Chasing the Thrill

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[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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[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.]

Man, if one was looking for a record to listen to while drinking Mezcal as the noises of a warm spring evening creep through open windows, The Greatest would have to be high on the list of good choices.

 

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One of the ways to tell a great musician from a good one is by whom they choose to collaborate with. Chan Marshall’s choices for The Greatest – Memphis musicians Teenie Hodges, Steve Potts, Dave Smith, Rick Steff, Doug Easley, Jim Spake, and Scott Thompson – elevate and compliment Ms. Marshall’s songs without ever over-powering. 1

I love the record. The songs, the playing, the recording, and the feel all shine on vinyl.

In particular, I love the sound of the high hat. Steve Potts is just such a master of the art of pushing the groove by laying back. 2

The Greatest is Cat Power’s best record (so far). On it, Ms. Marshall and this amazing group of musicians capture something hard to capture – something that endures.

8.5 out 10

 

 

 


  1. It’s amazing how Memphis musicians seem to know how to do (or not do) those things better than musicians from most other places. It seems like that particular “Memphis feel” – that was most acutely codified via the Stax House band (Gilbert Caple, Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Al Jackson, Jr., Wayne Jackson, Booker T. Jones, Curtis Green, Isaac Hayes, Andrew Love, Floyd Newman, Gene “Bowlegs” Mille, David Porter, Lewie Steinberg) – is now almost its own genre.

  2. if you’ve ever heard someone refer to a band being “in the pocket,” and wondered what they meant, give The Greatest a listen.

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