responsible for coitus interruptus. Even my brother, fully engrossed in Blink 182 back then, liked the rousing "The Spirit Carries On." Looking back, it's not a great album, but it was a great time in my life.
  • [Really Like] Josh White - "House of the Rising Sun" (194?): I've heard hundreds of covers of this classic folk song (no, really), and this is one of my favorites, and the one that directly inspired The Animal's famous cover. Also check out Leadbelly's (very different) version.
  • [Really Like] Blind Willie Johnson - "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" (1927): I tracked it down because of its place on the Wire 100, and wow! A blues song that communicates all its emotion without words, only humming and the trembling guitar.
  • [Love] Soft Machine - Third (1970): Apparently, most people's opinion is that "the Robert Wyatt track is a masterpiece, but the rest of the album is merely good." And that's too bad, 'cuz I think the whole thing is great from start to finish. I'll point out just one thing. You know how composers started using serialism concepts for composing rhythms, sound spacializations, and even timbre - not just notes? Well, it appears to me that "Facelift" and other Third tracks use free jazz concepts on notes and rhythm, but also electronic timbres. I'm sure it'd been done before (Subotnick's early work comes to mind, though somehow I doubt Subotnick was thinking of free jazz), but probably not this awesomely.
  • [Love] Captain Beefheart - Shiny Beast (1978): A triumphant return for Vliet after his two Mercury albums. Perhaps the most lighthearted album he recorded.
  • [Like] System of a Down - Mezmerize (2005): It's easy to dismiss most nu-metal, but System of a Down is an exception. They're basically today's Dead Kennedys (well, not quite that good).
  • [Like] Hal Willner - Whoops, I'm an Indian (2000): One of the most eclectic and inventive producers of our time composes a drum 'n bass album that draws on all the styles he's produced for, and more.
  • [Hate] Metallica - St. Anger (2003): Yeah, it's even worse than their 90s stuff. "Dirty Window" is passable, and "All Within My Hands" contains brief hints of what was brilliant about Metallica in 1987, but mostly this record is just trash. Metallica died with Cliff.
  • [Like] Michael Levinas - unknown 1985? album (1985?): The album contains five of his terrifying nightmares: Ouverture Pour Une Fete Etrange, Les Rires Du Gilles, Concerto Pour Piano Espace #2, Clov Et Hamm, and Contrepoints Irreels Rencontres. Levinas is clearly a post-Penderecki master of atmosphere, menace, texture, and technology.
  • [Like] Iancu Dumitrescu - Edition Modern 1001 (19??): 75 minutes of Dumitrescu's late 70's, early 80's spectral music. Though coming at it from an entirely different compositional angle, Dumitrescu's music shares much sound in common with rock artists like Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, and other 70s ambient-esque Krautrock outfits.
  • [Like] Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children (1998): When you dumb-down something as great as Autechre for the masses, the results are still decently interesting. Gets worse every time I hear it, though.
  • [Love] Autechre - Chiastic Slide (1997): Who knew that clicks and beeps could be so rich, compelling, atmospheric, and brilliant? Avantgarde composers had been working with clicks and beeps for at least 4 decades, but Autechre's language is far more lovely and mighty. The more music I listen to, the less interesting Radiohead becomes.
  • [Growing on me] Royal Trux - Twin Infinitives (1990): It's an ugly, puerile, pointless, dispassionate mess that kind of makes one want to throw up after 15 minutes. And it's generation X's hymn of futility and waste. Nothing else is a better soundtrack for the slow hollowing of mankind through withering, distracting pleasures. You know that disgusting, infected sore oozing from Harry's abused vein near the end of Requiem for a Dream? This is the music of that sore.
  • [Meh] Sun Ra - Nuclear War (1982): The title track is loads of frank fun, and the rest of the album is not very interesting.
  • [Like] John Adams - Gnarly Buttons/Alleged Dances (1998): Belongs among Schnittke-esque eclectism, not Adams-esque romantic minimalism. For Alleged Dances, think The String Quartet Tribute to 3 Mustaphas 3. And look out for the cow mooing in the second movement of Gnarly Buttons. Quirky and fun.
  • [Favorite] Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom (1974): I've heard it a hundred times, and it still gets better every time I hear it! Every experiment on this record serves not only academic excitement, but also increases the emotion. Consider the desperate saxophone bursts in "Alifie", or the way Wyatt's extended melisma near the 5:00 mark in "Sea Song" pulls the song from a throbbing dirge section to a heavenly crescendo, or the way the melody and emotional development of track 3 grows straight through a reversal at about 3:40, during which Wyatt's voice and some of the instruments are suddenly played backwards. A definite desert island choice, and the most likely piece of music this side of Harmonielehre to supernova my soul. Sometimes I feel like a millenium of accelerating musical development existed just to give me this 1974 album, for me the emotional peak of all music ever.
  • [Love] Tim Buckley - Lorca (1970): Like Astral Weeks, the album paves new ground along the border of folk, jazz, and chamber music. Buckley's voice is incredible.
  • [Love] Vampire Rodents - Clockseed (1995): The music of Vampire Rodents is as incredibly dense with musical ideas about rhythm, melody, harmony, composition, and sound as many avant-garde works, yet you can still bang your head to it. Clockseed, while not quite the revelation of Lullaby Land, is probably their most mature work and a great introduction to the band.
  • [Love] Jennifer Higdon - Concerto for Orchestra (2002): Everything you could possibly want in a contemporary work: exciting, accessible, innovative, powerful.
  • [No] Philip Glass - Symphony No. 8 (2005): Philip Glass hasn't written great music since 1985 (String Quartet No. 3), and nothing I've liked despite its ineptitude since 1999 (Symphony No. 5), and Symphony No. 8 doesn't break the trend. It's finally a "regular" symphony, not based on Bowie or Eno or sacred texts, and it starts out loud and (un)exciting, but everything Glass writes these days sounds fake and empty.
  • [Love] Mat Maneri - Blue Decco (2000): I know jazz even less than I know classical music, but of course I know what I do and do not like listening to, and I love listening to Blue Decco. It's customized-violin improvisation, vaguely sounding like Duke Ellington, Eric Dolphy, and Takehisa Kosugi, sort of all at once, which - I know - doesn't make any sense.
  • [Love] Art Zoyd - Generation Sans Futur (1980): I guess I know now why Scaruffi isn't that excited by Bang on a Can albums. Art Zoyd was doing the same thing in the early 80s!
  • [Love] Kenneth Newby - Ecology of Souls (1994): Wow! One of the best ambient/new age albums ever.
  • [Love] Green - White Soul (1989): Simply, one of the best damn indie pop/rock albums of all time. Every track is strong.
  • [No] Various - Katamari Damacy (2004): A couple tracks are really fun, and the rest are very boring, as with virtually all video game soundtracks.
  • [Really Like] The Gyuto Monks - Freedom Chants from the Roof of the World (1989): Liars. Recorded in America. Anyway: 21 monks-worth of polyphonic throat chanting, with the occasional percussion or horn thrown in for good measure. I couldn't possibly translate my affection for this metaphysical album into words, except to say it's one of my favorite chant albums. And that includes the Gregorian one that features a cover of Coldplay's "Clocks."
  • [Really Like] New Bomb Turks - Destroy Oh Boy! (1993): Like the debut by I Love You But I Have Chosen Darkness and Klucevsek's Flying Vegetables of the Apocalypse, I picked this up as much for the title as for the reviews. It's a raw, breathless, frantic, fantastic punk album, as fierce and fun as anything you'll ever hear.
  • [Like] Richard Thompson - 1000 Years of Popular Music: Richard Thompson's solo guitar interpretations of popular music songs from 1086 to 1999. A fascinating journey.
  • [Love] 16-17 - Early Recordings (2005): A totally bitchin' reissue of the extremely rare first two LPs by 16-17, 16-17 (1986) and When All Else Fails (1989), plus an early EP (1984). 16-17 play extremist free jazz rock, like Borbetomagus or John Zorn's thrash-jazz via The Swans and The Flying Luttenbachers. Totally awesome.
  • [Like] Radiohead - Hail to the Thief (2003): Four or five really cool tracks, and the rest are so-so. This actually is a close companion to Messe Pour Le Temps Present or An Electric Storm: pop songs that sound experimental. When an artist can so skillfully present the excitement and creativity of experimental music with the security and accessibility of pop music, it's a wonderful thing. Radiohead's previous efforts are better, though.
  • [Meh] Various - The Rough Guide To The Music Of Mali & Guinea (2000): When I think of American folk music, I think of the Harry Smith Anthology, not Bob Dylan or John Fahey. The Rough Guide and Putomayo series serve as quick, easy introductions to a great variety of world folk music, but I feel like I'm getting more Bob Dylan than Harry Smith.
  • [Meh] Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds (2006): Songwriter Owen Pallett has no relation to the popular Squaresoft RPG series. He writes Jon Brion-esque indie pop for chamber ensemble. The album is playful and catchy and pretty boring. Oh, and there are lyrics, but I have no idea what about: I don't care.
  • [Love] Robert Rich - Somnium (2001): A seven-hour "sleep concert" of ambient music that, amazingly, never grows dull, annoying, or repeats itself. Of course, you're not meant to sit still for 7 hours and pay attention to every minute detail. It's best to listen to while, say, doing your @*%!ing statistics homework or... sleeping.
  • [Like] Antony and the Johnsons - I Am a Bird Now (2005): Antony Hegarty has such a fantastic voice that even Diamanda Galás is a fan. These are haunting visions of confusion, sorrow, and hope. My favorite track is "You Are My Sister." I sent a mix with the song on it to a conservative Baptist friend. She was going through a rough time and I knew she would take the song as if I was singing it to her for encouragement, totally missing the sexual ambiguity of Antony and Boy George singing the words to each other. I had fun with it, and she felt loved, so it's all good. (Not all of my practical jokes work out so well.)
  • [Love] Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians (1976): Reich's most popular work takes the overlapping, minimalist rhythms of Riley's In C and adds several harmonic and melodic elements. Most of the formal properties of the work are beyond my understanding, so what it makes it special for me is the way it tugs at my soulstrings.
  • [Love] Jonny Greenwood - Bodysong (2004): Sort of a mini-encyclopedia on the very accessible end of avant-garde composition, which probably makes it a good listen for people who don't know the avantgarde, which is probably most of the people who checked out this album because it was from "a Radiohead guy." Like Kid A irritated true electronic artists like Autechre, Bodsong probably irritates true avantgarde composers. But I really like most of the tracks, and it makes me wonder what it would be like if composers spent their time compressing their complex ideas into mass-consumable 3-minute nuggets. Can you imagine the ideas of Tabula Rasa in 5 minutes? Orgasmic! But of course, most composers want the time to formally develop and explore their ideas. And rightly so. I never, ever, want to hear a 3-minute Harmonielehre.
  • [Meh] Thom Yorke - The Eraser (2006): Exactly what I expected: a basement laptop collection of loops and clicks and mournful vocals. Yorke is a better songwriter than 99% of the laptop generation who are flooding the Internet Archive and Myspace with horrid, boring electronic music. Unfortunately, the songs sound exactly like Radiohead, minus Greenwood's guitar. I do like "Analyse", "The Clock", and "Black Swan".
  • [No] Hank Williams - Beyond the Sunset (1963): I don't know country music well, because I don't listen to it, because I've never heard any straight-country (not country mixed heavily with other styles) of any artistic value. Hank Williams is no exception, and I'm not sure his fans would debate that. Beyond the Sunset is a pedestrian commentary on the everyday of everyman, with music serving only to provide a rhythm of speech for Williams' mini-sermons and mini-memoirs.
  • [Like] Pierre Henry - Messe Pour Le Temps Present / La Reine Verte (1967): The first piece is perhaps the earliest instance of a classical composer jumping head-long into rock music. It's basically go-go music with avant-garde sound techniques (not form techniques) augmenting and interrupting the instrumental rock: highly entertaining, even funny. The sixth track is an extract from "Le Voyage", a more typical vanguard noise piece. "La Reine Verte" is a less trivial merger of rock and avant-garde, though not altogether successful; sort of a "Wakhevitch-lite". The album reminded me greatly of An Electric Storm (1969) by White Noise, which distorts pop/psychedelic songs with strange avantgarde sounds.
  • [Meh] Brian Eno - Another Day on Earth (2005): Eno's first regular studio "song" album in what... a couple decades? It's disappointing to hear Eno writing glitch-pop and ambient-pop: which means that now Eno is 5 years behind music instead of 10 years ahead. There were hundreds of more interesting records released in 2005.
  • [Hate] Muse - Black Holes and Revelations (2006): Showbiz (1999) and Origin of Symmetry (2001) continued the sound that Radiohead abandoned after The Bends, but with Matthew Bellamy's capable Freddie Mercury impression. Absolution (2003) was epic and thunderous. Black Holes and Revelations is a mailed-in "effort" that imitates the worst, mailed-in work of other artists. The opening track has all the boring arpeggiation and tired motifs of Philip Glass' mailed-in efforts from the past 15 years. "Supermassive Black Hole" sounds like Lenny Kravitz's forgettable work, "Assassin" like a million worthless speed-metal bands. I'd go on but this album ain't worth it.
Author Comments: 

Most recently-added at the top. My [Reaction] is how much I enjoyed an album, not how valuable a work is as art. There is considerable overlap, but there are plenty of albums I acknowledge as good art that I don't like listening to, and many albums I like listening to that are artistically worthless.

Feel free to request my thoughts on any album in my collection.

I like these reviews. They're very accessible and cut straight to the point. I actually haven't heard any of these albums (not even the Steve Reich one yet), so these reviews were very helpful.

On Eraser, how would you compare it to Kid A? I like Kid A (I'm not sure if you still do), so please keep this in mind with your answer.

I like Kid A very much. Eraser is inferior.

That's good to know, thankyou.

What contemporary classical music have you heard so far? My favorite piece of musical of all time and styles is John Adams' Harmonielehre, and I always recommend it to anyone interested in modern music, especially those coming from a pop music youth like myself.

I should've been more helpful about The Eraser. I actually suspect you might enjoy the album, even if its songs compare with the mid-quality tracks on Hail to the Thief.

Based on the live tracks I've heard so far, I don't think Radiohead's next will be very good, but I like their sound enough to look forward to it. You?

I always look forward to Radiohead because talent-wise, combined with the producer Godrich they're virtually peerless. They could create the effing greatest album of all time if they'd just do an album's worth of Paranoid Android, How To Disappear Completely, National Anthem, Pyramid Song...oh the dreams I've yes I look forward to their next album, but like you, I'm not extremely confident it will meet my expectations.

Kid A is amazing, a masterpiece, but OK Computer hits it and somewhat loses it, I'm not a fan of Hail to the Thief much at all (except for some tracks here and there), Amnesiac is strong almost as good as OK Computer, The Bends sounds old but is still solid throughout, and Pablo Honey is a bore. If Eraser is like the mid-quality tracks on Hail, I probably wouldn't like it much. I personally find Hail kind of a drag despite it's amazing start, and the spurts of promises it has from there on.

As for contemporary classical music, I haven't even started. I've been interested in that John Adams work for awhile though. I've seen you recommend it elsewhere and definitely intend to check it out. It's not at the top of my list, but it's not far down either.

My favorite work of all time is a tough call. I own a decent amount of old classical music which I love very much, a bit more than most rock and jazz. Off the top of my head, probably Brahms Symphony #3--a total masterpiece from start to finish, there is little to compare...

Have you heard Sibelius' 5th Symphony? It's great!

By the way, I like seeing Lorca on here. It's an amazing album. I predict it will eventually make its way to a "Love" rating. Is that your highest rating?

I respect Lorca even more than I enjoy it. It may indeed work its way up to a higher rating. I've considered using a [Favorite] rating, which would be reserved for a very few albums (say, 50 or so).

Personally I think it would be great if you did that (the "favorite" thing), as it would help see which are the very best albums.

Done. And please, recommend some more classical (pre-1900) music. I have quite a lot of it, but haven't taken the time to listen to much of it all the way through. Brahms' Symphony No. 3 had been sitting on my hard drive for about a year and I just now listened to it because you mentioned it, and I enjoy the piece very much.

Wow! Great to see Rock Bottom get its full due. It is despicably underrated across the spectrum of music criticism (though understandably, as it is quite avante-garde and easy to misinterpret, especially its second half).

Here's some others in the pre-1900 classical music era:

The greatest track of music ever made in my opinion is the 5th track of Bach's Partita #2 for Violin in D Minor. It's 16+ minutes of the most bare-souled emotion ever committed to anything, anywhere. I believe he wrote it just after one of his wives/children died. I highly recommend the Itzhak Perlman version. He is the best at actually capturing the pathos contained in the piece and not just reducing it to some noble statement. I am sure this is how Bach himself would've played it.

Others would be Mozart's Jupiter (#41) Symphony.

Beethoven's 3rd, 5th, 7th & 9th (though I doubt these need to be recommended). His 6th is very good too, but not quite in the same league as those others.

Both Brahms' and Beethoven's Concerto for Violin in D Minor are the ultimate masterworks for that format. I'm really not sure which one is better, but you can't go wrong with either.

Mozart's Piano Concerto's 20 & 21 are both incredible, each in their own way.

His Requiem is amazing as well.

Tchaikovsky's Piano concerto #1 is great, as well as his Violin Concerto.

Rachmoninov's Symphony #2.

Bach's Brandenburg Concerto's are fantastic if you're into Baroque music. His Violin Concertos are all great too.

Oh yes, and of course Brahms' Symphony #4 is almost the work of genius his 3rd is.

Oh...and definitely Beethoven's Piano Sonatas: the Moonlight of course but his greatest is his last one. It only has 2 movements if I remember right, but it is extraordinary. He was a total master by that time, and it shows. Also his Piano Concerto #5, and one of my all time favorites is the Violin Sonata #9 (The Kreutzer).
Also his 14th String Quartet, which is simply one of the greatest musical works ever produced.

Hmmmm....that's all for now, there's many more...I'll give some more mentions some other time.

I would highly recommend picking up the latest Penguin Guide if you want to find the finest versions of each of these. Their ratings are comprehensive and uniformly accurate.

Let me know how those go.

Thanks for your recommendations. I queued them all up in my media player, except for the Beethoven symphonies, the Tchaikovsky, Mozart's Requiem, the Brandenberg Concertos, and Moonlight (which I listen to semi-regularly), and Rachmaninov's 2nd symphony (which I don't have).

In general, I prefer late Romantic work over what you've recommended. I liked everything I just listened to, but in particular Brahms' Concerto in D and Symphony No. 4, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 and opus 131 string quartet. I like Brahms' 3rd better than any other classical music I listened to today.

Brahms' 3rd is tough to top.

I would highly recommend Beethoven's Kreutzer sonata if you haven't heard it. That's pretty amazing.

Monzart's Piano Concerto 20 is a pre-cursor to Late Romantic period stuff. You'd probably like it a lot.

I know I already mentioned these above, but you didn't comment on them. I'll get back to you if I think of any others you'd like.

I purchased Harmonielehre and you're absolutely right. A masterpiece!

Thanks for being the one who introduced me to the album. Like alll my favorite albums, I can tell I'll cherish it for years to come.

Interesting to see Third getting a "Love" rating, but not a "favorite". Does this mean it's slid off your top ten?

No. Read the Author Comments as to how this can be. I respect the album ever more than I enjoy it (but only slightly, as I REALLY REALLY enjoy it).

Ahhh, that's right, I get it. I forgot about your approach to art criticism, and how you and I differ here. Interesting to note that we still get such similar results with what we like.

borrowing your format for a minute --

[Hated] Joanna Newsom - Ys (2006): Seriously, every-music-critic-in-the-world. What the hell. I'm bailing.

You know, you can't just show up, display a vast and creative wealth of musical knowledge, and then disappear. It hurts my feelings (or whatever I can say that will convince you to stick around).

You hated Ys? I didn't think it was that great, but I enjoyed its absurd and shifting arrangements. I'm much more upset by the praise thrown at Modern Times or Destroyer's Rubies.

She never shuts up.

If I was in the studio this would have ended up an instrumental album.

There's a great album in there somewhere, if enough was stripped away. As some listeners have pointed out, the music isn't given a chance to breathe as we're bombarded with lyrics.

I still haven't heard Modern Times and I probably wont ever hear it. The critics have been crying wolf about his albums for years now.

Which albums have you heard from the new millennium that made a significant break from all past music and are therefore creating new musical vanguards? Only two really come to mind for me: Spring Heel Jack's Masses (which they improved on Amassed) and perhaps Osvaldo Golijov's La Pasión según San Marcos.

My new posts don't seem to be appearing! Yet(?!)

I've spent (comparatively) little time listening to recent albums, so I couldn't tell you. I don't think that I have heard any that fit your description.

Sorry, this wasn't a very useful reply!

Well, then, I'll just have to wait for you to post your 90s lists... :)

Posts by new users are moderated by Jim, who is probably on Thanksgiving vacation. Your new posts as Lorem Ipsum will appear when he accepts them.

I've changed usernames, but it's still me.

I didn't disappear completely. I've still been reading a lot of the content of you and other "scaruffists"

I listened to Modern Times for the first time this morning. I gave up on it before the 3rd song

Christgau called Yeesh one of his "duds of the month" and gives it a C plus

Yikes! And here I am rating Ys a masterpiece! Never thought I'd disagree with you 2 so much.

Though to be honest, I am beginning to think I could've overrated the album somewhat as it's starting to wear off a little.

I'm withdrawing from it for a few days (I've been listening to it constantly). When I come back I'll be able to assess whether I still find it deserving and if my current entering doubts are just the aftermath of Ys overload or legitimate criticism.

In any case, while Ys isn't a particularly challenging album, I would recommend to you Hellsarse to listen to it a little more if you're interested in seeing what's great about it. Personally, I didn't think too much of it at first, but after about 10 listens it started to move from solid to very good, to amazing and eventually (perhaps temporarily) a masterpiece for me.

That's just me though. I have a special affinity for emotional folk, and Ys is one of those albums where the lyrics are part of the experience more than in most, both of which aren't the most "Scaruffian" of traits.

By the way, Hellsarse, it's great to see you back. Though we haven't conversed much I am always interested in what you have to say about music.

In a way, I wish you'd never read this page, so you could be unaffected by our opinions. Then again, you've probably been inescapably affected by the opinions of every other critic, so maybe reading hellsarse and I just balanced things out a bit. Good luck trying to form your opinion without outside influence!

I actually haven't been affected by critics/outside influences, that I'm aware of. It's possible I have, but if so, it's been very little. I listened to Ys myself at a music store and decided to get it because I found it to be very good, and additionally because I had some money to spare and they didn't have anything else I wanted. When I first heard it I immediately liked it but doubted I would consider it a masterpiece. It initially seemed to be in the same league as Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake, which I'd rate a 7.6/10. As I continued to listen though I gradually fell for it and kept moving it up in my ratings. By around the 15th-20th listen I had it at about an 8.5/10 then Only Skin, track #4, hit me in a way it had never done before and that's when I moved it up to "masterpiece".

Since then, shortly after I posted it as a masterpiece, within 2 more listens I started to feel a slight uncertainty and urge to drop it back down to an 8.5 or so. It seems like that 15th-20th listen may have been it's temporary peak because I haven't quite regained that level of affinity for the album since.

So, while I may or may not drop it back down (like I said, I'll give it a few days and come back to it), my opinion of the album has definitely been from personal experience much more than anything else.

Your opinion and Hellsarse's have each been noteworthy, and I will consider Scaruffi's once he's posted it, but at the end of the day, it will be myself who I'll be using to assert its conclusive rating.

It's growing on me, though i still find a lot of it to be too busy.

I don't mean to sound anti-lyric, but i do think the best moments are when she either
(1) repeats words,
(2) or when the music almost comes to a standstill and she bleeds the most feeling out of the fewest words
(3) or even emphasises individual syllables

Some passages where she combines moments like these (and thus the highlights of the album for me)-:

Only Skin 5:33-6:12
And the shallow
Stretches as far as .. I .. can .. see(2)
Knee-deep, trudging along
The seagull weeps; "so long"(2)

i'm humming a threshing song
Until the night is over
(1)Hold on!(2)
(1)Hold on!
(1)Hold your horses...

Only Skin 6:40-6:44
Being a woman, (1)being a w-o-man(3)

Emily 4:19-5:07
You came and lay a cold compress upon the mess I'm(2) in
Threw the windows wide and cried; Amen! (1)Amen! A-men!(3)
The whole world - stopped(2) - to hear you holl-er-ing(3)
Then you looked down and saw now what was happ-en-ing(3)


(doing this has made me realise i love her voice)

I can certainly agree with "busy", but whether that is critique or praise depends on the listener. Me, I'd have never spent so much time with an album I hated - unless Scaruffi recommended it, in which case I would give it plenty of tries to win me over (Twin Infinitives) or not (The River).

The River is one of the great mysteries of that list. Ranked ahead of Third?? Please...

I like it more than I used to, I even listen to it sometimes. It's actually really, really good in parts, but never ceases to systematically ruin its potential with over-the-top, unearned sentimentality and cliched daytime TV emotions. I enjoy the first disk except there's a portion of it of about 3 songs that is the epitome of what I wrote above. I think the majority of the first 3/4 of the second disc is where The River mostly falls short of what could've been a pretty great album. As it is I would currently rate it a 7.3/10. It's strength is in it's display of overt emotions at all times, from the instruments, to Springsteen's performance, which is halfway between admirable and ridiculous. Scaruffi clearly thinks the former and this album is probably the ultimate proof of Scaruffi's near disregard for lyrics.

It wouldn't be a critique if the focus wasn't the words. I think this might have been better as an audio book.

I love all those parts as well. My favorite moment is around the middle of Only Skin when, following a duet where she works up a small storm, Newsom rises out of the other end of it with, "Are you mine?" and then proceeds to put on an emotionally visceral, vocal showcase. This was the part that sealed up the album's greatness for me, though I no longer think it's quite a masterpiece. Now I have it rated an 8.3/10. I think Ys is an outstanding album, and it makes me pretty eager to hear her next work, since this is already a quantum leap over Milk Eyed Mender, her solid debut. She's clearly growing as an artist and I am hoping she does something out of this world in the future, cause she has the chops and the mindset to set herself apart. It's just a matter of her realizing her potential.

Here is a list of favorite albums according to RYM fans of avantgarde composers Stockhausen, Xenakis, Boulez, and Nono.