Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 450-441


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.

Previous Posts:


Artist: Paul and Linda McCartney
AlbumRam
Year: 1971
Label: Apple
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?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Too Many People”

Thoughts: For the first time in this project, not only have I listened to the album before, but I’ve written about it on this blog. I’ve been consistent over the years in my dislike for the vast majority of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles output. And the hit single from this album – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” – is among his absolute worst work. But Paul and Linda were happy in their marriage and domestic life, so I can’t deny them that.


Artist: The White Stripes
AlbumElephant
Year: 2003
Label: V2/XL/Third Man
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:

  • “Seven Nation Army”

Thoughts: The White Stripes are one of those bands that music critics just love to dote on. I’ve never really heard what it is that they think is so great about the band’s music. And Jack White comes across as more than a little creepy.  “Seven Nation Army” is, no doubt, a great rally song at sporting events (with a mesmerizing video, to boot) but nothing else stands out for me. This album is a collection of “back to basics” rock and roll.  But this has been done before and since, as well or better than The White Stripes, so I’m not sure why this album is singled out for recognition.


Artist: Otis Redding
Album: Dictionary of Soul
Year: 1966
Label: Volt
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:

  • “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)”
  • “Sweet Lorene”
  • “Try A Little Tenderness”
  • “You’re Still My Baby”
  • “Hawg For You”
  • But the whole damn album is great!

Thoughts: I’m a long time fan of Otis Redding, whom I consider one of the greatest vocalists of all time.  But I’ve mostly listened to compilations and box sets of his music and never listened to this album before, although I’m familiar with about half of it.  This was the last album released before Redding’s death, and features a good sampling of his trademark ballads and raveups.  But the album also shows that he can sing the Blues really well too.


Artist: Bad Bunny
Album: X 100pre
Year: 2018
Label: Rimas
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?: Not likely
Favorite Tracks:

  • “La Romana”
  • “Mia”

Thoughts: Here’s a fairly recent album from an artist, Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, whose name has entered my consciousness despite my general ignorance of Latin trap and reggaeton.  In fact, it’s his debut album, which surprises me, because I thought I’d heard the name for longer. I appreciate that the album offers an eclectic mix of musical styles, tempos, and rhythms even as I know that this is not something I personally enjoy.


Artist: Alice Coltrane
Album: Journey in Satchidanada
Year: 1971
Label: Impulse!
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?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Journey in Satchidananda”
  • “Something About John Coltrane”
  • “Isis and Osiris”

Thoughts: I confess to never having heard about Alice Coltrane, and this album is a revelation. The music is a fusion of a experimental jazz and Indian classic music that draws upon her own spiritual journey and the work of her husband, John Coltrane, who died a few years earlier.  Alice Coltrane plays piano and harp, while Pharaoh Sanders provides the soprano saxophone and percussion. All of the tracks feature the Indian string instrument, the tanpura, except the final track which has the lute-like oud.


Artist: Yes
Album: Close to the Edge
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?: God forbid
Favorite Tracks: none
Thoughts: I’m on record for my dislike of 70s progressive rock. The excess, the pretentiousness, the boringness.  I was not looking forward to listening to Yes (although their 80s sellout hit, “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” slaps). But like a good do-bee, I listened to all three gratuitously long songs on this album.  My brain checked out a few


Artist: Fiona Apple
Album: Extraordinary Machine
Year: 2005
Label: Epic
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:

  • “Extraordinary Machine”
  • “Get Him Back”
  • “O’ Sailor”
  • “Parting Gift”
  • “Not About Love”

Thoughts: The enthusiasm over the brilliant Fetch the Bolt Cutters last spring made me realize that I’d been missing out on Fiona Apple for all these years. The songs have a bouncy piano, confessional lyrics, and arrangements that make them sound like they’re for a Broadway show.  I like listening to Apple’s voice and regret denying myself of hearing it for so long.


Artist: David Bowie
AlbumScary Monsters
Year: 1980
Label: RCA
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?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Up the Hill Backwards”
  • “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)”
  • “Ashes to Ashes”
  • “Fashion”
  • “Kingdome Come”

Thoughts: Once again, we’ve reached an album that I’ve written about before. Bowie’s first album of the 80s sounds like a synthesis of everything he did during the 70s.  It was less experimental than previous albums, but it seemed to be a marker for the end of the era, while clearing the decks for the next.


Artist: The Weeknd
Album: Beauty Behind the Madness
Year: 2015
Label: XO
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: Seems appropriate that The Weeknd comes up in this list, fresh off his Super Bowl appearance (which I didn’t watch).  I’m only slightly familiar with his work, so I was surprised that the topics of every song seemed to be bragging/regretting doing lots of drugs and sex.  Musically, the mid-tempo R&B doesn’t appeal to me either. I didn’t think I knew any of the songs on this album but in fact, I did know the hit “Can’t Feel My Face.”


Artist: Britney Spears
AlbumBlackout
Year: 2007
Label: Jive
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?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Get Naked (I Got a Plan)”
  • “Toy Soldier”

Thoughts: Britney Spears was pretty much off my radar by 2007, and I never heard anything by hear after the “…Baby One More Time”/”Oops!… I Did It Again.”  Stylistically it’s aggressive electronic dance pop with angrier and hornier lyrics than Spears’ earlier work, reflecting her well-publicized personal troubles. At least now I know the origin of the meme “It’s Britney, bitch!” It feels a little exploitative listening to it now, knowing the abuse and mockery Spears has suffered, and how she continues to suffer under a conservatorship.


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

2020 Year in Review: Favorite Songs


There aren’t a lot of good things to say about the year 2020, but it was nevertheless a year filled with great music. Here are 20 of my favorite songs for 2020. Please use the comments box to add your favorites. And check out the end of the post for links to my favorite songs lists of previous years.

“Antifa Dance” by Ana Tijoux

“Be” by Mourning [A] BLKstar

“Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa

“Ferris Wheel” by Sylvan Esso

“Hapi feat. Big Rube” by Spillage Village

“Is There Something in the Movies?” by Samia

“Lifetime” by Romy

“Los Angeles” by HAIM

“The Low” by Jonah Mutono

“Mansplain” by Thick

“Phenom” by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down

“Shameika” by Fiona Apple

“Sing Gently” by Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 6

“Siyabuela” by Asher Gamedze

“Take a Piece” by The Big Moon

“Take What You Can Carry” (Scientist Dub One) by Mia Doi Todd

“Tenebrist” by The Ballroom Thieves

“walking in the snow” by Run the Jewels

Favorite Songs by Year, 1973-2019

1973197419751976
1977197819791980
1981198219831984
1985198619871988
1989199019911992
1993199419951996
1997199819992000
2001200220032004
2005200620072008
2009201020112012
2013201420152016
201720182019

My Favorite Songs of 2020, So Far


We are halfway through the year 2020! Only halfway, you say? Yes! But all things considered, there has been some good music from this wreck of a year.  Here’s a list of 20 songs I love from 2020.

If there’s a song that you think belongs on this list, let me know in the comments.

“All That” by Sparks
(also consider “Lawn Mower” and “Onomato Pia“)

“Antifa Dance” by Ana Tijoux

“Anyone Can Play Guitar” by Midwife

“Be” by Mourning [A] BLKstar
(look forward to a full review of the band’s album The Cycle in the coming weeks).

“Clean Kill” by Coriky

“Daily Jobs” by Bee Bee Sea

“Devil Put the Coal in the Ground” by Steve Earle & The Dukes 

“Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa
(also consider “Boys Will Be Boys” and “Break My Heart“)

“Emotional Devotion Creator” by Peel Dream Magazine

“Finally // beautiful stranger” by Halsey

“IN IN IN” by Zebra Katz

“Is There Something in the Movies” by Samia

“Mansplain” by Thick

“Never (Lagos Never Gonna Be The Same)” by Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela
(also read my full-album review for Rejoice)

“Phenom” by Thao and the Get Down Stay Down
(also read my full-album review of Temple)

“Shameika” by Fiona Apple
(also read my full-album review of Fetch the Bolt Cutters)

“Take a Piece” by The Big Moon

“Take What You Can Carry” by Mia Doi Todd

“Tenebrist” by The Ballroom Thieves
(also read my full-album review of Unlovely)

“The Low” by Jonah Mutono

“walking in the snow” by Run the Jewels
(also read my full album review of RTJ4)

Album Review: Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple


Album: Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Artist: Fiona Apple
Release Date: April 17, 2020
Label: Epic
Favorite Tracks:

  • Shameika
  • Under the Table
  • Relay
  • Rack of His
  • Cosmonauts
  • For Her

Thoughts:

I remember Fiona Apple as the tiny woman with the big, bold voice who had a hit with the song “Criminal” (and its unsettling video) back in the 1990s. I’ve heard whispers that Apple continued to have a great career, and I should’ve listened to them since this new album is absolutely brilliant.  In a way, it’s surprising that Apple has returned to widespread acclaim with this album because it’s very experimental with a heavy emphasis on percussion, only holding onto vestiges of pop music around the edges. Apple sings repetitive lyrics in a variety of chants, using her voice like Yoko Ono to become another percussion instrument.  As the title implies, this album is about release, and there’s anger there, but there’s also catharsis and humor.  It has to be heard to be believed.

Rating: ****1/2