The List, 2006. #60-51

Today I close out the bottom fifty of my 100 favorite records. This time, all of them are American bands – three from Texas alone.


60. Spoon : Kill The Moonlight (2002)


Jonathan Fisk is a great little rocker; The Way We Get By does an awful lot with piano, handclaps and a little bass; Something To Look Forward To is exactly the kind of song that makes Spoon great: stripped-down, singable, power-pop. It’s not quite as strong as their previous record, “Girls Can Tell”, but it’s better than 99% of their contemporaries.

59. REM : Chronic Town (1982)


It’s just a little 5-song EP, but four of them are great. It’s tacked onto the end of their “Dead Letter Office” CD, where it feels a little out of place. But, it’s nice to get it, in effect, for free (with the purchase of DLO)

58. Gillian Welch : Revival (1996)


An relatively upbeat record, even if it starts with a (presumably autobiographical) song about being an orphan: “No mother, no father, no sisters, no brothers / I am an orphan girl”. So many of these songs sound so old-timey that it’s hard to believe they’re all originals. But these two do that old-school country/bluegrass sound so well, everything sounds like they’re doing faithful covers of old songs.

57. Lilys : A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns (1994)


This is a short little record that catches The Lilys in a brief Big Star / Teenage Fanclub phase (in the middle of their My Bloody Valentine phase, before their Kinks phase). There are only 5 real songs here (the sixth is a silly little bit of noise), and two of them fail to break two minutes in length. But every song is a gem: great melodies, great dynamics, fun (if opaque) lyrics. On one hand it’s a shame the record wasn’t longer, in case there’s a chance they had more songs like this; on the other, the record’s pretty much perfect as-is.

56. Codeine : Frigid Stars (1990)


One Saturday afternoon, my college roommates, their girlfriends, and I returned home, put two CDs in the player and sat around, snacking and talking. The first CD was Pearl Jam’s 10, I think. It went by without much notice. This was next. From the time it started until it stopped nobody in the room moved or spoke. When it ended, the sun had gone down, and we were all sitting in the dark. I think we all let out a sigh at the same time. It’s slow and heavy, but melodic, and at times, touching.

55. The Shins : Chutes Too Narrow (2003)


Their first full album, “Oh, Inverted World” was pretty good. It was interesting, different, but far too processed – the whole deep reverb, spacey keyboard thing was a little overdone, to my ears. So this album was a big surprise: without all that spacey atmospheric stuff, you can hear the vocals and the guitars – and they’re rocking. A totally solid, if very short, record. Ten fun, bouncy, jangly pop songs, with great lyrics.

54. The Sea And Cake : The Biz (1995)


The overall feel is a bit breezier, but it basically continues along with the same clean, crisp, Latin-jazz-tinged rock as their previous record, “Nassau”. They came out the same year, so it’s not surprising that the two albums are similar. If this places farther down the list than “Nassau”, that’s probably just because I heard “Nassau” first and it made such a whopping first impression.

53. Stevie Ray Vaughan : Texas Flood (1983)


He was just so ridiculously good. He made it sound like playing guitar was just too easy – he couldn’t help but put impossible little licks here and there, just to keep himself from falling asleep. And, I’m always amazed that he used these super-heavy guitar strings (a .13 for the high E) – to my scrawny little fingers, that feels like playing a bass – but bent and wiggled the things like they were ultra-lights. Yeah, he brings out the guitar geek in me.

52. ZZ Top : Tres Hombres (1973)


Sure, the whole Sharp Dressed Man / Legs thing from “Eliminator” was a drag. It was everywhere, back in the mid-80’s. But this came out ten years before that; this is raw, gritty, John Lee Hooker-esque Texas blues. There aren’t any keyboards or goofy videos here – just a bunch of shit-kickin songs.

51. The Feelies : Crazy Rhythms (1980)


A bunch of jittery, nervous songs that sound something like a sped-up Talking Heads / Velvet Underground / Television hybrid: a lot of crisp, jangly guitars, anti-guitar-hero solos, nervous detached vocals. There’s a lot of empty space in these songs – wood blocks click in an empty room; lone guitars ring out here and there; Loveless Love takes over a minute before it really starts; Forces At Work takes 1:45 to fade up to full volume. And like the Velvet Underground, The Feelies are happy to sit on a chord for two or three minutes before changing to something else. And like Television, they shun blues-based riffing and solos. Yet, instead of difficult or pretentious, the way those other bands can sometimes feel, The Feelies make it seem fun.

Next time, Wednesday, I break on through into the Top 50!

Previous 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61.