It seems that almost every time I went to Qobuz working on a review this month there was new music to be found and all of it pretty amazing so finding enough material for this month’s list should not be hard, in fact cutting it to ten might be a problem, but here goes:
1. “Sunset” (“Once Twice Melody” – Beach House – 24-bit/48kHz – Qobuz) Most of the songs on Beach House’s wonderful ambient dream-pop album have an Enya with percussion vibe to them, “Sunset” breaks this mold by opening with acoustic guitar, while the percussion fades in about halfway through in a pulsing beat. Like most of their songs, there is a Boléro quality to it slowly building up with the addition of more and more instruments with interwoven melodies to a crescendo that never quite happens.
2. “Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 1 in C, K279: I. Allegro” (“Mozart: Complete Piano Sonatas” – Elisabeth Leonskaja – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz) There is a playful joy in Elisabeth Leonskaja performance communicating Mozart’s youthful slightly naughty soul that is locked in these compositions.
3. “Rhododendron” (“Life On Earth” – Hurray For The Riff Raff – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz) The first thought on hearing Alynda Segarra’s voice is “Here is someone not trying to sound like someone else.” The songs on “Life On Earth” have both a Velvet Underground simplicity and complexity, with pulsating rhythms and atonal harmonics. It was hard to choose the song that set this artist apart, since each track was unique yet interesting, but “Rhododendron” encapsulated all that is Hurray For The Riff Raff, overlapping rhythms without resorting to grandstanding solos.
4. “Pompeii” (“Pompeii” – Cate le Bon – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz) Cate le Bon is a brilliant dive into avant-garde deeply reminiscent of Laurie Anderson or Jane Siberry. “Pompeii” is a solid example of her vast talent, a chain of diverse melodies evolving as the song progresses displaying her catalog of voices. Changing both in rhythm, emotion, and delivery throughout imparting an ethereal sensibility.
5. “6 Pieces for Piano, P. 44 (Ottorino Respighi) No. 3. Notturno. Lento (Version for Harp)” (“Nightscapes” – Magdalena Hoffmann – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz) Simply magical, Magdalena Hoffmann’s interpretations and performances on solo harp are simply heaven.
6. “Satellite” (“Lucifer On The Sofa” – Spoon – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz) Spoon is an amazing band that seems to encompass the last 70 years of rock music in their sound, a bluesy psychedelica with a bit of funk alongside the punk side of new-wave like early Joe Jackson or Generation X with a modern post-grunge feel. While once again it is hard to pick one song out of the orgasm that is “Lucifer On The Sofa”, “Satellite” has a heart and depth that sets it apart with the overlapping competing rhythms of the different instruments, the dissonance of the piano vs. the distorted guitar vs. jangly guitar vs. the gritty lead guitar vs. the clean lead guitar.
7. “The Barka-Darling River” (“Resist” – Midnight Oil – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz) It took three listenings to the whole album to pick out the most representative song from Midnight Oil’s triumphant return, though the title “Resist” says it all. That said “The Barka-Darling River” really caught my imagination. It starts with a driving proto-punk beat then about a third of the way through it fades into piano and acoustic guitar eventually fading in electric organ, percussion, and bass in a sort of eco-activist hymnal.
8. “Consolação” (“Samba in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1968” – Bola Sete – 16-bit/44.1kHz – Qobuz) This a simply brilliant performance of Latin jazz by an exceptional acoustic jazz trio headed by the incredible guitarist Bola Sete. If you like real guitar playing without all the trickery of amplification and effects then this is for you.
9. “Toyboat” (“Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono” – Sharon Van Etten – 24-bit/44.1kHz – Qobuz) The last thing I expected was to like an album of Yoko Ono songs, but life surprises. It is hard to say whether it is the songs or the performances by such greats as David Byrne, Death Cab For Cutie, and The Flaming Lips, but it is wonderful. Though I truly love David Byrnes’ performance backed by vibes, the one that caught my heart was “Toyboat” featuring Sharon Van Etten. Heavily delayed piano and tambourine open this dirge-like lament, which builds with the addition of kick drum and other various instruments.
10. “Morbio Gorge” (“Perilous Journey” – Gordon Giltrap – 16-bit/44.1kHz – Qobuz) One of my all-time favorite songs, it opens with virtuoso classical style guitar then breaks into a fast-paced full-blown progressive rock epic, with multiple pianos, horns, synths, percussion, organ, and bass.
And that’s my ten for this month, hopefully, next month will prove as fruitful, until then, remember it’s all about the music.
Manley Absolute Headphone Amplifier, Audio-gd R2R-1 DAC, Cardas Iridium single-ended RCA interconnects, Cardas Iridium power cords, Core Power Technologies A/V Equi=Core 1000, Cardas Clear USB cable, iFi Purifier 3, Dan Clark Audio ETHER2 headphones.