Black Flag – Damaged
Anti-establishment lyrics, rebellion in the very guitar they play, yelling about what they’re pissed off about, this is hardcore punk at its finest. They refused to be controlled and they defied any and every system that meant to own them. But it wasn’t just the music. Black Flag was fundamental to the Do-It-Yourself ethic. In that sense, you can see why this album resonated with so many. Still, you kind of have to wonder what on earth they’re so pissed off about. This album is so angry, I had to look up if these guys were still alive. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they weren’t. The only thing these guys seem remotely happy about is beer. I don’t know how much I got or enjoyed this upon first listen, but still I guess I can see why it’s here.
Highlights: Rise Above, Spray Paint, Thirsty and Miserable, Depression
- Tom Waits – The Heart of Saturday Night
What’s strange about this album is how straightforward it is. It’s not trying to be artsy or eccentric, it just is what it is. Tom Waits sounds young, jazzy, and remarkably human on this album. If Springsteen went folk or jazz, it would sound like this album. Even the spoken word nature of “Diamonds on My Windshield” doesn’t sound strange. This album is littered with gems (“I’m selfish and I’m cruel, but you’re blind”, “If I exorcise my devils, my angels might leave too”). Definitely my favorite Waits project thus far.
Highlights: San Diego Serenade, Shiver Me Timbers, The Heart of Saturday, Please Call Me, Baby
- Big Brother and The Holding Company – Cheap Thrills
No, it’s not a live album. I know you hear a live audience at the beginning and the end and I know there’s an immense amount of energy that would make you think it’s live, but it’s not a live album. And yes, that’s Janis Joplin you hear; every bit as rock and roll as you can imagine. Listening to this album I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth she sings with such intensity – screaming, sounding like she’s about to lose her voice – and yet she still signs like an angel. Albeit a slightly raspy angel.
Highlights: I Need a Man to Love, Piece of My Heart
- Jethro Tull – Aqualung
They always told us not to judge a book by its cover. When I saw this album, I put off listening to it. It just didn’t sound/look like something I wanted to listen to, but musically it’s so impressive/clean and progressive that it almost covers a multitude of sins, like being just plain weird. Even though, lyrically, you get the sense Aqualung isn’t a particularly pleasant fellow to be around, the title track evolves in such a way I didn’t see coming. It starts creepy but then grows beautiful and light.”. Almost reminds me of Primus or Rush. While the band may debate whether or not it’s a concept album about God and religion, there definitely are those themes prevalent in it. Side note: man, can that man play a flute.
Highlights: Wond’Ring Aloud, Hymn 43, Wind Up
- Radiohead – In Rainbows
Definitely the first Radiohead record I ever bought. Instead of naming a price, the band invited fans to pay what they thought the album was worth. At the time, it was practically unheard of. I remember this album being so strange and unfamiliar, I immediately had to figure out what other albums people loved from them. Even though they’ve never been the kind of band for me that I know their songs chapter and verse, I have a profound respect for them. Thom Yorke’s voice is haunting and as experimental as they can be, they get so beautiful in that build of “All I Need.” It’d been a while since I last listened to this album. I think I need to listen to it more.
Highlights: 15 Step, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, Reckoner
- Soundgarden – Superunknown
Thing about this list is that you’re constantly coming across all these artists that you should’ve heard before but haven’t. Now that they’ve died all you have is their music. That’s exactly what this felt like. For better or worse my introduction to Chris Cornell came with the supergroup Audioslave. I had never listened to Soundgarden. This is more ‘90s grunge for you and though I’m over 20 years late, I’m surprised how much of this stuff I find myself liking. The guitar in “Mailman” is heavy, Chris Cornell has this aggressive voice with the singing range of four octaves, and “Limo Wreck” sounds like where Finch got their inspiration for “Bitemarks & Bloodstains.” Definitely an album I’m revisiting.
Highlights: My Wave, Black Hole Sun, The Day I Tried to Live, Kickstand
- Graham Parker – Squeezing Out The Sparks
You can hear Elvis Costello in the voice, a bit of The Clash musically, and you can see the sparks in his hair. Overall the sound is fun but if I’m honest, upon first listen, I have no idea what makes it so special.
Highlights: Local Girls, Nobody Hurts You
- X – Wild Gift
While their story may be similar to the White Stripes, these punk rockers from Los Angeles are completely different. Exene Cervenka is more vocally central than Meg White ever was. Though I’ve never listened to them before, both Cervenka’s and Doe’s voices sound familiar. Regardless, their voices work wonderfully together. Their punk edge comes out a bit more on “We’re Desperate.”
Highlights: Universal Corner, Back 2 Base, When Our Love Passed Out On the Couch
- Richard and Linda Thompson – Shoot Out the Lights
I was so moved by I Want to See The Bright Lights that when I found out another album of theirs was on the list, and that it’s supposedly better than the last, I was interested to see where it would go. This was Richard and Linda’s last album together. But based on the quality of the music here, you would’ve never guessed it. It’s in the magic of Linda’s voice and Richard’s guitar playing on “Walking on a Wire” and “Man in Need.” They sound alive and well. I’d have to listen to both albums side by side to hear which I lean towards but I am glad to see this on here.
Highlights: Walking on a Wire, Just the Motion, Shoot Out the Lights, Wall of Death
- The Beatles – Help!
I’m so embarrassed at just how little of The Beatles I’ve listened to. Right from the beginning there’s more way more energy on this project than Let It Be. That energy carries the rest of the album. This was the soundtrack to the movie of the same title. It’s catchy and fun and reminds you everything anyone has ever loved about The Beatles.
Highlight: Help!, I Need You, Lose That Girl, Ticket to Ride, Yesterday