It’s raining here in Baltimore – it’s the perfect day to sit down and read a book while listening to good music. One of the great things about music, is its ability to pick up on a particular mood and can seep into your subconsciousness. The mood of a song may feel like raining coming down, even if its lyrical content has nothing to do with the weather.
The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues
Fisherman’s Blues is the ultimate rainy day album. With the exception of the title track, and “World Party”, it’s a largely stripped down affair with emphasis on violins (or is it fiddle in this case?) piano and acoustic guitars. The rhythm of “Strange Boat” unfolds at a snail’s pace. Elsewhere, their cover of Van Morrison’s “Sweet Thing” brings tension like a torrential rain, but also leaves room for the inevitable clearing of the skies – reenforced by a coda that includes bits of The Beatles’ “Blackbird”. The lyrics of “The Stolen Child” are adapted from WB Yeats, but with the dominating piano and mystical-sounding flute, its the soundtrack to the dreams you have on a rainy morning when you hit snooze and don’t want to get out of bed.
U2 – The Unforgettable Fire
The Unforgettable Fire is largely remembered as the album that contained the hit “Pride (In The Name of Love)”. Thanks to Brian Eno’s production, it is also an album that finds U2 exploring sonic textures perfectly suited to a gray and wet day. Bono is more hushed on this than any other U2 album – “Promenade” is a whisper from the band that almost goes unnoticed if you don’t pay attention. While the band occasionally slides into louder territory (“Wire” and “Indian Summer Sky” in particular) most of the album is a quieter affair with the emphasis on The Edge’s guitar effects as a musical paintbrush.
Bob Dylan – Modern Times
Modern Times finds Bob Dylan for exploring old blues records while also incorporating jazz influences. Even the blurry cover and title (which is a homage to the Charlie Chaplin film of the same name) suggest Dylan’s fascination with that era, which leads to one of his mellowest albums to date. Even the rocker “Rollin and Thumblin” has a shuffle to it, never allowing the song to quite break through and roar. The album perfectly suits what Dylan’s voice has turned into in the past decade – a long, smoky drawl. Dylan’s interpretation of “When the Levee Breaks”, titled “The Levee’s Gonna Break” travels at a speed which hints at the disaster up ahead, but never actually descends into it. There might be a storm outside, but you can take comfort with this album.
If I have any criticisms of Fleet Foxes, and their self-titled debut, it’s that their songs are hard to distinguish from one another. But as a whole, their debut unfolds with lush harmonies and laid-back acoustics rarely since the early days of Crosby, Stills and Nash. It’s the sound of a band searching for an overall feeling and mood as opposed to a killer single. That may bother some, but Fleet Foxes manage to impress while being unassuming.
Tom Waits – Closing Time
Closing Time is not only one of the best debut albums of all time, it’s also one of the best of all time. The combination of folk and jazz lends itself to just simply lounging around. The trumpets and piano on “Virginia Avenue” and “Midnight Lullaby” get inside your soul in the way that the best jazz compositions do. While Waits covers a lot of topics on this album, the arrangements and music say just as much. This is the type of album where you just want to sit inside, look out the window at the rain, and simply listen.