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.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #12 ("Bloodletting")"
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.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #13 ("Who's Next")"
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…)
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #14 ("The Future")"
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")"
Just how loud and angry can an album be, without devolving into noise? With Broken Nine Inch Nails tells us, pretty fucking loud and angry.
The follow up to Pretty Hate Machine, Broken is an EP that barely clocks in over 30 minutes. Less, if you don't count the "bonus" songs that shipped on a 3-inch mini-CD with the first pressings of Broken. The proper EP is only six songs, two of which are short-ish instrumentals. You can see clearly where the rest of Trent Reznor's career is going from Broken.
The days of "a slightly harder Depeche Mode" are over. Reznor's found out about guitars, and has decided they're a good thing.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #16 ("Broken")"
True to their name, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy were one and done. They left behind one album, Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury, a damning cultural critique of U.S. culture over a unique synthesis of hip hop, industrial, jazz poetry, and punk.
My only beef with the Heroes is that they only stuck around for one album1. Michael Franti has gone on to do Spearhead and solo albums, Charlie Hunter went on to do jazz, and Rono Tse seems to have disappeared entirely. Perhaps they said all they needed to say on Hypocrisy.
They said a lot on this album. They cover censorship, compromises of fame, the Gulf War (the first one), television, immigration, and much more. And Franti doesn't just turn the critical gaze outward, he also looks at some of his own flaws as well.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #17 ("Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury")"
A word of caution before listening to Aimee Mann's Whatever – it may very well cause you to recalibrate your standards for songwriting. If you're setting your standards by this album, it's almost unfair to most other bands. Almost.
Released in 1993, Whatever was Mann's first solo album – but certainly not her first time to take a hand at songwriting. Mann recorded three studio LPs with 'Til Tuesday, and an EP with her first band The Young Snakes.
Whatever is a damned fine work, with 13 songs that are all a-side material. (Technically, it's a 14-track album if you count a nine-second piece of fluff at the end.)
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #18 ("Whatever")"
For Document R.E.M. picked up a much harder edge than previous albums. Sure, Life's Rich Pageant dabbled a bit with more aggressive guitar, but Document has a much harsher sound throughout. And it sounds so, so good.
Document practically kicks you in the face with the opening track, "Finest Worksong." A whip-crack snare and then Peter Buck is off to the races with an almost metal guitar intro that sets the rhythm. There's more than a little The Who influence here. And Michael Stipe's voice, once again, is crisp and clear at the forefront. This is, by the way, true to its title. If "Finest Worksong" doesn't motivate you to get shit done, seek medical care.
R.E.M. has taken on some political overtones with Document. "Welcome to the Occupation," and "Exhuming McCarthy" in particular. "Exhuming McCarthy" is also the first R.E.M. song I can recall with "found" sounds or samples, starting with the typewriter setting the tempo at the beginning, and then audio of Joseph Welch chastising Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings. There's some heavy keyboard on this one, and I seem to recall it was Peter Holsapple on this track but I can't find anything today that confirms this.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #19 ("Document")"
Most of The Cure's albums are outstanding, but Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me is simply magical. Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me shows The Cure delivering perfect, joyful pop right alongside languid and extended jams that don't give a damn about radio play.
I have to be honest, I was a bit put off by Robert Smith's voice at first. Almost despite myself, I loved some of the singles off this album, but I initially found his delivery just a little off-putting. It eventually grew on me, but that's a story for later.
Even so, I couldn't deny the strength of the singles from Kiss Me.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #20 ("Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me")"