75 Percent Less Fat: No. 38

When music fans list their favorite years for albums, 2007 does not come off very often. And when people my age list their favorite years for albums, it comes up even less frequently.

Nonetheless, that year marked one of the high points in my musical-listening lifetime. The easy explanation is that it was the year after woxy’s second rebirth, and I was not only tuned into the station every day, but regularly engaging with other music-loving weirdos on the site’s message board.

Still, many of the albums from that year remain in medium rotation in my CD collection (and I’ve never been a high-rotation kind of music consumer: Klaxons’ Myths of the New Future, The National’s Boxer, Cloud Cult’s Meaning of 8, Spoon’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Blonde Redhead’s 23, Editors’ An End Has a Start and Spooky Action from the spectacularly unappreciated Celebrity Pilots.

Two of the year’s entries make my list, including No. 38, Matt Pond’s seventh album, Last Light. While not often usually seen in the same class as his two previous LPs, Emblems and Several Arrows Later, I preferred the nice blend of uptempo rockers and Pond’s trademark personal soloesque acoustic numbers. There’s an uncurrent of unease running through the tracks, from the energetic title track that kicks off the disc through the slower closer, It’s Not So Bad At All.

Highlights include the charging 1-2 punch to kick off the disc, the title track and People Have a Way; the sad Basement Parties; and the desperate Giving it All Away.

Important Information:

Name: Last Light

Released: 2007

Record Company: Altitude

Running Time: 45:19.

 

  1. Last Light
  2. People Have a Way
  3. Locate the Pieces
  4. Wild Girl
  5. Honestly
  6. Taught to Look Away
  7. Sunlight
  8. Basement Parties
  9. Until the East Coast Ends
  10. Foreign Bedrooms
  11. The Crush
  12. Giving it All Away
  13. It’s Not So Bad At All

75 Percent Less Fat: No. 39

We’re into the Top 40 with The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death, the second and final full-length from the UK’s The Housemartins.

The follow-up to London 0, Hull 4 saw the band expanding a little musically. It was something both P.d. Heaton and Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, would continue to do in their subsequent work. The debut was quite good, but for my money it couldn’t match the top-to-bottom excellence of the follow-up.

While the music on the disc bounces between bouncy jangle pop, Brit style, and slower soulful numbers, the lyrics are uniformly biting. And the targets range from the obvious (the Royal Family, circa mid-1980s), to unexpected (the latter half of the title track to Me and the Farmer), though consistent with Heaton’s previous exhortation to Take Marx and Take Christ.

Highlights: the Queen-skewering title track; the bizarre Five Get Over Excited, I Can’t Put My Finger on It and Me and the Farmer.

Important Information:

Name: The People who Grinned Themselves to Death

Released: 1987

Record Company: Go! Discs

Running Time: 38:06.

Track Listing:

  1. The People who Grinned Themselves to Death
  2. I Can’t Put My Finger on It
  3. The Light is Always Green
  4. The World’s On Fire
  5. Pirate Aggro
  6. We’re Not Going Back
  7. Me and the Farmer
  8. Five Get Over Excited
  9. Johannesburg
  10. Bow Down
  11. You Better Be Doubtful
  12. Build

 

 

75 Percent Less Fat: No. 40

Some albums grab you right away. Others take a little while to marinate.

This album was released back in 2008. The band then went on tour with Eulogies to support the album. As part of their tour promotion, the two bands offered a giveway of their new albums in a woxy.com effort. I was the lucky listener, so I soon received copies of both discs in the mail.

I kind of liked Eulogies right away. It was a nifty little indie pop record, with a lead single that Vampire Weekend clearly enjoyed.

The Dears more densely packed album didn’t immediately resonate. But as time wore on, the more I listened to the beefy disc (58 minutes of music in just 10 tracks) from Murray Lightburn and co., the more I realized they were the headliner on that bill for a reason.

I still don’t hear the Morrissey comparisons that have beset Lightburn from the outset, other than the fact that both men are decidedly difficult to get along with. But Black Moz or not, he’s a pretty gifted musician. These aren’t little ditties, but complex works where the brilliance is revealed on multiple listens.

Highlights: Like Who’s Next, this is a disc that is good from the start, but truly shines on the back half. Crisis 1 & 2 , Demons, and the 11-minute, album-closer Savior are among the strongest tracks.

Important Information:

Name: Missiles

Released: 2008

Record Company: Dangerbird Records

Running Time: 58:16

Track Listing:

  1. Disclaimer
  2. Dream Job
  3. Money Babies
  4. Berlin Heart
  5. Lights Of
  6. Crisis 1 & 2
  7. Demons
  8. Missiles
  9. Meltdown in A Major
  10. Saviour

 

 

 

 

 

 

75 Percent Less Fat: No. 41

Since discovering the New Pornographers with the release of their second disc, this album, they’ve been one of my favorite bands of the new millennium. As a present from my lovely wife, I caught them on my 50th birthday last year, joining a lot of other old people at Metro in Chicago, where I discovered that standing in one place for 3-plus hours is a lot harder than it used to be.

The New Pos enjoy one of the longest stretches on my CD rack (yep, I’ve still got one of those). I’ve got their entire catalogue, save their last release, which I’m sure I’ll add to my collection in time (I’m rarely a new release guy – typically acquiring an album long after it hit the shelves. Well, back when there were shelves).

Just as I’m sure I’ll eventually purchase Whiteout Conditions, I’m equally certain I’ll enjoy some parts of it immensely*, while other parts don’t wow me. While the New Pos were certain to have a spot in this here countdown, the choice of album was up in the air. And, if I were to review this down the road, I could easily peg debut disc Mass Romantic, No. 3 Twin Cinema (which contains my No. 1 song of all-time), or some other entry in this slot. The New Pornographers have churned out consistently good albums in their 15-plus years of recording, but I think a true masterpiece has eluded them. At this point, I doubt they’ll deliver one. It’s still a testament to just how good the band is that an imperfect work could still crack my list.

The Laws Have Changed was my intro to the band, and it remains one of their best singles. The song is a perfect example of the group at its best, with changing tempos and Carl Newman and Neko sharing shifting vocal duties. Other highlights include All for Swinging You Around, The End of Medicine and The New Face of Zero and One.

*Given the absence of Dan Bejar from the disc, the first time the Destroyer frontman hasn’t appeared on an album from the band, it’s possible I’ll like it more than most. Though I think his presence is a net positive overall, given the change of pace he provides from the Newman-penned songs, I’ve never been a big fan of his work.

Important Information:

Name: Electric Version

Released: 2003

Record Company: Matador

Running Time: 46:41

Track Listing:

  1. The Electric Version
  2. From Blown Speakers
  3. The Laws Have Changed
  4. The End of Medicine
  5. Loose Translation
  6. Chump Change
  7. All for Swinging You Around
  8. The New Face of Zero and One
  9. Testament to Youth in Verse
  10. It’s Only Divine Right
  11. Ballad of a Comeback Kid
  12. July Jones
  13. Miss Teen Wordpower

75 Percent Less Fat: No. 42

I am not always the most consistent of music fans. For instance, I loathe Queen, finding most of their work utterly inane. And yet, I’ll listen to the occasional Muse tune, a band that clearly doesn’t loathe Queen.

Similarly, I’ve always dug Echo and the Bunnymen, one of the many UK-based, Ian-fronted bands of the 1980s I enjoyed (Joy Division and Ian Curtis, Lightning Seeds and Ian Broudie, Icicle Works and Ian McNabb, among others). But while Ian McCullough clearly took his cues from this band, The Doors are among my least-favorite acts of ever.  And one of the reasons I so despise the Doors is because of just how full of himself Jim Morrison was.

All of this brings us to No. 42. A few years before Oasis proclaimed themselves bigger than the Beatles, Ian Brown and co. were lauding themselves as the new messiah. And if you didn’t get that message on the band’s self-titled debut, then “Second Coming,” made sure you caught on the second time.

While the follow-up certainly called into question their claim to higher powerness, the band’s debut disc at least kept open the possibility. From the slow building opener, I Wanna Be Adored through to the clublike nearly 10-minute Fool’s Gold*, the album is just chock full of great sons. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to name another album from the college/modern/indie rock library that produced as many “classic” songs as this one.

Highlights include: Elephant Stone, where screeching guitar work gives way to a pop gem; the fuzzy She Bangs the Drums; the beautifully gory Made of Stone; and the messianic I Am the Resurrection.

Important Information:

Name: The Stone Roses s/t

Released: 1989

Record Company: Silvertone

Running Time: 49:02

Track Listing:

  1. I Wanna Be Adored
  2. She Bangs the Drums
  3. Elephant Stone
  4. Waterfall
  5. Don’t Stop
  6. Bye Bye Badman
  7. Elizabeth My Dear
  8. (Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister
  9. Made of Stone
  10. Shoot You Down
  11. This is the One
  12. I Am the Resurrection
  13. Fool’s Gold

*Only on the U.S. version. The original UK release excluded both Fool’s Gold and Elephant Stone.

 

 

75 Percent Less Fat: No. 43

There is, and always has been, something about the first album. In most cases, that’s seen as a band’s introduction to the world, the debut record. In a lot of cases, it’s hard to ever match that special something from the first effort. REM’s Murmur, Elvis Costello’s My Aim is True, the Ramones’ self-titled debut, or, already on this list, Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp, are these types of records. It’s not that you never deliver something as artistically great; just that you can never duplicate the feat of delivering a sound never heard before.

 

But there’s another way that this concept is in place, at least for the listener. The first time you hear a band you go onto love. Many of the highest-ranking albums on this list will fit that description for me, including No. 43, Guided by Voices’ Isolation Drills.

 

I had heard of GBV before the band’s 12th album and had undoubtedly heard more than a few tracks on 97x during my years of listening to the station whenever I could. But the first time I put a sound to the name was on this disc. Thus, it remains a place in my firmament that it almost certainly doesn’t* with other Guided by Voices fans.

 

Isolation Drills strays a little from the typical GBV brew as only three of the 16 songs clock in at under 2:30, definitely on the low side for frontman Bob Pollard. And two of the best, the back-to-back tracks Glad Girls and Run Wild, nearly hit four minutes. And the song titles aren’t as random as the kind found on most of the band’s discs. All of this might actually be a good thing, as it’s also got fewer wink leaks and unfinished ideas that are a hallmark of Pollard, rock’s foremost believer in never discarding any song idea.

 

Highlights here are first single Chasing Heather Crazy, Twilight Campfighter, the stoner ditty Glad Girls and the best track, the slow burner Run Wild.

 

*Interestingly, while researching this, I saw that Isolation Drills actually has the highest Metacritic score of any GBV album, at 83/100. I didn’t realize my view was shared by so many others.

 

Important Information:

Name: Guided by Voices, Isolation Drills

Released: 2001

Record Company: TVT Records

Running Time: 47:12

Track Listing:

  1. Fair Touching
  2. Skills Like This
  3. Chasing Heather Crazy
  4. Frostma
  5. Twilight Campfighter
  6. Sister, I Need Wine
  7. Want One
  8. The Enemy
  9. Unspirited
  10. Glad Girls
  11. Run Wild
  12. Pivotal Film
  13. How’s My Drinki
  14. The Brides Have Hit Glass
  15. Fine to See You
  16. Privately

 

 

 

 

75 Percent Less Fat: No. 44

There will be no more Catholic album than No. 44, the Hold Steady’s sophomore disc, Separation Sunday.

The band is fronted by Twin Cities native Craig Finn, previously of the band Liftr Pullr. Finn’s sing-speak method of delivering his vocals is unmistakable. Just as his habit of telling stories that run through not just entire albums, but leap from disc to disc.

On this one, story focuses on Holly, short for Hallelujah. Like many of his characters, she’s a troubled young adult living on the fringes, turning tricks and taking drugs. Along the way we meet an equally sordid cast of characters. Her story culminates with a visit to Mass, where she crashes into the congregation on the album’s strongest track.

Highlights: Your Little Hoodrat Friend, Charlemagne in Sweatpants, a story of a pimp that references Springsteen, Jane’s Addiction and, of course, Lionel Richie; Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night; and How a Resurrection Really Feels, on my shortlist of best album closers, along with The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, White Trash Heroes and Vapor Trails.

 

Important Information:

Name: The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday

Released: 2005

Record Company: Frenchkills Records

Running Time: 42:11

Track Listing:

  1. Hornets! Hornets!
  2. Cattle and Creeping Things
  3. Your Little Hoodrat Friend
  4. Banging Camp
  5. Charlemagne in Sweatpants
  6. Steve Nix
  7. Multitude of Casualties
  8. Don’t Let Me Explode
  9. Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night
  10. Crucifixion Cruise
  11. How a Resurrection Really Feels