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Showing posts from May, 2019

100 Albums: "(What's The Story) Morning Glory?" by Oasis

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

Artist: Oasis
Title:(What's The Story) Morning Glory?
Released: 1995
Genre: britpop


Americans will never understand just how huge Oasis were for a while there in Britain. The brothers Gallagher were working class rockers who emulated the Beatles with their candy-coated, drug-fueled, pop rock. Liam was the voice and Noel was the writing talent, and when Wonderwall broke in 1995, it was huge. (WtS)MG? does what every artist wants in a sophomore album. It hones and doubles down on their sound. It pushes on their boundaries: Noel sings lead on a few songs--including a single--the album has two untitled instrumental fills, and then there's the seven-and-a-half minute closer. The songs are very earwormy, and I adore Noel Gallagher's lead guitar work. His fills are melodic and dynamic, but they're not overly flashy and the counterbalance nicely against the vocal melodies. They never shred, but…

100 Albums: "Stadium Arcadium" by Red Hot Chili Peppers

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

Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Title:Stadium Arcadium
Released: 2006
Genre: alternative funk


There really isn't any other band quite like Red Hot Chili Peppers. Defined primarily by Anthony Kiedis's raps about sex and geography and the insane punk/slap bass playing of arguably-the-greatest-bassist-who-ever-lived Flea, RHCP's sound is a bizarre blend of not-quite-funk, not-quite-hip-hop, and not-quite-punk. It became one of the earliest things you could point to and call "alternative" back when we were all still trying to figure out what that word meant. Stadium Arcadium is the last album they recorded with their most successful lineup: Kiedis and Flea alongside drummer (and Will Ferrell doppelganger) Chad Smith and guitarist John Fruciante. The music was originally conceived to be released a series of EPs, but wound up being joined into a double-album with a total run-time of just …

100 Albums: "Bringing Down The Horse" by The Wallflowers

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

Artist: The Wallflowers
Title:Bringing Down The Horse
Released: 1996
Genre: adult contemporary roots-rock


Bob Dylan was a funny looking man with an odd but unique voice who couldn't sing particularly well but managed to completely upend the 60's folk scene and become one of the most influential musicians of all time. His son Jakob is an extremely handsome fellow with a beautiful singing voice and hoo-boy his music has been hit-or-miss. Conveniently for us, The Wallflowers--technically a band, although Dylan is the only permanent member--were kind enough to put almost all of their hits on a single disc, their sophomore album Bringing Down The Horse.

Leaning hard on their roots-rock sound, the slide guitars and organs are front-and-center in the mix, just behind the vocals. They marketed this album directly to Counting Crows fans by putting no less than Adam Duritz himself on the first single, 6t…

100 Albums: "Purple" by Stone Temple Pilots

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

Artist: Stone Temple Pilots
Title:Purple
Released: 1994
Genre: alt-grunge / hard rock


Stone Temple Pilots appeared on the national scene in 1992, alongside other first-wave grunge acts like Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam. The "grunge" monicker covered a variety of musical styles: post-glam (Pearl Jam), punk (Nirvana), metal (Alice In Chains), and hard rock (Soundgarden). STP's debut Core is a solidly in the "hard rock" camp, and the most popular singles from that album--Creep and Plush--are also its mellowest. They followed this up with Purple, a record that transitions between their hard rock origins and the vintage pop-rock sound that would dominate their future records. I've mentioned earlier that "vintage" sounding bands are specifically aping Jimmy Page's guitar tone, and you can see the beginnings of that with STP on this record, especially in the album&…

100 Albums: "Jagged Little Pill" by Alanis Morissette

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

Artist: Alanis Morissette
Title:Jagged Little Pill
Released: 1995
Genre: alt-rock / adult contemporary


Well this came out of freaking nowhere. A minor Canadian pop-star who was probably more famous for her brief stint on You Can't Do That On Television records a DIY album with Glen Ballard in his bedroom recording studio and the thing explodes like a bomb on MTV and rock radio, selling sixteen million copies and spawning six hit singles. The lead single was the bolt-from-the-blue You Oughta Know, featuring instrumentation from a couple of Red Hot Chili Peppers and more angst than people realized was possible in someone from Canada.

It's a big, sloppy mess of an album. Ballard messed up the levels while tracking vocals for You Oughta Know and clipped the hell out of them, but it was a great take that sounded good in the mix and this record was only going to move 20,000 units or so anyway, so who…

100 Albums: "The Big Folk Hits" by The Brothers Four

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

Artist: The Brothers Four
Title:The Big Folk Hits
Released: 1963
Genre: folk


The Brothers Four were wart of the 1960s folk music that also produced acts like Peter, Paul, and Mary or The Kingston Trio. It's the same movement that was parodied in A Mighty Wind, referenced in Inside Llewyn Davis, and summarily destroyed when Bob Dylan arrived on the scene. The band was best known for their take on Greensleeves (the tune was borrowed for the Christmas hymn What Child Is This, although the original is equally haunting and low-key bawdy).

The Big Folk Hits was another car album for me, and I associate it with vacations and long drives. It includes a variety of standards which that band didn't appear to update at all. Silver Threads And Golden Needles is clearly sung from the perspective of a woman, but they don't change the lyrics at all. The John B. Sails keeps the Nassau dialect you'll find…

100 Albums: "Lateralus" by Tool

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

Artist: Tool
Title:Lateralus
Released: 2001
Genre: halfway between prog-rock and art-metal

The poster of this video put the wrong album cover on it.
My gateway to Tool was A Perfect Circle, which featured singer Maynard James Keenan doing more radio-friendly songs with his friend Billy Howerdell. Tool albums pre-APC tend to be didactic and philosophical, but starting with Lateralus, Tool's driving math rock began to feel a bit more introspective and personal. The lead single Schism is about trying to heal a damaged relationship. "I know the pieces fit, 'cause I watched them tumble down." The Patient is about wanting to help others without really understanding why. "If there were no desire to heal the damaged and broken met along this tedious path I've chosen here, I certainly would have walked away by now. And I still may." Disposition is a quiet song whose lyrics in thei…

100 Albums: "Masseduction" by St. Vincent

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

Artist: St. Vincent
Title:Masseduction
Released: 2017
Genre: post-alt pop rock


When Annie Clark, virtuoso guitarist formerly of The Polyphonic Spree, started her solo career, she took her stage name from the hospital where Dylan Thomas died. She's always been a bit of an eccentric--like that one time she dressed like a toilet for a benefit concert in Glasgow. Her music frequently feels more like a deconstruction of pop music than actual pop music, where songs feel sonically like they're mostly about the space around the melody. The result is a string of brilliant albums that are great to listen to but barely memorable.

Masseduction is a bit of a reinvention. Clark allows the pop elements to breathe and works all the sonic weirdness in around the edges, and the end product is a masterfully crafted, personal statement from a truly gifted composer who is also an excellent lyricist. I love the build…

100 Albums: "The Sign" by Ace Of Base

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

Artist: Ace Of Base
Title:The Sign
Released: 1993
Genre: euro club pop


Circa 1992, a Swedish pop quartet sent their "Mr. Ace" demo tape to an up-and-coming producer named DenniZ PoP. He hated it. It was basically unlistenable. But his car radio broke and the tape got stuck, so he had to hear to it over and over for weeks, at which point he decided that there was something salvageable in the song and he agreed to work with the band.

Music. It's a glamorous biz, yo.

The resulting album was called Happy Nation, which was released in the U.S. with some slight alterations as The Sign. It was not only a commercial juggernaut, but it became the template for an entire wave of pop music. After The Sign was released, PoP would found Cheiron Studios and hire songwriter Max Martin, and together the would launch the careers of N'Sync, The Backstreet Boys, Robyn, and Britney Spears. Ever wonder why…