Category Archives: Listening

Listening

Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot

Not bad at all! In the 1990s, I loved “Pet Shop Boys” (PSB) – they were innovative, managed to blend intelligent lyrics with electronic music and psychoacoustics to make the listener feel good. There was an époque, when PSB were constant in my music consumption habits.
Then, with the Internet, the “Music Industry”, and/or music itself, changed forever. The sudden availability of the entire world’s music, not only changed business models, but also exposed people to creations previously unknown to them, increasing competition, highlighting differences, and causing seismic changes in tastes and listening behaviors.
Past PSB music, remained engrained in me as “great!”, but some releases, from the late 2000s and 2010s, failed to seduce me – there was better music to listen. The “Market of Attention” was causing its disruption.
Today, on Spotify, I decided to listen the latest PSB album, titled “Hotspot”, and I have to admit “not bad at all!”. In fact, “pretty pretty good”, as CYE’s Larry would say.
“Hotspot” is no “fly away” album. It does not cut roots, nor could or should it. Still, it feels a real “creation”, not a mere reformulation of the old. It has building work in it. You can feel the pain of the need to balance PSB’s past signatures with something new. It hurts; not all tracks are seductive. The closing track, “Wedding in Berlin”, was a poor finish, to me, but, overall, the album is fresh and enjoyable.
I am back to PSB. I will now (re)discover what they’ve been selling for that past decade.

Listening to Roman Flugel's "All the Right Noises"

This is fine and original electronic music. I am not sure if I had ever listened to RF’s creations, but even if I did, it was not as original as in this album. Since I appreciate Pet Shop Boys, Daft Punk, etc., and RF has remixed them, there is a chance this is not my first contact with his style; yet, again, this is different. These are not remixes. These are original rhythmic ambiances, nice for setting a productive mood, even for concentration, but not all tracks – some might be too fast.

Here is a Spotify playlist:

"Springsteen on Broadway" – what a surprise!

I am listening to Bruce Springsteen’s “Springsteen on Broadway”, which I avoided for a long time, because I knew it is not “just” Springsteen and his music. When I first browsed and sampled the album, twice I landed at spots on the timeline, where and when Bruce is entertaining a laughing audience. I detest laughing audiences, since the days when TV shows started trying to induce such behavior on viewers, as a Pavlovian response. I feel so repudiated by mechanical forced laughing, that a few seconds of what I assumed was it, were enough for me to keep this album at a distance, for over one year. My mistake.

Today, I was fortunate to get distracted and let a Spotify playlist flow deep into the album. Indeed, if without context, landing at certain random moments of the monologue that Springsteen has with the audience before performing his “regular” music, one can question the moment’s purpose. However, the fault lies entirely on such lack of context, which does not happen in linear listening.

I got lucky and let the tracks play, and play. The feared monologue moments turned out to be precious insights on Bruce’s past. This is Springsteen sharing some relatively personal stories, from very young age.
I adored the “report” about when he, at age 7, got his hands on a 25 USD guitar that his family could not afford. Moreover, guitar lessons were “boring” and did not work; still he performed for the neighbors, doing everything with the guitar “except to play it”.
The golden passages are the ones about “how good he is” – this is a quote -, and you will have to listen to the tracks yourself, to understand why. Contrary to what the quote can suggest, these are humble passages, from a man that reached the summit. He understands the “imposter syndrome” and links it beautifully to the overall of his music – “never worked on a factory, yet it is all I ever wrote about”. Imposter he surely is not.

The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble – "From the Stairwell"

This is the best Jazz I have discovered in a long, long time.
The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble is deep, slow, focus-inducing, acoustic nutrients for the brain.
Extraordinary use of wind instruments, superb sensibility for instrument arrangement and positioning. A wonderful rarity.

I am enjoying all their albums, but listening to “From the Stairwell”, as I code on the computer.

Listening to Rena Jones' "Indra's Web"

Original slow electronic music, composed with comforting and contrasting singular arrangements that decorate effective rhythms, relaxing and helpful for mental tasks. As ever, I find it hard to put the music I listen to, into words. In the end, music is a vehicle for subjective emotions and the only way to capture the personalized message is to be subject to it.
The key aspect in this Rena Jones’ work is that the listener will understand its uniqueness. Combinations of deep regular beats with foregrounds of higher treble instruments build a musical experience with a distinct signature.

Listen to it:

Listening to Edward Abela – "Chronicles"

This is original music, composed and performed by the artist, mostly using electronic devices, but sounding classical and with a very strong piano presence. At times, it remembered me the music for the movie “Piano”, not because of any structural overlaps, but because of the beauty, the “landscaping”, and the dominant instrument.
Great listening!

Here is its Spotify playlist: