Side A : Todd’s‘ Picks
Side B : Chris’ Picks
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…
(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)
80. De La Soul, De La Soul Is Dead
79. The Strokes, Is This It
78. Metallica, Ride the Lightning
77. The White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan
76. Washed Out, Within and Without
75. The xx, Coexist
74. Pixies, Doolittle
73. Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles (2008)
72. The B-52’s, Cosmic Thing
71. Sufjan Stevens, Illinois
A CLOSER LOOK AT…
#80: De La Soul, De La Soul Is Dead
I bought my first CD player in 1991. Every time I see a Wal-Mart commercial boasting about its no-interest layaway program, it takes me back 20-some years to the day I went to the LaCrosse, Wis., Best Buy and put down something like $25 on a Sony “boom box” style CD player, one month before I returned with the remainder of the balance due. It was an excruciating 30 days or so of waiting, partly because I’m not a very patient person, but also because I bought a CD the same day I made the initial CD player payment.
That’s right: I stared at my first CD, De La Soul Is Dead, for a month before I actually could play it at home.
De La Soul earned the right to be my first CD purchase for a number of reasons. I decided I would buy something I didn’t already have on cassette, so anything by the Cure was ruled out. The peace-lovin’ hip-hop trio won me over as a fan with its debut, Three Feet High and Rising. The second album came out around the time I decided to buy a CD player, so it was on sale at Best Buy (probably for $7.99 or something reasonable like that). And a lot of the incredible stuff that came out in 1991 either hadn’t been released yet or it wasn’t on my radar yet. So dead daisies won the day.
I was able to pass the time without an actual CD-playing machine by reading the CD booklet, which included a comic book narrative of the numerous skits found on the CD. Not only did I learn the terms “dicksnot” and “buttcrust,” but I also learned the diss “you Arsenio Hall gum having punk” (not sure if I could spot someone with Arsenio gums, but I can see how it would be insulting to be told you have them). I also hit up one of my friends who had a CD player, and had my first listen through his speakers. (“Dicksnot” and “buttcrust” sound almost as funny as they read.)
Once I got my CD player, I spun Is Dead all the time (what else was I going to listen to?), and found a lot of good tunes between the funny skits. The groove was still there, but the album didn’t rely on any sort of “daisy chain”/”peace signs” gimmick to hook the listener. Songs like “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa” and “Pass the Plugs” brought a more serious tone, but the band’s sharp humor still reigned on stuff like “Bitties in the BK Lounge” and “Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)” and good vibes were aplenty on “Keepin’ the Faith” and “A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays.'” And Slick Rick was sampled throughout the album explaining why he “can’t be your lover” (it has to do with, um, wrinkles).
I soon started acquiring discs like a madman but De La Soul Is Dead will always hold special memories; you never forget your first. (My first cassette: the Footloose soundtrack!)
#75: The xx, Coexist
Then again, I might very well be selling it short.
I am obsessed with the xx’s music, but that doesn’t necessarily make me a blind (or perhaps I should say “deaf”) worshiper of the band. In fact, it makes me a harsher critic. I did not immediately declare this album a masterpiece; it took me several listens before I started appreciating the entire disc as what is currently my favorite album of 2012.
While the xx’s first album definitely set the tone for the band’s sound, it certainly had tracks that stood apart as songs you could frame as “singles” (“Crystalised,” “VCR,” “Islands,” “Basic Space”) and “deep cuts” (“Infinity,” “Night Time,” “Stars”). The band’s second effort is nearly 40 minutes of singular mood-building. Some people might find this to be monotonous, but to my ears, the shifts are subtle but detectable. Start with Romy’s voice in the spotlight on “Angels,” bring in the back-and-forth vocals on “Chained” (which features a burst of textbook “xx” guitar that is so basic yet beautiful you’re left wondering why your adrenaline is flowing but happy it is), hit some steel drum accents on “Reunion,” enjoy the dance-y but not over the top vibe of “Sunset,” enjoy the in-sync vocals on “Tides,” the heart-aching moans of “Unfold,” a return to the upbeat on “Swept Away,” and the afterglow duet on “Our Song.” See, I’m already thinking this album should be higher on my list.
It is a quieter album than xx. That doesn’t equate with a negative. Some of that might have to do with this album being recorded by a trio rather than the quartet that produced xx. But whether it was done out of necessity or simply out of preference, it works very well within the xx soundscape. (Of course, the booted fourth member, Baria Qureshi, “thanks god she had no involvement” with Coexist. Perhaps the feeling is mutual?)
I look at this album and its relationship to its precedent much like I look at Sigur Ros’ ( ) album and its predecessor, Agaetis Byrjun. Most people who like Sigur Ros/that sort of music consider Agaetis a masterpiece, and while they might think ( ) is a solid album, they might criticize the album for not being as extravagant/for being more “minimal” than Agaetis. If you force them to look at ( ) independently of Agaetis, you’ll find a lauded album. I think Coexist, which received good reviews, will be viewed as an incredible album once people stop comparing it with xx.
P.S.: Go see the xx live. Now.
P.P.S.: I actually like ( ) better than Agaetis Byrjun.
(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)
80. Beastie Boys, Ill Communication
79. Tegan and Sara, Sainthood
78. New Radicals, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too
77. Porno for Pyros, Porno for Pyros
76. The Swell Season, Strict Joy
75. Counting Crows, August and Everything After
74. Nick Drake, Pink Moon
73. Janet Jackson, The Velvet Rope
72. Love and Rockets, Earth, Sun, Moon
71. Def Leppard, Hysteria
A CLOSER LOOK AT…
#78 New Radicals, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too
Last night, I sat down to write a blurb about this album and just completely drew a blank. I had a few things I wanted to mention about the record but had no real personal stories connected to it that would be of any interest to you wonderful readers. Needing a little inspiration, I queued up the album on the Sonos system (still the best present ever, thanks Cory and Jeni), mixed a cocktail, sat back and enjoyed. After a few Barcardi and diets, I was overcome with great ideas. No wonder musicians abuse illegal substances, they truly do help your creativity. Bacardi should be renamed “Inspiration Juice.”
Here is a sample of last night’s work:
…Whoaoooo! This record is freaking great !! Wahtwas I thinkin? This should have been waaaayyy higher in my list!!! Why did they only make one redcord?? That’s just dumba. Why would you stop making music justs whan you have a hit? That’s so stoopid. A musical tragedy. Every song on here should have neeb a top 10 song!!!! The album starts with a chick saying ”Make my nipples hard, Let’s Go!” That alone deserves several grammy awards!!!!!…
Ok, so drunk blogging probably wasn’t the best idea. There are a few points in that mess though:
-They did quit making music right at the peak of their popularity. Most people are probably only familiar with the song “You get What You Give”. It was a modest hit in the late ‘90s. They had an even more modest hit after that, “Someday We’ll Know”, and then disappeared. Too bad? Yes. Tragic? No.
-Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too is a great all around album. I didn’t get the album until the mid-2000s when I ran across it at the local CD Xchange. The price? One dollar. What a bargain! I was happily surprised at how good the other songs were. Freaking great? I think so. Should it have been way higher on my list? No. The list is infallible.
-The album does start with a woman saying ”Make my nipples hard, Let’s Go!” Cool? It think so. Is that sole lyric Grammy worthy? Absolutely. Supposedly, The Beatles were going to start Sergeant Pepper’s that way but John thought it would have been too weird to go from “Make my nipples hard” to “With A Little Help From My Friends.” So, they came up with the lead track “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” instead. That’s the story I heard anyways. May or may not have happened that way.
#73 Janet Jackson, The Velvet Rope
Before this record, I’d always been kind of a peripheral fan of Janet (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.) My older brother was a pretty big fan so I heard most of her material growing up. The album Control was kind of cool because she broke out with that record. I was listening to hard rock and metal music when Rhythm Nation came out so that one I sort of missed. The janet. record was nice but came across to me as sort of sweet and sugary much of the time. There were a few hints of things to come with sexier songs like “Any Time, Any Place” and “That’s the Way Love Goes.”
The Velvet Rope was the first album she made that really struck me as something more than pop music. It is much darker and moodier than any of her other releases. She collaborated with Q-tip from A Tribe Called Quest on my favorite song from the album “Got ’til It’s Gone.” She also covered the classic Rod Stewart jam, “Tonight’s the Night.” Odd choice but I think it works.
To be honest, the main reason I love this record is that it came out around the time I started dating my wife. I can’t listen to it without thinking of her. The Velvet Rope is the perfect record to play in the background when you are just “getting to know someone.” Translation, it is a great record to play when you and your special someone spend large portions of the day attached at the bed.
At first listen, this may seem like just good background music. After subsequent listens, songs like “Before” and “You and I” start to stand out and become the soundtrack to your day.
This album redefines cool and groovy (different from how Ken defines it in Toy Story 3, to be sure). Sampling Siouxsie and Beach House, creating a hazy vibe, and inspiring sexy videos such as the one for “What You Need.”
What a surprise this record was. Not the typical chillwave record I was expecting. They brought in Heems from Das Racist and used a variety of samples to create this unique, free release. Check out the title track.
Amazing growth from the Life of Leisure EP to this full-length. Chillwave might be a lazy label or an overgrown neighborhood in the music world, but Washed Out embodies everything right about it. Listen to “Amor Fati,” one of several standout tracks on this release. (And Washed Out: Come to Iowa City! Mission Creek!)