My Life in Music: B-Sides

Bsides Following last week’s blog posts about the best albums from ever year I have been alive, this (final) post acts as a quick round-up of what has gone before and a short summary of other records that (ideally) would have been on the list as well. As a recap, my previous blogs in this series can be found here:

Part 1: From Out of Nowhere (1985-1991)
Part 2: Where Boys Fear to Tread (1992-1998)
Part 3: Dancing Through Sunday (1999-2005)
Part 4: Set Fire to the Hive (2006-2012)

Since I could only choose one entry per year, it wasn’t possible to include every of my favourite albums in this series; as a result, some of the finest musical works have not been represented here. In an attempt to redress the balance, here are a supplementary seven records that lost out (maybe because of very competitive years) that should not be overlooked. Here we go!

Dream Theater – Images and Words (1992)

1992

Despite losing out (just) to the mind-blowing Angel Dust for the 1992 crown, it shouldn’t be underestimated what a landmark record Images and Words is in modern progressive rock/metal. There’s a killer amount of depth to the sophomore album that brought the band to the attention of the masses, and it still remains a stone-cold classic that kicks off with perhaps the defining Dream Theater compositions; the enthralling ‘Pull Me Under’. Where their first release (1989’s Where Day and Dream Unite) was a competent and promising debut, their potential is fully realised on this, their follow-up, which reaps the benefits of greater musical gestation along with the addition of James LaBrie’s vocal talents. Images and Words, then, covers a broad spectrum of DT’s vein of prog-metal, hitting hard on the likes of ‘Take the Time’ whilst remaining delicate and light on slow, atmospheric peaks like the swirling ‘Wait for Sleep’ and the crossover with the deeply progressive ‘Learning to Live’.  Dream Theater would later rack up more classic albums (2005’s delightful Octavarium, in particular), but Images and Words will ever be the epitaph that will grace DT’s tombstone when they finally hang up their instruments; something we should all hope they don’t do for a good while yet.

Song Choice: [Pull Me Under]

Tool – Lateralus (2001)

tool_-_lateralus

As will become clear over the next few entries, choosing a winner for 2001 brought on more heartache than for any other year; even though Daft Punk’s Discovery deserves nothing less the God-like status, it did mean that near-perfect albums like Lateralus had to be left out. More accessible than Ænima and less meandering than 10,000 Days, the science of intelligent, progressive metal is well and truly mastered on Lateralus. Home to swirling melodies, mathematical time signatures and unsettling noises, Tool’s output always sits closer to ‘art’ than ‘music’; something that Lateralus‘ beautiful packaging and artwork do little to dispel. More important is the mathematical detail; the whole album subject to numerical concepts and support to an overarching Fibonacci sequence portrayed in musical form (seriously, look it up). More so than any of Tool’s other work, Lateralus is perhaps the most elusive; feeling sometimes like a soaring eagle rather than a metal behemoth. It also captures time in such a way that each successive listen will bring back to the first time you played it, with the full force of art and music in perfect harmony. Lateralus will never be bettered, but then again, the pinnacles of a whole genre rarely are.

Song Choice: [Lateralus]

Weezer – Weezer [the Green Album] (2001)

GreenAlbum

After a somewhat lukewarm reception to their (undoudtedly superb) sophomore album Pinkerton, Weezer went into hiding for five long, wilderness years before dropping their follow-up with very little announcement and only minor fanfare. Taking the opportunity to reboot themselves, Weezer brought forth another self-titled output (lovingly nicknamed by fans as the ‘Green Album’) that recalls much of the powerpop/rock from their debut Weezer (the ‘Blue Album’) and contrast with the darker tone(s) on Pinkerton. Clocking in at just shy of thirty minutes in length, the Green Album blisters through ten catchy, simple songs that define the classic Weezer powerpop formula; Rivers Cuomo’s faultless writing and melodies latching onto the brain’s nervous system and never really letting go. The rejuvenated band would later release the equally superb Maladroit scarcely a year later, on the back of critical and artistic success. That being so, the Green Album remains a landmark entry in Weezer’s (now-) prolific output and, twelve years on, still utterly essential. The Blue Album may be the universal classic that will be remembered for decades, but The Green Album is my nominee; completely encapsulating a time and place in my life that may never be bettered.

Song Choice: [Hash Pipe]

Andrew W.K. – I Get Wet (2001)

I_Get_Wet

What is there to say about this record that can’t be gleaned from the cover image alone? This a party record; designed solely to (sonically) destroy your face and to make you party hardier than is humanly possible. From beginning to end, this is 100% solid balls-to-the-wall rock and roll, and unashamedly so. Wearing its motives on its sleeve with pride and power, I Get Wet is pure, unadulterated fun, condensed into twelve, 3-minute pop songs with overdriven guitars, keyboard and drums beaten at a breakneck pace. A more un-pretentious, entertaining statement-of-intent you will not find. Here, Doctor Andrew finds the formula for PARTY, distils it into musical form, and prescribes doses to be taken (at least) twice a day to the aural senses. The haters may hate, but find me a (true) music fan that doesn’t adore AWK’s simple message for partying hard and I’ll eat my own head.

Song Choice: [Party Hard]

Cave In – Antenna (2003)

Antenna

In the extensive Cave In back catalogue, Antenna feels like both an anomaly and a delight. The 2003 album was critically applaud upon its release (indeed, the likes of Kerrang! poured bountiful plaudits over it for many months, nay years), but it marked an evolutionary change in sound from its predecessor, Jupiter,  and a more harmonious appearance than its successor, Perfect Pitch Black; both of which contain lyrics, compositions and screams much harder than anything that can be found here. While Cave In themselves found much to dislike on Antenna, the rest of us can plunder from its pulsating, emotive alt-rock and revel in its handling of raw themes drifting in and out of infectious musical refrain. It’s the least abrasive entry in the Cave In library, and as such feels far more cutting than some of their more post-hardcore or metalcore releases; which, in their roughness, often lose connection in therefore their primary source of power. The endurance of Antenna comes from the passion and prowess contained within its dozen tracks, and is likely display further longevity for many years to come.

Song Choice [Inspire]

Justice – † [Cross] (2007)

Justice

Much like another certain French electro-house duo, Justice are the master conductors of the kind of grandiose EDM soundscapes that were always destined to be played to gigantic crowds to great acclaim. Despite two subsequent live albums and another studio release, 2007’s masterwork, † (Cross), remains their enduring studio recording, and one that’s home to a million samples/electronic compositions lifted from the breadth of pop, rock and electronica. From the opening track (aptly-titled ‘Genesis’), it’s clear that Justice mean business – where Daft Punk were always about art and music in equal measure (those helmets and the Instella 5555 movie withstanding), Justice are 100% about the music. The first thing that’s noticeable is the relative lack of voice: the majority of Cross is instrumental, feeling like some sort of lumbering, electro-mechanical machine and the inner-workings on this are most clear on grinding, chugging monsters like ‘Stress’; regardless, the likes of ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ and ‘DVNO’ demonstrate that Justice know intimately how best to fill a dancefloor. In spite of all this, however, the only place to properly experience Justice is in the live setting, and their arena spectacular is truly a joy to behold; one that I encourage everyone to seek out.

Song Choice: [Genesis]

Ke$ha – Animal/Cannibal (2010)

AnimalCannibal

For many people, it’ll probably be a bit of a shock to see something like Ke$ha on this list; those that truly know me, though, will not be surprised (although they may still be slightly appalled). In many ways, this is the sister album to Andrew WK’s staggering I Get Wet (which only just missed out on the 2001 award and which will be reviewed in the upcoming ‘B-Sides’ post); the absolute embodiment of party. Regardless of what you think of her, Ke$ha has some mighty catchy songs (although a minor inability to spell things correctly): ‘Tik Tok’. ‘We R Who We R’ and ‘Your Love is My Drug’ and but a few. The sneerers may sneer and the haters may hate, but music was invented to be fun, and not everything has to push the boundaries of musicianship or art: sometimes you just need to kick off your shoes, shuffle over to the dancefloor and go crazy. We were born to break the doors down; fight until the end. #Warrior

Song Choice: [Your Love is My Drug]

Divider

[ Final Words ]

There we are, so that’s it: thirty-five of my most precious albums ever ever; all rounded up and brought together into the world’s most giant mixtape. It’s been fun: the process has certainly given me ample opportunity to re-assess a few albums I’d previously dismissed, and see them in a different light.

It’s certainly interesting that the most difficulty I had (with choosing a winner for each year) came for 2001-2004; arguably my formative years for getting into rock and metal. It’s not necessarily that these years held ‘better’ music than any of the others (although Daft Punk’s Discovery is and will always be the greatest musical achievement of humanity), but that my emotional connection to them is strongest.  Perhaps my rather scattershot rock/metal music tastes have been justifiably represented in this list – certainly my tastes have gotten a whole lot more eclectic in the last few years; perhaps that’s a sign that I’m getting old. My passion for music doesn’t seem to be abating any, though: I still consume a truckload of music, as my Last.FM profile will attest to. I have no idea what the next seven years may hold in store; whether the choice albums from those years will be ones by bands already covered in this list, or populated by a whole raft of new artists.  We can but wait and see.

But like any good Oscars speech, there are a heckload of other contenders that I’d like to address, and thank for the joy they’ve brought and the passion that they’ve inspired: here’s an attempt to do justice to the many other albums that have graced my ears again and again and again, and that remain very dear to me. I’ll stream them as a big list here, as footnote to to those I’ve already covered in more detail. Thanks everyone; you’re the best.

Pearl Jam – Ten (1991)
Soundgarden – Superunknown (1994)
Machine Head – Burn My Eyes (1994)
Green Day – Nimrod (1997)
Air – Moon Safari (1998)
Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile (1998)
AFI – Black Sails in the Sunset (1999)
Slipknot – Slipknot (1999)
Jimmy Eat World – Clarity (1999)
American Hi-Fi – American Hi-Fi (2001)
Rival Schools – United by Fate (2001)
Alkaline Trio – From Here to Infirmary (2001)
Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American (2001)
Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf (2002)
Funeral For a Friend – Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation (2003)
The Ataris – So Long, Astoria (2003)
Brand New – Deja Entendu (2003)
Jimmy Eat World – Futures (2004)
Hayseed Dixie – Let There be Rockgrass (2004)
The Explosion – Black Tape (2004)
Power Quest – Neverworld (2004)
My Chemical Romance – Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (2004)
Still Remains – Of Love and Lunacy (2005)
Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth (2005)
Dream Theater – Octavarium (2005)
Funeral For a Friend – Tales Don’t Tell Themselves (2007)
Owl City – Ocean Eyes (2009)
The XX – The XX (2009)
Ensiferum – From Afar (2009)

[Zinar7]

{ coming soon: My Life in Games and My Life in Movies }

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