The List 2010, #30-21


30
Elliott Smith 1998
XO
He was the king of bittersweet-(or just bitter, sometimes)-but-beautiful pop songs, and this album is full of them. It’s a bigger and richer album than his previous ones – with more of a full band sound and fewer numbers with just Smith and his guitar. And normally, I prefer records where the musician has abandoned the band, and is delivering the songs as minimally and directly as possible (ex. Robyn Hitckcock, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, etc.). But I think Smith’s songs benefit from the added depth. His solo-acoustic stuff is a bit repetitive; he falls back on steady eighth-note strumming a bit too often, for my tastes – giving him the benefit of the doubt, I assume he’s playing rhythm guitar behind a melodic lead that only he can hear. But with the band, all of those spots get filled in. And he, or his producer, was smart enough to not over-fill the arrangements. They’re big enough to stay interesting, but not so big that they overrun the song. Plus, “Waltz #2” is the most tenacious earworm I’ve ever come across.
29
Liz Phair 1993
Exile In Guyville
This is yet anther of those that I’ll go for years without listening to, maybe even thinking it probably wasn’t as good as I remembered, that it was just a phase. But once I get around to listening to it again, I can’t deny how great it is. The intervals between listens are getting longer, however. But, the strange song structures, the dissonance, the sharp, smart, dark and sarcastic lyrics, the spacey guitars – it was all odd then, and it’s still odd today, but it’s a smart and charming odd.
28
Nick Drake 1972
Pink Moon
Unlike many of the records here, this is a final album. He finally got tired of the strings and horns that had weighed-down his earlier records (an opinion we share), and, except for a single piano overdub on one song, did this one without accompaniment of any kind – and he recorded it in less than four hours. Sadly, he died of an overdose of anti-depressants before he could finish another record, so this was his last. It’s dark, raw, melancholy but beautiful. It’s just his sleepy voice, his incredible guitar playing, 11 haunted folk-ish songs, 28 minutes. What a way to go out.
27
Pink Floyd 1971
Meddle
A relaxed and, at times, playful, record from Mr Floyd. It doesn’t try to be big, as all subsequent Floyd records do. There’s no central theme or concept tying it all together. It’s just a bunch of nicely done Floyd songs – in which, you can hear the seeds of things that would show up on “Dark Side Of The Moon”, sure. So, you can tell in hindsight where they were going. But, it’s nice on its own. Ah.
26
My Bloody Valentine 1991
Loveless
There’s no theme here, either. It’s just looped drums and a guitar haze with voices floating around inside it all. Well, that’s not all it is. It’s also loud with beautiful psychedelic melodies and sheets of screeching dissonance, and it’s intentional – you can tell that there’s nothing accidental about any of the noises swirling around inside this. This is a well-crafted, finely de-tuned, mess.
25
Peter Gabriel 1986
So
Now here’s a nostalgic one. I don’t know if I’ve listened to this all the way through in a decade. But, just hearing one or two of the songs is enough to remind me of 1986, and of how amazing this record was to me (and everyone else, it seemed), at the time. And how cool were the videos for “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time” ?! Very cool, is how cool. Since I was really into King Crimson, at the time, it was also very cool for me hearing that distinct Tony Levin bass/stick sound in the bottom-end.
24
The Shins 2003
Chutes Too Narrow
Of all the The Shins records, this is the shortest, and the punchiest. It has their catchiest songs, and their fastest songs. It’s their least-cluttered, and their sharpest. It’s their best.
23
Pink Floyd 1977
Animals
This one is the sound of riding the Greyhound bus from Rochester to Albany, winter 1988, looking out the window, watching the Mohawk river slide by. Cold, dark, lonely.

Your mileage may vary.

22
Bob Dylan 1965
Highway 61 Revisited
It’s wild and exuberant, swirling with Dylan’s surreal free-association lyrics and spiked with Mike Bloomfield’s raw electric guitar licks. Most of it sounds like a party.
21
Pink Floyd 1973
Dark Side Of The Moon
I started out thinking “The more I listen to this, the more I find myself liking the second side better because that’s where most of the songs are.” Then, I went to verify that, and realized that the sound collages – the clocks, airplanes, running, twiddling synthesizers, etc. – don’t really take up much of the record. They’re interstitial, intros, etc.. And they’re only extraneous if you’re thinking about the first side as a collection of separate songs, and not as parts of the great tapestry Pink Floyd wove them into. And if I was to discount the entire first side because it’s not as song-oriented, I’d miss out on the actual songs: “Breathe”, “Time”, and perhaps my favorite Floyd song ever, “That Great Gig In The Sky”. So, yes, side two is great – “Money”, “Us And Them”, “Brain Damage”, etc. – but, so is side one. Maybe side one’s even better.

Every histo tells a story, don’t it:

6 thoughts on “The List 2010, #30-21

  1. platosearwax

    I really need to get some Drake. He is one of those odd holes I have in my musical life, getting referenced everywhere but I never seemed to get anything.

    I played the hell out of So in ’86 (Tony Levin rules). I think everyone I knew got sick of hearing Loveless in ’91.

    Animals is the best Floyd.

  2. cleek Post author

    Animals is the best Floyd.

    sometimes i feel the same way. i certainly listen to Animals much more than i do DSotM. but Meddle is gaining.

    I think everyone I knew got sick of hearing Loveless in ‘91.

    :)
    nobody i knew liked it.

    I think everyone I knew got sick of hearing me play Loveless in ‘91.

    i never tried playing it for anyone else. didn’t think it would go over well with my friends.

    re Drake. definitely get Pink Moon. all his other stuff is saturated with awful 70’s strings.

  3. Mr Furious

    I prefer the eponymous Gabriel records by a wide margin in retrospect, but I was certainly into So at the time, and it set the hook that had me go back and buy the earlier solo stuff.

    I should go back and give So another listen, now. Being overplayed certainly contributed to my downgrading it.

    I agree about Meddle being the playful or relaxed Floyd album. When I lived with a roommate in college who had a serious hi-fi set up and tons of vinyl, it was the Floyd album I always reached for first. I just loved kiking back to Side 1.

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