The Album Never Falls Far From the Ear: A #PRM366 Challenge Update Cameron Daniel June 8, 2016 Featured, Music Let me start off with a quick apology for not filling you folks in on my journey as often as I’d hoped. I’d like to say the reason for the delay was that it took me this long to come up with another apple-based idiom to turn into an article title, but the truth of the matter is that this ‘Odyssey,’ as I described it in my opening post, started to take it’s toll on me. Halfway into April, I started having doubts about being able to finish this challenge; I started skipping days and playing catch-up on weekends. I started to lose the sense of wonder that came from tackling the unimaginable and instead felt the dread of an imminent defeat. The more albums I listened to, the more I was aware of how many I was missing out on. Rather than letting this motivate me, as I had when I got the impetus to start this quest, the day in and day out toll brought out the worst in my anxiety. I tried a few ways to solve it, like taking workdays off to allow myself to spend more time with each album over the weekend. When that didn’t work, I trended towards more modern releases, chasing the hype and looking for something novel and unknown. I realized that even doing something you love, day after day, can become a chore when you approach relentlessly with a workmanlike attitude. It’s an interesting balancing act between dedication and enjoyment, but it was important to bring freedom and artistic exploration back into the challenge. Ultimately, I broke through the rut when I remembered the following nonsensical phrase, a favorite of my college pal: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Now I’ll be the first to admit, as I’m sure I’ve told him many a times, that that phrase means absolutely nothing, but the sentiment behind it gave me a new lease on this challenge. I’m back and reinvigorated to take on the last 6+ months of the quest. I’m sure there’ll be other times when this feels like a slog, but the greater picture is much more rewarding. That being said, here are albums 67-156 of the #PRM366 Albums Challenge, you can always see the full list as I go by following the live Google Doc: In an effort to keep these posts fresh and avoid retreading ground, I’m going continue to switch up the format. Now that I have a good chunk of albums under my belt, its time to give out some accolades. This month we’ll do a bit of time traveling as I take you through my favorite and least favorite albums of each decade that I’ve listened to as part of the quest, culminating in my best and worst album thus far from 2016. Due to small sample sizes, a few of the decades have been mashed together to allow me an easier choice for ‘worst.’ As a brief caveat, if I’ve already given an album a shoutout in a previous entry (1 or 2), they’re generally going to be out of the running for further awards as I try to diversify the albums, genres, and artists mentioned each piece, but I’ll try to give them an honorable mention to show where my true allegiances lie. 50s & 60s Best Album Pharoah Sanders – Karma (1969) Originally introduced to the scene as Coltrane’s protege and heir apparent, Pharoah Sanders carved his own legacy in the late 60s and throughout the following decades. As with many jazz albums of the era, Karma is primarily focused around the first track of the two track piece. The 32-minute piece, ‘The Creator Has A Master Plan,’ is one of the best executed and most skillfully wrought jams ever recorded. Pharoah controls the piece through ebbs and flows while maintaining the acid jazz feel for the entirety of the half-hour track. Worst Album Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield (1966) While I respect Buffalo Springfield for pioneering the folk rock genre, I have to admit this piece hasn’t aged well. The Canadians combined folk elements with American Country music and British invasion influences to produce a sound that was once unique, but at this point feels tired. The hits will always be the hits, with ‘For What It’s Worth’ being one of the seminal rock songs, but the remainder of the album felt one-note and uninspired. Both Stephen Stills and Neil Young would obviously go on to make much better music. 70s & 80s Best Album Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978) Brian Eno set out to create music that is ‘as ignorable as it is interesting,’ and he succeeded. Though not the first in the genre, Eno coined the term ambient music with this release, which was an experiment in differentiating his minimalist approach to composition. The subtlety of the album is meant to evoke the feeling of taking in a visual piece of art, with each slight adjustment in the soundscape acting as a new brush of pain, and like a piece of art, is able to ensnare you attention without ever needing to be your direct focus. Worst Album Culture Club – Colour By Numbers (1983) The 80s have to be the worst decade in history, right? Not only are they home to the worst president, terrible fashion sense, but music hit an all time low in this decade. Whereas with the other decades I struggled to find something to label ‘worst,’ I was pleased to squash the 70s in with the 80s to even have somethig to like. The Boy George-led Culture Club is an interesting story, but the music is tough to sit through. The bad electro-jazz, terrible synths, and awful crooning that plagued many 80s disco albums is on full display here. 90s Best Album Bjork – Homogenic (1997) Bjork is quite a confounding character; the Icelandic musician continued to defy description, and even sometimes believability. This album truly encapsulates the delightfully skewed character, mixing in electric elements to her avante-garde voice. Bjork’s sound on this album is full of discord, with abstract beats, vocal stuttering, an chilly strings all come together for something decidedly unique and yet viscerally emotional. True to form, Bjork’s quirky response when accepting an award for this album was ‘I’m grateful grapefruit.’ Worst Album Morrissey – Your Arsenal (1983) Morrissey’s music of the 90s is annoying mix of carry-over glam rock from the 80s and 50s rockabilly. If that doesn’t sound enticing enough, he accompanies it with a brooding English voice and suicidal lyrics. While clearly very musically gifted, the way Morrissey presents these elements together is completely incongruous to my musical taste. If I wanted a depressing song, why would I want to listen to someone who sounds more bored signing the songs than I am listening to them? That might be harsh, this song’s okay: 00s Best Album The Avalanches – Since I Left You (2000) The Avalanches’ ‘Since I Left You’ was never intended to be released to the public, and with over 3,000 samples it’s amazing it ever was. I’m glad it was released, because the duo behind the band were able to mix hundreds upon hundreds of genres and samples to create an electronic kaleidoscope of sound that’s truly rewarding. At it’s core, ‘Since I Left You’ is a concept album centered around an international love story, though in practice it’s enigmatic disco-pop. With their highly awaited follow up album, sixteen years in the making, is finally set to be released next month, I thought it fitting to pay tribute to their groundbreaking, plunderphonics debut here. Worst Album Radiohead – Amnesiac (2001) Throughout my journey, I’ll be making my way through the entire Radiohead discography, in an attempt to find a new found respect for the band. While my previous ire for the band has definitely diminished, I still couldn’t resist taking another shot at them once I thought of this theme. I’m 5/9ths of the way through their records, and Amnesiac completely stopped my momentum. After the amazing Kid A, Amnesiac, which was recorded during the same sessions as Kid A felt not near enough to the same sound, yet at the same time not new enough either. The result is an album without a clear vision and felt to me like a compilation of b-sides, albeit Radiohead b-sides are likely better than most albums. 10s Best Album Milo – So the Flies Don’t Come (2015) My new favorite rapper, Milo flawlessly fuses California laid-back vibes with his own nerdrap influenced spoken word style. Kenny Segal, who produces the album, seamlessly integrates his electric wheezing beats with Milo’s blunt lyricism. Milo himself teeters on the balance somewhere between existential nihilism and wry court jester, showing off both his intelligence and wit throughout. While Milo clearly can conform to generic rap standards and flows with the best of him, this release truly exemplifies his creed to ‘never let the form dictate what’s the content.’ Worst Album Diiv – Oshin (2012) The distinction of Diiv’s Oshin as the worst album of the decade is merely reactionary to their hype. Hailed as the saviors to dream-pop, I was expecting a beautiful ressurection of shoe-gaze, but instead I got an overstrung mess of noise. With an album full of unintelligible lyrics and annoyingly subtle highlights, this album can feel at times like it doesnt know whether it intended to be minimalist or maximalist in it’s sounds and just misses the mark on both. That being said, though wordless, the songs still pack a raw emotional punch. 2016 Best Album Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing (2016) I’ve already lauded .Paak’s Malibu earlier in a post, so I thought it prudent to give the accolades to Frankie Cosmos. The low-key indie-pop outfit of Greta Kline, Frankie Cosmos has perfected the craft of making short songs that pack an emotional punch. The observational, poetic lyrics of the many two-minute songs on this album often hit too close to home, making this 35-minute work feel at times like a diving into a philosophical thesis. Her first album with a fully matured backing band, Kline doesn’t allow the enhanced sound to detract from the lo-fi, earnest yearnings found in her earlier work. Worst Album Drake – Views (2016) Drake spent the better part of three years hyping this album and I’m of the opinion this is his worst release yet. The 20-song monstrosity hasn’t one hit within it, with Drake barely managing to ‘rap’ on more than two or three of the tracks. For a man who has multiple ghostwriting claims out against him, he doesn’t do anything to help his case with lines like ‘My wife is a spice, like I’m David Beckham’ or ‘I turn the six upside down, its a nine now.’ I’m not generally high on Drake, but after he went a bit more aggressive this past year, I expected more than an aimless 20 song R&B album, especially when it was hyped as his Magnum Opus. 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