Some Stats

9 Mar

…And I thought listening to an album a day was tedious.  Ladies and gentlemen, I have spent a good portion of the last seven days combing through the massive SwoleTunes Library, acquiring all kinds of cool statistics and facts for your (and my) OCD pleasure.  So, without further ado, I present to you, the Swole Stats:

Between March 1st of 2011 and February 29th of 2012, I listened to and discussed 366 LPs on this website. 343 different artists were covered, and 4,147 tracks were played in total.  Honestly, I’d say that I listened to 98% of those songs.

If played in a row, those 4,147 songs would go on for more than 11 days.  Total play time? 273 hours, 8 minutes, 3 seconds.  I racked up 30.57 GB of memory in a broad spectrum of file types from AAC to WMA, with an average bit rate of 261.4 kbs.  The majority of tracks were listened to between 9 P.M. and 1 A.M., with 2 checked out between 4 and 6 A.M. all year.  On average, I listened to 82 new songs per week, each with an average length of 3 minutes and 42 seconds.

As for release dates, I stuck with fairly modern material.  In fact, about 21% of the Swole Ear repertoire was released in 2011 and 2012. I only listened to one record released in the 1950s throughout the duration of the project.  Most records were released in the 2000s (36%), followed by the 2010s (32%), than the ’70s (11%), ’90s (11%), ’80s (7%), ’60s (3%) and the ’50s (.3%).

While 123 different tracks contain the word “love” in their title, “Brooklyn” is used zero times.  In fact, there are references to New York City in the titles of only four songs.  Other frequently occurring words in song titles: life, night, down, heart, baby, rock.

And while I have yet to find a way to officially calculate this, here are some of the words that I probably used the most:  I, probably, though, although, honestly, haters, standard, awesome, catchy, bad, gon, thought, anyway, hate.

So yeah.  Numbers is cool.

Day 366: Pet Lions – Houses

29 Feb

When I Grow Old

If you’re clued in to the Chicago music scene, then you’ve heard the name “Pet Lions” thrown around over the past few months.  These guys have been making a lot of noise in the Second City as of late, and have built a substantial local following since Houses, their first LP, dropped in May.

Those familiar with the band before the release of Houses would have undoubtedly been taken aback by their new sound.  Soft Right, the group’s 2010 EP, resembles a generic-but-solid hybrid of The Strokes and Tokyo Police Club.  Give “Roman History” a listen, and you’ll hear exactly what I mean.  Yeah, it’s good, but is another derivative local indie rock band what we need?

Pet Lions sure don’t think so.  From the opening fuzzed-out riff of “The English Room,” it’s clear that hey have taken things in a very different direction this time around.  In fact, one could be forgiven for thinking that Houses was made by a different band altogether.  While the guys are still playing the same instruments—guitar, bass, keyboard, drums—they’re going beyond the basic verse-chorus-verse structure that so many bands seem to be permanently stuck in, while crafting their own unique sound.

The most notable change on Houses, however, is the average tempo.  Pet Lions have figured out how to make great songs without relying on really fast beats and an ADD-rock mentality.  There are bigger bands out there that still haven’t gotten this skill down, and with a style so original and good, there’s no reason that Pet Lions couldn’t be a nationally-recognized name in the near future.

Sure, some will prefer the bands earlier stuff—it’s easier to dance to, I’ll give it that.  Me, I’ll take the inventive and creative sound that populates Houses any day.  Haters gon’ hate.

On the final day

29 Feb

Believe it or not, a lot of thought went into today’s pick.  The original plan was to give something else by Pavement a listen, but I called an audible.  Those guys had their chance.  Why try and force something when there are a million better (active) bands out there?  While the “things have come full circle, OMG I’ve grown so much over the past 366 days” theme in a positive Pavement review might have been a cool way to go out, it wouldn’t get across the message that I’d like to convey today.  Picking a Pavement record would have felt like the final, closing note of Swole Ear.  Perhaps I’m being a bit sentimental, but I can’t bring myself to shut down this beautiful monstrosity of a site.  While I won’t be listening to a new album every day (thank God), I will be keeping the site up and posting occasionally.  Schedule TBD.

Look out for a review of Pet Lions’ Houses later tonight.  This is a record that I’ve been meaning to get to for a long time now. Scratch your heads all you want; listening to an up-and-coming Chicago band is the best way to mark the end of this project.

I’ll be taking a few days off after today; I think I’ve earned them.  Plus, I’ve got all kinds of statistics and fun facts from the past 366 days to compile, which I hope to post sometime next week.  Keep your eyes peeled.

Day 365: Queen – A Night At The Opera

28 Feb

’39

First of all, I need to make a statement, and that statement is as follows: If you don’t like Queen, there is something wrong with you.

Second on our agenda, I’d like to send a big old “thank you” to my dad.  I informed him of my need to listen to a band for every letter of the alphabet, and he used his final Dad Rock Tuesday pick to help fulfill that obsessive-compulsive desire.  Selfless.

Thirdly, I realize that today is Day 365.  I know that I’ve alluded to this very moment for ages, and, yeah, the site’s tagline is still “365 days, 365 albums.”  However, I’d hate myself forever if I passed up the opportunity to post on Leap Day. Yup, you’re going to have another one of these to get through tomorrow.  You can do it — I believe in you.

Now, without further ado, I present to you . . .

Today’s post.

You know things are kind of messed up when you can begin listening to a Queen record, and—without irony—think to yourself that it sounds a whole lot like Foxy Shazam.  For once, I must give my father props.  Whether he realized it or not, he did some serious ejuhmuhkatin’ with his pick this week.

See, I’ve never listened to a full Queen record before. Sure, I had one of those Greatest Hits comps on my iPod Mini seven years ago, but we all know those don’t (usually) count.  Between that and a few viewings of Ella Enchanted, I thought I knew Queen.  Pshh.

It’s great to hear something like A Night At The Opera because it really gives a much better picture of the band and its music than any singles collection ever could.  Most of these songs weren’t tailored for the radio, and Queen takes a few artistic liberties that I never would have expected.  Whether busting out a ukulele, or putting on minute-long, song-ending, falsetto-filled acapella sections, Mercury and company never fail to keep things . . . interesting. No, it doesn’t all work, but the faults definitely don’t outweigh the triumphs on A Night at the Opera. It’s both the successes and failures that give records their personalities, and make us listen to the exact same 40-or-so minutes of music again and again and again.

And now, Bohemian Rhapsody has begun.  Words escape me.  Once again, if you don’t love this glorious cheese rock, there’s something very wrong with you.  I mean, any way the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me. Tooooo meeeeeeeee…

Day 364: XTC – Skylarking

27 Feb

Grass

With this nonsense almost over, there are a few things that I’ve started worrying about.  No, I’m not concerned with whether or not I’ve improved as a writer, or if I’ve actually broadened my taste in music over the past year . . . instead, I’m preoccupied by the fact that I have not yet listend to a band with a name starting with each letter of the alphabet. That has got to change.  If my writing is going to get worse and worse with every post, and my taste is going to narrow as a result of the Swole, I have to at least be able to say that I covered every letter of the alphabet.

Suggested to me a few weeks ago, I decided to put off Skylarking, our only “X” entry, until the final days. What can I say? I have a flare for the dramatic.

So here’s the thing . . . for my last few posts, I’ve been trying to give each record a fair chance, which means multiple listens.  I pressed play on Skylarking, and was initially unmoved, especially by the record’s complete lack of flow.  That’s when I realized that I had iTunes set to shuffle.

I’m listening to it again, in the correct order (a few songs receiving an unheard of third play), and I have to admit, it’s pretty good.  With a sound somewhere between R.E.M., The Beach Boys, and The Beautiful South, it’s easy to say that I’ve never heard anything quite like XTC before.  Weird sound effects and all kinds of keyboards are blended effortlessly with some solid guitar hooks and fairly carefree lyrics, in a sound that’s pretty hard to resist.

But perhaps more importantly, Skylarking shows just how important the song order of an album can be.  Out of order, it comes off as disjointed and uninspired, but when every track is in its rightful place, with every song flowing into the next, we’ve got something really cool on our hands.  It may not be that new The xx record that the world has been waiting for, but I’m fine with having XTC as the one and only “X.”

Day 363: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Trout Mask Replica

26 Feb

Pena

Uhm.  Well, the original plan was to start this post off with a little anecdote.  After working my way through half of Trout Mask Replica, I’m no longer sure that would be appropriate.  I’m going to do it anyway, though.

I was in a not-so-serious argument with my father a few weeks ago.  While I couldn’t tell you what the subject of debate was, the discussion pretty much came to an end when I stooped to the five-year-old tactic of name-calling.  Yup, I called my dad “Captain Beefheart” and walked away.

I figured that if I was going to start using this insult regularly—which I since have—I’ve got to check out some of the man’s music.  Since Trout Mask Replica is considered one of the greatest and most important records of all time and all of that, I decided to save it for the final week of The Swole.  So here we are, more than halfway through a 78-minute album that sounds like the music of Tom Waits on crack, and I’m somehow not totally appalled.  For those uninitiated into the strange world of Captain Beefhart, this is some avant garde jazzcore that could easily be another one of those 2deep4u records.  But then you get through close to an hour of the stuff and, you kind of start to like what you’re hearing.  This is because you have either a) begun to appreciate the complexity and pure musical gusto that went into this album, or b) been successfully brainwashed by Capitan Beefheart in a Stockholm Syndrome kind of way.  Fast and bulbous.

Day 362: Joanna Newsom – Ys

25 Feb

Only Skin

Well, it took 362 days, but I can finally say that I’ve listened to a record dominated by a harp.  Those who know me personally are probably aware that this has been a dream of mine for quite a while.

I’m always a little wary of “OMG THIS IS THE G.O.A.T.” records, and I figured that Newsom’s use of the harp as a centerpiece would come off as gimmicky. I didn’t have high expectations going into this, and my pre-listen opinion of Ys only worsened when I looked up its track listing—five songs, 55 minutes.  I pressed play with the all too familiar “blerghhhh” feeling that comes with listening to a record that I don’t want to listen to.

But then, shit got real.  I take back every single negative thought I’ve ever had about Joanna Newsom, the harp, that creepy cover, and Ys. Every single one.  The very first thing that will rock your world is Newsom’s voice.  “Not what you’re expecting” is both an understatement, and the only way that I can think to describe it—it’s just something that you’ve got to hear for yourself.  But, you probably have already, considering that this record has been out for ages.

Lyrically, I’ve got no idea what this lady is talking about . . . I know there’s something about monkeys that are afraid of spelunking.  She’s got the voice of a natural storyteller, though, and is capable of rendering her listeners awestruck regardless of what she’s singing about.  What a beast on that harp, too.  I didn’t think it would work, but when backed by a full freaking orchestra, it doesn’t sound too out of place.  Joanna, where have you been my whole life?

Day 361: Skream – Skream!

24 Feb

Rutten

Remember when dubstep was good? Well, I sure don’t.  Yeah, I’ve jumped pretty hard on the d-step hate train, and I’m often the first to call out the stuff as repetitive, derivative, soulless garbage.  That may not be entirely fair, though.  Before dubstep found a large following amongst frat boys, it supposedly had some substance.  I’ve even been told that there’s still good dubstep being made, once you manage to get past the wubs on wubs on wubs.

My hate of modern dubstep—dubbed “brostep” by haters such as myself—has led me on a search for the real thing.  I’ve been directed to Skream’s 2006 self-titled record.  While it may only be six years old, this album is already an old man in the world of electronic music.  This record’s release date may have something to do with its sound—you won’t find any “filthy drops,” or a whole lot of bass-filled wubbing (there’s still a little bit) on this ancient LP.   Instead, you’ll hear some well-timed reggae samples, laid-back but aggressive beats, and a whole lot of long tracks.  You’ll probably notice that the average track length is around 5 minutes, with plenty exceeding that mark by a long shot.  As trivial as that fact may seem, it seems to make a huge difference in the enjoyability of this music.  A rhythm change is all the more powerful when it’s built up, hinted at, and drawn out for minutes at a time, rather than just launched at your face.

Skream! is enough for me to—I can’t believe I’m writing this—want more dubstep.  I guess I’ve just got to stay away from YouTube

Day 360: Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It

23 Feb

All Waters

Some things never change.  360 days through a yearlong life-changing musical experience, and I’m still bending to the will of Gareth Campesinos.  What can I say?  When you’re the lead singer of my favorite band, you’re going to have a little power over the music that I check out.

I must say he’s got a pretty good track record so far.  I’ve fallen in love with Johnny Foreigner, Dananananaykroyd (RIP), and The Beautiful South, all at his (indirect) suggestion. Plus, Slow Club is pretty good too.  His only outright miss has been with Tim Hecker, whose music is still just 2deep4me.  He’s done so well that I didn’t hesitate to check out the new (misleadingly-titled) Perfume Genius album, Put Your Back N 2 It.

The thing is, there isn’t too much to put yr back n 2.  This record barely has any percussion, let alone dance-floor-filling beats, and Mike Hadreas’ dreamy-but-tortured vocals certainly aren’t going to get the bodies moving.  The problem is that I went into this expecting a Sleigh Bells level of energy, but got something more like The Antlers.

Even with an unfulfilled urge to boogie raging inside of me, I can’t bring myself to hate on Hadreas and his music.  This stuff is good.  Really good.  Sure, it’s sad as hell, but damn, with a Youth Lagoon level of dreaminess, minus the goofy synths and nostalgia, plus a massive sense of urgency, y’all shouldn’t pass up Put Your Back N 2 It, no matter how bad that name is.  Gareth knows all.

Day 359: Gotye – Making Mirrors

22 Feb

Eyes Wide Open

On a Wednesday back in December, I received a particularly massive concert update from Jam Productions, a local concert/event setter-upper.  These weekly emails usually announce 3 or 4 new shows, and I’ll often be kind of interested in one or none.  That week, however, held the announcement of new Chicago dates for Childish Gambino, fun., M83, Los Campesinos!, and Foxy Shazam (opening for The Darkness).  Usually, I’ll do a little research on the bands that I haven’t heard of, but I must have been overwhelmed by all of those names. I completely ignored the listing for a dude called Gotye, who was scheduled to play a show in April at Park West, a smallish venue.

Two months later, Gotye has exploded on the scene.  Making Mirrors is the dude’s third album, but it’s his first release that has earned him any major recognition, mainly due to the single “Somebody That I Used to Know.”  They’ve had to move him to larger venues twice now, as it has been decided that he’s big enough to play Chicago’s worst venue, The Aragon Ballroom.  I’d buy a ticket too, if it weren’t for the unlovable dump that he’s playing.  Gotye shouldn’t take it personally; I’ve missed seeing both The Decemberists and The National on their most recent trips through Chicago, just because they were playing The Aragon.

As for Gotye’s music, I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe it for the past 230 words.  What can I say? Eleven months of writing with minimal thought has taught me how to beat around the bush.   Anyway, I’m always partial to one-man-band-style music, and Gotye shows a little more flare (as well as a higher production value) than most of the basement/laptop artists that have been getting popular lately.  Using real instruments, but not shying away from the computery effects and stuff (you know what I’m talking about), Gotye finds a pleasing, even ground between amateur and professional (corporate) indie pop.  It’s surprising that it has taken so long for him to get noticed.

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