It’s been a while since I’ve gotten really into an album, but Tool’s new 10,000 Days seems to have broken that trend. I’ve been listening to it almost nonstop for about a month now, and I’m still picking it apart. As I mentioned the other day, I have some odd musical tastes:
…I usually only listen to the music (as opposed to paying attention to the lyrics). When the music is interesting enough to me, I’ll eventually get around to the lyrics. Sometimes, I’m pleased, other times I find out I’m listening to German anarchists. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.
As such, I think I generally approach music in a different way than most people. One other thing to note is that when it comes to music, I have next to no technical knowledge. Tune, chords, notes, I have a general idea of what these things are, but I’m no musician. I treat music much more subjectively than I treat movies or books; I just know what I like to hear, and that’s about it. So here are my thoughts for each song on this album:
- Vicarious: An excellent song, perhaps my favorite on the album. It provides an interesting transition from Lateralus (Tool’s last album) to this album. It seems to share some of the musical themes of Lateralus, though only in a subtle way. I generally find myself attracted to songs that have an interesting structure. Longer songs tend to fit this bill – there’s more time to fill and most good songs don’t just keep repeating the same thing over and over again for too long, so there needs to be some interesting transitions, etc… Vicarious does a pretty good job at this for being a medium length (7:08) song. Maynard’s singing approaches a whisper at some points in this song, but while that initially struck me as odd, I find that working pretty well at this point. One thing I like is when music actually builds towards the ending, and this song certainly does so, especially in the last chorus.
- Jambi: This song continues the transition from Vicarious to the rest of the album. A little more repetitive than the other songs, especially with respect to the guitar work, but it has its moments. It’s another medium length song, though its structure isn’t as interesting as Vicarious’. Still, it’s a decent enough song.
- Wings for Marie (pt 1): The best of the slower, moodier songs on the album. At this point in the album, the sound has shifted enough that it no longer feels like I’m listening to a continuation of Lateralus. One of the things Tool does a lot is insert these little interludes between songs. They’re nice the first time you listen to the album, but after a while, they’re just tracks that you skip. At a little over six minutes long, this song hardly qualifies as an interlude, and it’s got enough substance to hold my attention, but I have a feeling it will be overshadowed by the next song (sort of how Parabol is overshadowed by Parabola on Lateralus).
- 10,000 Days (Wings pt 2): One of the longest songs on the album (11:15), I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I fully appreciate this song’s structure. However, I enjoy the way it starts and gradually gets more and more involved (the thunderstorm that underlies the song is well done and evocative). On any album that I love, I find that I’ll start out loving and listening to a bunch of songs, usually skipping past various others on the album in favor of the ones I like most. But then I sorta rediscover the songs I used to skip over. I think this will be one of my rediscoveries in a few months…
- The Pot: Perhaps the most commercially viable song on this album, it’s also pretty darn good. It’s the shortest of the non-moody songs on the album (6:34), with a pretty interesting structure and a few good moments. As Kaedrin reader DyRE notes, this song has a certain playfulness about it which kinda breaks the mood of the preceding songs rather abruptly, but I still think it works just fine. Maynard’s voice isn’t as distorted or washed out here as it is in several of the other songs, and it really gives the song a different feel.
- Lipan Conjuring: One of the aforementioned intermission type songs, there’s not much to say about this one.
- Lost Keys (Blame Hoffman): – Another slow, moody piece. It features a dialogue between a nurse and a doctor talking about a patient. I’m not sure if this is sampled from a movie or anything, but it appears that my refusal to acknowledge lyrics includes stuff l ike this. Perhaps a future rediscovery, but I think this one will eventually fall off the playlist in favor of the faster songs…
- Rosetta Stoned: Only a few seconds shorter than 10,000 Days, this is one of the longest songs on the album (11:13). I either haven’t had enough time to digest the structure of this song, or its pacing is a bit off. A really good long song is difficult, so I guess some misfires are to be expected. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten to like this song more as I’ve listened to it more, so I think it just means I’m still working through the structure. There are a certainly a few shining minutes in this song that are really, truly awesome. One is about two thirds of the way in, when things slow down a bit and the percussion switches gears. The song sort of jams on that for a little while, then starts building to a crescendo where the music kicks in a little and Maynard starts singing his lines. It’s an awesome moment, and it goes on for about a minute which is great (usually songs that reach such a point peter out really quickly). Yeah, so even if it seems a bit off in the beginning, that part around 8 minutes in really makes up for it (and then some).
Also, there’s a part in this song that really sounds a lot like Third Eye. And I think there’s another part in the song that sounds a bit like the Grudge (I think it’s on this song, but it also sort of sounds like this elsewhere on 10,000 days). I’ll obviously have to listen more, but I can here various pieces of their previous work here. I don’t want to give the impression that this song is basically a carbon copy of their previous work though. It’s very distinct, but it’s interesting to hear familiar notes from time to time.
- Intension: Another moody segue piece. Haven’t listened to this much, so it might make an interesting rediscovery. Somewhat reminiscent of the song Disposition, from Lateralus.
- Right in Two: Another great song that starts a little slow and builds until they’re really going at it. Great stuff here. Once again, I think I noticed some themes from previous Tool albums peeing out in this song, though again, this isn’t a bad thing. One thing I need to mention, but haven’t yet is that the drummer for Tool, Danny Carey, is absolutely incredible (in this song, but also in all of the others). He has a very intricate style, often incorporating other percussive techniques (like tabla) and seamlessly lapsing into a sort of controlled chaos that’s almost uncanny. It’s also nice to hear a drummer that doesn’t appear to be influenced at all by hip-hop (i.e. no Amen Breaks to be found here).
- Viginti Tres: – Yet another moody piece that I probably won’t listen to very much.
From a structural standpoint, it’s a very dense album, and I can tell that I’m still going to be picking it apart a few months from now. It’s also quite a strange album. Almost all of the songs are extremely long, with some having a very convoluted arrangement. This might make the album less accessible to some. DyRE tells me that the lyrics are more personal and that the album has a generally non-uplifting tone, which is something that will probably turn me off once I get around to looking at the lyrics (I’m in no hurry to do so at this point, especially knowing that). Overall, I’m quite happy with the album, though I don’t know if I’d place it above their best album, �nima. I think it says something that I wasn’t disappointed even though it’s been 5 years since their last album though.