The List, 2006, #20-11

The teens! Almost done.


20. Pixies : Surfer Rosa / Come On Pilgrim (1987/88)

Two at once? Yeah, they always felt like they should be combined into one record, to me. My second year of college, a new kid moved into the dorm room across the hall from mine. He would play these two Friday nights, while my friends wanted to hear Meat Loaf and the Violent Femmes. He was cooler than we were. I had a copy of the Pixies’ “Doolittle”, so I knew the Pixies. But this stuff was more direct and raw. I just love Joey Santiago’s biting, angular guitar playing, and Kim Deal’s voice. I love the kick-the-reverb break in Vamos (both versions). And I thought Where Is My Mind? was an inspired choice to use for the closing credits of “Fight Club”.

19. Joni Mitchell : Blue (1971)


I first heard this just four or five years ago. Up until then, I know knew Joni Mitchell from Big Yellow Taxi (a.k.a. “They Paved Paradise”) and Help Me. But I bought it anyway, not knowing what to expect. Wow. It’s intense and personal, sad, gleeful, funny, pensive. The songs are almost uniformly fantastic. Her voice is amazing, the lyrics are brilliant. It’s a shame I haven’t found anything else by her that comes close; “Court And Spark” sounds soooo 1974.

18. Sea And Cake : Nassau (1994)


1994: grunge was over; metal had ceased to please; old standbys REM, The Cure, and Sonic Youth were well into their declines. Joe played this for me and all was better. I think the official label for this is “post-rock”: a sleek modern sound, influenced by jazz and electronica – though there isn’t much, if any, electronica on this record (that came later). After a long stretch of music where noise, feedback, and sloppiness were the rule, I was struck by the clean, restrained, sophisticated vibe these guys were putting out. It wasn’t pretentious or studied – just, I dunno, deliberate. I decided if I could be in any band, it would be the Sea And Cake.

17. Spoon : Girls Can Tell (2001)


Pitchfork Media once described Spoon’s songs as sounding “half-finished”; and there’s a lot of truth in that. A lot of their songs are arranged in ways that leave huge open spaces in the sound – places where many bands would put another guitar, or some strings, or horns or something to add another layer to the sound – but not Spoon. Spoon puts out songs that are uncluttered to the point of sparse, and the magic happens when that less-is-more aesthetic hooks up with a song like Anything You Want, The Fitted Shirt, or Everything Hits At Once; you get a perfect little rock song built with the absolute minimum amount of materials. All the moving parts are visible and you’re left to marvel at how well they work together. It doesn’t work all the time, but on this album, the misses are far outnumbered by the hits. I simply can not drive to the beach without hearing this album. It will always remind me of NC 70E between Goldsboro and Beaufort.

16. REM : Reckoning (1984)


Great songs all the way through. I don’t remember when I first heard this (some time after 1986, definitely), but I know it’s always sounded warm, worn-in, and comfortable, like an old coat. Timeless. Like Pavement’s Malkmus sings, Time After Time is my least favorite song on the record, though it’s still not bad.

15. Pavement : Crooked Rain Crooked Rain (1994)


While it’s their most accessible record, it’s still miles from the mainstream. It’s as catchy and hooky as anything can be, while still strange enough to avoid widepsread popularity. In other words, it’s perfect. The melodies are fantastic and the way they can make a song out of what sometimes sounds like three people playing three different songs is always amazing to me. Malkmus’ lyrics are brilliantly absurd – most of the time you can tell what he’s singing about in only a general sense – much like REM’s Michael Stipe. But still, the last verse in Gold Soundz inexplicably chokes me up every time I hear it.

14. Big Star : #1 Record (1972)


Except for the India Song (which I’ve completely deleted from iTunes, it offends me so), this is a 100% solid 70’s power-pop classic: sparkling, chiming guitars and fantastic melodies in the service of strong songs. It probably doesn’t hurt my opinion of it that I discovered this at the same time I was playing in a band that conicidentally was trying to do the same kind of stuff.

13. Fleetwood Mac : Rumors (1977)


So many great songs. Lindsay Buckingham’s inventive guitar playing is always a joy; all the vocalists are great. How many bands can boast three great lead singers? (The Beatles and …?) How can anyone not like this?

12. Led Zeppelin : II (1969)


It’s the most straightforward rocker of all their records. It just rocks. There aren’t any mandolin or banjo songs, just a handful of ripped-off, ripped-up blues songs and Zeppelin classics like Whole Lotta Love and Ramble On. I mean, come on, seriously, who among us can deny the joys of Heartbreaker / Living Loving Maid: “With a purple umbrella and a fifty cent hat” ? While the drum solo part of Moby Dick, annoys me, rest of the record is so fucking great I can excuse it. I remember hearing this in my friend’s huge old Delta 88, while we were on our way to the country side, to go hunting; the car had a blown speaker in the dash, so in the break in What Is And What Should Never Be, when Page’s guitar is ping-ponging back and forth between the left and right channels, we could only hear every other one. We had to add the missing bits vocally – very Wayne’s World. Later that day, after wandering around in the woods for a few hours, we came up to a stand of picnic tables. A Sheriff and a park ranger were waiting there, ready to arrest us – we’d wandered into a State park. No hunting allowed in the picnic area.

11. Pink Floyd : Wish You Were Here (1975)


I went a long time before buying a copy of this. Why bother? I could hear 90% of it by just turning on any Classic Rock station for a day. But, it’s one thing to hear the songs out of context, and another to hear them in situ (Latin adds a touch of authority, no?)

Tune in Friday, when I finish this silly thing.

4 thoughts on “The List, 2006, #20-11

  1. Dbati

    I’m surprised that there are no Coctails on your list, yet, given your propensity for The Sea And Cake.

    Love your list, keep it up.

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