Thursday, August 31, 2017

tbt ~ classic album spotlight

Today I'll be spotlighting an album I love, whitechocolatespaceegg by Liz Phair. Autocorrect just changed that to Liz Hair. sigh. Moving on.

Liz Phair was EPIC to me in the 90s. Her first three albums are all classics in my library. There isn't a single song I skip on Exile in Guyville, Whip-Smart, or whitechocolatespaceegg. She was truly an album artist, maybe one of the first that got me interested in listening to albums as a whole. While Exile and Whip-Smart are probably more known/popular, my favourite is 1998's whitechocolatespaceegg.

Her first two major releases (look into her old Girlysound stuff too, some cool rough cuts there) were pretty similar in style. I'm not sure how to describe them to do them justice. It's kind of anti-pop music in its production, lyrics, and presentation, yet almost every song is sing-along catchy. Pop music for people who don't like pop music? It definitely has the vibe of something recorded in a garage or basement, in the best way. The production is excellent, not in that it's slick, but how it complements her voice and style perfectly. It's different, but it clicks. I guess the best way to describe it is it sounds 100% her, like she just got to do and say whatever the fuck she wanted without any hacks interfering. Or anyone at all. A genuinely distinctive artist.

I should briefly mention her sudden lurch into full-blown POP after whitechocolatespaceegg. I'm not going to discuss whether those albums were good or bad, they're just very much not for me. The overly slick, clean production and pop princess style just rubs me the wrong way. It's not interesting, and for an artist like Liz Phair, that's just like, death. :(

Here's where we get to whitechocolateetc, the album I want to spotlight today. It definitely marked a change in sound, and you can almost see it as a bridge to where she was going. The production is cleaner, the writing more down to earth and mature. With themes of motherhood and growing up, you could almost call it a concept album. It's a more accessible album in some ways, but here's what I love about it. There's a trippy, spacey vibe here that really complements her style and writing, even more than her earlier work IMO. There are even, I think, two Beatles/McCartney allusions. The one on "Fantasize" is obvious ("you've got to hide your love away), but I'm pretty sure "Uncle Alvarez" is a nod to "Uncle Albert," or it makes me think of it anyway. I mean, I thought of this album because I was listening to The Beatles.


I just thought of this, she's kind of the Beatles in reverse, isn't she? She started out with the cool, weird, interesting stuff and ended up doing more basic pop.

So while the production here is more polished, it doesn't come across as OMG SHE WENT POP, but as a feature, a concept. Like the album was actually recorded from inside an egg. ... I'm not high, I swear. This album is just that awesome. Some of my other favourite tracks are "Perfect World," "Polyester Bride," "Big Tall Man," Baby Got Going," and the trippy title track. This album showed so much promise, and I wish she'd explored this direction further rather than what she did. But it makes for a unique album that moves nicely between time and space. Like, this doesn't scream 90s at you or anything, it's a self-contained project that still sounds fresh* today.

*don't make a pun about eggs don't make a pun about eggs don't...

I think it also shows that we always, ALWAYS, no matter how far removed we are from the 60s, need artists that were inspired by the Beatles. It just makes for the best music.

Peace and melodic guitar rock forever, man.