I didn't care very much for eighth blackbird's Lonely Motel album; I thought the album of Steven Mackey's music sounded like bad pop music. Other people obviously liked the album better than I did, as it picked up a Grammy.
The latest eighth blackbird album, Meanwhile, is an effort more in keeping with most of their other albums: A collection of compositions by various top modern composers.
Meanwhile won a Grammy, too, for best chamber performance, and composer Stephen Hartke picked up a Grammy for best classical composition for the title track, "Meanwhile: Incidental music to imaginary puppet plays," and in this case I agree with the Grammy voters: I thought Hartke's piece was clearly the standout on the album. The collection of short pieces sounds like an accompaniment for the puppet plays in science fiction writer Jack Vance's classic novel, Emphyrio. It sounds like nothing I've heard on any other recent album.
The rest of the album also is strong, with stylistically different pieces from the likes of Missy Mazzoli, Philip Glass, Roshanne Etezady and Philippe Hurel. The only piece I couldn't make sense of after repeatedly listening to the CD was Thomas Ades' "Catch." The booklet says the performance of the piece features "an elaborate choreography for the clarinetist, who in performance dashes across the stage, dances around the piano, keens from afar and, rejected for the last time, sits in his onstage chair for the very first time just as the final notes are played ... " Maybe it is easier to grasp if you can see the performance.