Monday, April 06, 2015

Musical Masterpieces

Ok, so the A to Z's series is all done now.

To be honest, I think that's a series that more than outlived its welcome. It turned into a bit of a "oh look what a ridiculous amount of music he has in his library". Boastful perhaps instead of highlighting the really good stuff.

So what do I consider to be the really good stuff ? First of all. There has to be a rule. Only one album per artist or group, including people like Nina Persson who, so far, I have 10 albums that she's been involved with. And they're all amazing albums, although she has improved as she's made more albums.
(I was looking to modify one of my dragon pics for headphones, asked Google and up popped this fella. Credit to Spreadshirts, there's definitely some stuff there I Want).

Music ? I just mentioned the Cardigans and Nina Persson. The last album to play through was A Camp's second album, Colonia. But that's not my best pick. To be honest, all of the Cardigans, A Camp and solo Nina albums are packed with incredible songs but in the end, it's a close one between Super Extra Gravity and Long Gone Before Daylight. I pick Long Gone. It's possibly the best full album in my collection. And one of many brilliant tracks is Feathers And Down. A little sad maybe but so much emotion coming through those words, that playing and that voice.

Another emotional album is Illumina by Alisha's Attic. Those girls must have been going through the rollercoaster with this one. My favourite is the ultra happy The Incidentals. My shyness stopped me doing car karaoke with Cupid's Gift on the way to Comic Con but this track nearly got the voice coming out.

(To be honest, I had a really dry throat which is never good for sing/croaking and we were chatting so much there was no time for car karaoke)

I do listen to bloke voices occasionally ... And I listen to a lot of what Mark Knopfler comes out with. His best will always be seen as Brothers In Arms but to be honest, there's a few duds there I dislike. Nah - my pick is Making Movies with crackers like Expresso Love and my track of choice, Romeo And Juliet for that signature guitar, drum, voice, keyboard interplay.

Keeping on with the blokes ... and I'm looking forward to this one because it'll come up in the queue really soon. It's Snow Patrol with their highlight album, Eyes Open. These guys continue to improve, with tracks like another raw one, You Could Be Happy.

But it's not all about the voices. I'll happily listen to the odd classical album too. Last Night Of The Proms is a definite favourite and I'll drum the fingers along to Mars too. But my pick is Carnival Of The Animals by Saint-Saen. You'll recognise Aquarium but that's just one highlight of this suite of music.

A series of books I really enjoyed (until it outlived the stories it could sensibly tell) was Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern. The book Dragonsong introduced a character called Menolly, who had an unhappy life being denied the music which was her gift. Excellence with both instrument and voice, matched to a gift for catchy song writing. The voice of Menolly for me has always been Julianne Regan of All About Eve, due mostly to me listening to their best album (the self titled one) on repeat while reading it. My highlight there is Apple Tree Man but youtube isn't good for that. Go have a listen to Martha's Harbour instead. Gorgeous song.

Kate Bush is another massive favourite and my pick of her albums is Hounds Of Love. This is an album of two parts, the commercialised songs are in the first half but the second half just flows together as its own story. Kate Bush always made fantastic albums, not just excellent singles and this is a classic example. My favourite here will be Mother Stands For Comfort. I think we can all identify with that can't we ?

Back to the boys - Arctic Monkeys started out really well. They've not been inspired lately as they were with their first albums but what an album Whatever People Say ... was. And it leaves a lasting final impression with the sublime A Certain Romance.

How could I leave off Garbage ? They've carried on, albeit with a huge gap before Not Your Kind Of People came out. All their albums are pretty good but I prefer Beautiful the most for tracks like Androgyny and my favourite, Cherry Lips.

Movies ... I have a fair few movie soundtracks and the thing to consider here - do you remember the film, the soundtrack or how they accompany each other ? Pacific Rim and Iron Man vie for my favourite here but it has to be Fifth Element for that Diva Dance scene.

More recent is Bat For Lashes. She keeps on getting better and better and her Haunted Man album is another stunning piece of music. Highlight for me is definitely Laura. So much emotion here too. Perhaps that's why I go for certain tracks ? They may touch a part of me that's hidden behind walls of armour.

Fancy a stage show ? We nearly went to see the new War Of The Worlds but ... very pricy and the new stars didn't appeal as much as the old stars. People like Justin Hayward singing Thunderchild.

Ok, this one's getting a bit long now and I know I've missed a heap of people out. Time for a couple more ...

Game soundtracks don't really stand out much, unless it's Adagio for Strings which nearly had me in tears when it started up in That Scene early in Homeworld. But that's music from outside that was grabbed for the game. No, my highlights for game soundtracks are Darren Korb's Transistor and Tomas Dvorak's Machinarium. Here's a haunting one from Transistor. One thing about Transistor, if you sit still and do nothing in the game, the main character will hum along to the soundtrack. Oh, here's a bonus from his other game soundtrack, Bastion.

And to echo a theme from yesterday, here's Fleetwood Mac's legendary album Rumours with You Can Go Your Own Way. This is another album born out of raw emotions.

Perhaps the other side of raw and heading into manufactured. But still with a soul come Gorillaz. They make great collections as albums. I think their best so far is Plastic Beach with songs like Empire Ants which starts slowly before exploding in your ears.

Hannah Peel is a little bit different ... Her signature is the tiny music box that often sets a counterpoint to her lovely voice. She's only given us one album so far and a couple of EPs but The Broken Wave shows massive promise with songs like The Almond Tree.

But I'll close off with another personal favourite, this one is Goldfrapp's Road To Somewhere album. They've written a lot of good singles in their other albums but this album comes together amazingly well. It's a great one to chill out to from start to finish. Here's Some People.

And I better close it there or I'll be here all night indulging in listening to some of my favourite songs via the youtubes ! There are tonnes more that should be here :

Edie Brickell, Madonna, Lucy Spraggan, Lisa Miskovsky, Mindy Gledhill, Norah Jones, Seal, Sleeper, The Staves, Suzanne Vega, the Ting Tings with We Started Nothing, Tori Amos.

Yep. Too much good music. Why limit yourself to listening to one band's music over and over when there is so much rich diversity of excellent music out there ?

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