An album a day in May
A few days ago I had a realization: I hadn't sat down and really listened to an album for awhile. Oh, I've heard plenty of albums recently – especially considering the average workday under pandemic lockdown – but it had been awhile since I'd listened to one. You know, a full-body immersion. I was gripped with an urge, a longing, to sit down and do nothing but listen to an album, from front to back. The last time I'd done it, I reckoned, must've been on my last airplane flight – which, again considering the circumstances, was obviously too long ago.
The idea of this, this simple proposal, animated me with excitement. It's a special adventure to meet an album face to face, opening yourself completely to it while you close yourself, momentarily, to all else. To accede yourself to the artist's terms and loosen the imagination. You'll perhaps contend with confusion, frustration, even boredom or want, but you embrace those reactions as they come. And, in the best of circumstances, you'll hear something you've never heard before, no matter how many times you've listened to it prior.
The desire had taken hold. That night, I resolved that instead of my usual bedtime (lockdown) routine of reading before sleep, I'd listen to an album from start to finish. This exercise would be done via headphones on my phone. On my phone, there are three primary mediums of music-listening: the Spotify app, the Bandcamp app, and iPhone's native Music app. Each has its purpose: Spotify for convenience & crowd-pleasers; Bandcamp for browsing a broad variety; Music for a stable of time-tested go-tos. There are reasons for this arrangement, some rational, some less so, which I'll not delve into here. After some touch-screen noodling, I posited to myself that the occasion demanded a selection from the latter category of tunes (time-tested go-tos), and made my choice: Public Strain by Women.
As is the case with music-lovers, or perhaps any art-lover, the superfan is often seized with an urge to publicly express their appreciation; to repackage the art somehow and spread its gospel to anyone in their circles who will listen (see: a million zillion fan-created Spotify playlists). Lying there listening to Public Strain, an album I've loved for what's apparently now a decade (it was released in 2010), and by no means excepted from such impulses, I pondered how I might share its greatness. "What if I wrote a blog post about how much I love this album?" I thought, a thought not dissimilar from one I might've had a decade prior when it was released. Ah, memories: the joys and follies of the blogs of yesteryear. The idea had legs, but lacked purpose.
Anyway, the thoughts bounced around my head a bit, and arrived at a bold challenge: write a blurb about an album -- maybe one I loved, but really any album – once a day throughout the month of May. Part catchy jingle ("an album a day in May!"), part opportunistic lockdown sanity-saver, it would no matter how I sliced it be a significant undertaking. I haven't exactly been prolific in my writing output, but so much of writing is finding a starting point – and the rest is just writing about what you know, right?
So here goes: every day in May, I'll write something about an album. Some might be among the "time-tested" favorites; some might be random oddballs I've hardly listened to. But all occupy some place of significance or notability in my world. The only strict rule I'll hold myself to is that I won't write about more than one album by a single artist. If all goes well, maybe the reader will find something that will enter their own world to take up some place of "significance or notability". And at worst, I'll have something to reference a decade from now, when I find myself listening to Public Strain during the latest pandemic and decide to write a blog post about it.
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
In the final installment of this project, I find myself confronted with its utter inconsequence in the face of the events of the last week, and I turn to Kanye West's complex masterpiece for a view of what it means to be black in America.
Basic House & Metrist – The World Is Order, Incarnate
A bizarre and delightfully horrifying exploration of dark ambient and techno.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – One Hot Minute
An enigma in the band's discography worthy of historical analysis and high-volume playback.
Cadu Tenório – blue thirty-four
A polar-bear plunge into the immeasurably vast ocean of "boring ambient drone" to be found on bandcamp.
Omni – Deluxe
The debut album from the Atlanta trio is a guitarist's dream of angular, catchy riffs.
Ruth Laredo – Alexander Scriabin, 24 Preludes
A good starting point for the Russian composer's challenging piano music.
Palberta – Roach Goin' Down
A 36-minute, 22-track assault of dadaist pop with at least twice as many musical ideas.
Pavement – Wowee Zowee
The iconic indie band's third album is their weirdest but their best.
Beat Detectives – Music 2
A spacy, psychedelic beat collage that's the epitome of urban cool.
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
The third album from the erudite poppers is my favorite from the band, and an "oh god I'm in my 30s" classic.
Time Heals Nothing – Time Heals Nothing
A cloud-rap exploration of the darker sides of our emotional existence.
Grouper – A I A: Alien Observer
An ambient masterpiece that makes me think about outer space. A lot.
Beastie Boys – Check Your Head
The trio's third album was another about-face in style and marked the beginnings of their quintessential identity.
RVG – A Quality Of Mercy
The debut album from the Aussie outfit delivers raw, emotive indie rock for shouting from the rooftops or riding through rolling hills.
Atlantikwall – Atlantikwall
A thumping, brooding rumination on power and evil that's completely unlike anything I've heard anywhere else.
Oasis – Be Here Now
The hotly anticipated third album from the 90s titans tanked famously, but it's worth a reevaluation.
Angel 1 – Terra Nova
An evolved statement of vaporwave that expresses the genre's best qualities.
Beach House – Teen Dream
A majestic album that solidified the band's brand of dream pop, and whose vocals still give me chills.
Julian Lynch – Mare
A vague theme of racehorses enhances the albums warm, haunting nostalgia.
Galcher Lustwerk – 100% Galcher
The first mixtape from the so-called "low-key hip-house" artist is a minimalist banger (as oxymoronic as that sounds).
Grateful Dead – 5/8/77
The most famous performance of a band that's been doing it in some form for over half a century.
Girl Ray – Earl Grey
One of my go-to "chill but upbeat" selections of the past few years that brushes with pop perfection.
Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven
Everywhere, nonsense abounds, but if we peer deep enough into its chaos we see the world outside.
Sun Araw – The Saddle of the Increate
The artist's cattle-ranching themed exploration is a career high point for his unique brand of psychedelia.
Roman Candle – Says Pop
A collection of twangy alt-rock and ne'er-do-well balladry – and sleeper NYC album – that's wandered in and out of my life.
Them Are Us Too – Amends
Profound and powerful dream pop with a tragic backstory.
Beat Happening – You Turn Me On
The influential band's last full-length studio album is a masterpiece of raw texture and powerful pop melody.
Women – Public Strain
A dark pop gem full of tension, dread, and something elusively beautiful.