Mark Hollis

Few artists had the career trajectory that Mark Hollis and his collaborators in Talk Talk had.

Many musical acts start out on the fringes and move to the center, shaving off the eccentricities and otherness to become more palatable.

But Hollis and Talk Talk went the other way.

Not to deliberately alienate audiences.

But to arrive at something that was true to his and their artistic vision.

Something really worth their effort, and yours as a listener.

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Jessica Pratt – Aeroplane

I thought Pratt’s On Your Own Love Again was the best album of 2015, and I am feeling confident her new album, Quiet Signs, out Feb. 8, will be a strong contender for best album of 2019.

What strikes me about the material I’ve heard so far is how she has used the canvas of a recording studio to make something even more intimate and gossamer-like than her previous 4-track work.

Like if you opened your eyes while listening to it, it would end the way a dream does.

Anyway, very strongly encouraging you to pick up her new album when it comes out, especially since RTI is pressing it, so it should be flat, centered, and quiet, which almost describes her music.

Arctic Monkeys–Four Out of Five

I am not quite sure why the new Arctic Monkeys album has met with the kind of backlash it has.

Yes, it is a change up in the band’s sound, but I think it is a logical one, saving it from a long painful decline into stultifying sameness.

If anything, it reminds me a lot of early Bowie, and had the Thin White Duke dropped an album like this during his wilderness years of the 80s and 90s, everyone would have called it some kind of return to form.

Instead, it just seems to have left folks feeling confused and disappointed.

I’ve spun it a few times since it came out last week, and I’ve come away thinking it may be their best, but I’m still trying to articulate why.

In part, it is the sheer bravado of it.

I also appreciate the humor of tracks like Four Stars Out of Five, which suggests Alex Turner was anticipating the backlash while demonstrating he remains a peerless lyricist with a sharp mind and an even sharper tongue.

I’ve seen a few reviews refer to it as a ‘grower’ and I think that’s accurate in the way that the best albums keep revealing themselves to you long after you first encounter them, but I am guessing for others this one is requiring considerable acclimation.

I may try to unpack my thoughts more in a later post, but I definitely consider this one of the year’s best so far.

The Clique–Superman

Last night’s Legion featured a cover of the song Superman, which many people will know from R.E.M.’s Life’s Rich Pageant, even though the song was recorded way back in the late ’60s by The Clique, a band that had a hit with the song Sugar on Sunday, which had previously been cut by Tommy James and the Shondells.

Confused much?

Superman was the b-side of The Clique’s take on Sugar on Sunday, and the odd thing about it is how much it reminds me of Neutral Milk Hotel, specifically The King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1 — not just the guitar chords that open the track, but also the vocal.

If you read the lyrics, this so-called Superman comes off more like a Lex Luthor, vowing to track down a girl who goes a million miles away and boasting he can see the pathway to her heart.

Stalker much?

The Legion version kind of brings out that creep factor a bit.

But here’s a little something you may not know about the song.

It was co-written by Gary Zekley, who also co-wrote a song called Breakaway (aka I Can’t Breakaway), which, when covered by Big Pig, was a top 10 hit in Australia and Canada, and made the Billboard Hot 100 (not to mention the soundtrack of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure).

This, by the way, is the earliest version of ‘Breakaway’ I could find, recorded as I Can’t Break Away by Chuck Jackson, who had hits in the ’60s with songs like I Wake Up Crying and Any Day Now:

NPR’s List of the 150 best albums by women

So NPR did a poll of 4,500 voters to determine the best 150 albums by women, I guess to actually make up for their original attempt and the results are just as questionable.

I’ll let you have a look and see what you think, but the problems are pretty obvious in that there are too many recent albums that haven’t had time to demonstrate their long-term merit, there’s too much pop,  and there’s way too much Taylor Swift.

What is shocking is what’s missing.

Siouxsie and the Banshees (quibble over bands that have men in them if you want to, but the list does have acts such as Fleetwood Mac and Big Brother and the Holding Co.)

Garbage

L7

Yoko Ono

Lene Lovich

Raincoats

Gladys Knight

Billie Holiday

Joan Armatrading

And, somehow, no Laurie Anderson at all

Among others…

So always remember: the only list of great music that matters is the one you make for yourself.