Boards of Canada: In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country EP

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EP/Log: In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country by Boards of Canada

Tortoise: Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1996)

I’m now posting over at Beards of Kentucky. You can view my more recent thoughts on this record here:

http://www.beardsofkentucky.com/blog/track-by-track-millions-now-living-will-never-die-by-tortoise

Tortoise
Millions Now Living Will Never Die; 1996
Thrill Jockey
My Rating: 100/100
Sounds. There was a time when Tortoise made records full of magical sounds. Of their three early masterpieces, MILLIONS NOW LIVING ranks as the greatest, easily the record I would recommend as an introduction to the grandeur of pure sound. The album’s six tracks etch landscapes in the mind of the listener, not mere hillsides or river valleys, but worlds where paradox meets parabola in the natural order. Eye has not seen, that sort of thing. The epic “Djed” launches Tortoise’s sonic expedition. Exploding like the big bang and slowly evolving into a mechanistic krautrock groove, things roll along pleasantly enough until around the 10 minute mark. The song breaks apart at this point, coalescing once again into a swirl of xylophones, vibes, keyboards, and bass guitar. It all ends in outer space, the song fading into nothingness on the back of a synthetic beat. “Glass Museum” follows in gorgeous fashion, calling to mind crystalline cities but generating enough serpentine tension to elicit a vague narrative. Incorporating nature’s own music, the mysterious “A Survey” somehow walks the fine line between humor and terror. “The Taut and the Tame” and “Dear Grandma and Grandpa”, though far better than mere filler, seem mostly to serve as a bridge to the devastating “Along the Banks of Rivers.” What began agreeably enough with “Djed” ends by weaving together threads of darkness, fear, paranoia, regret, nostalgia, and loneliness. It’s a fitting epilogue, an intricate web of style and emotions. All in all, MILLIONS is canon, a record of child-like wonder, and a classic of the art of sound. Why don’t you own it?
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Tracks:
1. Djed (5/5)
2. Glass Museum (5/5)
3. A Survey (5/5)
4. The Taut and Tame (5/5)
5. Dear Grandma and Grandpa (5/5)
6. Along the Banks of Rivers (5/5)

Millions_Now_Living_Will_Never_Die_-_TortoiseTortoise
Millions Now Living Will Never Die; 1996
Thrill Jockey

My Rating: 100/100

Sounds. There was a time when Tortoise made records full of magical sounds. Of their three early masterpieces, MILLIONS NOW LIVING ranks as the greatest, easily the record I would recommend as an introduction to the grandeur of pure sound. The album’s six tracks etch landscapes in the mind of the listener, not mere hillsides or river valleys, but worlds where paradox meets parabola in the natural order. Eye has not seen, that sort of thing. The epic “Djed” launches Tortoise’s sonic expedition. Exploding like the big bang and slowly evolving into a mechanistic krautrock groove, things roll along pleasantly enough until around the 10 minute mark. The song breaks apart at this point, coalescing once again into a swirl of xylophones, vibes, keyboards, and bass guitar. It all ends in outer space, the song fading into nothingness on the back of a synthetic beat. “Glass Museum” follows in gorgeous fashion, calling to mind crystalline cities but generating enough serpentine tension to elicit a vague narrative. Incorporating nature’s own music, the mysterious “A Survey” somehow walks the fine line between humor and terror. “The Taut and the Tame” and “Dear Grandma and Grandpa”, though far better than mere filler, seem mostly to serve as a bridge to the devastating “Along the Banks of Rivers.” What began agreeably enough with “Djed” ends by weaving together threads of darkness, fear, paranoia, regret, nostalgia, and loneliness. It’s a fitting epilogue, an intricate web of style and emotions. All in all, MILLIONS is canon, a record of child-like wonder, and a classic of the art of sound. Why don’t you own it?

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Djed (5/5)
2. Glass Museum (5/5)
3. A Survey (5/5)
4. The Taut and Tame (5/5)
5. Dear Grandma and Grandpa (5/5)
6. Along the Banks of Rivers (5/5)

The Police: Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)

The Police
Zenyatta Mondatta; 1980
A&M Records
My Rating: 90/100
Progatta masters of the creepy smash hit, The Police kick off their third and greatest album with an absolute classic. It’s also their darkest. The best Sting can seem to make of a hopeless world on this incredibly pessimistic-but-you-wouldn’t-know-it-for-the-music  masterpiece consists of humming a wordless little ditty to himself round about track seven. Moods included, the Police get it right from start to finish on Zenyatta. There’s no excess. There’s no meaningless excursions. In fact, there’s not even a cringe-worthy moment contained herein. Instead, there’s a completely unique blend of rock, prog and reggae filtered through the smooth jazz sensibilities of a former British school teacher. What seems to turn others off about this record keeps me coming back. The lean start and stop of “Driven to Tears”, the propulsive funk-lite of “When the World…”, the bouncy, catchy proto-ska of “Man in a Suitcase” – what’s not to love? To put a nice bow it all, you’ve got weird but engaging excursions like “Voices Inside My Head”, “Shadows in the Rain”, and “The Other Way of Stopping.” The Police made some great records, but they never managed to tie an album together so well. Bonus points for Andy Summers’ ethereal guitars, hands down my favorite thing about this record.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Tracks:
1. Don’t Stand So Close To Me (5/5)
2. Driven to Tears (5/5)
3. When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around (5/5)
4. Canary in a Coalmine (5/5)
5. Voices Inside My Head (5/5)
6. Bombs Away (4.5/5)
7. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da (5/5)
8. Behind My Camel (4/5)
9. Man in a Suitcase (5/5)
10. Shadows in the Rain (4/5)
11. The Other Way of Stopping (4.5/5)

Police-album-zenyattamondattaThe Police
Zenyatta Mondatta; 1980
A&M Records

My Rating: 90/100

Classic rock masters of the creepy smash hit, The Police lead off their third long player with the indelible “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” This is their greatest album; it’s also their darkest. The best Sting can seem to make of a hopeless world on this incredibly pessimistic-but-you-wouldn’t-know-it-for-the-music  masterpiece consists of humming a wordless little ditty to himself round about track seven. Moods included, the Police get it right from start to finish. There’s no excess. There’s no meaningless excursions. In fact, there’s not even a cringe-worthy moment contained herein. Instead, there’s a completely unique blend of rock, prog and reggae filtered through the smooth jazz sensibilities of a former British school teacher. What seems to turn others off about this record keeps me coming back. The lean start and stop of “Driven to Tears”, the propulsive funk-lite of “When the World…”, the bouncy, catchy proto-ska of “Man in a Suitcase” – what’s not to love? To put a nice bow it all, you’ve got weird but engaging excursions like “Voices Inside My Head”, “Shadows in the Rain”, and “The Other Way of Stopping.” The Police made some great records, but they never managed to tie an album together so well. Bonus points for Andy Summers’ ethereal guitars, hands down my favorite thing about this record.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Don’t Stand So Close To Me (5/5)
2. Driven to Tears (5/5)
3. When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around (5/5)
4. Canary in a Coalmine (5/5)
5. Voices Inside My Head (5/5)
6. Bombs Away (4.5/5)
7. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da (5/5)
8. Behind My Camel (4/5)
9. Man in a Suitcase (5/5)
10. Shadows in the Rain (4/5)
11. The Other Way of Stopping (4.5/5)

CD Review | Counting Crows: August & Everything After

Counting Crows
August and Everything After; 1993
Geffen Records
My Rating: 96/100
I do believe I’ve been through every feeling imaginable with AUGUST. There’s been delight; admiration; contempt; nausea; and, finally for some time now, settled amazement. There’s just no denying that this is a CLASSIC record, even if there was a point in my youth where I thought I was too hard for the pathetic tenderness it unashamedly wears. Although I’ve given most of the songs flawless scores, there’s five tracks here that are quite simply iconic, the rock and roll equivalent of pitching a perfect game. “Mr. Jones” may have been so overplayed at one point that you rolled your eyes, but you know you LOVE that song. “Round Here” opens the album like “Thunder Road” opened BORN TO RUN, while “Murder of One” would land in my top ten closers of all time. And “Rain King” – what can be said – one of the top ten greatest pop songs of the 1990’s, hands down. En masse, AUGUST ties it all together like no other record from the era, even besting the monumental AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE as an overall artistic statement. As AUGUST demonstrates, the Crows proved from the start that they could make the ghosts of roots rock past and present dance like none other. A must have for any record collection.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Tracks:
1. Round Here (5/5)
2. Omaha (5/5)
3. Mr. Jones (5/5)
4. Perfect Blue Buildings (5/5)
5. Anna Begins (5/5)
6. Time and Time Again (5/5)
7. Rain King (5/5)
8. Sullivan Street (5/5)
9. Ghost Train (4/5)
10. Raining in Baltimore (4/5)
11. A Murder of One (5/5)

CountingCrowsAugustandEverythingAfterCounting Crows
August and Everything After; 1993
Geffen Records

My Rating: 96/100

I do believe I’ve been through every feeling imaginable with AUGUST. There’s been delight; admiration; contempt; nausea; and, finally for some time now, settled amazement. There’s just no denying that this is a CLASSIC record, even if there was a point in my youth where I thought I was too hard for the pathetic tenderness it unashamedly wears. Although I’ve given most of the songs flawless scores, there’s five tracks here that are quite simply iconic, the rock and roll equivalent of pitching a perfect game. “Mr. Jones” may have been so overplayed at one point that you rolled your eyes, but you know you LOVE that song. “Round Here” opens the album like “Thunder Road” opened BORN TO RUN, while “Murder of One” would land in my top ten closers of all time. And “Rain King” – what can be said – one of the top ten greatest pop songs of the 1990’s, hands down. En masse, AUGUST ties it all together like no other record from the era, even besting the monumental AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE as an overall artistic statement. As AUGUST demonstrates, the Crows proved from the start that they could make the ghosts of roots rock past and present dance like none other. A must have for any record collection.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Round Here (5/5)
2. Omaha (5/5)
3. Mr. Jones (5/5)
4. Perfect Blue Buildings (5/5)
5. Anna Begins (5/5)
6. Time and Time Again (5/5)
7. Rain King (5/5)
8. Sullivan Street (5/5)
9. Ghost Train (4/5)
10. Raining in Baltimore (4/5)
11. A Murder of One (5/5)

REM: Out of Time (1991)

REM
Out of Time; 1991
Warner Brothers
My Rating: 90/100
REM apparently spent three years exploring their options. After producing six albums in as many years, the band catapulted into the national spotlight in a big way with OUT OF TIME. It also marks a huge stylistic shift for the band, featuring a far more acoustic delivery and incorporating rootsy instruments like the mandolin, accordion, and symphonic string arrangments. Although it is common practice to slam this album for its cutesy excesses (witness the silly rapping on “Radio Song” and the delightfully annoying “Shiny Happy People”, both of which are actually decent songs), it’s the lesser known tracks that really shine. While “Losing My Religion” was the song that redefined the band’s sound, “Belong” and “Texarakana” both came out of left field and stand as huge artistic leaps for the band. “Near Wild Heaven” jangles its way into a masterpiece of nostalgic pop (featuring lead vox from Mike Mills), while “Me In Honey” features an irresistibly soaring chorus and classic REM riff. All in all, what’s not to like about this album? It may not be their most influential or the one that all the cool kids talk about, but I can’t think of another time when REM made such irrepressibly joyful music. In a world of pretense and image, OUT OF TIME stands as REM’s boldest musical statement, and one of the most consistently delightful records in the history of rock and roll. OUT OF TIME? Try timeless.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Tracks:
1. Radio Song (4/5)
2. Losing My Religion (5/5)
3. Low (4/5)
4. Near Wild Heaven (5/5)
5. Endgame (5/5)
6. Shiny Happy People (5/5)
7. Belong (5/5)
8. Half a World Away (5/5)
9. Texarkana (5/5)
10. COuntry Feedback (4/5)
11. Me In Honey (5/5)

OutOfTimeCoverREM
Out of Time; 1991
Warner Brothers

My Rating: 90/100

REM apparently spent three years exploring their options. After producing six albums in as many years, the band catapulted into the national spotlight in a big way with OUT OF TIME. It marks a huge stylistic shift for the band, featuring a far more acoustic delivery and incorporating rootsy instruments like the mandolin, accordion, and symphonic string arrangments. Although it is common practice to slam this album for its cutesy excesses (witness the silly rapping on “Radio Song” and the delightfully annoying “Shiny Happy People”, both of which are actually decent songs), it’s the lesser known tracks that really shine. While “Losing My Religion” was the song that redefined the band’s sound, “Belong” and “Texarakana” both came out of left field and stand as huge artistic leaps for the band. “Near Wild Heaven” jangles its way into a masterpiece of nostalgic pop (featuring lead vox from Mike Mills), while “Me In Honey” features an irresistibly soaring chorus and classic REM riff. All in all, what’s not to like about this album? It may not be their most influential or the one that all the cool kids talk about, but I can’t think of another time when REM made such irrepressibly joyful music. In a world of pretense and image, OUT OF TIME stands as REM’s boldest musical statement, and one of the most consistently delightful records in the history of rock and roll. OUT OF TIME? Try timeless.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Radio Song (4/5)
2. Losing My Religion (5/5)
3. Low (4/5)
4. Near Wild Heaven (5/5)
5. Endgame (5/5)
6. Shiny Happy People (5/5)
7. Belong (5/5)
8. Half a World Away (5/5)
9. Texarkana (5/5)
10. Country Feedback (4/5)
11. Me In Honey (5/5)

Dinosaur Jr.: Beyond (2007)

Dinosaur Jr.
Beyond; 2007
Fat Possum Records
My Rating: 82/100
Huzzah – another indie legend gets the band back together. By 2007, after reunions by Pixies, Slint, and every other 80’s/90’s act that could possibly swing it, a new Dinosaur Jr. record barely registered with me. And why would it? With a few exceptions, I never really dug the OLD Lou-era stuff, and only bona-fide classics like “Out There,” “Start Choppin’,” and “Get Me” made a dent with me in the mid-90’s. Well, this here record is proof-positive that hype CAN be a good thing, as I finally gave this one a shot round about early 2009 and was surprised to find one beefcake of a record. Seriously, upon investigating the band’s back catalog, I don’t think they ever made a record as consistent and cohesive as this. “Crumble” tugs the heartstrings like only the best hard rockers can, and late album beauties like “We’re Not Alone” and “I Got Lost” avoid Mascis’ tendancy to frontload the best tracks. Barlow’s contributions are good too, especially “Back To Your Heart”, a big, melodic, mid-tempo sludgefeast. (It’s kinda funny to think about the subtext there – “Back to your heart, J.” Awwwww….) Dinosaur Jr. have truly distinguished themselves by reuniting and delivering what fans really want – a second go at making records. And what a record! As far as indie reunions go, that means Dinosaur Jr. gets my award for best of the decade.
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Tracks
1. Almost Ready (5/5)
2. Crumble (5/5)
3. Pick Me Up (4/5)
4. Back to Your Heart (5/5)
5. This is All I Came to Do (4/5)
6. Been There All the Time (4.5/5)
7. It’s Me (5/5)
8. We’re Not Alone (5/5)
9. I Got Lost (5/5)
10. Lightning Bulb (3.5/5)
11. What If I Knew (4/5)

DinosaurBeyondDinosaur Jr.
Beyond; 2007
Fat Possum Records

My Rating: 82/100

Huzzah – another indie legend gets the band back together. By 2007, after reunions by Pixies, Slint, and every other 80’s/90’s act that could possibly swing it, a new Dinosaur Jr. record barely registered with me. And why would it? With a few exceptions, I never really dug the OLD Lou-era stuff, and only bona-fide classics like “Out There,” “Start Choppin’,” and “Get Me” made a dent with me in the mid-90’s. Well, this here record is proof-positive that hype CAN be a good thing, as I finally gave this one a shot round about early 2009 and was surprised to find one beefcake of a record. Seriously, upon investigating the band’s back catalog, I don’t think they ever made a record as consistent and cohesive as this. “Crumble” tugs the heartstrings like only the best hard rockers can, and late album beauties like “We’re Not Alone” and “I Got Lost” avoid Mascis’ tendancy to frontload the best tracks. Barlow’s contributions are good too, especially “Back To Your Heart”, a big, melodic, mid-tempo sludgefeast. (It’s kinda funny to think about the subtext there – “Back to your heart, J.” Awwwww….) Dinosaur Jr. have truly distinguished themselves by reuniting and delivering what fans really want – a second go at making records. And what a record! As far as indie reunions go, that means Dinosaur Jr. gets my award for best of the decade.

Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks:

1. Almost Ready (5/5)
2. Crumble (5/5)
3. Pick Me Up (4/5)
4. Back to Your Heart (5/5)
5. This is All I Came to Do (4/5)
6. Been There All the Time (4.5/5)
7. It’s Me (5/5)
8. We’re Not Alone (5/5)
9. I Got Lost (5/5)
10. Lightning Bulb (3.5/5)
11. What If I Knew (4/5)

Radiohead: In Rainbows (2007)

Radiohead
In Rainbows; 2007
Self-Released
My Rating: 100/100
The Bible tells us that the rainbow is the sign of God’s promise to never smite the earth with a world-wide flood again, a sign of perpetual joy and a hopeful tomorrow to all of mankind. With this, Radiohead became the type of band that one needs to thank God for in their prayers every night. While there aren’t many signs of outright optimism in Radiohead’s music, this is the record where the Oxford five re-discovered the joy of making music, something they may not have had since before “Creep.” When I speak of joy, I’m not referring to sunny feelings and corny sing-a-longs NECESSARILY (gotta give a shout out to the Wilco boyz here); it’s more like a freedom of creativity, being unshackled from the past, hopeful about what tomorrow may bring. For this reason, IN RAINBOWS is a joyful and HIGHLY ENJOYABLE record. The band sounds at ease with the songs, which gives them an extra dimension (warmth?) that HAIL TO THIEF lacked, and it’s really delightful to hear what they did with old tracks “Nude” and “Reckoner.” “15 Step” is the band’s most energizing opener since “Airbag” (all due respect to “Everything In Its Right Place”, which is more transporting than energizing), and with “Videotape”, the band comes close to channeling the same dark muse that haunted “Street Spirit.” Elsewhere, “All I Need” and “House of Cards” are big highlights, and the album as a whole has that seamless flow that is crucial to a perfect record. United in concept, monumental in consequence (there’s plenty to read about this elsewhere), holding together like a classic record should, IN RAINBOWS is the type of album that makes it great to be alive. (Weird, huh?)
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Tracks:
1. 15 Step (5/5)
2. Bodysnatchers (5/5)
3. Nude (5/5)
4. Arpeggi (Weird Fishes) (5/5)
5. All I Need (5/5)
6. Faust Arp (5/5)
7. Reckoner (5/5)
8. House of Cards (5/5)
9. Jigsaw Falling into Place (5/5)
10. Videotape (5/5)

In_Rainbows_Official_CoverRadiohead
In Rainbows; 2007
Self-Released

My Rating: 100/100

The Bible tells us that the rainbow is the sign of God’s promise to never smite the earth with a world-wide flood again, a sign of perpetual joy and a hopeful tomorrow to all of mankind. With this, Radiohead became the type of band that one needs to thank God for in their prayers every night. While there aren’t many signs of outright optimism in Radiohead’s music, this is the record where the Oxford five re-discovered the joy of making music, something they may not have had since before “Creep.” When I speak of joy, I’m not referring to sunny feelings and corny sing-a-longs NECESSARILY (gotta give a shout out to the Wilco boyz here); it’s more like a freedom of creativity, being unshackled from the past, hopeful about what tomorrow may bring. For this reason, IN RAINBOWS is a joyful and HIGHLY ENJOYABLE record. The band sounds at ease with the songs, which gives them an extra dimension (warmth?) that HAIL TO THIEF lacked, and it’s really delightful to hear what they did with old tracks “Nude” and “Reckoner.” “15 Step” is the band’s most energizing opener since “Airbag” (all due respect to “Everything In Its Right Place”, which is more transporting than energizing), and with “Videotape”, the band comes close to channeling the same dark muse that haunted “Street Spirit.” Elsewhere, “All I Need” and “House of Cards” are big highlights, and the album as a whole has that seamless flow that is crucial to a perfect record. United in concept, monumental in consequence (there’s plenty to read about this elsewhere), holding together like a classic record should, IN RAINBOWS is the type of album that makes it great to be alive. (Weird, huh?)

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. 15 Step (5/5)
2. Bodysnatchers (5/5)
3. Nude (5/5)
4. Arpeggi (Weird Fishes) (5/5)
5. All I Need (5/5)
6. Faust Arp (5/5)
7. Reckoner (5/5)
8. House of Cards (5/5)
9. Jigsaw Falling into Place (5/5)
10. Videotape (5/5)

My Morning Jacket: The Tennessee Fire (1999)

My Morning Jacket
The Tennessee Fire; 2000
Darla Records
My Rating: 100/100
Quite simply: A masterpiece
I’m a huge fan of My Morning Jacket, and it’s been exciting to see them grow into rock n’ roll superheroes over the last decade. They’ve released a lot of amazing stuff along the way, and I just have to acknowledge that. But for this Jacket devotee, it doesn’t get any better than THE TENNESSEE FIRE. Their 2000 debut may not be the record they are most remembered for, but if I’m being honest, everything that is weird and wonderful about MMJ is contained here in prototypical form. TTF is a feast of mystical, sleepy-eyed cosmic americana. Though the country influences are undeniable, from old Johnny Cash to Neil Young, the album completely transcends the early alt-country label for so many reasons. There’s Jim James’ intergalactic wail on “The Bear” and “Twilight”; the stark, post-apocalyptic landscapes on “They Ran” and “I Think I’m Going to Hell”; the pacifying loveliness of “Old September Blues” and “I Will Be There When You Die”; and the heart-rending romance of “If All Else Fails” and “Picture of You.” Call it what you will. Escapist. Nightmarish. Numinous. Haunting. Dreamy. Transcendent. I call it a masterpiece.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Tracks:
1. Heartbreakin Man (5/5)
2. They Ran (5/5)
3. The Bear (5/5)
4. Nashville to Kentucky (5/5)
5. Old September Blues (5/5)
6. If All Else Fails (5/5)
7. It’s About Twilight Now (5/5)
8. Evelyn Is Not Real (5/5)
9. War Begun (5/5)
10. Picture of You (5/5)
11. I Will Be There When You Die (5/5)
12. The Dark (5/5)
13. By My Car (5/5)
14. Butch Cassidy (5/5)
15. I Think I’m Going To Hell (5/5)
16. (hidden track) (5/5)My Morning Jacket

Mmj_the_tennessee_fireMy Morning Jacket
The Tennessee Fire; 1999
Darla Records

My Rating: 100/100

Time has only been kind to this debut…

I’m a huge fan of My Morning Jacket, and it’s been exciting to see them grow into rock n’ roll superheroes over the last decade. They’ve released a lot of amazing stuff along the way, and I just have to acknowledge that. But for this Jacket devotee, it doesn’t get any better than THE TENNESSEE FIRE. Their 2000 debut may not be the record they are most remembered for, but if I’m being honest, everything that is weird and wonderful about MMJ is contained here in prototypical form. TTF is a feast of mystical, sleepy-eyed cosmic americana. Though the country influences are undeniable, from old Johnny Cash to Neil Young, the album completely transcends the early alt-country label for so many reasons. There’s Jim James’ intergalactic wail on “The Bear” and “Twilight”; the stark, post-apocalyptic landscapes on “They Ran” and “I Think I’m Going to Hell”; the pacifying loveliness of “Old September Blues” and “I Will Be There When You Die”; and the heart-rending romance of “If All Else Fails” and “Picture of You.” Call it what you will. Escapist. Nightmarish. Numinous. Haunting. Dreamy. Transcendent. I call it a masterpiece.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Heartbreakin Man (5/5)
2. They Ran (5/5)
3. The Bear (5/5)
4. Nashville to Kentucky (5/5)
5. Old September Blues (5/5)
6. If All Else Fails (5/5)
7. It’s About Twilight Now (5/5)
8. Evelyn Is Not Real (5/5)
9. War Begun (5/5)
10. Picture of You (5/5)
11. I Will Be There When You Die (5/5)
12. The Dark (5/5)
13. By My Car (5/5)
14. Butch Cassidy (5/5)
15. I Think I’m Going To Hell (5/5)
16. (hidden track – Alabama Come Clean) (5/5)

REM: Lifes Rich Pageant (1986)

REM

LifesRichPCoverREM
Lifes Rich Pageant;  1986
IRS Records

My Rating: 83/100

REM Begins Again

Following on the heels of the band’s first major misstep, PAGEANT is the album where REM starts to find some muscle amidst all the jangle. Whereas the band once relied on propulsion to drive many of their songs home, they slowed things down a bit here, combining huge choruses with slower tempos (“Begin the Begin”, “Cuyahoga”) to produce their most confident sounding record yet. This was the album that proved REM could be superstars, as evidenced by the classic status afforded to “Fall On Me,” which prefigures future REM classics like “Losing My Religion”, “Man on the Moon”, and “Everybody Hurts.” That’s not to say that REM slows everything down here – “Hyena” and “These Days” are just as fast-paced and visceral as anything on the band’s first three LPs. But this is the record where REM began to distance itself from even the best and brightest of 80’s college radio, and laid the foundation for its future success.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks:

1. Begin the Begin (4.5/5)
2. These Days (4/5)
3. Fall On Me (5/5)
4. Cuyahoga (5/5)
5. Hyena (5/5)
6. Underneath the Bunker
7. The Flowers of Guatemala (5/5)
8. I Believe (5/5)
9. What If We Give It Away? (5/5)
10. Just a Touch (4/5)
11. Swan Swan H (4/5)
12. Superman (4/5)

Radiohead: OK Computer Collector’s Edition Disc 2 (2009)

Radiohead
OK Computer Collector’s Edition Disc 2; 2009
Capitol Records
My Rating: 71/100
By now we realize that Radiohead is never stretched for high quality material. With this collection of b-sides, Radiohead proved themselves to be a fanboys dream. The three P’s – “Pearly,” “Polyethylene”, and “Palo Alto” – are fabulous cross-eyed rock songs, while “A Reminder” is one of the most gorgeous songs the band has ever recorded. The band showcases a penchant for the hushed on “Melatonin” and “How I Made My Millions,” and “Lull” is just a brilliant little throwaway. Still, what this disc shows more than anything is that Radiohead was experiencing the kind of once-in-a-lifetime inspiration that most bands never experience. My only gripe with the collection over all is that it covers previously released material. Surely there’s something lost in the vaults from the OKC sessions that could stand the light of day? “Big Boots?” “Lift?” “Follow Me Around?” “I Promise?”
PS The live tracks are pretty great as well.
PPS The ZERO 7 remix is worth it, the FILA BRAZILA remix is dull.
TRACKS
1. Polyethylene (Parts 1 & 2) (5/5)
2. Pearly (5/5)
3. A Reminder (5/5)
4. Melatonin (4/5)
5. Meeting in the Aisle (5/5)
6. Lull (5/5)
7. Climbing Up the Walls [Zero 7 mix] (5/5)
8. Climbing Up the Walls [Fila Brazila mix] (3/5)
9. Palo Alto (5/5)
10. How I Made My Millions (5/5)
11. Airbag [Live in Berlin] (4/5)
12. Lucky [Live in Florence] (5/5)
13. Climbing Up The Walls [BBC Radio 1] (5/5)
14. Exit Music (for a Film) [BBC Radio 1] (5/5)
15. No Surprises [BBC Radio 1] (5/5)

ok compRadiohead
OK Computer Collector’s Edition Disc 2; 2009
Capitol Records

My Rating: 71/100

OK, we get it now. Radiohead is a great b-side band. With this round back in 97/98, Radiohead proved themselves to be a fanboy’s dream. The three P’s – “Pearly,” “Polyethylene”, and “Palo Alto” – are fabulous cross-eyed rock songs, while “A Reminder” is one of the most gorgeous tracks the band has ever recorded. They showcases a penchant for the quiet and powerful on “Melatonin” and “How I Made My Millions,” and “Lull” is just a brilliant little throwaway. Still, what this disc shows more than anything is that Radiohead was experiencing the kind of once-in-a-lifetime inspiration that most bands never experience. My only gripe with the collection over all is that it covers previously released material. Surely there’s something lost in the vaults from the OKC sessions that could stand the light of day? “Big Boots?” “Lift?” “Follow Me Around?” “I Promise?”

PS The live tracks are pretty great as well.

PPS The ZERO 7 remix is worth it, the FILA BRAZILA remix is dull.

TRACKS

1. Polyethylene (Parts 1 & 2) (5/5)
2. Pearly (5/5)
3. A Reminder (5/5)
4. Melatonin (4/5)
5. Meeting in the Aisle (5/5)
6. Lull (5/5)
7. Climbing Up the Walls [Zero 7 mix] (5/5)
8. Climbing Up the Walls [Fila Brazila mix] (3/5)
9. Palo Alto (5/5)
10. How I Made My Millions (5/5)
11. Airbag [Live in Berlin] (4/5)
12. Lucky [Live in Florence] (5/5)
13. Climbing Up The Walls [BBC Radio 1] (5/5)
14. Exit Music (for a Film) [BBC Radio 1] (5/5)
15. No Surprises [BBC Radio 1] (5/5)

Pitchfork’s Review

All Music Guide Review