>> Mandy Moore: Silver Landings An album of introspective and mostly acoustic singer-songwriter material which would sound right at home on the playlist at your favorite college town café (…well, once they reopen someday).
>> Nine Inch Nails: Ghosts V: Together >> Nine Inch Nails: Ghosts VI: Locusts These are digital only. A surprise release of two new Ghosts albums, for free! Two different moods are covered in this continuation of the instrumental experiments project. Together is calm and reflective, while Locusts is a bit more ominous. They were created as opposing yet complementary reactions to the uncertain times we’re living in right now.
>> Porcupine Tree: In Absentia The newly released box set, containing the 2017 album remaster with dynamic range compression and volume limiting removed, available on CD for the first time. Also included are two bonus discs of audio: one with the extra tracks recorded during the sessions but not included on the album, and one with demos. A fourth disc is a blu-ray with a hi-res version of the stereo remaster (with accompanying Lasse Hoile slide show of nightmare fuel from the album’s artwork), as well as the 2003 surround mix from the original DVD-A release, and a feature length documentary chronicling the creation of the album. All housed in a great oversized hardcover book of essays and photos.
>> Renaissance: Turn of the Cards The latest in the series of Renaissance reissues is one of their landmark albums. A four disc set including the original album remastered (with bonus tracks), and two bonus discs comprising a complete live show from 1974 with a 24-piece orchestra. Also included is a DVD with a new 5.1 mix of the album.
>> Grace VanderWaal: Perfectly Imperfect >> Grace VanderWaal: Just The Beginning Here is an example of an artist I liked from what I had heard of them, though I had no idea who they were. Grace VanderWaal did songs for the animated films Next Gen and Wonder Park. I liked both of them, not even realizing they were by the same person. After a little digging, I discovered it was Grace VanderWaal. A singer-songwriter who plays the ukelele and has a big, distinctive voice which belies her age. This is her debut EP and album, recorded when she was twelve and thirteen years old respectively. (She is currently sixteen.) Don’t let her age fool you; this is not Kidz Bop. These are real songs which can appeal to listeners of any age, yet lyrically are relatable to her peers. I had no idea the songs I liked from those films were sung by someone so young.
Time to bring back a blog tradition I did for years and years, though I skipped it last year for some reason. And with everything going on in the world right now, some lightheartedness is welcome.
Going way back to my high school French class memories, today is my favorite French holiday: Poisson d’Avril! Or as I like to call it, April Fish Day. The old postcard above is something I found in my web travels as I looked for a good image to celebrate. It seems to predate the modern tradition of slapping paper fish onto an unsuspecting friend’s back, though the randomness of it seems to foreshadow the silliness to come.
Here is a translation of the prose on the card:
It is a polite custom To send in the month of April Lovely wishes and flowers … Will you like this fish?
This song – an adapted cover of “I Can See Clearly Now” – was the ending credits song for the animated film Next Gen. I liked this version of the song when I heard it, and was impressed by the vocal ability of the singer, especially during the chorus which has a powerful delivery. I had no idea who Grace VanderWaal was, let alone that she was only fourteen years old when the song was recorded in 2018! I’ve since heard most of her work to date and have become a fan.
>> Billie Eilish: dont smile at me It’s not a typo; that’s how the EP title is stylized. Reissue of Billie’s 2017 debut EP. Prelude to her impressive full-length debut album a year later, it’s hard to believe these sounds came from a sixteen year old.
>> Donna Lewis: now in a minute Found this for a couple of dollars at a thrift shop. Got it mainly for the single which brings me back to my college days in the mid 1990s, but the rest of the album is pleasant pop music from the Welsh singer/songwriter as well.
>> Pet Shop Boys: Hotspot Their latest is the third produced by Stuart Price, who brought Pet Shop Boys a fresh contemporary sound with their previous two albums: Electric and Super. This is the deluxe 2CD edition, which includes an instrumental version of the entire album on the second disc.
>> Yes: Fly From Here – Return Trip In 2011, Yes released Fly From Here, which was very nearly a Drama reunion. Trevor Horn produced the album, and Geoff Downes was brought back to play keyboards (essentially ousting Oliver Wakeman, Yes’s keyboard player at the time), as many of the songs used for Fly From Here were penned and recorded as demos by Horn and Downes in the early 1980s (as The Buggles) during and after their stint in Yes for 1980’s Drama. (In fact, Yes played an early version of the title track live on the Drama tour.) Fast forward to 2018. The band decides to bring Trevor Horn back to remix the album, re-record and rearrange some parts, and record all new vocal tracks for the whole album (except for two songs; one sung by Chris Squire and another by Steve Howe), replacing Benoit David’s vocals from the original Fly From Here. This revisited version of Fly From Here then really did become the successor to Drama, boasting the same lineup as that album. Vestiges of the original 2011 version remain in the form of a couple of Oliver Wakeman’s recorded keyboard parts and a songwriting credit for Benoit David.
My favorite supporting character from Cardcaptor Sakura has to be Meiling Li, Sakura’s friend from Hong Kong (and also Shaoran’s cousin). When she is introduced in the original series, she starts out as quite the brat, and a rival to Sakura, but they gradually become great friends. I was happy to see Meiling return for the Clear Card series, and she even featured prominently in one story arc!