2012 Favorite Records List. 30-21

The finish line is in sight!

The Shins 2003
Chutes Too Narrow
Score: 718 W/L/T: 48 / 9 / 9
I like their first record, and am a bit surprised it didn't make the list. But I'm not a bit surprised to see this one so high up.

It's punchy and jangly and fun. And where it's not giddily-upbeat it's still super-catchy; and the lyrics are always awesome. Plus, it's very short, so it always leaves you wanting more. It's a perfect little record.

Black Sabbath 1970
Black Sabbath
Score: 722 W/L/T: 10 / 1 / 0
Another first-timer! And a bit of a late entry - which might explain its rather high position.

Referring to the original North American release, here. It doesn't have the covers "Evil Woman" and "Crow"; and both "Wasp/Behind The Wall of Sleep/Basically/NIB" and "A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning" are counted as single tracks.

My roommate had this in college and for some reason, we got it into our heads that this was a goofy stoner-space-jazz record. So we never listened to it much. But, I wanted to give it another chance, 20 year later, so I bought it this year. This time, I was blown away.

No, it's not a jazz record. It's really more of a blues-rock record with scary lyrics than a metal record. But it's a grimy, sludgy, ominous blues; not as deliberately messy as, say, Blue Cheer, but it's nothing like Clapton either. It's definitely not about precision of technique, purity to the form, and the worship of old blues legends. The blues is the foundation, not the goal. And there's more than blues, of course; there's that yummy tritone thing - those unmistakably metal notes that you hear in the first seconds of the first song ("Black Sabbath"). Instantly, you know this isn't going to be a Cream record. Hell of a debut.

Gillian Welch 2001
Time (The Revelator)
Score: 722 W/L/T: 42 / 5 / 6
This is a fantastic record. Unless you must avoid old-time country music for medical reasons, you should buy this record and listen to it often. The songs are great, the recordings are great, their voices are great, the guitar playing is off the charts great.

I'm not kidding. It is important that you hear this.

King Crimson 1981
Score: 727 W/L/T: 34 / 13 / 10
While there are traces of the original King Crimson's hard 70's prog sound here and there, this is definitely an 80's record. Long gone are the ponderous chin-scratching epics of early KC. Instead, the songs are mostly short, sharp and direct (though still, only one is shorter than four minutes) and many of them feel more like pop songs than anthems - thanks to Belew's pop tendencies, I assume. Tony Levin's funky athletic bass and Stick playing is nothing like previous KC bass work. And with Belew in charge of lyrics, the words no longer had that arty grandiosity - Belew is much more into clever wordplay and introspection. There's a slight Talking Heads feel to it all, since Belew's voice and style is similar to David Byrne's and he had just come off a long engagement with the Heads. And, of course, Belew's guitar approach and sound was unique then, (and still is, even today). So, it was a brand new band, full of brand new sounds, made a record that sounded brand new.

But even more important than all that: it rocks.

Van Halen 1978
Van Halen

Score: 732 W/L/T: 40 / 15 / 5
And speaking of a brand new band, full of brand new sounds, who made a record that sounded brand new...

I was only seven when this came out, so I was too young to really know what it's impact was at the time. But looking back, there's a pretty clear line between hard rock / metal guitar playing pre-VH and post-VH. After this record, everybody was a-tappin' and a-shreddin'. Eddie really changed the world, in that respect. Overall, though, it seems like it took metal until the mid 80's (and the advent of hair metal) to really catch up to VH's blend of jet-fueled guitar playing, hammy good-time frontman, and overall sense of "Woohoo! Let's party!" The whole "new wave of British heavy metal" thing had to get thrashed out, first, I guess.

History aside, this album just plain kicks ass. The awesome pop songs, the hard rockers, the punky bits, "Eruption". It all flies by in 35 minutes and only slows down late on side 2 for the album's only real low point, "Little Dreamer". Fucker makes me want to grow a mullet and buy a '78 Trans Am.

White Stripes 2001
White Blood Cells
Score: 736 W/L/T: 37 / 4 / 8
It's a bit of a transition from the raw, blues-oriented records that preceded it, and the louder, slightly-more-polished records that followed. But, it's still a White Stripes record, so you basically know what you're getting. And since this is the first one I heard, it's the one I go back to when I want to hear that White Stripes sound.
Wilco 2007
Sky Blue Sky
Score: 739 W/L/T: 43 / 8 / 8
While I do think the older experimental Wilco is more interesting than today's simpler Wilco, I just love the songs on this one. It's been in my car CD player for five years now. And yeah, maybe they end up in Eagles-style light country-rock territory sometimes, but I don't care. Tweedy's vocals and lyrics are more interesting than anything Henley and Fry ever came up with, and Nils Cline's guitar attacks add just enough chaos to keep things from getting too comfortable.
Led Zeppelin 1973
Houses Of The Holy
Score: 745 W/L/T: 41 / 11 / 13
I am a little surprised to see this above Zep II (@ #32). I'd be totally unsurprised if the positions were reversed. But...!

This is Zep at their richest and most melodic. Though the songs have plenty of rawk in them, there's a lot of beauty in there, too. Quite a nice record.

Pink Floyd 1973
Dark Side Of The Moon
Score: 784 W/L/T: 59 / 8 / 4
Oh, you all know this.

It's another one that I think I'm done with until I hear it again in the right setting, and then I cannot deny it.

The Beatles 1968
The Beatles (white album)
Score: 788 W/L/T: 47 / 7 / 2
It feels like this is the album where the Beatles went all-in on self-indulgence. As if they closed their eyes, reached down deep, and recorded everything they pulled out. For any other band, this would be a disaster. But, being the Beatles, they had the skills to make it all work (well, nearly all), no matter how strange the material.

5 thoughts on “2012 Favorite Records List. 30-21

  1. Cris

    Wow, bunch of favorites of mine in this chunk.

    White Album: this one confirms for me that George Martin was as critical to the Beatles success as the Beatles themselves. It’s a perfect contrast to Let It Be, where random studio experiments peter off into nothing; on The Beatles, those same half-finished attempts get developed into something worth listening to.

    Dark Side: speaking of producers, I’m willing to suggest that engineer Alan Parsons is the small factor that sets this record apart from PF’s other works of this period (WYWH and Animals, both great but nowhere near as commercially successful).

    Houses of the Holy: as I got interested in Zeppelin in college, this was the first album that really called to me, in spite of the obvious power of II and IV. I think it’s the variety, and the jagged time signatures.

    Discipline: such an appropriate name. This is a tight unit, as the title track attests.

    Chutes Too Narrow: Still my favorite of theirs, and the singles off the upcoming release aren’t making me expect to change that soon.

    1. cleek

      Shins. ditto. saw him on SNL this past weekend, and the song was decent. but it was no “Fighting In A Sack” or “New Slang”

      ah… George Martin’s influence. yes, that would explain a lot.

  2. platosearwax

    I am really opposed to country music, which has everything to do with where I grew up (farmy midwest) and getting into music that had everything to do with being the opposite of that. Having said that, I have grown to appreciate the edges of country. And having said that, I am going to check out Gillian Welch just because you say so and I trust your judgement.

    The others here. That is my favorite Zep record. I’m not a big metal fan (I was when I was 13 before I discovered punk) but have a massive soft spot for Van Halen, particularly the Dave version. That was the first King Crimson record I bought, which led to me discovering everything else by them. Tony Levin is so awesome. That is my favorite Beatles album, having everything to do with my love for experimentation. I feel the same way about Dark Side. I figure, eh, tired of it. But every time it goes on I get blown away again.

  3. Derek

    Sorry, I’m a bit late to the party. Where do the “Score” numbers come from? This is your own scores that you’ve kept when listening to your CDs/records over the years?

    I also second the King Crimson Discipline and Van Halen. Two of my favourite “guitar oriented” records of that era. I still have the King Crimson on vinyl but i no longer have a record player :^(

    1. cleek

      Where do the “Score” numbers come from?
      here’s how it all went down:

      1. i came up with list of records which could be candidates for the Top 100 (which was 2010’s list plus 36 others). so, 136 records in contention.

      2. i wrote a web app that would : pick two records at a time, at random, from that list, and ask me which one i liked better, record my vote.

      3. i did 4,000 of those votes.

      4. then, to tally the results:
      4a. each record was assigned a total of 400 points
      4b. the winner of each vote received a number of points based on an Elo rating system calculation (which, essentially, gives you more points for ‘beating’ a higher-ranked opponent than for beating a lower-ranked opponent; and losing to a lower-ranked opponent hurts more than losing to a higher-ranked opponent).

      the Score is the number of points the record ended up with, after all the votes were run through this rating system.

      so, it’s not directly related to the number of wins/losses each record got. it’s really related to the relative ratings of the records each record beat or lost to.

      also, this is the same system we used for the 2011 cleek reader’s record poll.

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