I'm not saying that Skylarking is the best album in the history of the universe, but I'm not not saying it either. Certainly it's the finest album XTC have produced.
I know precisely when my love affair with XTC began, it was May 3rd, 1987 when MTV played the world premiere of "Dear God" on 120 Minutes. While not on the original pressings of Skylarking, Geffen slapped it on the US version and omitted "Mermaid Smiled" to make room.
Once I finally got my hands on a copy of the cassette, I played it as much as possible – it's a miracle that the cassette lasted until I made the switch to CDs and was able to retire the poor thing.
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Abbey Road is more or less The Beatles' final album1, and it contains some of the group's strongest work – especially George Harrison, who finally gets his day in the sun.
I'm not sure when I got my first copy of Abbey Road. Might have been high school, or it might have been the first release of The Beatles' catalog on CD. This was back in the dark, pre-Internet, ages when knowing exactly what the "official" Beatles releases were was non-trivial.
The vast majority of Abbey Road was in heavy rotation on the local classic rock stations all through my formative years, of course, but it's best appreciated in its entirety.
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Technically, it was the movie Help! that helped turn me into a music junkie, but we'll go with the album here.
Here's how it all started. When I was seven, I came home from Sunday school (yes, really) and turned on the TV. There was usually a movie playing on the local non-network affliate channel around Noon on Sundays, and on one day I cranked the TV just in time to catch Help!.
If you've seen the movie, you know it starts with an attempted human sacrifice that fails because the victim isn't wearing the sacrificial ring. Where's the ring? Cut to a shot of Ringo Starr's hand while he's playing the drums as The Beatles play "Help!"
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Disintegration is the album that really sold me on The Cure. Yes, I know, I was a bit late to the party.
Some of the singles off Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me were too good to ignore, but I wasn't a big fan of Robert Smith's voice initially. And then Disintegration came out, with "Fascination Street" released as the first U.S. single. I was hooked, no two ways about it.
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A Night at the Opera has some of Queen's best-known songs, including "Bohemian Rhapsody." But what if I told you that "Bohemian Rhapsody" isn't even the best song on A Night at the Opera, or at least not the most epic?
A Night at the Opera has Queen trying on a number of musical styles, sometimes several in the same song. The 1975 release has a proto-power ballad, ragtime, quasi-operatic epics, Dixieland, and (of course) straight-up rock 'n roll.
It's worth noting that everybody gets some time in the spotlight here, with songs by Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon.
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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.
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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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