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Showing posts from July, 2004

47. Paul Simon - Hearts And Bones (1984)

In the grand tradition of singer-songwriter divorce albums (Imperial Bedroom by Elvis Costello, Shoot Out The Lights by Richard and Linda Thompson) comes Hearts And Bones. (This is actually Simon’s second divorce record; the first was Still Crazy After All These Years.) Originally begun as a Simon & Garfunkel reunion record after their triumphant 1981 return, things quickly soured. Art's vocals were erased, the album went out as a Simon solo project and promptly crashed and burned, commercially speaking. Too bad. Listening to the record, it's somewhat hard to imagine as a S & G effort, the songs are so personal. Ironically, had it been released under the Simon & Garfunkel name it probably would have been a massive hit.

Being a divorce album the theme is, of course, heartbreak and loss. Allergies opens the album with the buzz of technology (robot voices!) and big drums. Simon likens the falling in love to an allergic reaction. After two divorces it seems he was tire…

46. The Cars - Heartbeat City (1983)

Heartbeat City was The Cars' fifth album and the blockbuster hit of their career. In overview, The Cars could be fairly summarized as a singles band. This means that they made better individual songs then they did albums, not that their music is especially appealing to people that are uninvolved romantically.

With 5 of the songs on Heartbeat City serving as singles, that gives them great odds that the album was going to turn out good by default. And it is!

The Cars always had an infectious sound. The combination of the warm, complex, keyboard-dominated music with the detached alien yelp of singer/songwriter Ric Ocasek gave them an upper hand on many bands. Putting them with uber-producer Robert "Mutt" Lange, well known for his meticulous, layered approach, was a dangerous move. Really, how many layers does a song need? But the pairing paid off; Lange seems to have simply added sheen to the band's approach. (In fact, Ocasek must have been inspired: Though they didn'…

A Change Is Gonna Come

I have just completed a thorough and exhaustive spreadsheet cataloging of all of the CDs I own, and as a result I've been inspired to reconsider my yearly lists (located on the sidebar to your right), as well as my overall list of favorite albums (also conveniently located on the sidebar to your right).

One revelation: 1966, 1982, and 1999 were awesome years.  Another revelation: 8 is almost always better than ten.  Once I got to the revision process I realized that several years had some padding in their top ten lists, and would benefit from some belt-tightening.  So you'll find now that years will have a top 5, 8, or 10.  Years that had less than 5 don't get any love. 

This process has set about a series of thoughts that may or may not be worth following through on.  Namely, do prefrences change based on the season?  Would these lists be completely different in the dead of the Minnesota winter?  Though most lists did not change much, the 2003 list once again metamorphis…

Baby, I'm A Star

Please help welcome into the world a new sister site for 3 Minutes, 49 Seconds.

It's named after a Prince song, from the best rock 'n' roll movie ever made.

Curiousity piqued? Check out Baby, I'm A Star here!

45. Van Halen - The Best Of Both Worlds (2004)

I detailed the history of my relationship with Van Halen fairly extensively in my review of Van Halen 3 back in February. At the end of that piece I mused about how great it would be for Sammy and the band to reconcile and that I'd be there for it if it happened. Well, it happened, and keeping my promise, here I am.

To coincide with their current tour with Sammy, the band have released this two disc retrospective, bolstered by three new studio tracks by the mighty Van Hagar. This is a great title: The Best Of Both Worlds. Of course it's one of their song titles, but it also plays off the "best of" idea as well as the fact that there are two singers (worlds) represented. The artwork is also great, basically a recreation of the Frankenstein guitar that Eddie made so famous in the early years. The inside features new photos of the band with Sammy, which is a little odd, but cool to see.

Okay, so there are a lot of fun subplots to discuss here, mostly involving the t…

44. Chomsky - Let's Get To Second (2004)

I came across Chomsky in that accidental way I often seem to encounter bands. I first heard of them in 2001, when they were featured in the recommendations on the XTC website, Chalkhills. Not a week later a friend told me about this new band that was named after the liberal theorist Noam Chomsky. Taking these two signs to heart, I decided to seek out their record, Onward Quirky Soldiers, sound unheard. My search became the perfect illustration of why playing hard-to-get works. The more I struck out in finding it (even from online sources), the more I wanted it.

And then one day in the used Cheapo bins, there it was! I got home, peeled the price sticker off, opened the case, and found nothing there. I went back, but the CD itself was nowhere to be had. I decided to keep the case and, rather than resuming my frustrating search, download the songs and burn the CD myself.

Of course this also proved to be an ordeal. When I searched Kazaa for their songs, I found countless snippets of speeche…

43. Mutual Admiration Society - Self-Titled (2004)

From the curiosity department:

Mutual Admiration Society (MAS) is a musical Frankenstein with the body of blugrass trio Nickel Creek and the head of Toad the Wet Sprocket (lead man Glen Phillips). What mad scientist dreamed this up? What was the intention behind it? Was it for art's sake? Or are there plans to unleash it and attempt world domination?

Disregarding questions about its origin, the album is a surprise in a few ways. For one, it's not as twangy as you'd expect. This is a mostly quiet, ponderous set, and the Nickel Creekers' contributions are quite subtle and understated. In fact, it's almost like a Toad album with a bit more mandolin, fiddle and harmony.

There are 11 songs. Two were written by Sean Watkins (the pretty La Lune and the instrumental Reprise), three are covers, and the remaining six are Phillips originals. Of these, it's perhaps not coincidental that the two standouts are the two sole uptempo tracks on the record, Sake of the World and Be …