Category Archives: The List 2012

2012 Favorite Records List. 20-11

Almost there!

20
Sonic Youth 1988
Daydream Nation
Score: 805 W/L/T: 48 / 3 / 8
Sonic Youth finally shows up! They typically have at least one appearance by this point in the list. This time, all their spots are in this segment.

This is a great one. It’s so big and daring and energetic, so much more complex and interesting than anything that came after it. And it sounds literally black to me. I’m not synesthetic, but in my head, this whole record happens against a glossy black background. And it smells like plastic tinged with a sour fruity ester (or an aldehyde maybe! like I know anything about organic/polymer chemistry). The smell is real, actually: it’s what the CD case smells like. And I can’t not smell it when I hear this record. I’m not sure where the black comes from, though. Could be the CD sleeve, or the room those candles are sitting in, or it could be the many dark Rochester winter nights I spent listening to this, eyes closed.

It’s all good: from the opening pair of the epic “Teenage Riot” and the blistering “Sliver Rocket”, all the way through to the grinding ZZ Top-inspired closer, “Eliminator Jr”. Lee’s “Rain King” and “Eric’s Trip” are great. I even like the Kim songs (actually I like most Kim songs, pre-“Jet Set…”). And even the sound collage “Providence” (the album’s first single in the UK, WTF) is great – because of those classic Mike Watt answering machine messages.

It’s a long one, but it’s a great coherent listen, if you’ve got the time.

19
The Breeders 1993
Last Splash
Score: 805 W/L/T: 36 / 12 / 7
I’ve been puzzling over this for a couple of days. Sure, I like this record, but I have to be honest here, there’s no way I like it better than Daydream Nation, or better than anything in the last segment, or in the segment before that even. This is really 20 or 30 places higher than it should be. This is making me question The Process.

Good album, though. Lots of fun songs, with space-Pixie Kim Deal front and center, making everything sound happy and yet just a little off-kilter. I still wonder why “Divine Hammer” was mixed to sound like it was coming from the room next door.

On further investigation… turns out this is probably a good place for it, based on the votes it won. Oh well. Guess I liked this one a lot better, a few weeks ago.

18
Miles Davis 1959
Kind Of Blue
Score: 824 W/L/T: 55 / 9 / 2
Relaxed. Melodic. Timeless.

The considerable technical and music-theoretical aspects seem irrelevant because it’s so easy to get into, so comfortable. Just sit back and let it play.

17
REM 1984
Reckoning
Score: 843 W/L/T: 40 / 7 / 9
To me, Murmur always sounds a little stiff and tentative; Fables and Pageant rock a little more, but are terribly uneven; Document and Green are just OK. But Reckoning is just right. Plus, it has “Harborcoat” and “Little America”.
16
Gillian Welch 1998
Hell Among The Yearlings
Score: 859 W/L/T: 57 / 2 / 11
Frankly, Revelator is their overall best album. This one is a bit simpler and more traditional than Revelator, and it doesn’t go as many places, or try to do as many things. But this one is higher for one simple reason: it has a higher concentration of my favorite Gillian Welch songs: “One Morning”, “Rock Of Ages”, “Caleb Meyer”, “The Devil Had Ahold Of Me” (all very dark) and the slow sleepy “My Morphine”.
15
The Pretenders 1980
The Pretenders
Score: 861 W/L/T: 44 / 5 / 4
The highest-placing of all the 18 debut releases on this List! And with good reason: it’s an amazing record. Chrissy Hynde is a phenomenal songwriter, and the original Pretenders line-up was a phenomenal band. They were a mainstay of early MTV, and it seems like I’d see “Brass In Pocket” and “Tattooed Love Boys” two or three times a day, each. I think my mother had this record when it came out, so when I finally got around to buying my own copy in college, it was all familiar. But it wasn’t until a decade or so after that that I really started to appreciate how good it was. I had to rediscover it.
14
Fleetwood Mac 1977
Rumors
Score: 866 W/L/T: 39 / 4 / 7
Y’all know this one, right? It’s the one that dominated the radio for a few years in the late 70s. The one where three certifiable pop geniuses and that killer rhythm section took a lot of drugs, fell out of love with, and then wrote songs about, each other. That one.
13
Sonic Youth 1987
Sister
Score: 890 W/L/T: 49 / 10 / 11
As with the previous two Gillian Welch records, the overall best album loses (though only by a little) to its predecessor. SY’s Daydream Nation is a bigger and better (and better for being bigger) than Sister, but Sister wins by simply having so many great catchy songs.

It’s a dark and murky record, much like the early Dino Jr records – I guess that’s the SST sound. Would love to hear a remix/remaster of this.

12
Cowboy Junkies 1988
The Trinity Session
Score: 905 W/L/T: 53 / 2 / 5
The Cowboy Junkies’ blend of organic country/blues and narcotic minimalism never sounded as good as they do here, on their second record. It was recorded in a church, into a single microphone, live (with Margo Timmins singing into a PA), and you can feel the restraint as everyone in the band works to avoid being too loud, all while playing the songs as slowly as they can without falling asleep. The result is a hypnotic and beautiful record.
11
ZZ Top 1973
Tres Hombres
Score: 921 W/L/T: 31 / 1 / 9
It’s a funky, dusty Texas blues record from the early 70s. Before they got silly. Before they got big. There are songs about Jesus, booty, beer and a strange (and reportedly true) song about some guys who build a round steel cage, put a person in it, and rolled it off the back of their moving pickup. OK, so it’s a little silly. But a different kind of silly than the spinning guitar thing.

2012 Favorite Records List. 10-1

Dragging this across the finish line…

10
Belly 1993
Star
Score: 931 W/L/T: 55 / 10 / 3
Though I was utterly hammered when it happened, I’m happy to say that I saw Belly in 1994. What a great band. And what a beautiful record.
9
The Beatles 1969
Abbey Road
Score: 947 W/L/T: 56 / 0 / 6
And what a way to wrap up (IMO) the best band ever! And what a distance they covered from “She Loves You” to “She’s So Heavy”. Whew.
8
Black Sabbath 1971
Paranoid
Score: 959 W/L/T: 50 / 4 / 7
Because, SHUT UP! That’s why.

Solid all the way through. None of the ballads that would plague their later records. Three absolute classics (Iron Man, War Pigs, Paranoid).

7
Talking Heads 1980
Remain In Light
Score: 964 W/L/T: 64 / 1 / 4
It was crazy and weird when I was 10, it’s still crazy and weird now. Even knowing they actually nicked a lot of the sound from Fela Kuti et al doesn’t change how otherworldly it feels.
6
Sea And Cake 1995
The Biz
Score: 980 W/L/T: 50 / 3 / 2
Restrained, but sunny. Mellow, but cool. The lighter side of the Biz / Nassau pair.
5
Pavement 1994
Crooked Rain Crooked Rain
Score: 1001 W/L/T: 54 / 2 / 8
When this came out, it seemed so accessible and catchy that Pavement’s mainstream success was a given. It took everything great about Pavement, cleaned it off, rubbed it to a beautiful deep gloss. Guaranteed success.

But it only looked that way to people who loved their previous records. In reality, this was still light years from mainstream. And really, if Belly couldn’t get there, there was no way Pavement was going to be able to.

So, fuck the mainstream. “Gold Soundz” shouldda won a fucking Pulitzer.

4
Pavement 1992
Slanted and Enchanted
Score: 1045 W/L/T: 54 / 3 / 3
Pretty much the epitome of early 90’s indie rock: take a solid hook and obscure it, bury it under so many layers of noise and cruft that most people won’t even bother looking for it. That way, you get to write great catchy songs but get to avoid being accused of wanting to.

I kid. How the fuck would I know what goes on in Malkmus’ head?

3
Sea And Cake 1994
Nassau
Score: 1058 W/L/T: 59 / 1 / 5
Belly, Sea And Cake, Pavement, Pavement, Sea And Cake – what am I, 40 ? Well, 41. So, yeah. The early 90’s were my heyday. I just can’t let go of these records – this one, especially.
2
A Tribe Called Quest 1993
Midnight Marauders
Score: 1105 W/L/T: 44 / 3 / 2
Q-Tip scores a big one! With assistance, of course.
1
Spoon 2001
Girls Can Tell
Score: 1148 W/L/T: 62 / 0 / 2
No surprise here; it was top in 2008 and 2010, too. It’s reached that hallowed status where I resist playing it for fear of wearing it out.

And that’s that!

The Beatles, Floyd, Sea And Cake, and the Stones all got four records on the list, while The Cure, Wilco, Zeppelin, Gillian Welch and Pavement all managed to get three each.

Here are the full results.