Why

Younger Than Yesterday is an album that I’ve always found curious in The Byrds discography. While Fifth Dimension shifts the focus from folk rock to psychedelic, I’ve always felt that Younger Than Yesterday is their true transition album because it has a little bit of everything they ever did.

Some of the tracks on here can truly be described as experimental, particularly in incorporating sitars, reverse playback, and extraterrestrial imagery. The folk rock is still there, including the token Dylan cover, and there are some throwbacks to the British Invasion. Looking ahead, this is the first time they begin to throw in some country and the songwriting has become more mature, causing some of the songs to have a darker, more mysterious tone. The two follow-up albums are the high marks for The Byrds, but this one showed that they were still relevant in the midst of the rapidly changing times.

(Source: Spotify)

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This is one of the strangest albums I’ve listened to, and you know that’s bound to happen when one of the main influences is the work of John Zorn. Chemical Marriage is probably one of the more tame songs, focusing on space age pop, but the rest of the album is filled with heavy metal, jazz, musique concrete, Italian music, and more sound effects than you can hope to ask for. All from a band that’s supposed to specialize in funk metal.

I’ve only listened to this album 2 or 3 times, but that’s enough to put it near the top as one of the most memorable in my collection.

(Source: Spotify)

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Today I visited the Harn museum in Gainesville and they had what is possibly their best temporary exhibit during my time here at the University of Florida. It’s an exhibit of woodcuts from the Edo period in Japan showcasing the landscapes and stories associated with the 55 stations of the Tokaido Road. It includes works from three artists from the Utagawa school including the works below by Utagawa Hiroshige and Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

What I also found extremely interesting is the inclusion of the series by modern artist Sekino Jun’ichiro. It depicts life at the stations as it exists during post-WWII Japan. Above are two examples of his work that depict the stone bridge and concrete highways that replaced the wooden bridge in Tokyo as well as the colorful festival contrasted with the somber background.

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After going home, I spent about an hour looking at life as depicted in the traditional Japanese style, emphasizing flatness, the simplification of color variations, and the clear outlining of figures, all which come together to bring serenity and balance. The exhibition helped me understand the Japanese art tradition better, why it inspired so many French & Dutch painters in the late 19th century, and how it’s developed into the animation that is so unique to the Land of the Rising Sun.

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Today’s a classic throwback to Stevie Wonder’s last of his legendary album series. Songs in the Key of Life is a double album that attempts to capture life as he knows it from all angles and the result is his most varied and arguably most ambitious work.

This album is tricky to tack down - about a third of the songs are some of his most accessible and successful singles, some others carry further his distinctive funk style, and others try to capture emotion through his voice and his gospel choir. There might be one or two songs that don’t settle as well as I would like, but on the whole this album never fails to satisfy and ranks among my favorites from the 70’s.

… And of course I have to give Stevie a special shout out for all the groundbreaking work he did in incorporating synthesizers as the lead instrument in his soul and funk songs. Contemporary R&B as pioneered since Michael Jackson to the soul-induced rap of Kanye West have much to owe to this man.

(Source: Spotify)

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Convertible Balloon

This album by Wavves came out a few years ago and it just recently made its way back into my ears. The song above is probably their trippiest, the rest of the stuff is either mellow or really energetic.

Whenever I hear this album I think of freshmen getting high in a college dorm - the feeling of being invincible, like nothing can touch you, yet still having the whole world ahead of you waiting for the picking. The exhilaration on this album is only marred by the personality flaws purposely exposed by the singer, often in frantic, childlike yells. I wouldn’t call it amazing, but obviously I considered it memorable enough to bring it back up. This might seem like a trend of weed albums, but I promise more sober stuff to come.

(Source: Spotify)

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