Initial Reactions (2011): Björk, Beach Boys, Radiohead, Eddie Vedder, The Antlers

Björk – Biophilia – (++): Well, if this isn’t a concept album then I don’t know what a concept album is. Bjork has always been very spotty for me, but I dig the "20th Century Classical" aspects of this record. Furthermore, I think it’s a great concept – all that stuff about our instinctive connections to all forms of life – see here. You’re not going to find a "Human Behavior" or an "Army of Me" or even a "Joga" here, but you are going to find a pretty experimental album well executed. Songs could have been stronger, but I think it’s a grower. Speaking of "Human Behavior", I suppose this represents Bjork coming full circle artistically – a dissertation begun with that Freshman year term paper, if you will. Think about it. ("Moon", "Crystalline", "Cosmogony", "Hollow")

Beach Boys – The Smile Sessions – (!!!!!): Why wasn’t this released in 1967? Imagine all the ways pop music might be different now. This isn’t just The Beatles flirting with orchestral arrangements as wall-of-sound filler, this is high concept brilliance from beginning to end. It’s all about those voices. Amazing harmonies – "Our Prayer" indeed – "but the Holy Spirit prays for us in groanings that cannot be expressed in words.("Heroes and Villains" and pretty much all of it)

Eddie Vedder – Ukulele Songs – (++): "Can’t Keep" is promising in a post-punk sort of way. And there’s the requisite covers, since this is an album of ukulele songs. Overall, many moments that sound like they’d get Pearl Jam radio airplay that goes beyond material written before 1996. Glory days done passed us by, but that’s OK. We’ve got the bittersweet timbre of the ukulele to provide the soundtrack as we watch the sunset. Many beautiful moments. Nothing that reaches to the acoustic transcendence of "Elderly Woman", but still many beautiful moments.

Radiohead – Tkol Rmx 1234567 – (++): Assessing a compilation of remixes is tricky. Where does the "work" of the remix artist and the "work" of the original artist split? A good example is the Illum Sphere Rmx of "Codex." Beautiful tune. Great Yorke vocal. I hated the remix until Yorke’s voice came in. Then I liked it. Two CDs worth of remixes is quite a lot to take in in one sitting. Much of it is interesting, some of it is good, and maybe a few cuts are truly memorable. Is some of it cool? Yeah. Will I ever listen to it again? Not likely. ("Little By Little (Caribou Rmx)", "Lotus Flower (Jacques Greene Rmx)", "Separator (Four Tet Rmx)"), "Give Up the Ghost (Thriller Houseghost Rmx)", "Tkol (Altrice Rmx)")

The Antlers – Burst Apart – (++): OK, when I hear this, I think of the Black Keys if they made "sad bastard music." BTW, I ain’t a fan of the Black Keys. There are some pretty moments here, and, well, I remember being really heartbroken over the last track when my cat died earlier this year. But you know, those are painful memories. Don’t really care to go back there. Musically, this is strong stuff, but the songs only seem above-average at best. Meh. It’s painful to listen to because it makes me want to cry. ("I Don’t Want Love", "French Exit", "Corsicana")

REACTION KEY

[!!!!!]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.

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