Rachael Rollins ran for and was elected as Suffolk County District Attorney promising not to prosecute many nonviolent offenses and focus on more serious crimes. Newly released data is proving her approach to be correct.
The story of a social justice activist I’ve never heard of before, Yuri Kochiyama. A Japanese-American woman who fought for Asian American equality, Kochiyama allied herself with numerous liberation movements. She was friends was Malcolm X and held him as he died.
Last September, Rolling Stone magazine released their most recent list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which includes a greater variety of artists and genres than previous lists. Looking through the list, there were many albums I’d never listened to before and a few I’d never even heard of. In fact, counting it up, I found that I’d only listened to 140 of the albums, although I’d heard songs from many more. So I’ve decided my project for 2021 is to listen to 10 albums each week and write up some thoughts about each one.
Artist: Pixies Album: Surfer Rosa Year: 1988 Label: 1988 Have I Listened to This Album Before?: So many times Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes Favorite Tracks:
“Where is My Mind?”
Thoughts: Pixies weren’t on my radar in 1988, but when I discovered them in the 1990s, I went back to this album and it became one of my all-time favorites (#72 on my 2009 list). I could list every track on the album as a favorite, but “Gigantic” and “Where is My Mind?” are two of the greatest songs ever.
Artist: Mariah Carey Album: The Emancipation of Mimi Year: 2005 Label: Island Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No Favorite Tracks: None
Thoughts: I remember Mariah Carey as ever present in the 1990s and not liking how squeaky her voice got on the high notes. But by the 2000s she was off my radar (except for a hilarious cameo in You Don’t Mess With the Zohan), so I didn’t expect to recognize any of these songs. It’s a straightforward R&B/dance pop album with hip hop guest artists and only a little squeakiness. I keep saying this, and I don’t mean it in a derogatory way, that this kind of music is not my thing, but I’m sure it’s perfectly fine.
Artist: Aretha Franklin Album: Young, Gifted and Black Year: 1972 Label: Atlantic Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes Favorite Tracks:
“Young, Gifted, and Black”
“All the King’s Horses”
“Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”
“Border Song (Holy Moses)”
Thoughts: Aretha Franklin’s music is such a gift to the world and I should listen to it more. A lot of the songs on this album are covers (Nina Simone, Otis Redding, The Beatles, Elton John) but she redefines them and makes them her own as much as her original works.
Artist: Radiohead Album: In Rainbows Year: 2007 Label: XL Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes Favorite Tracks:
“All I Need”
“House of Cards”
Thoughts: I remember when this album came out and it was for sale online on a pay-your-own price model. It felt like the wave of the future. It wasn’t. iTunes soon became dominant only to be shoved aside for streaming. I’ve always liked this album but didn’t think it was considered among Radiohead’s great albums so I’m pleasantly surprised. The band has only released two new albums in the intervening 14 years and they’re both ok, but not great, so it turns out that In Rainbows was the last Radiohead album to date worth getting really excited about. We’ll get to discuss Radiohead three more times as we work through the list.
Artist: J Dilla Album: Donuts Year: 2006 Label: Stones Throw Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Favorite Tracks: All of them
Thoughts: If you’ve been reading my RS 500 posts for a while, you’ll probably not be surprised that I am not at all familiar with J Dilla. The album was recorded as Detroit producer J Dilla contended with a blood disease and lupus and was released on his 32nd birthday. Tragically, he died three days later. It’s a hip hop album with no rap, a collection of short and largely instrumental tracks that mix together samples in creative ways. It’s yet another treat of this project to be introduced to this influential album.
Artist: The Ramones Album: Rocket to Russia Year: 1977 Label: Sire Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes Favorite Tracks:
“Sheena is a Punk Rocker”
“We’re a Happy Family”
Thoughts: Some time in the late 80s, probably inspired by reading Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, I checked the compilation album Ramones Mania out of the library. It was nothing like any music I’d ever liked before, and it redefined my understanding of what punk music actually was, and I loved it. I remember feeling the need to keep the fact that I liked the Ramones secret and the first time I told another kid “I kind of like The Ramones,” and he said “Oh yeah, The Ramones are awesome!” it was such a relief. Anyhow, a lot of the songs from this album were on Ramones Mania, including my all-time favorite Ramones song “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.” It’s a great record of 1977, the peak year for punk rock.
Artist: The Kinks Album: The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society Year: 1969 Label: Reprise Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes Favorite Tracks:
“The Village Green Preservation Society”
“Sitting by the Riverside”
“All of My Friends Were There”
Thoughts: This is the second of two albums by The Kinks and it is reaffirming that I should spend more time listening to The Kinks in the future. At the same time that rock & roll was embracing the counter-culture and change, The Kinks release a thematic album about the simplicity of old-fashioned English villages. This is not entirely contrary as the counter culture embraced a “back to the land” movement and Paul McCartney would soon move to a farm to create his first solo album. But the music on this album is both of its time, with touches of baroque pop and psychedelia, as well as entirely it’s own thing.
Artist: Massive Attack Album: Mezzanine Year: 1998 Label: Circa/Virgin Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No Favorite Tracks:
Thoughts: I had a vague awareness that a 90s band named Massive Attack exists but just assumed that they were another grunge/hard rock band. I was wrong. They are a triphop and electronica band, more Portishead than Bush. I even recognize the song “Teardrop,” which I swear I heard in a movie soundtrack but can’t confirm that. The album starts strong but then peters out into repetitive blandness so I probably won’t be relistening to it anytime soon.
Artist: Tame Impala Album: Currents Year: 2015 Label: Interscope Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No Favorite Tracks:
“Let It Happen”
Thoughts: Tame Impala (Australian producer Kevin Parker) is one of those artists I’ve heard about for years but never gave that much thought to. The lead track “Let It Happen” is definitely familiar to my ears. I appreciated the dense soundscapes of the songs but overall I find the music of Tame Impala to be fairly dull. Which is probably why I never paid much attention to it.
Artist: Lynyrd Skynyrd Album: (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) Year: 1973 Label: MCA Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No Favorite Tracks:
Thoughts: During my high school years I went through a 2-year classic rock phase where I listened to music from the 1960s and early 1970s exclusively. I dove into everything, including some fairly obscure bands, but I could not abide Southern Rock and would race to change the dial whenever it came on. Obviously, a lot of great rock music comes from the South (where the genre was born) but I specifically didn’t like bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band who announced their macho Southern heritage in their music and used Confederate symbols in their iconography. I am, however, listening to every album on this list with an open mind. I did find myself enjoying the bluesy soul of “Tuesday’s Gone” and “Mississippi Kid,” but the hits “Gimme Three Steps” and “Free Bird” just feel frozen in Klassik Rawk Self-parody, despite my efforts.
Running List of Albums I’d Listen to Again
500. Arcade Fire, Funeral
498. Suicide, Suicide
497. Various Artists, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
494. The Ronettes, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes
489. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector from Phil Spector and Various Artists, Back to Mono (1958-1969)
487. Black Flag, Damaged
485, Richard and Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
483, Muddy Waters, The Anthology
482, The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
481, Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister
478, The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks
477, Howlin’ Wolf, Moanin’ in the Moonlight
469, Manu Chao, Clandestino
465, King Sunny Adé, The Best of the Classic Years
464, The Isley Brothers, 3 + 3
462, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin
459, Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day
457, Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
456, Al Green, Greatest Hits
455, Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
453, Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
452, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Anthology
451, Roberta Flack, First Take
448, Otis Redding, Dictionary of Soul
446, Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidanada
444, Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
443, David Bowie, Scary Monsters
440, Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter
439, James Brown, Sex Machine
438, Blur, Parklife
437, Primal Scream, Screamadelica
435, Pet Shop Boys, Actually
433, LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
431, Los Lobos, How Will the Wolf Survive?
430, Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True
429, The Four Tops, Reach Out
428, Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising
427, Al Green, Call Me
426, Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams
425, Paul Simon, Paul Simon
424, Beck, Odelay
423, Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One