The Great Wall of Music: Albums 430-421

  1. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

FINALLY! AN ALBUM I’VE HEARD BEFORE AND ALREADY ENJOY! I remember when this album came out my buddy Lucas would have this on constant rotation in his car. This album reminds me of 2008, drives around Berkeley, and wishing I had gone to Berkeley High for my senior year of high school. And because of that, it has a special nostalgic place in my heart. Between Ezra having gone to Columbia and this album reminding me of Berkeley, it’s always seemed a bit pretentious in the best way. At the time, these were completely different sounds than I was used to hearing (African guitar sounds, Peter Gabriel references and all). It’s a similar feeling I felt when I heard Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which surprisingly is not on this list. There is no bad song on this album and if you listen to one, there’s no way you’re not listening to several.

Highlights: Oxford Comma, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, M79

  1. Brian Eno – Another Green World

Second Eno record on the list. Immediately this felt different. Chronologically, this is his third album, transitioning more into his ambient stylings (“In Dark Trees”, “The Big Ships”) and honestly, it’s those ambient stylings that make this record. Once the first ambient tracks came on I recognized why this man is so important. But that’s not to say the other songs are superfluous. Something about the way he sings “I’ll come running to tie your shoes” sounds extremely sweet and thoughtful.
Highlights: St. Elmo’s Fire, In Dark Trees, The Big Ships, Becalmed, Zawinul/Lava

  1. The Police – Outlandos D’Amour

This album. I can’t even imagine what it must’ve felt like to be alive when this album came on the scene. I imagine this would’ve changed everything people thought they knew about rock music up to that point. This was The Police’s debut album and man, what a debut it is. “Next To You” is a rock jam that gets you hook, line, and sinker. “Roxanne” is no stranger to me (and if you do CrossFit it might not be to you either). Second record from The Police on the list and I immediately like it more than Synchronicity. The rock, the reggae and the obvious skill these guys demonstrate. It’s all raw energy whereas Synchronicity is a bit more calculated. So impressed by this.

Highlights: Next To You, So Lonely, Peanuts, Born in the ‘50s.

  1. Peter Wolf – Sleepless

“This song is about being double parked on the highway of love.” Apparently this is called modern blues and I guess I can hear it. While it’s technical for sure, it doesn’t carry the same vintage sound you’d hear in listening to Albert King or B.B. King. It’s a bit more polished and new. There’s even a bit of country thrown in. At times, it reminds me of Springsteen, at other times it reminds me of Stevie Ray Vaughn, and sometimes he reminds me of Tom Waits with his growl.

Highlights: Nothing But the Wheel, Lots of Good Ones Gone, Five O’Clock Angel, Oh Marianne

  1. Cheap Trick – At Budokan

The boys are back in town. This after three studio albums these guys are rocking the heck out of Japan. You can hear the audience drown out the sound at certain elements. From what I’ve read, I understand this was right as Japan was falling in love with them and you can hear the joy in the music. It sounds like they’re having the time of their lives. They sound like the kings of the world. I even enjoyed the “Hello There” reprise at the end of the show. Both clever and corny.

Highlights: Come On, Come On, Surrender

  1. Graham Parsons – Grievous Angel

This was released four months after Graham Parsons’ overdose. Listening to it, I couldn’t help but wish he’d been around to enjoy the reception. Even for me, someone who’s not an avid country listener, this was surprisingly fun to listen to. Parsons and Emmylou Harris’ voices blend well together and it shows on the album’s opening track. They have this incredible way of building a song both musically and vocally to its ultimate climax and then resolving it beautifully.

Highlights: Return of the Grievous Angel, Brass Buttons, $1000 Wedding, Love Hurts

  1. Bruce Springsteen – The Rising

 The boss is back and he is out to make a statement. This album was inspired by September 11th and you can hear it in a number of songs. He tells the story of firefighters, families of victims and firefighters as well as the victims themselves. “Nothing Man” and “You’re Missing” are particularly poignant. Overall this album is a bit more electric, a bit more energetic than the morose Tunnel of Love. It almost feels like good songs just come out of this man strumming his guitar and repeating a phrase. My only critique: 15 songs leaves a lot of room for filler. At a certain point, you have to ask yourself if every song needs to be on the album. “Let’s Be Friends” comes to mind. But this album reminds me how music can unite a country and provide consolation for a hurting nation.

Highlights: Lonesome Day, Nothing Man, Mary’s Place, You’re Missing

  1. Diana Ross and the Supremes – Anthology

When they said anthology, they meant it. This is 50 songs, clocking in over two hours long. After a while, you’re surprised you’re still listening to this. My recommendation: don’t listen in one sitting. But disclaimers aside, these ladies are gems of the Motown era. They were the bestselling act of that whole era and to this day remain one of the most successful vocal groups. Similar to The Drifters, you may not know that you’ve been listening to The Supremes all these years but you certainly have. This is what they play in the diner to create atmosphere. And the beauty of this anthology is that there are so many hits on this thing. Still, 50 songs. Don’t listen in one sitting if you really want to enjoy the experience.

Highlights: Where Did Our Love Go, Baby Love, Come See About Me, Stop! In The Name of Love, I Hear A Symphony, You Can’t Hurry Love

  1. The Ronettes – Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica

Another girl group from the ‘60s. Interestingly enough, this started as a family group between sisters and a cousin. Similar to The Supremes, it feels like something you’d hear in a diner but this vocal group is a bit more pop and a bit more rock. Interestingly enough, for a career which lasted quite a while, this was their only studio album.

Highlights: Walking in the Rain, I Wonder, Be My Baby

  1. Various Artists – The Best of the Girl Groups, Vol. 1 & 2

Something a bit different! We’ve had studio albums, live albums, collections and anthologies but this is the first time we’re seeing a compilation of various artist as an album on here. I suppose it’s valid and counts. In terms of sound, it’s exactly what we’ve seen from the past couple of albums. That same ‘60s sound, those same iconic jams you at times take for granted for having actually been written and performed by people at some point. This does make for a good comprehensive overview of that era of music.

Highlights: Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss), Will You Love Me Tomorrow, My Boyfriend’s Back, Locomotion

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