Hello friends, today I'd like to bring you another installment of my Defining Albums --- these are records that have instilled a sense of musical awareness from the moment I found them, and most importantly, continue to inspire me each day as time inches forward. My first Defining Album segment was on the incredible "The Rhythm of The Saints" by Paul Simon, which you can read here: Defining Albums ::: Paul Simon's "The Rhythm of The Saints".
One of the most dynamic and continually mind blowing albums in my collection would have to be Jellyfish's "Spilt Milk". A masterpiece of style, craft and musicality that should stake it's claim in the high fields of album history. It's an important piece of modern production and craft of song. The second release from the talent-fest that was Jellyfish, "Spilt Milk" is a collection of the juiciest of juice when it comes to the modern canon of Pop-Rock music.
Jellyfish unfortunately lived a short life as a band, only releasing two records. Hailing from San Francisco, CA they merged Power-Pop, Rock and orchestral magic with this incredible sense of familiarity and often an almost British sense of humor and irony. It goes without saying that Jellyfish have a sound derivative of such greats as The Beatles and Queen with a grand stance of lyrical and adventurous melodic content. The two founding and core members Andy Sturmer and Roger Joseph Manning Jr. embarked on the journey that is "Spilt Milk" after guitarist Jason Falkner left the group following the release and tour of their first album "Bellybutton". Falkner, an incredible songwriter and guitarist in his own right, left to pursue his own artistry. What was left in that wake was the chance to make a record with all of the pomp and circumstance of the lessons learned in the 1960's and 1970's. It felt as if Jellyfish were able to take every musical idea, big or small, and let it become this enormously huge sounding result. In a modern world where music studios are vanishing right before our eyes and budgets are so truncated that time to explore is not often a friendly companion, the feat that is "Spilt Milk" is a joy just in that simple right.
Sturmer and Manning Jr. recruited a wonderful cast of producers and players for "Spilt Milk" such as Jon Brion and Lyle Workman, with both Brion and Workman having become the industry standard of music production and film scoring. The recorded sounds on "Spilt Milk" are what I often consider benchmark tones; If I'm lucky enough to capture a tone from any instrument that hails from the same beautiful landscape as the sounds on this album, then I've found my tonal nirvana. They are simply incredibly recorded and produced, nothing is egregious or over-produced. What remains, however, are incredibly well and smartly written songs with a musicality that doesn't just match, but challenges, your ears to witness a fight to the finish as to which might take that prize. When in reality the prize is in and of itself.
I'll showcase a few of my favorite songs on "Spilt Milk" but honestly, this album is so good that it warrants a full listen from top to bottom and then of course repeating that process! I've attached both the full album for your enjoyment as well as each track that I've decided to showcase today. Dig!
Hush & Joining a Fan Club
The albums opens with the Pet Sounds era Beach Boys lullaby Hush. It essentially commands the listener to open their ears and hearts to this adventure. It's an introduction in part to the orchestral elements and also the jaw dropping vocal harmonies that are all over the album. Joining a Fan Club bursts out of the soft closing haze of Hush into a raucous 70's style Queen meets Ziggy Stardust romp. It recalls the joys of a childhood cautionary tale of being part of a fan club, idolizing rock gods, and the obsession that was many-a-teenagers only reason to be alive. The guitars are killing in this track, masterful and perfectly mixed.
Sebrina, Paste and Plato
Here we have a taste of the sense of Jellyfish's irony and humor with Sebrina, Paste and Plato. A sweet look into a classroom with a boy-meets-girl scenario, all the while trying to escape the pratfalls of the other students eating paste, being kids. Sonically, it's a journey into deep musicality, recalling production and choices similar to other Power-Pop giants, XTC. The sense of whimsy and youth is undeniable with the almost circus vibe that flows right into the beauty of harmonic flow.
New Mistake & The Glutton Of Sympathy
These two tracks share a common value in that they shed a light on one's personal journey into themselves. Each song holds dear musical moments, tender and toothsome. The lyrical content is so descriptive that you are pulled in at just the right moment to flow with the song. The rhythm section particularly moves my ears in these tracks. The sounds of both the drums and bass are incredible --- rich and full yet warm in a "tracked to tape" way, or at least in the way that every musician describes that idea. Of course, the music was in fact tracked to tape with every expensive and labor intensive inch of that plastic mojo.
All Is Forgiven
Quite possibly my favorite track on "Spilt Milk", All Is Forgiven is a song unlike any other on the album and unlike any other song, period. Clocking in just over four minutes, some of the heaviest rock guitar moments live here. The Queen-esque harmonies flow in and out of the fuzzed out guitars during this rough and tumble excursion. The production commands your senses and attention with quick stops of full silence and rich harmonies that act like the striking poses of a hard edged string quartet, this is music for the elemental mind and it rocks hard. The song reaches it's critical mass and flows out from the madness into a rhythmic outro that brings back the initial verse lyrics and it's just so good. Here are those lyrics:
heal me darling
pleaded the playboy bedroom eyes
grace your sunshine till everyithing's ok, alright, fine
truth and avarice
encircle his words like a barberpole
twisted and useless till they disappear in her camisole
all is forgiven