[The Chasing the Thrill posts chronicle my adventures in trying to capture that ephemeral moment when song and audio fidelity come together into a sound that makes me forget everything else. Mostly it will be my notes on the vinyl that I listen to, but may include some non-vinyl music moments as well. If you’re interested in the set up I use to listen on, here it is.]

The instrumentation, performances, and production on Morning Phase augments the lyrical tone without veering into threnody territory that it would have in lesser hands.

The instrumentation, performances, and production on Morning Phase augments the lyrical tone without veering into threnody territory that it would have in lesser hands.

It took me a while to put the pieces together on why I love this record so much. It’s the proverbial “sleeper”; a ripple on a pond portending something much deeper and darker below the surface.

Even the name – with its thinly veiled double meaning (Morning Phase::”mourning phase”) – beckons you to squint a little and look more closely.

When you do…when you put the time in, the record conforms to my “rule” in defining art: it rewards the greater scrutiny, without demanding it.

The closer inspection reveals that, indeed, there is mourning here. It’s not necessary to find an illustrative lyric – they all deal with loss and isolation.

The instrumentation, performances, and production all augment the lyrical tone without veering into threnody territory that it would have in lesser hands.

And this combination – mournful lyrics combined with elegiac music/production – is one I know well. This is REM’s domain, and, specifically, Automatic for the People terroir. Like Morning PhaseAutomatic is about loss and isolation, and like Morning PhaseAutomatic clothes these sentiments in instrumentation and production — both records lean heavily on acoustic instruments and string arrangements — that seems to simultaneously embellish and lighten the weight of the words.

The 180 gram pressing of Morning Phase does soften the edges a bit; allowing for an overall lower frequency wash throughout that is entirely consistent with the feel of the lyrics and the music.

By far and away, Morning Phase is my favorite non-jazz record of 2014, and certainly is in good company with its ancestral forbearer, Automatic for the People.

[Not that anyone would notice or care, but in prior “Chasing the Thrill” pieces, I put in numerical ratings. I’m not doing that anymore. If I’m taking the time write about them, it means I think they belong in anyone’s vinyl collection; they’re all great.]

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It’s hot now. That good kind of August hot. As I once lived in New Orleans, I do know heat, and the North Shore of Boston is not heat. Here it just sort of teases you a little bit…catching a glimpse of cardinal out of the corner of your eye before it disappears behind a tree. NOLA heat is not subtle….a black iron skillet dropped on a shoeless toe.

Nevertheless, who wants to turn on an oven or stovetop in August? And why would you?

Close your eyes and reach into the box of tomatoes at any farmer’s market right now and you’ll be right and rewarded.

Doubly so if you’re as lucky as I was today and see a container of white anchovies in the little refrigerator at Vidalias.

Recipe: Summer Tomato “Carpaccio” with White Anchovies 

Make the brilliant “vinaigrette” as described in Genius Recipes by peeling and smashing a few cloves of garlic and putting them in a small bowl with 2T of red wine vinegar and a 2t of kosher salt.

Let it sit while you do the rest:

Slice a tomato very thinly with a serrated bread knife

Fan out the tomato slices on a plate

Cut a very fresh onion into a few super-thin slices, and — ala Thomas Keller — rinse the onion to “make it a little less harsh,” and then chop it up

Make yourself a Campari and soda

Lay a white anchovy on top of every other tomato (or, if you’re me, on every tomato)

Sprinkle the onions over the tomatoes/anchovies

Now, pour the garlic-infused vinegar over the tomato/anchovy; careful to hold back the garlic with your finger

Pour a little good evoo on top

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