Friday, May 30, 2008

Dishes for Pele

Tori Amos
Album: Boys for Pele
Released in: 1996
Liner Notes: missing

Boys For Pele is the 'difficult' Tori album. The lyrics are obscure ("furry mussels marching on / she thinks she's Kaiser Wilhelm / or a civilized syllabub / to blow your mind"). The instrumentation is often stripped down to Tori and the piano, and she delivers the songs in a half-crazed wail. It is also the most disturbingly sexual album. I hope the grandmotherly woman reading on the deck next-door was not too disturbed by "gimme peeeeeace / loooooove / and a haaaaard cock" coming out of my window.

Nevertheless, I'm mostly a fan. In-between the more rough-hewn tracks are Marianne, Little Amsterdam, and The Doughnut Song, which are well worth the price of admission. And then, at the very end, we are granted Putting the Damage On and Twinkle. On Little Earthquakes, even the sadder songs have dramatic moments where the strings swell and everything gets very intense. PtDO and Twinkle show Tori no longer needs the bombast to get her point across. It's lovely to listen to.

[For the completists again, I do own Under the Pink, but only on cassette.]

Thursday, May 29, 2008

MTV's Dishes

Artist: Various electronica stars of the 90's
Title: MTV's Amp
Released in: 1997
Color: Traffic cone orange

Amp was a TV show aired in the wee hours that spotlighted electronica (apparently MTV believes everyone who listens to non-mainstream music stays up late: Exhibit A: Headbanger's Ball. Exhibit B: 120 Minutes). Somewhere in my parent's house is a well-worn VHS of Amp episodes featuring the likes of Basement Jaxx, Dieselboy, Mocean Worker, etc. Great show.

As for the album..... well, AllMusic raves about the Amp album as illustrating depth and variety and being a good introduction to electronica. False! There's way too much big beat, and the latter half is quite shoddy.

A quick run-down:

Classic trax (7 total):
Duds (5 total):
  • Tranquility Bass [no wikipedia unsurprisingly] - We All Want to be Free (bo-ring big beat)
  • Prodigy - Voodoo People (Chemical Brothers remix - they big-beatify a great song)
  • Josh Wink - Are You There... (so bo-ring!)
  • Crystal Method - Busy Child (unsuccessful big beat)
  • Atari Teenage Riot - Sick to Death (screechy... yes, I know it's supposed to be, but it's unpleasant)
[For the completists, I remain neutral on Photek - Ni-Ten-Ichi-Ryu.]

Almost all the classic trax are on the first half, and almost all the duds are in the second half. Was the track selection split between two people and the second one sucked? We'll never know. I look forward to listening again the albums that the classic trax are from (most of which will show up here eventually - I think I actually once went in a record store with this CD in hand...). However, this is the first CD in the Dishes Project that has had some seriously dated material.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Little Dishes

: Tori Amos
Album: Little Earthquakes
Released in: my goodness, 1992
Provenance: ?

The piano intro to Winter.

The climax in Little Earthquakes.

The chorus of Silent All These Years.

The last minute of Mother.

The scream in Precious Things.

It was the soundtrack of years 13-19, and it's still pretty darn good. Even after hearing these songs hundreds and hundreds of times over my life, I was still moved by the moments above (and couldn't even listen to Me and a Gun because it was too upsetting). The best album on the Dishes Project so far.

Logistical note: I own a lot of Tori Amos. To keep from overdosing on the angst, I'll be alternating Tori-other CD-Tori-other CD for a little while.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Artist: Alexkid
Album: Bienvenida
Released in: 2001
Provenance: Probably England

Alexkid uses electronica production techniques but mostly non-electronic instrumentation, creating jazz- and Latin-influenced tracks that groove like house but sound like they are being played by session musicians (and they were, I think). He's clearly a skilled producer, but I bought this CD because of the title track and it remains the only stand-out. The rest of the CD is pleasant but sort of blah, with one semi-disastrous trip into the 90's featuring the doyenne of downtempo spoken word nonsense, Ursula Rucker.

I once saw Alexkid DJ in London, and he seemed unusually grouchy. Perhaps more people than just me were not fans of his debut. However, I did acquire a second Alexkid album at some point, though its current location is unknown. I'm sure it will appear here eventually...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Virgin Dishes

Title: The Virgin Suicides
Released in: 2000
Provenance: most likely the Amherst music store, Mystery Train, purchased for $4 (!)

This album is the soundtrack to the Sofia Coppola film of the same title, which in turn was adapted from Jeffrey Eugenides' excellent novel. It is one of the most successful soundtracks I own in that it perfectly reflects and amplifies the mood of the film (and novel): essentially, the feel of a languid summer afternoon in 70's suburbia that has been permeated with a strange, unsettling darkness. The single "Playground Love" is one of Air's best tracks, and its bittersweet reprise "High School Lovers" is a personal favorite. This was a very nice listen on a warm, overcast, lazy Saturday afternoon.

Update: I flipped the page in my CD book and found the Playground Love single. The majority of the single is non-memorable, but there is one particularly bad remix (the slo-mo electro Nosferatu Remix, which mangles the vocals in a highly unpleasant way) and one particularly good remix (Highschool Prom - Rob Remix) which transforms the song into an uptempo, bright, 70s pop hit.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Dishes Safari

Albums: Moon Safari and Premiers Symptomes (EP)
Released in: 1998 and 1999
Provenance: ?

Kudos to Air. Ten years after Moon Safari and Premiers Symptomes were originally released, they still go down super smooth. It's not ideal dish-washing music (too low energy), but Air have successfully avoided the datedness that marks a lot of late-90's and early-00's downtempo.

Best moment: Le Soleil est Pres de Moi from Premiers Symptomes. Perfectly captures the spacey feeling when I go off my allergy medication... but in a good way.

Worst moment: Sexy Boy from Moon Safari. This was the first Air song I heard, and it took a while before someone could convince me to buy Moon Safari anyway. Yes, everyone loves it, but something about the breathy vocals, the synths that sound like a monkey is pounding on the keyboard, something makes me irritated.

The Airfest continues in the next post.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dancing with the Dishes

Artist: Afro-Cuban All Stars
Title: Distinto, Diferente
Released in: 1999
Provenance: Burned for me by a friend from Cambridge, England in 2002

Utterly fabulous. I am very non-knowledgeable about Latin music, but I enjoyed this CD immensely and will put it into higher rotation. I spent the first ten minutes of it dancing around the living room, and then danced with the dishes when I finally remembered I'm supposed to be doing something useful.

Unfortunately, I've fallen out of touch with the friend who burned it for me. However, I've been inspired to seek her out again, and will keep you posted on whether I can find her.


Fact 1: My partner and I have a very equitable deal: he cooks, I wash the dishes. Cooking is more labor, but much more fun. Washing the dishes doesn't take as long, but can be rather mind-numbing.

Fact 2: I have a lot of CDs. They are in CD binders/shoe boxes/pretty-looking wicker boxes/a disorganized heap depending on when I bought them. My CD collection is like an ocean to me: vast, nice to look at, but with unknown depths.

Idea: I will use the time I spend washing dishes every day to plumb the depths of my music collection, starting with the oldest CDs and working forwards in time. The result will be happier dish-washing, and, if all goes well, an interesting jaunt through my musical tastes of the past.

Welcome to the Dishes Project.