This is coming late because life doesn’t care about deadlines, self-made or otherwise.
Regardless, here’s a two-album rundown since I had already started it. I make sacrifices.
Michael Jackson – Xscape
Rating: Unfinished business.
The people who released this album either have not seen Michael Jackson’s This Is It or they care more about money than his legacy. The man is meticulous. Every step in his performances, every beat in his songs and every speck of dust in his art collection has a place. MJ was the master of putting them all where they belonged and it resulted in magic.
I’m on the fence about posthumous releases. On one hand, MJ has said that his finished recordings shouldn’t see the light of day until they are perfected. On the other, they will never be finished, so why not share new material for the true fans? Out of respect, I bypassed the over-produced tracks on the album and went straight to the original versions.
Michael Jackson has the most timeless music in existence, but these songs are not on the same plane. They are glorified B-Sides, but they are still better than 90 percent of what’s out there today. I want to praise it, but I don’t want to go against the king’s wishes. It will forever be suspended in musical limbo.
Swans – To Be Kind
Rating: No way, no wave
Whenever I read a review for a Swans album, I assume that the writer either zoned out at some point and are doing their best to interpret background noise, or they are lying. Because this is getting rave reviews all over the place and I don’t know why.
I will not steer you wrong. I gave you two hours and one minute of hustle and I’m ready to deliver some spitting hot takes about Swans’ latest quagmire. To Be Kind is two discs and has a 34-minute song and a jumble of 5-17 minuters all over the place. It’s droning rage, much like most of the recent releases.
I had never seen Michael Gira or Swans live until researching for this writing, even for 2012’s The Seer. It’s a mess. Gira is just brooding over his own anger and I can never assess how his audiences are receiving his mic-in-mouth performances.
This Last.fm entry describes their earlier performances as “so brutal and physical that in a number of instances certain audience members were made ill, police were called and venues were shut down.” Goodness.
This stuff is hard to digest, a type of music called “no wave.” It is not for me. Where as metal is just directed hatred, no wave is anguish spewing into the air like a mushroom cloud. No direction, just weird emotion.
I’m sure it’s good for what it is, but know what you’re getting into.
Updated Best of 2014 playlist:
Not a lot of movement on the playlist front this week, either. It just leaves more time with “Mr. Tembo.”