Tag Archives: acclaimed albums

Acclaimed Albums – The Marshall Mathers LP by Enimem

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 232/250Title: The Marshall Mathers LP
Artist: Enimem
Year: 2000
Position: #192

I remember being at the end of primary school and then the beginning of secondary school when Eminem really hit his heights. So many of the boys in my year group liked his music and I, as a 12 year old, had a copy of The Eminem Show because I liked ‘Without Me’. I even kinda liked ‘The Real Slim Shady’, although clearly not enough to ask for the album for Christmas.

Good thing I didn’t.

Thinking of myself as a 11 year old, and people in my year group, listening to this album at that young an age is absolutely terrifying. How can you, at that age, successfully parse what is happening in tracks like ‘Kim’ where he raps about killing his wife because he thinks she has been unfaithful? The idea of satire is not even in the teaching syllabus until you are 15-16 years old and it is one of the toughest things on there for English language – so how on Earth does that work. I think, for the first time in my 31 years, I actually agree with some albums having an easily-ignored parental advisory sticker.

Hip-hop is not my genre, but the horrorcore style that Eminem employs on here is very much not my genre. Listening to the gateway tracks like ‘Stan’ and ‘The Real Slim Shady’ in the context of this album just made the latter stand out all the more. ‘Stan’ does fit in more, but it’s still a brilliantly well-written song that is helped by it being sung from the obvious point of view of a character and by being a warning about obsessive fandom. A track like ‘Kim’ is just torture porn as a song and, sadly, I know that there are other tracks by other artists that are worse than this.

Also, as a gay man, this is some of the most homophobic music I have ever heard. It boggles my mind that this, although controversial at the time, still got a free pass to major award nominations and end of year lists because there is this weird acceptance that because it is hip-hop they are allowed to have songs that justify things that are abhorrant. I know things have changed in 20 years for the better, but wow doesn’t the content of an album like this remind you of the reason to keep pushing forward.

Acclaimed Albums – Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 231/250Title: Let’s Get It On
Artist: Marvin Gaye
Year: 1973
Position: #215

There are two very different Marvin Gaye albums in the Top 250 list. The higher one, What’s Going Onis more politically aware and is one that I did a very long time ago. This second one, Let’s Get it On, has a similarly constructed title but it basically sexual vinyl.

From the very recognisable opening moments of the title track, which I swear I have seen in many a sensual movie scene and in some adverts, to the suggestive track titles – this has been labelled as one of the most sexually charged albums ever produced. This all so true, but it’s also an incredibly interesting listen as a progression in his sound towards a smoother soul and funk sound – something that, thanks to the 1001 songs list, I can see just how influential this album was.

I didn’t listen to this for a while because I listen to a lot of these albums when I am at work (or, in the old days, on the commute to and from work) and I didn’t exactly want to feel sensual in the office or in the home office. Glad to say that this didn’t happen, but I definitely misjudged this album as being just a single bag of tricks. Sure, it’s sexual but it is also really well done and Gaye’s voice is absolutely gorgeous.

With my lead now properly built back up and my mental health improving immensely I am, as of this week, trying to get back to five posts in a week. It’s a bit daunting to move back to such a posting so often. I mean I haven’t done a songs, video game or a book post for months by now, but thankfully the music, movie and world country posts have been filling in some gaps.

Acclaimed Albums – Paul’s Boutique by Beastie Boys

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 230/250Title: Paul’s Boutique
Artist: Beastie Boys
Year: 1989
Position: #90

Over five years have gone by since I listened to Licensed to Ill and, finally, I am covering the second of the two Beastie Boys albums on this list. Since then, as of writing this, my prediction of The Streets dropping out of the Top 250 has yet to come to pass – meaning that I still have albums by both him and Eminem coming up before finishing off this particular challenge.

Unlike the previous album, there were no songs that I recognised on the first listen. I guess that this goes on to support how while Paul’s Boutique is the critical darling of their first two albums, it was still less commercially successful than the debut and as such there are fewer songs that average person like me will have heard.

Compared to the their first album, Paul’s Boutique is definitely more focused on beat crafting and filling it chock-a-block with samples. They also remain one of the few rap artists from this area that I can listen to without feeling a bit dirty afterwards because they don’t feel the need to make homophobic or overly misogynistic lyrics.

I know that this may still be a bit prudish on my side and that maybe I should just accept this in the music… on the other hand no. Hip-hop albums like this are proof positive that you can do this genre justice and not have to go into those territories over and over again. Probably means I should be okay with The Streets when I eventually get around to them, but not too sure about Eminem…

Acclaimed Albums – Untrue by Burial

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 229/250Title: Untrue
Artist: Burial
Year: 2007
Position: #179

When Untrue came out, I was the right age and starting to get into enough diverse music in order to actually try this. Must have had it on my iPod for 13 years and yet today was the first time that I actually played it. Maybe it was meant to be that I waited this long before I finally listened to this, or maybe this could have been an album that helped shape my musical development.

Honestly, I think it was probably for the best that it took me this long. When I got it I saw it being referred to as an electronic album and I only really knew electropop, which this is not. I don’t exactly know much about this sort of electronic music. Aside from Ms Dynamite, this is the only dubstep or garage album I have ever heard. Anything else that I have listened to, like James Blake or the xx, are just developments from that sound.

What previously put me off a lot of this genre was that it could be a bit bombastic, whereas Untrue is a lot more insular. It’s the sort of dubstep made to be the soundtrack to a rainy midnight walk through an abandoned city – like something you’d get in Black Mirror but without the mindfuck.

Other than a spin of Sawayama around lunchtime, this was pretty much the only album that I ended up playing today during work hours. The beats are at times very trip-hop, but then the atmosphere has a chilled ambient feel to it. Even when you get the more upbeat tracks like ‘Archangel’ there is still an almost cozy detachment (does that make sense) that really works for me.

Acclaimed Albums – Doolittle by Pixies

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 228/250Title: Doolittle
Artist: Pixies
Year: 1989
Position: #51

Well, it wasn’t quite a year since my last listen to the Pixies but I did a lot better this time compared to a lot of other artists. Doolittle is the last album that I had left within the Top 100. Since, as of writing, the update is meant to be happening soon I am trying to play it safe with albums… although I am pretty much out of safe bets between this and the album that I plan to do next.

The main thing that I noticed between this and the previous Pixies album is the same as with Pavement – polish. The production on Doolittle is so sleek that we’ve gone from an alternative rock group to something more like the noise pop of Psychocandy and the eventual shoegaze movement.

This sleekness and polish has just enhanced the music on Doolittle compared to Surfer Rosa. They are still doing their movements from quiet to loud – which you hear a lot in later grunge music – and the lyrics are, if anything, weirder and more esoteric. However, this album is also infinitely more sing-a-longable, with me starting to join in on the chorus of ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’ before reading up on it being about the destruction of the environment and having many references to numerology.

As two albums produced so close to each other, it is crazy to have a band churn out two classics so close together, especially with their first two offerings. There’s no sophomore slump here, in fact it’s a sophomore soar with two more well regarded albums before their break up in 1993. Amazing to burn so bright and influential and then go away so quickly.

Acclaimed Albums – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 227/250Title: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Artist: Pavement
Year: 1994
Position: #183

Nearly six years later and I have finally gotten around to the second Pavement album on the list. That’s three times the actual length of time that passed between Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Slanted and Enchanted were released. The fact that it has taken my 6-7 years to actually get through though the 250 does make me wonder if my extending the list is a good idea.

Anyway, I have 20 more albums before I have to get to that – let’s look at Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.

Looking at the surrounding rock albums of 1994 on the list, you have Britpop and industrial rock as a bit of context. Compared to that you have the indie rock stylings of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, which helps it stand out from the crowd a bit. In the two years since their debut, there has been a definite progression in sound – and by progression I mean polish.

When I listened to Slanted and Enchanted, I likened it to Murmur due to the lo-fi sound. With this album, they’ve applied some polish which not only means some of the songs are actually radio-friendly but also there are some pop edges. I mean if you just listen to ‘Cut My Hair’ you have a perfect indie rock nugget, with a bit of a Dandy Warhols feel to it. These songs have some good contrasts, like the the extended instrumental ‘5-4=Unity’, which stop this album from being one where could be excused of selling out.

It’s still weird to me that a group with two albums places fairly highly on the list are completely unknown to me. I guess that, if I am to expand the list, this is something that I will be experiencing very frequently.

Acclaimed Albums – Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 226/250Title: Rust Never Sleeps
Artist: Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Year: 1979
Position: #158

As of the time of writing this, I know that the update to the acclaimed music list is imminent. By the time this post goes up, that update will have likely happened 2-3 months ago and I will probably be further away from my target. Thanks again summer from hell for putting a stop gap on my ability to do much with my challenges.

I’ve been so scared of albums falling out of the list that now I really have very few that are not significant dropping risks. So here I am with Rust Never Sleeps… because I started mt first play of this at gone midnight and that really is not the time for Beastie Boys or the Pixies.

As an album that was mostly recorded live (as can be heard by the crowds at the beginning) with corrections and overdubs made later in the studio, Rust Never Sleeps is an interesting hybrid within this list. The setlist features a mix of acoustic, rock and then some distorted guitar music that some have extrapolated to be a precursor of what would be the grunge movement some 10-12 years later.

This music is quite a bit of a shift from Tonight’s The Night and After the Gold Rush where it was far more focussed on blues and alternative country. I guess that this is where you can really hear Crazy Horse exerting their own influence over Neil Young. Sure, his voice is still there but this is now a very different tone from what I’ve heard him do before. It feels like I’ve missed a stage of development in between the albums I’ve listened to – maybe that’ll be found when I eventually expand this list outwards.

Acclaimed Albums – Kid A by Radiohead

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 225/250Title: Kid A
Artist: Radiohead
Year: 2000
Position: #35

When this album first came out, I don’t think anyone would have expected it to become as acclaimed as it is now. Few publications championed it other than Pitchfork – who gave it a rare 10/10 – with many opting to completely trash it. Now, it is in the Top 50 of albums of all time. I know that time allows for re-evaluation, but this must be one of the most extreme pivots that I have seen on an album in my lifetime.

Me listening to it some 20 years later, now it has cemented itself as a classic and has been able to exert influence on music I know, is a profoundly different experience than what it would have been when the musical landscape at the turn of the millennium. Also helps that I know and love In Rainbows and A Moon Shaped Pool

Back in 2000, Kid A was inaccessible to a lot of listeners which was why it was trashed. Nowadays it is actually extremely accessible to newcomers and might actually be the first album of theirs to truly hit me hard on a first listen. I have not been able to stop listening to it, or at least some of the tracks, this last week.

This is the sort of album that scratches that same itch that Silent Shout by The Knife or Visions by Grimes does. This sort of dark distorted indie rock with veins of dance and electronica permeating – with the occasional lighter spot. Not traditional rock songs, but something more experimental, rewards multiple listens and would not be out of place at a silent disco.

Already ‘Idioteque’ and the title track have ended up as my most played tracks of the week and now I can already see other tracks are going to end up as favourites. This may end up being my favourite Radiohead album after a few more listens. Can’t wait to see what I think of the rest of their catalogue that I am yet to explore.

Acclaimed Albums – The Blueprint by Jay-Z

Acclaimed Music just had a major update, so the Top 250 have shifted somewhat – between my gains and loses I am just three albums further from the end. Not too bad!

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 224/250Title: The Blueprint
Artist: Jay-Z
Year: 2001
Position: #124

There’s no rest for the wicked. There’s a bunch of things that need to be run before I sign off before a (very much needed) two weeks off work, so taking this as an opportunity to listen to a list album as most of what I need to do is run code and check it. It’s good in a twisted way because I wasn’t sure when I would fit in time to do this write up during my planned two weeks of movies, games, cooking and… whatever else I can do in these corona-times.

By now I think it is pretty obvious that I ended up leaving the bulk of the hip-hop albums until the end of the list. There are others, including Radiohead’s Kid A and Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young, but in terms of percentages there is a pattern. In a way I think this has worked out for the better as I am now far more receptive to these albums compared to when I started my blog back in March 2014.

Going into The Blueprint, the only thoughts I really had around Jay-Z were that video of him getting his butt kicked by Solange and that I set up my iTunes to cut his rap out of ‘Umbrella’. Now that I have gotten through a few plays of his most acclaimed album, I realise that this may be one of my favourite male-led hip-hop albums of all time. Tracks like ‘All I Need’ and ‘Takeover’ sound brilliant and even my initial cringe over the beginning refrain of ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ disappeared quickly.

This is never going to be my favourite genre and these albums on the list are the jewels in the crown, but The Blueprint, like Illmaticare replayable to me – which is a major step for me. I think part of this is helmed by the early Kanye West production and the increased use of interesting samples compared to other hip-hop albums I have heard for the list.

Still can’t take anyone seriously who uses the phrase ‘fo shizzle my nizzle’ though. There has to be a line.

Acclaimed Albums – Dig Your Own Hole by The Chemical Brothers

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 226/250Title: Dig Your Own Hole
Artist: The Chemical Brothers
Year: 1997
Position: #217

Well, since a not insubstantial number of people around the world have been spreading the virus via raves, I figured it was time for my own. By myself. At my desk as I work. Okay so it isn’t a rave, more waving my arms around in front my work laptop and collection of plush toys. Should still count for something as I spent a few hours listening to this landmark in electronic music.

Going into this I only really knew ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ and so was expecting the whole album to keep up with that sort of energy, which might have been a bit much for a full hour. So I was pleasantly surprised every time a more downtempo song came on – such as ‘Where Do I Begin’ which features the recognisable vocals of Beth Orton (who sang one of my favourite songs of all time: ‘Stolen Car’).

‘Setting Sun’ is another clear highlight of the album, which was the first of two number ones that Dig Your Own Hole spawned, and is the loud and brash type of song that I was hoping to find on here. It’s great to have such contrast on an album that is big beat through and through, which will come down to The Chemical Brothers being DJs first and foremost.

Rather than a traditional album, Dig Your Own Hole plays like an excellent DJ set that has been tried and tested in clubs to get the ebbs and flows spot on. In this era of British music where big beat was, for a while, breaking through in a big way thanks to contemporary acts like The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim,  Dig Your Own Hole stands as the most critically acclaimed album. More will emerge when I complete this list and expand it further – but for now I’ll be content with playing this for a while longer.