Sunday, September 30, 2012

Phil's Albums

My original plan was to sit down and write this list without reading the other album posts; the thought of etching my musical taste in digital stone (melodramatic much?) seemed much more authentic if I made my choices in a vacuum. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I put my willpower to better use elsewhere (I hate writing cover letters. See also, Parks and Recreation marathon/binge: four seasons in two weeks, check.), and I have been greatly enjoying the posts so far. But on to the matter at hand.

The order isn't particularly important, other than the fact that the albums are written in the order in which I thought of them.

Dizzy Gillespie: Compact Jazz, 1990
I did a little detective work to try and figure out when this album entered into my library. I looked through all the library catalogs of placed I've lived and scoured old hard drives, and the best answer I could come up with is that I found the album on some shared piece of a network sometime during college, maybe in 2003 or 2004.

It's not a standalone jazz album, but it is a very solid compilation. This wasn't the album that started my love of jazz (see Miles Davis, Kind of Blue), but it was the one that deepened it. It's a gorgeous, often joyous album of trumpet-led jazz infused with latin rhythms. It's full of memorable melodic licks that I find myself humming from time to time, even when I haven't listened to the album for a while.

Dirty Projectors: Swing Low Magellan, 2012

Easily my favorite thing about this band is that they are masters of playing with aural texture in their music. I have only heard snippets of Morning Better Last!, but I think the "fabric scraps" from this album were the textural bits of sound that were quilted together in Bitte Orca and layered together in Swing Lo Magellan. It's a really interesting evolution of sound and complexity. Also mainly, I just enjoy the album immensely. About To Die is my jam. Seriously.

M83: Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, 2011
This album brings to mind a cold and quiet January in rural Korea. Well, it was quiet until I started (respectfully) blasting this album in my apartment. It was the awkward part of the Korean school year when classes kinda take place for two weeks, punctuating the middle of a two-month stretch of vacation time. I didn't have many teaching responsibilities, which meant that I was often home, playing one silly computer game or another with this album on repeat. There may or may not have been some dancing during Midnight City. But there were no witnesses. Like a tree in the forest, if no one sees it fall,  does it even happen?

This album is decidedly more electronic than most of the music that I love. But I instantly took to this 80's synth-tastic symphony.

Radiohead: In Rainbows, 2007

According to iTunes, this is the album with the most plays in my library. In some part of my brain, I know that Kid A and OK Computer are regarded as better Radiohead albums by most fans and critics. But sorry, this is the album that resonates the most with me. I remember fixating on Weird Fishes/Arpeggi and playing it nonstop; this one song was added to my library a year before the rest of the album, and it used to hold the record for most plays until Bodysnatchers and 15 Step made it into my running mix. Bodysnatchers used to come on mid-run, and I immediately couldn't help but pick up the pace and start burning up the road (less slowly than usual).

Arcade Fire, Funeral, 2004

Seeing Arcade Fire live in Montréal was perfection in audio/visual form. The trip to Osheaga in 2010 was a perfect storm of a trip: excellent company (Evan, Alban, and David), fantastic food (bagels, Di Fara pizza, coffee), and so much good music. And the pinnacle of the trip was seeing headliner Arcade Fire end the day with a concert in their hometown. I heard Rebellion (Lies) live. They played seven songs out of ten from this album, some favorites from Neon Bible, and a bunch of songs from The Suburbs. The encore finished with Wake Up, with hundreds of people singing along with the opening lines.

It was easily the best concert I've been to yet. And this will always be one of my favorite go-to albums. It's a perfect mix of contemplative songs and orchestral rock anthems. I really want to see them in concert again.

Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues, 2011

When I listen to this album, I remember the sadness of post-college withdrawal and the hope of spring and the end of winter. I moved back to my Mom's house after graduation, and I had forgotten both how rural and unpopulated the area was and how harsh and lingering the winter in New England was. I started listening to this album in April, right at the transition between winter and spring. So I can't help but associate this album with returning sun and creeping warmth.

But at the same time, Helplessness Blues was the song that encapsulated my questions about life and work and purpose after graduation. And to me, Grown Ocean is the essence of the Northwest distilled into audio form, and it made me nostalgic for the time spent there with good friends.

This Fleet Foxes album is bittersweet and weighty with memory and emotion. Also mainly, it's beautiful and a joy to listen to.

Honorable Albums Worth Mentioning

- Sigur Rós: Takk, 2005
I went from ridiculing (a little; I joked that they were probably singing about fish sticks in Icelandic) this album in Argentina, to using it as the soundtrack of my life in Thailand.

- Joanna Newsom: The Milk-Eyed Mender, 2004
The Book of Right On would also appear on said soundtrack.

- Sufjan Stevens: Peace! Songs for Christmas, Vol. V, 2006
My favorite holiday album that warrants listening all year-round. I pity the fool that doesn't Recognize Christmas. Amirite?

- The Shins: Chutes Too Narrow/Port of Morrow, 2003/2012
I might have made fun of this band too.(Sorry, Trina!) Stupid move, 'cause they're a whole bunch of folksy rock fun. Both albums are good but different. See the first for the original folksy rock fun.


  1. I second your Grown Ocean = The Northwest idea.

    Jazz is tough for me, mostly because I don't often have time to sit down and listen to it. I've tried putting it on as background music, but that doesn't work for me. It's so involved that if I don't focus, it turns into noise.

    I guess I should sit down and figure out what all this M83 love is about...

  2. Phil: nice choice with "In Rainbows", I too have reveled in Weird Fishes/Arpeggi fixation. Also dig the Dizzy Gillespie selection.

    David: In my opinion M83 is one part epic texture and one part nostalgic pop innocence. So, the logical approach to appreciation would start with Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts (epic texture, let it grow on you in the background), followed by Saturdays=Youth (pop nostalgia), and end with Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (perfect blend of both).

  3. Yay for "Funeral" and M83! I agree that The Shins are a lot of fun. And Evan: I love your description of M83: "nostalgic pop innocence" is dead on. And I agree that Sufjan's Christmas music deserves year-round attention. Glad you came around to seeing the value of Sigur Ros. :)

  4. Phil: Peace is where it's at! I feel like we did almost every song on that album at some point. This year Christmas is going to be recognized in a whole new element family.

  5. I happened upon M83 the other day while listening to Pandora. And before I knew it was them, I was skipping the song! Now I read that everyone is a fan, and feel like I've missed the boat...