2013 Reading Challenge – Hitting Double Figures!

16 03 2013

I had to update my Goodreads.com reading challenge entry today as I have already hit double figures for the year! I suppose I didn’t have to update it but I thought adding another 6 books to the target was achievable so am now on a target of 30 books for 2013. Should easily reach it!

I am still reading 2666 by Roberto Bolano, it’s not that I am not enjoying it, far from it, I just think it is because it is a large book and actually a physical book that I am lacking motivation to read it. When compared to my Kindle Fire that is! e-Readers are the way forward folks, storage is less, can take it anywhere and a whole library of books at your finger tips. I also like the way it tells you what percentage of the book you are currently at, think this encourages you to get finished quicker than perhaps you would with a paper book.

What I have read since my last update:

What have you guys been reading lately?



An Album a Day: #3 Your New Favourite Band

16 03 2013

The Hives - Your New Favourite BandThis album is pure power punk garage pop brilliance, well actually it’s more a compilation of previous releases, but for the sake of this blog it becomes an album.

Released on the Poptones label back in 2001 the band reached the heights of number 7 in the UK album charts.

The sound is raw, energetic and really makes me feel-good, I remember using “Hate to say I told you so” as my going out track, a bit of a warm-up for the night ahead. I think it is the fun nature of both the band and their sound that emanates this feeling.

Although there seems to be some anger in the way they perform and record and think that some of the appeal is the way that they don’t take themselves too seriously. This has also contributed to their commercial success. If you had long drawn out tracks with major changes in tempo and key then they would become tiresome and pompous but with no track on this album lasting longer than 3:22 you can see why they got some much air time. You cannot fail to like them.

The package, the timing, the length for the target audience and that raw garage sound is in essence almost perfect, but that is just my opinion. I enjoyed this album when it was released and I am enjoying even more today as I write about it. Perfect driving music for a long road trip!

Album Score: 9 out of 10

Sleeve Notes/Artwork:  7 out of 10

What the sleeve lacks in depth it makes up for in content, it is a simple one sheet folded over but contains the usual production notes, and my favourite thing about sleeves – the complete set of lyrics. The Hives certainly are my New Favourite Band!

Track Listing:

  1. Hate to Say I Told You So
  2. Main Offender
  3. Supply and Demand
  4. Die, All Right!
  5. Untutored Youth
  6. Outsmarted
  7. Mad Man
  8. Here We Go Again
  9. A.K.A. I-D-I-O-T
  10. Automatic Schmuck
  11. Hail Hail Spit N’ Drool
  12. The Hives Are Law, You Are Crime

Favourite Track: Hate To Say I Told You So

Tomorrow’s Review: Hollywood Town Hall – The Jayhawks

Next Selection: The Bends – Radiohead

An Album a Day: #2 Green

15 03 2013

REM - GreenIt was those two ‘classic’ albums Out of Time and Automatic for the People that introduced me to REM in the mid-90’s and it was those two albums that then encouraged me to delve into the back catalog, hence I picked up Green.

The album was originally released in 1988 and was REM’s first major label release for Warner Bros. I always find it interesting that REM are generally regarded as an Alternative Rock band, when in fact there is more of a pop element to the music they create which is why over time they have generated so much success commercially. Almost makes me wonder if Alternative Rock is the description used for those we cannot pigeonhole into other genre’s!

Sometimes I think we forget that REM were born in the 1980’s and that sound is certainly prevalent on Green although at the same time due to Stipes vocals it is unmistakably REM.

This album has some real gems on it with the more ‘poppy’ and commercial sound of Stand and Orange Crush juxtaposed with the more sedate and laid back Hairshirt and You Are Everything. You can certainly get the indication of the direction the REM sound was moving on Green with a lot of hints of what Out of Time and Automatic for the People were going to contain.

Album Score: 8 out of 10

Sleeve Notes/Artwork:  6 out of 10

You have to remember that this album was released in 1988 and it was still in the early days of CD, it contains all the usual production notes and weirdly the whole lyric for World Leader Pretend but nothing of the other tracks.

Track Listing:

  1. Pop Song 89
  2. Get Up
  3. You Are the Everything
  4. Stand
  5. World Leader Pretend
  6. The Wrong Child
  7. Orange Crush
  8. Turn You Inside-Out
  9. Hairshirt
  10. I Remember California
  11. 11

Favourite Track: I Remember California

Tomorrow’s Review: Your New Favourite Band – The Hives

Next Selection: Hollywood Town Hall – The Jayhawks

An Album a Day: #1 Murray Street

14 03 2013

Sonic Youth - Murray StreetI approached this first review in my series with some trepidation. This is due in part to my own feelings regarding Sonic Youth. I own two albums by the New York alt rockers and neither have ever featured highly on my listening list and both just garnering a few listens over time.

I think I fell in love with the idea of Sonic Youth and what they as a band represented rather than the actual sound of Sonic Youth, which has to be said at times alternates between melodic, noisy and chaotic.

The album opens with one of the more accessible and radio-friendly tracks on the album, The Empty Page, not that Sonic Youth have ever been about being radio-friendly. Simple layered guitars with Thurston Moore’s relaxed vocals that builds to a medium tempo and a more layered bridge section before rounding off with a cacophony of noise at around the halfway point only to bring you back down to the original style of the track with some nice delicate guitar playing which explores the motif of the starting riff.

One of the biggest things about this album is the contrast not only within tracks but across tracks and also between Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon’s vocals. Gordon’s strained, off-kilter sound is none more prevalent on the very post-punk sounding Plastic Sun which at 2:14 is the shortest track on the album. I was going to be kind of defamatory towards Gordon but changed my tact, I was going to say that at times the vocal is out of key, but in fact it is not and it is just part of the way the track is supposed to build and if it was sung in any other manner it just wouldn’t work.

There is no doubt that Sonic Youth has a distinct sound that is very lo-fi in the recording technique, more about a raw sound, almost like a live recording at times, but that is what creates and adds to the appeal. I think this is most obvious in a track like Plastic Sun but also with the layering and flowing of Sympathy for the Strawberry – the last track on my version of the album. It builds magnificently, with just lovely layered guitars, drums and bass for the first 3 minutes before a very naive and innocent sounding Gordon comes in with the vocals.

Overall I have enjoyed giving this album a thorough listening to, part of what this project was about it has to be said. I don’t think it will get into my top 10 albums of all time but it is definitely growing on me.

Album Score: 7 out of 10

Sleeve Notes/Artwork:  5 out of 10

The sleeve notes are somewhat lacking with a few band and live fan pictures in the interior and the usual track listing and production notes, I like lyrics but they haven’t been re-produced on this album. I would probably have marked this lower but for the cover image of two young girls picking what looks like strawberry’s under a blue netting.

Track Listing:

  1. The Empty Page
  2. Disconnection Notice
  3. Rain on Tin
  4. Karen Revisited
  5. Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style
  6. Plastic Sun
  7. Sympathy for the Strawberry

Tomorrow’s Review: Green, REM

Tomorrow’s Selection: Your New Favourite Band – The Hives

Bitten Off More Than I Can Chew?

13 03 2013

It was only yesterday that I announced my “An Album a Day” project and already I am wondering whether I have bitten off more than I can chew. I approached the first album today with a little bit of trepidation, it is not the listening that is difficult that of course is supremely simple. What has given me that tiny seed of doubt is the writing. Will I find the time to write every day for a year? Now whilst I don’t expect to be writing essays there does need to be more than just a few words said, so we will see how it goes.

The first album review in the project, Murray Street by Sonic Youth will appear on the blog tomorrow, I have so far listened to it 4 times today, luckily I had a meeting to go to so I stuck it in the car!

Listening Selection for tomorrow: Green, REM – will appear on the blog on Friday 15th March.

Project: An Album a Day

12 03 2013

I have long since wondering what kind of project/challenge I could set myself so over the last few weeks I have been having thoughts about an ‘Album a Day’ project.

mycollectionI have a good selection of albums in my collection and more than enough to run this challenge everyday for the next 3 years without stopping but I think setting it as a 365 day challenge is good enough to start with.

For me it is going to be about rediscovering music I already own and once loved, or in many cases still do love or a way of reigniting the passion I once had for music which of late I feel has dwindled. Also I have this kind of belief that the album is dying? I have no evidence to substantiate this but with the advent of online streaming, playlists and downloads I just kind of feel people are buying single tracks more readily than complete albums. For me this is anti what the artists are creating and a whole sub-industry is disappearing, that of the album sleeve. Album sleeves and liner notes cannot be so readily enjoyed in digital form and are for me a hugely important part of the whole music experience. (I expect you to give me real evidence in the affirmative or contrary to my point in the comments!)

There will be a number of key guidelines for this challenge – some might call them rules but I like a hint of flexibility! These are all listed below.

Project Guidelines:

  • One album per day will be listened to and scrutinised from my collection (this can include new purchases but must be CD format)
  • This album will get a blog post dedicated to it on the following day with my review and a mark out of 10. There will also be a mark out of 10 for the liner notes.
  • I must select a different artist each day
  • I cannot revisit an artist within 30 days
  • I can only review an album once during the project, meaning that I have 365 different reviews at the end of the project.
  • The review will be posted the day after the ‘listening’ with the next selection also noted.
  • Each post will contain an image of my copy of the album I am reviewing.

So that’s some guidelines, it’s going to be tough, especially when I go away for work or on holiday. With this in mind I may have to double up my listening on some days so that I can fulfil 365 posts in 365 days – a bit of an undertaking right?

First Selection: Sonic Youth – Murray Street, the review of this will appear on the blog on Thursday 15th March.

Any thoughts then please do let me know in the comments.

World Book Day 2013: Promoting Literature?

7 03 2013

Today is World Book Day but then I’m guessing you already knew that.

My son’s school all had to dress up as Where’s Wally, in itself no real harm and the kids loved it, but that got me thinking, although the series are quite obviously books why are schools not promoting books with actual text in them instead of just pictures? Kind of annoyed me actually!

Shouldn’t World Book Day be used as a tool to promote reading and literature to the next generation?

Anyway rant over let me know your thoughts in the comments, would also love to know what you guys are reading on this day of celebrating books, for the record I’m getting through part 3 of 2666, you?

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