1. Sigur Rós – Með blóðnasir (Takk… , 2005) [singlepic id=244 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Faltering start and angel harmonies, that has to be Iceland’s finest: last time I saw a train, this time my nose bleeds. Sigur Rós kind of started off slowly, debuting three years after being founded with Von (1997, Hope). A real good beginning came with the break-through second album two years later, opening some doors for them, like releasing an album containing eight untitled tracks sung in a made-up language. Takk… became their fourth album, blending the previous two and featuring three vigorous singles.
2. Grizzly Bear – Ready, Able (Veckatimest, 2009) [singlepic id=93 w=80 h=50 float=left]
New York indie quartet that originally started as (singer/keyboardplayer) Ed Droste’s solo project. Not seeing himself develop any further as a singer-songwriter, he transformed Grizzly Bear into a classic rock line-up on the second album: Yellow House (2006). They quickly developed their characteristic sound, injecting vocal harmonies based folk rock with a little bit of psychedelia by using some unorthodox electronic instruments. No wonder they were signaled by Radiohead, for whom they (just like Sigur Rós) opened a couple of shows during the summer of 2008. After this tour they started to record this third album, named after an uninhabited island and becoming a great success, this being one of the strongest tracks on it.
3. Echo & the Bunnymen – Pride (Crocodiles, 1980) [singlepic id=35 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Sleazy sixties garage guitars in the intro, but the computerized rhythm of the drums transports us twenty years ahead: Echo & the Bunnymen. It was one of the two bands that rose from the remnants of A Shallow Madness, following a dispute between members Julian Cope and Ian McCulloch. Cope transformed ASM into The Teardrop Explodes and McCulloch formed Echo & the Bunnymen (1978) with a guitarist, bass player and drum computer. However, by the time this debut (produced by professional wacko Bill Drummond and The Teardrop Explodes’ David Balfe) was recorded the band was already joined by drummer Pete de Freitas.
4. The Beatles – Help! (Help!, 1965) [singlepic id=410 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Most famous opening and title track from the album on which The Beatles left their youth behind them by retrieving from their pop comfort zone and starting to incorporate influences from other artists and genres: the solid bridge towards Rubber Soul. The up-tempo song was initially meant to become a sober ballad written by a truly depressive John Lennon and in this way it can be viewed as a first minor step towards his later expressive work.
5. Bob Dylan – Isis (Desire, 1976) [singlepic id=411 w=80 h=50 float=left]
We prolong our stay at the penthouse of rock’s treasure chamber with Dylan’s 17th album. 1975 brought along the release of Blood on the Tracks as well as The Basement Tapes and the start of Dylan’s famous ‘Rolling Thunder Revue’-tour. Just before the start of this tour, Dylan had finished the recordings of Desire (featuring most of the supporting musicians on that tour) and released it in between of the two legs of the tour. One of those musicians was ex-Byrd Roger McGuinn, who had brought Dylan into contact with Jacques Levy, a psychologist, theatre director and… Dylan’s songwriting partner on Desire. ‘Isis’ was their first collaboration: a story about a man who leaves the mysterious Isis, goes treasure hunting, returns without loot and on top of that has to bury his deceased travelling-companion, completely in The Band’s ‘The Weight’-style.
6. Talking Heads – Swamp (Stop Making Sense, 1984) [singlepic id=330 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Live recording from the song that originally appeared on the band’s fifth studio album Speaking in Tongues (1983), that was supported by the famous ‘Stop Making Sense’-tour. Speaking in Tongues ultimately succeeded Talking Heads’ 1980 masterpiece Remain in Light after a three years hiatus. During this period, Frantz and Weymouth kept recording with the Tom Tom Club while Brian Eno went his own way. No reunion possible in the future.
7. Joni Mitchell – My Old Man (Blue, 1971) [singlepic id=412 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Second track on Mitchell’s magnum opus, with only Joni herself on vocals and piano. As can be induced from some lyrics on the album, some songs were written by Mitchell during a vacation around Europe she had after breaking up with Westcoast partner Graham Nash. Back in California, she was dumped by another usual suspect, James Taylor, after which Blue was recorded. Taylor even plays guitar on some of the tracks, just like Stephen Stills of course.
8. Metallica – Fade to Black (Ride the Lightning, 1984) [singlepic id=413 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Another blue cover, with Metallica’s first attempt to make a power ballad, featuring an opening riff that would later inspire a lot of emo-shit that lacked Metallica’s hard core. The song itself would have inspired a lot of suicides, as Ulrich and Hetfield would have been obsessed by death at the time of recording. Whether some stolen gear and getting kicked out by your manager after drinking all his liquor is a legitimate reason for suicide or not, it still remains my favorite Metallica album.
9. Tool – Swamp Song (Undertow, 1993) [singlepic id=311 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Another Swamp, from Tool’s debut album this time. It must have been difficult for an album with such unorthodox song structures to compete with the booming grunge wave at that time but luckily K-Mart and Wal-Mart came to the rescue with the creation of some controversy about a couple of sleeve pictures. Noteworthy anecdote from the support tour: when Tool found out they had to play at a venue owned by Scientology’s Ron Hubbard, MJ Keenan ‘spent most of the show baa-ing like a sheep at the audience’. Gotta love them.
10. The Flaming Lips – The Observer (The Soft Bulletin, 1999) [singlepic id=309 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Instrumental from a very sweet album full of pieces of candy. Band that went a long way from the harder alternative rock in the eighties and early nineties to the ultimate pop sound on this ninth album. Not to mention its predecessor you had to play simultaneously on four separate stereo systems…
This is an ode to the shuffle. How better to get a good insight in your digitized album collection than by a classic shuffle? Finally discover the albums you never got into, finally throw the ones away you will never get into and worship those classics that never grow old again. The Shuffle of this week:
1. Kraftwerk – The Man-Machine (The Man-Machine, 1978) [singlepic id=241 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Closing track from Kraftwerks’ seventh and most important album, a miraculous one that sounds like an anachronism in music history. When listening attentively, you can hear the repeating videogame sounds from the first Nintendo (NES, released about five years later) in the background.
2. Modest Mouse – Convenient Parking (The Lonesome Crowded West, 1997) [singlepic id=175 w=80 h=50 float=left]
I was introduced to this album one year ago and it slowly gained my appreciation from then on. The indie band was founded in Issaquah, a smaller city near Seattle (the towers on the cover being The Westin Seattle), in 1993 during the aftermath of the grunge wave. This is the trio’s second real studio album, time for me to get their third, the even more praised The Moon & Antarctica (2000).
3. Pixies – River Euphrates (Surfer Rosa, 1988) [singlepic id=243 w=80 h=50 float=left]
It has been a long time ago since I’ve heard this one. I put on the Doolittle now and then, but this one? However, the band could be considered a forefather of Modest Mouse, certainly on this second album.
4. Golden Earring – Joe (Bloody Buccaneers, 1991) [singlepic id=239 w=80 h=50 float=left]
A little nostalgia with one of the worlds’ longest standing bands from the Netherlands. It has to be admitted however that this track is really horrible. The band was not in their best shape anymore in that era, but delivered some good songs here and there. (Damn, this song lasts way too long…)
5. Beastie Boys – 14th St. Break (The Mix-Up, 2007) [singlepic id=237 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Repeating melody from their seventh album, being completely instrumental. Not really their best one as I had to conclude afterwards.
6. Blonde Redhead – Anticipation (Misery is a Butterfly, 2004) [singlepic id=238 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Another one I last heard a couple of years ago; this is not going to be a shuffle filled with golden classics. The band was formed in New York in 1995 and on this album (their sixth, produced by Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto) the band evolved towards a more dreamy sound with Makino’s vocals resembling those of Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser.
7. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Mercy (Tender Prey, 1988) [singlepic id=242 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Record with the explicit late eighties album cover. It has this strong post-punk sound with strong parallels to Joy Division and Echo & the Bunnymen.
8. TV On the Radio – Poppy (Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, 2004) [singlepic id=245 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Here they are again. Really great album.
9. Jefferson Airplane – The House at Pooneil Corners (Crown of Creation, 1968) [singlepic id=240 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Powerfully built smasher from another one of this bands’ strong albums, being the successor of After Bathing at Baxter’s. Of course the vocals shine again, but especially the pumping drums and bass create the frightful threatening atmosphere on this song.
10. Sigur Ros –Sé Lest (Takk…, 2005) [singlepic id=244 w=80 h=50 float=left]
I see a train and can peacefully go to bed after listening to angels singing. As the album title says in Islandic: Thanks…