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Showing posts from April, 2019

100 Albums: "Yes And Also Yes" by Mike Doughty

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

Artist: Mike Doughty
Title:Yes And Also Yes
Released: 2011
Genre: alternative acoustic rock


Soul Coughing was one of the stranger bands to come out of the 90s. They had two major hits, the poppy Circles and the fun-if-incomprehensible Super Bon-Bon. After they disbanded, singer Mike Doughty got a rental car and an acoustic guitar and started playing shows and selling burned discs of his first solo album Skittish. 19 years and 17 albums later, he's still going strong and playing weird, poppy, acoustic-driven rock over (with the occasional dash of avant-garde EDM).

Yes And Also Yes sits nicely in the center of the Venn Diagram consisting of these circles: weird enough to be interesting, poppy enough to sing along with, and suitable to play in front of my kids. In fact, Strike The Motion was my oldest child's favorite song at one point in his short life. Weird Summer has an anthemic vibe. Vegetable

100 Albums: "Untitled (IV/Zoso)" by Led Zeppelin

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

Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: untitled
Released: 1971
Genre: classic rock


Is there a more epic album opening than Black Dog? Plant screaming "Hey, Hey, Mama..." and a trio of musicians exploding into that proto-metal riff behind him? There's a reason Led Zeppelin is always included in discussions of who might be the greatest rock band of all time: Plant's bluesy wail, Bonham's impossibly huge drum sound, Page's guitar work--and tone, when people talk about "vintage guitar tone" they're talking about Jimmy Page--and Jones's bass and keys (bassists are the unsung heroes of rock, and Jones's bass work here is low-key phenomenal). They're an iconic band, and this is their most iconic album.

Officially untitled, but commonly referred to as either Zoso or IV, this record is not only their best-selling, but it contains their most well-known song, Stairway To H…

100 Albums Supplemental: Video Game Soundtracks

So far on this list I've had two broadway soundtracks, one movie soundtrack (two if you count Help!, which isn't really one but...), and one season of a score from a television show. I like soundtracks. One thing that is not going to show up on this list but is very much represented in my music collection is soundtracks to video games. They're usually available for a couple dollars as DLC, if you don't mind hunting through system folders to find them. I love video game music, but the soundtrack albums tend to not make very good albums. Invariably, some of the music is really more about setting a soundscape, which is really cool in a game and hard to listen to on its own. But it does mean that even the best ones are hit-or-miss. And some of them are really shoddily put together. But they can also be incredible in their own weird way. So here's a smattering of video game soundtracks that I don't really listen to, but definitely have a couple tracks mixed into my …

100 Albums: "Seeing Sounds" by N.E.R.D.

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

Artist: N.E.R.D.
Title:Seeing Sounds
Released: 2008
Genre: funk rock with hip hop


Pharrell Williams is probably most famous for his contributions to 2013's most highly anticipated summer single (Daft Punk's Get Lucky) as well as its most controversial one (Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines). But in the late 90s and early 00s, he was the public face of The Neptunes, a production duo consisting of Williams and Chad Hugo, which made waves producing huge hits for Britney Spears, N'Sync, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Kelis, etc. Around that same time, they recruited Shay Haley, a friend they'd jammed with in high school, for a side project called N.E.R.D., a "side project" that has put out five albums. Seeing Sounds' title is a reference to the fact that Williams has synesthesia, a condition in which input processing signals in the brain bleed across senses, and a common manifestation …

100 Album: "Game Of Thrones Season 3 Soundtrack" by Ramin Djawadi

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

Artist: Ramin Djawadi
Title:Game Of Thrones, Season 3 Soundtrack
Released: 2013
Genre: DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh


He's not as big a name as Hans Zimmer or John Williams or the various Newmans out there, but Ramin Djawadi is easily the most interesting composer working in television right now (with due respect to Bear McCreary). Soundtracks, especially television soundtracks because they're produced so quickly, have a tendency to serve more as a wall of atmosphere than anything else. But Djawadi's work here and on Westworld has generated some amazing musical themes. There's a strong undercurrent of leitmotif informing the way the music flows together and the themes those motifs are built around are damned catchy--which you know if you got the joke in the genre description above.

While all of the soundtracks for GoT are very listenable, this is my favorite. It has A Lannist…

100 Albums: "Light Grenades" by Incubus

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

Artist: Incubus
Title:Light Grenades
Released: 2006
Genre: mathy alt-rock with just a soup├žon of hardcore punk



Incubus reminds me of Radiohead in everything but how the music actually sounds. They're nerdy in a very musician way, artful without being artsy, edgy without being completely cynical, and their songwriting is just strange enough to make you wonder how they ever made it into the mainstream in the first place. Arrangements are complex, built around unorthodox chord voicings and time signatures. Their lyrics aren't about your usual rock staples of sex and drugs (or angst, or self-destruction, or being abused by your parents--this album came out in the 00's after all) but are more introspective, metaphorical, and overall possessing of that whiff of a B.A. in Literature. In fact, most of the time when Incubus songs don't work for me, it's because they lean too hard on the inte…

100 Albums: "The Colour And The Shape" by Foo Fighters

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

Artist: Foo Fighters
Title:The Colour And The Shape
Released: 1996
Genre: post-grunge hard rock



After Kurt Cobain died in 1993, Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl shut himself up in a studio for a week to record a project called Foo Fighters, a collection of songs he had personally penned some years prior. He ran from instrument to instrument recording almost the entire thing himself. It was an unexpected hit, driven by singles Big Me, This is a Call, and , but the worry with these sort of projects is that they're ephemeral. Would Grohl have more than one album in him? Turns out he did, and in 1996 the band Foo Fighters released a follow-up The Colour And The Shape, which would be the band's best selling record.

One great thing about Foo Fighters is that it sounds absolutely nothing like Nirvana. Nirvana was punk, but slower. Foo Fighters inherits more from the classic hard rock of the 70s: The Knack, …

100 Albums: "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by Elton John

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

Artist: Elton John
Title:Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Released: 1973
Genre: classic piano-pop rock


Released at the height of his stardom in 1973, recorded on a farm in France, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is a monster record. Though the CD manages to fit the entire album on a single disc, it was originally released as a double-LP. Bennie And The Jets, Candle In The Wind, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting are to this day staples of classic rock radio.

For me, this was a car album. I grew up in Houston, but my extended family lived in St. Louis, so every summer we would pile into the van and make the seventeen-hour drive between the two cities (it's shorter now that they've raised the speed limits to 70 on the highways) with a box of tapes that my dad had made of his records--all of them immaculately lettered in calligraphy because that's how Dad writes. He do…

100 Albums: "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" by Sarah McLachlan

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

Artist: Sarah McLachlan
Title:Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
Released: 1993
Genre: adult contemporary


Before Angel, before she was the patron sainte of sadness and puppy dogs, Sarah McLachlan was known as the woman who turned a letter from a stalker into one of the most seductive pop songs of its era. The true story there is somewhat more complicated--the lyrics to Possession were inspired by mail from obsessed fans, one of whom had the sheer audacity to sue her for "stealing" his work--but the fact that the song was composed from a place of fear rather than lust is wild. Suffice it to say, lines like "I would be the one to hold you down" read very differently in a man-speaking-to-a-woman capacity than vice-versa. Whatever that has to say about gender dynamics in 1993, I leave to the listener.

I seem to recall hearing Possession on rock stations, not just Top 40 stations, but Fumbling Tow…