General Music Talk

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Eva Yojimbo
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Re: General Music Talk   Reply #30

Postby Eva Yojimbo » Fri Sep 06, 2019 4:17 pm

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I said in my review of Taylor Swift's Reputation that her albums go in cycles of three: tentative steps forward (Debut, Red), perfection of new style (Fearless, 1989), and experimentation with new style (Speak Now, Reputation). If the cycle continued, that would make Lover her "tentative step forward." In a sense, the cycle continues as this definitely does see Swift taking some steps towards new sounds and styles, but in the place of the tentativeness is the confidence of a craftsman who's reached a level of near effortless mastery. Perhaps the thing that strikes me most about this album is how easy everything sounds, no matter the mood, attitude, lyrical content, or adopted style. It sounds like an album from someone who has become so confident in their songwriting that they instantly knew how every piece--every instrument, every production choice, every vocal line--should fit together.

That confidence is even more remarkable when considering the range of the album, which may just be Swift's most kaleidoscopic on every level. Initial impressions given by Me! and You Need to Calm Down were that this was going to be a fun, happy album; and why those moods are present here, they're hardly the whole story, or perhaps even half the story. For every celebratory Me! or sassy Calm Down there is a counterpart. The Archer, especially, joins the ranks of Swift's songs (along with Long Live and All Too Well) that can make me cry, achieving this with nothing but an atmospheric, synth-drenched background and no beat supporting some of Swift's most poignant lyrics of her career: "I wake in the night, I pace like a ghost / The room is on fire, invisible smoke / And all of my heroes die all alone / Help me hold onto you". That "Help me hold onto you" is especially poignant as it comes as a hushed refrain after the previous lines build tension with their increasing rhythms, evidence of her songwriting skill even in minimal pieces like this. On the other hand, Soon You'll Get Better hearkens back to Swift's country roots and is a guileless, moving homage to her mother.

The latter represent Swift at her most vulnerable both lyrically and sonically. Elsewhere there's a fascinatingly complex mixture of vulnerability and strength. The Man proves to be a new Swift masterpiece. On the surface, it's an extremely confident feminist manifesto about the double standards that people have when it comes to male and female artists (and it hardly needs to be mentioned that everything Swift says is right on the money) that's accompanied by an equally confident electronic swagger that recalls the steelier songs on Reputation and 1989; but beyond the surface is the implied recognition of the hurt that such double standards inevitably bring. I Forgot That You Existed is a less substantial effort in a similar style, but it makes for a breezy, confident, catchy opening to the album.

Elsewhere, Swift's "stortyelling" style makes a welcomed return. Of these story-based songs, Cornelia Street is another new masterpiece and one of the album's finest moments. Its gentle piano mixes with a wavering, tremelo synth as Swift slowly, subtly builds the narrative until the chorus when U2-esque beat joins her beautiful head voice in one of the finest moments on the album and, indeed, of her entire discography. Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince is sonically reminiscent of Reputation's icier tracks, which pairs well with a darker, more cynical view of high school romance.

Sonically, much of the album would've fit well on either Reputation or 1989. Cruel Summer is one of the finer tracks in this vein with its echo-drenched vocal harmonies, velvety bed of soft synths, and thumping electronic beats. London Boy is a lesser effort in this style, pitched in Swift's cuter, wry, humorous mood. Most of these tracks are packed in tightly towards the album's end, perhaps to their detriment as they tend to blend together a bit: namely False God, Afterglow, and the album closer Daylight. Of these, False God is the highlight. Despite strongly recalling Reputation's vibe there are a few stylistic choices that set it a part, especially the sax, the uber-smooth beat, and Swift's verse vocals that goes in for some non-metrical semi-spoken sections that's a new device for her.

However, I've said that this is Swift's "steps forward" album, and that mostly comes in the form of her experiments with indie pop. These experimental (for Swift) tracks almost all prove to be pleasant highlights, as the genre matches her talents and temperaments extremely well. Lover sounds like Swift's country past filtered through the haze of Lana Del Rey/Mazzy Star, and further proves how adept Swift is at matching sonics--here of the luxurious, sensuous, rhapsodic variety--with lyrics. I Think He Knows is Swift at her most effervescent; ridiculously catchy vocals over a plucked bass and finger snaps, before her head-voiced chorus and various pristinely placed sound effects. Paper Rings sounds like the poppiest of pop-punk ca. 2000 with its snappy tambourine beat, chuggy guitar, and smiling organ in the chorus. Death by a Thousand Cuts is a more somber take on the genre, with its electronic guitar arpeggios accompanying Swift's heartbroken lyrics before the chorus hits with its beautiful cascading Eastern sounds and synths. Perhaps the highlight of all these is It's Nice to Have a Friend, which leans even more into the Eastern vibe. It's a stunningly gorgeous minor gem, utterly perfect in its trim 2:30-runtime. It's Swift at her most sweet and innocent, yet the artistry--the instrumentation, the production--prevents it from being cloying or sacharine. In a way, it strongly reminds me of The White Stripes's We're Going to be Friends, a similarly sparse song on the same subject.

It's probably too early to tell where Lover ranks with Swift's albums. If I'm looking for criticisms it's easy to say that it lacks the audacious artistry of Reputation, the coherent vision of 1989; but this would seem to be criticizing it for something it isn't and wasn't trying to be. What it is is Swift's most sprawling, varied, and effortlessly masterful album. The way it moves through moods, themes, and styles with such deftness is almost dizzying, and whatever it lacks in a singular vision or daring experimentation it makes up for in being perhaps the best overall portrait of Swift's extraordinary talents as a songwriter and craftsman. Despite its extraordinary length, there's barely any throwaway tracks here, and even the lesser ones almost all possess some elements of interest. At the end of the day, pop music just doesn't get much better than this, and all I can think is that it's a shame how few appreciate it because of her immense popularity.

9/10
"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." -- Carl Jung

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Re: General Music Talk   Reply #31

Postby Eva Yojimbo » Sat Sep 07, 2019 3:03 pm

BTW, if I'm ranking the album tracks, this is my (rather tentative) ranking as of now:

1. Cornelia Street
2. The Man
3. The Archer
4. You Need to Calm Down

5. It's Nice to Have a Friend
6. I Think He Knows
7. Lover
8. Soon You'll Get Better

9. Paper Rings
10. Cruel Summer
11. Death by a Thousand Cuts
12. Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince
13. False God
14. I Forgot That You Existed

15. Daylight
16. Afterglow
17. Me!
18. London Boy

The "splits" are how I perceive the "tiers." The top 4 are what I consider the masterpieces and among the finest songs in her discography. 5-8 are all excellent songs that would probably be highlights on the albums of lesser artists. 9-14 are all good songs that are solid without being outstanding. 15-18 are the "OK" tracks that are more filler than substance. I don't even think any of these are terrible. It's actually rather remarkable that she managed an entire normal-length album of consistently good-to-great songs.
"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." -- Carl Jung

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Re: General Music Talk   Reply #32

Postby Eva Yojimbo » Sat Sep 07, 2019 4:07 pm

And this seems strangely appropriate given that both artists just released new albums:
"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." -- Carl Jung

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Re: General Music Talk   Reply #33

Postby Eva Yojimbo » Mon Sep 09, 2019 3:16 pm

Saw Jinjer last night at a small club just up the street from me. I probably wouldn't have bothered but tickets were only $20 and the place was only a 6-minute drive away. As with most shows like this, there's a really cool intimacy with the audience and the bands. I actually met/talked to a lot of really nice people there as they set up between bands. Unfortunately, most of the supporting bands were ass with one exception, who wasn't even listed on the venue's website, called Sumo Cyco. Really cool mix of pop, punk, and metal/hardcore, but the highlight was the singer, Skye Sweetnam, who, besides from having a great voice, was phenomenal at interacting with the crowd. Several times she was out in the crowd performing, and twice she was literally less than a foot away from me. Looked them up this morning and they've definitely got some cool stuff:


Jinjer was awesome too, but it was quite late when they came on--I got there about 6:45 and they didn't come on until about 10:45--and I was pretty wiped by then, especially the way the crowd was packed like sardines near the front and there was no AC. At one point I just had to get out of there to get some water, hydrate, and cool down. I still enjoyed the rest of the show from further back (behind the mosh pit, rather than the front). Anyway, band was tight as hell, which is quite impressive given how knotty their music can be. For those who haven't seen/heard (of) them, pretty much everyone and their dog has reacted to their video for Pisces. It has to be one of the 2-3 most reacted-to music videos online:
"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." -- Carl Jung

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Re: General Music Talk   Reply #34

Postby maz89 » Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:46 pm

Eva Yojimbo wrote:BTW, if I'm ranking the album tracks, this is my (rather tentative) ranking as of now:

1. Cornelia Street
2. The Man
3. The Archer
4. You Need to Calm Down

5. It's Nice to Have a Friend
6. I Think He Knows
7. Lover
8. Soon You'll Get Better

9. Paper Rings
10. Cruel Summer
11. Death by a Thousand Cuts
12. Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince
13. False God
14. I Forgot That You Existed

15. Daylight
16. Afterglow
17. Me!
18. London Boy

The "splits" are how I perceive the "tiers." The top 4 are what I consider the masterpieces and among the finest songs in her discography. 5-8 are all excellent songs that would probably be highlights on the albums of lesser artists. 9-14 are all good songs that are solid without being outstanding. 15-18 are the "OK" tracks that are more filler than substance. I don't even think any of these are terrible. It's actually rather remarkable that she managed an entire normal-length album of consistently good-to-great songs.


Are you taking these rankings directly from my head or something? [razz]

Enjoyed reading the review!

YES, a thousand times YES, to Cornelia Street being #1 - easily my favorite song off the new album.

This is how I'd rank them:

1. Cornelia Street (its own damn tier... this was the one song that stuck with me when I went through the album and after 27 listens, I'm still not sick of it... you've summarized what makes it so good so I won't repeat)

2. The Archer (don't think I can add to what you've already perfectly said about this - love how TS conjures so much emotion with such minimalism; it's the Delicate of Lover and it was always going to be my favorite)
3. I Think He Knows (perfect mixture of playfulness in the lyrics, pacing and music -- everything you said about self-confident sound is evident in this song alone; in a way, similar to the dynamic quality of You Need to Calm Down)
4. Lover (classic vulnerable TS fare)

5. The Man (lyrics are just perfect with a touch of humor; glad she didn't go the emotional route, we already have Running Up the Hill ;)
6. False God (love the trumpets and chill, laid-back style)
7. Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince (again, solid storytelling with a dark Reputation-ish vibe, sticks out among the other upbeat stuff in the album in a great way; love the lyrics and high school setting, it feels like the darker version of You Belong With Me)

8. Paper Rings (an upbeat indie pop/rock kind of number, reminiscent of Avril Lavigne's best)
9. Death By A Thousand Cuts (love the unexpectedly beautiful, "colorful" chorus, and how it kinda stands in contrast to the darker theme)
10. Cruel Summer (reminds me of a pop number by Halsey; but I like it, even if it feels generic, just for the way Swift rhymes "it's ooh, whoa oh" with cruel summer, lol)
11. You Need to Calm Down (is it weird I absolutely love the start of this song and only like the chorus? I even love the 'Oh-oh-ohs'. I think I've just heard this song too many times...)
12. It's Nice to Have a Friend (not sure why I don't have this ranked higher. I like its Hawaiian? sound and friendship feels; I guess it kinda gets lost in the mix of the more punchier songs)

13. London Boy (it's a cute track, has fun with the British lover gimmick)
14. Daylight (the chorus is actually pretty good; it just doesn't feel as fresh as the other tracks)
15. Soon You'll Get Better (ranked so low because I keep forgetting what it sounds like)
16. I Forgot That You Existed (I like it for its dry humor, as you said, but I tend to skip to Cruel Summer; I liked this youtube comment about how this song ironically makes you think about the person that you forgot existed)

17. Afterglow (I tend to forget what it sounds like)
18. Me!

The last 2 songs are the only ones I tend to skip. But like you said, I'd hardly call them "bad" and I'm equally impressed by how she's been so consistent (... maintaining her streak).

Since I'll be living in Europe for a while, I really hope to catch her next tour! Waiting for her to announce the dates...
"Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose"

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Re: General Music Talk   Reply #35

Postby maz89 » Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:01 pm

Eva Yojimbo wrote:And this seems strangely appropriate given that both artists just released new albums:

More confirmation that this song works better as a rock song.
"Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose"

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Re: General Music Talk   Reply #36

Postby maz89 » Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:29 pm

Eva Yojimbo wrote:Saw Jinjer last night at a small club just up the street from me. I probably wouldn't have bothered but tickets were only $20 and the place was only a 6-minute drive away. As with most shows like this, there's a really cool intimacy with the audience and the bands. I actually met/talked to a lot of really nice people there as they set up between bands. Unfortunately, most of the supporting bands were ass with one exception, who wasn't even listed on the venue's website, called Sumo Cyco. Really cool mix of pop, punk, and metal/hardcore, but the highlight was the singer, Skye Sweetnam, who, besides from having a great voice, was phenomenal at interacting with the crowd. Several times she was out in the crowd performing, and twice she was literally less than a foot away from me. Looked them up this morning and they've definitely got some cool stuff

Interesting track. I have a feeling they'd be cooler live though, especially if she was great at interacting with the crowd.

Jinjer was awesome too, but it was quite late when they came on--I got there about 6:45 and they didn't come on until about 10:45--and I was pretty wiped by then, especially the way the crowd was packed like sardines near the front and there was no AC. At one point I just had to get out of there to get some water, hydrate, and cool down. I still enjoyed the rest of the show from further back (behind the mosh pit, rather than the front). Anyway, band was tight as hell, which is quite impressive given how knotty their music can be. For those who haven't seen/heard (of) them, pretty much everyone and their dog has reacted to their video for Pisces. It has to be one of the 2-3 most reacted-to music videos online:

Well, it started off nicely enough... reminded me of The Gathering... and then it became a satanic ritual to summon the spirits of the underworld. [none]
"Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose"

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Re: General Music Talk   Reply #37

Postby Eva Yojimbo » Tue Sep 10, 2019 2:48 pm

maz89 wrote:Are you taking these rankings directly from my head or something? [razz]

Enjoyed reading the review!

...

[biggrin] Thanks

Seems we don't have any real major disagreements; biggest gap between our rankings is 7 four times: You Need to Calm Down (Me: 4, You: 11), It's Nice to Have a Friend (Me: 5, You: 12), Soon You'll Get Better (Me: 8, You: 15) and False God (You: 6, Me: 13) and 5 twice: Miss Americana (You: 7, Me 12) and London Boy (You: 13, Me: 18). As for Calm Down, that's why I'm disciplined about not listening to songs too much! I think I'd only heard it 3-4 times before hearing the album, so I still love it. For ...Friend, I'd suggest giving it a careful listen. It does easily get lost in the shuffle of the rest of the album that tends to be much flashier, especially because it's so short, but I could make an argument it may be the most unique song in Swift's discography. Nothing else sounds like it, and neither does it sound like anything else out there I've heard. I'm not sure exactly what instrument she's using besides the trumpet towards the end, but I think the opening is some Asian (Japanese? Chinese?) instrument. At least, it sounds familiar without me being able to precisely place it. Soon You'll Get Better is, for me, almost as emotional as The Archer. I don't think it's as beautiful, but as someone who's watched over loved ones who's been in the hospital, I think she nails that feeling of helplessness but also that shred of hope that we all hang onto hoping they'll "get better." That "I hate to make this about me, but who am I supposed to talk to?" hits me right in the feels.

BTW, this is a bit tangential, but also check out Lana Del Rey's new album when you can called Norman Fucking Rockwell! It's easily the best thing she's done, and while I'm not quite as blown away as critics seem to be, it does have a number of superb tracks. More than any of her other albums this is the one where the quality of "songs" have, mostly, caught up with her seductive quality of her "sound," and it very much does feel like a portrait of a crumbling America. My only complaint is that I think it runs a bit long and some of the middle tracks blend together a bit (especially given how rarely she varies the tempo), but the highlights make up for it. Here's a couple of favorites:



(FWIW, if you do plan to hear the album, you might skip the last track. It's such a perfect closer to the album that listening to it outside that may "spoil" it just a tiny bit).
"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." -- Carl Jung

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Re: General Music Talk   Reply #38

Postby Eva Yojimbo » Tue Sep 10, 2019 3:07 pm

maz89 wrote:
Eva Yojimbo wrote:Saw Jinjer last night at a small club just up the street from me. I probably wouldn't have bothered but tickets were only $20 and the place was only a 6-minute drive away. As with most shows like this, there's a really cool intimacy with the audience and the bands. I actually met/talked to a lot of really nice people there as they set up between bands. Unfortunately, most of the supporting bands were ass with one exception, who wasn't even listed on the venue's website, called Sumo Cyco. Really cool mix of pop, punk, and metal/hardcore, but the highlight was the singer, Skye Sweetnam, who, besides from having a great voice, was phenomenal at interacting with the crowd. Several times she was out in the crowd performing, and twice she was literally less than a foot away from me. Looked them up this morning and they've definitely got some cool stuff

Interesting track. I have a feeling they'd be cooler live though, especially if she was great at interacting with the crowd.
At one point, the second time when she was right in front of me, she had the whole crowd get down on the ground while she was singing, and when the chorus hit she had us all jump up at the same time. That was a first for me at a concert! So, yeah, much cooler live. I still like the music though from what I've heard. It's interesting that Skye was apparently a pop singer before forming the band. I downloaded one of her albums yesterday and bought the second one so I'll let you know what I think when I hear them.

maz89 wrote:
Jinjer was awesome too, but it was quite late when they came on--I got there about 6:45 and they didn't come on until about 10:45--and I was pretty wiped by then, especially the way the crowd was packed like sardines near the front and there was no AC. At one point I just had to get out of there to get some water, hydrate, and cool down. I still enjoyed the rest of the show from further back (behind the mosh pit, rather than the front). Anyway, band was tight as hell, which is quite impressive given how knotty their music can be. For those who haven't seen/heard (of) them, pretty much everyone and their dog has reacted to their video for Pisces. It has to be one of the 2-3 most reacted-to music videos online:

Well, it started off nicely enough... reminded me of The Gathering... and then it became a satanic ritual to summon the spirits of the underworld. [none]
[laugh] You probably understand why it's become such a popular "reaction" song because everyone enjoys watching how people react when the chorus hits. If you look up "Jinjer Pisces reaction" on YouTube you'll get dozens of hits, and that's how I first heard it/them. Here's two of my favorites:



The funny thing is that for people like me who's been into metal for ages, female "growlers" aren't actually new; I saw a metal-fest type show over a decade ago where Arch Enemy was one of the supporting bands, and they were the first prominent band I heard with a female growler; but people who aren't into the genre are shocked when they hear a woman doing that. I will say, though, that even for someone experienced with these types of vocals, Tatiana (singer for Jinjer) is exceptionally good at it. Her lows are really low and her distortion is extremely rich while still being quite comprehensible. That combination is quite rare.

FWIW, I also know those vocals are off-putting at first; my first real experience with them was with Opeth when I was about 15-16. I hated the vocals but loved the music so I kept listening, and over time I came to tolerate them, and now I quite enjoy them when they're done well, and I especially appreciate them when they're mixed with clean vocals because the contrast is so nice. I don't even hear them as "aggressive" or "angry" or "demonic" or whatever anymore; I just hear them like I would a distorted electric guitar, just another way to use an instrument.
"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." -- Carl Jung

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Re: General Music Talk   Reply #39

Postby Eva Yojimbo » Wed Sep 11, 2019 2:24 pm

LMAO, these are becoming a bizarre addiction for me:


I mean, seriously, how the fuck does this black magic work? He must've been high (hiiiiiiiiiiiiigha!)
"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." -- Carl Jung


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