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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From the MoSS? Pit: Tegan and Sara

tegan and saraI’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m a 39 year old hetero male and I friggin’ love Tegan and Sara. Their last 3 albums are ranked right up there with some of my favorites of all time. Sainthood made my top 100 albums list and Heartthrob topped my best of 2013 list. Honestly, I had never really considered my enjoyment of them to be something to feel ashamed of. I just liked their music without thoughts to their sexual orientation, the main demographic of their fan base or how any of it does or doesn’t effect me. They produce songs about universal themes of life, love, and loss that anyone should connect with.

At a recent concert, one of my fellow concert goers gave me shit about my high regard for T&S and called into question my musical taste in general.

Concert Goer: “I don’t trust your opinion. You like Tegan and Sara.”

MoSS? Todd: “What? You don’t like them? Really? Come on, they’re great.”

Concert Goer: “No, I’m not a sexually confused teenage girl.”

MoSS? Todd: “What what what? I’m like the exact opposite of that and I love them.”

Concert Goer: “They suck”

MoSS? Todd: “Yeah well……You suck”

Well you get the point. I like Tegan and Sara and any of you paying attention over the last few years of MoSS? posts will know I am kind of obsessed with Prince. What does that little tidbit of info have to do with anything you ask? Well, a few months back, Tegan and Sara announced a summer tour and one of the stops would be at First Avenue in Minneapolis, a venue made famous by Prince and the movie Purple Rain. I’ve seen that movie a million times and have always wanted to see a show there. It was definitely in my top 5 “Concert Venue to Visit” checklist along with  CBGBs unfortunately now defunct, Red Rocks in Colorado for the amazing scenery, The Metro in Chicago due to the Smashing Pumpkins association and The Whisky A-Go-Go because ROCK!!!

First Avenue

So you can understand my excitement when I saw Tegan and Sara were playing at First Avenue. For the second concert ticket purchase in a row I was able to score 4 pre-sale tickets so I could assure entry. The owners of the other three tickets would be Mrs. MoSS? Todd and our friends that have expertly served as concert support crew for many shows written about here like the 2012 Pygmalion Festival Best Coast show and last summer’s Fleetwood Mac tour.

We had everything planned out perfectly for the day of the show. Hit the Mall of America for part of the day, head downtown and check into our hotel which was conveniently located approximately 50 feet from First Avenue, grab some pre-show food and drinks then head to the show. It all went without a hitch until the U.S. World Cup Soccer Team threw a wrench into our schedule. One of my support crew member made the excellent recommendation that we go to the legendary Gluek’s Restaurant and Bar for pre-show sustenance (This place is really cool. Good food, good beer and the place has been open for like 80 years and hasn’t changed much since then. It’s like a time warp. If we had a bar like it where I live I’d go there everyday like Norm from Cheers.) We purposely got there in time to grab a table near a T.V. so we could watch the match. Team USA played at 5PM and doors for the show opened at 7:30. We thought we’d watch as much of the match as possible then hop into the line at First Avenue and get a good spot to watch Tegan and Sara. Little did we know that this would be such an exciting match. With the scored tied 1-1 late there was no way we were making it to doors in time. Miraculously,late in the match, Team USA scored with a beautiful header from a corner kick. GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!! U.S.A….U.S.A.Brooks Header

After the excitement wore off, we headed over to First Avenue. Since we were late for doors the place was a little full but the ladies in our group weren’t dissuaded. They beat a path through the crowd while the guys purchased beers. I will say that one of the benefits of going to a show where the attendees are predominantly of the LGBT community is that most of the crowd is shorter than me. We were about 10 feet from the stage and I had an unobstructed view. My 5’2” wife could even see perfectly and this is usually not the case in general admission.

The first opener was Vancouver indie pop trio The Courtneys. I really enjoyed the set. Their music has an old school early ‘90s lo-fi feel to it and I’m always impressed when the band’s drummer is the lead singer too. Check out one of their videos below.

The second opener was the electro-pop group My Midnight Heart. Lead singer Angelica Allen has a powerhouse voice and she really showed it off during their set. I found them to be pretty similar to the group Blood Orange whose album I really enjoyed last year.

As good at My Midnight Heat were, we were all getting pretty antsy for Tegan and Sara to get up there. To soothe our anxieties we knocked back a couple of our smuggled in booze shots, grabbed another Miller tall boy and before we knew it, it was show time.

Tegan and Sara 1The crowd erupted as the sisters Quin started the set off  with “Goodbye, Goodbye” (strange choice for the opening song) and followed that up with 3 more upbeat numbers from their most recent album Heartthrob. It was a great way to start the show because the crowd never stopped being engaged even when they changed the tempo in the middle of the set with songs from their older less danceable albums.

This was probably my favorite part of the show. They played my personal favorites from 2007’s The Con “Back in Your Head” and “Nineteen.” Then, I lost my voice singing along to a cluster of songs from the 2009 album Sainthood, “Sentimental Tune”, “Alligator” and “On Directing”, also personal favorites from that album.

They ended the first set with their most successful single (it actually hit #1 on the U.S. Dance Tegan and Sara 2Charts), “Closer.” This would have been a more than satisfying ending to a fantastic show but we all knew they weren’t through yet. After a brief break, Tegan and Sara came back up for three more tunes. The first two were from their own catalog, a rearranged version of  “Call It Off” and an older song, ‘Living Room”, from the 2003 album If It Was You. The final song of the night was a super-synthed-up and shimmery cover of Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door”. They dedicated it to the crowd as a thank you. No need to thank us ladies, all we did was sit back and enjoy a stellar show. As per usual, my video of the event was horrible so I found this clip of the closing number from a few weeks back.

Bonus Concert Coverage:

Check out these photos of a semi-inebriated and excited MoSS? Todd posing by his favorite band’s stars at the First Avenue wall of fame.

A cluster of greatness. White Stripes, Beasties and Pumpkins

A Cluster of greatness. White Stripes, Beasties and Pumpkins

The Pixies!!!

The Pixies!!!

The Purple One and Bob Mould. I took great pains to crop out Soul Asylum's star. Hate them.

The Purple One and Bob Mould. I took great pains to crop out Soul Asylum’s star. Hate them.

MoSS? Madness 2014. Best “Side One, Track One” Song: The Final Results

moss-mad-16 2014 finals

I can hardly believe it! I sat down to write a post about another Guns N Roses MoSS? Madness Championship. A victory that looked like a sure thing after checking the voting status last night. A victory that would have been heralded through all the land.  But I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. Today, while checking the final voting numbers, I discovered a massive influx of votes for Nirvana.  With 61% of the vote, this late run of support pushed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into the lead for Nirvana’s first MoSS? Madness Championship!

Help us celebrate Nirvana’s win by watching the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video below and remembering just how kick-ass it really is as your favorite “Side One, Track One.”

Thank you all for voting. Unfortunately, now it’s back to the daily grind. Back to work with no silly competitions or brackets to distract us. You may be wondering,  “What will my bosses think when I’m all of the sudden productive at work again?”   I have the solution. If you feel as though you are doing too much work or maybe going above and beyond your normal daily tasks, stop what you are doing and watch this awesome shot-for-shot remake of the Bosom Buddies opening credits featuring Paul Rudd and Adam Scott. See you all next year!

MoSS? Madness 2014. Best “Side One, Track One” Song: The Finals

moss-mad-16 2014 finals

The Final 4 votes have been tallied and we are down to the last two songs! Neither of the match-ups were particularly close. Both winning songs collected roughly 75% of the votes. In the final round, Guns N Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle”  will match-up against Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Wow. This is going to be a tough decision.

Final round voting is now open. If you need a little help getting in the competitive spirit, watch this inspirational video from the movie Over the Top.  In this clip, formerly deadbeat father Sly Stallone competes for his son’s love and arm wresting glory in a tournament where “Winner Takes It All.” Don’t forget to vote after…

MoSS? Madness 2014. Best “Side One, Track One” Song: The Final 4

moss-mad-16 2014

The Elite 8 votes have been tallied and we are down to the Final 4 songs. We lost another #1 seed as #2 Rolling Stones bumped off Jimi Hendrix in the closest voting of the round. They will go up against Nirvana, who handily won their match-up against Led Zeppelin.  On the other side of the bracket, Prince advanced in yet another close match-up as he narrowly beat The Doors. He will go head to head with Guns n Roses in his bid to advance to the finals.

Final 4 voting is now open. If you need a little help getting in the competitive spirit, watch this inspirational video from the movie Bloodsport  in which a bevy of bloodthirsty martial artists  “Fight to Survive” the illegal underground tournament known as “The Kumite.” Look for cameos from Ogre, Forest Whitaker and the Jean Claude Van Damme testes squashing split. Don’t forget to vote after…

MoSS? Madness 2014. Best “Side One, Track One” Song: The Elite 8

moss-mad-16 2014

The votes are in and we only had one #1 seed get knocked off! The Beatles “A Hard Days Night” was beaten by The Doors “Break On Through” by one single vote. Wowzer. I know I was shocked. Many of the match-ups were quite close. Prince narrowly defeated The Smashing Pumpkins by 2 votes and Beck squeaked past The Ramones by just a few ballots.  You can see how valuable your votes are so keep it up and invite your friends to participate too.

If you thought the Sweet 16 round choices were difficult you will find the Elite 8 next to impossible. I think I am most looking forward to the match-up between last round’s two biggest vote getters, Nirvana’s  “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”  It took me quite awhile to pick one. My advice to you, sit back, relax, listen to both songs with a cocktail and vote with your gut. Remember, there is no wrong choice (unless you pick opposite me.)

Elite 8 voting is now open. If you need a little help getting in the competitive spirit, watch this inspirational video from the movie Teen Wolf  in which a 5′ 2″ Michael J. Fox proves that he and his ragtag basketball team can “Win in the End” with suspect defensive skills and without special werewolf powers. Don’t forget to vote after…

MoSS? Madness 2014: Best “Side One, Track One” Song

moss-mad-16 2014

It’s time again baby! That’s right, the most exciting event since the invention of the bracket, MoSS? Madness 2014. This year we are keeping with the Sweet 16 model from last year. Why only 16? Well, many reasons. First, no early round snoozer match-ups. Who wants to sit through a bunch of blow outs before we get into the good stuff? Second, I’m lazy. I can only spend so much time at my PC using Google Docs and MS Paint for this stuff. Third, what’s with all the questions? Just go with it and mind your business.

This year you are going to be voting for your favorite “Side One, Track One” song. Not familiar with the term “Side One, Track One?” Remember back in the old days when we had to listen to albums and tapes? We’re talking about the rare instance when an artist or band kicks off side one of their album with a particularly great song. Most times (not all the time) this turns out to be the start of an excellent album as a whole. Others times the artist blows their wad right away and the rest of the album is,well, a turd.

With only 16 songs in the competition, many songs didn’t make the cut. Some of your favorites may not be on the mix. Can’t wait to hear about the ones we should have included. Really. Give us hell in the comments. You may be wondering, “How can one choose between such beloved classics as “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit?” A difficult task no doubt. You’ll have to figure that out if you want to help us crown the MoSS? Madness 2014 Champion.

Also, everyone should send their condolences to Chris. His Iowa Hawkeyes lost in their bid to get into the NCAA round of 64 last night. Valiant effort though boys. Now I expect you all to be cheering for my #3 seeded Iowa State Cyclones. Let’s go Clones! First things first, vote below!

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #3

 

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’ #3: The Beatles, Revolver

(click play button below to sample this album)

revolver coverMusic class at St. Patrick’s Grade School was a bit of a mixed bag. Often times we had to sing hymns from our Glory & Praise song books to prepare for Friday morning Mass, stuff like “Be Not Afraid” (ironic when you consider our education was a combination of fear and Catholic guilt mixed in with some phonics and math) and “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Other times we sang stuff like “Joy to the World” (the one about the bullfrog, not the one about “the lord is come”) and “Home on the Range” and “This Land Is Your Land.”

Once a month, we had “Listening Day,” where we were allowed to bring records and cassettes to school and listen to our favorite songs at the moment. My music teacher once said if she had a nickel for every time she had to hear Duran Duran, she’d be a rich woman. (This was around the time of “The Reflex” and “Wild Boys,” so I felt obligated to share.) I don’t think I ever missed a month, also bringing in the Purple Rain singles and my Bryan Adams Reckless tape and Hall & Oates’ “Out of Touch” and even that Chaka Khan song (you know, the one where her name is the primary lyric: “Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Chaka Khan! Chaka Khan! Chaka Khan!”). It was my favorite day of the month.

And it was through Catholic grade school music class that I discovered the Beatles’ Revolver. One of the songs in our secular songbook was “Yellow Submarine,” which everyone loved singing, although at some point our class thought it was funny/whatever to change the lyrics to “Green Submarine,” possibly because it rhymed? I dunno. Anyway, we would sing that song a lot, often by request from members of the class. As such, I eventually noticed the songwriter credit was listed as “Lennon/McCartney.” Those names seemed to ring a bell, so I remember asking my dad who Lennon and McCartney were.

After telling me that they were two of the Beatles, he asked why I was asking. I told him that our class was singing “Yellow Submarine.” His response: “That song is on one of the Beatles records I have downstairs.” So off I went to rifle through the vinyl collection once again.

revolver's back coverI found Revolver, with its funny looking cover. I remember noticing little things, like John’s ear being shaded in (for whatever reason, that really struck me as odd). I flipped over the album cover and saw these four dudes, three in shades and the fourth in quirky regular glasses, looking quite happy with themselves. I also saw the track listing, which helpfully listed not only the composers (Lennon/McCartney most of the time, Harrison thrice) but also who sang lead vocals on each song. I saw that Ringo Starr was the singer on “Yellow Submarine”; it was his only vocal, so I figured it must be a very important song if they saved it for the guy named Ringo.

So yeah, I listened to “Yellow Submarine” a dozen times or so; they did an OK job with it, almost as good as the St. Pat’s kids. Then I figured I’d check out the rest of the album. Being 10 years old at the time, I must say that the album was a “grower” for me. I do remember thinking “Taxman” was kinda cool, and I liked “Good Day Sunshine.” The rest of it didn’t hold my attention, though, so it was back to “The Reflex” and the like.

But as I got older, I found myself digging the Revolver tunes more and more. “Eleanor Rigby” became one of my favorite songs of all time. “I’m Only Sleeping” had that nice dreamy vocal from John and “Love You To” was one of those mystical George songs that I found appealing with time, much like “Within You Without You” from Sgt. Pepper’s. (By the way, George’s mentor in this aspect of music, Ravi Shankar, just died at age 92.) We got one good “Paul song” (“Here, There, and Everywhere”) and one brassy “Paul song” (“Got to Get You Into My Life”) and the epitome of a “Paul song” (“For No One”).

And then those two John songs, the ones that closed each side of the record (remember, that is indeed how I experienced this album), “She Said She Said” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Holy shit, dude. “She Said” has that jarring guitar work that cuts through the haze, created both by the murky bass, somewhat muted drumming, and John’s vocals about “knowing what it was like to be dead” and “making me feel like I’ve never been born” and shit like that. Listening to it with headphones on, which I often did as a kid (which is why I can’t hear worth a shit, no doubt), was pretty trippy, with the drums isolated to my left ear and the guitar squall hitting my right ear.

And “Tomorrow Never Knows” ups the ante. John’s double-tracked vocal, ever so slightly out of unison, inviting you to “turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream” and imploring you to listen to the color of your dreams,” to this day I find myself awed by this song. The swirls of guitar, the non-stop cymbal sounds, the insistent bass-and-snare drum pattern that propels the song beyond its amorphous nature, the backward sound, the bass rumbling below, the manic piano notes striking every so often toward the end…while “A Day in the Life” is my favorite Beatles song of all time (favorite regardless of band, really), then this is a close second. (And what Mad Men did with this song last season was fucking bad-ass, and made me love Megan Draper all the more.)

This is the Beatles at their zenith. They were still existing as a band, their decision to stop touring before this album paid off big-time, they were introducing more elements to their music without losing their edge. When the worst song on the album is the one that we sang all the time in music class, you know you’ve got a classic on your hands.

I’ll always love the Cure the most, but the Beatles are the best band ever. This will remain true always.

Todd’s #3: Prince, Purple Rain

(click play button below to sample this album)

cover for Purple RainI just got back from taking my daughter to a live performance of the musical Annie (Well done Iowa City Community Theatre). If I learned one thing from that experience, it was that the overall performance of the actors in a show is not that important as long as the material and songs are top notch. That’s what you get with Purple Rain, pretty shitty acting performances in between some of the greatest music ever made.

While I don’t consider the Purple Rain album a typical movie soundtrack (Obviously, or it would not have been eligible for the list), I can’t listen to the album without also thinking of the movie and the sub-par acting performances. Like the “What’s the password” scene featuring Morris Day and Jerome from The Time.

Pretty bad but no one cared because the Time had two amazing song performances in the movie “Jungle Love” and “The Bird.”

apolloniaApollonia gave quite possibly the worst performance in the history of movies but who cares? She wore tight leather cat suits and lingerie throughout the entire movie. Also, much to the delight of this impressionable young boy’s eyes, she exposed her wonderful rack in the scene where she jumps in the lake to prove herself to Prince’s character “The Kid.”

“…That ain’t Lake Minnetonka.”

Looking back, that scene is probably solely responsible for my preference for brunettes. Blondes never had a chance after Apollonia unleashed the hounds. And, besides adding the sexy factor, Apollonia “Bettie Booped” her way through the songs, ”Sex Shooter” and the kick ass duet with Prince, “Take Me With You.”

Not all of the performances in the movie disappoint. Actually, all of the musical performances are top notch. I suppose that should be expected of musicians trying to be actors. When you are already a charismatic rock star, how hard could it be to play a charismatic rock star on stage in a movie?

My favorite song performance in the movie is “The Beautiful Ones.” Prince is memorizing and the Apollonia character actually sheds what may have been real tears. Acting!

“The Beautiful Ones” is one of those epic songs that slow builds. Prince starts off innocently declaring his love and asking the object of his affection to please choose him over another man.

Baby, baby, baby
Can’t U stay with me 2night?
Oh Baby, baby, baby
Don’t my kisses please U right?

Eventually, the tone changes to a frantic lust filled plea. This is the scene in which my wife will tell you, “That man is sex on a stick.” I find it hard to disagree with her. He certainly gets his point across. I would have liked to share a video clip of that performance but Prince is being a prick about people using his stuff on the internet now. The lyrics will have to do.

Baby, baby, baby
Listen

I may not know where I’m going baby
Look here

I may not know what I need
But one thing
One thing for certain baby

I know what I want
And it’s to please you baby
Please you baby
I’m begging down on my knees
I want you

I know I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but how can people think the dude is gay? I guess they are just looking at the clothes he wears.

Prince's Purple One

If they were paying attention they would see he surrounds himself with hot chicks and so many of his songs are sexual in nature. Like the song “Darling Nikki.” That had some of the most overtly hetero lyrics of all time.

I knew a girl named Nikki
I guess u could say she was a sex fiend
I met her in a hotel lobby
Masturbating with a magazine
She said how’d u like 2 waste some time
And I could not resist when I saw little Nikki grind

I was very young when this album was out and my older brother scored a dubbed* copy from a friend. When he played “Darling Nikki” I was pretty confused about the lyrics. My brother was more than happy to explain. I didn’t know what the word masturbation was and when it was revealed to me, I still didn’t get how she did it with a magazine like the lyrics said. How do you do that with a magazine?… How does she fit it in there? …Does she just roll it up?… Oh, she just looks at it?… Why?… Oh!…cooooool!

[*His dubbed tape of Purple Rain had a bad spot in it and when Prince was supposed to say the word, “funky”, it just cut out. Every time he played “Darling Nikki” when I was around, he would make a point to tell me, “he says funky there.” Since then, I don’t think I’ve heard that part without thinking “he says funky there.”]

Woke up the next morning
Nikki wasn’t there
I looked all over and all I found
Was a phone number on the stairs
It said thank u 4 a funky time
Call me up whenever u want 2 grind

The word “grind” confused me too. When my mother heard the song I remember she was especially shocked by the use of that word. It sounded like something painful to me but, based on her reaction I guessed it was probably amazing. Again, my brother explained it to me. She gets on top?…Why?…Oh…Then what?…And people like that?…Neato!

I was lucky to have an older brother who would share such knowledge. Most people needed a health class or a zoo keeper to get first class sex education like that.

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

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MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #15-11

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’ #15-11

(click play button below to sample these five albums)

15. TrickyMaxinquaye

14. InterpolTurn on the Bright Lights

13. The CurePornography

12. PortisheadDummy

11. The BeatlesThe Beatles

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#15: Tricky, Maxinquaye

Trip-hop can be divided into two columns: the amazing (Portishead, Massive Attack, Tricky) and the generic coffeehouse variety (everyone else who followed). But even if these Bristolites caused inferior imitation, they did provide an imprint that still sounds cool today. And where Massive Attack thrived on chill groove and Tracey Thorn, and Portishead incorporated more turntable scratching, brass, and Beth Gibbons, the young man known as Tricky was all over the place…in a good way. Dark, textured, truly interdisciplinary music with beats big enough to satisfy the “hop” crowd and eccentricities that worked for the “trip” audience.

The thing that struck me about this album upon first listen was how well he incorporated other people’s material into his own warped vision. Consider a three-song stretch in the album’s first half, where Tricky covers a Public Enemy song (“Black Steel,” with female vocalist Martina Topley-Bird handling the Chuck D rhymes), samples his friends from Portishead on an eerie song aptly titled “Hell Is Round the Corner*, and then works the drums and guitar bits from the Smashing Pumpkins’ song “Suffer” into his song, respectfully titled, um, “Pumpkin.” So he covers a song by my favorite rap act, samples a current band that I love, and then samples my favorite group from the Alternative Nation gang…and does all that in a way that allows him room to do his own thing with the material or accent his songs with the samples, rather than a rote cover or using the samples as the primary element of the songs a la Puff Daddy.

(* – “Hell Is Round the Corner,” found in my sampler above, was used by the show Rescue Me during a scene depicting the aftermath of a tragic death in Tommy Gavin’s family. You’d have thought the song was written specifically for that scene. Incredible.)

And on the album’s opener, “Overcome,” Tricky took some lyrics he had given to Massive Attack (which they used for the song “Karmacoma,” a somewhat upbeat tune*, and showed the old boys how it was supposed to sound. Martina’s voice and her looped gasps pierce through the atmospheric keyboards and persistent thump of the drums, creating an ominous yet sexy song. When she sings, “You sure you wanna be with me? I’ve nothing to give…but I’ll lie and say this loving’s best,” accented by those aforementioned gasps, I find myself saying, “Um, yes. Yes I do.”

(* – I would be willing to be that “Overcome” has equal/greater BPM than “Karmacoma,” but I would never describe “Overcome” as upbeat. It’s all about the mood, the tone.)

The album has extended grooves (“Aftermath”), slightly abbreviated grooves (“Abbaon Fat Tracks”), aggressive jams (“Brand New You’re Retro”), and one truly bizarre track toward the end (“Strugglin'”) that truly makes you question the guy’s sanity. A decade and a half after trip-hop arrived, I still find myself enjoying this album…maybe not as much as I did when I was 21, but enough to deem it #15.

#11: The Beatles, The Beatles

My dad had four proper Beatles albums in his LP collection: Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Magical Mystery Tour. So I had the luxury of listening to the Beatles at a pretty early age. But he didn’t have anything after that; he explained to me that he got a lot of his records from the radio station at St. Ambrose, and he transferred to Illinois for his DVM studies in 1968, before the “White Album” came out. (Indeed, his copy of Sgt. Pepper’s has the call letters “KSAR” written in one of the upper corners of the cover.)

So I did what any self-respecting fan would do: I found one of the cool girls in my class and asked her if she had the “White Album” and if so could I please borrow it and record it to one of my various TDK blank tapes? (File sharing at its best.)

And so began my love affair with the wonderfully varied (scattershot, some might say) double album, one that was among my first 10 CD purchases when I made the move to the newer medium. I listened to it over and over, night and day, forward and backward…which, of course, led to me believing there were myriad hidden messages suggesting riots and new world orders and who knows what else (not really).

(I don’t subscribe to the Charlie Manson school of thought; I don’t buy all the subliminal messaging, or at least not his translation of them. However, there is that part at the end of the song “I’m So Tired” that sounds like gibberish. When that is played backward, it does sound just a little bit like “Paul is dead, man, miss him, we miss him, miss him!” in that typical backmasking kind of way. I assume it is either coincidence or the Beatles having a bit of fun with the urban legend. They were known to use reversed sound in their music, as early as 1966 with vocals on the song “Rain.”)

My original acquisition of the “White Album” coincided with the peak of my Beatles obsession. I would grab my Walkman and my “White Album” tape and go for walks around town almost every night that I wasn’t making pies at Pizza Hut, just so I could spend 90 minutes alone with my thoughts and the Beatles piping into my ears. (Exercise by accident!) My friend David and I had scored a book via interlibrary loan that detailed the Beatles’ studio recordings, and it painted quite a dreary picture of the band during the “White Album” era. It seemed like there were quite a few songs where the instrumentation was documented as such:

“Mother Nature’s Son” (Lennon/McCartney)

  • Paul McCartney: vocals, acoustic guitar, timpani, bass drum
  • John Lennon: not present
  • George Harrison: not present
  • Ringo Starr: not present
  • George Martin: brass arrangement

But so what, even if the album was ironically named after a unified group? The tunes, all 30 of them, are at the very least intriguing and often outstanding, and to my ears the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It never bothered me that it jumped around a bit; you can grab one of the numerous bloated 80-minute rap albums that came out after the CD era exploded. (THAT is monotony.) I loved the quirky stuff like “Wild Honey Pie” and “Martha My Dear” (an ode to Paul’s dog) and “Piggies” and “Rocky Raccoon”*. We got four George songs instead of one or two, including one of the best songs in the entire Beatles catalog (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”).

(* – Shortly after I borrowed the tapes from the cool girl in my class, a couple of her good friends, older dudes I got along with just fine but didn’t typically hang out with, came up to me during Advanced Keyboarding class and asked me how I liked the “White Album.” I told them I really dug it, while also wondering if an invite to get high in the parking lot was soon to follow. The follow-up statement from one of the dudes: “Isn’t ‘Rocky Raccoon’ a great song?” What else could I say but a statement of agreement? I never thought I’d be bonding with anyone because of the song “Rocky Raccoon”; proof that anything is possible.)

Anyway, where was I… We got the nice Paul moments like “Blackbird,” “I Will,” and the aforementioned “Mother Nature’s Son.” We got the John rock ‘n’ roll tunes like “Yer Blues” and “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey.” Paul rocks out with “Helter Skelter”; John gets wistful on “Julia” and “Cry Baby Cry.” You get “Dear Prudence,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” (Corky!), a slowed-down version of “Revolution,” “Birthday,” and arguably my favorite song on the album, “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” And the album closes with “Good Night,” a song I used to sing to my son at bedtime when he was just a little tyke.

Even “Revolution 9” is worth exploring from time to time, just to pick out the various sounds woven into the fabric.

This is one of two consecutive double albums in my countdown. What will be at #10? Come back Monday…

Todd’s #15-11

(click play button below to sample these five albums)

15. Jane’s Addiction, Ritual De lo Habitual

14. The Beatles, Abbey Road

13. Smashing Pumpkins, Gish

12. Guns n’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction

11. Prince, Sign O’ the Times

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#13: Smashing Pumpkins, Gish

cover for gishWhere to start here? Like Chris who ranked it at #17, Gish was a hugely defining album for me. It sort of blew me away the instant I heard it and destroyed every preconceived opinion I had about music and what was good.

I first heard Smashing Pumpkins on the radio show Off the Beaten Track. If you read my post about Pixies Trompe le Monde then you will remember that this was a show that played exclusively alternative and indie music. It was on late night on Sundays and I would stay up and listen until I fell asleep. Often I would record these shows and replay what I missed later. On one of these tapes I discovered Gish. Well part of Gish. During the show they played 2 songs from the album. “I Am One” and “Siva.” I fast forwarded the tape immediately to try and find out the name of the artist. The DJs briefly talked about the songs and maybe goofed on the name Smashing Pumpkins a bit but the big revelation was that they were going to play Gish after the show. After every show they played a new album in its entirety.

So I fast forwarded some more to the end of the show hoping I had enough tape to catch the whole album. I was elated as “I Am One” came over the speakers. I’d heard that one earlier but that was fine, there was new songs coming. Thinking I was going to be hearing the whole album I cranked up the volume sat back and enjoyed. I loved how lead singer Billy Corgan’s voice was franticly snarling and screaming out the lyrics. His guitar work was filthy and grimy (notice I didn’t write grungy) and I couldn’t get enough. Next up was “Siva”; great tune but I had heard that one already too. I was getting impatient for something new. Finally, the third song “Rhinoceros” came on and I was enjoying its blissed out psychedelic dreaminess when the tape cut off. Blurgh!!!  I had to hear more!

The next weekend I went to the record store at the mall to grab my very own copy. Unfortunately, they didn’t sell it. I think the dopey record store guy thought I was kidding when I told him the band’s name was Smashing Pumpkins. I should have known better than to go to the mall anyways. Back in the day if you wanted hard to get or more underground artists you had to go to Co-Op Tapes and Records. The mall had the chicks but Co-Op had the selection. So I buzzed over to the nearest location and asked the hipster dude at the counter if they had Smashing Pumpkins. He seemed truly impressed. Must not have been everyday that preppy 16 year olds came in asking for that record. He grabbed me a copy and I immediately threw it in the car tape deck. The rest of the day I drove around playing Gish over and over.

Since then, I’ve met several guys with similar stories to me. They loved Smashing Pumpkins and were the first people in there town/school/state to listen to them. They talk as though they were the area ambassadors for the band and introduced them to the world. I can say I did not do this. I didn’t hoist the Smashing Pumpkins banner and wave it for everyone to see. I did tell a couple of my friends about them but mostly I kept quiet. The band was just for me. It stayed that way until their next record came out and they truly unleashed the awesomeness…

#11: Prince, Sign O’ the Times

I’ve been trying to write a blurb about the album Sign O’ the Times for a while now. Things have been slow because I’ve been busy messing with technology issues. This is ridiculous, how am I supposed to get inspiration when I can’t get to the online streaming database and listen to the record at 320 bit digital perfection? First, the internets weren’t working. Then, once I got the modem online the Wi-Fi wouldn’t connect to my laptop. So I tried my phone’s Wi-Fi hotspot. Two songs in, I realized that I was using way too much data. My cell provider will send me an enormous bill if I go over my allotted gigabytes. What was I to do?

Then I started thinking about my first copy of Sign O’ the Times. It was a dubbed cassette tape from my brother. We didn’t have a dual tape deck so I just pushed my tape deck next to his and hit play on his and record on mine. I stuck this crude contraption in the closet so it wouldn’t pick up sound from the TV in the other room. A valiant effort but during the song “Adore” you could still hear Hawkeye arguing with Hot Lips Houlihan from the M.A.S.H. rerun my Dad was watching. At one crucial point in “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” you could hear my mother telling me or my brother to take out the trash. Not a perfect system but it worked. What more did I need? I wanted to hear the songs and didn’t care if it was a perfect digital copy or not.

I remember having a lot of music recorded that way. If you looked in my cassette tape storage unit back then (shoe box), you would have found dozens of tapes with songs recorded off of the radio. I used to spend hours listening to the local pop stations waiting for specific songs. Who cared if the DJ was talking up the first 30 seconds of the song as long as you got enough of the song to jump around your room singing Su-Su-Sudio? It really was the earliest form of music pirating. Much more difficult, but way more satisfying. You really had to work to get that free version of “One Night in Bangkok.”

Technology makes things so easy now. If I want to listen to any song in my over 100 gig music library,* I just tap the screen on my phone or iPad and wireless speakers start playing. If I want to listen in the car, I plug my iPod or phone into the stereo and hit play. What I wouldn’t have given for that back when I rode around with $1000 worth of CDs in my car. Back then, if you told me we were going to have a device like the iPod, I would have expected there to be flying cars and robot prostitutes too. It would have seemed impossible.

*(Believe me I’m not bragging, I know people that have Napstered and BitTorrented there way to ten times that amount. All my music was paid for (wink) and obtained legally (wink). I’m no pirate. Arrrrr!)

And just like I couldn’t imagine file sharing and streaming music services back then, I can’t imagine what is coming next. Things change so fast. 12 years ago I didn’t own a cell phone or personal PC. Since then, I have had 10 cell phones, 2 smart phones, 4 PCs, and 2 tablets. What? I have to stay plugged in. I need to be notified in the middle of the night when I can save $20 dollars on Zappos.com and how else can I find out which boner pills are guaranteed to satisfy.

So, in closing, Sign O’ the Times is real real good.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

#40-31

#30-21

#20-16

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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