Darren's Bizzare Listening Schedule
In this new segment, I share my indie insights and strange listening compulsions
It has come to my attention that I listen to music in a very odd manner, namely in that I have a “listening schedule.” This means that I usually do not choose what album or song to listen to at random, and instead listen to whatever is on the schedule. This works one of two ways:
1. I click on the “last played” button on iTunes and scroll to the bottom to see what I haven’t listened to in a while.
2. I acquire a new album and listen to it 10 times, once a day for 10 days, to become acquainted with it.
Compulsive? Yes. No normal person would listen to music, normally deemed an “enjoyable activity,” in this manner so that it becomes a chore. In my defense however, there are some advantages to this. First off, I almost never end up spending several minutes debating what to listen to or scrolling through song after song on shuffle. Second, no album that I add is listened to only once or twice and then left there to collect virtual dust. Third, every album is listened to at least once a year, so I can’t say “oh I love this album!” and then realize that I haven’t listened to it in several years.
The result is that I end up with a seemingly random assortment of albums listened to each week, and in this feature I will discuss some of the highlights of the weekly listening schedule. Much like re-watching a movie or rereading a book, you tend to discover new things when re-listening to an album. The following commentary are observations both new and old.
Highlight Album: Owen Pallett – Heartland (2010): You may not have heard of Owen Pallett, but you’ve probably heard something he’s done. He’s done the string arrangements for Grizzly Bear, Beirut, The National, Titus Andronicus, and every Arcade Fire album to name a few. Most recently, he and Arcade Fire’s Will Butler were nominated for an Academy Award for doing the score for Her. Beyond these contributions, he has released solo albums under the moniker “Final Fantasy” until he began using his own name to avoid confusion with the video game series. Heartland would be his first album released as Owen Pallett, and it combines lush orchestral compositions with more simple indie pop on each track. This style, combined with Pallett’s lyrics that tell the story of a fantasy world where he is God, really makes the album sound as if it was taken from a movie or musical. It’s also worth remembering that Pallett uses loop pedals to create much of the synthesizer and violin parts in each song, meaning live he creates a backtrack as he sings until it sounds like he has a chamber orchestra behind him. It’s an impressive album all around, and if I had done a “Top 10 of 2010” countdown, this would be on it.
Recommended for: Baroque pop fans, indie pop fans, people that like backing orchestras on standard structure songs, Arcade Fire fans, Beirut fans, people who want a less psychedelic version of Kishi Bashi.
Sigur Rós – Von (1997): Before they became the emperors of their native Iceland, Sigur Rós started their musical career with Von (Icelandic for “Hope”), an eclectic album that the band wasn’t too pleased with themselves. As a whole, it’s much more ambient than anything that followed, although there are some tracks that sound like later fare such as “Hún Jörð” and “Myrkur.” However, there’s a lot of weird shit on this album. The tracks “Sigur Rós” sounds like a gas leak with random shrieking, “Dögun” ends with someone moaning/chanting over the sounds of rain, and “18 sekúndur fyrir sólarupprás” (18 Seconds Before Sunrise) is literally 18 seconds of silence. Then again, this is the band that later made an album of eight untitled tracks sung in a nonsense language.
Recommended for: Sigur Rós fans that want to complete their collections, ambient music fans, people that just “get” experimental music.
Interpol – Antics (2004): As much as I’d hate to admit it, Interpol seemed to set the bar slightly lower with each release (here’s hoping their 2014 album breaks this trend!). While debut Turn On The Bright Lights is generally considered their best, sophomore album Antics is pretty damn solid too. It features the singles “Evil and “Slow Hands” that helped make the band popular, and shows Interpol trying something other than the doom and gloom of their debut with songs like “C’mere” and “Public Pervert.” For better or for worse though, Paul Banks’s lyrics are still Paul Banks’s lyrics, with lines like “we smart like all peoples feeling real tan” and “the pretense is not what restricts me, it’s the circles inside.”
Recommended for: Interpol fans, post-punk fans, indie rock fans, people that like “Editors,” “White Lies,” and other Ian Curtis sound-a-likes.
Discovery – LP (2009): Discovery is the side project of Vampire Weekend keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij and Ra Ra Riot singer Wes Miles, yet it sounds like neither band. Instead, this apparently one-off side project is a wholly electronic album with some of the most over-the-top synthesizer lines out there. Songs like “Osaka Loop Line” and “Swing Tree” are your standard dancey synthpop fare, yet they also included an intriguingly unusual cover of “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 and an autotuned, electronic rework of Ra Ra Riot’s “Can You Tell?” (called “Can You Discover?”). There are also guest vocals by Ezra Koeing (Vampire Weekend) and Angel Deradoorian (Dirty Projectors). It’s a pretty good album by two talented people, but I can’t have imagined it becoming a regular thing with the simplicity of the project and its songs.
Recommended for: Synthpop fans, Vampire Weekend fans that like synthpop, Ra Ra Riot fans that really enjoyed Beta Love.
Beck – Sea Change (2002): You probably know Beck for “Girl,” “E-Pro,” “Gamma Ray,” or maybe even for “Loser” if you were around in the 90s. However, did you know this seemingly fun-loving and occasionally funny guy made a sad breakup album? Yep, the follow up to 1999’s funk influenced party album Midnite Vultures was a somber, acoustic and occasionally orchestral album that includes such uplifting tracks as “Lonesome Tears,” “Lost Cause” and “Already Dead.” Track titles aside, it’s actually a beautiful album in many places such as the orchestral outro of “Lonesome Tears” and the folky “Guess I’m Doing Fine.” If you can’t tell, the lyrics are a downer though.
Recommended for: Beck fans that like his folky stuff, people going through breakups, Bob Dylan fans that thought Blood On The Tracks was his best.
Delphic – Collections (2013): I acquired and reviewed this album, about one year ago, and I still stand by the “C” I gave it. Delphic’s first album Acolyte is one of the best indietronica albums I’ve heard, but boy did this one disappoint. Instead of dance beats mixed with guitar solos that I expected, I got what sounds like a bad boy band.
Recommended for: Fans of bad boy bands, indietronica fans that haven’t felt disappointment in a while.