Friday, February 28, 2014

Black Hystori Project- CyHi The Prynce

The first time that I heard CyHi The Prynce, I was driving around with the radio on. The local college radio was playing ‘The Morning’ from the Cruel Summer album G.O.O.D. Music put out a while ago. At first, I wasn’t really paying attention to the song at first, and then CyHi’s verse came on, and it was great. His race card line was hilarious to me, and one of the first things I did when I got back to my computer was look up what that song was and whose verse just floored me. CyHi The Prynce is a very frustrating performer to me, because for every verse on ‘The Morning’ he has, he has about two garbage songs that rap about the same stale subjects. I’ve listened to his previous mixtapes, and they all are hit and miss, with some really good material and a great flow hidden between the same clichés. Then I saw that his new mixtape was coming out.

Black Hystori Project looked different. It looked dark; I thought maybe CyHi would surprise me with a solid mixtape before he dropped his debut album. But, unfortunately, I found this to be a pretty uneven album. I feel like CyHi The Prynce is having an identity crisis; he either wants to be a conscious rapper, or he wants to do retreads of the same money cash hoes anthems. Some songs on this mixtape are great; ‘Bury White’ for example is a great song painting a portrait of the effects of crack cocaine on the inner city. It does it in such a clever and deceptive way; at first everything seems fine and life is good, and then the façade starts to peel away and reveal the ugly truth. I also liked the song ‘Cydel Young’, in which he raps about his past in the marijuana trade, though the egomaniacal chorus was a bit much. I think the ego is some of the problem. His executive producer and boss Kanye West is definitely rubbing off. Kanye at one time did write some decent lyrics: ‘All Falls Down’ comes to mind. However, he is now so in love with himself and resorts only to brag raps about money, blatant product whoring, and mysogynism. I feel like CyHi might be going down this road a bit. His verse on ‘Guitar Melody’ sounded like something Big Sean (the genius who brought us a song whose entire chorus is one long repetition of the word ‘ass’) might rap about, and his ego reaches epic proportions on ‘Mandela’, where he compares himself to the late pioneer for South African freedom from Apartheid. Who does that?

He also has a ton of mixed messages in his music. If he ‘does this for Basquiat’ and does not care about money, fame, or radio play, why in the next song is he bragging about money and fame as if they are the only things in the world? And the song ‘Black Pride’, which by the title, I assumed would be a song in the conscious vein like ‘Bury White’, was anything but. Also, that screaming on ‘Huey’ got old really fast. I really hope he can turn his act around. I really think that CyHi The Prynce has potential; he has a pretty good flow that can change rhythm on a dime, and is a master of polysyllabic rhyme scheme. Some of his verse sound like tongue twisters with the amount of alliteration dripping off of them. But, unfortunately, the material he chooses to rap about has been done to death, and is not all that interesting. I believe if he went down the conscious rap direction like ‘Bury White’ and ‘Cydel Young’, he could make a great album. We’ll see what happens.

Out of a total of 5 stars, I give this:

Check in later in the week for my opinions on Kid Cudi's Satellite Flight: The Journey To Mother Moon.

"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

St. Vincent- St. Vincent

I happened to stumble upon St. Vincent's music a while back through the collaboration album with David Byrne, Love This Giant. St. Vincent, pseudonym of musician Annie Clark, is a project characterized by some very strange sonic attributes: a mix of digital beats and live drums, some electronic electronic elements, and some effects laden guitar riffs. These riffs, while compact, are very melodic and rhythmic in some very unorthodox ways, as the rhythms and phrasing often scoff in the face of the rhythm behind it, and are rich with harmonics.

I have just recently discovered St. Vincent, and have hardly delved into her back catalog, but from what I have heard, this is her most focused effort yet. Other albums had a bit more of a meandering feel, but here she gets straight to the point, melodically and lyrically, with tight electronic and guitar arrangements accompanying lyrics reflecting those pointless status updates ('Digital Witness'), her run in with a rattlesnake in the desert ('Rattlesnake'), and a plethora of other topics. She also makes a lot of sounds her own. She channels an almost Allison Mosshart a la the Dead Weather sound on the latter half of 'Huey Newton', and the sounds that accompany 'I Prefer Your Love' remind me of Sea Change, and more recently Morning Phase, in a way, though that may be because I listened to both about a dozen times this week. My favorite track would have to be 'Birth In Reverse', due to its mix of humor, its interesting little guitar lines, and the propulsive beat that grabs your attention and refuses to let go. I look forward to hearing more in the future. Ms. Clark, let your freak flag fly!

Out of a possible 5 stars, I give this:

Check in tomorrow for a look at Cyhi The Prynce's new mixtape, Black Hystori Project.

"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Morning Phase- Beck

When I heard that Beck was possibly coming out with two new albums, I was floored. Apart from a few singles, some songs on the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack, and the Song Reader book of sheet music, Beck hadn't released any new material in almost 6 years. So, inevitably, I was pretty hyped when I heard that new material was coming out. Then I heard the first album to be released would be an acoustic album in the vein of Sea Change. I'm still not sure how I feel about that. Sea Change is a good record, don't get me wrong, but I don't really think it's a sound for a triumphant comeback. But, hey, what the hell do I know? Beck is a genius.

So, going into my first listen of this album, I was already a little ambivalent. I was hoping for some more eclectic and upbeat material. Sea Change, though beautiful, pretty much handed the listener a noose about half way through. From, the first orchestral arrangement, the comparisons to Sea Change were obvious. And then Beck sang. This record has a softer side to it, and has some sad moments, but its tone is more optimistic and hopeful than its notable successor, which makes it better in my eyes. Sea Change was really in only one emotional space, and there was very little in the way of straying away from that sad, self deprecating, "lost cause" sound, in the music or the lyrics. Here, there's a pretty good amount of variation. Even though Beck boxed himself in with the acoustic setting and orchestral arrangements, there's plenty of room in the box, with different colored walls; he didn't just stay in the blue corner like on Sea Change. There are some ballads, but there's also some bluegrass and folkier stuff on here as well. The different styles really work well to paint different moods on the songs.

So, all in all, I think this record far surpasses Sea Change. It sticks with the same instrumentation, but just does so much more with it, expressing a whole variety of emotions, and leading to a much more interesting, and thankfully less depressing, listen. This one is more uplifting, and its harmonies are soaring and beautiful.
Am I a little disappointed? Yeah. But I can't blame the album for that. I had hoped for something in the vein of Guero or Odelay, but this works too. Beck has multiple sides to his work, and that's one of the things that makes him so versatile, genre defying and interesting. Beck set out to make a companion to Sea Change, and in my opinion, he far exceeded the quality of the original work. Really looking forward to Beck's other album this year.

So out of a possible 5 stars, I give this album:

Check back in tomorrow for my opinion on St. Vincent's self titled album.

"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Introductions and Favorite Albums

So this is pretty much just a blog that I'll be running to discuss music that I've been listening to, and to try to get turned on to new music. I've been thinking about doing this for a while, and thought this might be the best way to introduce myself. This list might give the reader a view into my musical taste, and this is a list of my favorites, not some music critic's best of. I'll be expanding this in the future to review new music, as well as discuss older music and try to expand others' (and my own) knowledge of good music.

My Top Fifty Favorite Albums

Might be a bit ambitious, but what the hell. I've found it very difficult to pick fifty albums that I would call my favorite, but I thought I would do my best. I kept the list to one album per artist/band, just to keep things interesting? It'd be a bit boring if I went on about full discographies of a few groups. Album art is at the bottom, but we wouldn't want spoilers, would we?

50. Music Of Southern India (1965)- Sudaram Balachander and Umayalpuram Sivaraman
I am fan of all things Indian. I'm pretty sure my love of India began early on listening to Beatles records and loving 'Within You Without You' and 'Norwegian Wood'. I took a Hinduism class and college and discovered Ravi Shankar's vast work there as well. It was around this time that I stumbled on this record in the bins at the Goodwill. Then I listened and fell in love with Indian music all over again.This is different in many ways from the sitar music I had heard previously. The instrument being played by Balachander is a veena, a seven stringed string instrument native to Southern India, which, along with influence of Persian instruments, would become the sitar of North India. The mastery of the veena displayed here is amazing, and Indian music, with its complex scale, rhythms, and structure never ceases to amaze and entrance.
Favorite Track: Song - Ammaravamma; Ragam - Kalyani; Thalam - Jampa

49. Blue Train (1957)- John Coltrane
In the fourth grade, I chose the saxophone as the instrument I would play in the school band. I would continue to play in school bands until I graduated from college. Along the way, I had a saxophone instructor that would spin old jazz records for me. This is where I learned of the awesomeness that is jazz. This is also when I developed a fondness for certain saxophone 'heroes': Sonny Rollins, Gerry Mulligan, Charlie Parker, and of course, John Coltrane. All in all, I'm sure Charlie Parker is my favorite of all due to the overall technicality of his playing, but his recordings lacked direction and focus at times (heroin and binge drinking can be known to do that). John Coltrane was also an amazing player, don't get me wrong. His focus was a little more tangible as well, and arrangements had more drive and flow and didn't get stuck in a quagmire of noodling. Blue Train is just so amazing. The cool, laid back tone belies how much attention it demands of it listener. Try to focus on anything else while this record is on, and prepare to have an attention deficit moment.
Favorite Track: Moment's Notice

48. Love Over Gold (1982)- Dire Straits
Dire Straits will forever be one of those bands that will never get the amount of attention or recognition that it deserves. People generally just think of 'Money for Nothing' or 'Sultans of Swing' and just leave the conversation at that. Dire Straits is really great at the hard driving blues songs, but in my opinion, where they really shine is their more atmospheric and low key songs. Love Over Gold is where these songs really shine. Mark Knopfler, apart from being a great electric guitarist, is an amazing classical guitarist, and this is showcased beautifully in 'Private Investigations'. The mood set here is just great, and a great track to just put headphones in and chill out to. That being said, there are other aspects to the record besides classical guitar. 'Industrial Disease' is a faster tempo harder rock song, and the electric guitar work and lyricism on the epic 'Telegraph Road' is definitely a highlight.
Favorite Track: Private Investigations

47. The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (1968)- The Kinks
There has never been a band quite as British as the Kinks. Every one of their songs just lets off an air of British air of sophistication, and no album is quite as full of British sophistication as The Village Green Preservation Society. The theme of this album is essentially a celebration of old world English culture, and a funeral for it all in one package. The world was changing, and the little old English shops and rituals were going by the wayside, with the replacement being modern chains and corporations. Hatred of urban development would be a common theme in Ray Davies' work, especially within the epic two act rock opera, Preservation. Being from a British ancestry, and my grandmother being an immigrant from London, I have always want to experience the British culture and country for myself. A combination of her stories and the celebration of the culture via the Kinks have made England a magical place to me.
Favorite Track: Picture Book

46. Funeral (2004)- Arcade Fire
I always find this record difficult to talk about, mainly because there's so much going on in it. It throws a lot at you: death, love, suburban isolation, and tons of loss. The ideas are big, and so is the music. The Arcade Fire is kind of known for these huge grandiose statements. In my opinion, this is one of the more pure statements they have made, with their latest, Reflektor, being bogged down in pretension. But this hasn't stopped me from enjoying Funeral. It came from an honest and grief filled place. The title arose from a large amount of deaths within the band's extended family shortly before the album was recorded, and those emotions can't help but come out in the songs. Those emotions definitely work towards and add to the feel of the album, making it one of the more somber albums you can still dance to.
Favorite Track: Wake Up

45. Odessey and Oracle (1968)- The Zombies
One thing you'll notice from reading this list is that I'm very much a fan of psychedelic rock. This is not one of those albums, though judging by the album cover and 'Time of the Season', the album's closing track, you might think that. Instead, this is much more in the pop vein, with little splashes of psychedelia and intelligent proggy lyricism interspersed throughout three minute songs. There were artists doing much weirder things, but this was more trying to perfect the mold rather than break it. It's surprising to note that this album, though having all the criteria to succeed, was not a hit, and still retains only a cult status. It is also interesting to note that the band broke up right after this record in a midst of infighting, which could not sound further from the case, with everything fitting together so well and being quite intricate. With The Beatles (The White Album), you could tell the Beatles were getting torn apart and splintering; here, they sound on the same page, to great results.
Favorite Track: Care of Cell 44

44. Electric Music for the Mind and Body (1967)- Country Joe and the Fish
Country Joe and the Fish are just another one of those bands that tends to not get the recognition it deserves. I first heard about them after seeing the Woodstock movie sequence with 'The Fish Cheer', though that is not on this album. I knew I had to check these guys out. This record was supposedly mixed to go along with and compliment an LSD trip, with Country Joe McDonald, the front man and lead writer, performing the mix under the influence to measure the effects. Apparently it worked, and it definitely sounds that way. This record is deep in the vein of acid rock and the San Francisco sound, but with hints of R&B and country mixed in, along with some weird vaudeville moments. The California country makes it a definite precursor to tons of music of the 1970s, even proceeding the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo.The amount of variety here is great, but the album flows seamlessly despite the eclectic musical styles. It's a great lost gem from the psychedelic era, though definitely deserving of fresh ears.
Favorite Track: Grace

43. Wow/Grape Jam (1968)- Moby Grape
Moby Grape is a band that never really made it off the ground. Their 1967 self titled debut is a classic to most, but after that, people tend to lose interest. It may be because they went in a country direction soon after for '69, or the loss of Skip Spence, one of their principal songwriters, to a LSD related ego death; but either way, people tend to forget about Wow/Grape Jam. A double album for a single album price, it was packaged as a normal(-ish) album with a full LP full of jams. This made them one of the more generous psychedelic bands of the time, and this kind of idea would be repeated later with George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, among others. Moby Grape plays with a lot of styles here, including blues rock, psychedelia, soul, country, and in a weird section which requires a vinyl owner to change the speed to 78 rpm, a 1930's throwback lounge song complete with record pop sound effects for that "olde tyme" feel. Critics weren't hot on it because of its over instrumentation and in-cohesive nature, but I thought the experimentation was very interesting and kept things interesting.
Favorite Track: Three Four

42. Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965)- Otis Redding
Otis Redding is the king of soul and R&B. Keep your Al Green and your Barry White, and don't get me started on the jokes that pass themselves off as R&B singers now. His expressiveness and emotion always seem genuine and never appear forced or at all fake. His voice is powerful as well as expressive and no where is there a better showcase of his talents as Otis Blue. His covers are great, channeling Sam Cooke, and the Rolling Stones of all people. 'Satisfaction' should have always had a R&B edge with horns. You'll agree as soon as you hear it. And Aretha Franklin's version of 'Respect' has nothing on the original, in my opinion. Tragically, Otis Redding would be gone two years after this record, but this, along with his other recordings, leave a great legacy for one of the best singers of all time.
Favorite Track: Wonderful World

41. Bitches Brew (1970)- Miles Davis
Who would've guessed that some of the most psychedelic music to be recorded in the days of the hippie movement would come from the world of jazz? Miles Davis, already 20 years plus into his recording career, had already challenged the conventions of jazz before. But this tore the world of jazz wide open, and practically invented jazz fusion. This record is unbelievable, in a good way. When I listen to other music from this time frame, and then spin this, I get whiplash. There is just nothing like this record. It has moments of funk, hard bop, psychedelia, avante garde, African music, Indian modal music, tape looping experiments, and every other genre in between. Never has there been a composer quite as versatile as Miles Davis. To remain relevant for over 50 years, and setting the trends, instead of following them, is nothing short of amazing.
Favorite Track: Spanish Key

40. Band On The Run (1973)- Paul McCartney and Wings
Paul McCartney has always been my favorite Beatle. Maybe critics prefer John or George's solo material, but John's always felt a little self important, while George's ('Got My Mind Set On You', 'Apple Jam'), was a little hit and miss. I seem to identify with Paul's songs a bit more. People (notably John Lennon) have been known to criticize Paul's music for its lack of edge and over-sentimentality, and though there are some mellow moments on this record, it rocks pretty hard in spots ('Jet', 'Let Me Roll It'). 'Band On The Run' sounds like a mini suite, with a harmony rich, slow intro, followed by a more rock section, with synths interspersed throughout. Then it all combines to a huge bombastic anthem, followed by the folky chorus section. The variety of melodies and moods just within that song speaks to Paul's genius as a songwriter. Recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, this record manages to incorporate some of the native sound as well, and this stands out as one of the best albums of the Beatles solo careers.
Favorite Track: Mrs. Vanderbilt

39. The Bends (1995)- Radiohead
'Creep' is a good song. But that's really all that Pablo Honey had going for it. With a grunge like sound, it was quickly lost in the sea of other grunge-ish bands of the time. The Bends is where Radiohead really came into their own with a rocking yet complex sophomore album. They evolved their sound a bit between records, adding bits of keyboards, and alternating harsh guitar sounds with soft, atmospheric textures as well. This is really where Thom Yorke showed what he had as a singer and lyricist, as well. His performance on 'Fake Plastic Trees' is beautiful in a melancholic sort of way. The guitar work here is amazing as well. The opening riff to 'My Iron Lung' is haunting and really great. I applaud their efforts to expand and evolve their sound between records. I'm glad they like to keep things fresh. 'Creep' was good, but I'm glad they didn't feel like they needed to retread the same ground over the next album, because we wouldn't have this amazing testament to evolution of a band.
Favorite Track: Fake Plastic Trees

38. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972)- David Bowie
David Bowie was hardly a nobody before the release of Ziggy Stardust, with 'Space Oddity' getting some airplay, and The Man Who Sold The World and Hunky Dory being very good albums. But this album sent him into the stratosphere. Bowie, along with Lou Reed and Marc Bolan, are attributed with the inception of the glam rock movement, but Bowie was the one who made it sound so cool. 'Ziggy Stardust' and 'Suffragette City' are stand outs of the concept album revolving around the character Ziggy Stardust, an androgynous half alien charged by intergalactic overlords to save the world with rock. Sounds crazy? Bowie's own description of the loose story line is even more off. But it rocks nonetheless. And if you don't get the urge to sing along to the line,"wham bam, thank you ma'am!", you're more of an alien than Ziggy Stardust.
Favorite Track: Suffragette City

37. The Ecstatic (2009)- Mos Def
You might get the impression from my list that I am not a fan of rap. Not true. But most of the time, people rap about nothing, or their recent purchase at Gucci (pretty much any mainstream rapper). Kanye is a great producer, but a terrible person, and an extremely boring lyricist. But this is a rapper I can get behind. Mos Def (now Yasiin Bey) and Talib Kweli are shining beacons of lyricism in a sea of ignorant product whores. I was thinking of putting Black Star on this list, but The Ecstatic just grabs more of my attention. It's raps on poverty, racial and religious profiling, anti-war sentiments and recession are powerful without being preachy, which means it walks a fine line. I really enjoyed the genre bending here, and the samples that I haven't heard before, or would not even expect any one to ever use. The problems described here are even more present than when this was recorded, and on an even more depressing note, this lost a Grammy for Best Rap album to the aggressively average Relapse. You don't have to accept the things that pass of as rap now. Look towards the masters of conscious hip hop; and Earl Sweatshirt.
Favorite Track: Life In Marvelous Times

36. Legalize It (1976)- Peter Tosh
I love Reggae. The feel of the syncopated beat and the guitar skank, along with that one drop intro, just gets me in a relaxed and good mood. Making me relaxed when singing about some pretty militant topics is no easy feat, and no one is better at that than Peter Tosh. While Bob Marley sang "one love", Peter Tosh sang "I don't want no peace, I need equal rights and justice". Tosh was definitely the more radical of the two, and may be why he was not as successful, as he refused to bend his views for any commercial success. But that does not stop me from finding this album, along with his others, as extremely successful expressions of his personal ideals; chiefly among them, ending poverty and oppression by the government, Rastafarian ideology, and the legalization of marijuana, as referenced by the title track. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the disintegration of Apartheid or the slow decriminalization of marijuana, as he was murdered in 1987 in a home invasion. But his work, including his contribution to the Wailers ('Get Up, Stand Up'), have inspired people to fight oppression and stand up for justice.
Favorite Track: Burial

35. Tubular Bells (1973)- Mike Oldfield
I wish 19 year old performers could make recordings like this now. Instead I have to listen to that Bieber tool. The fact that someone so young made this, essentially with himself playing almost all of the instruments, as his debut album, is insane to me. When multi track recording was still in its infancy, the amount of layering that is done in this mammoth, one piece suite is amazing. When the voice near the end of the first side comes in and lists the introduction of each instrument, you begin to understand the amount of effort that went into every second of this record. This piece is so complex, with so many sound colors and time signature changes and complex melodic sequences, to layer instruments on this and get everything to synch up perfectly in time with the other parts on the arrangement must have taken forever. Even to hear this created with Pro Tools would be impressive, but to know this was made on a 16 track recorder makes the work even more significant and amazing to me.
Favorite Track: There's only really one.

34. Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973)- Yes
Since when has ambition been a bad thing? When this album came out, critics were divided. Those who sided negatively criticized the double album for being too self indulgent. If you were a member of Yes, wouldn't you be? If I had a ridiculous technical grasp of bass (Chris Squire), keyboards (Rick Wakeman), and guitar (Steve Howe), I'd want to flaunt that over some pretty rhythmically demanding drum parts by Alan White. Progressive rock was all about playing complex arrangements with difficult instrumental passages and intellectually stimulating (if any) lyrics. And with those provided by Jon Anderson, based on the revealed and remembered Hindu texts, there is certainly some intellectual stimulation to be found. I don't find this pretentious;  instead I find it to be a statement of a band that doesn't treat their fans with condescension, and believed they could have an intelligent discourse with some really complex displays of rock virtuosity.
Favorite Track: Ritual:Nous Sommes Du Soleil

33. Kaya (1978)- Bob Marley and the Wailers
 Following a failed assassination attempt in Jamaica, Marley and crew left for a few years to live in exile in London. During these years the Wailers rerecorded several songs from Jamaican only releases that would see their own releases on various compilations. These rerecorded versions, along with new material, became Exodus and Kaya. Kaya has a lighter sound than a lot of other Wailers records, and I think that works towards its advantage. I think it represents a freer time in Bob's life; without fear of violence. The songs centered around a common theme of love and are very simple, but poignant and heartfelt. Eventually, Bob would return to Jamaica to try to unite opposing political groups, but for this small window of time, it was all about the music, and with the pressure off, he produced some beautiful, happy reggae music.
Favorite Track: Satisfy My Soul

32. Oracular Spectacular (2007)- MGMT
Every MGMT album is challenging. As soon as I think I understand their sound and what they might have been going for on the latest album, the next album comes out and baffles me for the next how ever many listens. I'm still not sure I'm entirely certain about what MGMT is all about, but I'll get there. People give MGMT a lot of flack because their new albums don't sound like 'Kids' or 'Electric Feel'. But honestly, even if you listen to the album those songs are on, MGMT doesn't sound like that. That's what I think is interesting about them. I like music that rewards multiple listens; something you don't quite get the first or second time around. I like their fusion of psychedelia, electronic and indie influences, and their evolving sound is a good thing. I'm not sure if I would keep tuning in for a re-release of 'Kids' every album cycle. Nothing against 'Kids'; it's a great song, but I prefer progress to retreading the same ground, and from what I can tell, that's how MGMT like it too.
Favorite Track: Time To Pretend

31. The Man and His Music (2006)- Ravi Shankar
No discussion of Indian music can ever occur without at one point leading to Ravi Shankar. He is the most celebrated sitar player of all time, the sitar tutor of George Harrison, and one of the major proponents of the popularization and use of raga in Western music. Picking one single album would be impossible, because all of his work is brilliant; from his concerts at Monterey and Woodstock, from his early albums to his work with minimalist Philip Glass, and to those late life Living Room Sessions. I just chose the compilation that initially turned me on to his work. I just stumbled on this in my college radio station and thought I might take a listen, having already known his association with George Harrison, and the results were mind blowing. No matter what Ravi Shankar you're listening to, just sit back and prepare to be amazed by the power of Indian raga in the hands of its most influential and talented player.
Favorite Track: Raga Khamaj

30. The Madcap Laughs (1970)- Syd Barrett
Syd Barrett, like Skip Spence and Brian Wilson, was one in a long line of acid casualities. Frontman for Pink Floyd, he only stuck around into the recording sessions for their second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, before madness exacerbated by extreme drug use left him unfit for the band. He recorded two albums worth of music in the few years that followed, and then vanished into the ether. These albums are very strange, in that they sound almost normal when compared to his work with the Floyd. These understated albums have hints of his previous work, but with a lot lost; a portrait into his madness. Syd plays rhythm guitar here with an unplugged electric guitar and a pick with a very small thickness, as it doesn't produce more than a scraping sound most of the time. The band The Soft Machine act as the back up band, with David Gilmour, Syd's replacement, acting as producer on a handful of tracks. This album has a studio feel to it, as they keep some of the dialogue and false starts intact. So, along with the great songs here, you can also get a glimpse into Syd Barrett's turbulent final years as a professional musician.
Favorite Track: Here I Go

29. Jar of Flies (1994)- Alice In Chains
Listening to Alice in Chains' LPs, I always felt like something was missing. Dirt and Facelift are good, but I always feel like they have something missing. I believe that their EPs Sap, and especially Jar of Flies, capture that feeling I thought was missing. The great writing and composition is still there, but I think the semi stripped down feel of the EPs gives their sound a great emotional immediacy. The songs here are powerful, and I feel like Layne Staley's vocals are much better supported with this kind of sound than with the sludgy guitars found on their LPs. I feel like it lets Jerry Cantrell and Staley's lyrics really shine through and have that much more emotional resonance. Plus, the acoustic and electric guitar work on this EP is pretty great and really matches the mood the lyrics are meant to set.
Favorite Track: Nutshell

28. Octopus (1972)- Gentle Giant
 I was looking through my dad's old record collection one day, and I happened upon a series of records by Gentle Giant. I had never heard of them, but the friendly face of the giant on front of one of the covers, and the suggestively funny gatefold on Acquiring the Taste encouraged me to give them a spin. And I was not prepared for the sounds that came out of my turntable's speakers. This band, with their simple album covers and fantastical name, are one of the most complex, technically versed, uncommerial, and all around weirdest prog rock bands out there. Imagine combining rock with saxophone, some synthesizers, working every percussion instrument in there, and then make the vocal arrangements sound like a 17th century madrigal. Then you might get a taste for how strange the instrumentation and sound of this band is. The vocal arrangements play with so many contrapuntal textures and voices, it's very hard to tell what's going on a lot of the time. But the fact that they can pull it off, and live as well, as Playing the Fool would suggest, just shows that in their hey day, Gentle Giant could handle even the most complex song structures with ease.
Favorite Track: Knots

27. The Hazards of Love (2009)- The Decemberists
I love the idea of a rock opera. Having a central theme throughout an album is one thing, but being able to tell a fully realized story throughout an album is just so awesome to me. And this one by the Decemberists is brilliant. The album recounts the story of a girl named Margaret who rescues an injured fawn, that turns out to be a shapeshifter named William. They fall in love, and evil forces, including William's mother, the fairy queen, try to tear them apart. The cohesiveness of the story, unlike other so called "rock operas" (I'm looking at you, Green Day), is great, and the return of musical ideas, idée fixe, occurs quite often, linking the whole narrative, This was a great addition to the Decemberists catalog, adding some heavier, electric guitar aspects to their folky acoustic and accordion driven work. They have since distanced themselves from this album with a more accessible The King Is Dead, but I still think that this album is their masterwork.
Favorite Track: The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)

26. Loveless (1991)- My Bloody Valentine
I was really late to the party on My Bloody Valentine. Really late. As a kid born in the early 90s, My Bloody Valentine had long come and gone before I was at an age to fully appreciate music as an art form. I only heard of the band a few months before mbv came out. But I'm so glad I did. Being a huge fan of the Smashing Pumpkins, I can definitely see where Billy Corgan got a lot of their sound. This band was my introduction into the beautiful genre of shoegaze. Heavy, abrasive guitars wash over the dreamy, often incomprehensible vocals, and creates a really trippy mood. This is definitely an album to be listening to with headphones. Also, Kevin Shields' guitar technique, in which he constantly uses the tremelo bar while strumming, makes the guitar sound even more strange, like the album is being played in a VCR with the tracking off. It's a trip, that's for sure. I also recommend their recent reissue of their later EPs, EP's: 1988-1991.
Favorite Track: Soon

25. Gordon (1992)- The Barenaked Ladies

Probably seeing something like Gordon following a critically acclaimed album like Loveless seems like a joke, but I love this album a lot. This is an album my dad had in his collection. He had visited Toronto many times, but this particular time, Gordon just happened to be breaking in Canada, so he picked it up. We listened to this album when I was a kid countless times. The Barenaked Ladies manage to be funny, serious, witty, and energetic all within the same album, in extremely catchy, memorable songs. I know the US audiences pretty much only know Stunt, as well as the theme to the Big Bang Theory, but this is the album that I think to be their best. If you only know Stunt, I urge you to go deeper into their catalog. I promise you won't be disappointed
Favorite Track: Brian Wilson

24. Cheap Thrills (1968)- Big Brother and the Holding Company
Janis Joplin is a terrific singer. No one is arguing that. But her backing band for the first two albums she recorded, Big Brother and the Holding Company, does not get the credit it deserves. Honestly, I think I like this album more for them than Janis. This album is full of that San Francisco psychedelia that I thrive on, along with some really heavy blues numbers. A few of the songs on this album were live recordings, and it really shows how powerful of a live act this band was. Make sure to stick around for James Gurley's guitar solo at the beginning of 'Ball and Chain'. This showcases one of the most ferocious, razor sharp, and utterly terrifying guitar solos to come out of acid rock. It is definitely the highlight of the album for me, without a shred of a doubt.
Favorite Track: Ball and Chain

23. Living The Blues (1968)- Canned Heat
I became a really huge fan of '60s rock early on, but I became even more interested in the music of the times after seeing the Woodstock movie. I bought this CD admittedly for the song 'Going Up The Country', which I listened to constantly. But, after listening to that song more and more, I began to listen to the other songs on the albums, and what I found was great. I'm a pretty big fan of blues rock like this, and the jammier, the better. I don't listen to 'Going Up The Country' any more, but I've found more interest in 'Parthenogenesis' and 'Refried Boogie', a live jam that takes up the whole second disc. Solos by every member of the band are on that song, and they're all great. If you like the bluesier stuff by Cream or John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, or just any blues really, give some of this a listen. Canned Heat is one of those bands that never gets a lot of reconition, but it's about time.
Favorite Track: Refried Boogie

22. Volunteers (1969)- Jefferson Airplane
Every college kid has their obligatory posters adorning their wall. Mine were a Yellow Submarine  movie poster, a poster of The Wall, a Helplessness Blues poster in the later years, and a poster of Grace Slick performing at Woodstock. I am a pretty big Jefferson Airplane fan, and like every other, 'White Rabbit' is what drew me in. However, Volunteers is a much more cohesive, lyrically poetic, sonically diverse, and just all around better album than Surrealistic Pillow. Here is where we see the maturation of Grace Slick's lyrics, along with Paul Kantner and Marty Balin's. Jack Casady's bass is more melodic than ever, and Jorma Kaukonen's guitar just shreds through this album beautifully, with some amazing solos throughout. And with some reflective lyrics on the political and environmental state of the US, it was really a great album for that time. Also, the version of 'Wooden Ships' here is the definitive version. Crosby, Stills and Nash, I'm sorry, but give credit where it's due.
Favorite Track: Hey Frederick

21. Transformer (1972)- Lou Reed
I could not list my favorite albums without talking about Lou Reed. His work with the Velvet Underground was groundbreaking, and his solo career produced some great music as well. I had a tough time deciding whether to put Berlin or Transformer on this list, eventually siding with the latter. Lou Reed is an excellent story teller, often with his lyrics relating to his experiences in New York City, his home. On Transformer, Reed related a lot of his experiences in Andy Warhol's factory scene, with 'Walk On The Wild Side', 'Andy's Chest', and 'Vicious', among other songs on the album, referencing his experiences there. This album begins his period if glam rock albums, with the sound permeating the most in 'Perfect Day' and 'Walk On The Wild Side'. I felt pretty sad when Lou Reed died late last year. Due to his lyrics, I kind of felt like I knew him, even though I would never meet him.
Favorite Track: Perfect Day

20. Roxy & Elsewhere (1974)- Frank Zappa & The Mothers
Picking a favorite Frank Zappa album is an exercise in futility. He released a ridiculous amount of music in his lifetime, and a lot has been released since, the majority of it being very good. After wrestling with it for a while, Roxy & Elsewhere became my choice because it highlights the real strengths of Zappa: his humor, satirical nature, and above all, the ridiculous level of talent he and all his band members had. This album is a real showcase for the virtuosity of Zappa and his backup band. The trombone solo on 'The Bebop Tango' doesn't even sound humanly possible, and the bass lick on 'Dummy Up' might be my favorite bass part of all time. It also shows how interactive his concerts were. Fun fact: While the majority of this was recorded at the Roxy Theatre, a couple of tracks were recorded at Edinboro University, my grad school alma mater. If only I had been there 40 years ago.
Favorite Track: Dummy Up

19. Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006)- The Arctic Monkeys
The Arctic Monkeys were a pretty vicious band back in the day. Now they're doing more clubby, stoner rock stuff (not that that's a bad thing), but I really remember their garage rock days fondly. Their sound is abrasive when it comes to the guitars, but also melodic when they need to be. And Alex Turner's lyrics are a witty and sarcastic view into the Sheffield club scene. There's always a few lines that make me chuckle even now, and that line about ringtones on 'A Certain Romance' is unfortunately all too true. And the drumming on this record by Matt Helders is insane. He is one of the best new drummers in my opinion, and I wish he was able to spread his wings a bit more in the future releases, as his drumming was pretty conservative on AM. All in all, top notch garage rock with witty lyricism and accurate observations.
Favorite Track: A Certain Romance

18. In Utero (1993)- Nirvana
This is Nirvana the way they were supposed to be heard. Nevermind is a great album, but listening to the band's live footage, albums that Cobain wanted to emulate, and the band's opinion on Nevermind, it came off a little too polished. In Utero is the noise rock opus they always wanted to make. The aggression heard here is palpable, and you are assaulted with almost constant feedback. The dissonance is a great part of this record, especially on 'Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle' and the ironically named 'Radio Friendly Unit Shifter'. There's a very visceral sound to this album, and if you are at all a fan of noise rock, give this a listen if you haven't yet. This is probably one of the most experimental "grunge" albums to come out of Seattle. Surface fans of Nirvana probably had no idea what to think when they popped this in for the first time, but for me, I think it's their best.
Favorite Track: Milk It

17. The Downward Spiral (1994)- Nine Inch Nails
This album was a game changer for me. This album is one of those albums I play when I'm feeling isolated. This was my teen angst album, among others. And it probably was for a lot of other people. This album is just so righteously angry, devoid of happiness and really makes you hate the world. And I think everybody needs that once in a while.Trent Reznor wrote some of his best lyrics on this one, channeling nihilism and self hatred, and coming from a very unfiltered and honest place. This album is not for those pro censorship, as the themes here are far from tame, even by today's standards. And the mechanical, industrial sound with harsh metal guitars contrasting with soft interludes really sets a dark atmosphere that compliments the mood. People sometimes criticize Reznor for wallowing too much, but everybody needs to deal with their problems. I'm a fellow wallower, and this album suits me just fine.
Favorite Track: Heresy

16. Led Zeppelin II (1969)- Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin IV, or IV, or whatever you want to call it, is pretty overrated, especially 'Stairway To Heaven'. I prefer the heavier incarnation of II or the folk influences on III. But at the end of the day, the hard and heavy blues on II wins out for me. This is really a showcase of all the member's talents: John Paul Jones' bass on 'The Lemon Song', John Bonham's drum solo on 'Moby Dick', Jimmy Page's solo on 'Heartbreaker', with Robert Plant's distinct vocal stylings over it all. If it can be believed that Led Zeppelin pioneered metal, it definitely got its start here; the first album was heavy, but this record is something else. What's more to say? This is one of the most celebrated bands in history, and for good reason. They are some of the greatest players in rock history.
Favorite Track: Bring It On Home

15. Electric Ladyland (1968)- The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Jimi Hendrix is just one of those guitarists you can't give enough praise. Wildly innovative and talented, he was extremely influential, while technically only having one hit single in the US. This is also his most ambitious project, a double album full of a variety of sounds and moods, along with some creative guitar work. This album showed the strength of guitar effects, with great uses in all the songs, especially 'Burning of The Midnight Lamp' and 'Still Raining, Still Dreaming'. There are some epic tracks on this as well, including the blues jam 'Voodoo Chile' and the wildly experimental '1983 (A Mermaid I Should Turn To Be)'. All these sonic accomplishments and psychedelic guitar work culminates on my favorite track 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)', which has the best guitar solo ever, with a wildly distorted, heavy guitar with phasing effects and wah wah. This guitar solo set the bar that no guitarist will probably ever surpass.
Favorite Track: Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

14. Helplessness Blues (2011)- Fleet Foxes
I worked as an assistant cook at a Boy Scout camp in the summer of 2011. Before I left for the camp, I had bought three albums, which I listened to constantly that summer: My Morning Jacket's Cicuital, The Arctic Monkey's Suck It And See, and this album. This album means so much to me. At the point in my life when this was released, I wasn't really sure what to do with my life. I was going to graduate from college the next year, and was hardly prepared. This is a record for that 'post grad blues' or 'quarter life crisis'. Every one of the tracks throws off an air of confusion and ennui. This melancholy sound along with the existential themes ('Montezuma', 'Blue Spotted Tail') really spoke to me and still does. And the unexpected woodwind free for all at the end of 'The Shrine/ An Argument' worked for me on so many levels. My roommate to whom I showed this to when I got back to school hated that part, but I never understood it. I hope I see another album from these guys soon. 'Olivia In A Separate Bed' has not been enough to hold me over.
Favorite Track: The Shrine/ An Argument

13. Evil Urges (2008)- My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket is a band with some eclectic sounds. They have the tendency to jam, have a country tinged sound, but with electronic sounds, heavy rock, psychedelia, folk, and soul. It all just blends into pure awesome. I don't think any other release showcases their diversity quite as much as Evil Urges. Jim James is at top form as a lyricist and singer, and the powerful drumming of Patrick Hallahan lays down some great grooves, especially the one on 'Touch Me I'm Going To Scream, Pt. 2', with a great bass line by Two Tone Tommy. It gets pretty hypnotic until that scream, called 'Good Intentions' cuts in. I watched with anticipation as my roommate heard the record for the first time, waiting for him to jump. He did not disappoint. Some may prefer Z, but I think this is just a little bit more diverse, and has some more interesting throwback sounds, like the old school country 'Sec Walkin' or the doo wop backing vocals on 'Two Halves'. And the falsetto on 'Highly Suspicious' never fails to get me in a good mood. I could never tired of this album. It just has so much going on, and all of its influences blend perfectly for me.
Favorite Track: Touch Me I'm Going To Scream, Pt. 2

12. The Information (2006)- Beck
In the world of music, Beck is on an island all to himself. His music defies any sort of classification, and he never makes the same album twice, which makes him one of the most interesting performers in the music scene. His albums are all so good, I had a hard time picking just one. I was really wrestling between Odelay, Mellow Gold, and this album, but this one feels right. I think this one might have just the variety to illustrate the full scope of Beck. There's the nonsensical ironic lyrics, the rap/folk/psychedelia/electronica, and all the other things that make Beck great. He also has some of that chiptune stuff he tinkered with on the Hell Yes EP on this album, and a whole lot of percussion instruments which give this one a new feel. If you haven't already heard it, I recommend the deluxe edition. Normally, B-sides and remixes are kind of just filler stuff, but these tracks are actually pretty good, the stand out to me being 'O Menina'. This is Beck in top form.
Favorite Track: Dark Star

11. Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols (1977)- The Sex Pistols
There were punk albums before, and there have been plenty since, but I think that this one is the fullest embodiment of that nihilistic, rebellious mindset. This set packs in just so much attitude and anger at everyone and everything. It's fantastic. The Sex Pistols were and are one of the most controversial bands in history. Their offstage antics were more likely more famous than their music, but this should not be the case. For all the talk of the members not knowing how to play their instruments, one listen to this record would tell you that's a lie. Granted, Glen Matlock was the real bass player for the band; Sid couldn't play to save his life. This is just concentrated, fast and fierce rock and roll, with some of the most fantastic horrendously sung vocals by Johnny Rotten. With subjects ranging from relationships to politics and abortion, there's nothing he wouldn't say. Nobody would've actually thought to twist the words antichrist and anarchist and actually make them sound awesome, save for him. Rotten would continue this ranting as John Lydon, his birth name, in his new band, Public Image Ltd. This stands as a grime encrusted gem of punk rock.
Favorite Track: Pretty Vacant

10. Pet Sounds (1966)- The Beach Boys
It's good to know that even 50 years later, the Beach Boys have still got it. I was lucky enough to see them a few years back, before Brian Wilson left the tour, and during their 50 (yes 50) song set, I was not surprised that they played the majority of this record. This record is their crowning achievement, and huge step from the world of surfer pop to a more mature, acid tinged pop classic. It is easy to see how this inspired the Beatles to make Sgt. Pepper's; the pioneering use of sound effects, the layering of vocal tracks, the expansive instrumentation and sometimes abstract lyricism. Brian Wilson would combine all these to create his magnum opus, which took over 40 years to release. But when it came right to it, Smile just doesn't have the charm that Pet Sounds does; its hopeful optimism ('Wouldn't It Be Nice'), its loving heart ('God Only Knows'), and its self reflection ('I Just Wasn't Made For These Times').
Favorite Track: Sloop John B

9. Tommy (1969)- The Who
This is one of the first, and one of the best rock operas ever created. The story of Tommy, a deaf, dumb and blind boy with a twisted childhood who starts his own religion based on the dogma of pinball, is a story so strange, and yet so relatable. The character is tossed around by society, and mentally scarred by witnessing the murder of his mother's lover after his father returns from the war. Abused by his family, doctors, and the acid queen, he retreats deeper and deeper into his own reflection, until the mirror is shattered. He is miraculously cured of his ailments, and goes to spread his experiences of the world within his mind. But people are only interested in the miracle, and quickly forsake their new leader. This juggles some serious themes of enlightenment, abuse and the fickle and selfish nature of humanity. And the music rocks! Keith Moon's drumming is stellar, as per usual, and Roger Daltrey delivers some of his best vocal performances on record. And Pete Townshend's writing and guitar work is amazing. This is the rock opera to end all rock operas in my opinion. The only other that is even in the same ballpark is The Wall.
Favorite Track: We're Not Gonna Take It

8. 2112 (1976)- Rush
A while back I saw Rush live. And while listening to Clockwork Angels in almost its entirety, I couldn't help but hope for even a piece of 2112; or 'La Villa Strangiato', but that was a little unlikely. When they started to play the overture during the encore, my prayers were answered. '2112' is a total triumph of instrumental dexterity, rock arrangement and lyrical depth. The 20 minute title track describes a dystopian society where music has been outlawed, and free expression all but dead. The Elder Race, those who would free the oppressed people, are in hiding. But the discovery of an old guitar changes everything. This is a man against the world song if there ever was one. And in the real world, it was Rush against the world. Pressured by their record company after two low selling albums to be more commercial and create singles, they gave one last middle finger and dropped this monstrosity. This album went on to become massively successful, and Rush kept their dignity and became prog rock overlords. Rush had assumed control.
Favorite Track: 2112

7. The Doors (1967)- The Doors
In 1967, the summer of love, there were plenty of peace and love songs to go around. This album was outside that canon of songs. This was the drugs and death 1967. By fusing some old school blues, psychedelia, poetic lyrics, Hammond organ, and a whole ton of LSD, The Doors burst out onto the scene with their debut album. The Doors have such a distinct sound, mostly characterized by Ray Manzarek's organ playing and Jim Morrison's baritone vocals. Robby Krieger does some really great things with his guitar all over this album, putting some classical guitar flair into his electric playing, while John Densmore combines rock beats and jazz and world beats for this hybrid drumming style that is pretty unique. There are some deep psychedelic grooves here, especially on 'Light My Fire' and the epic album closer 'The End'. First written as a break up song, this eventually became a psychedelic odyssey with some cryptic lyrics and dark subject matter. The Doors were always a little darker than their psychedelic rock counterparts; maybe they were just a little more cynical and realistic, and knew that peace and love in a world like this could never exist.
Favorite Track: The End

6. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)- The Smashing Pumpkins
This was another one of my teen angst records. Billy Corgan has referred to this album as "The Wall for Generation X". I can agree with that statement, as it has a lot of the same emotions; emotions of anger, sadness and a feeling of isolation and melancholy. There's a lot more sonic variety here than on Siamese Dream, with the guitar rock the Pumpkins made famous supplemented with a greater exploration into orchestral arrangements that were hinted at in 'Disarm' and 'Spaceboy', as well as some new electronic sounds on '1979' and 'We Only Come Out At Night'. They would dive head first into this sound on their next record, Adore, largely ignoring traditional rock guitars. I find the synthesis here to be more satisfying and a perfect soundtrack to the angst and angry disillusionment of youth.
Favorite Track: X.Y.U.

5. Anthem of the Sun (1968)- The Grateful Dead
In college, I became a pretty big Deadhead. Their jammy, trippy sound could make any genre theirs, and their lyrics were powerful and meaningful. My favorite period of their work would have to be from 1968 to 1970, with heavy psychedelia giving way to a folky, bluegrass influenced sound. No where were the Dead more in a psychedelic mindset than on Anthem of the Sun. This album is chock full of off the wall ideas and sounds; the Leslie speaker filtered vocals, the Kazoo solos and the avante garde piano experiements chief among them. I found it really interesting that a good deal of this material is actually a synthesis of live material performed through a mixing board, giving a glimpse into their live sound that their other studio albums could rarely accomplish. I had some trouble picking between Live/Dead and Anthem, but this album is just too weird not to call my favorite.
Favorite Track: That's It For The Other One

4. The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)- The Velvet Underground
There is no way that one could overestimate this album's impact. Any listen to a punk rock, art rock or noise album since can hear this album's influence all throughout. A lot of records from the 1960's sound like a time capsule; their sounds very reminiscent of the time. This record could have been made yesterday. It's that timeless quality that keeps it fresh, along with its mix of dreamy and abrasive textures. This balance is very interesting and often alternates mid-song. This album also used a lot of drones and feedback, and it's subject matter was very progressive for the time. Never had references to drugs, gay and transgender culture, and other controversial topics been completely unveiled and so open. This was Lou Reed's first venture into being a challenging and evocative lyricist, and my first look into the dark and beautiful work of the Velvet Underground.
Favorite Track: Heroin

3. Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)- Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd has had a long and fabled career, filled with many artistic triumphs. This was probably the most difficult decision I had to make when constructing this list. The Wall? No. Dark Side of the Moon? No. Meddle? Maybe. But eventually I had to settle on their brief flirtation with space rock with their original frontman, Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Syd Barrett was such an interesting songwriter, with wildly experimental soundscapes accompanying sometimes very simple lyrics that evoke memories of childhood. Be it a bedtime story by mom ('Matilda Mother'), an angry cat ('Lucifer Sam') or just a list of objects like a bike, an old cloak, and some gingerbread men ('Bike'), he always told the story in a very interesting and fantastical manner, with some strange musical accompaniment. Some  musical milestones include 'Interstellar Overdrive', which has some ridiculous mind melting phasing effects on the stereo version, and guitar lines Syd played while rubbing a Bic lighter along the frets. Also, I would be remiss to mention the lead out of the album, complete with demonic rubber ducky sound effects. It's a trip, man.
Favorite Track: Bike

2. Highway 61 Revisited (1965)- Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is probably the best lyricist ever. His words are crammed with so many cryptic messages and references, and are harder to crack than one of those pistachios that are fully sealed. And nowhere is Bob Dylan in higher lyrical form than on Highway 61 Revisited. His story of an over-privileged individual now forced to rough it ('Like A Rolling Stone'), a man who doesn't fit in or understand the crowd he just walked into ('Ballad of a Thin Man'), and a whole wealth of other topics are handled with so much care, and are vivid and yet so surreal. His 'Desolation Row' is probably his creative apex; an 11 minute epic cramming in a ridiculous amount of characters and irony for a song that is just so perfect. I saw him a few years ago live, and his playing of 'Like a Rolling Stone', 'Ballad of a Thin Man' and 'Highway 61 Revisited' all in the same show, along with 'All Along the Watchtower' is one of the high points of my concert going career. Keep your Shakespeare; Bob Dylan is my immortal bard.
Favorite Track: Desolation Row

1. Rubber Soul (1965)- The Beatles
I had some troubles getting the entries in this list in the right order. I found it really hard to compare albums and put one over the others. This was not a problem for the top of the list. I knew from the very start that Rubber Soul would be my #1 favorite album. The Beatles were masters of songwriting, and crafted some immaculate, tight pop. Rubber Soul was a major turning point for the Beatles stylistically. The folk rock Dylanesque writing from 'I'm a Loser' and 'Don't Want to Spoil The Party' was used more, and bits of blue eyed soul were injected into the songs, especially 'The Word'. There was also their first foray into raga rock with 'Norwegian Wood', a song about an unconsummated one night stand, which while calm sounding, has some deceptively dark lyrics near the end. This also had one of George Harrison's first overt use of effects pedals with the fuzzed out 'Think For Yourself'. This album was also a turning point in that it still talked about love, but from a negative standpoint in a lot of the songs, with feelings of jealousy and confusion. This also marks the first time the Beatles wrote a song not about love with 'Nowhere Man'. This was Brian Wilson's motivation to create Pet Sounds. This album is just so perfect to me, and that's why I chose it to be my favorite album.
Favorite Track: Norwegian Wood

So, for the people who are still reading, I applaud your attention span. With a little insight into my musical tastes, I think you might get a better idea of what I look for in music when I'm listening, and in the future, making reviews. Feel free to comment below and tell me about some of your favorite albums. I'll also be doing some more lists in the future, albeit in a drastically truncated form. Check back in the next couple days for my opinions on Beck's Morning Phase, St. Vincent's self titled album, CyHi the Prynce's Black Hystori Project, and the new Kid Cudi album, Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon.

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