Ray Charles – “It Had To Be You”

There are many, many albums that you people should listen to before you die, and a significant sum were released before 1960 (yes, before THE BEATLES, I know!). The Genius of Ray Charles is one of my absolute favorite albums of all time, and chances are that you’ve probably never listened to it. Stop cheating yourself.

December 2, 2010

Tom Waits – “Jockey Full Of Bourbon”

Continuing in the same train of thought as my recent Ray Charles post, today I’m pushing an album that has been deserving of a post here for far too long: Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs, the second in a trilogy that marked his “breakthrough” wherein he started producing his own records. If you don’t care for this gruff voice and macabre subject matter, have no fear: you can surely find beauty in Waits’ earlier work, and then one day realize how much more awesome Rain Dogs is because of those.

December 6, 2010

Wu-Tang Clan – “C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)”

If you’re just tuning in, I’ve been going through my own personal list of albums that you absolutely have to listen to before you die. If on your deathbed you don’t know whether or not the Wu-Tang Clan is something to fuck with, then I’m sorry to inform you that you’ve failed in life.

They’re a bit more harsh than other hip-hop acts we’ve featured, sure, but without bright and fresh acts like Wu-Tang, the hip hop world would be a much more dark place today.

December 8, 2010

Talking Heads – “No Compassion”

You know, music is an interesting form of art in that often times we don’t treat it or consume in the same way one would a painting or prosaic block of text, possibly because it is so available or because it is has roots in more primitive emotional cues than other forms of expression. However, I to this day can’t help but treat the work of David Byrne like a myriad of priceless paintings and sculptures standing alone in their own reserved galleries. To me the post-punk/new wave whatchamacallit that was Byrne’s Talking Heads was not a group of musicians; they were artists, and that says something significant since very few musicians have crossed that line dividing the primeval and the progressive, the music and the art, the emotion and the soul. Talking Heads: 77 is another one of those albums that you should be genuinely embarrassed to not yet have in your collection.

December 10, 2010

Bob Dylan - “Talkin’ World War III Blues”

Bob Dylan’s “best” album is always a point of contention between music lovers, but this album is indisputably my personal favourite. The man’s famous for his voice, something a friend of mine once remarked “sounds like cardboard”, and cleverly constructed lyrics which oftentimes tell great stories. Both are on full display on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, which features two of my all time favourite songs, this one and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”. But this album as a whole stands up, too; track after track is just pure, classic Bob Dylan brilliance. But hey, stop listening to me and go find your favourite Dylan album now. It might not be the same one as mine.

December 14, 2010

Joy Division – “Passover”

I’m going to give this series a much-needed hiatus, and what better band is there to leave it with than Joy Division? They only had two full studio albums and lasted for only four years before Curtis’ tragic suicide, but this small group of dreary Brit-rockers turned out to be one of the most important in the history of modern music.

Like with all of these albums in this series, I could go on for forever about these guys.
To put it simply, the post punk movement owes everything to them and their groundbreaking flavor of musical expressionism and nearly everything else that has since been made owes nearly everything to the post punk movement. On your deathbed you’ll regret life if you haven’t listened to their albums (and also their compilations, EPs, and live albums, but that’s asking a lot from you guys so I get it if you’re too busy for all of tha—oh never-mind Joy Division is worth more attention than your first-born child, so yes listen to all of it right now).

December 16, 2010

Life Without Buildings - “The Leanover”

Between the impressive guitar work, a bassline that is both subtle and yet clearly there, and just really neat drumming, there’s enough to like about Life Without Buildings. But as the song builds and lead singer Sue Tompkins breaks down her shouty singing (that most people either love or hate) and settles down into “should i wait for you?”, something becomes painfully clear; you are listening to Sue’s freakin’ diary, an emotional, stream-of-consciousness look into her mind and soul.

One of the most disappointing moments in my life was when I found out that this band had broken up and I would never see and hear Sue scream “Look back and say that I didn’t!” at me.

January 7, 2011

Common - “Testify”

Old school hip hop fans are always bitching about how new rappers like Drake and Tinie Tempah just don’t have it together. Listening to Common’s 2005 album Be, who can argue with them? These young kids got nothing on the lyrical genius that is Common.

But my central point is this: people sometimes forget that Kanye West isn’t just incredible because of the sick albums that he himself has created for himself or the crazy that is his persona but also because of his influence on the entire Chicago hip hop scene. Take away his crazy antics at awards shows, his multi-platinum selling albums, his elaborate Coachella sets and you’re still left with a man who can only be described as pure genius.

April 27, 2011

The Avalanches - “Frontier Psychiatrist”

Picking out the song for this was a nightmare because The Avalanches created an album that flows so seamlessly into itself. Ultimately, I went with what the band chose to release as a single. That being said, pick up this entire album and listen to it in its entirely because it’s the way that this album is meant to be listened to. It’s incredible, truly the electronic album from last decade that has been overlooked and under-appreciated. According to the band, this album is comprised of over 3,500 vinyl samples, and was never intended to be heard on a large scale. It comes as no surprise that their second album has been delayed for years now because of failure to get sample clearance.

June 7, 2011