Nightman Listens To – Steve Wonder – Fulfillingness’ First Finale (Top 1000 Albums Series)

When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to:

A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time.

B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety.

C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers.

D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard.

As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go. To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).

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Well, that post title was a mouthful worthy of Ron (porn). Exciting times, people! This will be the first Stevie Wonder album I have ever listened to from start to finish. When I was young I knew Stevie Wonder as ‘that guy Michael Jackson sometimes hung around with’ and as I grew older I began hearing a few singles by him. The few songs I heard, I mostly liked, but never enough for me to go buy one of his albums. Time passed, and here I am, about to embark upon what will presumably be a funky journey.

What Do I Know About Stevie Wonder: Blind musical prodigy, Wonder has been around for roughly three hundred years and influenced basically everyone who is in the music ‘business’ today.

What Do I Know About Fulfillingness’ First Finale: Nothing. Never heard of it. Difficult title to say aloud.

Smile Please: Feels like Santana for about six seconds. Low, almost drawled vocals. Reminds me a little of Chinese Restaurant music. Bum diddy bum. Summery stuff. Not especially buoyant or exalting.

Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away: Nice blend of keys and guitars and weird rhythms. This is better. There’s the bass. There’s the drums. Vocals still fairly deep. Good lyrics, questioning, still relevant. Growling backing vocals. The hand claps kind of work, and you know how much I hate hand claps. I can safely say I like this one, even if some of the percussive sounds aren’t the best and even if some of the backing vocals aren’t necessary.

Too Shy To Say: Soothing piano. Dreamy, wavey, Hawaii. All very lovely. Feels like a Bond song. Builds to a not-chorus. Simple love lyrics, yearning. I like the change in notes in the ‘I really love you’ line. Very nice.

Boogie On Reggae Woman: Fart beats. Drums. Funny noises. Sweetly funky. All very catchy and it pleads you to dance along. Harmonica. The keyboard noises are excellent – funny and interesting and funky. More harmonica.

Creepin‘: Slows things down, entrancing synth. Pause. Verse and vocals. I like the melodies and music, otherworldly. I like the structure – the pauses and shifts and changes, the addition of female vocals and other instruments etc. I can’t really add more to this, hypnotic night driving.

You Haven’t Done Nothin‘: Twinkles. Very superstitious. Good vocals and nice thumping in the background. Melodies good. Political. Angry. Dense. Brass. Doo do wop.

It Ain’t No Use: Starts as a ballad. Female backing vocals? More soothing melodies and sounds. These tracks are all good and I’d happily listen to any of them again, but none have really leaped out and grabbed and shaken me yet. This one drifts along nicely too even though the words appear to be about love irretrievable. Too many voices interweaving at the end.

They Won’t Go When I Go: Slow piano. Sounds like a sad one. Great piano melodies. Again the sound is hypnotic – a lot of sounds and ideas so it isn’t practical to type my virgin thoughts while listening at the same time. Good emotional outburst after the third minute. Is it about religion? I’m only paying attention to 20% of the lyrics.

Bird Of Beauty: Drums and weird laughing instruments. Backing vocals sound like mocking. Aside from the interesting, this one feels a little tame and samey. Sounds an awful lot like a song about drugs. Language change. Percussion too chaotic.

Please Don’t Go: Nice piano again. More farting synths. So many of the vocal melodies sound similar to one another. Still good though. Harmonica again. More vocals, growing, gospel, pleading.

What Did I Learn: I always knew i would like Stevie, but i was skeptical over how big a fan I could truly be. On the basis of this album it’s clear he has made a lot of great stuff which I didn’t know existed. None of the songs really grabbed me as instantly and as long-lasting as something like Superstitious, but there are a few I would like to listen to again to see how they sink in, while most of the others were pleasant and/or funky enough that I wouldn’t mind hearing again.  There’s a wide array of sounds and imagination, I can’t see there were too many truly emotional moments, and I do feel that some of the songs, melodies, and vocals overlapped too much between songs. Above all, it’s made me keen to hear more.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: I don’t know how this compare’s to Stevie Wonder’s other albums or how influential this one was, how many copies it sold or singles it spawned. It’s the first album of its type that I’ve heard in my rundown of the Top 1000 albums and while it is consistent, and while it is good, it lacks those few songs which interact with me on a personal level. It’s only a few moments since I’ve stopped listening, but I can’t recall one truly great song that I want to instantly play again. My personal thoughts then would be a solid maybe, tending towards a yes – it should be included. There’s no way I could give it a definite no, but based on my own flawed personal tastes, I know I have heard better, and hope I hear better as my journey continues. Feel free to comment if this is one of your favourite albums, and let me know of any other Stevie Wonder records you would recommend.

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Disney Songs – Dumbo

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You know, I’ve no idea when I first saw Dumbo. I mean, it must have been when I was young but I don’t have any real memories of watching it as a child and as such it’s one of the Disney movies that I’m not overly familiar with. It lacks that important connection – that tie that binds a film to your brain, heart, and soul because you saw it in your youth, regardless of whether or not it is a piece of crap. There’s really only one song I know well from the list below, and it’s not one I like. In my last post I mentioned songs to take with you to the next world – landing on a new planet armed only with the essential cultural artifacts of Planet Earth and sharing them in a non-preachy, non-hostile, non-colonial manner with the…. natives. You see where I’m going with this.

Look Out For Mr Stork: It’s that choral style of singing that gets me. I just can’t enjoy vocals like these, there’s something lodged in my psyche which won’t allow it. So dreary, even though it’s meant to be funny and light. Along with the visuals the song works, but on its own it isn’t strong enough.

Casey Junior: A diving attack of brass and strings gets this off to a romping start. It’s mostly an instrumental, though that train’s voice is damn creepy. Just when we think it’s over, those annoying vocals come in again – they are short-lived this time around, so it isn’t so bad.

Song Of The Roustabouts: Well, now. Is it racist? Is it about racism? Is it a sign of the times? Am I just a PC libtard leftie self hating safe-place-needing sheeple for daring to think about such things? I don’t know. But I do know it’s not a very good song – more like a simplistic chant. Was that racist too?

Baby Mine: Well, that’s more like it. Sort of. The singing is a little too whiny and the less said about the backing vocals the better. Still, it’s a rather lovely little lullaby.

The Clown Song: A jaunty, French sounding song, but not a lot to it. Entertaining filler.

Pink Elephants On Parade: Yes yes, it’s all rather disturbing to watch. As a song it plods along with a sort of threatening pace and tone. It’s over a minute before the weird vocals begin, men putting on ‘They’re coming to get you, Barbara’ voices and ranting. At one point it goes all Middle Eastern, then it becomes a flighty little dance, then a rumba or something. Then it goes crazy. Then it ends.

When I See An Elephant Fly: Hmm. More confusion. Hmm. The song isn’t great either.

So, only two songs worth mentioning and neither of those I would consider very good. I’m not even sure I would call any of the songs here essential – not essential enough to bring to another world and spread as Gospel anyway. Onwards and upwards!

Nightman Listens To – Bryan Adams – 11

Greetings, Glancers! We are well and truly off the beaten, choked, eviscerated, and charred path now. Yes, that’s right – I have not heard any piece of any song on this album. Mr Adams released his 11th studio album imaginatively titled The Cardboard Cut-Out Breasts Symphony but then changed to the more palatable 11 in 2008. A lot of other bands and artists have had albums entitled 11 but I haven’t heard those either, so I’ve no idea why I even mentioned it. Just filling up space I guess. What do you call a guy with leaves in his hair? Russell. 

The album made it into the top ten in various countries – not the US – and was received with critical nonchalance. I wonder what I will think. What do you think? What do you call a guy who only sleeps in front of doors? Matt! Oh look, there’s 11 songs too. I wonder if the albums lasts 11 minutes.

Tonight We Have The Stars. Guitar and swirling. Atmosphere. Vocals. More swirling. Decent though not overly exciting. His vocals sound a little odd in the chorus. He sounds younger or something, less gruff. Definitely written to be a hit, but not sure it has big enough hooks. A decent start.

I Thought I’d Seen Everything. Fading in. Chord clang. Distant beats. More chords. Vocals. Nice verse. Wholesome. Drums. Verse again, seems okay. Good chorus. So far these sound like two middle of the road commercial soft rock songs – better than average, maybe better than what you’d expect from someone at this point in their career, but definitely not strong enough to win over fans or stand alongside his big hits. A tier below, but better than a lot of his standard album tracks.

I Ain’t Losin’ The Fight. Guitars. Harmonica. Don’t be going all country on me now. Slow steady beat. Piano. American dad rock. Building. Not much of a change heading into the chorus meaning this comes off as little one note. Lots of boxing lyrics. He should name drop Apollo Creed. ‘Baby you got everything I need/Like a ring, a crowd, and Apollo Creed’. More easy listening than rock.

Oxygen. Guitars. Faster. Drums. Faster. More atmosphere. Low register. Beat doesn’t change for the chorus but sounds more urgent. Another decent track, maybe would have been something more if he’d written it in his heyday. Probably the best track so far, a little more edge. He has shouted ‘come on’ in every song so far though. He seems quite adamant that he needs oxygen every day. I’m fairly sure we all do, bud.

We Found What We Were Looking For. Yawn noise. Light beats. Light vocals. More decent verse work. Oh, oh, strings. Building. Guitar blast. Slow down. That was a weird change of beat and sound. More strings. This one is growing on me, even though it’s nothing special. It’s very nice and I could happily listen to it again. Not so sure about the middle section which pulls away some of the momentum.

Broken Wings. More slow MOR country rock stuff. Fine, not bad, not great, not anything.

Somethin’ To Believe In. Guitars. Vocals. A little plain. Strings coming in. Rest of band. Backing vocals. One to slow dance to but not very exciting. Still has a country vibe. Sudden pause. Key change. Same. Bit boring.

Mysterious Ways. Piano and guitar. Slow again. Strings. I am having difficulty finding the album on youtube so I’m listening to some of these as live versions. This sounds familiar. Plain verses. Big ‘ohohoooh’. Funky organ. Slow chorus too. A little boring again.

She’s Got A Way. Digi beats. Slow again. Piano and vocals. Absent guitars. Now guitars. Bulding. Yeah it’s awfully cheesy but sincere. I’ve always wondered how people can keep writing love songs after so many decades. Like I keep saying, there are other things to write about. He isn’t saying anything new here so it’s all extremely familiar ground. Fine but forgotten after five minutes.

Flower Grown Wild. Apparently this was written for or about Amy Winehouse. Simple chords, nice lyrics. Nice melody. The chorus is mostly wank. In fact, all of the song is pretty good except for the chorus – it needed something more powerful.

Walk On By. Guitar. String. Greyhounds again. Will he say ‘come on’ or ‘lets go’ again? Slow. Very plain. Simple. I assume this is supposed to be inspiring, but it’s too plain with nothing to grab you.

All in all this is exactly the sort of album you would expect Adams to release at this stage of his life. There is nothing new, no experimentation, no chances taken, but for his many existing fans that won’t be a problem. It lacks the energy and hits of his early days but where that is lacking he makes up for it with plaintive, easy listening ballads which will always find an audience. Again by now he has written so many songs of a similar style, structure, and sound that many are blending into one – there are a few songs here with enough verve or which generate enough interest that I would listen to them again, but outside of those I can’t see myself ever returning to this album.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of 11 if you have heard it!

 

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Lodger

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Greetings, Glancers! We’re back in the weird and wacky and often infuriating musical world of Monsiour Bowie and his thirteenth album Lodger. I’ll be honest and say that it’s not one I really know anything about – I never hear anybody talking about it and I don’t recall seeing it in many Best Album lists. That will probably mean it turns out to be my favourite by him so far. Well then, I see no sense in ‘anging ’bout.

Fantastic Voyage. Drums. Guitar and piano. Familiar Bowie vocals and beat. A little woozy and gospel. Building. Big note. Sounds like the lyrics are just as vital today. A nice start.

African Night Flight. Noises. Worse noises. Bangs. Tribal space loops. Rapping. This is certainly different. Can’t help but smile at this one. I mean, it’s not good but it’s certainly hypnotic, ambitious, and draws you in. I think I wold like this more with multiple listens.

Move On. Guitar phased. Galloping. Deep vocals. So a lot of this is being inspired by Africa. Name dropping other places. Very loose. None of the songs have had a traditional structure or obvious hook yet, though each has been interesting in its own way and not off-putting. Shouty vocals now.

Yassassin. Jaunty guitars and organs. Reggae beat. Arabian string sounds. Arabian vocals. It’s interesting again, another one with a sound different to the songs before it. So far these are all songs that are difficult to capture on first listen – they seem dense and mysterious and will only reveal their secrets after a few more goes.

Red Sails. Low. Building drums. Faster. Asian vocals and noises. A little spacey. Crazy guitar. Crazy vocals. Like a bunch of space pirates on acid. It’s okay, it’s a little too close in pace and general style to his glam stuff, but different enough in sound to not put me off.

DJ. Drums. Disaster strings. Funky. Bass loopy, guitar disco. Lyrics sound like he is taking the piss out of DJs for self important. Goes on a bit too long.

Look Back In Anger. Fast. Boxing ring bells. Great drums. Guitar spikes. Good vocals. Another interesting one that does its own thing.

Boys Keep Swinging. Well, I know this one. Or more accurately, I know the Susanna Hoffs cover from her mostly crappy debut solo album. I haven’t heard the original before. That Hoffs album has notoriously bad production, this sounds better instantly. I can see why she chose to cover it, but it’s not amazing. Good bass. These last albums have all had fantastic musical work from the surrounding band. Solo. Sounds an awful lot like some of the solos on The Holy Bible so I assume the Manics borrowed this sound.

Repetition. Guitar chord. Bass weirdness. Falling through a dream. Dazed wandering through a crowded foreign city. Sounds like a song about beatings. The sound and song title suggesting madness and inevitability and no escape? It’s another weird one, but okay.

Red Money. More weirdness. Military beat, off kilter bass. Off kilter everything. This is slow and mesmerizing again, but along with the previous song feels like a slow down, or a peddle off the gas, both in terms of pace and quality. Still good though, but maybe a little too experimental for most.

I said this would probably be my favourite because I didn’t know anything about it, and honestly it’s pretty close. As I mention a few times above, I think the songs here demand multiple listens and unlike some of his other stuff I am more than willing to stick this one on again – it could be that the songs don’t work on a personal level after I hear them more and are more like cutesy tracks that only work once, but I expect them to grow on me more. There are no obvious hits here so I understand why this one is not rated as highly as others, but there are no weak songs here and each one is quite different.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Lodger. Were you around when it was first released? How do you rank it alongside Bowie’s other works?

Disney Songs – Pinocchio

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If that image doesn’t conjure up heartwarming nostalgic feelings, then I don’t know what will. That’s right folks, today I listen to all of the songs from Disney’s second masterpiece Pinnochio – some of which have gone on to become seminal and iconic pieces of pop culture. I, and I assume most of you, will be familiar with these ones so I’m also including some of the songs which didn’t make the final cut. Enjoy!

When You Wish Upon A Star‘. No other song is so associated with Disney as this one. The song frequently appears in the greatest movie song ever lists and critics usually rank it as the best Disney Movie song. It is a lovely song, hopeful, dreamy, and with an instantly memorable melody. I can’t say I like certain parts of the arrangement and backing vocals – things which later versions have removed or updated, but the core of the song is timeless and magical.

Little Wooden Head‘. This is a twee, fun little number with Gepetto talking and singing over tinkling, bouncy music which sounds like it has been produced by a music box. Better backing vocals then emerge to fill up a nice enough jingle, but it’s forgettable compared with the songs around it.

Give A Little Whistle‘. Another centerpiece for the movie and company, this merges old fashioned moral sentiment with a hopeful message – if you’re uncertain, give a little whistle and let conscience be your guide. Like many early Disney songs it’s little more than a brief jingle rather than a fully fledged song, but also like so many of them it’s unbearably catchy.

Hi Diddle Dee Dee‘. Honest John… well he was both honest and dishonest, and his lyrics here remain highly relevant today as every nobody clamours on top of each other to be a somebody – after all, it’s great to be a celebrity. The first Disney song by a bad guy, it’s unusually cheery and upbeat – but that is all part and parcel of the tempting nature of fame and the dark side – poor old Pinocchio wouldn’t be sucked in so badly if it wasn’t so seductive and innocent seeming on the surface.

I’ve Got No Strings On Me‘. I might like this song more if it wasn’t so effing high pitched. I think that may be biggest problem with the movie as a whole – it just hurts my ears. That being said, it’s another utterly timeless song with a few musical styles and interesting time changes, and even with all the ear-bleeding you’ll find yourself singing parts of it hours afterwards.

Hi Diddle Dee Dee Reprise’. Thief! Kidnap! Help!

When You Wish Upon A Star Reprise‘. So sad. So happy. Bittersweet? It’s the end, and a perfect on at that.

I’m A Happy Go Lucky Fellow‘. This one was written for Pinocchio but was left off and then included in Fun And Fancy Free. Honestly it suits the short rather than the movie it was originally intended for. It segues in nicely from the title track and of course it’s good to see Jiminy again. It’s a light and silly song – not much more than a piece of fluff, and not really very good with all those old trumpets and choral vocals I usually can’t stand.

Honest John‘. More of the same really, a self-explanatory song about the character with that horrible singing style I don’t like. It bounces up and down and moves quickly, but is broken up with the odd spoken part and sound effect which sound bizarre without any animation to go along with it – Hi Diddle Dee Dee clearly does the same job better.

As I Was Saying To The Duchess‘. A big swelling of strings, joined by brass for an epic opening. A summery string piece follows before the vocals begin. Funny lyrics sun in a funny voice. Brief.

Three Cheers For Anything‘. Wait wait wait. Is there where Pink Floyd got some of the lyrics for Another Brick In The Wall from? Wow, that’s a revelation or coincidence or something. It’s quite a light song, the music reminds me of Tom and Jerry, a nice drum section steadies the ship in the middle -nice, not necessary.

Monstro The Whale‘. Well, not exactly what I expected. This sounds like some camp 1960’s comedy. It also sounds like clothes shop muzak. It doesn’t make Monstro sound menacing or monstrous, but more like a cheeky wee scamp who’d steal your lunch money, then give you some change.

Turn On The Old Music Box‘. Sounds like Jiminy. A quaint, easy listening song with an old-fashioned feel and a desire to share even more old-fashioned stylings. There’s a catchy part in the middle, some swooning backing vocals… yeah, I could see this one appearing in the movie.

So, Pinocchio. Some more iconic songs, and a few interesting asides. Really, there are three songs here which you would want to bring along to the next world and share with the population. What, you’ve never had those fantasies? About being shot forward in space and time, or sent to another galaxy, and you can only bring limited music/movies/books/whatever with you? Yeah, based on that fantasy, there are only three songs which you could honestly take with you from this soundtrack, and only one of those is an absolute must. Say it ain’t so? Say it in the comments!

Gemma Hayes – The Roads Don’t Love You

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Gemma Hayes’s first album was a surprise hit, a success with critics and a select group of fans, but it never made the impact it deserved to on the British or American charts. Selling well in her home of Ireland, and doing okay in other territories it was a sign of a singer songwriter with a bright future. After relocating to LA, and it would appear mulling over what to do next for some time, she returned with this 3 years later. This album is a departure from some of the folk stylings of her first, but keeps the big melodies and hits. The album covers a variety of themes and moves from bleak to joyful in single bounds, but it retains her wonderful voice and much of her arm thrusting guitar work. While not as critically successful as her first album, this is equally good- less experimental but more fluid there are any number of fantastic songs here proving that she isn’t a one hit wonder.

‘Two Step’ opens the album in familiar territory with Gemma’s gorgeous, husky voice playing over soft folk guitars. The chorus bursts open in appealing style and we know that she still has a rock soul burning under her heavy heart as well as an ear for a memorable melody. Lyrically honest as always, she sings of (the central theme of the album) travel, of running away and returning, of the solitude of the road as well as the freedom. The brief middle part shows of her voice at it’s yearning best before returning to the chorus.

‘Another For The Darkness’ begins with tender acoustics and sorrow filled vocals to bitter lyrics. The glorious chorus is only bettered when she plays it live, and with lines like ‘I don’t understand better than most’ she is again baring herself but saying she isn’t the pinnacle some may take her for. A love song, a song about the bad parts of fame she has experienced it is complex but easily absorbed thanks to the delivery and melody.

‘Happy Sad’ is one of the first singles from the album, an up-tempo track with commercial stylings, but it doesn’t really show off her vocals and lacks the edge of Let A Good Thing Go and Hanging On from her first album. Lyrically she shows again her bleeding heart poet side, but there is always hope and sunshine. Typically a love song about her ‘sadder boy’ being the only one who can bring her out of her malaise, it is pretty good but there are other tracks which could have made better singles.

‘Easy On The Eye’ is an utterly gorgeous acoustic ballad, sung in the style Gemma does best- as if it is just you and her in the room and is played for both of you alone. It is her barefaced tribute to the one she loves, emotionally charged and with simple, gentle lyrics which appear highly personal. When played live the crowd doesn’t make a sound- always the sign of utmost respect and adoration.

‘Keep Me Here’ begins in top form with a brilliantly performed dark verse, but the chorus doesn’t fit for me as well as I thought it would. Nice clanging guitars as always and quite lyrically downbeat, singing of the separation we can feel when we are together and there is an air of despair throughout, although this is shot through with acceptance- she is trying to convince the other party that it will never work.

‘Undercover’ is the other main single from the album and I much prefer it to Happy Sad. Everything is so melancholy and honest, the verses sets the tone while the chorus is melodically beautiful and emotional. I often imagine this is heavier than it actually is, maybe I’m used to her rocking more when she plays it live. Either way, either style it remains a great song, I like the siren style backing vocals in the chorus, but mostly it’s the yearning, tearful vocals which stand out.

‘Nothing Can’ is a song I often forget about, I’m not certain why as it is very good. The traveling theme continues and the piano/xylophone melody is effective at creating an energetic mood. Gemma is intelligent enough to recognize that while running away may be a solution for a while, the grass is rarely greener on the other side. She sounds as if she is making a stand here, showing her strength, and being decisive. Some of her chorus vocals are heartbreaking as she blends gentle and husky styles, making this one I should listen to more.

‘Helen’ slows things down greatly, with pianos and strings and her guitar laid to rest. The lyrics look to the past, begin quite placidly, but end on a note of sorrow. Most of the vocals are whispered and it is almost too sweet, but she opts for a pretty anti-melodic lead- this means it is sometimes difficult to remember this song.

‘Something In My Way’ along with EOTE is my favourite song on the album. Everything about this is Gemma perfection- soaring chorus vocals, a gentle, shoulder surfing verse, sublime melodies, rocking guitars and heart felt lyrics. This should have been a single, and it really deserves to be huge especially when compared to most of the other female led dross in the charts. This rolls along at a high tempo, has typically brutal and dark lyrics- like I’ve mentioned before this really becomes timeless when she performs it live.

‘Horses’ has a memorable chorus, but something about the rest of the song doesn’t work for me. I don’t think there is anything special here, especially when it is surrounded by truly great songs. This is pleasant enough, but doesn’t stand out.

‘Tomorrow’ closes the album in hopeful tones with the refrain ‘I’ll be here tomorrow’- great news for the fans as, sweet jeebus, Gemma Hayes is great. It is a fairly simple song, similar to Horses with soft melodies. It is a gentle ending which leaves us wanting more.

‘Pull Me In’ is a short hidden track, showing Gemma’s penchant for experimentation and noise. A simple lyric backed up with distortion and percussion it isn’t anything too remarkable, but still a curiosity.

The album isn’t exactly one of two halves, although I prefer the first songs rather than the last few, with Something In My Way preventing the last part from being overly dreary. You could argue that conceptually the first part is about running away, and second about facing things and deciding to return, but most of that is irrelevant. We have another collection of beautiful songs which for the most part will stay in your mind for a long time- I’ll say it again, catch her live and experience some of these songs for yourself.

The Gathering – Afterwords

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Coming hot on the heels of their exceptional 10th album, Afterwords is a bonus album featuring reworked cuts from Disclosure and a small number of new tracks. Fans hoping for more of the same after Disclosure are likely to be disappointed, so I’ll make it clear from the outset that the majority of this album are experimental, simplified versions of some former tracks, focusing perhaps on a particular single motif or idea, and giving it an electronic, ambient overhaul – most of these tracks are unrecognizable when compared with their counterparts. I’d say that this is one for the die-hard fans, while more casual fans may be left frustrated.

‘SIBALD’ opens the album, a fine ambient track which could have made the same impact at 1 or even two minutes shorter. There isn’t much to say about it – it’s a peaceful, ethereal piece with some fine trumpet work and melodic pieces.

‘Echoes Keep Growing’ opens well with whispered, distorted string based sounds before familiar vocals from I Can See Four Miles come in. Again, there isn’t any need for this to be almost 7 minutes, when much of the introduction could have been condensed, and when a bulk of the song is basic repetition. After the halfway mark, the song takes on a heavier sound, with heavily distorted guitar sounds taking control, but again this swirls, builds, and repeats until the end.

‘Areas’ is the first new, non-experimental track, a cool little track which will grow on you with subsequent listens. With the repetitive cricket-like (the insect, not the sport) sounds, flickering guitars, and simple melodies and lyrics, it’s a pleasant listen which doesn’t tax the listener. This isn’t a track which sounds much like other Gathering songs, so it probably fits well here. Being a cover of an early 80s synth song by New Musik, it works well alongside the other more experimental tracks.

‘Afterwords’ is easily the best song on offer, with wonderful, clean vocals from original Gathering singer Bart Smits. Sounding like a lost Depeche Mode track, this one has a great, dark tone to it, searing verse melodies, and a fine chorus once it erupts. Again, it may not be one which will capture you upon first listen, but it didn’t take long before it grew on me. It’s another song which doesn’t sound like what we expect from The Gathering, but as any Gathering fan knows – you shouldn’t expect anything from the band except brilliance.

‘Tuning In, Fading Out’ is a reworking of Missing Seasons, taking one of the more prominent lyrics from that song, and repeating them through a new electronic landscape. It’s a decent enough track, but difficult to recommend it as something you’ll wish to listen to frequently, though it is one of the stronger edits on offer here.

‘Gemini III’ – is another piece to the Gemini puzzle, using a lot of the same ideas, melodies, and lyrics from part 1 and 2. This one is a stripped down piece, with some chugging guitars added, and less of a focus on backing noise to let the vocals soar. Incidentally, someone on YouTube has added all 3 parts together for an interesting 14 minute listen. Another decent track, but again not essential if you already have Disclosure, more of a nice cult addition.

‘Afterlights’ is a short 2 minute track, a keyboard and organ led instrumental piece which is fine by itself, but works as introduction for the next track.

‘Sleep Paralysis’ is a distorted, vibrating remake of Paralyzed. It starts well enough, with a steady beat and angelic backing vocals. This basic idea gets stretched out over the next few minutes, but rather than acting as a distinct piece, it will have you wanting to put on the original instead. There is quite a racket caused by the end of the song, depending on my mood I take this as annoying, or pretty damn groovy. Again, only one for the hardcore fans.

‘Barenfels’ is a remake of the brilliant Heroes For Ghosts, but greatly condenses the many ideas, sounds, and emotions from that song into a more simplified, yet still epic piece. At over 8 minutes, it’s shorter than the original, and has a number of notable changes – the addition of spoken pieces, the stripping away of most of the music, vocals, and melodies of the original, and switches around the structure quite a bit – for example, the glorious opening trumpet piece from Heroes For Ghosts comes at the halfway point here. From that point, the song collapses into an unusual mixture of repeated riffs and rumbling drums, with some varied vocals thrown in to make something unique. A shorter length may have made this one a bit stronger as I’m less inclined to listen to an 8 minute track when there is so much repetition.

Like most of The Gathering’s Eps or bonus type albums, this one isn’t as essential as the ‘main’ albums. Areas and Afterwords are strong tracks, but the other songs range from one-off curios to average. Each one has some good moments, but the experimental nature means that most fans will be put off and will prefer to listen to something more mainstream, for lack of a better term. The band wanted to create a distinct atmosphere with this collection, and they succeed, but as a collection of songs that the listener will wish to listen to on repeat, it doesn’t work.