Tag Archives: acclaimed albums

Acclaimed Albums – Criminal Minded by Boogie Down Productions

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 319/1000
Title: Criminal Minded
Artist: Boogie Down Productions
Year: 1987

I have been a bit self-indulgent with my picks of albums since I shifted to the wider 1000 list. Either I have taken an inordinate amount of time to transfer my review backlog over or have mostly picked albums that I either knew beforehand (Person Pitch) or albums I was sure to like (Power, Corruption & Lies). Well, I did that with the 250 and that left me in a position where I had to blitz through a number of albums very much outside my comfort zone. So let’s be a bit more proactive and pick something that is not a sure thing, like Criminally Minded.

Looking at the cover, I admit I did roll my eyes a bit at the classic cliche of a hardcore rap duo brandishing weapons. Like, this is so overdone nowadays that the impact of this cover is lost – given that this was one of the first times a rap album actually went for this kind of overtly violent approach. Listening to the lyrics, most of the references made to weapons are from a point of defense rather than attack – something quite poignant given that Scott La Rock from this group would be dead from gunshot wounds several months after releasing this album.

Criminally Minded is a very early entry in the world of widely-released hardcore rap – meaning that pretty much everything I have listened to in this section of hip-hop can trace itself to this production. Like a lot of hip-hop this just is not for me. Tracks like ‘Dope Beat’, ‘Poetry’ and ‘9mm Goes Bang’ all have points of interest – including a very prominent AC/DC sample – but won’t be enough for me to return for another listen.

Acclaimed Albums – Power, Corruption & Lies by New Order

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 318/1000
Title: Power, Corruption & Lies
Artist: New Order
Year: 1983

From the beginning bassline of ‘Age of Consent’ I had a thought in my head – this music sounds quite a bit like Monaco’s great song ‘What Do You Want From Me?’. By the time I finished up my first listen of the album, including a bonus track of ‘Blue Monday’ because… well why do you need a reason, I decided to look it up. Well, of course there’s a similar sound – Peter Hook, the bassist in New Order, founded Monaco. So I guess I am a little bit chuffed at hearing that – although it’s not like he was exactly hiding it.

Thanks to opening up the list, I have been listening to a lot of eighties music – to the point where I really get why this is a decade where a lot of pop music continues to borrow from. Especially the sounds of the early 1980s. If I had been a teen in the early 1980s, I would have so been a fan of New Order and other pop bands of the time. This music is brilliant and I cannot believe it has taken until I turned 31 before I actually listened to one of their albums all the way through.

I called it when I did my post for Closerthat I would be super interested to see what New Order did when they had to start off with a new brand following the death of Ian Curtis and the end of Joy Division. Power, Corruption & Lies still keeps some of the darker elements of their Joy Division roots, but also there’s a brilliant pop record here. You can hear it as ‘5 8 6’ breaks into it’s synthesiser mid-section – that foreshadows ‘Blue Monday’ to a heavy extent.

This is pop via the worlds of post-punk, new wave and Kraftwerk. It’s an extraordinary album that makes you want to dance no matter what you are doing. Like I can hear how this would eventually be the next step between Kraftwerk’s music and will eventually lead to LCD Soundsystem. Man, I wish I was young in the 1980s to have grown up with music like this.

Acclaimed Albums – Crazy Rhythms by The Feelies

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 317/1000
Title: Crazy Rhythms
Artist: The Feelies
Year: 1980

It really sucks to say this, but one look at the album cover of Crazy Rhythms and you kinda get how this was an album that didn’t have commercial appeal in 1980. This was a time where being remotely geeky was not really a recipe for success in the USA in a post-punk world. If this came out more recently, then they would have had a much better shot as you get more bands where geekiness is a draw rather than a flaw.

Crazy Rhythms is such an interesting album to come out of 1980. Like I said, we are in a post-punk world where the music is really starting to thump, then you have this album which takes a lot of the melodic cues from post-punk and combines it with something a bit more poppy. This is alternative rock pure and simple. This is the music that R.E.M. would go on to have major success with within a few years of this album’s release. This is a group that actually showed that you could be the boy next door, wear glasses and still rock out… and not in a Buddy Holly kind of way.

The singer, at times, has an almost Ian Curtis sound to him, but to a warmer jangle pop background. There is an optimistic urgency to nearly all their tracks, although I am overly keen on their cover of the Beatles monkey song in the latter half of the album. Compared to the music going on around it, especially in the year before, Crazy Rhythms is so different. This is the sort of album where, if you have listened to enough music from 1979, you get that this was quietly revolutionary – even if it was a revolution that sanded down some of punk’s edges to help form a different genre. 

Acclaimed Albums – Give Up by The Postal Service

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 316/1000
Title: Give Up
Artist: The Postal Service
Year: 2003

In 2003, I was not hip enough to have come across The Postal Service. It was a number of years later towards the end of my time in university, when I was listening to Rilo Kiley’s Under The Blacklight and some songs by Death Cab for Cutie, that they came into view. This ‘super-group’ containing Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard, Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis on backing vocals and engineer Jimmy Tamborello were the definition of ‘quick as a flash tis gone’ and the legacy of this single album looms large.

The shadow of the album’s lead single ‘Such Great Heights’ probably looms even larger. I am not quite sure how to quantify it, but to me this is close to a perfect song. It ticks so many of my boxes for what makes a song I will love and continue to love many years later. The feel is positive and breezy, without being cloyingly sweet. It’s a beautiful blend of pop, electropop and indie – with a catchy chorus, delightful electronic elements and lyrics and good interplay in the vocal layers. Hardly an original opinion that ‘Such Great Heights’ is one of the best songs of all time, but if the boot fits.

The rest of the album doesn’t live up to the heights of the highlight. Then again, few songs do. However, Give Up is still a great album – albeit front loaded with ‘Such Great Heights’ and ‘The District Sleeps Alone Tonight’. ‘Clark Gable’ is an interesting love story about someone yearning for a cinematic romance and then there’s closer ‘Natural Anthem’ that is a darker track that is pretty much an instrumental until right at the end.

Given the expansion of the list, I am actually having to make a check of what I listen to in my day-to-day working life is now something to post about. Today, I just had an urge to listen to the Postal Service, like how I recently had a Panda Bear urge. Feels like this will end up with me just posting a lot of albums blog posts until things become less familiar.

Acclaimed Albums – Person Pitch by Panda Bear

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 315/1000
Title: Person Pitch
Artist: Panda Bear
Year: 2007

Time to reap on one of the major benefits of extending this list – when I get super busy at work and have limited time in the evenings, I am able to cross off an album I know well. One that I have played off and on ever since it came out and have had a really good time revisiting – at the same time as replaying my favourite tracks from Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Person Pitch is an odd album to pigeon-hole into a genre. In many ways, the music is reminiscent of the type of psychedelic pop you’d find on a Beach Boys record. However this is a profoundly modern (albeit lo-fi) affair with mos of the sounds being made up of loops, samples and sound effects. The vocals are delivered dreamily as we sweep through long tracks that begin with an owl hooting and end with a baby crying.

‘Bros’, the twelve and a half minute centrepiece of the album is one of my favourite tracks out there. It’s one of those rare super-long songs where you feel that none of the time is wasted. I am not entirely sure what the song  is about, but is something the is truly beautiful. Then you have ‘Ponytail’ at the end, which will always have a special place in my heart as it formed part of the first mix-tape I sent to my husband when we started dating.

Later Panda Bear albums never quite captured the magic of Person Pitch – although I did enjoy his follow-up Tomboy. Then again, it could be argued that ‘My Girls’ and ‘Brother Sport’ on Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion are the proper sequel tracks to Person Pitch. Sure, they are credited to the band as a whole, but they feel so thematically and sonically similar to Panda Bear’s work on Person Pitch that it’s hard to not draw a line.

🎻♫♪ – Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
105/501Title: Music for 18 Musicians
Composer: Steve Reich
Nationality: American
Year:
1976

Also!

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 314/1000

Music for 18 Musicians is a bit of an odd one. This is the only album that I have found, at least so far, that is on both the classical and popular music list. I guess it’s one of those things where it shows how these two worlds do touch one another. In this instance, this is where we have minimalist classical music that apparently crossed over so much that it ended up on best of lists in major music publications.

Listening to it was very much like listening to Reich’s Different Trains in that I am seeing how much the term of classical music is being stretched. There are some more regular classical instruments here, but also you have voices being used like notes on a keyboard and some interesting variation in percussive instruments.

Unlike a lot of classical pieces or popular music albums, Music for 18 Musicians comes as just a single track on the 1978 album – although other recordings of the piece have been split up into smaller tracks. It being together as one large piece does work, although there are times where I would like a signal as to far into this hour long track I am. However that’s probably just my stupid attention span.

Listening to this, the thing that came most to mind was the closing track ‘Out of Egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and I Shake the Dirt from My Sandals as I Run’ from Sufjan Stevens’ IllinoisI will probably also hear echoes of it in other more instrumental works that are in the ambient and lo-fi styles.

Acclaimed Albums – Paul Simon by Paul Simon

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 313/1000
Title: Paul Simon
Artist: Paul Simon
Year: 1972

As we are nearing the first anniversary of the UK heading into COVID-19 lockdown, the last you really want to hear on an album is “Rosie, queen of Corona”. Sure this lyric in ‘Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard’, may refer to a neighbourhood in Queens, New York – but wow is that a bit triggering to hear. The song might be good, but wow I that was a bit of a line that came out of left field.

This is the first time since switching lists (where I didn’t import a review from my previous blog) that I am continuing a discography. Last time was Graceland and that was a post I made seven years ago – about an album that was released 14 years later. These albums are extremely different, with this self-titled being a more straight folk affair – probably due to this being his second album since he went solo.

However, this isn’t a complete folk album. The album opener, ‘Mother and Child Reunion’, is heavily influenced by reggae – something that was pretty unique at the time for a white singer. It’s definitely a sign of things to come that Paul Simon would eventually become this big embracer of world music. The rest of the album, not so much, but it is an interesting indicator.

I know from talking with my husband, that this was an album that hit me a bit more than him. Then again, I am someone who leans more strongly to folk music – especially when I need something calming in the background as something more stressful is happening at work. I do like a good piece of folk music for that.

Acclaimed Albums – Pink Moon by Nick Drake

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 312/1000
Title: Pink Moon
Artist: Nick Drake
Year: 1972

Three years ago, I listened to the first of three albums before Nick Drake died at the tender age of 26. When I first listened to him, I was that much closer to age that he died, now I am older it really hits more just how young he actually was.

Since my husband is doing his own album challenge, using the 1001 Albums book, I am leap-frogging over Drake’s second album Bryter Layter in order to listen to Pink Moon. After his previous albums didn’t take off commercially, this was an album that I am amazed was actually produced. Especially back in the 1970s when you couldn’t just self-release on a Soundcloud. Guess he did well enough for them to give it another punt.

Unlike the well-produced Five Leaves Left, Pink Moon is just Drake and his guitar – making for a more intimate sounding album. Seeing that he was also further along in his mental illness, and not taking his antidepressants because of interactions with the marijuana he smoked – the content and feeling of this album is further alone into his decline. I guess the second album will see a mid-point between the two.

That is not to say that this album destroys you like A Crow Looked At Me. The depressiveness is there, but it’s almost cozy. My husband referred to it as a depression blanket, and that’s pretty much a perfect way to describe it. It’s more a chilled out folk album with a pronounced melancholy slant (much like some songs from Bonny Light Horseman or Sufjan Steven’s Seven Swans) which makes it perfect as a mellow backing music for a lot of my coding work when I just want to go with the flow rather than power through.

Acclaimed Albums – Live At The Regal by B.B. King

Like I mentioned with the switch over to the Top 1000 list, there are a number of older albums that I listened to as part of a previous blog. This was back in 2009 … and I think my views on music have changed somewhat.

After today, I will have caught up. Cannot believe how much I used to write…

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 311/1000
Title: Live At The Regal
Artist: B.B. King
Year: 1965

Never have I had to listen to an album so much before I started writing a review. This isn’t me putting an early slight on B.B. King’s Live At The Regal but just a comment on how recently I have been doing all my reviews after midnight and this time I just had to say to myself ‘no this is stupid, just do it tomorrow morning’. So that is what I did, but there were first some other tasks that needed performing like washing up and having the remains of last night’s Chinese take away for breakfast. But at least I have listened to this album enough to have an opinion and an awake opinion at that.

Blues is a genre that has begun to be featured on this list with increasing frequency but because of the way that it is arranged it is becoming hard to figure out who in this genre influenced another. I say this because B.B. King is one of those names that I actually knew previously to be a big name in the blues but has an album 4-5 years after Muddy Waters, another name that is associated with the same genre. So I guess I need to see how these two albums match up as I am finding myself with a case of writer’s block here.

Well, I like them both. That’s a good start. With B.B. King there are some amazingly masterful solos on his electric guitar with the wailing reverberating around the venue, yes it’s a live album. The use of these electric instruments is definitely a new occurrence on the list, with the first album really showcasing them being Bringing It All Back HomeAs an artist it really does need to be pointed out that B.B. King has the whole package, he has a powerful voice, can play the guitar like a virtuoso, can write his own material and has such charisma that you can hear him whip the audience into some sort of frenzy. This is actually the first time since Sarah Vaughn’s At Mister Kelly’s where I found myself looking forward to the audience interactions as what has been captured on vinyl/CD/mp3 must inevitably lack some of the effect it would have live, so it’s perfectly understandable how he got everyone to scream his name.

Another major plus point has to be directed at the length of this album. Like with yesterday’s review for A Love Supreme the length is so perfect that you can actually give this album the time to hear from start to end multiple times. The songs are short and punchy so it doesn’t venture into dullness and punctuated with falsetto on tracks like ‘Worry, Worry’, something I can always appreciate. So with such a glittering review of this album what is the catch? Well there really isn’t one. This is without a doubt the best blues album that I have probably ever heard. Maybe an album will arrive in my lap that’ll make me say otherwise, it is not beyond the realms of possibility, but for now it has that ‘honour’.

So that makes this a best of the genre album and yet it doesn’t get a perfect rating from me like Sam Cooke, Dusty Springfield and Jerry Lee Lewis have. The reason for this is probably a bit of a cop-out but in the end a blues album is not one that I would automatically place high on a list of preference. This is still an amazing album and, alongside Muddy Waters, has really changed my opinion on how good the blues can be which is in itself rather impressive.

So, if you are feeling adventurous or like the blues you would be a fool to give this a miss.

Acclaimed Albums – The Beach Boys Today! by The Beach Boys

Like I mentioned with the switch over to the Top 1000 list, there are a number of older albums that I listened to as part of a previous blog. This was back in 2009 … and I think my views on music have changed somewhat. Or maybe not, but hey it’s good to keep crossing these off so for these three weeks will be playing a game of catch-up.

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 310/1000
Title: The Beach Boys Today!
Artist: The Beach Boys
Year: 1965

This is a band who I have previously defended to the hilt in a random drunken argument in a Micklegate chip shop as one of the big influences to come out of the sixties, alongside The Beatles and (if this argument occurred now) The Rolling Stones. It was one of those standard arguments, the guy said that all this music was terrible, then I chimed in saying how Queen, his favourite band, wouldn’t have made the music that they made. This of course a bit of aggravation on his part but it’s a truism that I maintain to this day.

I will be the first to admit that for my third term in university I had a bit of a love affair with Pet Sounds and yet I never really gave any of their albums a proper go. Thus I commenced my listening to Today! with complete gusto and the pay-off was almost immediate as I leapt into the happy summer half of the album that sets your soul alight. What The Beach Boys knew how to do very well was how to use harmony for the ultimate emotional expression. It doesn’t matter whether it is upbeat or a ballad they still know how to use their collective voices to just inspire that immediate connection that a lot of artists somehow miss out on.

The highlight of the upbeat first half is ‘Help Me, Ronda’ and is a perfect example of when I say that Today! is the first album that makes me really feel like I am actually in the sixties. This is very apparent on the track ‘Don’t Hurt My Little Sister’ through the use of the lyrics “you know she digs you and thinks you’re a real groovy guy”. So sixties that it makes me want to watch re-runs of The Banana Splits, while obviously whizzing through the cartoons. Then there is the amazing ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ which is a complete throwback to their first hit single ‘Surfin’ USA’ and not in a bad way.

Only The Beach Boys could succeed here in making you not feel just happy but also feeling rather groovy. Then we have the second ballad filled half, a half that I usually dread, but somehow they pull it off. In all of these you can see the seeds that have been sown for the forthcoming ‘God Only Knows’, which will rear it’s head soon. It is also here that I heard a very clear influence here on the early works of Of Montreal. My favourite of the ballads is without-a-doubt She Knows Me Too Well, and not just because it reminds me of Of Montreal’s ‘Eros’ Entropic Tundra’.

This is a bit besides the point, sorry, but I do love trying to find the routes that musical evolution has taken. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t Pet Sounds but frankly what really is anything like Pet SoundsToday! serves as a brilliant introduction as to what The Beach Boys were, musical pioneers. The lush production that you see on here and on all their albums are unlike anything I have heard up till now on this list and these techniques will be used ad nausea for now it is seen as the norm. Brian Wilson is a genius and this album is a testament to that