2012 Favorite Records List. 70-61

Rolling Stones 1971
Sticky Fingers
Score: 379 W/L/T: 21 / 24 / 5
Another golden era Stones record (I'm thinking that "golden era" really means "Mick Taylor era"). There's all kinds of classic-radio stuff on here: "Brown Sugar", "Wild Horses", "Bitch", "Dead Flowers". And, my favorite, "Can't You Hear Me Knocking", with that long funky jam with the congas and the sax and then Taylor's long slow solo. Even better, all of that, the entire last four and a half minutes, was completely spontaneous. They didn't even think the tape was rolling.

"Sister Morphine" makes a great addition to the list of songs about opiates. And the rest of the record is good, too. Well, it's good so far as I know. I've just discovered that somehow, when I acquired my copy, I didn't get the last song from either side (You Gotta Move & Moonlight Mile). I've been missing 20% of the record! Guess it's off to Mr iTunes' Record Emporium to procure them.

Madeleine Peyroux 2004
Careless Love
Score: 383 W/L/T: 32 / 25 / 9
Another first-timer, and another mainstream vocal jazz album which I also frequently enjoy while cooking (ex. Pizzarelli @#88). It also works well for dinner music. Sometimes, I'll even listen to it when I'm not around food!

The album is primarily covers: plenty of jazz standards along with songs from Leonard Cohen, Dylan, Elliott Smith and Hank Williams. And unlike Cassandra Wilson, Peyroux's covers tent to stay close to the original.

The Elliott Smith cover (Between The Bars) is my favorite. The song is a love note from booze to an alcoholic; the bottle is trying to seduce its man, by promising to push away reality, into drinking more. Smith's version is a stark solo-acoustic thing, sounding much the same as all other Smith songs from that era. Thin, brittle, cold. I have a really hard time getting into those early records. And here, his shaky whisper doesn't really sell the idea behind these lyrics - it's not immediately obvious that he's doing a character. But, without changing a word of the lyrics or a note of the vocal melody, Peyroux's version is sultry. She purrs and strokes and drags the words like Billie Holiday (the comparison is inevitable), over that late-night jazz club vibe - yow. She makes for a far more tempting spirit-of-spirits. Though they're clearly the same song, I was digging her version for a long time before I even realized it was that Elliott Smith song I didn't really care about. Smith wrote a great song, but it took Peyroux to bring that song to life.

Likewise, her cover of Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" (from whence the album's title) takes a song that I never spent a second of thought on and turns it into a song I like to hear, and makes me realize just what a sweet song Dylan wrote. That's what a good cover should do: make you appreciate the original more - if not for the original as it was originally performed, then at least the original as a good base.

Wye Oak 2009
The Knot
Score: 406 W/L/T: 39 / 17 / 14

It's a simple setup: she sings in a dreamy voice and plays guitar. He plays drums, plus keyboards with his left hand. And they play hypnotic songs built around pretty melodies spiked with dramatic surges in volume. Seems superfluous to say any more.

Interesting fact: the recording of this was the drummer/keyboard-player's senior thesis at U-Maryland.

Also, this is the first record in the List to come out net-positive on score (each record's score started at 400). It's also another first-timer.

Jimi Hendrix 1967
Are You Experienced
Score: 414 W/L/T: 25 / 25 / 7
For the record, I'm talking about the original 11-song US release (with "Hey Joe" instead of "Red House", & "Wind Cries Mary" instead of "Remember", etc.)

There's just so much awesome here. The songs kick ass, the sound kicks ass, Jimi's super-human guitar playing certainly kicks ass. Mitch Mitchell's heavy/jazzy drumming kicks ass (and reminds me of Keith Moon's style of making the drums almost a lead instrument). Noel Redding's bass is kindof lost in the mix most of the time, but I'll assume it kicks ass too. Lots of ass is kicked. Luckily, the world is full of ass, especially the kind that needs kicking.

The Beatles 1970
Let It Be
Score: 419 W/L/T: 22 / 30 / 4
Here I'm talking about the track listing of "Let It Be...Naked" (ie. including "Don't Let Me Down", and excluding "Maggie Mae" and "Dig It"). But, I do prefer the original Phil Spector mixes of most of the songs (maybe because I'm used to them). Complicated stuff.

The songs are all solid, and do have that back-to-basics feel the band was trying for. It's definitely a simpler record than Sgt Pepper's. And since it's something I've only recently taken to, it's still mostly fresh for me. I'm awfully fond of "Dig A Pony" and "Don't Let Me Down". They're the primary reason this record is here.

Side note: I'd be fine if the Replacements' "Let It Be" was in this spot. But, I forgot to include it in the voting, so it never had a chance. I definitely need to improve my seeding process. Let's all take a moment to pay our respects to "Gary's Got A Boner".

Big Star 1974
Radio City
Score: 426 W/L/T: 25 / 37 / 7
This is the one with "I'm in Love With a Girl", my favorite "Daisy Glaze", and everybody else's favorite "September Gurls". But, thanks to the 1992 re-issue, this will always be just the last 12 songs of that "#1 Record/Radio City" CD I bought when the singer in my band said I had to hear Big Star.

There's not a big difference between the two records. They're both shiny, melodic, early-70's power-pop, bittersweet love songs and pleasant rockers. What difference there is can be attributed to this record's lack of co-frontman Chris Bell. He brought a slightly sweeter, just-a-bit-more melodic vibe to the first record. And his absence here means the songs are a little darker and a little more strange. A little more Alex Chilton. But only a little. For most of them, I still have to check the track list to see which record it belongs to.

Elliott Smith 1998
Score: 427 W/L/T: 28 / 15 / 10
All his records share the same the strange blend of beautiful melodies, brilliant lyrics, and despair. Everything he sings about sounds beautiful, and it's all wrapped in wonderfully crafted songs. But at the same time, nearly everything he sings about sounds like the product of deep all-encompassing sadness; he sounds so weary, so cynical, so troubled. It was obvious at the time, but his suicide certainly brings all that into sharper focus.

This record stands out because it was the first one where he really seemed to embrace a big studio sound. The previous record was bigger than the first two, but this is where it all came together. And normally I prefer minimal production; normally I like hearing the songwriter with as few layers of intervening stuff as possible. But in Smith's case, the songs were definitely improved by the extra attention (ex. Peyroux @#69). In the studio, he could add more melodies, harmonies, parts that wouldn't work with just a single acoustic guitar, etc.. The songs got bigger and shinier and prettier. Alas.

Pink Floyd 1977
Score: 432 W/L/T: 24 / 34 / 11
It's even less song-oriented and more noodley than Wish You Were Here (@#100), and yet it places so much higher. Is that because its Animal Farm conceit is so dark and weird ? Probably. Also, fond memories.
Andrew Bird 2005
Mysterious Production Of Eggs
Score: 437 W/L/T: 21 / 27 / 13
"Fake Palindromes" is a song in which some of the early lines have that same kind of not-quite-sensical quality that most palindromes have. Very clever, as always. Near the end of it, when Bird sweetly sings:

And she says I like long walks and sci-fi movies
If you're six foot tall and east coast bred
Some lonely night we can get together

You really don't expect the next lines to be:

And I'm gonna tie your wrists with leather
And drill a tiny hole into your head
Oh, I'm gonna drill a tiny hole ...
Into your


Hearing that the first time is quite an eye-popper. And, he lines up the final line so that the decapitated "head", were it still attached, would fall on a brief but triumphant bit of finale. It's a nice trick. To fit the finale, you end up singing that "head", mentally filling-in what he left off, as an exclamation - "Head!". Then you feel a little creepy for having happy thoughts while singing about trepanation ("Trepanation" was the name of the song he took this bit from - he likes to dismember and recombine his own songs). One of my favorite musical moments.

"Fake Palindromes" is the high point for me, but there are plenty of other really good songs on this: "Nervous Tic Motion...", "Opposite Day", "Sovay", "Skin Is, My", etc., etc.. They're all good, really. But what sets this record apart from his others, is that there's a little bit of a spark here; a playful, macabre, excited spark. Recent records are good, but they don't leap out at me the way this does.

Spoon 2002
Kill The Moonlight
Score: 439 W/L/T: 24 / 28 / 12
Punchy, and spiky. It's a solid record, lots of good solid Spoon songs. But the auto-biographical song about a school bully, "Jonathon Fisk", stands out. Though it's barely three minutes long, they increase the tension and energy in the song a seemingly endless number of times. It just builds and builds, then releases and builds some more. Hell of a job, Mr Daniels.

One thought on “2012 Favorite Records List. 70-61

  1. Cris

    I haven’t listened to it in years (since the hard drive it was on crashed) but I do enjoy that Madeleine Peyroux album. Some commenters at Radio Paradise rip her apart over that Billie Holiday comparison, but I don’t feel she’s being unoriginal or derivative. The line between taking inspiration and ripping off is narrow, but I feel like Peyroux is solidly on the “inspired” side.

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