Monday, February 05, 2007

WHAT IS THE LAST ALBUM RELEASE YOU GOT REALLY EXCITED ABOUT?



While listening to the new "People" EP by Animal Collective this weekend, I started to get excited thinking about their new LP due out later this year. Will it sound like "Feels"? Like "Sung Tongs"? Like "Danse Manatee"? Or maybe something completely different?

This sense of giddy, confused anticipation resulted in a mental tangent & I started thinking about the last album release that I was really excited for. Sure, there was Sparklehorse's latest, and being a huge Dylan fan, it was a thrill when "Time Out of Mind" was released (and it didn't sound like a huge piece of crap like most of his albums from the 80's and 90's). But the album that immediately sprang to mind, where I literally counted down the days until its release, was Radiohead's "Kid A".

I got into Radiohead a bit late. It was early October 1997 in an Erie, PA record store in a shopping mall (during my freshman year of college). I went, coincidentally, to pick up the new Dylan album and I saw one of the most fascinating album covers I had ever seen. The album, of course, was OK Computer. The little sticker on the front mentioned a 5-star review from Rolling Stone (in time I would learn how little and how much that meant) so I figured I'd take a listen.

Keep in mind that my musical tastes at this time were incredibly different than most people my age. And I'm not saying that in the conceited "I had ecclectic tastes that were ahead of my time" kind of way. I was really a narrow-minded dork, big into jazz (Davis, Monk, Coltrane, Louis Armstrong), Motown, Bob Dylan & classical (Schubert, Mahler, and some experimental composer like John Cageand Steven Reich). I was completely disillusioned with modern music at the time, mostly because I wasn't willing to take off my blinders and explore what was going on under the surface.

I didn't listen to OK Computer for a couple of days after I bought it. Instead I just had "Time Out of Mind" on repeat, over and over again, getting lost in Dylan's cryptic lyrics & Daniel Lanois' haunting production. It's a great album, still one of my favorities, and it was worth the attention. However, there was an even greater masterpiece that was sitting on my dresser, still shrink-wrapped.

I finally got around the taking "OK Computer" out of the wrapper on a cold & rainy autumn Saturday afternoon. I popped the disc (with its cute & tragic little stick figures shaking hands) into my cheap Sony portable CD player, grabbed a cup of peppermint tea & put on a pair of headphones. What I heard blew me away. Although it had a noticeable Pink Floydinfluence, everything else about the music seemed completely foreign to me, adding to the sense of alienation and distance implied in the lyrics and phased, delayed guitar riffs. It was an album in limbo, an album of adrift in the cosmos. In my first year of college, away from home for the first time in a strange town with no car & few friends, I could relate entirely. Every song was like an anthem for the angst I was going through.

After this first listen, "OK Computer" quickly took over the Dylan album's place in heavy rotation and stayed there for nearly a year. I also went through Radiohead's (albeit small) back-catalogue and explored the Good ("The Bends","My Iron Lung" EP, "Airbag" EP), the Bad ("Pablo Honey") and the Ugly (every half-assed b-side I could find). I taught myself how to play dozens of Radiohead songs on my guitar, and became a regular visitor to Green Plastic Radiohead and At Ease.

A few years passed since the release of "OK Computer". I changed campuses (now attending the Penn State main campus in State College, PA), I was beginning my film courses and discovering experimental film. My musical tastes were also becoming much more diverse, and I was beginning to explore everything from Autechre to Zappa. Meanwhile, I eager awaited the follow-up to what had become my favorite album.

Rumors began to circulate early on. There was word about a new Radiohead album that was heavily IDM-influenced, something like Aphex Twinbut more avant-garde. Thom Yorkesaid it would be more like "The Bends". It turned out to be something in the middle. It was all very intriguing. Over the months that followed, some of the new songs turned up in shoddy bootleg recordings from live shows, the songs only skeletons of what they would eventually become. I downloaded every one, trying to imagine what they would sound like on the CD.

Finally, the release date came. It was announced that a few local music stores would be having midnight release parties. My roomate Ed and our friend Rob waited in line at the Mike's Movies and Music on Vairo Boulevard and shortly after midnight, we each had our copies. THe crude landscape on the cover had more complexity than I had seen in the low-rez JPEGs leaked online. It was as much of an evolution for Stanley Donwood's artwork as it was for the band. We rushed home to listen to "Kid A".

When we got back to the apartment, I unwrapped my copy of the album & put it in the CD player in the living room & turned the amp up loud. We all lied on the floor of our living, closed our eyes & listened as the sound waves from the first synth notes of "Everything In Is Right Place" washed over our bodies and Yorke's vocals became warped and looped (with the aid of a Korg Kaoss Pad, as I later learned), somehow becoming more beautiful through artifical manipulation than they ever were on the plaintive, ethereal analogue wails on OK Computer. Then the avant-garde trip of "Kid A", the ecstatic energy and manic horns of "The National Anthem", and the beautiful, whale-like E-bow moans of "How To Disappear Completely". By the time "Idioteque" came on, I really felt like I was hearing something magical.

We listened to the whole album, down to the final notes of "Motion Picture Soundtrack" (I still liked Yorke'ssolo acoustic versions better, but I was too blown away by the majesty of the rest of the album to care). We all sat in silence for a few minutes before one of us muttered a simple "Wow" and the rest of us answered "Yeah". It was well worth the wait for such a magical experience.

So.....what's the last album release you got really excited about?

4 comments:

the le duo said...

I'm excited for the new Greg Davis album 'joysongs' due out sometime this year I hope...

jay said...

Me too! I'm also pretty excited about Panda Bear's new solo album...so excited that I wrote a new post about it.

casey said...

I think I was psyched for Super Furry Animals' Phantom Power, but it's hard to remember.

casey said...

Oh, I was also excited (and scared) for the re-do of SMiLE.