Friday, February 1, 2008

[Honorable Mention] Part 3 of 3

Back when the list was going as planned, before all the difficulties, the buzz between my friends over the list was pretty satisfying, and early on, the most common question was “When am I going to see [insert album title]??” I have to admit I got a small pleasure out of telling people an album they loved didn’t make the cut – not because I’m a rotten bastard, but because I got to watch their heads cock at a 45 degree angle, and their faces twist up in the ultimate moment of puzzlement… *Gasp* if the album you love isn’t on the list, then that means its place is filled with an album you haven’t thought of yet. So, in the interest calming some minds, I’m gonna give you some words on the 49 runners up that would follow the aforementioned Roots album, Things Fall Apart. Each one has a video to enjoy as well.

- Ryan Adams: Heartbreaker [2000]
Still his best album, mostly because it's Ryan at his most riled, angry, and broken, with bare bones arrangements to match. It features "Come Pick Me Up", his best song, the usual country/folk balladry like "My Winding Wheel" and "Damn, Sam...", and garage nuggets like "To Be Young..." and "Shakedown On 9th Street".
- BONUS: "Come Pick Me Up" [live on Letterman]

- Aphex Twin: The Richard D. James Album [1996]
Experimenting with Jungle and Drill 'N' Bass, RDJ offsets his soothing ambient melodies with twitchy breaks that point toward the future of electronic musics, setting himself on an enitrely different path than the concurrent Electronica movement.
- BONUS: "4" [video]

- The Avalanches: Since I Left You [2001]
A truly new millennium prospect, this Australian DJ collective's hour-long collage of novelty bits is a sublime summertime party album, featuring everything from Madonna grooves to Speak-N-Spell animals noises, cobbled together into a dizzying pastiche of over 3500 samples.
- BONUS: "Since I Left You" [video]

- Beastie Boys: Check Your Head [1992]
- Beastie Boys: Ill Communication [1994]
The Beasties in the 90's were a special creature, somehow returning with the booming "Pass The Mic", yet no longer regarded as Hip-Hop visionaries as much as forefathers in the Alternative movement. Following with a ridiculous string of their best singles and three adventurous albums didn't hurt.
- BONUS: "Pass The Mic" [video]
- BONUS: "Sabotage" [video]

- Black Star: Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star [1998]
Long before he had a bad experience with dogs, Mos Def united with the esteemed Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek to make this vastly underrated platter of cerebral bangers, kickstarting Rawkus Records' underground revolution.
- BONUS: "Respiration" [feat. Common; video]

- Boards Of Canada: Music Has The Right To Children [1998]
A rich tapestry of organic synth textures, dusty grooves, and field recordings, all adding up to a hypnotising work of wonder and beauty that has continued to influence electronic composers over the last decade.
- BONUS: "Roygbiv" [fan video]

- The Breeders: Last Splash [1993]
Far more than just "Cannonball", although it is one of the best singles of the 90's, this album saw former Pixie Kim Deal create a cross-section of Alt-Rock's 31 delicious flavors.
- BONUS: "Cannonball" [video]

- Cypress Hill: Cypress Hill [1991]
Bridging the gap between Public Enemy and Wu-Tang, the tornado of crackling soul tracks by DJ Muggs carry this great pre-Chronic gangland album, highlighted by the revolutionary "How I Could Just Kill A Man"
- BONUS: "How I Could Just Kill A Man" [video]

- Daft Punk: Discovery [2001]
"It's less of a tribute to the music from 1975 to 1985 as an era, and more about focusing on the time when we were zero to ten years old. When you're a child you don't judge or analyze music. You just like it because you like it. You're not concerned with whether it's cool or not." - Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk
- BONUS: "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" [video]

- Depeche Mode: Violator [1990]
It's ironic that one the greatest Synth-Pop albums was created when Depeche Mode, who had originally vowed to never use guitars, actually picked them up, and then made them cry. If The Roots are #101, then this is #102. It hurt to not include it.
- BONUS: "Enjoy The Silence" [single edit video]

- Dinosaur Jr: You’re Living All Over Me [1987]
Sharp, ferocious Pop tunes slathered in distorted guitar noise, Dino Jr's second album is one of those 87/88 classics that was both a College Rock end and an Alt-Rock beginning.
- BONUS: "Little Fury Things" [video]

- Foo Fighters: Foo Fighters [1995]
He was "the drummer", and no one expected anything. Then he recorded one of the best Rock records of the 90's, playing virtually every instrument himself. If I recall, Rolling Stone said it was the midpoint between Hüsker Dü and Cheap Trick, which was exactly right. Ringo never did this good, and he was in the fuckin' Beatles.
- BONUS: "Exhausted" [live in London, 1995]

- Gang Starr: Daily Operation [1992]
With both Guru and DJ Premier hitting their strides, this album positioned Gang Starr as an enduring outfit in street level Hip-Hop, at the forefront of the jazziness of that era, but still keeping NYC hard.
- BONUS: "Take It Personal" [video]

- Green Day: Dookie [1994]
What do I really have to say? A fun-as-hell blast of teen rebellion and affirmations of youth. It feels good to type 'green day' into YouTube and still get "Basket Case" on top of all the bloated American Idiot videos.
- BONUS: "Basket Case" [video]

- Guided By Voices: Alien Lanes [1995]
Does your favorite band put 28 songs on their albums? Not unless they're GBV. Bob Pollard & crew didn't change their neo-nugget strategy when they signed to Matador: "The cost for recording Alien Lanes, if you leave out the beer, was about ten dollars." - author James Greer
- BONUS: "Game Of Pricks" [live at Amoeba Records, CA, 2002]

- PJ Harvey: Rid Of Me [1993]
With one of the most sexually forceful, enduring lines in Rock history - "Lick my legs, I'm on fire!!" - Harvey really got going with a boney collection of bluesy punk (or punky blues), flipping the phallic nation of Rock & Roll males on their asses, cast in rough tones by producer Steve Albini.
- BONUS: "Rid Of Me" [live in Sydney, 2001]

- Hüsker Dü: Warehouse – Songs & Stories [1987]
A virtually forgotten classic double album, mostly because their other double offering, 1984's Zen Arcade, is even better. On this, their mammoth last album, the Huskers presented a clear blueprint for all the buzzy alt-pop-punk of the 90's, from Nirvana to Green Day to Blink-182, and especially the Foo Fighters.
- BONUS: "Could You Be The One?" [video]

- Ice Cube: Death Certificate [1991]
Between the landmark AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, and the hits of Predator (like "It Was A Good Day" and "Check Yo Self"), Cube dropped this brutal, under-appreciated classic. It's surely one of the most vitriolic, controversial looks at life in the ghetto to ever make the top five.
- BONUS: "True To The Game" [video]

- Jane’s Addiction: Nothing Shocking [1988]
A world apart from the Sunset Strip hair bands, this album galvanized the other L.A. sound, a narcotized scene of murky psychedelia and bonkers funk, with Jane's playing post-hardcore Led Zeppelin to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone's revival mix of Gang of Four and P-Funk.
- BONUS: "Mountain Song" [video]

- Jay-Z: Reasonable Doubt [1996]
A debut teetering at the end of the grimy era and the beginning of the jiggy era; considering it's so obesessed with mob violence and the drug trade, the tracks are remarkably laidback, jazzy, and frankly elegant, while only hinting at the lyrical genius to come.
- BONUS: "Can't Knock The Hustle" [video]

- LCD Soundsystem: LCD Soundsystem [2005]
The next-century culmination of NYC in 1977, with Punk, New Wave, Hip-Hop and Disco all mixed in the blender of a ranting, chanting potbellied DJ who sounds like he’s got congestion problems, birthing a revolution in dance music for shy wallflowers, refreshingly played on instruments instead of on computers and turntables.
- BONUS: "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House" [single edit video]

- Madvillain (MF Doom & Madlib): Madvillainy [2004]
Scatter-brained and smoked-out, underground hero/villain MF Doom united with cracked-genius producer Madlib as one of the greatest teams in Hip-Hop’s history, the perfect soundtrack for new-millennial backpackers with their munchies settling in for some late night cartoon networking.
- BONUS: "All Caps" [video]

- M.I.A.: Arular [2005]
Maya emerged so quickly that the press could barely keep up, but that was because the girl was destined for post-modern stardom, presenting electro Hip-Hop as a global rallying cry, and mobilizing the world’s guerrilla thinkers to the dancefloor.
- BONUS: "Galang" [video]

- Modest Mouse: The Moon & Antarctica [2000]
Four years before the world floated on, Modest Mouse made the best of their many great albums, an ambitious, willfully arty miasma of post-emo-whatever-core, as much influenced by Tom Waits and the Talking Heads as Fugazi and the Pixies.
- BONUS: "3rd Planet" [live on Austin City Limits]

- Morrissey: Your Arsenal [1992]
His solo career after The Smiths started off nice enough, but as he finally grew to an arena act in the US, he tanked on Kill Uncle. Its failure only served to highlight the rollicking triumph of this album, his best solo effort, and one of his best collections of lyrics over his 20+ year career.
- BONUS: "Tomorrow" [video]

- Mos Def: Black On Both Sides [1999]
Just a year removed from Black Star, Mos took a giant artistic leap by trying to be the Rap Stevie Wonder. And fuck if he didn’t stick the landing, producing this beautiful, deep work of lasting, emotional – and fun – Hip-Hop, full of his infectious personality.
- BONUS: "Ms. Fat Booty" [video]

- My Bloody Valentine: Isn’t Anything [1988]
I guess you could say it was the calm before the storm, but the post-Sonic Youth rockets here are the farthest thing from calm. Garage Pop as air raid, strafing the UK with walls of noise; it was only a hint of what was to come next.
- BONUS: "Feed Me With Your Kiss" [video]

- NOFX: Punk In Drublic [1994]
An enduring classic from an enduring band, laying the foundation for countless bands in the late 90’s and on, not just from the lightning gallop of their intelligent punk manifestos, but also in their independent label and touring prowess.
- BONUS: "Leave It Alone" [video]

- Pearl Jam: Ten [1991]
The album that everyone wanted on the list, still beloved by millions (I guess). Hey, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great Rock album, and it represents a special time for me too, but I left it off because the weaker songs feel a bit dated now, and because if influence is part of the equation, then this album isn’t good enough to escape that it has unfortunately done more harm than good. Still, you should own it by now.
- BONUS: "Porch" [live at the 1992 Pinkpop Festival]

- Pearl Jam: Vitalogy [1994]
PJ were the first to buck Grunge and embrace both their inner balladeer and their teenage punk past with this album. It gets a lot of heat for its arty experiments, but strip them away to find ten gems, from the hardcore of “Spin The Black Circle” and “Whipping”, to the personal struggles of “Better Man” and “Immortality”.
- BONUS: "Corduroy" [live, 2005]

- Prefuse 73: One Word Extinguisher [2003]
Scott Herren didn’t invent the marriage of sample collages and the rhythms of Hip-Hop; DJ Shadow and The Avalanches had done it to beautiful effect. What Herren did that was special was cutting the samples to miniscule length, and having the jump-cuts create the rhythm. This album, and its companion Extinguished: Outtakes, are as fun as they are fascinating.
- BONUS: "The End Of Biters-International" [video]

- Primal Scream: Vanishing Point [1997]
- Primal Scream: XTRMNTR [2000]
They were flower children, druggy rave heroes, and the British Black Crowes. Then on these brilliant albums, they were cinematic dub-echo explorers and noisy cyberpunks, each time reinventing themselves. It just goes to show that Primal Scream continues to be the most exciting band that no one remembers to talk about.
- BONUS: "Kowalski" [single edit video]
- BONUS: "Kill All Hippies" [single edit video]

- Raekwon: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… [1995]
Despite being almost as overrated as Brian DePalma’s Scarface, which it’s largely responsible for pushing into the Hip-Hop consciousness, it is nevertheless a masterpiece of criminal tales in Rap, with The Chef as Tony Montana, and Ghostface as Manny.
- BONUS: "Incarcerated Scarfaces" [video]

- The Replacements: Pleased To Meet Me [1987]
In the 80’s, the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, got the two best punk bands; like Hüsker Dü’s Warehouse, The ‘Mats second major label album (and fifth overall) saw them perfecting their sound while disintegrating as a unit. A blueprint for so many 90’s bands, it was a perfect balance of the sharp melodies of their future and the fucked-up trash of their past.
- BONUS: "Alex Chilton" [video]

- Ride: Nowhere [1990]
Ride were a good band, but this great album was a case of ‘right place, right time’, perfectly placed between My Bloody Valentine’s squall and The La’s pop tunes. The result included “Vapour Trail”, one of the most exquisite singles of the early 90’s, a song bands like The Stone Roses or U2 would’ve given their left nut to write.
- BONUS: "Vapour Trail" [video]

- Rocket From The Crypt: Scream, Dracula, Scream [1995]
The best Punk album to come out of the 1990’s; in case you haven’t heard, the late great Rocket From The Crypt were pretty much the best live band ever, with the show-stopping energy of James Brown colliding head-on with the sheer force of The Who, both at their late 60’s peaks, and then played double-time. On this album, they poured it all into the vinyl grooves.
- BONUS: "Born In '69" [video]

- Sebadoh: Bakesale [1994]
I wonder if any of the Rock underground really had any faith in Lou Barlow when he left Dinosaur Jr, because he definitely made great music with Sebadoh. Basically becoming an Alt. Rock troubadour in the mold of Paul Simon or Jackson Browne, he wrote eternal, hummable tunes, and then grafted them onto buzzing post-Nirvana rave-ups. This was their tipping point – the moment when everything just clicked.
- BONUS: "Rebound" [video]

- Sleater-Kinney: Dig Me Out [1997]
After years of the Riot Grrrls screaming their message without having music that was necessarily good enough to match the words, Sleater-Kinney harnessed all the power of the movement by allowing it to mature a little, growing a breakthrough album of irrepressible punk fury that managed to break out of Punk's narrow-minded box.
- BONUS: "Dig Me Out" [live at CBGB's, 1997]

- Slint: Spiderland [1991]
A harsh album, almost like art-rock by Ennio Morricone for a post-punk age, it stands at the crossroads of multiple styles of underground Rock. To hear it now is to hear dozens of bands that have followed in Slint’s little-known footsteps, appropriating the flailing dynamics and the expansive arrangements for their own explorations.
- BONUS: "Good Morning, Captain" [live, 05.07]

- Elliott Smith: Elliott Smith [1995]
This is where Smith really started to pick up momentum, with one of his best sets of songs, all hushed acoustic majesty. Of course, “Needle In The Hay” was immortalized in Wes Anderson’s Royal Tenenbaums, but just as good are “Southern Belle”, “Christian Brothers”, and "The Biggest Lie".
- BONUS: "Needle In The Hay" [live in Tempe, 05.97]

- Elliott Smith: XO [1998]
After his Oscar nomination, it was time for Elliott to reach for the brass ring. He dove head first into all of his George Martin and Brian Wilson studio fantasies, producing this lush collection of mature pop ballads without losing his personality or edge.
- BONUS: "Waltz #2 (XO)" [live on Later with Jools Holland]

- Spoon: Girls Can Tell [2001]
Their first classic, almost totally reinventing themselves from the scrappy punk band they’d been just 5 years and one bad major label experience before. Informed by everyone from Squeeze to The Kinks to Liz Phair, it's an accessible masterpiece of late-night Pop.
- BONUS: "Everything Hits At Once" [video]

- Sunny Day Real Estate: Diary [1994]
This is what I call “Emo”, though for the most part it sounds nothing like what came before it or after it. Frontman Jeremy Enigk spits and whines baffling narratives, while the music manages to be languid and tightly-wound at the same time, packing the epic scope of U2’s Joshua Tree into tense post-rock.
- BONUS: "In Circles" [video]

- Tool: Ænima [1996]
I never understood why critics hate this album. If you throw 70’s prog-rock like Red-era King Crimson and the Peter Gabriel-fronted Genesis in a blender with Metallica’s And Justice For All and a pinch of the fiery rebelliousness of Punk and comedian Bill Hicks, you get this ambitious record, the best of the scarce good things to come out of “Nu Metal”.
- BONUS: "Ænema" [video]

- TV On The Radio: Young Liars EP [2003]
I remember the day I bought like it was yesterday; I felt triumphant that I was able to find it. Sounding like a dozen disparate influences at once – Suicide, Peter Gabriel, Doo-Wop, Phil Specter, Radiohead, among others – and yet the result was the most original thing I had heard in ages. Only 5 songs (4 originals, one Pixies cover), but those flawless songs slay, especially the freak-gospel of “Young Liars” and the cinematic blizzard of “Blind”.
- BONUS: "Staring At The Sun" [single edit video]

- Ultramagnetic MC’s: Critical Beatdown [1988]
The discarded plans to the castle, in a way; probably the most underrated Hip-Hop album of all-time, in relation to the moment it came out. Ced Gee had helped to shape B.D.P.’s debut, and on this album, he beat Public Enemy and N.W.A. to a lot of the punches they’d throw just months later. At the center, the infamous Kool Keith, fresh out of the mad house, and straight up to the mic to ‘smack his bitch up like a pimp’.
- BONUS: "Give The Drummer Some" [audio]

- Underworld: Dubnobasswithmyheadman [1993]
Prog-New-Wave has-beens see the fork in the road – break up and get real jobs, or reinvent themselves as rave DJ’s. They choose the latter, and go on to become one of the biggest electronic acts of the decade. It may not thump as hard as their later hits, but this is still their strongest album throughout, as well as the first great Electronica album.
- BONUS: "Cowgirl" [live video]

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