Saturday, May 14, 2016

May Roundup: The Battle Against Colic

I keep saying this: so much has happened and keeps happening that taking time to write meaningful posts devoted to singular albums takes time away from other important things.  My youngest daughter EJ, coming up on three months old, is one of those things.  She is doing well, although she has been much fussier than her older sister P was. She’s been struggling through tummy problems – reflux, gas, milk sensitivity, etc. Lots of lost sleep, however, and frustrations from us as to how to comfort her.  Overall, she is improving, but getting her through this has been very demanding. She’s cute and very sweet when she is feeling well, though, and my family has been INCREDIBLY helpful.

Aside from helping EJ grow out of her “colic,” as it is traditionally called, there are other major aspects of my life that are requiring a lot of attention.  I am not entirely at liberty to reveal the details just yet, but positive things are definitely afoot. This has caused the classic writer’s block situation: you sit down with a few minutes to write and have no idea where to begin. For now, the “roundup” format seems to be the solution for documenting my listening and, at the very least, bookmarking the events of 2016, so here is what has gone through the player since Spring Break.

Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL – Batman v Superman OST: I began following Hans Zimmer in 2013 when I discovered the Dark Knight soundtrack, and I have seen a logical progression of his work since then. I think, however, that after Zimmer invested so much in the Dark Knight soundtracks, it was a bit too much to ask for him to reinvent Batman for this entertaining but flawed version of the character (although the Wonder Woman theme you hear above is pretty great, and not too far off in tone from my own impressions).

The Antlers – Burst Apart: I put this on my wish list back when I was into Beach House, and I think that if I had listened to it then I would have connected with it more readily. To be frank, however, I’m kind of not in the mood right now.

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer – Tarkus: I have always been an advocate of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s musicianship, but in my opinion, their weird chemistry resulted in a somewhat uneven body of work. Tarkus, however, is one of their strongest, most cohesive efforts, and the one that I put in rotation in tribute to Emerson after the announcement of his tragic death.

Storm Corrosion: I got this dark, atmospheric collaboration between Steven Wilson and Mikael Ackerfeldt a couple of years ago and promptly lost the disc. I was pleased as punch to find it double-stacked inside my Tarkus case.

Prince – Purple Rain: Inexplicably, I was listening to Purple Rain almost the entire month of March before Prince also fell to the terrible string of losses we have recently suffered in the music world. Purple Rain was clearly his breakthrough - his Sgt. Pepper’s or Dark Side of the Moon, and is unquestionably a classic album in its own right.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – EARS: Without much more than a teaser clip I ran across online, I picked up EARS driven by my curiosity surrounding the Buchla Music Easel. The album blew me away – I listened to it endlessly for days on end and it still captures my attention every time it comes through the rotation.

Bobgoblin – Love Lost for Blood Lust: Erstwhile 90’s power pop group Bobgoblin have been teasing their potential return for several years now. This collection picks up seamlessly from where their localized classic The 12 Point Master Plan left off way back when.

Wild Ones – Keep it Safe: My initial impression was to focus my view of the Wild Ones through the lens of Chvrches' electro pop classic The Bones of What You Believe. While there is some overlap and the album is quite good, I still can’t say as I have connected with it in a way that feels like it will pay off.

Health – Death Magic: Although their approach to manipulating sound seems to have some common ground with Battles, the result seems to overlay the noisy approach of Ministry with the Europop of the Pet Shop Boys. I’m surprised that so few people are framing them in 90s industrial nostalgia.

Bombino – Azel: It had been quite awhile since I had listened for a guitar hero, and some of the press on North African guitarist Bombino might warrant this kind of attention. His style requires liberal use of open-string drones, which can wear thin after a full album, but his energy, melodic sense, and nimble fingers keep my attention.

Tim Heckler – Virgins: Inspired by EARS, I attempted to dive into Virgins, another ambient album that has been sitting on my wish list for a while. It is an entirely different experience than EARS – it certainly did not grab my attention in the same way, but it is a compelling album nonetheless.

O Brother – Endless Light: The description that piqued my interest in this album was that it sounded like “TOOL meets Muse.” I would say that is seems more like “Mastodon meets Ours,” which for some people might seem like splitting hairs – but not for me.

John Williams: The Return of the Jedi OST: In our house, Friday has evolved into “Pizza and Star Wars Night,” which means that P gets to watch her favorite, “The one where Darth Vader becomes good again.” As a result, despite my attempts to connect with The Force Awakens and Attack of the Clones as "new" soundtracks earlier this year, Return of the Jedi might end up being the Star Wars soundtrack representative by year’s end.

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