Perfect Albums Meme

Name an album, in any genre, that you think is 100% perfect – where you don’t skip 1 track. – @MOBOAwards

Of course I fell prey to this meme.  Here’s an obviously partial list:

The La’s, The La’s — Singer/leader Lee Mavers might think this masterpiece of his is incomplete and nowhere near what he was hearing in his head, but to me it’s a perfect album.  A mix of the blossoming alternative rock sound of the late 80s-early 90s, Liverpudlian guitar folk, and just a pinch of psychedelia for flavor, and it became an album that I will always think of as my favorite albums of the 90s, tied with…

Failure, Fantastic Planet — On a completely different plane of existence, it’s an incredible record filled with amazing songwriting and production.  It’s loud, it’s devastating, and it leaves me breathless every time I listen to it.

The Beatles, Revolver — Of course, I could list almost any other Beatles release here, but their 1966 album remains my favorite of theirs because it’s the moment where they changed from lovable mop-tops writing songs about love to adults writing about life.  Just after their folky Rubber Soul and just before their psychedelic Sgt Pepper.

Global Communication, 76:14 — If you need to own just one ambient album, let it be this one.  It’s a lovely album to get lost in and let your mind wander.  Where a lot of ambient instrumental albums can sometimes meander into navel-gazing boredom, this album keeps your attention all the way through.

Massive Attack, Mezzanine — “Teardrop” is right up there as one of my favorite songs of all time, and the album it’s from is equally excellent.  A great example of trip-hop moodiness and clever sonic creativity — especially with this album, which uses quiet and empty spaces as part of its soundscape.

Depeche Mode, Violator — Another album that signifies a band’s change.  This is where they went from their classic synth-and-sample sound they’d been known for, to a full-band sound complete with guitar.  Martin Gore’s songwriting evolved at amazing speed here; “Enjoy the Silence” remains one of his crowning achievements to this day.

Beck, Sea Change — Before this album, he’d been known as that “Loser” guy who wrote weird and goofy Mad-Lib-style lyrics with the occasional foray into odd but listenable folk rock, but this album was where he proved just how serious of an artist he really is.  It’s haunting, sometimes heartbreaking, and extremely personal, but it’s also an absolutely gorgeous album.

UNKLE, Psyence Fiction — A very fitting title for this record, it’s a mix of hip-hop, trip-hop, alternative rock, rap, and more, all with a science fictional subtext.  James Lavelle has always been an amazing musician/producer who creates chilly and cavernous soundscapes, and this is a perfect example of it.

Indigo Girls, Indigo Girls — Ever have one of those albums where you kinda like a few songs on it, then once you finally sit down and listen to it all the way through and realize just how freaking amazing it is?  Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are brilliant songwriters, but they’re also brilliant at crafting a perfect vocal duet.

And one more I forgot to mention that I thought of today:

Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair — It’s their most famous album (I still hear “Head Over Heels” on the radio to this day), but it’s also one of my favorite albums of the 80s.  Poppy, jazzy, and even a little experimental, every single one of its tracks has a certain amazing quality to it.  [Listen, for example, to the Gershwin-esque “The Working Hour” with its slow build and blistering sax solos.]

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I could of course come up with so many more albums to add to this list, but I’ll hold myself back.  For now!

Twenty Years On: March 1998 in Review

March is right about when the doldrums of first quarter taper off, the post-Christmas sales of older titles have quieted down, and more exciting new releases start popping up.  Some of my favorite albums of the year surfaced around this time, albums that remained on heavy rotation for quite a few years afterwards.  Here are a few for you to enjoy.

Madonna, Ray of Light, released 3 March. I’ve been a passive fan of Madonna since her Like a Virgin days (which goes to show how old I am), and interestingly her albums always seesawed between phenomenal and lackluster. I consider this particular album one of her crowning achievements; it beautifully and seamlessly blends her signature dance sound and the brilliant electronica of producer William Orbit. It’s an amazing album from start to finish.

Fastball, All the Pain Money Can Buy released 10 March. Yes, it’s that song, their one-hit wonder (and there were many in 1998), but the rest of the album is actually quite a solid one worth checking out, with equally hooky riffs.

Morcheeba, Big Calm, released 16 March. One of many rock/electronica hybrid bands making the scene at the time, Morcheeba could be alternately loud and chunky or soft and sexy, sometimes within the span of a few tracks on their albums.

Cornelius, Fantasma, released 24 March. Keigo Oyamada has been called “the Japanese Beck” by certain critics, and they’re not wrong. Adventurous, experimental, weird, and often amusing, his work as Cornelius is a feast for the ears.

Semisonic, Feeling Strangely Fine, released 24 March. This band could have ended up a one-hit wonder with “Closing Time”, if it wasn’t for singer Dan Wilson’s brilliant songwriting, which kept the band in the spotlight and has carried his post-Semisonic career to achieving numerous award-winning hits. The entire album is catchy as hell and a lot of fun to listen to.

Superdrag, Head Trip in Every Key, released 24 March. After their snotty, punky mega-hit “Sucked Out” from 1996’s Regretfully Yours, this trio was bound and determined not to be pigeonholed into being another snotty-punk clone, and released a phenomenal album…which, alas, the label hated and proceeded to drop them unceremoniously. Surprisingly mature, often Beatlesque, and full of lovely melodies and introspective lyrics, Head Trip actually proved that they were a strong band, carrying them well into the early 00s and beyond. Highly recommended for your collection.

Sully, I Have Much to Report, released 24 March. An obscure Canadian band from Ottawa, this band nonetheless managed to pop up in the background in numerous shows and movies in the mid-90s. I love this album purely for its murky Cocteau Twins-meets-Sneaker Pimps ambience.

God Lives Underwater, Life in the So-Called Space Age, released 24 March. GLU’s second album is a change from the aggro-electronics of their first album, and in effect it sounds darker and more experimental. It’s a great album for headphones and long writing sessions, though! One of my favorites from this year, it got a hell of a lot of play down in the Belfry for a few years.

Scott Weiland, 12 Bar Blues, released 31 March. Scott’s debut solo album is quite the mix, alternating between weird and unstable, and heartfelt and beautiful. It features a few older tracks (“Lady Your Roof Brings Me Down” is from the Great Expectations soundtrack from a few months earlier, and “Mockingbird Girl” is a rerecording of the song he contributed to the 1995 Tank Girl soundtrack) alongside some fantastic new ones.

Pulp, This Is Hardcore, released 31 March. Jarvis Cocker & Co follow up their brilliant Different Class album with a decidedly darker and sinister outing about the more questionable side of life. This isn’t about the have-nots, it’s about the don’t-give-a-shits.

Harvey Danger, Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone, released 31 March. Another band that sadly became a one-hit wonder, despite multiple albums and excellent songwriting. A fun and exceptionally nerdy band, their entire discography is well worth checking out.

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Next Up: April 1998!

Recent Purchases, February 2018 Edition

It’s been a busy couple of weeks here, what with me releasing a new book, catching up on personal things, and preparing for FOGcon, I almost forgot to continue with the Recent Purchases post!  Thankfully February is a short month and I don’t have to split it up into two posts, so I can catch up quickly.

Hope you enjoy!

GoGo Penguin, A Humdrum Star, released 9 February. I don’t listen to jazz nearly as much as I used to, but this one was suggested by AllMusic and I have to say I’m glad they did, because this album is FREAKING AMAZING. They’re your basic piano-bass-drums trio, but their music is so energetic and unique that it sounds so much bigger. Highly recommended.

Franz Ferdinand, Always Ascending, released 9 February. These poppy weirdos have returned with yet another irresistibly catchy album full of quirky alt-pop gems. As always, it’s a fun listen from beginning to end.

The Wombats, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, released 9 February. One of my favorite album names of 2018 so far, and another fun listen. This band somehow manages to write songs that sound gleefully happy, even when the lyrics aren’t, and I love them for it.

Fischerspooner, Sir, released 16 February. I’d almost completely forgotten about this band — I own 2003’s #1 album, but missed out on all their follow-ups — but this one jumped out at me and wouldn’t let go. Alternately sexy and weird, and that’s exactly how they want it.

Superchunk, What a Time to Be Alive, released 16 February. My manager at the record store loved this band back in my HMV days, but I never quite latched onto them. Thankfully their latest has fixed that ghastly mistake! Good punky fun.

FiFi Rong, Awake EP, released 23 February. Another groovy, trip-hoppy EP from one of my favorite internet finds.

Our Lady Peace, Somethingness, released 23 February. This crowd-funded release finally gets a wide release. There’s an energy on this album that’s reminiscent to their late 90s-early 00s sound that balances out their softer side that they’ve been mostly using on their later releases.

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Coming Soon: March 2018, which so far seems to want to bankrupt me with its awesomeness!

One More Shameless Plug and an Offer!

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HEY THERE! One more shameless plug here at Walk in Silence to let you know that my new book is still on sale for ONLY A BUCK FIFTY at Smashwords!  It’s available in all formats including Nook and Kindle.  Tomorrow is the last day of the sale, though, then it’s going back up to the insane price of $2.99.  Go get it before it’s too late!

You can download it crazy quick by following this link to Smashwords right here.

WAIT A MOMENT!  AN OFFER, YOU SAY?

Yes! I know some of you readers out there are also music bloggers and/or GoodReads members, so I’ll lay it out: interested in a fun, quick read about the shenanigans of a bunch of teenage rockers in the 90s?  Love reading music bios that reveal all the sordid secrets behind the fame?  Interested in doing a review either on your site or at GoodReads?

Let me know by commenting below or emailing me directly at joncwriter (at) yahoo dot com (with the subject line ‘Andersonville’) and I can hook you up with A FREE COPY OF THE E-BOOK, whichever format you need!  All I ask in return is that you provide a review, either at GoodReads or on your blog.  Doesn’t need to be anything long-winded — even just a starred rating will do!

Thanks for reading!

OH HEY I HAVE A BOOK OUT

Meet the Lidwells Cover F Outside 2

MEET THE LIDWELLS! A Rock n’ Roll Family Memoir

“Rule number one in the music business: never start a band with any members of your family. 

Sure, it’ll start off just fine, everyone having fun, with big dreams of success and gold records, but then you realize you’re stuck in a stinking, too-small tour bus with your siblings for the fifth year running, and your brother hates you. Next thing you know, the band implodes just as it’s reaching its highest success, your family won’t talk to you anymore, the press is having a field day ripping you to shreds, and you’ll need to start your career all over again as a solo act. If you dare to at that point.

Rule number two in the music business: rules were made to be broken.” — Thomas Lidwell

Meet the Lidwells! is the story of four siblings and two cousins who start a band as teenagers and achieve success beyond their wildest dreams. But while they consistently top the charts with their irresistibly catchy tunes, they’re also fighting their own demons: perfectionism, disenchantment, addiction, exhaustion, sexism…and figuring out how to become an adult in front of millions of fans.

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NOW AVAILABLE AT SMASHWORDS!
ON SALE ALL THIS WEEK FOR ONLY $1.50!

Come check it out!

 

Thirty Years On: More March 1988

Welcome to another edition of Thirty Years On!  This one finishes up March 1988 with a mix of many differing styles and sounds. and ending with a classic that remains influential to this day.

Camouflage, Voices & Images, released 4 March. By 1988 there were quite a few synth-centric bands out there with more than just a passing resemblance to Depeche Mode. But Camouflage — who came from the birthplace of dark synthpop, Germany — made a name for themselves by writing gorgeous, catchy melodies and often uplifting lyrics. Their debut is worth checking out, especially for the lovely opener, “That Smiling Face”.

The Beatles, Past Masters Vols 1 & 2, released 7 March. These two volumes are important in that it completed the campaign to release the entire Beatles discography on CD, which had started in 1987. Collecting all the non-album tracks from singles, EPs and elsewhere, it contains an amazing number of their hits that we all know and love.

Love and Rockets, “No New Tale to Tell” single, released 8 March. A surprisingly late UK release coming nearly six months after their psychedelic folk-tinged Earth Sun Moon album (it was released as a single in the US much closer to its release date), it’s a classic alt-pop track from the trio that remains a fan favorite.

The Mighty Lemon Drops, World Without End, released 8 March. This British power-pop band was a critical favorite back in 1986 to the point that they even had a following here in the States, thanks to their signing to Sire (thank you, Seymour Stein!). Their second album is more electric than their quieter, dream-poppier debut, but their songs are still infectiously catchy.

Morrissey, Viva Hate, released 14 March. Moz’s post-Smiths debut remains one of his strongest albums, working directly with producer Stephen Street and Vini Reilly from The Durutti Column. It’s very similar to The Queen Is Dead in terms of songwriting, though with the moodier feel of Strangeways Here We Come.  It’s dark, at times angry and other times wistful…just as we’ve come to expect from Morrissey.

The Smithereens, Green Thoughts, released 16 March. The Smithereens’ second album after 1986’s fantastic Especially for You continues their signature sound of drop-tuned, hard-edged bluesy rock. Their sound is heavier and louder here, and would continue that way to 1989’s 11.

Throwing Muses, House Tornado, released 21 March. One of two amazing releases this day from the classic 4AD label. It sadly was eclipsed by the below release, but it’s still a stunner. It’s a perfect example of the disparate writing styles of Kristin Hersh (angular and full of off-kilter imagery) and Tanya Donelly (poppier and dreamlike)…and how easily they can play off each other.

Pixies, Surfer Rosa, released 21 March. The second of two 4AD releases on this day, this one stunned everyone, from critics to fans alike. Their strange and unique sound was crafted into a monster by producer Steve Albini, who pushed the power of their music to the extreme. It sounds like everyone’s levels are pushed almost into the red, with Dave Lovering’s drums just as thunderous as Black Francis’ howls and screams, Kim Deal’s insistent bass and Joey Santiago’s wailing guitar.

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Coming soon: April 1988!