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Showing posts from July, 2019

100 Albums: "Music" by Madonna

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

Artist: Madonna
Title:Music
Released: 2000
Genre: dance pop


In my last post I mentioned spending a summer listening to Cake's Fashion Nugget and one other album while playing Super Bomber Man (college... it was a simpler time). Madonna's Music was that other album. I've never considered myself a capital-F fan of Madonna, her radio singles are typically catchy as hell, and she's certainly earned her status as a pop icon. Music is going for a very specific aesthetic, and for whatever reason I am absolutely on board for it, and that aesthetic is Swedish bubblegum in the style of DenniZ PoP and Max Martin. As mentioned in the Ace of Base post, The Sign was the prototype album from a music factory that would completely dominate the pop revival of the late 90s and early aughts, a revival that was in full swing by the time Madonna started work on this album. And while she's drawing from th…

100 Albums: "Fashion Nugget" by Cake

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

Artist: Cake
Title:Fashion Nugget
Released: 1996
Genre: lo-fi indie alt-rock


There was a summer when I was in college that I spent every spare minute playing Super Bomber Man on the SNES and listening to Cake's Fashion Nugget (and one other album that I will get to shortly). Cake broke in the late era of grunge with The Distance, a--ahem--driving song about a man racing to get back to his love, or something like that. The metaphor was unclear, but the song was catchy as hell. They followed it up with a cover of I Will Survive that was much more indicative of Cake's sound: lo-fi vintage guitar, a lead trumpet, John McCrea's deadpan just-off-rhythm singing and sarcastic lyrics, and Victor Damiani's frenetic bass-playing.

Fashion Nugget was independently produced under the ethos of "if you can't make it sound clean, make it sound dirty in an interesting way." It's extremel…

100 Albums: "Policy" by Will Butler

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

Artist: Will Butler
Title:Policy
Released: 2015
Genre: indie garage rock


Will Butler is better known as a member of The Arcade Fire, though not to be confused with his brother Win Butler who is the lead singer of that same band. Policy is Butler's first solo album, which--at only eight tracks and twenty-seven minutes--is really a glorified EP. Despite it's brevity it feels like a complete statement and oozes with self-assured swagger, as well as a fairly unique sound centered more around piano and saxophone than your normal guitar-and-bass rock setup. The lead single, Anna (embedded above) bounces and grooves around a staccato synth line accented with smashed-piano fills. It's also a favorite of my kids'.

Butler's voice is often thin and warbly--which I'm generally not a fan of, but he pulls it off. Anna is the standout track, but Son Of God, Witness, and What I Want are also ex…

100 Albums: "Flood" by They Might Be Giants

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

Artist: They Might Be Giants
Title:Flood
Released: 1990
Genre: alt-indie experimental whatever-passed-for-folk-in-the-80s college rock


There's a spectrum, you might say, that goes from "art" to "novelty" and They Might Be Giants sit squarely at its center. A duo based in New York, Johns Linnell and Flansburgh have been doing their own thing for forty years now, and Flood represents the best of whatever that thing is. It has their best-known songs Birdhouse In Your Soul, Particle Man, and their cover of Istanbul (Not Constantinople) alongside a host of other ear-worms like Whistling In The Dark, Twisting, Women & Men, the mostly instrumental Minimum Wage, the orchestral-hit-heavy Road Movie To Berlin, et al. Some of the songs feel like nonsense, such as We Want A Rock, which tells that "everybody wants prosthetic foreheads on their real heads", but others like Lucky…

100 Albums: "Odelay" by Beck

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

Artist: Beck
Title:Odelay
Released: 1996
Genre: dadaist electro-country alternative-folk singer-songwriter rap


Beck was totally going to be a one-hit wonder, right? Loser was a great song, but it was also a complete novelty of song whose album, Mellow Gold, didn't spawn any more singles. The aesthetic was fresh, but it was also incredibly weird. It was the kind of lightning-in-a-bottle sound that would never and could never be replicated. And then Where It's At hit radio and not only did it sound completely different than Loser, but it was pretty incredible in its own right. Never one to repeat himself, Beck teamed with producers The Dust Brothers who were at that time best known for the dense, sample-heavy Beastie Boys album Paul's Boutique.

The resulting album is kind of amazing. It's both stranger than more accessible than Mellow GoldWhere It's At remains a staple of alt-rock r…

100 Albums: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (Soundtrack from & Inspired by the Motion Picture)

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

Artist: Various
Title:Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse (Soundtrack from & Inspired by the Motion Picture)
Released: 2018
Genre: kid-friendly hip-hop


I almost didn't include this in the list because it's too new to me. I only discovered it in the last few months. And now that I have, I wish I'd gotten to it sooner so I could put it higher on the list. Oh well.

I don't have much to say about this album other than that it--like the younger audience it's targeting--is relatively short, full of energy, and tons of fun. The lyrics are free of cursing or adult themes, which means I can listen to it with my four-year-old without worrying he's going to pick up something he can't repeat at school. And it's generally optimistic and inspirational--these are songs about fighting for what you believe, defending your family, and being heroic. The movie that it's tied to is one…

100 Albums: "August And Everything After" by Counting Crows

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

Artist: Counting Crows
Title:August and Everything After
Released: 1993
Genre: adult contemporary roots rock


In retrospect, one of the real benefits of the 90s "alternative" label was that it could be applied to basically anything, which made for a lot of variety on rock radio. I've talked before about how "grunge" was a pastiche of glam-rock, hard rock, heavy metal, and punk; "alternative" not only included all of that, but it also fit in funk-rock acts like Red Hot Chili Peppers, post-punk arty groups like Talking Heads, and rootsy college/jam acts like Dave Matthews Band. So in 1993, on the strength of a bopping lead single Mr. Jones, Counting Crows--with its prominent mandolin, organ, and accordion--got to be on rock radio.

I picked up the album for Mr. Jones and the hypnotic follow-up Round Here and was immediately taken with it. It was slow, but it felt deep and …

100 Albums Supplemental: Childhood Faves (That I Just Don't Like Anymore)

We're halfway through the list, which means it's time for another supplemental. The last few weeks have been heavy on albums or artists I discovered in my childhood and still listen to today. So here are a few that I don't feel the same way about. And I want to distinguish this from the Christian rock supplemental where the problem is that my beliefs have changed and that makes it difficult to listen to anymore. These are albums or artists where my tastes have changed or the times have changed and I no longer enjoy them, ranked from greatest to least.

Jimi Hendrix - The Ultimate Experience

Any guitar player (which I have been) is going to go through a phase where they worship Hendrix. I got this album in high school and listened to it on repeat in the car. I still have a lot of affection for Hendrix, but unfortunately he's an incredible artist whose retrospectives greatly lack cohesion and whose individual albums are only good, not great. To give a random example, Are Y…

100 Albums: "The Transformers The Movie: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack"

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

Artist: Vince DiCola, et al
Title:The Transformer The Movie: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Released: 1986
Genre: kid-friendly synth-metal


This is one of the first tapes I remember owning, although I don't know how I ended up with it. I suspect one of my parents saw it and picked it up because they knew how much I enjoyed the property. I had a birthday party where all six (!) of the Constructicons were used to decorate my cake. So this is one I listened to a lot. And, much like the movie it's attached to, it's way better than it has any right to be. The Transformers: The Movie was supposed to be a cynical cash-grab, in which the older lines of toys were wiped out an a new generation of toy characters were introduced. It never occurred to the muckety-mucks at Hasbro that grade-school kids would think of these robots as characters. Ergo, a huge number of the children in my cohort at the a…