MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #90-81

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’ 90-81

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

90. Slayer, Reign in Blood

89. The Steve Miller Band, Fly Like an Eagle

88. Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out

87. Ramones, Ramones

86. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

85. Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy

84. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend

83. The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema

82. Little Big Town, The Reason Why

81. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#90: Slayer, Reign in Blood

reign in blood coverHow did a seventh grader expand his vocabulary to include “postmortem” and “necrophobic” and learn about Josef Mengele to a blistering backbeat? His cousin slapped all 28 minutes of Slayer’s Reign in Blood on one side of a 90-minute Memorex cassette, that’s how.

(I honestly looked up postmortem and necrophobic in my parents’ dictionary. I wanted to know what those song titles meant! I was the nerdiest faux-Satanist ever.)

I was always very impressed by a number of things in the album opener, “Angel of Death”: the banshee scream unleashed by Tom Araya after the first few riffs, the guitar line that ran throughout the song (and would later be sampled by Public Enemy on “She Watch Channel Zero?!”), and the just-fucking-stupid-awesome bass drum assault toward song’s end. (Click on the sampler above the list, and skip to the 4:15 mark and let it play for about 15 seconds. Yowza.)

As someone who grew up listening to Duran Duran and Culture Club, I have to admit I was a little scared of this album…or at least felt like I was really doing something wrong by listening to it. (Look at that cover image! Funny now, scary then!) As I got older, I realized the lyrical content was pretty much a joke, but found the riffs an absolute go-to when I want to get my thrash on. Plus, nothing beats watching my friend Sam air guitar the shit out of Slayer songs. Kerry King would be impressed!

#82 Little Big Town, The Reason Why

the reason why coverVocal harmonies are great. I love hearing the Mamas and the Papas sing songs like “Creeque Alley.” The Beatles sang well together (and double tracked themselves aplenty). Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl had a nice thing going, and Layne’s and Jerry’s intertwined voices were as great a weapon in the Alice in Chains arsenal as Cantrell’s guitar work or Sean Kinney’s drumming.

Even the country genre can’t turn me off from good two-, three-, and four-part harmonies. And Little Big Town does it so well.

I read an interview with the band at the release of The Reason Why, and the members said they weren’t interested in putting out a two-single, 10-filler album. They set the standard high for inclusion, and it shows. The four voices soar together on “Why Oh Why” and the title track. “Shut Up Train” is a torch song of sorts for the smokin’ Karen Fairchild, and “All the Way Down” is essentially a great pop song with slight twang. And I have to admit that “Little White Church” is one of those songs that makes me smile.

I’ve seen these guys twice, and they were top-notch both times, so I’m sure that influences my thoughts on where this album ranks on my list. Also, a country album that sounds good to my ears is much rarer than being wowed by your typical dream pop or indie-rock or shoegaze or “boy-cry” (as my friend Brittany Jade described the Cure during one of our radio shows) album, so that also certainly provides a bump. But as I said at the beginning, great harmonies, great harmonies, great harmonies.

(And to answer your question: yes, I’m serious about this one.)

Todd’s 90-81

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

90. Dinosaur Jr, Green Mind

89. Camper Van Beethoven, Key Lime Pie

88. Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine

87. Tricky, Maxinquaye

86. Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet

85. Neon Indian, Era Extraña

84. Jeff Buckley, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk

83. Frank Black, Teenager of the Year

82. George Michael, Faith

81. Dave Matthews Band, Crash

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#85 Neon Indian, Era Extraña

Many of our more dedicated MoSS? readers may remember that this was my #2 favorite album of 2011. My #1 choice was M83, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. What a year in music when these two great records are at the top. So I imagine all you superfans out there must be wondering, “Where is Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming going to show up on this list?”

Get ready for a spoiler: It’s not on the list!

That’s right, I may have jumped the gun a bit on crowning M83 #1. Honestly, these year end lists should probably be done three years after the fact so the new album honeymoon period has worn off. Don’t get me wrong. Hurry Up is a great freaking record, but I rarely listen to it in its entirety anymore. I still listen to Era Extraña every couple weeks. If I was judging solely on the artists live shows from last year, then M83 would win hands down. Although, I would have liked to have seen Neon Indian in a proper venue like M83 at The Pageant. What a show! So based on that information (and several very complex algorithms only understood by Matt Damon Good Will Hunting-type mathletes) Era Extraña in… Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming out.

Don’t let these recent findings shake your confidence in this particular list. As Chris stated before, the list is definitive and NOT open to interpretation.

#83 Frank Black, Teenager of the Year

Today, I’m not going to bore you readers with any stories about how much I love The Pixies and Frank Black/ Black Francis. Those stories are coming later. Lucky you. The fact is, Teenager of the Year is widely regarded as his strongest post-Pixies solo effort and would have been way higher on my list had it been half as long. There’s 22 songs on it and about half are great. The other half? Well…they’re songs.

I would like to share this small “fun fact” about Mr. Black’s lyrics. He often uses acrostics to hide messages in his songs. If you are unfamiliar with the term, this is the definition: Acrostic – a number of lines of writing, such as a poem, certain letters of which form a word, proverb, etc.

Here is a sampling of lyrics from the song “Speedy Marie”, it’s also my sample song from the record. Check it out.

Juxtaposed in each moment’s sight
Everything that I ever saw
And my one delight
Nothing can strike me in such awe
Mouth intricate shapes the voice that speaks
Always it will soothe
Rarer none are the precious cheeks
Is the size of each sculpted tooth
Each lip and each eye

Wise is the tongue, wet of perfect thought
And softest neck where always do i
Lay my clumsy thoughts
She is that most lovely art
Happy are my mind and my soul and my heart

Each line describes a trait about a woman he clearly likes. The first letter of each line spells out the girl’s name, Jean Marie Walsh. If that didn’t get him laid, I don’t know what could.

Previous installments:

#100-91

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Surviving the New Music Wasteland 3: A New Hope

For a few glorious years in the mid 90’s, the music I liked was considered popular music. I had no trouble finding out about new bands because they were actually being played on the radio. It was a golden age, but as Ponyboy once said, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. (Man, those Greasers sure knew their Frost poems).

Slowly things began to change. I didn’t notice at first but there were warning signs. Eventually in the late ’90s and early 2000s radio stations were only playing carbon copied pop stars and awful post grunge rock bands. So I turned off the radio and wandered aimlessly through a period I called “The New Music Wasteland”. Good new music was so hard to find that I just gave up.

I spent my time rediscovering music that I already loved or did my homework on bands that I had always wanted to listen to. This would usually send me into 3-4 month obsessive periods where I would listen only to one artist or band. That meant all works by the band, including all side projects and solo recordings. It was a grueling effort and people within earshot of me tended to get a bit irritated. (By month 2 of my obsession with The Clash, my wife answered their question of ”Should I Stay or Should I Go?” with a resounding “Get the hell out and take Big Audio Dynamite I and II with you”.)

Of course, this cycle can only go on for so long. I was deep into a Pixies overdose and about to cook up a gigantic Frank Black speedball when I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “There’s got to be a better way!” So I went cold turkey. There just had to be some decent new music out there and I would have to force myself to find it.

After a few days of Pixies detox, I went to my upstairs office PC. We’d had the computer for a year or more but it had mostly been used for email and checking porn scores…I mean sports porn…I mean…well, you know what I mean. So I sat down at the computer and brought up Windows Media Player. It instantly brought up the last thing I had listened to which just happened to be a Pixies/Frank Black/Breeders playlist. Not wanting to fall back into old habits I quickly deleted the playlist. Easy, Todd! One step at time.

Next I tried to find some completely innocuous music to play. Something entertaining but something that wouldn’t send me into another 3 month tailspin of research and investigation. That’s when I saw the Media Guide tab on the Windows player. I’d never noticed the tab before so I clicked on it. One of the options in the media guide was “Internet Radio”. Interesting. Radio on the Internet? How futuristic. There was a list of stations with any genre of music you could think of from Adult Contemporary to Urban/R&B and stuck in the middle was Indie Rock.

I clicked on one of the channels and was blown away. The artist and song title were listed on the screen. You didn’t have sit around and wait for a DJ to come on and recap the playlist. The first song I heard was by a band unknown to me at the time The Shins. The song was “Girl on the Wing”.

Needless to say I was hooked in right there. I spent the next few hours bouncing between radio stations and Napster (FYI, I only used Napster to preview music. I totally went out and bought the material later. Seriously, I’m not lying. What? OK, fine. SOMETIMES I just downloaded the music for free and didn’t go out and buy it. Sue me. Oh shit! No. Please don’t sue me)

I found plenty of other great songs like The Flaming Lips “Race for the Prize”. I was aware of The Flaming Lips mainly from their odd little song “She Don’t Use Jelly” from the early 90’s. Check out their bizarre appearance on 90210. They sing “She Don’t Use Jelly” at the world famous Beverly Hills hot spot The Peach Pit After Dark. Make sure you hang in until the 50 second mark so you can see Steve Sanders awkwardly rocking out. Cracks me up every time.

The Lips completely changed their musical direction with the album The Soft Bulletin featuring “Race for the Prize”  and I loved it.

The album I ran across that got the most air time afterwards was probably Ben Folds’ 1st solo album Rockin’ the Suburbs. Like the Flaming Lips I was familiar with his previous work. The Ben Folds 5 (The name gets extra cool points since there was only 3 of them) had a few records out in the 90’s but I was never a big fan. I kind of got burned out on their song “Brick”. The new solo record was different. It was one of those rare albums that I could just play the whole way through and never have to skip over any sucky songs. Rockin’ the Suburbs didn’t have a single stinker on it.

I liked it so much that I dragged my wife with me to Kansas City where we stood outside in the rain for hours to watch him perform. We came home with walking pneumonia and a sweet Rockin’ the Suburbs concert T-Shirt.

So I must give thanks to Bill Gates and technology in general for giving me new hope and showing me the path to escape  “The New Music Wasteland”.  Since then I’ve discovered many other new music sources and haven’t had any major Pixies or Clash related music relapses. That’s right. Clash free. I just got my 10 year chip. One day at a time.