Thursday, February 11, 2010
Derrick's Top Albums of All Time (#40-31)
40. Deathspell Omega - Fas--Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum
As the years have passed, it's become increasingly difficult to push the boundaries of my musical tastes any further out than they already are. Gone are the days when records like Converge's Jane Doe and Dillinger Escape Plan's Calculating Infinity were changing the way I thought about music altogether. Leave it to Deathspell Omega to release an album so discordant, so amelodic, so wrong-sounding that it could somehow stretch those boundaries--which are so close to the extent of their elasticity--an inch or two further outward. This is the second chapter of a yet-unfinished trilogy of which Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice is the first chapter. As with part one of the trilogy, the title of this album is also latin; this one meaning "Divine law - Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." This thing is such a major mindfuck from beginning to end that attempting to describe it would just end badly for everyone involved. Just be warned that if you attempt to brave the painful but incredibly rewarding experience that is Fas--Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, it's not going to be a very welcoming experience the first time around. In fact, I wouldn't recommend this album to anyone who doesn't have at least some experience with extreme metal and/or unusual, highly inaccessible music. And even then you might not be adequately prepared for what you're about to hear. But rest assured, it will be worth every bit of time you invest in it.
39. Envy - All the Footprints You've Ever Left and the Fear Expecting Ahead
Before Japan's epic post-hardcore kings were constructing 8-plus-minute towering hardcore symphonies, there was this album. This album sort of serves as the bridge between Envy's mere-mortal screamo output (including a myriad of EPs and split records as well as full-lengths Breathing and Dying In This Place and From Here to Eternity) and the ultra-epic, sprawling landscapes of A Dead Sinking Story and Insomniac Doze (as well as the recent Abyssal EP and splits with Jesu and Thursday) much in the same way that Revolver was the stepping stone between the pop-sensation Beatles and the brilliant, musically groundbreaking output of the 1967-1970 Beatles. It starts with a fairly unassuming but mildly ominous intro track "Zero" that leads straight into "Farewell to Words", and already you can hear how Envy got to where they are today, only things are just slightly different. The epic guitar melodies and paint-peeling screams are just as prevalent but the pacing and the rhythms are markedly more frantic and urgent. "Left Hand" starts with an immediate and epic attacking guitar much in the same vain as the later "Color of Fetters", soon giving way to a swirling verse that could just as easily have been featured in a song on A Dead Sinking Story. The highlight of this record, however, is easily the one-two punch of "The Light of My Footprints"/"Your Shoes and the World to Come" that closes the album (and often times the band's shows). Coming to a combined 12 minutes, this epic journey is certain to leave you emotionally exhausted by the time it's over.
38. Radiohead - Amnesiac
Like so many other Radiohead fans, I used to be sort of indifferent toward this album. For so long, it has been relegated to the status of being a collection of Kid A B-sides--which is understandable since the songs on here came from the same recording sessions as the songs on Kid A--and is even referred to as "Kid B" from time to time by snarky music critics and snobbish Radiohead fans. To me, on the other hand, this is probably the most underrated Radiohead album of all. If you were to listen to it for the first time, you might be somewhat turned off after the first three tracks, which delve seemingly further into the electronic realm that the band began flirting with on Kid A (ok, maybe more than "flirting"). "Pulk-Pull Revolving Doors" especially is full of pulsating computerized jackhammer beats and meandering vocorder ramblings about doors. I'll admit these songs take some getting used to. However, if you're patient enough to reach tracks 4-6, your rewards will be: 4) a soothing, melancholy, whisper-soft guitar ballad that gives way to a joyous explosion of piano as Thom croons "we ride tonight...ghost horses." Ladies and gentlemen, "You and Whose Army?" 5) a meandering, guitar-heavy groove-laden rock song (well, "rock" by Radiohead's standards anyway) that takes a seemingly 180-degree turn toward the end before falling haphazardly back into its grinding groove--"I Might Be Wrong." 6) One of Radiohead's best songs ever, the eerie, cannibalistic "Knives Out."
37. Yaphet Kotto/This Machine Kills/Envy - Split CD
There's a very specific story to go along with this one: Valentine's Day 2004. It's the second semester of my first year of college and I'm in a rut. It's a pretty average Valentine's Day for me, lovelorn and jaded. I can't remember exactly why or when I first downloaded this album but on this day I finally decided to give it a listen. I burned it to a CD, popped it in my discman, and headed over to the dining hall to get some dinner. I remember listening to it while I had a slice of pizza and being impressed by the Yaphet Kotto tracks--which I still firmly believe are the best songs they ever wrote. I remember digging the This Machine Kills tracks in spite of being a little impatient for Envy's portion to start. I remember Envy's portion starting and my jaw dropping. I specifically remember taking my tray over to the conveyor belt when I was done eating and putting it down right as the song kicked back in from the ultra-quiet part midway through the song and being paralyzed by what I heard for a good 10 seconds. I remember walking back to my dorm as tears began to form in my eyes (I've never been moved to tears by music in my life except for this moment). More than anything I remember the transcendent moment when I first heard "A Collaboration Song." This isn't so much a song as an event. It begins unassuming enough, adding layers upon layers as the minutes tick by. Then something happens. The dam breaks. The walls crumble. The flood roars in and sweeps you up in emotion. The singer of Yaphet Kotto's voice soars as Tetsu from Envy responds to his call. Then something else happens. Yaphet Kotto takes over and makes the song's epic conclusion their own, ending on a melancholy note with the screamer of YK repeating "FACE DOWN WITH MY HEAD...AGAINST THE WALL" over the minimal music still meandering in the haze. And just like that, it's over. And you're not sure how you can be expected to return to real life.
36. Glassjaw - Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence
I don't know if there's a better soundtrack to the angst and frustration that a lot of squirrely, awkward, shy guys feel toward women. The longing is undeniable, the anger is potent, and the heart is perched firmly on the sleeve and bleeding out everywhere. This is without a doubt one of the most unbridled, unfettered, lay-it-all-on-the-line albums I've ever heard. The emotion doesn't so much pour out of every song as it shoots out like water from a broken faucet as vocalist Daryl Palumbo begs, pleads, screams, sighs, cries, berates, and bellows some of the most impassioned vocals you'll ever hear. Every song seemingly has a different feel, from the "emocore" rage of "Pretty Lush" and "Siberian Kiss" to the plodding, bass-driven "When One Eight Becomes Two Zeroes", the up-beat "Ry-Ry's Song", the melodic anger of "Lovebites and Razorlines" juxtaposed with the grinding, pounding, discordant anger of "Hurting and Shoving (She Should Have Let Me Sleep)." "Majour" seems to begin a sort of second act of the album with a very melodic, swirling pseudo-ballad (well, about as close as you get to a ballad on this album) and the diversity doesn't end there from wild hardcore romps ("Babe") and heavy groove-laden mosh pit tunes ("Motel of the White Locust") to meandering slow jams (the title track) and fervent blasts of melody ("Her Middle Name was Boom" and "Piano")...by the time the haunting hidden track rolls around you'll be more than ready for a break.
35. Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
I'll admit I came into this one very late. I only really got into it about a year or two ago but one thing I know is that once I heard the beautiful climax of "Thunder Road", there was no going back. It seems like The Boss has had the heart of a 20-year-old pretty much his entire life and this record really shines in that respect. The exuberance in songs like "Born to Run" and "She's the One" are undeniable and, if you have a soul, you'll find it hard to suppress the urge to dance--or at least smile. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert on HBO featured a quite lengthy set by The Boss that, among other things (like teaming with Billy Joel for "New York State of Mind" and "Born to Run"), featured an incredible performance of the album's closing track, "Jungleland." It damn near made me cry. That should be pretty much all you need to know about this album.
34. Poison the Well - The Opposite of December
This is one of those albums I sort of got into little by little. It's also one of the main albums responsible for me getting into hardcore. Like most PTW fans I became obsessed with "Nerdy", which was the first song I heard by them and prompted me to borrow a PTW mix from a friend of mine. It contained every song on this record plus all those from the record before it (when they had two vocalists, one screaming, one singing, neither of which is the current vocalists) as well as a few from a split record before that, when they were called An Acre Lost. I started listening to this mix religiously (at least the songs from this album) in the time leading up to PTW playing a show at Kaffe Krystal that I was determined to attend. This would be the first real hardcore show I would ever attend. It wouldn't be a stretch to say this show changed my life, even if it does sound a bit dramatic. I had never seen anything like that before. Stage diving. Head walking. Kids scrapping and climbing on each other, screaming the words in vocalists Jeffrey Moreira's face, grabbing for the mic, losing their minds. Musically, very few hardcore bands have ever been able to measure up to this record--and way, WAY too many have tried to...this album basically spawned an entire genre of copycats that left something to be desired. The formula has become a parody of itself now: metal-infused hardcore with pretty melodic passages, "emotional" singing juxtaposed with blood-curdling shrieks, sprinkle in some monster breakdowns to spark up the mosh pit and some Swedish death metal riffs for the metal nerds and eureka! Generic melodic metalcore band #84573. I think they call it "screamo" nowadays. Whatever it is, it started with this band and this album.
33. Stone Temple Pilots - Core
I went through a phase in my early days of high school where I listened to this album along with Purple and No. 4 almost compulsively. They seemed to capture so much of what I was going through in high school so perfectly for some reason. I can remember one of the first times I listened to this album the whole way through, there were 4-5 songs on it that I knew I had heard before but I had never known who wrote them. I love those little revelatory musical moments, like a rosetta stone unlocking a musical gift. As much as I love this album, it's easy to see the criticism of sounding too much like Pearl Jam that came along with it...even if the songwriting is significantly more interesting. "Plush" will always be one of my favorite songs in the world and will always invoke so much nostalgia and so many memories for me. It doesn't even have anything to do with the lyrics it's just a mood that hovers ominously yet beautifully over the song like the towering, color-splashed sky at sunset. "Creep" is another wonderfully melancholy, dark, dusty pseudo-ballad that seems to go well together with the end of a day--and another song that stokes the fires of nostalgia in me. There are way too many highlights to go through them all. Everyone knows the singles, which are great and everything but some of the most underrated STP songs are on here as well: "Sin", "Naked Sunday", and "Piece of Pie" come to mind. I saw this band live at the first concert I ever went to, Zetafest 2000, and they opened their set with "Crackerman" which is something I'll never forget.
32. Foo Fighters - The Colour and the Shape
This is a deeply, deeply personal album to me for reasons that don't really make a whole lot of sense to me. Well, ok, I guess they kinda do. I listened to this album a TON around the time when I had completely and totally fallen desperately in love...and in that repetition became something of a soundtrack for said love and said girl. A lot of it had to do with "Everlong" and its uncanny ability to make my heart flutter. "February Stars" and "Walking After You" had something to do with it too. But other songs that don't make as much sense became so resonant for me during that time like "Hey Johnny Park" and "Up In Arms." Really the whole album just has a sound and a mood that has a subtly supernatural ability to transport me back in time to 10th and 11th grade, the peak of my desperate unrequited love that defined who I was in high school to a far greater degree than it probably should have--certainly to a far greater degree than I would have liked.
31. Black Star - Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star
You always hear about Straight Outta Compton and Fear of a Black Planet...and sometimes Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) enters the discussion of great all-time hip hop records. In my book, it doesn't get any better than Black Star. Two of the most talented underground(-ish) superstars hip hop has ever given birth to collaborating on one unbelievable album. Two unmistakable voices. Two distinct(ly different) styles--Mos's highly rhythmic, soulful delivery provides the perfect contrast to Kweli's fervent, fast-paced, more complex delivery. And the songs...ugh. This is no mere collection of "tight beats" that provide a decent enough backdrop for the lyricists. There's a brilliant parody of "Children's Story" that talks about "jacking beats." The beautifully mellow ode to women of color, "Brown Skin Lady." A tribute to their break beat heritage in "B Boys Will B Boys." The highlight for me is an intense track near the end called "Respiration" which features a guest appearance by Common. At Rock the Bells 2007, Mos Def and Talib Kweli shared the stage for a short Black Star teaser set and for this song they actually brought Common out to do his parts of the song which was greeted by a wild crowd response (which, at a hip hop show, means everyone goes: OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH). It was a pretty amazing moment and one that I'm sure I won't soon forget.
OK well that does it for #40-31...sorry it took such a ridiculously long time...I've been picking at it since I posted the last one...I've literally sat down to finish this at least 4-5 times only to stop after writing blurbs for 1-2 albums...hopefully the blurbs for #30-21 will come to me easier and I'll be able to miraculously complete the next entry sometime next week...yeah, we'll see how THAT goes...