FT5: Albums For Being Creative
5. Alarm Will Sound – Acoustica: Alarm Will Sound Performs Aphex Twin
This is for the pretentious artist. It’s a great album for writers. It’s an amazing piece of work. First, listen to the album all the way through, just to get a feel for the immense amount of work that went into it. Then, plug it in and go to town (not literally, of course). You get the sense the musicians are all deeply influenced by Philip Glass, composer extraordinaire. There is some amazing noise manipulation, contrasted with bright clarinet. You get the feeling that the band is never going to get it together, think Junior High orchestra. The first song, “Cock/Ver. 10,” is a sprawling piece that reminds me of the first “Planet of the Apes.” It’s scattered, piecemeal, intrusive, intuitive, and breathtaking. Up until “Meltphace 6” you’re a little confused, perhaps tired, but you’ve got it in you now. “Fingerbib” turns the album on its head with a jaunty tune, which draws an image of a child at play. The end of the album, “Cliffs,” does just as the title is supposed to do. It places you above a roiling sea, watching the gulls. Basically, the entire album does all the creative work for you. In turn, it expects you to do the same.
4. Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope
Personally, this album is one of the best for background music. It’s simple. Background vocals, some dominant snare drum, easy keyboard, and jazzy piano create a sound specific to Spektor (which I’m still not convinced is her last name). “That Time” is just minimal enough build a unique backdrop. “20 Years of Snow” follows suit, never overdoing it with too many instruments. The fantasy piano dillydallies in and out of puddles and high grasses. The album finishes strong with “Aprés Moi.” The dramatic keys play to the right parts of your creative spirit. The Cossack melody fosters a sense of irony that can be easily transformed into something tangible.
3. Muse – Black Holes and Revelations
This is for the angry dwarf painter in you. Also, if you’re into interpretive dance, give this one a shot. This album, for all its publicity, gets me in the mood for some serious pencil breaking sketching. This album blasts your brain into get moving mode. “Take a Bow” powers through so fast, you don’t have time to think about listening to the music anyway, so better make something in the meantime. All the way to the end, there are twists and turns to keep you on your toes, and the piece de resistance, “Knights of Cydonia,” not only reminds you it’s time to start the disc over again, but in and of itself is ready to knock your socks off. The power ballad chords set in minor and major diminished signatures coupled with the heavy- handed keyboard and crashing symbols keep your left side occupied just long enough to allow your right side to build a masterpiece.
2. Doves – Lost Souls
It’s a tour d’ force, this one. You’ll probably remember the “Catch the Sun” single that put this innocuous group from Wilmslow on the charts. The album begins with riffy guitar reminiscent of a highly melodic engine break and echoes of a faster-than-the-speed-of-light born-from-the-ashes phoenix. If that wasn’t enough to ramp up your cerebellum, a delightfully droning light drum countered with a lightly muffled vocal effects kindle the creative spark. The vocals never overpower the rhythms and melodies making it easier to fall into your imagination. The album stays low key enough to be the perfect background music to your melancholy painting. Brace yourself. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
1. Patrick Watson – Close to Paradise
Not sure what it is about this album. It could be the gracefully woven tapestry of multiple strings and bass lines. It could be the oddly inspiring lyrics. It could also be the easy and contemplative flow of the entire album, how the last song loops into the first song and vice versa. I think it’s all the above. Think Rufus Wainwright on a creepy carousel in a dark back-alley carnival. It begins with a vanity countertop music box twinkle and the guitar languidly plays chords which fall from the strings like honey from a spoon. He carries the toy piano theme through the album and includes ghost sounds a la Tim Burton. Watson and his ragtag gang of musicians appropriately named the album because it never quite gets you there, at least not in the Guns ‘n’ Roses sense. It sets you sailing, never docking, but it’s enough of an album to get you thinking.