the other me might even be better than this one

From Electric Light Orchestra to Folds

April 30, 2021 — Gideon Mayhak


With the busyness of preparing for a move in a couple weeks, intentional music listening has fallen by the wayside as of late. Even so, I wanted to get a short one out about a few more discs in the collection.

The Es

Electric Light Orchestra

I'm ashamed to say I own only one album by ELO, but if you're going to have just one... As with many big names of "classic rock", I heard lots of ELO hits on the radio growing up. One that stood out above all the rest was "Mr. Blue Sky". If nothing else, I had to own that one.

Sometime several years ago, probably in 2007 when it was released, I remember seeing the 30th anniversary edition of Out of the Blue at a Barnes & Noble. The details are fuzzy, but I think my dad bought it for me. At the very least, I'm pretty sure he was there. Of course, "Mr. Blue Sky" was a big part of the purchase; but the packaging is also really cool and played a role in getting me to buy it on that specific day.

This album has a lot of other hits I knew from my youth, and the whole thing is a feast for the ears. The opener, "Turn to Stone", gets me bouncing in my seat, as does "Sweet Talkin' Woman". The flow of the record and the purposeful order of tracks makes this one that I almost always listen to in its entirety. It gets even better when you consider the side breaks on the original LP release.

I love this era of album art: spaceships galore. Out of the Blue pairs nicely with Boston. These are records that are worth owning on vinyl for the artwork alone, and it should come as little surprise that I do have both in that larger format.

I'm going to do my usual cop-out here and pretend I don't have more to say. I do feel underqualified to write about such an influential band when I haven't spent a lot of time listening to their albums. You'll see Jeff Lynne show up again later on at least.

This is a big record from a big band, its impact felt throughout many of the songs and albums I've listened to over the years. Sweet is the night (or day) whenever I decide to play it.

Danny Elfman

I'll have more to say about Danny Elfman when we get to Oingo Boingo later on, and it could be argued that So-Lo was basically an Oingo Boingo release. Nevertheless, I sort this under "Elfman" for the day when I finally buy some of his other solo works. Instead of the radio, I grew up hearing Elfman in movies. His work on Tim Burton film scores and many others are staples of my music-in-movies memories.

I picked this one up when I was working on completing my Oingo Boingo collection, and I do largely think of it in that context. I can hear where Elfman took the opportunity to try a different, more polished sound than their previous releases, but then that polish carried into the Oingo Boingo releases that followed. It has some strengths because of this framing, but also some weaknesses. Overall, it's a solid album.

"Gratitude" is a fantastic way to open, and "Cool City" and "Tough as Nails" are my favorite tracks. I wouldn't say it's an album that everybody needs, but this won't be the last time I listen to it.

The Fs

Ben Folds

I first picked up a copy of Whatever and Ever Amen at a garage sale, and I proceeded to play it on repeat for quite a while. Opens with a banger, closes with something more gentle and thoughtful. Of course, I had heard "Brick" on the radio a bunch as a kid. I think an online friend had shared a couple other tracks as well ("Song for the Dumped" stands out in my memory). The range even on this earlier album shows how good Folds is as a musician and songwriter.

In part due to its garage sale origins, and in part because I played it so much, the disc got enough scratches to be hard to read in parts. When I decided to rip all my CDs accurately the first time, I took the opportunity to buy the remastered edition with bonus tracks. It's a good thing because "For All the Pretty People" had a word I needed for Sarah's secret message playlist.

I think Rockin' the Suburbs was a Goodwill find, and here again I was familiar with a couple tracks going in--the title track, of course. "The Luckiest" is one Sarah and I have shared, but also one I fondly remember hearing at the wedding reception of some good friends years earlier. The whole album is incredible. Every song is perfect.

I feel like I owe it to Ben Folds to buy the rest of his albums, both as part of the Five and as a solo artist. The way he tells a story with a perfect balance of snark and sincerity: chef's kiss.

In the next installment...

The next music post should include a couple more letters of the alphabet, but I probably won't try to write it until we're settled into our new house. That'll be nice.

"In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things; and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone."

1 Samuel 25:37, WEB

Tags: cd-listening, meet-the-mayhaks, music