Monday, November 16, 2009

50 other great albums, in no particular order: part three

21. Sufjan Stevens, Illinois. It may be a small, elite group, but Sufjan Stevens is one of the great historians of rock 'n' roll, mining the rich vein of past events in Illinois. And this is a phenomenal album, which won all kinds of "Best of" awards when it came out a few years ago. In addition to songs about the Black Hawk War and Casimir Pulaski, there's the radio hit "Chicago" and a slow, moving ballad about the victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. For a time people believed he really would do an album about every one of the United States, but apparently that was a huge, naughty prank. But if he can do just one about New York, Vermont, Washington or Wisconsin, that would be pretty cool.

22. Afghan Whigs, Gentleman. The best of a series of good albums that the Afghan Whigs put out in their prime, and a serious contender for my Top 50 list. Not a bad song on here: Greg Dulli was clearly in some sort of groove when he was working on it. Five stars from 58 of 63 customer reviewers at Amazon! Kind of an unscientific poll, but it does say something. (And 4 of the other 5 gave it 4 stars ...)

23. Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around. I know, I know, one of the great figures in American music history, and I choose an album from his late, fading years. That tells you a couple of things: A) I don't know most of his other albums B) I don't much care for country music (although JC would have to be one of my favorite C&W artists), and this album has a decent amount of countrified rock and C) it's really good. Some of the covers are a stretch, but "Bridge Over Troubled Water" with Fiona Apple is wonderful. And who would've guessed that Johnny Cash could do Nine Inch Nails so effectively? His cover of "Hurt" is amazing - the cracks and flaws in his old-man voice could not be a better match for Trent Reznor's brooding hit.

24. Smog, Dongs of Sevotion. Smog, aka Bill Callahan, also has put out some consistently great albums. Once you stop smirking at the title of this one, you'll love what you hear. "Strayed" has to be one of my favorite songs of all time. Once heard it covered by a female singer on the radio: just lovely. Someday, when I've got more time, I'm going to listen to more Smog records.

25. Stereolab, Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night. This may be the goofiest album title of all time; but of the many good albums from this Anglo-French collaboration, CAPGPVITMN is the most captivating of all. Almost like one continuous song, with Laetitia Sadier's gorgeous singing and Mary Hansen's lovely back-up vocals combining with swirls of horns, marimba and other flourishes to create a warm, unrestrained vibe that could only be captured by a title like Cobra and Phases etc etc.

26. Husker Du, Warehouse: Songs and Stories. This nips Zen Arcade by a nose, mainly because I'd listened to Warehouse many times before I ever gave Zen Arcade a full go. Another strong contender for my Top 50 list - there's been nights where I've lain awake for hours, wondering if I should have actually included it. Bob Mould also did some great work with Sugar, including Besides, one of the strongest live albums you'd ever like to hear.

27. Broadcast, Haha Sound. I've heard that Broadcast is sometimes classfied under "dream pop." For sure, singer Trish Keenan has one of the most angelic voices you'll ever hear, and the combination with Broadcast's weird sound effects and unorthodox song structure is a complete winner. Again, one of these days I've gotta check out some of their other stuff.

28. Beck, Odelay. I'm going to step away from realm of relative obscurity for a moment and pay a little tribute to the Beckster. I remember hating "Loser" when it first came out - I mean, it really was an obnoxious song, wasn't it? - but this enfant terrible really went on to have an amazing career (uh, I guess he's not done yet ...) "I got two turntables and a microphone." Damn! Seven words that became part of rock legend.

29. Built to Spill, Keep it Like a Secret. Well, I had to include at least one album that would appease my friend Som. But what an album! Without question, the greatest band to ever come out of Boise. "Bad Light" and "Time Trap" are probably my favorite BTS tunes of them all.

30. Pavement, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. All right, I'm spending almost as much time on this follow-up project as I did on the original list! This was supposed to be a throwaway project! And while I like Pavement a lot, I don't think I know enough about them to say anything intelligent about this album, which I also like a lot. So let's just say that Stephen Malkmus is a musical genius, not just for what he did for Pavement but for all his other little side projects too, and I hope he keeps on going for a long time. And that's a wrap: I'm calling it a night ...


Brian said...

Still no "King and Eye"...

Somnath Mookherjee said...

I got a shout out! This is why I search for my name using "find on this page." Or did you mean Somphane?