Some albums I think you might like, part 3


Abr 25 2011, 9h55

I had originally intended to leave you with only the 13ish albums I had previously recommended to you (because I like applying brevity wherever I can) but I decided to write up some more for a few reasons!
1) From what little you have told me about the movie recs coming my way, I've inferred that you have a very large list! Almost certainly more than 13. I feel like THIS list needs to compensate. It probably never can, though, because music is more accessible of an artform than film, both economically and practically (although film makes up for this by being more universal in its critical standards).
2) Pretty much all of those albums from the first two entries could be characterized as new wavey pop albums. While this is, broadly speaking, my favorite genre of music, I feel limiting my recommendations to that kind of genre scope undersells my taste and also yours.
3) I actually really enjoyed writing semi-critical thoughts on albums I very much like. It's pretty hard work, though, and I can't imagine doing it for music that I don't have feelings for.
4) Mild triskaidekaphobia (although the more I think about it, the more it seems that there were actually 14 albums in the past two posts).

So here are some more musical things that I enjoy and think other people (you) should enjoy in no particular order.

Public Image Ltd. - Album (1986)

Genre: post-punk/alternative rock
Samples: "Rise," "Bags," "Ease"
PiL, if you're not familiar, is the band that John Lydon formed after the Sex Pistols disowned him for being a gigantic jackass. PiL's initial incarnation, the one that got all the critical praise, mostly played a kind of post-punk that was totally not rocking and not fun at all. Starting with about this record, PiL in a much more accessible direction, thus pissing off his fanbase and critics. Nowadays he's continuing to bother everyone who takes their subversiveness too seriously by being old and fat, reforming both his bands, and starring in butter commercials. So what makes John Lydon any better than other people who make their livings as culture trolls? Basically it boils down to "I think he made some pretty great music." (The music in question is the widely-reviled late 80s PiL output, though, so you should probably take all this with a grain of salt.)

I guess not very many of those words were actually about this album. Kind of fair, because pretty much everything Lydon-related is inextricably linked to his media persona (hence the name of the band). Well, uh, it's mostly a hard rock album, although very much influenced by both an off-kilter pop sensibility and the post-punk of PiL's past. I feel this makes it an entertaining listen. Also there's probably a discussion to be had here about music that simply isn't very meaningful without knowledge of its artistic context.

The Go! Team - Rolling Blackouts (2011)
( doesn't have a page/image for this album despite it being a recent high-profile release, so have a picture of the band instead)

Genre: electronic indie pop
Samples: "Buy Nothing Day," "T.O.R.N.A.D.O.," "Ready To Go Steady"
Lo-fi sample-driven indie pop, drawing on a bunch of disparate influences that include early hip-hop, funk, girl group pop, noise rock, and classic television soundtracks. It's enormously fun pop music (probably the best pop album released so far this year). Quite frankly, it's a blast. This is kind of a cliched thing to say, but if it applies to anything it applies to this band: "if you hate this then you probably hate fun." (So if you do hate them, don't tell me about it.)

Morrissey - Your Arsenal (1992)

Genre: alternative rock
Samples: "Tomorrow," "You're The One For Me, Fatty," "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful"
Apparently Zack Snyder directed the "Tomorrow" video. Yeah, that Zack Snyder. Weird.

Anyways this is my favorite Morrissey solo album and arguably his strongest. It's interesting because it is actually a rock album- kind of a combination of glam rock, rockabilly, and indie pop. Compare to his previous solo albums, which were musically speaking mostly pretty straightforward 80s indie pop. In keeping with this newfound rockin' musical framework, Moz abandoned some of the whinier bits of his lyrical persona and manned up a little. This is where Moz started his journey from the lovable pussy he was in the 80s to the lovable dick we know him as today. (It's a little ironic to be describing Morrissey of all people in terms of genitalia, but the Team America model of people description is just useful for everything.)

Oh, also, in case you have never heard the hauntingly beautiful Morrissey + Siouxsie duet from a couple years after this: "Interlude." Two iconic voices for the price of one, hooray.

The Format - Dog Problems (2006)

Genre: indie pop
Samples: "She Doesn't Get It," "Dog Problems," "Oceans"
So there's this guy with the best pop-rock singing voice, right? His name is Nate Ruess and he was in this lovely little guitar pop band called The Format as its vocalist (naturally) and primary lyricist. Despite his amazing voice, he had RELATIONSHIP TROUBLES and was ultimately left by his girlfriend. As any lyricist in this situation would do, he went and wrote a bunch of bitter-but-kind-of-witty songs about his ex. You'd think these songs would be downbeat and depressing, musically speaking. But here's where this album is actually interesting: the songs are sunny and joyous and perfectly complement Mr. Ruess's bubbly vocals. I'd like to say it's the contrast of lyrics and sonics that make this album good, but really it's just the damn good songwriting, rooted in the best 70s pop-rock, 60s sunshine pop, and even vaudevillian music. It's pretty cool and I really like this! If you like it, you might also like Nate's current band, "fun.", which is musically very similar but has an unfortunate tendency to go on tour supporting some pretty embarassing bands.

Big Audio Dynamite - This Is Big Audio Dynamite (1985)

Genre: fusion
Samples: "E=MC^2," "The Bottom Line," "Bad"
Dude from widely-acknowledged-as-awesome alternative rock band joins up with visual artist to create... OTHER band. Other band fuses contemporary hip-hop with contemporary dance music and contemporary rock resulting in very forward-thinking critically acclaimed music. Where have we heard this before? Gorillaz, duh. To drive the connection home, the BAD founder in question, Mick Jones (formerly of The Clash) was actually involved with Plastic Beach last year.

BAD are pretty much exactly what a Gorillaz from 1985 would sound like. This music sounds dated as hell, yes. If you can get past that, it's also damn good music.

Sparks - Lil' Beethoven (2002)

Genre: art pop
Samples: "The Rhythm Thief," "My Baby's Taking Me Home," "Suburban Homeboy"
This album is really fucking brilliant and really needs to be experienced as the full suite of songs, not just a couple of Youtube samples. This is probably the only album in my collection that I feel this way about, if that exclusivity lends any weight to my recommendation.

I'm not really sure how I would characterize this album. Minimalist repetition-based pop music constructed almost entirely from chamber music instrumentation, maybe. As the name of the album suggests, it's probably meant to be taken in as art music and not as a pop album, and the material's strong enough to support an artful interpretation. Aesthetically, it's maybe a deconstruction of pop music circa 2002 (at least to the extent that the vague philosophical ideal of deconstruction can be applied to popular culture). Besides the sonic premise of the whole thing, it's pretty easy to read most of the songs as pastiches of contemporary musical genres. Come back to me after you listen and ask me about the specifics of my reading.

"But wait Adam you already recommended me a Sparks album! It was that one from the 70s with the gasping Japanese girls on the cover with a bad pun for a title!" Yeah, this is the same couple of wiseasses. But when they made that album they were in their 20s, and when they made this album they were in their 50s. It's kind of telling about what kind of band this is that they recorded this, arguably their masterpiece, nineteen albums and over thirty years into their career.

...more later.


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