Monday, March 31, 2014

Survivor's Flawed Feminism

File:Destiny's Child – Survivor.jpg

On the face of it, Survivor by Destiny's Child is a powerful statement of feminism. The songs encourage women to take control of their lives, to seek success and happiness on their own terms instead of letting men dictate everything for them. You're probably familiar with Independent Women Part I (the one from Charlie's Angels), and that song is pretty representative of the whole album, with its themes of gender equality and, er, independence.

This independence manifests itself in many different ways over the course of Survivor. Songs like Dance With Me and Apple Pie à la Mode find the girls asserting their sexuality, making the first move instead of waiting for a man to initiate something. Survivor is presumably levied at LaTavia and LeToya, the two founding members of DC who left the band after the release of previous album The Writing's on the Wall; its lyrics make it clear that Beyoncé et al can do perfectly well without them ("Thought I wouldn't sell without you? Sold 9 million!"), and it could just as easily be aimed at an evil ex-boyfriend without whom you're better off anyway.

Friday, March 28, 2014

In Different Ways - Progress Report

I bet you're wondering how the 69 Love Songs cover project is going. Well, you'll be pleased to know that it's still trundling on - I uploaded this one only yesterday:

Some stats:
  • 17 of the 69 songs have now been recorded and uploaded to The Album Wall's SoundCloud page.
  • A further 24 songs have been reserved and crossed off the list. We're just waiting for those artists to finish their covers and send 'em over.
  • That leaves 28 songs still up for grabs.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

5 Album Tracks That Deserved to Be Singles

We're a lucky bunch, us album-buying folk. While some people never bother to look beyond an artist's hit singles, we're privy to a whole bunch of additional treasures that can only be found on the full LP. Sure, some people opt to simply pad their albums out with filler, offering very little reward to the people who buy the full-length release, but there are plenty of amazing songs that we would never have heard if we only listened to the singles.

It's a point that Liam 1p touched upon in his guest post last year (he highlighted Blur's Yuko & Hiro as an outstanding album track), and I'm revisiting it today. Here are five album tracks - that is, songs that were never released as singles - that, in my opinion, are better than any of the singles that surround them.

The View by Modest Mouse (from Good News for People Who Love Bad News)
This, of course, was Modest Mouse's big breakthrough album. It's best known for Float On, which was a #1 hit in America; Ocean Breathes Salty was also released as a single, albeit to far less fanfare. The View, however, trumps both of those songs, with its purposeful riff, infectious boots 'n' cats drumming, and strangely appealing world-weariness. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

In Defence of Up

The exact point at which R.E.M. 'lost it' is a topic of hot debate. Some say that things started falling apart in 1994, when Monster was released; others might argue that it wasn't until Around the Sun, in 2004, that things went off the boil.

And then there's Up, which came out in 1998. Ask the average music fan which album burst the R.E.M. bubble, and this will be most people's prime suspect; with Bill Berry gone, Up was the first full-length release from the band's 'three-legged dog' incarnation, and they marked it with electronic experiments, chart-dodging miscellanea, and some of their most ponderous work yet.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Enemy is Everywhere!

Some will tell you that The Monitor by Titus Andronicus is an album about the American Civil War. But those people are wrong (I think). While the spirit of the Civil War is certainly in there somewhere, the historical stuff is really just a framing device, rather than the record's central theme. Aside from the spoken word parts that pepper the album - quotes from Abraham Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, and other movers and shakers of the era - direct references to the war are few and far between; instead, these songs tend to concentrate on far more modern matters.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Inside Album Artwork (Guest Post)

Guest post by Penny Hines

My name is Penny. I have an undergraduate degree in History of Art; my specific areas of interest are Georgian furniture and classical architecture. I am currently studying for an MSc in Museum Studies at Glasgow University.

My favourite tipple is a G&T. I'm from Cardiff, and I know Joel through his girlfriend Sarah.

But why am I guest blogging for The Album Wall?

In this blog post, I hope to address an often-overlooked aspect of the album: the artwork. This was Joel's idea, but he's passed the joy of this exploration over to me.

Dislcaimer in advance: I know very little about music - Joel sent me a selection of album covers to look at and I'd only heard of half of them, so please bear that in mind as you read this.

Reflektor by Arcade Fire (2013)

Reflektor is a double album and the fourth studio album by Arcade Fire, released in October 2013.

Monday, March 17, 2014

You Know, for Kids!

Busted's audience mostly consisted of pre-teens, right? I rediscovered them a little while ago and I was struck by the number of...mature themes that Charlie, Matt and James were willing to tackle back in the day. Here are some choice excerpts from the Busted songbook:

"I climb a tree outside her home to make sure she is all alone. I see her in her underwear, I can't help but stop and stare."
- What I Go to School For

"You're just a whore who sleeps around the stupid, lying bitch! Who's David? Some guy who lives next door?"
- Who's David? [Uncensored Version]

"He took me to the future in the flux thing, and I saw everything: boy bands, and another one, and another one, and another one. Triple-breasted women swimming 'round town, totally naked!"
- Year 3000

"Then you whispered in my ear the words that I longed to hear: 'I want you to thrill me here.'"
- Air Hostess

Friday, March 14, 2014

i to Z

When I wrote about The Magnetic Fields' i in my Beyond 69 Love Songs blog last month, I mentioned its main gimmick (all of the song titles begin with the letter 'I') but failed to mention the other one. See if you can spot it:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

And Now for Something Completely Different

In January 2012, Craig Finn - lead singer of The Hold Steady - released a solo album, Clear Heart Full Eyes. I was listening to it just now. But, as enjoyable as that album is, I wonder why Finn decided to go solo in the first instance? It wasn't like he'd quit his day job; The Hold Steady are still alive and well here in 2014. In fact, they've got a new album out later this month.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Things Found in Liner Notes, Volume 2

More treasures that make it worth buying the CD. Volume 1 is here.
  • The booklet that accompanies Low's Drums and Guns album is, appropriately enough, filled with pictures of drums and guns:

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Crack in Everything: The Queen is Dead

It's A Crack in Everything, where good albums get scrutinised to within an inch of their lives! If you're not quite sure what's happening, go to the main A Crack in Everything page first.

Of the four studio albums that The Smiths released in their short time together, The Queen is Dead is actually the only one I've heard. Still, I have it on good authority that this is their masterpiece; the NME, for example, ranked TQiD as The Greatest Album of All Time last year, so I think I was putting my chips on the right square when I bought this one over, say, Meat is Murder.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Music to Play Risk By

Image stolen from John Rostron because I couldn't bothered to take a photo of my own.

I've always enjoyed the occasional game of Risk but it seems like I'm playing it an awful lot recently. This is largely down to Risk Legacy, a sort of epic, serialised version of Risk in which each game affects the next. I've played several games with the same group of people, and it's sort of addictive - it's like someone took this already-moreish world domination game and turned it into the board game equivalent of a Dexter boxset.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Love and Other Hideous Accidents

I have mixed feelings about iTunes, but I must admit that the store came in handy this weekend. Love and Other Hideous Accidents is an album - although, at just 21 minutes long, it's probably more of an EP - that I've wanted for a while, but unfortunately, the CD seems to be out of print. Fortunately, 'out of print' means very little when you're on the internet, and so I'm now the proud owner of a digital copy of ...Hideous Accidents.