2012 Favorite Records: 40-31

40
Fleetwood Mac 1975
Fleetwood Mac
Score: 540 W/L/T: 35 / 18 / 15
Everyone knows the singles “Rhiannon”, “Say You Love Me”, “Over My Head”. But, many of the non-singles on this one are just as good (ex. “Landslide”, “Monday Morning”, “Blue Letter”). The rest, while not as dazzling as those, still make a fine setting.

It’s hard to find a better example of 70’s light rock.

39
Neil Young 1979
Live Rust
Score: 548 W/L/T: 14 / 9 / 7
I have a lot of live Neil Young records (because he puts out so f-ing many, and because I always prefer live Neil to studio Neil), but this is my favorite. It’s got a nice mix of acoustic songs (mostly at the front of the sequence) and plenty of Crazy Horse stompers. “Cortez” and “Powderfinger” are great, as are the acoustic “Sugar Mountain” and “Comes A Time”. The acoustic/electric twins “My My, Hey Hey” and “Hey Hey, My My” are both great. “Cinnamon Girl”, “Needle And The Damage Done”: great.

It’s a long one, but worth the time. When I can find the time.

38
My Bloody Valentine 1991
Loveless
Score: 553 W/L/T: 43 / 13 / 8
Now this is a one-of-a-kind. Many bands tried to copy this sound, but none of them ever balanced haze and melody (and so much of each) as perfectly as MBV did. And MBV never even attempted a follow-up – they went out on a high note.

This was released roughly forty days after Nevermind, and I was already sick of Nevermind by that point. And yet, here this is, 21 years later, at #38.

37
REM 1982
Chronic Town
Score: 579 W/L/T: 22 / 31 / 10
Another shorty: just 5 songs. But, unlike that Lilys’ record, these are all good.

Wiki says the only place you can get this is on the CD release of Dead Letter Office, which seems absurd. This is REM at its best: energetic, fresh, unprocessed.

36
The Cure 1981
Seventeen Seconds
Score: 583 W/L/T: 22 / 37 / 4
Sonically, it’s a harsh snare and icy guitars, with distant keyboards and percussive bass. Very cold. Almost sterile. It’s a beautifully bleak and lonely record, mournful but bored. Just gray.
35
Lilys 1996
Better Can’t Make Your Life Better
Score: 597 W/L/T: 21 / 12 / 14
Another first-timer!

Lilys started out as a MBV-style shoegaze band, and their first two albums were appropriately dreamy and hazy. But in between those two records, they put out the aforementioned “Brief History Of Amazing Letdowns” EP (@ #42), which sounded more like Big Star-worshipping Teenage Fanclub than MBV. And that’s the direction they took with this one. Actually, they went so far in that direction that they bypassed Big Star entirely and ended up sounding and looking) like Big Star’s influences: Beatles, Kinks, Monkees, Byrds. It was a pumped-up and fuzzed-out version of 60s Brit-pop, but just as fun and catchy as the best of that era.

Since the original release, Kurt Heasley (the man behind Lilys) has gone back and added strings and horns and all kinds of other sounds onto the original recordings. So, most of the links up there are to re-touched versions. But, I really don’t like those changes. Even if the songs on the newer release are closer to the band’s original conception (they reportedly ran out of money while making the record and couldn’t afford to do all the strings and whatnot that they wanted to do), the original 1996 release is the one you want.

34
The Cure 1981
Faith
Score: 618 W/L/T: 21 / 40 / 15
This always shows up near Seventeen Seconds, because I seriously can’t tell them apart. In my head, this is just the second disc in the set. And not coincidentally, that’s the way I first got these records: packaged together as a collection called Happily Ever After. This places slightly higher than 17s IMO because this record’s hit (the almost-happy by comparison “Primary”) is better than that record’s hit (“A Forest”). Other than that, they’re very similar: dark, gray, cold.
33
Joni Mitchell 1971
Blue
Score: 630 W/L/T: 21 / 29 / 8
Every year I think this will be the year this one falls off this list, since I’ve nearly stopped listening to it. But then I give it a listen, to make sure I’m giving it a fair shake, and… I love it again. She’s funny and smart and what a voice!
32
Led Zeppelin 1969
II
Score: 696 W/L/T: 46 / 9 / 10
This is Zeppelin at their best. “Whole Lotta Love”, “What Is And What Should Never Be”, the awesome one-two of “Heartbreaker”/”Living Loving Maid”, “Ramble On”, “The Lemon Song”! Damn. No, I still don’t like “Moby Dick”, and “Thank You” is a little squishy. They can be forgiven, though, because the rest of the record just kills.

My favorite memory of this is listening to it my friend’s beat up Oldsmobile one Sunday morning. One of the speakers was blown, so when Page’s guitar ping-pongs from channel to channel after the break in “What Is And What Should Never Be”, we would only hear half. We were on our way to go hunting just south of Glens Falls, NY, on some land that Bobby had been on before and said was OK. After a couple hours of wandering in the woods, we stepped into a clearing full of picnic tables and public grills. And there was a Sheriff there, too. We were arrested for having guns on a state park, then released. We were minors, so it never showed up on my record.

31
Robyn Hitchcock 1998
Storefront Hitchcock
Score: 706 W/L/T: 51 / 7 / 6
This is the trimmed-down soundtrack to the movie of the same name. Jonathan Demme, who had just done the Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense” concert movie decided to downscale a bit and did a movie of Robyn Hitchcock. Unlike the full-stage spectacle of Stop Making Sense, this is an up-close and personal movie made from a pair of intimate shows Robyn did playing in an empty storefront on a NYC street. People walk by and look in the window, stand around, cars drive past, etc.. After a while, they close the curtains on the window, and then it’s just Robyn, his guitar, and a couple of friends. It’s a good movie, actually. Definitely worth watching, even if you don’t know who he is – he’s quite entertaining, live.

4 thoughts on “2012 Favorite Records: 40-31

  1. Cris

    Loveless is amazing. My Bloody Valentine was introduced to me by James Mercer (yes, that one) and this album always reminds me of him. I bought their earlier disc (Isn’t Anything) and while it’s good, it doesn’t quite have the hypnotic quality of the latter work.

    1. cleek Post author

      i’ve never heard Isn’t Anything. i have “Feed Me with Your Kiss”, which i probably haven’t listened to since the week i bought it.

      introduced to me by James Mercer
      awesome :)
      how do you know him?

      1. Cris

        Same hometown. We went to college together, even shared an apartment for a few months. I considered him a close friend at the time. But we drifted pretty well apart after 1997 or so, and haven’t talked since 2004. Which is my loss; he’s a very sincere guy and a really engaging conversationalist.

        One thing special to me about the Shins is how quickly they went from “I’m listening to this band because my friends are in it” to “I’m listening to this because I love it on its own merits.” Very quality output, even with my obvious bias.

        1. cleek Post author

          cool!
          he does seem like he’d be an interesting guy. obviously well-read.

          yeah. love the Shins – or, at least a big chunk of what they’ve (he’s) done. if you speak to him again, tell him “more Chutes!”

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