It's been awhile since I've done a legitimate roundup, in fact it's been almost exactly a month. There's quite a few albums that I've been streaming, along with some old ones, though my focus is fairly closed this week, a sample size of affections you might suggest. However, that's not to say that I won't be lengthy in my appreciation for the few artists I've chosen. So snag your reading glasses, like Alice above you has done so wonderfully (way to go babe), and let's begin.
Alicia Keys - HERE
Despite never listening to much of Alicia Keys, outside of her singles, I put on her new album HERE Friday morning and ran through it a couple times and was really impressed. I did the same on Saturday and found myself attentive still. While this isn't a review just yet, it is a look in the divide of perception that I found interesting.
I was talking to a friend about it, Alicia, for me, has always sat in a sort of music purgatory. While she's often associated with the pop stars of today (and has been for most of her career), her music has always been more intentional, more serious. I think this in-between she sat in made it hard for me to gauge when I was younger. I generally would only explore a pop album if I liked the singles, considering most traditional pop albums were/are/ will be built upon them. I've never been a huge fan of Alicia's singles, and therefor didn't pursue her records like I would have if I'd viewed her in a different light, by matching her more closely to her peers in the R&B/ Soul community. Regardless, what's done is done, but, as someone who takes pride in openness and non judgement when it comes to music, I found it odd the way my brain sorted her and then dismissed her as a result.
All this is to say, I think I'll go back and work my way through her catalog and see what I find. Especially if it plays like HERE. As of now, I haven't spent enough time with it to garner it's true weight, but from a music standpoint, it's excellent. With interludes and smooth transitions that pave the way between messages on a song to song basis, it features continuity on a level of which I don't think she's done before. The standouts so far are "The Gospel," "Kill Your Mama," "Work On It," and "Where Do We Begin Now" (that piano melody to open, yeeeeeees).
Check it out, see what you like, like what you dig.
Chet Baker - Chet In Paris
In other news, I've been streaming Chet Baker like a mad man for the past month or so, all thanks to simply seeing that a friend was listening. It reminded me that it had been awhile since I myself had thrown him on, so I acted accordingly. Little did I know it would consume me.
There's something intoxicating about any artist who possesses his level of skill. The unwavering steadiness they exhibit can often be confused with simplicity, but to anyone familiar with the craft, we know it isn't. It's so funny to me, that when people are THAT good at their profession, that it gives the effect that anyone can do it. Their ability hides the difficulty, as they naturally, and smoothly, overcoming the obstacles, rather than making you painfully aware that they're there. Ironically, you're probably more attuned to a tasks difficulty when someone talented struggles, because when a master conquers it with ease, you're left with only the beauty of the flawless play.
However creamy Chet sounded on his horn, there was little he could do to mask the myriad of troubles he faced in his daily life, addiction being the centerpiece. His road was difficult and troubled, and not something I'll get into with any sort of depth. However, if you have the time, I recommend Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker, is an intense and interesting look into one of jazz's, and surely music's, most arresting personas.
The album I chose is my personal favorite, Chet In Paris. Featuring the type of play that romanticized his existence, and endeared him almost universally to fans of the sound. Due to the multiple changes this Parisian tour went through, including the too soon death of young pianist Dick Twardzik, the record has a little bit of everything: the smokiness, the fun, the passion, the brokenness, the list goes on. While Chet In Paris is nowhere near his most beloved (or even relevant) works, earning the title of simply being "enjoyable," it remains the record which I return to the most.
If you're looking to get a handle on some of his essential works, check out Chet Baker Sings, The Chet Baker Sextet, or Chet Baker in Tokyo (this one you'll have to find on your own). If you don't listen to much jazz, this album should act an easy introduction, and who better to introduce you to the genre then Chet. Despite his troubles off the stage, when it came time to play, few were cooler.
Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker - Bird & Diz
And since we're on the subject of jazz, here is probably my all time favorite jazz record. While I admit, my appreciation of jazz far outweighs my intake and knowledge of it, I still haven't heard a recording that I enjoy more than Bird & Diz. It's hard to imagine a better crew assembled: Charlie Parker on alto sax, Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, Thelonius Monk on piano, Curly Russell on bass, and Buddy Rich on the drums.
All revered and beloved in their own right, it lays the foundation for everyone pushing on all cylinders. The back and forth between Diz and Parker is spectacular, but that doesn't mean everyone else takes a backseat. I've heard many people criticize Buddy for being too intrusive at times, but I think that only pushed the rest of the guys to go harder. With complicated chord progressions, steady key changes and unorthodox time signatures, all the while still giving way to constant improvisations, I don't know if things would have sounded the same with precision players like Buddy and Monk, especially Buddy, who is almost machine like.
Like I stated above, I bow to any true jazz fan, who can speak with more depth and passion on the album, and the subject, but from a humble fan and eager learner, Bird & Diz has offered me a ceiling which no other jazz record has touched. While I hope to one day be a truly educated listener, and I have no doubt that day will come, for a guy who started with thinking that bebop jazz and the like was simply noise, I'd say I'm happy with where I am for now. Start somewhere and work up, your ears will thank and reward you.
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Gustavo Santaolalla, & Mogwai - Before The Flood (Music From the Motion Picture)
Whether or not you agree with Leonardo Dicaprio and the films purpose, the promotion of knowledge concerning global warming, and the seriousness of it's implications, this is a beautiful, haunting, and well crafted release that works not just as a companion piece to the film, but on it's own as well. While the mood throughout is calming, the sounds present could lead to dreams just as easily as they could something darker, I wouldn't say nightmarish, just...darker. But isn't that the point of the film, to spark uneasiness regarding its subject?
The album carries a softer, less sinister feel than other Trent Rozer/ Atticus Ross collaborations (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl), though their signature down tempo melancholy is still very much intact. Actually, I'd say this has more in common with the subtleties of Reznor's Nine Inch Nails release Ghosts I-IV.
If you're curious about the film, it featured a wide release on October 30th, and is available just about anywhere you care to look. But hey, how about instead of just telling you to find it, I make it easy and provide a link (CLICK HERE). Whether or not you concern yourself with the plight of stunting global warming, the film is a good watch and pushes ideas only with the concern of making our world a more natural and beautiful place. I don't think anyone can refute that aspiration, mighty as it may seem.
Abel Korzeniowski - Nocturnal Animals
For those who read my Top 10 Film Scores post, you'll remember Abel as the man who sat comfortably in second for his work on, well, everything he touches. I can't, in recent memory, think of a composer who has crafted more rapturous and soaring themes of love than him.
Oddly enough, I planned to dedicate a slot to him on this Weekly Roundup! even beforeyesterdays release of the Nocturnal Animals score. I recently began storming through the series Penny Dreadful, why it took me so long to watch I do not know, and he is the composer. The show, more than anything else he's done, showcases his ability to craft suspense just as well as beauty, and I'm hoping it allows him to be cast in a more prominent spotlight as I'd love to see him work on some major films, specifically some of the future Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them sequels (there are going to be four more, give him one, I dare ya!).
However, todays focus is on his score for the upcoming thriller Nocturnal Animals. It's his second pairing with director Tom Ford, following their collaboration on the gorgeous, and severely under-loved A Single Man, one of my favorite films of 2009. That score, much like this one, carries a darker tone, as a result of the movie it's accompanying, but it's no less alluring or elegant, as he sweeps you up in his string arrangements and doesn't let go. Wondrous.