7 January

My 25 Most Influential Albums

The Top 25This a re-post from a Facebook note that I did about a year ago that I have been asked repeatedly to post here. So here you have it folks!

March 02, 2009

Well , here is my list. There are numerous omissions that upon review might be placed upon this if I wanted to dedicate the time and the internal (and eternal) debate I would have to have with myself… but I decided to go with a more stream-of-consciousness approach to this task….maybe I should have included Dire Straits, Iron Maiden – Yeah I said it..  Maiden!! or perhaps Elliott Smith or Depeche Mode. Perhaps a thousand others, I mean where is Otis Redding on this list?!? One thing is certain, I believe that the music you discover during your late teens and twenty’s holds the most power over you.
The White Album – The Beatles
This is the beginning of the end for the Fab 4 and is often overlooked in comparison with Sgt. Pepper’s and Revolver, but this one takes the cake for me for sheer raw energy and risk taking.
Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes
When I first heard this, there was no such label of ‘alternative music’ It was called College Radio back then, and I had WRBC (We’re Radio Bates College). This album made me feel a couple of years older than I was and now it makes me feel a couple years younger. Put this one on and everyone can sing along.
Nothing’s Shocking – Jane’s Addiction
This album took all the metal that I had been listening too from the few previous years and channeled it into a genre I had not heard before. The song “Ted, Just Admit It…” makes great commentary about the state of the media that is even far more relevant today.
Being There– Wilco
Ever been lonely and sad? I know Hank Williams has been and I know Jeff Tweedy has too. The way Jeff sings, ‘I am so… out of tune… with you…” makes me want to end a relationship just so I can sit in the dark and listen to that song over and over sitting in front of my stereo with a bottle of Knob Creek, and a good pair of headphones.
Led Zeppelin II – Led Zeppelin
Every fucking riff is a monster. Every. Single. One.
The Wall – Pink Floyd
Critics say Dark Side but this album is epic and it also takes some work to listen to. I’m not so sure that the I-tunes generation has the attention span to appreciate this one. I had two Sunday Paper routes which allowed me plenty of time to listen start to finish… and listen I did… over and over.
Tim – The Replacements
This is the album that captured when you graduate from being a boy into being a man, but as most women realize, we’ll always have a little of the boy in us, and they like that.
Disintegration – The Cure
There is a South Park episode and at the end when Robert Smith walks off into the sunset, Kyle screams “Disintegration is the best album ever!!!”. He was right. I wish I could write songs like this.
August and Everything After – Counting Crows
Full of hope and heartbreak, It’s an album that will always take you home.
Straight Out of Compton – NWA
My first day in boot camp, I was roomed with 3 big imposing black guys from South LA. The white boy from Maine sang em’ every word of this album and they loved me from that day forward. Take note, that Nothing’s Shocking, Appetite for Destruction, and Straight Out of Compton all came out of LA at the same time. LA was angry place to be at the end of the 80’s. People were Pissed Off. No surprise the Rodney King incident came shortly after.
Highway to Hell – AC/DC
What can I say that has not been said before. Bon Scott’s eulogy. I would have liked to see what was to come.
Back in Black – AC/DC
This album completes’ the One/Two Punch that began with Highway to Hell. Pure power in the face of tragedy, cause “Rock ‘n’ roll it will Survive… yes it will!”
In My Tribe – 10,000 Maniacs
Beautiful, voice, lyrics, imagery, and music. The girls going off to college loved this band. I loved this band. I was always mixed that the band decided to take Peace Train off the album due to the whole Cat Stevens/Salman Rushdie affair, as I hated that song (all versions), but I also think once you release a piece of work… well, you’ve released a piece of work…..
American Beauty – Grateful Dead
This might seem like the easy choice, and maybe it is, but it has tons of songs I like and seeing the Dead in concert was always like Sunshine Daydream… ‘walking in the tall tress… going where the wind blows…blooming, blooming like a red rose, and breathing more freely.’
Cold Roses – Ryan Adams
Brilliant, beautiful, haunting, sad and bracing. All by wunderkind Adams and his new band the Cardinals. We all knew the kid could write brilliant songs at an evolutionary rate that could make an argument for creationism, and this album puts forth a double work. Every 3 months or so my favorite songs on this album get completely reconfigured.
London Calling – The Clash
The birth of smart punk. Buy this album, now.
Decoration Day – The Drive By Truckers
This album made me fall in love with the band. It was originally to have been entitled Heathen’s, after the song of the same name. Having grown up in the South as a kid, I have an admiration for the South and a reflection on how it is misunderstood. Let these guys blow away your misconceptions.
Rain Dogs – Tom Waits
If you have to pick one. I would choose this. His work is diverse and dynamic, orchestrated in the streets… which is well represented by this album. Another piece of work, brilliant start to finish. Hope and tragedy. “Rain dogs” are dogs which become lost after the rain washes away the scent of home, thus barring their return. Aren’t we all a little like that out there in the world?
It Still Moves – My Morning Jacket
The Haunting Reverb of the Velvet Underground mixed with 2 parts Kentucky Bourbon, 1 part of ‘Who Give’s A Fuck?’, and 3 Parts of Musical Reverance to the American male, who knows that within his blood, there’s gasoline.
What’s The Story (Morning Glory) – Oasis
Conflict equals creation. A fantastic 2nd album for a band with a lot to prove and an even bigger chip on their shoulder. Wonderwall might be one of the best anthems from the 90’s.
The Joshua Tree – U2
I always thought U2 were at there best when their songs were trying to be carved in stone. The interesting thing is that the hits on this album have stood the test of time, but it was the songs that were not hits on this album that I thought were the better songs. Usually a sign of good work. Red Hill Mining Town. One Tree Hill. Running to Stand Still…. Pure magic.
Black Holes and Revelations – MUSE
I have seen the future of Rock and Roll and they are called MUSE. One of the best live bands I have ever seen. This album is fantastic in it’s conception and execution. I cannot believe a record company let a band take a risk like this, other than the fact that it is brilliant.
The Eminem Show– Eminem
Yeah, he’s all you say about him, but the fact is he has mad rhyming skills yo. Way mad. Wicked Mad. I think you get it.
Little Earthquakes – Tori Amos
An amazing creation as a first release. Start to finish, haunting and beautiful.
Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
I know there’s a whole Springsteen revival happening right now.
But maybe we’re all just scared and we’re thinking that maybe we ain’t that young anymore.
Any maybe the only redemption we can offer is what’s inside of us.
And if we show a little faith, there’s magic in the night…
It’s out there somewhere, and if we sit tight, grab hold…..Thunder Road.
5 January

Protest Songs

upsidedownflagAs I flipped on the news today, I heard yet another story about the war.  This one was all too familiar in it’s ending, it involved a double Afghan agent, a bombing, a local Massachusetts man among multiple dead, and a wife and children left behind to cope. This story got me to thinking about the family left behind and then I was reminded of a song.

If I were to ask a question about music in contrast with the topic of war, I think most people would first conjure up protest songs. Songs from Dylan, Lennon, Neil Young… 4 Dead in Ohio, Eve of Destruction, etc. Perhaps, they would answer songs from Toby Keith, who would like to put a boot in the ass of somebody ‘Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue’. Maybe, just maybe… they would associate it with a pro-war song, Over There,  written by George Cohan,  a call to arms song for men to Europe and do their duty.

Jason Isbell (formerly of the Drive By truckers) recently reminded me of another type of song about war, and that is about the personal one: the human cost of war and it’s impact on those left behind. It is a strange phenomenon and a great feat to write a song that is filled with such honesty and emotion about a topic  so sad, that the song in itself becomes beautiful. Jason Isbell has accomplished this with his song Dress Blues, a tribute to his friend Matt Conley who was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Iraq.

Jason is one of the most original songwriters I have heard in recent years. His work, while a member of the Drive By Truckers, contain some of my favorite songs from the group. I look forward to hearing more of his work and to share this song and artist with you.

The purpose of this posting was not to bring protest to the war, but to highlight an artist that has tackled a difficult topic with music that is poignant and perhaps also healing. I challenge you to try and keep a dry eye while listening to this song. If you would like the back-story you can click here: Matt Conley

Dress Blues - Jason Isbell

What can you see from your window?
I can’t see anythin’ from mine
Flags on the side of the highway
And scripture on grocery store signs

Maybe eighteen was too early
Maybe thirty or forty is too
Did you get your chance to make peace with the man
Before He sent down his angels for you?

Mamas and grand mamas love you
‘Cause that’s all they know how to do
You never planned on the bombs in the sand
Or sleepin’ in your dress blues

Your wife said this all would be funny
When you got back home in a week
Turn twenty two and we’d celebrate you
In a bar or a tent by the creek

Your baby would just about be here
And your very last tour would be up
But you won’t be back, they’re all dressin’ in black
Drinkin’ sweet tea in Styrofoam cups

Mamas and grand mamas love you
American boys hate to lose
You never planned on the bombs in the sand
Or sleepin’ in your dress blues

The high school gymnasium’s ready
Full of flowers and old Legionnaires
Nobody showed up to protest
Just sniffle and stare

There’s red, white and blue in the rafters
And there’s silent old men from the Corps
What did they say when they shipped you away
To fight somebody’s Hollywood war?

Nobody here could forget you
You showed us what we had to lose
You never planned on the bombs in the sand
Or sleepin’ in your dress blues
You never planned on the bombs in the sand
Or sleepin’ in your dress blues

Here is a gut-wrenching, solo, acoustic performance from Austin, TX:

21 December

Your Flowers Are Withering

Passion PitChristmas has come early for yours truly, as I have just recieved tickets to one of the most anticipated homecoming shows, that Boston has seen in some time… Yes, I am talking about Passion Pit. If I had to publish a year-end list and reflected on the music that best shaped my year, Passion Pit would be right near the top.

Electronic music is once again on every-one’s minds as we have moved away from the techno-era of 12 minute never-ending beats and moved back into song craftsmanship and pop-sensibilities. This is what wonder-kid Michael Angelakos has created, with an interesting story of an original mixed-tape made for his sweetie on Valentine’s Day, that quickly ushered in a major-label deal, Michael proved with his full-length release, Manners,  that his talent was no fluke. What he does best, is craft original happy pop songs and synths that will leave you humming the melodies for days. The songs are the perfect blend of bittersweet lyrics coupled with music that evokes hope and happiness.

If you happen to be in Boston on 01/06/2010, please join me and catch the show at the House of Blues on Landsdowne Street. They will not be back in the States for some time as they head to Austrailia, Japan, and Europe. If you can’t make it, at least check out the new album!

Moth’s Wings - Passion Pit

19 December

The Uprising

10/25/2009 - Oslo Norway

10/25/2009 - Oslo Norway

In 2007, I witnessed what may become the most revolutionary live show in music take the stage at Austin City Limits. The White Stripes had cancelled a week before, bringing much disappointment to many, as they were looking forward to Jack and Meg doing their schtick before a crowd of 70,000. The act that was to play before them (and now moved into their time-slot) was a band called MUSE. They had garnered a cult-like following in Europe where their live show was rumored to be something of an onslaught of the senses. They had already headlined the Glastonbury and Reading Rock Festivals and had been awarded ‘Best Live Band’ by multiple magazines and Reader’s Polls. I remember thinking to myself, “How had I missed hearing any music by this band?!?” 

When MUSE hit the stage, the impact of the sheer volume, lights, and energy hit me like a sledgehammer to the chest. I remember turning to my friend Brian who had accompanied me, and asking him if someone had spiked my drink? This was the only other plausible explanation for what had just happened to me. However, upon looking around, it appeared that everyone was in a transfixed hypnotic state, mouths open, eyes wide, in total awe of what they were seeing. As someone who has witnessed some amazing shows and probably logs more concert time per year than industry folk, I believe that MUSE might be the best live show I have ever seen. I do not say this lightly. 

Needless to say MUSE has just released new US tour dates including 03/06/2010 at the yet again, newly re-named ‘TD Garden’ in Boston. You can be sure I will be front row center for this band. I have it on good source that they will be headlining the Coachella Festival this April,  but this is yet unconfirmed by promoters or the band. 

So if looking for a good Christmas present, to give others (or yourself!!!) check the concert dates here: http://muse.mu/tour-dates/ 

You will not be dissapointed! 

Check out the song Hysteria from MUSE’s Absolution album. 

Hysteria - MUSE 

… and here is the accompanying live video:

3 December

Decide What to Be, and Go Be It.

Austin City Limits Festival 10/02/2009

Austin City Limits Festival 10/02/2009

The best show I saw at the 2009 Austin City Limits Festival, was an early Friday afternoon show by the Avett Brothers, a band from North Carolina that has been building quite a buzz for the past few years. They were also the very first band we saw of the festival. Now, it’s almost anti-climactic when at ACL fest to see the best band right out of the gate, as this is a festival with 130 bands and included the likes of Pearl Jam, Ben Harper, The Dave Mathews Band and countless other talents. I would compare the experience to marrying the first girl/guy you kissed or buying the first house listing you see. However, their infectious boot stomping and sing alongs brought many a smile under the hot Austin sun and it even inspired two people who were with me to buy their new album before the festival had even concluded. Trying to classify their music is a formulation of bluegrass, punk, pop, country, all tossed in a dirty canvas bag with a big ol’ flask of honky-tonk. Their music most recently caught the attention of producer-extraordinaire, Rick Rubin who signed on for their latest release, I and Love and You, (which is probably in the top three albums for me of 2009).

The song included below is the third track off the new album and has been on constant repeat for me for the past month.  I can’t classify exactly why I like it except for good musicianship, infectious melody, beautiful harmonies, and honest lyrics that are filled with hope.  Enjoy.

From September 8 to October 8 2009, in conglomeration with the upcoming release of the album, I and Love and You, the Avett Brothers released 13 short videos describing their music and fans. The videos show clips from past concerts, fan interviews and talks from the Avetts themselves. Click here to see the release for Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise.

Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise - The Avett Brothers

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’ll never reject it
Decide what to be, and go be it

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

There’s a darkness upon you that’s flooded in light
And in the fine print they tell you what’s wrong and what’s right
And it flies by day and it flies by night
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

2 December

Needle In The Hay

As I opened my recent issue of Paste Magazine, there was an interesting list of the the Best 25 Films of the Past Decade, with The Royal Tenenbaums coming in at #10. I was pleasantly surprised last night, when after the President’s address, this very film was being shown on one of the many movie channels that are included with my cable package.

In one of the most  disturbing scenes of the movie, the character Richie (Luke Wilson), attempts suicide with a razor-blade while the song “Needle In The Hay” by Elliott Smith is played. I discovered the album this track appears on shortly before Smith did the soundtrack for Good Will Hunting and has always been one of my favorites. The beautifully sung, but yet desperate lyrics of someone in the throes of drug dependency, made for a poignant contrast and also made the song a fan favorite.  Unfortunately, fact can often follow fiction, and Elliott Smith, after a long battle with drug addiction and depression committed suicide in 2003.

This post may seem like a downer, especially on the 2nd day of December, with us all flying straight for the sun of the Holiday Season… but it left me with a reminder that Christmas is the most likely time of year for depression. 2009 has been especially tough on many. The idyllic storybook family pictures we witness on television are usually anything but the norm, and for anyone who has experienced loss, it is often a time of reflection. So if you are finding yourself anything but joyous, remember that you are not alone… and please go easy on yourself and others. No one is a Needle in the Hay.

and if all of that is a little bit heavy, at least check out the great song!!

Needle In The Hay -  Elliott Smith

Your hand on his arm
Haystack charm around your neck
Strung out and thin
Calling some friend, trying to cash some check
He’s acting dumb
That’s what you’ve come to expect
Needle in the hay
Needle in the hay
Needle in the hay
Needle in the hay
He’s wearing your clothes
Head down to toes, a reaction to you
You say you know what he did
But you idiot kid, you don’t have a clue
Sometimes they just get caught in the eye, you’re pulling him through
Needle in the hay
Needle in the hay
Needle in the hay
Needle in the hay
Now on the bus
Nearly touching this dirty retreat
Falling out 6th and Powell, a dead sweat in my teeth
Gonna walk walk walk
Four more blocks, plus the one in my brain
Down downstairs to the man, he’s gonna make it all okay
I can’t be myself
I can’t be myself
And I don’t want to talk
I’m taking the cure
So I can be quiet whenever I want
So leave me alone
You ought to be proud that I’m getting good marks
Needle in the hay
Needle in the hay
Needle in the hay
Needle in the hay

Also… on a hypocritical and lighter note, check out the video below from Sad Kermit, if you have not yet checked out this website, it is truly demented….