Aurora – A Different Kind of Human

I figure I should just continue on from Infections of a Different Kind with the follow-up album, A Different Kind of Human. These are, in theory, two parts to a greater whole, though it’s not clear if there will every actually be anymore of that whole, I personally hope so. Aurora’s fourth album, The Gods We Can Touch, has grown on me since it was first released, but I still don’t enjoy it as much as her previous albums and it definitely has a slightly different feel to it overall.

Of the pair, I think overall I prefer A Different kind of Human to Infections of a Different Kind, but they do fit together very well so it’s hard to really go with one more than the other. I do prefer more of the tracks on this, album versus it’s precursor. It opens with The River, which is less directly about a flowing of water and more about the idea that it’s ok to show your emotions and to cry (the river) if you need to, to help rid yourself of your sadness One thing I have always really found interesting in this track is the lyric “Drinking your eyes”, which is both an interesting sort of metaphor, but also really feels like one of those occasional “Aurora-isms” that pop up in a few of her songs. It’s one of my top tier Aurora tracks though.

The second track, Animal, is another really fun track, about the primal urges and needs of humans to need and want each other. It has another fun metaphorical lyric with “lost in a concrete jungle”, representing the idea that the modern world and life (the city, the concrete jungle), conflicts with this primal need. Track three, Dance on the Moon, is a fun little lighter track. I particularly enjoy the little “da da das” at the end that start running along in the background near the end of the song.

Next up comes Daydreamer, a track that has a nice build over time and really feels like it embodies a lot of Aurora’s overall mood in one song. A desire to encourage everyone to be their best selves, to not dwell on and become these negative things when people should be able to be their best selves. That people should be the daydreamers and enjoy what they dream about being. It’s a pretty upbeat and inspiring song. It’s actually a pretty good follow-up to Dance on the Moon which almost feels like it has an underlying message of someone who wants to be free and dream but can’t because they are trapped. Which also works when you slip in Animal before, the person with suppressed primal needs and desires, desperate to be free.

Aurora continues the crusade for the underrepresented people with Hunger, not so much hunger for food but hunger for agency and power. The follow up track, Soulless Creatures is an interesting almost balladlike track that honestly almost feels out of place in this album. It’s a good track, it just has a slightly different almost eerie sound going for it that doesn’t quite match the feel of the rest of the album. In Bottles, I always want to confuse it with In Boxes, which is an older track that isn’t on any of Aurora’s albums. The two tracks don’t even sound anything alike, but I like both, and they have similar names, and sometimes my brain just gets broken a bit that way (In Boxes is the superior track).

The album’s title track, A Different Kind of Human, I always want to call this track Mothership, which is also a track, but just not, THIS track. I think that’s mostly because it talks about aliens coming to take you away on their Mothership. There are a lot of regular underlying notes to a lot of Aurora’s music, the environment, letting your feelings show, everyone is worthwhile, and occasionally, “maybe Aurora is secretly an alien.” I would not be surprised actually, she has a lot of interesting eccentricities.

Next up is Apple Tree, which, is an interesting track. It comes out of the gate moving and just keeps going. Like The River a bit lyrically, because it has a lot of those odd Aurora-isms to it’s grammar at times. I mostly mention this again because it’s just something I’ve noticed it several tracks, often where tensing or plurals comes off as a bit off. I actually really LIKE these little eccentricities in the lyrics though, so it’ not really a complaint or anything. I also want to say i really like the little brief interlude moment near the end of this track where the vocals drop back briefly.

The last real track on this album is The Seed, which, I really really like, but it’s also extremely repetitive so over time I find I enjoy it, a bit less. It’s essentially a statement about how the environment and planet are being destroyed. It has some excellent layering and build to it. I absolutely love the structure. The lyrics are mostly repeating the saying (of unclear origin, seems to be Native American) about how you Cannot Eat Money. I like the track, I just find the single line repeated actually does get a little well, repetitive. The last track Mothership is hardly a full actual track, and more of a quiet interlude moment that is mostly instrumental.

Aurora – Infections of a Different Kind

Technically Infections of A Different Kind is an EP and not an album, along with it’s sister EP, A Different Kind of Human, they make up a complete double album. I also have heard that Aurora has plans to put out some addition “Step X” albums at some point, though I can’t speak to any truth on that. I certainly wouldn’t mind it.

A Different Kind of Human carries on with a lot of the themes present in All My Demons… with tracks that are self reflecting and tracks that are more outward focused, and tracks that are both quite sorrowful and others that are much more upbeat. All have the same dense, layered sound present in All My Demons… While Aurora tends to suggest that the meanings behind her lyrics are very open to interpretation, a lot of the tracks here feel a lot more focused on the message they are pushing.

The album opens with Queendom, an upbeat song about acceptance of everyone, into the Queendom, though it’s not quite clear if it’s “Aurora’s Queendom” or if she is suggesting “Mother Earth’s Queendom”. A lot of nature and love of the planet themes underlay her music, and in a lot of the tracks on this album and it’s follow up, she sort of extra present.

The second track, Forgotten Love, at least in my view, is sort of about the idea of finding new strength from an empty relationship. It opens with a bit of a questioning of if the other still cares, but the Chorus gives a bit of a hint of letting it go and not caring, “And I don’t care if you don’t understand why I cry.” And by the end it talks about being able to move on, and being able to be more awake (and dance among the goodbyes). Musically, I find that I really really enjoy this track, probably more than I realize, and I actually find it runs through my head pretty often.

But that’s not to discount the other tracks on this album. Gentle Earthquakes, the third track, may be my favorite Aurora Track, at least from a pure music structure standpoint. I absolutely love the initial build up the the fist big bass drop, with the BOOM and the little follow up rattling bumbumbum thumps and the “Like a Gentle Earthquake …..” Even though there isn’t another drop, which is a bit disappointing, it still has a nice booming and flowing sound that really gives the feel of “Gentle Earthquakes”. It’s followed by All Is Soft Inside, which is another really great track with a lot of wonderful highs and lows.

Then everything shifts with It Happened Quiet, which is a much more solemn track with strong undertones of being about survival of a sexual assault, which bring with it the gravity of that situation. Aurora has said it’s related to Murder Song, though not exactly how. It also runs next into Churchyard, which kind of feels like it fits a bit with this shift into the idea of unhealthy relationships. Which also harkens back a bit to Forgotten Love as well, though Forgotten Love is a bit more about getting out of such relationships.

Soft Universe isn’t a bad track but it’s one that I find a bit more forgettable on this album. I will mention the use of the word “Soft”, which comes up a lot in Aurora’s lyrics as a bit of a metaphor for simply, “caring, warm, and good”. The last track, Infections of a Different Kind which is also the title track is one that I didn’t used to enjoy, but it’s really grown on me, especially after hearing it done live. It’s really a beautiful song. This is a bit of a pattern I have found for artists I start to get really into. I start off tending to like the more “pop style” tracks, then evolve over time to really enjoy the more deep cut tracks.

Arooj Aftab

Welcome again to another round of, “More Musical Storytime, Less Musical Review”. For this week’s write up, I’m covering more, an Artist than a specific album. Specifically, Arooj Aftab, a Pakistani-American artist. I have two of her album, Vulture Prince, her third album, and the Record Store Day vinyl of Live in London.

Arooj Aftab really isn’t my normal “kind of music” though honestly, I don’t really even have a “kind of music”, as I have always just, enjoyed all kind of music. I’ve listened to plenty of pop, rock, country, hip hop, and, somewhat experimental style minimalist Pakistani music. Or whatever the genre here would be. Anyway, it’s time for a bit of fun story time.

Back in 2020, maybe 2021, it’s all kind of a blur, during the COVID lock downs, I started watching a lot of online concert streams, mostly artists I had heard of, since a lot of these were paid streams. I couldn’t go to any concerts, so why not at least support the artists and watch some online concerts instead. I’ve used a lot of different platforms for this, maybe one day I will do a run down of the options out there. In August of 2021, I was going to catch a stream for Molly Tuttle, a finger picking blue grass musician, performing at Red Rocks Amphitheater, streamed through a site

This was the first time I had used, and unfortunately, the stream was riddle with issues. I don’t think an entire song was played in full during the entire stream. It kept dropping and breaking up. I wasn’t super worried about it or even particularly upset, these streams tend to have a pretty affordable entry fee, so no big loss. Mandolin ended up issuing a refund for the stream, AND a credit for future use within the next 6 months or so.

I kept an eye on their schedule for any other streams I would be interested in, but nothing really came up on my radar, and my credit came up on “about to expire”. So i picked a couple of shows that seemed like they might be interesting, one was Courtney Barnett and the other was Arooj Aftab.

For lack of a better way to describe the draw, after the brief bit of research I did, Arooj Aftab struck me as the kind of “weird hipster shit” that I tend to find appealing. And it turns out that it, well, her music kind of is. Also, don’t take the “weird hipster shit” as a derogatory, it’s just, an apt meme-ish description.

So anyway, I enjoyed the show. While perusing Bandcamp for music to add to my little list of “bookmarks for Bandcamp Fridays.” I found that Arooj Aftab has a page there and I decided to buy her (at the time), current album, Vulture Prince.

I hard to really get into the specifics of what I like about this album and it’s tracks, mostly because, half of it, probably more, is not in English. There are some English tracks, but it’s mostly sung in Urdu. Most of my judgement is on the music itself. Wikipedia suggests her style is Jazz and Minimalism, which I would agree is pretty apt. I just mostly find the songs quite relaxing. It’s all long drawn out vocalization and has a sort of “chanting” vibe to it. The musical parts of very light and rambling. It’s music you can just sort of sit back and get lost in.

Anyway, earlier this year during Record Store Day, I noticed there was an Arooj Aftab vinyl available, Live in London, and it was pretty affordable, it may have actually be the lowest priced item on the RSD selection, so I grabbed that as well. I think it only shares one track with Vulture Prince, but it’s a lot of the same sort of vibe and feel. It also is a nice looking red colored vinyl, though colored vinyls are kind of everywhere.

Anyway, if you’re looking for some interesting low key music to chill out with, Arooj Aftab can certainly fill that need.

Pink Floyd – The Wall

I had such a good roll going on these album posts each week and then I got in a funk as I do, and fell off a cliff. Conveniently enough, Pink Floyd’s The Wall is an album I used to listen to frequently when I was “in a funk”, though not quite as much anymore these days. I mentioned last post that these are less reviews and more just writing about music I enjoy or have enjoyed, and The Wall is definitely one of my “top albums” for time listened to and how much I like it.

It’s also kind of up there for “number of times I have bought it”, but that’s not hard, as I don’t own too many albums more than once. I have the CD version, I have a live CD version, I have a copy on Vinyl, an old one not a reissue, possible even one of the original versions as it doesn’t have any text on it, just the Wall itself.

When I originally bought this CD is kind of a funny story. I was quite young at the time, and had gone to Best Buy I think with my dad and uncle maybe. I forget why they went, but I went browsing through the CDs, which at the time was a giant multi aisle set up, right up front. Like 1/4th the floor space of the store or something, which is funny because now you’re lucky to find am 8 foot section of CDs at a Best Buy. Anyway, I bought a copy of The Beavis and Butthead Experience (and I think maybe also Nirvana’s Nevermind). When I got home, my mom disapproved of Beavis and Butthead, so I was forced to return the CD, and instead, I bought The Wall. I would have been like 13 or 14 at the time. Funny enough, The Wall was originally released the same year I was born.

It’s probably better in the long run. Also, I eventually bought that Beavis and Butthead CD again, later. I’m also not real sure thematically that The Wall is much better than Beavis and Butthead for a young fresh teenager.

One thing I feel like this album really influenced in my music tastes is the idea of an album that “tells a story”. It’s certainly not the first rock opera ever, but it’s the first one I was really exposed to. To this day, albums with connected underlying themes, even if it’s a super loose connection, really strike my fancy. The Wall tells a story of a man (named Pink) who grew up with a shitty abusive childhood, who became famous, goes a bit crazy, and isolates himself behind a mental wall. At the climax his inner self passes judgement and he is able to break free. The album is also circular in that the end of the album runs seamlessly into the start of the album, allowing it to be run on an endless, connected loop, though that would have been tricky to do before digital media.

Albums with literally connected tracks, are also something I really like, and The Wall may be to blame for that as well.

The album is effectively split into two parts. On the CD version, this is split into the first and second CDs. The first half is the building of the wall, and an exploration of the character’s history and life up until that point. There are quite a few returning themes that run this thread, the most blatant of which is in the three versions of Another Brick in the Wall, which serve as brief interlude moments where previous trauma is compartmentalized off as “another brick in the wall.”

The second half follows Pink’s isolation and decent into a drug induced madness. The airy calmer tracks are intermixed with several sorrowful regretful tracks before Pink hallucinates he is a fascist dictator chasing down minorities at the peak of his delusions. World War II themes are one of the underlying themes of this story as well, the character’s father having died during the way, and several tracks referencing the destruction from the war. Eventually it climaxes off with the previously mentioned The Trial, where Pink is laid bare and judged for his crimes.

The circular nature of the album also is a nod towards how cyclic depression can get, where yes, our hero has broken free and come to his senses, but all of this previous trauma still exists and will come back to close the world off once more.

It’s not worth it’s own separate post, but it’s worth mentioning that the Live Album, Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980-81, is excellent as well.

There is also a music movie version out there, though it’s been a while since I watched it. I have also heard the live shows at the time of it’s release were incredible to watch, with huge puppets and anamatronics and such, but I would have been way to young to ever see it performed live.

Dark Side of the Moon seems to be the most popular album Pink Floyd has put out, but my favorite has always been The Wall by a long way.

Oliver and Company Original Soundtrack

This is where I drop a slightly less than subtle reminder that technically these little music posts aren’t really reviews or recommendations and more just, what I like with a bit of my own “musical journey” sprinkled in.

The last bit is where today’s entry falls in.  The Oliver and Company soundtrack has a vaguely special place for me, not for being overly notable, or even that I enjoy it a lot.  It’s the first album I ever purchased, technically.  Released back in 1988, and probably purchased around that time.  I have vague memories of it, I bought (or maybe it was a birthday present or something) a portable cassette player, and of course, I needed some music to go with it.  I remember deciding on the Oliver and Company Soundtrack.  I will add, I know that I also had the TMNT Movie soundtrack very early, so it’s possible that it was purchased at the same time.  I want to say I was with my grandparents and after picking what I was spending my allowance on, they may have purchased the other to go with it.

I still have the cassette tape.  Though I don’t seem to have the TMNT one anymore.

I suppose it’s worth mentioning the movie a bit.  I have, almost zero memory of the movie itself.  It’s a Disney retelling of Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, only instead of people orphans, it’s about stray animals.  Oliver is a little kitten, his friend Dodger is a dog, of some kind, played by Billy Joel.  It almost feels like a bit of a prototype for “modern Disney” musically.  Yeah, even the older Disney movies had plenty of music, but it feels like this was the first time they tried to really push a Pop song for the soundtrack, with Why Should I Worry by Billy Joel.  The next animated film they did with The Little Mermaid was the one with the real hit music soundtrack though.  Like I said, it felt a bit like a prototype for this concept that would become kind of the cornerstone of Disney films afterwards.

Anyway it consists of 11 tracks, 6 of which I remember not really caring for because they were “boring music” (instrumental) tracks.  Basically, I’d always just listen to one side of this tape, then rewind it instead of flipping it over.  I probably didn’t even make it all the way through the first side though.  I don’t think I really cared a lot for the Bette Midler track, Perfect Isn’t Easy, and the follow up Good Company isn’t really a rocking pop hit either.

It almost feels like I didn’t really like this album at all, though I am sure I did, because listening to it again, before writing about it, I still remembered a lot of the lyrics, especially to Why Should I Worry, which is basically the “stand out hit” of the entire thing, and probably the movie.  I mean, the hired Billy Joel to voice a cartoon dog, and it feels like they did it to get him to provide this song for the soundtrack.  As of this writing, Billy Joel has 52 acting credits on IMDB, and Dodge from Oliver and Company, is the ONLY one where he isn’t credited as playing “Billy Joel”.

Anyway, the two non instrumental tracks I have not mentioned, One Upon a Time in New York City and Streets of Gold are also alright, with Huey Lewis doing the former and Ruth Pionter doing the latter.  Streets of Gold and Why Should I Worry are definitely the stand out tracks though on this soundtrack though.