See this post for information about the Stack project. This is and update covering the last couple months.
- Belle & Sebastian: I was already a fan, mostly due to the album `Fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant’ which I borrowed from a friend in 2003 and listened to extensively. My exposure to the rest of the catalogue was limited. I understand this is odd, since most fans look back to `If You’re Feeling Sinister’ as the early masterpiece. I listened to that album, as well as two other early offerings: ‘The Boy with the Arab Strap’ and ‘Tigermilk’. On each, I adored a number of tracks and found most of the rest to be pleasant filler. I also listened to the (slightly) more recent `Life Pursuit’ and was quite surprised by the change in style. Before looking at the dates, I assume that it was a very early recording and represented a style which the band had abandoned. Instead, it was an experiment with a new sound. All in all, I prefer the older sound. I find that smooth and polished, light vocals and harpsichord, all-things-twee style of Belle & Sebastian adorable.
- Blue Rodeo: My previous experience with Blue Rodeo is limited to a few popular singles and performances at Folk Fest. The latter was very positive; they are a great live act and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both times I’ve seen them. However, I’ve never really listened to their albums. I started (foolishly perhaps) with a Greatest Hits disc, which was, unsurprisingly, the most familiar. It was alright. I also listed to the classic and popular album `Five Days in July’, which was also alright. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the more recent (still 15 years old, though) `The Days in Between’. There are a number of great songs on this album.
- The Books: I spent over half of our Europe trip listening to four albums from the strange quasi-electronic band The Books. I am super-impressed. The music is strange, to be sure. Most of the songs are composed of four elements. The first three are relatively conventional: acoustic guitars and other string instruments; softly sung folksy vocals; and acoustic drums (at least they sound acoustic — I have no idea if they are played live or sequenced). The fourth component is samples, mostly of monologue or dialogue from films, speeches, newscasts, and other random old sources. These components are all electronically put together to produce a very unique and enjoyable effect. `The Lemon of Pink’ is the strongest album, followed by ‘Thought for Food’. ‘Music for a French Elevator’ is a truly bizarre collection of short works; in one track, all the samples are off-hand comments from characters in a British mystery/horror film; in another, an old self-help tape is mixed up to comic effect.
- Bright Eyes: I am very fond of two albums: `I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning’ and `Lifted’. For the stack project, I went back and listened to the debut album `Letting Off The Happiness’. In short, I feel that he improved greatly by the time he recorded the later albums. I can see the seeds of future brilliance, but `Letting Off The Happiness’ itself is entirely forgettable.
- Bruce Springsteen: Bruce Springsteen is great. I mean, I don’t always go for the 80s rock-pop anthems, but Dancing in the Dark is amazing. I know this isn’t news to anyone. However, I’ve always been familiar with Springsteen by his reputation instead of his music. High time I remedied that problem. I listened to a Greatest Hits CD, which was heavy on the 80s content but still excellent. I also listened to and enjoyed the more recent (comparatively) disc `The Rising’.
- Calexico: I listened to `The Black Light’ and `Convict Pool.’ This is amazing mood music. I’m not particularly fond of any of the tracks as songs in themselves, but the atmosphere of the whole recording is amazing. It feels like background or soundtrack music, but in the best way possible.