Little Thoughts is a brand-new monthly guest post series where music fans and writers cover three albums, new or old, that they think deserve to be heard. The series itself is named after a Bloc Party song. This month features Jack Davidson of Noise Not Music, a Columbus music blog that focuses on the “experimental and avant-garde”. He posts reviews, mixes, and essays, and every single time that I’ve visited Noise Not Music, I’ve discovered something new that I enjoy.
Maroon 5 – Songs About Jane (2002)
I know Maroon 5 can’t exactly be called an underappreciated band, but in my experience, not many people realize how fantastic their debut album Songs About Jane really is. In my opinion, this is when the band was at their best. The musicianship and songwriting are absolutely stellar, with the rock-solid rhythm section of Madden and Dusick providing a strong backbone for jazzy keyboards, wah-wah guitar, and Adam Levine’s magnetic, sultry vocals.
It’s an album with surprising range, presenting everything from piping hot funk on “Through With You” and “The Sun” to the soft balladry of “Secret.” This Maroon 5 is one sorely missed today; each member plays a key role, whether it’s the fluid bass work on the bridge of “Sunday Morning,” the head-bobbing drumbeat of “Harder to Breathe,” or the wistful interplay between acoustic guitar and voice on the verses of “Sweetest Goodbye.”
From what I’ve seen, there’s a certain contempt for pop music that is present in many music lovers, which I believe could be quickly cured with just one listen of Songs About Jane. It’s regrettable that the band is now a shell of its former self since it makes it so much more difficult to get people to overcome their pop skepticism.
Poire_z – Poire_z (1999)
The idea of a “supergroup” is not something I really buy into; rather, I don’t think a bunch of skilled or accomplished musicians coming together necessarily guarantees they will make good music. Poire_z, however, managed to produce material that was not only as good as the sum of their parts, but instead greater.
Consisting of percussionist and For 4 Ears curator Günter Müller, turntablist eRikm, and Norbert Möslang and Andy Guhl of the duo Voice Crack, the quartet achieved awe-inspiring improvisational chemistry, which reached a peak on their 1999 self-titled release on the aforementioned label. The sounds here are mechanical and alien, yet conceal subtle warmth and emotion that is only revealed when needed. eRikm coaxes jaw-dropping textures from his machine using unconventional techniques, yielding both metallic clatters and melodic samples. The ways these musicians play off each other, and the resulting harmonies between such unrelated objects (Guhl and Möslang only use electronics extracted from everyday appliances), are nothing short of astounding.
Poire_z is a showcase of masterful tension building and release, of which “Mother_Mount” is a prime example; a reserved yet vibrant drone is overlaid atop bassy electric hums, to which more layers are added until it all falls apart in a beautiful mess of electronic chaos. It’s an album that doesn’t make its genius immediately clear but gradually reveals it as you listen more and more.
Cecil Taylor – Indent (1973)
Heartbreakingly, the legendary Cecil Taylor was taken from us earlier this month. Few musicians have even come close to making the same impact on jazz music, and Taylor did it again and again throughout his prolific career. Indent, taken from a solo piano performance at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH, is an album that is incredibly special to me.
At the time, Taylor had already released many recordings exploring less-restrictive improvisation in a jazz context, which was/is often described as “free jazz.” His skill is clearly evident in these records; however, the true power of his playing would not be revealed until the 70’s, when he began to compose and perform without other musicians. In my opinion, some of the most sublime and expressive piano of all time can be found on Indent.
Despite being entirely improvised, the atonal cacophonies Taylor creates reveal themselves to be organized and even methodical, as he builds upon phrasings with an approach that I would describe as some sort of unhinged minimalism. The music exudes pure, raw energy, which is also expressed through the audience’s reactions. One of my favorite moments on the record is on the “Third Layer,” when Taylor’s vicious descending scales escalate in intensity as the crowd audibly roars in excitement, an emotion I think everyone will experience when they listen to this powerful album.