1. Devendra Banhart – See Saw (Rejoicing in the Hands, 2004) [singlepic id=400 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Acoustic intro quickly followed by the recognizable voice of Banhart: an exhaustive summary of the man’s early work. Classified among a lot of genres, and in the end just not very enchanting, just funny at some points. Of course, when you’re called after the king of gods feat. Obi Wan Kenobi and release your albums on Young God Records, people tend to expect something special from you. Would raise his musical ambitions later, and with that move the remaining charm mentioned above also disappeared.
2. Madrugada – Running Out of Time (The Deep End, 2005) [singlepic id=403 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Murmuring and spooky guitar and drum sounds in the beginning, powerful female backing vocals towards the end: sounds like Nick Cave’s theatre, but turns out to be the Norwegian Madrugada with Sivert Hoyem on vocals. Debuted at the turn of the century, searched for a more experimental sound on their third album Grit (2002) and definitely broke through in their home country with the golden pair of this one and their live recordings at Vonnegut’s Trafalmadore. Wanted to follow up with a fifth album in 2007 when they were struck by the death of the guitarist (eventually released in 2008 as their final album).
3. Isis – The Beginning and the End (Oceanic, 2002) [singlepic id=402 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Another band that claimed their fame at the beginning of this century, but one I lost out of sight after one of their last live gigs. Started off as a heavy metal/hardcore band, but switched gears with this release, moving towards a more clear post rock sound. As such they were considered pioneers of the post-metal genre, that preserved the aggressive hardcore vocals I’m personally not a big fan of. Dissoluted in 2010.
4. Leonard Cohen – Dress Rehearsal Rag (Songs of Love and Hate, 1971) [singlepic id=74 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Also an acoustic intro, also followed by a recognizable voice, and this time one that is indeed enchanting. Although Cohen might never have been called after some king of gods, he was told that he was the descendant of Aaron the high priest, which also should have granted him a considerable amount of street credibility. Cohen initially tried to make a (Canadian) living with his poetry but moved to the American folk scene as that didn’t turn out well. After some hanging around in Warhol’s Factory and a couple of folk festival gigs, he was signed by Columbia Records, the label on which he released his debut album (and on which he clashed with producer John Simon). Cohen collaborated with Bob Johnston (Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme,…) on the next two albums, this being the second. The lyrical themes on the album are, well, principally love and hate. And of course a little depression, for example on this great track, that is rarely performed live by Cohen because of that reason. Recorded already in 1966 by Cohen disciple Judy ‘Blue Eyes’ Collins.
5. Fugazi – Margin Walker (13 Songs, 1989) [singlepic id=401 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Fucked Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In. Guitarist and singer Ian MacKaye decided to form another band after the dissolution of Minor Threat and succeeds in the end of 1987 with a little help from Joe Lally, Brendan Canty and eventually Guy Picciotto. 1988 delivered two EP’s (this song was on the second with the same name) and a lot of touring, resulting in this release which combines those two EP’s instead of another debut album. Fugazi is one of those rare bands that never, never bended for great amounts of money and always stuck to its own approach in making music (decline of the Atlantic Records millions-deal, personally keeping the concert admissions as low as possible, DIY-recording,…). Dissoluted (although not officially) in 2003.
6. The Smashing Pumpkins – Porcelina of the Vast Oceans (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995) [singlepic id=332 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Awesome track on a genius album. As on almost every track on the album, you get it all: elaborate, mysterious intro, aggressive guitar solos and the melo-dramatic vocals of the master himself. Corgan founded the band in 1988 (Chicago) with rhythm guitarist James Iha, but was never capable of keeping the same group together. Partly because of the personal toxic hobbies of some band members, to a large extent because of the fact that Corgan desired to play all the instruments except the drums on the studio recordings. The resulting tensions already rose on the first two albums (Gish and breakthrough record Siamese Dream), but Billy ‘Zero’ Corgan nevertheless succeeded to push all limits one more time on Mellon Collie, decribed by himself as ‘The Wall for Generation X’. Should have been dissoluted immediately afterwards.
7. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Born on the Bayou (Live in Europe, 1973) [singlepic id=64 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Opening track of many CCR concerts, also on this album; or wasn’t it? Whether Live in Europe was an actual live recording or not, this original track still stands as one of their best songs. It was the B-side of CCR’s monster hit single from the same album: ‘Proud Mary’, that became CCR’s breaktrhu. The album Bayou Country still contained some weak spots that were to be replaced by strong album tracks on the following releases, but the hits… they were already there.
8. Guided By Voices – Alright (Alien Lanes, 1995) [singlepic id=172 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Closing track of what is probably GBV’s best album, an instrumental with an occasional shout of the song title. A regular customer of the shuffle thanks to their great amount of tracks and I don’t even own a quarter of everything they released. It all started with a bunch of independant releases, followed by 500 copies of Propeller, Vampire on Titus in 1993 and heir breakthrough album Bee Thousand (1994, not a fan). It was only then when those guys could quit their daytime jobs and turn into full time musicians. Completely in Fugazi-style, Alien Lanes was created way below the available budget. Classic line-up fell apart one year later, but albums are still released at a CCR-rate today.
9. Eels – From Which I Came/A Magic World (Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, 2005) [singlepic id=139 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Nice second track (after the Blinking Lights theme) from by far the best album of this Californian band. Mark Everett really exceeds himself here with a very lush sound, that was also reenacted live thanks to some serious personnel reinforcements.
10. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Guinevere (Crosby, Stills & Nash, 1969) [singlepic id=399 w=80 h=50 float=left]
The genesis of this super group may be well-known meanwhile, debuting here with this great album that moved the main focus in rock music from blues to folk and country during the following years. Stephen Stills was the Billy Corgan of the trio, also playing all of the instruments of the album except the drums (Dallas Taylor). This song follows up Stills’ opening suite and Nash’s poppy ‘Marrakesh Express’, as a David Crosby song that could have also appeared on his last album with The Byrds. Did he write it as if he was Lancelot? Anyway, the women he reffered to as Queen Guinevere would have been (according to Crosby himself) Christine Hinton (his girlfriend), Joni Mitchell and… the unknown third lady.
1. The Velvet Underground – What Goes On (The Velvet Underground, 1969) [singlepic id=274 w=80 h=50 float=left]
One of my favorite Velvet-songs, this second track from their (post-Cale) third album. Pretty straight forward, with that awesome pushing Velvet guitar sound. The instrumental combo with the rhythm guitars and Doug Yule’s (replacing Cale) organ could easily be called one of rock’s greatest song climaxes ever.
2. The Cure – The Figurehead (Pornography, 1982) [singlepic id=358 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Just like Faith from 1981, this fourth album continues the bands practice from its break-through album Seventeen Seconds (1980): explicit melancholy written by the classic line-up Smith-Tolhurst-Gallup. This song in particular resembles The Smiths’ sound, especially the surprisingly melodic guitar riff and of course the desperate lament, but is fortified with that typical repeating drum and bass rhythm. The instrumental parts laid the groundwork for post rock, while Smith himself would rather concentrate on writing some solid pop songs later on.
3. XTC – 1000 Umbrellas (Skylarking, 1986) [singlepic id=360 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Andy Partridge signed the end of XTC’s touring history in 1982, as he started to suffer from stage fright. Just like The Beatles did earlier, XTC concentrated on working in the studio from then on and also picked up the idea of making a concept album. Skylarking was supposed to be about growing up, getting older and dying, all in one day. The result was an incredible album filled with orchestration, like the numerous string sections in this song, completely in line with the Paul McCartney Academy of Pop Music.
4. Afghan Whigs – Now You Know (Gentlemen, 1993) [singlepic id=125 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Typical guitar sound from the nineties, resembling that of their lumberjacket wearing peers from Washington. However, not only did their wardrobe differ, also the lyrics from this Cincinatti band sound much more mature and devoted, even reminding of Dylan sometimes. This is of course their best (and fourth) album, released one year after break-through album Congregation (great cover) and recorded in Memphis.
5. The Beatles – Not a Second Time (With the Beatles, 1963) [singlepic id=357 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Iconic pop album, released in the US as Meet The Beatles. It’s actually a mix of some of the bands’ live covers like ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’, ‘Please Mister Postman’ and ‘Money’, together with the Fab Four’s first songwriting gems, like McCartney’s ‘All My Loving’. This one is a Lennon song without electric guitar, so no Harrison.
6. Smashing Pumpkins – To Forgive (Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness, 1995) [singlepic id=332 w=80 h=50 float=left]
For me personally one of the biggest rediscoveries last year. Billy Corgan already dominated the Pumpkins on their second album (Siamese Dream (1993), on which he frequently overdubbed the bass and guitar parts with his own stuff), and on this magnificent third (ultimate cocktail of riff & melody) he shined like never before, and never afterwards. The threatening, modest sound of this song would dominate the next album and also returned on Radiohead’s OK Computer .
7. Pavement – Conduit For Sale! (Slanted and Enchanted, 1992) [singlepic id=356 w=80 h=50 float=left]
More nineties, and not complaining. Californian trio that formed in 1989, played till 1999 and saw their status grow each year since. Great record that offers a lot, except pretention.
8. The Raconteurs – Top Yourself (Consolers of the Lonely, 2008) [singlepic id=359 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Second and (for now?) last album of The Raconteurs, written by Brendan Brenson and Jack White, the man who secured the heritage of all preliminary guitar music in the new century. Whatever band this guy played in, it never took long before I liked it.
9. David Bowie – Right (Young Americans, 1975) [singlepic id=355 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Bowie leaves his androgen identity behind and freely throws Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder into the blender in a way that makes all other attempts at white soul pale into insignificance. Featuring Carlos Alomar for the first time.
10. The Eagles – Life in the Fast Lane (Hotel California, 1976) [singlepic id=8 w=80 h=50 float=left]
A dash of funk blew over from the previous song into the guitar playing of Joe Walsh. Classic.