From the MoSS? Pit: Kings of Leon

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Remember the MoSS? Pit post about the trip to Kansas City Mrs. Todd and I took a few months back to see Arcade Fire? If not click here. If so, then you know it was an awesome concert and we had a great all around trip. It just so happens that on the drive down to Kansas City, the Mrs. and I impulsively bought some tickets for a future great concert and great all around trip. (I love technology…always and forever…always and forever)

Of course, we didn’t know it would be great at the time. We were just hoping for good weather and a fun show when we bought tickets in the pit for Kings of Leon in St. Louis. If you read our Undisputed Top Albums ever posts them you’ll remember that I had the Kings of Leon album Aha Shake Heartbreak listed as my #51 album ever. You’ll also remember that after introducing my wife to their music she has become a KOL lover pushing into stalker-like levels. She’d seen them before with pretty decent seats but it was my goal to get her right up to the front of the pit. Come hell or high water we were going to have the best view in the house for this one.

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Mrs. MoSS? Todd excitedly bragging/texting her friends.

The venue was the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater west of St. Louis where Kings of Leon previously played and left the stage mid set because they were getting bombarded by pigeon shit. Really. Pigeon shit. Upon hearing this news,  we weren’t just worried about getting a good spot to see the show. Now we also had to worry about pigeon doodoo? Chris and Sam had been at the venue before to see The Cure and assured me that if we got there right at doors, we would be able to get to the front of the pit. Unfortunately, they had no assurances for the pigeon poopy. We took their advice and we arrived at the venue 15 minutes before doors. There was probably a hundred or so other concert goers in line already but once doors opened and we made our way through security into the pit area, we were able to walk right up and secure a spot 10 feet from the stage. The Mrs. was thrilled, I was husband of the year and all was right in the world.

Kongos

Kongos

 

The only negative, if there was one, was that we had to sit through 2 opening acts that neither of us was too thrilled about. The first was the South African band of brothers, Kongos. We actually listened to their album, Lunatic, on the drive down but neither of us really liked it much. Their live show was actually much better. They were energetic and at times they reminded me of Graceland era Paul Simon. Maybe it’s their South African roots.

The 2nd band was the oddly named, Young the Giant. I’d heard them a bit on satellite IMG_1517radio but never really enjoyed their music. It just doesn’t touch me in any way. I felt the same about the live show. The music was fine. It just doesn’t affect me one way or the other. It just sort of …is. I will say this about Young the Giant, the front man is very charismatic. He works the stage well and really gets into the show. So I guess there’s that.

Needless to say, once Young the Giant were over we were ready for some KOL. Although, it was pretty cool being right up front and watching the small army of men tear down and put up the lighting and sound gear.

After 15 minutes of watching roadies and downing a couple shots we sneaked in, the lights dimmed and the show began. KOL kicked the show off with the terribly titled, but rousing runner of a song “Supersoaker.” It’s the lead single from their latest album Mechanical Bull. Prior to the show my wife and I were discussing past KOL setlists and listing songs that we really wanted to hear but thought to be seldom played long shots. To our delight, the next two songs were actually on that list as they played “Taper Jean Girl” and “Fans” in succession.

IMG_5324KOL have a contest running during this tour where the fans pick a song for each venue of the tour and they will only play the winning song that night. No repeats during the remainder of the tour. The St. Louis selection was “Slow Night, So Long” from the previously mentioned album Aha Shake Heartbreak. This was a particularly fun point of the night because, at their own admittance, they weren’t really prepared to play that one. They pulled it off quite well though. I actually tweaked my neck a bit banging my bald head back and forth in the part of the song when the drums really kick in.

The rest of the set was pretty decent mix of songs from all 5 of their albums. I really enjoyed the sing-along moments of the show during “Knocked Up”, “Pyro” and the KOL stadium killer anthem, “Use Somebody”, which closed out the pre-encore part of the set.

The crowd was pretty diverse. For much of the first part of the show I actually had an 8 or 9

My super sweet merch tent purchase. Aha Shake T-shirt.

My super sweet merch tent purchase. Aha Shake T-shirt.

year old girl standing next to me belly up to the rail. Before the show started, I couldn’t believe that her parents would bring her to a show at that age. She knew the words to every song though and belted them out as she jumped up and down. I think my wife was a more than a bit jealous as the band members handed the girl special used items before the encore started. Guitarist Matt handed her a pick and my wife’s favorite Followill brother, drummer Nathan, sent the little girl a drum stick. That last one stung the most I’m sure.

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The last 3 songs of the night were KOL encore staples “Crawl”, “Black Thumbnail” and the crowd pleaser “Sex on Fire.” The band seemed to really enjoy themselves throughout the set. Maybe they were just happy not to be dodging pigeon feces all night. No matter the reason they played their asses off and the crowd loved it.

Mrs. MoSS? Todd resting her dancing shoes as she calls for our ride back to the hotel.

Mrs. MoSS? Todd resting her dancing shoes as she calls for our ride back to the hotel.

Today when Hip-Hop and EDM lead the way, these guys are a real throw back to the days of the stadium filling rock bands of the ‘70s and ‘80s. If you want to see a real rock show, by a real rock band in their song writing and performing prime, I can’t recommend seeing Kings of Leon enough. If you want, you could even join the wife and me for an upcoming Kings show in Vegas. I will be turning 40 years old in the VIP section as the Followill brothers kick off their show at the MGM Grand. I can’t wait. Holler up at me, maybe I’ll see you there.

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From the MoSS? Pit: Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire

 

Last November I had the misfortune of having to work out of town for a few weeks in the frozen tundra of North Dakota. I had a nice 10-hour drive to collect my thoughts and listen to music. One of the albums I was listening to a lot then was Arcade Fire, Reflektor. It was while driving up north that I got the great news that Arcade Fire was going on tour. I pulled over and while freezing my beans off in my car I was able to scavenge enough cell signal to score a pre-sale password and purchase two pretty good seats to the show at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City. It seemed like a million months away but the thought of an outdoor concert at the end of April helped warm me up as the first of many snowstorms to come covered my car. As the concert date got closer, Mrs. MoSSTodd (the owner of ticket #2) and I kept our fingers crossed for decent weather and a good show. Little did we know that we would get everything we wished for and more.

The weather was perfect all day before the show as we shopped for vinyl (stores were pretty picked over due to National Record Store Day the week before but I was able to snag a few treats) in the Volker Neighborhood, KC’s hipster district. The area was really buzzing that day. It seemed like everyone we chatted with was also going to the Arcade Fire show. The neighborhood was lousy with dudes in hillbilly beards and handlebar mustaches escorting their tattooed suicide girl wannabe girlfriends around the local boutiques looking for proper attire to wear to the concert that night. You see, in an attempt to make their concerts more fun and create a party atmosphere, Arcade Fire issued a dress code. The clothing requirements were printed on the tickets, “Please Wear Formal Attire or Costume.” We already had our outfits worked out. Let’s just say there was a lot of sequins and leather involved.

As show time approached, the temp was still a balmy 74 degrees and holding steady. We were set for a perfect night of outdoor entertainment with not a drop of rain in site. After we parked the car and started walking with the crowd to the theatre, it was apparent that this would be no regular old concert. It was as if we were all circus performers walking to the big top. I’d say that the vast majority of concertgoers chose to follow the dress code. While most people went with some version of formal attire, there were plenty of interesting costumes. You name it, we saw it:

Dude dressed like Dr. Zaius from Planet of the Apes- Check
Alien Hooker- Check
Little Bo Peep- Check
Guy in full size rabbit suit- Check that 9 times

The closer we got to the theatre entrance we could hear music getting louder. I just figured it was the opener, which I thought was going to be Concert TreatsBaltimore musician Dan Deacon. We came a little late because I wasn’t incredibly interested in seeing him live. That’s when I started recognizing one of the songs coming from the stage. It was “Gangsta” by tUnE-yArDs. tUnE-yArDs was opening?!?!?! I grabbed the wife’s hand and we hurried though security (luckily they missed several mini-bottles of vodka and a flask full of rum stashed in my jacket pockets) and made our way down to our seats. My ears were not deceiving me as we confirmed this happy surprise. We caught the tail end of the tUnE-yArDs show and both of us were amazed at how leader Merrill Garbus created drum loops on the spot, and layered these with impromptu hand claps, ukulele, and vocals. This made for a very entertaining and danceable opening act. I just wish we could have seen the whole set.

Arcade Fire SitesAfter tUnE-yArDs left the stage, the road crew started preparing for the Arcade Fire set and DJ Kid Koala spun some records to entertain us from a side stage. I thought this was a pretty original idea. It was a lot better than having to hear Nickelback or Kid Rock over the PA system. You could watch Mr. Koala do his thing live on the jumbo screen and listen at the same time. Dude was pretty amazing as he spun 2-3 records at a time creating some great beats.

Just as the sun went down so did the house lights. I’d done my research before the show and looked at several set lists from previous Arcade Fire shows. The opening song from every one I checked was the title track from their last album,“Reflektor.” That night they shook things up a bit and played “Here Comes the Night Time” first. Based on the setting they couldn’t have started it off any better. The song has a real party feel and further pumped up the already pumped-up crowd as we all sang the opening lyrics.

When the sun goes down,
When the sun goes down you head inside
Because the lights don’t work,
Nothing works but you don’t mind

Here comes the night time

Midway through, giant cannons shot confetti and streamers over the entire venue and lead singer Win Butler urged the crowd to Arcade Fire 2move up and dance in the aisles if they wanted, “Just be friendly to security.” During a lull in the song Win addressed the crowd again saying, “We’re going to give you guys everything we’ve got tonight. You give us everything you have.”  From that point on the crowd including the Mrs. and I didn’t stop dancing until the last song.

They played a nice mix of new and old songs and kept things interesting by throwing in a few surprises. During the song “Afterlife” from the new album, a guy in a reflective costume mysteriously appeared on a stage that just happened to be a few feet away from us. The theatre lights shown down on him and he rotated like a human disco ball. Check out my short video below.

[In typical Todd-written MoSS? Pit form, my videos are less than great. I forgot to clear space on my phone before the show so I was unable to record very lengthy videos. I’ll get it right on one of these MoSS? Pits.]

During the next song Win’s bandmate and wife Regine came out to the same stage and sang “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus).”

Throughout the tour the band has been opening their encores with a cover song. Most times it has some association with the city they are located. In Minneapolis they covered a Prince song. This night they performed a cover of Kansas’ “Dust In The Wind.”  The band played on until Win cut them off: “Guys, that was really beautiful, but that’s a Kansas song and we’re in fuckin’ Missouri. That’s gonna kill when we play Lawrence, though.” Watch below courtesy of Stereogum.

They closed the show with the anthemic “Wake Up” from their first album Funeral. The perfect song to one more time unite the crowd as we sang along with the “Oh,Oh’s’ during the chorus and even more confetti rained down on us.

Arcade Fire Confetti Shower

I doubt anyone walked away from this show thinking they didn’t get their money’s worth because as Win said at the beginning, “They gave us everything they had.” I hope the band felt the same about us.

Best albums of 2013: No. 5-7

The Music or Space Shuttle? braintrust rolls out its top albums of 2013 this week! Today we unveil our individual picks for #5-7. We’ll reveal our top 10 throughout the week, culminating with our top pick on Friday, Dec. 20. Don’t miss our picks for #11-20 and #8-10.

Todd

#7: Sigur Ros, Kveikur

kveikurIf I had only one word to describe the amazing Sigur Ros record Kveikur, it would be “Brennisteinn!!!!” Brennisteinn happens to be the epic opening track of the album and quite a bit of a departure from most of their other music. It’s much harder and more aggressive than the uplifting movie soundtrack fodder that they have released in the past. Cameron Crowe must have used their entire discography in that We Bought a Zoo movie.

Brennisteinn!!!!” was also the mantra of your favorite MoSS? writers during our trip to Chicago to see Jonsi and the boys live at the UIC Pavilion. Well, that was usually followed up by our lame attempt to recreate the deep bass drop that starts out the song. “DUHHNNNNNN!”

What a show that was. Probably the best concert, musically, that I witnessed all year. Other live shows this year may have been filled with more booze and interesting characters, but none could touch the sonic and visual experience of Sigur Ros. Chris wrote a great MoSS? Pit entry about it. You should check that out if you haven’t already. Then you should run directly to wherever Jonsi is playing his sideways electric guitar with a violin bow and see him perform.

#6: Haim, Days Are Gone

Haim_-_Days_Are_GoneI first heard Haim while surfing the internet late last year.  I ran across the video for their song “Don’t Save Me”, a catchy little pop tune that became a mainstay on all of my 2013 playlists. It even snagged a spot on the MoSS? January mix. They piqued my interest right away. How could you not be interested? 3 talented and attractive sisters that make great music? Yes please.

I feel for their father though. Have you seen the hair on those girls? It’s long and there’s lots of it. It must have been a full time job for him to de-clog the drains around his house. I have a wife and one daughter and have enough problems in that department. Can you imagine the havoc created with their plumbing when their monthly cycles sync up? The horror.

Throughout the rest of the year the ladies released several more singles and got massive airplay on indie radio channels.  Every song seemed to be better than the next. If I had to pick a “Song of the Summer” this year, their single “The Wire” would have to be it. By August it seemed obvious that Haim would be at the top of my best of the year list. The only problem was that they hadn’t actually released an album yet. The girls must have known they were running out of time because in late September they released Days Are Gone to help cement their place on my list.

#5: Arcade Fire, Reflektor

reflektorI was pretty worried about this one before it came out. The last Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs, had the great honor bestowed upon it as my pick for #1 Album of 2010. It eventually won the slightly less prestigious Grammy for Album of the Year. Could the new record live up to the hype? When the first single “Reflektor” was revealed I thought it was good, but was again worried. If this was to be the best song on the album, Win Butler and company were in trouble.

A few weeks before the album was released Arcade Fire was the musical guest on SNL. They played the previously mentioned “Reflektor” and a new song to me at the time “Afterlife.” Both fine but again I was not exactly blown away. My wife and I stayed up a bit later that night because after SNL there was to be a half hour special featuring more live performances of new songs by Arcade Fire. By minute 2 of the first song on the special “Here Comes the Night Time” all my fears were brushed aside. My wife and I were smiling and couch dancing throughout the entire 30 minute show. Here is link to the whole show if you want to recreate our experience…

As you can probably extrapolate from my ramblings, I loved the album after its eventual release. I was lucky enough to score pretty good pre-sale tickets to the Arcade Fire show in Kansas City next spring. The ticket says formal attire or costume required. My wife has been working overtime with her “Bedazzler” to create the perfect jewel encrusted suit coat for me to wear. If you are at the show, look for the bald guy in the white suit with a sparkling red phoenix bursting out of a blue tuna can.

Chris

#7: Burial, Rival Dealer

rival dealer coverI’ve always found it peculiar that music fans bought the idea that Four Tet and Burial were the same person. I mean, Four Tet is pretty good and all—I put Beautiful Rewind in my top 20, after all—but Burial is playing on a totally different level. If you told me Four Tet was Burial’s younger brother, that could gain some traction with me…

Burial continues to show he is the master, especially since he abandoned the LP format and has run with the EP concept (his last four releases, starting with the absolutely brilliant Street Halo). These roughly half-hour chunks of Burial’s universe (scratchy texture, muted female voices, off-kilter percussion, ominous synths) sound otherworldly.

And on Rival Dealer, Burial deals with some extremes, in my view. The title track might be the single-most propulsive song he’s ever created; the bass lunges forward when in the past it might be fine to just sit back and set the chill vibe. The Burialesque “hollow” percussion (think woodblock) is absent, relying on quick work on the high hat. And even the vocal sample screams at you: “I want to love you more than anyone!”

The “short” song, “Hiders,” strips away the beat completely, leaving the listener with a rather clean vocal track and a nice keyboard line that soars right alongside the voice. And “Come Down to Us” is possibly the best long-form collage he’s tried on these EPs, better than “Ashtray Wasp,” better than “Rough Sleeper.”

I don’t know if I can handle a complete LP of Burial awesome, and if he delivers an EP or two each year, well, that works for me.

#6: Sigur Ros, Kveikur

kveikur coverLast year, I ranked the latest offering from Sigur Rós (Valtari) in this very spot, #6. I was so happy to see the band return from hiatus; nothing else can explain why I ranked that album as high as I did. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything special either. I wanted to believe that it was something in the same vein as ( ), but really it was more the sound of a band that had just overdosed on Quaaludes. (I would probably substitute Andy Stott’s Luxury Problems if I were to revise my 2012 list.)

But in 2013, they lost a band member and gained some serious edge. What an about face…and what a welcome change. I echo everything Todd says above about “Brennisteinn,” and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The title track and “Isjaki” are incredibly upbeat numbers; “Stormur” has the sort of ethereal vibe one looks for in Sigur Rós but maintains the energy of the album; it sort of reminds me of “Staralfur” from the wonderful Agaetis Byrjun. The clanging and brass of “Hrafntinna” provide a nice comedown from the opening blast of “Brennisteinn” and “Rafstraumur” is one of those songs that builds on a simple vocal and turns into something loud, almost in the same styling as an Explosions in the Sky tune.

And don’t let the funky song titles or Jonsi’s Icelandic lyrics scare you away: even those of us whose fluency is limited to English and “Spanglish” have no problem singing along to these tunes.

So yeah, I won’t regret putting this at #6 this time next year. In fact, that this album only made it to #6 on my 2013 ranking shows just how great this year has been in my opinion. (And yes, read our “From the MoSS? Pit” entry from Sigur Rós’ Chicago show.)

#5: Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe

chvrchesI should repeat one of my closing lines from the Sigur Rós entry: that this album is only #5 on my list shows just how great 2013 was.

Often times I find myself really liking “the deep cuts” from albums. Sometimes that’s just because the singles are oversaturated, whether that be courtesy of SiriusXMU or licensing to commercials or what have you. Sometimes I just find the interesting experiments of non-singles to be more intriguing than the catchy hooks.

The thing about this album, for the most part, is that you could throw a dart at the album’s track listing and whichever song you hit, you have a potential single. The songs are all that well crafted, yet diverse enough that the album doesn’t sound like you accidentally hit the “repeat one” button on your music playing device. The songs that are billed as the singles (“The Mother We Share,” “Gun,” “Lies,” “Recover”) are outstanding in terms of upbeat vibe and great vocals/lyrics; other songs such as “We Sink” and “Tether” and “Under the Tide” show no dropoff.

What separates this album from other great-but-not-GRRRRREEEAAAAAT offerings (not to pick on them, but let’s say Cut Copy) is the emotion that comes through. That’s not just limited to the vocals, although that’s where the primary difference lies. Lauren Mayberry’s voice really speaks to one’s heart, whereas Cut Copy lyrics seem to just keep the party going. (Again, I like Cut Copy, but I don’t know that I ever feel much connection to the words.)

I’m afraid these guys have become too big for something like Mission Creek. I’d love for the festival organizers to prove me wrong…

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: October 2013

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Side A : Chris’ Picks

Side B : Todd’s‘ Picks

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: September 2013

106

Side A : Todd’s‘ Picks

Side B : Chris’ Picks

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #30-21

Yep, we’re making a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.

Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.

Here are some spoilers: you’re not going to find the typical hipster stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel or Slint or even stuff one/both of us actually likes such as DJ Shadow or Pavement. This isn’t Rolling Stone so you’re not going to find Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Pet Sounds at the top. Wham’s Make It Big was snubbed.

We’re not going to roll it all out at once; no sense rushing through all this quality music! But Music or Space Shuttle? is gonna be pretty busy over the next two months.

That’s enough of an intro. Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ #30-21

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

30. Interpol, Antics

29. School of Seven Bells, Alpinisms

28. Vampire Weekend, Contra

27. Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain

26. The White Stripes, Elephant

25. The Cure, The Head on the Door

24. Nirvana, In Utero

23. The Radio Dept., Pet Grief

22. Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles (a.k.a. II)

21. Pink Floyd, The Wall

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#27: Prince & the Revolution, Purple Rain

cover for Purple RainCan you recite the opening lines of “Let’s Go Crazy”?

Of course you can. My co-worker Tom (the one who writes) prides himself on it. Every now and then we’ll talk about music and somehow, either through my prompt or his way of steering the conversation, he’ll rattle them off (often double-timing it just to show how awesome he is):

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today to get through this thing called “life”
Electric word, life; that means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here to tell ya, there’s something else:
The afterworld
A world of neverending happiness
You can always see the sun
Day
Or night
So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
You know the one
Dr. Everything’ll Be All Right
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby
Cause in this life, things are much harder than the afterworld
This life…you’re on your own

(I realized after I typed that up that I didn’t use the letter “U” every time the word “you” is used. Or the numeral 2 instead of the word “to.” An oversight for which I have no apology.)

If John Lennon had been alive in 1984 and heard this opening track, he would have turned to Yoko and said, “Did you hear the way that guy in purple started off his new album? Much cooler than ‘I dig a pygmy by Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf-Aids! Phase one, in which Doris gets her oats,’ innit?”

“Let’s Go Crazy” is one of the three 45RPM records I have from Purple Rain; I didn’t even own the album in its entirety for probably two years after its release. I had a third of it already, along with the sweet b-sides like “Erotic City” (they say “fuck” on that one, Tipper!). I also had “When Doves Cry,” the song that occasionally prompts a re-enactment of the video in my office to the chagrin of my officemate. (I’ve got that crawling-across-the-floor move down.) And he might refute it now, but I clearly remember my dad coming downstairs while I was listening to my records and asking, “What Prince songs do you have?” I showed him Doves and Crazy, he frowned, then said, “So you don’t have the ‘Purple Rain’ song?” After my next trip to Pamida, I did. “Purple Rain”: kid tested, dad approved.

I really had no interest in getting the album as a whole until I heard about “Darling Nikki” and all its lyrical glory. Not from my friends or the older kids in the neighborhood or at school; no, I read a big article in the Des Moines Register about the PMRC and Tipper Gore and the attempts to keep the smut out of the hands of kids. All because Tipper heard the “masturbating with a magazine” line in “Nikki” and lost her shit. Before long, Washington wives were making a list of the “Filthy Fifteen” (which included “She Bop” by Cyndi Lauper*) and dudes like Dee Snider and Frank Zappa were testifying before Congress. But it was John Denver who put it best in his testimony: “That which is denied becomes that which is most desired, and that which is hidden becomes that which is most interesting. Consequently, a great deal of time and energy is spent trying to get at what is being kept from you.” Yep, as soon as I read about all of this nonsense, I couldn’t wait to get the whole album.

And it was a good thing, as I discovered a treasure trove of later singles that I hadn’t bought on 45 like “Take Me With U” and great album cuts like “Baby I’m A Star.” And much to Tipper’s disappointment, I never became a depraved sex fiend after hearing “Darling Nikki” and I didn’t join the occult after listening to Slayer and I didn’t kill myself after listening to Suicide and I didn’t kill any cops after listening to Body Count or Ice-T or N.W.A.

But I loved this Prince album. Still do.

(* – “She Bop” was flagged for masturbation references. Masturbation was the furthest thing from my mind whenever I heard/saw Cyndi Lauper.)

#22: Crystal Castles, II

album cover for Crystal Castles IITwo years ago, I came down with some strain of flu (avian, swine, whatever) and found myself lying listless for about a week straight. I was too tired to read, too woozy to get out and about…I couldn’t even play video games, which was a red flag that something was definitely wrong.

So how did I spend all that recovery time? Listening to an album with songs called “Fainting Spells,” “Suffocation,” “Violent Dreams,” and “Pap Smear.” And finding my favorite album of 2010 in the process.

The band that had the coolest 8-bit sound around, quite evident on the eponymous debut that came out two years previous, suddenly decided to take the tunes in a shoegaze direction (with an electronic twinge, of course). And it was beautiful. Songs like “Celestica” and “Suffocation” (despite the gloomy title) soared thanks to Alice Glass’ actual singing (!!!) and the keyboard chords created by Ethan Kath. No longer were these two relying solely on piercing, mutated screams and Donkey Kong samples to create art. (Although that was cool too.)

Whether it was the thumping beat and impassioned howls of “Baptism” or the shrewd use of a Sigur Ros sample in “Year of Silence” or the whirling whiplash of “Pap Smear” (I know, these aren’t the most appetizing titles, but the songs themselves aren’t 1/1000th as nauseating as songs bearing benign titles like “Moves Like Jagger” or whatever geeks like One Direction call their songs) or the brilliant use of Robert Smith vocals on “Not in Love.” For people yearning for the chaos of the first album, there are cuts like “Doe Deer” and “Fainting Spells.” “Intimate” provides the dance-floor crowd something to devour, and, um, weirdos everywhere could rally around the generally spaced-out “I Am Made of Chalk.”

There’s something sinister about each of these songs; sometimes it’s evident, sometimes not. Even the gorgeous “Celestica” has a dark side: the song was inspired by an incident at a Celestica plant (it’s a plastics company in Canada, apparently) where an employee fell into a boiling vat and died.

On that note, I hope you all catch swine flu and spend a week listening to this masterpiece.

Todd’s #30-21

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

30. Jane’s Addiction, Nothing’s Shocking

29. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

28. Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti

27. Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

26. Prince and the Revolution, Parade

25. Beastie Boys, Check Your Head

24. Pixies, Trompe le Monde

23. The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow

22. The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin

21. Depeche Mode, Violator

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#26. Prince and the Revolution, Parade

This was the first Prince album that I ever got. Not to say it was the first I’d ever listened to. I had dubbed copies of other Prince albums from my older brother who was a big fan. Parade was the first one that I actually went to the store and picked out. My parents let my brother and me each pick out something from the music section at the local Target store. This was a rare occasion so I took a rather long time deliberating over many options. I believe at one point I had three tapes picked out and had the plastic security doohickeys around my wrist.

Remember those things? So many times I remember perusing the music bins of Musicland or Disc Jockey spinning one of those around my wrist as I looked. I sort of miss going to record stores. It made the album selection process more important. If you were going to leave the house, find a record store and then plop down the majority of your hard earned cash on an album, you wanted it to be good. Not just one or two songs good and the rest crap. Believe me, I bought a ton of those over the years.

I’m pretty sure my brother picked his tape right off. He chose INXS, Listen Like Thieves. (In itself a great album that I briefly considered putting on this list. Unfortunately, it did not meet all the strict requirements to make the final cut) Based upon his aggravated looks and comments, I’m sure my brother was getting pretty annoyed with me because I couldn’t make up my mind. Around my wrist I had:

Peter Gabriel, So. (Great album that made this list at #37)

Pet Shop Boys, Please (Good album but never considered for this list)

Prince and the Revolution, Parade (So incredibly good that it should be on everyone’s list)

Apparently, I was shopping exclusively in the P’s section of the store. After flip flopping on my decision for twenty minutes or so, my brother made the decision easy. He looked at my selections and said “It’s not that hard. That’s dumb (Peter Gabriel), that’s stupid (Pet Shop Boys), and that’s Prince. Put that other shit back and let’s go.” So that’s what I did. I just needed a little push in any direction. If he would have said Peter Gabriel was the better choice I probably would have taken that one home.

Prince turned out to be the right choice as I learned later. I ended up getting both of those other tapes at subsequent visits to the store. Parade got way more plays on my boombox. Is there a lesson here? Yes. Two lessons.

Lesson 1: Listen to your older siblings. They may seem like they’re being jerks sometimes but they are actually secretly looking out for you.

Lesson 2: “That’s dumb, that’s stupid, that’s Prince.” Words to live by.

#24. Pixies, Trompe le Monde

Back when I was in high school, I would spend my Sunday nights not going to bed early and preparing for a new week at school, but instead staying up late listening to a radio station broadcasting from the middle of a corn field near Muscatine, Iowa. Specifically, a show called “Off the Beaten Track.” They played all kinds of early alternative and college rock. I heard many of my all time favorite bands for the first time listening to that show. The DJs were Mary of the Heartland and some dude named Roberto. (Roberto will come into play in some of the upcoming album blurbs.) I used to put a fresh cassette tape in my radio/tape player/CD player and listen as long as I could until I fell asleep. The next day I would rewind the tape and listen to what I missed.

After the show, they would premiere a newly released record in its entirety. I could catch most of that on the same tape if I stayed up late enough to flip it over. It was a great way to get a new album for free if you had the time and a crap ton of blank tapes. On one of those nights, they played The Pixies, Trompe le Monde. It was the first Pixies album that I’d ever heard. From the start of the title track I was confused and blown away at the same time. Was it punk? Was it surfer rock? The next song “Planet of Sound” played more like a metal song with Black Francis’ screaming vocals. The next song, “Alec Eiffel”, went back to surfer-punk, well kind of, because they sneak in a keyboard part at the end. Then, they really confused me by throwing in a cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain song “Head On.”  They were all over the map and I loved it. And I didn’t even have to buy it!

I still have a weird reaction when I listen to the last song “The Navajo Know.”  My tape cut off right in the middle.

Upon construction
there is the Mohawk
his way of walking
quite high above the ground
fearless of looking down
skywalk
some people say that
[click]…

Years later, I bought Trompe le Monde on CD. For quite awhile, I would still expect the song to end at that point. It took me a long time not to anticipate the abrupt ending. At least I finally got to hear the last of the lyrics and learn “what some people say.”

some people say that…

the Navajo know
a way of walking
quite high above the ground
fearless of looking down
oh no.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

#40-31

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Some content on this page was disabled on May 7, 2016 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from PRS for Music. You can learn more about the DMCA here:

https://en.support.wordpress.com/copyright-and-the-dmca/

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #50-41

Yep, we’re making a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.

Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.

Here are some spoilers: you’re not going to find the typical hipster stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel or Slint or even stuff one/both of us actually likes such as DJ Shadow or Pavement. This isn’t Rolling Stone so you’re not going to find Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Pet Sounds at the top. Wham’s Make It Big was snubbed.

We’re not going to roll it all out at once; no sense rushing through all this quality music! But Music or Space Shuttle? is gonna be pretty busy over the next two months.

That’s enough of an intro. Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ #50-41

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

50. Guns n’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction

49. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon

48. Sigur Ros, Takk…

47. The Radio Dept., Clinging to a Scheme

46. Sleigh Bells, Treats

45. Led Zeppelin, II

44. The Sugarcubes, Life’s Too Good

43. Beck, Odelay!

42. Arcade Fire, Funeral

41. Danger Mouse, The Grey Album

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#45: Led Zeppelin, II

cover for Led Zeppelin IIWhen I was in eighth grade, I ended up buying one of those “special issues” of Rolling Stone; this particular one listed something like the 100 greatest albums of all time (sound familiar?). I was thumbing through it while riding in my dad’s truck; he kept glancing over and saying, “I have that one. I have that one. I have that one too.”

So as soon as we got home, I went downstairs and started looking through my dad’s vinyl collection. Indeed, my dad had some cool stuff: Beatles, Hendrix, Velvet Underground, Rolling Stones, Wings Over America, and one album by Led Zeppelin. Where to start?

I’d heard plenty of Beatles at this point, so I set them aside for the time being. I finally picked a criterion for what I would listen to: which band adorned the most T-shirts in my junior high school? Zeppelin was the clear winner: the studs, the stoners, and the geeks all represented Led Zep across their chests.

So when I went to bed that night, I put the LP on the turntable (yes, I had a record player in my room in 1987), plugged in my over-the-ear headphones, and lay down to take it all in.

Whoa, dude.

The stuttering riff of “Whole Lotta Love” filled my ears. Plant shrieked something about how I need coolin’ (he wasn’t foolin’). The song thundered forward, and then hit the part where the music spiraled around my head (the headphones made the music exponentially cooler) and Plant let loose with his howls. As soon as the song ended (or, more accurately, faded out), I jumped out of bed, moved the needle back to the beginning, and found myself air guitaring and lip-syncing the shit out of my new favorite song. I also hoped I would find time at school the next day to chat up any of the 73 guys who would undoubtedly have on their Swan Song or “Lantern Man” or Hindenburg shirts, to let them know that “I get it, man!”

The album is more than “Whole Lotta Love,” of course. “What Is and What Should Never Be” finds a nice groove; “The Lemon Song” gets all sorts of bluesy; “Ramble On” has that acoustic guitar/quirky percussion/whimsical Plant vocal that eventually roars into the chorus before settling back down into chill and so on (the quiet-LOUD-quiet dynamic we like in so many bands from the ’80s and ’90s). And don’t forget the drum solo song (“Moby Dick”) or the “guitar hero” song (“Heartbreaker”).

It’s the only Zeppelin album in my dad’s LP collection; my turntable needle deepened the groove in my dad’s record after repeated plays. I guess if you’re only going to own one Led Zep album, you can’t go wrong with II.

#41: Danger Mouse, The Grey Album

cover image for The Grey AlbumFirst off: you’ll be seeing “The White Album” on this list in due time.

Second: Jay-Z’s The Black Album is really pretty terrible. Not the raps, necessarily, but the backing beats and music are cheesy as shit. So melodramatic, so shiny, so…I don’t know…I’m going to go back to terrible. Which is too bad, because there’s some quotable lines throughout this album.

That’s why Danger Mouse has done Hova a big favor by blending White and Black and making Grey. (I think Jay-Z knew his words needed some inspired music behind them, as he released an a cappella version of the album in hopes that artists would remix it.) Danger Mouse, who at this point wasn’t producing Gorillaz or Beck or doing his Gnarls Barkley thing, spent weeks (months?) stitching together samples from the Beatles’ eponymous double album (including meticulous sampling of Ringo Starr’s drums, which he sequenced into something much heavier/hipper than Mr. Starkey ever banged out) to go along with Jay-Z’s vocals.

And it worked. Boy, does it work.

Keep in mind: mashups were, for the most part, little more than humorous juxtapositions at this point. Even the good ones were curious pairings: Nirvana and Destiny’s Child (“Smells Like Bootylicious”) or the Strokes and Christina Aguilera (“A Stroke of Genie-us”). This was also before Girl Talk dropped Night Ripper and Feed the Animals and took the mashup to the extreme. But Danger Mouse’s work, despite using two well-known quantities, felt natural. Yeah, I’d heard “99 Problems” before, and of course I’d heard the guitar and backing vocals from “Helter Skelter” a zillion times, but hearing these familiar elements together didn’t feel ridiculous. In fact, it sort of made the statement that the Beatles were kinda badass and would fit well underneath the self-appointed best rapper alive.

The frenzied samples from “Glass Onion” and “Savoy Truffle” are an infinitely better accompaniment to “Encore” than the shit Jay-Z used on his album (or anything Linkin Park had to do with that song, for that matter). And instead of some stupid Russell Crowe sample on “What More Can I Say,” Danger Mouse throws mad breakbeat and a slowed down version of the guitar from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” underneath Jay’s lament.

And then there’s “December 4th,” an oral history of Jay’s life complemented with a few thoughts from Jay’s mom. On The Black Album, this song is shackled with some of the worst backing tracks I’ve ever heard. Like something straight out of a 1977 discotheque (and not in a good way like some of the stuff used in Boogie Nights) or AM radio. Danger Mouse could have improved this song in his sleep, but he went beyond and delivered goods on the other end of the spectrum. Spotting the emotional potential of the lyrics, he pairs the verses with the  touching guitar flourishes from “Mother Nature’s Son,” and concocts a drum beat to propel the song without overwhelming. Whenever I would play the Danger Mouse version in the car, Tracy would comment, “This song is so sad.” Imagine saying that about Jay’s original version, outside of saying “What a sad excuse for a song this is!”

The Grey Album elevates Jay-Z’s verses to new heights, and it does nothing to harm the integrity of the original Beatles material. Even Jay-Z and Paul McCartney think it’s pretty cool. They’re right.

Todd’s #50-41

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

50. Interpol, Turn On the Bright Lights

49. The Sundays, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

48. Paul Simon, Graceland

47. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik

46. Cypress Hill, Cypress Hill

45. Catherine, Hot Saki and Bedtime Stories

44. Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

43. Beck, Midnight Vultures

42. Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water

41. Massive Attack, Mezzanine

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#44. Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

 Admittedly, I was late to the party with Modest Mouse. Hipsters that loved Modest Mouse from the beginning would tell you that Good News was the start of their musical downfall, but that’s just the standard hipster backlash towards a band that shows a bit of success. This is how a typical conversation would go with a true hipster.

Me: Hey, there Mr. Hipster. Nice skinny jeans. What are your thoughts on the group [insert indie band name here]?

Mr. Hipster: (disinterested, barely audible voice) Uhhh…just a sec…(finishing text to hipster friend)…I really liked their early stuff. I don’t like anything they did on [insert major record label name here].

Me: Thanks. Love the fedora. Douche.

That being said, I guess I started liking Modest Mouse after their musical downfall. I didn’t really listen to them until the summer of ’04 when Good News came out. “Float On” was my song of the summer that year. My wife and I were expecting our first child and also preparing to move to a new city for work.

A piece of advice for all you future fathers out there: Don’t knock up your old lady and then take a new job that requires you to move while she is 7-9 months pregnant. I’ve done that twice. Take it from me, it does not make your already stressed wife happy.

On Labor Day weekend that year, we were to close on our house in the new town.  Now my wife was due any second at this point, a sane person would not have driven her 2 hours away from her doctor. Unfortunately, we were on a time table which required her to travel.

We closed on the new house on Saturday and decided to stay there for a couple of days. The plan was to go back to our other house after the weekend, she would have the baby and then we would permanently move a few weeks later. Man we were good. We had it all figured out. My daughter must have been listening from the womb laughing.

I was sound asleep that night when my wife woke me up complaining of stabbing pains in the “baby maker.” (My words not hers) It was go time! The countdown to baby had begun. I grabbed our bags and we hightailed it out of there. After I made her swear she would not give birth in my new truck, I drove like crazy back home.

The trip went by fast as my mind raced and fears of being a father swirled around in my head. Good News played over the car stereo the whole time and helped to soothe my nerves a bit. It took me an hour and a half to get us back home. Almost exactly the same amount of time it takes to listen to Good News in its entirety twice. My unborn daughter was really having fun with us because after that panicked drive home, she decided to wait two days to make her entrance into the world. Perhaps she was just preparing us for the many sleepless nights to come.

#42. Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water

I truly didn’t expect to be writing about Simon and Garfunkel in this set of 10 albums. After my plea for a reunion of The Sundays back at #70, I figured I would be regaling you all with stories of adoration for my #49 selection, The Sundays Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. I was also hoping to announce that the first release from our new label, Music or Space Shuttle? Productions, would be the long awaited fourth album by The Sundays. Sadly, there has been no response on their end.

So, I’m writing instead about another rock duo that is no longer making music together. I will not be making any pleas for this pair to reunite. Not with their shaky past. Hell, Paul Simon is over 70 years old now. If he doesn’t want to hang with “The Funkel” anymore, fine. I won’t push it. I first came across Bridge Over Troubled Water around the age of 12 while going through my parent’s record collection. Back then, I really only liked a few songs like “The Boxer”, “Bye Bye Love” and “Cecilia.”

Side note on “Cecilia”: It seems as though “Cecilia” has turned into a drunken party anthem over the years. Walking home from the bar in college I would heard entire fraternity and sorority houses singing along while the house shook from that distinctive drum beat.

Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart
You’re shaking my confidence daily
Oh, Cecilia, I’m down on my knees
I’m begging you please to come home

Many was the time I queued up that little romp as a party was getting into full swing at my apartment. People love it. Next to Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl”, there wasn’t a better song to get people in the mood for a drunken sing-along.

It wasn’t until years later during a road trip with my mother that I took notice of the rest of the album. She had just bought Bridge Over Troubled Water on cassette tape. I guess I know where I got my love of music because like her, I have purchased certain albums on every available format from vinyl to tape to CD to MP3. The song, “The Only Living Boy in New York”, in particular was one that stood out for me. I probably rewound that song 10 times during the car trip. My mother must a have taken note, because I came home from school a few days later and found a copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water sitting on my bed. Pretty cool surprise for a music geek.

I’m sure she just got a kick out of me getting into her music. As a parent myself now, I can’t wait until my kids start to show an interest in music from my generation. I’m going to make sure and do the same thing as my Mom. Hell, I’ll put the entire discography of The Cure on their beds at the slightest hint of interest. I’m going to be the annoying music pusher Dad. Can’t push too hard though. It may have the opposite effect and they’ll wind up listening to…shudder…country music.


Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #60-51

Yep, we’re making a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.

Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.

Here are some spoilers: you’re not going to find the typical hipster stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel or Slint or even stuff one/both of us actually likes such as DJ Shadow or Pavement. This isn’t Rolling Stone so you’re not going to find Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Pet Sounds at the top. Wham’s Make It Big was snubbed.

We’re not going to roll it all out at once; no sense rushing through all this quality music! But Music or Space Shuttle? is gonna be pretty busy over the next two months.

That’s enough of an intro. Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ #60-51

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

60. Jose Gonzalez, In Our Nature

59. The Breeders, Last Splash

58. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Source Tags and Codes

57. Burial, Street Halo

56. Radiohead, Kid A

55. Duran Duran, Duran Duran (1981)

54. Explosions in the Sky, The Earth Is Not a Cold, Dead Place

53. Cults, Cults

52. N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton

51. Pixies, Surfer Rosa

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#55: Duran Duran, Duran Duran

duran duran front coverWhen you are 10 years old and living in a town where the main music supplier is the Pamida store on the edge of town, you find yourself struggling to get your hands on a cassette from a band’s back catalog, even a band as current in 1984 as Duran Duran. If you wanted to buy Arena or Seven and the Ragged Tiger, no problem. Even Rio could be found from time to time. But the band’s eponymous 1981 debut? The Pamida staff isn’t that savvy.

But there are ways to get what you want. In my case, you agree to go shopping in nearby “metropolis” La Crosse, Wis., with your mom and your little brother and be good THE WHOLE TIME. Then, and only then, will my mom take me to Musicland and buy me the elusive Duran debut.

It was a struggle. This meant having to walk through the women’s sections of Dayton’s and JCPenney and Younkers and Maurices and god knows what else, but also not picking on my little brother while killing time surrounded by blouses and slacks. But I was on a mission, and it was successful.

And well worth it, I might add. Not only did I now possess the songs “Girls on Film” and “Planet Earth,” but I was introduced to the deeper cuts that define this album as a New Romantic masterpiece. “(Is There) Anyone Out There” is a wonderful blend of spiky guitar, atmospheric keyboards, and plucky bass. “Careless Memories” is a rock song that uses the right touch of keyboard and percussion flourishes. “Sound of Thunder” is probably the standout track on the more avant garde Side B of the album, a song that has more in common with stuff like the Cure and Joy Division than any of the “totally ’80s” stuff like Bow Wow Wow or Kajagoogoo, even though Duran Duran is often lazily categorized with the latter. If you don’t believe me, check out album closer “Tel Aviv,” a song that will defy most people’s conventional thinking about the band. (And a song that makes a wonderful soundtrack during a family vacation in the Rocky Mountains, with its soaring keyboard, guitar, and vocal effects playing against the backdrop of Colorado’s snow-capped rocky peaks.)

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking the songs you’d find on Duran Duran’s Decade or Greatest albums, but the band’s debut shows an intelligence behind the band’s glamour image that goes ignored by music fans and historians alike.

#52: N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton coverI landed a copy of this album when I was 15, and I swear it took me probably six months to get past the first three songs. Not because I couldn’t stand more than 15 minutes of gangsta rap in one sitting…far from it. It’s just that as soon as “Straight Outta Compton,” “Fuck tha Police,” and “Gangsta Gangsta” had run their course, I’d immediately hit the stop button on the boom box and rewind to the beginning, and repeat that trifecta of street knowledge.

Eventually I found the gems later in the sequencing (“Dopeman,” “8-Ball,” and the preview of Ice Cube’s solo work, “I Ain’t Tha 1”) but the opening three songs, had they been released alone as an EP, might have carried Straight Outta Compton to immortal status.

Ice Cube’s opening flow on the title track is still mesmerizing, even if the language isn’t nearly as shocking now as it was to a 15-year-old northeast Iowa boy (maybe it should be more shocking to me now as a 38-year-old father?) who thought Tackle-Hoops-playin’ Theo Huxtable was flush with street cred. MC Ren was a decent change-up to Cube…not as confident, but just as crude.

If Ren was the change-up, Eazy-E was the 12-6 curveball. This high-pitched voice talkin’ big about being tired of gettin’ jacked up by the motherfuckin’ police or being a brother who’ll smother your mother or drinkin’ Olde English 800 like a madman and steppin’ into the party and dissin’ yo ho and his boyz in the hood keepin’ him cool…WTF (as in WHO the fuck) is this? Did Cube and Ren let their little brother drop some knowledge? Is he on here because he has the best name of the bunch? (The dude with the worst name, DJ Yella, comes off as nothing more than Dr. Dre’s understudy; the guy with the oddest name, The Arabian Prince, I’m not sure he actually says more than 10 words throughout the album.)

And wasn’t I a little bit intimidated by his stuff despite sounding like Alvin, Simon, or Theodore?

I couldn’t relate to much being said on this album, but I was just one example of the thousands (millions?) of suburban kids who found themselves fascinated by the raw language and the sweet beats laid down by Dre and Yella. And this was more punk than anything considered punk at the time, the perfect music for a teenager looking to rebel against something, anything. Even in Waukon, yo.

In my opinion, once Cube left, N.W.A. went south in a hurry, at least in retrospect. (I hung around for the 100 Miles and Running EP, but then I was out.) But I’ll always go back to Straight Outta Compton to get my gangsta nostalgia on.

Todd’s #60-51

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

60. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

59. Alice in Chains, Jar of Flies

58. Arcade Fire, Funeral

57. Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy

56. Nada Surf, The Weight is a Gift

55. Van Halen, 1984

54. Ice Cube, Death Certificate

53. The White Stripes, Elephant

52. Pixies, Surfer Rosa

51. Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#59.Alice in Chains, Jar of Flies

I bought this EP on a very cold February day back in 1994. I must have come into some money that day because I remember buying three other CDs at the same time. Fine. Since you are all so curious, I’ll tell you what the other three albums were; My first copy of The Clash’s London Calling, David Bowie’s Changesbowie, and Tori Amos’ Under the Pink. Quite the odd collection there.

Let’s get back on track shall we? I was never a huge Alice in Chains fan. I enjoyed a few songs from Facelift and there was a time when you couldn’t get away from their album Dirt. Every “bro” in town was listening to that one since Poison wasn’t making records anymore. I just wasn’t as into them as some other bands from that era.

That attitude changed one day as I was driving to work with a friend. As we got on the road, he threw in a new CD and told me to take a listen. After the first few bars of track one, I was hooked. I asked who the band was and didn’t believe him when he said it was Alice in Chains. Of course, it was obvious as soon as the perfectly harmonized vocals of Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell came in during the first verse of “Rotten Apple.”

Hey Ah Na Na
Innocence is over
Hey Ah Na Na
Over

The whole EP seemed completely different than other Alice in Chains releases. From the acoustic songs like “Rotten Apple” and “Nutshell”, to the instrumental “Whale and Wasp”, this was an Alice in Chains I could get into. Jar of Flies owned my Sony Discman for the next few weeks. I don’t think I even opened up that Tori Amos record until April.

#51. Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak

Nothing fancy here. Hard driving bass and drums. Overpowering guitars. Wild, growling vocals. Early Kings of Leon was straight up “we don’t give a fuck” rock and roll. Not to disparage the newer KOL music too much, but it does come across a bit more polished than the tunes on Aha Shake Heartbreak. Now enough praise for these guys. The record’s great, cool lead vocals, sexy lyrics… blah blah blah.

Why the KOL hate on a post praising their album? Because I’ve heard each of their songs so many times that I’ve lost all enjoyment in hearing them. It wasn’t me playing them over and over, but I am to be held responsible. I created a monster. A 5’2″, brunette haired, KOL listening monster.

For most of our relationship, my wife has enjoyed the same music as me. On occasion, I will introduce her to a band that we both enjoy equally, but usually I like a band and she is neutral. That’s how it started with KOL. I really liked Aha Shake and she seemed to enjoy it too.

The next Kings of Leon record, Because the Times, came out and the same thing happened. We both liked it, but she never would have chosen to listen to it on her own. Then came the fourth KOL release, Only By the Night. I got a “totally legal, not pirated” advanced copy of that record and could tell it was going to be big. There were several songs on it that just screamed “radio hit.” And big it was. You couldn’t turn on an FM station without hearing “Use Somebody” within five minutes. This is where I witnessed the early KOL addiction signs from my wife. Let’s go over the addiction checklist from a pamphlet I found on the topic.

-Frequent, bordering on obsessive KOL listening?…Yes

-Listening to KOL by yourself?…Yes

-Unable to listen to any other groups music?… No

-Internet Stalking of Band Members?…No

-Internet Stalking of Band Member Spouses/Potential Murder Victims?…No

Man was I relieved. She only got a 40% on that test. I quit worrying and everything was fine for awhile. She stopped listening to Only by the Night and we enjoyed many other artist’s albums for a year or so. Then came that home-wrecker of an album, Come Around Sundown. God bless her, she resisted at first. She even said she didn’t like it, but she slowly wore down. How could she resist. They write lyrics that are like catnip to rock loving girls everywhere. Every song seems to be about how a guy likes a girl and wants to fight some other dude so he can be with her.

Example:

The song “Pickup Truck”

Hate to be so emotional
I didn’t aim to get physical
But when he pulled in and revved it up
I said, ‘you call that a pick up truck?’
And in the moonlight I throwed him down
Kickin’ screamin’ & rolling around
A little piece of a bloody tooth
Just so you know I was thinking of you
Just so you know ohhhhh

Well, after that it was all over. We’re talking 100% percent on the KOL addiction test. Those KOL supermodel spouses better watch out. My wife is watching and waiting. If I read in the paper one day that one of those lovely ladies “accidentally” tripped and broke her neck, I will know my wife won’t be coming home for supper anymore. I may have to host an intervention or hire one of those therapists that “de-program” cult members. I’m praying for a band break-up. That could be the only thing that saves her.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

Desert Island Music Poll: Bon Iver Vs. Arcade Fire

Here at Music or Space Shuttle? we feel like we should be asking the tough, hard-hitting questions. This week we continue our series of polls where we force you, the thoughtful reader, to choose between two random artists. You may not always like either selection but you have to pick one. (None of that “I’d rather stuff my head in the sand until I suffocate and die” third option crap.)

With the 2012 Grammys coming up, it seems like the perfect time to put  Bon Iver up against Arcade Fire.  In 2011 indie rock band Arcade Fire shocked the world when their record The Suburbs won the Grammy for Album of the Year.  Their win was so surprising that award presenter Babs Streisand didn’t  know if the band’s name was The Suburbs or Arcade Fire. This year, indie rock darlings Bon Iver have been nominated for both Record and Song of the Year Grammys.

It has been said (by me) that a win in a MoSS? poll can often prove to be a very good Grammy predictor. Could a win for Bon Iver in the prestigious MoSS? Desert Island Music Poll  be a precursor to winning a Grammy?  Only you the voters can decide.

So what will you decide? Listen to Arcade Fire’s Funeral and Neon Bible or Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever ago  and Bon Iver  for the rest of your days?  Vote below and please feel free to justify your selection in the comments section.