The List 2010, #20-11

OMGGOMGOMGOMG!
It’s the next-to-last set in the 2010 List! So amazing.

20
REM 1982
Chronic Town
This is their first non-single release, but still just five songs. It’s a cleaner, crisper sound than they went for on their first full-length album, “Murmur” (which always feels a bit lazy and hazy, to me). This is a bit of a rarity these days, since it’s only available (in the US anyway) as an add-on to their “Dead Letter Office” collection.
19
Sea And Cake 1994
Sea And Cake
I started listening to this band when their second album, “Nassau” (1994), came out. And then I got into their third album. Then the fourth, fifth, etc.. It wasn’t until they started releasing records that didn’t do anything for me (2007 or so) that I went back and listened to this one, hoping it would be more like the S&C that I loved. It was. And it’s been in my car CD player ever since. It’s breezy, light, energetic jazzy post-rock. It is, actually, ideal for driving around, top down, aimlessly.
18
King Crimson 1981
Discipline
Guitar god Adrian Belew had just finished stints with David Bowie and the Talking Heads when guitar god Robert Fripp (who had also worked with Bowie and the Heads) asked him to join Fripp’s new band, “Discipline”, along with bass ace Tony Levin and drummer Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, etc.). They quickly decided to drop the name “Discipline” and instead become the next incarnation of Fripp’s longtime project, “King Crimson”. And so it was. Deliciously, but not surprisingly, this album sounds a bit like a cross between the technical prog rock of Yes and the nervous new wave of the Talking Heads – a comparison made even easier by the fact that Belew’s voice is easily mistaken for David Byrne’s. But, regardless of the comparisons, the songs here are fantastic. The music is fiercely complex but still, somehow, remains accessible; and Belew’s playful clever words are miles from the oft-overdone stuff that previous King Crimson lyricists came up with.
17
Gillian Welch 2001
“Time, The Revelator ”
This is a primal record. No artifice or embellishment. Unadorned. Pure. As if Gillian and David walked to the top of an Appalachian mountain and pulled these songs right out of the soil, root and all. The sound is so authentic it’s almost unbelievable that neither of them are actually from the south.
16
The Pretenders 1980
The Pretenders
This is the pinnacle of punk’s first wave. You can have your Clash and your Sex Pistols; this blows them all away. Sweet and mean and rough and tender, melodic, raging, exuberant, pensive. It does everything. Perfectly.
15
Belly 1993
Star
When Tanya Donnelly formed Belly, she combined the quirky melodic new-wave pop of her first band, Throwing Muses, with the playful experimentalism of her last band, The Breeders. The result was airy, dreamy, and fantastically catchy.
14
Talking Heads 1980
Remain In Light
This is a deeply groovy record, with a thick layer of Fela Kuti-style Afrobeat on the bottom. On top of that, funky guitars skitter across the rhythm, Adrian Belew’s jungle-beast guitar screams and growls, and Byrne’s wry-and-dry vocals and puzzling lyrics keep the whole thing weird. This was their apex. Everything before was set-up, and everything after denouement.
13
Cowboy Junkies 1988
The Trinity Session
Nobody has ever done slow-motion country blues quite like The Cowboy Junkies (though Mazzy Star gave it a good try), and this is purest example of how they do it. It’s a fantastic collection of songs, and it sounds amazing. The empty church it was recorded in is present in every sound you hear – that big warm natural reverb and the sense of space it creates, the players’ palpable restraint and deliberately low volumes as they try not to overpower each other while all playing into a single central microphone. It’s not really billed as a “live” record, but it is. And according to me, it really deserves to be known as one of the best live recordings, ever.
12
The Cure 1986
Standing On A Beach
This is a bit of a special entry. It’s included here not for the hit singles compilation – which is really good, actually, but I try not to include compilations on The List. Rather, this is here for the flip-side of the cassette version of the compilation. That’s where they put all of their non-LP B-sides (and remains the only place you can find those songs in that grouping). And, though they were recorded separately over many years, the songs work as a group; they make a nice little album. Now admittedly, these songs are not the best songs The Cure ever did; a couple are pretty weak, but most are at least better than average. But what I like about this is the same thing I like about REM’s “Dead Letter Office” (#35); the songs show the band trying different things, having fun, ending up strange places, sounding a bit different from the sound they went for on the official albums.
11
Fleetwood Mac 1977
Rumors
Like The Cars’ first, there are a half-dozen songs here that are still in constant rotation on the radio. It’s one of those albums that overflows with fantastic songs – even my least favorite song here (“Oh Daddy”) is good enough that the record as a whole benefits from its presence (something which can’t be said about The Cars’ first).

Behold the penultimate histogram!

3 thoughts on “The List 2010, #20-11

  1. Platosearwax

    I have every single record here, except the Gillian Welch one which I am going to get soon. Belly is really underrated. That Pretenders disc just rules from start to finish. And Discipline is everything I want my prog to be. I wish that incarnation made a dozen records.

    I’m really looking forward to the top ten now.

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