Introducing: An Album a Day!!!

Okay. So this might be a bit of a bother to some of my subscribers who initially followed me for movie/tv/writing related content. In 2019, I’m going to be seriously upping the music content of this blog. That’s not to say there won’t be more thoughts about movies and tv (hell maybe even books), but I want to get more into music, specifically albums. Maybe that suits you maybe it doesn’t, but hopefully my charm can make music critiques interesting enough to you.

In 2019, I will listen to a full album of music everyday. By “album” I mean

  • Music that was all recorded by the same artist (movie/theater soundtracks don’t count, although albums that include collabs do count.)
  • Albums that are NOT greatest hits/compilations
  • Albums that are AT LEAST 30 minutes long or 9 songs long (the idea being that no, I can’t count EPs of 4-6 songs as albums. However, it was also brought to my attention that the Ramones’ eponymous debut album is only 29 minutes long despite being 14 songs, hence a song quota AND a time limit quota.)

Other rules in play:

  • I must listen to ALL songs in album order (though ALL songs doesn’t have to include bonus tracks on special editions and the like).
  • I cannot pause the album for more than 4 minutes. Pausing music to get my Dunkin coffee at the drive thru is okay. Listening to half the album on the way to a work gig and then the other half on the way back is not okay.
  • No repeats, sort of. I AM allowed to listen to the same album as many times as I want/need to, but it can only be the official Album of the Day once. Meaning that by the end of the year, I will have listened to at least 365 different albums.
  • I’m not allowed to count a standard edition and a deluxe edition of the same album as two separate things.
  • Unlike any of my movie/tv watching challenges, I AM allowed to listen to an album while I’m doing other stuff.

The point of this, more than anything, is to force myself to process music as albums rather than singles and playlists. There’s nothing inherently wrong with singles and playlists and I probably will continue to bump them in 2019 as well, but there’s also something beautiful about the album. I know there are artists who make beautiful albums and the single that Google tells you about is nowhere near enough to capture that beauty. Janelle Monaé’s “Make Me Feel” is a perfectly good song but once you listen to Dirty Computer you realize that this single is just a tiny fraction of what Monaé is capable of.

I know this is true for a multitude of artists/albums, yet all too often when I’m considering letting a new artist into the rotation, I STILL judge them based on the first single or two that Google spits out for me. I need to correct this paradox in my life, and so 2019 will be the year of listening to albums.

I will not be blogging every single day, but I hope to publish a weekly recap that lets you know what I listened to and some brief thoughts. To be honest with you, this is almost entirely selfish so that I can keep track of which albums I’ve listened to and which ones I haven’t. There may even be more detailed monthly recaps, though that might end up not happening. I’d like to keep the blogging aspect of this whole deal painless enough that I still have motivation to write other kinds of content as the ideas hit me, so a lengthy monthly recap might not happen.

I hope this challenge inspires me to rediscover artists I haven’t listened to in years.

I hope this challenge gives me a new respect for artists who make great music but could never get their marketing team to pick the right singles.

I hope this challenge forces me to listen to new genres outside of my comfort zone.

I hope this challenge motivates me to stop defining artists of decades gone by simply by their greatest hits compilations.

I hope this challenge expands my mind and my music tastes.

30 Movies in 30 Days: Moulin Rouge

Had I seen it before: Yes, but it was long enough ago that I pretty much forgot the entire thing.

What IMDb says: A poet falls for a beautiful courtesan whom a jealous duke covets.

Requirements fulfilled: 

– At least one musical

Why I picked it: I still hadn’t fulfilled the musical requirement and I remember liking this one A LOT when I first saw it. That was back in high school I think, so it still felt like watching a new movie even though it wasn’t.

What I liked about it: What’s remarkable about Moulin Rouge is how the individual pieces of it are all things we’ve seen. The plot is familiar as hell, as depicted in such masterpieces as A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum or the Mr. Brightside music video. With the exception of “Come What May” the songs are all borrowed from pop culture both past and present. The aesthetic is pretty standard burlesque. Yet somehow, while watching the movie, it’s really hard to shake that feeling of “I’ve never seen any movie like this before.” Cases like this are why I’m so fascinated by the arts. On paper it sounds so stupid, and maybe it still is, but there’s something about the movie that just works.

I think a large part of why this works is that Moulin Rouge is a prime example of a movie that fucking COMMITS. It is not trying to be realistic. It is not trying to be subtle. It is not trying to be anything other than the over-the-top full-throttle explosion of gaudy musical numbers that is. And for that, I think it’s worthy of some respect even though the movie clearly isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. If you want to make this kind of movie, this is the way to do it: by owning it with every fiber of your being.

What I didn’t like about it: This is a tricky one to write about the negatives. In movies, there are flaws and there are “flaws.” Moulin Rouge has “flaws.”

In general, I like to see love stories that evolve a little bit slower, a little bit more believably. I don’t usually like love-at-first-sight in movies and consider it to be lazy storytelling. Moulin Rouge decides to bring our central couple together via a medley of songs with the word “love” immediately after they meet.

In general, I like characters that feel original multi-dimensional. I can’t say those descriptors apply to any character in Moulin Rouge. 

In general, I prefer for stories to be unpredictable. Moulin Rouge is not.

Yet as I mentioned above, part of why the movie works at all is because it wholeheartedly embraces its astronomical levels of cheesiness. If Moulin Rouge had attempted to fix any of these “flaws” it would cease to be the movie it is. I would probably be typing up some nonsense here about how it “couldn’t decide what it wanted to be” or how “it has a cool premise but shies away from it without reaching that premise’s full potential.”

So in this case I’ll give the movie a pass on its “flaws.” Instead I’d rather dwell on the biggest shame of all: that the Killers classic “Mr. Brightside” was released just a little too late to be included in the soundtrack. That is the only way in which the film could be improved.

Will I watch it again: Yes, but probably not for a while. Without the element of novelty, Moulin Rouge has little else to offer. I’d hate to watch it too many times and have it lose that novelty.

Albums to Listen to Instead of Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation’

There are enough think pieces on the internet explaining why Taylor Swift is mildly irritating, so there’s relatively little point in me writing another one. What I HAVEN’T seen on the internet is a list of music for people who like Taylor the Musician, but are becoming more and more irritated with Taylor the Celebrity. Or maybe you have no problem with Taylor, and perhaps just want to discover other artists like her. Either way, this is the list for you!

Taylor Swift is more than capable of making good music, however I will say that all her albums are rather inconsistent. Most albums have some songs that I think are masterpieces, other songs that make me want to vigorously shake Taylor and whatever record execs decided those songs should make the final cut, and usually about half the album is forgettable filler tracks.

  • 1989 had “Blank Space” and “Wonderland” but it also had “Shake It Off” and “Bad Blood.” Did you know that if you add up all the “Shake it off, I shake it offs” in this song it totals about a minute? A quarter of this song is just “Shake it off, I shake it off.” YOU’RE BETTER THAN THAT TAYLOR.
  • Red had “All Too Well,” and the title track is arguably her best actual country song, but it also gave us “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” (shudders)
  • Speak Now had “Haunted” and “Back to December” but then it’s also the album that had the eyeroll-inducing anti-bullying song “Mean” just a few tracks before “Better Than Revenge,” you know, the one where Taylor bullies a romantic rival.
  • All the Fearless songs sound exactly the same to me, so I don’t even have any favorites or least favorites.
  • Her self-titled debut album gave us “Should’ve Said No” (okay, I lied. This is her best actual country song) and then there’s “The Outside” which I would say is the most underrated Taylor song of all time. But then what about “Teardrops on My Guitar?” I laugh at that song cause it’s just so fun-KNEE.

But enough about Taylor, let’s talk about artists that sound like her who can actually make a whole album that sounds good. Luckily, my job in retail means I’m consistently exposed to semi-generic pop music. This list is definitely geared towards the “New Taylor” sound. You know, the one who can still come to the phone. Basically, stuff that sounds like the music she made after she met Max Martin.

Conscious by Broods

The more I’ve listened to this album, the more surprised I am that Broods isn’t more famous than they are. They work with other famous people, including Lorde who co-wrote the second single for this album, “Heartlines.” In fact, Joel Little, one of the primary producers for Lorde’s first album, is also the primary producer here. Lyrically, Conscious is incredibly similar to Taylor’s work, exploring themes of love and heartbreak and failed relationships. The main difference is that I can honestly say I enjoy literally every song on this one.

Favorite tracks:
– “Free”
– “We Had Everything”
– “Heartlines”
– “Recovery”

Wild Things by Ladyhawke

This one reminds me of Taylor’s fun side. Not the Taylor who’s angry at Kimye, not the one who’s moping about love lost, the one who’s upbeat and bubbly and optimistic about a new relationship. That’s not to say there’s no sad songs here, just that the album as a whole is a bit more lighthearted than many of Taylor’s.

Favorite tracks:
– “Love Song”
– “Golden Girl”
– “Money to Burn”
– “Wonderland”

Know-It-All by Alessia Cara

Look I get that you’re probably tired of hearing “Scars to Your Beautiful” on the radio and that’s fair. But Know-It-All strikes that perfect balance where each song has its own identity but the album as a whole still feels cohesive. It explores themes that are universally relatable that still haven’t been done to death by the rest of the music industry. This is also a great choice if you want a little bit of the Old Taylor sound sprinkled in, as you’ll get it with “Stone” as well as the Deluxe Edition track “River of Tears” which is as good as Taylor’s “All Too Well.”

Favorite tracks:
– “Steventeen”
– “Here”
– “Wild Things”
– “River of Tears” (Deluxe Edition Exclusive)

Emotion by Carly Rae Jepsen

One of the things I love about Carly Rae Jepsen is that she seems perfectly content to just make fun, guilty pleasure pop songs. She owns who she is and what she does. I will grant you that Emotion is not the one on this list to go for if you’re looking for lyrical complexity or some brand new original sound you’ve never heard before. But it’s fun to listen to. It’s relatable. It’s everything a pop album is supposed to be, and arguably the one on this list that most closely resembles a Taylor album. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include it.

Favorite tracks:
– “Run Away With Me”
– “Your Type”
– “When I Needed You”

Electra Heart by Marina and the Diamonds

Imagine Taylor Swift made an album parodying Taylor Swift but with more swearing. You’re pretty much there. Electra Heart has Taylor’s sound plus the sort of social commentary that Taylor Swift is afraid to do. One of the main things that makes Marina and the Diamonds so charming is that she (Yes, it’s a solo act, despite the name) uses pop music to poke fun at pop music and call out the unhealthy social constructs it promotes. The first two tracks, “Bubblegum Bitch” and “Primadonna” are good examples if you want to see what I’m talking about, and they’re probably enough to hook you into listening to the whole album. I mean there’s a song called “Sex Yeah,” what are you waiting for?

Favorite tracks:
– “Bubblegum Bitch”
– “Teen Idle”
– “How to Be A Heartbreaker”

Body Talk by Robyn

If you think that electronic music lacks feeling by its very nature, this is the album that will prove you wrong.  “Dancing on My Own” and “Call Your Girlfriend” can almost bring me to tears, and I haven’t heard anyone pull off the tearjerker electronic dance song like Robyn. I’m not even sure I knew it was possible before I discovered her. Sure, there’s a few more experimental tracks on here that might not appeal to all Swifties, but on the whole this is T-Swizzle but with a more mature feeling and a little more of an edge.

Favorite tracks:
– “Dancing on My Own”
– “Time Machine”
– “Call Your Girlfriend”
– “Get Myself Together”

Matter by St. Lucia

If you’re into songs that sound like they belong on John Hughes movies’ soundtracks, this might just be the album for you. Obviously a lot of the albums I’m including have strong ’80s synth vibes, but this is possibly the least modernized of them, meaning it’s easy to imagine these as songs actually made in the ’80s (albeit, most of them are longer than the average pop songs). It also features the production skills of frequent Swift collaborator Jack Antonoff (a.k.a. Bleachers) on one track, “Help Me Run Away.”

Favorite tracks:
– “Do You Remember”
– “Dancing on Glass”
– “Help Me Run Away”

Blue Neighbourhood by Troye Sivan

Not only does Blue Neighbourhood feature collaborations with two other artists on this list, but also the aforementioned Jack Antonoff. Blue Neighbourhood weaves synthpop, live instruments, and heartfelt lyrics together much the same way 1989 does.  I will say this one lacks some of the earworm hooks that get stuck in your head for days at a time and really takes more than one listen to fully appreciate. I don’t really mind that, because those are often the types of albums that I don’t get bored with after three listens (I’m looking at you, Fearless). 

Favorite tracks:
– “Talk Me Down”
– “Youth”
– “Lost Boy”

Hopeless Fountain Kingdom by Halsey

Honestly I probably could’ve put either of Halsey’s albums on this list but I opted for the newer one. I feel like Hopeless Fountain Kingdom has a little bit more variety. The important thing is that Halsey become known for more than “Closer.” This album also hints at some hip hop influences the same way Taylor’s “…Ready For It?” does but Halsey’s persona is a little more capable of pulling it off. She even recruited Quavo for the song “Lie.” So if you like that side of Taylor, definitely check out Hopeless Fountain Kingdom.

Favorite tracks:
– “Heaven In Hiding” (Deluxe Edition Exclusive)
– “Sorry”
– “Bad At Love”

What If Nothing by Walk the Moon

Fine, I just included this one because it literally came out the same day as Reputation and I don’t want it to be overshadowed too much. That being said, I don’t think it’s that far a stretch to think Taylor fans will like Walk the Moon. They perfectly blend electronic pop with traditional rock instrumentation and it just bloody works. Oh and you also have the amazing vocals of Nick Petricca so what can go wrong? Their stuff just makes you feel good and they’ve done a great job of maintaining the Walk the Moon charm of prior albums while still being just experimental enough to avoid predictability.

Favorite tracks:
– “One Foot”
– “Surrender”
– “Tiger Teeth”
– “Can’t Sleep (Wolves)”
– “In My Mind”

Not sure where to start? I made a Spotify playlist of my favorite tracks from each album. Think of it as an awesome appetizer sampler to help you out which appetizer to order on your next visit. Thanks for reading!