Porcupine Tree: an 8 Album Review

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You might have noticed that there have been plenty of book reviews going up throughout August, but no album reviews. That’s because in August I decided to try listening to a band the entire month and then doing a review on all the albums at the end of the month, naming my number 1. This, my friends, was super tough because the first band I decided to try this with was: Porcupine Tree.

It wasn’t tough because I didn’t have enough to listen to for the entire month. In total I have 8 Porcupine Tree albums. This was super tough to do because every Porcupine Tree album is just… utterly amazing! And you all know how hard it is to pick your favorite album when every album has such beautiful and thought provoking music and lyrics that you can’t get enough. Seriously, every time I listened to one of these albums I would find something new about each of them to like. So I did my best.

This is how my thought process worked. I went through each album after a month of listening and tallied up how many songs I loved with a passion from each album. I couldn’t go completely by this method, though, because there would obviously be ties, first off, and then some of the albums were way longer than other ones so it wouldn’t be really fair to do it that way. So I compared them to each other, chose which songs I would listen to over others and this is what I came up with:

#8 Signify (2 disc bonus)

Songs loved: 11/22

I feel kind of bad opening this count down with “Signify”. It’s an awesome album, and I love the opening and closing recordings. Totally shows the creative side of Steven Wilson (although you could definitely say that about every album in one way or another). I think this album mostly came in at number 8 because of the large amount of instrumental songs on it. Don’t get me wrong, the instrumentals are beautifully done, but (as I will mention several times) if the music doesn’t catch me enough, instrumentals do nothing for me. Tell me a story and I’ll be captivated for hours listening over and over, trying to decode it. With instrumentals there’s nothing to decode. Sure, in a way music could tell a story, but I want to hear the story told, not interpret what the story is from chords. (As a writer, you have no idea how odd it was for me to type that sentence…)

Favorite song: “Wake as Gun I” I’m a fan of the obscure, and nothing gets more obscure than “Man wakes up as a gun, and doesn’t get the joke”.

Least favorite song: “Pagan”

Grade: B

#7 Recordings

Songs loved: 5/9

This is an album I got earlier in the summer, and I do not regret it, even though it is in the number 7 spot. It’s more of a compilation album of extended songs from different albums, which is pretty awesome. The one I know the best is “Even Less [#]” because I own “Stupid Dream”, and I love the extended version. I wish that the entire thing wasn’t broken into two parts on two different CDs because together it is amazing. “Access Denied [#]” and “Buying New Soul [#]” are two other songs that are just amazing. Completely different, “Buying New Soul” is slow and peaceful, while the music in “Access Denied [#]” always has be bobbing my head. But the contrast of the two songs shows that the entire album has a little bit for every mood.

Favorite song: “Even Less [#]” I loved the song on “Stupid Dream” and love the extended version even more.

Least favorite song: “Cure for Optimism”

Grade: B

#6 The Incident

Songs loved: 10/18

When I started this project I immediately thought this album was going to be number 8. I don’t know why I didn’t like it, I just didn’t. Since my Zune puts every album inorder by the year released, this album would always come on first if I decided to listen right through everything. “Occam’s Razor” was like the bane of my existence every time I put the albums on shuffle because it would be the first song that played. Yea, it’s like 2 minutes long, and very simple, but I just didn’t like it.

Then I made myself sit down and really listen to it. And that’s when I realized, “Hey I really do like this album.” After I got passed “Occam’s Razor” (and finally came to term’s with it), the overall album is very well done. It’s two discs, which is pretty cool, and the music really isn’t that different from all the other albums, which isn’t a bad thing. Most people would think that would get monotonous, but every song has it’s own piece of something that sets it apart from everything else. It’s something you’ll have to experience through listening yourself!

Favorite song: There are so many catchy songs on this album, which made it very hard to choose my number 1 favorite. But in the end I chose: “I Drive the Hearse” A slow piece, I think, artistically, it is very well done. I love the lyrics, depressing as they may be, and although the music is a little simple compared to other songs, simplicity wins in this battle. It’s a nice song to just lay and let this song wash over you and to decode.

Least favorite song: As many songs as there are that I like, there were almost as many that I didn’t like as much. The song I like least from this album, though, is: “The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train”

Grade: B+

#5 In Absentia

Songs loved: 7/12

This album was definitely a flip-flop with me for this decision. It fought for a while with “The Incident” but only won out in the end because it has “Heartattack in a Lay By” and “Trains” on it (two of my all time favorite Porcupine Tree songs). It has a lot more songs on it that I like than I would expect, especially since I only just recently received the entire album. When me and my boyfriend first started dating, he would make me a bunch of mix cds, which is how I got half of the album originally. I didn’t know I didn’t have the entire album because I didn’t listen to it that often. But earlier in the summer we listened to it in the car and I realized there were a bunch of songs I didn’t know and I never heard. I acquired the rest of the album and immediately fell in love with “Blackest Eyes” “The sound of Muzak” and “The Creator Has a Mastertape” first for the music, and then for the lyrics. I didn’t even know how many songs there actually were on this album that I loved until I went through each song individually.

Favorite song: Hands down: “Heartattack in a Lay By” This song has always been one of my favorites, but it won extra points when I read an interview with Steven Wilson where he talks about this song and what it’s about, and it just blew my mind. It’s obvious what it’s about when you read the lyrics, but just the way he explained it just gave it so much more meaning for me. Just one of the reasons why I think Steven Wilson is a music genius.

Least favorite song: “Wedding Nails” Could be because it’s instrumental, could be something else. I don’t really know. This song just doesn’t feed my eardrums the way the other songs do. (And trust me, I have no idea why I’m not usually partial to instrumentals. I think it’s because I love to analyze lyrics and I love it when songs tell stories, so with lack of lyrics it takes something away.)

Grade: A

#4 Stupid Dream

Songs loved: 8/12

I received this album from my boyfriend as a birthday present. I picked it out, and chose it out of all the other Porcupine Tree albums because of “A Smart Kid”. I just loved the calmness of the music, and as I listened to the rest of the album, found the same fondness for it all. “Stupid Dream” is definitely a nice relaxing album. Songs such as “Even Less” and “Pure Narcotic” are inspiring and thought provoking with their lyrics. It also has a few instrumental songs, and, although I’m not a super big fan of instrumentals, these are nice to listen to and transition really well into the next song you can barely tell where one ends and one begins.

Favorite song: “A Smart Kid” First song I ever heard from this album. “Even Less” is a close second!

Least favorite song: “Tinto Brass” Steven Wilson is known for his crazy, but totally awesome, music. This one, I think, is just a bit too much for me when compared to the rest of the feel of the album.

Grade: A

#3 Fear of a Blank Planet

Songs loved: 5/6

“Fear of a Blank Planet” kind of surprised me cause it’s an album that took me such a long time to get into. I think it’s because it has a lot more longer songs on it than the other albums.

I ended up getting into this album a lot because I acquired so many Porcupine Tree albums so fast that I would just throw them all on shuffle. “Anesthetize” was the first song that really caught my attention. It was long, but at the same time it has so many transitions that it really feels like 3-4 songs in one. In particular, the lines “We’re lost in the mall, shuffling through the stores like zombies. But what is the point? What can money buy?” caught my attention, dragging me into listening to the entire album straight through. The song “Fear of a Blank Planet” also caught my attention because the music is pretty similar (although not exact) to “Anesthetize” and from there on I just grew to love it more and more, giving it the number 3 spot!

Favorite song: This was almost a tie between “Fear of a Blank Planet” and “Anesthetize” but “Anesthetize” won because it was the first song I loved on this album and the music is just epic!

Least favorite song: “Way Out of Here” I just don’t feel like it has the same “oomph” as the other pieces, but it’s still a song I enjoy to listen to.

Grade: A+

#2 Lightbulb Sun

Songs loved: 9/10

As I was going through the songs for this, I thought, “Oh god, this is going to be a tough call!”

I seriously thought “Lightbulb Sun” was going to steal the number 1 spot, but it didn’t. And here’s why:

While I love all but one song on this album, and have spent hours with it on repeat, it doesn’t keep me as captivated as the number 1 song.

Don’t get me wrong. “Lightbulb Sun” opens perfectly with the song “Lightbulb Sun” and goes gracefully into “How Is Your Life Today?” (one of my favorites) and just keeps going on amazingly from there. The music is unique (which can be said about a lot of albums by Steven Wilson) and very catchy, along with the lyrics. But the other reason why it was sent to the number 2 spot is that halfway through I guess the songs stopped being as interesting to my ear as the first half. I still absolutely love the songs, but if I can’t tell what song it is and if I like it or not within the first chord, you know that my ears stopped paying attention at some point.

Favorite song: Hands down: “Feel So Low” Slow song, and kind of depressing, but amazing all the same.

Least favorite song: “Hatesong” I’m just not as into it as all the others.

Grade: A+

#1 Deadwing

Songs loved: 10/10

I knew from the beginning of the month that this album was going to be number 1, so, in a way, all the other albums never had a chance. I want to say Deadwing was the first Porcupine Tree album I ever had, but I don’t really remember because I got it so long ago. And at first, in the days before I knew just how awesome Porcupine Tree was, I barely listened to it. Then one day I decided I would. Then I asked myself what took me so long!

“Deadwing” has everything you that’s needed in an album. It’s a combination of fast and slow songs and even dancey songs. Yes, I said it. Dancey. You cannot tell me that you put on “Halo” and don’t want to jump up as soon as the chorus comes on. Overall, I think my favorite part about this album are the lyrics. Heck, I say that about EVERY Porcupine Tree album, because it’s the truth. In particular, it is the most true about this album.

Favorite song: Although I love every song on this album, I DO have a favorite. “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here” was the first song I liked on this album. The lyrics have always impressed me and left an impression. It’s a song that I listen to when I’m in a philosophical mood (which is a lot more than people would think).

Least favorite song: None.

Grade: A+++

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