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Showing posts from February, 2019

100 Albums: "The Fragile" by Nine Inch Nails

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Title:The Fragile
Released: 2000
Genre: industrial


Of all the celebrities I admire, the one I'd like to meet the least is Trent Reznor, the man behind Nine Inch Nails. And the reason I never want to meet him is that I would probably turn into a blubbering fool and embarrass both of us. (Or who knows, we have children the same age, maybe we'd just do the parent thing and talk about our kids.) The thing to keep in mind is: Nine Inch Nails fans don't talk about favorite songs--we talk about the songs that saved our lives. Reznor's angsty, anthemic tracks reached out to us at our lowest and let us know that we weren't alone. It's pretty deep, life-affecting stuff when you're an angry, confused fifteen-year-old. (And for what it's worth, the songs-that-saved-my-life for me are A Warm Place from The Downward Spiral and the 9-minute remix of Wish from th…

100 Albums: "Cosmic Thing" by The B-52's

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: The B-52's
Title:Cosmic Thing
Released: 1989
Genre: Bouffant new wave surf-rock


There are things that you love, not because they're particularly good, but because they just make you happy. For me, that is Cosmic Thing. Any time I listen to it, I feel better.  The album is a mix of dance tracks and relaxed mid-tempo pop (and also Love Shack, which is sort of both) with call-and-response vocals and funk-rock guitars. It's a bit of an artifact of its era, production-wise: at only ten tracks, it's nearly 50 minutes long, meaning songs have time to linger and play around, instead rushing through verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/outro. It is aggressively campy. The album opens with a drumroll and Fred Schneider shouting "Gyrate 'til you've had your fill" on the title track--a song about having an out-of-body experience, running across cosmic beings, and watchi…

100 Albums: "Greatest Hits" by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Title:Greatest Hits
Released: 1993
Genre: Americana rock




Are career retrospectives even a thing anymore? They don't really make sense in the iTunes age, when you can just go buy your favorite songs individually. And they don't really work as albums, for the most part. Inevitably they try to give the albums from the time period they cover relatively equal weight, which means including the flotsam from lesser albums and skipping over the deep cuts of the great ones, making less of a "greatest hits" collection than a "lots of hits and some stuff we felt sorry for" collection. They have to include one or two new songs, and those usually suck. Because they were recorded over the span of decades, the songs don't really sound like they live in the same sonic world. And because there is no unifying idea behind them, the whole thing is ne…

100 Albums: "Nevermind" by Nirvana

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Nirvana
Title:Nevermind
Released: 1991
Genre: It's the template for grunge


To this day, I instinctively try to type "never mind" as a single world.

This is the album that killed hair metal. Perhaps as a reaction to the New Wave and party music of the 80s, the music of the early 90s all took itself very seriously. It was also the era of gangsta rap, after all. Gen-X-ers were the new youth culture and they were angsty and ironic this record in particular spoke to them. It was rough and raw but somehow also pop-friendly and glossy. It was angry but also fun--it was basically punk music, but it was slower and grooved a little. The lyrics were vague and weird and didn't seem to be about anything, but they were also poetic and beautiful in their own way. (And then you actually find out what songs like Polly are about and it sort of blows your mind.)

It has just so many good, endurin…

100 Albums: "Hamilton" Original Broadway Cast Recording

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Various, but mostly Lin-Manuel Miranda
Title:Hamilton: An American Musical
Released: 2015
Genre: Hip-Hop Broadway Musical



Yes, it's as good as you've heard, even if you don't listen to rap. I, too, was daunted by the prospect of listening to an over two-hour soundtrack to a hip-hop musical when I don't listen to a lot of hip-hop in the first place (not hip-hop in English, at any rate). And I started it with the assumption that I would give up as soon as I got bored. And I not only finished it, I went back to re-listen to some of the stand-out tracks. The broadway juggernaut is based on Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton that lyricst/star/composer Lin-Manuel Miranda was reading on a beach in Hawaii, I presume while he was working on Moana. The musical covers the entire career of Hamilton (his early life is summed up in the first song) as told through the eyes of Aa…

100 Albums: "MTV Unplugged" by Alice In Chains

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Alice In Chains
Title:MTV Unplugged
Released: 1996
Genre: Acoustic Metal/Grunge


Alice In Chains had pretty much run their course when they put on this concert. They hadn't performed in 2 and a half years. 1995 had seen the release of Alice In Chains, but they didn't do anything else that year. They'd broken up for six months and been plagued by singer Layne Staley's heroin habit. This performance was recorded in April of 1996. They would put on their last performance with Staley in July of that year, after which he would disappear into his addiction and eventually die of an overdose in 2002. Writer and co-singer Jerry Cantrell would start a successful solo career, and the band would reform with new singer William DuVall in 2006.

I love Alice In Chains, and part of what I love about this album is that it is part greatest hits collection, part heavy metal deconstruction, and part …

100 Albums Supplemental: Christian Rock

10 posts down. 90 to go. Whew!

So, in the last post, I talked about how I'd listened to a lot of Christian music as a kid and how--since I'm not really religious anymore--it doesn't resonate with me in the same way and can in fact be uncomfortable for me to listen to. But the late 90s was an interesting time for Christian music and I think it's worth talking about even though most of the albums aren't in any danger of making my top 100 (caveat: there are two more Christian rock acts that did make the top 100, so if something seems missing here, there's a reason for that).

So without further ado, some albums I used to love and really can't bring myself to listen to anymore.

dc Talk - Jesus Freak

Originally a rap trio whose closest sonic contemporary was probably Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, dc Talk's best known song up this point was Jesus Is Still Alright which heavily sampled The Doobie Brothers. They had drifted from euro-dance rap into the more sam…

100 Albums: "This Beautiful Mess" by Sixpence None The Richer

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Sixpence None The Richer
Title:This Beautiful Mess
Released: 1995
Genre: Christian alt-rock


Yes, that Sixpence None The Richer, but at the same time, no, not that Sixpence None The Richer. Before they were the treacly pop band who sang Kiss Me and covered Crowded House and The La's, they were an alt-rock band with a different line-up on an independent label that specialized mostly in Christian heavy metal. All of this to say, don't just this record by Kiss Me.

A lot of the music I listened to during my formative years was from Christian bands, and for various reasons many of those albums that I once loved dearly are now difficult for me to listen to. This Beautiful Mess is an exception. That's because for this record, religion isn't a message so much as a perspective from which to explore themes of love, death, mistakes, sex, doubt, addiction, anxiety... you know, grown-up stuff…