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

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MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #100-91

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’ 100-91

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

100. Jane’s Addiction, Nothing’s Shocking

99. Ice Cube, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted

98. Pet Shop Boys, Please

97. Rodrigo y Gabriela, Rodrigo y Gabriela

96. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat

95. Blood, Sweat & Tears, Blood, Sweat & Tears

94. Motley Crue, Too Fast for Love

93. Hooray for Earth, True Loves

92. The Cure, Seventeen Seconds

91. Ministry, The Land of Rape and Honey

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#95: Blood, Sweat & Tears, Blood, Sweat & Tears

blood sweat and tears self-titledIt might seem a bit odd to see this album on my list, ahead of Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking and albums that won’t make my list like Alice in Chains’ Dirt or Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. (That’s right, I couldn’t find room for either of those. Dirt is probably my #101; Mellon Collie needs to be a single disc.) But here it is all the same.

This is a pick of sentimentality. This is the first “real” record I remember listening to as a child. We were living in Eagan, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. I used to dance around like a little banshee to “Spinning Wheel”; my parents might not remember this, but I truly do remember getting scolded for jumping around on my bed during the instrumental breakdown a little over halfway through the song. Good times.

Nowadays it’s one of those “right mood” records, but when I’m in that zone, I love hearing stuff like “Sometimes in Winter” or “More and More” and the aforementioned “Spinning Wheel,” the song that represents the album in my playlist above. Better stop typing before Mom and Dad come in and yell at me…

#91 Ministry, The Land of Rape and Honey

cover for the land of rape and honeyI remember first hearing Ministry over at my friend Jeff Perry’s house. He had the 12″ Singles compilation, which features “Everyday Is Halloween” and the unfairly maligned “The Nature of Love” (I still think that song is OK). I thought it was decent synth pop. Flash forward a couple of years: I go golfing with my cousin Mark; he’s wearing combat boots and a Ministry T-shirt that has a skull on it. Same group? Nah, couldn’t be. I don’t ask.

Then one summer, my friend Brian’s cousins roll up to Iowa from San Antonio. One of them, Billy, is armed with Ministry cassettes, including one called The Land of Rape and Honey. We throw it in the Ford Tempo tape deck, and “Stigmata” subsequently blows my mind and scares me a little bit. For weeks (certainly for the rest of Billy’s stay) I find myself annoying people by using my voice to make the guitar riff noise from that song (duh duh duh duh DUNNNNNN!!!).

The rest of the disc is great too. Odd chants, mad drumming, Kevin Dillon samples from Platoon…this album had a little bit of everything. Even my Grandma Clair liked it, coming into the room dancing while I was listening to the powerhouse second track, “The Missing.” I even crashed a car listening to this album. Yep, sounds like the 91st best album of all time.

Todd’s 100-91

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

100. Radiohead, The Bends

99. Hoodoo Gurus, Mars Needs Guitars

98. Michael Jackson, Thriller

97. Motley Crue, Dr. Feelgood

96. Bjork, Debut

95. Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Evan Sank

94. Band of Horses, Cease to Begin

93. The Rolling Stones, Some Girls

92. The Church, Gold Afternoon Fix

91. Eels, Daisies of the Galaxies

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#94 Band of Horses, Cease to Begin

This record is a bit of as sentimental pick for me. It came out in early October 2007, and was on fairly heavy rotation on the alternative satellite radio stations. One day around that time, I was running errands for my very pregnant wife. My daughter, who at the time was 3 years old, was with me. The song “Is There a Ghost?” came on the radio. It’s a pretty simple tune with basically one verse repeated over and over behind slow building guitars.

I could sleep
I could sleep
I could sleep
I could sleep
When I lived alone
Is there a ghost in my house?

Since this was around Halloween and the song had the word ghost in it, my daughter thought it was cool and asked to listen to it again. When we got home I bought the record to play on future car trips with her (anything to get a break from the Annie soundtrack). After a few listens though, I realized the rest of the record was very good too. I generally am not a fan of country rock or down home type rock but this was different. The big reverb filled vocals and sweeping guitars really sucked me in. Band of Horses was a mainstay on my iPod for the next few months.

It was actually playing in the car as I drove my wife to the hospital to deliver my son. So whenever I hear Cease to Begin, I think of both of my kids. Plus, how can you go wrong with a record that has a song titled after former NBA superstar Detlef Schrempf?

#92 The Church, Gold Afternoon Fix

When I started the 9th grade, all I really listened to was hair metal and classic rock music. That was until a friend of mine introduced me to a few albums his older brother brought back from college. It was my first exposure to so-called “College Music” bands like The Cure, HooDoo Gurus, The Connells and many more (some of which you will see on this list). I was hooked right there. I have gotten into other genres of music since then but have never strayed far from “alternative” or  “college” or “indie” or “whatever they are calling it now” music.

Back to #92. One of the records my friend had me listen to was Gold Afternoon Fix by The Church. I couldn’t stop listening to it. Maybe it was the excitement of hearing new type of music. It was all dark and moody and at that age I think sometimes you need to feel dark and moody. Whatever the reason, I thought it was great and this record definitely shaped my future musical tastes.

It wasn’t until later that I found out the band basically hated this release. I read an interview where the lead singer Steve Kilbey called the album lousy, hashed together and hideous.  I would agree that The Church albums before (Starfish) and after (Priest=Aura) are probably better all-around albums but I discovered Gold Afternoon Fix first and it holds a special place in my heart. Lousy? Really? Let’s look at a small sample of lyrics from the song “Metropolis.”

Back in Metropolis, circuses and elephants
Where the oranges grew
Back in Metropolis nothing can ever topple us
When I’m standing with you
Back in Metropolis talk about a holocaust
And then visit the zoo

OK, maybe that is a bit hashed together and lousy. I still love it.

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Road Trip Revelations

My job sometimes requires me to spend a lot of my day in the car. Today was one of those days with quite a few hours of windshield time. I don’t mind too much. It gives me valuable time to think, reflect on my life and most importantly rock out! So on days like today I sit back, relax and turn on my Sirius Stiletto. (Special thanks to my brother who so foolishly gave up this beautiful piece of technology. I love it. Endless commercial free channels of fantastic music) After four hours alone with my thoughts and the radio, I came away with a few revelations.

Lana Del Rey is over-hyped but talented

Yes, she’s been over-played. Yes, she tanked on SNL. Yes, she talks like Betty Boop. I don’t care. She’s great.  I listened to her song “Radio” around four times today and defy you not to sing along by the 2nd chorus.

Now my life is sweet like cinnamon
Like a fucking dream i’m living in
Baby love me cause i’m playing on the radio
(how do you like me now?)


Too much coffee makes you piss a lot

Side note: If your trip is over 2 hours long, cap the coffee at 12 oz.  Today I had roughly 24 oz and found myself with that uncomfortable feeling. Not to worry. I have the entire eastern half of the state mapped out by establishments with suitable bathrooms. I try to avoid the rest stops. I’m tired of the long looks from bi-sexual truckers named Carl. I’ve found that the best location for an emergency pit stop is McDonalds. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a McDonalds in this part of the state and you usually don’t run into some hobo washing his testicles in the sink…usually.

Anyone can cover Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and it will be awesome

Today I heard versions of “Running Up that Hill” by Placebo and The Chromatics. Surprisingly enough they are both pretty damn good. I guess this Kate Bush gem is the perfect song to try and make your own.  You can’t get much better that the original though.  Check it out below.

Jack White is in a lot of bands. Also, there are a lot of bands with “Bear” in their name

The White Stripes, Raconteurs, The Dead Weather and now Jack White solo stuff. I listened to it all on the road today. Good god man. Take a break. We get it. You can write a lot of songs. 15% of them are good. Slow down a bit and maybe you could get that number up to 75%. Please just think about it Jack.

Today I also heard songs by: Bear in Heaven, Grizzly Bear, Bear Hands, Panda Bear and Minus the Bear.  I will pose to myself the same question once asked of Dwight Schrute from The Office . Which Bear is Best? I’m glad you asked. That’s a toughy. While all have their merits, today(based solely on car stereo volume levels) Bear in Heaven is the best bear.

I will skip any song by Wilco, Neutral Milk Hotel, or Animal Collective

I’ve tried to like these bands. I just can’t do it. I even change songs if I’m on the phone and one of these bands come on. Nice try Sirius but you cant sneak one by me while my celly’s blowin’ up.

I will not skip any song by Modest Mouse, Pixies, or Whitesnake

Yeah that’s right, Whitesnake. Sometimes you just have to tune in to Hair Nation and bang your head. Still of the Night! Still of the Night! Still of the Night! Rawk!

All in all it was a pretty good day.  Plenty of tunes. Plenty of pit stops. If you see me cruising down the interstate sometime in the future go ahead and wave. Just please don’t laugh while I’m doing my David Coverdale impression.