Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady
Talk about old school punk rock. I think I remember these guys going on Warped Tour way back when and even then, they were famed punk veterans showing the next generation a thing or two. Singles Going Steady is exactly what it sounds like: a collection of singles first compiled to help Buzzcocks break onto the American scene. Songs for the most part are short and punchy. Sonically, “Orgasm Addict” immediately reminded me The White Stripes but overall, I agreed with Rolling Stones: this is The Ramones meets the Sex Pistols with a college sense of humor. If you listen to the lyrics though, they speak mostly to longing and desire and longing unfulfilled. Punk with sentiment.
Highlights: Promises, Everybody’s Happy Nowadays, Noise Annoys, Why Can’t I Touch It?
- Elton John – Honky Chateau
Due to my experience with Elton John’s last album on this list, I was really excited to take another shot at him. This record didn’t disappoint. Once again, he absolutely dazzles, playing circles around the listener in “Honky Cat.” But even more than that, this album is home to some of the songs we’ve come to know and love from him, namely “Rocket Man”. This album isn’t just a cure to a bad case of the Mondays, it’s a cure to a bad day period. Side note: did I mention his voice is amazing? Because it is.
Highlights: Honky Cat, Mellow, Susie, Rocket Man, Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters
- Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain
The man who brought you the cool. I don’t know what to say aside from this album is beauty in its purest form. From the very beginning, you can’t help but be immersed in Davis’ playing and mastery. It’s cinematic in the sense that it sounds as if it belongs in some black-and-white movie with characters making a trek across the desert or wilderness. Maybe it’s the kind of music that takes each listener different places, according to their own impressions of the sound.
Highlights: Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio), Solea
- The Rolling Stones – Between the Buttons
If someone came up to me and said, “Tomy, name three songs from The Rolling Stones” I wouldn’t have been able to do it. That’s the beauty of this list. I’m getting the opportunity to catch up on a lot of music I should’ve heard a long time ago. Having listened to, I’m sure I’ve heard an actual Rolling Stones song before but just didn’t know it was them. At the risk of overstating this, I can hear the Beatles. But apparently, that’s not an unfounded comparison. Both were part of the British invasion that took over the U.S. and others have made similar comments.
Highlights: Let’s Spend the Night Together, Ruby Tuesday, Connection, Miss Amanda Jones
- Randy Newman – 12 Songs
One of these days I’ll be able to listen to Randy Newman without hearing “You’ve Got a Friend In Me.” One day. Unfortunately, I have yet to have that day. It’s not that Randy Newman isn’t talented or enjoyable. It’s just that his voice is so distinct it’s hard to separate him from that song. In the same way Hugh Jackman will always be Wolverine, no matter what he did or does before and after the X-Men movies, in the same way Daniel Radcliffe will always be Harry Potter, no matter what he did before or does after the movies, Randy Newman be Toy Story for me for a long time. But as I said, that’s not to say this album wasn’t enjoyable. The songwriting is as strong as its ever been and you can hear the blues influence here.
Highlights: Have You Seen My Baby?, Mama Told Me Not To Come, Old Kentucky Home
- The Yardbirds – Having a Rave Up With the Yardbirds
What’s crazy about The Yardbirds is just how legendary the majority of their members went on to be. Eric Claption is the guitar legend we know him as today, Jimmy Page had Led Zepplin, and Jeff Beck is regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. All of them at some point found their home with this band. Some of them even make an appearance on this record. The legend alone makes this album fun.
Highlights: You’re A Better Man Than I, I’m a Man
- Billy Joel – 52nd Street
This album appeals to me for a few reasons. First, because I remember the time Chris Rock made a joke connecting Billy Joel and Elton John. Second, because I once almost got into an accident driving home from Oakland because I was looking at an advertisement for a concert Billy Joel and Elton John were playing together. Lastly, because Andrew McMahon, my favorite songwriter, often cites Billy Joel as a key influence in his own piano playing. Between the groove that is “Big Shot” (mariachi and all) to the jam that is “My Life”, this album is sweeping. It sounds like he’s just having fun but he’s so ridiculously talented that his messing around is actual musicianship. And now having listened, I can understand the connections between Billy Joel and Elton John. Their sounds are similar.
Highlights: Big Shot, My Life, Half a Mile Away
- Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
According to Kanye West himself, this is his most perfect album. A handful of magazines and reviewers have called it his best album. Maybe I could see why they’d say that. It’s a hybrid of the arrogance that made Graduation fun to listen to with the same production feel but, at times, it’s got a sense of purpose like his first two albums. But still, I wouldn’t say it’s his best simply because Late Registration exists. HOWEVER, that being said, this is one heck of an album. Coming off 808s & Heartbreak Kanye had something to prove and he proved it. In some ways it feels a symphony of impressive features and equally impressive beats. But to me, this was when Kanye started to vulgar to a point where it became hard to listen to. This album is surprisingly long given that it’s only 13 songs. Side note: I would love to see him and Bon Iver tag team an album together.
Highlights: Dark Fantasy, POWER, All of the Lights, Runaway, Lost in the World
- Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms
Off the bat reminded me of Springsteen. Other times, it was reminiscent of ZZ Top. Still, I could hear Sting and the influence of the Police on “Ride Across the River.” Nevertheless, for all this, there are still these beautiful smooth jazz moments. “Your Latest Trick” is absolutely beautiful.
Highlights: So Far Away, Walk of Life, Your Latest Trick
- Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps
While I was initially thrown off by Neil Young singing “rock and roll is here to stay” over an acoustic guitar, he redeems it in the end with the electric version of the song. When he sings it there, it sounds so much appropriate and true. Neil Young has this strange, nasally gentle voice Ryan O’Neal from Sleeping At Last almost duplicates more beautifully and yet, you don’t really listen to Neil Young for the voice. You listen because he’s a phenomenal songwriter. This album, half acoustic and half electric, goes everywhere from psychedelic rock to folk.
Highlights: My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue), Thrasher, Pocahontas, My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Black)