The Beach Boys
Wouldn't It Be Nice
God Only Knows
I Just Wasn't Made For These Times
Because it has a pretty legitimate claim at being the best album of all time.
Pet Sounds (1966)
Amazingly despite Hip Hop conquering the world nobody has come close to replicating The Beastie Boys. For those not familiar with the Beastie Boys journey I'd thoroughly recommend watching the Beastie Boys Story on Apple TV. It gives an amazing account of their transformation from what was originally intended to be a bit of a brat joke to becoming startlingly original artists in their own right. And that originality and artists reached it's apex with 1994's Ill Communication. And on the planet back then there weren't 3 individuals cooler than The Beastie Boys. If you want proof of that just watch the Sabotage video!
Ill Communication (1994)
You Never Give Me Your Money
Mean Mr Mustard
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
Carry That Weight
Trying to pick a single song or even just a few songs from The Beatles career is the definition of a pointless exercise. No band before or since has come anywhere close to an oeuvre like this, let alone one that charts the kind of progression that "Fab's" managed in just 6/7 years. From the beat pop of their "Please Please Me" debut via the avant garde craziness of "Tomorrow Never Knows", "Strawberry Fields" and "I Am The Walrus" via Sgt Pepper and then back to basics with "The White Album" and "Let It Be" before finishing things with a show of absolute mastery on "Abbey Road" (although yes "Let It Be" was released afterwards). It's quite simply ridiculous and then as if that wasn't enough just to drive the point home they make the final 8 songs on the final album of their career a medley. Anyone of these songs any other group would kill for and The Beatles just toy and tease with them with 5 of the songs discarded in less than 2 minutes before jumping on to the next instalment before ending the only way they could with a all knowing song called "The End" that as well as featuring perhaps some of the best drumming in rock history and fantastic guitar solos manages to distill the enormity of The Beatles achievements into one beautiful sentence "The love you give is equal to the love you take". And then it was over. The world would never be the same.
Abbey Road (1969)
The Golden Age
Beck's eclecticism keeps him interesting despite the fact that I find most of his albums a little unsatisfying. As whatever Beck you like he'll seldom keep it going for a whole album. Two notable exceptions to that are Midnight Vultures which I like but is just too much of a rip off of Prince that it borders pastiche at times. The other, and the one I've selected as his best, is "Sea Change" his hauntingly beautiful acoustic album from 2002.
Whilst picking the best album was relatively easy picking what song to include on the playlist was hard. "Loser" and "Where It's At" seemed both a little too obvious and familiar. In the end I just went for "The Golden Age" the first song from Sea Change which should hopefully act as a teaser for you to go and listen to the full album. It's a great album to just put on and listen to when you are travelling as you watch the world drift dreamingly by.
Sea Change (2002)
The Beta Band
Dry The Rain
I fell in love with the Beta Band from the first time I heard them. It's hard to describe exactly why. I think it's maybe beacuse of it's rich collision of sometimes conflicting styles. A quick listen will reveal its pretty eclectic and eccentric, but at the same time it has an acoustic warmth to it - whilst at the same time also messing around with electronics. There's a good ear for melody and a clear love of beats. And whilst their early stuff in particular has a real DIY flavour to it I think that's a little deceptive as the debut album to my ears sounds way better than anything else they did in their career. And whilst the outro to Dry The Rain is quite celebratory and optimistic I think there's a strong melancholic edge to their stuff that gives it some depth and stops it from tipping over to novelty.
Despite going on to record 3 more albums they never really managed to beat the magic of that debut. Whilst those albums are all good in their own right and are well worth a listen The Three EP's is undoubtedly the best.
The Three E.P.'s (1998)
Venus As A Boy
Ok so hit isn't officially a Bjork song but it's the first time I heard her voice and probably remains my favourite song of hers. It's quite an unusual song. Bits of indie, bits of synth, some scratching a bit of rapping, some funky guitar and that voice. Already showing some of the traits that are entirely her own and that she'd become famous for.
I've named Debut as her best album on basis that 2 of the 3 songs I've picked are from it although I don't actually think it's a great album. Whilst I love Bjork to bits I'm not sure she has a masterwork. She has truly great moments but there's not one album that does it for me all the way through.
There's No Other Way
This Is A Low
Out Of Time
Music Is My Radar
Under The Westway
Whilst no ones really called it out in my music Blur would have to be both one of my favourite bands and perhaps one of the biggest influences on my music.
Ok so "There's No Other Way" is cheesy as hell and perhaps hasn't aged that well with it's baggy beat, but I'm pretty sure it was the first Blur song I ever heard and it's been an indie disco staple ever since. A production master class from Stephen Street. Those guitars just sound amazing. You can already hear Alex's wandering bass lines start to form. And Damon is already mixing the sound of a yob with that of a choir boy with a good healthy dose of psychedelia.
The second track I've picked "Oily Water" is a bit of a joke with my friends as it seems I'm probably the only person who loves it (in comparison to all the other great tracks on the album. Why do I like it? The weird tremelo guitars, Alex bass line, Damon's megaphone vocal, the weird lyrics, the heavy shoegaze chorus that has no lyrics just a bunch of"ooo's and ahh's". And of course Graham's guitar playing and general noise. Which will be truly unleashed in later albums...
I also had to include "Blue Jeans" for two reasons. I love the drum intro and the vocal harmony is just amazing. Just listen to the perfect blend of Damon's high and low vocal. Unless you really listen you just take it in as one voice but it's very clearly two. Amazing. And Damon's already showing his ability to right classic pop songs that can appeal to the masses. Forshadowing what would come with the next album "Parklife".
Damn it. I'm also going to have to include "Miss America". Just because it's entirely unique and for anyone who thinks they know Blur just from "the hits" this takes them in a direction I'm not sure I've heard any band go down. Looks like this is going to be a long list!
I was going to bypass Parklife as it's so well known but decided I couldn't leave out "This Is A Low". It's Blur showing they can do epic just as well as anyone else and Graham plays one of my favourite guitar solos of all time. All noise and taste. Amazing.
We will skip "The Great Escape". For any other band it's a great album but there's too many other highpoints to worry about it in this list, so we'll jump directly to the self titled "Blur" album "Beatlebum" and "Song 2". Nuff said.
And then we're on to what's undoubtedly their weirdest album and I think my favourite "13". Whilst "Blur" was an about turn from the mainstream "13" eschewed the lo-fi aesthetic of that album but doubled down on sonic experimentation. Pulling in William Orbit for production duties (for the first and only time choosing not to work with Stephen Street) I remember reading that a lot of these songs were compiled from lengthy jams by Orbit. And you can definitenly hear that in their richness and the sonic adventure. There's no Parklife pop songs here. This is Blur looking inward and giving it everything they've got. My favourite track off the album "Caramel" distills all of that into all of its great 7 minutes 38 seconds.
After "13" comes "Think Tank" a terrible album by Blur standards. And some would argue one that shouldn't bare the Blur name for the very clear absence of Graham. But still on this largelly unlovable album there are 2 amazing tracks that I need to include here: "Out Of Time" and "Good Song". "Out Of Time" will forever be associated for me with the loss of a great friend from my Uni days. They played the song at his funeral and since then it's took on an epic sadness and weight. Whenever I hear it I can't help but be back in that moment and thinking of Oli.
And from the sadness "Good Song" has a slow lumbering warmth to it that lifts the soul.
It would be criminal for Blur to finish on a floored record like "Think Tank". And thankfully the band saved that from happening with "The Magic Whip" a great album right up there with their best. And from that I'm choosing "Go Out" as it does a great job of distilling the dirty, ugly, live edge of Blur. Which for anyone who's seen them live knows they can rock out with the best of them!
So that's the albums covered but we can't finish there without featuring another one of my favourite tracks "Music Is My Radar" (from the greatest hits collection). You can hear Damon's afrobeat influences coming through and it takes the band in a completely new direction.
And then lastly the celebratory "Under The Westway". A love song to West London and the A40. A pretty ugly road by anybodies standards but one that holds a piece of any West Londoners heart. I won't attempt to try and explain why. ..
And last but not least the seminal "Popscene". The single that heralded the "Baggy" Blur were over after Leisure and this strange new pop/punk/rock Blur had been born. A few months later "Modern Life Is Rubbish" would be released to the world.
There's not many times I hear a song and it stops me in my tracks. That was the case the first time I heard "Flume" from Bon Iver. It's pretty hard to make an accoustic guitar sound original and interesting but Bon Iver's debut album grabbed my attention from the get go. First of all you hear the fairly basic semi-lo-fi accoustic guitar, with a few strums to get going. Then the vocals and some rattling harmonic feedback come in. Both sounded nothing quite like anything else I'd heard. I still don't quite understand how Justin Vernon records his voice to achieve that effect. There's a lot of multi tracking and falsetto but it's overall effect is bewitching. And in addition to all these sounds the song is artfully constructed with a beautiful sense of rustic melancholy. And if your impressed by this song then you can only be more impressed when you hear the rest of the album and every song is equally artful. It's quite simply one of the most beautiful albums ever imho - and still manages to haunt me a little bit everytime I hear it.
Since that debut album "For Emma Forever Ago" I don't think any of his albums have come close to capturing that same magic. I get the feeling he knows this is the case as he's set off in a definitely more experimental direction since. Having said that though there was still time for the beautiful "Blood Bank" to be released whilst we waited for the second album. As a stand alone song it's probably my favourite Bon Iver effort - which given how much I love the debut album is high praise indeed.
I don't know many songs that start:
Well, I met you at the blood bank
We were looking at the bags
Wondering if any of the colors
Matched any of the names we knew on the tags
For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)
Like a Rolling Stone
She Belongs to Me
Love Minus Zero
Visions of Johanna
Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)
Simple Twist of Fate
If anyone will be the Shakespeare of our times and have their work remembered in 400+ years my money is on Bob Dylan - and I think it's a pretty safe bet.
By the time Dylan released "Like a Rolling Stone" in 1965 he was already on his 6th album and had written such classics as "Blowin' in the Wind", "Masters of War", "A Hard Rains a-Gonna fall", "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right", "The Times They Are a-Changin", "Subterranean Homseick Blues" and "Mr Tambourine Man" to name but a few. That's more classics than 99% of stars achieve and Dylan was just getting warmed up! Having mastered folk he turns his attention to rock n roll with Highway 61 Revisited and completely rewrites the rule book of what a rock n roll song could/should be.
Blood On The Tracks (1975)