* “I walk through the hallways inside my mind.” – Phish
214 Aloha – Here Comes Everyone
“We Belong Here” is rudimentary pop for the ages, and “Boys in the Bathtub” is a trippy glass of eggnog with extra sugar. These boys, or Tony Cavallario, were really gettin’ their hands sticky all over this album, but “Water Your Hands” might be the most impressive, a haunting piano post-ballad about loneliness and existentialism in a Roy Rogers.
213 Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks
Ah, a simple twist of fate. Sometimes so much comes down to just that. So obviously the aspect of heroics at work here is to remain so whimsical, and not forget that your vocabulary contains the word “honeybaby.” Here’s to calling a spade a spade.
212 Born Ruffians – Birthmarks
This is one of those invincible bands of young guys, who seem to have a deep grasp of music, things like unorthodoxies of phrasing and instrumentation going to tow the glory, but also the idea that having fun is what you have to do, otherwise nothing else is worth it. “Ocean’s Deep” is the “Float on” of the 2010’s.
211 Talking Heads – Speaking in Tongues
One time I had this one friend over and we were looking all over my hard drive, I was like, This Talking Heads album’s pretty solid, and he was like, Yeah, like EVERY SONG’S THE SH**!, as if it should have been obvious. A lot was culled from this album for the live LP Stop Making Sense, which is also the Tom Tom Club’s primary shining moment.
210 Blackalicous – Nia
Per this list, Blackalicious qualifies as my favorite all-time west coast hip-hop act. Groovy. But they don’t seem the types to give a damn — about my list, sure, but about their geographical region, either. There’s neither an inferiority nor a superiority complex, it’s just cosmic guidance all over them, it’s just knowing what you have to do and doing it. Fat guy in a big ol’ genre.
209 Rapeman – Two Nuns and a Pack Mule
It’s exceedingly hard to feel bad about yourself after listening to Two Nuns and a Pack Mule. The stuff really god damn sets you free. The cover of the ZZ Top song “Just Got Paid” (which I think THEY might have been covering, themselves, though I’m not sure) is a breakthrough, but the one that’ll stick with you is the wild, vindictive ride of “Trouser Minnow” and it’s homicidally simple riff.
208 Radiohead – Kid A
Man, ya know, I recently tried to listen to the studio version of “Everything in its Right Place” and I just kind of regurgitated the whole thing. I dunno, something about it just didn’t seem right. The situation was compounded when I searched on youtube for live performances of it and the damned audience was clapping to it at Reading. “How to Disappear Completely” is a nice qualifier though.
207 Weezer – Maladroit
There’s something just so chin-raised and pesky about this album. They turned it around something like 11 months after Weezer (2001). It got a lot of press, but at the same time, to me, it affirmed Brian Bell’s comment that “We’re really a lot weirder and more talented than most people realize.” Indeed, songs like “Dope Nose” and the lazy, eerie crooner “Death and Destruction” seem more than a little tongue-in-cheek, and “Slob” is a nice benign middle finger to the man. You know, the type you can exhibit at work.
206 Four Tet – There is Love in You
This trip is almost like two albums in one, because once you get to “Circling,” it’s a bit disorienting, though you realize that Kieran Hebdan is a lot more patient than you thought, which is what the song’s about, giving way to the climactic “This Unfolds,” the beautiful centerpiece, perfect for driving through any town or city on a winter Saturday. Where oboe and synth marry and turn to gilded resin on the snowy ground.
205 John Talabot – fIN
2012‘s fIN marks a turning point for the Spanish producer, not just because it’s his first full-length album, but because on it, the music is more confident, restrained and balanced than it was on his prior singles. Since fIN, he’s gained much critical acclaim and notoriety, as well as the invitation to mix a DJ-Kicks LP, and, as my year-end polls from the last two years indicate, I currently consider him the best musician on the planet, spawning out resonant house music that says, You! Turn into a jellyfish!
204 Hot Chip – The Warning
2005’s Coming on Strong did just that, but The Warning embodies the monstrous achievement of being computerized music that endears itself to a warm heart of a human, and takes the shape of a familiar companion.
203 Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream
Billy Corgan’s best work was a functional spectrum of expression and strength. There’s something only we Midwesterners can understand, a certain loneliness, when you’re by the lake and everyone is working, always working, you need someone to step out and say “I wanna turn you on,” and say “I betray myself to anyone,” and of course, dub 27 guitar tracks over one another on “Today” for a wall of sound early ’90’s style.
202 Pearl Jam – Yield
How’s my friend gonna pick “No Way” as his favorite cut? Dude’s a dude-lube, man, he’s a wicked man-scaper. Just kidding, but I dunno how you ignore “Faithfull,” which builds to a glorious climax in the chorus of basic major chords and 100 tons of good old American bacon-grease guts. “In Hiding,” “Do the Evolution” and, among many more, “Wishlist,” which this Hispanic dude whose house I looked at in Cicero named as his favorite, are more new-man’s nostalgia.
201 Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
The fact that “music fans” even remotely requested a subsequent album to this from Brian Wilson, to say nothing of demanding one, shows that the exchange of music is a capitalistic quagmire. No further statement was needed: Pet Sounds is a sovereign, self-enflaming walk through the tumultuous mind of an amorous, fearing individual who just feels things too intensely and loves rock and roll too much to be trendy about it.
200 The Breeders – The Pod
In spite of Steve Albini, this album is still pretty good, on the very kinetic energy of Kim Deal’s songs themselves. They’re the types of songs (“When I Was a Painter,” “Opened”) that make you wonder why Deal would opt to put a pointless cover of “Happiness is a Warm Gun” on the album. Makes you wish for a BBC Sessions, which Beach House should do too, if only to get away from Sub Pop.
199 The Roots – Rising Down
Yeah, The Roots pretty much tear it up on this one. Black Thought is still very much giving the middle finger to the pop world, juxtaposing an a capella freestyle track next to one on which he uses the “n” word something like 20 times. Peedi Peedi steals the show on “Get Busy” though, one of the finest hip-hop tracks of of the decade: “You’re used to the 1-2 check / Not the 1-2 step… ”
198 Ghostface Killah – Twelve Reasons to Die “The Brown Tape”
J. Cole, this is your textbook. Drake, this is your textbook. Earl Sweatshirt, this is your textbook. Big Sean, this is your textbook. With some faith in the edict that hypnotic emceeing can be taught. Ghost bounds all over these flashy, tough beats like an athlete, like a football player in training camp sifting through those rows of ropes. And that’s what he’s doing, he’s training for when he’s really gettin’ busy. And that’s what we love about him.
197 The National – Boxer
The National, like U2 when they’re at their best, are one of those bands that seems to come from some celestial body itself, so that when someone tells you they’re actually from New York, you say, uh-uh.
196 R.E.M. – Reckoning
I still remember when I purchased a CD copy of Reckoning new for like $7.99 at this store out in Colorado, the employee there gave me the funniest little smile. That’s the kind of album this is, incredibly innocent. Throw in the allure of Malkmus “name-check”-ing it on “Unseen Power of the Picket Fence,” and you’ve got an indie nerd’s wet dream. “Letter Never Sent” is a track that never seems to get its due props.
195 GZA – Legend of the Liquid Sword
“Fam (Members Only)” is a perfect hip-hop song: it guides the listener through a mental journey of all the world’s chronology and geography, to be culminated at a stoned basement songwriting get-together. Oh yeah, and GZA disses the label.
194 The Beatles – Let it Be… Naked
Not that the original Let it Be really needed fixing aside from adding “Don’t Let Me Down.” It’s funny, I still remember driving my prom date back from this lake cottage one time, or trying to, and getting totally lost, and having “Two of Us” repeating over and over on this 90-minute mixtape (yes, cassette) in my car: “Two of us burning matches / Lifting latches / On our way back home / We’re on our way home / We’re going home.”
193 Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica
A surreal juxtaposition of jazzy fu**ed-blues and prose poetry, Trout Mask Replica occupies what seems to be the outer reaches of music’s ability to amuse. This type of music WOULD have become punk rock if it were easier to emulate.
192 Aloha – Some Echoes
Good as it is, Some Echoes is also heartbreaking. The feeling of irreversible heartbreak and sacrifice is palpable here. But the project stays remonstrative and mysterious in its own way, with an uncomfortable two-minute buffer flanking genre-dousing opener “Brace Your Face” and epic single “Your Eyes.” 3/4 ballad “Ice Storming” is the most meaningful and memorable though, with the possible exception of the naturally resigning “If I Lie Down.”
191 Handsome Boy Modeling School – So… How’s Your Girl?
Handsome Boy modeling school came in with So… How’s Your Girl? in 1999 and really set the bar for artists taking hip-hop music seriously. In this age of vaudeville stupid-human-trick rappers, producers Prince Paul and Dan the Automator brought the focus back to the beats and the music itself, and How’s Your Girl is too legit to even hug the hip-hop curb too closely, adding in some neo-soul (“Truth”) to high esteem.
190 Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Yanqui U.X.O.
This is the light, blithe Godspeed album, which I like a little better than Lift Yr. Skinny Wrists Like Antennas to the Heavens, a music lover’s Godspeed album. The strains are orchestral and manageable, memorable, and the focus is kept solely on them, the band leaving the soggy territory of political statement to those of dour muse. Aw, poo-poo.
189 John Prine – Aimless Love (Oh Boy)
I grew up on “Only Love,” and it’s like a time travel every time I hear it. You can count on this guy to be in a spiritually enlightened place, all from his bare-bones folk medium, and the grass hut he crafts for you will always feel cozy, just right.
188 Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy
Growing up we had this jam band Umphrey’s McGee playing here in my town. It was pretty sweet, they used to play free shows, and their music definitely got ingrained in all of our psyches, to the point where its mixture of hip-hop and riffy prog still soundtracks crisply the bus rides along the river. But my favorite song they ever played is still their cover of “The Song Remains the Same.”
187 Beastie Boys – To the 5 Boroughs
It was pandemonium, Hell’s Angels type stuff when my friends chirped in in ’04 saying they didn’t like “Ch-Ch-Check it Out.” I started with a forearm to the face, I proceeded with the elbow drop, and then I poured Brass Monkey on them, all on wet concrete. Ok, it was’t wet, it was summer. I’d cruise around listening to this and The Tipping Point on repeat, but it was “An Open Letter to NYC” that sunk in more than anything else on stoned nights.
186 Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
There are many reasons why this is close to being the perfect music, but one is that it never sits still, but never jumps too raucously either — making it non-resemblant of any known object in the spatial realm. Love the long jamouts and “Lasso” but the real overlooked gem is “Girlfriend,” a bold-faced fun-poke and life and love themselves in crisp, unpredictable, memorable chords.
185 Helmet – Meantime
Meantime is like a white-hot light that shines in your face that you eventually get used to, and which starts fondling and groping your arms with ruthless, revolutionary riffs of rock throughout and through. There’s an astounding multi-song conversation on the last two tracks: “FBLA II” and “Role Model” have the exact same thing going on during late bridges, but the latter’s in the dominant to the former’s tonic. There’s a note for you music theory nerds, and you Helmet nerds.
184 Everclear – So Much for the Afterglow
What is “the afterglow”? It’s that car commercial, that thing that should be in people’s eyes, in the eyes of your parents, as they stare hopelessly down at the bookcase. People diss on the opener to this album. I don’t get it. It’s a journey from fantasy to reality — by no means the best song on the album, but an undeniable affirmation of what the band is — the gritty gook in the cracks between society’s myth. The final prechorus bridge in “Normal Like You” is climactic stuff, and the second verse in “Like a California King” is the best sound of really wanting to fu** someone up since “Then Comes Dudley” by The Jesus Lizard.
183 The Strokes – First Impressions of Earth
Listening to the opener on this album driving around in late March after one of our horrid winters here in northern Indiana is a nice reminder of how music is really the best thing in life. Impressions is just as sacrificing as anything. This song is all the album really needs, but “Juicebox” is a unique gem, and “15 Minutes” is one of the most underrated pop songs in recent history — a paean to that which, with enough faith, could possibly, just maybe, rid us of all the mediocrity in the world.
182 Beach House – Devotion
Raspy, hopeless and perfect. That’s what Devotion is. From the very first pitch of the opener “Wedding Bells,” Victoria Legrand sings like a hopeless girl subsumed in overwhelming situation after overwhelming situation. There’s no lassoing her out of this piqued state — even the wittiness and worldliness of the later Teen Dream would strike me as untoward after this coquettish dirge.
181 Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick
Ian Anderson didn’t need to borrow from Bach for this one, he’s got his own timeless riff, going with his crisply psychedelic chord progression, the whole of which never fails to summon a feeling of the first of spring. Both my parents like Thick as a Brick, but still, even for me, it conjures up a little fear, if only slight: for the sheer magnitude of players and autonomous riffages going on in the album. Art rock, says my dad. It’s art rock.
180 The Rolling Stones – Aftermath
Even though Beggars Banquet has “Sympathy for the Devil” on it, this album just flows much better than that one — nothing is too bombastic, each track is cooperative but scrappy, listenable. Ope, and then comes “Under My Thumb.” Feminists, resume funky appendages flying out of the sides of your necks like a velociraptor.
179 Roy Ayers – Everybody Loves the Sunshine
Sly and the Family Stone gets just disco enough, no soul album was more influential upon hip-hop than Everybody Loves the Sunshine, literally. Not just Brand Nubian but also Common sample the titled track, each to own furthered leaps and bounds. They must have heard something in it; me, I go for this whole danged LP; it makes me feel cultured, for about four seconds, then I just plain forget about all that crap.
178 Nick Drake – Pink Moon
I could sit here and tell about the album Pink Moon, the 33 minutes of music that never goes above about 20 decibels, the most notarized album that’s often mistaken by crotcheties as overrated and having “gone pop,” the final paean by the subdued visionary before he took his own life by way of a pill overdose, but all you really have to do in order to understand this album is look at the face of Amanda Petrusich on the back of It Still Moves. Her contribution to 33 1/3 involved Pink Moon… its introduction is great, and then it all falls apart when she starts trying to describe the album. So fu** it.
177 Wheat – Medeiros
It’s the plangent quality in Scott Levesque’s voice, as well as the band’s defiant, pillared status, earned the hard way in the studio, as lo-fi, that grants this album its prominence. Listening to it, despite its low-key serenity, is always an edgy experience, a great soundtrack to, yes, stoned walks on the railroad tracks, or just plain old cognitive jaunts from paranoia back to the everyday world of pop snobbery.
176 Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Shake the Sheets
I used to know this music snob in college, an incredibly introspective guy with a dry sense of humor — got me into Television, Patti Smith, and a bunch of urban acts like this. I found out about this Ted Leo guy from Rolling Stone, of all places. One day my Shake the Sheets CD comes up missing from off our five-disc stereo, and my roommate tells me Brandon took it. A day later he’s back with it saying, “The guy understands pop structures like no one else on this Earth!” And yeah, it all made sense, in 2004.
175 Clark – Body Riddle
It’s easy to develop a passion for electronica in this day and age, when cell phones and gadgets are less a distraction and more an integral medium for escaping the logician’s concept of impending realities. Chris Clark’s songs are brief and full of personality and anatomical distinctions. If house is the overfed, ad-nauseam burping tactic, this is acid “apartment” — scrappier, more apt to make a name for and recognize itself from among a crowd. See the ambient centerpiece “Herzog,” the novel’s namesake.
174 Eminem – The Eminem Show
The most parodical of ‘nem’s albums, half blowing the house down and half shooting himself in the foot with the bazooka he used to do it, The Eminem Show exhibits Shady’s usual knack for being so riveting within one verse, like say, the last one in “Cleaning out My Closet” or “Square Dance” so as not to need to raise a finger for the rest of the song, or for the songs around it, it’s also full of irony — that “‘Til I Collapse” would actually be his last great song, ever… but hey, nobody’s complaining too much.
173 Fountains of Wayne – Fountains of Wayne
Ah, it was the August and Everything After of times, it was the Third Eye Blind of times. It was the So Much for the Afterglow of times, it was the Weezer of times. It was the In Light Syrup of times, it was the Vitalogy of times. In the ’00’s or teens, the guys from Fountains of Wayne might have been television stars, what with their looks and charisma, but in the ’90’s, a lot of these guys were just swayed to writing timeless pop songs. Not the best, not the worst, just real and tickling, “Sick Day,” “She’s Got a Problem,” unmistakeable hit single “Radiation Vibe” et al ooze from the speakers like Cheez Whiz, and pretty much let you know just what to do, right away, unless you’re like, a narc or somethin’.
172 The Roots – Illadelph Halflife
It was interesting seeing Questlove admit, in his autobiographical book, Mo Meta Blues, that there was a general push to be hard and gangster across the whole rap game and industry, in the mid ’90’s. As the kid on Almost Famous would say, That explains SO much, from the gunshot-drums on “It Just Don’t Stop” to the general stiff-shouldered, type-A dusty stomp of a mood that this album takes that causes it to collect a little more of just that on top of my CD player than a lot of other Roots albums.
171 Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – Real Emotional Trash
On my grave, I want it to say, “Never trust anyone who listens to ‘Real Emotional Trash’ at a reasonable volume.” That’s the titled track on this Jicks album, the product of the recession by a guy who, though probably not in dire straits, had certainly put in his two cents, and who, as he proclaims in one Pavement song, “want(s) an award for starring on this planet.” Trash is full of such ubiquitous off-the-cuff utterances, luckily, my favorite being “Baltimore”’s “Woe is the man with the cheshire cat grin.”
170 No Use for a Name – Leche con Carne
If you get fired from a certain number of jobs, you become a punk guy at heart. I qualify. Of course, I qualified before I ever had a job. You have to really hate jocks, hate repetition, hate people talking to you, you have to pretty much have no respect for anything whatsoever, least of all metal. With more chops than were really invited to the party in the first place, this Cali quartet walks a crisp line of hooks, backing vocals and general destruction, peaking on the blistering kiss-off “Leave You Behind.” Music for walking to.
169 Led Zeppelin – III
This one has the coolest cover by far, it’s like a Frida Kahlo- feminist/Dionysian type thing, very much ahead of its time and worthy every bit of Steely Dan’s zeigeist. Presence is another great cover, very memorable, as is In Through the Out Door, but Presence may be the most poignant because it’s the most foiled, pitting the airtight, tense and model society against the ruthless, exploratory and unforgiving music — the 10-plus minute “Achilles Last Stand” and the aching, perforated “Nobody’s Fault but Mine.” Highlights on III are opener “Immigrant Song,” used to brilliant end in Jack Black’s School of Rock, and penultimate paean to the great outdoors, “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp.”
168 Soul Asylum – Grave Dancer’s Union
There are two forces that can skew an individual’s opinion of an album: MTV and peers. Ok, make that one. But there used to be two, and in 1992 flannel and long hair were still enough to in themselves warrant artistic credibility, hence the monstrous stature of misleading lead single “Runaway Train,” belying in its melodrama and stasis such swivel-chair desk pushoffs like “Without a Trace,” a midtempo wasteland paean, and “April Fool,” a curiously abrasive statement of individuation, excited and streamlined ’90’s style.
167 Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
Man, this album I just bought is pretty good, but it just won’t sit STILL! What a spectrum of expression though, from the referent genius of “Computer Face/Pure Being” to the Dadaist/Bartok dark call of “Arkestry” — it’s like that album that’s so good that it’s like a big brother or sister that always beats you in basketball, and just makes you want to suck at everything just to be rebellious.
166 Green Day – Dookie
I’m a big Green Day fan, but this is the only album of theirs I put on the list, even though, to me, Insomniac might be more fun. I guess it’s the reason WHY it’s more fun, though, that debilitates its progress in passing Dookie — no loud frat boy or ditz ever “rocked out” to “Armatage Shanks” or “Brain Stew,” no yuppy or square ever blasted “Jaded” or “Westbound Sign” in their Volkswagen Golf. I guess I was in an especially self-effacing mood when I made this list.
165 The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy
I grew up with a big sister who was into, you know the Buzzcocks, the Pixies, the Breeders, and even though she didn’t listen to the JAMC, every time I put in Psychocandy I get a sort of sonorous sense of the ideal I got from her — the one that drove me down to IU Bloomington from Notre Dame just because there were more concerts at the former, and the one that grants me the rock and roll piousness to sit through 40 minutes of almost unfathomable distortion all to hear a guy say “There’s something dead inside my hole / In my hole.” Hey, it’s these little checkups in life that count.
164 Morphine – Yes
Ah, witnessing someone’s unmistakeable demise in life. What could be more entertaining? “I run good but I’m hard to start / And my brakes are bad so I’m hard to stop / I found a woman who’s soft but she’s also hard / While I slept she nailed down my heart.” Yeah, man, sounds like what happened to me. It’s almost hilarious, the, as Bukowski would say, “impossibility of being human.” It’s hard to imagine something more sociologically infallible than being the frontman of a band like Morphine, writing these classic songs like “All Your Way” for the whole world to hear, and yet within three years Mark Sandman was dead of a heroin overdose. For some reason my sister thought there was some shrine or something devoted to him in his native Cambridge, MA, so she took me there, and there was nothing there. Nope. Just library CD’s, just audio files.
163 Less than Jake – Borders & Boundaries
This album has been a big help to me the last few years, in my lonely moments. Lead singer Chris Demakes actually has more personality in real life than he lets on in the songs, because sustaining strong vocal performances of gritty, ubiquitous genuineness is his passion, and he’d rather not let anything get in the way of this. Possibly the most hated man in pop culture, he once garnered a middle finger, for apparently no reason, from this dude I worked with, who was actually bragging about it. I’ve written off their albums since this, as, you know, probably sucking. Maybe I should rethink this.
162 The Strokes – Room on Fire
Rarely has an album ever been framed by its predecessor to more of an extent than was the case with Room on Fire, The Strokes’ second album. The band was so accomplished by this time that it seems like I should be an uninformed jackass by calling it their “second,” like the way a bunch of jackasses thought Good News for People Who Love Bad News was the first Modest Mouse album. But it actually is just their second, which made it all the more exciting seeing them live — an act truly in their prime, the center of fully warranted attention and zeitgeist, 2003.
161 Sonic Youth – Murray Street
Sonic Youth’s one of those bands that rubbed me the wrong way and made me a little uneasy when I was young, sort of like Prince, but this is the sign of a true grower. Also, it’s possible that I just heard the wrong stuff. Murray Street is nice because it’s just a band settling into its own, not trying to be too noisy or too political, just delivering to us what we know that they know that we need — constantly morphing grooves. Also, Kim Gordon is still getting weird on it, on the sonic threshold tweaker “Plastic Sun.”
160 The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning Strike
Pop instrumentals. Ugh. What’s the POINT? Where’s the melodrama, the ballooning out of proportion of our corporeal, sensation-laden lives, the menial aspects of which we escape by being drama queens and jock oafs? This is the music lover’s pop album, “Friendship Update” ushering in the glory of a highway exit ramp or Subway restaurant like only, ironically, the Brits seem to be able to do.
159 Oxford Collapse – Bits
An album full of classic songs. You’d think something like this would change the world. Or maybe it did, and you got to nirvana, and euphoria was boring, so you threw yourself back under a diesel-fueled bus, you went back for the “steady slow decline,” as is articulated by the staggering loser anthem “Young Love Delivers.” Also, this band was insanely funny: “Full of luster / Filibustering until the sun comes up,” “Sometimes second cousins won’t follow you home again,” and these lines are even funnier if you hear how Michael Pace sings them.
158 The Jesus Lizard – Goat
I had Liar #155 and Goat #144, but I switched around, and I’m not really sure why. In fact, I’m not sure why I’m not running around outside yelling, dumping green paint all over myself, dry humping various golden retrievers and boxers, impaling and sodomizing myself on the nearest stone riverside structures, running into the grocery store and dumping milk on myself while singing “Polly Wolly Doodle.” It’s certainly not for being at home and writing about the Jesus Lizard album Goat, that’s for sure.
157 Steve Earle – El Corazon
It’s a seamless ride that spites folk music, it’s a 12-song album that could all play in a Barne’s & Noble, or cozy you up on a lonely drunken night. It’s also great for summer. If this northern gringo were to make any elucidation of the title, it’s say that it’s expressly about the “heart” “land,” as geography plays a more than prominent role in the lyrics’ themes, from “Tannytown,” to “Fort Worth Blues,” to “Telephone Road,” which is I guess a fictitious place, but in which song Earle summons his best guileless good-old-boy: “I guess Houston’s ‘bout as big as a city can get.” Yeah, Earle, good act.
156 The Who – Who’s Next
The Who had a knack for releasing great singles, like the Stones, more so than great albums, at least before Tommy, but Who’s Next marks the breakthrough where they directed themselves into lockstep with the gargantuan expectations of the LP, them being the most gargantuan of all. The track list more than speaks for itself, but invigoratingly, album tracks like “Love Ain’t for Keeping” erect a canopy of folky reassurance a la early Floyd, more so than any metallic commercial sheen. We wouldn’t want that.
155 Led Zeppelin – IV
I don’t feel like writing a poem right now. I feel like writing about Led Zeppelin IV. The problem is, it’s sort of unruly beast. We’re still actually trying to figure out just what it is, sort of like that cheese that’s inside Ritz Bitz. Either way, it is the gift that keeps on giving, and John Bonham was the best drummer of all time, even though, as my friend ironically pointed out, the sound does get a little better on Physical Graffiti. Hmm. The underdog tracks here are more like an old Ford that barely starts, and sputters, spewing and belching, but more than anything else, irreversibly making their presence known.
154 RZA – RZA as Bobby Digital
It’s pretty much just ‘cause of “Lab Drunk” that I like this album, well, that and that O.D.B. track where he’s goin’ all nuts at the start, he’s like, “Tell these mother fu**ers something’… You think we don’t love you motherfu**ers! We LOVE you motherfu**ers! So it’s basically a good album because of the hilarious parts, like where Method Man is like, “‘Til the midnight / Butt naked with a knife / Ask my A-alikes I been crazy all my life,” and then in “Lab Drunk” RZA’s like “Tell me have you ever felt a sunshine breeze / Stumble into the lab half drunk honey-dipped stinkin’ blunts smellin’ like I ran over a skunk / Bird’s poppin’ junk it must be that time of the month / But fu** it I gotta get the verse from my lungs.” RZA made better beats on The W.
153 Guided by Voices – Bee Thousand
What to COMPARE this album to? I’ve got Last Splash, by GBV’s Dayton mates The Breeders a little higher, up in the 130’s. I ALMOST like last Splash better than Pod just in spite of Steve Albini, but not quite, I’m actually too much of a fan of “Do You Love Me Now?” It’s nice not to have to talk about the Pixies, at least just yet, whose Black Francis shut down the band in 1991 by saying to The Breeders’ Kim Deal, “We’re having a sabbatical.” When Deal asked how long it was going to last, Francis responded, “I believe a sabbatical is one year,” and walked off. Also, the reason The Breeders were all women is because men wouldn’t let them play in bands in Dayton. Oh yeah, and Bob Pollard farted out some catchy lo-fi tunes with intriguing pop art titles.
152 Stone Temple Pilots – Tiny Music (Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop)
This is great music for when you’re trying to reacquaint with an old friend, trying to reach a common societal ground on which to connect and agree. I still remember the liner notes for Core, in which Scott Weiland is going on this diatribe in an ironic embedded persona about technology taking over the world — he was deeper and more insightful than a lot of people gave him credit for, and always seemed to put feeling and originality first.
151 Abe Vigoda – Skeleton
Pure LA on wax.
150 R.E.M. – Green
“A CLASSIC!” and I quoth this Denver record store worker at Twist and Shout, voted second best record store in the nation by Rolling Stone, and I believe it. Sometimes great things are defined by what they lack, rather than what they contain. Like with me, writing these blurbs in this list, I try to make everything colorful. But with R.E.M. on droll, minimalistic albums like this, it’s almost like they didn’t even TRY, they were just transposing some ancient psychedelic script on modern wax. My ingenious sister once remarked to me that she had a slight distaste for Green because of the excessive treble sound on heartfelt wailers like “You are the Everything.” I guess they’re for people who need them.
149 Don Caballero – What Burns Never Returns
I recently shared the opener to this song from youtube on facebook, and my comment was, “For some odd reason, this isn’t the most popular band on Earth.” If nothing else, from Pittsburgh, they’re quintessentially rust belt and working-class — part jam band and part hard rock, with big booming drums courtesy of the great Damon Che, album the pride of the now defunct Touch and Go Records of Chicago, which gave us The Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid, Rapeman, Man or Astroman?, Boys Against Girls, etc…. and the Dons might be the best of all of them.
148 The Jesus Lizard – Liar
A little more expansive than Goat, and stylistically variant from track to track, also with a way better level of production volume, so that you don’t have to turn your walkman up to freakin’ 11, Liar seems to belie, appropriately enough, the band’s ability to deliver the perfect Chicago rock song, showcasing instead a penchant for tiptoeing around such things, painting uniquenesses all across the canvas, for the purpose of making an album whose songs play nice with each other, if not with your ear drums.
147 Radiohead – Pablo Honey
It’s funny, I knew I enjoyed this album, but I was just trying to THINK of the damn thing… I remembered “How Do You?” and “Ripcord,” but I was like, What the hell was track 02 again? Oh yeah, “Creep.” I have no idea whether I like this song or not, and probably never will, but I have a feeling I really like it, probably at least as much as The Offspring’s “Come Out and Play,” and probably for damn effing similar reasons. The album equivalent of a Loch Ness-caliber alt-rock beast BEGINNING to wake from its slumber, just enough so that you hear it start to drool so you can go running, Radiohead basically cake-walk through this one, and still make easily one of the top five rock albums of the year.
146 Annuals – Be He Me
Astounding songs here beam from Raleigh, NC on the type of record that seems almost impossible to follow up. Bonaroo should have just made these guys the poster boys of the 2007 festival once “Complete or Completing” was out, solving the riddle of psychedelia like an indie-pop MacGiver, and leaving just enough nonsense and gibberish in there to make known they’re not spies, they’re not studied, they’re just hurting. Then, no steady-handed blueprint of harmony and gratitude amidst urban madness could sound goofier than “Carry Around,” and that’s why this album’s on this list.
145 The Internet – Purple Naked Ladies
Sometimes music comes around, when it needs to, that shuts people up. It gets people out of talking about genres, about who’s the best, and reminds us that we’re all shining, and that every moment is really too infinite to be waylaid for the sake of classification, because, chances are, if you’re truly paying attention to this world, you’ll be constantly changing, and if you live to see the next moment, you’ll be something more beautiful, but more compromised too. This is why Syd the Kyd, my favorite member of Odd Future, crafts a blues effigy into his pinpoint-splitting electro-soul sonic interface. Parse this music? You’d have a better chance of memorizing every skin cell on your hand.
144 Glasser – Ring
The amazing thing about this album, after internalized are the refreshing lightness and the relentless genuineness, is the sequencing — the way the reflective ballads play off the visceral, intense journeys into darkness. As a whole it plays just like an ocean, appropriately enough with Glasser being an L.A. girl, full of ebbs and flows, crests and nadirs, a Beach Boys pop sense the inner cerebellum of the whole thing. On Ring, the textural feel of Emeralds or the more melodic Autechre provide an update on the classic songs we know and love, to form new ones, all about three or four minutes, and all as immediately distinct and intricate as they are welcome and memorable.
143 Kanye West – College Dropout
I remember when Kanye was just a big BUZZ act, like a Young Jeezy or (memory lane here) Yung Joc. Everyone was all, oh, this is so GREAT, and I was just like, eh. I didn’t here the gritty tenacity of Kweli’s flow, or the surreal street-toughness of a Pete Rock in the beats, off the bat. Plus, this “Jesus” thing. Not too sure about this whole operation. I was in a college town, see, a tiny one, yet I still encountered people who said Kanye “wasn’t hood enough.” The fact is, for me, a college student in ’05, he was TOO hood. The world turns, life is lived, and after a while, even for the scabbiest of us atheists, seeing “Christ at the helm” engraved on a college campus bench can seem ok.
142 Pearl Jam – Vitalogy
Soundgarden, today, strikes me as emulating Pearl Jam. The riffs are getting simpler, the guitar solos more expedited. There’s just no sense of HUMOR. Pearl Jam has Soundgarden’s drummer, and Soundgarden’s muse just seems dried up. This might seem irrelevant, as Matt Cameron was still in Soundgarden in ’94, but to me this is a staple of what Pearl Jam is, as in, just when you thought you had them on the ropes, they’ll do what you never expected them to do. The first song on their first album, “Once,” absolutely sucks. Their second album, Vs., is mediocre. Every song on Vitalogy is great, brilliantly varied, translucent, genuine, vibrant, nuts. “Aye Davanita” is an undeniably cathartic but flawlessly balanced knell to the heavens, if they exist, of an unprecedented ilk.
141 Pixies – Doolittle
It sucks being “tame,” it sucks being “dead,” especially when you just saw a monkey “gone to heaven,” and you’re wondering if you will too. But sometimes you just don’t give a sh**, like on “Crackity Jones,” a parody about Black Francis’ social assailant suffered during his semester in Puerto Rico. This guy named Jose Jones would come over and inundate the singer’s free time by paying never-ending visits complete with pointless tirades about his family, his beleaguered financial exploits, etc. It’s easy to see why Kim Deal’s contribution, “Silver,” would be so scant and underrated, but still irksome. So, with these little three-minute songs of truncated phrasing, Francis and company manage to garner sympathy, laughs and anger. Stop for a drink of water, if you need to.
140 Talking Heads – More Songs about Buildings and Food
Covers are a delicate matter. As prevailing logic should undeniably dictate, the artist or band covering the song should do it a just amount of modification, not just belt out a carbon copy. Food’s best song is a cover, and David Byrne just sounds so damn good as a white boy crooning on “Take Me to the River” that it revitalizes the listener’s faith in the whole dang enterprise. Covers, that is, not white boys crooning.
139 The Stooges – The Stooges
Giving approximately about as much of a fu** as fellow eventual Michigander Eminem, The Stooges let it rip straight from the shoulder on this eponymous debut produced by John Cale. It’s all about the same as it’s always been, everyone agreeing that this is by far the coolest garage-rock album of all time, refreshingly bare and ballsy throughout, but what’s grown on me, for one, in time, is the trippy, drowsy operatic tragedy “We Will Fall,” with its Cale-specific, experimental keyboard haze as its copilot, seeing Iggy Pop seeming to relinquish his own muse and ego to the calamity of heroin intoxication.
138 The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
It’s natural to yearn to find the CLIMAX of any good album, the crux of the artistic statement the artist was able to accomplish. This is antithetical, though, to study of The Crane Wife, because as you examine it as a whole, you realize that we really walk on unsure grounds, and that function of the world is furnished above all by blood and sacrifice. So “When the War Came” serves as as good a centerpiece as any, the emotive apex of Colin Meloy’s narrative. The Crane Wife sounds like an improvement on a prior album by a band that didn’t think they could improve on their prior album.
137 Lily Allen – Alright, Still
Oh, the depravity of the Brits! I never pegged them as this. I remember the last time I picked up Too Beautiful for You, the short story collection by Rod Liddle, I thought of what my dad said about Boogie Nights, that he felt like he had to take a shower afterwards. One of the things that makes Alright, Still worth all the vulgarity and devastation, though, is the applicability of the age-old adage that Allen “sounds black”; that is, her voice is so soulful, confident and distinct. And she’s a dime piece performing brilliant songs, so naturally, some of it has the ability to come across as false, garnering the question, Did these lyrics really have to be written? So credit her for the sense of humor on standout“Nan You’re a Window Shopper,” a pseudo-reggae romp in the meadow not written by the faint of heart.
136 The Breeders – Last Splash
Never before, never again, was there a song like “Canonball,” that would hone such a canary-like tight rope of girly cutesiness, and then rip the whole thing up with such a tirade of distortion. That’s right, these are girls, from Dayton, Oh., where they’re not allowed to rock out with guys, and they’re pretty effin’ pissed off, especially about the fact that to top it off they’re ATTRACTED to these di**s. So I don’t mind mentioning the main single, and I’ll just say that not only does the rest of the album not suck, it’ll make you wonder why you took so long to listen to it, and how one five-inch piece of plastic can contain such exasperating breadth of artistic guts.
135 Autechre – Quaristice
It’s hard to know what to call this, other than simply the perfect electronica album. Any imitators would vanquish themselves in the process. I had my friend beyond astonished by one of the tracks in the middle, when we were sitting around stoned. He couldn’t believe his ears, he was staring wide-eyed at my computer like, What is this? “io,” though, track 03, is the most vanguard accomplishment, and statement on the cognitive nadirs, and with such, plateaus, that human expression can reach.
134 Cream – Fresh Cream
I still remember when my friends and I discovered that Eric Clapton wasn’t the lead singer in Cream. Who was this fly-by-night by the name of Jack Bruce? This guy could summon the spirit of Count Dracula himself with the way he hits these notes, initiating the kind of sexuality for which there are no words, can be no analysis, none needed. “Spoonful” is a cover, but Cream had a precious combination of Bruce’s insatiable pipes, and Clapton’s hyperactive, sublime guitar runs to do in all competition. “Coffee Song” is an excellent album track toward the end of this debut effort, with a patient genuineness that really will get you asking, “Who wants the worry / The hurry of city life?”
133 The Doors – Morrison Hotel
Jim Morrison is originally from Florida, down around the way of the Allman Brothers, and you believe it at lots of points on this album. The whole musical m.o. here walks a perfect line between heartland rockabilly and west coast chic. Each member is showcased in part, from Morrison’s rich, throaty croon, to Robby Krieger’s underrated axe rambunctiousness to John Densmore’s ability to deliver an eye-opening but cooperative fill. But it’s Ray Manzarek’s keyboard lines that steal the show, on the psychedelic call to the apocalypse “Ship of Fools” too compelling to honor dissent, but also too beautiful to really give a damn about, and most importantly on the rich and invincible “Peace Frog”, all laughing duly at the world that, you better be sure, laughs at us.
132 Beastie Boys – Check Your Head
After sound-biting Cheap Trick, the Beasties chime in on the first track on Check Your Head with some classic lines: “All I really ever wanna do is get nice / Get loosey-goose a little slice of life”; “Strap on the ear goggles and what did I see? / Not the music but the people in the harmony.” This sets up a great separation that hones in on an enlightened meaning of existence itself, hinted at on closer “Namaste”, whereby music is not relied upon, so that it’s never a chore.
131 Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks
I remember the first time I heard “One Polaroid a Day,” it was my first time hearing the Ted Leo album. I knew it was coming out this day, on a Tuesday in a record store, but I heard this song and thought, Wow, this is like the coolest Dandy Warhols song I’ve ever heard. Can this really be the Dandy Warhols? “Even Heroes Have to Die” may be the best power/pop song of the new century, beguiling the later section which features a sequential array of staggering stylistic variance, culminating in the epic “Last Days”.
130 Radiohead – Amnesiac
This, my friends, is the perfect urban album. You’re on a crowded subway, you’re surrounded by buildings that dwarf you, and the people are packed shoulder to shoulder, to the point where individuals can’t even form coherent thoughts, the consummate goal ostensibly being damage control the result of overpopulation. So “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” is your own little half-formed, robotic experience, that no one else will ever know, it will solely be yours. Wait, it actually will.
129 Califone – Stitches
Just another brilliant Califone album. And as with all of them, it’s got an identity crisis, and as a fan, in order to hew a pristine relationship with the most vital tracks, you have to do some digging. The sequences brilliance will be shown aptly by the penchant of “Frosted Tips,” apparently a rote throwback, being followed by the tsunami of stately beauty that is “Magdalene.” From here on, each track manages to form a further foray into unprecedented craftsmanship that comes off as comforting and understandable as it is stylistically vanguard.
128 Queens of the Stone Age – Lullabies to Paralyze
It’s hard to explain. There’s just something about personality that goes a long way in life. Ethan Hawke once said, “If you don’t take yourself seriously, you can’t really expect anyone else to.” Somehow Josh Homme walks the straight line of gaining this, but infusing an almost euphoric humor into his hooks and draws, from the former bandmate tirade “Everybody Knows That You’re Insane” to the post-romance deluge of ire-power “Broken Box.” The stereo experience of this, as woman-bashing as it is, is mottled with sympathy by the preceding exclamation of passion, “Skin on Skin.” Hardly lullabies, these are, but I wouldn’t want to be the heretofore functioning limbs of Homme’s enemies in the wake of these ditties.
127 Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York
To the seasoned Nirvana listener, sadly, this starts to play like the corporate sludge that it is… saved by covers. “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For a Sunbeam” makes probably the coolest ever use of the accordion not wielded by Lucinda Williams, “The Man Who Sold the World” finds Cobain measured, deliberate and artistically immersed, and “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”, the heathen Leadbelly cry, is a harking arc of perfection, cosmologically aligning the most fertile basin of Cobain’s muse of blues.
126 The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour
This isn’t my favorite Beatles album, but I’m really glad no one ever asks me WHY it isn’t my favorite, because God damned if I’d even know the first thing to say. “I am the Walrus” is an archetypal epic the proportions of the ocean these lads crossed to bring it to us, cited in The Big Lebowski, churning along like a well oiled machine in style and in grippingly human persona, alike. Yup, looks like that bit** Yoko had a hand in this one too. Also, “Flying” actually sounds like the act of flying.
125 Elliott Smith – Either/Or
This is one of those sad facts of life, Elliott Smith actually reached an acute level of social, interpersonal truth, one he eventually couldn’t take, couldn’t mentally support. Smith, it could be argued, wrote songs just as good if not better than The Beatles. He hunkered down with just his guitar though, no bandmates, on his best work, this album and xo, and whether the lyrics peeve or ease, they always make a lasting impression.
124 The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
At first I wasn’t into American Slang. I was like, this is the exact same as ’59 Sound. At the time I had a job that was extremely awful, a warehouse position full of ornery meatheads who wore plain black t shirts and were interested in very little in life other than fighting and fu**ing. Then one night I had a dream that I was riding in my car and by boss from this job came up to me and asked what I was doing, and I said, “Just listenin’ to some ‘American fight porn star.’” And when I woke up, the image of this album appeared in my mind. And oxygen was the exact same as it was two years ago.
123 Diana Ross and the Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go?
Not embittered, just emotionally battered, true to form, Ross and the girls hit the Motown mortar here with indefatigable sacrifice on wax — not the sexiest Detroit act, not the loudest or most different, just the one that brought the house down, just the one that took you to that core place of unsurpassed, hitherto unknown feeling, ready for a cookout, a lonely evening or a concert, just as long as you’re heart’s in the Motor City.
122 Nirvana – Incesticide
For the very reason that it’s absurd to call this an “album,” I enjoy doing so. This especially when you consider what went into the making of actual Nirvana albums: the $606 spent on Bleach, the band “getting sick of mixing” Nevermind and leaving it to the top-40 savvy Butch Vig, Cobain cutting himself to defy Love during the shooting of the “Heart-Shaped Box” video (originally titled “Heart-Shaped Coffin”). The best part of the Journals was the sheets with the song lyrics, like the one with the note at the top of “Dive”: “Riffy, spiffy!”
121 Blur – Parklife
For all the pop bliss of “End of a Century” and “Girls and Boys,” this one is equally a visceral ride through spectral texture, from the punk rock spirit of “The Debt Collector” on through the Olivia Tremor Control-tripped out “Far Out.” “To the End” could probably have been omitted, it’s sort of just a bombastic rubbing-it-in-our-face of his love life, but “Magic America” makes up for it. Blur would go on to encapsulate the dumb, headbanging footballer white boy image with “Song 2,” but commentating early tracks like these sit as gems for us semantics junkies.
120 Califone – Heron King Blues
There’s a lot of “Americana” music out there, and a lot of bands have been influenced by Neil Young and Arlo Guthrie, but not everyone has woven a death-defying sequence wherein one song finds the percussion taking the melody (“Trick Bird”) and the next kisses off all struggle and bother with a bluegrass epic, culminating in a 116-bar percussion solo. Before Roots and Crowns would come along, Heron King Blues represented the quantifiable apex of what the band, including Ben Massarella on percussion, could do with their respective chops.
119 The National – High Violet
On High Violet, The National’s songs commenced taking an increased gravity, a heightened sense of expectations and stakes of the outcome of things. It’s a great proper album, with a crystalline opener in “Terrible Love” and a timeless, devil-may-care closer in “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.” In between lie nine tracks that, with the exception of “England,” anybody could have arguably written. But this is part of their beauty: The National aren’t trying to show you what they can do, they’re showing you what YOU can do.
118 Miles Davis – Porgy and Bess
A music lover by every blood way, Davis recreated the original Gershwin opera to staggering result: a layered, undeniable foray of ebbs and flows, sauteed jazz runs and bouts of deep, lugubrious crooning. Best enjoyed, much like Sketches of Spain, in company.
117 Wu-Tang Clan – Forever
The chorus to “It’s Yourz” goes “It’s yourz / The world in the palm of your hand / It’s yourz / 23 million on useful land / It’s yourz / The seed and the black woman / It’s yourz / Double LP for Wu-Tang Clan.” It’s arguable that the group didn’t NEED a double LP, and Forever certainly garners its share of hate, not all of it unwarranted, but at the same time any Wu fan should take pleasure in just hearing these choral words. One reason why I like Forever is that Inspectah Deck kicks off the lead single “Triumph,” and definitely holds his own against any other member, laying down unforgettable lines that get people asking, “Who dat?”
116 R.E.M. – Document
Albums that are antithetical unto themselves tend to rank low on lists like these, but often high on the reliability, gotta-have-it area, for certain, specialized times. Taking off from the runway with “Finest Worksong,” Document is best for, you guessed it, work. And just as different kinds of work are as different as different brands of music, the systematic progress taking place during “Exhuming McCarthy” could just as well resent or defy the subject, or likewise get the listener turning inward, thinking, What is this song telling me?
115 Eminem – Marshall Mathers LP
“This must mean I’m disgusting,” utters Eminem on The Eminem Show. Well, uh, yeah. In every sense of the word. In fact, I wonder if he started that connotation with “Without Me.” Anyway, for some odd reason, I’m going to proceed to talk about the Marshall Mather LP here, admiring the use of the Dido song for “Stan,” but giving the most props to “Bitch Please II,” ‘nem’s best verse ever, not for lack of company on the track. After he was done grossing us out, and before he started just weirding us out, he just laid back and ripped it, doing what he does best, like Miles Davis on a trumpet.
114 Das Racist – Relax
It’s a dog-eat-dog world in hip-hop, and in everything else, when a group as singular and unique as Das Racist, composed entirely of Indian rappers, comes around and released one single classic LP to so little notoriety. But wait a minute, Lil’ Wayne is famous? People like Lil’ Wayne? I bet Lil’ Wayne would hate me if he met me. I could see the guys from Das Racist sitting over in the coffee shop, laughing with each other, neither accepting nor rejecting me, but just noticing and accounting for me, because the integrity of their music, from the beats to the wit and sheen of the lyrics, shows that they consider themselves on an equal plane with the volatile everyday of Queens, the undertow of fought-for identities.
113 Maxwell – BLACKsummer’s Night
This is the Cheers song meets a lot of heartbreak, marijuana and beats. Just chill out to it, do what you gotta do, I know you will.
112 The Angels – My Boyfriend’s Back
Aside from featuring one of the catchiest songs of all time, My Boyfriend’s Back is a key example of a throaty, natural timbre of vocal playing an important part in the mix, which is as hazy as a hot, sexy day at the beach, but as aching and undeniable as the rising of the moon that very night. Maybe a little intense for grocery stores, it’s music that will grab you and disarm you on your own time, when you need such a thing.
111 Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
Contrary to popular belief, there are songs on this album other than “Take Me Out.” And I wouldn’t call the first two, preceding it, all that memorable… things start getting juicy with “Come on Home” and “Michael,” the band churning in sync like the insides of a lear jet, the whole thing culminating in the haunting, unforgettable closer “40’,” on which drummer Paul Thomson baits us and teases us, slipping in and out of the post-punk dance groove, reminding us of all the tension that went into making this stuff.
110 XTC – English Settlement
A commentary on English Settlement, at some point, almost becomes less a discussion of music and more an open forum on what you want life to be. How are you feeling today? Misanthropic? There’s “Jason and the Argonauts”: “I have watched the manimals and cried.” Fantastical? There’s “Yacht Dance.” Claustrophobic, trapped, overwhelmed? There’s the meter-eschewing “English Roundabout,” each of these tunes unforgettable, but paling in comparison to riveting opener “Runaway,” the precious concentrate of ’80’s loneliness and awkwardness transformed to anthem.
109 Sonic Youth – Sister
Before Sister, there were highways. Before Sister, there was the Pacific coast. After Sister, there was me, with headphones on looking out a bus window, just kind of getting the whole thing, yeah, maybe a little too well.
108 Beck – Odelay
It’s funny, I was just thinking about Odelay, but I’ve listened to it like a zonk-ion times, so I didn’t listen to it again. Then, I decide to open up this crusty old white boy list and keep working on it, and what should pop up but this whipper snapper, which I associate with pickup basketball games at my favorite park, a mix of white and black people, and generally just the long, dark corridor of impossibility, made fun, sometimes, on hotwax.
107 Broken Social Scene – You Forgot it in People
This album is unmistakably psychedelic, because the message it has is almost that having a message is impossible in the first place, and we all should be subservient to sound itself. I always thought Forgiveness Rock Record was underrated, really it’s not too far inferior to People. Like Record, People offered unforgettable hooks in songs like “Almost Crimes” and “Looks Just Like the Sun.” There’s perhaps just more of a seamlessness to the kinetic energy about People, and somehow what seems to be its semantic and artistic schizophrenia only contributes to the album’s unified robustness of identity.
106 Califone – All My Friends are Funeral Singers
It’s sometimes taken for granted, but in the case of any undeniable visionary genius, a lot of the mass of achievement amounts simply to recognizing everything, and stalwartly making the statement that is undeniably one’s own, no matter how simple. The drum line of “Giving away the Bride” is bare and unforgettable. It says so much by very vibration. Not Califone’s best album, Funeral Singers is still a Califone lover’s album by and large, journeying through melodic galaxies with lyrics compelling, if sometimes too earnest.
105 Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty
I think it’s “The Negotiation Limerick File” where Ad-Rock goes “Will someone on the Knicks please drive the lane?” Apparently not, and it’s funny to think that sometimes a musical artist wishes he could just sit at home and watch his team actually win for a change, so he could be done with all these shenanigans of compressing, contacting Mixmaster Mike, detailing interactive group rhyme lines, and wearing whatever facial expression you do when you’re a famous, great rapper that so many people doubted and hated, you’re next to Mike D and then all of a sudden you’re packed like sardines in a tin al over again. “I Don’t Know” is my generation’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.”
104 Dinosaur Jr. – Beyond
This is another thing kind of like with Broken Social Scene — is Beyond really that much better than Farm? I’d say yes, and no. Currently my favorite track by J Mascis and the bunch is Farm’s “Said the People,” and despite the weird album cover, this album does offer its temporally sustained allure almost machinelike, but more like riding a bike than a faceless piston set or something. Whatever, you should just get to know Beyond, take my word for it.
103 Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer
Ooh, love this album! At times it’s my favorite by Wolfy P. I just listened to it on drive up from North Carolina to the northern ridge of Indiana, doing a solid 12-14 mph above the speed limit the whole way, toting my time-honored road companions of Grizzly dip and Pepsi. There, that’s probably a dorky enough way to set up a discourse on At Mount Zoomer.
102 Beirut – The Flying Club Cup
Generally this is the more favored Beirut album, but it is not my preferred one. It did, though, set the sonic groundwork the band would participate on: a heavily Eastern European brand of eclecticism to be sort of like the unappreciated brother of Grizzly Bear. It’s the Avery Red Point Ale sitting next to the IPA, that you never get because the IPA is so good. Beirut is a music lover’s band. While Grizzly Bear is anthemic, Beirut is patient, tactile and punctilious, and oh so androgynous for your New Mexico mama.
101 Ikonika – Contact, Love, Want, Have
Gotta thank cokemachineglow.com for this one. Thanks cokemachineglow.com! You’ve broughteth me the master, a hilariously self-consuming electronica diva from somewhere in the middle East making music that sounds like video games. You know, the usual.
100 Liars – Drum’s Not Dead
Check out the youtube “video” for “It Fit when I Was a Kid” if you’re already a seasoned Liars listener. If you’re not, you might have to have your girlfriend or boyfriend dump you, or get fired from a job.
99 Nirvana – In Utero
In Utero is a “necessary evil” for a lot of reasons. There’s Everett True’s discourse about the paradoxical aspects of attempting to express feminine sensitivity through guitar punk rock, but I don’t even see it this way. Well, in a way I do. First of all, In Utero is paradoxical unto itself because it’s a major label on which it was released, a “cool” label, Geffen, which nonetheless didn’t fail to get a spider up their loins when they heard it. The whole thing’s identity crisis city, evidence by the “grunge” “Pennyroyal Tea.” Yup, Pat Smear turned in a grunge album, but at least there’s the blistering, brilliant guitar solo in “Serve the Servants” to justify things. After that you should probably just put on Rapeman.
98 Umphrey’s McGee – Live at the Murat
There’s a three-song section on disc two of this comp that really synopsizes what the band’s been able to do at temporal large: there’s a hip-hop/metal stalk to “Push the Pig,” “Out of Order” is blissed-out Cheap Trick rock and roll, straight from the cookie oven, and “White Man’s Moccasins” is more vintage Umphrey’s Mcgee than anything else the band did, providing a model for Brendan Bayless’ paramount position within their influencing set. It’s his band, through and through, by way of his vocals, which, over goldenrod lyrics, transmit a primal sympathy and understanding lithe enough to be played over and over again, whether you can afford a ticket to the show or not.
97 Ghostface Killah – Fishscale
Pretty Toney was maddeningly frustrating upon the release of Fishscale. First of all, it wasn’t produced by RZA. I’m like, how could it possibly be good? What a waste of money. Then he just wouldn’t shut up about coke. I’m like God, this guy’s like a black frat boy. I probably have no right to like a song like “The Champ,” but sometimes you can feel like a champ when you’re just driving around a city with a lot of energy, laughing at the world, just looking for someone who understands that energy.
96 Deerhoof – Milk Man
There’s something significant about the number “nine” in “Milk Man,” because it’s nine times that they do the stab-nasty after the comparatively idyllic chorus, but for some reason it feels like only five — you know it’s one more than the standard multiple of four, but the whole structural interface is just so conducive to fluidity that reams of temporal pulp can pile up before you know it, because, frankly, you’re in a trance.
95 Led Zeppelin – Presence
My first taste of “For Your Life” was via one of those best-of compilations. Liked it, wouldn’t say I loved it, it was about as good as “Ten Years Gone” from Physical Graffiti, which was also on that album. Hopefully no one out there would actually rank Physical Graffiti ahead of Presence, but just in case, let me present holistic album appreciability as a node in Presence’s favor, such a thing being able to put on an album, listen to its entirety, and nowhere be bored by lack of variety or nonplussed by regrettable crap.
94 Weezer – Weezer (1994)
I’ll admit it, like everyone else around here, I became a Weezer fan in 2001. But, unlike everyone else, I actually became a fan of the album that had just come out, and not because of “Hash Pipe” or “Island in the Sun” (eek, overplayed), more like middle ground dark horses like “Knock-Down Drag-Out” and “Smile.” I’m even over my phase of my left brain forcing me to like “O Girlfriend” for its deliberate semantic emotional detachment.
93 Yes – The Yes Album
Fragilely, I’ve ranked this behind Fragile.
92 Wynton Marsalis Quartet – Live at Blues Alley
I’m going to make a compliment to jazz, and call it even more of a quintessentially African-American ball than hip-hop, defying the general stereotype of black people as dumb, money and pu**y-hounding rappers. They kind of invented jazz and rock and roll too. There, this should absolve me of trying to comment on Blues Alley, which I could surely never do.
91 Godspeed You! Black Emperor – f#a# (infinity)
Since I started this colossal project, I’ve discovered an album known as Nmesh – Dream Sequins, which, likewise to this Godspeed minion, initiates profuse use of vocal “found art” — nominally nonmusical tidbits of conversation placed for point proving, or mood setting. This is as much if not more of a part of f#a# (infinity) as the actual musical notes, and although I’m sure some hipster out there thought about making the comment that it’s cheesy, deliberate or overblown, none of them have. Perhaps they’re too immersed, dwarfed and intimidated, like I am.
90 Califone – Quicksand/Cradlesnakes
Admittedly, I don’t have an expert opinion of Quicksand/Cradlesnakes. I got into Califone at the Roots and Crowns checkpoint. From the first listen to it, it took me about a year and a half for me to realize that it had already been one of my favorite albums ever, because, as a former grunge/Nirvana junkie, I’d never envisioned that a favorite album of mine would sound like Califone. Q/C is just more bluegrassy, a little darker and more haunting, which, you’ve gotta admit, are intriguing qualities of an older album of a band.
89 Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury
“Hello New World” more than capably dispels any android theorems that Hell Hath No Fury is some braggarts coke-dealing album. It’s debatable the extent to which in hip-hop lyrical semantics take an increased hand to the artistic baton carrying, but logic would certainly dictate as much, and “Hello New World” is just a day chillin’ at the playground, or basketball court, with nowhere to go but together. Brought to you from Planet Earth, one and streaming.
88 Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf
I’m sitting here thinking about Songs for the Deaf right now, but I ain’t puttin’ on Songs for the Deaf, I aint’ PUTTIN’ it on. First of all, I have roommates. I can’t blast songs for the soon-to-be-deaf up loud enough. Second of all, you’ve got to be driving through a populated part of town, vistas constantly changing, breeze and lights charging through your cerebellum. Never text and listen to Songs for the Deaf.
87 Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted
The review for this album’s re-release was one of pitchfork’s best ever: it was actually a hand-written ode (granting a 10.0) about drinking before school, also addressing the “suck-cess” of the band’s preceding EP, Perfect Sound Forever or something like that. It seems like I had a different favorite song from this album every year, but “Loretta’s Scars” seems to matter a lot. It also seems like a pet cat or something: of undeniable integrity, transparence and synergy, yet benign and embraceable.
86 Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
Bob Dylan has a way, on this album more than on any other, of being really artistically tongue-in-cheek, almost like manifestly mocking himself as he delivers his own songs. In the modern age of Dadaism, which is roughly the artistic style Dylan adopts, replete with absurdly enumerative repetitions of given verses, folk became cool, but not for as long as some people would wish, and even Dylan’s doing blues now, but we all need a coolness type thing sometimes.
85 Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours
If you could fuse the rhythm and melody of “Out There on the Ice” with the vocal of “Far Away,” you’d have the perfect Cut Copy track. There. Just sayin’.
84 Beirut – The Rip Tide
Somehow the wikipedia blurb on Beirut keeps relating them to New York. It states that Beirut’s first performances took place in Brooklyn, which, if it isn’t a straight-up lie, which I think it might be, is at very least extremely, extremely irrelevant to the band’s initial fructification. And not to undermine such fructification, but 2011’s The Rip Tide by the New Mexican sextet puts it to shame, or at least to subjection to eye-rolling. The Rip Tide somehow slipped through the pitchfork cracks, but Paste gave it more vibe, from what I remember. Essential tracks: “A Candle’s Fire”, “Santa Fe” (which I’ve heard on satellite radio, to fine result), “The Rip Tide.”
83 The Roots – Things Fall Apart
The question is begged: is “The Next Movement” TOO good of a song? It almost inspires a feeling like, What do you DO after you listen to this? What mortal activity could do justice to its jutting vibes, its breakneck coolness? Normally I’d entertain a discourse along these lines, except that I’ve seen the band in concert, and they embody the ideal qualities of a live band impeccably, filling the arena with nothing more, nothing less, than perfect noise, not too ephemeral and not too opaque.
82 A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
In case you’re in need of a reason to name The Low End Theory as history’s best Rapquest, peep Tip delivering the line “Act like you know,” and then behold both Raekwon and Cappadonna making HEAVY usage of this adage. For some odd reason, A Tribe Called Quest made a second album instead of just becoming kings of the world and sitting around eating hand-tossed pizza, and what I guess you can say about it is that it’s a little more sonically robust: that is, it’s louder.
81 Rush – Exit… Stage Left
If you wanted to initiate an Indy 500-sounding yawn in yours truly during any part of the ’00’s, all you had to do was mention the word “2112.” Exit… Stage Left is the rare live album that captures a feat of glory taking place, not just some washed up rock god stroking his ego (or stoking). Along with all the standards, each of which, arguably, improves upon the studio version, and with a great overall song selection, there’s the instant classic “A Passage to Bankok,” slowly building, achingly catchy upon climax, and forever parting the red sea of shredding and schmaltz.
80 Blind Faith – Blind Faith
Although, actually better is the Steve Winwood boxed set (Steve Winwood, the only man to ever be a one-hit wonder four different times). The versions are fuller, more palpable and stretched. A little more painstaking than the Rolling Stones, and believable, Clapton and the lads belted out the perfect pub music during this band’s short lived stint.
79 Pavement – Brighten the Corners
I dunno if it’s creepy and it’s kooky (haha, kooky is recognized by my spell check), but it’s definitely mysteriously spooky, befitting of the cover. Examining this album with your left brain is like surfing on the moon, a really crater-addled part of the moon. “Type Slowly” being one of those craters, and Malkmus must have been listening to Sebadoh’s account of “electric white boy blues” when he put together the stumper “Transport is Arranged.”
78 Cadence Weapon – Afterparty Babies
Maybe it helps that I lived in Colorado when I first heard this (Mr. Weapon hails from Edmonton, AL). It was annoying in a way that nothing else out west was — it wasn’t “loving the one you’re with,” it wasn’t “excuse me while I kiss the sky,” it was more like Cracker’s paean “All things beautiful / All things beautiful / I want everything.” Or, at least, a bunch of tattoos and beats. The Modest Mouse of hip-hop.
77 Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A.
The best mainstream rock album of the ’80’s ranks 77th on this list, succumbing to Up the Bracket of the ’00’s by two spots. The ’70’s had Neil Young, the godfather of grunge, the ’60’s had the Beatles, and the ’90’s were that culturally anomalous epoch following the Reagan era when the losers won, the first were last and the last were first. Springsteen, cloaked in all his studio sheen, driving probably a Bentley or something, still had rock and roll oozing out of his cuticles, still felt anger on behalf of those born under a bad sign on this side of the pond, and this album is allegorically poignant.
76 Nobody – Pacific Drift
For every fan of a musical act like Jeff Buckley, The Microphones or Xiu Xiu, or something like that, there’s a computer nerd like me, who actually does favor style over substance. As a fan of the Dandy Warhols, I believe in the perfection of the raw materials with which one rocks out, because there a lot of grooves in which these things have to fit. The sounds on Pacific Drift are like crystals, ranging all ends of the affective spectrum, and shifting from song to song within different netherworlds.
75 The Libertines – Up the Bracket
Whom some would dub an attention-hungry fame monster, what with his well-publicized personal life of Kate Moss dating, heroin use and Strokes dissing (likely the result of umpteen comparisons by the NME thereto), Pete Doherty begins masterpiece Up the Bracket with the ultimate, sagacious laid-back ode to emerging youth: “Well take a tip from me / Climb up to her window lad / Or you’ll forever be / Just walking on the ladders while the people ‘round you hear you cryin’ ‘please.’” But, if anything is proven by a Babyshambles/Dirty Pretty Things comparison, it’s that Carl Barat’s influence really stuck as well.
74 Wu-Tang Clan – The W
Who really brings the house down on this one? Why, it’s RZA, of course. “Let My Ni**as Live” was lifted to a great extent by Pharoahe Monch for “What it is,” but it should have been the stunning, relentless “Careful (Click, Click)” to be the most copied, beating “Triumph” at its own game, toggling between the casks of baroque and New York vaudeville with the aplomb of a single, but the unnerving sneer of a track content to sit on a classic album.
73 The White Stripes – White Blood Cells
I sort of have a bone to pick with this album, at least with those who rank it ahead of its two successors, because it really feels more like an odds-and-sods collection than a cohesive studio effort. Even Meg White delivers better performances on ensuing masterpieces, see the openers on the next two albums. “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and “Same Boy You’ve Always Known” are enough to propel it to a good ground, but some of the later tracks like “I Can Learn” could easily have been throwaways. Still, it’s not your typical pub banter.
72 Teenage Fanclub – Man-Made
Those who’ve never tasted bliss might not get this album. This album doesn’t have time for the world’s misery, it’s sitting there with a vodka milk shake and a cigarette just nodding. Cerebral critics will peg “Cells” as the prominent, but I can’t help but cling to “Slow Fade,” defiantly narcotic, ecstatically cataclysmic.
71 Michael Jackson – Bad
This is another album that feels a bit disjointed, otherwise it may have ranked higher. I feel like the titled track was a really gutsy cultural statement to make at the time, hence its popularity in the shadow of towering classics, musically speaking, like “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Man in the Mirror” and “Leave Me Alone,” whereas now you’re almost required to inexplicably lash out against the listener, declaring your own misanthropic patriotism. And where should such a thing come from but Gary, Indiana?
70 The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album)
Again, disjointed city. You think you’ve tasted mother nature’s great affective drop right away with the sophomore “Dear Prudence,” but you haven’t even gotten to “Long, Long, Long” yet. Still, one of the Beatles’ many coverable albums, Dionne Farris having delivered a great version of “Blackbird,” Phish a decent one of “Cry Baby Cry.” And yeah, I’m sure a bunch of people have covered “Rocky Raccoon.”
69 Wolf Parade – Apologies to Queen Mary
You almost get a little nervous when an album comes like this comes out and you hear it, and you feel all these tendrils of your sensitivity reawakening to the world around you. I mean, is this really good, am I really good? Should I tell my friends? Which makes you wonder what it was like for Spencer Krug and company to actually ADMINISTER these goods. Oh, Canada, you stand on guard for us.
68 Talking Heads – Fear of Music
The great thing about this album is the same as what’s great about its predecessor — More Songs about Buildings and Food — the continuous mystery. You just don’t know what the band’s M.O. is, and they seem throughout to be really doing something no one else at the time was doing, making it easy to see why Madonna, upon initially getting to New York, would make her first request of her manager to take her to a Talking Heads show. The deliberate opener “I Zimbra” belies the hurried gallop of “Paper,” “Cities” and “Life During Wartime,” each maddeningly skilled and ostentatiously grooved. Brilliantly, the album’s stylistic and melodic climax comes on the deliciously paranoiac and penultimate “Electric Guitar.”
67 Califone – Roomsound
This is Califone’s first album, and one of their best. It’s got the feel of a humid day, during that summer you knew would mean something, and the songs are of the gravity of life-changing decisions, omnipotent moments that will stay suspended in the cosmos just like your wounded eyes.
66 The White Stripes – Elephant
This is album is well rounded like the changing of the seasons, and it takes us through a couple revolutions, too. The pearl of the first one is “I Want to Be the Boy,” but it’s no shelter for White himself, this dangerous, Babylonian oyster the source of his misery, the guerrilla warfare of love. We feel a little better, though, during “Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine,” which follows the second six-track swatch unto ballad, White now standing tall with a sense of humor (I think that’s a sense of humor), focused on no one but his “big sister Meg” and his trusty Strat.
65 The Roots – Do You Want More?!!!??!
Remember when people had the gall to ask who was better, The Roots or Jurassic 5? I do, barely. It was always “Mellow My Man” that tipped the iceberg for me though, which was a little less bombastic than “Distortion to Static,” a little gutsier and more original, funny and unforgettable. The Roots was my favorite concert ever, and free-wheeling tracks like these give the best feel of Black Thought’s vision as a live performing artist, bound to rock your body and say turn the party out.
64 Deltron – 3030
It’s impossible to overstate the brilliance of Dan the Automator, and his effect on albums like this, and Head Automatica’s Decadence. His brand of impeccable hip-hop production perfectly encapsulates the warring elements in our society today: the haves and the have-nots, the have-nots and the have-nots, the aesthetics of the myth of progress vs. the appearance of reality, and all the desire intertwined therein. A great compliment to Del’s whining.
63 Sleater-Kinney – All Hands on the Bad One
Something clicked on this album, or, something let go. The music was no longer a taut orchestration of one single girl power nerve, it had evolved into true rock. The first time I put it on and got to the titled track, I had this type of vertigo thing happen that told me, this is the rubric by which I will now judge riffs and rhythms. This was before I heard Let England Shake, though.
62 Morphine – Cure for Pain
A nice break from Seattle grunge in 1993, Cure for Pain strutted in with a cool sax-lounge feel, but a singer in Mark Sandman who sold it beyond a doubt. The stakes are as high as they get: guilt (“I’m Free Now”), infidelity (“Wagon Wheel”), heartbreak (“In Spite of Me”) and rapture (“Sheila”). And if you thought Sheila wasn’t a “hot” name before listening to Cure for Pain, well, that only shows you the gap the music bridges: the place into which it invites you is both familiar and tantalizing.
61 Brand Nubian – One for All
They say “One for all / And all for one / One for all / Brand Nubian”… but when I listen to this album, I am just fully ME, I am more myself than ever, looking around and digging into the world’s grooves with an unprecedented tenacity and assuredness. Because I just knew this hip-hop had to exist — this vehicular force with all the rhythms perfectly nailed, the Islamic, cooperative vision of the world transposed onto New York’s darkest ghettos. Nobody else could have done exactly this.
60 Bad Religion – No Control
Punk is all about the evasion of stasis, just ask Chris Demakes (of Less than Jake’s) peal against tradition in songs like “Krazyglue” and “Is This Thing on?” There’s a certain feeling of being really white, which I guess you’re lucky if you feel, and indeed all these bands are from out west, but you just want to do something original, you want to propagate things without being OVERLY white, yet, you know you are. Bad Religion always seemed to me to come from a deeper sociological pit than NOFX.
59 The Who – Tommy
This is probably the most cohesive of all The Who’s albums — yes, it’s true, they never fully made a great ROCK album, but this one is on-the-dime turns, full of brilliant chord progressions, of beautiful bombast. All through the bombast of tracks like “Amazing Journey” and “Pinball Wizard,” there’s an audible sense of the lads just joking around, telling a story that would seem even more juvenile without the band’s best music to date backing it.
58 Counting Crows – August and Everything After
I would mention “essential tracks,” but every track is impeccable, and I would have put Wallflowers’ Bringing Down the Horse and Fastball’s All the Pain Money Can Buy on this list, because I really am fond of both albums, but both owe about a jihad’s debt stylistically to August and Everything After, which inundated the banal, dead-end grunge era with lonesome folk, weeping organ and all, that only sounds better after each passing “Long December.”
57 Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
This album is like New York itself: sprawling, not wholly comprehensible, and full of wild mood swings, though all in all not as wild as Sister. The sound is a little cleaned-up, too, but the hooks are fully honed, “Total Trash” and “Candle” representing two timeless bulwarks of singability flanking the epic opener “Teenage Riot,” which Eddie Vedder hand picked for Hits are for Squares. Are they ever.
56 Women – Locust Valley
One of the many great bands that qualifies as a cokemachineglow.com darling, this one hails from a place a little different: Calgary. Also, their on-stage antics have always been far from “darling,” and let’s just say I ranked them one spot ahead of Sonic Youth for a very pronounced reason, their live show really is that ripping, while very similar. The band unraveled following a fight between two of the members in I think January 2012, and then guitarist Chris Reimer died in February, hence announcing the great band’s demise. Reimer had toured with Dodos for the sleeper album No Color.
55 Sebadoh – III
This one definitely has to be taken with a grain of salt for its very acute schizophrenia, and it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that it takes about 50 listens before you really “get it.” I’d played their self-titled album for my cousin, he fell in love with them and bought III, then I was like, You liked Sebadoh, right, and he was like “I thought so.” Curiously, though, the whole thing’s adept at scratching every outer sonic itch the listener could have, typified by the glorious end of “Wonderful, Wonderful,” which I just found out recently is a cover.
54 Blackalicious – Blazing Arrow
As far as I’m concerned, Del the Funkee Homosapien can have the help of one of the most underrated producers of all time, Dan the Automator, and still not make as good an album as Gift of Gab can with nothing but his good old time-honored sidekick. Debut Nia was a wild emceeing fusion of positivity and guile, but somehow Blazing Arrow hits a little harder, and pinpoints what probably still stands as his defining message: “Free / Just loving life itself and never pretend to be / Anything other than the man I was meant to be.” Screw what’s wrong, let’s focus on what’s right.
53 Kanye West – Late Registration
The real stunner here is the closer “Late.” I mean, where the hell did this come from? This would be the lead single on most producer’s albums. More than anything, it’s a reminder that among all the illustrious storytelling lies music to soundtrack the impossible.
52 GZA – Liquid Swords
Ironically, it’s white people who get their panties up in a bunch when they see me with my big royal blue GZA shirt on, just the gray “G.” Black people are more likely to get that this is everyone’s music — GZA took Staten Island and put it in our laps like a bib. “Labels” is a dizzyingly witty song, and up to this point the best beat RZA had created [that is until The W’s “Careful (Click, Click)”] — the boss is the artist, the way it should be.
51 Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
When you have no room in your tired old head for anything but some unadulterated, arm-injected, concentrated rock and roll, there’s Rumours. It’s not an album for the teenagers hanging out in front of the skate shop glaring all day, it’s an album for when every tenuous relationship in your life is threatening to give way, nothing is as it used to be, but you still have a sense of humor that stinks to high heaven.
50 Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Possibly the best “sounding” Pavement album, if suffering slightly from the identity crisis of Spiral Stairs’ embryonic songwriting days (though “Hit the Plane Down” is funny in a way), Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain strikes me was Malkmus’ west coast complaint album. We’ve all got a pocket full of platitudes, and this is his. Through confidence, though, do they pull it all off: it’s a cleaner-sounding Slanted and Enchanted that definitely doesn’t resemble the Smashing Pumpkins whatsoever.
49 PJ Harvey – Dry
This debut album is about as good as its follow-up Rid of Me, it’s just not as fu**ed up. There are plenty of scenarios in which I’d rather listen to something that isn’t as fu**ed up, for instance she’s more likely to make a social commentary, like that a common tactic of a woman is just to buy a “Dress” or have “Hair.” She’s the underdog feminist disillusioned and rocking out, and yes, one of a kind.
48 Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night
Neil Young’s self-declared nighttime album: upon its a release he made the public statement that, “If you’re looking for something to listen to in the morning, don’t put on Tonight’s the Night. Put on the Doobie Brothers.” My first experience with it was hearing it in Denver’s Twist and Shout records, ranked second nationally by Rolling Stone, and I was distinctly struck that the selections for greatest hits comp. Decade like “Tired Eyes” and the titled track undermined classic album sessions like “Roll Another Number.”
47 Bjork – Homogenic
It’s the pop album that pays obstinate attention to the cutting-edge avant-garde rudiments of rhythm, with an impeccable feel for them. THIS is carving out your own niche in the world, in romance, in struggle, in good old, miscellaneous joy (“Alarm Call”). Bjork’s line in “5 Years” is like a stab straight from cupid’s arrow.
46 Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
I had another great record store moment in Colorado about this album… it started reading a pitchfork interview with some band when I hadn’t heard of these guys, they asked them who else they wanted to see at the festival and the guy was like “Dirty Projectors.” This was in the era of Rise Above, which, weirdly, given its stylistic inimitability, is a cover album of Black Flag songs. I just asked the guy working in the store if he’d heard this and he was like, Oh yeah, we like! You don’t have to duck, but they struck with the soul of Motown.
45 Marcy Playground – Marcy Playground
At the upper cusp of quality mainstream rock is allowed to deliver (indie in the late-’90’s being either emo or brusque fare like Brainiac and Sweep the Leg Johnny!), John Wozniak and, some would say nominal, company, put together a batch of lullabies with scarcely an errant note, let alone song, and a little more levity than its anatomical brethren Is This it? “Gone Crazy” seems to be an unsung track that I happen to really enjoy.
44 The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan
When this album came out, no one was quite what to think. “My Doorbell” and “Take, Take, Take” were some early named favorites, but I remember favoring “Red Rain” from the getgo, sort of this album’s “Catch Hell Blues.” Apropos of these penultimate histrionics, the CLOSER ON THIS ALBUM BLOWS A-FU**INGWAY EVER OTHER STRIPES CLOSEUR, and this is much of why I rank it within band prominence. So many ragtag songs, but it’s the ragtag “White Moon” that really creeps in the night and sticks with you. Also the live version of “Little Ghost” is killer.
43 Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys
“I’d like to take some time,” Hendrix intones during one of the song breaks, “to recognize all the soldiers fighting in Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee… oh yeah, and all the soldiers fighting in Vietnam.” The fact that a rare moment of sense of humor from the godfather of wah-wah comes during banter and not during actual lyrics I think bodes well for Band of Gypsys, which, compared with other compilations, does less singing and more shredding.
42 The Strokes – Is This it?
Amidst the “velvet” (tee-hee) songwriting, pristine and undeniable, staggering and infallible, is Julian Casablancas’ curious ability to weave undeniable anger into songs like “Alone Together” and “Take it or Leave it,” convey it, and still manage to ingratiate himself, both socially and artistically, not only with the rest of the band but with the listener too. My favorite song is still the good old, tried and true titled track, sort of like a “Candy Says,” walking on eggshells on the dance floor at either the start or the end of the ball, or maybe just the nadir moment when no one had the courage to truly look themselves right in the face.
41 The Clash – London Calling
Kurt Cobain disliked the Clash, his favorite band was the Melvins. Oh, sorry, Kurt, I guess I forgot my Super Big Gulp full of apocalyptic screaming, all I brought was London Calling, a rock and roll vaudeville of inhuman stamina, roller coasting the listener past every landmark from protopunk, to rockabilly, to reggae, to good old socially commenting rock and roll, a la “Clampdown,” which The Strokes ended up covering frequently. “Spanish Bombs” is still the climax of the whole thing though, one of those perfect melodies that surely influenced The Stone Roses.
40 Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
The comparisons to, of all things, Crosby Stills and Nash run rampant here, from the opener “Southern Point”’s similarity to “Southern Cross” down to the actual sound and M.O. of curious album creeper “Fine for Now.” “Fine for Now” is one of those warm offerings that invite you in, let you know their heart is in the right place, but the more weird, artsy, angular listenings you undertake, the more you realize that the real forerunner is “While You Wait for the Others,” a song that Willie Nelson would have been proud to pen, sounding nowhere near as damaged and real in the process.
39 Eminem – Slim Shady LP
Throw me in the snake pit with the rest of ‘em. My first word, much less THOUGHT, upon hearing that this girl in my high school class had purchased that “Eminem” dude’s album: Haha, what? There’s no WAY that’s good. I was hooked, free of relapse, within six months, a little ahead of my friends, never knowing what my favorite song was, never knowing if he were being serious or funny, just knowing that I didn’t want to put on anything else, at least until Stankonia.
38 Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
Again, with this one, I’m like, there’s no way Deerhunter put out ANOTHER good album. “Helicopter” is easily their best song, and getting to this point in the album isn’t too hard at all, unlike, arguably, the case with both Cryptograms and Microcastle. And it only gets more illustrated and fortified from here, the timelessly catchy and beautiful “Fountain Stairs” following directly in tow, protected by (forgive me, baseball term) “Coronado,” which would have been just as good a Conan-show selection as “Helicopter.” Culture. Rebellion. At rock, they meet.
37 Yes – Fragile
A good cover goes a long way, especially when the band has chops like these. Yes’ cover of Simon and Garfunkle’s “America” is right up there with the best of all time, pushing the pace with some rocking and hooking, actually pulling some serious stylistic weight. A curious but unnoted skill of singer Jon Davison is his ability to stay roughly in the same range: this actually has benign effects upon the overall mix itself. He starts high, and stays there, never running out of breath or even straining, like a shier Geddy Lee, with his own sh** to take care of, that is also everyone’s.
36 Mudhoney – Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge
This one edges out the discordant, unforgiving debut Superfuzz Bigmuff/Early Singles and the solid sophomore kin self-titled on basis of songs, on basis of sound, but most of all, for the fact that it gave the band, and its coattail-riding record label, financial success. No band deserved it more, with unquestionable chops brutality on each instrument, and nihilistic lead singer in Mark Arm with a kickass sense of humor, like one the inaugural “Let it Slide”: “Nobody’s here to stay / They own you to the graaaaaave!” The distortion fills the room with this album, and the whole thing’s rooted at the heart, under all the deafening, textural guitar sludge, in firm blues. Sleater-Kinney gained a lot from this band, probably most of all the feverish need to try to outdo the boys.
35 Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
This is one of those albums that’s recommended to the prospective listener an average of 7.8 times before he or she actually gets around to buying, downloading or ripping it (which usually becomes all three). True to form, with me, I was like, This album’s probably the sh**, at that point already a fan of Blonde and Blonde and Blood on the Tracks, somewhat dismissive of Time out of Mind. Covered by the Grateful Dead prominently: “Desolation Row” and “Queen Jane Approximately,” sampled by the Beastie Boys: “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” covered by PJ Harvey prominently (and greatly): titled track, and the album also features “Like a Rolling Stone” as its opener. Need I say more? No, but I could.
34 Nirvana – Bleach
They re-released a remastered version of Bleach in 2009 or so. The reason why they did this is a little unclear, to say the least. Recorded on a budget of $606 by Jack Endino, to turn the best percentage profit, eventually, since the Elvis Sun Sessions, the band rips through from front to back infallibly on the original version in reinforced drop D (all the strings tuned a note lower and then altered to drop D), the songs are funny, wild and inimitable, while Incesticide pieces like “Big Long Now” may certainly have been a little guiltier of occupying “Melvins Jr.” territory. And I don’t think anyone who said Kurt Cobain sucks at guitar apparently heard “Mr. Moustache”… if so I want an impromptu performance of it, now!
33 Pavement – Westing (by Musket and Sextant)
This is probably a party foul, ranking an odds-and-sods collection this high on the list, something like Modest Mouse’s Building Nothing out of Something, but first of all it features “Box Elder,” which is not only one of the band’s best songs to date, covered in concert by Los Campesinos! (Lollapalooza 2009) but mimicked “courteously” by Everclear for their standout “My Sexual Life.” “Baptiss Blacktick” is perfect indie rock, and “Forklift” is a sociological watery-ball-with-snowflakes-falling-thingy.
32 Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain
As I said before with the Wynton Marsalis Quartet, I find it harder as a white man to comment on jazz than I do on hip-hop. And indeed, Davis was once quoted as saying, “I’d like to spend the last two minutes of my life strangling a white man to death.” See what I mean? In the meantime, I just put on Sketches of Spain, clip my fingernails, and me and my friends fill out March Madness brackets, trying to assume as little as possible.
31 Inspectah Deck – Uncontrolled Substance
Jazz this is not, P Diddy this is not, Raekwon this is not. All the rhythms are traceable to diamond-hard street life, and Deck has one of my favorite flow techniques in the whole Clan, indefatigable, splitting cement measures with on-the-dime rhyme shifts, all true blue Wu tenets. He takes us through a wild ride of being chased by the cops, of gun fighting, and love making, a marked man the whole time with music that bounces and breathes, but most importantly, adheres to the core objective: survival.
30 The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
Wisely, Twin Cinema, with its titled track, starts out the way this new Brill Bruisers stuff sounds: not too deep, nothing too fancy, not too political, nothing too clever (to quote Umphrey’s McGee and Liars, respectively). It’s Pornos-in-a-nutshell, it’s Pornos as a caterpillar, not a butterfly — all workmanlike, serious and efficient, more reminiscent of their original Mass Romantic days when everyone thought they were just a goofy supergroup, incapable of producing an album that you’d put in with more than pleasure over 100 times, that would soundtrack everything beautifully, but more than anything, those moments of freedom disguised as dark, cloudy days in November or December.
29 The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow
To me, this album was even more hyped than Is This it?, and easily more than Apologies to Queen Mary. It took a couple years, in truth, to separate all the peanut gallery white noise, both positive and negative, from the actual musical rudiments, which have proven, over the years, undeniable, and most enjoyably to be sequenced with continually rewarding brilliance, playing like a movie — one part logically following the next. Removing tracks from this album for individual play can be a faux pas, it was meant to be played in its whole, and not skimping on the haunting closeur “Those to Come,” either. And please not bonus track! Don’t need it!
28 The Rolling Stones – Forty Licks
On this one, they had the wherewithal to position the rockin’ “The Last Time” fourth, and I don’t hear “Ruby Tuesday” or “As Tears Go by” anywhere. It accentuates the band’s crowning achievements, which were rocking out and building climaxes. “19th Nervous Breakdown” is a key cog, prominently placed, as mean as it is unforgettable. It’s not perfect… or is it?
27 MF Doom – Mm… Food
The cover of MF Doom’s Mm.. Food is certainly intimidating, but for a somewhat unorthodox reason — it’s easily one of the weirdest hip-hop album covers there have ever been, depicting the rapper in his usual iron-coated “villain” mask crowding over his food like he’s about to be knocked unconscious for the loot by someone from behind. “Potholderz” has the best beat ever, and “Deep Friend Frienz” has the best post-song conversational sound byte ever.
26 Jethro Tull – Stand up
This album begins by bridging the heavy metal gap from Zeppelin to Sabbath, culminates with a Cheech and Chong-worthy “Head is like a sieve” rockout against “mamas,” “mothers,” and in between, delivers Ian Anderson’s finest music, unforgettable melodies of “Look into the Sun,” “Reasons for Waiting,” et. al. And THEN there’s all the songs you hear on the radio: namely “Nothing is Easy,” a carefree, whimsical shifter of time signature, to say nothing of MUSICAL GENRE, and maybe your “Fat Man” thrown in there, a fun and haunting eastern head scratcher putting the mandolin to celestial use. Yup, this ain’t your papa’s… wait a minute.
25 Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
This is the pyrex Clipse crack rock version of Bob Dylan: “Yeah, that’s pure, man.” “A-Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” yeah, that’s pure, man. Topped only in the ’60’s by the expressionist cataclysm “Desolation Row.” For some reason, a cultural movement followed these songs, when they probably should have just let George Baker take over.
24 The Roots – Phrenology
I just learned recently, via Questlove’s book Mo Meta Blues (I’m one of those big fancy READER guys) that Phrenology was “birthed” as the band’s effort to write a song falling within every extant musical genre (except country, apparently and thankfully), and put it on one album, thus explaining that weird 30-second punk song. And thus explaining “Break You Off,” the “cheesy R&B song” that “came alive,” probably to the band’s chagrin, into, if not a hit single, at least a recognizable anthem. It never sounds particularly significant within the context of the album, yet I can’t think of anything I’d rather have playing with a dangerous bartender eyeing me. The other “Father O’ Blivion.”
23 Big Star – The Best of Big Star
I reached some heightened Big Star wisdom when I drove through Tennessee with this collection on recently, but now that I’ve moved back up north, I’ve already forgot it. And rightly so. But even before, the delicate, aching strains of these guys have always represented the middle of town, that which can be, the light to which the moths gather, that day in the future that gets all your attention, that girl’s eyes that exist both before and after the precious moment bestowed you.
22 Credence Clearwater Revival – Chronicle vol. 1
“I see hurricanes a-blowin’ / I know the end is comin’ soon / I see rivers overflowin’ / I hear the voice of razor ruin.” Yup, and these were the GOOD old days, comparatively speaking, before John Fogerty got sued for sounding TOO MUCH LIKE HIMSELF (“The Old Man is Down the Road” compared with this collection’s “Run Through the Jungle.”) I often ask myself what music The Big Lebowski’s “the dude” would listen to were he a member of my own generation (possibly still Credence, I dunno), and Supergrass seems like as good a choice as any, but I don’t think anyone’s ever questioned Credence’s competency in fulfilling that role the way it is.
21 Radiohead – The Bends
To relegate this album too far down in ranking would be to seriously underestimate Thom Yorke’s very SONGWRITING knack. “Fake Plastic Trees” is the usual focal point people look to, but to me “High and Dry” takes the crown, brimming with emotion, all high/low dichotomy, fully indicative of the ’90’s alternative movement, but also harking back to the Stones and Fleetwood Mac in its timelessness.
20 Talking Heads – Remain in Light
This is one of those albums that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the world is weird. It’s finite, and human, but barely… and hardly tractable. Nobody’s even really tried to imitate it, at least to any success. Yet it’s still as musically relevant as ever, “Afro” pretty much being the primal musical (not to mention geographical) movement going on today in American. I recently sang “Once in a Lifetime” at karaoke. It was way out of my range, but oddly, no one cared.
19 The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
Beware this band’s “greatest hits,” The Complete Stone Roses. The self-titled debut IS the greatest hits, particularly the re-released version, complete with B-side “Elephant Stone,” a song good enough to not only qualify for every other band’s album but probably be the best damn song on it. Not stylistically, but the album plays sequentially and sentimentally somewhat like XTC’s English Settlement — a disorienting opener followed by a couple modus operandi definers, and then back to exploration, reminding that you’re never just one thing, you’re in the world.
18 Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps
More pristine, impeccable guitar sound. Is this album ever fun though: “Welfare mother make better lovers”; “Sedan delivery’s a job I know I’ll keep / It sure was hard to find”; “I’m gonna ride my llama / From Peru to Texarkana,” all reminding us that “sailing away” can be within, to an invincible portion of the mind, as well.
17 Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the 36 Chambers
No one was hyper, and there’s nothing like shutting someone up and then getting the feeling of the verses of “Bring da Ruckus” gushing through you. “C.R.E.A.M.,” apparently, its second verse, wasn’t enough to gain Inspectah Deck notoriety, and neither was his kickoff verse in “Triumph,” I guess, but the fact that they batted him leadoff in that song should show that he more than pulled his weight on the debut. “Tearz” is probably my second favorite beat of all time.
16 Califone – Roots and Crowns
Listening to “Spider’s House” is like finding your son or daughter alive after having been buried underground for seven days in a mine shaft. “Burned by the Christians” is the perfect song for supreme, all-encompassing happiness, enjoying for on a rainy night, with a cat and a glass of wine. No band is more quintessentially Chicago. So I guess we can forgive the band for lifting “Sunday Noises”’ guitar line from Oasis’ “She is Love,” especially since that song rules too, but give credit where credit is due.
15 Jimi Hendrix Experience – Live at Winterland
Not sure whether Jimi and the crew are bringin’ it on Winterland? Just turn it to track three “Manic Depression,” to the last first: “Really ain’t to use in Hang-in-a-round”: instead of the usual A/A-flat/B progression, it’s B/D/B, a probably unconscious moderation in the vocal melody that alters the tune from great to timeless. Winterland also features the most rip-roaring versions of “Killing Floor” and “Hey Joe.” You could take “Red House” off of it, contrary to popular belief, and it would still be the best Hendrix issue.
14 Nirvana – Nevermind
23 years later, and it’s STILL impossible to tell exactly how great Nevermind is, because of all the conversations surrounding it considering its status as a moon-rock-caliber cultural token. What I do know is that it’s usually my dreams, and my deepest intuitions, steering me back to Nevermind, and despite the clean production, it’s still hard to believe when you hear rockers like “On a Plain” on the radio. Unplugged tended to improve upon the In Utero numbers; such is not the case with this one.
13 R.E.M. – Murmur
The sound on this album gets rich like a Georgia peach, and Michael Stipe’s warm timbre is perfect for the songwriting, impeccably disciplined and developed, dancing all over the scale like a road runner, sacrificing technical range only for invincible hummability.
12 Duke Ellington – The Essential Duke Ellington
This is jazz with the warmth and approachability of folk, so cool that Lester Bangs makes frequent mention of it. “Cottontail” will forever encapsulate sunny, cold early March for me, from when my high school jazz band performed it at a festival, that time of year when you make your own joy, and it’s delicate, so it HAS to be rip-roaring, college basketball players dunking, and everyone tending toward agreement, just because they can, and why not?
11 The Allman Brothers Band – A Decade of Hits (1969-1979)
The Allman Brothers band are just the Allman Brothers. As many as have tried, no one could even come close to doing what they did (ok, I like “Gimme Three Steps” by Skynyrd). The vocals are throaty, southern and sincere, the instrumentals (“Little Martha,” “Jessica,” “In Loving Memory of Elizabeth Reed”) are crystalline, nimble and prophetic, and the verse to “Revival” does a better job than anyone else did of actually dripping some APOLLONIAN paint onto the dark, Bob Dylan-dominated, Dionysian ’60’s.
10 Chuck Berry – The Great Twenty Eight
Admittedly, I usually just listen to the first 13 or songs on this album, two of which are routinely covered by the Grateful Dead (“Johnny B. Goode,” “Around and Around,”), one of which was copied, musically, VERBATIM (“Sweet Little Sixteen”) for the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ U.S.A.” And people wonder why Bob Dylan won’t shut up about Chuck Berry. “Oh Babydoll” might be my favorite, an ecstatic number that reminds us undeniably that rock and roll, at its true core, is sadness.
9 Michael Jackson – Thriller
Ok, “Billie Jean” is an example of a song with PERFECT production. There is actually nothing I would change about it. It even sounded good in my ’92 Honda Civic, and that’s saying something. And who wouldn’t want to morph into a monster on the streets of Gary, Indiana?
8 Radiohead – Ok Computer
I was a big music theorist in college, and I remember getting the idea that I wanted to make music that made the listener feel like he or she had just read a novel. Perhaps oddly, I remember Rage Against the Machine’s live album from Mexico having this effect on me, but OK Computer remains the undeniable torch bearer of this phenomenon. There are something like five overrated tracks in a row in its middle portion, and I still can’t imagine ever not being in the mood for it. Also, the last time MTV was good was with these videos, my favorite being “No Surprises”… I don’t think the camera moves for the whole song, but you do.
7 A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory
My favorite hip-hop ALBUM made by BLACK dudes ever. Hey, at least you can’t accuse me of trying to crowd-please. Common would eventually come out with an album called Someday it’ll All Make Sense. Wrong, it already did, you just didn’t listen to Q-Tip’s second verse in “Buggin’ Out” enough. This is hip-hop baton passing from Brand Nubian to Wu-Tang, each one indispensable in its own way, Low End Theory, if anything, along with simply being the COOLEST, wielding a superior scope of the record industry’s innards, finally an issue of emerging force by this time.
6 The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Some marijuana smoking implied. And this album can cure any paranoia. Also, you kind of need it to fully understand “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (which apparently doesn’t stand for LSD, pmm-hmm), which is guitar funneled through a Leslie Speaker, a unit originally designed for, and hitherto only used with, the Hammond organ. It’s a labyrinth of magnets and coils that gets the sound waves traveling in a circular path, creating a trippy, psychedelic feeling. Your head tends to follow suit.
5 Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
And then this is just emcees with Leslie Speaker just BUILT INTO THEIR GUTS, spewing the most perennially mind-blowing rhymes about egg wars, homeless guys drinking urine, pool stick fights, Dragnet, schizophrenia, transvestism and mailbox bumper cars, the production chops of the dust brothers, and the Beasties head-is-like-a-sieve sneer, justifying the whole thing. I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “Drum machines have no soul.” Wait, that IS like the crack that you put in a pipe.
4 Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth – Good Life (The Best of Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth)
Putting in Good Life at work or at a party, you’re likely to get commentary somewhere along the lines of “What is this? I like it already,” or “This is like the best hip-hop I’ve ever heard in my life.” Pete Rock produced on Fishscale too. Sometimes I’ll get these archetypal hip-hop lines just INGRAINED into my psyche (“Try to gas me like Hitler once we get divided”; “Amazing grace when I face the great paper chase”), et. al., and I’m like, god, who the hell is that? That dude on Kanye’s “So Appalled”? And then I put on Good Life, and remember. And this pretty much sums up C.L. Smooth’s career. Sometimes you gotta make more of a DENT, boy! But it’s all there for you to enjoy.
3 The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico
Whew, who would need an introduction to this album? I’ll just say that, as is the case with Is This it?, my favorite song is the opener. Catastrophic drunken Saturday nights are the sort of things that can drive us to death if we’re not careful, and “Sunday Morning,” before spawning a Nirvana – Nevermind lyric, made the most Herculean, but serene, effort of all, to rope-ski-lift back to self-respect through pure dizzying beauty and New-York-stamped genuineness and originality. The rest of the album could be Foghat and it would still be a classic.
2 The Beatles – Abbey Road
It would take God himself to describe the Beatles — to tell us why they existed, to tell us what exactly they DID, to tell us why they did what they did, and to tell us why the hell we noticed in the first place. There’s nothing with which to compare them, they’re just perfection in sound, and on Abbey Road, with very few, minute exceptions, they did it all with basic piano, guitar and drums. Only to sweeten the pot, this British blokes who changed the world are democratic, and I’m pretty sure the first three songs on Abbey Road include all three primary songwriters in the group: John, George and Paul, in the order. And you’ve got your unity, love and death there, in that order, lest anyone should think they had any loose ends to tie up on their final material.
1 Pavement – Wowee Zowee
Even Albert Einstein was once a little brat kid who wouldn’t sit still. Wowee Zowee is sort of the Einstein and the kid all in one: heaven-reaching ballads like “Black Out,” “Father to a Sister of Thought” and (my favorite) “AT&T” looped by plenty of riffage that could soundtrack any back alley: your “Serpentine Pad” exceeded in juvenility only by the hilariously jumpy and unfinished “Best Friend’s Arm.” Thoroughly recommended is the re-released double disc version, with the bizarre vocals on disc two’s “Kris Kraft” and a BBC version of the classic “Box Elder.”