The Pogues – Run Sodomy and the Lash
This is definitely Celtic punk rock. This takes me back to The Warped Tour and Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphy’s. You get all the folk and rock elements along with bagpipes, mandolins, and accordions. Even though these guys come from London, this feels like Irish pub music (Shane McGowan is Irish-British). They can get just as crass as the rest and yet that’s part of the charm.
Highlights: Sick Bed of Cuchulainn, I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day, Sally McLennane
- Sam Cooke – Live from the Harlem Square Club, 1963
Mr. Soul himself. Sam Cooke, to me, has always been “Change Gon’ Come” but this is a completely different side to him. In fact, that’s partially why it took so long to be released (this recording is from 1963 but was put out 1985). Sam and the band are bringing down this historic Miami Club and you’re just caught in the whirlwind. His voice sounds like he’s been killing performance after performance for days now and he’s at his end but he loves what he does so much it’s not going to hold him back. Rolling Stone called it. When the crowd chimes in during “For Sentimental Reasons”, you just have to appreciate the moment. Don’t fight it. Feel it.
Highlights: Chain Gang, Somebody Have Mercy, Bring it on Home To Me
- The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry
This makes me happy for a number of reasons. First, I’m already a fan of The Cure (“Letter to Elise” is one of my favorite songs of all-time). Second, because if this album is on here that means Disintegration is also going to be somewhere on this list (turns out it’s 326). These guys and the Smiths had their own miniature war on sadness and I honestly can’t tell you who won. Interestingly enough, this isn’t a studio album as much as it’s compilation of their stuff prior to this. Maybe because I became a fan of this band’s late ’80s releases, some of this stuff doesn’t appeal to me as much (“10:15 Saturday Night”). It sounds a bit amateur, and young. Of course, all the DNA that brought you “Friday I’m in Love” is here but it’s just not as refined.
Highlights: Boys Don’t Cry, Jumping Someone Else’s Train, Fire In Cairo
- Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter III
Lil Wayne and I have a love/hate relationship. On one hand, he seems like the most arrogant rapper alive. In my head, he buys into his own hype way too much, thinking everything he touches turns to gold. And yet, we bought into it too. As a result, everything he touched DID turn to gold. He would say the most outlandish things and half the time it didn’t seem like he tried. But then on the other hand were these handful of songs from him where I couldn’t deny his giftedness. Thing is, Wayne is clever but he rides the borderline of clever and cheesy. (“Money so old/it’s growing white hair”). But I remember when this album came out and the singles were everywhere. I think my biggest issue is that there’s simply no substance on most of these songs. If he’s not bragging about money, he’s talking about women and I just want more from it. Not to mention, this album feels unnecessarily long. To the point where it sounds like even HE got tired of it by the end. I know Lil’ Wayne fans are going to kill me for this. Sorry.
Highlights: Mr. Carter, Comfortable
- Beck – Sea Change
For some of us, the only reason we know about Beck is because the Beyoncé Grammy snub. I’m sure I’d heard of him before that but it wasn’t until then that I researched him and that album in particular. A comment every review said was that it was a follow up to this album. Sea Change is a break up album, melancholy through and through. Story goes as such: Beck and fiancé, who he’d been with for nine years, broke up after him discovering she’d been cheating on him. Apparently after they split, he wrote the majority of these songs in a week but then held onto them for a while because they were too personal. And you can hear it in the lyrics (“It’s only lies I’m living/it’s only tears I’m crying/it’s only you I’m losing/guess I’m doing fine.”) This is an album to fall asleep to, or cry tears in your pillow as the day wanes. True story: I had to take a nap half way into it.
Highlights: Golden Age, Guess I’m Doing Fine, Lonesome Tears, Already Dead
- Nirvana – In Utero
How does one follow up an album Nevermind? The album that put them on the map, bringing more fame and celebrity than they could’ve ever dreamed? Tear it to the ground and start again. Nevermind showed us Nirvana polished and clean. In Utero shows us grit and unrefined. Take “Scentless Apprentice” for example. That almost sounds like a completely different band from “Smell Like Teen Spirit” but “Heart-Shaped Box” shows us they’re still in there.
This is a multi-layered album. On one hand, it talks about a variety of seemingly unrelated things. “Rape Me” could be telling the story for the perspective of a rape victim and the almost poetic justice of that person being raped. But then it could also the way Kurt is feeling about the music industry. “Frances Farmer” could be about the celebrity, but then at the same time could also express Kurt’s own feelings at that stage of his life and career. Even though this album was released a year before his suicide, there’s something haunting about this record. Maybe even because of the suicide that follows. The self-hatred and themes of suicide and feeling empty or used. Similar to Hole, “milk” makes an appearance a couple times in this album.
Highlight: Heart-Shaped Box, Rape Me, Dumb, Tourette’s, All Apologies
- Big Star – #1 Record
Second Big Star record on this thing! This is the first band to have multiple albums on the list (I know as we get higher we’ll see more Beatles and Beach Boys). Already I can sense the life in this record that wasn’t present the one prior on the list. They just seem to have a bit more energy here. Still at times reminds me of the Beatles. But, this is where you feel the power-pop come out. I have a strong feeling this is one of those albums you go to listen to only one song and before you know it, you’ve listened to the whole thing. So many great harmonies on this thing. This definitely tops Third/Sister Lovers.
Highlights: Ballad of El Goodo, In the Street, Thirteen, Try Again
- George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
If it sounds like The Beatles, it’s because there are a couple of songs on here that were written for the band but were turned down by McCartney and Lennon. This is a triple-disc, country/folk album. Easy on the ears and good for the soul. Perfect soundtrack to get work done to. Only problem is that while there’s so many good tracks on this album you inevitably hit a point you’re tired of listening to it. But there’s lots to enjoy here. The last three tracks on the album are solid instrumentals. The guitar and horns on “Art of Dying” are epic.
Highlights: My Sweet Lord, Wah-Wah, Isn’t It A Pity, What Is Life, Awaiting On You All
- Brian Eno – Here Comes the Warm Jets
Brian Eno is legend. Besides all the production credits under his belt (U2 ranks among them), he’s practically the father of ambient music. But for all that being true, my attempts to listen to an Eno record has always ended prematurely. I’m not patient enough to stick with it, but this time I’m forced to. And this was fun. This is Brian Eno’s debut album. You can hear the glam elements as well as the more experimental, Bowie-esque elements (“Blank Frank”, “Driving Me Backwards”).
Highlights: Needles in the Camel’s Eye, Cindy Tells Me, On Some Faraway Beach, Some of Them Are Old
- PJ Harvey – Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
PJ Harvey is another one of those artists I’ve heard mentioned a lot – seems like she’s everywhere – yet I’ve never stopped and listened to her. I feel like I hear 90’s grunge in it. Almost like the guitar reminds me of Nirvana but the vocals resemble Courtney Love. While this is supposed to be her happier record, “Beautiful Feeling” is cryptic. I feel like this might be one of those albums you listen to more than once to really appreciate it.
Highlights: Big Exit, A Place To Call Home, The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore, You Said Something