Earlier this year I wrote The Weeknd’s debut CD HOUSE OF BALLOONS was very likely the best thing I would hear this year. I have not changed my opinion on this. The sleazy grooves literally sweating out from the tracks, the voice, a lost soul in hell, isolated in the mix, music haunting but also seemingly too languid to stand up on its own make this a unique record. Now in the same year, we have a second album from The Weeknd entitled THURSDAY.
Just to get this out, no, THURSDAY is not as good as HOUSE. It has much more going on more instruments, more vocals, just more of an instrumental palette but loses something in terms of mood. It’s more watered down to be sure but I interpret that through what I’ve read of the intent of this music. In fact, THURSDAY is the second in what is projected to be a trilogy. THURSDAY has the feel of the day after the party is still going on but its daylight and perhaps some people have gotten some rest, perhaps the sunlight brings a feeling of freshness as if the night sleaze has been washed off.
BAD PENNY is the debut album of Spectrals which is an English one man band project. Despite being only 21 years old, Louis Jones shows a mastery of the studio and through his sound a knowledge of music history. This really brings to mind the Phil Spector Wall of Sound despite the fairly low budget of this record. At times, Jones’s voice reminds me of Roddy Frame’s. A very promising debut.
2011 was also a year for musical reissues and rediscovery. Through the reissue of I WANT YOU, I rediscovered Marvin Gaye’s Relationship trilogy which I wrote about here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2011/09/marvin-gayes-relationship-trilogy-lets.html
Another artist I’ve rediscovered and whose musical output I’ve since explored deeper is Al Green. Green had one of the longest uninterrupted hot streaks of any artist when it comes to releasing quality records. Everything he did from the beginning of his career in the late 60’s up until his full conversion to Christianity in the late 70’s is pretty good.
CALL ME is his masterpiece. They way Green’s ultrasmooth voice nudges and massages these songs along backed by Al Jackson Jr.’s strong backbeat, the swirling organ, scratchy guitar, and beautifully light strings. Green doesn’t just act out love songs he becomes them and the songs swell with his very being.
Two other records I’ve rediscovered by Green are AL GREEN EXPLORES YOUR MIND and AL GREEN IS LOVE. EXPLORES is a tad rougher than the other albums he was making at this time, more guitar, more wild vocals and it contains the original version of “Take Me to the River” even better than The Talking Heads fantastic cover version. LOVE is a concept album of sorts with every song being about love. Although most of the “love” here is spiritual, there is still room for earthiness too. The music manages the tremendous overstatement of this record brass and string x infinity, huge percussion, Green’s voice epic dominating over all.
Another 2011 rediscovery was Jackson Browne which I gather is kind of a guilty pleasure. Many of my friends can’t stand him and view him as the epitome of self-directed whiny California singer/songwriters. Me? I think he’s a superb lyricist with amazing insight into the way people think and feel and his voice is a dependable, warm instrument. He can be boring but his best records are packed full of sensitive statements on love and loss. I definitely also think his ballads are better than his faster songs. His greatest album, his most consistent, is LATE FOR THE SKY. The title track sums up the missed connections of life, the breakdown of communication of lovers better than any I’ve ever heard. THE PRETENDER is probably my second favourite. How does one cope with the tragedies life throws at us? Through music! A beautiful record....