97. Brian Eno – Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundscapes


Neil Young once sang “An ambulance can only go so fast” (found on ‘Ambulance Blues’). Such knowledge is accurate, but probably the worst thing that can happen to a person. To understand this, is to understand there will always be bodies, always be horror, and all of us just onlookers gazing at the wreck. Wondering what could’ve been done, when we all know deep down, life is just one bloody thing after another.

Brian Eno’s Apollo is looking at life in the face. And just showing us what he sees. It’s an entirely instrumental album. Nine songs of tranquility. But there’s a catch. It’s serene, but with a faint black wave vibration, something that makes sure to let us know everything feels beautiful. And the stars above look amazing…unfortunately it all signifies something sadder, something more bleak that we can choose to embrace, or ignore. That’s the genius of Apollo. It brings us to infinity and back, but doesn’t care where we end up.

But really, there is no point in overthinking this album. It exists in a beautiful place full of sunbeams and wildflowers. A place where everything is distilled to its most simple form, and time probably does move somewhere, but the moments remove you from that reality. Really, this approaches the formal clarity and abstraction of classical music, but processed through a vision of delicacy and purposefulness. Everything tends to melt away on Apollo – the kicker is, the noise gives way to embattled puzzlement, which eventually just caves into a damaged elegance.

The progression isn’t really noticeable. In fact nothing on Apollo will alert you to anything really. It exists, so you don’t have to. It’s not a kaleidoscope album, I don’t listen to it and feel like I’m viewing the world through a myriad of superimposed colors and shapes. Instead, it proves to us we don’t really care about pursuing any tripped out view of our world. Apollo is a safe passage into liberation. It’s available to all of us – we just have to stop looking for madness. There is something we can hold onto, and it doesn’t require any revolution or internal rebellion shoving us into new places. Just smile at the fact that Apollo doesn’t require any of that. Everything may be a war zone, but they can’t hit you. Not from here.

98. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake


PJ Harvey is hardly an innocent. She seems to make a career out of making music that sounds like it has been to hell and back, and she seems to enjoy preferring hell. I never dug her early work. It had a nice, intense quality to it that was pretty unmatched by any of her contemporaries, but just too voyeuristic. Giving us all a keyhole into her issues provided moments of fleeting terror for her listeners, but just not sustainable. By the time we figured out what she was raging against (usually herself, for doing dumb shit she knows better than to do), she was onto the next freak out. The keyhole wasn’t exactly blurred, but the furniture she hurled against the door seemed to always obstruct what exactly we were looking at. At some point we just began to trust the noise coming from the room. And you know what, that was more interesting anyways. Maybe I sound like a dick, but I don’t know why anyone would care about a full album of songs detailing her breakup with Steve Albini.

Having said all that, Let England Shake is…well, it’s better than all that. Maybe not better, because there is something to be said for a talented songwriter just screaming at the sky and waiting for something to fall down on her. But certainly more interesting. Gone is the sense of wild irresponsibility that inspired (or, polluted, depending on how much you like her earlier works) the seminal albums that made her a top flight name. What we have left is still the trademark seriousness – that’s not going anywhere. But it’s a restrained, focused effort, spread outward.

I know her early seminal albums were great in their own way, and certainly cathartic. But Let England Shake takes that same primal anger we all latched onto, and made it more applicable, relevant in today’s times. It’s not MY fault I haven’t dealt with the horrific pain that can accompany a relationship biting the dust, but I shouldn’t have to fragment her pissed off lyrics to find something I can relate to. Let England Shake is a little political, I mean she’s pissed off at the UK. But it’s a vague anger. It’s not irrelevant but really gives us a chance to plant our flag behind her. Musically, this is a dirge. It has horns and PJ singing death anthems over some militant structures. But at the end of the day, she’s still pissed off. Just, in a good way. It’s not amazing to see her broaden her sound and fury – but it just feels like a giant, awesome step, one I frankly didn’t expect to see. This is also just a guess, but I would have a hard time believing Mick Harvey from Bad Seeds wasn’t a major contributor here. His stamp is all over this, from the patient frustration blooming into anxiety, to just letting everything rush outward.

Lou Reed once sang “Watch out/the world’s behind you” on ‘Sunday Morning. PJ is saying “Fuck you/I’m your world”. She’s looking outward this time, but we always end up looking back at this girl. I think she likes it that way, and so do we.

99. Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes


Until the Quiet Comes, isn’t an important album really. It can’t be, as it makes every possible effort to exist outside of the frameworks that shape our society and culture. Perhaps there is an importance or relevance to that, but it’s certainly difficult to quantify what it means to the listeners, what it should mean to us.

I think it’s crucial to acknowledge it’s not what it represents – instead, it presents an album that allows us what it can represent. Sound absurd, maybe even hyperbolic? Yeah, I suppose. But if you take a step back and sort of insist you aren’t dismissive of an endless river of possibilities, you will start to see what Until the Quiet Comes can be for you. It’s a record that deals in truths and not facts. Specifically, there is a ton going on here. Free jazz, off centre percussion, samples that seemingly begin and end in the same place. A whole horde of critics equate it to a dream experience, simulating the beautiful randomness of our unconscious journeys.

To me, that’s a nice little angle but a cop out. I’ll be kind…it’s more of a jumping off point than a great way to break it down. Flying Lotus’ sound is much too rooted in the present to buy into that. Yes, it has one foot in a glitched out future, but the other is kicking up dirt in real time, with real problems we face, with real horrors and beauty. There’s a lot going on here, and a lot of the songs do tend to hang out on some astral plane. It sucks to say, Until the Quiet comes does pose a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to listen it. The wrong way is not to look down. To put it another way, it’s all too easy to let this push you along its weird path – and I guess that’s not the worst thing in the world. It’s so impressive on every imaginable technical musical level, that a clinical listen is a likely outcome. But, it can and does offer more than that, if you let it. Visual images and audible textures swap places. At first listen, Until the Quiet Comes is almost a scream against some form of biographical tyranny, although it’s impossible and lame to care in what capacity. If I’m being honest, many of the songs here simply have no point. Some pop up, bump around, and fade away. But they’re all held together by a collective, a mutant passage into something serious, or comical, but we can never figure out which is which, only doubling back to try and follow the breadcrumbs that brought you here.

I know, all of this doesn’t exactly describe what to expect with this album, or why I have it ranked 99/100. But if I were to accurately describe the sound, I would be doing this a disservice. Until the Quiet Comes is a record that lets you gaze around a lot, in a pretty wild world, but doesn’t allow you to shuffle around and move in new directions. The tour is complete. It’s up to you if you want to make the most of it. Is it fair to demand so much out of a listener? Valid question of course, but once you begin to realize the future this record presents, is nice enough to let you hitch along, you probably won’t care how fair Until the Quiet Comes really is.


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