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

 

Advertisements

Best albums of 2013: No. 5-7

The Music or Space Shuttle? braintrust rolls out its top albums of 2013 this week! Today we unveil our individual picks for #5-7. We’ll reveal our top 10 throughout the week, culminating with our top pick on Friday, Dec. 20. Don’t miss our picks for #11-20 and #8-10.

Todd

#7: Sigur Ros, Kveikur

kveikurIf I had only one word to describe the amazing Sigur Ros record Kveikur, it would be “Brennisteinn!!!!” Brennisteinn happens to be the epic opening track of the album and quite a bit of a departure from most of their other music. It’s much harder and more aggressive than the uplifting movie soundtrack fodder that they have released in the past. Cameron Crowe must have used their entire discography in that We Bought a Zoo movie.

Brennisteinn!!!!” was also the mantra of your favorite MoSS? writers during our trip to Chicago to see Jonsi and the boys live at the UIC Pavilion. Well, that was usually followed up by our lame attempt to recreate the deep bass drop that starts out the song. “DUHHNNNNNN!”

What a show that was. Probably the best concert, musically, that I witnessed all year. Other live shows this year may have been filled with more booze and interesting characters, but none could touch the sonic and visual experience of Sigur Ros. Chris wrote a great MoSS? Pit entry about it. You should check that out if you haven’t already. Then you should run directly to wherever Jonsi is playing his sideways electric guitar with a violin bow and see him perform.

#6: Haim, Days Are Gone

Haim_-_Days_Are_GoneI first heard Haim while surfing the internet late last year.  I ran across the video for their song “Don’t Save Me”, a catchy little pop tune that became a mainstay on all of my 2013 playlists. It even snagged a spot on the MoSS? January mix. They piqued my interest right away. How could you not be interested? 3 talented and attractive sisters that make great music? Yes please.

I feel for their father though. Have you seen the hair on those girls? It’s long and there’s lots of it. It must have been a full time job for him to de-clog the drains around his house. I have a wife and one daughter and have enough problems in that department. Can you imagine the havoc created with their plumbing when their monthly cycles sync up? The horror.

Throughout the rest of the year the ladies released several more singles and got massive airplay on indie radio channels.  Every song seemed to be better than the next. If I had to pick a “Song of the Summer” this year, their single “The Wire” would have to be it. By August it seemed obvious that Haim would be at the top of my best of the year list. The only problem was that they hadn’t actually released an album yet. The girls must have known they were running out of time because in late September they released Days Are Gone to help cement their place on my list.

#5: Arcade Fire, Reflektor

reflektorI was pretty worried about this one before it came out. The last Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs, had the great honor bestowed upon it as my pick for #1 Album of 2010. It eventually won the slightly less prestigious Grammy for Album of the Year. Could the new record live up to the hype? When the first single “Reflektor” was revealed I thought it was good, but was again worried. If this was to be the best song on the album, Win Butler and company were in trouble.

A few weeks before the album was released Arcade Fire was the musical guest on SNL. They played the previously mentioned “Reflektor” and a new song to me at the time “Afterlife.” Both fine but again I was not exactly blown away. My wife and I stayed up a bit later that night because after SNL there was to be a half hour special featuring more live performances of new songs by Arcade Fire. By minute 2 of the first song on the special “Here Comes the Night Time” all my fears were brushed aside. My wife and I were smiling and couch dancing throughout the entire 30 minute show. Here is link to the whole show if you want to recreate our experience…

As you can probably extrapolate from my ramblings, I loved the album after its eventual release. I was lucky enough to score pretty good pre-sale tickets to the Arcade Fire show in Kansas City next spring. The ticket says formal attire or costume required. My wife has been working overtime with her “Bedazzler” to create the perfect jewel encrusted suit coat for me to wear. If you are at the show, look for the bald guy in the white suit with a sparkling red phoenix bursting out of a blue tuna can.

Chris

#7: Burial, Rival Dealer

rival dealer coverI’ve always found it peculiar that music fans bought the idea that Four Tet and Burial were the same person. I mean, Four Tet is pretty good and all—I put Beautiful Rewind in my top 20, after all—but Burial is playing on a totally different level. If you told me Four Tet was Burial’s younger brother, that could gain some traction with me…

Burial continues to show he is the master, especially since he abandoned the LP format and has run with the EP concept (his last four releases, starting with the absolutely brilliant Street Halo). These roughly half-hour chunks of Burial’s universe (scratchy texture, muted female voices, off-kilter percussion, ominous synths) sound otherworldly.

And on Rival Dealer, Burial deals with some extremes, in my view. The title track might be the single-most propulsive song he’s ever created; the bass lunges forward when in the past it might be fine to just sit back and set the chill vibe. The Burialesque “hollow” percussion (think woodblock) is absent, relying on quick work on the high hat. And even the vocal sample screams at you: “I want to love you more than anyone!”

The “short” song, “Hiders,” strips away the beat completely, leaving the listener with a rather clean vocal track and a nice keyboard line that soars right alongside the voice. And “Come Down to Us” is possibly the best long-form collage he’s tried on these EPs, better than “Ashtray Wasp,” better than “Rough Sleeper.”

I don’t know if I can handle a complete LP of Burial awesome, and if he delivers an EP or two each year, well, that works for me.

#6: Sigur Ros, Kveikur

kveikur coverLast year, I ranked the latest offering from Sigur Rós (Valtari) in this very spot, #6. I was so happy to see the band return from hiatus; nothing else can explain why I ranked that album as high as I did. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything special either. I wanted to believe that it was something in the same vein as ( ), but really it was more the sound of a band that had just overdosed on Quaaludes. (I would probably substitute Andy Stott’s Luxury Problems if I were to revise my 2012 list.)

But in 2013, they lost a band member and gained some serious edge. What an about face…and what a welcome change. I echo everything Todd says above about “Brennisteinn,” and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The title track and “Isjaki” are incredibly upbeat numbers; “Stormur” has the sort of ethereal vibe one looks for in Sigur Rós but maintains the energy of the album; it sort of reminds me of “Staralfur” from the wonderful Agaetis Byrjun. The clanging and brass of “Hrafntinna” provide a nice comedown from the opening blast of “Brennisteinn” and “Rafstraumur” is one of those songs that builds on a simple vocal and turns into something loud, almost in the same styling as an Explosions in the Sky tune.

And don’t let the funky song titles or Jonsi’s Icelandic lyrics scare you away: even those of us whose fluency is limited to English and “Spanglish” have no problem singing along to these tunes.

So yeah, I won’t regret putting this at #6 this time next year. In fact, that this album only made it to #6 on my 2013 ranking shows just how great this year has been in my opinion. (And yes, read our “From the MoSS? Pit” entry from Sigur Rós’ Chicago show.)

#5: Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe

chvrchesI should repeat one of my closing lines from the Sigur Rós entry: that this album is only #5 on my list shows just how great 2013 was.

Often times I find myself really liking “the deep cuts” from albums. Sometimes that’s just because the singles are oversaturated, whether that be courtesy of SiriusXMU or licensing to commercials or what have you. Sometimes I just find the interesting experiments of non-singles to be more intriguing than the catchy hooks.

The thing about this album, for the most part, is that you could throw a dart at the album’s track listing and whichever song you hit, you have a potential single. The songs are all that well crafted, yet diverse enough that the album doesn’t sound like you accidentally hit the “repeat one” button on your music playing device. The songs that are billed as the singles (“The Mother We Share,” “Gun,” “Lies,” “Recover”) are outstanding in terms of upbeat vibe and great vocals/lyrics; other songs such as “We Sink” and “Tether” and “Under the Tide” show no dropoff.

What separates this album from other great-but-not-GRRRRREEEAAAAAT offerings (not to pick on them, but let’s say Cut Copy) is the emotion that comes through. That’s not just limited to the vocals, although that’s where the primary difference lies. Lauren Mayberry’s voice really speaks to one’s heart, whereas Cut Copy lyrics seem to just keep the party going. (Again, I like Cut Copy, but I don’t know that I ever feel much connection to the words.)

I’m afraid these guys have become too big for something like Mission Creek. I’d love for the festival organizers to prove me wrong…

MoSS? Presents: The Best 13 Albums of 2013…So Far

2013

At the beginning of June, many music sites started posting their “Best Albums of the Year So Far” lists. They considered June 1st the perfect time do so. It being the halfway point of the year and all. Well, we here at Music or Space Shuttle? actually own and know how to operate a calendar. Bear with me here, I’m going to do some math. You see, there are actually twelve months in a year. The halfway point would be after six months. That would make the the end of June or early July the perfect time for a “Best Albums of the Year So Far” list. Enough snark. Let’s get to the list!

deap-vally-get-deap-epDeap Vally, Get Deap! EPGet Deap! is probably my biggest guilty pleasure record this year. The rock duo’s EP is four songs of dirtyDeap+Vally+DeapVally guitars,  screaming vocals and questionable feminine hygiene. Don’t get me wrong, I’m crushing hard on the both of them. They’re like a cross between PJ Harvey, The White Stripes and Led Zeppelin. Hoping they come to the area for a live show soon. I may just run away with them. –T

Key Track(s) – “Lies”, “Gonna Make My Own Money”


dtDucktails, The Flower Lane – This one surprised me. I was never a big fan of Ducktails in the past. The last LP was fine but never really kept my interest. Pitchfork streamed this record for free last prior to the release and I couldn’t stop playing it. The mastermind behind Ducktails is the guitarist for Real Estate so there are some similarities between the two but this record stands up well on its own. Chris’ former pretend girlfriend Madeline Follin from Cults even makes a cameo on my favorite song from the record “Sedan Magic.” They were in Iowa City in April and put on a great show. Chris wrote about it here. -T

Key Track(s) – “Sedan Magic”


m b v album cover

My Bloody Valentine, m b v – What was almost as unbelievable as the release of a new My Bloody Valentine album is the fact that somehow it was not an absolute letdown. In fact, it was brilliant. The first three songs sound like a natural continuation of LovelessThe middle third reminds me of stuff the band released on the various EPs from 1988 to 1991. And the final third showed where the band could go if it damn well wanted: jungle beats, devilish swirls of guitar, soaring synths. A longer examination of an instant classic can be found in a post from February. –C

Key track(s) – “in another way,” “wonder 2”


2012PalmaViolets180Press171212

Palma Violets, 180 – When I hear hype surrounding bands like Arctic Monkeys or the Vaccines or the like, I give their records a spin and often come away disappointed. This isn’t at all what I thought I would hear! Yet when I listened to a band that lacked the “next big thing” tag, one called Palma Violets, lo and behold, there it was! 180 is the album I’d always thought I’d hear from the buzz bands. “No-frills” rock, but punctuated with a charismatic singer and nice use of keyboard among the garage rock sounds. I’m starting to rethink my declaration of seeing Wild Belle instead of these guys at Lolla. –C

Key track: “Best of Friends”


rhye

Rhye, Woman – Reminiscent of The Weeknd in a couple of ways: one, is the singer a guy or a girl (answer: guy); two, regardless, this is really freakin’ great. Slinky, sexy, smooth as silk. “The Fall” is a vocal treasure, while “Last Dance” parts the smoky haze of the record for a few minutes to allow for moments of upbeat groove. While the vocals are natural to pair with slow and low tempo, it’s the juxtaposition of the emotion against the more up-tempo instrumentation that keep this collection from coming off as one-note. The comparisons to Sade and the xx are fair both in terms of similar sound and similar quality. –C

Key track: “The Fall”


Savages-Silence-Yourself

Savages, Silence Yourself – The savage (ahem) rumble of the drums and bass is what does it for me when it comes to Savages’ music. Of course, that alone isn’t going to get the job done, and thankfully the vocals and guitar work provide sharp contrast. That’s not to say the drumming is some sort of sloppy, tribal, Meg White-kind of stuff (which I like as well, in that context); Fay Milton snaps off precise snare hits and provides a tight, fast backbone. Anyway, this is what you get when you get four people dedicated to art but aren’t afraid to also make tight, listenable songs in the process. –C

Key track(s): “Shut Up”


srSigur Ros, Kveikur – I love that one of the coolest, heaviest records of the year was created by three dudes from Iceland, including the pixie-like Jonsi. It’s not like the band had to reinvent itself to sound this way; songs from the early albums have been intense, bordering on metallic at times. Even on the relatively chill album ( ), they showed they could deconstruct into harsh madness (“Untitled 8,” anyone?). As one reviewer put it, perhaps Georg (bass) and Orri (drums) were sick of never getting any credit, and just went buck wild on all our asses. It worked. –C

Key track: “Brennisteinn”


umojacketv1Small Black, Limits of Desire – I had big hopes for this album after loving their first full length album New Chain and subsequent Moon Killer MixTape. After the first listen, I was less than impressed. Maybe it was their bizarre album cover. Maybe it was because the chillwave vibes of the first album were mostly gone and what was left was mainly a synth pop record. It took a few additional listens for me to remember, “I f’ing love synth pop records!” -T

Key Track(s) – “No Stranger”


tsTegan and Sara, Heartthrob – This one is a shoo-in for a #2 spot on my overall Best of 2013 list since their previous two records had that title in 2007 and 2009. This time the ladies changed up their style a bit and released this synth-pop gem. It took me a few listens to warm up to the new direction. At first, it seemed like an attempt to cash in with a Katy Perry-ish type record. Hidden behind those up-beat hooks they have some seriously dark and painful lyrics. In a way it is a perfect pop record but with some depth behind it. -T

Key Track(s) – “How Come You Don’t Want Me”, “Closer”


Thee-Oh-Sees-Floating-Coffin

Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin – Let’s say Tame Impala had a love-child band with one of those garage rock groups you might find on an old Lenny Kaye Nuggets compilation. Sounds as dreamy as chocolate and peanut butter coming together, no? Thee Oh Sees pretty much sounds like the spawn of the aforementioned scenario, doing its thing at an incredibly prolific rate, to boot. Floating Coffin seems like their fourth album in three years–probably because it is!–and each output continues to satisfy. Not only is there energy galore in the tunes, you won’t find a much better use of the vocal weapons “Whoooo!” and “Owwwwww!” anywhere. –C

Key track: “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster”


torres

Torres, Torres – I know I’m supposed to use these single paragraphs to sing the praises of our favorite albums thus far in 2013, but with Torres, I’m having trouble pinpointing. Perhaps it’s the way her voice melts throughout the opening song, “Mother Earth, Father God.” Or the lyric “Honey, while you were ashing in your coffee, I was thinking about telling you what you’ve done to me” on “Honey.” Or how there is a sinister element to her songs. Or how the chorus just falls out of her mouth so wonderfully on “Jealousy and I.” Or that someone named Mackenzie Scott decided, “You know what? I’m going to go by the moniker ‘Torres’!” (shrug) Oh, look what I just did. I guess it’s all pretty great. –C

Key track: “Jealousy and I”


vw

Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City – This might be the year that Vampire Weekend finally drops its bridesmaid status on my end-of-year lists and moves up one slot to the top. (Finished second to Portishead in 2008; Crystal Castles in 2010.) The tracks that came out early (“Unbelievers,” “Diane Young,” and “Step”) are fantastic (“Step” in particular), and songs on the second half of the album (“Worship You,” “Finger Back,” “Hudson,” and even the quirky “Ya Hey”) get better with each listen. The esoteric lyrics are still here, but the most moving words come on “Step,” where Ezra declares “I feel it in my bones” and “I can’t do it alone.” –C

Key track(s): Pretty much all of them


waxahatchee-cerulean-saltWaxahatchee, Cerulean Salt – Waxahatchee is the solo project of songwriter Katie Crutchfield and is for the most part very simple. One vocal, one guitar and occasionally some drums. The songs ebb and flow from soft acoustic to droning distortion filled guitars and her vocals float effortlessly overtop all of them. I started listening to Cerulean Salt a few weeks after the new My Bloody Valentine record was released. Like anything else that was released post   m b v,  I assumed I would be over it quickly and back listening to the masters of shoegaze. I was wrong. I was stuck on this album almost as long as I was on m b v. It was tough picking a “key track” for this one because this is one of those rare records that I find all the songs to be equally as good. Take a listen to “Peace and Quiet” below and judge for yourself. -T

Key Track(s) – “Peace and Quiet”

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: June 2013

109

Side A : Chris’ Picks

Side B : Todd’s Picks

From the MoSS? Pit: Sigur Ros (with a Ducktails postscript)

silhouette of jonsi

Jonsi’s silhouette towers above the audience during the opening song of the set.

It’s funny, in a way: one of my favorite albums of all time, ( ) by Sigur Ros, is quite serene and ethereal at times…so much so that people often forget the climax moments that punctuate the latter parts of several songs.

Those in attendance Tuesday night at the University of Illinois-Chicago Pavilion couldn’t help but be reminded of the explosive elements of Sigur Ros.

IMG_1653Jonsi, Georg, and Orri, along with a full complement of vocal, string, and percussion performers, dropped two hours’ worth of gorgeous power on our ears, striking a good balance of the back catalog along with a taste of what’s ahead (or recently released) in 2013. The band understands its suitability for visual representation, as evidenced by the stunning, fantastical, and sometimes bizarre content displayed on the widescreen backdrop behind the band (and during the first couple of songs, a sheer curtain that surrounded the stage).

I’m not sure what to praise first, as there is no shortage of positives that came from this show, one of the greatest live music experiences of my life. Jonsi’s strong vocal work? The dude held a note for damn near an hour (wish I would have actually timed it) during “Festival” toward the end of the main set. His voice is as vital an instrument as his bowed guitar, and it was strong all night long, piercing through the bluster with its falsetto majesty while also dialing it back to match the tender moments of “Fljotavik” and “Vaka.”

How about that the new songs (three from the upcoming summer album, Kveikur; one from the recently released Brennisteinn EP) are absolutely stunning? I spent many of the 24 hours after the show making a deep bass-thump sound (something like “DUHHNNNNNN!”) over and over again, as “Brennisteinn” got lodged in my head, in much the same way that Gotye song ear-wormed its way into Travis while eating at Busy Burger. (“Wow that was one juicy burger!”)

In fact, the main takeaway I had after this night: Sigur Ros rocks so much harder than so-called “hard rock.” As each song reached its conclusion, Orri was killing the drums, Georg was pounding or plucking away at his bass, and Jonsi was attacking his guitar with his bow with the mania of a deranged lunatic (yet with amazing precision).

The aforementioned hopping across the back catalog was great. Four songs from Takk…, three songs from ( ), two from Agaetis Byrjun, two from Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust, and one from Valtari…a great mix. I didn’t hear everything I love, but that would have required at least another hour. For a two-hour show, they hit a great deal of the highlights.

After a two-song encore consisting of “Glosoli” and the best song from the catalog, “Popplagio” (or “Untitled 8”), the band graciously came out and took a bow for the adoring crowd. It was cool to see the big smiles on their faces; undoubtedly there were thousands of smiles (and cheers and whatever else) sent in their direction.

The show wasn’t perfect, but through no fault of Sigur Ros:

  • Oneohtrix Point Never was boring as shit.
  • Beer was $8 per Solo cup; $9 if you wanted an “import” (read: good) beer. I had zero.
  • I swear the same douchebag couple that stood near us at the Portishead show at the Aragon back in 2011 was standing next to us at this show. Making a show of getting high and making out and what not. Why not buy/rent one of the Sigur Ros concert DVDs and fuck on your living room floor in front of the TV?
  • Signs outside the venue made it quite clear that you could not bring in, among other things, “sticks/spikes.” Styx, that I can understand. But sticks? PUSSYFICATION OF ‘MURICA

Also, word on the street is that The Playpen on Mannheim is not the place to go for after-show entertainment. We heeded that advice.

And to end this part on a positive note, we saw Blue Pants, who has to be related to the infamous Red Pants, after the show. Wowzers.

Oh, and the night before…

Todd and I took in the kickoff concert for this year’s Mission Creek Festival. Ducktails, featuring Real Estate Guy (I’m too lazy to see which Real Estate member it is), topped a three-band bill before a sold-out* crowd at the Mill.

* Well, it was a free show, so “sold out” might seem a little loose with the language. But you did have to RSVP to get on a guest list, and that filled up, so I guess you could say standing-room-only. Also, there was free pizza.

Ducktails provided a solid, professional set. Groovy tunes, and Real Estate Guy (I know, I should open a new browser window and Google his name) seemed to be enjoying the show too. Aside from me spilling half a glass of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, it was a good time. Here’s “Ivy Covered House”:

One opening act fell into the same category as Oneohtrix Point Never, in that it was one dude just sort of doing his own thing up there with button pushing. It was a little more elaborate than OPN, but that doesn’t mean it was any good. The other opener reminded me of James Chance and the Contortions minus the brass…and that actually is sort of an okay thing. If you are not familiar with James Chance, um, here:

The MoSS? Pit is growing for the April 27 Best Coast show…maybe we’ll see you in there.

MoSS? Presents…The Top Albums of 2012, #10-6

MoSS Albums 2012

Chris’ 10-6

(click play button below to sample these 5 albums)

#10. Diiv, Oshin

#9. Tame Impala, Lonerism

#8. Beach House, Bloom

#7. Crystal Castles, (III)

#6. Sigur Ros, Valtari

Todd’s 10-6

(click play button below to sample these 5 albums)

#10. Diiv, Oshin

#9. Tennis, Young and Old

#8. The Sea and Cake, Runner

#7. PAWS, Cokefloat!

#6. Best Coast, The Only Place

Previous installments:

Best Songs of 2012

#20-11

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #20-16

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’ #20-16

(click play button below to sample these five albums)

20. PortisheadThird

19. Depeche ModeViolator

18. Nick DrakePink Moon

17. Smashing PumpkinsGish

16. Sigur Ros( )

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#17: Smashing Pumpkins, Gish

cover for gishWe said we’d keep our “closer looks” to two artists per entry until the top 10; as a result, I’m basically ignoring the album (Violator) that defined a big part of my junior year of high school, right around the time that I ended a relationship that by all accounts was perfect and entered into another that was short-sighted yet valuable all the same. And if you ever wanted an album to soundtrack the mixed emotions of a confused teenager, you can’t go wrong with the extremes found on Violator.

Yet I’m opting to talk at length about one of two albums that defined my senior year of high school, when I wised up and stopped taking science courses (I took physics, but that’s math) and dropped Advanced Composition to take Parenting and started dating girls two grades below me. And yes, listened to Smashing Pumpkins’ Gish hundreds of times.

Thanks to Spin, which wrote a feature about a handful of bands to watch, I made a mental note to check out this oddly named band. It wasn’t hard to remember the name, probably because it’s a terrible name for a band. Most people laughed at the name when I told them they had to check out Smashing Pumpkins. Often times they would snicker or roll their eyes or whatever and never listen to the blank tape I carried with me at all times. Then again, a lot of people I knew back then had no interest in anything other than Zeppelin or Garth or Poison (but rarely all three).

Despite this reaction, perhaps the name is genius. I certainly remembered it in the period between reading that Spin article and buying the CD. And if you’re as good as the Pumpkins were on their debut disc, you can make a ballsy move like naming your band Smashing Pumpkins. Because once you hear them, you’re not going to give a fuck what the band name is, aside from the fact that you need the name so you can tell your friends they have to listen to this band now.

The clean snaps from Jimmy Chamberlin’s snare drum immediately call the listener to attention. The rumble of the bass comes next, and then the Billy Corgan Experience comes at you with guitars a-blazin’. You do a double-take when the thin Corgan voice fills the air, but you’re still rolling with the groove, so you shrug a little bit. Soon enough, Corgan is assailing your ears with layers of solo guitar work before the bass’s rumble is isolated again and the song hits its final chorus and it comes to a halt and you’re all like “dude! What the fuck!” And then “Siva” starts and you’re air-guitaring the shit out of your bedroom/basement/car’s driver seat/back room at Pizza Hut/wherever.

These aren’t the 1980s guitar licks, processed and played only in the higher ranges. This shit was grungy (aha!), tuned down and dirty as fuck. “Siva” plays up the LOUDquietLOUD aspect of late ’80s/early ’90s alt-rock at least twice, the second time again isolating the bass guitar, which isn’t playing anything complicated (although D’Arcy might disagree) but propels the song forward while the guitars chill the fuck out for a few seconds and Billy whisper-sings about wanting to know what you’re after because he just wants to get there faster and then the SONG JUST FUCKING EXPLODES and you’re punching the air along with every hit of Chamberlin’s drums and you are like “holy shit this is so so so so goddamn good and I hope this puts a fucking ice pick in the eye socket of ‘heavy metal’ and all that hair metal shit because holy fuck this is awesome.”

And then “Rhinoceros” takes everything down a notch, to let you know that Billy doesn’t need layers of guitar running through Big Muff pedals to do his thing.

And then “Bury Me” brings the guitar heroics back. And then “Crush” slows it all down again. Songs like “Crush” and the next song, “Suffer,” are the songs that best exemplify what Spin said about these guys (I’m paraphrasing): an album you put on as you relax and get all reflective while watching the specks floating in the beam of sunlight coming through your bedroom window. There’s something romantic to that description, and I always enjoyed approaching parts of this album through that lens.

The album throttles forward again with “Snail” and “Tristessa,” then concludes with the two most eccentric tracks on the album: the ominous, slow build of “Window Paine” (punctuated with trademark blasts of controlled feedback at song’s end) and “Daydream,” an acoustic tune that features D’Arcy on vocals and a perfect sense of weariness. (And when you think the album is over, a strange reprise of sorts kicks in, with Billy back on vocals and a simple electric guitar line that adds just a touch of sinister to the album’s conclusion).

Many people thought the Pumpkins were from Seattle, because that’s where all the good music like this was coming from, courtesy of Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. No, they were from Chicago; yes, they were as good as (if not better than) the folks from the Pacific Northwest.

#16: Sigur Ros, ( )

cover for ( )The challenge: express my love for an album that had no title, no song titles (at least upon initial release), lyrics that weren’t English or any other established language…essentially guide vocals that served more instrumental value than vocal message.

The thing is, as pretentious as the whole thing sounds, the eight songs that make up this untitled album are absolutely gorgeous. I might as well be writing in the nonsense language sung by Jonsi to adequately get across my points…but if nothing else, the bottom line is that these songs create an environment that, to my ears and to my “the afterlife is bullshit” mind, is as close to heaven as I think any of us is going to get.

Much like with Explosions in the Sky, this music sounds like the perfect ingredients for a motion picture score. And the music is varying enough (even if the “lyrics” aren’t) that it works for a number of moods and settings. And the fact that the lyrics aren’t real words is not a hindrance: much like the music behind them, the words can mean whatever you want them to mean. And be honest…a lot of you don’t get the words right when you sing along to songs in English.

(To my ears, the primary “lyric” to the first song is “You sat along the fire/you saw the light/you saw/you suffered alone/you sat alone/your soul”; again, there is no definitive lyric, but that’s what I hear, and it plays into my interpretation of the artistic vision of the music.)

Soaring, atmospheric, conjuring up scenes of natural beauty, fast, loud, slow, quiet, pianos, guitars, percussion, strings, organ, Jonsi…all of these elements add up to bliss. I should take a cue from the album’s lack of words and stop now, and let the music speak for itself. Please listen to the last two songs in my sampler found just above my #20-16 list, and interpret the space between the album title’s parentheses as you will. As someone who will finally see the band in concert in April 2013, I’m sure my interpretations will change again after the live experience. That’s one, if not the primary, beautiful aspect of ( ): there’s always room for your ever-changing view of this wonderful art.

Todd’s #20-16

(click play button below to sample these five albums)

20. Beatles, Revolver

19. The Strokes, Room On Fire

18.The Cure, Disintegration

17. Radiohead, Kid A

16. My Bloody Valentine, Loveless

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#18: The Cure, Disintegration

I’ll keep this brief because I’m pretty certain my main MoSS? man Chris is going to be waxing poetic about this record at some point down the road. No surprise to all you Chris fans out there I’m sure.

I’d like to say that I was in on this album from the beginning but that wasn’t the case. When Disintegration came out, I was still exploring classic rock and Livin’, Lovin’ my way through the Led Zeppelin catalog. I’d probably heard a few songs from The Cure by then but they were definitely not on my radar at that point. I do remember seeing the video for “Lovesong” and thinking, “What’s that dude whining about?”

So what made me change my mind? Well, a girl of course. Around that time, my dopey friends and I went over to a classmate’s house to hang out with her and her friend from another school. Yes, a new girl from an exotic unknown land. Well, two towns away to be exact. She was cool, cute, and brunette. I was smitten. I have a weakness for brunettes, this is well documented. The TV was tuned to 120 Minutes, an MTV show that played alternative music videos. At some point the video for the song “Fascination Street” was on and new girl said she loved The Cure. What do you think I told her in response? You guessed it…“I love them too. They’re one of my favorite bands of all time.”

She must have sensed I was full of shit. Maybe it was my hair. I was still rocking the mullet. You know. Business in the front…party in the back. See photo on the left. It was an obvious sign of a hard or classic rock lover. Not too long after that I started to wear my hair in the exact opposite way, with my hair long in front and short in back which was more in line with the alternative music that I was getting into. See photo on the right of the band The Ocean Blue. They made the list back at #69 with their self titled debut album. I dressed and wore my hair just like the those guys.

Anyways, exotic-two-towns-away girl didn’t fall for my lie and I, of course, got nowhere with her. It wasn’t a total strikeout though because the experience got me interested in The Cure. Today I wouldn’t be lying if I told her that The Cure is one of my favorite bands of all time. Plus, I can always console myself in the fact that I met and married a way cooler, way hotter brunette that loves The Cure too.

I wonder what happened to two-towns-away girl? I like to think that she married some dude that got her into country music and right now she is listening to Rascal Flatts or something equally as horrid. Not that I’m holding a grudge or anything.

#17: Radiohead, Kid A

This is my highest rated Radiohead album. You won’t be seeing the over hyped OK Computer on any of my lists (unless we make a list of the 100 Most Overrated Albums Ever…mental note) No, Kid A is the Radiohead album for me. I feel the same way about this record as Chris does about Sigur Ros ( ) which he so eloquently wrote about above. The music, while eerily off-putting at times, is beautiful. Though, unlike Jonsi from Sigur Ros, Thom Yorke is singing in English and you can understand most of his lyrics.

In my crazy head, the album Kid A will always be connected to the movie Almost Famous. They really have nothing to do with each other, but I can’t think of one without eventually thinking of the other. They came out around the same time. Almost Famous in September 2000 and Kid A a few weeks later. A week or so after that, Saturday Night Live had Radiohead as the musical guest and the host was, new Hollywood “It Girl” and star of Almost Famous, Kate Hudson.  She really blew up after that movie came out. They threw her in a ton of crap movies and you couldn’t go to a newsstand without seeing her on several magazine covers. Like this Rolling Stone cover from late October 2000.

Not too shabby in the looks department but not really my type. I always liked the actress that played the sister in Almost Famous better, Zooey Deschanel. She’s been involved in much better projects than Kate since then and is in the indie band, She and Him, which gets her astronomically more cool points. I guess Kate did marry the dude from the Black Crowes but that doesn’t really help her cause in my book. And again, I have a weakness for brunettes.

Anyways, I bought that Rolling Stone magazine at the O’hare International Airport before a business flight to Tampa Bay. The two main articles in it are about… you guessed it… Radiohead’s Kid A and the movie Almost Famous.

The last 45 minutes of the flight were pretty bumpy as we came through some bad weather. At times it felt like we were riding a roller coaster as we suddenly gained and lost altitude. I’m not scared of flying but like most people, I find rocketing through the air in a tin can a bit less fun when the tin can is being thrown around by turbulence. I put on my headphones and queued up the first song on Kid A to try and relax. “Everything in It’s Right Place” came over my headphones and did nothing to soothe my nerves. It has a pretty ominous sound to it and made me feel even more like we might not make it safely to the ground. We hit a very bumpy stretch a bit later and when I looked out the window I could see lightning and huge storm clouds ahead.

There is a great part in the movie Almost Famous were the central characters are in a small airplane that has engine troubles and they believe they are going to die as they plummet to the earth. Everyone on board takes the opportunity to make major announcements about there sexuality and/or air out long held grievances. The plane eventually rights itself and they realize that they aren’t going to die. Awkward!

I definitely wasn’t going to be sharing any major revelations with the chatty 300 lb. dude wedged into the seat next to me. So, I just closed my eyes and tried to appear as though I was calmly sleeping through the worst plane flight of my life. At that point, the song “How to Disappear Completely” came over the headphones.  This time the music and lyrics actually made me feel better.

Strobe lights and blown speakers
Fireworks and hurricanes
I’m not here
This isn’t happening
I’m not here
I’m not here
I’m not here

I just kept on listening and by the time the album was over so was the storm. I opened my eyes and there was nothing but clear skies ahead. The rest of the flight went smoothly and we touched down in sunny Florida with our lives and our dignity intact. Although, the dude next to me did reveal that he had been a bed wetter until the age of 15.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

 

#80-71

 

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

#40-31

#30-21

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #50-41

Yep, we’re making a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.

Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.

Here are some spoilers: you’re not going to find the typical hipster stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel or Slint or even stuff one/both of us actually likes such as DJ Shadow or Pavement. This isn’t Rolling Stone so you’re not going to find Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Pet Sounds at the top. Wham’s Make It Big was snubbed.

We’re not going to roll it all out at once; no sense rushing through all this quality music! But Music or Space Shuttle? is gonna be pretty busy over the next two months.

That’s enough of an intro. Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ #50-41

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

50. Guns n’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction

49. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon

48. Sigur Ros, Takk…

47. The Radio Dept., Clinging to a Scheme

46. Sleigh Bells, Treats

45. Led Zeppelin, II

44. The Sugarcubes, Life’s Too Good

43. Beck, Odelay!

42. Arcade Fire, Funeral

41. Danger Mouse, The Grey Album

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#45: Led Zeppelin, II

cover for Led Zeppelin IIWhen I was in eighth grade, I ended up buying one of those “special issues” of Rolling Stone; this particular one listed something like the 100 greatest albums of all time (sound familiar?). I was thumbing through it while riding in my dad’s truck; he kept glancing over and saying, “I have that one. I have that one. I have that one too.”

So as soon as we got home, I went downstairs and started looking through my dad’s vinyl collection. Indeed, my dad had some cool stuff: Beatles, Hendrix, Velvet Underground, Rolling Stones, Wings Over America, and one album by Led Zeppelin. Where to start?

I’d heard plenty of Beatles at this point, so I set them aside for the time being. I finally picked a criterion for what I would listen to: which band adorned the most T-shirts in my junior high school? Zeppelin was the clear winner: the studs, the stoners, and the geeks all represented Led Zep across their chests.

So when I went to bed that night, I put the LP on the turntable (yes, I had a record player in my room in 1987), plugged in my over-the-ear headphones, and lay down to take it all in.

Whoa, dude.

The stuttering riff of “Whole Lotta Love” filled my ears. Plant shrieked something about how I need coolin’ (he wasn’t foolin’). The song thundered forward, and then hit the part where the music spiraled around my head (the headphones made the music exponentially cooler) and Plant let loose with his howls. As soon as the song ended (or, more accurately, faded out), I jumped out of bed, moved the needle back to the beginning, and found myself air guitaring and lip-syncing the shit out of my new favorite song. I also hoped I would find time at school the next day to chat up any of the 73 guys who would undoubtedly have on their Swan Song or “Lantern Man” or Hindenburg shirts, to let them know that “I get it, man!”

The album is more than “Whole Lotta Love,” of course. “What Is and What Should Never Be” finds a nice groove; “The Lemon Song” gets all sorts of bluesy; “Ramble On” has that acoustic guitar/quirky percussion/whimsical Plant vocal that eventually roars into the chorus before settling back down into chill and so on (the quiet-LOUD-quiet dynamic we like in so many bands from the ’80s and ’90s). And don’t forget the drum solo song (“Moby Dick”) or the “guitar hero” song (“Heartbreaker”).

It’s the only Zeppelin album in my dad’s LP collection; my turntable needle deepened the groove in my dad’s record after repeated plays. I guess if you’re only going to own one Led Zep album, you can’t go wrong with II.

#41: Danger Mouse, The Grey Album

cover image for The Grey AlbumFirst off: you’ll be seeing “The White Album” on this list in due time.

Second: Jay-Z’s The Black Album is really pretty terrible. Not the raps, necessarily, but the backing beats and music are cheesy as shit. So melodramatic, so shiny, so…I don’t know…I’m going to go back to terrible. Which is too bad, because there’s some quotable lines throughout this album.

That’s why Danger Mouse has done Hova a big favor by blending White and Black and making Grey. (I think Jay-Z knew his words needed some inspired music behind them, as he released an a cappella version of the album in hopes that artists would remix it.) Danger Mouse, who at this point wasn’t producing Gorillaz or Beck or doing his Gnarls Barkley thing, spent weeks (months?) stitching together samples from the Beatles’ eponymous double album (including meticulous sampling of Ringo Starr’s drums, which he sequenced into something much heavier/hipper than Mr. Starkey ever banged out) to go along with Jay-Z’s vocals.

And it worked. Boy, does it work.

Keep in mind: mashups were, for the most part, little more than humorous juxtapositions at this point. Even the good ones were curious pairings: Nirvana and Destiny’s Child (“Smells Like Bootylicious”) or the Strokes and Christina Aguilera (“A Stroke of Genie-us”). This was also before Girl Talk dropped Night Ripper and Feed the Animals and took the mashup to the extreme. But Danger Mouse’s work, despite using two well-known quantities, felt natural. Yeah, I’d heard “99 Problems” before, and of course I’d heard the guitar and backing vocals from “Helter Skelter” a zillion times, but hearing these familiar elements together didn’t feel ridiculous. In fact, it sort of made the statement that the Beatles were kinda badass and would fit well underneath the self-appointed best rapper alive.

The frenzied samples from “Glass Onion” and “Savoy Truffle” are an infinitely better accompaniment to “Encore” than the shit Jay-Z used on his album (or anything Linkin Park had to do with that song, for that matter). And instead of some stupid Russell Crowe sample on “What More Can I Say,” Danger Mouse throws mad breakbeat and a slowed down version of the guitar from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” underneath Jay’s lament.

And then there’s “December 4th,” an oral history of Jay’s life complemented with a few thoughts from Jay’s mom. On The Black Album, this song is shackled with some of the worst backing tracks I’ve ever heard. Like something straight out of a 1977 discotheque (and not in a good way like some of the stuff used in Boogie Nights) or AM radio. Danger Mouse could have improved this song in his sleep, but he went beyond and delivered goods on the other end of the spectrum. Spotting the emotional potential of the lyrics, he pairs the verses with the  touching guitar flourishes from “Mother Nature’s Son,” and concocts a drum beat to propel the song without overwhelming. Whenever I would play the Danger Mouse version in the car, Tracy would comment, “This song is so sad.” Imagine saying that about Jay’s original version, outside of saying “What a sad excuse for a song this is!”

The Grey Album elevates Jay-Z’s verses to new heights, and it does nothing to harm the integrity of the original Beatles material. Even Jay-Z and Paul McCartney think it’s pretty cool. They’re right.

Todd’s #50-41

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

50. Interpol, Turn On the Bright Lights

49. The Sundays, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

48. Paul Simon, Graceland

47. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik

46. Cypress Hill, Cypress Hill

45. Catherine, Hot Saki and Bedtime Stories

44. Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

43. Beck, Midnight Vultures

42. Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water

41. Massive Attack, Mezzanine

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#44. Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

 Admittedly, I was late to the party with Modest Mouse. Hipsters that loved Modest Mouse from the beginning would tell you that Good News was the start of their musical downfall, but that’s just the standard hipster backlash towards a band that shows a bit of success. This is how a typical conversation would go with a true hipster.

Me: Hey, there Mr. Hipster. Nice skinny jeans. What are your thoughts on the group [insert indie band name here]?

Mr. Hipster: (disinterested, barely audible voice) Uhhh…just a sec…(finishing text to hipster friend)…I really liked their early stuff. I don’t like anything they did on [insert major record label name here].

Me: Thanks. Love the fedora. Douche.

That being said, I guess I started liking Modest Mouse after their musical downfall. I didn’t really listen to them until the summer of ’04 when Good News came out. “Float On” was my song of the summer that year. My wife and I were expecting our first child and also preparing to move to a new city for work.

A piece of advice for all you future fathers out there: Don’t knock up your old lady and then take a new job that requires you to move while she is 7-9 months pregnant. I’ve done that twice. Take it from me, it does not make your already stressed wife happy.

On Labor Day weekend that year, we were to close on our house in the new town.  Now my wife was due any second at this point, a sane person would not have driven her 2 hours away from her doctor. Unfortunately, we were on a time table which required her to travel.

We closed on the new house on Saturday and decided to stay there for a couple of days. The plan was to go back to our other house after the weekend, she would have the baby and then we would permanently move a few weeks later. Man we were good. We had it all figured out. My daughter must have been listening from the womb laughing.

I was sound asleep that night when my wife woke me up complaining of stabbing pains in the “baby maker.” (My words not hers) It was go time! The countdown to baby had begun. I grabbed our bags and we hightailed it out of there. After I made her swear she would not give birth in my new truck, I drove like crazy back home.

The trip went by fast as my mind raced and fears of being a father swirled around in my head. Good News played over the car stereo the whole time and helped to soothe my nerves a bit. It took me an hour and a half to get us back home. Almost exactly the same amount of time it takes to listen to Good News in its entirety twice. My unborn daughter was really having fun with us because after that panicked drive home, she decided to wait two days to make her entrance into the world. Perhaps she was just preparing us for the many sleepless nights to come.

#42. Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water

I truly didn’t expect to be writing about Simon and Garfunkel in this set of 10 albums. After my plea for a reunion of The Sundays back at #70, I figured I would be regaling you all with stories of adoration for my #49 selection, The Sundays Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. I was also hoping to announce that the first release from our new label, Music or Space Shuttle? Productions, would be the long awaited fourth album by The Sundays. Sadly, there has been no response on their end.

So, I’m writing instead about another rock duo that is no longer making music together. I will not be making any pleas for this pair to reunite. Not with their shaky past. Hell, Paul Simon is over 70 years old now. If he doesn’t want to hang with “The Funkel” anymore, fine. I won’t push it. I first came across Bridge Over Troubled Water around the age of 12 while going through my parent’s record collection. Back then, I really only liked a few songs like “The Boxer”, “Bye Bye Love” and “Cecilia.”

Side note on “Cecilia”: It seems as though “Cecilia” has turned into a drunken party anthem over the years. Walking home from the bar in college I would heard entire fraternity and sorority houses singing along while the house shook from that distinctive drum beat.

Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart
You’re shaking my confidence daily
Oh, Cecilia, I’m down on my knees
I’m begging you please to come home

Many was the time I queued up that little romp as a party was getting into full swing at my apartment. People love it. Next to Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl”, there wasn’t a better song to get people in the mood for a drunken sing-along.

It wasn’t until years later during a road trip with my mother that I took notice of the rest of the album. She had just bought Bridge Over Troubled Water on cassette tape. I guess I know where I got my love of music because like her, I have purchased certain albums on every available format from vinyl to tape to CD to MP3. The song, “The Only Living Boy in New York”, in particular was one that stood out for me. I probably rewound that song 10 times during the car trip. My mother must a have taken note, because I came home from school a few days later and found a copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water sitting on my bed. Pretty cool surprise for a music geek.

I’m sure she just got a kick out of me getting into her music. As a parent myself now, I can’t wait until my kids start to show an interest in music from my generation. I’m going to make sure and do the same thing as my Mom. Hell, I’ll put the entire discography of The Cure on their beds at the slightest hint of interest. I’m going to be the annoying music pusher Dad. Can’t push too hard though. It may have the opposite effect and they’ll wind up listening to…shudder…country music.


Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

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

Yep, we’re making a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.

Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.

Here are some spoilers: you’re not going to find the typical hipster stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel or Slint or even stuff one/both of us actually likes such as DJ Shadow or Pavement. This isn’t Rolling Stone so you’re not going to find Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Pet Sounds at the top. Wham’s Make It Big was snubbed.

We’re not going to roll it all out at once; no sense rushing through all this quality music! But Music or Space Shuttle? is gonna be pretty busy over the next two months.

That’s enough of an intro. Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ 70-61

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

70. Nick Drake, Five Leaves Left

69. Sigur Ros, Agaetis Byrjun

68. Best Coast, Crazy for You

67. Green Day, Dookie

66. M83, Saturdays=Youth

65. Frank Ocean, Nostalgia, Ultra

64. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses

63. U2, The Joshua Tree

62. The Black Keys, thickfreakness

61. Beastie Boys, Check Your Head

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#67: Green Day, Dookie

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

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

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

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

#63: U2, The Joshua Tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

/video game braggadocio

Todd’s 70-61

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

70. The Sundays, Static and Silence

69. The Ocean Blue, The Ocean Blue

68. The Breeders, Last Splash

67. Crash Test Dummies, God Shuffled His Feet

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

65. Madonna, True Blue

64. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Stoned and Dethroned

63. Sufjan Stevens, Illinois

62. Feist, The Reminder

61. Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#70. The Sundays, Static and Silence

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

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

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

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

Please come back! Pretty please?

#61. Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

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

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

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

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

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

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:

https://en.support.wordpress.com/copyright-and-the-dmca/
Some content on this page was disabled on February 7, 2018 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from Sharan Ghuman. You can learn more about the DMCA here:

https://en.support.wordpress.com/copyright-and-the-dmca/

MoSS? Mixtape Flashback: February 1992

The MoSS? mixtape vault has finally been opened. Our staff put in hundreds of man hours cataloging cassettes, compact discs and even a couple of DAT tapes. This was not an easy task. We lost a few staff members gathering information on Chris’ rather long Sigur Ros phase. One devoted intern went mad poring over my extensive Camper Van Beethoven collection. It was worth enduring these losses for the privilege of unveiling to you our new series of mixtape flashbacks. First up, we find out what was playing in my Volkswagen Rabbit and Chris’ Pontiac Bonneville way back in February 1992.

Side A : Todd’s Picks

Side B : Chris’ Picks