Tag Archives: acclaimed albums

Acclaimed Albums – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 336/1000
Title: Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
Artist: of Montreal
Year: 2007

For a brief moment in the late 2000s, I was a big of Montreal fan. Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? was getting rave reviews and I wanted to dig more into their back catalogue. I ended up falling hard for their sixth album Satanic Panic in the Attic, especially ‘Disconnect the Dots’, which is one of the songs of theirs I still play regularly. I also listened to a lot of Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies and The Gay Parade.

For me, Satanic Panic in the Attic and Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? still sit as the best work that frontman Kevin Barnes has done, later albums never reaching their respective heights… and in the end putting me off of their earlier work. Listening to Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? again after a number of years just served to remind me just how much I liked their music when they were doing what they do best: great psychedelic pop.

At the centre of the album is ‘The Past Is a Grotesque Animal’, a twelve minute turning point that is just one of brilliant tracks that works out of context but is so much better when listening to it with the rest of the album. It’s the point where the album morphs from the more psychedelic first half to a second half that is closer to glam. 

Other tracks like ‘Gronlandic Edit’ and ‘She’s A Rejector’ are stand-outs in the different halves of the album, both sounding very much like the then modern take on genres from the 1960s and 1970s. There is a problematic element to the second half of the album, namely the alter-ego adopted by singer Kevin Barnes… but to be honest I never listened to this album thinking about this persona he wanted to create so it never mattered much out of the live performances. 

It’s great to hear of Montreal again and it just shows how many albums and artists we end up leaving behind as we take musical detours in our lives. Definitely an album that has stood up well (persona aside) to the test of time and maturity.

Acclaimed Albums – Selling England by the Pound by Genesis

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 335/1000
Title: Selling England by the Pound
Artist: Genesis
Year: 1973

It’s taken nearly two months, and twenty albums, before I was statistically able to listen to an album from the 1970s. Like with Paul Simon this is an album that my husband was also doing as part of his own blog efforts – otherwise I probably wouldn’t have gone for a Genesis album. At least I had some familiarity with one of the tracks from a 1001 song post, even if I did end the post with “Did I like it? Honestly, I don’t really know”.

At least when I listened to Selling England by the Pound as a whole album rather than the single song, it made sense in the wider context. Honestly, it does make me wonder just how many of the 1001 songs I would have liked more when I heard them in their album’s surroundings. Well, ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’ is one of those, although it would not have been my favourite track on the album.

In the end, this album is a brand of art pop or whatever you would like to call this vague collection of genres that exploded in the early 1970s. This is one of those albums where I knew at the end of it that I enjoyed it and that I appreciated the work that went into this prog-rock/baroque pop hour. It is also, like a number of albums I have listened to for this blog (and will still encounter in the future) that I liked in the moment and I know that I am unlikely to go back to.

Honestly though, I preferred the solo Peter Gabriel album I listened to whilst I was getting over COVID-19. I appreciate the complexity in what they were doing, although I wasn’t entirely on board with what they were doing lyrically. It’ll be interesting to see what their following 1974 album ends up sounding like – when I eventually get around to it.

Acclaimed Albums – Weezer by Weezer

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 334/1000
Title: Weezer
Artist: Weezer
Year: 1994

Okay, so Weezer are a bunch of album naming trolls as we all know – so this Weezer that appears in the Top 1000 specifically refers to their debut ‘Blue’ album. This is one of two Weezer albums to appear in the list, but as the other one is Pinkerton, so at least I know there won’t be any conflict in the title names as I go further into this project.

So, going into this album I knew next to nothing about Weezer other than the following: my mum likes their cover of Toto’s ‘Africa’ and this is definitely not Wheatus – who I regularly confused them with over the years and so feared an album that was just filled with variations of ‘Teenage Dirtbag’. Writing these posts really have led me to realize how many weird assumptions I have about different bands, but this is probably one of the weirder ones.

In what seems like a mini-trend in some of the albums I have listened to, there are interesting albums that come out of geekier musicians making their attempt at a genre. It would take a long time for ‘geekiness’ to not be completely embarrassing, which is what makes Weezer wearing their geekiness on their sleeve in their debut so brilliant – the lines in ‘In The Garage’ referring to Dungeons & Dragons being incredibly endearing.

To put this in more of a context, Weezer came out in America when the surrounding rock landscape was still grunge and the moodier side of rock with Siamese Dream coming out the year before. Weezer brought a lighter side back to critically acclaimed guitar music, which may not have been cool but it is very well done. 

I guess it makes sense that an album like Weezer came out the same time as Mellow Gold where we began to have the rise of the outsider within rock music. Something that so many could actually relate to and just needed something like ‘Loser’ to sing along to.

Acclaimed Albums – St. Elsewhere by Gnarls Barkley

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 333/1000
Title: St. Elsewhere
Artist: Gnarls Barkley
Year: 2006

I know it helped to have already started this by completing a cut from the Top 250 of the list, but it is really cool to have already hit a third of the way through this list. A list I will not be expanding further as it is going to take me years to complete. To mark this, I wanted an album to show a bit of my own growth in music taste from being a kid, so went for Gnarls Barkley.

Not to mince words, but when ‘Crazy’ was sat at the top of the UK Charts for weeks on end, it made me weirdly angry. This was not the kind of music I liked and why was it doing so well. It was so strange. I ended up re-listening to ‘Crazy’ about five years later and I loved it. Don’t know how it happened, but it did and it made me wonder what my problem was. Guess it became the focus on music I liked listening to never reaching the top of the charts?

Anyway, so it took another ten years apparently until I ended up listening to St. Elsewhere. I would have listened to it sooner probably if I hadn’t started on a 6-7 year long album listening challenge. I like a lot of the work that Danger Mouse has done with artists like Beck and Gorillaz – then, despite the controversy, it is hard to limit how brilliant Cee-Lo Green’s voice is. There’s a joyousness in him that you just don’t find too often.

Together, St. Elsewhere is this alternative soul mash-up with bits of pop, electronic, rock and trip-hop. The Rorschach Test video of ‘Crazy’ just touches on the kaleidoscope of sound on the album and it brought me a lot of happiness on this sunny Friday. I think this is the album that I wish Outkast would make, if that makes any sense.

Acclaimed Albums – New York by Lou Reed

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 332/1000
Title: New York
Artist: Lou Reed
Year: 1989

The expansion of the music list meant the inclusion of two more Lou Reed albums, this solo album and another album with The Velvet Underground. Honestly, to see him here with an album from 1989 was a bit of a surprise to me as I figured he hit a high in the seventies and then, much like David Bowie, went on a critical decline to the point they became more known for their peak than their current body of work. Obviously Bowie came back in the 2010s, but you get the idea.

Well, turns out Lou Reed still had New York in him which really does not feel like an album you would see getting massive acclaim in 1989. Ignoring the lyrics for now, New York is a very simple type of rock album. It’s not unlike something you would expect to see Bob Dylan release in the early 1970s, but with someone who can sing well and it sometimes breaks into a more hard rock mode. In one way it makes it both a bit timeless as well as, for the time, a bit of a throwback.

The music itself is purposely simple as, again like Dylan, New York is meant to be all about the lyrics. I mean, it’s like Lou Reed went back to what worked with Transformer except now he is older and angrier. The fact that a 1989 Donald Trump is mentioned as part of the lyrical venting shows how things change slower than you’d like, although in the case of New York, it’s a good thing as it’s Lou Reed building on what was good about his earlier music.

Again, there is so much in here that is still relatable to where things are now. At the moment of writing this, America is beginning to boil over after more police shootings have occurred and rather than AIDS we are still being ravaged by Covid-19 with some countries like India faring worse than others. Guess that’s how this can still strike a chord 32 years later.

Acclaimed Albums – Black on Both Sides by Mos Def

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 331/1000
Title: Black on Both Sides
Artist: Mos Def
Year: 1999

Okay so the list, Spotify and the Wikipedia entry still refers to him as Mos Def. However, going by other articles online, this name should have been retired in favour of Yasiin Bey. So, I am not entirely sure where to go from here and think it may be safer to just use pronouns. In the end, this is a solo album so there will be no mistaking who I’ll be referring to. Just don’t want to end up using the wrong name for an entire post.

When I think of him, all I can see is the poster of Be Kind Rewind. It is probably the whitest thing to think of him, therefore, as an actor before I think of them as a rapper. Obviously there are many multi-hyphenates and it would make sense that the rap career came first as a rapper to acting is a well-trodden career path – I just know them for being moderately goofy with Jack Black instead of a good rapper.

Well, here I am after a few listens of Black on Both Sides and I will probably think of them first as a rapper now – no matter which name I see being mentioned. This sort of conscious hip-hop really is more of my speed, but I also think it helps that this album is far newer than a lot of the hip-hop I have recently been ingesting for the sake of the albums list. 

Things have moved on and developed to the point that the lyricism has had to be stepped up and the use of sampling within songs has become far more standardised. You also have some more cross-genre reach on the tracks – although we are far away from something so outside of the genre like ‘Black Skinhead’.  There is also one track where the chorus leaves me… incredibly uncomfortable and you can probably guess which song this is. On the whole though, this is a really good debut album.

Acclaimed Albums – Club Classics Vol. One by Soul II Soul

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 330/1000
Title: Club Classics Vol. One
Artist: Soul II Soul
Year: 1989

Growing up, I must have heard ‘Back to Life’ on the radio and on music television countless times. Being that it was a massive hit to the point of being almost emblematic of music of the late 1980s, this a song I figured would be interesting to hear in context of the rest of the parent album. What I didn’t quite expect was that the massive hit single was a radio edit of an acapella track. This is not the first time I’ve been burned by a radio mix – ‘What Can I Do’ by The Corrs being the first time and it still flummoxes me – but it still really hits me when the album track is so incredibly different from the known release.

Club Classics Vol. One (or Keep On Movin’ as titled for the US release) is an interesting case for the obsolescence of genre. Most places list this as being an R&B album, but that’s only because that is a catch-all for many music types in the same way as pop. Like the original club nights of the group, Club Classics Vol. One is a cultural exchange between many different musical traditions found in Britain, America and Africa. There is soul, funk, some traditional beats and music played by a reggae orchestra. Like the label of an R&B album makes sense, but it does try to smooth it out into a genre that has many swerves and dips.

This is maybe not the album to listen to when all my brain wants to do is listen to the end credits music of The Handmaiden for the 27th time. However, this music is smooth and worked well for me – even if I did pause halfway because one of the tracks gave me a Human League earworm that needed squashing thanks to ‘Holdin’ On’. 

That split was an interesting point though as it highlighted to me that this is an album where it would have helped being on vinyl or on tape. The two halves are different in feel and in beat, the first half almost making this an album front-loaded with what would be good radio songs like ‘Fairplay’ and ‘Keep on Movin’’ and then the second half is more the chillout. This does mean that, on Spotify, it plays like two very similar tracks in a row where the flip would occur, but as a concept it works really well and helps to bring even more variation to the album.

Acclaimed Albums – Emergency & I by The Dismemberment Plan

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 329/1000
Title: Emergency & I
Artist:The Dismemberment Plan
Year: 1999

In my late teens to mid-twenties, I was one of those people that would read Pitchfork semi-religiously. My musical taste would not always conform to how they rated albums, but they agreed with me on a bunch of things so they were always a good source for music to try and led to me discovering some of my favourite albums. 

Back in 1999, Emergency & I won Pitchfork’s Album of the Year prize and, for some reason, I never made a decision to go back and listen to it. Then again, it isn’t like I did that with any of the other albums before I began reading Pitchfork reviews – but it’s a bit strange that I never thought to do so. Well, this is one of them accounted for and thanks to this list will be listening to more of them – including their retrospective ranking of Aquemini as the best album of 1998.

Emergency & I is a great indie rock album. It’s one of those great albums that sticks in a pole right into a central genre, then it looks to suitable places in related genres to stick the remaining tent poles whilst keeping close to a central genre. It also appears to be one of those albums, like with Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, that meant a lot to a lot of people. One of those albums you keep going back to and find different meanings in. For me, that would probably be Illinois back when I was properly getting into music and then 22, A Million for the more recent years.

Being a bit of a latecomer to this album who gave it a few listens means I won’t be seeing everything this album has to offer. However, this does come under the umbrella of albums for this music list that have been weirdly moreish. At times it is very much indie rock, then it pivots in tracks like ‘Memory Machine’ and ‘8 ½ Minutes’ into something far more alternative sounding.  Like, this is an album that I know I want to have more time with – and that doesn’t always happen when I do albums for this list.

Acclaimed Albums – Silent Shout by The Knife

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 328/1000
Title: Silent Shout
Artist: The Knife
Year: 2006

When I was doing the Top 250, Silent Shout was always bubbling away nearby. I was hoping it would one day make a leap up so I could have a nice easy album to cross off as it is one of my favourite albums of the 2000s. When I first started this blog, I made a list of my favourite albums of 2000-2014 – Silent Shout appearing at #12. It still feels like the right place for it.

This is an album that I listened to as I completed NaNoWriMo and even quoted once when I was very ill and in a delirium and declared myself a fancy man. ‘Neverland’ and ‘Marble House’ are both tracks that would likely rank incredibly highly if I ever loathed myself enough to even attempt a top songs of all time list. Both are exceptional pieces of synth-pop, much like the rest of this album.

Coming across Silent Shout late like I did, it showed me that my musical taste still had a lot of room to grow and was probably a gateway towards me eventually getting into darker pop like early Grimes and Jenny Hval – especially the latter. I don’t think Blood Bitch would rank among my favourite albums of all time if this album hadn’t opened some doors for me. Granted, I already enjoyed Fever Ray so this wouldn’t have been too big a leap for me.

Compared to a lot of music I listen to Silent Shout is still on the darker side of things. At first there were parts that were near inaccessible, but now I cannot imagine how I ever found listening to it difficult. It’s a consistently brilliant piece of techno and synthpop that, for me, remains the pinacle of their career.

I will later get to write about The Knife’s final album Shaking the Habitual as well as the Fever Ray eponymous solo album – but nothing will quite equal that lead into ‘Neverland’ from the title track, the bombast of ‘We Share Our Mother’s Health’ or the spookiness of the ‘Marble House’ duet. Stories of escaping into the woods from invaders rendered with electronic soundscapes in the same way they talk about reconnecting with an old friend. God I love this album.

Acclaimed Albums – ( ) by Sigur Rós

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 327/1000
Title: ( )
Artist: Sigur Rós
Year: 2002

There was a while when I was in university where I would listen to a fair bit of Sigur Rós for the purposes of napping. If I am unable to sleep on an airplane, I will still reach for some of their albums with a preference for Agætis byrjun over ( ). Where Agætis byrjun is definitely a perfect listen if you want to drift off to some beautiful post-rock, ( ) doesn’t work as well as given the greater use of percussion and distortion – the percussion really kicking in during the more downbeat second half.

( ) does something that very few albums do though – have the entire thing sung in a fake language. Well, I say language – it’s not like Hopelandic has any meaning, instead this is very much an ethereal version of scat singing whose syllables are used to fit the melody. It makes for a brilliant contrast to have something so otherworldly being sung to something that, at times, gets closer to being a type of rock than being ambient.

One difficulty about talking about this album is… what do you call it. I guess you can refer to it at The Brackets Album in the great tradition of The White Album and most of Weezer’s output. But given the style of music, that name feels just too bog-standard. Then you have the tracks which are officially untitled, although we do have their nicknames. 

Do I prefer the more uplifting first half? Yes I do, they feel like a magical human whale song – especially ‘Untitled #3 – Samskeyti’. Do I prefer Agætis byrjun as an album? Also yes, but I do think ( )  is better than their follow-up despite how amazing ‘Hoppípolla’ is. This is one of those bands I just circle back to every few years and I think it means I really should be giving the Jónsi solo works more of a go. Like, if I like Sigur Rós I should enjoy those works… right?