Popular Shapes – “Bikini Style” (2003)

Popular Shapes were Seattle-area punks, and as near as I can tell Bikini Style was their only full length album. Musically a bit more aggro than pop punk, they give us nine songs that each clock in at under three minutes. Do they remind me of anyone? I’m not sure. The vocals are distinctive, perhaps making me think a little of Slugs or Reykjavik!, though certainly not of any artists in the musical mainstream. My favorite track is probably the slightly (and I do mean slightly) slowed down “Flattered You’re Terrified”. Definitely some good stuff on here.

Brian Eno – “Ambient 1: Music for Airports” (1978)

I’ve read a bit about Brian Eno, since his name seems to come up almost everywhere. He was in Roxy Music, was one of the very earliest pioneers of ambient electronic, and he has worked with just about everyone… and just about everyone seems to credit him as an influence. Yet I’ve managed to make it this far in my life without ever having heard his music.

I came across this pristine copy of Ambient 1: Music for Airports a few weeks back at Easy Street Records, and as soon as I saw it I knew it was time to see what Eno was all about. Released in 1978, it was part of a four part ambient exploration, and it was literally composed to provide a more relaxing mood to the generally stressful and frenetic airport experience.

There are four distinct tracks here, all of which are quite long – the entire thing has a run time of 41+ minutes, the songs are named only using numbers. The opener (“1/1”) is a very quiet piece, primarily defined by its very soft and slow piano playing. The other track on side A (“2/1”) is actually a bit anxiety inducing for me – there’s echoey vocalizations here that sounds like a choir singer holding very long notes, and while it’s beautiful, for me it isn’t relaxing. On side B, “1/2” brings the first two songs together, at least thematically, giving us the choral vocal sounds along with the piano. This is probably the densest piece on Music for Airports, though it’s still definitely ambient in nature, intentionally designed to be background music. The final song (“2/2”) drops the voice sounds and gets us back to a purely instrumental world, though much richer than where we started with “1/1.”

Holly wasn’t sold on this one at all. I actually ended up taking it off when we were listening to it together and came back to it a few weeks later for a solo session while working from home. And, you know, in that environment, alone in my house and working on the computer, it was a very pleasant accompaniment. I could see playing this in lots of situations, but most of which would involve me doing something else – reading, doing chores, writing… though it might be a bit much, at least for my brain, to just sit and purely focus on.