the soft bulletin

It is here, it is now, it is real:

GvZ:

25. (36) Crosby Stills Nash & Young – Déjà Vu (1970)
24. (22) The Kinks – Face to Face (1966)
23. (40) Radiohead – OK Computer (1997)
22. (*) The Beatles – The Beatles (‘White Album’) (1968)

21. (35) Talking Heads – Remain In Light (1980)
“You’re a train, man.”

RKH:

25. (38) Donald Fagen – The Nightfly (1982)
24. (20) The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin (1999)
23. (17) Crosby Stills Nash & Young – Déjà Vu (1970)
22. (13) Paul McCartney & Wings – Band on the Run (1973)

21. (31) Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow (1967)
“To quote the ‘musical and spiritual advisor’ credited on this album: “Far out, man.”

1. Sigur Rós – Með blóðnasir (Takk… , 2005)

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) 

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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) 

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)

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…

Getting close to the Holy of Holies, the top ten of the best all-time albums, but first: #20-11!

GVZ:

20. (12) Jethro Tull – Aqualung (1971)
“Like the bearded lady said to me: ‘Anderson unified dirty old men and the church, of course it’s a concept album, and a pretty damn good one too. Look out, a chicken-fancier!’ ”

19. (32) Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1968)
“One of my worst dreams from the past year must have been the one in which I had written this album.”

18. (9) Panda Bear – Person Pitch (2007)
“From Holland to Wilhelmsburg before ending up in Christiania. That trip was mellow, man.”

17. (19) Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti (1975)
“Four musical geniuses ejaculating on all rock’s subgenres.”

16. (14) Radiohead – Kid A (2000)
“Welcome to this new century, I hope you’re feeling un-comfort-able.”

15. (21) Santana – Abraxas (1970)
“We called it mother, called it whore and slut, called it our beloved, called it Abraxas….” 

14. (*) The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
“When one stuck-up musician is trying to outclass himself, great things can happen.”

13. (6) Paul Simon – Graceland (1986)
“The only album from this list you can recommend to everyone, regardless of their musical references. Except American cops. Boom Boom.”

12. (13) The Moody Blues – In Search of the Lost Chord (1968)
“Sgt. Leary’s Searching Souls Club Band.”

11. (18) Pink Floyd – A Saucerful of Secrets (1968)
“Gigantic explosion of the Floyd Shuttle on his way from psychedelic to progressive: one casualty, milestone album.”

RKH:

20. (*) The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin (1999)
“Soundtrack of the late 90’s believe of the impending transcendence of humandkind to a higher plane of understanding and compassion. The Naive Album.”

19. (7) Fleetwood Mac – Bare Trees (1972)
“Works anywhere, anytime for whatever reason. The best example of ‘simply great music’.”

18. (31) Prince – Purple Rain (1984)
“How To Become a Rockstar for Dummy’s.”

17. (14) Crosby Stills Nash & Young – Déjà Vu (1970)
“Sometimes a penis measuring contest can result in great things.”

16. (8) Talking Heads – Remain in Light (1980)
“The musical Storming of the Bastille. No sire, it’s not a revolt; it’s a revolution.”

15. (16) Van Morrison – Moondance (1970)
“Yang.”

14. (41) Lou Reed – Berlin (1973)
“No Lou Reed the experimental rock machine, but the boomy chansonnier. My favourite blend of Reed.”

13. (17) Paul McCartney & Wings – Band on the Run (1973)
“The sound of an ego no longer obstructed by three other other ego’s. The best solo-Beatles album. There, I said it. Yeh?”

12. (12) Guided By Voices – Alien Lanes (1995)
“More hooks than a tackle box.”

11. (38) Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
“The cosmic orgasm of the most important musical decade in history.”

GF:

20. Neil Young – Harvest (1972)
“Door rugklachten gekluisterd aan het bed, maakt hij in een innige omhelzing met zijn akoestische gitaar deze prachtige plaat.”

19. The Zombies – Odessey and Oracle (1968)
“Een ode aan de zon.”

18. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground (1969)
“Zonder John Cale, aanvankelijk zonder succes, maar wat een nummers!”

17. Love – Forever Changes (1967)
“Liefde en altijd gaan nooit samen, buiten bij Love en Forever Changes.”

16. Lee Hazlewood – Cowboy In Sweden (1970)
“Ruig en dan weer zweverig, maar altijd diep rakend.”

15. Paul McCartney & Wings – Band on the Run (1973)
“Paul McCartney is nog altijd op zijn best op plaat.”

14. Tom Waits – Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards (2006)
“Vanaf de eerste woorden van de bard Tom Waits waan je je in een rokerig café waar een oude man aan de toog zijn levensverhaal vertelt vol met prachtig vertelde tegenslagen.”

13. Townes Van Zandt – The Late Great Townes Van Zandt (1972)
“Het lijkt een verzamelalbum, maar het is een gewoon album met enkel en alleen de beste countrynummers.”

12. Neil Young – After the Gold Rush (1970)
“Soms enkel een piano, dan weer zware elektrische gitaren, maar altijd die stem … die stem en die teksten.”

11. Eagles – Hotel California (1976)
“Lange tijd niet de moeite genomen om dit album te beluisteren tot mijn oor bleef hangen bij ‘Try and Love Again’ en vanaf toen deze plaat again, again and again.”

Jukebox

DejaVu1970 graceland1986 surrealisticpillow1967 veedonfleece1974