Last Three Albums (+ one more): Teen Dream, Songs for Dustmites, 加爾基 精液 栗ノ花, and Cosmogramma
This time there's an extra album that I'm reviewing, the main reason for that being that one of these albums isn't really something that many people in America have access to (Well gee, I wonder which one that would be...). Other than that I've also added genres and album highlights for those who just want to listen to singles or individual songs rather than the entire thing. Enjoy!
Teen Dream by Beach House
Genre: Dream Pop, Indie Pop
Teen Dream is one of those albums that I just instantly fell in love with just because of the sole fact that it seemed really relevant to me right now. It's simplistic, minimalistic, yet also soothingly atmosphereic and listenable. Every song on the album is catchy and despite the fact that most of them are actually pretty long for pop songs, they never really overstay their welcome. To be honest, I thought that Beach House's vocalist, Victoria LeGrand, was a male vocalist upon listening to Teen Dream. Her voice is distinctly deep for a female vocalist, but it's very powerful and still has a lot of range.
Teen Dream might seem almost too simple, yet sometimes that's the best way to go about writing music. The songs themselves don't delve into any profound subject matter, just love and romance and all the feelings that go with them in a very straightforward, unforced, genuine manner. It's these things that people feel everyday, this sense of longing and love that fills our heads at every given hour of our lives, that make this album so important and relatable and relevant to me right now.Teen Dream allows me to stop feeling lost about love and lets me get lost in its dreamy soundscapes, if not for just less than an hour.
Highlights: Zebra, Silver Soul, Walk in the Park, Take Care
Songs for Dustmites by Steve Burns
Genre: Indie Pop/Rock, Neo-Psychedelia
If you're wondering who the heck Steve Burns is, he's the former host of the kids' television show, Blue's Clues. Yes, you read that right, that green-striped polo shirt wearing man with the handy-dandy notebook is an indie rockstar. Well, or at least he would be if he had gotten more exposure. It's a bit strange why he didn't though, considering the people who worked with him to make Songs for Dustmites. Members of the Flaming Lips and producer Dave Friedmann helped make Steve's musicmaking dreams a reality; Burns had been a fan of the Flaming Lips and it's very clear when I listened to Songs for Dustmites, with some of the instrumentation and arrangements being pretty psychedelic, spacy, and clearly Lips-inspired.
The songs have a good balance between chamber instrumentation and electronic elements though, and they're a lot more poppy than the Flaming Lips' usual music. Burns' musical competence shines through his rather moody songwriting, lyrics and vocals, which give his music character and an identity that isn't overshadowed by his favorite psychedelic rock band. Songs for Dustmites is also very accessible and memorable, and it's very nostalgic and a bit strange for me to listen to someone from something that I grew up with as a kid sing about broken relationships and love. But it's a good kind of strange; being able to hear how Steve Burns felt in his life and being able to relate to those emotions is something that is curiously special to me, and I'm sure that one doesn't have to have watched Blue's Clues to enjoy this album. It's a well-crafted album that deserves more exposure, and I can only hope that Burns releases something new soon.
加爾基 精液 栗ノ花 (Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana) by Shiina Ringo
Genre: Art Pop, Art Rock, J-Pop
There's a bit of a story to Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana that's worth mentioning. While I was looking for some music from the 2000s to listen to, I stumbled upon this Japanese pop album and noticed all the high praise it had been getting from a music website that I log onto daily. Copying and pasting the kanji and the romanized spelling of the album's name, I found it on Grooveshark, that shady music streaming site that somehow has a rather great track record for having obscure music and vinyl versions of albums in its catalog, and I started listening to it and I remember being pretty fond of what I had heard. It was a bit bizarre, but curiously intriguing and full of energy and experimentation. Sadly, I was interrupted not even halfway through the album and turned off my laptop, later forgetting I had even started the album not even three hours ago. I didn't finish the rest of the album for probably another two or three months until I again realized that the album existed, but Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana didn't exist on Grooveshark anymore. I wasn't able to find the album anywhere else on the net, so I was stuck. It wasn't until my friend found the album on Amazon that we were able to finally get our hands on the album by splitting the costs between the two of us.
Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana is truly the epitome of Japan's quirky side of pop music. There's something about Japanese music in general that seems incredibly melodic compared to music from other countries, with Ringo's vocals being very enthusiastic and active in her songs and a very discernable driving force behind her art pop/rock stylings. There's a great balance between the driving, jumpy songs and the slower, introspective songs, and the album has a very significant usage of orchestral and rock arrangements, as well as electronic elements, sound clips and recordings. Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana also has a nice variety of influences, from rock to jazz to lounge and bossa nova. The production is clear and crisp, but it doesn't seem to lose all of its identity the way that a lot of albums do when their production is very clean. All of the tracks are consistently great, and there really isn't a part of the album where it just dips at all. I wish I could make some sort of commentary on the lyrical aspects of the album but I can't since I don't understand Japanese, but through some translations of just the titles of the songs and the album alone, it seems that Ringo really likes to mess around with odd juxtapositions and metaphors, as the album's title translates to "Lime Semen Chestnut Flowers." Yeah. The themes seem to often relate to opposites and things of that sort, but I'll never know unless a translation for the lyrics appears on the internet or if I learn Japanese. Yep, probably not happening anytime soon.
Highlights: 宗教 (Religion), 迷彩 (Camouflage), おだいじに (Please Take Care), やつつけ仕事 (Rush Job), 茎 (Stem).
Cosmogramma by Flying Lotus
Genre: IDM, Instrumental Hip Hop, Wonky, Nu-Jazz
When I first started listening to Cosmogramma, it was like my head was unzipped, stretched out and blown up, all at the same time. But in a good way.
There's something absolutely stunning about this album that doesn't exist in others, whether it's the absolutely unique feel of the entire work as a whole, or the extremely listenable tracks and dancable rhythms that this album has to offer, or the brilliant production and sampling. Cosmogramma has some of the most addicting beats that I've ever listened to, and has an incredibly wide range of influences like jazz, dubstep, glitch, hip hop, and many others. One of the greatest things about Cosmogramma is the fact that it spans 17 tracks, but never really seems too long because the tracks are all so short and sweet.
There's something about Cosmogramma that seems somewhat emotional and personal despite its dancability and upbeat nature. It's surrounded by the backdrop of the deaths of Flying Lotus' aunt, Alice Coltrane, and his mother. This becomes very clear in the album's extremely creative sampling, where songs like "Table Tennis" featured samples such as the sound of a ping pong ball bouncing and his own dying mother's respirator. It really shows the dedication and heart that Flying Lotus put into this album, and it really changes your perspective of things once you know a little more context.
Cosmogramma does everything that albums of its kind should and then some. It merges the light-hearted, upbeat, dancing spirit of hip hop and dance music with Flying Lotus' own experiences and thus, gives the already quality album a new layer of meaning that can't be found in its peers.
Hightlights: Pickled!, Nose Art, Zodiac Shit, Computer Face//Pure Being, ...And the World Laughs With You ft. Thom Yorke, Do the Astral Plane, Satelllliiiiiiiteee, Drips/Auntie's Harp, Table Tennis ft. Laura Darlington.
Have you ever listened to these albums? Do you agree with what's written here? Sound off in the comments!
If you have any album suggestions or requests, please comment and I'll give them a shot!