MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever: Ineligible Albums and Those That Missed the Cut

We’re taking a little break from our Undisputed Top Albums Ever countdown during this busy holiday week. Instead, we are going to share with you a few albums that didn’t make the cut and a few albums that we’ve declared ineligible for selection. When we were first tasked with making these lists, we decided to limit our top 100 albums to proper releases. This meant no soundtracks, no live albums, no compilations etc. Some great material had to be omitted. Take a look at what didn’t make the cut. Your favorite record could be in there somewhere.

Don’t worry, the countdown continues next week with #20-16.

Chris’ 5 That Missed The Cut

Alice in Chains, Dirt

INXS, Kick

Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti

Nine Inch Nails, The Downward Spiral

Van Halen, 1984 

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

INXS, Kick

cover for kickOnce I realized that Kick was not in my top 100 albums, I nearly chucked all of my analysis out the window. Not sure how this one landed at #102, given how much I worshipped this album growing up. I swear my friend Jeff and I listened to this album 800 times one year, doing SWEET DANCE MOVES more often than not (and changing the lyrics to fit our ridiculous sense of humor…we won’t go into that here). I even bought an INXS t-shirt (and it was tie-dye, naturally).

This was a more overall satisfying disc compared with Listen Like Thieves or The Swing, with song after song tailor made for modern radio but dissimilar from one another as well. “New Sensation” sounded nothing like “Devil Inside,” which sounded nothing like “Need You Tonight,” and then there was the one with the strings (“Never Tear Us Apart”). And then you had the leadoff track, “Guns in the Sky,” which is probably a bit flimsy as far as political commentary goes but sounded pretty kick-ass back then. And that monotone rhyming thing on “Mediate” was pretty cool…

Anyway, listen to my favorite song from the album below.

Chris’ 5 Ineligible Albums, Soundtracks or Live Albums

Descendents, Liveage!

Ramones, Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!: The Anthology

Wings, Wings Over America

Various artists, Pulp Fiction soundtrack

Various artists, No Alternative

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

Descendents, Liveage!

cover for liveageOne of the albums that created the era known as BMCJMMC (Before My Cousin Josh Made Me Cooler) was this wonderful 20-song blast of live ’80s punk by Descendents. (You can’t go wrong with the studio compilation, Somery, either.) Now, granted, my 13-year-old ears perked right up once opening track* “I’m Not a Loser” unleashed an avalanche of profanity (the last four lines or so are right in the wheelhouse of a junior high kid). But once I finally stopped laughing and rewinding that song (yep, cassette era), I discovered some of the greatest punk/pop moments from a band that had street cred.

(* – technically, the first track is the one word/one note blast called “All”)

The music is tight, lean, and full of wonderful lyric topics like suburban homes and funky vans that function as homes and silly girls and not being a cool guy anymore and wanting time to woo a woman and, um, dumb stuff like “I Wanna Be a Bear” and “Weinerschnitzel.” I remember Josh and I figured the singer, Milo, was probably lying in a drug-induced coma in some gutter somewhere, when it turns out he holds a doctorate in biochemistry. Milo Goes to College, indeed. Listen to “Silly Girl” below…

Todd’s 5 That Missed The Cut

Frank Ocean, Nostalgia Ultra

U2, Achtung Baby

Massive Attack, Protection

Pixies, Bossanova

M83, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

Frank Ocean, Nostalgia Ultra

I had two issues with this record being on the list.

Issue #1. It was too new. I have a very hard time ranking an album that is only a year old in my top 100. I need time to really decide if it is worthy. Check with me in two years and I bet it will make the cut. In the meantime, watch out Bjork, Frank is coming to take your spot.

Issue #2. That fucking “American Wedding” catastrophe near the end of the album. It’s basically him singing over the music of The Eagles “Hotel California.” A song I loath. Don Henley threatened to sue Frank Ocean if he didn’t quit sing the song. I think the world should threaten to sue Don Henley if he doesn’t stop singing it.

Here’s an example of a good song from the album.

Todd’s 5 Ineligible Albums, Soundtracks or Live Albums

Guns N’ Roses, Live Era ’87-’93

Fleetwood Mac, The Dance

Various Artists, Grosse Pointe Blank Soundtrack

Various Artists, Once (Music from the Motion Picture)

Various Artists, Singles Soundtrack

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

Gross Point Blank Soundtrack

I know this soundtrack is really just an ’80s music playlist but I love it. So many great artists on it. Violent Femmes, Guns N’ Roses, The Clash, Queen with David Bowie. How can you go wrong? Not only are the artists great but the songs they chose by those artists are some of my all time favorites. Examples: Queen’s “Under Pressure”(Not Rob Van Winkle’s “Ice Ice Baby”), The Clash’s “Rudy Can’t Fail” and one my top five favorite songs ever “Pressure Drop.” Many people have covered this Toots and the Maytals classic. The Clash actually have an A+ cover version that I love. My favorite version is on this soundtrack and it is done by legendary ska band The Specials.  Check it out below.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

#40-31

#30-21

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MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #40-31

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’ #40-31

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

40. The Beatles, Help!

39. Stereolab, Emperor Tomato Ketchup

38. Camera Obscura, My Maudlin Career

37. Nick Drake, Bryter Layter

36. The Black Crowes, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion

35. Beastie Boys, Paul’s Boutique

34. Sonic Youth, Goo

33. Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet

32. Bloc Party, Silent Alarm

31. Jane’s Addiction, Ritual de lo Habitual

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#40: The Beatles, Help!

cover image for help!This album is the perfect mix of “Yeah Yeah Yeah” kind of Beatles and the more introspective type of song the band would write more often in the second act of its career. Makes sense, seeing as it is the fifth of the band’s 12 albums (going by the British catalog). But that’s only part of the reason I like this album so much.

I love the movie Help! Just love it. It was the second movie for the Fab Four, and it served the same purpose as their first movie, A Hard Day’s Night: an excuse to have the Beatles play their music on the big screen. Since the first movie’s plot was “let’s show the Beatles being the Beatles, playing music everywhere they go in their everyday lives,” Help! needed some sort of exotic plot. Here’s what they came up with:

A girl is to be sacrificed by some offbeat cult. However, she mailed the “sacrificial ring” to Ringo, who put it on his pinky finger only to have it stuck on there. Soon, the cult leader is pursuing Mr. Starr, as is a British mad scientist who thinks he could “rule the world” with such a ring. Oh yeah, the sacrificial girl’s sister shows up to help the Fab Four escape the evil clutches of Ringo’s enemies (and she’s kinda hot, so naturally she likes Paul despite being fawned over by George). Hilarity ensues, and (SPOILER!!!!) Ringo lives to drum another day.

The movie’s tone is a bit like Monty Python, albeit not nearly as clever. But it did beat the Pythons to the punch with the nonsensical “intermission” bit spliced into the movie:

And Help! had the great tunes you all know (the title track; “Ticket to Ride”) and the equally great ones you won’t find on greatest hits compilations (“The Night Before”; “Another Girl”; George’s “I Need You”; “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl”; and one of the best songs in the Beatles’ entire catalog, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”). The tunes used in the movie are amazingly catchy, and the second half of the album is just as solid, featuring seven more songs not used in the movie. Hardly throwaways, either: the most-covered song of all time, “Yesterday”; Paul’s wonderful vocal on the quick romp “I’ve Just Seen a Face”; the interesting guitar sound complementing John’s raw voice on “It’s Only Love.”

Many a person likes to look at Rubber Soul as the album where the Beatles got “serious”; I think Help! is a better collection of songs, an album that shows the band capable of greater musical flourishes (the guitar interplay between John and George is wonderful throughout) and finding a better balance of Beatlemania-pop and serious content. It’s no wonder they cobbled a movie together to showcase this stuff.

#36: The Black Crowes, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion

cover image for the southern harmony and musical companionI remember the first time I heard the second album from the Black Crowes. I had just moved to the second floor of Rider Hall at the University of Northern Iowa. My folks and my younger brother helped get my dorm room in order, which wasn’t a tall task, as all I brought were clothes, books, my CD player, and my CD collection. What else did I need? I was going to go to a party at the infamous “White House” later that evening with one of my good friends and a girl who graduated from Waukon a year ahead of me. (When you bought a cup at the White House, they wrote a number on your hand; mine was somewhere among the first 20. Toward the end of my night, I saw some numbers in the 800s.) I was just a couple of days away from starting my training as a computer scientist (a trade I would abandon after three semesters of outdated computer code–it was 1992 and I was learning FORTRAN, for fuck’s sake–and way too much calculus).

Anyway, life at that moment was good. But I was a little nervous all the same. Kinda like when I started kindergarten, but without the risk of peeing my pants this time (after a few hours at “the White House,” though, all bets are off on urinary control). During those first few days of kindergarten, I would find my buddy Alex, who was in first grade, on the playground at recess. He would invite me to come hang with the other first graders, playing tag or kickball or participating in whatever tomfoolery first graders did at a Catholic grade school. That helped me get used to school, and soon enough, I was the coolest kid at St. Pat’s. (That last part is false.)

Lucky for me, my buddy Alex now lived on the same floor of Rider Hall as me, in the other wing. So I went to find him.

Alex was a sophomore, so he had this dorm room thing down. His room looked like pimped-out compared to mine. (Read: he had a lofted bed, a TV, a stocked fridge, and a sweet stereo.) He asked me how I was going to spend my first night at UNI; I told him I was heading to the White House. “Gonna get some puss?” I was asked. Not “pussy,” but “puss.” (While I probably responded with “Yeah!” or “I hope so,” the answer turned out to be “no.”) As we talked, he flipped on the stereo, and the opening riffs of “Sting Me” filled the room.

Suddenly I wasn’t thinking about dorm rooms or “puss” or an offer to hook me up with a $5 case of Meister Brau (which, before the afternoon was over, I accepted…unwisely). What I was thinking: Damn! The Crowes have a new album! Who can give me a ride to Sam Goody?!?

So Alex and I shared a cold drink or two while listening to the Crowes and talking about college. It was just what I needed, both from a calming standpoint about my new life as Joe College, and hearing good tunes. “Sting Me” moved to “Remedy” and “Thorn in My Pride,” two songs tailor made for rock radio, and then two soulful jams, “Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye” and “Sometimes Salvation,” which in my opinion is the best one-two punch in Black Crowes recorded history. There’s not a bum track on this album, an opinion I formed with Alex and later confirmed over numerous listens. The Crowes’ first album was pretty great, but the follow-up sounded like a band more comfortable with themselves, stretching their legs and groovin’ the fuck out. And it’s an album that stirs up the positive memories I have of my friend Alex, who sadly passed away not too long ago. Alex and I lost touch once I transferred to ISU, but I’ll always remember the times he helped out his younger friend, and his good taste in music in 1992.

And his dropping of the “y” from “pussy.” (smile)

Todd’s #40-31

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

40. Ben Folds, Rockin’ the Suburbs

39. N.W.A, Niggaz4life

38. M83, Saturdays=Youth

37. Peter Gabriel, So

36. Vampire Weekend, Contra

35. Prince, Dirty Mind

34. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II

33. Pearl Jam, Ten

32. Beck, Mellow Gold

31. Portishead, Dummy

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#39. N.W.A, Niggaz4life

Three seventeen year old suburban white boys are rolling down the street in a ‘79 Monte Carlo. Out of the obnoxiously loud sub-woofers come the soothing sounds of N.W.A, Straight Outta Compton. One of the guys is looking extra menacing with his NY Yankees hat on backwards. Of course, back then I weighed about 135 lbs. so you could see why I looked so menacing. I also wore that stupid Yankees cap for about 2 years straight.

Your time is coming soon.

Why? I had such thick luxuriant hair. Why cover it up? I took it for granted. To all you haired men out there, never take it for granted. Never. You assholes…I know you’re taking it for granted. I can tell. Right now you’re laughing at me. You’re saying, “That guy’s nuts. My hair is never falling out.” Well take it from me. It sneaks up on you. One day you’re reading a book and you notice two small strands of your hair slowly drift onto the paper. You scoff at it; “Plenty more where that came from,” you’ll say. Then one day you’ll see the top of your head on a video camera as you walk into the local Target store. You will be blinded by the reflection from your un-camouflaged scalp. Again you will be in denial. “Those surveillance cameras must have some weird filtering effect or something” you’ll say. Then the day will come when you look in the mirror and realize your head looks vaguely like a half plucked chicken. What little hair that is left is wispy and pathetic. You will have two choices; Comb-over or shave it. I chose to shave it like a man. I hope you choose to comb-over when your day comes.

So as I was saying, we were rolling down the street and listening to tough guy gangsta rap. I was new to the art form at that point and wanted to have a copy of my own to bone up on all the gangsta rap terms: gaffle, endo, and suckamuthafucka. Also, how else was I going to learn all the different ways to degrade women?

So we head over to the Best Buy. Gangstas shop at Best Buy right? Yeah, we were living the thug life. We head over to the rap section looking for Straight Outta Compton. That’s when I saw that N.W.A had a new album out. Niggaz4life. I grabbed it and opened my wallet to see if I had enough money. The Velcro ripping noise of my wallet was extra gangsta I’m sure. I had a $15 in there. What a pimp! The tape was only $9.99 so I was all set to purchase. That’s when I noticed dozens of papers pinned up all over the rap section of the store stating that you had to be 18 years old to buy the cassette in my hands. Not any other tape. They made a point to call out Niggaz4life specifically. They would be verifying I.D.s at the checkouts. Suckamuthafucka!

I was not living the thug life or looking particularly gangsta as I wandered the music section looking for an adult that would take my money and buy the tape for me. I found a college dude willing to do it, if he could keep what was left of my money after the transaction. Eazy-E would have said that I got gaffled there. So gangsta.

33. Pearl Jam, Ten

Ten was released in late 1991 and by summer the next year everyone I knew had a copy. To borrow a line from Wayne’s World, “If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide.” Wayne was of course referring to the album Frampton Comes Alive which somehow avoided both Chris’ and my lists. Ten was very popular. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wasteoids, dweebies, dickheads — they all adored it. They think it’s some righteous music. Include me somewhere in that bunch. I’ll let you decide which category I was in. I think I enjoyed it mostly because it felt very intense bordering on angry much of the time.

After seeing the video for “Even Flow” I was totally hooked. Lead singer Eddie Vedder was like a man possessed. He appeared to be an incredibly charismatic front man with his angry head banging and microphone swinging. At one point in the video, he climbs around in the rafters of a venue during a live show. He swings on pipes, scales walls, and finally dives off of a ledge into frenzied crowd below. After that, I swore that I would see them live.

I was all pumped up for the next Pearl Jam release Vs. I even waited in line with fifty other music nerds at Co-Op Tapes and Records for the special midnight release. It was good but I wasn’t obsessively listening to it like I did with Ten. I was still on the lookout for a live show though. That would have to kick ass right? Then I saw this performance on MTV.

That was the beginning of Eddie Vedder’s potted plant phase. He hardly moves. The intensity seems to be there but it looks like he’s in a straitjacket for much of the performance.

By the time Pearl Jam’s third album Vitalogy was released I had almost no interest in them. Pearl Jam toured in support of that record and were coming only 2 hours away to Chicago. They were in a battle with Ticketmaster at the time and were using some other ticketing agent. You had to call a special number and could only buy four tickets at a time. You also had to call from an Illinois phone number. Most of my friends were in Iowa. I had a girlfriend who lived in Illinois and hatched a plan to call from her place. We got through three times before the concert sold out and came away with 10 or 12 tickets to the show. We marked up the price and sold them to friends and acquaintances for a nice chunk of money. I even sold my own ticket, using the money to buy more CDs, lots of beer, and a mountain bike. I think I made the right choice. I still have the bike and you should see my calf muscles. They’re enormous. My friends that went to the concert only came away with a hangover and mild tinnitus.


Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #70-61

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’ 70-61

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

70. Nick Drake, Five Leaves Left

69. Sigur Ros, Agaetis Byrjun

68. Best Coast, Crazy for You

67. Green Day, Dookie

66. M83, Saturdays=Youth

65. Frank Ocean, Nostalgia, Ultra

64. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses

63. U2, The Joshua Tree

62. The Black Keys, thickfreakness

61. Beastie Boys, Check Your Head

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#67: Green Day, Dookie

album cover for "dookie"A song with a killer bass line and lyrics about polishing the skin flute…that’s what piqued my interest in Green Day. Then I bought Dookie, and found myself absolutely enamored with all the simple things that make rock n roll great: an amazingly tight rhythm section, a catchy sequence of power chords, faux-British-accented vocals, lyrics about having a blast and burning out and “paradise” and wasting other people’s time and being paranoid and/or stoned and hearing someone cry aloud out all the way across town and being told to fuck off and die.

I think Dookie came along at a perfect time. Grunge was running its course, especially with the death of Kurt Cobain, but I was still interested in non-flashy guitar-driven rock. Green Day provided that. The band had matured into better songwriters and stepped up their production values after two solid albums (the debut compilation of LP and EPs, 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, is a definite indicator of the potential, even with a lesser drummer). The glossiness of Dookie never bothered me, just like I had no reason to despise the sound of Nirvana’s Nevermind compared with the sludgy sound of the $606 production of Bleach. I was also in a new town when I started listening to Dookie in earnest. I was making new friends in Ames and enjoying life and more often than not we had songs such as “Having a Blast” on the sound system while, erm, having a blast.

I thought Green Day had additional bright moments over the years, but nothing that burned as bright as this piece of shit from 1994. From the first two touches of the high hat that kick off “Burnout” to the last quiet bits of the jokey “hidden track” that followed “F.O.D.,” this was youthful joy. I never reach for the skip button when listening to this album, and the songs have aged well over the subsequent two decades.

And if you don’t like it, you can F.O.D.

#63: U2, The Joshua Tree

joshua tree album coverMany people like to romanticize that Nirvana (more specifically, Nevermind) killed hair metal. For me, it was The Joshua Tree.

When U2’s fifth album came out in 1987, I was listening to a lot of “awesome” music; that spring, I probably played my Poison tape more than anything. Then the song “With or Without You” hit the radio and music video rotation, and I was intrigued. Then I heard the whole album, and found myself really drawn to the two songs that ended up being the next two singles, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.” And the bombast of “Bullet the Blue Sky.” And Bono’s yowls on “Trip Through Your Wires.” And “The Edge guitar sound” on “In God’s Country.”

And the quiet hush of “Running to Stand Still,” which I included in my #61-70 sampler above. I found so much to enjoy about the lyrics:

Sweet the sin
Bitter taste in my mouth
I see seven towers
But I only see one way out

You got to cry without weeping
Talk without speaking
Scream without raising your voice

You know I took the poison
From the poison stream
Then I floated out of here

Suddenly, singing along to “‘Cause baby we’ll be at the drive-in, in the old man’s Ford, behind the bushes, ’til I’m screamin’ for more” seemed juvenile, even to a hormonal 13-year-old dude. Admittedly, it’s not like I immediately threw away my Look What the Cat Dragged In cassette after hearing The Joshua Tree. But I never bought Open Up and Say…Ahhh!; I did get Rattle and Hum when it came out and plucked War from the back catalog and started giving bands like R.E.M. a try when joining the BMG tape club.

Before The Joshua Tree, my lone exposure to U2 was watching Bono leaping down into the crowd (sort of) during the 1985 Live Aid broadcast (I was really annoyed, because I was waiting and hoping to see–surprise!–Duran Duran). I had no idea that in two years, this band of Irishmen would seriously alter the way I listened to and appreciated music. And I believe The Joshua Tree is one of those albums that is able to speak to myriad audiences. Consider life in my dorm during freshman year at the University of Northern Iowa. I lived two doors down from a couple of football players; their room was a popular hangout for a fair number of the Panthers. Whenever they got together to play Madden on the Sega Genesis, they always listened to The Joshua Tree, even though it was a good five years old by then. Not macho metal, not ridiculous rap…”Where the Streets Have No Name” and “Mothers of the Disappeared.” I always liked that…even if I could never beat those fuckers in Madden. Oh well: Tecmo Super Bowl was always my game, anyway. And I owned them in NHL ’93 the following spring…

/video game braggadocio

Todd’s 70-61

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

70. The Sundays, Static and Silence

69. The Ocean Blue, The Ocean Blue

68. The Breeders, Last Splash

67. Crash Test Dummies, God Shuffled His Feet

66. Oasis, What’s the Story(Morning Glory)?

65. Madonna, True Blue

64. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Stoned and Dethroned

63. Sufjan Stevens, Illinois

62. Feist, The Reminder

61. Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#70. The Sundays, Static and Silence

This was the third of three stellar albums from The Sundays. After its release, lead singer Harriet Wheeler and guitarist David Gavurin quit the business to settle down and raise their kids. I have patiently waited 15 years for a fourth Sundays album. Waiting…Waiting… I’m starting to get impatient. So, in an effort to get them out of retirement, I am going to make a personal plea to The Sundays. Please, come back! Pretty please! Seriously! C’mon!

I get that you wanted to live a simpler life, have kids, and get away from the hassles of the record industry. But we live in different times now. You don’t need large record labels to record and distribute music anymore. We have a thing called “The Interwebs” now. Get a computer (heck I’ll buy you one) and record in your basement like 23 million other artists are doing now. Throw the new material up on a website (I’ll do that for you too. It would be a Music or Space Shuttle? exclusive release. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it.)

If it’s the money that’s holding you back, I have a plan for that as well. No one makes money doing it the old way. Unless your last name is Bieber, Swift or Gaga, you aren’t selling albums like the old days. Listen up Sundays. Here’s the new plan. And all you new bands can get in on this as well. Release your album slowly, one song a month. Stream it online and let me decide it I like it or not. If I like it, I buy it. If not, someone else does. Or doesn’t. Who cares? You have another song coming out next month. Maybe we like that song instead. I’d be way more likely to pay for a band’s music one dollar at a time than I would be to buy a whole album for $10 without hearing it. I’m sure a lot of other people would as well.

Sounds great right Harriett? Right Dave? I’m ready when you are. Just think about it.

Please come back! Pretty please?

#61. Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

I was going to music school in Minneapolis around the time The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was released. I listened to it a lot in between classes and would get different reactions.

There were a lot of guitar students in one of my music theory classes and they would give me shit for listening to it. I didn’t take it personally. Most of them were assholes and looked like rejects from a Black Sabbath cover band. One guy dressed almost exactly like Rob Zombie sans makeup. He kept trying to tell me Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe was the greatest album of all time and Lauryn Hill was crap. Unfortunately, Hellbilly is still on my “Albums To Listen To” list so I’ll have to take his word for it. (Side Note: Zombie guy could shred on guitar. I watched him play an inspired solo during his rendition of Ozzy’s “Crazy Train.”)

My production classes were a mixed bag, half the students were into electronic and trip hop music and the other half were into rap. One trip hop guy thought he was way too cool for me because I wasn’t listening to the newest Portishead record every day like he was. I never thought that record was very good. Portishead’s first album, Dummy. Now that was good. The rap guys were way into Silkk The Shocker around that time. I had to listen to Charge It 2 Da Game several times. To this day, I still think it is one of the worst things ever recorded. If I made a list of worst albums of all time (coming Fall 2013) this would be at the top, if not #1.

In a school full of musicians and music lovers, why was the future #61 album of all time getting no love? Why did we all hate each other’s music? Why couldn’t we all just get along? Maybe I was an asshole to the guitar guys and not the other way around. Is there some long haired cover band guitarist in the Twin City area blogging about some dick from Iowa that used to say Hellbilly Deluxe was shitty? That’s too much to take in right now. Maybe I need a therapist.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

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From the MoSS? Pit: M83/I Break Horses

m83

M83 performing at the Pageant on May 2, 2012. Photo from Chris’ iPhone.

Where to start…

How about with this: I wish I lived at the Pageant in St. Louis, as long as cool bands keep coming through there. I’ve seen three shows there, and they all probably rank among my favorite 10 shows of all time (Explosions in the Sky, Interpol/School of Seven Bells, M83). The sound is amazing. Sight lines are good pretty much everywhere. If you want to dance and jump around, the floor beckons. If you’re old like me, you can grab a seat in the balcony. The middle of the semi-circle balcony provides a great head-on view; the sides put you very close to the stage, but because of the perfect sound, you aren’t obliterated by the nearby speakers. At the Interpol show, they even had a wait staff coming around the balcony, taking drink orders. (The only order involving Pageant staff this time: I was ordered to stop recording video during the show. Boo.)

In other words, it’s the anti-Gabe’s.

I Break Horses

Maria Linden

Maria Linden

I knew nothing about this band when we left Iowa; Todd brought along the debut LP on his mp3 player, so I at least got a taste of what we were in for. The songs were pretty cool, but I had no idea we’d be watching Rachel Bilson’s doppelganger on lead vocals. That was a pleasant surprise. (And when I say Rachel Bilson-esque, think Summer after she started dating Seth Cohen on The O.C., not quite as glossy as when we first met her and Marissa Cooper, but still smokin’ hot.)

The music was pretty good, too. The drummer was playing an interesting set; I don’t recall seeing a electronic kick drum in action before. Rachel Bilson (real name: Maria Linden) had tons of charisma, which compensated for the occasional dropoff in her mic (OK, so the sound isn’t always perfect for the openers). They were a good warmup for M83, and earned another listen during our return trip to Iowa.

Here’s their rendition of the first song from their album:

Now’s the time on MoSS Pit where we acknowledge college kids who review the arts

Before I say anything about M83’s set, you can get another take at the following link.

http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/rftmusic/2012/05/m83_pageant_review_setlist_photos.php

If you click that link, you’ll read a review by Blair Stiles, who may or may not be a distant relative of Teen Wolf’s good friend. She noticed Todd and me in the balcony (“middle aged men…sprinkled in the balcony”), but Todd and I are used to getting noticed when we go out (no senior pictures changed hands this time, though). She also gave us some important details (“The woman in front of me was so close that I had to keep brushing her well-conditioned locks off my notebook”; “Despite tight security, I smelled a spliff or two being lit up through the night”). It’s a fascinating read. The description doesn’t resemble the scene I remember, but all the same, a must-read.

To be fair, Blair got some things right

OK, her review rang true on two occasions:

  • The response to the sax player, who killed it at the end of “Midnight City” in particular
  • The guy who won the contest to tour with M83 was a lot of fun to watch

The use of a sax player can be a dangerous proposition. Sometimes it works:

But if you don’t have superstars like Simon Le Bon to keep the brass man in check, you end up dealing with this:

Or this (shudder):

Thankfully, M83’s sax guy was epic in a true sense. He did his thing, delighted the crowd, and left. Well done, sax man.

And yeah, the guy who played some guitar and bass and electronic cowbell was fun to watch. Energetic, multitalented, and able to pull off wearing a shirt that looked something like a Blackburn Rovers top (my Premier League-loving friends are nodding and smiling right now). But come on, he’s not the mastermind here…

That’s Anthony, without a doubt

He was confident in his singing. And despite what Blair Stiles might tell you, he wasn’t afraid to roam away from his keyboard setup and rock out. He would approach singer/keyboardist Morgan Kibby (a hot little number herself), and shred the hell out of his guitar while channeling his inner Prince, dropping to his knees before Morgan in an attempt to sex things up, perhaps.

And you can’t beat the Frenchman’s accent. “She worships Zatan like ay fazzer” (read: she worships Satan like a father); “Death izzer boyfriends” (read: Death is her boyfriend); “Zaint Loo-eez!” (read: St. Louis!).

The show was sequenced well: a natural starter (“Intro” from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming), a soaring song from mid-catalog (“Teen Angst” from Before the Dawn Heals Us), and one of the big songs from the 2008 breakthrough album (“Graveyard Girl” from Saturdays=Youth). Then the new single (“Reunion”) from the latest album. We got a song off the eponymous debut, we got a Daft Punk cover, and we got more epic songs from Hurry Up (“Steve McQueen” and 2011 Song of the Year candidate “Midnight City”).

And the decision to have live drums was a good one, and employing this particular drummer (Loic Maurin) is an even better choice. Damn he was tight! Live drums allow these songs to pack an even greater emotional punch.

Here’s a good portion of “Teen Angst.” I made sure to record this song (as much as I could get away with, anyway) because it was my introduction to M83. Shortly after my son was born in 2006, my friend Jeff had sent me some CD-Rs full of random tunes, and this song was one of the standouts. I decided to become an M83 fan. I was justly rewarded with Saturdays=Youth and Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming in the years to follow.

You know what was so cool about this show? The fans—young and old, hipster and bro, cool and nerdy—all were appreciative of the show they’d seen. And the band that was showered with this affection seemed genuinely moved by the standing O they received after a blistering encore consisting of Saturdays=Youth gems “Skin of the Night” and “Couleurs”. Even the hyperactive guitar man and the ultra-suave sax guy seemed moved by the crowd’s roars of approval.

They earned them.

Crystal Castles’ upcoming album: Eponymous? (Probably.) Awesome? (Probably.)

The other day, the heir to the throne (who turns 6 very soon, gotsta get some Phineas & Ferb swag for the DS, yo!) asked me about my favorite songs of all time. Yep, Junior threw down the impossible question for music nerds. I can handle favorite groups/artists (Cure, Beatles, Nirvana, Portishead, and Duran Duran, for starters). I might be able to rattle off my favorite albums, at least #1-4 with confidence (Disintegration, Loveless, Revolver, and The Velvet Underground & Nico).

But songs? To quote Clay Davis from The Wire, “Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.”

Can’t do it, G. “A Day in the Life” is probably #1, if you stick a gun in my face. “Plainsong” by the Cure is my favorite song of theirs, so I’m sure that’s up there. “The Rain Song” by Zeppelin is one of those songs I love. “Time Has Told Me” and “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake. “Three Days” by Jane’s Addiction. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division. “Scentless Apprentice” by Nirvana. “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode. “Welcome to the Terrordome” by Public Enemy. “Natural’s Not in It” by Gang of Four. And about 3,534 more contenders I might list. And then you want me to prioritize them?

So I went with the redirection strategy. “I dunno. What are your favorite songs?”

Ethan Kath and Alice Glass of Crystal Castles stand in an alleyWithout blinking an eye, Will came up with his top three.

“‘Beep Beep’ is #1.” (Read: “Celestica” by Crystal Castles. He’s referencing the occasional electronic “beep-beep” noise throughout the song.)

“‘Bathtism’ is #2.” (Read: “Baptism” by Crystal Castles. And no, it’s not a speech impediment. He thought it was some sort of washing affliction, I guess.)

“And then #3 would be that Radio Dept. song.” (Read: some song by The Radio Dept. [shrug])

I admire my son’s definitive opinion, and it’s obvious my influence has rubbed off on the boy. Crystal Castles’ 2010 eponymous collection was my favorite album that year; and my son’s “favorite song of all time” is arguably my favorite song from that year. (I would argue that “Bathtism/Baptism” is the third best song on that album, behind the Robert Smith-vocalized “Not in Love.”)

So you can imagine our collective excitement when I read today that the Canadian duo will land in Croatia to record album #3 in short order, with an eye for a summer release. In the wake of such euphoria, I was left to ask myself some questions…

Chris: What should they name this album?

Chris: Duh. The only acceptable title other than Crystal Castles is Self-titled.

Chris: Why do I think Alice Glass is hot?

Chris: The same reason people think Alison Mosshart or Karen O is hot: the music blinds their vision while amplifying their sense of hearing. And all you hear is passionate vocals, either delivered in reserved/heartbreaking tones (“Celestica,” “Suffocation,” “Tell Me What to Swallow”) or piercing screams (“Baptism,” “Alice Practice,” “xxzxcuzx me”) or, um, I dunno (“Crimewave,” “Untrust Us”) and you just find yourself having these primal reactions to the words, to the voice. And Alice is petite, brunette, dresses in black…that kind of works for me.

(As shallow as this sounds, I feel obligated to point out that Romy from the xx still doesn’t do it for me, even with that voice.)

Chris: Why does Music or Space Shuttle? scribe Todd not like Crystal Castles?

Chris: I don’t know! I always assumed this would be right up his alley, what with his love for Neon Indian and M83. No, they’re not the same, but similar enough in certain elements (the first album plays more like Neon Indian; some of the grandeur of the second album seems a bit M83ish). You can ask Todd yourself by sending him an email at toddisdumb@chrisrules.com (please use the Subject Line “Chris is so cool; what’s your deal?” to ensure a prompt response).

Chris: Why do I like them so much?

Chris: Listen to the lush opening chords of “Celestica.” Listen to the aggression in “Baptism.” Listen to the swell of the music as Robert Smith approaches the chorus of “Not in Love.” Listen to the abrupt synth mashup following each verse of “Pap Smear.” Listen to the sampling of Sigur Ros on “Year of Silence.” Listen to the disturbing, quiet cry for help in “Tell Me What to Swallow.” Listen to the confident groove throughout “Vanished” and “Crimewave.” Listen to the quirky Donkey Kong sample in “Air War.” Listen to the soaring synth against the restrained vocals in “Suffocation.” All of these moments are like fucking dopamine for my ears. That last sentence is the most efficient way for me to state my feelings toward this music.

Chris: Any chance this album won’t disappoint, given my love for the first two albums?

Chris: Sure, there are some reasons to be worried. After two albums, I thought Bloc Party was one of the greatest bands of the 21st century (although unlike Crystal Castles, I thought BP’s second album was a lateral move rather than a step forward). Then they put out Intimacy. [shudder] And you’ll never hear me defend the Crystal Castles live sound, at least based on the recordings I’ve heard (never seen ’em live).

But this is a band that recognized that the 8-bit sound that infiltrated much of its debut couldn’t dominate album #2, so they evolved. Ethan Kath seems to have the perfect muse in Alice Glass. The lone bum song on the second album (a cover song, so it was the lone song Kath didn’t write) was later elevated to untouchable status by collaborating with Robert Smith on a new version, which shows they are shrewd and credible. And they’re traveling to Croatia to record this new album, so I’m guessing they’ll be focused. (Not sure what I mean by that…)

And don’t forget: this band wrote and recorded the world’s greatest song ever (according to my son). They’ve probably got another good song or two…or 12…or 16…

I can’t wait to find out. Until then, we’ll always have “Beep Beep.”

Best Music of 2011: #1

Hurry Up, We're DreamingTodd: M83, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

So good that my faith in humanity was temporarily restored after I heard “Midnight City,” not coincidentally also my song of the year.

 

True LovesChris: Hooray for Earth, True Loves

Perfect soundtrack for cruising on Lakeshore Drive before a Portishead concert. (I would know.) Soaring synths, strong vocals, perfect outro song…and this song, “Sails,” my favorite tune of the year.