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Showing posts from April, 2008

12 by The Wallflowers

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 16








Underrated is a difficult word to use when you're referring to a mainstream pop band with at least two huge hits and a lead singer sired by Bob Dylan, but The Wallflowers definitely don't get enough credit.

1. One Headlight (from Bringing Down The Horse, 1996)
I remember hearing rumors that this was about a man who'd had a testicle removed. It's funny to listen to the lyrics with that interpretation in mind ("we can drive it home with one headlight") but I don't really buy it.

2. 6th Avenue Heartache (from Bringing Down The Horse, 1996)
This was huge in college thanks to the fact that we had a row of party houses on 6th Avenue. They definitely saw their share of heartache, on a nightly basis. Thankfully, I lived on 7th Avenue.

3. The Difference (from Bringing Down The Horse, 1996)
Rami Jaffe's organ was really integral to the band. He was Steve …

12 by Jay-Z

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 15









In honor of his recent nuptials, this week we look at Jay-Z. Just so you know, I decided to focus on tracks that feature Jay-Z as the clear center of attention. I could make a completely different list of his guest appearances. Stay tuned on that...

I also avoided his big hits, for the most part. I don't think they're truly representative of his abilities or sensibilities. Finally, instead of offering my usual pithy commentary, I'm going to let the man speak for himself.

1. Can't Knock The Hustle (from Reasonable Doubt, 1996)
"I got extensive hos with expensive clothes and I sip fine wines and spit vintage flows."

2. Streets Is Watching (from In My Lifetime, Vol.1, 1997)
"If I shoot you I'm brainless / but if you shoot me, you're famous."

3. Hard Knock Life (from Hard Knock Life, Vol.2, 1998)
"I gave you prophecy on my first join…

170. The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

Now we continue our journey through the back catalog of a little-known '60s band I've recently discovered.

Just as quickly as The Beatles made their definitive album statement with Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, they immediately took it back with the cobbled-together Magical Mystery Tour. Maybe that's why they never got famous.

Magical Mystery Tour was the brainchild of Paul McCartney, conceived primarily a film project. It was to be a surreal journey across England with a bus full of musicians and carnies, with the results edited into a one hour special for the BBC. Why people kept giving such a commercially unproven (some might say failed) band chances to make films is beyond me. Of course, the lads created some new songs for the film.

Well, the movie turned out to be terrible. The songs were not, but the album still suffers in comparison to its predecessor. In fact, many of the songs have analogues to Sgt.Pepper or Revolver compositions, and are usually we…

12 by The Get-Up Kids

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 15












Missouri's The Get-Up Kids came on the scene with an appealing pop sense slathered with rawness. As I stated in my Promise Ring feature, I'll forever regard them as part of the Holy Trinity of Emo. After 4 memorable albums, they broke up in 2005.

Bonus: While researching this piece, I learned that bassist Rob Pope is now in Spoon!

1. Woodson (from Woodson EP, 1996)
Noisy guitar soundtrack for your miniature mental breakdowns. Matthew Pryor shows off his knack for memorably tortured lines: "You build me up / And break me down again / And I take it."

2. No Love (from Four Minute Mile, 1997)
At this point the band were like a cool little drawing you made while daydreaming. The lyrics are pure emo, lamenting a relationship that can never be: "If I came home one last time / Think of what the two of us could do / I guess we'll never know."

3. Shorty (fr…

169. Counting Crows: Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (2008)

Factoring in varying degrees of dedication, I've been a Counting Crows supporter from the beginning. Furthermore, in my many conversations and readings about music, I've never run into anyone willing to completely dismiss the band. In fact, the worst I've heard is that they're frustrating in concert because lead singer Adam Duritz constantly changes his phrasing and makes it impossible to sing along.

So it was somewhat surprising to read the recent Rolling Stone interview with Duritz in which he lamented the poor reputation of his band. "For some reason, everyone decided we were a piece of shit," he claims. I don't doubt that he's heard his share of heckling and naysayers, probably directed toward his emotional delivery and sometimes overworked lyrics, but this seems an exaggeration.

The ironic thing is that the Crows' new album - depicted in the article as a response to his detractors - features several songs that clearly spotlight Duritz'…

12 by Nada Surf

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 14





An underrated band if there ever was one. And, yeah, that's right, I'm leavin' Popular off. Sure, it's clever and all, but it just doesn't represent who they are.

1. Zen Brain (from High/Low, 1996)
The song from their debut that most predicts the band they'd eventually become. While still ensconced in the Weezer-esqe fuzz, the searching lyrics and strong melody are clear harbingers.

2. Hyperspace (from The Proximity Effect, 2000)
Wherein the band is revealed as the power-poppers they truly are. Hyperspace also shows a clear jump in polish - just listen to the bass and drums - despite the fact that The Proximity Effect was more DIY than their first album.

3. Amateur (from The Proximity Effect, 2000)
My favorite part is when Matthew Caws lyrical disco ball reference gets a disco beat response from drummer Ira Elliot.

4. Blizzard of '77 (from Let Go, 2003…

168. The B-52's: Funplex (2008)

The B-52's are simple and complicated all at once. Their party-all-the-time persona belies a tough, resilient history. The runaway success of 1989's Cosmic Thing album pegged them as a mainstream commercial band, but at heart they are an innovative group with avant garde influences.

And here we have Funplex, their first studio album since 1992's Good Stuff, and the first with the full band since Cosmic Thing. It's one of those comebacks you didn't even know you wanted. Who knew how much we missed the strong melodies and harmonies of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson, non sequitur shouting from hype man Fred Schneider, and the garage rock and rhythm of Keith Strickland?

While Funplex isn't a masterpiece, credit has to go to the band simply because it seems more like 16 months than 16 years since we've heard new material from them. The old musical chemistry obviously never went anywhere.

Pump kicks it off, surprisingly distorted and unsurprisingly off-kilter. The…