Higher expectations were met with a significant let down, as this album feels dirge-like at times, flat at others, and lacking in substance. I could make comparisons to a darker Joni Mitchell, Belle and Sebastian sans their lyrical wit and wisdom, and when the songs work, a dash of Nico (especially on I Think I Knew & Cuckoo Through the Walls), but most of these comparisons are just me grasping for something to hang this album’s proverbial hat on. At times the songs show promise, especially with Cuckoo Through the Walls, but as they unfold they often go on too long, and shift in ways that impact negatively the continuity and melodic tone of the songs.
Initial Favorite Track(s): Cuckoo Through the Walls (the 1st half of the song) & I Can’t Help You
Rating (1-5 Stars): 1
I Can’t Help You
This feels like a flashback to the late 80’s rave life, mixed up with some 90’s-00’s sensibilities courtesy of The Flaming Lips and Moby. At times the album feels like it requires expansive space, big speakers, a dance floor and possibly some ecstasy to take it all in properly (or, eh, improperly). There are moments when I am reminded of disco, moments of New Wave circa The Pet Shop Boys and The Human League, and at times this feels like pure electronica meant to dance, sway and be high to.
Initial Favorite Track(s): Free Your Mind, Dark Corners and Mountain Tops & Meet Me In a House of Love
Rating (1-5 Stars): 2.5
Free Your Mind
At first listen, I am reminded of the “A Very Special Christmas” album (the first one), especially the Eurythmics and Alison Moyet songs from that album. Hard to believe that it is holiday music season again, but I will admit I am starting to get “in the mood”. The songs work best when they are of the less traditional variety, especially some of the more ethereal and haunting numbers, like Sleep Quietly and the Cocteau Twins feeling Bleak Midwinter (though I do quite like their take on the traditional Silver Bells).
Initial Favorite Track(s): Make It Wonderful, Sleep Quietly, Bleak Midwinter & Silver Bells
Rating (1-5 Stars): 4
Make It Wonderful
Fun, funky, wild and unexpected, the new M.I.A. feels like an all-around the world adventure through the unknown secret places, as well as a visit to the bold and brilliant “sites to be seen“, or in this case “heard“. Unlike some of her past endeavors, this album plays well as a whole, full-album listen, each song fitting into the next, building and falling, into a glorious ebb and flow of sound. This is one of my favorite releases of the year, for certain.
Initial Favorite Track(s): Matangi, Warriors, Bad Girls & Y.A.L.A.
Rating (1-5 Stars): 4.5
Dance, spin, sing, cry, emote, escape, and turn the volume up: these are the words that flash through my mind while I listen to Artpop for the first time. This reminds me of issues of vintage issues of Interview magazine, Modern Girl, Tama Janowitz’ Slaves of New York, discos, drag clubs, vinyl dresses, Manic Panic hair dye, and my late 80’s club days. Sometimes, though, it changes pace, breaks open, and breaks my heart with vulnerability and so much deep, dark, delirious emotions.
Initial Favorite Track(s): Dope, G.U.Y., ARTPOP, Fashion! & Gypsy
Rating (1-5 Stars): 4
Dope (from the YouTube Music Awards)
This album hits me like a 90’s musical flashback. This is sing-a-long, car concert, feel okay ever feeling not okay, “it just gets me” music. There is a Replacements feel here, of course a Get Up Kids feeling, too, though I also get a Jimmy Eat World and Fountains of Wayne vibe, as well. I am tempted to push play in the car and drive for hours with this one, hitting repeat, again and again.
Initial Favorite Track(s): Before My Tongue Becomes a Sword, As Perfect As We’ll Ever Be & Say What You’re Gonna Say
Rating (1-5 Stars): 3.5
Before My Tongue Becomes a Sword
As Perfect As We’ll Ever Be
Warm and inviting and accessible alt-folk-country storytelling that is aurally pleasing from the first song to the last. I tend to like this genre of music to be a bit more rough around the edges, but this is a genuinely lovely listen. I think with more plays I will warm to it more (a grower of an album, I reckon).
Initial Favorite Track(s): Lonely Street, Instrument & Brand New Old Friend
Rating (1-5 Stars): 3