2012 Favorite Records: 80-71

The next 10!

The Breeders 1990
Score: 311 W/L/T: 26 / 22 / 7
Kim from the Pixies on guitar, Tanya from Throwing Muses (later, Belly), the drummer from Slint, and a bass player I'm not familiar with: sounds like a good idea to me! The result was a great mix of those three bands - Kim Deal's giddy lunatic pixie voice can make any lyrics sound awesome; Tonya Donnely brought that fractured pop feel from Throwing Muses; and Britt Walford's spiky minimalist drumming apparently inspired everybody else to play as if they were in Slint: just enough to get the point across, with big lingering stretches of silence. And it's far better than what the Pixies (Bossanova) or Throwing Muses (Hunkpapa) had out at the time.
Gillian Welch 1996
Score: 312 W/L/T: 19 / 37 / 7
Their first. It has a good mix of styles and moods: the slow sad "Paper Wings", the slow bleak "Annabelle", the slow angry electrified stomp of "Pass You By", "By The Mark"'s grim old-time gospel, sweet "Acony Bell", and "Orphan Girl" which gets its upbeat vibe from the innocent hope of the Girl that she'll eventually be reunited with her family when she's dead.

There's a lot more instrumentation on this than there are on most of their later records; Dave and Gillian are accompanied by drums and electric guitars, bass, etc.. It's not a bad sound - far from overdone - but I really prefer hearing just the two of them.

Erykah Badu 2010
New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)
Score: 314 W/L/T: 22 / 21 / 7
Did I say Q-Tip's "The Renaissance" (@#94) was the closest thing to straight-up R&B in my collection? What a silly thing to say. This takes that title, no contest.

I have pretty much no interest in modern R&B. But, as with Q-Tip and his record, it's Badu herself who makes this record interesting. She's funny and slinky and she injects all of the songs with her off-beat, quirky, funky personality. She's having a blast, doing her thing, experimenting, and I enjoy hearing her do it. Plus, she's got a great voice.

The high point for me is the closing suite, "Out My Mind, Just In Time". It stats off as a nice, but old-fashioned, jazzy piano ballad; Badu's singing about being an "recovering under-cover over-lover" is sweet and pretty. But there are slight sound glitches sprinkled throughout - tape warbles, strange subtle distortions on the piano. A violin peeks in. Then, out of the blue, the whole song slows as if someone grabbed the tape reel just to slow down the particular phrase she's singing at the time, but they slowed down everything instead. An instant later, as quick as it slowed, it speeds back up for just a few more seconds before moving to the next part of the suite: a segment based on a chopped-up piano loop, repeating slightly off time. Then another segment, and another. All of them getting progressively stranger, and more expansive, Badu's singing getting more and more improvisational. Until finally, the last segment abruptly breaks-off and we're back to a simple piano for the outro. As with the whole album, it's full of clever beautiful details and Badu's infectious personality; you just gotta pay attention to get it all - otherwise, it will just slide past as groovy background music. Oh, and it's also good as groovy background music.

Wilco 1999
Score: 320 W/L/T: 25 / 19 / 12
It's a pleasant record, as are all Wilco records. This is distinguished by being more sonically daring than modern Wilco, but less so than the follow-up, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It was done at the same time they were working on their first Woodie Guthrie record with Billy Bragg, so there's a little overlap in sound with that record.

It's always nice to listen to. There are plenty of good songs, a handful of great ones (esp. "In A Future Age"). But for some reason, it doesn't stick in my mind as a great record; I never really think I like it until I play it.

Rolling Stones 1969
Let It Bleed
Score: 326 W/L/T: 30 / 33 / 5
One of the Stones' golden era records - there's nearly always one of them in my car CD player. It's just brimming with big songs: "Gimme Shelter", "Midnight Rambler", "Monkey Man", etc..
My custom version of this album does not include "You Can't Always Get What You Want" because I never want to hear that song again.
Gastr Del Sol 1998
Score: 326 W/L/T: 15 / 45 / 13
A lot of the so-called "post-rock" records sound, to me, like soundtracks to modern art museums. They're clean, uncluttered, lots of open space, and filled with abstract, interesting, yet emotionally-distant pieces; there's rarely anybody around. And this definitely falls into that category. Structurally, the songs are nothing like traditional rock songs; I don't think there's a traditional "chorus" to be found on this. The songs are generally meditative, introspective and quiet - as the listener must be.

I'm surprised to see a record with a 15/45 win/loss record this high up. Those 15 wins must've been good ones.

Liz Phair 1993
Exile In Guyville
Score: 333 W/L/T: 31 / 24 / 13
Few albums span so many different styles and moods so well. Those that try often end up being called "scattered" and "unfocused", because the artists just can't maintain a reasonable level of quality throughout. "We're making an ambitious record, let's not hold back!" Things get throw in that should've been left out. But not on this one. Even when the music sometimes lags, Phair's lyrical skills and her tough-sexy-geek delivery are more than enough to keep me listening.
The Police 1979
Reggatta De Blanc
Score: 348 W/L/T: 14 / 27 / 11
"Which one is this again?" (starts the album on iPod. "Message In A Bottle" starts). "Oh yeah, this one!" (waits for the ends of the choruses where Copeland does that ridiculously cool poly-rhythmic stuff on his hi-hat). He's even better in "Walking On The Moon". Stewart Copeland, best rock drummer ever? He'd probably get my vote. And Andy Summers is sure underrated; a lot of what he's doing ends up as texture behind Sting and Copeland, not traditional lead guitar stuff; but it's imaginative, complex, very well done, and was certainly unique in its day. Sting was great, too. A hell of a trio. Definitely their best record.
Beastie Boys 1992
Check Your Head
Score: 361 W/L/T: 19 / 28 / 12
It's a lot heavier and down-to-earth than their previous record, Paul's Boutique. There's far less of that snotty silliness and a lot more stoner-funk jams. Far less emphasis on sampling, and on the Boys' lyrics, too. Instead, on many tracks, the music itself drives, and the rapping is in service of the song. It's a more mature record musically, and lyrically too. But, not completely: there's still enough of that rapid-fire comic wordplay in here to keep you giggling between the head-nodding grooves.
The Doors 1967
The Doors
Score: 366 W/L/T: 25 / 24 / 5
The Doors have a bad reputation these days. A lot of their music, and especially Morrison's rock god persona, seem overdone by today's standards - almost comically so. But I started listening to them long before I knew anything about Morrison's antics, and long before I knew anything about what was fashionable and what wasn't. They were really my first "favorite band" - even if I was just playing my dad's records when he wasn't home. But, OK, I'll admit it: they haven't aged well. They don't really sync in any way with today's style*. But this record is special to me.

And IMO, there are some fantastic songs here, some well-done covers, and some great performances. And you definitely can't say the Doors were unimaginative. The first side features bossa nova, electric blues, 1920's show tunes, flamenco, and lounge-lizard crooning (e.g. The Crystal Ship). The second side starts with Willie Dixon and closes with a 12 minute, live-in-the-studio, break up song that slowly twists into a Oedipal murder fantasy. They were a great band, too. While Morrison dominated everything, the rest of them were doing some really cool stuff outside the spotlight - especially Robbie Krieger.

* Frankly, they didn't really sync with the style of the late 60's, either; their sound was unique at the time and was never copied. Nobody even tries to sound like The Doors.

One thought on “2012 Favorite Records: 80-71

  1. Platosearwax

    Don’t know for sure if Copeland would be the best rock drummer, but he is one of my favorites. He has that busy style that I really like. He is for sure the best at using cymbals, particularly the high hat. Summers is criminally underrated.

    I just can’t really get into the Doors. Never could. A few songs are fine enough but I can’t imagine needing to own a record. Not to say I don’t respect what they did.

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