MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: April 2015

2015 CTApril was a busy month here at MoSS? HQ. Chris spent most of the month trying to make sense out of our sketchy tax situation. For the first two weeks of April he was buried under stacks of expense reports and receipts turned in by Sam and Todd over the year. Bloggers can deduct vinyl record purchases, right? As a result, we haven’t had a lot of time to dive into new music lately. So, we’re “mixing” things up a bit with our April mixtape.

This time our playlists are comprised of great songs that are featured in the final or closing scene of some of our favorite movies. See if you can guess all of the movie titles. Some are obvious and some are more obscure. First person to list all 20 of the correct movie titles in the comments section below will win the everlasting respect of the MoSS? men. A prize beyond all monetary value.

Side A: Chris’ Picks

Side B: Todd’s Picks

 

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Best albums of 2014: No. 11-20 (with playlist!)

The Music or Space Shuttle? braintrust rolls out its top albums of 2014 this week! Today we start with our individual picks for #11-20, with playlists sampling each group of 10. We’ll reveal our top 10 throughout the week, culminating with our top pick on Friday, Dec. 19th.

Todd’s #11-20

20. Alt-J, This Is All Yours

19. Craft Spells, Nausea

18. Bully, Bully EP

17. Future Islands, Singles

16. Pixies, Indie Cindy

15. Dum Dum Girls, Too True

14. St. Vincent, St. Vincent

13. I Break Horses, Chiaroscuro

12. Warpaint, Warpaint

11. Hozier, Hozier

Chris’ #11-20

20. Jessie Ware, Tough Love

19. Angel Olsen, Burn Your Fire for No Witness

18. The Raveonettes, Pe’ahi

17. Beck, Morning Phase

16. Phantogram, Voices

15. Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun

14. Warpaint, Warpaint

13. Sylvan Esso, Sylvan Esso

12. Tune Yards, Nikki Nack

11. Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: March 2014

march 14

Side A : Todd’s‘ Picks

Side B : Chris’ Picks

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: January 2014

jan 14

Side A : Todd’s‘ Picks

Side B : Chris’ Picks

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: July 2013

108

Side A : Todd’s Picks

Side B : Chris’ Picks

MoSS? Presents… Albums to Watch for in 2013

Albums 2013

Seems like every website is putting together a guide for upcoming album releases in 2013. Why should MoSS? be any different? We aren’t going to bore you with an endless list of shitty albums coming out this year. Instead, we are just going to share a few of our most anticipated albums.

Todd’s Most Anticipated Albums of 2013

January is a big month for me because four albums I’ve been not so patiently waiting for are being released.

Free Energy, Lovesign [Free People]. This one’s a real guilty pleasure for me. The songs can be sort of cheesy but they are catchy as hell and these guys don’t try to be anything but straight up rock and roll.

Bleeding Rainbow, Yeah Right [Kanine]. The band formerly known as Reading Rainbow.  I guess if you name your band after a beloved PBS children’s show, you can expect lawyers to come knocking at some point. Anyway, they are back with their 2nd LP. It was supposed to be released in October 2012 but was pushed back. I am hoping the delay wasn’t because the record sucks.

Local Natives, Hummingbird [Frenchkiss/Infectious]. Another group hoping to avoid a sophomore slump. I’ve heard two songs from it and both are pretty good. If the rest of the album is as good, then they should have a record of the year contender on their hands.

Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob [Warner]. I really loved the last two Tegan and Sara albums. The ladies released a single “Closer” from Heartthrob last fall and they revealed a much more dance/pop oriented sound. At first I hated it. Eventually, as my family (and its placement in my Top 10 Songs of 2012) can tell you , I wore that MP3 out.

There are a few albums I’m excited about being released this spring. The album I am most anxious for is…

Youth Lagoon, Wondrous Bughouse [Fat Possum]. I missed the boat way back in 2011. Youth Lagoon’s first LP, The Year of Hibernation, came across my desk at MoSS? HQ but I ignored it. Since then, I have listened to that record more often than several of my Top 10 of 2011 selections. Maybe this one will make the 2013 Top 10.

Other releases I’m hoping for…

Phoenix, TBA [Glassnote] 

Neon Indian, TBA [Mexican Summer]

I Break Horses, TBA [Bella Union]

Small Black, TBA [Jagjaguwar]

Release I am always hoping for but will probably never happen…

Pixies, TBA [4AD]

Chris’ Most Anticipated Albums of 2013

I don’t know why I am buying into Kevin Shields’ promises anymore, but supposedly we are getting a new My Bloody Valentine album sometime soon. Of course, Shields said it would be out before calendar year 2012 concluded. And he’s said numerous times before that something would soon follow up the 1991 masterpiece Loveless. Yep, the 1991 album. But there seems to be some concrete talk this time. Bassist Debbie Googe spoke about the album, even though she made it sound as though Kevin is channeling his inner Billy Corgan and handling a lot of the instrumentation himself. And one of these times it has to be the real thing, right? So I’ve got this to look forward to…possibly all year long (and beyond).

Also:

Toro y Moi, Anything in Return (January 22). I really liked Causers of This but was slightly disappointed by the 2011 release Underneath the Pine. I’m hoping for a return to greatness with Anything in Return.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, II (February 5). I loved UMO’s first album in 2011; here’s hoping album No. 2 is even better. Led Zeppelin and Crystal Castles set the bar pretty high for albums titled II, though (as did Chicago, for that matter).

Iceage, You’re Nothing (February 19). Another band that released a wonderful, economic debut in 2011. Frankly, if Iceage simply releases another 12-song, 24-minute blast of dark punk, I’ll be satisfied.

Junip, TBA (April 23). Jose Gonzalez never fails to deliver.

The Weeknd, TBA (?????). If you believe his Twitter feed, Abel is dropping a new album in 2013. I’m still a huge fan of House of Balloons and found the other two parts of Trilogy to be interesting at worst and quite excellent at times, so I’m in on more Weeknd.

Also, without comment:

The Joy Formidable, Wolf’s Law (January 22)

Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob (January 29)

Sally Shapiro, Somewhere Else (February 26)

Rhye, Woman (March 5)

Marnie Stern, The Chronicles of Marnia (March 19)

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #2

Yep, we’ve made 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.

We’ve reached the really good stuff: our top 10s. We’ll roll these out one per day (Monday-Friday) over the next two weeks, reaching #1 on Friday, Dec. 14. The following week, we’ll unveil our favorite music from 2012.

Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ #2: My Bloody Valentine, Loveless

(click play button below to sample this album)

loveless album coverI did the college radio DJ thing for the first time in 1997, during my last year at Iowa State. I had two three-hour shifts a week on KURE (Cure!), which was based in the basement of one of the buildings there (sad that I can’t remember exactly where…Friley Hall, maybe?). It was a lot of fun, even though we were forced to follow a CMJ-based playlist for about 50 percent of the air time. There were six songs per hour we had to play; we could fill the rest of the time with our own choices, as long as the songs didn’t contain “fuck” or “shit” in the lyrics and weren’t top 40 kind of stuff.

(Contrast this with my time at KRUI as a staff member at the University of Iowa, which was post-Janet Jackson-boob-flop/FCC crackdown on “indecency.” The top 40 rule applied at KRUI, but I was told not to play songs that had the word “damn,” never mind “shit” and “fuck.” Different times in college radio, I guess.)

So once I got my required plays out of the way (being 1997, that meant stuff like Tindersticks, Travis, Suede, Sarah McLachlan), I would dig into the older CDs, and often times I turned to Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. I would turn the in-studio speakers up to 11 and let the waves of guitar wash over me. One particular time, I decided to play three songs in a row: “Touched,” “To Here Knows When,” and “When You Sleep.” About halfway through the second song, the studio phone rang.

“Hey, I think you have the record player on the wrong speed.”

I informed the caller that I was using a compact disc player.

“Whatever. Listen, I’m calling from Mr. Goodcents. We would like to do you the favor of playing your station over our in-store speakers, but if you’re gonna play weird stuff like this, I don’t know that we can keep doing that for you.”

[silence on my end]

“So, like, play something normal, and we’ll keep you on the speakers.”

I realized what was at stake if I didn’t comply with the wishes of the most popular sandwich outlet in Ames aside from Jimmy John’s, Subway, Blimpie, Pita Pit, Pizza Pit, the gyro carts on Welch, convenience store delis, and a few others (probably). If I fuck this up, the station would see a ZERO PERCENT reduction in funding from Mr. Goodcents; worse, we would be facing audience casualties that might number in the tens.

So I did what any asshole college radio DJ would do: I said I’d play something slightly more mainstream, got on the air after the MBV trifecta ended, dedicated the next song to the good folks at Goodcents, and then played an eight-minute Future Sound of London song (which I believe was on the CMJ playlist…two birds with one repetitive techno stone).

I did so not to maintain the hipster image of the college radio DJ, but because I was genuinely pissed off and surprised that the greatness of MBV went unrecognized by this sandwich maker. And it really goes beyond ignoring the greatness; the quality of said music had been called into question, and the airing of the music sparked a likely boycott by the local eatery. I was left perplexed: Who doesn’t think Loveless is the best thing since sliced bread?

(To be fair, the dudes at Mr. Goodcents probably have an elevated opinion of sliced bread, thus a higher standard of excellence.)

my bloody valentine band photoThere’s so much for me to like in this band, and in this album in particular. First and foremost, the amazing sounds that ringleader Kevin Shields and the much beloved Bilinda Butcher coax from their guitars. Their guitars are everywhere: soaring, circling, bouncing off the walls, howling, smothering, surrounding you. It’s amazing to feel the weight of the guitar assault. And not volume for volume’s sake sort of attack, either: it’s the density that does the bludgeoning. I feel like I’m in a hot tub of awesome when I listen to this album.

(“How is this guy not getting paid millions of dollars to pen music critiques?” you might be asking in the wake of that last sentence.)

So yeah, guitars, guitars, guitars, with textures and volumes aplenty. Not the kind of guitar-music that prompts me to bust into air-guitar theatrics, though. Despite the waves of guitar, I’d sooner completely chill with this music on. How can that be? I chalk it up to another important element of MBV music: the vocals evident under the surface of six-string sonic assault. Sometimes sung by Bilinda, sometimes by Kevin, always soothing. It almost has a hypnotic effect. The words are somewhat decipherable, which on its face sounds like a criticism more than a compliment, but they serve almost more like an instrument than a narrative. Not quite to the level of Sigur Ros, but similar. Kevin’s laid-back style fits well underneath the music, and Bilinda’s tone (so dreamy, so sensual) is what matters, not the words she’s saying.

Plus, when the words are a mystery, we can all feel a little less self-conscious when we do that “sing-along-using-sounds-that-sorta-resemble-real-words” thing that we all do with music from time to time.

Even the drumming, which is muted even more so than the vocals, sounds really good on here. Nothing fancy, but I think because it is used as more of a complement to the rest of the music, it magnifies the fills, creating a greater impact.

Even though I’m quite certain this album factored poorly in one of my dating escapades at Iowa State (the girl saw the CD in my car and, aghast, blurted out, “My Bloody Valentine? Should I be worried?”), the good far outweighs the bad. As shoegaze enjoys another revival in popularity, it is timely for me to rejoice Loveless as one of the most important (and incredible) albums ever made. Click the play button on my sampler atop this write-up, sit back, close your eyes, and let (three songs from) Loveless envelop you.

Or turn it off and go make a sandwich.

Todd’s #2: Pixies, Doolittle

(click play button below to sample this album)

pixies_doolittleIf you read our #6 album post about Nirvana’s Nevermind, then you that saw Chris and I were asked questions by the International Blogging Syndicate during an interview about out lists. One of the questions asked was…Is it easier to write about an album you love or an album you hate? Chris had a great response:

The ones you hate. The ones you love, you want to respect the shit out of them, so it’s harder to get the words just right, to get them to convey your true admiration.

Well, that’s how I feel about The Pixies, Doolittle. I have nothing to write about this album’s greatness that hasn’t already been written by way better scribes than me. Nor do I have any particularly interesting anecdotes about this record to discuss. I also already shared details of my Pixies addiction in my “Surviving the New Music Wasteland” trilogy of posts.

So I guess I am taking the easy way out and choosing to do-little (rimshot) for my Doolittle post. I am going to run through the songs of Doolittle and tell you the very specific reasons why I like them. Could be a drum beat. Could be a lyric or lack thereof. The best parts of songs can sometimes be the subtleties. So here we go.

“Debaser”- Kim Deal’s backing vocals make this one for me. Also, the line at the beginning “slicing up eyeballs.” Wonderfully graphic.

“Tame”- Has to be Black Francis’ screaming TAME!!!! at the end of the song. He had to have needed a lozenge after that.

“Wave of Mutilation”- Love the rumbling drums before the chorus.

“I Bleed”- Black Francis’ imperfect echoing of Kims Deal’s vocals and the part where he sings the line “Nobody Knows” in a comically deeper voice.

“Here Comes Your Man” – Basically, everything about this song is great, but to pick one specific part…The little guitar ditty between verses.

“Dead”– The ‘60s pop guitar solo in the middle of the song.

“Monkey Gone to Heaven”- If man was 5 and the Devil is 6…then God is 7!!!!

“Mr. Grieves”- They say the album title Doolittle in it.

“Crackity Jones”- “The last set of ”Crack crack crackity jones” and the little chirping noise he makes in between them.

“La la Love You”- The pleas for us listeners to ‘Shake Your Butt!” at the beginning.

“No. 13 Baby”- The two minute outro is fucking great.

“There Goes My Gun”- I love that the first verse is just Black Francis yelling Yoo Hoo! Three times. Guess he decided to Doolittle on the verse.

“Hey”- Another song that I adore everything about…I guess I’ll pick the guitars during the first verse. Very jangly for a verse about whores in your bed.

“Silver”- This is the one song I’ve struggled over the years to like much. Kim Deal sings on it so I’ll go with that.

“Gouge Away”- I love that it is the perfect segue song to the next Pixies album Bossanova. Very similar style to many songs on that release.

So there you have it. My very specific reasons for liking every song on Doolittle. Give it a listen sometime if you already haven’t (How that could even be possible is beyond me) and think of your own reasons.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

#40-31

#30-21

#20-16

#15-11

#10

#9

#8

#7

#6

#5

#4

#3

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:

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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

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #80-71

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’ 80-71

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

80. De La Soul, De La Soul Is Dead

79. The Strokes, Is This It

78. Metallica, Ride the Lightning

77. The White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan

76. Washed Out, Within and Without

75. The xx, Coexist

74. Pixies, Doolittle

73. Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles (2008)

72. The B-52’s, Cosmic Thing

71. Sufjan Stevens, Illinois

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#80: De La Soul, De La Soul Is Dead

De La Soul Is Dead coverI bought my first CD player in 1991. Every time I see a Wal-Mart commercial boasting about its no-interest layaway program, it takes me back 20-some years to the day I went to the LaCrosse, Wis., Best Buy and put down something like $25 on a Sony “boom box” style CD player, one month before I returned with the remainder of the balance due. It was an excruciating 30 days or so of waiting, partly because I’m not a very patient person, but also because I bought a CD the same day I made the initial CD player payment.

That’s right: I stared at my first CD, De La Soul Is Dead, for a month before I actually could play it at home.

De La Soul earned the right to be my first CD purchase for a number of reasons. I decided I would buy something I didn’t already have on cassette, so anything by the Cure was ruled out. The peace-lovin’ hip-hop trio won me over as a fan with its debut, Three Feet High and Rising. The second album came out around the time I decided to buy a CD player, so it was on sale at Best Buy (probably for $7.99 or something reasonable like that). And a lot of the incredible stuff that came out in 1991 either hadn’t been released yet or it wasn’t on my radar yet. So dead daisies won the day.

I was able to pass the time without an actual CD-playing machine by reading the CD booklet, which included a comic book narrative of the numerous skits found on the CD. Not only did I learn the terms “dicksnot” and “buttcrust,” but I also learned the diss “you Arsenio Hall gum having punk” (not sure if I could spot someone with Arsenio gums, but I can see how it would be insulting to be told you have them). I also hit up one of my friends who had a CD player, and had my first listen through his speakers. (“Dicksnot” and “buttcrust” sound almost as funny as they read.)

Once I got my CD player, I spun Is Dead all the time (what else was I going to listen to?), and found a lot of good tunes between the funny skits. The groove was still there, but the album didn’t rely on any sort of “daisy chain”/”peace signs” gimmick to hook the listener. Songs like “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa” and “Pass the Plugs” brought a more serious tone, but the band’s sharp humor still reigned on stuff like “Bitties in the BK Lounge” and “Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)” and good vibes were aplenty on “Keepin’ the Faith” and “A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays.'” And Slick Rick was sampled throughout the album explaining why he “can’t be your lover” (it has to do with, um, wrinkles).

I soon started acquiring discs like a madman but De La Soul Is Dead will always hold special memories; you never forget your first. (My first cassette: the Footloose soundtrack!)

#75: The xx, Coexist

Coexist coverThis album only came out a few weeks ago, so it might be a bit rash of me to name it the 75th best album of all time.

Then again, I might very well be selling it short.

I am obsessed with the xx’s music, but that doesn’t necessarily make me a blind (or perhaps I should say “deaf”) worshiper of the band. In fact, it makes me a harsher critic. I did not immediately declare this album a masterpiece; it took me several listens before I started appreciating the entire disc as what is currently my favorite album of 2012.

While the xx’s first album definitely set the tone for the band’s sound, it certainly had tracks that stood apart as songs you could frame as “singles” (“Crystalised,” “VCR,” “Islands,” “Basic Space”) and “deep cuts” (“Infinity,” “Night Time,” “Stars”). The band’s second effort is nearly 40 minutes of singular mood-building. Some people might find this to be monotonous, but to my ears, the shifts are subtle but detectable. Start with Romy’s voice in the spotlight on “Angels,” bring in the back-and-forth vocals on “Chained” (which features a burst of textbook “xx” guitar that is so basic yet beautiful you’re left wondering why your adrenaline is flowing but happy it is), hit some steel drum accents on “Reunion,” enjoy the dance-y but not over the top vibe of “Sunset,” enjoy the in-sync vocals on “Tides,” the heart-aching moans of “Unfold,” a return to the upbeat on “Swept Away,” and the afterglow duet on “Our Song.” See, I’m already thinking this album should be higher on my list.

It is a quieter album than xx. That doesn’t equate with a negative. Some of that might have to do with this album being recorded by a trio rather than the quartet that produced xx. But whether it was done out of necessity or simply out of preference, it works very well within the xx soundscape. (Of course, the booted fourth member, Baria Qureshi, “thanks god she had no involvement” with Coexist. Perhaps the feeling is mutual?)

I look at this album and its relationship to its precedent much like I look at Sigur Ros’ ( ) album and its predecessor, Agaetis Byrjun. Most people who like Sigur Ros/that sort of music consider Agaetis a masterpiece, and while they might think ( ) is a solid album, they might criticize the album for not being as extravagant/for being more “minimal” than Agaetis. If you force them to look at ( ) independently of Agaetis, you’ll find a lauded album. I think Coexist, which received good reviews, will be viewed as an incredible album once people stop comparing it with xx.

P.S.: Go see the xx live. Now.

P.P.S.: I actually like ( ) better than Agaetis Byrjun.

Todd’s 80-71

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

80. Beastie Boys, Ill Communication

79. Tegan and Sara, Sainthood

78. New Radicals, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too

77. Porno for Pyros, Porno for Pyros

76. The Swell Season, Strict Joy

75. Counting Crows, August and Everything After

74. Nick Drake, Pink Moon

73. Janet Jackson, The Velvet Rope

72. Love and Rockets, Earth, Sun, Moon

71. Def Leppard, Hysteria

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#78 New Radicals, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too

Last night, I sat down to write a blurb about this album and just completely drew a blank.  I had a few things I wanted to mention about the record but had no real personal stories connected to it that would be of any interest to you wonderful readers. Needing a little inspiration, I queued up the album on the Sonos system (still the best present ever, thanks Cory and Jeni), mixed a cocktail, sat back and enjoyed. After a few Barcardi and diets, I was overcome with great ideas. No wonder musicians abuse illegal substances, they truly do help your creativity. Bacardi should be renamed “Inspiration Juice.”

Here is a sample of last night’s work:

…Whoaoooo! This record is freaking great !! Wahtwas I thinkin? This should have been waaaayyy higher in my list!!! Why did they only make one redcord?? That’s just dumba. Why would you stop making music justs whan you have a hit? That’s so stoopid. A musical tragedy. Every song on here should have neeb a top 10 song!!!! The album starts with a chick saying ”Make my nipples hard, Let’s Go!” That alone deserves several grammy awards!!!!!…

Ok, so drunk blogging probably wasn’t the best idea. There are a few points in that mess though:

-They did quit making music right at the peak of their popularity. Most people are probably only familiar with the song “You get What You Give”. It was a modest hit in the late ‘90s. They had an even more modest hit after that, “Someday We’ll Know”, and then disappeared. Too bad? Yes. Tragic? No.

-Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too is a great all around album. I didn’t get the album until the mid-2000s when I ran across it at the local CD Xchange. The price? One dollar. What a bargain! I was happily surprised at how good the other songs were. Freaking great? I think so. Should it have been way higher on my list? No. The list is infallible.

-The album does start with a woman saying ”Make my nipples hard, Let’s Go!” Cool? It think so. Is that sole lyric Grammy worthy? Absolutely. Supposedly,  The Beatles were going to start Sergeant Pepper’s that way but John thought it would have been too weird to go from “Make my nipples hard” to “With A Little Help From My Friends.” So, they came up with the lead track “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” instead. That’s the story I heard anyways. May or may not have happened that way.

#73 Janet Jackson, The Velvet Rope

Before this record, I’d always been kind of a peripheral fan of Janet (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.) My older brother was a pretty big fan so I heard most of her material growing up. The album Control was kind of cool because she broke out with that record. I was listening to hard rock and metal music when Rhythm Nation came out so that one I sort of missed. The janet. record was nice but came across to me as sort of sweet and sugary much of the time. There were a few hints of things to come with sexier songs like “Any Time, Any Place” and “That’s the Way Love Goes.”

The Velvet Rope was the first album she made that really struck me as something more than pop music. It is much darker and moodier than any of her other releases. She collaborated with Q-tip from A Tribe Called Quest on my favorite song from the album “Got ’til It’s Gone.” She also covered the classic Rod Stewart jam, “Tonight’s the Night.” Odd choice but I think it works.

To be honest, the main reason I love this record is that it came out around the time I started dating my wife. I can’t listen to it without thinking of her. The Velvet Rope is the perfect record to play in the background when you are just “getting to know someone.”  Translation, it is a great record to play when you and your special someone spend large portions of the day attached at the bed.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81