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2024 Album-A-Day: Week 5

January 29th: Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel

I expected this album to be the sort of straightforward folk-rock that S&G are famous for. While there's plenty of that, the first two tracks threw me off somewhat. I mean, when you start the album with a 30 second instrumental followed by a sound collage with synth and samples of "The Sound Of Silence", consider me surprised. Of course, this is still Simon and Garfunkel, so the songs themselves are still unmistakably solid. "Mrs Robinson" and "A Hazy Shade of Winter" are evergreen, "Old Friends" is beautiful and tragic, and "At the Zoo" is a very good closer. Solid and concise.

January 30th: Bitches Brew by Miles Davis

I was familiar with early Miles Davis such as Kind of Blue, y'know, like almost everyone is, but I hadn't listened to this album before. I've been known to like Herbie Hancock's fusion stuff, so I thought I'd really enjoy this. I did enjoy it, even if I'm not sure if I entirely get it. The songs- or maybe I should call them pieces- are these streams of consciousness where all of the instruments are on their on paths, unconcerned with each other. I read that Miles actually had each band member record in isolation from each other, which you can definitely hear in the music. It creates these dark soundscapes that are easy to get lost in, but I keep wondering, "what was going through Miles' head when he was writing this, and subsequently playing this?" That question will probably drive me to return to it at some point, but I have not returned to it since listening.

January 31st: Choose Your Weapon by Hiatus Kaiyote

I had actually attempted to listen to this album before on the recommendation of someone I used to work with, but I kept bouncing off it. This time, I was committed to fully immersing myself in this album. The songs are usually built around these slightly wonky grooves and the singer Nai Palm's sharp voice, and they tend to have these complete shifts in beat or groove like on "Shaolin Monk Motherfunk". After spending some more time with it, I think I like it a lot more than I initially did.

February 1st: This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About by Modest Mouse

My exposure to Modest Mouse before listening to this album was limited to "Float On", "Dashboard", and "Dramamine". I decided to dive in right at the beginning, and I'm not sure how representative this is of every album they've ever made (I mean, how could they be?) but I think this is good but kind of rough. The songs are clearly there, for the most part; "Dramamine", "Breakthrough", "Novocaine Stain", these are generally well-written and well-performed songs, but the somewhat rough production holds it back somewhat. I also think that some of these songs go on for longer than makes sense, which might be an artistic decision but I don't think it works in the album's favor. Some of these songs have two verses followed by four minutes of the same riff. Still, I can't call it bad.

February 2nd: The Lonesome Crowded West by Modest Mouse

Continuing on from the previous day, I decided to check out their second album. I think it's an improvement over This is a Long Drive etc., mainly because the production is somewhat cleaner. I'm not saying everything has to be Serban Ghenea levels of clean, but the songwriting benefits quite a lot from better production. I liked "Lounge (Closing Time)", "Polar Opposites", and "Heart Cooks Brain" quite a lot.

February 3rd: Let It Be by the Replacements

I somehow hadn't listened to a Replacements album before this, and I really like this one. It's got heavy songs like "Unsatisfied" and "We're Comin' Out", it's got the beautiful ballad about gender non-conforming love "Androgynous", it's got the weird Teg Nugent parody "Gary's Got a Boner", and it somehow flows together somewhat cohesively. I should probably listen to a lot more of the Replacements.

February 4th: People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm by A Tribe Called Quest

I'd heard The Low End Theory before this, and this was also good. It's a little all-over-the-place, but the songs themselves are characteristically solid. "Can I Kick It?" is a perennial classic, "I Left My Wallet In El Segundo" kicks as much as ever, "Footprints", "Pubic Enemy", "Rhythm (Devoted to the Art of Moving Butts)", all of these songs are great. Solid production, solid rapping, cool choice of samples, everything I like in this era of hip-hop.

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