Taylor Swift – 1989 (Taylor’s Version)

Taylor Swift’s 1989, an album so nice I bought it twice. I may actually go in on buying it a third time later with a digital copy. Arguably her best album, though fans will of course argue over that until the end of time, it’s certainly my favorite Taylor Swift Album. I have them all, and I’ve listened to them all, quite a lot. Taylor Swift ranks quite high on my Last.fm all-time scrobbles (#4 I believe). The original version of this album, 1989, is carrying a lot of the blame for that.

The recent release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version) is the 4th re-release of this style. In case you’re not aware of the whole situation, the general gist is that after her 6th album, Reputation, Taylor left her original record label, Big Machine. For whatever reason, they refused to sell her the rights to the masters of her songs. She still owned the rights to the songs, just, not the original recordings. Rights are weird man. So a few years ago, on the new label, she started effectively re-releasing those albums, each subtitled, “(Taylor’s Version)”. Previously, we have gotten, Fearless, Speak Now, and Red. I can’t imagine Reputation and the original self-titled album Taylor Swift, can’t be that far behind.

These are not straight re-releases though. Due to the nature of it all, it’s all been freshly re-recorded. This is actually a lot more obvious with albums like Fearless and Speak Now, which are quite a bit less “twangy” in the (Taylor’s Version) releases. There is definitely a cleaner sound for the 1989 Re-recording, but it’s much closer to the original. Another aspect of all of these releases however is the inclusion of additional tracks, or “From the Vault”. 1989 is a bit lighter on these tracks than the previous albums with only 5 Vault Tracks, but it does include the three tracks originally only on the Deluxe edition of the original release (which is what I had previously, on CD).

I don’t plan to rack up Taylor Swift Vinyls like other artists I like, but as 1989 is my favorite Swift album, I’ve opted for the Vinyl release on this one, specifically the green edition. I’ll probably pick up the digital FLAC version eventually like I’ve done for the previous Taylor’s Version albums, (everything else is on CD), but for now, Spotify works for regular listening.

The album itself is nice, the records themselves on this edition are a nice light green color. When opened there is a nice spread of photos, with a record on each half inside. Each of the sleeves has the song lyrics scrawled across them. The box also contained a few small paper stars for some reason. Like large confetti pieces. Part of the reason I picked this version was also because I like the front image on this cover better than the normal edition release (which I think has blue records).

There are way too many tracks to cover all of them, and frankly, I’m not a super fan of doing that style of write-up anyway. I’ll just say that I do enjoy pretty much every track though, which shouldn’t be surprising since I’ve essentially heavily implied it’s kind of a top-tier album on my list of favorite albums. Instead I’ll touch on some of my favorites. I’ll just start off and throw out there that probably the most popular tracks on the album, Shake it Off, and Bad Blood, are probably my least favorites on the album. I like both, but they are kind of low on my list.

Probably my favorite track on the album is Style. I really love the low-key even flow of this track. It has a really nice running beat going through it. I also really like its follow up Out of the Woods. The little story it tells along the way is fun, I’m a sucker for that sort of thing, and it has some really fun builds and falls through its run.

Another one that’s high on my list is Wildest Dreams. I love the airy feel of this one, and it also has a good feel that reminds me of Style. One of the Vault Tracks I can see becoming a favorite as well for this reason, Is it Over Now? really reminds me of Style as well. I have no idea of the writing process behind these, but I could actually see Style and Is It Over Now? as having the same root, and it was maybe decided to only keep one on the original release.

The last track I want to mention on my list is New Romantics. It was originally only on the Deluxe release of the album, I really love the theme and build-ups on this track. The little break moments with the “Ahhh ah ahhh ahh”s. It’s also frankly, kind of a better anthem of “Don’t sweat the small stuff” than “Shake it Off” is.

For the sake of mentioning another of the Vault Tracks, I’ll mention “Slut!” I suppose, which seemed to be sort of getting pushed as a release signal. It’s an alright track, but it’s a bit slow for my tastes these days. It’s definitely a slower, almost plodding track than a lot of the others, though the overall feel does fit with the other tracks of 1989.

All in all, the album is still great. It doesn’t add quite as much as the previous Taylor’s Versions, but it was already such a strong album it would be kind of hard to add much.

CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe

I feel like at some point I should get around to covering the rest of the CHVRCHES album lineup aside from Screen Violence. In proper fashion, I’m going to roll it back to their first album, The Bones of What You Believe. It’s appropriate because it’s the 10th anniversary of the album. I actually can’t say accurately when I first listened to CHVRCHES, though I can say I only recently started caring about them. I know that when I started to care, I realized that I already had at least one album I had bought on Amazon. So at some point, they showed up in a $5 album sale, and I decided I liked the sound and impulse bought it.

It’s probably worth mentioning that the album also recently celebrated its ten-year anniversary.

I also know that for a while I was aware somewhere of a band called “Churches” because for some reason I thought maybe they did that song Take Me to Church, which is actually by Hozier. This is based entirely on the whole Church/CHVRCH thing.

Whatever the case, while I probably heard their more popular tracks starting from this album, I didn’t really start listening until much later, though before the Screen Violence era. Anyway, after I started listening, shortly before Screen Violence, probably at the recommendation of folks in the Sigrid Discord, they quickly shot up to the top tier of my favorite artists. They are currently 2nd on my Last.fm scrobbles. I imagine that another influence was my obsession with Forza Horizon 4, which features Never Say Die, from Love is Dead.

I would say it’s hard to pick a favorite song from the album, except the track Gun is on this one, and it’s my favorite CHVRCHES track, so that’s pretty easy to pick. I just really love the metaphor of the hook. You fucked up, and you’re going to pay for it.

Maybe my second favorite track on this album is Tether, though it wasn’t always. It’s sort of grown into that place. I just absolutely love the build from calm and slow to the break at the peak. I also really enjoy the vocal effects and overlapping sounds of this one.

There are plenty of fan favorites and other notable tracks though. Their first big single, Mother We Share is such a good opener to the album with the echoing vocals. I particularly like the up-and-down background rhythms and the slappy fake clap beat that runs throughout. I want to say Lies, was the first track they actually performed during live sets, and while it’s popular, it’s probably one of my least favorite tracks on the album, because it’s very repetitive and flat in it’s overall presentation.

A few more of the more popular tracks are Night Sky, which I believe took 2nd place for most popular in the CHVRCHES Discord tournament (behind Clearest Blue). Science/Visions goes incredibly hard, and is pretty amazing live as well. Recover was the second single from Bones and has some following but it reminds me a lot of lies in that it’s a bit repetitive and it’s lower on my list of songs I enjoy. Another really good one is We Sink, which drives pretty hard and really shows off the CHVRCHES sound well.

Also notable is how many Martin lead songs are on this album. What I understand reading the history of the band, is that Martin was going to be the lead vocals before Lauren came along. There are two tracks from Martin on the base version of this album, Under the Tide and You Caught the Light. The Deluxe version adds the previously released track Zvvl, and the 10th-anniversary release adds in the previously unreleased Manhattan and Talking in My Sleep. That’s quite a few Martin tracks from the early era of CHVRCHES. It certainly would have been a different band without Lauren.

Another that I’ve started enjoying a lot more lately, though it seems contradictory since I dislike the repetition of Lies and Recover is Tightrope, though it’s only on certain bonus versions, and is a cover of Janelle Monáe. I just rather like the “T-t-tightrope” stutter lyrics and the varying vocals in the “high or low” bits.

All in all, like most of CHVRCHES music, it’s pretty much all good. I’ve been listening to this album for a while, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming 10th-anniversary re-release and all it entails.

Nirvana – Unplugged in New York

While I have a lot of “favorite albums”, there is one that I have fairly consistently considered my absolute favorite, and it’s Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York. Originally recorded as part of MTV’s Unplugged show. It was the first Nirvana album released after Kurt Cobain’s death. There are quite a few of these types of albums from MTV’s Unplugged show by different bands. From back when MTV actually played Music all the time.

I just love everything about this album. I love the goofy chatter between the songs. I love the fact that there are plenty of electric effects and an electric guitar in Nirvana’s “Unplugged Set”, because Nirvana doesn’t care apparently. I particularly love that it’s not just an acoustic greatest hits album. I think at least half the songs are covers and most are not their “top hits”. Come As You Are and All Apologies are probably the only real big hits on the album, though there are a couple of others. They aren’t even necessarily covering the big hits of other groups either.

While I really like every track, the covers may actually be my more favored tracks. The Man Who Sold the World, originally by David Bowie is excellent. Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam is great as well. There are three covers of Meat Puppets tracks, Plateau, Oh Me, and my favorite of these three, Lake of Fire. Members of the Meat Puppets also participated in this set.

The set ends with another non-Nirvana track Where Did You Sleep Last Night which is a folk song done by a variety of artists over a period and also goes by several other names. The whole, “angsty 90s Cobain” really shines through on this track and I really like it as well.

The set opens with About a Girl, which as Cobain comments, “this was off our first record, most people don’t own it,” which is certainly accurate as Nirvana wasn’t really popular until Nevermind and then later In Utero. It’s a nice and interesting throwback to the band’s origins. The last track I wanted to throw out as one of my favorites from this album comes from In Utero, Pennyroyal Tea, despite its kind of random and rambly nature, really fits this format well.

I think one thing I really like about this album is just how much it’s Nirvana’s messy and gunge style, cleaned up in a slick format, which still keeps the messy and grunge feel. I don’t really know how else to describe it. That isn’t to say Nirvana isn’t a great band, but I really feel like this album lets them really show a great other side to the band and everyone seems to be generally having a good time making this music as well.

Sigrid – Sucker Punch

It’s possible, that at some point, I am legally required to talk about this album (not really). I don’t listen to a ton of Sigrid currently, though I have not moved on or anything, there is just so much other I want to listen to. I also probably burned myself out on Sigrid listening to her TOO MUCH. Her album, Sucker Punch still has a special place. I’ve always been into music, but I’ve never really been, ACTIVELY into music. I’m not any level of “hardcore” or anything, but there was kind of a perfect storm moment around me discovering Sigrid that lead to me being more active in music communities and actually caring about music on a slightly higher level than I had previously.

There probably isn’t anything particularly special about this album, like I said, it just got caught up in the perfect storm moment. That isn’t to say it isn’t a good album, I actually really really like this album. Checking my YouTube History, it looks like I first listened to Sigrid, and the song Sucker Punch on November 18th, 2018, though I didn’t listen to it again until February of the next year. Something inspired that though because my YouTube history says I specifically searched for it. Anyway, the history shows I watched some Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, and Kiesza videos, then right before Sucker Punch, 5 Seconds of Summer – Youngblood (Alt Version), for some reason, and then Sucker Punch, which was likely a recommended video.

Sometimes through 2019, I started listening to Sigrid a lot. Also through YouTube, there was one of those banners, “Tickets in your area.” I didn’t really do a lot of concerts then but clicked through on a whim. The tickets were cheap, super cheap. I bought some, immediately. At some point, I also joined the fan Discord server. There was a fun active community there, most of whom migrated to the new official Discord earlier this year. This was also the start of actively seeking out Discord servers for communities of artists I like, though the only others I ever really participated in actively were CHVRCHES and Aurora’s servers.

I think what drew me in was how, weirdly simple the video was, and how slightly weird it was. It’s just Sigrid dancing around in a kind of cocky way, despite not really looking like someone who would BE cocky. Then there’s that fun montage of clips at the end, with some anime clips and like, she’s in a grocery store throwing food on the floor. WHY DOES SHE HATE THOSE TACOS??? Why is that marching band so sinister???

It also has some really slick editing on some of its transitions, which is really appealing to me.

And that point at the end where the music drops out. Excellent.

But there’s a whole album of songs here, just because the album and the first song I listened to from Sigrid bear the same name.

Mine Right Now is the second track of the album. I really love the running retro-sounding underlaying track on this one. It’s also a fun song suggesting that even if a relationship doesn’t work out, at least it’s good “now”. It also has an incredibly amusing video.

The third track, Basic, is my favorite released track and second favorite track of Sigrid’s overall. It’s even better in the live version (almost all music in general is). A lot of Sigrid’s tracks have to do with relationships, either friendships or possibly romantic, and Basic is one of those. The idea is that you just want something authentic and basic, without drama, with its simple wailing vocals. Like Sucker Punch, it features a fun interlude moment as well, on the album version it basically becomes acoustic, on the live version it becomes a cappella.

(Side note, my favorite Sigrid song is Go To War, but I’ll probably bring that one up in a future post).

Another really good one (aren’t they all?) is Strangers, at slot number 4. This was also the second single released from the album. It also has an amusing and surreal video to go along with it, where Sigrid gets to dance around in her own sort of special way in a sort of open movie set. It’s kind of reminiscent of the idea of the song, which is almost the opposite of Basic, … Strangers, perfect pretenders, falling head over heels…. That sort of thing.

The first single for the album was track 9, and I believe it was her first “big hit” track in general, with Don’t Kill My Vibe. A fast-paced, pump-you-up anthem about keeping others from bringing you down.

In the interest of a bit of brevity, I wanted to sort of group the other tracks together a bit. They are all good, some I didn’t like as much initially, but they have grown on me over time, like Level Up, In Vain, and Business Dinners.

It’s probably also worth bringing up Dynamite. Sigrid has several “low-key” sort of songs, and Dynamite is one of those. It’s a good track, I just have never super been able to get into it. I think part of what I like about Sigrid is how carefree and upbeat most of her music is, and Dynamite, while a good song, is just such a different tone, I can never feel the vibe.

Anyway, this is one I’ve been meaning to write up on for a while. And so it’s done. I’m sure at some point I’ll get to Sigrid’s second album How to Let Go, and I’ll probably do a combined write-up on her two previous EP releases. I also want to do a write-up for the “missing album”. Sigrid has a large number of unreleased older tracks. They don’t exist anywhere except live show performances. Enough to fill a whole album. It would be worth doing a write-up of these I think, as it it were an album. (Go to War is one of these tracks.)

Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill

Here’s another album for the “This is already so popular” list of albums, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. Per Wikipedia, it’s the 13th biggest-selling album, ever, and the 3rd biggest put out by a woman. There is a good chance that you’ve at least heard a song from this album, somewhere. It’s an album that really sort of embodied a lot of the 90s feel at the time. It’s an album that I listened to a lot in High School and beyond, and it’s a strong strong contender for “Most listened to album”. I like to track music as much as possible these days with Last.fm, but there are a lot of gaps in that record, from the before times, and this is one of them. Others include Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Greatest Hits, and probably a few Aerosmith albums.

Why cover this album now? Because in a few days, I’m going to see Alanis in concert at the Illinois State Fair. I don’t really have a “bucket list”, but if I did, going to an Alanis Morissette concert is one of them, even if it’s 25 years late. I have not really picked up on a lot of Alanis’ later music, though I want to. Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie is the only other album I have really listened to by her and it’s ok, but not quite as good as Jagged Little Pill. Something I wasn’t aware of until recently after watching the documentary Jagged, is that Alanis actually had a few albums before Jagged Little Pill that were essentially just regular boring pop music.

Which was part of what made this album blow up and become a huge hit. There was plenty of angry rock alternative music by dudes out there, but not a lot by women at the time. The whole album is this crazy ball of angry rage for a lot of its tracks. The first single from the album You Oughta Know has long been rumored to be about her former boyfriend Dave Coulier (Joey from Full House, the goofy guy) but it’s never been confirmed. With such lovely lyrics as

Cause the joke that you laid in the bed that was me
And I’m not gonna fade as soon as you close your eyes
And you know it
And every time I scratch my nails
Down someone else’s back
I hope you feel it
Well, can you feel it?

– You Oughta Know – Alanis Morissette

The lyrics in general are part of what really makes the album appealing. It’s all so poetically blunt at times, full of anger and trauma. It also becomes self-reflective and vulnerable in other places. It starts out very in your face with All I Really Want, You Oughta Know, and Right Through You. Even the slightly more subdued of the early tracks Perfect has a built to how it’s all just too much trying to be perfect. As the album goes on it becomes a lot more subdued, but still tells a string of stories about broken history and broken relationships.

Probably the most well-known track on the album is Ironic, which is an extremely popular and enjoyable song, but it’s also the subject of ridicule and jokes as most of the scenarios in the song are more straight tragic than actually ironic. Rain on your wedding day, ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife, that sort of thing. The real Irony I suppose is a song called Ironic without any irony in it. I doubt it runs that deep though.

Probably my favorite tracks on the album are Hand in My Pocket and Mary Jane. I really like the whole building optimism of the former, and how it almost feels like it travels through stages of a life with it’s slightly evolving Chorus lyrics. Mary Jane is a nice slow ballad where Alanis really throws out those vocals.

This is also the other reason this album became so popular I think. It’s not just the lyrics, but the way they are delivered. No one thinks twice about scream-singing with male bands, but Alanis helped bring this concept to her music. She has a very distinctive almost yodeling screech at times in her voice which feels like it should be off-putting but instead, it just drives the whole energy of the album. It pushes the rage when needed. It pushes the 90s alternative “who gives a shit really?” vibe when needed. There is also a lot fo interesting almost folksy feeling to her tracks

There’s probably a reason Alanis Morissette never really ended up with a ton of staying power on her future works, because Jagged Little Pill just really embodied the times, and left an influential legacy on music, but released any other time, probably wouldn’t have even taken off at all. I definitely am not saying it’s a bad album, I am just saying that it probably just doesn’t resonate with people who weren’t there, so to speak.