Writing about music is pretty difficult. Sometimes I just can’t describe what I like or dislike about something I’ve listened to, maybe partially because I’m just not that knowledgeable about music theory and terminology. It also generally takes several listens for me to form thoughts on songs. I’m going to give it a try with these two albums I received for Christmas, though.
Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, Perspex Island – I suppose early nineties Hitchcock just isn’t my favorite, even though I was introduced to this era fairly early on. Respect was the first of Robyn’s albums I ever owned, and there was a live concert from around this time on eMusic back in the day. Most of the songs on this album haven’t really grabbed me yet, but it’s still a pretty enjoyable listen. Some of the songs, especially “Ultra Unbelievable Love,” have more of an eighties rock sound than I’m used to from Robyn. I will say “So You Think You’re in Love” is a really good song. “She Doesn’t Exist,” a wistful breakup song with Michael Stipe on backing vocals, is another standout for me. I like the chaotic trumpet parts on “Child of the Universe,” and “Birds in Perspex” has a catchy chorus. Since I’m American, I’ll point out that Perspex is a brand name of plastic that’s apparently much better known in the United Kingdom. I know the Perspex Pillar of Science of Reason in Douglas Adams’ Life, the Universe, and Everything was changed to the Plastic Pillar in American versions.
Janelle Monae, The ArchAndroid – My wife says Monae’s music is different from what I usually listen to, which is probably true in the sense that my music collection is largely pretty hopelessly white, and I’ve reached the point where I don’t get into too many new artists (“new” as in “started out in this century”). But then, she has catchy songs, works in a variety of styles, and has lyrics that are often surreal and reference-heavy, so maybe she’s not too far from my usual fare. There’s a science fiction story running through a lot of it, using androids as a metaphor of sorts. I’ve had a tab open in Chrome for some time now discussing the references in Monae’s work, written by a self-proclaimed They Might Be Giants fan, and they’ve also been known to use science fiction and the like in their songs. This album includes immediately contagious dance songs like “Dance or Die,” “Tightrope,” and “Come Alive”; emotional stuff like “Cold War”; and psychedelic numbers like “Mushrooms & Roses” and “Wondaland.” “Neon Gumbo” reverses part of the earlier “Many Moons,” Of Montreal guests on “Make the Bus,” and “Oh, Maker” combines parts of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” and “Kathy’s Song.” Was C-3PO the first robot to use “maker” the way humans would invoke a deity? Maybe not, but his maker turned out to be Darth Vader.
I have a few other things to listen to, including some David Lowery and Puppini Sisters, but I think that’s enough for now.