Fun fact, Aimee Mann is the only musical guest on Buffy to get a speaking part. That has not a lot to do with Lost in Space, except that two songs from the album are played during the episode. There's a little more to this album than an intersection with nerdom, though.
Lost in Space is, at least in my estimation, Mann's finest album to date. It's not as energetic as Bachelor No. 2 or Whatever, but it more than makes up for that in the melody department.
Lost in Space has a rich, full sound to it. Little wonder, as there's quite the cast of characters. Several songs feature a full compliment of strings, and more.
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If Robyn Hitchcock hadn't gone into music, perhaps he'd have become a novelist like his father. His penchant for storytelling shows through heavily in Element of Light.
Hitchcock has a pretty solid catalog of music as a solo artist, with his backing bands The Egyptians and The Venus 3, and (of course) with The Soft Boys. It took a lot of mulling before I decided on the ones that would make the top 100, and two things put Element of Light at the top of the stack – the music (obviously) and the stories.
Musically, Element of Light features some of my favorite Hitchcock compositions (and that's saying quite a lot). But Element clearly features some of the most developed stories in his songs.
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Famed Rock critic Robert Christgau called Rubber Soul "when The Beatles began to go arty." Reductive, perhaps, but also true.
Rubber Soul is not as adventurous as Sgt. Pepper or The Beatles, but it brings in elements that the band couldn't reproduce on stage. And it also deals with some more mature themes than previous Beatles albums, albeit obliquely.
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I had low expectations for New Adventures in Hi-Fi after Monster, but R.E.M. blew it out of the water with this one.
From 1983 to 1992, R.E.M. had an unbroken string of fantastic albums, at least by my reckoning. (No pun intended.) To that point, Document was the high-water mark for me, but I had zero disappointment in Green, Out of Time, or Automatic for the People. (I even like "Shiny Happy People" non-ironically. At least I think I like it non-ironically. Who can tell, these days?)
And then Monster. I slogged through a few listens to Monster and then put it aside, disappointed. It seemed R.E.M. and I had gone separate ways. And then New Adventures came out, and all was well with the world.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #9 ("New Adventures in Hi-Fi")"
The final album by The Smiths, Strangeways Here We Come is a fitting close to a brief but brilliant career.
The Smiths' star shone brightly and burned out quickly, but they were prolific as Hell for the brief time they were together. Strangeways is their fourth and final album, released in 1987. That's four albums in five years, a live album the year after they broke up, and a slew of singles and b-sides, besides.
Let me tell you a little secret – there's not a bad one in the bunch. No bad albums, no lousy singles, and even the b-sides are good. (Especially, "How Soon Is Now?", which isn't featured on any of the original LPs.) But Strangeways is especially good.
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Jukebox the Ghost set the bar high with their debut album Live and Let Ghosts, and their follow-up Everything Under the Sun. With Safe Travels they completely clear the bar, and then some.
Jukebox the Ghost is a relative newcomer on the music scene, especially compared with a lot of bands on this list. Their first studio album was released in 2008, and they've been a frenzy of touring and recording since. A three piece outfit, JtG features a drummer, keyboardist, and guitarist/bassist. Ben Thornewill (keyboards) and Tommy Siegel (guitar/bass) trade off on vocal duties, and drummer Jesse Kristin mostly sticks to the sticks.
JtG is indie / power pop at its finest. They've absorbed more than 50 years of rock and pop influences and have taken it and brought something new to the table.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #11 ("Safe Travels")"
Bloodletting gets tagged with the "gothic rock" genre, which is a bit unfair to Concrete Blonde. Sure, it's got a wee bit of goth about it, but it's not all gloom and doom lyrically or musically.
In fact, Bloodletting is every bit as energetic and rock & roll as Free, or their first (self-titled) album.
Bloodletting features Concrete Blonde as a three piece – Johnette Napolitano on vocals and bass, James Mankey on guitar, and Roxy Music's Paul Thompson on drums. Also some guest appearances by Peter Buck, Steve Wynn, and Andy Prieboy. Side note – pretty sure Peter Buck wins the "most appearances" and maybe "most valuable player" award for my top 100, as he's worked with R.E.M., Concrete Blonde, Robyn Hitchcock, 10,000 Maniacs, and Warren Zevon albums that have showed up in this list. Basically, the man's a damn machine.
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On Tommy The Who sought to stretch beyond the confines of single songs to a cohesive, two-album work. With Who's Next, The Who deliver nine incredible specimens of classic rock and roll.
From the first notes of the primitive A.R.P. synthesizer on "Baba O'Riley" to the final flourish of "Won't Get Fooled Again," Who's Next is a monument to The Who's sheer brilliance. If it's not a perfect album, it's so close that any deficiencies aren't worth discussing.
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The Future is currently my favorite album by Leonard Cohen, and some of his darkest material.
Coming four years after I'm Your Man, The Future finds Cohen even less optimistic and just as hoarse. That's OK, he has a choir of angels to back him – or, at least, it sounds that way.
If you've seen Natural Born Killers, several songs off The Future are going to sound familiar. (If you've seen the movie, you know that the soundtrack is really the best thing about the movie…)
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After developing an addiction to Frou Frou, it's not much of a surprise that I'd branch out to Imogen Heap immediately. Her second solo album, 2005's Speak for Yourself is everything I enjoyed about Frou Frou and then some.
There's not a huge difference in overall sound between Frou Frou and Heap's solo work. Not surprising since Heap's voice is sort of distinctive, likewise her songwriting.
Speak for Yourself features a similar ethereal, breezy approach with incredibly strong hooks. The music is beautiful, but it's her voice and delivery that completely steals the show. Consider the live version here of her second track from the album, "Say Goodnight and Go." The album version features percussion/drum machine, layers of additional instruments or synthesizers, and effects. Her live performance is every bit as entrancing, though, and it's all about her voice. Well, and the song itself.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #15 ("Speak for Yourself")"