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“Dolby’s 10 Most Underrated Albums of All Time”

10 Wu-Tang Clan – Forever

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Polymorphousness, polymorphousness, polymorphousness. Hell, your double LP BETTER have it. “It’s Yourz” follows heroically the world-concerned, mucky “A Better Tomorrow,” and synopsizes things into a nice anthemic chorus of success: “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.” Allowing for a couple bad tracks, from the 26 to choose from here, if there is a knock on Forever, it’s that Noodles isn’t utilized very extensively, but rounding out the upside, in the vein of the awesome tongue-limbo of “Hellz Wind Staff,” “Deadly Melody,” “Little Ghetto Boys” and more, is the album’s ability to showcase the extra-rhythmic emcees: U-God steals the show on unforgettable hit “Triumph,” and Pretty Toney is at his most comedic and acrobatic all over this joint, as on the equally credible head-nodder “Older Gods”: “I shi**ed on your hood, kid!” So for all the consciousness, there’s the reminder that these are still a bunch of ne’er-do-wells who know how to party.

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9 The Dodos – Time to Die

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As packed as Time to Die is with unforgettable melodies, and without some of the yuppie complacence and gratuitous stylistic striving of its indie breakthrough predecessor Visiter, the way this album plays as a cohesive whole is still thrilling, and not stagnant. Songs like the alienating “This is a Business” and the desperate “Two Medicines” stretch the band’s influence palette vaguely into jazz, and drip a refreshing noir pattern on what would otherwise be just sugar pop (which wouldn’t be too bad either).

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8 Yuck – Glow and Behold

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Of all the twee-pop tribute acts of the last 10 years, from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, to Real Estate, to Best Coast to Waxahatchee, Yuck easily come off as the most narcotic and inspired, the vocals sifting down into the sound scape as in shoegaze, rather than coming off as some cutesy singer-songwriter type narrative. The lyrics are vague and obtuse, too, so the songs come off more as a collaborative effort, and the sound, punk influenced but always guided by pop sensibility, is there to match.

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7 The Roots – Rising down

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As with most great albums, there are many ways you can look at this one, many harsh rubrics up to which you can hold it, and it will pass them all. Do you want an album to be HARD, but conscious? “Here come Mr. Taxman / Not even a fraction / Take it back son / Matter of fact / Next pay check it’s like that son,” Black Thought stepping into the perspective of the screwed-over 2008 recession worker. IRREVERENT? There’s Peedi Peedi’s verse in the frenetic and awe-inspiring “Get Busy”: “You know I’m politically incorrect / At the show / I started with a ‘Can I get a ho?’ / And the hoes go retarded…” not to mention that track where Black Thought keeps saying the “n” word all the time, something about “them brown ni**az and them red ni**az,” as if to remind you that he really doesn’t care about you, especially if you’re white, just a little spaz-out burrowing under Questlove’s signature groove. It’s like the brief deluge into non-art only solidifies the artistic form, and the group’s overall delineation, of the hip-hop album. Also, the skits are amazing.

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6 Jay-Z – Magna Carta… Holy Grail

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MCHG proved beyond a doubt that Jay-Z is bionic. It sounds just like the albums he made in the ’90’s, though coming out when people were sticking a fork in hip-hop, when Das Racist had broken up, when Killer Mike made his sort of trick-you-can-only-do-once, already well into his 30’s. H.O.V.A. sounds here like a guy who’s been there before, and will be there again, just ready to get on the mic and spit, inviting in guests like Rick Ross and Frank Ocean, not because he needs them, but maybe just to give himself a breather, because the best songs are still just when he’s locked in solo. It’s the rugged streets of New York made into a product, like it should be, street tested mixed with just enough bull-sh**ing, like the Beasties knew how to do.

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5 Dandy Warhols – 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia

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Ironically, this album that opens with a dark, brooding Neil Young-harkening number “Godless,” made me question both my own belief in God and my conception of the outer reaches of human identity, when I picked it up in high school. One of my questions was, is this band even trying to be good? I mean, they’re capable of crafting these dark dirges that can even take the place of My Bloody Valentine, for the certain spritely young listener like myself, and then they follow it up with two paeans to mummified scribes, “Muhammed” and “Nietzsche,” and neither song sounds like it belongs on the same album as the opener, or with each other. And then the next song is a homo-erotic banjo Americana number, the unforgettable but palatable “Country Leaver,” that’s right, for the hillbilly gay in you. The rest of the album is pretty much equally weird, but for some reason “Big Indian” stuck with me as the kind of steady handed complacence which marked me during the summer of 2002, when I was sleeping from 7 am to 7 pm every day, working this summer job where we’d do drugs on the job. Oh, the slacker era was over? Hehe.

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4 Stone Temple Pilots – No. 4

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David Bowie, dubbed absurdly the “Greatest Rock Star of All Time,” by Rolling Stone, dies (a few short years after Lou Reed, by no coincidence, in my opinion, per the spouse rule), and what’s his last album cover? A very carbon copy of No. 4, just with the white and the black interchanged. No. 4 is like that nudie magazine under your bed with Jenny McCarthy in it — no one will admit to having it, but your fingers lunge for it with a preternatural fury guided straight by the rock-glory heavens. Produced by the great Brendan O’Brien, even complete with one of his signature laugh-tracks after “MC5” (which I hope means they’re “seeing through” the MC5, frankly), the album sums up flawlessly and relentlessly what it is to be a frustrated guy — the dangerous narcissism of “Down,” the awkward misanthropy of “Sex and Violence” right on to, of course, the narcotic haze of the album’s stunning closeur, “Atlanta” (the hometown of producer Brendan O’Brien). No. 4 is STP bringing it all back home, with blood on their tracks, all in one.

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3 White Rabbits – Milk Famous

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You’d think the searing perfection to which the White Rabbits nailed the Velvet Underground pop zeitgeist here, with songs like “Everyone Can’t Be Confused,” “Danny Come inside” and “I Had it Coming,” taking the baton straight from The Strokes and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, would be enough, not only for their own contentedness, but to garner them some notoriety. So it certainly entails a bit of head-spinning when you hear “Hold it to the Fire” emerging as the most viable single, channeling some serious My Morning Jacket psychedelia, not for campfire obtuseness, but for immediate, necessary social gregariousness. The song splays with mourning and celebration, a crazy but balanced attack on your conception of yesteryear.

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2 Sonic Youth – Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star

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If you want to see my best impression of a narcoleptic, just mention either of SY’s two albums that preceded this one, Goo or Dirty. They are Sonic Youth in a nutshell, as in, stuffed-into-a-nutshell, with songs that would soundtrack everything I loathe in the world from Guitar Hero to their greatest hits collection Hits are For Squares. Jet Set was the Youth rediscovering themselves, after dabbling in mainstream success ever so briefly, and Kim Gordon reconnecting with her own sexual vitality: “10, 20, 30, 40 / Tell me that you need me sorely”; “We kiss right under a tree / I felt so salty free”; but of course it’s with the bratty sneer (which the band would further perfect on followup Washing Machine) that would be copied by Sleater-Kinney and Courtney Love alike (I think that might even be a Love sound byte in “Quest for the Cup”).

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1 Led Zeppelin – Presence

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Presence marks the point at which Zeppelin really, truly came together as a band. In somewhat of a twist of spicy irony, wikipedia makes Jimmy Page out to look like the goat, saying he “made the decision to record the album after Robert Plant sustained serious injuries from a car accident.” Make no mistake, folks, Presence was recorded out in the country, and is the progeny of the two country boys of the group: Plant and Bonham, the latter of which stealing the show on the album’s centerpiece “Hots on for Nowhere.” Amazing story: when Robert Plant was convalescing in a hospital in Greece following his accident, all of a sudden the guy in the bed next to him busted into a rendition of “The Ocean,” not even knowing who was laying right beside.

 

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