The 100 Albums You Should Own, Pt. 3 (J-P) June 28, 2011Posted by greatbloginthesky in Recommendations.
Tags: bluesbreakers, eric clapton, john mayall, LCD Soundsystem, Led Zeppelin, m83, mars volta, massive attack, metallica, michael jackson, morrissey, my bloody valentine, my morning jacket, mylo, neon indian, nwa, pearl jam, the national, the new pornographers, top 100 albums
The Third 20, J-P
LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver – 2007 – The first of two of this now-iconic band’s appearances on our list, Sound of Silver took the electro-pop of LCD’s first album and infused it with darkness and soul. This album contains James Murphy & Co’s two finest tracks (in this writer’s humble, albeit expert, opinion): “Sound of Silver” and “Get Innocuous”, in addition to “alt” radio mainstays “Someone Great” and “All My Friends”, and positioned Murphy as the reigning king of contemporary New York music. Joined by vocalist Nancy Whang, percussion master Pat Mahoney, and a bevy of other alt-celebs, their April 2011 concert at Madison Square Garden sold out in 10 seconds, as it was their last as the current incarnation of LCD Soundsystem. I shed a few tears when it was over…
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening – 2010 – This being the farewell album, James Murphy and LCD had completely perfected their dance-punk sound teasing us with dance floor beats and clever lyrics in their previous 2 studio albums and smattering of other releases. Enter This Is Happening and something new happens. It’s like reaching the summit where the wise man sits and spells out for us the learnings he’s absorbed over his life as if he’s known them forever. “From this position / I totally get how the decision was reached.” Maybe it’s that we’re in our mid-30s now and have just enough experience and self-awareness that an album like this starts to make more sense than it would as just a head-bobber and hip-shaker for our 20-something selves.
Led Zeppelin – I – 1969 – Thanks to BMG mail order service and their “12 for the price of 1″ deals (plus S+H), I acquired Led Zeppelin I in Jr. High as part of a classic rock backlog-building effort. Plus, I loved “Communication Breakdown.” Maybe its something guitarists learn during, or after leaving, The Yardbirds (see below), because while the ‘birds were crumbling around him, Jimmy Page founded LZ and ripped open a gorgeous rock-blues seam that (arguably) few bands have since been able to match in terms of influence and success — all the while launching the genre of heavy metal music. Check out “I Can’t Quit You Baby” below, then listen to the original Willie Dixon/Otis Rush version from 1956 or this cool blended/comparison version of Willie & LZ.
Led Zeppelin – IV – 1971 – Also known as “Runes”, Led Zeppelin’s fourth album beautifully distilled their blues, progressive folk, and stadium rock into one of the most popular collections of unforgettable classics on the planet. As of this post, 32 million people had purchased IV, and it remains firmly entrenched as the third most lucrative album in US history, right behind Thriller and the Eagles Greatest Hits. In 8th grade a friend was fast-forwarding through “The Battle of Evermore” (I don’t miss cassettes) and, just by that, I was a lifelong Zeppelin fan.
Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti – 1975 – After a two year hiatus from touring, Zep stormed back with their creative juices overflowing to craft this incomparable 6th album. Using elements of classical music and their travels to Africa and Asia, this double album perfectly honed their winning blues-rock formula into the last great vinyl they would ever release. A double album, Physical Graffiti delivers the most aural bang for your listening buck.
M83 – Saturdays = Youth – 2008 – Anthony Gonzalez began his career as any other knob twiddler, and early albums were heavy on pretty synth atmosphere. But his talents for more instruments than just his laptop, combined with his fragile voice and obvious love of the 80’s resulted in this orchestral, OMD-leaning ode to teenage love. 62 minutes of thick indie-dance-pop, Sat = Youth was a founding piece for the current chillwave and nostalgia movements, for which I’m clearly a sucker given that I remain a high-moderate Tears For Fears fan.
Mars Volta – Deloused In The Comatorium – 2003 – After the disbanding of At The Drive-In, CBV and ORL (see previous post) formed this progressive rock troupe and continued their flurry of energetic live shows. Their first formal LP, Deloused… melded krautrock and punk with a dollop of Latin American influence and related the story of Cerpin Taxt, who battles the evil side of his persona while in a morphine and rat poison-induced coma. With song titles like “Eriatarka” and “Cicatriz ESP”, the Volta’s thunderous math rock is not for the faint of heart, and single-handedly powered me through my extraordinarily draining intern ER rotations.
Massive Attack – Mezzanine – 1998 – At the peak of trip-hop’s popularity there were really only two players, Portishead and Massive Attack. MA’s take on it was much more “hop” than “trip” and Mezzanine was the tasteful cohesion of their best ideas. Having just lost one of their biggest weapons in Brit rapper Tricky, a staple on their first two albums, MA enlisted the help of inimitable reggae voice Horace Andy and Cocteau Twins chanteuse Elizabeth Fraser to complete their unique brand of shadowy funk. Mezzanine reached #1 in the UK and you can still hear “Teardrop” during the opening credits of Fox’s “House”.
John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton– 1966 – Squeezed between his time with The Yardbirds and Cream, Eric Clapton spent a few months with John Mayall and recorded the album that would result in the famous“Clapton is God” graffiti painted in the London Underground, and essentially launch EC into guitar super-stardom. Even though most of the songs are covers of long-standing blues standards, Clapton makes them his own with his Gibson Les Paul and Marshall amps pushed into overdrive to provide just the right level of distortion (back when this was how distortion was done). My guitar teacher turned me on to this album and I’ve since made it my long-term goal to perform it front-to-back.
Metallica – …And Justice For All – 1988 – When I moved to OH in 1988, I was just skimming the surface of my rock education. Thankfully, someone made a mixtape for me that contained, among others, the Sex Pistols, the Cult, Danzig, and Metallica’s “One”, off this album. Well, looking back, no one has ever done prog metal (with the notable exception of Tool) quite as deftly as Metallica did here. Still weary with grief after bassist Cliff Burton’s gruesome death in Sweden, Metallica managed to craft scorching 8-minute opuses with enough time-signature changes to make even the most high-minded Yes fan take notice.
Michael Jackson – Thriller – 1982 – What can be said about the best-selling album of all time? Quincy Jones’ timeless production, John Landis’ epic video, and the King of Pop’s glove, Thriller launched the MTV generation and millions of fans moonwalked their way to record stores. Be careful not to turn your nose up given his sordid history – every song on this album is spectacular.
Morrissey – Viva Hate – 1988 – Here is Morrissey, giddy Morrissey… Once the Smiths fractured, Morrissey, in true Morrissey fashion, quickly rolled out his first solo album of characteristically biting sentiments (e.g. “Hairdresser On Fire”, “Little Man, What Now?”). The kicker was that the same producer that was responsible for some of the Smith’s best work was again at the helm and made damn sure the hooks dripped with the best of the hatred Morrissey had left.
Mylo – Destroy Rock & Roll – 2004 – Well before Girl Talk was in high school, Scotland’s Myles McInnes gave the world the first full-length LP using only a Mac. And it couldn’t have come at a better time: trance had staled and England was mired in a post-Radiohead/Coldplay MOR sludge. Cutting and pasting songs together (some recognizable, some not), Mylo breathed new life into electronic dance music and encouraged droves of laptop music-makers to leave their bedrooms.
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless – 1991 – Named after the cheesy 80’s slasher flick, MBV (helmed by Kevin Barnes, also known for his haunting soundtrack to “Lost In Translation”) turned the reverb up to 11 on Loveless and in doing so created the “shoegaze” branch of indie rock (see: Deerhunter, Blonde Redhead, Wavves). Distortion was paramount here as most of the lyrics are completely drowned out, but if you’re standing against the wall alone at a dark concert club, entranced by the neo-psychedelic drone, they seem quite superfluous anyway.
My Morning Jacket – Okonokos – 2006 – This submission was a struggle. Not because MMJ doesn’t deserve a place on this list, but rather we had to compromise and give them only one spot. We used their lesser-known live album to capture their best studio album, Z, and their even greater live recording of it from the Z tour with Okonokos. We often discuss this as one of the best live albums ever produced – by anyone. Double bonus score in that you get a healthy sampling of It Still Moves too. Before heading off into experimental, R&B-influenced sounds, MMJ pounded out excellent country rock (almost jam-band-like) tunes and this album captures it best. If you can only own one MMJ, this is the one. But, you should really own two.
The National – High Violet – 2010 – High Violet is the critically-acclaimed album by indie band The National. It’s not — as you might expect to see from us — an obscure release that’s hard to find or has some wildly off-beat concept to it. That said, it’s also The National’s most solid, front-to-back enjoyable creation and spends a lot of time on my stereo speakers. Matt Berninger’s baritone voice sounds like he’s singing from inside a 55-gallon drum buried deep in his chest; while the rest of the band of brothers hammer out solid and catchy melodies in classic indie rock fashion. And they’re Ohio boys, no less.
Neon Indian – Psychic Chasms – 2009 – Chillwave/lo-fi/glo-fi – whatever. Alan Palomo’s “side project” (after his main EDM excursion in VEGA didn’t quite take off) features exquistite 80’s-tape nostalgia and brings even the highest heart-rate to a blissfully languid crawl. Being a nostalgic sap, it reminds me of being 7 and going to bed at 8pm, hearing the adults party to music that reached me softly muted through my bedroom door.
The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema – 2005 – What’s interesting about TNP is that their sound is in no way complex. You’ll typically see us favor more textured or layered sounds, but power-pop has its place too. Here, the melodies and vocals take center stage along with simple guitar strumming that complements the drum beat. What adds the interest factor is the duet of A.C. Newman with Neko Case. (I’d argue more Neko than A.C., but you still need the pair.) While I bounce between Electric Version, Twin Cinema, and Challengers, it’s Twin Cinema that provides the more energetic songs and the stronger beginning-to-end experience.
NWA – Straight Outta Compton – 1988 – As rap blossomed into a legitimate genre throughout the 80’s, there began a fractionation of style which basically ended with gangsta rap, and these boys (along with Ice T) were the pioneers. Terrifying gang imagery and double platinum sales propelled “The World’s Most Dangerous Group” to the forefront of hip-hop, earning their label a letter of “warning” from the FBI for “Fuck Tha Police”. According to Priority Records, roughly 80% of album sales were from suburban retailers, well away from the cities. My dad loved it.
Pearl Jam – Ten – 1991 – On the heels of Nirvana’s Nevermind came the onslaught of grunge, mostly by bands from the Pacific Northwest. Eddie Vedder and co.’s scruffy features and baggy flannel shirts became the norm for millions of “disaffected” youths and Ten was one of their rallying cries. Jam-packed with heavy squelch and heart-on-sleeve lyrics portraying depression, homelessness, and perhaps a premonition of Columbine, Ten is a perfectly-sequenced trip through the birth of grunge (complete with a few stripped back tracks and one of the best bookend song-pairs since Pink Floyd’s Animals) and even got you made fun of in high school for listening to it, and not the new Ralph Tresvant album.
Over half-way done now. Sound off on our comments page (i.e. “2 LCD Soundsystem albums?!” or “Only 3 Zep!?”)
Next up: P through S