Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Some of my favorite albums (a list):

Thanks to my short attention span, I usually prefer single songs to albums. When I find a perfect song, I listen to it millions of times, until I find a new perfect song, etc. But I do think there are some amazing full albums out there. Here are the ones that come to mind (note: I will add to this list as regularly as the memory is jogged)":

Gary Wilson: You Think You Really Know Me (Recorded and performed in Endicott, NY in a basement. Way ahead of its time! A notoriously worth-it cult album. I saw this guy live, which involved his wearing lady's underpants on his head, a mannequin strapped to his back, and his band mates throwing baking flower at him while he writhed on the floor moaning the names of girls from his 7th Grade home room. Beck gives a shout out to this guy on "Where it's at." After this album re-emerged to lots of critical acclaim, Gary was finally tracked down working in an adult book store in San Diego, playing gigs with a house band at the local Radisson Inn. He had not had a phone for over 8 years. He made a new album last year on Stones Throw which flopped, but was pretty cool. There's even a documentary and another excellent album of old out-takes and unreleased stuff. I first heard him when the only way to get his album was to befriend one of the employees at Other Music, and get them to make a tape for you...)

Deltron 3030: 3030 (One of the smartest hip-hop albums ever made. Pre-Gorillaz, but all the seeds for that project are sown here. The opening track is epic with Kid Koala scratching wonderfully, but the whole thing is great! The premise of the album is that it was made in the future, in the year 3030, and they use the future as an interesting lens through which they are able to criticize the present. My favorite line: "Never let a computer tell me shit!" Del at his best. Dan the Automator at his best, mostly. Damon A, from Blur, narrates, and MC Paul Barman makes a hilarious guest appearance. Though there are stand-out tracks -- "Thing you can do", "City Madness" -- the sum is greater than its parts. )

Polyrock: Polyrock (Phillip Glass produced. Perfect, tight NYC punk song-writing and edge, but with beautiful authentic synth keys added. If you like the Strokes, this is your band!)

Can: Ege Bamyasi (From their excellent Damo Sazuki period. Every song on this rocks, though I wish it had more electronic experimentation, which is the stuff that make later Can so significant. I think this album is far superior, and less 70s-bound than the more popular Tago Mago. These guys are German, with a Japanese lead singer. The moment you start to turn into a Music Indie Nerd, Can immediately surface. Jaki Liebezeit's drumming is incredible. I've recently discovered the most amazing song from a side project by Holger Czukay, Can's bassist, and Jaki, their famous-for-a-reason drummer, made with Jah Wobble. Find this song: "How Much Are They?"! Another really cool Can tune is a later one, called: "I Want More". It's a gem!)

Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle/Replicas (I love both of these albums, and keep coming back to them year after year. The keys and the real instrumentation, the overt conceptual-ness, the whole alien in the 80s thing. This music is timelessly cool. If you're having a party and want to impress, but aren't sure where to go with the music, just put this on, and use red lighting. You can't go wrong. Also, the cover of Pleasure principle is great.)

Dudley Perkins: A Lil Light (Madlib beats, Dudley Perkins vocals. Not really rap, or soul, or any genre per se. This album got panned, but I always go back to it. It's just one of my faves and Dudley is Christian. I also really dig his rapping under the alias Declaime. For more, see the post I put up about him in November.)

Quasimoto: The Unseen (Probably my favorite hip-hop album of all-time. Really raw and out-there, but all the seeds of what would later become Madlib's immense influence are present here. The main attraction is the loose, apathetic quality of the production and Quasimoto's helium voice, which is just Madlib's sped up. The lyrical content won't overwhelm, so don't go here for that. Personally I'm glad this guy steers clear of attempts at profundity. Check out the song "Come on Feet", which is a cover of sorts, and is one of the weirdest hip-hop singles ever released. You can see the video on Stonesthrow.com. There aren't really any particularly note-worthy stand-outs as this is really a sort of home-grown, cannibus-smoking producer's science project, but "Bad Character" is a good place to start. "I'll have you slavin' in my dungeon while I'm eatin' swordfish!")

The Flame: The Flame (Sometimes called "The Black Beatles". This album sounds just like the White Album. The song-writing is trite, but catchy as all-get-out. Amazingly, one of these guys later became a member of the Beach Boys. Typical weird Beach Boys fact. They are from South America, I mean, S. Africa.)

Quasimoto: The Further Adventures of Lord Quas (The recent follow-up to "The Unseen". Excellent again, mainly as a whole. I just love listening to this stuff. Madlib is a true artist, and, fortunately, prolific as well. Jay Dee was really the only current cat who could hang with this guy's vision. I also love Madlib's tribute to the late Weldon Irvine, under the alias, Monk Hughes, but it's not exactly radio music. Think Miles Davis' "On the Corner".)

Cannibal Ox: The Cold Vein (Another of my favorite hip-hop albums. This is El-P's production at its best. This is Def Jux when Def Jux was new and interesting. Vast Aire shreds from start to finish. Every song is excellent. I can't pick a favorite. This is dense music, made for multiple listens if any at all. It will keep your basket full of fish, and your other basket full of orchard fruit; a very high careful-listening-bears-fruit ratio. "You were a still-born baby; your mother didn't want you, but you were still born." One last comment on this: this album has views the world to be truly Fallen. The album is entitled "The Cold Vein", like the vein of the reality of stuggle that runs throughout life. At one point, the throw-away, "New York is evil at its core" is stated, which is a statement I've never been able to shake. Seriously. Are you wondering if they end the album talking about the need for Holy Spirit intervention? "Scream Phoenix" is a song loaded with theological implications.)

Madvillain: Madvillainy (In my top 5 of all time. I would choose this as a desert island disc. Just buy it and then try to figure it out. MF Doom is my favorite rapper and this is the only project of his that I'm listing, but, know that, almost every morning, my computer wakes me up with a song from his catalogue chosen at random. I have everything he's ever recorded, I think, which is like 30 albums. Everything he says is brilliantly witty, and thought provoking. He was born in England and his story is fascinating. His lyrics just keep on giving and fortunately much of his production is top notch as well. But the production aspect reaches its peak here with Madlib. Check out "All Caps", "Great Day", "Meat Grinder" for starters.)

A Certain Ratio: Early (This band is my current obsession. Art-punk-disco from Manchester's New Wave scene.)

Vitesse: You Win Again, Gravity (I love this band, almost every single song. I used to find a new "favorite song" every day. Think Psychedelic Furs, Talk Talk, Stephin Merritt w/out the irony, layers, wonderful production, stangely complex melodies. This is an album that keeps on giving. The initial stand-out is "Unsolvable" or "Ride the Hook", but my faves are "Out Under Stars" and "In Time". I also love the fact that noone seems to have heard of them. I've always felt like they were my own personal favorite band, just for me to know about.)

Serge Gainsbourg: L'Histoire De Melody Nelson (This one makes a lot of lists. The band sound a bit like Neil Young's band on the Cowgirl in the Sand/Down By the River jams of his early days, but with the edition of the New College boys choir. This album is truly Humbert Humbert singing to and with Lolita. You don't have to know French to understand perfectly. But it's incredibly haunting and rich as well. Serge is another whole world to be explored. The best stuff is the stuff with Jane Birkin, though the later "Lemon Incest" phase with his daughter is a personal fave. This guy is basically Tom Waites meets Elvis meet Jarvis Cocker all rolled up in a frog, though I wonder seriously if there is anything actually redemptive to be found in his story. Serge Gainsbourg, like Miles Davis, is probably spending eternity in Hell.)

Dennis Wilson: Bamboo (This is the secret Smile-like project of my favorite Beach Boy. This is hard music to track down, but well worth it, if you don't mind sentimentality, which I obviously do not. See my earlier post on Dennis for more. He is in Heaven, I feel confident. "I know a carpenter who had a dream. Killed the man, but you couldn't kill the dream. He said, 'People gotta be free!'")

Miles Davis: The Cellar Door (Box Set) (I've recently found myself returning to Miles' electric period, the music with which I was obsessed in high school. This recent release captures the best of that period and I love it! The perfect degree of improvised abstraction, funk and Retro-cool. Keith Jarrett's keys on this stuff are as sick as anything ever recorded. And Jack D is no slouch. If they come out with a time machine, I'm going to go back and attend every one of these concerts!)

Fourtet: Madvillainy (Fourtet Remixes) (Great, very abstract remixes of some of my favorite songs. The place where authentic synth instrumentation meets rapping at its most sublime is the place where I want to grow old. I think Fourtet may have a map.)

Koushik: One In a Day (I love this guy's ear and leanings. This EP is the most consistent display of those sensibilities. Think raw, urban, dj/hip-hop beat production combined with 60s-style harmonious melody based song-writing. Very beautiful and ethereal, but with its tail dragging in the gutter. His full-length comes out in the Fall, and I'm sure it will be on this list the next day.)

Souls of Mischief: 93 'til Infinity (The album that got me back into hip-hop in 1994, after a 7 year hiatus. The rapping is ahead of its time, and the beats are great. I love their on-the-mic personalities. Urban artistic leanings, like Mobb Deep, without any of the education to make it mainly a release that targets the white man. A sort of Quannum/J5 that just couldn't cross over and got caught somewhere in the too creative to sell, too legit for college students category. There subsequent releases have proven dissappointing. "A Name I Call Myself" is the best hip-hop song of a totally lude nature ever!)

Cristina: Sleep It Off (Think WASP, think Lower East Side punk, think 70s disco, think 80s synth, think British aristocracy, think cynicism directed at hip hedonism, Think Harvard, think Radcliff, think anomalous Marriage right out of college in NYC, plus guitars and keys, and compass point instrumentation/studio stories, plus great photography of Cristina, who is attractive to say the least, wearing a Red leather slicker in an Upper East Side town house, with not one but two minks on rhinestone-encrusted leashes, etc. The best song about Christmas as well!)

Bertrand Burgalat: The Sssound of Mmmusic (My favorite French producer's first solo effort. He played bass for Air on their first US tour and epitomizes all that is good about 60s French Camp production, and a heavy dose of conceptual weirdness. I saw this guy live at the Mercury Lounge 4 years ago in his single US performance and it rocked!)

Blackalicious: Melodica (Their first EP from 93, and also DJ Shadow's first released piece of music, "Swan Lake". The rapping is tremendous, and unstoppably intelligent, and creative but without any of Gab's later New Agey musings. This is dope as ...heck! Not too artsy. Each of the 7 songs are perfect! A favorite ever since I first heard it. Notice Lyrics Born on "Deep in the Jungle". He gets really weird: "I know you can make colors rhyme...")

Mobb Deep: The Infamous (The reality of art spawned in adversity, like the Greece's Golden Age. This album holds up like the day it was released. Their straight-forward descriptions of project-life bring on goose bumps. There's real poetry, and amazing expression going on here! This one kept Nas's first off the list, though I love that too. This is the better version of that.)

Various Artist: The Trip (created by St. Etienne) (Great selection of obscure gems from the 60s and 70s.)

The Ethiopians: Engine 54 (I've been going back to this album regularly since 1997. I love male falsetto singing, and this is that at it's most beautiful. It's called Ska, but technically it's actually of the Rocksteady genre, which I much prefer. Pre-Selasi reggae oozes Christianity, and lacks a certain anger that permeates the scene when Rasta stuff enters the scene. These guys sing like they're all virgins. Check out: "You've got the Dough, but I've got the Soul" or the title track, for starters. The album has about 6 perfect songs and the rest are just fine. The title track is a bit weird as well, and it sounds like they're singing "Angel 54" not "Engine 54" and I like the idea of numbered angels in a kind of Middle Ages sort of a way.)

Burning Spear: Marcus Garvey/Ghost of Marcus Garvey (This is haunting stuff. The dub versions are cool. His voice is like that of a prophets crying blood. I saw Burning Spear live in Cleaveland once. It was not the "happy-Jah-love" reggae vibe that one might have expected. Burning Spear didn't start playing until well after 1am. The event was in a biker bar and there were fist fights breaking out between bikers, hippies, and rastas. Pretty dark and brooding. Check out: "Live Good" for the most instantly accessible track.)

Digable Planets: Blowout Comb (This was big for me in high school. It represent everything that I thought was cool re: retro, black culture, the 70s, etc. The album hold up, mainly because its production is so sophisticated, but also because Butterfly raps beautifully. "Sub zero degrees can't freeze the cool breeze." Unfortunately, this stuff has turned out to be much less cool that I originally realized. But check out the opening track, or track 5, or the final one with its great beat, gorgeous brass, and easy pacing. I still love it! Doodlebug has not held up though. His rapping is...not so great.)

Al Green: Call Me
Mouse on Mars: Niun Ngung
Tarwater: Silur

Raz Ohara: The Last Legend (This album saw me through a very painful break-up, and also precipitated my re-conversion to a more devout Christian life. This is a Dutch guy who sings like Prince, but does simple R & B ballads, mostly with just the backing of a guitar. The track "Reality" posits that, on the other side of heart-break, there is a quasi-mystical experience called "reality" to be found. Such was indeed true for me. I was so prickly at the time, like "Don't touch me", and this was all I could stand to listen to. "Give me back my bike.")

Toshack Highway: Toshack Highway

My Bloody Valentine: Isn't Anything (For me, this album is high school. I'm so pleased it's held up so well over the years, though the drumming weaker than most are willing to admit. I've listened to this more than probaly any other piece of music. I love "Blown a Wish" and I was in a band in college that covered "Only Shallow" not very well, but nonetheless.)

Pixies: Surfer Rosa
Slum Village: Fantastic, Vol. 2
Madlib: Remixes 2
Lenny Breau: 5 O'clock Bells
Japan: Gentlemen Take Polaroids/Adolescent Sex/Tin Drum
The Zombies: Odessey & Oracle
Pulp: This is Hardcore
Phoenix: Alphabetical
Stephin Merritt: Pieces of April (soundtrack)
Pat Martino: Baiyini
Twin Peaks (the movie): Fire Walk With Me (Soundtrack)
Jaylib vs. J-Rocc: Championship Sound (Bonus Disc)
The Feelies: Crazy Rythms
The B-52's: Mesopotamia
Jan Hammer: Complete Miami Vice Instrumentals
The Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs
Lovage / Dan the Automator: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By
Ladytron: Light & Magic
Kid Koala: Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
Giorgio Moroder: From Here to Eternity
Nino Nardini & Roger Roger: Jungle Obsession
Duran Duran: Rio
Fleetwood Mac: Tusk (Bonus Disk)
Cody Chestnutt: Headphone Masterpiece
John Coltrane: Ole
Sam Prekop: Sam Prekop
Olivia Tremor Control: Black Foliage
Breeders: Pod
Boby Dylan: John Wesley Harding
Ann Peebles: The Hi Years
Blonde Redhead: Ballad of Certain Damaged Lemons
Arthur Russell: Calling Out of Context
Ghostface Killah: The Pretty Toney Album/Bulletproof Wallets
GZA: Liquid Swords
Zoot Woman: Living in a Magazine
Daft Punk: Discovery
DJ Vadim: USSR Reconstruction
Apples in Stereo: Her Wallpaper Reverie
The Slits: Cut
Cecil Taylor: Looking Ahead
Tom Tom Club: Tom Tom Club
Bobby Brown: The Enlightening Beam of Axonda
Beach Boys: Friends/20-20
Company Flow: Funcrusherplus
Juggaknots: Clear Blue Skies
RJD2: Since We Last Spoke/Dead Ringer
Roxy Music: Siren/Roxy Music/Flesh & Blood/For Your Pleasure
Whitey: The Light At the End of the Tunnel is a Train

Click Me! for the best album list I've found on Amazon


AMvL said...

John - Isn't this list a bit short?

misinformed? said...

i thought you hated bob dylan?

ungulate this said...

okay, who is the guy with the art cello?

Tim Galebach said...

JAZ, whenever you feel so moved, you should put a little tagline saying what was interesting to you about the album, lists on their own don't have that much meaning.

Anonymous said...

Lately, I've been burning copies of Melody Nelson for various friends. As I hand them the CDR, I tell them it's the greatest album I own.


John Zahl said...

Tim, I'm working on it...more on these tomorrow. Jz

Tom Becker said...

Main Entry: pro·cras·ti·nate
Pronunciation: pr&-'kras-t&-"nAt,
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): -nat·ed; -nat·ing
tymology: Latin procrastinatus, past participle of procrastinare, from pro- forward + crastinus of tomorrow, from cras tomorrow

transitive senses : to put off intentionally and habitually

intransitive senses : to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done

Joshua Corrigan said...

Evil, Mr. Becker...evil!

AMvL said...


Nobody's procrastinating here, most of all me.


ladyd said...

i think you should change the background color of your blog.

Cate West said...

At first I was going to make a remark about how this is the ultimate source of procrastination for tim galebach. Then I realized that this is could not be farther from the truth.

For Tim, Johncampoxford.blogspot.com is a way of life. And what I appreciate most is his refusal to be subtle about this fact.

Anonymous said...

is ladyd who i think it is?

if so, is this her first ever post on johncamp?

Joshua Corrigan said...

Hi ladyd! (if you are who I think you are as well) Are you sure you dont know any cute girls in Birmingham?

John Zahl said...

Dear LadyD,

I'm pretty sure that I know who you are too! Listen, I'll change if you'll help.


Anonymous said...

Haven't we all been waiting to hear from Lady-D.C.?

John Zahl said...

I think that I've listed enough "little taglines" as per Tim's request in comment four. This post has taken on a life of its own. I could write all day about the music I love. If anyone wishes to know more about the albums that I have not written taglines for, let me know which ones and I'll be happy to fill you in. Also, this list will probably continue to grow as other great albums occur to me over the next few months, so keep checking it if you're intrigued. Best, JZ

Anonymous said...

hey john--what do you think of pulp's this is hardcore? i mean, is jarvis just dabbling in good ideas, or what?

Trevor G said...

Who here ever possessed Dave Zahl's Christmas 2003 mixtape?

I think there would have to be a whole other post for mixes, but I felt compelled to bring up BOTH sides of this watershed tape, Nightmare on Elm (City) Street AND Sub Contrario (In Stereo), as super favorites.

And I'm interested in John's thoughts (God knows I've heard Dave's, and Simeon's...).

Tim Galebach said...

JaZ, thanks!

Whenever I give someone an album, I like to tell them a song or two to listen for, just to get into it more easily. I guess it's the best combination of the song way of life and the album way of life.

Cate, you'll notice that:

a) When you don't have anything to do, it's not procrastination

b) I get other people to do my procrastinating for me

Tim Galebach said...

oh, and if anyone has Melody Nelson, could you send it to me? It's not on iTunes.

dave zahl said...

You leave me no choice. Here's the tracklisting for that mix. Looking at it again, I'm pretty darn proud.

Side A: Nightmare on Elm (City) Streets
This Song – Ron Sexsmith
Wolfman Jack – Todd Rundgren
Sister Golden Hair - America
July July – The Decemberists
Barrytown – Steely Dan
Something to Talk About – Badly Drawn Boy
Pancho and Lefty – Townes Van Zandt
Danny Says – The Ramones
Hanging by the Telephone - Blondie
Time for Heroes – The Libertines
Billie Jean – Ian Brown
(She Was A) Hotel Detective – They Might Be Giants
Catch – The Cure
Couldn’t Call it Unexpected No.4 – Elvis Costello

Side B: Sub Contrario (in Stereo)
Gates of the West – The Clash
Town Called Malice – The Jam
You Can’t Hurry Love – The Supremes
Modern Nature – Sondre Lerche
Troubled Times – Fountains of Wayne
Reconstruction Site – The Weakerthans
Dear Lord – Joseph Arthur
Love and Mercy – Golden Smog
Over at the Frankenstein Place – Rocky Horror
We Must Be in Love – The Five Stairsteps
Put Your Hand in the Hand – Elvis Presley
Always on my Mind – Pet Shop Boys
Everything I Own – Bread
The Farmer’s Daughter – Fleetwood Mac

dave zahl said...

p.s. I attempted to make the mix an evangelistic tool as well as a cultural one. So the song choices and running order corresponded to a theological framework. I gave a copy to all my students for xmas that year. A tad pretentious, perhaps, but it worked.

Trevor G said...

I don't think anyone's looking at this post anymore, but I'm still waiting for write-ups on Pulp, Dylan, Daft Punk, and the Slits.
And John, your thoughts on Nightmare and Sub Contrario (thanks for posting the track list Dave...btw, do you still have a copy? can I have a new one? maybe even a double disc?).

simeon zahl said...

that mix of dave's is the best mix ever