#1 Born in the U.S.A., Bruce Springsteen, Columbia, 1984
I think this album makes clear the answer to Tony Danza's immortal question: "Who's the boss?" My Dad rocked this cassette in his '85 Mustang for years and I continued to listen to it at home and then my own car once he upgraded to a CD system. I've never really stopped listening to this album. For me, it's the consummate record of the working man, of the post-Vietnam depression and ennui of '80s America, of the economic downturn of the Reagonomics of my youth, and the fun, hope and despair found in human relationships. It's a bittersweet testament to my past and my country which, for good or ill, will always be with me. I hope this record stays with me too.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
#2 Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon and Garfunkel, Columbia, 1970
Both intimate and wistful, playful and profound, the last true record from Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel is about as close to album perfection as I have ever come across. While my parents had this record and played it occasionally, I never really wore it out until I received it as a gift from Sarah my freshman year in college. Since then it has been a regular source of both emotional and musical inspiration which, though it sounds like a Hallmark card, is really how I feel about this record. The stories and the sentiments on this record resonate with me on a level that's much deeper than pop enjoyment - though there's plenty of that here too. I guess Bridge Over Troubled Water is the most personal album I own and, considering I own and listen to so many, that's a pretty incredible accomplishment.
#3 Automatic for the People, R.E.M., Warner Brothers, 1992
For many, many years I fought against letting this be my favorite R.E.M. album. While Murmer ranked higher than Automatic last time I listed, it has since fallen out of the Top 25 - not because it isn't an amazing record (it would make the Top 30), but because not only have my music tastes exploded since '01, but Automatic has slowly but surely risen to the top of my listening rotation. It has become more and more the go to R.E.M. record when I want to hear Stipe's soulful croon, Mills' bass licks, Buck's energetic hooks, or Berry's cogent percussion. I guess I've finally accepted the fact that everybody's favorite R.E.M album is also my favorite. Sometimes, everybody hurts. And Automatic hurts so good.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
DoMakeSayThink (Cnstl. 2002)
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Saturday, May 5, 2007
Sunday, April 1, 2007
#2 No Need to Argue, The Cranberries
It seems that, for many of us, the albums we listened to in our adolescent years continue to rise to the top. This one carried me through that time of loneliness and confusion and inspired me to make music myself. The first songs I learned to play on guitar were "Ode to my Family" and "Zombie." I sang along with Dolores until I was out of breath. To this day, my weak voice is somehow made powerful when I'm singing her melodies.
My favorite songs continue to be "Can't Be With You", "Daffodil Lament" and "Dreaming My Dreams."
Saturday, March 31, 2007
:: 01 ::
The Blue Album
This album has always been there for me, singing the soundtrack of my life. When I'm sad, I listen to it. When I'm mad, I listen to it. And when I'm happy, I listen to it. How perfect could one CD be. I can't say enough about the emotional connection I have with it. I guess it goes back to those high school days, old girlfriends, and stupid people; and when Rivers Cuomo was the only person in the world that understood me.
That's it. I'm out.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Monday, March 12, 2007
#8 - Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water
If anyone on this list needs an explanation of how good this album is, you can email me. I don't expect my inbox to be filling up any time soon.
Favorites: Only Living Boy in New York, The Boxer, Baby Driver
Least Favorite: Bridge Over Troubled Water (ironic, no?)
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Lead singer for rock band Boston found dead
WASHINGTON: Brad Delp, the lead singer of the 1970s and '80s rock band Boston was found dead at his home in southern New Hampshire on Friday, local police said.
Delp, 55, apparently was home alone and there was no indication of foul play, Atkinson, New Hampshire, police said.
With Delp's big, high-register voice, Boston scored hits with More Than a Feeling, Long Time, and Peace of Mind. The band's popularity peaked in the late 1970s, but it remained active off and on, producing its last album Corporate America in 2002.
Delp was born in Boston, and bought his first guitar at age 13 after seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, according to his website. Since 1994, he spent his spare time working in a tribute band called Beatle Juice, the band's website said.
The band's website carried a statement, "We've just lost the nicest guy in rock and roll."
Scriven by Sugar Mama at 1:35 PM
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
#3 - Many In High Places Are Not Well - HiM
Believe it or not, I used to hate jazz...and I didn't even know what Afro-beat was. This band taught me to embrace them both. Doug Scharin uses percussion to penetrate every aspect of this group. Whereas most drummers provide the beat and fill in the empty space, he is the foundation upon which everything else is built. He combines these genres to create a perfect balance in a lively yet sensual sound.
The first tracks I heard on this album were samples (which Papa downloaded) of Slow, Slow, Slow (Slow Dub Low version) and The Way Trees Are. I couldn't get enough of either song and eagerly anticipated this album's release. Papa and I picked it up at CD Alley and then went to Mellow Mushroom for dinner. I vividly remember sitting in the parking lot (I think it was before we ate) listening to these songs. Wow. Although they were slightly different from the downloaded versions that whet my appetite, hearing them in their entirety was incredibly satisfying.
It took me a while to warm up to the album as a whole. I think it was because I heard the best songs first. Then I got to a point where I wore it out. Any time I had control of the CD player, this is what I would pop in. Seeing them live with Mice Parade only added to my adoration. They made a dingy, smoke-filled bar feel like heaven on earth.
I don't know how I can put two more albums above this one. It feels more accurate to say that this is 1/3 of #1.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Here's a shameless plug for Elizabethton's own, The Showdown. My brother constantly talks about these guys and how good they are, but naturally because I'm the big brother, and obviously cooler and wiser, I never gave them the time of day until now.
I was very pleasantly surprised.
They also made the cover of HM magazine this month. Their new album released today, and they are going to be at Gatsby's in Johnson City tonight for a release show.
Maybe little brothers get some right from time to time.
Scriven by Unknown at 9:55 AM
Monday, February 19, 2007
#4 The Moon & Antartica, Modest Mouse, Epic Records, 2000
Though I'm guessing that Sean B might regale us with tales of that other Modest Mouse gem, The Moon & Antartica is the true opus for me. I got this record in Bristol right before Sarah and I moved to Durham and I don't think I stopped listening to it my entire first year at Duke. Or since, really. Scoffed by some as frontman Isaac Brock's sell-out album (read: first major label record), nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead of being methodical radio-pap, this record cuts a dark existential swath filled with movements from shoegaze to guitar panic and from punk spazz to acoustic balladry all within an unabashed self-transparency and lyrical truthfulness that opens the mental sinuses like a eucalyptus bath. I mean really, when I finish listening to this record it always feels like my mental state can breath again, freed from past baggage and future dirt (read: the stuff to which your body returns). For both Sarah and I, Brock, who also came from a kooky conservative Christian background, strikes a nerve with his honest, albeit blunt, theological observations. And the dynamic musical atmosphere doesn't hurt our love either. Rather than go on and on about each song, I thought I would post my Top 5 favorite lyrical moments from the record, along with links to the songs, so those who would like a taste can savor the flavor.
"The 3rd planet is sure that they're being watched by an eye in the sky that can't be stopped. When you get to the promised land, you're gonna shake that eye's hand." 3rd Planet
"I just got a message that said, "Yeah, hell has frozen over", got a phone call from the Lord saying "Hey boy, get a sweater. Right now." Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
"It's hard to remember we're alive for the first time. It's hard to remember we're alive for the last time." Lives
"It takes a long time but God dies too, but not before he'll stick it to you." I Came As a Rat
"And the one thing you taught me 'bout human beings was this - they ain't made of nothin' but water and shit." What People Are Made Of
#9 - Vigilantes of Love, Audible Sigh
Those of you who know me have seen this coming for some time. Your only surprise may be that it isn't higher. My fanboy status for VOL may have declined over the past years, but this album abides as one of the true greats of the alt-country genre, and probably a snapshot of the band at its height. More talented as a poet than a musician, lead man Bill Mallonee crafted intense, literary lyrics that on this album finally got their due support from equally talented band members. Barn-burning rockers combine with quiet glimpses of hope and a raw brand of melancholy that few others can match. I still remember when I first heard this album: it was two weeks before I was getting married, I was living by myself in a tiny rented house on a farm in Bristol, Tennessee, and this came in the mail. Only problem: no stereo. I dug through still-unpacked boxes until I found my computer, dug it out, plugged in the crappy standard computer speakers and dropped the album in the CD-Rom slot. It sounded awesome.
Favorite tracks: She Walks on Roses, Extreme North of the Compass, Solar System (click for a listen)
Also available on Emusic: Check it.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
#10, Counting Crows, August and Everything After
I do realize this is a repeat selection and may raise some eyebrows as a top-10 selection, but so be it.... It's one of the most worn CDs in my collection. The Crows are one of the first rock bands that I remember liking. Their debut into the rock music scence was at roughly the same time as mine as our paths crossed somewhere in the early 1990s. This is an album that I enjoy listening to without skipping any songs. My favorite songs on the album are Omaha, Raining in Baltimore and Rain King (especially the extra-raspy "yeaaaaaaaaah").
It feels nice to finally be in the single digits......
Friday, February 16, 2007
Thursday, February 15, 2007
#2 - Grace (Jeff Buckley) 1994
I knew full well twenty three picks ago that I'd have to find something graceful to say about my #2, but when it really comes down to it, I can't actually remember where I first heard Buckley or found this album. It certainly wasn't in 1994, but it feels like forever that Buckley has been atop my music collection. It's hard to describe my fascination with Buckley, his tragic death, or this near-perfect collection of seemingly organized (Grace, Last Goodbye, Lover) consciousnesses (Mojo Pin, Eternal Life, Dream Brother), but I realized upon a recent listen that Grace (and my #1) represent something very special: they were the two catalyst albums that first helped me define my own musical taste, my own style, my own expression. While I might consider Starflyer's Silver and The Prayer Chain's Shawl and Mercury to be my first encounters with what was a new, exciting, and wildly addicting new musical style, Grace represents the awakening I had into music of my own, music that wasn't enjoyed solely and secretly on the opening act of rebellion. In fact, the pleasure in listening to Silver and Mercury came in the music but first in the mayhem it reflected back onto what was otherwise a very sheltered youth. Grace is me, and when someone asks, as they often do, what kind of music I like, I never think style, always album, and artist. These top 5 albums are my music. I have no idea what "kind" they are or represent, but I am supremely comfortable in believing they are great without needing to feel like they make me look cool. I enjoy every minute of this album, and still wrestle to call one particular song my favorite among the others. Last Goodbye and Lover, You Should've Come Over (might be the best lyrics of any song I know) certainly stand out, as does Mojo Pin and Dream Brother, both of which seem to experiment with emotional tempo. Grace is possibly the opus and Hallelujah is much better here than it was with Cohen.
Without question, this album is a masterpiece. It's amazing to think what Jeff Buckley would be doing now were he still with us...
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
#4 - Monster - REM
As a long time REM fan, I must admit, this is a bold choice. It even surprised me. I own all of their albums from Murmur through Reveal and this one is my favorite? Yes, it is. I can finally admit it.
I owned Automatic first, but it was this one that made me a follower. I first heard it at a Young Life retreat. I remember the hotel lobby, the group of guys with "skater" cuts kicking around a hacky sack with this playing in the background. I had a huge crush on one of the guys and I bought this album to remind me of him.
I ended up loving it and went to see the infamous aneurysm tour in Hershey,PA. The show gave me mixed feelings. I was a hyper youth group Christian and Michael Stipe's first words on stage were "I am Satan." The video clips that played behind them were eerie. I specifically remember one of a teenage boy (who looked much like my crush) kissing his own hand over and over again. I thought, "Weird. I shouldn't like this." I turned away from Monster and bought all the other albums. These were much safer. I became a fan but this album fell by the wayside.
Years later, I feel I've come full circle. I still adore REM. I love all of their albums. This one is not the most musically impressive. The lyrics are enigmatic and down-right crass. But damn it if every song doesn't make you sing right along. If I'm going to pull one of their albums off the shelf today, chances are, its going to be this one. It opens with pop perfection in "What's the Frequency Kenneth?" and the intensity builds from there. The beautifully odd "Strange Currencies" and "Let Me In" provide points of respite in the midst of all the raunchy distortion. If Automatic for the People is their gem, Monster is their rock.
It still gives me a slightly uneasy feeling, like Michael Stipe is some dirty old man telling me all of his secrets. But I now know his past (and his future), so, when I listen, I understand that this is just a stage he is going through. This stage produced some amazing rock and now that I'm a grown-up, I can take it.
#3 - Ghosts of the Great Highway (Sun Kil Moon) 2003
Of all the albums on my top 25 (including the next two), this is the only disc that still carries upward momentum - which could very easily carry this treasure to #1 in just a few more years. Writing this now, it's hard to believe I love two more albums more than this one. I have to thank Papa for this gift, probably the best piece of music I've ever received. This album has been played more than any other album in the last two years in our household, and with the re-release already on order, there is no doubt it will be playing several hundred times more. This is, without question, one of my favorite albums of all time, and surprising, felt so almost immediately upon first listen. Many of my favorite bands have since disbanded, so here's a prayer than Kozelek and his merry men keep on playing...
Carry Me Ohio is in my top 5 songs of all time. Lily and Parrots is my favorite song right now, and my daughter's, too.
Happy Valentine's Day, Salvador...
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Apologies for the extended absence - I think you can tell who on this list is in graduate school. Job interviews, teaching, and dissertation writing (or staring at the computer screen for 5 hours and producing one paragraph) have consumed much of my time, plus the fact that we just reverted to dial-up internet (yes, it still exists) and uploading images becomes painful and slow....
So, in typical Aaron Cowan fashion, it's time to scoot in here at the last minute and catch up. In the words of Homer Simpson, "Put on a pot of coffee. Then drink it, and start making hamburgers! I'm pulling an all-nighter!"
#13 - Ben Folds, Rockin' The Suburbs
I probably don't really like this album more than Who's Next, The Joshua Tree or any number of others already on this list, but I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that, below the top 5 or so, this list is pretty arbitrary and random. The first track, "Annie Waits" lets you know what this album is all about right off the bat - great piano pop and handclaps. Of course, now that I'm a dad I get all weepy over "Still Fighting It." This album also wins the "Most Proper Names Used in Song Titles" award for its fun twisted biographical vignettes...plus, the title track mocks corporate white rap-metal, which, despite its now-dated references, is still funny. Good times.
Favorite tracks: Annie Waits, Still Fighting It, Not the Same
#12 - Beatles, White Album
God this album is so good. What else to say? Besides the aptly-described "art wank" of Revolution 9, I defy you to find one track on here you wouldn't want to hear at any given moment of any given day. The definitive proof that art and listenability are not mutually exclusive.
Favorite Tracks: See above
#11 - Iron & Wine, The Creek Drank the Cradle
Thanks to my parents for raising me to love the music that would produce this music. And thanks to Forbes for telling me about it.
Favorite Tracks: Lion's Mane, Beard Stealing Bread, Upward Over the Mountain
#10 - Bob Dylan, Nashville Skyline
One of the aforementioned albums my parents raised me to love. There aren't many artists that can release an album in a entirely new fake voice and pull it off, but Dylan inhabits the metaphysical stratosphere upon which other musicians fear to tread. The giant finger to all who still held on to the belief that Dylan was the spokesman for his generation, as he revealed himself to be the "song and dance man" he'd always insisted he was. Throw this on some night this spring when you're having dinner and see if it doesn't convince you, despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary, that life is good.
Favorite tracks: Girl from the North Country (with Johnny Cash), Peggy Day, Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You
More later - horrible, horrible essays on WEB DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk await the wrath of my pen. The red ink will flow like rivers.....
#5 One Beat, Sleater-Kinney, Kill Rock Stars, 2002
We were at an "Obama in '08" rally on Sunday in Chicago that featured a surprising turn. Halfway through Obama's speech a group of about 30 protestors stood up and started loudly chanting that American troops should get out of Iraq. While Obama, to his credit, attempted to engage them, security removed them reasonably quickly. But the tone of the rally changed - real flesh and blood people had called attention to something that upset them and shattered the univocal "pep rally" atmosphere. Obama pushed on and smoothed it over as best he could, but the reality stood - protest as a counter to politics as usual, as a stab at the status quo, had left its mark.
Such is the sound of Sleater-Kinney's amazing and profoundly moving One Beat. Written and recorded during the hey-day of post-9/11 American nationalistic furor, it galvanized and focused my attempt to deal with the dark political turn following the attack on the World Trade Center. The record became, for me, the sound of dissent. Opener "One Beat" is in my Top 100 songs of all time, using powerful drums and angular guitars to anthmically challenge consensus in the name of reason and progressive thinking. When Corin Tucker asks "If you think like Thomas Edison, could you invent a world for me?" and answers "Now all that's on the surface are bloody arms and oil fields" it's more than a political statement about current events - it's a call to think and create a new mode of engaging old problems, to take the Man head on and "shake you and your fossils out." The sentiment is genius and the music is rocking: a perfect combination. "Far Away" moves from the ideological to the personal, as Tucker relates what it was like nursing a newborn baby on the morning of September 11 and getting that phone call we all got: "Turn on the T.V." As she "watches the world explode in flames" and prays for her family's safety, a bigger question is on her mind: "Why can't I get along with you?" It's a simple query that doesn't hide behind a blind xenophobia or a fervent anit-nationalism, but that strikes at the heart of human realtions - why does difference often lead to violence? "Combat Rock" utilizes military drum work from the exquisite Janet Weiss to drive home a homily on protest everyone from Thomas Paine to MLK, Jr would agree with: "Since when is skepticism un-American? Dissent's not treason but they talk like it's the same." Powerfully prophetic words when you think about their context in 2002, a time when the machinations of the Iraq War were only nascent to the public but, as we now know, very prominent in the Bush administration's agenda.
Despite my opening diatribe, however, much of the album isn't focused on political issues. Love song "Oh!" brings emphatic tones to Carrie Brownstein 's empassioned "Nobody figures like you figured me out," and the horn driven feminist anthem "Step Aside," which has a band member name-dropping call and response section that demands a "knife through the heart of our exploitation" and commands to "disassemble your discrimination." Narrative "Prisstina" tells the tongue-in-cheek story of a young college girl tempted by "your dirty rock n'roll" but who ends up leaving her boy toys behind for a bright future. Portland gets a shout out on "Light-Rail Coyote," which focuses on the economic geography of the city, and "Funeral Song" recalls Hot Rock-era SK in the verse and then explodes into the chorus of "Turn out the light" with theramin and a pounding Janet. As Sarah referenced in her post on this record, closer "Sympathy" is perhaps the most moving song on the record. It is, more or less, Corin's prayer over her sick infant who almost died after birth and contains some of the most earnest and haunting phrases in my Top 25: "There is no righteousness in your darkest moment, we're all equal in the face of what we're most afraid of." In powerful seasoned punk style, One Beat utilizes this sentiment to prove that prayer and dissent are really just two sides of the same thing: hope.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Cat Power The Covers Record - Flakey like pie crust when interviewed or on stage, Cat Power's strength lies in her smokey vocals that come close to M. Ward in their deliciousness.
The National Alligator - Something about the direct, self-assured delivery of these Brooklynites compels and embarrasses me at the same time, but 'Daughters of the Soho Riots' is so beautiful it makes up for all of their swagger
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Starflyer 59 (tooth&nail, 1995)
Well J. Martin wrote about 'feeling the mess' and being miserable in a most naked way. Supposedly he spent a month pretty much alone in the studio making this and at one point didn't see the sun for a week. Much like Dungen's Ta Det Lugnt, rock genius seeps out in times of turmoil (and heavy drug use). 11 songs of feeling down because old friends have gone, times have changed, and no one seems to care. But he did put out the invite for those feeling miserable to take a walk his way (2 of my grandparents died in '95). Alright then... right there was my home, in amongst the sweetest overdrive, feedback, tremelo, solos, and dead drums I have ever heard.
I've never heard a more menacing song than 'Dual Overhead Cam' with its dynamics and bass and soloing and ear-splitting feedback. As with most of my favorite albums, there is mystery aplenty within the lyrics and even in the tones of the solos as well. No song is bombastic in that he tries to outdo himself; no, the freakouts are lazy and thick. And when he again hits the stompbox, the melodies are gorgeous. What else? This track order is my bench mark for how to make an album seamless, and I haven't listened to much noise/rock since then because of it. I had the original cd and always thought there was a perfect 1st half (1st 5 songs) and even better 2nd half (last 6). Then he released it on record with the division b/w those songs and I knew I had a treasure.
It was the first record that I bought as I didn't even know that bands still made records. My dad soon after gave me his record collection and Gold is the only record of mine that holds a place in his record box. Family members then starting asking me and C.Ultra in a 'you know they make cds now' tone; ''who still makes records?' Thats where that love began. It's odd that as much as I can't stand 1 word song titles, 'Indiana' with its "baskin in the blue skies of your eyes" takes the cake. At this point I can't really say anything. Do I need to mention how the last song 'One Shot Jaunita' is the best closing track ever and how strange it is and how at the 3:10 mark the 3 soloing guitars....This was my favorite for a decade, and if you ask me on the right day, I'd have to say it still is.